On the 12th of August, 18--, the third day after my birthday, when I had attained the age of ten, and had received such wonderful presents, Karl Ivanitch woke me at seven o'clock in the morning by striking at a fly directly above my head, with a flapper made of sugar-paper and fastened to a stick. He did it so awkwardly that he entangled the image of my angel, which hung upon the oaken headboard of the bed; and the dead fly fell straight upon my head. I thrust my nose out from under the coverlet, stopped the image, which was still rocking, with my hand, flung the dead fly on the floor, and regarded Karl Ivanitch with angry although sleepy eyes. But attired in his motley wadded dressing-gown, girded with a belt of the same material, a red knitted skullcap with a tassel, and soft goatskin shoes, he pursued his course along the walls, taking aim and flapping away.
"Suppose I am little," I thought, "why should he worry me? Why doesn't he kill the flies around Volodya's bed? There are quantities of them there. No; Volodya is older than I; I am the youngest of all, and that is why he torments me. He thinks of nothing else in life," I whispered, "except how he may do unpleasant things to me. He knows well enough that he has waked me up and frightened me; but he pretends not to see it, - the hateful man! And his dressing-gown, and his cap, and his tassel - how disgusting!"
As I was thus mentally expressing my vexation with Karl Ivanitch, he approached his own bed, glanced at the watch which hung about it in a slipper embroidered with glass beads, hung his flapper on a nail, and turned toward us, evidently in the most agreeable frame of mind.
"Get up, children, get up. It's time! Your mother is already in the hall!" [Footnote: Karl Ivanitch generally speaks in German. - The "hall" in Russian houses is an apartment which serves for many purposes: as ball-room, music-room, and play-room for the children in bad weather. At Yasnaya Polyana it serves also as the dining-room. - Tr.] he cried in his kindly German voice; then he came over to me, sat down at my feet and pulled his snuff-box from his pocket. I pretended to be asleep. First Karl Ivanitch took a pinch of snuff, wiped his nose, cracked his fingers, and then turned his attention to me. He began to tickle my heels, laughing the while. "Come, come, lazybones," he said.
Much as I dreaded tickling, I neither sprang out of bed nor made any reply, but buried my head deeper under the pillow, kicked with all my might, and used every effort to keep from laughing.
"How good he is, and how he loves us, and yet I could think so badly of him!"
I was vexed at myself and at Karl Ivanitch; I wanted to laugh and to cry; my nerves were upset.
"Oh, let me alone, Karl Ivanitch!" I cried, with tears in my eyes, thrusting my head out from beneath the pillows. Karl Ivanitch was surprised; he left my soles in peace, and began anxiously to inquire what was the matter with me: had I had a bad dream? His kind German face, the sympathy with which he strove to divine the cause of my tears, caused them to flow more abundantly. I was ashamed; and I could not understand how, a moment before, I had been unable to love Karl Ivanitch, and had thought his dressing-gown, cap, and tassel disgusting; now, on the contrary, they all seemed to me extremely pleasing, and even the tassel appeared a plain proof of his goodness. I told him that I was crying because I had had a bad dream, - I thought mamma was dead, and they were carrying her away to bury her. I invented all this, for I really did not know what I had been dreaming that night; but when Karl Ivanitch, touched by my tale, began to comfort and soothe me, it seemed to me that I actually had seen that dreadful vision, and my tears flowed from another cause.
When Karl Ivanitch left me, and, sitting up in bed, I began to draw my stockings upon my little legs, my tears ceased in some measure; but gloomy thoughts of the fictitious dream did not leave me. Dyadka [Footnote: Children's valet.] Nikolai came in, - a small, neat little man, who was always serious, precise, and respectful, and a great friend of Karl Ivanitch. He brought our clothes and shoes; Volodya had boots, but I still had those intolerable slippers with ribbons. I was ashamed to cry before him; besides, the morning sun was shining cheerfully in at the window, and Volodya was imitating Marya Ivanovna (my sister's governess), and laughing so loudly and merrily as he stood over the wash-basin, that even grave Nikolai, with towel on shoulder, the soap in one hand and the hand-basin in the other, smiled and said:
"Enough, Vladimir Petrovitch, please wash yourself." I became quite cheerful.
"Are you nearly ready?" called Karl Ivanitch's voice from the school- room.
His voice was stern, and had no longer that kindly accent which had moved me to tears. In the school-room Karl Ivanitch was another man: he was the tutor. I dressed quickly, washed, and, with brush in hand, still smoothing my wet hair, I appeared at his call.
Karl Ivanitch, with spectacles on nose, and a book in his hand, was sitting in his usual place, between the door and the window. To the left of the door were two shelves of books: one was ours - the children's; the other was Karl Ivanitch's particular property. On ours were all sorts of books, - school-books and others; some stood upright, others were lying down. Only two big volumes of "Histoire des Voyages," in red bindings, leaned in a stately way against the wall; then came long, thick, big, and little books, - covers without books, and books without covers. All were piled up and pushed in when we were ordered to put the library, as Karl Ivanitch loudly called this shelf, in order before our play-hour. If the collection of books on his private shelf was not as large as ours, it was even more miscellaneous. I remember three of them, - a German pamphlet on the manuring of cabbage-gardens, without a cover; one volume of the history of the "Seven Years' War," in parchment, burned on one corner; and a complete course of hydrostatics. Karl Ivanitch passed the greater part of his time in reading, and even injured his eyesight thereby; but he never read anything except these books and "The Northern Bee."
Among the articles which lay on Karl Ivanitch's shelf, was one which recalls him to me more than all the rest. It was a circle of cardboard fixed on a wooden foot, upon which was pasted a picture representing caricatures of some lady and a wig-maker. Karl Ivanitch pasted very well, and had himself invented and manufactured this circle in order to protect his weak eyes from the bright light.
I seem now to see before me his long figure, in its wadded dressing- gown, and the red cap beneath which his thin gray hair is visible. He sits beside a little table upon which stands the circle with the wig- maker, casting its shadow upon his face; in one hand he holds a book, the other rests on the arm of the chair; beside him lies his watch, with the huntsman painted on the face, his checked handkerchief, his round black snuff-box, his green spectacle-case, and the snuffers on the tray. All these lie with so much dignity and precision, each in its proper place, that one might conclude from this orderliness alone that Karl Ivanitch has a pure conscience and a restful spirit.
If you stole up-stairs on tiptoe to the school-room, after running about down-stairs in the hall as much as you pleased, behold - Karl Ivanitch was sitting alone in his arm-chair, reading some one of his beloved books, with a proud, calm expression of countenance. Sometimes I found him at such times when he was not reading: his spectacles had dropped down on his big aquiline nose; his blue, half-shut eyes had a certain peculiar expression; and his lips smiled sadly. All was quiet in the room; his even breathing, and the ticking of the hunter-adorned watch, alone were audible.
He did not perceive me; and I used to stand in the door, and think: "Poor, poor old man! There are many of us; we play, we are merry; but he - he is alone, and no one treats him kindly. He tells the truth, when he says he is an orphan. And the history of his life is terrible! I remember that he related it to Nikolai; it is dreadful to be in his situation!" And it made one so sorry, that one wanted to go to him, take his hand, and say, "Dear Karl Ivanitch!" He liked to have me say that; he always petted me, and it was plain that he was touched.
On the other wall hung maps, nearly all of them torn, but skillfully repaired by the hand of Karl Ivanitch. On the third wall, in the middle of which was the door leading down-stairs, hung two rulers: one was all hacked up - that was ours; the other - the new one - was his own private ruler, and employed more for encouraging us than for ruling proper. On the other side of the door was a blackboard, upon which our grand misdeeds were designated by circles, and our small ones by crosses. To the left of the board was the corner where we were put on our knees.
How well I remember that corner! I remember the grated stove-door, and the slide in it, and the noise this made when it was turned. You would kneel and kneel in that corner until your knees and back ached, and you would think, "Karl Ivanitch has forgotten me; he must be sitting quietly in his soft arm-chair, and reading his hydrostatics: and how is it with me?" And then you would begin to hint of your existence, to softly open and shut the heat-damper, or pick the plaster from the wall; but if too big a piece suddenly fell noisily to the floor, the fright alone was worse than the whole punishment. You would peep round at Karl Ivanitch; and there he sat, book in hand, as though he had not noticed anything.
In the middle of the room stood a table, covered with a ragged black oil-cloth, beneath which the edge, hacked in places with penknives, was visible in many places. Around the table stood several unpainted stools, polished with long use. The last wall was occupied by three little windows. This was the view which was had from them: Directly in front of the windows ran the road, every hollow, pebble, and rut of which had long been familiar and dear to me; beyond the road was a close-trimmed linden alley, behind which the wattled fence was visible here and there. A field could be seen through the alley; on one side of this was a threshing-floor, on the other a forest; the guard's little cottage was visible far away in the forest. To the right, a part of the terrace could be seen, upon which the grown-up people generally sat before dinner. If you looked in that direction while Karl Ivanitch was correcting your page of dictation, you could see mamma's black hair, and some one's back, and hear faint sounds of conversation and laughter; and you would grow vexed that you could not be there, and think, "When I grow up, shall I stop learning lessons, and sit, not over conversations forever, but always with those I love?" Vexation changes to sorrow; and God knows why and what you dream, until you hear Karl Ivanitch raging over your mistakes.
Karl Ivanitch took off his dressing-gown, put on his blue swallow- tailed coat with humps and folds upon the shoulders, arranged his necktie before the glass, and led us down-stairs to say good-morning to mamma.
Mamma was sitting in the parlor, and pouring out the tea; in one hand she held the teapot, with the other the faucet of the samovar, from which the water flowed over the top of the teapot upon the tray beneath. But though she was gazing steadily at it, she did not perceive it, nor that we had entered.
So many memories of the past present themselves when one tries to revive in fancy the features of a beloved being, that one views them dimly through these memories, as through tears. These are the tears of imagination. When I try to recall my mother as she was at that time, nothing appears to me but her brown eyes, which always expressed love and goodness; the mole on her neck a little lower down than the spot where the short hairs grow; her white embroidered collar; her cool, soft hand, which petted me so often, and which I so often kissed: but her image as a whole escapes me.
To the left of the divan stood the old English grand piano; and before the piano sat my dark-complexioned sister Liubotchka play8ing Clementi's studies with evident effort, and with rosy fingers which had just been washed in cold water. She was eleven. She wore a short frock of coarse linen with white lace-trimmed pantalets, and could only manage an octave as an arpeggio. Beside her, half turned away, say Marya Ivanovna, in a cap with rose-colored ribbons, a blue jacket, and a red and angry face, which assumed a still more forbidding expression when Karl Ivanitch entered. She looked threateningly at him; and, without responding to his salute, she continued to count, and beat time with her foot, one, two, three, more loudly and commandingly than before.
Karl Ivanitch, paying no attention whatever to this, according to his custom, went straight to kiss my mother's hand with a German greeting. She recovered herself, shoot her little head as though desirous of driving away painful thoughts with the gesture, gave her hand to Karl Ivanitch, and kissed him on his wrinkled temple, while he kissed her hand.
Thank you, my dear Karl Ivanitch." And continuing to speak in German, she inquired: --
"Did the children sleep well?"
Karl Ivanitch was deaf in one ear, and now heard nothing at all on account of the noise from the piano. He bent over the divan, rested one hand on the table as he stood on one foot; and with a smile which seemed to me then the height of refinement, he raised his cap above his head, and said: --
"Will you excuse me, Natalya Nikolaevna?"
Karl Ivanitch, for the sake of not catching cold in his bald head, never took off his red cap; but each time he entered the drawing-room he begged permission to keep it on.
"Put on your cap, Karl Ivanitch. ... I ask you if the children slept well?" said mamma, moving nearer to him, and speaking louder.
But again he heard nothing, covered his bald spot with his red cap, and smiled more amiably than ever.
"Stop a minute, Mimi," said mamma to Marya Ivanovna, with a smile; "we can hear nothing."
Beautiful as was mamma's face, it became incomparably more lovely when she smiled, and seemed to enliven everything about her. If in life's trying moments I could catch but a glimpse of that smile, I should not know what grief is. It seems to me that what is called beauty of face consists in the smile alone: if the smile adds charm to the face, then the face is very fine; if it does not alter the countenance, then the latter is ordinary; if it spoils it, then it is bad.
When greeting me, mamma took my head in both her hands, and bent it back, looked intently at me, and said:
"You have been crying this morning?"
I made no reply. She kissed me on the eyes, and asked in German: --
"What were you crying about?"
When she spoke pleasantly to us, she always address us in that tongue, which she knew to perfection.
"I cried in my sleep, mamma," I said, recalling my fictitious dream with all the details, and I involuntarily shuddered at the thought.
Karl Ivanitch confirmed my statement, but held his peace about the dream. After discussing the weather, in which conversation Mimi also took part, mamma laid six pieces of sugar on the tray for some of the favored servants, and went to her embroidery-frame which stood in the window.
"Now go to your father, children, and tell him that he must come to me without fail before he goes to the threshing-floor."
The music, counting, and black looks began again, and we went to papa. Passing through the room which had borne the title of butler's pantry since grandfather's time, we entered the study.
He was standing by his writing-table, and pointing to some envelops, papers, and bundles of bank-notes. He was angry, and was discussing something sharply with the overseer, Yakoff Mikhailof, who, standing in his usual place, between the door and the barometer, with his hands behind him, was moving his fingers with great vivacity in various directions.
The angrier papa grew, the more swiftly did the fingers move, and on the contrary, when papa ceased speaking, the fingers also stopped; but when Yakoff began to talk himself, his fingers underwent the greatest disturbance, and jumped wildly about in all directions. It seemed to me that Yakoff's secret thoughts might be guessed from their movements: but his face was always quiet; it expressed a sense of his own dignity and at the same time of subordination, that is to say, "I am right but nevertheless have your own way!"
When papa saw us, he merely said: --
"Wait, I'll be with you presently."
And he nodded his head toward the door, to indicate that one of us was to shut it.
"Ah, merciful God! What's to be done with you now, Yakoff?" he went on, speaking to the overseer, shrugging his shoulders (which was a habit with him). "This envelope with an inclosure of eight hundred rubles..."
Yakoff moved his abacus, counted off eight hundred rubles, fixed his gaze on some indefinite point, and waited for what was coming next.
"... is for the expenses of the farming during my absence. Do you understand? From the mill you are to receive one thousand rubles; is that so, or not? You are to receive back eight thousand worth of loans from the treasury; for the hay, of which, according to your own calculation, you can sell seven thousand poods [Footnote: A pood is about forty pounds.], - at forty-five kopeks, I will say, - you will get three thousand; consequently, how much money willyou have in all? Twelve thousand; is that so, or not?"
"Exactly, sir," said Yakoff.
But I perceived from the briskness with which his fingers moved, that he wanted to answer back; papa interrupted him.
"Now, out of this money, you will send ten thousand rubles to the Council for Petrovskoe. Now, the money which is in the office," continued papa (Yakoff mixed up this twelve thousand, and told off twenty-one thousand), "you will bring to me, and charge to expenses on this present date." (Yakoff shook up his abacus again, and turned it, indicating thereby, it is probable, that the twenty-one thousand would disappear also.) "And this envelope containing money you will forward from me to its address."
I was standing near the table, and I glanced at the inscription. It read: "Karl Ivanitch Mauer."
Papa must have perceived that I had read what it was not necessary that I should know; for he laid his hand on my shoulder, and with a slight movement indicated that I was to go away from his table. I did not understand whether it was a caress or a hint; but whatever it meant, I kissed the large, sinewy hand which rested on my shoulder.
"Yes, sir," said Yakoff. "And what are your orders with regard to the Khabarovka money?"
Khabarovka was mamma's village.
"Leave it in the office, and on no account make use of it without my orders."
Yakoff remained silent for a few seconds, then his fingers twisted about with increased rapidity, and altering the expression of servile stupidity with which he had listened to his master's orders, to the expression of bold cunning which was natural to him, he drew the abacus toward him, and began to speak.
"Permit me to report, Piotr Alexandritch, that it shall be as you please, but it is impossible to pay the Council on time. You said," he continued, his speech broken with pauses, "that we must receive money from the loans, from the mill, and from the hay." As he mentioned these statistics, he calculated them on the abacus. "I am afraid that we may be making some mistake in our reckoning," he added, after a pause, glancing with deep thoughtfulness at papa.
"Please to consider; with regard to the mill, since the miller has been to me twice to ask for delay, and has sworn by Christ our God that he has no money ... and he is here now. Will you not please to talk with him yourself?"
"What does he say?" asked papa, signifying by a motion of his head that he did not wish to speak with the miller.
"The same old story. He says that there was no grinding; that what little money ht got, he put into the dam. If we take him away, sir, will it be of any advantage to us? With regard to the loans, as you were pleased to mention them, I think I have already reported that our money is sunk there, and we shall not be able to get at it very soon. I sent a load of flour into the city a few days ago, to Ivan Afanasitch, with a note about the matter; he replied that he would be glad to exert himself in Piotr Alexandrovitch's behalf, but the affair is not in my hands, and it is evident from the general aspect of things that you will hardly receive your quittance under two months. You were pleased to speak of the hay; suppose it does sell for three thousand."
He marked off three thousand on his abacus, and remained silent for a moment, glancing first at his calculating-frame and then at papa's eyes, as much as to say: -
"You see yourself how little it is. Yes, and we will chaffer about the hay again if it is to be sold now, you will please to understand."
It was plain that he had a great store of arguments; it must have been for that reason that papa interrupted him.
"I shall make no change in my arrangements," he said; "but if any delay should actually occur in receiving this money, then there is nothing to be done; you will take what is necessary from the Khabarovka funds."
It was evident from the expression of Yakoff's face and fingers, that this last order afforded him the greatest satisfaction.
Yakoff was a serf, and a very zealous and devoted man. Like all good overseers, he was extremely parsimonious on his master's account, and entertained the strangest possible ideas as to what was for his master's interest. He was eternally fretting over the increase of his master's property at the expense of that of his mistress, and tried to demonstrate that it was indispensable to employ all the revenue from her estate upon Petrovskoe (the village in which we lived). He was triumphant at the present moment, because he had succeeded on this point.
Papa greeted us, and said that it was time to put a stop to our idleness; we were no longer small children, and it was time for us to study seriously.
"I think you already know that I am going to Moscow tonight, and I shall take you with me," he said. "You will live with your grandmother, and mamma will remain here with the girls. And you know that she will have but one consolation, - to hear that you are studying well, and that they are pleased with you."
Although we had been expecting something unusual, from the preparations which had been making for several days, this news surprised us terribly. Volodya turned red, and repeated mamma's message in a trembling voice.
"So that is what my dream foretold," I thought. "God grant there may be nothing worse!"
I was very, very sorry for mamma; and, at the same time, the thought that we were grown up afforded me pleasure.
"If we are going away tonight, we surely shall have no lessons. That's famous," I thought. "But I'm sorry for Karl Ivanovitch. He is certainly going to be discharged, otherwise that envelope would not have been prepared for him. It would be better to go on studying forever, and not go away, and not part from mamma, and not hurt poor Karl Ivanitch's feelings. He is so very unhappy!"
These thoughts flashed through my mind. I did not stir from the spot, and gazed intently at the black ribbons in my slippers.
After speaking a few words to Karl Ivanitch about the fall of the barometer, and giving orders to Yakoff not to feed the dogs, in order that he might go out after dinner and make a farewell trial of the young hounds, papa, contrary to my expectations, sent us to our studies, comforting us, however, with a promise to take us on the hunt.
On the way upstairs, I ran out on the terrace. Papa's favorite greyhound, Milka, lay blinking in the sunshine at the door.
"Milotchka," I said, petting her and kissing her nose, "we are going away today; good-by! We shall never see each other again."
My feelings overpowered me, and I burst into tears.
Karl Ivanitch was very much out of sorts. This was evident from his frowning brows, and from the way he flung his coat into the commode, his angry manner of tying his girdle, and the deep mark which he made with his nail in the conversation-book to indicate the point which we must learn by heart. Volodya studied properly; but my mind was so upset that I positively could do nothing. I gazed long and stupidly at the conversation-book, but I could not read for the tears which gathered in my eyes at the thought of the parting before us. When the time for recitation came, Karl Ivanitch listened with his eyes half shut (which was a bad sign); and just at the place where one says, "Where do you come from?" and the other answers, "I come from the coffee-house," I could no longer restrain my tears; and sobs prevented my uttering, "Have you not read the paper?" When it came to writing, I made such blots with my tears falling on the paper, that I might have been writing with water on wrapping paper.
Karl Ivanitch became angry; he put me on his knees, declared that it was obstinacy, a puppet comedy (this was a favorite expression of his), threatened me with the ruler, and demanded that I should beg his pardon, although I could not utter a word for my tears. He must have recognized his injustice at length, for he went into Nikolai's room and slammed the door.
The conversation in the dyadka's room was audible in the school-room.
"You have heard, Nikolai, that the children are going to Moscow?" said Karl Ivanitch, as he entered.
"Certainly, I have heard that."
Nikolai must have made a motion to rise, for Karl Ivanitch said, "Sit still, Nikolai!" and then he shut the door. I emered from the corner, and went to listen at the door.
"However much good you do to people, however much you are attached to them, gratitude is not to be expected, apparently, Nikolai," said Karl Ivanitch, with feeling.
Nikolai, who was sitting at the window at his shoe-making, nodded his head affirmatively.
