The Possessed (or, The Devils), by Fyodor Dostoevsky (2024)


A Novel In Three Parts

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

Translated From The Russian By Constance Garnett



CHAPTER II. NIGHT (continued)
 “Strike me dead, the track has vanished, Well, what now? We’ve lost the way, Demons have bewitched our horses, Led us in the wilds astray. “What a number! Whither drift they? What’s the mournful dirge they sing? Do they hail a witch’s marriage Or a goblin’s burying?” A. Pushkin.
 “And there was one herd of many swine feeding on this mountain; and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. “Then went the devils out of the man and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake and were choked. “When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. “Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.” Luke, ch. viii. 32-37.





IN UNDERTAKING to describe the recent and strange incidents in our town,till lately wrapped in uneventful obscurity, I find myself forced inabsence of literary skill to begin my story rather far back, that isto say, with certain biographical details concerning that talented andhighly-esteemed gentleman, Stepan Trofimovitch Verhovensky. I trust thatthese details may at least serve as an introduction, while my projectedstory itself will come later.

I will say at once that Stepan Trofimovitch had always filled aparticular rôle among us, that of the progressive patriot, so to say,and he was passionately fond of playing the part—so much so that Ireally believe he could not have existed without it. Not that I wouldput him on a level with an actor at a theatre, God forbid, for I reallyhave a respect for him. This may all have been the effect of habit, orrather, more exactly of a generous propensity he had from his earliestyears for indulging in an agreeable day-dream in which he figured asa picturesque public character. He fondly loved, for instance, hisposition as a “persecuted” man and, so to speak, an “exile.” There is asort of traditional glamour about those two little words that fascinatedhim once for all and, exalting him gradually in his own opinion, raisedhim in the course of years to a lofty pedestal very gratifying tovanity. In an English satire of the last century, Gulliver, returningfrom the land of the Lilliputians where the people were only three orfour inches high, had grown so accustomed to consider himself a giantamong them, that as he walked along the streets of London he could nothelp crying out to carriages and passers-by to be careful and get out ofhis way for fear he should crush them, imagining that they were littleand he was still a giant. He was laughed at and abused for it, and roughcoachmen even lashed at the giant with their whips. But was that just?What may not be done by habit? Habit had brought Stepan Trofimovitchalmost to the same position, but in a more innocent and inoffensiveform, if one may use such expressions, for he was a most excellent man.

I am even inclined to suppose that towards the end he had been entirelyforgotten everywhere; but still it cannot be said that his name hadnever been known. It is beyond question that he had at one time belongedto a certain distinguished constellation of celebrated leaders ofthe last generation, and at one time—though only for the briefestmoment—his name was pronounced by many hasty persons of that day almostas though it were on a level with the names of Tchaadaev, of Byelinsky,of Granovsky, and of Herzen, who had only just begun to write abroad.But Stepan Trofimovitch’s activity ceased almost at the moment it began,owing, so to say, to a “vortex of combined circ*mstances.” And would youbelieve it? It turned out afterwards that there had been no “vortex” andeven no “circ*mstances,” at least in that connection. I only learnedthe other day to my intense amazement, though on the most unimpeachableauthority, that Stepan Trofimovitch had lived among us in our provincenot as an “exile” as we were accustomed to believe, and had never evenbeen under police supervision at all. Such is the force of imagination!All his life he sincerely believed that in certain spheres he was aconstant cause of apprehension, that every step he took was watchedand noted, and that each one of the three governors who succeeded oneanother during twenty years in our province came with special and uneasyideas concerning him, which had, by higher powers, been impressed uponeach before everything else, on receiving the appointment. Had anyoneassured the honest man on the most irrefutable grounds that he hadnothing to be afraid of, he would certainly have been offended. YetStepan Trofimovitch was a most intelligent and gifted man, even, so tosay, a man of science, though indeed, in science … well, in fact hehad not done such great things in science. I believe indeed he had donenothing at all. But that’s very often the case, of course, with men ofscience among us in Russia.

He came back from abroad and was brilliant in the capacity of lecturerat the university, towards the end of the forties. He only had timeto deliver a few lectures, I believe they were about the Arabs; hemaintained, too, a brilliant thesis on the political and Hanseaticimportance of the German town Hanau, of which there was promise in theepoch between 1413 and 1428, and on the special and obscure reasonswhy that promise was never fulfilled. This dissertation was a crueland skilful thrust at the Slavophils of the day, and at once made himnumerous and irreconcilable enemies among them. Later on—after he hadlost his post as lecturer, however—he published (by way of revenge,so to say, and to show them what a man they had lost) in a progressivemonthly review, which translated Dickens and advocated the views ofGeorge Sand, the beginning of a very profound investigation into thecauses, I believe, of the extraordinary moral nobility of certainknights at a certain epoch or something of that nature.

Some lofty and exceptionally noble idea was maintained in it, anyway.It was said afterwards that the continuation was hurriedly forbidden andeven that the progressive review had to suffer for having printed thefirst part. That may very well have been so, for what was not possiblein those days? Though, in this case, it is more likely that therewas nothing of the kind, and that the author himself was too lazy toconclude his essay. He cut short his lectures on the Arabs because,somehow and by someone (probably one of his reactionary enemies) aletter had been seized giving an account of certain circ*mstances, inconsequence of which someone had demanded an explanation from him. Idon’t know whether the story is true, but it was asserted that at thesame time there was discovered in Petersburg a vast, unnatural, andillegal conspiracy of thirty people which almost shook society to itsfoundations. It was said that they were positively on the point oftranslating Fourier. As though of design a poem of Stepan Trofimovitch’swas seized in Moscow at that very time, though it had been written sixyears before in Berlin in his earliest youth, and manuscript copies hadbeen passed round a circle consisting of two poetical amateurs and onestudent. This poem is lying now on my table. No longer ago than lastyear I received a recent copy in his own handwriting from StepanTrofimovitch himself, signed by him, and bound in a splendid red leatherbinding. It is not without poetic merit, however, and even a certaintalent. It’s strange, but in those days (or to be more exact, in thethirties) people were constantly composing in that style. I find itdifficult to describe the subject, for I really do not understand it.It is some sort of an allegory in lyrical-dramatic form, recalling thesecond part of Faust. The scene opens with a chorus of women, followedby a chorus of men, then a chorus of incorporeal powers of some sort,and at the end of all a chorus of spirits not yet living but veryeager to come to life. All these choruses sing about something veryindefinite, for the most part about somebody’s curse, but with a tingeof the higher humour. But the scene is suddenly changed. There begins asort of “festival of life” at which even insects sing, a tortoisecomes on the scene with certain sacramental Latin words, and even, ifI remember aright, a mineral sings about something that is a quiteinanimate object. In fact, they all sing continually, or if theyconverse, it is simply to abuse one another vaguely, but again witha tinge of higher meaning. At last the scene is changed again; awilderness appears, and among the rocks there wanders a civilized youngman who picks and sucks certain herbs. Asked by a fairy why he sucksthese herbs, he answers that, conscious of a superfluity of life inhimself, he seeks forgetfulness, and finds it in the juice of theseherbs, but that his great desire is to lose his reason at once (a desirepossibly superfluous). Then a youth of indescribable beauty rides in ona black steed, and an immense multitude of all nations follow him.The youth represents death, for whom all the peoples are yearning. Andfinally, in the last scene we are suddenly shown the Tower of Babel, andcertain athletes at last finish building it with a song of new hope, andwhen at length they complete the topmost pinnacle, the lord (of Olympia,let us say) takes flight in a comic fashion, and man, grasping thesituation and seizing his place, at once begins a new life with newinsight into things. Well, this poem was thought at that time to bedangerous. Last year I proposed to Stepan Trofimovitch to publish it,on the ground of its perfect harmlessness nowadays, but he declinedthe suggestion with evident dissatisfaction. My view of its completeharmlessness evidently displeased him, and I even ascribe to it acertain coldness on his part, which lasted two whole months.

And what do you think? Suddenly, almost at the time I proposed printingit here, our poem was published abroad in a collection of revolutionaryverse, without the knowledge of Stepan Trofimovitch. He was atfirst alarmed, rushed to the governor, and wrote a noble letter inself-defence to Petersburg. He read it to me twice, but did not sendit, not knowing to whom to address it. In fact he was in a state ofa*gitation for a whole month, but I am convinced that in the secretrecesses of his heart he was enormously flattered. He almost took thecopy of the collection to bed with him, and kept it hidden under hismattress in the daytime; he positively would not allow the women to turnhis bed, and although he expected every day a telegram, he held his headhigh. No telegram came. Then he made friends with me again, which is aproof of the extreme kindness of his gentle and unresentful heart.


Of course I don’t assert that he had never suffered for his convictionsat all, but I am fully convinced that he might have gone on lecturingon his Arabs as long as he liked, if he had only given the necessaryexplanations. But he was too lofty, and he proceeded with peculiar hasteto assure himself that his career was ruined forever “by the vortex ofcirc*mstance.” And if the whole truth is to be told the real cause ofthe change in his career was the very delicate proposition which hadbeen made before and was then renewed by Varvara Petrovna Stavrogin, alady of great wealth, the wife of a lieutenant-general, that he shouldundertake the education and the whole intellectual development of heronly son in the capacity of a superior sort of teacher and friend, tosay nothing of a magnificent salary. This proposal had been made tohim the first time in Berlin, at the moment when he was first left awidower. His first wife was a frivolous girl from our province, whom hemarried in his early and unthinking youth, and apparently he had had agreat deal of trouble with this young person, charming as she was,owing to the lack of means for her support; and also from other, moredelicate, reasons. She died in Paris after three years’ separationfrom him, leaving him a son of five years old; “the fruit of our first,joyous, and unclouded love,” were the words the sorrowing father oncelet fall in my presence.

The child had, from the first, been sent back to Russia, where he wasbrought up in the charge of distant cousins in some remote region.Stepan Trofimovitch had declined Varvara Petrovna’s proposal on thatoccasion and had quickly married again, before the year was over, ataciturn Berlin girl, and, what makes it more strange, there was noparticular necessity for him to do so. But apart from his marriage therewere, it appears, other reasons for his declining the situation. He wastempted by the resounding fame of a professor, celebrated at that time,and he, in his turn, hastened to the lecturer’s chair for which he hadbeen preparing himself, to try his eagle wings in flight. But now withsinged wings he naturally remembered the proposition which even then hadmade him hesitate. The sudden death of his second wife, who did not livea year with him, settled the matter decisively. To put it plainly it wasall brought about by the passionate sympathy and priceless, so tospeak, classic friendship of Varvara Petrovna, if one may use suchan expression of friendship. He flung himself into the arms of thisfriendship, and his position was settled for more than twenty years. Iuse the expression “flung himself into the arms of,” but God forbid thatanyone should fly to idle and superfluous conclusions. These embracesmust be understood only in the most loftily moral sense. The mostrefined and delicate tie united these two beings, both so remarkable,forever.

The post of tutor was the more readily accepted too, as the property—avery small one—left to Stepan Trofimovitch by his first wife was closeto Skvoreshniki, the Stavrogins’ magnificent estate on the outskirts ofour provincial town. Besides, in the stillness of his study, far fromthe immense burden of university work, it was always possible to devotehimself to the service of science, and to enrich the literature of hiscountry with erudite studies. These works did not appear. But on theother hand it did appear possible to spend the rest of his life, morethan twenty years, “a reproach incarnate,” so to speak, to his nativecountry, in the words of a popular poet:

Reproach incarnate thou didst standErect before thy Fatherland,O Liberal idealist!

But the person to whom the popular poet referred may perhaps have hadthe right to adopt that pose for the rest of his life if he had wishedto do so, though it must have been tedious. Our Stepan Trofimovitch was,to tell the truth, only an imitator compared with such people; moreover,he had grown weary of standing erect and often lay down for a while.But, to do him justice, the “incarnation of reproach” was preserved evenin the recumbent attitude, the more so as that was quite sufficient forthe province. You should have seen him at our club when he sat down tocards. His whole figure seemed to exclaim “Cards! Me sit down to whistwith you! Is it consistent? Who is responsible for it? Who has shatteredmy energies and turned them to whist? Ah, perish, Russia!” and he wouldmajestically trump with a heart.

And to tell the truth he dearly loved a game of cards, which led him,especially in later years, into frequent and unpleasant skirmishes withVarvara Petrovna, particularly as he was always losing. But of thatlater. I will only observe that he was a man of tender conscience (thatis, sometimes) and so was often depressed. In the course of his twentyyears’ friendship with Varvara Petrovna he used regularly, three orfour times a year, to sink into a state of “patriotic grief,” as itwas called among us, or rather really into an attack of spleen, but ourestimable Varvara Petrovna preferred the former phrase. Of late yearshis grief had begun to be not only patriotic, but at times alcoholictoo; but Varvara Petrovna’s alertness succeeded in keeping him all hislife from trivial inclinations. And he needed someone to look after himindeed, for he sometimes behaved very oddly: in the midst of his exaltedsorrow he would begin laughing like any simple peasant. There weremoments when he began to take a humorous tone even about himself. Butthere was nothing Varvara Petrovna dreaded so much as a humorous tone.She was a woman of the classic type, a female Mæcenas, invariablyguided only by the highest considerations. The influence of this exaltedlady over her poor friend for twenty years is a fact of the firstimportance. I shall need to speak of her more particularly, which I nowproceed to do.


There are strange friendships. The two friends are always ready to flyat one another, and go on like that all their lives, and yet they cannotseparate. Parting, in fact, is utterly impossible. The one who has begunthe quarrel and separated will be the first to fall ill and even die,perhaps, if the separation comes off. I know for a positive fact thatseveral times Stepan Trofimovitch has jumped up from the sofa andbeaten the wall with his fists after the most intimate and emotionaltête-à-tête with Varvara Petrovna.

This proceeding was by no means an empty symbol; indeed, on oneoccasion, he broke some plaster off the wall. It may be asked how I cometo know such delicate details. What if I were myself a witness of it?What if Stepan Trofimovitch himself has, on more than one occasion,sobbed on my shoulder while he described to me in lurid colours all hismost secret feelings. (And what was there he did not say at such times!)But what almost always happened after these tearful outbreaks was thatnext day he was ready to crucify himself for his ingratitude. He wouldsend for me in a hurry or run over to see me simply to assure me thatVarvara Petrovna was “an angel of honour and delicacy, while he was verymuch the opposite.” He did not only run to confide in me, but, on morethan one occasion, described it all to her in the most eloquent letter,and wrote a full signed confession that no longer ago than the daybefore he had told an outsider that she kept him out of vanity, thatshe was envious of his talents and erudition, that she hated him and wasonly afraid to express her hatred openly, dreading that he would leaveher and so damage her literary reputation, that this drove him toself-contempt, and he was resolved to die a violent death, and that hewas waiting for the final word from her which would decide everything,and so on and so on in the same style. You can fancy after this whatan hysterical pitch the nervous outbreaks of this most innocent ofall fifty-year-old infants sometimes reached! I once read one of theseletters after some quarrel between them, arising from a trivial matter,but growing venomous as it went on. I was horrified and besought him notto send it.

“I must … more honourable … duty … I shall die if I don’t confesseverything, everything!” he answered almost in delirium, and he did sendthe letter.

That was the difference between them, that Varvara Petrovna never wouldhave sent such a letter. It is true that he was passionately fond ofwriting, he wrote to her though he lived in the same house, and duringhysterical interludes he would write two letters a day. I know for afact that she always read these letters with the greatest attention,even when she received two a day, and after reading them she put themaway in a special drawer, sorted and annotated; moreover, she ponderedthem in her heart. But she kept her friend all day without an answer,met him as though there were nothing the matter, exactly as thoughnothing special had happened the day before. By degrees she broke him inso completely that at last he did not himself dare to allude to what hadhappened the day before, and only glanced into her eyes at times. Butshe never forgot anything, while he sometimes forgot too quickly, andencouraged by her composure he would not infrequently, if friends camein, laugh and make jokes over the champagne the very same day. With whatmalignancy she must have looked at him at such moments, while he noticednothing! Perhaps in a week’s time, a month’s time, or even six monthslater, chancing to recall some phrase in such a letter, and then thewhole letter with all its attendant circ*mstances, he would suddenlygrow hot with shame, and be so upset that he fell ill with one of hisattacks of “summer cholera.” These attacks of a sort of “summer cholera”were, in some cases, the regular consequence of his nervous agitationsand were an interesting peculiarity of his physical constitution.

No doubt Varvara Petrovna did very often hate him. But there was onething he had not discerned up to the end: that was that he had becomefor her a son, her creation, even, one may say, her invention; he hadbecome flesh of her flesh, and she kept and supported him not simplyfrom “envy of his talents.” And how wounded she must have been by suchsuppositions! An inexhaustible love for him lay concealed in her heartin the midst of continual hatred, jealousy, and contempt. She would notlet a speck of dust fall upon him, coddled him up for twenty-two years,would not have slept for nights together if there were the faintestbreath against his reputation as a poet, a learned man, and a publiccharacter. She had invented him, and had been the first to believe inher own invention. He was, after a fashion, her day-dream.… But inreturn she exacted a great deal from him, sometimes even slavishness. Itwas incredible how long she harboured resentment. I have two anecdotesto tell about that.


On one occasion, just at the time when the first rumours of theemancipation of the serfs were in the air, when all Russia was exultingand making ready for a complete regeneration, Varvara Petrovna wasvisited by a baron from Petersburg, a man of the highest connections,and very closely associated with the new reform. Varvara Petrovna prizedsuch visits highly, as her connections in higher circles had grownweaker and weaker since the death of her husband, and had at last ceasedaltogether. The baron spent an hour drinking tea with her. There was noone else present but Stepan Trofimovitch, whom Varvara Petrovna invitedand exhibited. The baron had heard something about him before oraffected to have done so, but paid little attention to him at tea.Stepan Trofimovitch of course was incapable of making a social blunder,and his manners were most elegant. Though I believe he was by no meansof exalted origin, yet it happened that he had from earliest childhoodbeen brought up in a Moscow household—of high rank, and consequentlywas well bred. He spoke French like a Parisian. Thus the baron was tohave seen from the first glance the sort of people with whom VarvaraPetrovna surrounded herself, even in provincial seclusion. But thingsdid not fall out like this. When the baron positively asserted theabsolute truth of the rumours of the great reform, which were thenonly just beginning to be heard, Stepan Trofimovitch could not containhimself, and suddenly shouted “Hurrah!” and even made some gesticulationindicative of delight. His ejacul*tion was not over-loud and quitepolite, his delight was even perhaps premeditated, and his gesturepurposely studied before the looking-glass half an hour before tea. Butsomething must have been amiss with it, for the baron permitted himselfa faint smile, though he, at once, with extraordinary courtesy, put ina phrase concerning the universal and befitting emotion of all Russianhearts in view of the great event. Shortly afterwards he took hisleave and at parting did not forget to hold out two fingers to StepanTrofimovitch. On returning to the drawing-room Varvara Petrovna wasat first silent for two or three minutes, and seemed to be looking forsomething on the table. Then she turned to Stepan Trofimovitch, and withpale face and flashing eyes she hissed in a whisper:

“I shall never forgive you for that!”

Next day she met her friend as though nothing had happened, she neverreferred to the incident, but thirteen years afterwards, at a tragicmoment, she recalled it and reproached him with it, and she turned pale,just as she had done thirteen years before. Only twice in the course ofher life did she say to him:

“I shall never forgive you for that!”

The incident with the baron was the second time, but the first incidentwas so characteristic and had so much influence on the fate of StepanTrofimovitch that I venture to refer to that too.

It was in 1855, in spring-time, in May, just after the news had reachedSkvoreshniki of the death of Lieutenant-General Stavrogin, a frivolousold gentleman who died of a stomach ailment on the way to the Crimea,where he was hastening to join the army on active service. VarvaraPetrovna was left a widow and put on deep mourning. She could not, it istrue, deplore his death very deeply, since, for the last four years,she had been completely separated from him owing to incompatibility oftemper, and was giving him an allowance. (The Lieutenant-General himselfhad nothing but one hundred and fifty serfs and his pay, besides hisposition and his connections. All the money and Skvoreshniki belonged toVarvara Petrovna, the only daughter of a very rich contractor.) Yet shewas shocked by the suddenness of the news, and retired into completesolitude. Stepan Trofimovitch, of course, was always at her side.

May was in its full beauty. The evenings were exquisite. The wild cherrywas in flower. The two friends walked every evening in the garden andused to sit till nightfall in the arbour, and pour out their thoughtsand feelings to one another. They had poetic moments. Under theinfluence of the change in her position Varvara Petrovna talked morethan usual. She, as it were, clung to the heart of her friend, and thiscontinued for several evenings. A strange idea suddenly came over StepanTrofimovitch: “Was not the inconsolable widow reckoning upon him, andexpecting from him, when her mourning was over, the offer of his hand?”A cynical idea, but the very loftiness of a man’s nature sometimesincreases a disposition to cynical ideas if only from the many-sidednessof his culture. He began to look more deeply into it, and thought itseemed like it. He pondered: “Her fortune is immense, of course, but …”Varvara Petrovna certainly could not be called a beauty. She was atall, yellow, bony woman with an extremely long face, suggestive of ahorse. Stepan Trofimovitch hesitated more and more, he was tortured bydoubts, he positively shed tears of indecision once or twice (he weptnot infrequently). In the evenings, that is to say in the arbour, hiscountenance involuntarily began to express something capricious andironical, something coquettish and at the same time condescending. Thisis apt to happen as it were by accident, and the more gentlemanly theman the more noticeable it is. Goodness only knows what one is to thinkabout it, but it’s most likely that nothing had begun working in herheart that could have fully justified Stepan Trofimovitch’s suspicions.Moreover, she would not have changed her name, Stavrogin, for hisname, famous as it was. Perhaps there was nothing in it but the playof femininity on her side; the manifestation of an unconscious feminineyearning so natural in some extremely feminine types. However, I won’tanswer for it; the depths of the female heart have not been explored tothis day. But I must continue.

It is to be supposed that she soon inwardly guessed the significance ofher friend’s strange expression; she was quick and observant, and he wassometimes extremely guileless. But the evenings went on as before, andtheir conversations were just as poetic and interesting. And beholdon one occasion at nightfall, after the most lively and poeticalconversation, they parted affectionately, warmly pressing each other’shands at the steps of the lodge where Stepan Trofimovitch slept. Everysummer he used to move into this little lodge which stood adjoining thehuge seignorial house of Skvoreshniki, almost in the garden. He had onlyjust gone in, and in restless hesitation taken a cigar, and not havingyet lighted it, was standing weary and motionless before the openwindow, gazing at the light feathery white clouds gliding around thebright moon, when suddenly a faint rustle made him start and turnround. Varvara Petrovna, whom he had left only four minutes earlier,was standing before him again. Her yellow face was almost blue. Her lipswere pressed tightly together and twitching at the corners. For ten fullseconds she looked him in the eyes in silence with a firm relentlessgaze, and suddenly whispered rapidly:

“I shall never forgive you for this!”

When, ten years later, Stepan Trofimovitch, after closing the doors,told me this melancholy tale in a whisper, he vowed that he had been sopetrified on the spot that he had not seen or heard how Varvara Petrovnahad disappeared. As she never once afterwards alluded to the incidentand everything went on as though nothing had happened, he was all hislife inclined to the idea that it was all an hallucination, a symptomof illness, the more so as he was actually taken ill that very nightand was indisposed for a fortnight, which, by the way, cut short theinterviews in the arbour.

But in spite of his vague theory of hallucination he seemed every day,all his life, to be expecting the continuation, and, so to say, thedénouement of this affair. He could not believe that that was the end ofit! And if so he must have looked strangely sometimes at his friend.


She had herself designed the costume for him which he wore for the restof his life. It was elegant and characteristic; a long black frock-coat,buttoned almost to the top, but stylishly cut; a soft hat (in summer astraw hat) with a wide brim, a white batiste cravat with a full bowand hanging ends, a cane with a silver knob; his hair flowed on to hisshoulders. It was dark brown, and only lately had begun to get a littlegrey. He was clean-shaven. He was said to have been very handsome in hisyouth. And, to my mind, he was still an exceptionally impressive figureeven in old age. Besides, who can talk of old age at fifty-three?From his special pose as a patriot, however, he did not try to appearyounger, but seemed rather to pride himself on the solidity of hisage, and, dressed as described, tall and thin with flowing hair, helooked almost like a patriarch, or even more like the portrait of thepoet Kukolnik, engraved in the edition of his works published in 1830 orthereabouts. This resemblance was especially striking when he sat in thegarden in summertime, on a seat under a bush of flowering lilac, withboth hands propped on his cane and an open book beside him, musingpoetically over the setting sun. In regard to books I may remark thathe came in later years rather to avoid reading. But that was only quitetowards the end. The papers and magazines ordered in great profusion byVarvara Petrovna he was continually reading. He never lost interest inthe successes of Russian literature either, though he always maintaineda dignified attitude with regard to them. He was at one time engrossedin the study of our home and foreign politics, but he soon gave up theundertaking with a gesture of despair. It sometimes happened that hewould take De Tocqueville with him into the garden while he had a Paulde Kock in his pocket. But these are trivial matters.

I must observe in parenthesis about the portrait of Kukolnik; theengraving had first come into the hands of Varvara Petrovna when she wasa girl in a high-class boarding-school in Moscow. She fell in love withthe portrait at once, after the habit of all girls at school who fallin love with anything they come across, as well as with their teachers,especially the drawing and writing masters. What is interesting in this,though, is not the characteristics of girls but the fact that even atfifty Varvara Petrovna kept the engraving among her most intimate andtreasured possessions, so that perhaps it was only on this account thatshe had designed for Stepan Trofimovitch a costume somewhat like thepoet’s in the engraving. But that, of course, is a trifling matter too.

For the first years or, more accurately, for the first half of the timehe spent with Varvara Petrovna, Stepan Trofimovitch was still planning abook and every day seriously prepared to write it. But during the laterperiod he must have forgotten even what he had done. More and morefrequently he used to say to us:

“I seem to be ready for work, my materials are collected, yet the workdoesn’t get done! Nothing is done!”