"I have lived in this house twelve years, and I can say before God, Nikolai," continued Karl Ivanitch, raising his eyes and his snuff-box to the ceiling, "that I have loved them, and taken more interest in them than if they had been my own children. You remember, Nikolai, when Volodenka had the fever, how I sat by his bedside, and never closed my eyes for nine days. Yes; then I was good, dear Karl Ivanitch; then I was necessary. But now," he added with an ironical smile, "now *the children are grown up; they must study in earnest.* Just as if they were not learning anything here, Nikolai!"
"So they are to study more, it seems?" said Nikolai, laying down his awl, and drawing out his thread with both hands.
"Yes; I am no longer needed, I must be driven off. But where are their promises? Where is their gratitude? I revere and love Natalya Nikolaevna, Nikolai," said he, laying his hand on his breast. "But what is she? Her will is of no more consequence in this house than that;" hereupon he flung a scrap of leather on the floor with an expressive gesture. "I know whose doing this is, and why I am no longer needed; because I don't lie, and pretend not to see things, like *some people*. I have always been accustomed to speak the truth to every one," said he, proudly. "God be with them! They won't accumulate wealth by getting rid of me; and God is merciful, - I shall find a bit of bread for myself ... shall I not, Nikolai?"
Nikolai raised his head and looked at Karl Ivanitch, as though desirous of assuring himself whether he really would be able to find a bit of bread; but he said nothing.
Karl Ivanitch talked much and long in this strain. He said they had been more capable of appreciating his services at a certain general's house, where he had formerly lived (I was much pained to hear it). He spoke of Saxony, of his parents, of his friend the tailor, Schonheit, and so forth, and so forth.
I sympathized with his sorrow, and it pained me that papa and karl Ivanitch, whom I loved almost equally, did not understand each other. I betook myself to my corner again, crouched down on my heels, and pondered how I might bring about an understanding between them.
When Karl Ivanitch returned to the school-room, he ordered me to get up, and prepare my copy-book for writing from dictation. When all was ready, he seated himself majestically in his arm-chair, and in a voice which appeared to issue from great depth, he began to dictate as follows: --
"'Of all pas-sions the most re-volt-ing is,' have you written that?" Here he paused, slowly took a pinch of snuff, and continued with renewed energy, -- "'the most revolting is In-grat-i-tude' .... a capital I."
I looked at him after writing the last word, in expectation of more.
"Period," said he, with a barely perceptible smile, and made us a sign to give him our copy-books.
He read this apothegm, which gave utterance to his inward sentiment, through several times, with various intonations, and with an expression of the greatest satisfaction. Then he set us a lesson in history, and seated himself by the window. His face was not so morose as it had been; it expressed the delight of a man who had taken a proper revenge for an insult that had been put upon him.
It was a quarter to one, but Karl Ivanitch had no idea of dismissing us, apparently; in fact, he gave out some new lessons.
*Ennui* and hunger increased in equal measure. With the greatest impatience, I noted all the signs which betokened the near approach of dinner. There came the woman with her mop to wash the plates; then I could hear the dishes rattle on the sideboard. I heard them move the table, and place the chairs; then Mimi came in from the garden with Liubotchka and Katenka (Katenka was Mimi's twelve-year-old daughter); but nothing was to be seen of Foka, the majordomo, who always came and announced that dinner was ready. Then only could we throw aside our books without paying any attention to Karl Ivanitch, and run downstairs.
Then footsteps were audible on the stairs, but that was not Foka! I knew his step by heart, and could always recognize the squeal of his boots. The door opened, and a figure which was totally unknown to me appeared.
Into the room walked a man of fifty, with a long, pale, pock-marked face, with long gray hair and a sparse reddish beard. He was of such vast height, that, in order to pass through the door, he was obliged to bend not only his head, but his whole body. He wore a ragged garment which resembled both a kaftan and a cassock; in his hand he carried a huge staff. As he entered the room, he smote the floor with it with all his might; opening his mouth, and wrinkling his brows, he laughed in a terrible and unnatural manner. He was blind of one eye; and the white pupil of that eye hopped about incessantly, and imparted to his already homely countenance a still more repulsive expression.
"Aha! I've found you!" he shouted, running up to Volodya with little steps; he seized his head, and began a careful examination of his crown. Then, with a perfectly serious expression, he left him, walked up to the table, and began to blow under the oil-cloth, and to make the sign of the cross over it. "O-oh, it's a pity! O-oh, it's sad! The dear children .... will fly away," he said, in a voice quivering with tears, gazing feelingly at Volodya; and he began to wipe away the tears which were actually falling, with his sleeve.
His voice was coarse and hoarse, his movements hasty and rough; his talk was silly and incoherent (he never used any pronouns); but his intonations were so touching, and his grotesque yellow face assumed at time such a frankly sorrowful expression, that, in listening to him, it was impossible to refrain from a feeling of mingled pity, fear, and grief.
This was the fool and pilgrim Grischa.
When was he? Who were his parents? What had induces him to adopt the singular life which he led? No one knew. I only knew that he had passed since the age of fifteen as a fool who went barefoot winter and summer, visited the monasteries, gave little images to those who struck his fancy, and utter enigmatic words which some people accepted as prophecy; that no one had ever known him in any other aspect; that he occasionally went to grandmother's; and that some said he was the unfortunate son of wealthy parents, and a genuine fool; while others held that he was a simple peasant and lazy.
At length the long-wished-for and punctual Foka arrived, and we went downstairs. Grischa, who continued to sob and talk all sorts of nonsense, followed us, and pounded every step on the stairs with his staff. Papa and mamma entered the drawing-room arm in arm, discussing something in a low tone. Marya Ivanovna was sitting with much dignity in one of the arm-chairs, symmetrically arranged at right angles to the divan, and giving instructions in a stern, repressed voice to the girls who sat beside her. as soon as Karl Ivanitch entered the room, she glanced at him, but immediately turned away; and her face assumed an expression which might have been interpreted to mean: "I do not see you, Karl Ivanitch." It was plain from the girls' eyes, that they were very anxious to impart to us some extremely important news as soon as possible; but it would have been an infringement of Mimi's rules to jump up and come to us. We must first go to her, and say, "*Bonjour*, Mimi!" and give a scrape with the foot; and then it was permissible to enter into conversation.
What an intolerable creature that Mimi was! It was impossible to talk about anything in her presence; she considered everything improper. Moreover, she was constantly exhorting us to speak French, and that, as if out of malice, just when we wanted to chatter in Russian; or at dinner - you would just begin to enjoy a dish, and want to be let alone, when she would infallibly say, "Eat that with bread," or, "How are you holding your fork?" - "What business is it of hers?" you think. "Let her teach her girls, but Karl Ivanitch is there to see to us." I fully shared his hatred for *some people*.
"Ask mamma to take us on the hunt," whispered Katenka, stopping me by seizing my round jacket, when the grown-up people had passed on before into the dining room.
"Very good; we will try."
Grischa ate in the dining-room, but at a small table apart; he did not raise his eyes from his plate, made fearful grimaces, sighed occasionally, and said, as though speaking to himself: "It's a pity .... she [Footnote: It is indispensable to the sense in English to employ pronouns, occasionally. This may be considered a specimen of Grischa's prophecy, the pronoun being indicated by the termination of the very. --Tr.] has flown away .... the dove will fly to heaven. .... Oh, there's a stone on the grave!" and so on.
Mamma had been in a troubled state of mind ever since the morning; Grischa's presence, words, and behavior evidently increased this perturbation.
"Ah, I nearly forgot to ask you about one thing," she said, handing papa a plate of soup.
"What is it?"
"Please have your dreadful dogs shut up; they came near biting poor Grischa when he passed through the yard. And they might attack the children."
Hearing himself mentioned, Grischa turned toward the table, and began to exhibit the torn tails of his garment, and to speak with his mouth full.
"They wanted to bite to death. .... God did not allow it. .... It's a sin to set the dogs on! Don't beat the bolschak [Footnote: Elder of a village, family, or religious community. Grischa called all peasants thus, without regard to their status.] .... why beat? God forgives .... times are different now."
"What's that he's saying?" asked papa, gazing sternly and intently at him. "I don't understand a word."
"But I understand," answered mamma; "he told me that some huntsman set his dogs on him, on purpose, as he says, 'that they might bite him to death, but God did not permit it;' and he begs you not to punish the man for it."
"Ah! that's it," said papa. "How does he know that I mean to punish the huntsman? You know that I'm not overfond of these gentlemen," he added in French, "and this one in particular does not please me, and ought ...."
"Ah, do not say that, my dear," interrupted mamma, as if frightened at something. "what do you know about it?"
"It seems to me that I have had occasion to learn these people's ways by heart; enough of them come to you. They're all of one cut. It's forever and eternally the same story."
It was plain that mamma held a totally different opinion on this point, but she would not dispute.
"Please give me a patty," said she. "Are they good today?"
"Yes, it makes me angry," went on papa, taking a patty in his hand, but holding it at such a distance that mamma could not reach it; "it makes me angry, when I see sensible and cultivated people fall into the trap."
And he struck the table with his fork.
"I asked you to hand me a patty," she repeated, reaching out her hand.
"And they do well," continued papa moving his hand farther away, "when they arrest such people. The only good they do is to upset the weak nerves of certain individuals," he added with a smile, perceiving that the conversation greatly displeased mamma, and gave her the patty.
"I have only one remark to make to you on the subject: it is difficult to believe that a man who, in spite of his sixty years, goes barefoot summer and winter, and wears chains weighing two poods, which he never takes off, under his clothes, and who has more than once rejected a proposal to lead an easy life, - it is difficult to believe that such a man does all this from laziness.
"As for prophecy," she added with a sigh, after a paus, "I have paid for my belief; I think I have told you how Kiriuscha foretold the very day and hour of papa's death."
"Ah, what have you done to me!" exclaimed papa, smiling, and putting his hand to his mouth on the side where Mimi sat. (When he did this, I always listened with strained attention, in the expectation of something amusing.) "Why have you reminded me of his feet? I have looked at them, and now I shall not be able to eat anything."
The dinner was nearing its end. Liubotchka and Katenka winked at us incessantly, twisted on their chairs, and evinced the greatest uneasiness. The winks signified: "Why don't you ask them to take us hunting?" I nudged Volodya with my elbow; Volodya nudged me, and finally summoned up his courage: he explained, at first in a timid voice, but afterwards quite firmly and loudly, that, as we were to leave on that day, we should like to have the girls taken to the hunt with us, in the carriage. [Footnote: A *lineika*, or "little line," - that is, a long, generally springless, uncovered conveyance, somewhat of the jaunting-car pattern, suitable for rough driving. --Tr.] After a short consultation among the grown-up people, the question was decided in our favor; and, what was still more pleasant, mamma said that she would go with us herself.
During dessert, Yakoff was summoned, and received orders with regard to the carriage, the dogs, and the saddle-horses, - all being given with the greatest minuteness, and every horse specified by name. Volodya's horse was lame; papa ordered the hunter to be saddled for him. This word "hunter" always sounded strange in mamma's ears; it seemed to her that it must be something in the nature of a wild beast, and that it would infallibly run away with and kill Volodya. In spite of the exhortations of papa and of Volodya, who with wonderful boldness asserted that that was nothing, and that he liked to have the horse run away extremely, poor mamma continued to declare that she should be in torments during the whole of the excursion.
Dinner came to an end; the big people went to the study to drink their coffee, while we ran into the garden, to scrape our feet along the paths covered with the yellow leaves which had fallen, and to talk. The conversation began on the subject of Volodya riding the hunter, and how shameful it was the Liubotchka ran more softly than Katenka, and how interesting it would be to see Grischa's chains, and so on; not a word was said about our separation. Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the carriage, upon each of whose springs sat a servant-boy. Behind the carriage came the huntsmen with the dogs; behind the huntsmen Ignat, the coachman, on the horse destined for Volodya, and leading my old Kleper by the bridle. First we rushed to the fence, whence all these interesting things were visible, and then we flew upstairs shrieking and stamping, to dress ourselves as much like hunters as possible. One of the chief means to this end was tucking our trousers into our boots. We betook ourselves to this without delay, making haste to complete the operation, and run out upon the steps to enjoy the sight of the dogs and horses, and the conversation with the huntsmen.
The day was warm. White clouds of fanciful forms had been hovering all the morning on the horizon; then the little breezes drove them nearer and nearer, so that they obscured the sun from time to time. But black and frequent as were these clouds, it was plain that they were not destined to gather into a thunder-storm and spoil our enjoyment on our last opportunity. Toward evening they began to disperse again: some grew pale, lengthened out, and fled to the horizon; others, just overhead, turned into white transparent scales; only one large black cloud lingered in the east. Karl Ivanitch always knew where every sort of cloud went; he declared that this cloud would go to Maslovka, that there would be no rain, and that the weather would be fine.
Foka, in spite of his advanced years, ran down the steps very quickly and cleverly, cried "Drive up!" and planting his feet far apart, stood firm in the middle of the entrance, between the spot to which the carriage should be brought, and the threshold, in the attitude of a man who does not need to be reminded of his duty. The ladies followed, and after a brief dispute as to who should sit on which side, and whom they should cling to (although it seemed to me quite unnecessary to hold on), they seated themselves, opened their parasols, and drove off. When the lineika started, mamma pointed to the hunter, and asked the coachman in a trembling voice: --
"Is that the horse for Vladimir Petrovitch?"
And when the coachman replied in the affirmative, she waived her hand and turned away. I was very impatient; I mounted my horse, looked straight between his ears, and went through various evolutions in the courtyard.
"Please not to crush the dogs," said one of the huntsmen.
"Rest easy; this is not my first experience," I answered proudly.
Volodya mounted the hunter, not without some quaking in spite of his resolution of character, and asked several times as he patted him: --
"Is he gentle?"
He looked very handsome on horseback, - just like a grown-up person. His thighs sat so well on the saddle that I was envious, - particularly as, so far as I could judge from my shadow, I was far from presenting so fine an appearance.
Then we heard papa's step on the stairs; the dogfeeder drove up the scattered hounds; the huntsmen with greyhounds called in theirs, and began to mount. The groom led the horse to the steps; papa's leash of dogs, which had been lying about in various picturesque poses, ran to him. After him, in a bead collar jingling like iron, Milka sprang gayly out. She always greeted the male dogs when she came out; she played with some, smelled of others, growled a little, and hunted fleas on others.
Papa mounted his horse, and we set out.
The huntsman in chief, who was called Turka, rode in front on a dark gray Roman-nosed horse; he wore a shaggy cap, a huge horn over his shoulder, and a knife in his belt. From the man's fierce and gloomy exterior, one would sooner imagine that he was going to some deadly conflict than on a hunting expedition. About the hind heels of his horse ran the hounds, clustered together in a many-hued, undulating pack. It was pitiful to contemplate the fate which befell any unfortunate dog who took it into his head to linger behind. His companion was forced to drag him along with great effort; and when he had succeeded in this, one of the huntsmen who rode in the rear never failed to give him a cut with his whip, saying, "To the pack with you!" When we emerged from the gates, papa ordered us and the huntsmen to ride along the road, but he himself turned into a field of rye.
The grain harvest was in full swing. The shining yellow field, extending farther than the eye could reach, was closed in on one side only by a lofty blue forest which seemed to me then a very distant and mysterious place, behind which the world came to an end, or some uninhabited region began. The whole field was covered with shocks of sheaves and with people. Here and there amid the tall rye, on some spot that had been reaped, the bended back of a reaper was visible, the swing of the ears as she laid them between her fingers, a woman in the shade, bending over a cradle, and scattered sheaves upon the stubble strewn with cornflowers. In another quarter, peasants in their shirt- sleeves, standing on carts, were loading the sheaves, and raising a dust in the dry, hot fields. The starosta (overseer), in boots, and with his armyak [Footnote: A long, wide coat worn by peasants.] thrown on without the sleeves, and tally-sticks in his hand, perceiving papa in the distance, took off his felt cap, wiped his reddish head and beard with a towel, and shouted at the women. The sorrel horse which papa rode had a light, playful gait; now and then he dropped his head on his breast, pulled at the reins, and with his heavy tail brushed away the horse-flies and common flies which clung thirstily to him. Two greyhounds, with their tails curved in the shape of a sickle, lifted their legs high and sprang gracefully over the tall stubble, behind the horse's heels; Milka ran in front, and, with head bent low, was watching for the scent. The conversation of the people, the noise of the horses and carts, the merry whistle of the quail, the hum of insects which circled in motionless swarms in the air, the scent of the wormwood, the straw, and the sweat of the horses, the thousands of varying hues and shadows which the glowing sun poured over the bright yellow stubble-field, the blue of the distant forest and the pale lilac of the clouds, the white spider's webs which floated through the air or lay upon the stubble, - all this I saw, heard, and felt.
When we reached Kalinovoe (viburnum) woods, we found the carriage already there, and, beyond all our expectations, a one-horse cart, in the midst of which sat the butler. Under the hay we caught glimpses of a samovar, a cask with a form of ice-cream, and some other attractive parcels and baskets. It was impossible to make any mistake; there was to be tea, ice-cream, and fruit in the open air. At the sight of the cart, we manifested an uproarious joy; for it was considered a great treat to drink tea in the woods on the grass, and especially in a place where nobody had ever drunk tea before.
Turka came to this little meadow-encircled wood, halted, listened attentively to papa's minute directions how to get into line, and where to sally forth (he never minded these directions, however, and did what seemed good to him), uncoupled the dogs, arranged the leashes in a leisurely manner, mounted his horse, and disappeared behind the young birches. The first thing the hounds did on being released was to express their joy by wagging their tails, shaking themselves, putting themselves in order; and then, after a little scamper, they smelled each other, wagged their tails again, and set off in various directions.
"Have you a handkerchief?" asked papa.
I pulled one from my pocket and showed it to him.
"Well, take that gray dog on your handkerchief..."
"Zhiran?" I inquired, with a knowing air.
"Yes, and run along the road. When you come to a little meadow, stop and look about you; don't come back to me without a hare."
I wound my handkerchief about Zhiran's shaggy neck, and started at a headlong pace for the spot indicated to me. Papa laughed and called after me: --
"Faster, faster, or you'll be too late."
Zhiran kept halting, pricking up his ears, and listening to the galloping of the huntsmen. I had not the strength to drag him from the spot, and I began to shout, "Catch him! catch him!" Then Zhiran tore away with such force that I could hardly hold him, and I fell down more than once before I reached my post. Selecting a shady and level place at the root of a lofty oak, I lay down on the grass, placed Zhiran beside me, and waited. My imagination, as always happens in such cases, far outran reality. I fancied that I was already coursing my third hare, when the first hound gave tongue in the woods. Turka's voice rang loudly and with animation through the forest; the hound was whimpering, and its voice was more and more frequently audible. Another voice, a bass, joined in, then a third and a fourth. These voices ceased, and again they interrupted each other. The sounds grew gradually louder and more unbroken, and at length merged into one ringing, all-pervading roar. The meadow-encircled clump of trees was one mass of sound, and the hounds were burning with impatience.
When I heard that, I stiffened at my post. Fixing my eyes upon the edge of the woods, I smiled foolishly; the perspiration poured from me in streams, and although the drops tickled me as they ran down my chin, I did not wipe them off. It seemed to me that nothing could be more decisive than this moment. This attitude of expectancy was too unnatural to last long. The hounds poured into the edge of the woods, then they retreated from me; there was no hare. I began to look about. Zhiran was in the same state; at first he tugged and whimpered, then lay down beside me, put his nose upon my knees and became quiet.
Around the bare roots of the oak tree under which I say, upon the gray parched earth, amid the withered oak leaves, acorns, dry moss-grown sticks, yellowish green moss, and the thin green blades of grass which pushed their way through here and there, ants swarmed in countless numbers. They hurried after each other along the beaten paths which they had themselves prepared, some with burdens, some unladen. I picked up a dry stick, and obstructed their way with it. You should have seen how some, despising danger, climbed over it, while others, especially those who had loads, quite lost their heads and did not know what to do; they halted, and hunted for a path round it, or turned back, or crawled upon my hand from the stick, with the intention, apparently, of getting under the sleeve of my jacket. I was diverted from these interesting observations by a butterfly with yellow wings, which hovered before me in an extremely attractive manner. No sooner had I directed my attention to it than it flew away a couple of paces, circled about a nearly wilted head of a wild white clover, and alighted upon it. I do not know whether it was warming itself in the sun, or drawing the sap from this weed, but it was evident that it was enjoying itself. Now and then it fluttered its wings and pressed closer to the flower, and at last became perfectly still. I propped my head on both hands and gazed at it with pleasure.
All at once, Zhiran began to howl, and tugged with such force that I nearly fell over. I glanced about. Along the skirt of the woods skipped a hare, with one ear drooping, the other raised. The blood rushed to my head, and, forgetting everything for the moment, I shouted something in a wild voice, loosed my dog, and set out to run. But no sooner had I done this than my repentance began. The hare squatted, gave a leap, and I saw no more of him.
But what was my mortification, when, following the hounds, who came baying down to the edge of the woods, Turka made his appearance from behind a bush! He perceived my mistake (which consisted in not *holding out*), and, casting a scornful glance upon me, he merely said "*Eh, barin*!" [Footnote: Master] But you should have heard how he said it. It would have been pleasanter for me if he had hung me to his saddle like a hare.
For a long time I stood in deep despair, rooted to the spot. I did not call the dog, and only repeated as I beat my thighs, "Heavens, what have I done!"
I heard the hounds coursing in the distance; I heard them give tongue on the other side of the wood-island, and kill a hare, and Turka summoning the dogs with his long whip; but still I did not stir from the spot.
The hunt was at an end. A cloth was spread under the shadow of the young birches, and the whole company seated themselves around it. Gavrilo, the butler, having trodden down the lush green grass about him, wiped the plates, and emptied the baskets of the plums and peaches wrapped in leaves. The sun shone through the green branches of the young birches, and case round quivering gleams upon the patterns of the tablecloth, upon my feet, and even upon Gavrilo's polished perspiring head. A light breeze fluttering through the leaves, upon my hair and my streaming face, was very refreshing.
When the ices and fruits had been distributed to us, there was nothing more to be done at the cloth; and in spite of the sun's scorching, oblique rays, we rose and began to play.
"Now, what shall it be?" said Liubotchka, blinking in the sun, and dancing up and down upon the grass. "Let us have Robinson!"
"No, it's tiresome," said Volodya, rolling lazily on the turf, and chewing a leaf; "it's eternally Robinson! If you insist upon it, though, let's build an arbor."
Volodya was evidently putting on airs; it must have been because he was proud of having ridden the hunter, and he feigned to be very fatigued. Possibly, also, he had too much sound sense, and too little force of imagination, fully to enjoy a game of Robinson. This game consisted in acting a scene from the "Robinson Suisse," [Footnote: The Swiss Family Robinson."] which we had read not long before.
"Now, please.... why won't you do this to please us?" persisted the girls. "You shall be Charles or Ernest or the father, whichever you like," said Katenka, trying to pull him from the ground by the sleeves of his jacket.
"I really don't want to; it's tiresome," said Volodya, stretching himself, and smiling in a self-satisfied way.
"It's better to stay at home if nobody wants to play," declared Liubotchka, through her tears. She was a horrible cry-baby.
"Come along, then; only please don't cry. I can't stand it."
Volodya's condescension afforded us but very little satisfaction; on the contrary,his bored and lazy look destroyed all the illusion of the play. When we sat down on the ground, and, imagining that we were setting out on a fishing expedition, began to row with all our might, Volodya sat with folded hands, and in an attitude which had nothing in common with the attitude of a fisherman. I remarked on this to him; but he retorted that we should gain nothing and do no good by either a greater or less flourish of hands, and should not travel any farther. I involuntarily agreed with him. When I made believe go hunting with a stick on my shoulder, and took my way to the woods, Volodya lay down flat on his back, with his hands under his head, and said it was all the same as though he went, too. Such speeches and behavior cooled us toward this game, and were extremely unpleasant; the more so as it was impossible not to admit in one's own mind that Volodya was behaving sensibly.
I knew myself that not only could I not kill a bird with my stick, but that it was impossible to fire it off. That was what the game consisted in. If you judge things in that fashion, then it is impossible to ride on chairs; but, thought I, Volodya himself must remember how, on long winter evenings, we covered an arm-chair with cloths, and made a calash out of it, while one mounted as coachman, the other as footman, and the girls sat in the middle, with three chairs for a troika of horses, and we set out on a journey. And how many adventures happened on the way! and how merrily and swiftly the winter evenings passed! Judging by the present standard, there would be no games. And if there are no games, what is left?
Pretending that she was plucking some American fruits from a tree, Liubotchka tore off a leaf with a huge caterpillar on it, flung it on the ground in terror, raised her hands, and sprang back as though she feared that something would spout out of it. The game came to an end; we all flung ourselves down on the ground with our heads together, to gaze at this curiosity.
I looked over Katenka's shoulder; she was trying to pick the worm up on a leaf which she placed in its way.
I had observed that many girls have a trick of twisting their shoulders, endeavoring by this movement to bring back their low-necked dresses, which have slipped down, to their proper place. I remember that this motion always made Mimi angry: "It is the gesture of a chambermaid," she said. Katenka made this motion as she bent over the worm, and at the same moment the wind raised her kerchief from her white neck. Her little shoulder was within two fingers' length of my lips. I no longer looked at the worm; I stared and stared at Katenka's shoulder, and kissed it with all my might. She did not turn round, but I noticed that her cheeks crimsoned up to her very ears. Volodya did not raise his head, but said scornfully: --
The tears came into my eyes.
I never took my eyes from Katenka. I had long been used to her fresh little blond face, and I had always loved it. But now I began to observe it more attentively, and I liked it still better. When we went back to the grown-up people, papa announced, to our great joy, that, at mamma's request, our departure was postponed until the following day.
We rode back in company with the carriage. Volodya and I, desirous of outdoing each other in the art of horsemanship and in boldness, pranced around it. My shadow was longer than before, and, judging from it, I imagined that I must present the effect of a very fine rider; but the feeling of self-satisfaction which I experienced was speedily destroyed by the following circumstance. Desiring completely to fascinate all who rode in the carriage, I fell behind a little; then, with the assistance of my whip and my feet, I started my horse forward and assumed an attitude of careless grace, with the intention of dashing past them like a whirlwind on the side where Katenka sat. The only point I was in doubt about was: Would it be better to gallop by in silence, or to cry out? But the hateful horse came to a standstill so unexpectedly when he came up with the carriage-horses, that I flew over the saddle upon his neck, and almost tumbled off his back.
He was a man of the last century, and possessed that indefinable chivalry of character, enterprise, self-confidence, amiability, and rakishness which was common to the youth of that period. He looked with disdain upon the people of the present century;' and this view proceeded quite as much from innate pride as from a secret feeling of vexation that he could not wield that influence or enjoy those successes in our age which he had enjoyed in his own. His two principal passions in life were cards and women: he had won several millions during his lifetime, and had had *liaisons* with an innumerable number of women of all classes.
A tall, stately figure, a strange, tripping gait, a habit of shrugging his shoulders, little eyes which were always smiling, a large aquiline nose, irregular lips which closed awkwardly but agreeably, a defect in speech, a lisp, and a large bald spot extending all over his head - such was my father's appearance from the time I first recollect him, - an appearance by means of which he not only managed to make the reputation of a man *à bonnes fortunes*, but to be so and to please everyone without exception, - people of all classes and conditions, and especially those whom he desired to please.
He understood how to get the upper hand in all his dealings. Without ever having been a member of the *very highest society*, he had always had intercourse with individuals belonging to that circle, and of such a sort that he was always respected. He understood that extreme measure of pride and self-confidence which, without offending others, raised him in the estimation of the world. He was original, though not always and employed his originality as an instrument which in some cases takes the place of worldly wisdom or wealth. Nothing in the world could arouse in him a sensation of wonder: however brilliant his position, he seemed born to it. He understood so well how to hide from others, and put away from himself, that dark side of life which is familiar to every one, and filled with petty vexations and griefs, that it was impossible not to envy him.
He was a connoisseur of all things which afford comfort or pleasure, and understood how to make use of them. His hobby was his brilliant connections, which he possessed partly through my mother's relations and partly through the companions of his youth, with whom he was secretly enraged, because they had all risen to high official positions, while he had remained only a retired lieutenant in the Guards. Like all men who have once been in the army, he did not know how to dress fashionably; nevertheless, his dress was original and elegant. His clothes were always very loose and light, his linen of the most beautiful quality, his large cuffs and collars were turned back. And it all suited his tall figure, his muscular build, his bald head, and his calm, self-confident movements. He was sensitive, and even easily moved to tears. Often, when he came to a pathetic place while reading aloud, his voice would begin to tremble, the tears would come; and he would drop the book in vexation. He loved music, and sang, to his own piano accompaniment, the romances of his friend A., gipsy songs, and some airs from the operas; but he did not like scientific music, and said frankly, with heeding the general opinion, that Beethoven's sonatas drove him to sleep and *ennui*; and that he knew nothing finer than "Wake the young girl not," as sung by Madame Semenoff, and "Not alone," as gipsy Taniuscha sang it. His nature was one of those to whose good deeds a public is indispensable. And he only considered that good which was so reckoned by the public. God knows whether he had any moral convictions. His life was so full of passions of every sort, that he never had any time to make an inventory of them, and he was so happy in his life that he saw no necessity for so doing.
A fixed opinion on things generally, and unalterable principles, formulated themselves in his mind as he grew older - but solely on practical grounds. Those deeds and that manner of life which procured him happiness and pleasure, he considered good; and he thought that every one should always do the same. He was a very delightful talker; and this quality, it seems to me, heightened the flexibility of his principles: he was capable of depicting the same act as a charming bit of mischief, or as a piece of low-lived villainy.
It was already dusk when we reached home. Mamma seated herself at the piano, and we children fetched out paper, pencils, and paints, and settled ourselves about the round table at our drawing. I had only blue paint; nevertheless, I undertook to depict the hunt. After representing, in very lively style, a blue boy mounted on a blue horse, and some blue dogs, I was not quite sure whether I could paint a blue hare, and ran to papa in his study to take advice on the matter. Papa was reading; and, in answer to my question, "Are there any blue hares?" he said, without raising his head, "Yes, my dear, there are." I went back to the round table, and painted a blue hare; then I found it necessary to turn the blue hare into a bush. The bush did not please me either; I turned it into a tree, and the tree into a stack of hay, and the haystack into a cloud; and finally I blotted my whole paper so with blue paint, that I tore it up in vexation, and went off to doze on the long sofa-chair.
Mamma was playing the Second Concerto of Field - her teacher. I dreamed, and light, bright, transparent recollections penetrated my imagination. She played Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique, and my memories became painful, dark, burdensome. Mamma often played those two pieces; therefore I well remember the feeling which they aroused in me. It resembled memories; but memories of what? I seemed to remember something which had never happened.
Opposite me was the door into the study, and I saw Yakoff enter, and some other people with kaftans and beards. The door immediately closed behind them. "Now business has begun!" I thought. It seemed to me that nothing in the world could be more important than the business which was being transacted in that study; this idea of mine was confirmed by the fact that all who entered the study door generally did so on tip-toe and exchanging whispers. Papa's loud voice was audible; and the smell of cigars, which always attracted me very much, I know not why, was perceptible. All at once, I was much surprised in my half slumber by the familiar squeak of boots in the butler's pantry. Karl Ivanitch walked up to the door on tiptoe, but with a gloomy and decided countenance, and some papers in his hand, and knocked lightly. He was admitted, and the door was slammed again.
"Some misfortune must have happened," I thought. "Karl Ivanitch is angry; he is ready for anything."
And again I fell into a doze.
But no misfortune had occurred. In about an hour, the same squeaking boots woke me up. Karl Ivanitch emerged from the door, wiping away the tears which I espied on his cheeks, with his handkerchief, and went up- stairs, muttering something to himself. Papa came out after him, and entered the drawing-room.
"Do you know what I have just decided upon?" he said in a gay voice, laying his hand on mamma's shoulder.
"What is it, my dear?"
"I shall take Karl Ivanitch with the children. There is room for him in the britchka. They are used to him, and it seems that he is very much attached to them; and seven hundred rubles a year does not count for much: and then he is a very good sort of fellow at bottom?
I could not in the least understand why papa called Karl Ivanitch names.
"I am very glad," said mamma, "both for the children's sake and for his; he is a vine old fellow."
"If you could only have seen how much affected he was when I told him that he was to keep the five hundred rubles as a gift! But the most amusing thing of all is this account which he has brought me. It's worth looking at," he added, with a smile, handing her a list in Karl Ivanitch's handwriting; "it is delightful."
This is what the list contained: --
"Two fish-hooks for the children, seventy kopeks.
"Colored paper, gold binding, a syringe and jumping-jack, for a little box for a present, six rubles fifty-five kopeks.
"Books and bows, presents to the children, eitht rubles sixteen kopeks.
"Trousers for Nikolai, four rubles.
"The gold watch promised by Piotr Alexandrovitch, to be got from Moscow in 18--, one hundred and forth rubles.
"Total due Karl Mauer, above his salary, one hundred and fifty-nine rubles seventy-nine kopeks."
After reading this list, in which Karl Ivanitch demanded payment of all the sums which he had expended for presents, and even the price of the gifts promised to himself, any one would think that Karl Ivanitch was nothing more than an unfeeling, covetous egoist -- and he would be very much mistaken.
When he entered the study with this account in his hand, and a speech ready prepared in his head, he intended to set forth eloquently before papa all the injustice that he had endured in our house; but when he began to speak in that touching voice, and with the feeling intonations which he usually employed when dictating to us, his eloquence acted most powerfully on himself; so that when he reached the place where he said, "Painful as it is to me to part from the children," he became utterly confused, his voice trembled, and he was forced to pull his checked handkerchief from his pocket.
"Yes, Piotr Alexandritch," he said, through his tears (this passage did not occur in the prepared speech), "I have become so used to the children, that I do not know what I shall do without them. It will be better for me to serve you without salary," he added, wiping away his tears with one hand, and presenting the bill with the other.
That Karl Ivanitch was sincere when he spoke thus I can affirm with authority, for I know his kind heart; but how he reconciled that account with his words remains a mystery to me.
"If it is painful for you, it would be still more painful for me to part with you," said papa, tapping him on the shoulder. "I have changed my mind."
Not long before supper Grischa entered the room. From the moment he had come to the house, he had not ceased to sigh and weep; which, according to the opinion of those who believed in his power of prophecy, presaged some evil to our house. He began to take leave, and said that he should proceed farther the next morning. I winked at Volodya, and went out.
"What is it?"
"If you want to see Grischa's chains, let's go upstairs to the men's rooms immediately. Grischa sleeps in the second chamber. We can sit in the garret perfectly well, and see everything."
"Splendid! Wait here; I'll call the girls."
The girls ran out, and we betook ourselves up-stairs. It was settled, not without some disputing, however, who was to go first into the dark garret; and we sat down and waited.
The darkness oppressed all of us; we pressed close to each other, and did not speak. Grischa followed us almost immediately, with his quiet steps. In one hand he carried his staff, in the other a tallow candle in a brass candlestick. We held our breaths.
"Lord Jesus Christ! Most Holy Mother of God! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!" he repeated several times, with various intonations and abbreviations which are peculiar to those only who repeat these words often, as he drew the air into his lungs.
Having placed his staff in the corner, and inspected his bed during his prayer, he began to undress. He unfastened his old black belt, removed his tattered nankeen smock, folded it carefully, and laid it over the back of a chair. His face did not now express haste and stupidity, as usual; on the contrary, it was composed, melancholy, and even majestic. His movements were deliberate and thoughtful.
Clad in his underclothes alone, he sank gently down upon the bed, made the sign of the cross over it on all sides, and with an evident effort (for he frowned) he adjusted the chains beneath his shirt. After sitting there awhile and anxiously examining several rents in his linen, he rose, lifted the candlestick on a level with the shrine in the corner, which contained several images, repeating a prayer meantime, crossed himself before them, and turned the candle upside down. It sputtered and went out.
The moon, which was almost full, shone in through the window, looking toward the forest. The long white figure of the fool was illuminated on one side by the pale, silvery rays of the moon: on the other it was in deep obscurity; his shadow fell on the floor and walls, and reached to the ceiling in company with the shadows from the window-frame. The watchman beat on the copper plate in the courtyard.
Grischa folded his huge arms across his breast, bent his head, sighing heavily, and without intermission, and stood in silence before the images; then he knelt, with difficulty, and began to pray.
At first he softly recited the familiar prayers, merely acentuating certain words; then he repeated them, but in a loud voice, and with much animation. He began to employ his own words, endeavoring, with evident effort, to express himself in Slavic. His words were incoherent but touching. He prayed for all his benefactors (as he called those who entertained him), among them mamma and us; he prayed for himself, besought God to forgive him his grievous sins, and said; "O God, forgive my enemies!" He rose with a groan, and, repeating the same words over and over, he fell to the ground again, and again rose, notwithstanding the weight of the chains, which emitted a harsh, sharp sound as they struck the floor.
Volodya gave me a painful pinch on my leg, but I did not even look round; I merely rubbed the spot with one hand, and continued to observe all Grischa's words and motions with a sentiment of childish wonder, pity, and reverence.
Instead of the merriment and laughter upon which I had reckoned when I entered the garret, I felt a trembling and sinking at my heart.
Grischa remained in this state of religious exhaltation for a long time, and improvised prayers. He repeated "*Lord, have mercy,*" several times in succession, but each time with fresh force and expression. Then he said: "*Forgive me, Lord; teach me what I should do; teach me what I should do, Lord!*" with an expression as though he expected an immediate response to his words; then several lamentable groans were audible. He rose to his knees, crossed his hands upon his breast, and became silent.
I put my head softly out of the door, and held my breath. Grischa did not stir; heavy sighs forced themselves from his breast; a tear stood in the dim pupil of his blind eye, which was illuminated by the moon.
"Thy will be done!" he cried suddenly, with an indescribable expression, fell with his forehead to the floor, and sobbed like a child.
A long time has passed since then; many memories of the past have lost all significance for me, and have become like confused visions; even pilgrim Grischa has long ago taken his last journey: but the impression which he made upon me, and the feeling which he awakened, will never die out of my memory.
O great Christian Grischa! Thy faith was so strong, that thou didst feel the nearness of God; thy love was so great, that thy words poured from thy lips of themselves, - thou didst not revise them with they judgment. And what lofty praise didst thou offer to His majesty, when, finding no words, thou didst fling thyself to the earth in tears!
The emotion with which I listened to Grischa could not last long; in the first place, because my curiosity was satisfied, and, in the second, because my legs were stiff with sitting in one position, and I wanted to join in the general whispering and movement which was audible behind me in the dark garret. Some one caught my hand, and said "Whose hand is this?" It was perfectly dark, but I immediately recognized Katenka by the touch of the hand, and by the voice which was just above my ear.
It was quite without premeditation that I grasped her arm, on which the sleeve reached only to the elbow, and pressed my lips to it. Katenka was evidently surprised at this, and pulled her hand away; this movement caused her to strike a broken chair which stood in the garret. Grischa raised his head, glanced quietly about, repeating a prayer, and began to make the sign of the cross on all the corners. We ran out of the garret whispering, and making a great commotion.
About the middle of the last century, a plump, red-cheeked, barefooted, but merry girl, Nataschka, used to run about the courtyard in the village of Khabarovka in a tattered dress. My grandfather had taken her *up-stairs* as one of grandmother's female servants, on account of the services of her father Savva, the clarinet player, and at his request. *Nataschka*, as a maid, was distinguished for her gentleness of nature and her zeal. When mamma was born, and a nurse was required, this service was intrusted to *Nataschka*; and in this new career she won both praises and rewards for her activity, faithfulness, and attachment to her young mistress.
But the powdered head, stockings, and buckles of the dashing young majordomo Foka, who, in virtue of his office, was often brought in contact with Natalya, captivated her rough but loving heart. She even made up her mind to go herself to grandfather, and ask permission to marry Foka. Grandfather looked upon her request as ingratitude, turned her away, and sent poor Natalya to the cattle-yard, in a village of the steppe, to punish her. But within six months Natalya was restored to her former duty, since no one could fill her place. On returning from banishment, she entered grandfather's presence, threw herself at his feet, and besought him to restore her to favor and affection, and to forget the folly which had come upon her, and to which she swore not to return. And she kept her word.
From that day Nataschka became Natalya Savischna, and wore a cap. All the treasures of love which she possessed she transferred to her young mistress.
When, later on, a governess replaced her with mamma, she received the keys of the storehouse, and all the linen and provisions were given into her charge. She fulfilled these new duties with the same love and zeal. Her whole life was devoted to the welfare of her master and mistress; she saw waste, ruin, robbery, on every side, and endeavored by every means in her power to counteract them.
When mamma married, desiring in some way to show her gratitude to Natalya Savischna for her labor and attachment of twenty years, she had her summoned; and, expressing in the most flattering terms all her love and obligations, she handed her a sheet of stamped paper, which declared that Natalya Savischna was a free woman; and she said that whether the latter should continue to serve in our house or not, she would always receive a yearly pension of three hundred rubles. Natalya Savischna listened to all this in silence; then, taking the document in her how hands, she looked angrily at it, mutter something between her lips, and flew out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Not understanding the cause of this strange behavior, mamma, after waiting a little, went to Natalya's room. The latter was sitting on her chest, with tear-swollen eyes, twisting her handkerchief in her fingers, and intently regarding the tattered fragments of her emancipation paper, which were scattered over the floor before her.
"What is the matter, dearest Natalya Savischna?" asked mamma, taking her hand.
"Nothing, matushka," she replied. "I must be repulsive to you in some way, that you drive me from the house. Well, I will go."
She pulled away her hand, and, with difficulty restraining her tears, she made a motion to leave the room. Mamma detained her, embraced her, and they both wept in company.
From the time when I can recollect anything, I remember Naalya Savischna, her love and caresses; but only now am I able to appreciate their worth, - but then it never entered my mind to think what a rare and wonderful being that old woman was. Not only did she never speak, but she seemed never even to think, of herself; her whole life was love and self-sacrifice. I was so accustomed to her tender, unselfish love for us, that I did not even imagine that it could be otherwise; was not in the least grateful to her, and never asked myself, Is she happy? Is she content?
Sometimes, under the plea of imperative necessity, I would run away from my lessons to her room, and begin to dream aloud, not in the least embarrassed by her presence. She was always busy over something; she was either knitting a stocking, or turning over the chests with which her room was filled, or taking account of the linen, and listening to all the nonsense which I uttered; how, "when I got to be a general, I would marry a wonderful beauty, buy myself a sorrel horse, build a glass house, and send for all Karl Ivanitch's relatives from Saxony," and so on; she would say, "Yes, batiushka, yes." Generally, when I rose and prepared to take my departure, she opened a blue chest, - on the inside of whose cover, as I now remember, there were pasted a picture of a hussar, a picture from a pomade-box, and a drawing by Volodya, - and took from it a stick of incense, lighted it, and said, as she waved it about: --
"This, my dear, is *Otchakoff*, incense. When your late grandfather - may the kingdom of heaven be his! - went against the Turks, he brought this back. This is the last bit," she added with a sigh.