And he would bow his head dejectedly. No doubt this was calculatedto increase his prestige in our eyes as a martyr to science, but hehimself was longing for something else. “They have forgotten me! I’mno use to anyone!” broke from him more than once. This intensifieddepression took special hold of him towards the end of the fifties.Varvara Petrovna realised at last that it was a serious matter. Besides,she could not endure the idea that her friend was forgotten and useless.To distract him and at the same time to renew his fame she carried himoff to Moscow, where she had fashionable acquaintances in theliterary and scientific world; but it appeared that Moscow too wasunsatisfactory.

It was a peculiar time; something new was beginning, quite unlike thestagnation of the past, something very strange too, though it was felteverywhere, even at Skvoreshniki. Rumours of all sorts reached us. Thefacts were generally more or less well known, but it was evident thatin addition to the facts there were certain ideas accompanying them,and what’s more, a great number of them. And this was perplexing. It wasimpossible to estimate and find out exactly what was the drift of theseideas. Varvara Petrovna was prompted by the feminine composition of hercharacter to a compelling desire to penetrate the secret of them.She took to reading newspapers and magazines, prohibited publicationsprinted abroad and even the revolutionary manifestoes which were justbeginning to appear at the time (she was able to procure them all); butthis only set her head in a whirl. She fell to writing letters; she gotfew answers, and they grew more incomprehensible as time went on. StepanTrofimovitch was solemnly called upon to explain “these ideas” toher once for all, but she remained distinctly dissatisfied with hisexplanations.

Stepan Trofimovitch’s view of the general movement was supercilious inthe extreme. In his eyes all it amounted to was that he was forgottenand of no use. At last his name was mentioned, at first in periodicalspublished abroad as that of an exiled martyr, and immediately afterwardsin Petersburg as that of a former star in a celebrated constellation.He was even for some reason compared with Radishtchev. Then someoneprinted the statement that he was dead and promised an obituary noticeof him. Stepan Trofimovitch instantly perked up and assumed an air ofimmense dignity. All his disdain for his contemporaries evaporated andhe began to cherish the dream of joining the movement and showing hispowers. Varvara Petrovna’s faith in everything instantly revived and shewas thrown into a violent ferment. It was decided to go to Petersburgwithout a moment’s delay, to find out everything on the spot, to go intoeverything personally, and, if possible, to throw themselves heart andsoul into the new movement. Among other things she announced that shewas prepared to found a magazine of her own, and henceforward to devoteher whole life to it. Seeing what it had come to, Stepan Trofimovitchbecame more condescending than ever, and on the journey began to behavealmost patronisingly to Varvara Petrovna—which she at once laid up inher heart against him. She had, however, another very important reasonfor the trip, which was to renew her connections in higher spheres.It was necessary, as far as she could, to remind the world of herexistence, or at any rate to make an attempt to do so. The ostensibleobject of the journey was to see her only son, who was just finishinghis studies at a Petersburg lyceum.


They spent almost the whole winter season in Petersburg. But by Lenteverything burst like a rainbow-coloured soap-bubble.

Their dreams were dissipated, and the muddle, far from being clearedup, had become even more revoltingly incomprehensible. To begin with,connections with the higher spheres were not established, or only on amicroscopic scale, and by humiliating exertions. In her mortificationVarvara Petrovna threw herself heart and soul into the “new ideas,” andbegan giving evening receptions. She invited literary people, and theywere brought to her at once in multitudes. Afterwards they came ofthemselves without invitation, one brought another. Never had she seensuch literary men. They were incredibly vain, but quite open in theirvanity, as though they were performing a duty by the display of it.Some (but by no means all) of them even turned up intoxicated, seeming,however, to detect in this a peculiar, only recently discovered, merit.They were all strangely proud of something. On every face was writtenthat they had only just discovered some extremely important secret. Theyabused one another, and took credit to themselves for it. It was ratherdifficult to find out what they had written exactly, but among themthere were critics, novelists, dramatists, satirists, and exposers ofabuses. Stepan Trofimovitch penetrated into their very highest circlefrom which the movement was directed. Incredible heights had to bescaled to reach this group; but they gave him a cordial welcome, though,of course, no one of them had ever heard of him or knew anything abouthim except that he “represented an idea.” His manœuvres among themwere so successful that he got them twice to Varvara Petrovna’s salonin spite of their Olympian grandeur. These people were very serious andvery polite; they behaved nicely; the others were evidently afraid ofthem; but it was obvious that they had no time to spare. Two or threeformer literary celebrities who happened to be in Petersburg, and withwhom Varvara Petrovna had long maintained a most refined correspondence,came also. But to her surprise these genuine and quite indubitablecelebrities were stiller than water, humbler than the grass, and someof them simply hung on to this new rabble, and were shamefully cringingbefore them. At first Stepan Trofimovitch was a success. People caughtat him and began to exhibit him at public literary gatherings. The firsttime he came on to the platform at some public reading in which he wasto take part, he was received with enthusiastic clapping which lastedfor five minutes. He recalled this with tears nine years afterwards,though rather from his natural artistic sensibility than from gratitude.“I swear, and I’m ready to bet,” he declared (but only to me, and insecret), “that not one of that audience knew anything whatever aboutme.” A noteworthy admission. He must have had a keen intelligence sincehe was capable of grasping his position so clearly even on the platform,even in such a state of exaltation; it also follows that he had nota keen intelligence if, nine years afterwards, he could not recallit without mortification. He was made to sign two or three collectiveprotests (against what he did not know); he signed them. VarvaraPetrovna too was made to protest against some “disgraceful action” andshe signed too. The majority of these new people, however, though theyvisited Varvara Petrovna, felt themselves for some reason called uponto regard her with contempt, and with undisguised irony. StepanTrofimovitch hinted to me at bitter moments afterwards that it was fromthat time she had been envious of him. She saw, of course, that shecould not get on with these people, yet she received them eagerly,with all the hysterical impatience of her sex, and, what is more, sheexpected something. At her parties she talked little, although she couldtalk, but she listened the more. They talked of the abolition of thecensorship, and of phonetic spelling, of the substitution of the Latincharacters for the Russian alphabet, of someone’s having been sent intoexile the day before, of some scandal, of the advantage of splittingRussia into nationalities united in a free federation, of the abolitionof the army and the navy, of the restoration of Poland as far asthe Dnieper, of the peasant reforms, and of the manifestoes, of theabolition of the hereditary principle, of the family, of children, andof priests, of women’s rights, of Kraevsky’s house, for which no oneever seemed able to forgive Mr. Kraevsky, and so on, and so on. It wasevident that in this mob of new people there were many impostors, butundoubtedly there were also many honest and very attractive people, inspite of some surprising characteristics in them. The honest ones werefar more difficult to understand than the coarse and dishonest, but itwas impossible to tell which was being made a tool of by the other.When Varvara Petrovna announced her idea of founding a magazine, peopleflocked to her in even larger numbers, but charges of being a capitalistand an exploiter of labour were showered upon her to her face. Therudeness of these accusations was only equalled by their unexpectedness.The aged General Ivan Ivanovitch Drozdov, an old friend and comradeof the late General Stavrogin’s, known to us all here as an extremelystubborn and irritable, though very estimable, man (in his own way, ofcourse), who ate a great deal, and was dreadfully afraid of atheism,quarrelled at one of Varvara Petrovna’s parties with a distinguishedyoung man. The latter at the first word exclaimed, “You must be ageneral if you talk like that,” meaning that he could find no word ofabuse worse than “general.”

Ivan Ivanovitch flew into a terrible passion: “Yes, sir, I am a general,and a lieutenant-general, and I have served my Tsar, and you, sir, are apuppy and an infidel!”

An outrageous scene followed. Next day the incident was exposed inprint, and they began getting up a collective protest against VarvaraPetrovna’s disgraceful conduct in not having immediately turnedthe general out. In an illustrated paper there appeared a malignantcaricature in which Varvara Petrovna, Stepan Trofimovitch, and GeneralDrozdov were depicted as three reactionary friends. There were versesattached to this caricature written by a popular poet especially for theoccasion. I may observe, for my own part, that many persons of general’srank certainly have an absurd habit of saying, “I have served myTsar” … just as though they had not the same Tsar as all the rest of us,their simple fellow-subjects, but had a special Tsar of their own.

It was impossible, of course, to remain any longer in Petersburg, allthe more so as Stepan Trofimovitch was overtaken by a complete fiasco.He could not resist talking of the claims of art, and they laughedat him more loudly as time went on. At his last lecture he thought toimpress them with patriotic eloquence, hoping to touch their hearts,and reckoning on the respect inspired by his “persecution.” He didnot attempt to dispute the uselessness and absurdity of the word“fatherland,” acknowledged the pernicious influence of religion, butfirmly and loudly declared that boots were of less consequence thanPushkin; of much less, indeed. He was hissed so mercilessly that heburst into tears, there and then, on the platform. Varvara Petrovna tookhim home more dead than alive. “On m’a traité comme un vieux bonnetde coton,” he babbled senselessly. She was looking after him all night,giving him laurel-drops and repeating to him till daybreak, “You willstill be of use; you will still make your mark; you will be appreciated… in another place.”

Early next morning five literary men called on Varvara Petrovna, threeof them complete strangers, whom she had never set eyes on before. Witha stern air they informed her that they had looked into the question ofher magazine, and had brought her their decision on the subject. VarvaraPetrovna had never authorised anyone to look into or decide anythingconcerning her magazine. Their decision was that, having founded themagazine, she should at once hand it over to them with the capital torun it, on the basis of a co-operative society. She herself was togo back to Skvoreshniki, not forgetting to take with her StepanTrofimovitch, who was “out of date.” From delicacy they agreed torecognise the right of property in her case, and to send her every yeara sixth part of the net profits. What was most touching about itwas that of these five men, four certainly were not actuated by anymercenary motive, and were simply acting in the interests of the“cause.”

“We came away utterly at a loss,” Stepan Trofimovitch used to sayafterwards. “I couldn’t make head or tail of it, and kept muttering, Iremember, to the rumble of the train:

 ‘Vyek, and vyek, and Lyov Kambek, Lyov Kambek and vyek, and vyek.’

and goodness knows what, all the way to Moscow. It was only in Moscowthat I came to myself—as though we really might find somethingdifferent there.”

“Oh, my friends!” he would exclaim to us sometimes with fervour, “youcannot imagine what wrath and sadness overcome your whole soul when agreat idea, which you have long cherished as holy, is caught up by theignorant and dragged forth before fools like themselves into the street,and you suddenly meet it in the market unrecognisable, in the mud,absurdly set up, without proportion, without harmony, the plaything offoolish louts! No! In our day it was not so, and it was not this forwhich we strove. No, no, not this at all. I don’t recognise it.… Ourday will come again and will turn all the tottering fabric of to-dayinto a true path. If not, what will happen?…”


Immediately on their return from Petersburg Varvara Petrovna sent herfriend abroad to “recruit”; and, indeed, it was necessary for them topart for a time, she felt that. Stepan Trofimovitch was delighted to go.

“There I shall revive!” he exclaimed. “There, at last, I shall set towork!” But in the first of his letters from Berlin he struck his usualnote:

“My heart is broken!” he wrote to Varvara Petrovna. “I can forgetnothing! Here, in Berlin, everything brings back to me my old past, myfirst raptures and my first agonies. Where is she? Where are they both?Where are you two angels of whom I was never worthy? Where is my son, mybeloved son? And last of all, where am I, where is my old self, strongas steel, firm as a rock, when now some Andreev, our orthodox clown witha beard, peut briser mon existence en deux”—and so on.

As for Stepan Trofimovitch’s son, he had only seen him twice in hislife, the first time when he was born and the second time lately inPetersburg, where the young man was preparing to enter the university.The boy had been all his life, as we have said already, brought up byhis aunts (at Varvara Petrovna’s expense) in a remote province, nearlysix hundred miles from Skvoreshniki. As for Andreev, he was nothingmore or less than our local shopkeeper, a very eccentric fellow, aself-taught archæologist who had a passion for collecting Russianantiquities and sometimes tried to outshine Stepan Trofimovitch inerudition and in the progressiveness of his opinions. This worthyshopkeeper, with a grey beard and silver-rimmed spectacles, still owedStepan Trofimovitch four hundred roubles for some acres of timber he hadbought on the latter’s little estate (near Skvoreshniki). Though VarvaraPetrovna had liberally provided her friend with funds when she sent himto Berlin, yet Stepan Trofimovitch had, before starting, particularlyreckoned on getting that four hundred roubles, probably for his secretexpenditure, and was ready to cry when Andreev asked leave to deferpayment for a month, which he had a right to do, since he had broughtthe first installments of the money almost six months in advance to meetStepan Trofimovitch’s special need at the time.

Varvara Petrovna read this first letter greedily, and underlining inpencil the exclamation: “Where are they both?” numbered it and put itaway in a drawer. He had, of course, referred to his two deceased wives.The second letter she received from Berlin was in a different strain:

“I am working twelve hours out of the twenty-four.” (“Eleven would beenough,” muttered Varvara Petrovna.) “I’m rummaging in the libraries,collating, copying, rushing about. I’ve visited the professors. I haverenewed my acquaintance with the delightful Dundasov family. What acharming creature Lizaveta Nikolaevna is even now! She sends you hergreetings. Her young husband and three nephews are all in Berlin. Isit up talking till daybreak with the young people and we have almostAthenian evenings, Athenian, I mean, only in their intellectual subtletyand refinement. Everything is in noble style; a great deal of music,Spanish airs, dreams of the regeneration of all humanity, ideasof eternal beauty, of the Sistine Madonna, light interspersed withdarkness, but there are spots even on the sun! Oh, my friend, my noble,faithful friend! In heart I am with you and am yours; with you alone,always, en tout pays, even in le pays de Makar et de ses veaux, ofwhich we often used to talk in agitation in Petersburg, do you remember,before we came away. I think of it with a smile. Crossing the frontier Ifelt myself in safety, a sensation, strange and new, for the first timeafter so many years”—and so on and so on.

“Come, it’s all nonsense!” Varvara Petrovna commented, folding up thatletter too. “If he’s up till daybreak with his Athenian nights, he isn’tat his books for twelve hours a day. Was he drunk when he wrote it?That Dundasov woman dares to send me greetings! But there, let him amusehimself!”

The phrase “dans le pays de Makar et de ses veaux” meant: “whereverMakar may drive his calves.” Stepan Trofimovitch sometimes purposelytranslated Russian proverbs and traditional sayings into French in themost stupid way, though no doubt he was able to understand and translatethem better. But he did it from a feeling that it was chic, and thoughtit witty.

But he did not amuse himself for long. He could not hold out for fourmonths, and was soon flying back to Skvoreshniki. His last lettersconsisted of nothing but outpourings of the most sentimental love forhis absent friend, and were literally wet with tears. There are naturesextremely attached to home like lap-dogs. The meeting of the friends wasenthusiastic. Within two days everything was as before and even dullerthan before. “My friend,” Stepan Trofimovitch said to me a fortnightafter, in dead secret, “I have discovered something awful for me …something new: je suis un simple dependent, et rien de plus! Maisr-r-rien de plus.


After this we had a period of stagnation which lasted nine years.The hysterical outbreaks and sobbings on my shoulder that recurred atregular intervals did not in the least mar our prosperity. I wonder thatStepan Trofimovitch did not grow stout during this period. His nose wasa little redder, and his manner had gained in urbanity, that was all. Bydegrees a circle of friends had formed around him, although it was nevera very large one. Though Varvara Petrovna had little to do with thecircle, yet we all recognised her as our patroness. After the lesson shehad received in Petersburg, she settled down in our town for good. Inwinter she lived in her town house and spent the summer on her estatein the neighbourhood. She had never enjoyed so much consequence andprestige in our provincial society as during the last seven years ofthis period, that is up to the time of the appointment of our presentgovernor. Our former governor, the mild Ivan Ossipovitch, who will neverbe forgotten among us, was a near relation of Varvara Petrovna’s, andhad at one time been under obligations to her. His wife trembled at thevery thought of displeasing her, while the homage paid her by provincialsociety was carried almost to a pitch that suggested idolatry. So StepanTrofimovitch, too, had a good time. He was a member of the club, lost atcards majestically, and was everywhere treated with respect, thoughmany people regarded him only as a “learned man.” Later on, when VarvaraPetrovna allowed him to live in a separate house, we enjoyed greaterfreedom than before. Twice a week we used to meet at his house. We werea merry party, especially when he was not sparing of the champagne. Thewine came from the shop of the same Andreev. The bill was paid twicea year by Varvara Petrovna, and on the day it was paid StepanTrofimovitch almost invariably suffered from an attack of his “summercholera.”

One of the first members of our circle was Liputin, an elderlyprovincial official, and a great liberal, who was reputed in the townto be an atheist. He had married for the second time a young and prettywife with a dowry, and had, besides, three grown-up daughters. Hebrought up his family in the fear of God, and kept a tight hand overthem. He was extremely stingy, and out of his salary had bought himselfa house and amassed a fortune. He was an uncomfortable sort of man, andhad not been in the service. He was not much respected in the town, andwas not received in the best circles. Moreover, he was a scandal-monger,and had more than once had to smart for his back-biting, for which hehad been badly punished by an officer, and again by a country gentleman,the respectable head of a family. But we liked his wit, his inquiringmind, his peculiar, malicious liveliness. Varvara Petrovna disliked him,but he always knew how to make up to her.

Nor did she care for Shatov, who became one of our circle during thelast years of this period. Shatov had been a student and had beenexpelled from the university after some disturbance. In his childhood hehad been a student of Stepan Trofimovitch’s and was by birth a serf ofVarvara Petrovna’s, the son of a former valet of hers, Pavel Fyodoritch,and was greatly indebted to her bounty. She disliked him for his prideand ingratitude and could never forgive him for not having come straightto her on his expulsion from the university. On the contrary he had noteven answered the letter she had expressly sent him at the time, andpreferred to be a drudge in the family of a merchant of the new style,with whom he went abroad, looking after his children more in theposition of a nurse than of a tutor. He was very eager to travel at thetime. The children had a governess too, a lively young Russian lady, whoalso became one of the household on the eve of their departure, andhad been engaged chiefly because she was so cheap. Two months later themerchant turned her out of the house for “free thinking.” Shatov tookhimself off after her and soon afterwards married her in Geneva.They lived together about three weeks, and then parted as free peoplerecognising no bonds, though, no doubt, also through poverty. Hewandered about Europe alone for a long time afterwards, living God knowshow; he is said to have blacked boots in the street, and to have been aporter in some dockyard. At last, a year before, he had returned to hisnative place among us and settled with an old aunt, whom he buried amonth later. His sister Dasha, who had also been brought up by VarvaraPetrovna, was a favourite of hers, and treated with respect andconsideration in her house. He saw his sister rarely and was not onintimate terms with her. In our circle he was always sullen, and nevertalkative; but from time to time, when his convictions were touchedupon, he became morbidly irritable and very unrestrained in hislanguage.

“One has to tie Shatov up and then argue with him,” Stepan Trofimovitchwould sometimes say in joke, but he liked him.

Shatov had radically changed some of his former socialistic convictionsabroad and had rushed to the opposite extreme. He was one of thoseidealistic beings common in Russia, who are suddenly struck by someovermastering idea which seems, as it were, to crush them at once, andsometimes forever. They are never equal to coping with it, but putpassionate faith in it, and their whole life passes afterwards, as itwere, in the last agonies under the weight of the stone that has fallenupon them and half crushed them. In appearance Shatov was in completeharmony with his convictions: he was short, awkward, had a shock offlaxen hair, broad shoulders, thick lips, very thick overhanging whiteeyebrows, a wrinkled forehead, and a hostile, obstinately downcast, asit were shamefaced, expression in his eyes. His hair was always in awild tangle and stood up in a shock which nothing could smooth. He wasseven- or eight-and-twenty.

“I no longer wonder that his wife ran away from him,” Varvara Petrovnaenunciated on one occasion after gazing intently at him. He tried to beneat in his dress, in spite of his extreme poverty. He refrained againfrom appealing to Varvara Petrovna, and struggled along as best hecould, doing various jobs for tradespeople. At one time he served in ashop, at another he was on the point of going as an assistant clerk on afreight steamer, but he fell ill just at the time of sailing. It ishard to imagine what poverty he was capable of enduring without thinkingabout it at all. After his illness Varvara Petrovna sent him a hundredroubles, anonymously and in secret. He found out the secret, however,and after some reflection took the money and went to Varvara Petrovna tothank her. She received him with warmth, but on this occasion, too,he shamefully disappointed her. He only stayed five minutes, staringblankly at the ground and smiling stupidly in profound silence, andsuddenly, at the most interesting point, without listening to whatshe was saying, he got up, made an uncouth sideways bow, helplesswith confusion, caught against the lady’s expensive inlaid work-table,upsetting it on the floor and smashing it to atoms, and walked outnearly dead with shame. Liputin blamed him severely afterwards forhaving accepted the hundred roubles and having even gone to thankVarvara Petrovna for them, instead of having returned the money withcontempt, because it had come from his former despotic mistress. Helived in solitude on the outskirts of the town, and did not like anyof us to go and see him. He used to turn up invariably at StepanTrofimovitch’s evenings, and borrowed newspapers and books from him.

There was another young man who always came, one Virginsky, a clerk inthe service here, who had something in common with Shatov, though onthe surface he seemed his complete opposite in every respect. He was a“family man” too. He was a pathetic and very quiet young man thoughhe was thirty; he had considerable education though he was chieflyself-taught. He was poor, married, and in the service, and supported theaunt and sister of his wife. His wife and all the ladies of his familyprofessed the very latest convictions, but in rather a crude form.It was a case of “an idea dragged forth into the street,” as StepanTrofimovitch had expressed it upon a former occasion. They got itall out of books, and at the first hint coming from any of our littleprogressive corners in Petersburg they were prepared to throw anythingoverboard, so soon as they were advised to do so. Madame Virginskypractised as a midwife in the town. She had lived a long whilein Petersburg as a girl. Virginsky himself was a man of raresingle-heartedness, and I have seldom met more honest fervour.

“I will never, never, abandon these bright hopes,” he used to say to mewith shining eyes. Of these “bright hopes” he always spoke quietly, ina blissful half-whisper, as it were secretly. He was rather tall, butextremely thin and narrow-shouldered, and had extraordinarily lank hairof a reddish hue. All Stepan Trofimovitch’s condescending gibes atsome of his opinions he accepted mildly, answered him sometimes veryseriously, and often nonplussed him. Stepan Trofimovitch treated himvery kindly, and indeed he behaved like a father to all of us. “You areall half-hearted chickens,” he observed to Virginsky in joke. “Allwho are like you, though in you, Virginsky, I have not observed thatnarrow-mindedness I found in Petersburg, chez ces séminaristes. Butyou’re a half-hatched chicken all the same. Shatov would give anythingto hatch out, but he’s half-hatched too.”

“And I?” Liputin inquired.

“You’re simply the golden mean which will get on anywhere in its ownway.” Liputin was offended.

The story was told of Virginsky, and it was unhappily only too true,that before his wife had spent a year in lawful wedlock with him sheannounced that he was superseded and that she preferred Lebyadkin. ThisLebyadkin, a stranger to the town, turned out afterwards to be a verydubious character, and not a retired captain as he represented himselfto be. He could do nothing but twist his moustache, drink, and chatterthe most inept nonsense that can possibly be imagined. This fellow, whowas utterly lacking in delicacy, at once settled in his house, glad tolive at another man’s expense, ate and slept there and came, in the end,to treating the master of the house with condescension. It was assertedthat when Virginsky’s wife had announced to him that he was supersededhe said to her:

“My dear, hitherto I have only loved you, but now I respect you,” but Idoubt whether this renunciation, worthy of ancient Rome, was ever reallyuttered. On the contrary they say that he wept violently. A fortnightafter he was superseded, all of them, in a “family party,” went one dayfor a picnic to a wood outside the town to drink tea with their friends.Virginsky was in a feverishly lively mood and took part in the dances.But suddenly, without any preliminary quarrel, he seized the giantLebyadkin with both hands, by the hair, just as the latter was dancinga can-can solo, pushed him down, and began dragging him along withshrieks, shouts, and tears. The giant was so panic-stricken that he didnot attempt to defend himself, and hardly uttered a sound all the timehe was being dragged along. But afterwards he resented it with all theheat of an honourable man. Virginsky spent a whole night on his kneesbegging his wife’s forgiveness. But this forgiveness was not granted, ashe refused to apologise to Lebyadkin; moreover, he was upbraided for themeanness of his ideas and his foolishness, the latter charge based onthe fact that he knelt down in the interview with his wife. The captainsoon disappeared and did not reappear in our town till quite lately,when he came with his sister, and with entirely different aims; butof him later. It was no wonder that the poor young husband sought oursociety and found comfort in it. But he never spoke of his home-life tous. On one occasion only, returning with me from Stepan Trofimovitch’s,he made a remote allusion to his position, but clutching my hand at oncehe cried ardently:

“It’s of no consequence. It’s only a personal incident. It’s nohindrance to the ‘cause,’ not the slightest!”

Stray guests visited our circle too; a Jew, called Lyamshin, and aCaptain Kartusov came. An old gentleman of inquiring mind used to comeat one time, but he died. Liputin brought an exiled Polish priest calledSlontsevsky, and for a time we received him on principle, but afterwardswe didn’t keep it up.


At one time it was reported about the town that our little circle was ahotbed of nihilism, profligacy, and godlessness, and the rumour gainedmore and more strength. And yet we did nothing but indulge in the mostharmless, agreeable, typically Russian, light-hearted liberal chatter.“The higher liberalism” and the “higher liberal,” that is, a liberalwithout any definite aim, is only possible in Russia.