Positively, there was everything in the chests with which her rooms was filled. Whatever was needed, the cry always was, "We must ask Natalya Savischna;" and, in fact, she always found the article required, after a little rummaging, and said, "It's well that I hid it away." In those chests were thousands of things which nobody in the house, except herself, ever knew or troubled themselves about.
Once I was angry with her. This is how it was. I dropped the decanter when I was pouring myself some kvas at dinner and spilled it on the table-cloth.
"Call Natalya Savischna, that she may take pride in her favorite," said mamma.
Natalya Savischna came, and, on seeing the puddle which I had made, she shook her head; then mamma whispered something in her ear, and she went out, shaking her finger at me.
After dinner, I was on my way to the hall, and skipping about in the most cheerful frame of mind, when, all at once, Natalya Savischna sprang out from behind the door, with the table-cloth in her hand, caught me, and, in spite of desperate resistance on my part, began to rub my face with the wet place, crying, "Don't spot the table-cloth, don't spot the table-cloth!" I was so offended that I roared with rage.
"What!" I said to myself, as I walked up and down the room and gulped down my tears, "Natalya Savischna, plain *Natalya* calls *me* 'thou,' and strikes me in the face with a wet table-cloth to boot, as if I were a servant-boy! This is horrible!"
When Natalya Savischna saw that I was gasping with rage, she immediately ran off, and I went on pacing to and fro, and meditating how I might pay off that impudent Natalya for the insult which she had inflicted on me.
In a few minutes Natalya Savischna returned, approached me timidly, and began to exhort me.
"Enough, my dear, don't cry. Forgive me, I was foolish. I am in the wrong. You will forgive me, my dove. Here, this is for you."
From beneath her kerchief she drew a horn of red paper, in which were two caramels and one grape, and gave it to me with a trembling hand. I had not the strength to look the good old woman in the face; I turned away, took her gift, and my tears flowed still more abundantly, but from love and shame now, and no longer from anger.
At twelve o'clock on the day following the events which I have described, the calash and britchka stood at the door. Nikolai was dressed for traveling; that is to say, his trousers were tucked into his boots, and his old coat was very closely belted. He stood by the britchka, packing the overcoats and cushions under the seat; when the pile seemed to him too high, he seated himself on the cushions, jumped up and down, and flattened them.
"Do me an unutterable favor, Nikolai Dmitritch; can't we put the master's strong box in?" said papa's panting valet, leaning out of the calash; "it is small."
"You should have said so before, Mikhei Ivanitch," answered Nikolai, quickly and angrily, flinging a parcel with all his might on the floor of the britchka. "O Lord, my head is going round, and here you come with your box!" he added, pulling off his cap, and wiping the big drops of perspiration from his burning brow.
Men-servants in coats, kaftans, shirts, without hats, women in striped petticoats and striped dresses, with children in their arms, and barefooted children stood about the steps, stared at the equipages, and talked among themselves. One of the post-boys - a bent old man in a winter cap and armyak - held in his hand the pole of the calash, moved it back and forth, and thoughtfully surveyed its action; the other, a good-looking young fellow, clad only in a white shirt with shoulder- gussets of red kumatch [Footnote: A red cotton material.], and in a conical black felt cap, which he tilted first over one ear and then over the other as he scratched his blond curls, placed his long coat on the box, flung the reins there also, and, cracking his braided knout, gazed now at his boots, now at the coachmen who were greasing the britchka. One of them, after having finished his labors, was straining himself and holding the steps; another was bending over the wheel, and carefully greasing axle and box, and even smearing it from below in a circle, in order that the oil upon his cloth might not be wasted. The broken-down post-horses of various colors stood at the fence, and brushed away the flies with their tails. Some of them planted their shaggy, swollen legs far apart, closed their eyes, and dozed; some scratched each other from *ennui*, or nipped the fronds and stalks of the harsh, dark green ferns which grew beside the porch. Several greyhounds breathed heavily as they lay in the sun; others got into the shade beneath the calash and britchka, and licked the tallow around the axles. The whole atmosphere was filled with a kind of dusty mist; the horizon was of a grayish lilac hue, but there was not so much as a tiny cloud in the sky. The strong west wind raised pillars of dust from the roads and fields, bent the crests of the lofty lindens, and the birches in the garden, and bore far away the falling yellow lives. I sat by the window, and awaited with impatience the completion of the preparations.
When all were assembled around the large table in the drawing-room, in order to spend a few minutes together for the last time, it never entered my mind what a painful moment was awaiting us. The most trivial thoughts wandered through my brain. I asked myself, Which post-boy would drive the calash, and which the britchka? who would travel with papa, and who with Karl Ivanitch? and why was it indispensable to wrap me up in a scarf and a long wadded overcoat?
"Am I so delicate? I shall not freeze. I wish they would get through this as quickly as possible! I want to get in and ride off."
"To whom shall I give the list of the children's linen?" asked Natalya Savischna, coming in with tear-swollen eyes and the list in her hand, as she addressed mamma.
"Give it to Nikolai, and come back to say good-by to the children."
The old woman tried to say something, but suddenly paused, covered her face with her handkerchief, and left the room with a wave of the hand.
My heart contracted with pain when I saw that motion; but impatience to start was stronger than that feeling, and I continued to listen indifferently to papa's conversation with mamma. They talked of things which evidently interested neither of them: What was it necessary to purchase for the house? what was to be said to Princess Sophie and Madame Julie? and would the travelling be good?
Foka entered, and, halting on the threshold, said, "The horses are ready," in exactly the same tone with which he announced, "Dinner is served." I noticed that mamma shuddered and turned pale at this announcement, as though she had not expected it.
Foka was ordered to close all the doors of the room. I was very much amused at this: "as though they were hiding themselves from somebody."
When all sat down, Foka also seated himself on the edge of a chair; but no sooner had he done so than a door squeaked, and all glanced round. Natalya Savischna entered in haste, and, without raising her eyes, took refuge near the door on the same chair with Foka. I seem now to see Foka's bald head and wrinkled, immovable face, and the kind, bent form in the cap beneath which the gray hair was visible. They crowded together on the one chair, and both felt awkward.
I remained unconcerned and impatient. The ten seconds during which we sat there with closed doors seemed a whole hour to me. At length we all rose, crossed ourselves, and began to take leave. Papa embraced mamma, and kissed her several times.
"Enough, my dear," said papa. "We are not parting forever."
"It is painful, nevertheless," said mamma, in a voice which quivered with tears.
When I heard that voice, and beheld her trembling lips and her eyes filled with tears, I forgot everything, and everything seemed to me so sad and miserable and terrible that I would rather have run away than have said good-by to her. At that moment I realized that, when she embraced papa, she had already taken leave of us.
She kissed and crossed Volodya so many times, that, supposing that she would now turn to me, I stepped forward. But she continued to bless him and to press him to her bosom. Finally I embraced her, and, clinging to her, I wept without a thought beyond my grief.
When we went out to get into the carriage, the tiresome servants stepped forward in the anteroom to say farewell. Their "Your hand, please, sir," their noisy kisses on our shoulders, and the smell of the tallow on their heads, aroused in me a sentiment nearly akin to that of bitterness in irritable people. Under the influence of this feeling I kissed Natalya Savischna very coldly on her cap when, bathed in tears, she bade me farewell.
It is strange that I can even now see the faces of all those servants, and I could draw them with all the most minute details; but mamma's face and attitude have utterly escaped my mind, perhaps because during all that time I could not once summon up courage to look at her. It seemed to me that, if I did so, her sorrow and mine must increase to the bounds of impossibility.
I flung myself first of all into the calash, and placed myself on the back seat. As the hood was up, I could see nothing, but some instinct told me that mamma was still there.
"Shall I look at her again, or not? Well, for the last time, then!" I said to myself, and leaned out of the calash toward the porch. At that moment mamma had come to the other side of the carriage with the same intent, and called me by name. When I heard her voice behind me, I turned round, but I did it so abruptly that we bumped our heads together. She smiled mournfully, and kissed me long and warmly for the last time.
When we had driven several rods, I made up my mind to look at her. The breeze raised the blue kerchief which was tied about her head; with bended head, and face covered with her hands, she was entering the porch slowly. Foka was sustaining her.
Papa sat beside me, and said nothing. I was choking with tears, and something oppressed my throat so that I was afraid I should stifle. As we entered the highway, we saw a white handkerchief which some one was waving from the balcony. I began to wave mine, and this movement calmed me somewhat. I continued to cry, and the thought that my tears proved my sensitiveness afforded me pleasure and consolation.
After we had traveled a verst, I sat more composedly, and began to observe the nearest objects which presented themselves to my eyes, - the hind quarters of the side horse which was on my side. I noticed how this piebald animal flourished his tail, how he set one foot down after the other, how the post-boy's braided knout reached him, andhis feet began to leap together. I noticed how the harness leaped about on him, and the rings on the harness; and I gazed until the harness was covered around the tail with foam. I began to look about me, upon the undulating fields of ripe rye, on the dark waste land, on which here and there plows, peasants, and mares with their foals were visible; on the verst-stones; I even glanced at the carriage-box to find out which post-boy was driving us; and the tears were not dry on my face, when my thoughts were already far from the mother whom I had left perhaps forever. But every recollection led me to the thought of her. I recalled the mushroom which I had found the day before in the birch- alley, and remembered that Liubotchka and Katenka had disputed as to who should pluck it, and I remember how they had wept at parting from us.
I was sorry for them, and for Natalya Savischna, and the birch-alley, and Foka. I was even sorry for malicious Mimi. I was sorry for everything, everything! But poor mamma? And the tears again filled my eyes, but not for long.
Happy, happy days of youth which can never be recalled! How is it possible not to love it, to cherish memories of it? Those memories refresh and elevate my soul, and serve me as the fountain of my best enjoyment.
--You have run your fill. You sit at the tea-table, in your high chair; you have drunk your cup of milk and sugar long ago; sleep is gluing your eyes together, but you do not stir from the spot, you sit and listen. And how can you help listening? Mamma is talking with some one, and the sound of her voice is so sweet, so courteous. That sound alone says so much to my heart! With eyes dimmed with slumber, I gaze upon her face, and all at once she has become small, so small -- her face is no larger than a button, but I see it just as plainly still. I see her look at me and smile. I like to see her so small. I draw my eyelids still closer together, and she is no larger than the little boys one sees in the pupils of the eyes; but I moved, and the illusion was destroyed. I close my eyes, twist about, and try in every way to reproduce it, but in vain.
I rise, tuck my feet under me, and settle myself comfortably in an easy-chair.
"You will go to sleep again, Nikolenka," says mamma; "you had better go up-stairs."
"I don't want to go to bed, mamma," you reply, and sweet, dim fancies fill your brain; the healthy sleep of childhood closes your lids, and in a moment you lose consciousness, and sleep until they wake you. You feel in your dreams that somebody's soft hand is touching you; you recognize it by that touch alone'; and still sleeping you involuntarily seize it, and press it warmly, so warmly, to your lips.
Everyone has already departed; one candle only burns in the drawing- room. Mamma has said that she would wake me; it is she who has sat down on the chair in which I am sleeping, and strokes my hair with her wonderfully soft hand, and in my ears resounds the dear, familiar voice.
"Get up, my darling, it is time to go to bed."
She is not embarrassed by any one's indifferent glances; she does not fear to pour out upon me all her tenderness and love. I do not move, but kiss her hand yet more earnestly.
"Get up, my angel."
She takes me by the neck with her other hand, and her slender fingers rouse me and tickle me; she touches me, and I am conscious of her perfume and her voice. All this makes me spring up, encircle her neck with my arms, press my head to her bosom with a sigh, and say: --
"Oh, dear, dear mamma, how I love you!"
She smiles, with her sad, bewitching smile, takes my head in both her hands, kisses my brow, and sets me on her knees.
"So you love me very much?" She is silent for a moment, then speaks: "See that you always love me, and never forget me. If you lose your mamma, you will not forget her? you will not forget her, Nikolenka?"
She kisses me still more tenderly.
"Stop! don't say that, my darling, my precious one!" I cry, kissing her knees; and the tears stream in floods from my eyes, -- tears of love and rapture.
After that, perhaps, when you go up-stairs, and stand before the images in your wadded dressing-gown, what a wonderful sensation you experience when you say, "O Lord! save papa and mamma!" In repeating the prayers which my mouth lisped for the first time after my beloved mother, the love of her and the love of God are united, in some strange fashion, in one feeling.
After your prayer you wrap yourself in the bed-clothes, with a spirit light, bright, and inspiring; one dream succeeds another, but what are they all about? They are indescribable; but full of pure love, of hope and bright happiness. You perhaps recall Karl Ivanitch and his bitter lot, - the only unhappy man I knew, - and you are so sorry for him, you love him so, that tears trickle from your eyes, and you think, "May God give him happiness; may He grant me power to help him, to lighten his sorrow; I am ready to sacrifice everything for him." Then you thrust your favorite porcelain plaything - a dog or a hare - into the corner of the down pillow, and it pleases you to think how warm and comfortable it will be there. You pray again that God will grant happiness to all, that every one may be content; and that the weather to-morrow may be good for walking; you turn on the other side; your thoughts and dreams mingle confusedly, and intertwine, and you fall asleep quietly, calmly, your face still wet with tears.
Will that freshness, that happy carelessness, that necessity for love and strength of faith, which you possessed in childhood, ever return? Can any time be better than that when the two greatest of virtues - innocent gayety and unbounded thirst for love - were the only requirements in life?
Where are those burning prayers? Where is that best givt of all, those pure tears of emotion? The angel of comfort flew thither with a smile, and wiped away those tears, and instilled sweet visions into the uncorrupted imagination of infancy.
Has life left such heavy traces in my heart that those tears and raptures have deserted me forever? Do the memories alone abide?
Nearly a month after we removed to Moscow, I was sitting up-stairs in grandmamma's house, at a big table writing. Opposite me sat the drawing-master, making the final corrections in a pencil sketch of the head of some Turk or other in a turban. Volodya was standing behind the master, with outstretched neck, gazing over his shoulder. This little head was Volodya's first production in pencil; and it was to be presented to grandmamma that day, which was her saint's day.
"And you would not put any more shading here?" said Volodya, rising on tiptoe, and pointing at the Turk's neck.
"No, it is not necessary," said the teacher, laying aside the pencil and drawing-pen in a little box with a lock; "it is very good now, and you must not touch it again. Now for you, Nikolenka," he added, rising, and continuing to gaze at the Turk from the corner of his eye, "reveal your secret to us. What are you going to carry to your grandmother? To tell the truth, another head just like this would be the best thing. Good-by, gentlemen," said he, and, taking his hat and note, he went out.
I had been thinking myself, at the moment, that a head would be better than what I was working at. When it had been announced to us that gramdmamma's name-day was near at hand, and that we must prepare gifts for the occasion, I had immediately made up a couple of verses, hoping soon to find the rest. I really do not know how such a strange idea for a child entered my mind; but I remember that it pleased me greatly, and that to all questions on the subject I replied that I would give grandmamma a present without fail, but that I would not tell any one of what it was to consist.
Contrary to my expectations, and in spite of all my efforts, I could not compose any more than the two stanzas which I had thought out on the spur of the moment. I began to read the poems in our books; but neither Dmitrieff nor Derzhavin afforded me any assistance. Quite the reverse: they but convinced me more thoroughly of my own incapacity. Knowing that Karl Ivanitch was fond of copying poetry, I went to rummaging among his papers on the sly; and among the German poems I found one Russian, which must have been the product of his own pen: --
To Madame L.
Remember me near; Remember me afar; Remember me Now and forever; Remember even to my grave How faithfully I can love.
Petrovskof, 1828, June 3- Karl Mauer
[Footnote: It hardly comes under the head of poetry, even in the original. --Tr.]
This poem, transcribed in a handsome round hand, on a thin sheet of note-paper, pleased me because of the touching sentiment with which it was permeated. I immediately learned it by heart, and resolved to take it for a pattern. The matter progressed much more easily then. On the name-day a congratulation in twelve verses was ready, and as I sat in the school-room, I was copying it on vellum paper.
Two sheets of paper were already ruined; not because I had undertaken to make any alterations in them, - the verses seemed to me very fine, - but from the third line on, the ends began to incline upward more and more, so that it was evident, even at a distance, that it was written crookedly, and was fit for nothing.
The third sheet was askew like the others; but I was determined not to do any more copying. In my poem I congratulated grandmamma, wished her many years of health, and concluded thus: --
"To comfort thee we shall endeavor, And love thee like our own dear mother."
It seemed to be very good, yet the last line offended my ear strangely.
I kept repeating it to myself, and trying to find a rhyme instead of "mother." [Footnote: *Mat* (mother), as a rhyme to *utyeschat* (to comfort), is the difficulty. Nikolay tries to fit in *igrat* (to play) and *krovat* (bed), in elderly rhymester fashion. --Tr.] "Well, let it go. It's better than Karl Ivanitch's, anyway."
So I transcribed the last stanza. Then I read my whole composition over aloud in the bedroom, with feeling and gesticulations. The verses were entirely lacking in rhythm, but I did not pause over them; the last, however, struck me still more powerfully and unpleasantly. I sat down on the bed and began to think.
"Why did I write *like our own dear mother?* She's not here, and it was not necessary to mention her. I love grandma, it's true; I reverence her, but still she is not the same. Why did I write that? Why have I lied? Suppose this is poetry; it was not necessary, all the same."
At this moment the tailor entered with a new jacket.
"Well, let it go," I said, very impatiently, thrust my verses under my pillow in great vexation, and ran to try on my Moscow clothes.
The Moscow coat proved to be excellent. The cinnamon-brown half-coat, with its bronze buttons, was made to fit snugly, - not as they made them in the country. The black trousers were also tight; it was wonderful to see how well they showed the muscles, and set upon the shoes.
"At last I've got some trousers with real straps," I thought, quite beside myself with joy, as I surveyed my legs on all sides. Although the new garments were very tight, and it was hard to move in them, I concealed the fact from everybody, and declared that, on the contrary, I was extremely comfortable, and that if there was any fault about the clothes, it was that they were, if anything, a little too large. After that I stood for a long time before the glass, brushing my copiously pomaded hair; but, try as I would, I could not make the tuft where the hair parts on the crown lie flat; as soon as I ceased to press it down with the brush, in order to see if it would obey me, it rose, and projected in all directions, imparting to my face the most ridiculous expression.
Karl Ivanitch was dressing in another room; and his blue swallow-tailed coat, and some white belongings, were carried through the school-room to him. The voice of one of grandmamma's maids became audible at the door which led down-stairs. I went out to see what she wanted. In her hand she held a stiffly starched shirt-front, which she told me she had brought for Karl Ivanitch, and that she had not slept all the previous night, in order that she might get it washed in season. I undertook to deliver it, and asked if grandmamma had risen.
"Yes, indeed, sir! She has already drunk her coffee, and the protopope [Footnote: Archpriest.] has arrived. How fine you are!" she added, glancing at my new suit with a smile.
This remark made me blush. I whirled round on one foot, cracked my fingers, and gave a leap, wishing by this means to make her feel that she did not thoroughly appreciate, as yet, how very grand I was.
When I carried the shirt-front to Karl Ivanitch, he no longer needed it; he had put on another, and, bending over before the little glass which stood on the table, he was holding the splendid bow of his cravat with both hands, and trying whether his clean-shaven chin would go into it easily and out again. After smoothing our clothes down on all sides, and requesting Nikolai to do the same for him, he led us to grandmamma. I laugh when I remember how strongly we three smelt of pomade as we descended the stairs.
Karl Ivanitch had in his hands a little box of his own manufacture, Volodya had his drawing, and I had my verses; each one had upon his tongue the greeting with which he intended to present his gift. At the very moment when Karl Ivanitch opened the drawing-room door, the priest was putting on his robes, and the first sounds of the Te Deum service resounded.
Grandmamma was already in the hall: she was standing by the wall, supporting herself on the back of a chair, over which she bent, and was praying devoutly; beside her stood papa. He turned toward us, and smiled, as he saw us hide hour gifts in haste behind our backs, and halt just inside the door, in our endeavor to escape being seen. The whole effect of unexpectedness upon which we had counted was ruined.
When the time came to go up and kiss the cross, I suddenly felt that I was under the oppressive influence of an ill-defined, benumbing timidity, and, realizing that I should never have courage to present my gift, I hid behind Karl Ivanitch, who, having congratulated grandmamma in the choicest language, shifted his box from his right hand to his left, handed it to the lade whose name-day it was, and retreated a few paces in order to make way for Volodya. Grandmamma appeared to be in ecstasies over the box, which had gilt strips pasted on the edges, and expressed her gratitude with the most flattering of smiles. It was evident, however, that she did not know where to put the box, and it must have been for this reason that she proposed that papa should examine with what wonderful taste it was made.
After satisfying his curiosity, papa handed it to the protopope, who seemed exceedingly pleased with this trifle. He dandled his head, and gazed curiously now at the box, and again at the artist who could make such a beautiful object. Volodya produced his Turk, and he also received the most flattering encomiums from all quarters. Now it was my turn; grandmamma turned to me with an encouraging smile.
Those who have suffered from shyness know that that feeling increases in direct proportion to the time which elapses, and that resolution decreases in an inverse ratio, that is to say, the longer the sensation lasts, the more unconquerable it becomes, and the less decision there is left.
The last remnants of courage and determination forsook me when Karl Ivanitch and Volodya presented their gifts, and my shyness reached a crisis; I felt that the blood was incessantly rushing from my heart into my head, that one color succeeded another on my face, and that great drops of perspiration broke out upon my nose and forehead. My ears burned; I felt a shiver and a cold perspiration all over my body; I shifted from foot to foot, and did not stir from the spot.
"Come, Nikolenka, show us what you have, - a box or a drawing?" said papa. There was nothing to be done. With a trembling hand, I presented the crumpled, fateful scroll; but my voice utterly refused to serve me, and I stood before grandmamma in silence. I could not get over the thought that, in place of the drawing which was expected, my worthless verses would be read before every one, including the words *like our own dear mother*, which would clearly prove that I had never loved her and had forgotten her. How convey an idea of my sufferings during the time when grandmamma began to read my poem aloud, and when, unable to decipher it, she paused in the middle of a line in order to glance at papa with what then seemed to me a mocking smile; when she did not pronounce to suit me, and when, owing to her feebleness of vision, she gave the paper to papa before she had finished, and begged him to read it all over again from the beginning? It seemed to me that she did it because she did not like to read such stupid and crookedly written verses, and in order that papa might read for himself that last line which proved so clearly my lack of feeling. I expected that he would give me a fillip on the nose with those verses, and say, "You good-for-nothing boy, don't forget your mother - take that!" But nothing of the sort happened; on the contrary, when all was read, grandmamma said, "Charming!" and kissed my brow.
The little box, the drawing, and the verses were laid out in a row, beside two cambric handkerchiefs and a snuff-box with a portrait of mamma, on the movable table attached to the long sofa-chair in which grandmamma always sat.
"Princess Varvara Ilinitchna," announced one of the two huge lackeys who accompanied grandmamma's carriage.
Grandmamma gazed thoughtfully at the portrait set into the tortoise- shell cover of the snuff-box, and made no reply.
"Will your illustrious highness receive her?" repeated the footman.
"Ask her in," said grandmamma, sitting back in her long sofa-chair.
The princess was a woman of about forty-five, small, fragile, dry, and bitter, with disagreeable grayish green eyes, whose expression plainly contradicted that of the preternaturally sweet pursed-up mouth. Beneath her velvet bonnet, adorned with an ostrich plume, her bright reddish hair was visible; her eyebrows and lashes appeared still lighter and redder against the unhealthy color of her face. In spite of this, thanks to her unconstrained movements, her tiny hands, and a peculiar coldness of feature, her general appearance was rather noble and energetic.
The princess talked a great deal, and by her distinct enunciation belonged to the class of people who always speak as though some one were contradicting them, though no one has uttered a word; she alternately raised her voice and lowered it gradually, and began all at once to speak with fresh animation, and gazed at the persons who were present but who took no part in the conversation, as though endeavoring to obtain support by this glance.
In spite of the fact that the princess kissed grandmamma's hand, and called her *ma bonne tante* incessantly, I observed that grandmamma was not pleased with her; she twitched her brows in a peculiar manner while listening to her story about the reason why Prince Mikhailo could not possibly come in person to congratulate grandmamma, in spite of his ardent desire to do so; and, replying in Russian to the princess's French, she said, with a singular drawl, "I am very much obliged to you, my dear, for your attention; and as for prince Mikhailo not coming, it is not worth mentioning, he always has so much to do; and what pleasure could he find in sitting with an old woman?"
And, without giving the princess time to contradict her, she went on: -
"How are your children, my dear?"
"Thank God, aunt, they are growing well, and studying and playing pranks, especially Etienne. He is the eldest, and he is getting to be so wild that we can't do anything with him; but he's clever, - *a promising boy*. [Footnote: In French in the original. --Tr.] - Just imagine, *cousin*," she continued, turning exclusively to papa, because grandmamma, who took no interest in the princess's children, and wanted to brag of her own grandchildren, had taken my verses from the box with great care, and was beginning to unfold them, - "just imagine, *cousin*, what he did the other day." And the princess bent over papa, and began to relate something with great animation. When she had finished her tale, which I did not hear, she immediately began to laugh, and looking inquiringly at papa, said: - "That's a nice kind of boy, *cousin*? He deserved a whipping; but his caper was so clever and amusing, that I forgave him, *cousin*."
And, fixing her eyes on grandmamma, the princess went on smiling, but said nothing.
"Do you *beat* your children, my dear?" inquired grandmamma, raising her brows significantly, and laying a special emphasis on the word *beat*.
"Ah, *my good aunt*," replied the princess, in a good-natured tone, as she cast a swift glance at papa, "I know your opinion on that point; but you must permit me to disagree with you in one particular: in spite of all my thought and reading, in spite of all the advice which I have taken on this subject, experience has led me to the conviction that it is indispensable that one should act upon children through their fears. Fear is requisite, in order to make anything out of a child; is it not so, *my cousin*? Now, *I ask you*, do children fear anything more than the rod?"
With this she glanced inquiringly at us, and I confess I felt rather uncomfortable at that moment.
"Whatever you may say, a boy of twelve, or even one of fourteen, is still a child; but a girl is quite another matter."
"How lucky," I thought to myself, "that I am not her son!"
"Yes, that's all very fine, my dear," said grandmamma, folding up my verses, and placing them under the box, as though, after that, she considered the princess unworthy of hearing such a production; "that's all very fine, but tell me, please, how you can expect any delicacy of feeling in your children after that."
And, regarding this argument as unanswerable, grandmamma added, in order to put an end to the conversation: -
"However, every one has a right to his own opinion on that subject."
The princess made no reply, but smiled condescendingly, thereby giving us to understand that she pardoned these strange prejudices in an individual who was so much respected.
"Ah, pray make me acquainted with your young people," she said, glancing at us, and smiling politely.
We rose, fixed our eyes on the princess's face, but did not in the least know what we ought to do in order to show that the acquaintance had been made.
"Kiss the princess's hand," said papa.
"I beg that you will love your old aunt," she said, kissing Volodya on the hair; "although I am only a distant aunt, I reckon on our friendly relations rather than on degrees of blood relationship," she added, directing her remarks chiefly to grandmamma; but grandmamma was still displeased with her, and answered: -
"Eh! my dear, does such relationship count for anything nowadays?"
"This is going to be my young man of the world," said papa, pointing to Volodya; "and this is the poet," he added, just as I was kissing the princess's dry little hand, and imagining, with exceeding vividness, that the hand held a rod, and beneath the rod was a bench, and so on, and so on.
"Which?" asked the princess, detaining me by the hand.
"This little fellow with the tuft on his crown," answered papa, smiling gayly.
"What does my tuft matter to him? Is there no other subject of conversation?" I thought, and retreated into a corner.
I had the strangest possible conceptions of beauty. I even considered Karl Ivanitch the greatest beauty in the world; but I knew very well that I was not good-looking myself, and on this point I made no mistake; therefore any allusion to my personal appearance offended me deeply.
I remember very well how once - I was six years old at the time - they were discussing my looks at dinner, and mamma was trying to discover something handsome about my face: she said I had intelligent eyes, an agreeable smile, and at last, yielding to papa's arguments and to ocular evidence, she was forced to confess that I was homely; and then, when I thanked her for the dinner, she tapped my cheek, and said: -
"You know, Nikolenka, that no one will love your for your face; therefore you must endeavor to be a good and sensible boy."
These words not only convinced me that I was not a beauty, but also that I should, without fail, become a good, sensible boy.
In spite of this, moments of despair often visited me. I fancied that there was no happiness on earth for a person with such a wide nose, such thick lips, and such small gray eyes as I had; I besought God to work a miracle, to turn me into a beauty, and all I had in the present, or might have in the future, I would given in exchange for a handsome face.
When the princess had heard the verses, and had showered praises upon the author, grandmamma relented, began to address her in French, ceased to call her *you* [Footnote: That is to say, she called her *thou*.], and *my dear*, and invited her to come to us in the evening, with all her children, to which the princess consented; and after sitting awhile longer, she took her departure.
So many visitors came that day with congratulations, that the courtyard near the entrance was never free, all the morning, from several carriages.
"Good-morning, cousin," said one of the guests, in French, as he entered the room, and kissed grandmamma's hand.
He was a man about seventy years of age, of lofty stature, dressed in a military uniform with big epaulets, from beneath the collar of which a large white cross was visible, and with a calm, frank expression of countenance. The freedom and simplicity of his movements surprised me. His face was still notably handsome, in spite of the fact that only a thin semicircle of hair was left on the nape of the neck, and that the position of his upper lip betrayed the lack of teeth.
Prince Ivan Ivanitch had enjoyed a brilliant career while he was still very young at the end of the last century, thanks to his noble character, his handsome person, his noteworthy bravery, his distinguished and powerful family, and thanks especially to good luck. He remained in the service, and his ambition was very speedily so thoroughly gratified that there was nothing left for his to wish for in that direction. From his earliest youth he had conducted himself as if preparing himself to occupy that dazzling station in the world in which fate eventually placed him. therefore, although he encountered some disappointments, disenchantments, and bitterness in his brilliant and somewhat vainglorious life, such as all people undergo, he never once changed his usual calm character, his lofty manner of thought, nor his well-grounded principles of religion and morality, and won universal respect, which was founded not so much on his brilliant position as upon his firmness and trustworthiness. His mind was small; but, thanks to a position which permitted him to look down upon all the vain bustle of life, his cast of thought was elevated. He was kind and feeling, but cold and somewhat haughty in his intercourse with others. This arose from the circumstance that he was placed in a position where he could be of use to many people, and he endeavored by his cold manner to protect himself against the incessant petitions and appeals of persons who only wished to take advantage of his influence. But this coldness was softened by the condescending courtesy of a man of *the very highest society*.
He was cultivated and well-read; but his cultivation stopped at what he had acquired in his youth, that is to say, at the close of the last century. He had read everything of note which had been written in France on the subject of philosophy and eloquence during the eighteenth century; he was thoroughly acquainted with all the best products of French literature, so that he was able to quote passages from Racine, Corneille, Boileau, Molière, Montaigne, and Fenelon, and was fond of doing so; he possessed a brilliant knowledge of mythology, and had studied with profit the ancient monuments of epic poetry in the French translations; he had acquired a sufficient knowledge of history from Ségur; but he knew nothing at all of mathematics beyond arithmetic, nor of physics, nor of contemporary literature; he could maintain a courteous silence in conversation, or utter a few commonplaces about Goethe, Schiller, and Byron, but he had never read them. In spite of this French and classical cultivation, of which so few examples still exist, his conversation was simple; and yet this simplicity concealed his ignorance of various things, and exhibited tolerance and an agreeable tone. He was a great enemy of all originality, declaring that originality is the bait of people of bad tone. Society was a necessity to him, wherever he might be living; whether in Moscow or abroad, he always lived generously, and on certain days received all the town. His standing in town was such that an invitation from him served as a passport to all drawing-rooms, and many young and pretty women willingly presented to him their rosy cheeks, which he kissed with a kind of fatherly feeling; and other, to all appearances, very important and respectable people were in a state of indescribable joy when they were admitted to the prince's parties.
Very few people were now left, who, like grandmamma, had been members of the same circle, of the same age, possessed of the same education, the same view of matters; and for that reason he especially prized the ancient friendly connection with her, and always showed her the greatest respect.
I could not gaze enough at the prince. The respect which every one showed him, his huge epaulets, the particular joy which grandmamma manifested at the sight of him, and the fact that he alone did not fear her, treated her with perfect ease, and even had the daring to address her as *ma cousine*, inspired me with a reverence for him which equaled if it did not excel that which I felt for grandmamma. When she showed him my verses, he called me to him, and said: --
"Who knows, cousin, but this may be another Derzhavin?"
Thereupon he pinched my cheek in such a painful manner that if I did not cry out it was because I guessed that it must be accepted as a caress.
The guests dispersed. Papa and Volodya went out; only the prince, grandmamma, and I remained in the drawing-room.
"Why did not our dear Natalya Nikolaevna come?" asked Prince Ivan Ivanitch, suddenly, after a momentary silence.
"Ah! *mon cher*," replied grandmamma, bending her head and laying her hand upon the sleeve of his uniform, "she certainly would have come had she been free to do as she wished. She writes to me that Pierre proposed that she should come, but that she had refused because they had had no income at all this year; and she writes: 'Moreover, there is no reason why I should remove to Moscow this year with the whole household. Liubotchka is still too young; and as for the boys who are to live with you, I am more easy about them than if they were to live with me.' All that is very fine!" continued grandmamma, in a tone which showed very plainly that she did not consider it fine at all. "The boys should have been sent here long ago, in order that they might learn something, and become accustomed to society. What kind of education was it possible to give them in the country? Why, the eldest will soon be thirteen, and the other eleven. You have observed, cousin, that they are perfectly untamed here; they don't know how to enter a room."
"But I don't understand," replied the prince; "why these daily complaints of reduced circumstances? *He* has a very handsome property, and Natascha's Khabarovka, where I played in the theater with you once upon a time, I know as well as the five fingers on my own hand. It's a wonderful estate, and it must always bring in a handsome revenue."
"I will tell you, as a true friend," broke in grandmamma, with an expression of sadness: "it seems to me that all excuses are simply for the purpose of allowing *him* to live here alone, to lounge about at the clubs, at dinners, and to do God knows what else. But she suspects nothing. You know what an angel of goodness she is; she believes *him* in everything. He assured her that it was necessary to bring the children to Moscow, and to leave her alone with that stupid governess in the country, and she believed him. If he were to tell her that it was necessary to whip the children as Princess Varvara Ilinitchna whips hers, she would probably agree to it," said grandmamma, turning about in her chair, with an expression of thorough disdain. "Yes, my friend," pursued grandmamma, after a momentary pause, taking in her hand one of the two handkerchiefs, in order to wipe away the tear which made its appearance; "I often think that *he* can neither value her nor understand her, and that, in spite of all her goodness and love for him, and her efforts to conceal her grief, - I know it very well, - she cannot be happy with him; and mark my words, if he does not.."
Grandmamma covered her face with her handkerchief.
"Eh, my good friend," said the prince, reproachfully, "I see that you have not grown any wiser. You are always mourning and weeping over an imaginary grief. Come, are you not ashamed of yourself? I have known *him* for a long time, and I know him to be a good, attentive, and very fine husband, and, what is the principal thing, a perfectly honest man."
Having involuntarily overheard this conversation, which I ought not to have heard, I took myself out of the room, on tiptoe, in violent emotion.
"Volodya! Volodya! the Ivins!" I shouted, catching sight from the window of three boys in blue overcoats, with beaver collars, who were crossing from the opposite sidewalk to our house, headed by their young and dandified tutor.
The Ivins were related to us, and were of about our own age; we had made their acquaintance and struck up a friendship soon after our arrival in Moscow.
The second Ivin, Serozha, was a dark-complexioned, curly-headed boy, with a determined, turned-up little nose, very fresh red lips, which seldom completely covered the upper row of his white teeth, very handsome dark blue eyes, and a remarkably alert expression of countenance. He never smiled, but either looked quite serious, or laughed heartily with a distinct, ringing, and very attractive laugh. His original beauty struck me at first sight. I felt for him an unconquerable liking. It was sufficient for my happiness to see him: at one time, all the powers of my soul were concentrated upon this wish; when three or four days chanced to pass without my having seen him, I began to feel bored and sad even to tears. All my dreams, both waking and sleeping, were of him; when I lay down to sleep, I willed to dreamed of him; when I shut my eyes, I saw him before me, and cherished the vision as the greatest bliss. I could not have brought myself to confess this feeling to any one in the world, so greatly did I prize it. He evidently preferred to play with Volodya and to talk with him, rather than with me, possibly because it annoyed him to feel my restless eyes constantly fixed upon him, or simply because he felt no sympathy for me: but nevertheless I was content; I desired nothing, demanded nothing, and was ready to sacrifice everything for him. Besides the passionate attachment with which he inspired me, his presence aroused another feeling in a now less powerful degree, - a fear of paining or offending him in any way, or of displeasing him. I felt as much fear for him as love, perhaps because his face had a haughty expression, or because, despising my own appearance, I valued the advantage of beauty too highly in others, or, what is most probable of all, because this is an infallible sign of love. The first time Serozha spoke to me, I lost my wits to such a degree at this unexpected bliss, that I turned pale, blushed, and could make no reply. He had a bad habit of fixing his eyes upon some one spot, when he was thinking, and of winking incessantly, at the same time twitching his nose and eyebrows. Everyone thought that this trick spoiled him; but I thought it so charming that I voluntarily acquired the same habit; and a few days after I had become acquainted with him, grandmamma inquired, Did my eyes pain me, that I was blinking like an owl? Not a word about love was ever uttered between us; but he felt his power over me, and exercised it unconsciously but tyrannically in our childish intercourse. And, no matter how hard I tried to tell him all that was in my mind, I was too much afraid of him to resolve on frankness; I endeavored to seem indifferent, and submitted to him without a murmur. At times his influence appeared to me oppressive, intolerable; but it was not in my power to escape from it.
It saddens me to think of that fresh, beautiful feeling of unselfish and unbounded love, which died away without having found vent, or met with a return.
It is strange how, when I was a child, I strove to be like a grown-up person, and how, since I have ceased to be a child, I have often longed to be like one.
How many times did this desire not to seem like a child in my intercourse with Serozha restrain the feeling which was ready to pour forth, and cause me to dissimulate! I not only did not dare to kiss him, which I very much wanted to do at times, to take his hand, to tell him that I was glad to see him, but I did not even dare to call him Serozha, but kept strictly to Sergieï. So it was settled between us. Every expression of sentiment betrayed childishness, and that he who permitted himself anything of the sort was still a *little boy*. Without having, as yet, gone through those bitter trials which lead adults to caution and coldness in their intercourse with each other, we deprived ourselves of the pure enjoyment of tender, childish affection, simply through the strange desire to imitate *grown-up people*.
I met the Ivins in the anteroom, exchanged greetings with them, and then flew headlong to grandmamma. I announced that the Ivins had arrives; and, from my expression, one would have supposed that this news must render her completely happy. Then, without taking my eyes from Serozha, I followed him into the drawing-room, watching his every movement. While grandmamma was telling him that he had grown a great deal, and fixed her penetrating eyes upon him, I experienced that sensation of terror and hope which a painter must experience when he is awaiting the verdict upon his work from a judge whom he respects.
Herr Frost, the Ivins' young tutor, with grandmamma's permission, went into the little garden with us, seated himself on a green bench, crossed his legs picturesquely, placing between them a cane with a bronze head, and began to smoke his cigar with the air of a man who is very well satisfied with his own conduct.
Herr Frost was a German, but a German of a very different stamp from our good Karl Ivanitch. In the first place he spoke Russian correctly, he spoke French with a bad accent, and generally enjoyed, especially among the ladies, the reputation of being a very learned man; in the second place, he wore a red mustache, a big ruby pin in his black satin cravat, the ends of which were tucked under his suspenders, and light blue trousers with spring bottoms and straps; in the third place he was young, had a handsome, self-satisfied exterior, and remarkably fine muscular legs. It was evident that he set a particular value on this last advantage; he considered its effect irresistible on members of the female sex, and it must have been with this view that he tried to exhibit his legs in the most conspicuous place, and, whether standing or sitting, always put his calves in motion. He was a type of the young Russian German who aspires to be a gay fellow and a lady's man.
It was very lively in the garden. Our game of robbers could not have been more successful; but one circumstance came near ruining everything. Serozha was the robber; as he was hastening in pursuit of travelers, he stumbled, and in full flight struck his knee with so much force against a tree that I thought he had shivered it into splinters. In spite of the fact that I was the gendarme, and that y duty consisted in capturing him, I approached, and sympathetically inquired whether he had hurt himself. Serozha got angry with me; he clenched his fists, stamped his foot, and in a voice which plainly betrayed that he had injured himself badly, he shouted at me: --
"Well, what's this? After this we'll have no more games! Come, why don't you catch me? why don't you catch me?" he repeated several times, glancing sideways at Volodya and the elder Ivin, who, in their character of travelers, were leaping and running along the path; and all at once he gave a shriek, and rushed after them with a loud laugh.
I cannot describe how this heroic conduct impressed and captivated me. In spite of the terrible pain, he not only did not cry, but he did not even show that he was hurt, and never for a moment forgot the game.
Shortly after this, when Ilinka Grap also joined our company, and we went up-stairs to wait for dinner, Serozha had another opportunity of enslaving and amazing me with his marvelous manliness and firmness of character.
Ilinka Grap was the son of a poor foreigner who had once lived at my grandfather's, was indebted to him in some way, and now considered it his imperative duty to send his son to us very often. If he supposed that an acquaintance with us could afford any honor or satisfaction to his son, he was entirely mistaken; for we not only did not make friends with Ilinka, but we only noticed him when we wanted to make fun of him. Ilinka Grap was a thin, tall, pale boy of thirteen, with a bird-like face and a good-naturedly submissive expression. He was very poorly dressed, but his hair was always so excessively greased that we declared that, on sunny days, Grap's pomade melted and trickled down under his jacket. As I recall him now, I find that he was very willing to be of service, and a very quiet, kind boy; but at that time he appeared to me as a contemptible being, whom it was not necessary to pity or even to think of.