Stepan Trofimovitch, like every witty man, needed a listener, and,besides that, he needed the consciousness that he was fulfilling thelofty duty of disseminating ideas. And finally he had to have someoneto drink champagne with, and over the wine to exchange light-heartedviews of a certain sort, about Russia and the “Russian spirit,” aboutGod in general, and the “Russian God” in particular, to repeat for thehundredth time the same Russian scandalous stories that every one knewand every one repeated. We had no distaste for the gossip of the townwhich often, indeed, led us to the most severe and loftily moralverdicts. We fell into generalising about humanity, made sternreflections on the future of Europe and mankind in general,authoritatively predicted that after Cæsarism France would at once sinkinto the position of a second-rate power, and were firmly convinced thatthis might terribly easily and quickly come to pass. We had long agopredicted that the Pope would play the part of a simple archbishop ina united Italy, and were firmly convinced that this thousand-year-oldquestion had, in our age of humanitarianism, industry, and railways,become a trifling matter. But, of course, “Russian higher liberalism”could not look at the question in any other way. Stepan Trofimovitchsometimes talked of art, and very well, though rather abstractly. Hesometimes spoke of the friends of his youth—all names noteworthy inthe history of Russian progress. He talked of them with emotion andreverence, though sometimes with envy. If we were very much bored, theJew, Lyamshin (a little post-office clerk), a wonderful performer onthe piano, sat down to play, and in the intervals would imitate a pig,a thunderstorm, a confinement with the first cry of the baby, and so on,and so on; it was only for this that he was invited, indeed. If we haddrunk a great deal—and that did happen sometimes, though not often—weflew into raptures, and even on one occasion sang the “Marseillaise” inchorus to the accompaniment of Lyamshin, though I don’t know how itwent off. The great day, the nineteenth of February, we welcomedenthusiastically, and for a long time beforehand drank toasts in itshonour. But that was long ago, before the advent of Shatov or Virginsky,when Stepan Trofimovitch was still living in the same house with VarvaraPetrovna. For some time before the great day Stepan Trofimovitchfell into the habit of muttering to himself well-known, though ratherfar-fetched, lines which must have been written by some liberallandowner of the past:

“The peasant with his axe is coming,Something terrible will happen.”

Something of that sort, I don’t remember the exact words. VarvaraPetrovna overheard him on one occasion, and crying, “Nonsense,nonsense!” she went out of the room in a rage. Liputin, who happened tobe present, observed malignantly to Stepan Trofimovitch:

“It’ll be a pity if their former serfs really do some mischief tomessieurs les landowners to celebrate the occasion,” and he drew hisforefinger round his throat.

Cher ami,” Stepan Trofimovitch observed, “believe me that—this (herepeated the gesture) will never be of any use to our landowners nor toany of us in general. We shall never be capable of organising anythingeven without our heads, though our heads hinder our understanding morethan anything.”

I may observe that many people among us anticipated that somethingextraordinary, such as Liputin predicted, would take place on the dayof the emancipation, and those who held this view were the so-called“authorities” on the peasantry and the government. I believe StepanTrofimovitch shared this idea, so much so that almost on the eve of thegreat day he began asking Varvara Petrovna’s leave to go abroad; in facthe began to be uneasy. But the great day passed, and some timepassed after it, and the condescending smile reappeared on StepanTrofimovitch’s lips. In our presence he delivered himself of somenoteworthy thoughts on the character of the Russian in general, and theRussian peasant in particular.

“Like hasty people we have been in too great a hurry with our peasants,”he said in conclusion of a series of remarkable utterances. “We havemade them the fashion, and a whole section of writers have for severalyears treated them as though they were newly discovered curiosities. Wehave put laurel-wreaths on lousy heads. The Russian village has given usonly ‘Kamarinsky’ in a thousand years. A remarkable Russian poet who wasalso something of a wit, seeing the great Rachel on the stage for thefirst time cried in ecstasy, ‘I wouldn’t exchange Rachel for a peasant!’I am prepared to go further. I would give all the peasants in Russiafor one Rachel. It’s high time to look things in the face moresoberly, and not to mix up our national rustic pitch with bouquet del’Impératrice.

Liputin agreed at once, but remarked that one had to perjure oneself andpraise the peasant all the same for the sake of being progressive, thateven ladies in good society shed tears reading “Poor Anton,” and thatsome of them even wrote from Paris to their bailiffs that they were,henceforward, to treat the peasants as humanely as possible.

It happened, and as ill-luck would have it just after the rumours of theAnton Petrov affair had reached us, that there was some disturbancein our province too, only about ten miles from Skvoreshniki, so that adetachment of soldiers was sent down in a hurry.

This time Stepan Trofimovitch was so much upset that he even frightenedus. He cried out at the club that more troops were needed, that theyought to be telegraphed for from another province; he rushed off to thegovernor to protest that he had no hand in it, begged him not to allowhis name on account of old associations to be brought into it, andoffered to write about his protest to the proper quarter in Petersburg.Fortunately it all passed over quickly and ended in nothing, but I wassurprised at Stepan Trofimovitch at the time.

Three years later, as every one knows, people were beginning to talkof nationalism, and “public opinion” first came upon the scene. StepanTrofimovitch laughed a great deal.

“My friends,” he instructed us, “if our nationalism has ‘dawned’ asthey keep repeating in the papers—it’s still at school, at some German‘Peterschule,’ sitting over a German book and repeating its everlastingGerman lesson, and its German teacher will make it go down on its kneeswhen he thinks fit. I think highly of the German teacher. But nothinghas happened and nothing of the kind has dawned and everything is goingon in the old way, that is, as ordained by God. To my thinking thatshould be enough for Russia, pour notre Sainte Russie. Besides, all thisSlavism and nationalism is too old to be new. Nationalism, if you like,has never existed among us except as a distraction for gentlemen’sclubs, and Moscow ones at that. I’m not talking of the days of Igor, ofcourse. And besides it all comes of idleness. Everything in Russia comesof idleness, everything good and fine even. It all springs from thecharming, cultured, whimsical idleness of our gentry! I’m ready torepeat it for thirty thousand years. We don’t know how to live by ourown labour. And as for the fuss they’re making now about the ‘dawn’of some sort of public opinion, has it so suddenly dropped from heavenwithout any warning? How is it they don’t understand that before wecan have an opinion of our own we must have work, our own work, our owninitiative in things, our own experience. Nothing is to be gained fornothing. If we work we shall have an opinion of our own. But as wenever shall work, our opinions will be formed for us by those who havehitherto done the work instead of us, that is, as always, Europe, theeverlasting Germans—our teachers for the last two centuries. Moreover,Russia is too big a tangle for us to unravel alone without the Germans,and without hard work. For the last twenty years I’ve been sounding thealarm, and the summons to work. I’ve given up my life to that appeal,and, in my folly I put faith in it. Now I have lost faith in it, but Isound the alarm still, and shall sound it to the tomb. I will pull atthe bell-ropes until they toll for my own requiem!”

“Alas! We could do nothing but assent. We applauded our teacher and withwhat warmth, indeed! And, after all, my friends, don’t we still hearto-day, every hour, at every step, the same “charming,” “clever,”“liberal,” old Russian nonsense? Our teacher believed in God.

“I can’t understand why they make me out an infidel here,” he used tosay sometimes. “I believe in God, mais distinguons, I believe in Him asa Being who is conscious of Himself in me only. I cannot believe as myNastasya (the servant) or like some country gentleman who believes ‘tobe on the safe side,’ or like our dear Shatov—but no, Shatov doesn’tcome into it. Shatov believes ‘on principle,’ like a Moscow Slavophil.As for Christianity, for all my genuine respect for it, I’m not aChristian. I am more of an antique pagan, like the great Goethe, orlike an ancient Greek. The very fact that Christianity has failed tounderstand woman is enough, as George Sand has so splendidly shown inone of her great novels. As for the bowings, fasting and all the restof it, I don’t understand what they have to do with me. However busy theinformers may be here, I don’t care to become a Jesuit. In the year 1847Byelinsky, who was abroad, sent his famous letter to Gogol, and warmlyreproached him for believing in some sort of God. Entre nous soit dit, Ican imagine nothing more comic than the moment when Gogol (the Gogol ofthat period!) read that phrase, and … the whole letter! But dismissingthe humorous aspect, and, as I am fundamentally in agreement, I point tothem and say—these were men! They knew how to love their people, theyknew how to suffer for them, they knew how to sacrifice everything forthem, yet they knew how to differ from them when they ought, and did notfilch certain ideas from them. Could Byelinsky have sought salvationin Lenten oil, or peas with radish!…” But at this point Shatovinterposed.

“Those men of yours never loved the people, they didn’t suffer for them,and didn’t sacrifice anything for them, though they may have amusedthemselves by imagining it!” he growled sullenly, looking down, andmoving impatiently in his chair.

“They didn’t love the people!” yelled Stepan Trofimovitch. “Oh, how theyloved Russia!”

“Neither Russia nor the people!” Shatov yelled too, with flashing eyes.“You can’t love what you don’t know and they had no conception of theRussian people. All of them peered at the Russian people through theirfingers, and you do too; Byelinsky especially: from that very letter toGogol one can see it. Byelinsky, like the Inquisitive Man in Krylov’sfable, did not notice the elephant in the museum of curiosities, butconcentrated his whole attention on the French Socialist beetles; he didnot get beyond them. And yet perhaps he was cleverer than any of you.You’ve not only overlooked the people, you’ve taken up an attitude ofdisgusting contempt for them, if only because you could not imagine anybut the French people, the Parisians indeed, and were ashamed that theRussians were not like them. That’s the naked truth. And he who hasno people has no God. You may be sure that all who cease to understandtheir own people and lose their connection with them at once lose tothe same extent the faith of their fathers, and become atheistic orindifferent. I’m speaking the truth! This is a fact which will berealised. That’s why all of you and all of us now are either beastlyatheists or careless, dissolute imbeciles, and nothing more. And youtoo, Stepan Trofimovitch, I don’t make an exception of you at all! Infact, it is on your account I am speaking, let me tell you that!”

As a rule, after uttering such monologues (which happened to him prettyfrequently) Shatov snatched up his cap and rushed to the door, in thefull conviction that everything was now over, and that he had cut shortall friendly relations with Stepan Trofimovitch forever. But the latteralways succeeded in stopping him in time.

“Hadn’t we better make it up, Shatov, after all these endearments,” hewould say, benignly holding out his hand to him from his arm-chair.

Shatov, clumsy and bashful, disliked sentimentality. Externally he wasrough, but inwardly, I believe, he had great delicacy. Although he oftenwent too far, he was the first to suffer for it. Muttering somethingbetween his teeth in response to Stepan Trofimovitch’s appeal, andshuffling with his feet like a bear, he gave a sudden and unexpectedsmile, put down his cap, and sat down in the same chair as before, withhis eyes stubbornly fixed on the ground. Wine was, of course, broughtin, and Stepan Trofimovitch proposed some suitable toast, for instancethe memory of some leading man of the past.



THERE WAS ANOTHER being in the world to whom Varvara Petrovna was asmuch attached as she was to Stepan Trofimovitch, her only son, NikolayVsyevolodovitch Stavrogin. It was to undertake his education that StepanTrofimovitch had been engaged. The boy was at that time eight years old,and his frivolous father, General Stavrogin, was already living apartfrom Varvara Petrovna, so that the child grew up entirely in hismother’s care. To do Stepan Trofimovitch justice, he knew how to win hispupil’s heart. The whole secret of this lay in the fact that he was achild himself. I was not there in those days, and he continually feltthe want of a real friend. He did not hesitate to make a friend of thislittle creature as soon as he had grown a little older. It somehow cameto pass quite naturally that there seemed to be no discrepancy of agebetween them. More than once he awaked his ten- or eleven-year-oldfriend at night, simply to pour out his wounded feelings and weep beforehim, or to tell him some family secret, without realising that this wasan outrageous proceeding. They threw themselves into each other’s armsand wept. The boy knew that his mother loved him very much, but I doubtwhether he cared much for her. She talked little to him and did notoften interfere with him, but he was always morbidly conscious of herintent, searching eyes fixed upon him. Yet the mother confided his wholeinstruction and moral education to Stepan Trofimovitch. At that time herfaith in him was unshaken. One can’t help believing that the tutor hadrather a bad influence on his pupil’s nerves. When at sixteen he wastaken to a lyceum he was fragile-looking and pale, strangely quiet anddreamy. (Later on he was distinguished by great physical strength.)One must assume too that the friends went on weeping at night, throwingthemselves in each other’s arms, though their tears were not always dueto domestic difficulties. Stepan Trofimovitch succeeded in reachingthe deepest chords in his pupil’s heart, and had aroused in him a vaguesensation of that eternal, sacred yearning which some elect souls cannever give up for cheap gratification when once they have tasted andknown it. (There are some connoisseurs who prize this yearning more thanthe most complete satisfaction of it, if such were possible.) But in anycase it was just as well that the pupil and the preceptor were, thoughnone too soon, parted.

For the first two years the lad used to come home from the lyceumfor the holidays. While Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Trofimovitch werestaying in Petersburg he was sometimes present at the literary eveningsat his mother’s, he listened and looked on. He spoke little, and wasquiet and shy as before. His manner to Stepan Trofimovitch was asaffectionately attentive as ever, but there was a shade of reserve init. He unmistakably avoided distressing, lofty subjects or reminiscencesof the past. By his mother’s wish he entered the army on completingthe school course, and soon received a commission in one of the mostbrilliant regiments of the Horse Guards. He did not come to show himselfto his mother in his uniform, and his letters from Petersburg began tobe infrequent. Varvara Petrovna sent him money without stint, thoughafter the emancipation the revenue from her estate was so diminishedthat at first her income was less than half what it had been before. Shehad, however, a considerable sum laid by through years of economy.She took great interest in her son’s success in the highest Petersburgsociety. Where she had failed, the wealthy young officer withexpectations succeeded. He renewed acquaintances which she had hardlydared to dream of, and was welcomed everywhere with pleasure. But verysoon rather strange rumours reached Varvara Petrovna. The young manhad suddenly taken to riotous living with a sort of frenzy. Not that hegambled or drank too much; there was only talk of savage recklessness,of running over people in the street with his horses, of brutal conductto a lady of good society with whom he had a liaison and whom heafterwards publicly insulted. There was a callous nastiness about thisaffair. It was added, too, that he had developed into a regular bully,insulting people for the mere pleasure of insulting them. VarvaraPetrovna was greatly agitated and distressed. Stepan Trofimovitchassured her that this was only the first riotous effervescence of a toorichly endowed nature, that the storm would subside and that this wasonly like the youth of Prince Harry, who caroused with Falstaff, Poins,and Mrs. Quickly, as described by Shakespeare.

This time Varvara Petrovna did not cry out, “Nonsense, nonsense!” as shewas very apt to do in later years in response to Stepan Trofimovitch. Onthe contrary she listened very eagerly, asked him to explain this theorymore exactly, took up Shakespeare herself and with great attention readthe immortal chronicle. But it did not comfort her, and indeed she didnot find the resemblance very striking. With feverish impatience sheawaited answers to some of her letters. She had not long to wait forthem. The fatal news soon reached her that “Prince Harry” had beeninvolved in two duels almost at once, was entirely to blame for both ofthem, had killed one of his adversaries on the spot and had maimed theother and was awaiting his trial in consequence. The case ended in hisbeing degraded to the ranks, deprived of the rights of a nobleman, andtransferred to an infantry line regiment, and he only escaped worsepunishment by special favour.

In 1863 he somehow succeeded in distinguishing himself; he received across, was promoted to be a non-commissioned officer, and roserapidly to the rank of an officer. During this period Varvara Petrovnadespatched perhaps hundreds of letters to the capital, full of prayersand supplications. She even stooped to some humiliation in thisextremity. After his promotion the young man suddenly resigned hiscommission, but he did not come back to Skvoreshniki again, and gave upwriting to his mother altogether. They learned by roundabout means thathe was back in Petersburg, but that he was not to be met in the samesociety as before; he seemed to be in hiding. They found out that he wasliving in strange company, associating with the dregs of the populationof Petersburg, with slip-shod government clerks, discharged militarymen, beggars of the higher class, and drunkards of all sorts—that hevisited their filthy families, spent days and nights in dark slums andall sorts of low haunts, that he had sunk very low, that he was in rags,and that apparently he liked it. He did not ask his mother for money,he had his own little estate—once the property of his father, GeneralStavrogin, which yielded at least some revenue, and which, it wasreported, he had let to a German from Saxony. At last his motherbesought him to come to her, and “Prince Harry” made his appearancein our town. I had never set eyes on him before, but now I got a verydistinct impression of him. He was a very handsome young man offive-and-twenty, and I must own I was impressed by him. I had expectedto see a dirty ragamuffin, sodden with drink and debauchery. He was onthe contrary, the most elegant gentleman I had ever met, extremely welldressed, with an air and manner only to be found in a man accustomed toculture and refinement. I was not the only person surprised. It was asurprise to all the townspeople to whom, of course, young Stavrogin’swhole biography was well known in its minutest details, though one couldnot imagine how they had got hold of them, and, what was still moresurprising, half of their stories about him turned out to be true.

All our ladies were wild over the new visitor. They were sharply dividedinto two parties, one of which adored him while the other half regardedhim with a hatred that was almost blood-thirsty: but both were crazyabout him. Some of them were particularly fascinated by the idea that hehad perhaps a fateful secret hidden in his soul; others were positivelydelighted at the fact that he was a murderer. It appeared too thathe had had a very good education and was indeed a man of considerableculture. No great acquirements were needed, of course, to astonish us.But he could judge also of very interesting everyday affairs, and, whatwas of the utmost value, he judged of them with remarkable good sense. Imust mention as a peculiar fact that almost from the first day we all ofus thought him a very sensible fellow. He was not very talkative, he waselegant without exaggeration, surprisingly modest, and at the same timebold and self-reliant, as none of us were. Our dandies gazed at him withenvy, and were completely eclipsed by him. His face, too, impressed me.His hair was of a peculiarly intense black, his light-coloured eyes werepeculiarly light and calm, his complexion was peculiarly soft and white,the red in his cheeks was too bright and clear, his teeth were likepearls, and his lips like coral—one would have thought that he mustbe a paragon of beauty, yet at the same time there seemed somethingrepellent about him. It was said that his face suggested a mask; so muchwas said though, among other things they talked of his extraordinaryphysical strength. He was rather tall. Varvara Petrovna looked at himwith pride, yet with continual uneasiness. He spent about six monthsamong us—listless, quiet, rather morose. He made his appearance insociety, and with unfailing propriety performed all the duties demandedby our provincial etiquette. He was related, on his father’s side, tothe governor, and was received by the latter as a near kinsman. But afew months passed and the wild beast showed his claws.

I may observe by the way, in parenthesis, that Ivan Ossipovitch, ourdear mild governor, was rather like an old woman, though he was of goodfamily and highly connected—which explains the fact that he remained solong among us, though he steadily avoided all the duties of his office.From his munificence and hospitality he ought rather to have been amarshal of nobility of the good old days than a governor in such busytimes as ours. It was always said in the town that it was not he, butVarvara Petrovna who governed the province. Of course this was saidsarcastically; however, it was certainly a falsehood. And, indeed, muchwit was wasted on the subject among us. On the contrary, in later years,Varvara Petrovna purposely and consciously withdrew from anything likea position of authority, and, in spite of the extraordinary respectin which she was held by the whole province, voluntarily confined herinfluence within strict limits set up by herself. Instead of thesehigher responsibilities she suddenly took up the management of herestate, and, within two or three years, raised the revenue from italmost to what it had yielded in the past. Giving up her former romanticimpulses (trips to Petersburg, plans for founding a magazine, and soon) she began to be careful and to save money. She kept even StepanTrofimovitch at a distance, allowing him to take lodgings in anotherhouse (a change for which he had long been worrying her under variouspretexts). Little by little Stepan Trofimovitch began to call her aprosaic woman, or more jestingly, “My prosaic friend.” I need hardly sayhe only ventured on such jests in an extremely respectful form, and onrare, and carefully chosen, occasions.

All of us in her intimate circle felt—Stepan Trofimovitch more acutelythan any of us—that her son had come to her almost, as it were, as anew hope, and even as a sort of new aspiration. Her passion for her sondated from the time of his successes in Petersburg society, and grewmore intense from the moment that he was degraded in the army. Yet shewas evidently afraid of him, and seemed like a slave in his presence.It could be seen that she was afraid of something vague and mysteriouswhich she could not have put into words, and she often stole searchingglances at “Nicolas,” scrutinising him reflectively … and behold—thewild beast suddenly showed his claws.


Suddenly, apropos of nothing, our prince was guilty of incredibleoutrages upon various persons and, what was most striking these outrageswere utterly unheard of, quite inconceivable, unlike anything commonlydone, utterly silly and mischievous, quite unprovoked and objectless.One of the most respected of our club members, on our committee ofmanagement, Pyotr Pavlovitch Gaganov, an elderly man of high rank in theservice, had formed the innocent habit of declaring vehemently on allsorts of occasions: “No, you can’t lead me by the nose!” Well, thereis no harm in that. But one day at the club, when he brought out thisphrase in connection with some heated discussion in the midst of alittle group of members (all persons of some consequence) NikolayVsyevolodovitch, who was standing on one side, alone and unnoticed,suddenly went up to Pyotr Pavlovitch, took him unexpectedly and firmlywith two fingers by the nose, and succeeded in leading him two or threesteps across the room. He could have had no grudge against Mr. Gaganov.It might be thought to be a mere schoolboy prank, though, of course, amost unpardonable one. Yet, describing it afterwards, people said thathe looked almost dreamy at the very instant of the operation, “as thoughhe had gone out of his mind,” but that was recalled and reflected uponlong afterwards. In the excitement of the moment all they recalled wasthe minute after, when he certainly saw it all as it really was, and farfrom being confused smiled gaily and maliciously “without the slightestregret.” There was a terrific outcry; he was surrounded. NikolayVsyevolodovitch kept turning round, looking about him, answering nobody,and glancing curiously at the persons exclaiming around him. At last heseemed suddenly, as it were, to sink into thought again—so at least itwas reported—frowned, went firmly up to the affronted Pyotr Pavlovitch,and with evident vexation said in a rapid mutter:

“You must forgive me, of course … I really don’t know what suddenlycame over me … it’s silly.”

The carelessness of his apology was almost equivalent to a fresh insult.The outcry was greater than ever. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch shrugged hisshoulders and went away. All this was very stupid, to say nothing of itsgross indecency—

A calculated and premeditated indecency as it seemed at first sight—andtherefore a premeditated and utterly brutal insult to our whole society.So it was taken to be by every one. We began by promptly and unanimouslystriking young Stavrogin’s name off the list of club members. Then itwas decided to send an appeal in the name of the whole club to thegovernor, begging him at once (without waiting for the case to beformally tried in court) to use “the administrative power entrusted tohim” to restrain this dangerous ruffian, “this duelling bully from thecapital, and so protect the tranquillity of all the gentry of our townfrom injurious encroachments.” It was added with angry resentment that“a law might be found to control even Mr. Stavrogin.” This phrase wasprepared by way of a thrust at the governor on account of VarvaraPetrovna. They elaborated it with relish. As ill luck would have it,the governor was not in the town at the time. He had gone to a littledistance to stand godfather to the child of a very charming lady,recently left a widow in an interesting condition. But it was known thathe would soon be back. In the meanwhile they got up a regular ovationfor the respected and insulted gentleman; people embraced and kissedhim; the whole town called upon him. It was even proposed to give asubscription dinner in his honour, and they only gave up the idea athis earnest request—reflecting possibly at last that the man had,after all, been pulled by the nose and that that was really nothingto congratulate him upon. Yet, how had it happened? How could it havehappened? It is remarkable that no one in the whole town put down thissavage act to madness. They must have been predisposed to expect suchactions from Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, even when he was sane. For my partI don’t know to this day how to explain it, in spite of the event thatquickly followed and apparently explained everything, and conciliatedevery one. I will add also that, four years later, in reply to adiscreet question from me about the incident at the club, NikolayVsyevolodovitch answered, frowning: “I wasn’t quite well at the time.”But there is no need to anticipate events.

The general outburst of hatred with which every one fell upon the“ruffian and duelling bully from the capital” also struck me as curious.They insisted on seeing an insolent design and deliberate intention toinsult our whole society at once. The truth was no one liked the fellow,but, on the contrary, he had set every one against him—and one wondershow. Up to the last incident he had never quarrelled with anyone, norinsulted anyone, but was as courteous as a gentleman in a fashion-plate,if only the latter were able to speak. I imagine that he was hated forhis pride. Even our ladies, who had begun by adoring him, railed againsthim now, more loudly than the men. Varvara Petrovna was dreadfullyoverwhelmed. She confessed afterwards to Stepan Trofimovitch that shehad had a foreboding of all this long before, that every day for thelast six months she had been expecting “just something of that sort,”a remarkable admission on the part of his own mother. “It’s begun!” shethought to herself with a shudder. The morning after the incident at theclub she cautiously but firmly approached the subject with her son, butthe poor woman was trembling all over in spite of her firmness. She hadnot slept all night and even went out early to Stepan Trofimovitch’slodgings to ask his advice, and shed tears there, a thing which she hadnever been known to do before anyone. She longed for “Nicolas” to saysomething to her, to deign to give some explanation. Nikolay, who wasalways so polite and respectful to his mother, listened to her for sometime scowling, but very seriously. He suddenly got up without sayinga word, kissed her hand and went away. That very evening, as though bydesign, he perpetrated another scandal. It was of a more harmless andordinary character than the first. Yet, owing to the state of the publicmind, it increased the outcry in the town.

Our friend Liputin turned up and called on Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchimmediately after the latter’s interview with his mother, and earnestlybegged for the honour of his company at a little party he was giving forhis wife’s birthday that evening. Varvara Petrovna had long watched witha pang at her heart her son’s taste for such low company, but she hadnot dared to speak of it to him. He had made several acquaintancesbesides Liputin in the third rank of our society, and even in lowerdepths—he had a propensity for making such friends. He had never beenin Liputin’s house before, though he had met the man himself. He guessedthat Liputin’s invitation now was the consequence of the previous day’sscandal, and that as a local liberal he was delighted at the scandal,genuinely believing that that was the proper way to treat stewards atthe club, and that it was very well done. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch smiledand promised to come.

A great number of guests had assembled. The company was not verypresentable, but very sprightly. Liputin, vain and envious, onlyentertained visitors twice a year, but on those occasions he didit without stint. The most honoured of the invited guests, StepanTrofimovitch, was prevented by illness from being present. Tea washanded, and there were refreshments and vodka in plenty. Cards wereplayed at three tables, and while waiting for supper the young peoplegot up a dance. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch led out Madame Liputin—a verypretty little woman who was dreadfully shy of him—took two turns roundthe room with her, sat down beside her, drew her into conversation andmade her laugh. Noticing at last how pretty she was when she laughed, hesuddenly, before all the company, seized her round the waist andkissed her on the lips two or three times with great relish. The poorfrightened lady fainted. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch took his hat and wentup to the husband, who stood petrified in the middle of the generalexcitement. Looking at him he, too, became confused and mutteringhurriedly “Don’t be angry,” went away. Liputin ran after him in theentry, gave him his fur-coat with his own hands, and saw him down thestairs, bowing. But next day a rather amusing sequel followed thiscomparatively harmless prank—a sequel from which Liputin gained somecredit, and of which he took the fullest possible advantage.