When the game of robbers came to an end, we went up-stairs and began to cut capers, and to show off various gymnastic tricks before each other. Ilinka watched us with a timid smile of admiration, and when we proposed to him to do the same, he refused, saying that he had no strength at all. Serozha was wonderfully charming. He took off his jacket. His cheeks and eyes were blazing; he laughed incessantly, and invented new tricks; he leaped over three chairs placed in a row, trundled all over the room like a wheel, stood on his head on Tatischeff's lexicon, which he placed in the middle of the room for a pedestal, and at the same time cut such funny capers with his feet that it was impossible to refrain from laughing. After this last performance he became thoughtful, screwed up his eyes, and went up to Ilinka with a perfectly sober face. "Try to do that; it really is not difficult." Grap, perceiving that general attention was directed to him, turned red, and declared, in a scarcely audible voice, that he could do nothing of the kind.
"And why won't he show off anyway? What a girl he is! He must stand on his head."
And Serozha took him by the hand.
"You must, you must stand on your head!" we all shouted, surrounding Ilinka, who at that moment was visibly terrified, and turned pale; then we seized his arms, and dragged him to the lexicon.
"Let me go, I'll do it myself! You'll tear my jacket," cried the unhappy victim. But these cries of despair imparted fresh animation to us; we were dying with laughter; the green jacket was cracking in every seam.
Volodya and the eldest Ivin bent his head down and placed it on the dictionary; Serozha and I seized the poor boy's thin legs, which he flourished in all directions, stripped up his trousers to the knee, and with great laughter turned them up; the youngest Ivin preserved the equilibrium of his whole body.
After our noisy laughter, we all became suddenly silent; and it was so quiet in the room, that the unfortunate Grap's breathing alone was audible. At that moment I was by no means thoroughly convinced that all this was so very laughable and amusing.
"There's a fine fellow, now," said Serozha, slapping him.
Ilinka remained silent, and in his endeavor to free himself flung his legs out in all directions. In one of these desperate movements, he struck Serozha in the eye with his heel in such a painful manner, that Serozha immediately released his leg, clasped his own eye, from which the unbidden tears were streaming, and pushed Ilinka with all his might. Ilinka, being no longer supported by us, went down on the floor with a crash, like some lifeless object, and all he could utter for his tears was: --
"Why do you tyrannize over me so?"
The woeful figure of poor Ilinka, with his tear-stained face, disordered hair, and his tucked-up trousers, under which his dirty boot-legs were visible, impressed us; we did not speak, and we tried to smile in a constrained fashion.
Serozha was the first to recover himself.
"There's a woman, a cry-baby," he said, pushing him lightly with his foot; "it's impossible to joke with him. Come, enough of that; get up."
"I told you that you were a good-for-nothing little boy," said Ilinka, angrily, and turning away he sobbed loudly.
"What! You use your heels, and then scold!" screamed Serozha, seizing the lexicon and swinging it over the head of the wretched boy, who never thought of defending himself, and only covered his head with his hands.
"There! There! Let's drop him, if he can't understand a joke. Let's go down-stairs," said Serozha, laughing in an unnatural way.
I gazed with sympathy at the poor fellow, who lay on the floor, hiding his face on the lexicon, and crying so that it seemed as if he were on the point of dying of the convulsions which shook his whole body.
"Hey, Sergieï!" I said to him, "why did you do that?"
"That's good! I didn't cry, I hope, when I cut my knee nearly to the bone to-day."
"Yes, that's true," I thought; "Ilinka is nothing but a cry-baby; but there's Serozha, he is so brave. What a manly fellow he is!"
I had no idea that the poor boy was crying, not so much from physical pain, as from the thought that five boys, whom he probably liked, had all agreed, without any cause, to hate and persecute him.
I really cannot explain to myself the cruelty of this conduct. Why did I not go to him, protect him, comfort him? What had become of that sentiment of pity, which had formerly made me cry violently at the sight of a young daw which had been thrown from its nest, or a puppy which was to be thrown out of the garden, or a chicken which the cook was carrying off for soup?
Had this beautiful feeling been destroyed in me, by love for Serozha, and the desire to appear as manly in his sight as he was himself? That love and that desire to appear manly were not enviable qualities. They were the cause of the only dark spots in the pages of my childish memories.
Judging from the special activity perceptible in the butler's pantry, the brilliant illumination which imparted a new and festive aspect to objects in the drawing-room and hall, which had long been familiar to me, and particularly judging from the fact that Prince Ivan Ivanitch would not have sent his music for nothing, a large number of guests were expected for the evening.
I ran to the window at the sound of every passing carriage, put the palms of my hand to my temples and against the glass, and gazed into the street with impatient curiosity. Through the darkness, which at first covered all objects from the window, there gradually appeared, across the way, a long familiar shop, with a lantern; in an oblique line, a large house with two lighted windows on the lower floor; in the middle of the street some *Vanka* [Footnote: Local term for a poor, rustic driver, who enters service for the winter in town.], with two passengers, or an empty calash returning home at a foot-pace; but now a carriage drove up to the porch, and in the full conviction that it was the Ivins, who had promised to come early, I ran down to meet them in the anteroom. Instead of the Ivins, two ladies made their appearance behind the liveried arm which opened the door: one was large, and wore a blue cloak with a sable collar; the other, who was small, was all wrapped up in a green shawl, beneath which her little feet, shod in fur boots, alone were visible. Paying no attention to my presence in the anteroom, although I considered it my duty to make my bow when these persons appeared, the little one silently walked up to the big one, and halted in front of her. The big one unwound the kerchief which covered the little one's head, unbuttoned her cloak, and when the liveried footman took charge of these things, and pulled off her little fur boots, there appeared from this much-wrapped-up individual a wonderful twelve-year-old little girl, dressed in a low-necked white muslin frock, white pantalets, and tiny black slippers. There was a black velvet ribbon on her little white neck; her head was a mass of dark chestnut curls which suited her lovely face admirably, and fell upon her white shoulders behind so beautifully, that I would not have believed Karl Ivanitch himself if he had told me that they curled so because they had been twisted up in bits of *The Moscow Gazette* ever since the morning, and pinched with hot irons. She seemed to have been born with that curly head.
A striking feature of her face was the unusual size of her prominent, half-closed eyes, which formed a strange but agreeable contrast to her small mouth. Her lips were tightly closed; and her eyes had such a serious look, and the general expression of her face was such, that you would not look for a smile on it; and therefore a smile was all the more enchanting.
I crept to the door of the hall, endeavoring to remain unperceived, and decided that it would be well to walk back and forth feigning meditation, and that I was not aware that guests had arrived. When they had traversed half the apartment, I apparently came to myself, made my bow, and informed them that grandmamma was in the drawing-room. Madame Valakhin, whose face pleased me extremely, especially because I discerned in it a strong resemblance to her daughter Sonitchka, nodded graciously to me.
Grandmamma appeared to be very glad to see Sonitchka; she called her close to her, adjusted one of her curls which had fallen over her forehead, and, gazing attentively at her face, she said in French, "What a charming child!" Sonitchka smiled and blushed so prettily that I blushed also as I looked at her.
"I hope you will not be bored here, my little friend," said grandmamma, taking hold of her chin, and raising her little face. "I beg that you will be merry and dance as much as possible. Here are one lady and two cavaliers," she added, turning to Madame Valakhin, and touching me with her hand.
This bringing us together pleased me so much that it made me blush again.
Conscious that my shyness was increasing, and hearing the noise of another carriage as it drove up, I deemed it best to make a retreat. In the anteroom I found Princess Kornakoff with her son and an incredible number of daughters. The daughters were all exactly alike in countenance, - they resembled the princess, and were ugly; therefore no one of them arrested my attention. As they took off their cloaks, and shook out their trains, they all began suddenly to talk in thin little voices as they fussed and laughed at something - probably because there were so many of them. Étienne was a tall fleshy lad of fifteen, with a thin, bloodless face, sunken eyes with blue circles beneath them, and hands and feet which were enormous for his age; he was awkward, had a rough and disagreeable voice, but appeared very well satisfied with himself, and, according to my views, he was precisely the sort of boy who gets whipped with a switch.
We stood for quite a while opposite each other, without uttering a word, examining each other attentively. Then we approached a little nearer, apparently with the desire to kiss each other, but we changed our minds, for some reason or other, after we had looked into each other's eyes again. When the dresses of all his sisters rustled past us, I inquired, for the sake of beginning the conversation, whether they were not crowded in the carriage.
"I don't know," he answered carelessly, "for I never ride in the carriage, because just as soon as I take my seat I begin to feel ill, and mamma knows it. When we go anywhere in the evening I always sit on the box. It's much jollier; you can see everything, and Philip lets me drive, and sometimes I have the whip. Sometimes I do *so* to the passers-by," he added, with an expressive gesture; "it's splendid!"
"Your illustrious highness," said the footman, entering the anteroom, "Philip wants to know where you were pleased to put the whip?"
"What's that? Where did I put it? Why, I gave it to him."
"He says that you did not."
"well, then I hung it on the lantern."
"Philip says that it is not on the lantern; and you had better say that you took it and lost it, or Philip will have to pay for your pranks out of his small wages," continued the angry footman, with increasing animation.
The footman, who seemed to be a respectable but sullen man, appeared to take Philip's side, and was resolved to clear up this matter at any cost. From an involuntary feeling of delicacy I stepped aside as though I had observed nothing. But the lackeys who were present behaved quite differently; they came nearer, and gazed approvingly at the old servant.
"Well, I lost it, I lost it," said Étienne, avoiding further explanations. "I'll pay him what the whip is worth. This is amusing!" he added, approaching me, and leading me toward the drawing-room.
"No, master, how will you pay? I know you have been eight months pays Marya Vasilievna twenty kopecks, and it's the same in my case, and it's two years since Petrushka ..."
"Hold your tongue!" shouted the young prince, turning pale with rage. "I'll tell all about it."
"You'll tell all, you'll tell all!" went on the footman. "This is bad, your illustrious highness," he added, with a peculiar expression, as we entered the hall, and he went to the wardrobe with the cloaks.
"That's right, that's right!" said an approving voice behind us in the anteroom.
Grandmamma had a peculiar gift for expressing her opinion of people by adding to a certain tone, on certain occasions, the singular and plural pronouns of the second person. Although she employed *you* and *thou* in direct opposition to the generally received usage, these shades of meaning acquired an entirely different significance in her mouth. When the young prince approached her, she at first addressed a few words to him, calling him *you*, and regarding him with such an expression of scorn that, had I been in his place, I should have become utterly abashed. But evidently Étienne was not a boy of that stamp; he not only paid no heed to grandmamma's reception, but even to her person, and saluted the whole company, if not gracefully, at least without the slightest constraint. Sonitchka occupied all my attention. I remembered that when Volodya, Étienne, and I were talking together in a part of the room from which Sonitchka was visible, and she could see and hear us, I spoke with pleasure; when I had occasion to utter what seemed to me an amusing or manly remark, I spoke loudly, and glanced at the drawing-room door; but when we changed to another place, from which it was impossible to be seen or heard from the drawing-room, I remained silent, and found no further pleasure in the conversation.
The drawing-room and hall gradually filled with guests. As always happens at children's parties, there were several large children among the number who were not willing to miss an opportunity of dancing and making merry, if only for the sake of pleasing the hostess.
When the Ivins arrived, instead of the pleasure which I generally experienced at meeting Serozha, I was conscious of a certain strange vexation because he would see Sonitchka and would show off to her.
"Eh! You are evidently going to have dancing," said Serozha, coming from the drawing-room, and pulling a pair of new kid gloves from his pocket; "I must put on my gloves."
"What's that for? We have no gloves," I thought; "I must go up-stairs and hunt for some."
But although I rummaged all the drawers, all I found was, in one, our green traveling mittens; in another, one kid glove which was of no service whatever to me, in the first place, because it was very old and dirty, in the second, because it was too large for me, and especially because the middle finger was missing, having been cut off long ago, probably by Karl Ivanitch, for a sore hand. Nevertheless I put this remnant of a glove upon my hand, and regarded intently that place upon my middle finger which was always smeared with ink.
"If Natalya Savischna were only here, she would surely find me some gloves." It was impossible to go down-stairs in such a plight, because, if they asked me why I did not dance, what could I say? To remain here was equally impossible, because I should infallibly be caught. "What am I to do?" I said, flourishing my hands.
"What are you doing here?" asked Volodya, running in; "go engage your lady, it will begin directly."
"Volodya," I said to him, displaying my hand, with two fingers sticking out of the dirty glove, and expressing in my voice that I was in a state which bordered on despair, -- "Volodya, you never thought of this."
"Of what?" said he, impatiently. "Ah! Gloves," he added quite indifferently, catching sight of my hand. "No, I didn't, in fact. You must ask grandmamma. What will she say?" and, without pausing to reflect, he ran down-stairs.
The cold-bloodedness with which he expressed himself on a point which seemed to me so weighty reassured me, and I hastened to the drawing- room, totally oblivious of the grotesque glove on my left hand.
Approaching grandmamma's arm-chair with caution, and touching her mantle lightly, I said in a whisper: --
"Grandmamma! What are we to do? We have no gloves!"
"What, my dear?"
"We have no gloves," I repeated, drawing nearer and nearer, and laying both hands on the arm of her chair.
"And what is this?" she said, all at once seeing my left hand. "See here, my dear," she went on in French, turning to Madame Valakhin, "this young man has made himself elegant in order to dance with your daughter."
Grandmamma held me firmly by the hand, and gazed seriously but inquiringly at her guests until all had satisfied their curiosity and the laugh had become general.
I should have been very much mortified if Serozha had seen me during the time, when, frowning with shame, I vainly endeavored to tear my hand free; but I was not at all pained in the presence of Sonitchka, who laughed until her eyes were filled with tears, and all her curls fluttered about her rosy little face. I understood that her laugh was too loud and natural to be mocking; on the contrary, we laughed together, and seemed to come nearer to each other as we exchanged glances. This episode of the glove, although it might end badly, gained me this advantage, that it placed me on easy terms with a circle which had always seemed to me most terrible, -- the drawing-room circle; I felt not the slightest timidity in the hall.
The sufferings of shy people arise from their uncertainty as to the opinion which people have formed of them; as soon as this opinion is openly demonstrated, -- in whatever form it may occur, -- this suffering ceases.
How charming Sonitchka Valakhin was, as she danced opposite me in the French quadrille with the clumsy young prince! How sweetly she smiled when she gave me her little hand in the chain! How prettily her golden curls waved in measure, how naively she brought her tiny feet together! When, in the fifth figure, my partner left me and went to the other side, while I waited for the time and prepared to execute my solo, Sonitchka closed her lips seriously and looked aside. But her fear for me was unnecessary. I boldly made my *chassé* to the front, *chassé* to the rear, and my glide; and when I approached her, I playfully showed her my glove with my two fingers sticking out. She laughed excessively, and her little feet tripped about upon the waxed floor more bewitchingly than ever. I still remember how, when we formed a circle and all joined hands, she bent her little head, and, without removing her hand from mine, scratched her little nose with her glove. I can still see all this as though it were directly before my eyes, and I still hear the quadrille from "The Maid of the Danube," to whose music all this took place.
The second quadrille arrived, and I danced it with Sonitchka. After seating myself beside her, I felt extremely awkward, and did not know in the least what to say to her. When my silence had lasted too long, I began to fear that she would take me for a fool; and I resolved to rescue her from any such error my account, at any cost. "You are an inhabitant of Moscow?" I said to her in French; and, after receiving an answer in the affirmative, I went on, "For my part, I have never yet frequented the capital," with a calculation as to the effect which the word "frequent" would produce. Nevertheless, I felt that although this was a very brilliant beginning, and fully proved my knowledge of the French tongue, I was incapable of continuing the conversation in this strain. Our turn to dance would not come very soon, but the silence was renewed. I gazed at her uneasily, desirous of knowing what impression I had produced, and awaiting her assistance. "Where did you find such a funny glove?" she inquired suddenly; and this question caused me the greatest pleasure and relief. I explained that the glove belonged to Karl Ivanitch, went into some rather ironical details concerning Karl Ivanitch's person, -- how ridiculous he was when he took off his red cap; and how he had once fallen from a horse, when dressed in his green overcoat, straight into a puddle, and so forth. The quadrille passed off without our perceiving it. All this was very delightful; but why did I ridicule Karl Ivanitch? Should I have lost Sonitchka's good opinion if I had described him with the love and respect which I felt for him?
When the quadrille came to an end, Sonitchka said, "Thank you," in French, with as sweet an expression as though I had really deserved her gratitude. I was in ecstasies. I was beside myself with joy, and did not know myself whence I had obtained such daring, confidence, and even boldness. "Nothing can confuse me," I thought, promenading about the hall quite unembarrassed; "I am ready for anything."
Serozha proposed to me to be his *vis-à-vis*. "Very well," said I, I have no partner, but I will find one." Casting a decisive glance about the room, I perceived that all the ladies were engaged with the exception of one big girl, who was standing at the parlor door. A tall young man approached her with the intention, as I concluded, of inviting her to dance; he was within a couple of paces of her, but I was at the other end of the hall. In the twinkling of any eye, Ii flew across the space which separated me from her, sliding gracefully over the polished floor, and with a scrape of my foot and a firm voice, I invited her for the contra-dance. The big girl smiled patronizingly, gave me her hand, and the young man was left partnerless.
I was so conscious of my power, that I paid no heed to the young man's vexation; but I afterwards learned that he inquired who that frowsy boy was, who had jumped in front of him and taken away his partner.
The young man whom I had robbed of his lady danced in the first couple of the mazurka. He sprang from his place, holding his lady by the hand, and, instead of making the *pas de Basques* as Mimi had taught us, he simply ran forward. When he had reached the corner, he halted, stamped his heels, spread his legs apart, turned around, and went skipping of farther.
As I had no partner for the mazurka, I sat behind grandmamma's high chair, and looked on.
"Why does he do that?" I pondered. "That's not at all as Mimi taught us. She declared that everybody danced the mazurka on their toes, bringing their feet round in circular form; and it turns out that they don't dance that way at all. There are the Ivins and Étienne and all of them dancing, and they are not doing the *pas de Basques*. And our Volodya has picked up the new fashion! It's not bad! And how lovely Sonitchka is! There she goes!"
I was very merry.
The mazurka was nearing its end. Several elderly ladies and gentlemen came up to take leave of grandmamma, and departed. The lackeys, skilfully keeping out of the way of the dancers, brought the dishes into the back rooms. Grandmamma was evidently weary, and seemed to speak unwillingly and in a very drawling way; the musicians indolently began the same air for the thirtieth time. The big girl with whom I had danced caught sight of me as she was going through a figure, and, smiling treacherously, -- she must have wanted to please grandmamma, -- she led Sonitchka and one of the innumerable princesses up to me. "Rose or nettle?" said she in French.
"Ah, so you are here!" said grandmamma, turning round in her chair. "Go, my dear, go."
Although at that moment I would much rather have hid my head under grandmamma's chair, than emerge from behind it, how could I refuse? I stood up, and said "Rose," as I glanced timidly at Sonitchka. Before I could recover myself, some one's hand in a white kid glove rested in mine, and the princess started forward with a pleasant smile, without the least suspicion that I did not in the least know what to do with my feet.
I knew that the *pas de Basques* was out of place, unsuitable, and that it might even put me to shame; but the well-known sounds of the mazurka, acting upon my ear, communicated a familiar movement to the acoustic nerves, which, in turn, communicated it to my feet; and the latter, quite involuntarily, and to the amazement of all beholders, began the fatal circular gliding step on the tips of the toes. As long as we proceeded straight ahead, we got on after a fashion; but when we turned I observed that, unless I took some precautions, I should certainly get in advance. In order to avoid such a catastrophe I stopped short, with the intention of making the same kind of *knee* which the young man in the first couple made so beautifully. But at the very moment when I separated my feet, and was preparing to spring, the princess, circling hastily around me, looked down at my feet with an expression of stupid curiosity and amazement. That look finished me. I lost my self-command to such an extent that, instead of dancing, I stamped my feet up and down in one spot in a fashion which resembled nothing on earth, and finally came to a dead standstill. Every one stared at me, some with surprise, other with curiosity, with amusement, or sympathy; grandmamma alone looked on with complete indifference.
"You should not dance if you do not know how," said papa's angry voice in my ear; and, thrusting me aside with a light push, he took my partner's hand, danced a turn with her in the antique fashion, to the vast delight of the lookers-on, and led her to her seat. The mazurka immediately came to an end.
Lord! Why dost thou chastise me so terribly.
* * * * * *
"Everybody despises me, and will always scorn me. The paths to everything, love, friendship, honor, are shut to me. All is lost! Why did Volodya make signs to me which every one saw, and which could render me no assistance? Why did that hateful princess look at my feet like that? Why did Sonitchka - she was lovely, but why did she smile just then? Why did papa blush, and seize my hand? Was even he ashamed of me? Oh, this was frightful! If mamma had been there, she would not have blushed for her Nikolenka." And my fancy bore me far away to this sweet vision. I recalled the meadow in front of the house, the tall linden trees in the garden, the clear pond over which hung transparent white clouds, the perfumed stacks of fresh hay; and many other joyous, soothing memories were borne in upon my distracted imagination.
At supper, the young man who had danced in the first couple sat down at our children's table, and paid special attention to me, which would have flattered my vanity not a little, if I had been capable of any sentiment whatever after the catastrophe which had occurred to me. But the young man seemed determined to cheer me up on any terms. He played with me, he called me a fine fellow; and, when none of the grown-up people were looking at us, he poured me glasses of wine out of various bottles, and made me drink them. At the end of the supper, when the butler poured me only a quarter of a glass of champagne from his napkin-wrapped bottle, and the young man insisted that he should pour it full, and made me swallow it at one gulp, I felt an agreeable glow through all my body, and a special kindliness toward my jolly protector, and I laughed excessively over something.
All at once the sounds of the *grandfather dance* resounded from the hall, and the guests began to rise from the table. My friendship with the young man immediately came to an end; he went off to the big people, and I, not daring to follow, approached with a curiosity to hear what Madame Valakhin was saying to her daughter.
"Just another little half-hour," said Sonitchka, entreatingly.
"It is really impossible, my angel."
"Come, for my sake, please," she said coaxingly.
"Will it make you happy if I am ill to-morrow?" said Madam Valakhin, and was so imprudent as to smile.
"Oh, you permit it! We may stay?" cried Sonitchka, dancing with joy.
"What is to be done with you? Well then, go dance. Here is a cavalier for you," she said, pointing at me.
Sonitchka gave me her hand, and we ran into the hall.
The wine which I had drunk, Sonitchka's presence and gayety, caused me completely to forget my miserable scrape in the mazurka. I cut the most amusing capers with my feet; I imitated a horse, and went at a gentle trot, lifting my legs produly; then I stamped on one spot like a ram who is angry at a dog, and laughed heartily without caring in the least what impression I might produce upon the spectators. Sonitchka, too, never ceased to laugh; she laughed when we circled round hand in hand, she laughed when she looked at some old gentleman who lifted his feet with care and stepped over a handkerchief, pretending that it was very difficult for him to do it, and she nearly died of laughter when I leaped almost to the ceiling in order to display my agility.
As I passed through grandmamma's study, I glanced at myself in the mirror: my face was bathed in perspiration, my hair was in disorder, the tuft on the crown of my head stood up worse than ever; but the general expression of my countenance was so merry, kind, and healthy, that I was even pleased with myself.
"If I were always like this," I thought, "I might be able to please."
But when I glanced again at the very beautiful little face of my partner, there was in it, besides the expression of gayety, health, and freedom from care which had pleased me in my own, so much gentl and elegant beauty, that I was vexed with myself. I comprehended how stupid it was of me to hope to call the attention of such a wonderful being to myself.
I could not hope for a reciprocal feeling, and, indeed, I did not think of it; my soul was filled with bliss independent of that. I did not understand that in return for the love which filled my sould with joy, still greater happiness might be demanded, and that something more was to be desired than that this feeling might never end. All was well with me. My heart fluttered like a dove, the blood poured into it incessantly, and I wanted to cry.
When we went through the corridor, past the dark store-room under the stairs, I glanced at it and thought: "What bliss it would be if I could live forever with her in that dark store-room! And if nobody knew that we lived there."
"It's very jolly now, isn't it?" I said, in a quiet trembling voice, and hastened my steps, frightened not so much at what I had said, but at what I had been minded to say.
"Yes, very," she replied, turning her little head toward me, with such a frank, kind expression that my fears ceased.
"Especially after supper. But if you only knew how sorry" - I wanted to say *pained*, but did not dare - "I am that you are going away so soon, and that we shall not see each other any more!"
"Why shall we not see each other?" said she, regarding intently the toes of her slippers, and drawing her fingers along the lattice-work screen which we were passing. "Mamma and I go to the Tverskoy bouldvard every Tuesday and Friday. Don't you go to walk?"
"I shall ask to go without fail on Tuesday; and if they won't let me go, I will run away alone, and without my hat. I know the way."
"Do you know," said Sonitchka, suddenly, "I always say *thou* to some little boys who come to our house; let us call each other thou?" she added, throwing back her little head, and looking me straight in the eye.
At this moment we entered the hall, and the second, lively part of *grandfather* was beginning. "Do," I said at a point when the noise and music could drown my words.
"Say *thou*," [Footnote: Nikolai used *davai-te*, the second person plural. Sonitchka said *davai*, second person singular. -Tr.] corrected Sonitchka, with a laugh.
*Grandfather* ended, and I had not managed to utter a single phrase with *thou*, although I never ceased inventing such as would allow of several repetitions of that pronoun. I had not sufficient courage. "Wilt thou?" resounded in my ears, and produced a kind of intoxication. I saw nothing and nobody but Sonitchka. I saw them lift her locks, and tuck them behind her ears, disclosing portions of her brow and temples which I had not seen before; I saw them wrap her up in the green shawl so closely, that only the tip of her little nose was visible; I observed that if she had not made a little aperture near her mouth with her rosy little fingers, she would infallibly have suffocated; and I saw how she turned quickly toward us, as she descended the stairs with her mother, nodded her head, and disappeared through the door.
Volodya, the Ivins, the young prince, and I were all in love with Sonitchka, and we followed her with our eyes as we stood on the stairs. I do not know to whom in particular she nodded her little head; but at that moment I was firmly convinced that it was done for me.
As I took leave of the Ivins, I conversed and shook hands quite unconstrainedly, and even rather coldly, with Serozha. If he understood that on that day he had lost my love, and his power over me, he was surely sorry for it, though he endeavored to appear quite indifferent.
For the first time in my life I had changed in love, and for the first time I experienced the sweetness of that feeling. It delighted me to exchange a worn-out sentiment of familiar affection for the fresh feeling of a love full of mystery and uncertainty. Moreover, to fall out of love and into love at the same time means loving with twice the previous fervor.
"How could I love Serozha so passionately, and so long?" I meditated, as I lay in bed. "No, he never understood, he never was capable of prizing my love, and he was never worthy of it. And Sonitchka? How charming! 'Wilt thou?' 'It is thy turn to begin.'"
I sprang up on all fours, as I pictured to myself her little face in lively colors, covered my head with the coverlet, tucked in under me on all sides, and when no opening remained anywhere, I lay down, with a pleasant sensation of warmth, and buried myself in sweet visions and memories. Fixing my gaze immovably upon the lining of the wadded quilt, I saw her as clearly as I had seen her an hour before; I conversed with her mentally, and that conversation, though utterly lacking in sense, afforded me indescribably delight, because *thee*, to *thee*, and *thine* occurred in it constantly.
These visions were so clear that I could not sleep for sweet emotion, and I wanted to share my superabundance of bliss with some one.
"The darling!" I said almost aloud, turning abruptly on the other side. "Volodya! Are you asleep?"
"No," he replied, in a sleepy voice; "what is it?"
"I am in love, Volodya. I am decidedly in love with Sonitchka."
"Well, what of it?" he answered, stretching himself.
"Oh, Volodya! You cannot imagine what is going on within me; here I was just now lying tucked up in the coverlet, and I saw her so plainly, so plainly, and I talked with her; it was simply marvelous! And, do you know, when I lie and think of her I grow sad, and I want to weep dreadfully, God knows why."
"There's only one thing I wish," I went on; "that is, to be always with her, to see her always, and nothing else. And are you in love? Confess the truth, Volodya!"
It's odd, but I wanted everybody to be in love with Sonitchka, and then I wanted them all to tell me.
"What is that to you?" said Volodya, turning his face toward me, - "perhaps."
"You don't want to sleep; you were making believe!" I cried, perceiving by his shining eyes that he was not thinking of sleep in the least; and I flung aside the coverlet. "Let's discuss her. She's charming, isn't she? So charming that if she were to say to me: 'Nikolenka! Jump out of the window, or throw yourself into the fire,' - well, I swear I should do it immediately," said I, "and with joy. Ah, how bewitching!" I added, as I called her before me in imagination, and in order to enjoy myself in this manner to the fullest extent, I rolled abruptly over on the other side, and thrust my head under the pillow. "I want to cry dreadfully, Volodya!"
"What a fool!" said he, smiling, and then was silent for a while. "I'm not a bit like you; I think that, if it were possible, I should like first to sit beside her and talk."
"Ah! So you are in love too?" I interrupted.
"And then," continued Volodya, smiling tenderly, "then I would kiss her little fingers, her eyes, her lips, her nose, her tiny feet, - I would kiss all."
"Nonsense!" cried I, from under the pillow.
"You don't understand anything about it," said Volodya, contemptuously.
"Yes, I do understand, but you don't, and you're talking nonsense," I said, through my tears.
"Well, there's nothing to cry about. You're a regular girl!"
On the sixteenth of April, nearly six months after the day which I have described, father came up-stairs to us, during our lesson hour, and announced to us that we were to set out for the country with him that night. My heart contracted at this news, and my thoughts turned at once to my mother.
The following letter was the cause of our unexpected departure. -
Petrovskoe, April 12
I have but just received your kind letter of April 3, at ten o'clock in the evening, and in accordance with my usual custom, I answer it immediately. Fedor brought it from town last night, but, as it was late, he gave it to Mimi this morning. And Mimi, under the pretext that I was ill and unnerved, did not give it to me for a whole day. I really have had a little fever, and, to tell the truth, this is the fourth day that I have been too ill to leave my bed.
Pray do not be alarmed, my dear; I feel very well, and if Ivan Vasilitch will permit me, I intend to get up to-morrow.
On Friday of last week, I went to ride with the children; but the horses stuck in the mud close to the entrance to the highway, near that very bridge which has always frightened me. The day was very fine, and I thought I would go as far as the highway on foot, while they pulled the calash out. When I reached the chapel, I was very much fatigued, and sat down to rest; and as about half an hour elapsed while they were summoning people to drag the carriage out, I felt cold, particularly in my feet, for I had on thin-soled shoes, and they were wet through. After dinner I felt a chill and a hot turn, but I continued to walk, according to the usual program, and after tea I sat down to play a duet with Liubotchka. (You would not recognize her, she has made such progress!) But imagine my surprise, when I found that I could not count the time. I began to count several times, but my head was all in confusion, and I felt a strange noise in my ears. I counted one, two, three, then all at once eight and fifteen; and the chief point was that I saw that I was lying, and could not correct myself. Finally Mimi came to my assistance, and put me to bed, almost by force. This, my dear, is a circumstantial account of how I became ill, and how I myself am to blame. The next day, I had quite a high fever, and our good old Ivan Vasilitch came; he still lives with us, and promises to set me free speedily in god's world once more. A wonderful old man is that Ivan Vasilitch! When I had the fever, and was delirious, he sat beside my bed all night, without closing his eyes; and how he knows that I am writing, he is sitting in the boudoir with the girls, and from my bedroom I can hear him telling them German tales, and them dying with laughter as they listen.
*La belle Flamande*, as you call her, has been staying with me for two weeks past, because her mother has gone off visiting somewhere, and she evinces the most sincere affection by her care for me. She intrusts me with all her secrets of the heart. If she were in good hands, she might turn out in every respect a very fine girl, with her beautiful face, kind heart, and youth; but she will be utterly ruined in the society in which she lives, judging from her own account. It has occurred to me that if I had not so many children, I should be doing a good deed in taking charge of her.
Liubotchka wanted to write to you herself; but she has already torn up the third sheet of paper, and says: "I know what a scoffer papa is; if you make a single mistake, he shows it to everybody." Katenka is as sweet as ever, Mimi as good and stupid.
Now I will talk to you about serious matters. You write that your affairs are not going well this winter, and that it is indispensable that you should take the money from Khabarovka. It surprises me that you should even ask my consent to that. Does not what belongs to me belong equally to you?
You are so kind and good, my dear, that you conceal the real state of things, from the fear of troubling me; but I guess that you have probably lost a great deal at play, and I assure you that I am not angry at you; therefore, if the matter can only be arranged, pray do not think too much of it, and do not worry yourself needlessly. I have become accustomed not to count upon your winnings for the children, but even (excuse me) on your whole estate. Your winnings cause me as little pleasure as your losses cause pain; the only thing which does pain me is your unhappy passion for gambling, which deprives me of a portion of your tender attachment, and makes me tell you such bitter truths as I tell you now; and God knows how this hurts me! I shall not cease to pray God for one thing, that he will save you, not from poverty (what is poverty?), but from that frightful situation, when the interests of the children, which I am bound to protect, shall come into conflict with ours. Heretofore the Lord has fulfilled my prayer; you have not passed the line beyond which we must either sacrifice our property, - which no longer belongs to us, but to our children, - or - and it is terrible to think of, but this horrible misfortune continually threatens us. Yes, it is a heavy cross which the Lord has sent to both of us.
You write about the children, and return to our old dispute; you ask me to consent to send them to some educational institution. You know my prejudices agains such education.
I do not know, my dear friend, whether you will agree with me; but I beseech you, in any case, to promise,out of love forme, that as long as I live, and after my death, if it shall please God to part us, never do this.
You write that it is indispensable that you should go to Petersburg about our affairs. Christ be with you, my friend; go and return as speedily as possible. It is so wearisome for all of us without you! The spring is wonderfully beautiful. The balcony door has already been taken down, the paths to the green- house were perfectly dry four days ago, the peach trees are in full bloom, the snow lingers in a few spots only, the swallows have come, and now Liubotchka has brought me the first spring flowers. The doctor says I shall be quite well in three days, and may breathe the fresh air, and warm myself in the April sun. Farewell, dear friend; pray do not worry about my illness, nor about your losses; finish your business as speedily as possible, and come to us with the children for the whole summer. I am making famous plans for passing it, and you alone are lacking to their realization.
The remaining portion of the letter was written in French, in a cramped and uneven hand, on a second scrap of paper. I translate it word for word:
Do not believe what I wrote to you about my illness; no one suspects how serious it is. I alone know that I shall never rise from my bed again. Do not lose a moment; come and bring the children. Perhaps I may be able to embrace them once again, and bless them; that is my last wish. I know what a terrible blow I am dealing you, but it matters not; sooner or later you would receive it from me, or from others. Let us try to bear this misfortune with firmness, and hope in God's mercy. Let us submit to His will.
Do not think that what I write is the raving of a delirious imagination; on the contrary, my thoughts are remarkably clear at this moment, and I am perfectly composed. Do not comfort yourself with vain hopes that these are but the dim, deceitful presentiments of a timid soul. No, I feel, I know - and I know because God was pleased to reveal this to me - that I have not long to live.
Will my love for you and the children end with this life? I know that this is impossible. I feel too strongly at this moment to think that this feeling, without which I cannot conceive of existence, could ever be annihilated. My soul cannot exist without its love for you; and I know that it will exist forever from this one thing, that such a sentiment as my love could never arise, were it ever to come to an end.
I shall not be with you, but I am firmly convinced that my love will never leave you; and this thought is so comforting to my heart, that I await my fast approaching death calmly, and without terror.
I am calm, and God knows that I have always regarded death, and still regard it as a passage to a bett life; but why do tears crush me? Why deprive the children of their beloved mother? Why deal you so heavy, so unlooked-for a blow? Why must I die, when your love has rendered life boundlessly happy forme?
May His holy will be done!
I can write no more for tears. Perhaps I shall not see you. I thank you, my precious friend, for all the happiness with which you have surrounded me in this life; I shall pray God there, that he will reward you. Farewell, dear friend; remember, when I am no more that my love will never abandon you, wherever you may be. Farewell Volodya, farewell my angel, farwell Benjamin, my Nikolenka.
Will they ever forget me?
This letter inclosed a note in French, from Mimi, which read as follows: --
The sad presentiments of which she speaks are but too well confirmed by the doctor's words. Last night she ordered this letter to be taken to the post at once. Thinking that she said this in delirium, I waited until this morning, and then made up my mind to open it. No sooner had I done so, than Natalya Nikolaevna asked me what I had done with the letter, and ordered me to burn it if it had not been sent. She keeps speaking of it and declares that it will kill you. Do not delay your coming, if you wish to see this angel while she is still left with us. Excuse this scrawl. I have not slept for three nights. You know how I love her!
Natalya Savischna, who had passed the entire night of the eleventh of April in mamma's chamber, told me that, after writing the first part of the letter, mamma laid it on the little table beside her, and went to sleep.
"I confess," said Natalya Savischna, "that I dozed in the arm-chair myself, and my stocking fell from my hands. But, about one o'clock, I heard, in my dreams, that she seemed to be conversing with some one; I opened my eyes, and looked; she was sitting up in bed, my little dove, with her little hands folded thus, and her tears were flowing in streams. 'So all is over?' she said, and covered her face with her hands. I sprang up, and began to inquire, 'What is the matter with you?'
"'Ah, Natalya Savischna, if you only knew whom I have just seen!'
"But, in spite of all my questions, she would say no more; she merely ordered me to bring the little table, wrote something more, commanded me to seal the letter in her presence, and send it off immediately. After that, things grew worse and worse."
On the twenty-fifth of April we descended from the traveling carriage at the porch of the Petrovskoe house. Papa had been very thoughtful when we left Moscow, and when Volodya asked him whether mamma was not ill, he looked sadly at him, and nodded in silence. During the journey he evidently grew more composed; but as we approached home his face assumed a more and more mournful expression, and when, on alighting from the calash, he asked Foka, who ran panting out, "Where is Natalya Nikolaevna?" his voice was not firm, and there were tears in his eyes. Good old Foka glanced at us, dropped his eyes, and, opening the door of the anteroom, he turned aside and answered: --
"She has not left her room in six days."
Milka, who, as I afterwards learned, had not ceased to howl mournfully since the very day that mamma was taken ill, sprang joyously at papa, leaned upon him, whined, and licked his hands; but he pushed her aside, and went into the drawing-room, thence into the boudoir, from which a door led directly into the bedroom. The nearer he came to the room, the more evident became his disquiet, as was shown by all his movements; as he entered the boudoir, he walked on tiptoe, hardly drew his breath, and crossed himself before he could make up his mind to grasp the handle of the closed door. At that moment Mimi, disheveled and tear-stained, ran in from the corridor. "Ah, Piotr Alexandrovitch," she said, in a whisper, with an expression of genuine despair, and then, observing that papa was turning the handle, she added almost inaudibly, "it is impossible to pass here; the spring is gone."
Oh, how sadly this affected my childish imagination, which was attuned to sorrow, with a fearful foreboding!
We went to the maids' room. In the corridor we encountered Akim, the little fool, who always amused us with his grimaces; but at that moment he not only did not seem laughable to me, but nothing struck me so painfully as his mindless, indifferent face. In the maids' room two maids, who were sitting over their work, rose in order to salute us, with such a sorrowful expression that I was frightened. Traversing Mimi's room next, papa opened the door of the bedroom, and we entered. To the right of the door were two windows, hung with cloths; at one of them sat Natalya Savischna, with her spectacles on her nose, knitting a stocking. She did not kiss us as she generally did, but merely rose, looked at us through her spectacles, and the tears poured down her face in streams. I did not like it al all to have people begin to cry as soon as they looked at us, when they had been quite calm before.
At the left of the door stood a screen, and behind the screen the bed, a little table, a little cabinet spread with medicines, and the big arm-chair in which dozed the doctor; beside the bed stood a young, extremely fair, and remarkably pretty girl, in a white morning dress, who, with her sleeves turned back, was applying ice to mamma's head, which I could not see at that moment. This girl was *la belle Flamande*, of which mamma had written, and who, later on, played such an important *rôle* in the life of our whole family. As soon as we entered, she removed one hand from mamma's head, and arranged the folds on the bosom of her gown, then said in a whisper, "She is unconscious."
I was very wretched at that moment, but I involuntarily noted all these trifles. It was nearly dark in the room, it was hot, and there was a mingled odor of mint, cologne-water, camomile, and Hoffmann's drops. This odor impressed me to such a degree that when I smell it, or when I even recall it, fancy immediately bears me back to that dark, stifling chamber, and reproduces every detail, even the most minute, of that terrible moment.
Mamma's eyes were open, but she saw nothing. Oh, I shall never forget that dreadful look! It expressed so much suffering.
They led us away.
When I afterward asked Natalya Savischna about mamma's last moments, this is what she told me: --
"After you were taken away, my dear one was restless for a long time as though something oppressed her, then she dropped her head on her pillow, and dozed as quietly and peacefully as an angel from heaven. I only went out to see why they did not bring her potion. When I returned my darling was throwing herself all about, and beckoning your papa to her; he bent over her, and it was evident that he lacked the power to say what he wished to; she could only open her lips, and begin to groan, 'My God! O Lord! The children, the children!' I wanted to run and fetch you, but Ivan Vasilitch stopped me and said, 'It will excite her more, it is better not.' After that she only raised her hand and dropped it again. What she meant by that, God only knows. I think that she was blessing you in your absence, and it was plain that the Lord did not grant her to see her little children before the end. Then my little dove raised herself, kissed her hand, and all at once she spoke in a voice which I cannot bear to think of, 'Mother of God, do not desert them!' Then the pain attained her heart; it was evident from her eyes that the poor woman was suffering tortures; she fell back on the pillows, caught the sheet in her teeth, and her tears flowed, my dear."
"Well, and then?" I asked.
Natalya Savischna said no more; she turned away and wept bitterly.
Mamma died in terrible agony.
Late in the evening of the following day I wanted to see her once more. I overcame the involuntary feeling of terror, opened the door gently, and entered the hall on tiptoe.
In the middle of the room, upon a table, stood the coffin, and around it stood lighted candles in tall silver candlesticks. In a distant corner sat the diachok [Footnote: Chanter, lay-reader.] reading the Psalter in a low, monotonous voice.