At ten o’clock in the morning Liputin’s servant Agafya, aneasy-mannered, lively, rosy-cheeked peasant woman of thirty, madeher appearance at Stavrogin’s house, with a message for NikolayVsyevolodovitch. She insisted on seeing “his honour himself.” He had avery bad headache, but he went out. Varvara Petrovna succeeded in beingpresent when the message was given.

“Sergay Vassilyevitch” (Liputin’s name), Agafya rattled off briskly,“bade me first of all give you his respectful greetings and ask afteryour health, what sort of night your honour spent after yesterday’sdoings, and how your honour feels now after yesterday’s doings?”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch smiled.

“Give him my greetings and thank him, and tell your master from me,Agafya, that he’s the most sensible man in the town.”

“And he told me to answer that,” Agafya caught him up still morebriskly, “that he knows that without your telling him, and wishes youthe same.”

“Really! But how could he tell what I should say to you?”

“I can’t say in what way he could tell, but when I had set off and hadgone right down the street, I heard something, and there he was, runningafter me without his cap. ‘I say, Agafya, if by any chance he says toyou, “Tell your master that he has more sense than all the town,” youtell him at once, don’t forget, “The master himself knows that verywell, and wishes you the same.”’”


At last the interview with the governor took place too. Our dear, mild,Ivan Ossipovitch had only just returned and only just had time to hearthe angry complaint from the club. There was no doubt that somethingmust be done, but he was troubled. The hospitable old man seemed alsorather afraid of his young kinsman. He made up his mind, however, toinduce him to apologise to the club and to his victim in satisfactoryform, and, if required, by letter, and then to persuade him to leave usfor a time, travelling, for instance, to improve his mind, in Italy, orin fact anywhere abroad. In the waiting-room in which on this occasionhe received Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch (who had been at other timesprivileged as a relation to wander all over the house unchecked),Alyosha Telyatnikov, a clerk of refined manners, who was also a memberof the governor’s household, was sitting in a corner opening envelopesat a table, and in the next room, at the window nearest to the door, astout and sturdy colonel, a former friend and colleague of the governor,was sitting alone reading the Golos, paying no attention, of course,to what was taking place in the waiting-room; in fact, he had his backturned. Ivan Ossipovitch approached the subject in a roundabout way,almost in a whisper, but kept getting a little muddled. Nikolay lookedanything but cordial, not at all as a relation should. He was pale andsat looking down and continually moving his eyebrows as though trying tocontrol acute pain.

“You have a kind heart and a generous one, Nicolas,” the old man put inamong other things, “you’re a man of great culture, you’ve grown up inthe highest circles, and here too your behaviour has hitherto been amodel, which has been a great consolation to your mother, who is soprecious to all of us.… And now again everything has appeared in suchan unaccountable light, so detrimental to all! I speak as a friend ofyour family, as an old man who loves you sincerely and a relation, atwhose words you cannot take offence.… Tell me, what drives you to suchreckless proceedings so contrary to all accepted rules and habits? Whatcan be the meaning of such acts which seem almost like outbreaks ofdelirium?”

Nikolay listened with vexation and impatience. All at once there was agleam of something sly and mocking in his eyes.

“I’ll tell you what drives me to it,” he said sullenly, and lookinground him he bent down to Ivan Ossipovitch’s ear. The refined AlyoshaTelyatnikov moved three steps farther away towards the window, and thecolonel coughed over the Golos. Poor Ivan Ossipovitch hurriedly andtrustfully inclined his ear; he was exceedingly curious. And thensomething utterly incredible, though on the other side only toounmistakable, took place. The old man suddenly felt that, instead oftelling him some interesting secret, Nikolay had seized the upperpart of his ear between his teeth and was nipping it rather hard. Heshuddered, and breath failed him.

“Nicolas, this is beyond a joke!” he moaned mechanically in a voice nothis own.

Alyosha and the colonel had not yet grasped the situation, besides theycouldn’t see, and fancied up to the end that the two were whisperingtogether; and yet the old man’s desperate face alarmed them. They lookedat one another with wide-open eyes, not knowing whether to rush to hisassistance as agreed or to wait. Nikolay noticed this perhaps, and bitthe harder.

“Nicolas! Nicolas!” his victim moaned again, “come … you’ve had yourjoke, that’s enough!”

In another moment the poor governor would certainly have died of terror;but the monster had mercy on him, and let go his ear. The old man’sdeadly terror lasted for a full minute, and it was followed by a sort offit. Within half an hour Nikolay was arrested and removed for the timeto the guard-room, where he was confined in a special cell, with aspecial sentinel at the door. This decision was a harsh one, butour mild governor was so angry that he was prepared to take theresponsibility even if he had to face Varvara Petrovna. To the generalamazement, when this lady arrived at the governor’s in haste and innervous irritation to discuss the matter with him at once, she wasrefused admittance, whereupon, without getting out of the carriage, shereturned home, unable to believe her senses.

And at last everything was explained! At two o’clock in the morningthe prisoner, who had till then been calm and had even slept, suddenlybecame noisy, began furiously beating on the door with his fists,—withunnatural strength wrenched the iron grating off the door, broke thewindow, and cut his hands all over. When the officer on duty ran witha detachment of men and the keys and ordered the cell to be openedthat they might rush in and bind the maniac, it appeared that he wassuffering from acute brain fever. He was taken home to his mother.

Everything was explained at once. All our three doctors gave it as theiropinion that the patient might well have been in a delirious state forthree days before, and that though he might have apparently been inpossession of full consciousness and cunning, yet he might have beendeprived of common sense and will, which was indeed borne out by thefacts. So it turned out that Liputin had guessed the truth sooner thanany one. Ivan Ossipovitch, who was a man of delicacy and feeling,was completely abashed. But what was striking was that he, too, hadconsidered Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch capable of any mad action even whenin the full possession of his faculties. At the club, too, people wereashamed and wondered how it was they had failed to “see the elephant”and had missed the only explanation of all these marvels: there were,of course, sceptics among them, but they could not long maintain theirposition.

Nikolay was in bed for more than two months. A famous doctor wassummoned from Moscow for a consultation; the whole town called onVarvara Petrovna. She forgave them. When in the spring Nikolay hadcompletely recovered and assented without discussion to his mother’sproposal that he should go for a tour to Italy, she begged him furtherto pay visits of farewell to all the neighbours, and so far as possibleto apologise where necessary. Nikolay agreed with great alacrity. Itbecame known at the club that he had had a most delicate explanationwith Pyotr Pavlovitch Gaganov, at the house of the latter, who had beencompletely satisfied with his apology. As he went round to pay thesecalls Nikolay was very grave and even gloomy. Every one appeared toreceive him sympathetically, but everybody seemed embarrassed and gladthat he was going to Italy. Ivan Ossipovitch was positively tearful, butwas, for some reason, unable to bring himself to embrace him, evenat the final leave-taking. It is true that some of us retained theconviction that the scamp had simply been making fun of us, and that theillness was neither here nor there. He went to see Liputin too.

“Tell me,” he said, “how could you guess beforehand what I should sayabout your sense and prime Agafya with an answer to it?”

“Why,” laughed Liputin, “it was because I recognised that you were aclever man, and so I foresaw what your answer would be.”

“Anyway, it was a remarkable coincidence. But, excuse me, did youconsider me a sensible man and not insane when you sent Agafya?”

“For the cleverest and most rational, and I only pretended to believethat you were insane.… And you guessed at once what was in my mind,and sent a testimonial to my wit through Agafya.”

“Well, there you’re a little mistaken. I really was … unwell …”muttered Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, frowning. “Bah!” he cried, “do yousuppose I’m capable of attacking people when I’m in my senses? Whatobject would there be in it?”

Liputin shrank together and didn’t know what to answer. Nikolay turnedpale or, at least, so it seemed to Liputin.

“You have a very peculiar way of looking at things, anyhow,” Nikolaywent on, “but as for Agafya, I understand, of course, that you simplysent her to be rude to me.”

“I couldn’t challenge you to a duel, could I?”

“Oh, no, of course! I seem to have heard that you’re not fond ofduels.…”

“Why borrow from the French?” said Liputin, doubling up again.

“You’re for nationalism, then?”

Liputin shrank into himself more than ever.

“Bah, bah! What do I see?” cried Nicolas, noticing a volume of Considérantin the most conspicuous place on the table. “You don’t mean to sayyou’re a Fourierist! I’m afraid you must be! And isn’t this tooborrowing from the French?” he laughed, tapping the book with hisfinger.

“No, that’s not taken from the French,” Liputin cried with positivefury, jumping up from his chair. “That is taken from the universallanguage of humanity, not simply from the French. From the language ofthe universal social republic and harmony of mankind, let me tell you!Not simply from the French!”

“Foo! hang it all! There’s no such language!” laughed Nikolay.

Sometimes a trifle will catch the attention and exclusively absorb itfor a time. Most of what I have to tell of young Stavrogin will comelater. But I will note now as a curious fact that of all the impressionsmade on him by his stay in our town, the one most sharply imprintedon his memory was the unsightly and almost abject figure of the littleprovincial official, the coarse and jealous family despot, the miserlymoney-lender who picked up the candle-ends and scraps left from dinner,and was at the same time a passionate believer in some visionary future“social harmony,” who at night gloated in ecstasies over fantasticpictures of a future phalanstery, in the approaching realisation ofwhich, in Russia, and in our province, he believed as firmly as in hisown existence. And that in the very place where he had saved up tobuy himself a “little home,” where he had married for the second time,getting a dowry with his bride, where perhaps, for a hundred miles roundthere was not one man, himself included, who was the very least like afuture member “of the universal human republic and social harmony.”

“God knows how these people come to exist!” Nikolay wondered, recallingsometimes the unlooked-for Fourierist.


Our prince travelled for over three years, so that he was almostforgotten in the town. We learned from Stepan Trofimovitch that hehad travelled all over Europe, that he had even been in Egypt and hadvisited Jerusalem, and then had joined some scientific expedition toIceland, and he actually did go to Iceland. It was reported too that hehad spent one winter attending lectures in a German university. He didnot write often to his mother, twice a year, or even less, but VarvaraPetrovna was not angry or offended at this. She accepted submissivelyand without repining the relations that had been established once forall between her son and herself. She fretted for her “Nicolas” anddreamed of him continually. She kept her dreams and lamentations toherself. She seemed to have become less intimate even with StepanTrofimovitch. She was forming secret projects, and seemed to have becomemore careful about money than ever. She was more than ever given tosaving money and being angry at Stepan Trofimovitch’s losses at cards.

At last, in the April of this year, she received a letter from Parisfrom Praskovya Ivanovna Drozdov, the widow of the general and thefriend of Varvara Petrovna’s childhood. Praskovya Ivanovna, whom VarvaraPetrovna had not seen or corresponded with for eight years, wrote,informing her that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had become very intimatewith them and a great friend of her only daughter, Liza, and that he wasintending to accompany them to Switzerland, to Verney-Montreux,though in the household of Count K. (a very influential personage inPetersburg), who was now staying in Paris. He was received like a sonof the family, so that he almost lived at the count’s. The letter wasbrief, and the object of it was perfectly clear, though it containedonly a plain statement of the above-mentioned facts without drawing anyinferences from them. Varvara Petrovna did not pause long to consider;she made up her mind instantly, made her preparations, and taking withher her protégée, Dasha (Shatov’s sister), she set off in the middle ofApril for Paris, and from there went on to Switzerland. She returned inJuly, alone, leaving Dasha with the Drozdovs. She brought us the newsthat the Drozdovs themselves had promised to arrive among us by the endof August.

The Drozdovs, too, were landowners of our province, but the officialduties of General Ivan Ivanovitch Drozdov (who had been a friendof Varvara Petrovna’s and a colleague of her husband’s) had alwaysprevented them from visiting their magnificent estate. On the death ofthe general, which had taken place the year before, the inconsolablewidow had gone abroad with her daughter, partly in order to try thegrape-cure which she proposed to carry out at Verney-Montreux during thelatter half of the summer. On their return to Russia they intended tosettle in our province for good. She had a large house in the town whichhad stood empty for many years with the windows nailed up. They werewealthy people. Praskovya Ivanovna had been, in her first marriage, aMadame Tushin, and like her school-friend, Varvara Petrovna, was thedaughter of a government contractor of the old school, and she too hadbeen an heiress at her marriage. Tushin, a retired cavalry captain, wasalso a man of means, and of some ability. At his death he left a snugfortune to his only daughter Liza, a child of seven. Now that LizavetaNikolaevna was twenty-two her private fortune might confidently bereckoned at 200,000 roubles, to say nothing of the property—which wasbound to come to her at the death of her mother, who had no children byher second marriage. Varvara Petrovna seemed to be very well satisfiedwith her expedition. In her own opinion she had succeeded in coming toa satisfactory understanding with Praskovya Ivanovna, and immediatelyon her arrival she confided everything to Stepan Trofimovitch. She waspositively effusive with him as she had not been for a very long time.

“Hurrah!” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, and snapped his fingers.

He was in a perfect rapture, especially as he had spent the whole timeof his friend’s absence in extreme dejection. On setting off she had noteven taken leave of him properly, and had said nothing of her plan to“that old woman,” dreading, perhaps, that he might chatter about it.She was cross with him at the time on account of a considerable gamblingdebt which she had suddenly discovered. But before she left Switzerlandshe had felt that on her return she must make up for it to her forsakenfriend, especially as she had treated him very curtly for a long timepast. Her abrupt and mysterious departure had made a profound andpoignant impression on the timid heart of Stepan Trofimovitch, and tomake matters worse he was beset with other difficulties at the sametime. He was worried by a very considerable money obligation, which hadweighed upon him for a long time and which he could never hope to meetwithout Varvara Petrovna’s assistance. Moreover, in the May of thisyear, the term of office of our mild and gentle Ivan Ossipovitch came toan end. He was superseded under rather unpleasant circ*mstances. Then,while Varvara Petrovna was still away, there followed the arrival ofour new governor, Andrey Antonovitch von Lembke, and with that a changebegan at once to be perceptible in the attitude of almost the wholeof our provincial society towards Varvara Petrovna, and consequentlytowards Stepan Trofimovitch. He had already had time anyway to make somedisagreeable though valuable observations, and seemed very apprehensivealone without Varvara Petrovna. He had an agitating suspicion that hehad already been mentioned to the governor as a dangerous man. He knewfor a fact that some of our ladies meant to give up calling on VarvaraPetrovna. Of our governor’s wife (who was only expected to arrive in theautumn) it was reported that though she was, so it was heard, proud,she was a real aristocrat, and “not like that poor Varvara Petrovna.”Everybody seemed to know for a fact, and in the greatest detail, thatour governor’s wife and Varvara Petrovna had met already in society andhad parted enemies, so that the mere mention of Madame von Lembke’s namewould, it was said, make a painful impression on Varvara Petrovna.The confident and triumphant air of Varvara Petrovna, the contemptuousindifference with which she heard of the opinions of our provincialladies and the agitation in local society, revived the flagging spiritsof Stepan Trofimovitch and cheered him up at once. With peculiar,gleefully-obsequious humour, he was beginning to describe the newgovernor’s arrival.

“You are no doubt aware, excellente amie,” he said, jauntilyand coquettishly drawling his words, “what is meant by a Russianadministrator, speaking generally, and what is meant by a new Russianadministrator, that is the newly-baked, newly-established … cesinterminables mots Russes! But I don’t think you can know in practicewhat is meant by administrative ardour, and what sort of thing that is.”

“Administrative ardour? I don’t know what that is.”

“Well … Vous savez chez nous … En un mot, set the most insignificantnonentity to sell miserable tickets at a railway station, and thenonentity will at once feel privileged to look down on you like aJupiter, pour montrer son pouvoir when you go to take a ticket. ‘Nowthen,’ he says, ‘I shall show you my power’ … and in them it comes to agenuine, administrative ardour. En un mot, I’ve read that some vergerin one of our Russian churches abroad—mais c’est très curieux—drove,literally drove a distinguished English family, les dames charmantes,out of the church before the beginning of the Lenten service … voussavez ces chants et le livre de Job … on the simple pretext that‘foreigners are not allowed to loaf about a Russian church, and thatthey must come at the time fixed.…’ And he sent them into faintingfits.… That verger was suffering from an attack of administrativeardour, et il a montré son pouvoir.”

“Cut it short if you can, Stepan Trofimovitch.”

“Mr. von Lembke is making a tour of the province now. En un mot, thisAndrey Antonovitch, though he is a russified German and of the Orthodoxpersuasion, and even—I will say that for him—a remarkably handsome manof about forty …”

“What makes you think he’s a handsome man? He has eyes like a sheep’s.”

“Precisely so. But in this I yield, of course, to the opinion of ourladies.”

“Let’s get on, Stepan Trofimovitch, I beg you! By the way, you’rewearing a red neck-tie. Is it long since you’ve taken to it?”

“I’ve … I’ve only put it on to-day.”

“And do you take your constitutional? Do you go for a four-mile walkevery day as the doctor told you to?”

“N-not … always.”

“I knew you didn’t! I felt sure of that when I was in Switzerland!” shecried irritably. “Now you must go not four but six miles a day! You’vegrown terribly slack, terribly, terribly! You’re not simply getting old,you’re getting decrepit.… You shocked me when I first saw you justnow, in spite of your red tie, quelle idee rouge! Go on about VonLembke if you’ve really something to tell me, and do finish some time, Ientreat you, I’m tired.”

En un mot, I only wanted to say that he is one of those administratorswho begin to have power at forty, who, till they’re forty, have beenstagnating in insignificance and then suddenly come to the front throughsuddenly acquiring a wife, or some other equally desperate means.…That is, he has gone away now … that is, I mean to say, it was at oncewhispered in both his ears that I am a corrupter of youth, and a hot-bedof provincial atheism.… He began making inquiries at once.”

“Is that true?”

“I took steps about it, in fact. When he was ‘informed’ that you ‘ruledthe province,’ vous savez, he allowed himself to use the expression that‘there shall be nothing of that sort in the future.’”

“Did he say that?”

“That ‘there shall be nothing of the sort in future,’ and, avec cettemorgue.… His wife, Yulia Mihailovna, we shall behold at the end ofAugust, she’s coming straight from Petersburg.”

“From abroad. We met there.”


“In Paris and in Switzerland. She’s related to the Drozdovs.”

“Related! What an extraordinary coincidence! They say she is ambitiousand … supposed to have great connections.”

“Nonsense! Connections indeed! She was an old maid without a farthingtill she was five-and-forty. But now she’s hooked her Von Lembke,and, of course, her whole object is to push him forward. They’re bothintriguers.”

“And they say she’s two years older than he is?”

“Five. Her mother used to wear out her skirts on my doorsteps in Moscow;she used to beg for an invitation to our balls as a favour when myhusband was living. And this creature used to sit all night alone in acorner without dancing, with her turquoise fly on her forehead, so thatsimply from pity I used to have to send her her first partner at twoo’clock in the morning. She was five-and-twenty then, and they used torig her out in short skirts like a little girl. It was improper to havethem about at last.”

“I seem to see that fly.”

“I tell you, as soon as I arrived I was in the thick of an intrigue. Youread Madame Drozdov’s letter, of course. What could be clearer? What didI find? That fool Praskovya herself—she always was a fool—looked atme as much as to ask why I’d come. You can fancy how surprised I was.I looked round, and there was that Lembke woman at her tricks, and thatcousin of hers—old Drozdov’s nephew—it was all clear. You may be sureI changed all that in a twinkling, and Praskovya is on my side again,but what an intrigue!”

“In which you came off victor, however. Bismarck!”

“Without being a Bismarck I’m equal to falseness and stupidity whereverI meet it, falseness, and Praskovya’s folly. I don’t know when I’ve metsuch a flabby woman, and what’s more her legs are swollen, and she’sa good-natured simpleton, too. What can be more foolish than agood-natured simpleton?”

“A spiteful fool, ma bonne amie, a spiteful fool is still more foolish,”Stepan Trofimovitch protested magnanimously.

“You’re right, perhaps. Do you remember Liza?”

“Charmante enfant!”

“But she’s not an enfant now, but a woman, and a woman of character.She’s a generous, passionate creature, and what I like about her, shestands up to that confiding fool, her mother. There was almost a rowover that cousin.”

“Bah, and of course he’s no relation of Lizaveta Nikolaevna’s atall.… Has he designs on her?”

“You see, he’s a young officer, not by any means talkative, modest infact. I always want to be just. I fancy he is opposed to the intriguehimself, and isn’t aiming at anything, and it was only the Von Lembke’stricks. He had a great respect for Nicolas. You understand, it alldepends on Liza. But I left her on the best of terms with Nicolas,and he promised he would come to us in November. So it’s only the VonLembke who is intriguing, and Praskovya is a blind woman. She suddenlytells me that all my suspicions are fancy. I told her to her face shewas a fool. I am ready to repeat it at the day of judgment. And if ithadn’t been for Nicolas begging me to leave it for a time, I wouldn’thave come away without unmasking that false woman. She’s been tryingto ingratiate herself with Count K. through Nicolas. She wants tocome between mother and son. But Liza’s on our side, and I came to anunderstanding with Praskovya. Do you know that Karmazinov is a relationof hers?”

“What? A relation of Madame von Lembke?”

“Yes, of hers. Distant.”

“Karmazinov, the novelist?”

“Yes, the writer. Why does it surprise you? Of course he considershimself a great man. Stuck-up creature! She’s coming here with him. Nowshe’s making a fuss of him out there. She’s got a notion of setting up asort of literary society here. He’s coming for a month, he wants to sellhis last piece of property here. I very nearly met him in Switzerland,and was very anxious not to. Though I hope he will deign to recogniseme. He wrote letters to me in the old days, he has been in my house.I should like you to dress better, Stepan Trofimovitch; you’re growingmore slovenly every day.… Oh, how you torment me! What are you readingnow?”

“I … I …”

“I understand. The same as ever, friends and drinking, the club andcards, and the reputation of an atheist. I don’t like that reputation,Stepan Trofimovitch; I don’t care for you to be called an atheist,particularly now. I didn’t care for it in old days, for it’s all nothingbut empty chatter. It must be said at last.”

“Mais, ma chère …”

“Listen, Stepan Trofimovitch, of course I’m ignorant compared with youon all learned subjects, but as I was travelling here I thought a greatdeal about you. I’ve come to one conclusion.”

“What conclusion?”

“That you and I are not the wisest people in the world, but that thereare people wiser than we are.”

“Witty and apt. If there are people wiser than we are, then there arepeople more right than we are, and we may be mistaken, you mean? Mais,ma bonne amie, granted that I may make a mistake, yet have I not thecommon, human, eternal, supreme right of freedom of conscience? I havethe right not to be bigoted or superstitious if I don’t wish to, and forthat I shall naturally be hated by certain persons to the end of time.Et puis, comme on trouve toujours plus de moines que de raison, and as Ithoroughly agree with that …”

“What, what did you say?”

“I said, on trouve toujours plus de moines que de raison, and as Ithoroughly …”

“I’m sure that’s not your saying. You must have taken it fromsomewhere.”

“It was Pascal said that.”

“Just as I thought … it’s not your own. Why don’t you ever say anythinglike that yourself, so shortly and to the point, instead of draggingthings out to such a length? That’s much better than what you said justnow about administrative ardour …”

“Ma foi, chère …” why? In the first place probably because I’m nota Pascal after all, et puis … secondly, we Russians never can sayanything in our own language.… We never have said anything hitherto,at any rate.…”

“H’m! That’s not true, perhaps. Anyway, you’d better make a note of suchphrases, and remember them, you know, in case you have to talk.…Ach, Stephan Trofimovitch. I have come to talk to you seriously, quiteseriously.”

“Chère, chère amie!”

“Now that all these Von Lembkes and Karmazinovs.… Oh, my goodness, howyou have deteriorated!… Oh, my goodness, how you do torment me!…I should have liked these people to feel a respect for you, for they’renot worth your little finger—but the way you behave!… What will theysee? What shall I have to show them? Instead of nobly standing as anexample, keeping up the tradition of the past, you surround yourselfwith a wretched rabble, you have picked up impossible habits, you’vegrown feeble, you can’t do without wine and cards, you read nothingbut Paul de Kock, and write nothing, while all of them write; all yourtime’s wasted in gossip. How can you bring yourself to be friends with awretched creature like your inseparable Liputin?”

“Why is he mine and inseparable?” Stepan Trofimovitch protestedtimidly.

“Where is he now?” Varvara Petrovna went on, sharply and sternly.

“He … he has an infinite respect for you, and he’s gone to S——k, toreceive an inheritance left him by his mother.”

“He seems to do nothing but get money. And how’s Shatov? Is he just thesame?”

“Irascible, mais bon.”

“I can’t endure your Shatov. He’s spiteful and he thinks too much ofhimself.”

“How is Darya Pavlovna?”

“You mean Dasha? What made you think of her?” Varvara Petrovna lookedat him inquisitively. “She’s quite well. I left her with the Drozdovs. Iheard something about your son in Switzerland. Nothing good.”

“Oh, c’est un histoire bien bête! Je vous attendais, ma bonne amie, pourvous raconter …”

“Enough, Stepan Trofimovitch. Leave me in peace. I’m worn out. Weshall have time to talk to our heart’s content, especially of what’sunpleasant. You’ve begun to splutter when you laugh, it’s a sign ofsenility! And what a strange way of laughing you’ve taken to!… GoodHeavens, what a lot of bad habits you’ve fallen into! Karmazinov won’tcome and see you! And people are only too glad to make the most ofanything as it is.… You’ve betrayed yourself completely now. Well,come, that’s enough, that’s enough, I’m tired. You really might havemercy upon one!”

Stepan Trofimovitch “had mercy,” but he withdrew in great perturbation.