I paused at the door, and gazed; but my eyes were so swollen with weeping, and my nerves were so unstrung, that I could distinguish nothing. Everything ran together in a strange fashion, - lights, brocade, velvet, the great candelabra, the rose-colored pillow bordered with lace, the frontlet [Footnote: The *vyentchik* is made of satin or paper, with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. John, and laid upon the brow of the corpse, in the Russian Church. -Tr.], the cap with ribbons, and something else, transparent, and of the hue of wax. I climbed upon a chair in order to see her face, but in the place where it was the same pale-yellowish transparent object presented itself to me. I could not believe that that was her face. I began to examine it attentively, and little by little I began to recognize the dear familiar features. I shivered with terror when I had convinced myself that it was she; but why were the closed eyes so sunken? Why that dreadful pallor, and the blackish spot beneath the transparent skin on one cheek? Why was the expression of the whole face so stern and cold? Why were the lips so pale, and their outline so very beautiful, so majestic, and so expressive of an unearthly calm that a cold shudder ran down my back and through my hair when I looked upon it?
I gazed, and felt that some incomprehensible, irresistible power was drawing my eyes to that lifeless face. I did not take my eyes from it, and imagination sketched me a picture of blooming life and happiness. I forgot that the dead body which lay before me, and upon which I stupidly gazed, as upon an object which had nothing in common with me, was *she*. I fancied her now in one, now in another, situation - alive, merry, smiling. Then all at once some feature in the pale face upon which my eyes rested struck me. I recalled the terrible reality, shuddered, but did not cease my gaze. And again visions usurped the place of reality, and again the consciousness of the reality shattered my visions. At length imagination grew weary, it ceased to deceive me; the consciousness of reality also vanished, and I lost my senses. I do not know how long I remained in this state, I do not know in what it consisted; I only know that, for a time, I lost consciousness of my existence, and experienced an exalted, indescribably pleasant and sorrowful delight.
Perhaps, in flying hence to a better world, her beautiful soul gazed sadly back upon that in which she left us; she perceived my grief, took pity upon it, and descended to earth on the pinions of love, with a heavenly smile of compassion, in order to comfort and bless me.
The door creaked, a chanter entered the room to relieve the other. This noise roused me; and the first thought which occurred to me was that, since I was not crying, and was standing on a chair, in an attitude which had nothing touching about it, the chanter might take me for an unfeeling boy, who had climbed on the chair out of mischief or curiosity. I crossed myself, made a reverence, and began to cry.
As I now recall my impressions, I find that that moment of self- forgetfulness was the only one of genuine grief. Before and after the burial, I never ceased to weep, and was sad; but it puts me to shame to recall that sadness, because a feeling of self-love was always mingled with it; at one time a desire to show that I was more sorry than anybody else; again, solicitude as to the impression which I was producing upon others; at another time, an aimless curiosity which caused me to make observations upon Mimi's cap and the faces of those present. I despised myself, because the feeling I experienced was nto exclusively one of sorrow, and I tried to conceal all others; for this reason my grief was insincere and unnatural. Moreover, I experienced a sort of pleasure in knowing that I was unhappy. I tried to arouse my consciousness of unhappiness; and this egotistical feeling, more than all the rest, stifled genuine grief within me.
After passing the night in a deep and quiet sleep, as is always the case after great sorrow, I awoke with my tears dried and my nerves calm. At ten o'clock we were summoned to the service of prayer for the dead, which was celebrated before the body was taken away. The room was filled with house-servants and peasants, who came in tears to take leave of their mistress. During the service I cried in proper fashion, crossed myself, and made reverences to the earth; but I did not pray in spirit, and was tolerably cold-blooded. I was worrying because my new half-coat, which they had put on me, hurt me very much under the arms. I meditated how not to spot the knees of my trousers too much; and I took observations, on the sly, of all those who were present. My father stood at the head of the coffin. He was as white as his handkerchief, and restrained his tears with evident difficulty. His tall figure in its black coat, his pale, expressive face, his movements, graceful and assured as ever, when he crossed himself, bowed, touching the ground with his hand, took the candle from the hand of the priest, or approached the coffin, were extremely effective. But, I do not know why, the fact that he could show himself off so effectively at such a moment was precisely what did not please me. Mimi stood leaning against the wall, and appeared hardly able to keep her feet. Her dress was crumpled and flecked with down, her cap was pushed on one side, her swollen eyes were red, her had shook. She never ceased to sob in a voice that rent the soul, and she incessantly covered her face with her hands and her handkerchief. It seemed to me that she did this in order to hide her countenance from the spectators, and to rest for a moment after her feigned sobs. I remembered how she had told papa, the day before, that mamma's death was such a terrible shock to her that she had no hope of living through it; that it deprived her of everything; that that angel (as she called mamma) had not forgotten her before her death, and had expressed a desire to secure her future and Katenka's forever from care. She shed bitter tears as she said this, and perhaps her grief was genuine, but it was not pure and exclusive. Liubotchka, in her black frock, with mourning trimmings, was all bathed in tears, and dropped her little head, glancing rarely at the coffin, and her face expressed only childish terror. Katenka stood beside her mother, and, in spite of the long face she had put on, was as rosy as ever. Volodya's frank nature was frank even in his grief. He stood at times with his thoughtful, immovable glance fixed on some object; then his mouth began suddenly to twitch, and he hastily crossed himself, and bowed in reverence. All the strangers who were present at the funeral were intolerable to me. The phrases of consolation which they uttered to father, - that she would be better off there, that she was not for this world, - aroused a kind of anger in me.
What right had they to speak of her and mourn for her? Some of them in speaking of us called us *orphans*. As if we did not know without their assistance that children who have no mother are called by that name! It evidently pleased them to be the first to bestow it upon us, just as they generally make haste to call a young girl who has just been married *Madame* for the first time.
In the far corner of the hall, almost concealed by the open door of the butler's pantry, nelt a bowed and gray-haired woman. With clasped hands, and eyes raised to heaven, she neither wept nor prayed. Her sould soared impetuously up to God, and she besought him to let her join the one whom she loved more than all on earth, and she confidently hoped that it would be soon.
"There is one who loved her truly!" thought I, and I was ashamed of myself.
The service of prayer came to an end; the face of the dead woman was uncovered, and all present, with the exception of ourselves, approached the coffin one by one and kissed it.
One of the last to draw near and take leave of her was a peasant woman, leading a beautiful five-year-old girl, whom she had brought hither Gold only knows why. At that moment, I unexpectedly dropped my moist handkerchief, and stooped to pick it up. But I had no sooner bent over, that a frightful piercing shriek startled me; it was so full of terror that if I live a hundred years I shall never forget it, and when I recall it a cold chill always runs all over my body. I raised my head; on a tabouret beside the coffin, stood the same peasant woman, holding in her arms with difficulty the little girl, who, with her tiny hands thrust out before her, her frightened little face turned aside, and her staring eyes fastened upon the face of the corpse, was shrieking in a wild and dreadful voice. I uttered a shriek in a tone which I think must have been even more terrible than the one which had startled me, and ran out of the room.
It was only at that moment that I understood whence came that strong, heavy odor, which, mingling with the odor of incense, filled the room; and the thought that that face, which a few days before had been full of beauty and tenderness, that face which I loved more than anything in the world, could excite terror, seemed for the first time to reveal to me the bitter truth, and filled my soul with despair.
Mamma was dead, but our life pursued its usual course. We went to bed and got up at the same hours, and in the same rooms; morning and evening tea, dinner, supper, all took place at the usual time; the tables and chairs stood in the same places; nothing was changed in the house or in our manner of life, only - she was no more.
It seemed to me that, after such a catastrophe, all must change; our ordinary manner of life appeared to me an insult to her memory, and recalled her absence too vividly.
After dinner, on the evening before the funeral, I wanted to go to sleep; and I went to Natalya Savischna's room, intending to install myself in her bed, on the soft feather-bed, and beneath the warm quilted coverlet. When I entered, Natalya Savischna was lying on her bed, and was probably asleep; hearing the noise of my footsteps, she rose up, flung aside the woolen cloth which protected her head from the flies, and, adjusting her cap, seated herself on the edge of the bed.
As I had previously been in the habit of coing rather frequently, after dinner, to sleep in her room, she divined the reason for my appearance, and said to me, as she rose from the bed: --
"What is it? Probably you have come to get some rest, my dear? Lie down."
"What is the matter with you, Natalya Savischna?" I said, holding her hand. "That is not it at all. - I just came ... and you are weary yourself; you had better lie down."
"No, my dear, I have slept enough," she said. (I knew that she had not slept for three days, for grief.) "And besides, I am not sleepy now," she added, with a deep sigh.
I wanted to discuss our misfortune with Natalya Savischna. I knew her honesty and love, and it would have been a comfort to me to weep with her.
"Natalya Savischna," I said, seating myself on the bed, after a brief silence, "did you expect this?"
The old woman looked at me in amazement and curiosity, probably because she did not understand why I asked her that.
"Who could expect this?" I repeated.
Ah, my dear," said she, casting a glance of the tenderest sympathy upon me, "not only was it not to be expected, but I cannot believe it even now. Such an old woman as I ought to have laid her old bones to rest long ago. The old master, Prince Nikolai Mikhailovitch, your grandfather (may his memory be eternal!), had two brothers, and a sister Annuchka; and I have buried them all, and they were all younger than I am, my dear; and now, for my sins evidently, it is my fate to outlive her. His holy will be done! He took her because she was worthy, and He wants good people there."
This simple thought impressed me as a comfort, and I moved nearer Natalya Savischna. She folded her hands on her bosom, and looked upward; her sunken, tearful eyes expressed great but quiet suffering. She cherished a firm hope that God would not long part her from her upon whom she had for so many years concentrated all the power of her love.
"Yes, my dear, it does not seem long since I was her nurse, and swaddled her, and she called me Nascha. She would run to me, seize me with her plump little hands, and begin to kiss me, and to say: --
"'My Naschik, my beauty, my little turkey!'
"And I would say in just: --
"'It's not true, matushka [Footnote: Literally, "little mother" - my dear. -Tr.], you do not love me; wait until you grow up, you will marry, and forget your Nascha.' She would begin to reflect. 'No,' she would say, 'it will be better not to marry, if I cannot take Nascha with me; I will never desert Nascha.' And now she has deserted me, and has not waited for me. And she loved me, the dear dead woman! And, in truth, who was there that she did not love? Yes, my dear, it is impossible for you to forget your mamma. She was not a human being, but an angel, from heaven. When her soul reaches the kingdom of heaven, it will love you there, and rejoice over you."
"Why do you say, when she reaches the kingdom of heaven, Natalya Savischna?" I asked. "Why, I think she is there now."
"No, my dear," said Natalya Savischna, lowering her voice, and sitting closer to me on the bed; "her soul is here now," and she pointed upward. She spoke almost in a whisper, and with so much feeling and conviction that I involuntarily raised my eyes, and inspected the cornice in search of something. "Before the soul of the just goes to paradise, it undergoes forty trials, my dear, and it can stay in its home for forty days." [Footnote: Natalya Savischna does not state accurately the tenets of her church on the subject of the soul after death. The Eastern Church holds that the soul hovers about the body and the places familiar to it for three days after death. After that, until the fortieth day, it is shown the abodes of torment and of bliss. On the fortieth day it is brought into the presence of God for the third and last time (the other presentations of the soul before God occur on the third and the ninth days after death), and is assigned its abiding place, where it will remain until the last Judgment Day. No Purgatory, in the Roman sense, is admitted by the Eastern Church. -Tr.]
She talked long in this strain, and with as much simplicity and faith as though she were relating the most every-day occurrences, which she had witnessed herself, and on the score of which it would never enter any one's head to entertain the slightest doubt. I held my breath as I listened to her; and, although I did not understand very well what she said, I believed her entirely.
"Yes, my dear, she is here now; she is looking at us; perhaps she hears what we are saying," said Natalya Savischna, in conclusion.
She bent her head, and became silent. She wanted a handkerchief to wipe her falling tears; she rose, looked me straight in the face, and said, in a voice which trembled with emotion: --
"The Lord has brought me many degrees nearer to Him through this. What is left for me here now? Whom have I to live for? Whom have I to love?"
"Don't you love us?" I said reproachfully, hardly restraining my tears.
"God knows how I love you, my darlings; but I have never loved any one as I loved her, and I never can love any one in that way."
She could say no more, but turned away and sobbed loudly.
I no longer thought of sleeping; we sat opposite each other in silence, and wept.
Foka entered the room; perceiving our condition, andprobably not wishing to disturb us, he glanced at us timidly and in silence, and paused at the door.
"What do you want, Fokascha?" asked Natalya Savischna, wiping her eyes.
"A pound and a half of raisins, four pounds of sugar, and three pounds of rice, for the kutya." [Footnote: A dish made of boiled, sweetened rice, and raisins, which is placed on a table in the church at requiem masses and services of prayer for the dead. -Tr.]
"Immediately, immediately, batyushka," said Natalya Savischna, taking a hasty pinch of snuff; and she went to her chest with brisk steps. The last traces of the grief called forth by our conversation had vanished when she set about her duty, which she considered as extremely important.
"What are the four pounds for?" she grumbled, as she took out the sugar and weighed it with the steelyards. "Three and a half will be enough," and she took several bits from the scales. "Who ever heard the like? I gave out eight pounds of rice yesterday, and now more is demanded. Say what you like, Foka Demiditch, but I won't let you have the rice. That Vanka is glad because the house is upside down; he thinks no one will notice. No, I won't shut my eyes to attempts on my master's goods. Now, was such a thing ever seen, as eight pounds?"
"What is to be done? He says that it's all gone."
"Well, there, take it, there! Let him have it!"
I was surprised at the moment by this transition from the affecting sentiment with which she had talked with me, to this grumbling and petty calculation. On reflecting upon the subject afterward I saw that, in spite of what was going on in her soul, she retained sufficient presence of mind to busy herself with her affairs, and the force of habit drew her to her customary employments. Sorrow acted so powerfully upon her that she did not find it necessary to dissemble, and she was able to occupy herself with extraneous objects; she would not even have been able to understand how such a thought could occur to anyone.
Vanity is a feeling which is utterly incompatible with genuine grief; and, at the same time, this feeling is so strongly interwoven with the nature of many, that even the deepest woe very rarely expels it. Vanity exhibits itself in sorrow by the desire to appear sad, or unhappy, or firm; and these low desires, which we do not acknowledge, but which rarely forsake us even in the deepest trouble, deprive it of force, dignity, and truth. But Natalya Savischna was so deeply wounded by her unhappiness, that not a single desire lingered in her soul, and she only lived from habit.
After giving Foka the provisions he had asked for, and reminding him of the pasty which must be prepared for the entertainment of the clergy, she dismissed him, took her stocking, and seated herself beside me again.
The conversations with Natalya Savischna were repeated every day; her quiet tears and calm, devout words brought me comfort and consolation.
But we were soon parted. Three days after the funeral, the whole household removed to Moscow, and I was fated never to see her more.
Grandmother only received the terrible news on our arrival, and her grief was extraordinary. We were not admitted to her presence, because she lay unconscious for a whole week, and the doctor feared for her life, the more so as she not only would not take any medicine, but would speak to no one, did not sleep, and took no nourishment. Sometimes, as she sat alone in her chamber, in her arm-chair, she suddenly broke into a laugh, then began to sob, but shed no tears; then she was seized with convulsions, and uttered frightful and incoherent words in a voice of madness. This was the first great grief which had fallen upon her, and it drove her to despair. She felt the need of blaming some one for her misery; and she said terrible things, threatened some invisible person with unusual energy, sprang from her chair, paced the room in long and rapid strides, and then fell senseless.
I entered her room on one occasion. She was sitting in her arm-chair, as usual, and was calm to all appearances; but her glance startled me. Her eyes were very wide open, but their gaze was wavering and dull; she looked straight at me, but she could not have seen me. Her lips began a slow smile, and she spoke in a voice of touching gentleness: "Come here, my dear; come here, my angel." I thought that she was addressing me, and approached nearer; but she did not look at me. "Ah, if you only knew, my love, what torments I have suffered, and how glad I am that you have come!" Then I understood that she fancied she saw mamma, and halted. "They told me you were dead," she went on, with a frown. "What nonsense! Could you die before me?" and she gave a dreadful hysteric laugh.
Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow; but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief, and heals them. For this reason the moral nature of man is more active than the physical. Grief never kills.
After the lapse of a week, grandmamma could weep, and her condition improved. Her first thought, when she came to herself, was of us; and her love for us increased. We never left her arm-chair; she cried softly, spoke of mamma, and tenderly caressed us.
It could not enter the mind of anyone who looked upon grandmamma's grief, that she was exaggerating it, and the expressions of that grief were forcible and touching; but I do not know why I sympathized more with Natalya Savischna, and to this day I am convinced that no one loved and mourned mamma so purely and so sincerely as that simple, affectionate creature.
The happy days of childhood ended for me with mamma's death, and a new epoch began, - the epoch of boyhood; but as my recollections of Natalya Savischna, whom I never saw again, and who exercised such a poerful and beneficent influence over my career and the development of my sensibility, belong to the first epoch, I will say a few words more about her and her death.
After our departure, as the people who remained in the country afterwards informed me, she found the time hang heavy on her hands from lack of occupation. Although all the clothes-presses were still in her hands, and she never ceased to turn over their contents, alter the arrangement, hand things up and pack them away again, yet she missed the noise and turmoil of a country-house which is inhabited by its owners, to which she had been accustomed from her childhood. Grief, the change in her manner of life, the absence of responsibilities, speedily developed palsy, to which she had long been inclined. Just a year after mamma's death, dropsy made its appearance, and she took to her bed.
It was hard, I think, for Natalya Savischna to live alone, and still harder for her to die alone, in the great empty house at Petrovskoe, without relatives or friends. Every one in the house loved and revered Natalya Savischna; but she entertained no friendship with any one, and was proud of it. She considered that in her position of a housekeeper who enjoyed the confidence of her master, and had in her charge so many chests filled with all sorts of property, a friendship with any one would infallibly lead to partiality and a criminal condescension. For that reason, or, possibly, because she had nothing in common with the other servants, she held herself aloof from all, and said that she had neither gossips nor cronies in the house, and she would not countenance any attacks upon her master's property.
She sought and found consolation by confiding her feelings to God in fervent prayer; but sometimes, in those moments of weakness to which we are all subject, when man finds his best comfort in the tears and sympathy of a living being, she put her little pug dog on her bed (it licked her hand, and fixed its yellow eyes upon her), talked to it, and wept softly as she petted it. When the pug began to howl piteously, she endeavored to quiet it, and said, "Stop; I know, without your telling me, that I shall die soon."
A month before her death, she took from her chest some white calico, white muslin, and pink ribbons; with the assistance of her maid she made herself a white dress and a cap, and arranged everything which was requisite for her funeral, down to the most minute detail. She also sorted over the chests belonging to her master, and transferred them with the greatest precision, in writing, to the overseer. Then she got out two silk dresses, an old shawl which grandmamma had given her at some time or other, and grandfather's military uniform, which had also been given to her for her own. Thanks to her care, the embroidery and galloon on the uniform were perfectly fresh, and the cloth had not been touched by the moths.
Before her death, she expressed a wish that one of these dresses, the pink one, should be given to Volodya for a dressing-gown or jacket, and the other, the brown checked one, to me for the same purpose, and the shawl to Liubotchka. The uniform she bequeathed to whichever of us should first become an officer. All the rest of her property, and her money, with the exception of forty rubles which she laid aside for her funeral and masses, she left to her brother. Her brother, who had received his freedom long before, resided in some distant government, and led a very dissipated life; hence she had had no intercourse with him during her lifetime.
When Natalya Savischna's brother presented himself to receive his inheritance, and the deceased's entire property proved to consist of twenty-five rubles in bills, he would not believe it, and said that it could not be that the old woman, who had lived for sixty years in a wealthy family, and had had everything in her hands, had lived in a miserly way all her life, and had fretted over every scrap, had left nothing. But this was actually the case.
Natalya Savischna suffered for two months from her complaint, and bore her pain with a truly Christian patience; she did not grumble or complain, but merely prayed incessantly, as was her custom. She confessed with joy, and received the Holy Communion and was anointed with oil [Footnote: It is not called "Extreme Unction" in the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the East. It is the Sacrament founded upon James v. 14, 15, and can be used in any illness, whether that illness id deemed mortal or not. -Tr.], an hour before her death.
She begged forgiveness of all the house-servants for any injuries which she might have done them, and besought her priest, Father Vasily, to say to all of us that she did not know how to express her thanks for all our kindness, and prayed us to pardon her if she had pained any one by her stupidity; "but I never was a thief, and I can say that I never cheated my masters out of a thread." This was the only quality in herself which she valued.
Having put on the wrapper and cap which she had prepared, and propped herself up on the pillows, she never ceased until the moment of death to converse with the priest. She reminded him that she had not left anything to the poor, gave him ten rubles, and begged him to distribute it in the parish. Then she crossed herself, lay back, sighed for the last time, and uttered the name of God in a joyous tone.
She quitted life without regret; she did not fear death, but accepted it as a blessing. This is often said, but how rarely is it true! Natalya Savischna could not fear death, because she died firm in the faith and having fulfilled the law of the Gospels. Her whole life had been pure, unselfish love and self-sacrifice.
What if her creed might have been more lofty, if her life might have been devoted to higher aims? Is this pure soul any the less deserving of love and admiration on that account?
She accomplished the best and grandest deed in this life; she died without regret or fear.
She was buried, in accordance with her wish, not far from the chapel which stood upon mamma's grave. The hillock, overgrown with brambles and burdock, beneath which she lies, is inclosed within a black iron paling; but I never forget to go from the chapel to that railing, and bow myself to the earth in reverence.
Sometimes I pause silent, midway between the chapel and that black fence. Painful reminiscences suddenly penetrate my soul. The thought comes to me: Did Providence connect me with these two beings merely in order that I might be made to mourn for them forever? THE END