Our friend certainly had fallen into not a few bad habits, especially oflate. He had obviously and rapidly deteriorated; and it was true thathe had become slovenly. He drank more and had become more tearful andnervous; and had grown too impressionable on the artistic side. Hisface had acquired a strange facility for changing with extraordinaryquickness, from the most solemn expression, for instance, to the mostabsurd, and even foolish. He could not endure solitude, and was alwayscraving for amusem*nt. One had always to repeat to him some gossip, somelocal anecdote, and every day a new one. If no one came to see him fora long time he wandered disconsolately about the rooms, walked to thewindow, puckering up his lips, heaved deep sighs, and almost fell towhimpering at last. He was always full of forebodings, was afraid ofsomething unexpected and inevitable; he had become timorous; he began topay great attention to his dreams.

He spent all that day and evening in great depression, he sent for me,was very much agitated, talked a long while, gave me a long account ofthings, but all rather disconnected. Varvara Petrovna had known for along time that he concealed nothing from me. It seemed to me at lastthat he was worried about something particular, and was perhaps unableto form a definite idea of it himself. As a rule when we met tête-à-têteand he began making long complaints to me, a bottle was almost alwaysbrought in after a little time, and things became much more comfortable.This time there was no wine, and he was evidently struggling all thewhile against the desire to send for it.

“And why is she always so cross?” he complained every minute, like achild. “Tous les hommes de génie et de progrès en Russie étaient,sont, et seront toujours des gamblers et des drunkards qui boivent inoutbreaks … and I’m not such a gambler after all, and I’m not such adrunkard. She reproaches me for not writing anything. Strangeidea!… She asks why I lie down? She says I ought to stand, ‘an exampleand reproach.’ Mais, entre nous soit dit, what is a man to do who isdestined to stand as a ‘reproach,’ if not to lie down? Does sheunderstand that?”

And at last it became clear to me what was the chief particular troublewhich was worrying him so persistently at this time. Many times thatevening he went to the looking-glass, and stood a long while beforeit. At last he turned from the looking-glass to me, and with a sortof strange despair, said: “Mon cher, je suis un broken-down man.” Yes,certainly, up to that time, up to that very day there was one thing onlyof which he had always felt confident in spite of the “new views,” andof the “change in Varvara Petrovna’s ideas,” that was, the convictionthat still he had a fascination for her feminine heart, not simply as anexile or a celebrated man of learning, but as a handsome man. For twentyyears this soothing and flattering opinion had been rooted in his mind,and perhaps of all his convictions this was the hardest to part with.Had he any presentiment that evening of the colossal ordeal which waspreparing for him in the immediate future?


I will now enter upon the description of that almost forgotten incidentwith which my story properly speaking begins.

At last at the very end of August the Drozdovs returned. Their arrivalmade a considerable sensation in local society, and took place shortlybefore their relation, our new governor’s wife, made her long-expectedappearance. But of all these interesting events I will speak later.For the present I will confine myself to saying that Praskovya Ivanovnabrought Varvara Petrovna, who was expecting her so impatiently, a mostperplexing problem: Nikolay had parted from them in July, and,meeting Count K. on the Rhine, had set off with him and his family forPetersburg. (N.B.—The Count’s three daughters were all of marriageableage.)

“Lizaveta is so proud and obstinate that I could get nothing out ofher,” Praskovya Ivanovna said in conclusion. “But I saw for myself thatsomething had happened between her and Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. I don’tknow the reasons, but I fancy, my dear Varvara Petrovna, that youwill have to ask your Darya Pavlovna for them. To my thinking Lizawas offended. I’m glad. I can tell you that I’ve brought you back yourfavourite at last and handed her over to you; it’s a weight off mymind.”

These venomous words were uttered with remarkable irritability. It wasevident that the “flabby” woman had prepared them and gloated beforehandover the effect they would produce. But Varvara Petrovna was not thewoman to be disconcerted by sentimental effects and enigmas. She sternlydemanded the most precise and satisfactory explanations. PraskovyaIvanovna immediately lowered her tone and even ended by dissolving intotears and expressions of the warmest friendship. This irritable butsentimental lady, like Stepan Trofimovitch, was forever yearning fortrue friendship, and her chief complaint against her daughter LizavetaNikolaevna was just that “her daughter was not a friend to her.”

But from all her explanations and outpourings nothing certain could begathered but that there actually had been some sort of quarrel betweenLiza and Nikolay, but of the nature of the quarrel Praskovya Ivanovnawas obviously unable to form a definite idea. As for her imputationsagainst Darya Pavlovna, she not only withdrew them completely in theend, but even particularly begged Varvara Petrovna to pay no attentionto her words, because “they had been said in irritation.” In fact, ithad all been left very far from clear—suspicious, indeed. According toher account the quarrel had arisen from Liza’s “obstinate and ironicalcharacter.” “Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch is proud, too, and though hewas very much in love, yet he could not endure sarcasm, and began to besarcastic himself. Soon afterwards we made the acquaintance of ayoung man, the nephew, I believe, of your ‘Professor’ and, indeed, thesurname’s the same.”

“The son, not the nephew,” Varvara Petrovna corrected her.

Even in old days Praskovya Ivanovna had been always unable to recallStepan Trofimovitch’s name, and had always called him the “Professor.”

“Well, his son, then; so much the better. Of course, it’s all the sameto me. An ordinary young man, very lively and free in his manners, butnothing special in him. Well, then, Liza herself did wrong, shemade friends with the young man with the idea of making NikolayVsyevolodovitch jealous. I don’t see much harm in that; it’s the way ofgirls, quite usual, even charming in them. Only instead of being jealousNikolay Vsyevolodovitch made friends with the young man himself, just asthough he saw nothing and didn’t care. This made Liza furious. The youngman soon went away (he was in a great hurry to get somewhere) andLiza took to picking quarrels with Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch at everyopportunity. She noticed that he used sometimes to talk to Dasha; and,well, she got in such a frantic state that even my life wasn’t worthliving, my dear. The doctors have forbidden my being irritated, and Iwas so sick of their lake they make such a fuss about, it simply gave metoothache, I had such rheumatism. It’s stated in print that the Lake ofGeneva does give people the toothache. It’s a feature of the place. ThenNikolay Vsyevolodovitch suddenly got a letter from the countess and heleft us at once. He packed up in one day. They parted in a friendly way,and Liza became very cheerful and frivolous, and laughed a great dealseeing him off; only that was all put on. When he had gone she becamevery thoughtful, and she gave up speaking of him altogether and wouldn’tlet me mention his name. And I should advise you, dear Varvara Petrovna,not to approach the subject with Liza, you’ll only do harm. But if youhold your tongue she’ll begin to talk of it herself, and then you’lllearn more. I believe they’ll come together again, if only NikolayVsyevolodovitch doesn’t put off coming, as he promised.”

“I’ll write to him at once. If that’s how it was, there was nothing inthe quarrel; all nonsense! And I know Darya too well. It’s nonsense!”

“I’m sorry for what I said about Dashenka, I did wrong. Theirconversations were quite ordinary and they talked out loud, too. But itall upset me so much at the time, my dear. And Liza, I saw, got on withher again as affectionately as before.…”

That very day Varvara Petrovna wrote to Nikolay, and begged him to come,if only one month, earlier than the date he had fixed. But yet she stillfelt that there was something unexplained and obscure in the matter.She pondered over it all the evening and all night. Praskovya’s opinionseemed to her too innocent and sentimental. “Praskovya has alwaysbeen too sentimental from the old schooldays upwards,” she reflected.“Nicolas is not the man to run away from a girl’s taunts. There’s someother reason for it, if there really has been a breach between them.That officer’s here though, they’ve brought him with them. As a relationhe lives in their house. And, as for Darya, Praskovya was in too muchhaste to apologise. She must have kept something to herself, which shewouldn’t tell me.”

By the morning Varvara Petrovna had matured a project for putting a stoponce for all to one misunderstanding at least; a project amazing in itsunexpectedness. What was in her heart when she conceived it? It wouldbe hard to decide and I will not undertake to explain beforehand allthe incongruities of which it was made up. I simply confine myself aschronicler to recording events precisely as they happened, and it is notmy fault if they seem incredible. Yet I must once more testify that bythe morning there was not the least suspicion of Dasha left in VarvaraPetrovna’s mind, though in reality there never had been any—she hadtoo much confidence in her. Besides, she could not admit the idea that“Nicolas” could be attracted by her Darya. Next morning when DaryaPavlovna was pouring out tea at the table Varvara Petrovna looked for along while intently at her and, perhaps for the twentieth time since theprevious day, repeated to herself: “It’s all nonsense!”

All she noticed was that Dasha looked rather tired, and that she waseven quieter and more apathetic than she used to be. After their morningtea, according to their invariable custom, they sat down to needlework.Varvara Petrovna demanded from her a full account of her impressionsabroad, especially of nature, of the inhabitants, of the towns, thecustoms, their arts and commerce—of everything she had time to observe.She asked no questions about the Drozdovs or how she had got on withthem. Dasha, sitting beside her at the work-table helping her with theembroidery, talked for half an hour in her even, monotonous, but ratherweak voice.

“Darya!” Varvara Petrovna interrupted suddenly, “is there nothingspecial you want to tell me?”

“No, nothing,” said Dasha, after a moment’s thought, and she glanced atVarvara Petrovna with her light-coloured eyes.

“Nothing on your soul, on your heart, or your conscience?”

“Nothing,” Dasha repeated, quietly, but with a sort of sullen firmness.

“I knew there wasn’t! Believe me, Darya, I shall never doubt you. Nowsit still and listen. In front of me, on that chair. I want to see thewhole of you. That’s right. Listen, do you want to be married?”

Dasha responded with a long, inquiring, but not greatly astonished look.

“Stay, hold your tongue. In the first place there is a very greatdifference in age, but of course you know better than anyone whatnonsense that is. You’re a sensible girl, and there must be no mistakesin your life. Besides, he’s still a handsome man … In short, StepanTrofimovitch, for whom you have always had such a respect. Well?”

Dasha looked at her still more inquiringly, and this time not simplywith surprise; she blushed perceptibly.

“Stay, hold your tongue, don’t be in a hurry! Though you will have moneyunder my will, yet when I die, what will become of you, even if you havemoney? You’ll be deceived and robbed of your money, you’ll be lost infact. But married to him you’re the wife of a distinguished man. Look athim on the other hand. Though I’ve provided for him, if I die what willbecome of him? But I could trust him to you. Stay, I’ve not finished.He’s frivolous, shilly-shally, cruel, egoistic, he has low habits. Butmind you think highly of him, in the first place because there are manyworse. I don’t want to get you off my hands by marrying you to a rascal,you don’t imagine anything of that sort, do you? And, above all, becauseI ask you, you’ll think highly of him,”—

She broke off suddenly and irritably. “Do you hear? Why won’t you saysomething?”

Dasha still listened and did not speak.

“Stay, wait a little. He’s an old woman, but you know, that’s all thebetter for you. Besides, he’s a pathetic old woman. He doesn’t deserveto be loved by a woman at all, but he deserves to be loved for hishelplessness, and you must love him for his helplessness. You understandme, don’t you? Do you understand me?”

Dasha nodded her head affirmatively.

“I knew you would. I expected as much of you. He will love you becausehe ought, he ought; he ought to adore you.” Varvara Petrovna almostshrieked with peculiar exasperation. “Besides, he will be in love withyou without any ought about it. I know him. And another thing, I shallalways be here. You may be sure I shall always be here. He will complainof you, he’ll begin to say things against you behind your back, he’llwhisper things against you to any stray person he meets, he’ll be forever whining and whining; he’ll write you letters from one room toanother, two a day, but he won’t be able to get on without you all thesame, and that’s the chief thing. Make him obey you. If you can’t makehim you’ll be a fool. He’ll want to hang himself and threaten, to—don’tyou believe it. It’s nothing but nonsense. Don’t believe it; but stillkeep a sharp look-out, you never can tell, and one day he may hanghimself. It does happen with people like that. It’s not through strengthof will but through weakness that people hang themselves, and sonever drive him to an extreme, that’s the first rule in married life.Remember, too, that he’s a poet. Listen, Dasha, there’s no greaterhappiness than self-sacrifice. And besides, you’ll be giving me greatsatisfaction and that’s the chief thing. Don’t think I’ve been talkingnonsense. I understand what I’m saying. I’m an egoist, you be an egoist,too. Of course I’m not forcing you. It’s entirely for you to decide.As you say, so it shall be. Well, what’s the good of sitting like this.Speak!”

“I don’t mind, Varvara Petrovna, if I really must be married,” saidDasha firmly.

“Must? What are you hinting at?” Varvara Petrovna looked sternly andintently at her.

Dasha was silent, picking at her embroidery canvas with her needle.

“Though you’re a clever girl, you’re talking nonsense; though it is truethat I have certainly set my heart on marrying you, yet it’s not becauseit’s necessary, but simply because the idea has occurred to me, and onlyto Stepan Trofimovitch. If it had not been for Stepan Trofimovitch, Ishould not have thought of marrying you yet, though you are twenty.…Well?”

“I’ll do as you wish, Varvara Petrovna.”

“Then you consent! Stay, be quiet. Why are you in such a hurry? Ihaven’t finished. In my will I’ve left you fifteen thousand roubles.I’ll give you that at once, on your wedding-day. You will give eightthousand of it to him; that is, not to him but to me. He has a debt ofeight thousand. I’ll pay it, but he must know that it is done with yourmoney. You’ll have seven thousand left in your hands. Never let himtouch a farthing of it. Don’t pay his debts ever. If once you pay them,you’ll never be free of them. Besides, I shall always be here. Youshall have twelve hundred roubles a year from me, with extras, fifteenhundred, besides board and lodging, which shall be at my expense, justas he has it now. Only you must set up your own servants. Your yearlyallowance shall be paid to you all at once straight into your hands. Butbe kind, and sometimes give him something, and let his friends come tosee him once a week, but if they come more often, turn them out. ButI shall be here, too. And if I die, your pension will go on till hisdeath, do you hear, till his death, for it’s his pension, not yours.And besides the seven thousand you’ll have now, which you ought to keepuntouched if you’re not foolish, I’ll leave you another eight thousandin my will. And you’ll get nothing more than that from me, it’s rightthat you should know it. Come, you consent, eh? Will you say somethingat last?”

“I have told you already, Varvara Petrovna.”

“Remember that you’re free to decide. As you like, so it shall be.”

“Then, may I ask, Varvara Petrovna, has Stepan Trofimovitch saidanything yet?”

“No, he hasn’t said anything, he doesn’t know … but he will speakdirectly.”

She jumped up at once and threw on a black shawl. Dasha flushed a littleagain, and watched her with questioning eyes. Varvara Petrovna turnedsuddenly to her with a face flaming with anger.

“You’re a fool!” She swooped down on her like a hawk. “An ungratefulfool! What’s in your mind? Can you imagine that I’d compromise you, inany way, in the smallest degree. Why, he shall crawl on his knees toask you, he must be dying of happiness, that’s how it shall be arranged.Why, you know that I’d never let you suffer. Or do you suppose he’lltake you for the sake of that eight thousand, and that I’m hurrying offto sell you? You’re a fool, a fool! You’re all ungrateful fools. Give memy umbrella!”

And she flew off to walk by the wet brick pavements and the woodenplanks to Stepan Trofimovitch’s.


It was true that she would never have let Dasha suffer; on the contrary,she considered now that she was acting as her benefactress. The mostgenerous and legitimate indignation was glowing in her soul, when, asshe put on her shawl, she caught fixed upon her the embarrassed andmistrustful eyes of her protégée. She had genuinely loved the girl fromher childhood upwards. Praskovya Ivanovna had with justice called DaryaPavlovna her favourite. Long ago Varvara Petrovna had made up her mindonce for all that “Darya’s disposition was not like her brother’s” (not,that is, like Ivan Shatov’s), that she was quiet and gentle, and capableof great self-sacrifice; that she was distinguished by a power ofdevotion, unusual modesty, rare reasonableness, and, above all, bygratitude. Till that time Dasha had, to all appearances, completelyjustified her expectations.

“In that life there will be no mistakes,” said Varvara Petrovna when thegirl was only twelve years old, and as it was characteristic of her toattach herself doggedly and passionately to any dream that fascinatedher, any new design, any idea that struck her as noble, she made up hermind at once to educate Dasha as though she were her own daughter. Sheat once set aside a sum of money for her, and sent for a governess, MissCriggs, who lived with them until the girl was sixteen, but she wasfor some reason suddenly dismissed. Teachers came for her from the HighSchool, among them a real Frenchman, who taught Dasha French. He, too,was suddenly dismissed, almost turned out of the house. A poor lady, awidow of good family, taught her to play the piano. Yet her chief tutorwas Stepan Trofimovitch.

In reality he first discovered Dasha. He began teaching the quiet childeven before Varvara Petrovna had begun to think about her. I repeatagain, it was wonderful how children took to him. Lizaveta NikolaevnaTushin had been taught by him from the age of eight till eleven (StepanTrofimovitch took no fees, of course, for his lessons, and would not onany account have taken payment from the Drozdovs). But he fell in lovewith the charming child and used to tell her poems of a sort about thecreation of the world, about the earth, and the history of humanity.His lectures about the primitive peoples and primitive man were moreinteresting than the Arabian Nights. Liza, who was ecstatic over thesestories, used to mimic Stepan Trofimovitch very funnily at home. Heheard of this and once peeped in on her unawares. Liza, overcomewith confusion, flung herself into his arms and shed tears; StepanTrofimovitch wept too with delight. But Liza soon after went away, andonly Dasha was left. When Dasha began to have other teachers, StepanTrofimovitch gave up his lessons with her, and by degrees left offnoticing her. Things went on like this for a long time. Once when shewas seventeen he was struck by her prettiness. It happened at VarvaraPetrovna’s table. He began to talk to the young girl, was much pleasedwith her answers, and ended by offering to give her a serious andcomprehensive course of lessons on the history of Russian literature.Varvara Petrovna approved, and thanked him for his excellent idea,and Dasha was delighted. Stepan Trofimovitch proceeded to make specialpreparations for the lectures, and at last they began. They beganwith the most ancient period. The first lecture went off enchantingly.Varvara Petrovna was present. When Stepan Trofimovitch had finished, andas he was going informed his pupil that the next time he would deal with“The Story of the Expedition of Igor,” Varvara Petrovna suddenly got upand announced that there would be no more lessons. Stepan Trofimovitchwinced, but said nothing, and Dasha flushed crimson. It put a stop tothe scheme, however. This had happened just three years before VarvaraPetrovna’s unexpected fancy.

Poor Stepan Trofimovitch was sitting alone free from all misgivings.Plunged in mournful reveries he had for some time been looking out ofthe window to see whether any of his friends were coming. But nobodywould come. It was drizzling. It was turning cold, he would have to havethe stove heated. He sighed. Suddenly a terrible apparition flashed uponhis eyes:

Varvara Petrovna in such weather and at such an unexpected hour to seehim! And on foot! He was so astounded that he forgot to put on hiscoat, and received her as he was, in his everlasting pink-waddeddressing-jacket.

“Ma bonne amie!” he cried faintly, to greet her. “You’re alone; I’mglad; I can’t endure your friends. How you do smoke! Heavens, what anatmosphere! You haven’t finished your morning tea and it’s nearly twelveo’clock. It’s your idea of bliss—disorder! You take pleasure in dirt.What’s that torn paper on the floor? Nastasya, Nastasya! What isyour Nastasya about? Open the window, the casem*nt, the doors, flingeverything wide open. And we’ll go into the drawing-room. I’ve come toyou on a matter of importance. And you sweep up, my good woman, for oncein your life.”

“They make such a muck!” Nastasya whined in a voice of plaintiveexasperation.

“Well, you must sweep, sweep it up fifteen times a day! You’ve awretched drawing-room” (when they had gone into the drawing-room). “Shutthe door properly. She’ll be listening. You must have it repapered.Didn’t I send a paperhanger to you with patterns? Why didn’t you chooseone? Sit down, and listen. Do sit down, I beg you. Where are you off to?Where are you off to? Where are you off to?”

“I’ll be back directly,” Stepan Trofimovitch cried from the next room.“Here I am again.”

“Ah,—you’ve changed your coat.” She scanned him mockingly. (He hadflung his coat on over the dressing-jacket.) “Well, certainly that’smore suited to our subject. Do sit down, I entreat you.”

She told him everything at once, abruptly and impressively. She hinted atthe eight thousand of which he stood in such terrible need. She told himin detail of the dowry. Stepan Trofimovitch sat trembling, openinghis eyes wider and wider. He heard it all, but he could not realise itclearly. He tried to speak, but his voice kept breaking. All he knewwas that everything would be as she said, that to protest and refuse toagree would be useless, and that he was a married man irrevocably.

“Mais, ma bonne amie! … for the third time, and at my age … and tosuch a child.” He brought out at last, “Mais, c’est une enfant!”

“A child who is twenty years old, thank God. Please don’t roll youreyes, I entreat you, you’re not on the stage. You’re very clever andlearned, but you know nothing at all about life. You will always want anurse to look after you. I shall die, and what will become of you?She will be a good nurse to you; she’s a modest girl, strong-willed,reasonable; besides, I shall be here too, I shan’t die directly. She’sfond of home, she’s an angel of gentleness. This happy thought came tome in Switzerland. Do you understand if I tell you myself that she isan angel of gentleness!” she screamed with sudden fury. “Your house isdirty, she will bring in order, cleanliness. Everything will shine likea mirror. Good gracious, do you expect me to go on my knees to you withsuch a treasure, to enumerate all the advantages, to court you! Why, youought to be on your knees.… Oh, you shallow, shallow, faint-heartedman!”

“But … I’m an old man!”

“What do your fifty-three years matter! Fifty is the middle of life,not the end of it. You are a handsome man and you know it yourself. Youknow, too, what a respect she has for you. If I die, what will become ofher? But married to you she’ll be at peace, and I shall be at peace. Youhave renown, a name, a loving heart. You receive a pension which I lookupon as an obligation. You will save her perhaps, you will save her! Inany case you will be doing her an honour. You will form her for life,you will develop her heart, you will direct her ideas. How many peoplecome to grief nowadays because their ideas are wrongly directed. By thattime your book will be ready, and you will at once set people talkingabout you again.”

“I am, in fact,” he muttered, at once flattered by Varvara Petrovna’sadroit insinuations. “I was just preparing to sit down to my ‘Tales fromSpanish History.’”

“Well, there you are. It’s just come right.”

“But … she? Have you spoken to her?”

“Don’t worry about her. And there’s no need for you to be inquisitive.Of course, you must ask her yourself, entreat her to do you the honour,you understand? But don’t be uneasy. I shall be here. Besides, you loveher.”

Stepan Trofimovitch felt giddy. The walls were going round. There wasone terrible idea underlying this to which he could not reconcilehimself.

“Excellente amie,” his voice quivered suddenly. “I could never haveconceived that you would make up your mind to give me in marriage toanother … woman.”

“You’re not a girl, Stepan Trofimovitch. Only girls are given inmarriage. You are taking a wife,” Varvara Petrovna hissed malignantly.

“Oui, j’ai pris un mot pour un autre. Mais c’est égal.” He gazed at herwith a hopeless air.

“I see that c’est égal,” she muttered contemptuously through her teeth.“Good heavens! Why he’s going to faint. Nastasya, Nastasya, water!”

But water was not needed. He came to himself. Varvara Petrovna took upher umbrella.

“I see it’s no use talking to you now.…”

“Oui, oui, je suis incapable.”

“But by to-morrow you’ll have rested and thought it over. Stay at home.If anything happens let me know, even if it’s at night. Don’t writeletters, I shan’t read them. To-morrow I’ll come again at this timealone, for a final answer, and I trust it will be satisfactory. Try tohave nobody here and no untidiness, for the place isn’t fit to be seen.Nastasya, Nastasya!”

The next day, of course, he consented, and, indeed, he could do nothingelse. There was one circ*mstance …


Stepan Trofimovitch’s estate, as we used to call it (which consistedof fifty souls, reckoning in the old fashion, and bordered onSkvoreshniki), was not really his at all, but his first wife’s, andso belonged now to his son Pyotr Stepanovitch Verhovensky. StepanTrofimovitch was simply his trustee, and so, when the nestling wasfull-fledged, he had given his father a formal authorisation to managethe estate. This transaction was a profitable one for the young man. Hereceived as much as a thousand roubles a year by way of revenue from theestate, though under the new regime it could not have yielded more thanfive hundred, and possibly not that. God knows how such an arrangementhad arisen. The whole sum, however, was sent the young man by VarvaraPetrovna, and Stepan Trofimovitch had nothing to do with a single roubleof it. On the other hand, the whole revenue from the land remained inhis pocket, and he had, besides, completely ruined the estate, lettingit to a mercenary rogue, and without the knowledge of Varvara Petrovnaselling the timber which gave the estate its chief value. He had sometime before sold the woods bit by bit. It was worth at leasteight thousand, yet he had only received five thousand for it. Buthe sometimes lost too much at the club, and was afraid to ask VarvaraPetrovna for the money. She clenched her teeth when she heard at last ofeverything. And now, all at once, his son announced that he wascoming himself to sell his property for what he could get for it, andcommissioned his father to take steps promptly to arrange the sale. Itwas clear that Stepan Trofimovitch, being a generous and disinterestedman, felt ashamed of his treatment of ce cher enfant (whom he had seenfor the last time nine years before as a student in Petersburg). Theestate might originally have been worth thirteen or fourteen thousand.Now it was doubtful whether anyone would give five for it. No doubtStepan Trofimovitch was fully entitled by the terms of the trust to sellthe wood, and taking into account the incredibly large yearly revenue ofa thousand roubles which had been sent punctually for so many years,he could have put up a good defence of his management. But StepanTrofimovitch was a generous man of exalted impulses. A wonderfully fineinspiration occurred to his mind: when Petrusha returned, to lay on thetable before him the maximum price of fifteen thousand roubles withouta hint at the sums that had been sent him hitherto, and warmly and withtears to press ce cher fils to his heart, and so to make an end of allaccounts between them. He began cautiously and indirectly unfoldingthis picture before Varvara Petrovna. He hinted that this would add apeculiarly noble note to their friendship … to their “idea.” Thiswould set the parents of the last generation—and people of the lastgeneration generally—in such a disinterested and magnanimous light incomparison with the new frivolous and socialistic younger generation. Hesaid a great deal more, but Varvara Petrovna was obstinately silent. Atlast she informed him airily that she was prepared to buy their estate,and to pay for it the maximum price, that is, six or seven thousand(though four would have been a fair price for it). Of the remainingeight thousand which had vanished with the woods she said not a word.

This conversation took place a month before the match was proposed tohim. Stepan Trofimovitch was overwhelmed, and began to ponder. Theremight in the past have been a hope that his son would not come,after all—an outsider, that is to say, might have hoped so. StepanTrofimovitch as a father would have indignantly rejected theinsinuation that he could entertain such a hope. Anyway queer rumourshad hitherto been reaching us about Petrusha. To begin with, oncompleting his studies at the university six years before, he had hungabout in Petersburg without getting work. Suddenly we got the news thathe had taken part in issuing some anonymous manifesto and that hewas implicated in the affair. Then he suddenly turned up abroad inSwitzerland at Geneva—he had escaped, very likely.

“It’s surprising to me,” Stepan Trofimovitch commented, greatlydisconcerted. “Petrusha, c’est une si pauvre tête! He’s good,noble-hearted, very sensitive, and I was so delighted with him inPetersburg, comparing him with the young people of to-day. But c’est unpauvre sire, tout de même.… And you know it all comes from thatsame half-bakedness, that sentimentality. They are fascinated, not byrealism, but by the emotional ideal side of socialism, by the religiousnote in it, so to say, by the poetry of it … second-hand, of course.And for me, for me, think what it means! I have so many enemies here andmore still there, they’ll put it down to the father’s influence. GoodGod! Petrusha a revolutionist! What times we live in!”

Very soon, however, Petrusha sent his exact address from Switzerland formoney to be sent him as usual; so he could not be exactly an exile.And now, after four years abroad, he was suddenly making his appearanceagain in his own country, and announced that he would arrive shortly,so there could be no charge against him. What was more, someone seemedto be interested in him and protecting him. He wrote now from the southof Russia, where he was busily engaged in some private but importantbusiness. All this was capital, but where was his father to get thatother seven or eight thousand, to make up a suitable price for theestate? And what if there should be an outcry, and instead of thatimposing picture it should come to a lawsuit? Something told StepanTrofimovitch that the sensitive Petrusha would not relinquish anythingthat was to his interest. “Why is it—as I’ve noticed,” StepanTrofimovitch whispered to me once, “why is it that all these desperatesocialists and communists are at the same time such incredibleskinflints, so avaricious, so keen over property, and, in fact, themore socialistic, the more extreme they are, the keener they are overproperty … why is it? Can that, too, come from sentimentalism?” Idon’t know whether there is any truth in this observation of StepanTrofimovitch’s. I only know that Petrusha had somehow got wind of thesale of the woods and the rest of it, and that Stepan Trofimovitch wasaware of the fact. I happened, too, to read some of Petrusha’s lettersto his father. He wrote extremely rarely, once a year, or even lessoften. Only recently, to inform him of his approaching visit, he hadsent two letters, one almost immediately after the other. All hisletters were short, dry, consisting only of instructions, and as thefather and son had, since their meeting in Petersburg, adopted thefashionable “thou” and “thee,” Petrusha’s letters had a strikingresemblance to the missives that used to be sent by landowners of theold school from the town to their serfs whom they had left in charge oftheir estates. And now suddenly this eight thousand which would solvethe difficulty would be wafted to him by Varvara Petrovna’s proposition.And at the same time she made him distinctly feel that it never couldbe wafted to him from anywhere else. Of course Stepan Trofimovitchconsented.

He sent for me directly she had gone and shut himself up for the wholeday, admitting no one else. He cried, of course, talked well and talkeda great deal, contradicted himself continually, made a casual pun, andwas much pleased with it. Then he had a slight attack of his “summercholera”—everything in fact followed the usual course. Then he broughtout the portrait of his German bride, now twenty years deceased, andbegan plaintively appealing to her: “Will you forgive me?” In fact heseemed somehow distracted. Our grief led us to get a little drunk. Hesoon fell into a sweet sleep, however. Next morning he tied his cravatin masterly fashion, dressed with care, and went frequently to look athimself in the glass. He sprinkled his handkerchief with scent, only aslight dash of it, however, and as soon as he saw Varvara Petrovna outof the window he hurriedly took another handkerchief and hid the scentedone under the pillow.

“Excellent!” Varvara Petrovna approved, on receiving his consent. “Inthe first place you show a fine decision, and secondly you’ve listenedto the voice of reason, to which you generally pay so little heed inyour private affairs. There’s no need of haste, however,” she added,scanning the knot of his white tie, “for the present say nothing, and Iwill say nothing. It will soon be your birthday; I will come to see youwith her. Give us tea in the evening, and please without wine or otherrefreshments, but I’ll arrange it all myself. Invite your friends, butwe’ll make the list together. You can talk to her the day before, ifnecessary. And at your party we won’t exactly announce it, or make anengagement of any sort, but only hint at it, and let people know withoutany sort of ceremony. And then the wedding a fortnight later, as faras possible without any fuss.… You two might even go away for a timeafter the wedding, to Moscow, for instance. I’ll go with you, too,perhaps … The chief thing is, keep quiet till then.”

Stepan Trofimovitch was surprised. He tried to falter that he couldnot do like that, that he must talk it over with his bride. But VarvaraPetrovna flew at him in exasperation.

“What for? In the first place it may perhaps come to nothing.”

“Come to nothing!” muttered the bridegroom, utterly dumbfoundered.

“Yes. I’ll see.… But everything shall be as I’ve told you, and don’tbe uneasy. I’ll prepare her myself. There’s really no need for you.Everything necessary shall be said and done, and there’s no need for youto meddle. Why should you? In what character? Don’t come and don’t writeletters. And not a sight or sound of you, I beg. I will be silent too.”

She absolutely refused to explain herself, and went away, obviouslyupset. Stepan Trofimovitch’s excessive readiness evidently impressedher. Alas! he was utterly unable to grasp his position, and the questionhad not yet presented itself to him from certain other points of view.On the contrary a new note was apparent in him, a sort of conquering andjaunty air. He swaggered.

“I do like that!” he exclaimed, standing before me, and flinging widehis arms. “Did you hear? She wants to drive me to refusing at last. Why,I may lose patience, too, and … refuse! ‘Sit still, there’s no needfor you to go to her.’ But after all, why should I be married? Simplybecause she’s taken an absurd fancy into her heart. But I’m a seriousman, and I can refuse to submit to the idle whims of a giddy-woman! Ihave duties to my son and … and to myself! I’m making a sacrifice. Doesshe realise that? I have agreed, perhaps, because I am weary of lifeand nothing matters to me. But she may exasperate me, and then it willmatter. I shall resent it and refuse. Et enfin, le ridicule … what willthey say at the club? What will … what will … Laputin say? ‘Perhapsnothing will come of it’—what a thing to say! That beats everything.That’s really … what is one to say to that?… Je suis un forçat, unBadinguet, un man pushed to the wall.…”

And at the same time a sort of capricious complacency, somethingfrivolous and playful, could be seen in the midst of all these plaintiveexclamations. In the evening we drank too much again.



ABOUT A WEEK had passed, and the position had begun to grow morecomplicated.

I may mention in passing that I suffered a great deal during thatunhappy week, as I scarcely left the side of my affianced friend, in thecapacity of his most intimate confidant. What weighed upon him mostwas the feeling of shame, though we saw no one all that week, and satindoors alone. But he was even ashamed before me, and so much so thatthe more he confided to me the more vexed he was with me for it. He wasso morbidly apprehensive that he expected that every one knew about italready, the whole town, and was afraid to show himself, not only at theclub, but even in his circle of friends. He positively would not go outto take his constitutional till well after dusk, when it was quite dark.

A week passed and he still did not know whether he were betrothed ornot, and could not find out for a fact, however much he tried. He hadnot yet seen his future bride, and did not know whether she was to behis bride or not; did not, in fact, know whether there was anythingserious in it at all. Varvara Petrovna, for some reason, resolutelyrefused to admit him to her presence. In answer to one of his firstletters to her (and he wrote a great number of them) she begged himplainly to spare her all communications with him for a time, becauseshe was very busy, and having a great deal of the utmost importance tocommunicate to him she was waiting for a more free moment to do so, andthat she would let him know in time when he could come to see her. Shedeclared she would send back his letters unopened, as they were “simpleself-indulgence.” I read that letter myself—he showed it me.

Yet all this harshness and indefiniteness were nothing compared withhis chief anxiety. That anxiety tormented him to the utmost and withoutceasing. He grew thin and dispirited through it. It was something ofwhich he was more ashamed than of anything else, and of which he wouldnot on any account speak, even to me; on the contrary, he lied onoccasion, and shuffled before me like a little boy; and at the same timehe sent for me himself every day, could not stay two hours without me,needing me as much as air or water.

Such conduct rather wounded my vanity. I need hardly say that I hadlong ago privately guessed this great secret of his, and saw through itcompletely. It was my firmest conviction at the time that the revelationof this secret, this chief anxiety of Stepan Trofimovitch’s would nothave redounded to his credit, and, therefore, as I was still young, Iwas rather indignant at the coarseness of his feelings and the uglinessof some of his suspicions. In my warmth—and, I must confess, in myweariness of being his confidant—I perhaps blamed him too much. I wasso cruel as to try and force him to confess it all to me himself, thoughI did recognise that it might be difficult to confess some things. He,too, saw through me; that is, he clearly perceived that I saw throughhim, and that I was angry with him indeed, and he was angry with metoo for being angry with him and seeing through him. My irritation wasperhaps petty and stupid; but the unrelieved solitude of two friendstogether is sometimes extremely prejudicial to true friendship. From acertain point of view he had a very true understanding of some aspectsof his position, and defined it, indeed, very subtly on those pointsabout which he did not think it necessary to be secret.

“Oh, how different she was then!” he would sometimes say to me aboutVarvara Petrovna. “How different she was in the old days when we used totalk together.… Do you know that she could talk in those days! Canyou believe that she had ideas in those days, original ideas! Now,everything has changed! She says all that’s only old-fashioned twaddle.She despises the past.… Now she’s like some shopman or cashier, shehas grown hard-hearted, and she’s always cross.…”

“Why is she cross now if you are carrying out her orders?” I answered.

He looked at me subtly.

Cher ami; if I had not agreed she would have been dreadfully angry,dread-ful-ly! But yet less than now that I have consented.”

He was pleased with this saying of his, and we emptied a bottle betweenus that evening. But that was only for a moment, next day he was worseand more ill-humoured than ever.

But what I was most vexed with him for was that he could not bringhimself to call on the Drozdovs, as he should have done on theirarrival, to renew the acquaintance of which, so we heard they werethemselves desirous, since they kept asking about him. It was a sourceof daily distress to him. He talked of Lizaveta Nikolaevna with anecstasy which I was at a loss to understand. No doubt he remembered inher the child whom he had once loved. But besides that, he imagined forsome unknown reason that he would at once find in her company a solacefor his present misery, and even the solution of his more seriousdoubts. He expected to meet in Lizaveta Nikolaevna an extraordinarybeing. And yet he did not go to see her though he meant to do so everyday. The worst of it was that I was desperately anxious to be presentedto her and to make her acquaintance, and I could look to no one butStepan Trofimovitch to effect this. I was frequently meeting her, in thestreet of course, when she was out riding, wearing a riding-habit andmounted on a fine horse, and accompanied by her cousin, so-called, ahandsome officer, the nephew of the late General Drozdov—and thesemeetings made an extraordinary impression on me at the time. Myinfatuation lasted only a moment, and I very soon afterwards recognisedthe impossibility of my dreams myself—but though it was a fleetingimpression it was a very real one, and so it may well be imaginedhow indignant I was at the time with my poor friend for keeping soobstinately secluded.

All the members of our circle had been officially informed from thebeginning that Stepan Trofimovitch would see nobody for a time, andbegged them to leave him quite alone. He insisted on sending round acircular notice to this effect, though I tried to dissuade him. Iwent round to every one at his request and told everybody that VarvaraPetrovna had given “our old man” (as we all used to call StepanTrofimovitch among ourselves) a special job, to arrange in order somecorrespondence lasting over many years; that he had shut himself up todo it and I was helping him. Liputin was the only one I did not havetime to visit, and I kept putting it off—to tell the real truth I wasafraid to go to him. I knew beforehand that he would not believe oneword of my story, that he would certainly imagine that there was somesecret at the bottom of it, which they were trying to hide from himalone, and as soon as I left him he would set to work to make inquiriesand gossip all over the town. While I was picturing all this to myselfI happened to run across him in the street. It turned out that he hadheard all about it from our friends, whom I had only just informed. But,strange to say, instead of being inquisitive and asking questions aboutStepan Trofimovitch, he interrupted me, when I began apologising for nothaving come to him before, and at once passed to other subjects. It istrue that he had a great deal stored up to tell me. He was in a stateof great excitement, and was delighted to have got hold of me for alistener. He began talking of the news of the town, of the arrivalof the governor’s wife, “with new topics of conversation,” of anopposition party already formed in the club, of how they were all in ahubbub over the new ideas, and how charmingly this suited him, and soon. He talked for a quarter of an hour and so amusingly that I could nottear myself away. Though I could not endure him, yet I must admit he hadthe gift of making one listen to him, especially when he was very angryat something. This man was, in my opinion, a regular spy from his verynature. At every moment he knew the very latest gossip and all thetrifling incidents of our town, especially the unpleasant ones, and itwas surprising to me how he took things to heart that were sometimesabsolutely no concern of his. It always seemed to me that the leadingfeature of his character was envy. When I told Stepan Trofimovitch thesame evening of my meeting Liputin that morning and our conversation,the latter to my amazement became greatly agitated, and asked me thewild question: “Does Liputin know or not?”

I began trying to prove that there was no possibility of his finding itout so soon, and that there was nobody from whom he could hear it. ButStepan Trofimovitch was not to be shaken. “Well, you may believe it ornot,” he concluded unexpectedly at last, “but I’m convinced that he notonly knows every detail of ‘our’ position, but that he knows somethingelse besides, something neither you nor I know yet, and perhaps nevershall, or shall only know when it’s too late, when there’s no turningback!…”

I said nothing, but these words suggested a great deal. For five wholedays after that we did not say one word about Liputin; it was clear tome that Stepan Trofimovitch greatly regretted having let his tongue runaway with him, and having revealed such suspicions before me.


One morning, on the seventh or eighth day after Stepan Trofimovitch hadconsented to become “engaged,” about eleven o’clock, when I was hurryingas usual to my afflicted friend, I had an adventure on the way.

I met Karmazinov, “the great writer,” as Liputin called him. I had readKarmazinov from a child. His novels and tales were well known to thepast and even to the present generation. I revelled in them; they werethe great enjoyment of my childhood and youth. Afterwards I grew ratherless enthusiastic over his work. I did not care so much for the novelswith a purpose which he had been writing of late as for his first,early works, which were so full of spontaneous poetry, and his latestpublications I had not liked at all. Speaking generally, if I mayventure to express my opinion on so delicate a subject, all thesetalented gentlemen of the middling sort who are sometimes in theirlifetime accepted almost as geniuses, pass out of memory quite suddenlyand without a trace when they die, and what’s more, it often happensthat even during their lifetime, as soon as a new generation grows upand takes the place of the one in which they have flourished, they areforgotten and neglected by every one in an incredibly short time. Thissomehow happens among us quite suddenly, like the shifting of the sceneson the stage. Oh, it’s not at all the same as with Pushkin, Gogol,Molière, Voltaire, all those great men who really had a new originalword to say! It’s true, too, that these talented gentlemen of themiddling sort in the decline of their venerable years usually writethemselves out in the most pitiful way, though they don’t observe thefact themselves. It happens not infrequently that a writer who has beenfor a long time credited with extraordinary profundity and expectedto exercise a great and serious influence on the progress of society,betrays in the end such poverty, such insipidity in his fundamentalideas that no one regrets that he succeeded in writing himself out sosoon. But the old grey-beards don’t notice this, and are angry. Theirvanity sometimes, especially towards the end of their career, reachesproportions that may well provoke wonder. God knows what they beginto take themselves for—for gods at least! People used to say aboutKarmazinov that his connections with aristocratic society and powerfulpersonages were dearer to him than his own soul, people used to say thaton meeting you he would be cordial, that he would fascinate and enchantyou with his open-heartedness, especially if you were of use to him insome way, and if you came to him with some preliminary recommendation.But that before any stray prince, any stray countess, anyone that hewas afraid of, he would regard it as his sacred duty to forget yourexistence with the most insulting carelessness, like a chip of wood,like a fly, before you had even time to get out of his sight; heseriously considered this the best and most aristocratic style. In spiteof the best of breeding and perfect knowledge of good manners he is,they say, vain to such an hysterical pitch that he cannot conceal hisirritability as an author even in those circles of society where littleinterest is taken in literature. If anyone were to surprise him by beingindifferent, he would be morbidly chagrined, and try to revenge himself.

A year before, I had read an article of his in a review, written withan immense affectation of naïve poetry, and psychology too. He describedthe wreck of some steamer on the English coast, of which he had beenthe witness, and how he had seen the drowning people saved, and thedead bodies brought ashore. All this rather long and verbose articlewas written solely with the object of self-display. One seemed to readbetween the lines: “Concentrate yourselves on me. Behold what I was likeat those moments. What are the sea, the storm, the rocks, the splintersof wrecked ships to you? I have described all that sufficiently to youwith my mighty pen. Why look at that drowned woman with the dead childin her dead arms? Look rather at me, see how I was unable to bear thatsight and turned away from it. Here I stood with my back to it; hereI was horrified and could not bring myself to look; I blinked myeyes—isn’t that interesting?” When I told Stepan Trofimovitch myopinion of Karmazinov’s article he quite agreed with me.

When rumours had reached us of late that Karmazinov was coming to theneighbourhood I was, of course, very eager to see him, and, if possible,to make his acquaintance. I knew that this might be done through StepanTrofimovitch, they had once been friends. And now I suddenly met him atthe cross-roads. I knew him at once. He had been pointed out to me twoor three days before when he drove past with the governor’s wife. Hewas a short, stiff-looking old man, though not over fifty-five, with arather red little face, with thick grey locks of hair clustering underhis chimney-pot hat, and curling round his clean little pink ears.His clean little face was not altogether handsome with its thin, long,crafty-looking lips, with its rather fleshy nose, and its sharp, shrewdlittle eyes. He was dressed somewhat shabbily in a sort of cape such aswould be worn in Switzerland or North Italy at that time of year. But,at any rate, all the minor details of his costume, the little studs,and collar, the buttons, the tortoise-shell lorgnette on a narrow blackribbon, the signet-ring, were all such as are worn by persons of themost irreproachable good form. I am certain that in summer he must haveworn light prunella shoes with mother-of-pearl buttons at the side.When we met he was standing still at the turning and looking about him,attentively. Noticing that I was looking at him with interest, he askedme in a sugary, though rather shrill voice:

“Allow me to ask, which is my nearest way to Bykovy Street?”

“To Bykovy Street? Oh, that’s here, close by,” I cried in greatexcitement. “Straight on along this street and the second turning to theleft.”

“Very much obliged to you.”

A curse on that minute! I fancy I was shy, and looked cringing. Heinstantly noticed all that, and of course realised it all at once; thatis, realised that I knew who he was, that I had read him and reveredhim from a child, and that I was shy and looked at him cringingly. Hesmiled, nodded again, and walked on as I had directed him. I don’t knowwhy I turned back to follow him; I don’t know why I ran for ten pacesbeside him. He suddenly stood still again.

“And could you tell me where is the nearest cab-stand?” he shouted outto me again.

It was a horrid shout! A horrid voice!

“A cab-stand? The nearest cab-stand is … by the Cathedral; there arealways cabs standing there,” and I almost turned to run for a cab forhim. I almost believe that that was what he expected me to do. Ofcourse I checked myself at once, and stood still, but he had noticedmy movement and was still watching me with the same horrid smile. Thensomething happened which I shall never forget.

He suddenly dropped a tiny bag, which he was holding in his lefthand; though indeed it was not a bag, but rather a little box, or moreprobably some part of a pocket-book, or to be more accurate a littlereticule, rather like an old-fashioned lady’s reticule, though I reallydon’t know what it was. I only know that I flew to pick it up.

I am convinced that I did not really pick it up, but my first motionwas unmistakable. I could not conceal it, and, like a fool, I turnedcrimson. The cunning fellow at once got all that could be got out of thecirc*mstance.

“Don’t trouble, I’ll pick it up,” he pronounced charmingly; that is,when he was quite sure that I was not going to pick up the reticule, hepicked it up as though forestalling me, nodded once more, and went hisway, leaving me to look like a fool. It was as good as though I hadpicked it up myself. For five minutes I considered myself utterlydisgraced forever, but as I reached Stepan Trofimovitch’s house Isuddenly burst out laughing; the meeting struck me as so amusing that Iimmediately resolved to entertain Stepan Trofimovitch with an account ofit, and even to act the whole scene to him.


But this time to my surprise I found an extraordinary change in him. Hepounced on me with a sort of avidity, it is true, as soon as I went in,and began listening to me, but with such a distracted air that at firsthe evidently did not take in my words. But as soon as I pronounced thename of Karmazinov he suddenly flew into a frenzy.

“Don’t speak of him! Don’t pronounce that name!” he exclaimed, almost ina fury. “Here, look, read it! Read it!”

He opened the drawer and threw on the table three small sheets of paper,covered with a hurried pencil scrawl, all from Varvara Petrovna. Thefirst letter was dated the day before yesterday, the second had comeyesterday, and the last that day, an hour before. Their contents werequite trivial, and all referred to Karmazinov and betrayed the vainand fussy uneasiness of Varvara Petrovna and her apprehension thatKarmazinov might forget to pay her a visit. Here is the first one datingfrom two days before. (Probably there had been one also three daysbefore, and possibly another four days before as well.)

“If he deigns to visit you to-day, not a word about me, I beg. Not thefaintest hint. Don’t speak of me, don’t mention me.—V. S.”

The letter of the day before:

“If he decides to pay you a visit this morning, I think the mostdignified thing would be not to receive him. That’s what I think aboutit; I don’t know what you think.—V. S.”

To-day’s, the last:

“I feel sure that you’re in a regular litter and clouds of tobaccosmoke. I’m sending you Marya and Fomushka. They’ll tidy you up in halfan hour. And don’t hinder them, but go and sit in the kitchen while theyclear up. I’m sending you a Bokhara rug and two china vases. I’ve longbeen meaning to make you a present of them, and I’m sending you myTeniers, too, for a time! You can put the vases in the window and hangthe Teniers on the right under the portrait of Goethe; it will be moreconspicuous there and it’s always light there in the morning. If he doesturn up at last, receive him with the utmost courtesy but try and talkof trifling matters, of some intellectual subject, and behave as thoughyou had seen each other lately. Not a word about me. Perhaps I may lookin on you in the evening.—V. S.

“P.S.—If he does not come to-day he won’t come at all.”

I read and was amazed that he was in such excitement over such trifles.Looking at him inquiringly, I noticed that he had had time while I wasreading to change the everlasting white tie he always wore, for a redone. His hat and stick lay on the table. He was pale, and his hands werepositively trembling.

“I don’t care a hang about her anxieties,” he cried frantically, inresponse to my inquiring look. “Je m’en fiche! She has the face to beexcited about Karmazinov, and she does not answer my letters. Here ismy unopened letter which she sent me back yesterday, here on the tableunder the book, under L’Homme qui rit. What is it to me that she’swearing herself out over Nikolay! Je m’en fiche, et je proclame maliberté! Au diable le Karmazinov! Au diable la Lembke! I’ve hidden thevases in the entry, and the Teniers in the chest of drawers, and I havedemanded that she is to see me at once. Do you hear. I’ve insisted!I’ve sent her just such a scrap of paper, a pencil scrawl, unsealed, byNastasya, and I’m waiting. I want Darya Pavlovna to speak to me withher own lips, before the face of Heaven, or at least before you. Vous meseconderez, n’est-ce pas, comme ami et témoin. I don’t want to haveto blush, to lie, I don’t want secrets, I won’t have secrets in thismatter. Let them confess everything to me openly, frankly, honourablyand then … then perhaps I may surprise the whole generation by mymagnanimity.… Am I a scoundrel or not, my dear sir?” he concludedsuddenly, looking menacingly at me, as though I’d considered him ascoundrel.

I offered him a sip of water; I had never seen him like this before. Allthe while he was talking he kept running from one end of the room tothe other, but he suddenly stood still before me in an extraordinaryattitude.

“Can you suppose,” he began again with hysterical haughtiness, lookingme up and down, “can you imagine that I, Stepan Verhovensky, cannot findin myself the moral strength to take my bag—my beggar’s bag—and layingit on my feeble shoulders to go out at the gate and vanish forever,when honour and the great principle of independence demand it! It’snot the first time that Stepan Verhovensky has had to repel despotism bymoral force, even though it be the despotism of a crazy woman, thatis, the most cruel and insulting despotism which can exist on earth,although you have, I fancy, forgotten yourself so much as to laugh atmy phrase, my dear sir! Oh, you don’t believe that I can find the moralstrength in myself to end my life as a tutor in a merchant’s family, orto die of hunger in a ditch! Answer me, answer at once; do you believeit, or don’t you believe it?”

But I was purposely silent. I even affected to hesitate to wound him byanswering in the negative, but to be unable to answer affirmatively. Inall this nervous excitement of his there was something which really didoffend me, and not personally, oh, no! But … I will explain later on.He positively turned pale.

“Perhaps you are bored with me, G——v (this is my surname), and youwould like … not to come and see me at all?” he said in that tone ofpale composure which usually precedes some extraordinary outburst. Ijumped up in alarm. At that moment Nastasya came in, and, without aword, handed Stepan Trofimovitch a piece of paper, on which somethingwas written in pencil. He glanced at it and flung it to me. On thepaper, in Varvara Petrovna’s hand three words were written: “Stay athome.”

Stepan Trofimovitch snatched up his hat and stick in silence and wentquickly out of the room. Mechanically I followed him. Suddenly voicesand sounds of rapid footsteps were heard in the passage. He stood still,as though thunder-struck.

“It’s Liputin; I am lost!” he whispered, clutching at my arm.

At the same instant Liputin walked into the room.


Why he should be lost owing to Liputin I did not know, and indeed Idid not attach much significance to the words; I put it all down to hisnerves. His terror, however, was remarkable, and I made up my mind tokeep a careful watch on him.

The very appearance of Liputin as he came in assured us that he had onthis occasion a special right to come in, in spite of the prohibition.He brought with him an unknown gentleman, who must have been a newarrival in the town. In reply to the senseless stare of my petrifiedfriend, he called out immediately in a loud voice:

“I’m bringing you a visitor, a special one! I make bold to intrude onyour solitude. Mr. Kirillov, a very distinguished civil engineer. Andwhat’s more he knows your son, the much esteemed Pyotr Stepanovitch,very intimately; and he has a message from him. He’s only just arrived.”

“The message is your own addition,” the visitor observed curtly.“There’s no message at all. But I certainly do know Verhovensky. I lefthim in the X. province, ten days ahead of us.”

Stepan Trofimovitch mechanically offered his hand and motioned him tosit down. He looked at me, he looked at Liputin, and then as thoughsuddenly recollecting himself sat down himself, though he still kept hishat and stick in his hands without being aware of it.

“Bah, but you were going out yourself! I was told that you were quiteknocked up with work.”

“Yes, I’m ill, and you see, I meant to go for a walk, I …” StepanTrofimovitch checked himself, quickly flung his hat and stick on thesofa and—turned crimson.

Meantime, I was hurriedly examining the visitor. He was a young man,about twenty-seven, decently dressed, well made, slender and dark, witha pale, rather muddy-coloured face and black lustreless eyes. He seemedrather thoughtful and absent-minded, spoke jerkily and ungrammatically,transposing words in rather a strange way, and getting muddled if heattempted a sentence of any length. Liputin was perfectly aware ofStepan Trofimovitch’s alarm, and was obviously pleased at it. He satdown in a wicker chair which he dragged almost into the middle of theroom, so as to be at an equal distance between his host and the visitor,who had installed themselves on sofas on opposite sides of the room. Hissharp eyes darted inquisitively from one corner of the room to another.

“It’s.… a long while since I’ve seen Petrusha.… You met abroad?”Stepan Trofimovitch managed to mutter to the visitor.

“Both here and abroad.”

“Alexey Nilitch has only just returned himself after living four yearsabroad,” put in Liputin. “He has been travelling to perfect himself inhis speciality and has come to us because he has good reasons to expecta job on the building of our railway bridge, and he’s now waiting for ananswer about it. He knows the Drozdovs and Lizaveta Nikolaevna, throughPyotr Stepanovitch.”

The engineer sat, as it were, with a ruffled air, and listened withawkward impatience. It seemed to me that he was angry about something.

“He knows Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch too.”

“Do you know Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch?” inquired Stepan Trofimovitch.

“I know him too.”

“It’s … it’s a very long time since I’ve seen Petrusha, and … I feelI have so little right to call myself a father … c’est le mot; I … howdid you leave him?”

“Oh, yes, I left him … he comes himself,” replied Mr. Kirillov, inhaste to be rid of the question again. He certainly was angry.

“He’s coming! At last I … you see, it’s very long since I’ve seenPetrusha!” Stepan Trofimovitch could not get away from this phrase. “NowI expect my poor boy to whom … to whom I have been so much to blame!That is, I mean to say, when I left him in Petersburg, I … in short, Ilooked on him as a nonentity, quelque chose dans ce genre. He was a verynervous boy, you know, emotional, and … very timid. When he said hisprayers going to bed he used to bow down to the ground, and make thesign of the cross on his pillow that he might not die in the night.…Je m’en souviens. Enfin, no artistic feeling whatever, not a sign ofanything higher, of anything fundamental, no embryo of a futureideal … c’était comme un petit idiot, but I’m afraid I am incoherent;excuse me … you came upon me …”

“You say seriously that he crossed his pillow?” the engineer askedsuddenly with marked curiosity.

“Yes, he used to …”

“All right. I just asked. Go on.”

Stepan Trofimovitch looked interrogatively at Liputin.

“I’m very grateful to you for your visit. But I must confess I’m …not in a condition … just now … But allow me to ask where you arelodging.”

“At Filipov’s, in Bogoyavlensky Street.”

“Ach, that’s where Shatov lives,” I observed involuntarily.

“Just so, in the very same house,” cried Liputin, “only Shatov lodgesabove, in the attic, while he’s down below, at Captain Lebyadkin’s. Heknows Shatov too, and he knows Shatov’s wife. He was very intimate withher, abroad.”

Comment! Do you really know anything about that unhappy marriage de cepauvre ami and that woman,” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, carried awayby sudden feeling. “You are the first man I’ve met who has known herpersonally; and if only …”

“What nonsense!” the engineer snapped out, flushing all over. “How youadd to things, Liputin! I’ve not seen Shatov’s wife; I’ve only once seenher in the distance and not at all close.… I know Shatov. Why do youadd things of all sorts?”

He turned round sharply on the sofa, clutched his hat, then laid it downagain, and settling himself down once more as before, fixed his angryblack eyes on Stepan Trofimovitch with a sort of defiance. I was at aloss to understand such strange irritability.

“Excuse me,” Stepan Trofimovitch observed impressively. “I understandthat it may be a very delicate subject.…”

“No sort of delicate subject in it, and indeed it’s shameful, and Ididn’t shout at you that it’s nonsense, but at Liputin, because he addsthings. Excuse me if you took it to yourself. I know Shatov, but I don’tknow his wife at all … I don’t know her at all!”

“I understand. I understand. And if I insisted, it’s only because I’mvery fond of our poor friend, notre irascible ami, and have alwaystaken an interest in him.… In my opinion that man changed his former,possibly over-youthful but yet sound ideas, too abruptly. And now hesays all sorts of things about notre Sainte Russie to such a degree thatI’ve long explained this upheaval in his whole constitution, I can onlycall it that, to some violent shock in his family life, and, in fact, tohis unsuccessful marriage. I, who know my poor Russia like the fingerson my hand, and have devoted my whole life to the Russian people, I canassure you that he does not know the Russian people, and what’s more …”

“I don’t know the Russian people at all, either, and I haven’t time tostudy them,” the engineer snapped out again, and again he turned sharplyon the sofa. Stepan Trofimovitch was pulled up in the middle of hisspeech.

“He is studying them, he is studying them,” interposed Liputin. “Hehas already begun the study of them, and is writing a very interestingarticle dealing with the causes of the increase of suicide in Russia,and, generally speaking, the causes that lead to the increase ordecrease of suicide in society. He has reached amazing results.”

The engineer became dreadfully excited. “You have no right at all,” hemuttered wrathfully. “I’m not writing an article. I’m not going to dosilly things. I asked you confidentially, quite by chance. There’sno article at all. I’m not publishing, and you haven’t the right …”Liputin was obviously enjoying himself.

“I beg your pardon, perhaps I made a mistake in calling your literarywork an article. He is only collecting observations, and the essence ofthe question, or, so to say, its moral aspect he is not touching at all.And, indeed, he rejects morality itself altogether, and holds with thelast new principle of general destruction for the sake of ultimategood. He demands already more than a hundred million heads for theestablishment of common sense in Europe; many more than they demanded atthe last Peace Congress. Alexey Nilitch goes further than anyone in thatsense.” The engineer listened with a pale and contemptuous smile. Forhalf a minute every one was silent.

“All this is stupid, Liputin,” Mr. Kirillov observed at last, with acertain dignity. “If I by chance had said some things to you, and youcaught them up again, as you like. But you have no right, for I neverspeak to anyone. I scorn to talk.… If one has a conviction then it’sclear to me.… But you’re doing foolishly. I don’t argue about thingswhen everything’s settled. I can’t bear arguing. I never want toargue.…”

“And perhaps you are very wise,” Stepan Trofimovitch could not resistsaying.

“I apologise to you, but I am not angry with anyone here,” the visitorwent on, speaking hotly and rapidly. “I have seen few people for fouryears. For four years I have talked little and have tried to see no one,for my own objects which do not concern anyone else, for four years.Liputin found this out and is laughing. I understand and don’t mind. I’mnot ready to take offence, only annoyed at his liberty. And if I don’texplain my ideas to you,” he concluded unexpectedly, scanning us allwith resolute eyes, “it’s not at all that I’m afraid of your givinginformation to the government; that’s not so; please do not imaginenonsense of that sort.”

No one made any reply to these words. We only looked at each other. EvenLiputin forgot to snigg*r.

“Gentlemen, I’m very sorry”—Stepan Trofimovitch got up resolutely fromthe sofa—“but I feel ill and upset. Excuse me.”

“Ach, that’s for us to go.” Mr. Kirillov started, snatching up his cap.“It’s a good thing you told us. I’m so forgetful.”

He rose, and with a good-natured air went up to Stepan Trofimovitch,holding out his hand.

“I’m sorry you’re not well, and I came.”

“I wish you every success among us,” answered Stepan Trofimovitch,shaking hands with him heartily and without haste. “I understand that,if as you say you have lived so long abroad, cutting yourself offfrom people for objects of your own and forgetting Russia, you mustinevitably look with wonder on us who are Russians to the backbone, andwe must feel the same about you. Mais cela passera. I’m only puzzled atone thing: you want to build our bridge and at the same time you declarethat you hold with the principle of universal destruction. They won’tlet you build our bridge.”

“What! What’s that you said? Ach, I say!” Kirillov cried, much struck,and he suddenly broke into the most frank and good-humoured laughter.For a moment his face took a quite childlike expression, which I thoughtsuited him particularly. Liputin rubbed his hand with delight at StepanTrofimovitch’s witty remark. I kept wondering to myself why StepanTrofimovitch was so frightened of Liputin, and why he had cried out “Iam lost” when he heard him coming.


We were all standing in the doorway. It was the moment when hosts andguests hurriedly exchange the last and most cordial words, and thenpart to their mutual gratification.

“The reason he’s so cross to-day,” Liputin dropped all at once, as itwere casually, when he was just going out of the room, “is because hehad a disturbance to-day with Captain Lebyadkin over his sister. CaptainLebyadkin thrashes that precious sister of his, the mad girl, every daywith a whip, a real Cossack whip, every morning and evening. So AlexeyNilitch has positively taken the lodge so as not to be present. Well,good-bye.”

“A sister? An invalid? With a whip?” Stepan Trofimovitch cried out, asthough he had suddenly been lashed with a whip himself. “What sister?What Lebyadkin?” All his former terror came back in an instant.

“Lebyadkin! Oh, that’s the retired captain; he used only to call himselfa lieutenant before.…”

“Oh, what is his rank to me? What sister? Good heavens!… You sayLebyadkin? But there used to be a Lebyadkin here.…”

“That’s the very man. ‘Our’ Lebyadkin, at Virginsky’s, you remember?”

“But he was caught with forged papers?”

“Well, now he’s come back. He’s been here almost three weeks and underthe most peculiar circ*mstances.”

“Why, but he’s a scoundrel?”

“As though no one could be a scoundrel among us,” Liputin grinnedsuddenly, his knavish little eyes seeming to peer into StepanTrofimovitch’s soul.

“Good heavens! I didn’t mean that at all … though I quite agree withyou about that, with you particularly. But what then, what then? Whatdid you mean by that? You certainly meant something by that.”

“Why, it’s all so trivial.… This captain to all appearances went awayfrom us at that time; not because of the forged papers, but simply tolook for his sister, who was in hiding from him somewhere, it seems;well, and now he’s brought her and that’s the whole story. Why do youseem frightened, Stepan Trofimovitch? I only tell this from his drunkenchatter though, he doesn’t speak of it himself when he’s sober. He’s anirritable man, and, so to speak, æsthetic in a military style; only hehas bad taste. And this sister is lame as well as mad. She seems tohave been seduced by someone, and Mr. Lebyadkin has, it seems, for manyyears received a yearly grant from the seducer by way of compensationfor the wound to his honour, so it would seem at least from his chatter,though I believe it’s only drunken talk. It’s simply his brag. Besides,that sort of thing is done much cheaper. But that he has a sum of moneyis perfectly certain. Ten days ago he was walking barefoot, and now I’veseen hundreds in his hands. His sister has fits of some sort every day,she shrieks and he ‘keeps her in order’ with the whip. You must inspirea woman with respect, he says. What I can’t understand is how Shatovgoes on living above him. Alexey Nilitch has only been three days withthem. They were acquainted in Petersburg, and now he’s taken the lodgeto get away from the disturbance.”

“Is this all true?” said Stepan Trofimovitch, addressing the engineer.

“You do gossip a lot, Liputin,” the latter muttered wrathfully.

“Mysteries, secrets! Where have all these mysteries and secrets among ussprung from?” Stepan Trofimovitch could not refrain from exclaiming.

The engineer frowned, flushed red, shrugged his shoulders and went outof the room.

“Alexey Nilitch positively snatched the whip out of his hand, broke itand threw it out of the window, and they had a violent quarrel,” addedLiputin.

“Why are you chattering, Liputin; it’s stupid. What for?” Alexey Nilitchturned again instantly.

“Why be so modest and conceal the generous impulses of one’s soul; thatis, of your soul? I’m not speaking of my own.”

“How stupid it is … and quite unnecessary. Lebyadkin’s stupid and quiteworthless—and no use to the cause, and … utterly mischievous. Why doyou keep babbling all sorts of things? I’m going.”

“Oh, what a pity!” cried Liputin with a candid smile, “or I’d haveamused you with another little story, Stepan Trofimovitch. I came,indeed, on purpose to tell you, though I dare say you’ve heard italready. Well, till another time, Alexey Nilitch is in such a hurry.Good-bye for the present. The story concerns Varvara Petrovna. Sheamused me the day before yesterday; she sent for me on purpose. It’ssimply killing. Good-bye.”

But at this Stepan Trofimovitch absolutely would not let him go. Heseized him by the shoulders, turned him sharply back into the room, andsat him down in a chair. Liputin was positively scared.

“Why, to be sure,” he began, looking warily at Stepan Trofimovitch fromhis chair, “she suddenly sent for me and asked me ‘confidentially’ myprivate opinion, whether Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch is mad or in his rightmind. Isn’t that astonishing?”

“You’re out of your mind!” muttered Stepan Trofimovitch, and suddenly,as though he were beside himself: “Liputin, you know perfectly well thatyou only came here to tell me something insulting of that sort and …something worse!”

In a flash, I recalled his conjecture that Liputin knew not only morethan we did about our affair, but something else which we should neverknow.

“Upon my word, Stepan Trofimovitch,” muttered Liputin, seeming greatlyalarmed, “upon my word …”

“Hold your tongue and begin! I beg you, Mr. Kirillov, to come back too,and be present. I earnestly beg you! Sit down, and you, Liputin, begindirectly, simply and without any excuses.”

“If I had only known it would upset you so much I wouldn’t have begun atall. And of course I thought you knew all about it from Varvara Petrovnaherself.”

“You didn’t think that at all. Begin, begin, I tell you.”

“Only do me the favour to sit down yourself, or how can I sit herewhen you are running about before me in such excitement. I can’t speakcoherently.”

Stepan Trofimovitch restrained himself and sank impressively into aneasy chair. The engineer stared gloomily at the floor. Liputin looked atthem with intense enjoyment,

“How am I to begin?… I’m too overwhelmed.…”


“The day before yesterday a servant was suddenly sent to me: ‘You areasked to call at twelve o’clock,’ said he. Can you fancy such a thing? Ithrew aside my work, and precisely at midday yesterday I was ringing atthe bell. I was let into the drawing room; I waited a minute—she camein; she made me sit down and sat down herself, opposite. I sat down, andI couldn’t believe it; you know how she has always treated me. Shebegan at once without beating about the bush, you know her way. ‘Youremember,’ she said, ‘that four years ago when Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchwas ill he did some strange things which made all the town wondertill the position was explained. One of those actions concerned youpersonally. When Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch recovered he went at my requestto call on you. I know that he talked to you several times before, too.Tell me openly and candidly what you … (she faltered a little at thispoint) what you thought of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch then … what was yourview of him altogether … what idea you were able to form of him at thattime … and still have?’

“Here she was completely confused, so that she paused for a wholeminute, and suddenly flushed. I was alarmed. She began again—touchinglyis not quite the word, it’s not applicable to her—but in a veryimpressive tone:

“‘I want you,’ she said, ‘to understand me clearly and without mistake.I’ve sent for you now because I look upon you as a keen-sighted andquick-witted man, qualified to make accurate observations.’ (Whatcompliments!) ‘You’ll understand too,’ she said, ‘that I am a motherappealing to you.… Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch has suffered somecalamities and has passed through many changes of fortune in his life.All that,’ she said, ‘might well have affected the state of his mind.I’m not speaking of madness, of course,’ she said, ‘that’s quite outof the question!’ (This was uttered proudly and resolutely.) ‘But theremight be something strange, something peculiar, some turn of thought, atendency to some particular way of looking at things.’ (Those were herexact words, and I admired, Stepan Trofimovitch, the exactness withwhich Varvara Petrovna can put things. She’s a lady of superiorintellect!) ‘I have noticed in him, anyway,’ she said, ‘a perpetualrestlessness and a tendency to peculiar impulses. But I am a motherand you are an impartial spectator, and therefore qualified with yourintelligence to form a more impartial opinion. I implore you, in fact’(yes, that word, ‘implore’ was uttered!), ‘to tell me the whole truth,without mincing matters. And if you will give me your word never toforget that I have spoken to you in confidence, you may reckon upon myalways being ready to seize every opportunity in the future to show mygratitude.’ Well, what do you say to that?”

“You have … so amazed me …” faltered Stepan Trofimovitch, “that Idon’t believe you.”

“Yes, observe, observe,” cried Liputin, as though he had not heardStepan Trofimovitch, “observe what must be her agitation and uneasinessif she stoops from her grandeur to appeal to a man like me, and evencondescends to beg me to keep it secret. What do you call that?Hasn’t she received some news of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, somethingunexpected?”

“I don’t know … of news of any sort … I haven’t seen her for somedays, but … but I must say …” lisped Stepan Trofimovitch, evidentlyhardly able to think clearly, “but I must say, Liputin, that if itwas said to you in confidence, and here you’re telling it before everyone …”

“Absolutely in confidence! But God strike me dead if I … But as fortelling it here … what does it matter? Are we strangers, even AlexeyNilitch?”

“I don’t share that attitude. No doubt we three here will keep thesecret, but I’m afraid of the fourth, you, and wouldn’t trust you inanything.…”

“What do you mean by that? Why it’s more to my interest than anyone’s,seeing I was promised eternal gratitude! What I wanted was to pointout in this connection one extremely strange incident, rather tosay, psychological than simply strange. Yesterday evening, under theinfluence of my conversation with Varvara Petrovna—you can fancyyourself what an impression it made on me—I approached Alexey Nilitchwith a discreet question: ‘You knew Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch abroad,’said I, ‘and used to know him before in Petersburg too. What do youthink of his mind and his abilities?’ said I. He answered laconically,as his way is, that he was a man of subtle intellect and sound judgment.‘And have you never noticed in the course of years,’ said I, ‘anyturn of ideas or peculiar way of looking at things, or any, so to say,insanity?’ In fact, I repeated Varvara Petrovna’s own question. Andwould you believe it, Alexey Nilitch suddenly grew thoughtful, andscowled, just as he’s doing now. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I have sometimesthought there was something strange.’ Take note, too, that if anythingcould have seemed strange even to Alexey Nilitch, it must really havebeen something, mustn’t it?”

“Is that true?” said Stepan Trofimovitch, turning to Alexey Nilitch.

“I should prefer not to speak of it,” answered Alexey Nilitch, suddenlyraising his head, and looking at him with flashing eyes. “I wish tocontest your right to do this, Liputin. You’ve no right to drag me intothis. I did not give my whole opinion at all. Though I knew NikolayStavrogin in Petersburg that was long ago, and though I’ve met him sinceI know him very little. I beg you to leave me out and … All this issomething like scandal.”

Liputin threw up his hands with an air of oppressed innocence.

“A scandal-monger! Why not say a spy while you’re about it? It’s allvery well for you, Alexey Nilitch, to criticise when you stand alooffrom everything. But you wouldn’t believe it, Stepan Trofimovitch—takeCaptain Lebyadkin, he is stupid enough, one may say … in fact, one’sashamed to say how stupid he is; there is a Russian comparison, tosignify the degree of it; and do you know he considers himself injuredby Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, though he is full of admiration for his wit.‘I’m amazed,’ said he, ‘at that man. He’s a subtle serpent.’ His ownwords. And I said to him (still under the influence of my conversation,and after I had spoken to Alexey Nilitch), ‘What do you think, captain,is your subtle serpent mad or not?’ Would you believe it, it was just asif I’d given him a sudden lash from behind. He simply leapt up from hisseat. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘ … yes, only that,’ he said, ‘cannot affect …’‘Affect what?’ He didn’t finish. Yes, and then he fell to thinking sobitterly, thinking so much, that his drunkenness dropped off him. Wewere sitting in Filipov’s restaurant. And it wasn’t till half an hourlater that he suddenly struck the table with his fist. ‘Yes,’ said he,‘maybe he’s mad, but that can’t affect it.…’ Again he didn’t say whatit couldn’t affect. Of course I’m only giving you an extract of theconversation, but one can understand the sense of it. You may ask whomyou like, they all have the same idea in their heads, though it neverentered anyone’s head before. ‘Yes,’ they say, ‘he’s mad; he’s veryclever, but perhaps he’s mad too.’”

Stepan Trofimovitch sat pondering, and thought intently.

“And how does Lebyadkin know?”

“Do you mind inquiring about that of Alexey Nilitch, who has just calledme a spy? I’m a spy, yet I don’t know, but Alexey Nilitch knows all theins and outs of it, and holds his tongue.”

“I know nothing about it, or hardly anything,” answered the engineerwith the same irritation. “You make Lebyadkin drunk to find out. Youbrought me here to find out and to make me say. And so you must be aspy.”

“I haven’t made him drunk yet, and he’s not worth the money either, withall his secrets. They are not worth that to me. I don’t know what theyare to you. On the contrary, he is scattering the money, though twelvedays ago he begged fifteen kopecks of me, and it’s he treats me tochampagne, not I him. But you’ve given me an idea, and if there shouldbe occasion I will make him drunk, just to get to the bottom of it andmaybe I shall find out … all your little secrets,” Liputin snapped backspitefully.

Stepan Trofimovitch looked in bewilderment at the two disputants. Bothwere giving themselves away, and what’s more, were not standing onceremony. The thought crossed my mind that Liputin had brought thisAlexey Nilitch to us with the simple object of drawing him into aconversation through a third person for purposes of his own—hisfavourite manœuvre.

“Alexey Nilitch knows Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch quite well,” he went on,irritably, “only he conceals it. And as to your question about CaptainLebyadkin, he made his acquaintance before any of us did, six years agoin Petersburg, in that obscure, if one may so express it, epoch in thelife of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, before he had dreamed of rejoicing ourhearts by coming here. Our prince, one must conclude, surrounded himselfwith rather a queer selection of acquaintances. It was at that time, itseems, that he made acquaintance with this gentleman here.”

“Take care, Liputin. I warn you, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch meant to behere soon himself, and he knows how to defend himself.”

“Why warn me? I am the first to cry out that he is a man of the mostsubtle and refined intelligence, and I quite reassured Varvara Petrovnayesterday on that score. ‘It’s his character,’ I said to her, ‘that Ican’t answer for.’ Lebyadkin said the same thing yesterday: ‘A lot ofharm has come to me from his character,’ he said. Stepan Trofimovitch,it’s all very well for you to cry out about slander and spying, and atthe very time observe that you wring it all out of me, and with suchimmense curiosity too. Now, Varvara Petrovna went straight to the pointyesterday. ‘You have had a personal interest in the business,’ she said,‘that’s why I appeal to you.’ I should say so! What need to look formotives when I’ve swallowed a personal insult from his excellency beforethe whole society of the place. I should think I have grounds to beinterested, not merely for the sake of gossip. He shakes hands withyou one day, and next day, for no earthly reason, he returns yourhospitality by slapping you on the cheeks in the face of all decentsociety, if the fancy takes him, out of sheer wantonness. And what’smore, the fair sex is everything for them, these butterflies andmettlesome co*cks! Grand gentlemen with little wings like the ancientcupids, lady-killing Petchorins! It’s all very well for you, StepanTrofimovitch, a confirmed bachelor, to talk like that, stick up for hisexcellency and call me a slanderer. But if you married a pretty youngwife—as you’re still such a fine fellow—then I dare say you’d boltyour door against our prince, and throw up barricades in your house!Why, if only that Mademoiselle Lebyadkin, who is thrashed with a whip,were not mad and bandy-legged, by Jove, I should fancy she was thevictim of the passions of our general, and that it was from him thatCaptain Lebyadkin had suffered ‘in his family dignity,’ as he expressesit himself. Only perhaps that is inconsistent with his refined taste,though, indeed, even that’s no hindrance to him. Every berry is worthpicking if only he’s in the mood for it. You talk of slander, but I’mnot crying this aloud though the whole town is ringing with it; I onlylisten and assent. That’s not prohibited.”

“The town’s ringing with it? What’s the town ringing with?”

“That is, Captain Lebyadkin is shouting for all the town to hear, andisn’t that just the same as the market-place ringing with it? How am Ito blame? I interest myself in it only among friends, for, after all,I consider myself among friends here.” He looked at us with an innocentair. “Something’s happened, only consider: they say his excellency hassent three hundred roubles from Switzerland by a most honourable younglady, and, so to say, modest orphan, whom I have the honour of knowing,to be handed over to Captain Lebyadkin. And Lebyadkin, a little later,was told as an absolute fact also by a very honourable and thereforetrustworthy person, I won’t say whom, that not three hundred but athousand roubles had been sent!… And so, Lebyadkin keeps crying out‘the young lady has grabbed seven hundred roubles belonging to me,’ andhe’s almost ready to call in the police; he threatens to, anyway, andhe’s making an uproar all over the town.”

“This is vile, vile of you!” cried the engineer, leaping up suddenlyfrom his chair.

“But I say, you are yourself the honourable person who brought wordto Lebyadkin from Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch that a thousand roubles weresent, not three hundred. Why, the captain told me so himself when he wasdrunk.”

“It’s … it’s an unhappy misunderstanding. Some one’s made a mistake andit’s led to … It’s nonsense, and it’s base of you.”

“But I’m ready to believe that it’s nonsense, and I’m distressed at thestory, for, take it as you will, a girl of an honourable reputationis implicated first over the seven hundred roubles, and secondly inunmistakable intimacy with Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. For how much does itmean to his excellency to disgrace a girl of good character, or put toshame another man’s wife, like that incident with me? If he comes acrossa generous-hearted man he’ll force him to cover the sins of others underthe shelter of his honourable name. That’s just what I had to put upwith, I’m speaking of myself.…”

“Be careful, Liputin.” Stepan Trofimovitch got up from his easy chairand turned pale.

“Don’t believe it, don’t believe it! Somebody has made a mistakeand Lebyadkin’s drunk …” exclaimed the engineer in indescribableexcitement. “It will all be explained, but I can’t.… And I think it’slow.… And that’s enough, enough!”

He ran out of the room.

“What are you about? Why, I’m going with you!” cried Liputin, startled.He jumped up and ran after Alexey Nilitch.


Stepan Trofimovitch stood a moment reflecting, looked at me as though hedid not see me, took up his hat and stick and walked quietly out ofthe room. I followed him again, as before. As we went out of the gate,noticing that I was accompanying him, he said:

“Oh yes, you may serve as a witness … de l’accident. Vousm’accompagnerez, n’est-ce pas?

“Stepan Trofimovitch, surely you’re not going there again? Think whatmay come of it!”

With a pitiful and distracted smile, a smile of shame and utter despair,and at the same time of a sort of strange ecstasy, he whispered to me,standing still for an instant:

“I can’t marry to cover ‘another man’s sins’!”

These words were just what I was expecting. At last that fatal sentencethat he had kept hidden from me was uttered aloud, after a whole week ofshuffling and pretence. I was positively enraged.

“And you, Stepan Verhovensky, with your luminous mind, your kind heart,can harbour such a dirty, such a low idea … and could before Liputincame!”

He looked at me, made no answer and walked on in the same direction.I did not want to be left behind. I wanted to give Varvara Petrovna myversion. I could have forgiven him if he had simply with his womanishfaint-heartedness believed Liputin, but now it was clear that hehad thought of it all himself long before, and that Liputin had onlyconfirmed his suspicions and poured oil on the flames. He had nothesitated to suspect the girl from the very first day, before he had anykind of grounds, even Liputin’s words, to go upon. Varvara Petrovna’sdespotic behaviour he had explained to himself as due to her hasteto cover up the aristocratic misdoings of her precious “Nicolas” bymarrying the girl to an honourable man! I longed for him to be punishedfor it.

Oh, Dieu, qui est si grand et si bon! Oh, who will comfort me!” heexclaimed, halting suddenly again, after walking a hundred paces.

“Come straight home and I’ll make everything clear to you,” I cried,turning him by force towards home.

“It’s he! Stepan Trofimovitch, it’s you? You?” A fresh, joyous youngvoice rang out like music behind us.

We had seen nothing, but a lady on horseback suddenly made herappearance beside us—Lizaveta Nikolaevna with her invariable companion.She pulled up her horse.

“Come here, come here quickly!” she called to us, loudly and merrily.“It’s twelve years since I’ve seen him, and I know him, while he.… Doyou really not know me?”

Stepan Trofimovitch clasped the hand held out to him and kissed itreverently. He gazed at her as though he were praying and could notutter a word.

“He knows me, and is glad! Mavriky Nikolaevitch, he’s delighted to seeme! Why is it you haven’t been to see us all this fortnight? Auntietried to persuade me you were ill and must not be disturbed; but I knowAuntie tells lies. I kept stamping and swearing at you, but I had madeup my mind, quite made up my mind, that you should come to me first,that was why I didn’t send to you. Heavens, why he hasn’t changed abit!” She scrutinised him, bending down from the saddle. “He’s absurdlyunchanged. Oh, yes, he has wrinkles, a lot of wrinkles, round his eyesand on his cheeks some grey hair, but his eyes are just the same. Andhave I changed? Have I changed? Why don’t you say something?”

I remembered at that moment the story that she had been almost ill whenshe was taken away to Petersburg at eleven years old, and that she hadcried during her illness and asked for Stepan Trofimovitch.

“You … I …” he faltered now in a voice breaking with joy. “I was justcrying out ‘who will comfort me?’ and I heard your voice. I look on itas a miracle et je commence à croire.”

En Dieu! En Dieu qui est là-haut et qui est si grand et si bon! Yousee, I know all your lectures by heart. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, what faithhe used to preach to me then, en Dieu qui est si grand et si bon! And doyou remember your story of how Columbus discovered America, and theyall cried out, ‘Land! land!’? My nurse Alyona Frolovna says I waslight-headed at night afterwards, and kept crying out ‘land! land!’in my sleep. And do you remember how you told me the story of PrinceHamlet? And do you remember how you described to me how the pooremigrants were transported from Europe to America? And it was alluntrue; I found out afterwards how they were transited. But whatbeautiful fibs he used to tell me then, Mavriky Nikolaevitch! They werebetter than the truth. Why do you look at Mavriky Nikolaevitch likethat? He is the best and finest man on the face of the globe and you mustlike him just as you do me! Il fait tout ce que je veux. But, dear StepanTrofimovitch, you must be unhappy again, since you cry out in the middleof the street asking who will comfort you. Unhappy, aren’t you? Aren’tyou?”

“Now I’m happy.…”

“Aunt is horrid to you?” she went on, without listening. “She’s just thesame as ever, cross, unjust, and always our precious aunt! And doyou remember how you threw yourself into my arms in the garden and Icomforted you and cried—don’t be afraid of Mavriky Nikolaevitch; he hasknown all about you, everything, for ever so long; you can weep on hisshoulder as long as you like, and he’ll stand there as long as you like!… Lift up your hat, take it off altogether for a minute, lift up yourhead, stand on tiptoe, I want to kiss you on the forehead as I kissedyou for the last time when we parted. Do you see that young lady’sadmiring us out of the window? Come closer, closer! Heavens! How grey heis!”

And bending over in the saddle she kissed him on the forehead.

“Come, now to your home! I know where you live. I’ll be with youdirectly, in a minute. I’ll make you the first visit, you stubborn man,and then I must have you for a whole day at home. You can go and makeready for me.”

And she galloped off with her cavalier. We returned. Stepan Trofimovitchsat down on the sofa and began to cry.

“Dieu, Dieu.” he exclaimed, “enfin une minute de bonheur!”

Not more than ten minutes afterwards she reappeared according to herpromise, escorted by her Mavriky Nikolaevitch.

“Vous et le bonheur, vous arrivez en même temps!” He got up to meet her.

“Here’s a nosegay for you; I rode just now to Madame Chevalier’s, shehas flowers all the winter for name-days. Here’s Mavriky Nikolaevitch,please make friends. I wanted to bring you a cake instead of a nosegay,but Mavriky Nikolaevitch declares that is not in the Russian spirit.”

Mavriky Nikolaevitch was an artillery captain, a tall and handsome manof thirty-three, irreproachably correct in appearance, with an imposingand at first sight almost stern countenance, in spite of his wonderfuland delicate kindness which no one could fail to perceive almost thefirst moment of making his acquaintance. He was taciturn, however,seemed very self-possessed and made no efforts to gain friends. Manyof us said later that he was by no means clever; but this was notaltogether just.

I won’t attempt to describe the beauty of Lizaveta Nikolaevna. Thewhole town was talking of it, though some of our ladies and young girlsindignantly differed on the subject. There were some among them whoalready detested her, and principally for her pride. The Drozdovs hadscarcely begun to pay calls, which mortified them, though the realreason for the delay was Praskovya Ivanovna’s invalid state. Theydetested her in the second place because she was a relative ofthe governor’s wife, and thirdly because she rode out every day onhorseback. We had never had young ladies who rode on horseback before;it was only natural that the appearance of Lizaveta Nikolaevna onhorseback and her neglect to pay calls was bound to offend localsociety. Yet every one knew that riding was prescribed her by thedoctor’s orders, and they talked sarcastically of her illness. Shereally was ill. What struck me at first sight in her was her abnormal,nervous, incessant restlessness. Alas, the poor girl was very unhappy,and everything was explained later. To-day, recalling the past, I shouldnot say she was such a beauty as she seemed to me then. Perhaps she wasreally not pretty at all. Tall, slim, but strong and supple, she struckone by the irregularities of the lines of her face. Her eyes were setsomewhat like a Kalmuck’s, slanting; she was pale and thin in theface with high cheek-bones, but there was something in the face thatconquered and fascinated! There was something powerful in the ardentglance of her dark eyes. She always made her appearance “like aconquering heroine, and to spread her conquests.” She seemed proud andat times even arrogant. I don’t know whether she succeeded in beingkind, but I know that she wanted to, and made terrible efforts to forceherself to be a little kind. There were, no doubt, many fine impulsesand the very best elements in her character, but everything in herseemed perpetually seeking its balance and unable to find it; everythingwas in chaos, in agitation, in uneasiness. Perhaps the demands she madeupon herself were too severe, and she was never able to find in herselfthe strength to satisfy them.

She sat on the sofa and looked round the room.

“Why do I always begin to feel sad at such moments; explain thatmystery, you learned person? I’ve been thinking all my life thatI should be goodness knows how pleased at seeing you and recallingeverything, and here I somehow don’t feel pleased at all, although I dolove you.… Ach, heavens! He has my portrait on the wall! Give it here.I remember it! I remember it!”

An exquisite miniature in water-colour of Liza at twelve years old hadbeen sent nine years before to Stepan Trofimovitch from Petersburg bythe Drozdovs. He had kept it hanging on his wall ever since.

“Was I such a pretty child? Can that really have been my face?”

She stood up, and with the portrait in her hand looked in thelooking-glass.

“Make haste, take it!” she cried, giving back the portrait. “Don’t hangit up now, afterwards. I don’t want to look at it.”

She sat down on the sofa again. “One life is over and another is begun,then that one is over—a third begins, and so on, endlessly. All theends are snipped off as it were with scissors. See what stale things I’mtelling you. Yet how much truth there is in them!”

She looked at me, smiling; she had glanced at me several times already,but in his excitement Stepan Trofimovitch forgot that he had promisedto introduce me.

“And why have you hung my portrait under those daggers? And why have yougot so many daggers and sabres?”

He had as a fact hanging on the wall, I don’t know why, two crosseddaggers and above them a genuine Circassian sabre. As she asked thisquestion she looked so directly at me that I wanted to answer, buthesitated to speak. Stepan Trofimovitch grasped the position at last andintroduced me.

“I know, I know,” she said, “I’m delighted to meet you. Mother hasheard a great deal about you, too. Let me introduce you to MavrikyNikolaevitch too, he’s a splendid person. I had formed a funny notion ofyou already. You’re Stepan Trofimovitch’s confidant, aren’t you?”

I turned rather red.

“Ach, forgive me, please. I used quite the wrong word: not funny at all,but only …” She was confused and blushed. “Why be ashamed though atyour being a splendid person? Well, it’s time we were going, MavrikyNikolaevitch! Stepan Trofimovitch, you must be with us in half an hour.Mercy, what a lot we shall talk! Now I’m your confidante, and abouteverything, everything, you understand?”

Stepan Trofimovitch was alarmed at once.

“Oh, Mavriky Nikolaevitch knows everything, don’t mind him!”

“What does he know?”

“Why, what do you mean?” she cried in astonishment. “Bah, why it’s truethen that they’re hiding it! I wouldn’t believe it! And they’re hidingDasha, too. Aunt wouldn’t let me go in to see Dasha to-day. She saysshe’s got a headache.”

“But … but how did you find out?”

“My goodness, like every one else. That needs no cunning!”

“But does every one else …?”

“Why, of course. Mother, it’s true, heard it first through AlyonaFrolovna, my nurse; your Nastasya ran round to tell her. You toldNastasya, didn’t you? She says you told her yourself.”

“I … I did once speak,” Stepan Trofimovitch faltered, crimsoning allover, “but … I only hinted … j’étais si nerveux et malade, etpuis …”

She laughed.

“And your confidant didn’t happen to be at hand, and Nastasya turned up.Well that was enough! And the whole town’s full of her cronies! Come, itdoesn’t matter, let them know; it’s all the better. Make haste and cometo us, we dine early.… Oh, I forgot,” she added, sitting down again;“listen, what sort of person is Shatov?”

“Shatov? He’s the brother of Darya Pavlovna.”

“I know he’s her brother! What a person you are, really,” sheinterrupted impatiently. “I want to know what he’s like; what sort ofman he is.”

“C’est un pense-creux d’ici. C’est le meilleur et le plus irasciblehomme du monde.”

“I’ve heard that he’s rather queer. But that wasn’t what I meant. I’veheard that he knows three languages, one of them English, and can doliterary work. In that case I’ve a lot of work for him. I want someoneto help me and the sooner the better. Would he take the work or not?He’s been recommended to me.…”

“Oh, most certainly he will. Et vous ferez un bienfait.…”

“I’m not doing it as a bienfait. I need someone to help me.”

“I know Shatov pretty well,” I said, “and if you will trust me with amessage to him I’ll go to him this minute.”

“Tell him to come to me at twelve o’clock to-morrow morning. Capital!Thank you. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, are you ready?”

They went away. I ran at once, of course, to Shatov.

“Mon ami!” said Stepan Trofimovitch, overtaking me on the steps. “Besure to be at my lodging at ten or eleven o’clock when I come back. Oh,I’ve acted very wrongly in my conduct to you and to every one.”


I did not find Shatov at home. I ran round again, two hours later. Hewas still out. At last, at eight o’clock I went to him again, meaningto leave a note if I did not find him; again I failed to find him. Hislodging was shut up, and he lived alone without a servant of any sort.I did think of knocking at Captain Lebyadkin’s down below to ask aboutShatov; but it was all shut up below, too, and there was no sound orlight as though the place were empty. I passed by Lebyadkin’s door withcuriosity, remembering the stories I had heard that day. Finally, I madeup my mind to come very early next morning. To tell the truth I did notput much confidence in the effect of a note. Shatov might take no noticeof it; he was so obstinate and shy. Cursing my want of success, I wasgoing out of the gate when all at once I stumbled on Mr. Kirillov.He was going into the house and he recognised me first. As he beganquestioning me of himself, I told him how things were, and that I had anote.

“Let us go in,” said he, “I will do everything.”

I remembered that Liputin had told us he had taken the wooden lodge inthe yard that morning. In the lodge, which was too large for him, a deafold woman who waited upon him was living too. The owner of the house hadmoved into a new house in another street, where he kept a restaurant,and this old woman, a relation of his, I believe, was left behind tolook after everything in the old house. The rooms in the lodge werefairly clean, though the wall-papers were dirty. In the one we went intothe furniture was of different sorts, picked up here and there, and allutterly worthless. There were two card-tables, a chest of drawers madeof elder, a big deal table that must have come from some peasant hutor kitchen, chairs and a sofa with trellis-work back and hard leathercushions. In one corner there was an old-fashioned ikon, in front ofwhich the old woman had lighted a lamp before we came in, and on thewalls hung two dingy oil-paintings, one, a portrait of the Tsar NikolasI, painted apparently between 1820 and 1830; the other the portrait ofsome bishop. Mr. Kirillov lighted a candle and took out of his trunk,which stood not yet unpacked in a corner, an envelope, sealing-wax, anda glass seal.

“Seal your note and address the envelope.”

I would have objected that this was unnecessary, but he insisted. When Ihad addressed the envelope I took my cap.

“I was thinking you’d have tea,” he said. “I have bought tea. Will you?”

I could not refuse. The old woman soon brought in the tea, that is, avery large tea-pot of boiling water, a little tea-pot full of strongtea, two large earthenware cups, coarsely decorated, a fancy loaf, and awhole deep saucer of lump sugar.

“I love tea at night,” said he. “I walk much and drink it till daybreak.Abroad tea at night is inconvenient.”

“You go to bed at daybreak?”

“Always; for a long while. I eat little; always tea. Liputin’s sly, butimpatient.”

I was surprised at his wanting to talk; I made up my mind to takeadvantage of the opportunity. “There were unpleasant misunderstandingsthis morning,” I observed.

He scowled.

“That’s foolishness; that’s great nonsense. All this is nonsense becauseLebyadkin is drunk. I did not tell Liputin, but only explained thenonsense, because he got it all wrong. Liputin has a great deal offantasy, he built up a mountain out of nonsense. I trusted Liputinyesterday.”

“And me to-day?” I said, laughing.

“But you see, you knew all about it already this morning; Liputin isweak or impatient, or malicious or … he’s envious.”

The last word struck me.

“You’ve mentioned so many adjectives, however, that it would be strangeif one didn’t describe him.”

“Or all at once.”

“Yes, and that’s what Liputin really is—he’s a chaos. He was lying thismorning when he said you were writing something, wasn’t he?

“Why should he?” he said, scowling again and staring at the floor.

I apologised, and began assuring him that I was not inquisitive. Heflushed.

“He told the truth; I am writing. Only that’s no matter.”

We were silent for a minute. He suddenly smiled with the childlike smileI had noticed that morning.

“He invented that about heads himself out of a book, and told me firsthimself, and understands badly. But I only seek the causes why men darenot kill themselves; that’s all. And it’s all no matter.”

“How do you mean they don’t dare? Are there so few suicides?”

“Very few.”

“Do you really think so?”

He made no answer, got up, and began walking to and fro lost in thought.

“What is it restrains people from suicide, do you think?” I asked.

He looked at me absent-mindedly, as though trying to remember what wewere talking about.

“I … I don’t know much yet.… Two prejudices restrain them, twothings; only two, one very little, the other very big.”

“What is the little thing?”


“Pain? Can that be of importance at such a moment?”

“Of the greatest. There are two sorts: those who kill themselves eitherfrom great sorrow or from spite, or being mad, or no matter what …they do it suddenly. They think little about the pain, but killthemselves suddenly. But some do it from reason—they think a greatdeal.”

“Why, are there people who do it from reason?”

“Very many. If it were not for superstition there would be more, verymany, all.”

“What, all?”

He did not answer.

“But aren’t there means of dying without pain?”

“Imagine”—he stopped before me—“imagine a stone as big as a greathouse; it hangs and you are under it; if it falls on you, on your head,will it hurt you?”

“A stone as big as a house? Of course it would be fearful.”

“I speak not of the fear. Will it hurt?”

“A stone as big as a mountain, weighing millions of tons? Of course itwouldn’t hurt.”

“But really stand there and while it hangs you will fear very much thatit will hurt. The most learned man, the greatest doctor, all, all willbe very much frightened. Every one will know that it won’t hurt, andevery one will be afraid that it will hurt.”

“Well, and the second cause, the big one?”

“The other world!”

“You mean punishment?”

“That’s no matter. The other world; only the other world.”

“Are there no atheists, such as don’t believe in the other world atall?”

Again he did not answer.

“You judge from yourself, perhaps.”

“Every one cannot judge except from himself,” he said, reddening. “Therewill be full freedom when it will be just the same to live or not tolive. That’s the goal for all.”

“The goal? But perhaps no one will care to live then?”

“No one,” he pronounced with decision.

“Man fears death because he loves life. That’s how I understand it,” Iobserved, “and that’s determined by nature.”

“That’s abject; and that’s where the deception comes in.” His eyesflashed. “Life is pain, life is terror, and man is unhappy. Now all ispain and terror. Now man loves life, because he loves pain and terror,and so they have done according. Life is given now for pain and terror,and that’s the deception. Now man is not yet what he will be. There willbe a new man, happy and proud. For whom it will be the same to live ornot to live, he will be the new man. He who will conquer pain and terrorwill himself be a god. And this God will not be.”

“Then this God does exist according to you?”

“He does not exist, but He is. In the stone there is no pain, but in thefear of the stone is the pain. God is the pain of the fear of death. Hewho will conquer pain and terror will become himself a god. Then therewill be a new life, a new man; everything will be new … then they willdivide history into two parts: from the gorilla to the annihilation ofGod, and from the annihilation of God to …”

“To the gorilla?”

“… To the transformation of the earth, and of man physically. Manwill be God, and will be transformed physically, and the world willbe transformed and things will be transformed and thoughts and allfeelings. What do you think: will man be changed physically then?”

“If it will be just the same living or not living, all will killthemselves, and perhaps that’s what the change will be?”

“That’s no matter. They will kill deception. Every one who wants thesupreme freedom must dare to kill himself. He who dares to kill himselfhas found out the secret of the deception. There is no freedom beyond;that is all, and there is nothing beyond. He who dares kill himself isGod. Now every one can do so that there shall be no God and shall benothing. But no one has once done it yet.”

“There have been millions of suicides.”

“But always not for that; always with terror and not for that object.Not to kill fear. He who kills himself only to kill fear will become agod at once.”

“He won’t have time, perhaps,” I observed.

“That’s no matter,” he answered softly, with calm pride, almost disdain.“I’m sorry that you seem to be laughing,” he added half a minute later.

“It seems strange to me that you were so irritable this morning and arenow so calm, though you speak with warmth.”

“This morning? It was funny this morning,” he answered with a smile. “Idon’t like scolding, and I never laugh,” he added mournfully.

“Yes, you don’t spend your nights very cheerfully over your tea.”

I got up and took my cap.

“You think not?” he smiled with some surprise. “Why? No, I … I don’tknow.” He was suddenly confused. “I know not how it is with the others,and I feel that I cannot do as others. Everybody thinks and then at oncethinks of something else. I can’t think of something else. I think allmy life of one thing. God has tormented me all my life,” he ended upsuddenly with astonishing expansiveness.

“And tell me, if I may ask, why is it you speak Russian not quitecorrectly? Surely you haven’t forgotten it after five years abroad?”

“Don’t I speak correctly? I don’t know. No, it’s not because of abroad.I have talked like that all my life … it’s no matter to me.”

“Another question, a more delicate one. I quite believe you that you’redisinclined to meet people and talk very little. Why have you talked tome now?”

“To you? This morning you sat so nicely and you … but it’s all nomatter … you are like my brother, very much, extremely,” he added,flushing. “He has been dead seven years. He was older, very, very much.”

“I suppose he had a great influence on your way of thinking?”

“N-no. He said little; he said nothing. I’ll give your note.”

He saw me to the gate with a lantern, to lock it after me. “Of coursehe’s mad,” I decided. In the gateway I met with another encounter.


I had only just lifted my leg over the high barrier across the bottom ofthe gateway, when suddenly a strong hand clutched at my chest.

“Who’s this?” roared a voice, “a friend or an enemy? Own up!”

“He’s one of us; one of us!” Liputin’s voice squealed near by. “It’s Mr.G——v, a young man of classical education, in touch with the highestsociety.”

“I love him if he’s in society, clas-si … that means he’s high-lyed-u-cated. The retired Captain Ignat Lebyadkin, at the service of theworld and his friends … if they’re true ones, if they’re true ones, thescoundrels.”

Captain Lebyadkin, a stout, fleshy man over six feet in height, withcurly hair and a red face, was so extremely drunk that he could scarcelystand up before me, and articulated with difficulty. I had seen himbefore, however, in the distance.

“And this one!” he roared again, noticing Kirillov, who was stillstanding with the lantern; he raised his fist, but let it fall again atonce.

“I forgive you for your learning! Ignat Lebyadkin—high-lyed-u-cated.…

 ‘A bomb of love with stinging smart Exploded in Ignaty’s heart. In anguish dire I weep again The arm that at Sevastopol I lost in bitter pain!’

Not that I ever was at Sevastopol, or ever lost my arm, but you knowwhat rhyme is.” He pushed up to me with his ugly, tipsy face.

“He is in a hurry, he is going home!” Liputin tried to persuade him.“He’ll tell Lizaveta Nikolaevna to-morrow.”

“Lizaveta!” he yelled again. “Stay, don’t go!A variation:

 ‘Among the Amazons a star, Upon her steed she flashes by, And smiles upon me from afar, The child of aris-to-cra-cy!’ To a Starry Amazon.

You know that’s a hymn. It’s a hymn, if you’re not an ass! The duffers,they don’t understand! Stay!”

He caught hold of my coat, though I pulled myself away with all mymight.

“Tell her I’m a knight and the soul of honour, and as for that Dasha …I’d pick her up and chuck her out.… She’s only a serf, she daren’t …”

At this point he fell down, for I pulled myself violently out of hishands and ran into the street. Liputin clung on to me.

“Alexey Nilitch will pick him up. Do you know what I’ve just found outfrom him?” he babbled in desperate haste. “Did you hear his verses? He’ssealed those verses to the ‘Starry Amazon’ in an envelope and is goingto send them to-morrow to Lizaveta Nikolaevna, signed with his name infull. What a fellow!”

“I bet you suggested it to him yourself.”

“You’ll lose your bet,” laughed Liputin. “He’s in love, in love like acat, and do you know it began with hatred. He hated Lizaveta Nikolaevnaat first so much, for riding on horseback that he almost swore aloud ather in the street. Yes, he did abuse her! Only the day before yesterdayhe swore at her when she rode by—luckily she didn’t hear. And,suddenly, to-day—poetry! Do you know he means to risk a proposal?Seriously! Seriously!”

“I wonder at you, Liputin; whenever there’s anything nasty going onyou’re always on the spot taking a leading part in it,” I said angrily.

“You’re going rather far, Mr. G——v. Isn’t your poor littleheart quaking, perhaps, in terror of a rival?”

“Wha-at!” I cried, standing still.

“Well, now to punish you I won’t say anything more, and wouldn’t youlike to know though? Take this alone, that that lout is not a simplecaptain now but a landowner of our province, and rather an importantone, too, for Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sold him all his estate the otherday, formerly of two hundred serfs; and as God’s above, I’m not lying.I’ve only just heard it, but it was from a most reliable source. And nowyou can ferret it out for yourself; I’ll say nothing more; good-bye.”


Stepan Trofimovitch was awaiting me with hysterical impatience. Itwas an hour since he had returned. I found him in a state resemblingintoxication; for the first five minutes at least I thought he wasdrunk. Alas, the visit to the Drozdovs had been the finishing-stroke.

Mon ami! I have completely lost the thread … Lise … I love andrespect that angel as before; just as before; but it seems to me theyboth asked me simply to find out something from me, that is more simplyto get something out of me, and then to get rid of me.… That’s how itis.”

“You ought to be ashamed!” I couldn’t help exclaiming.

“My friend, now Iam utterly alone. Enfin, c’est ridicule. Would you believe it, the placeis positively packed with mysteries there too. They simply flew at meabout those ears and noses, and some mysteries in Petersburg too. Youknow they hadn’t heard till they came about the tricks Nicolas playedhere four years ago. ‘You were here, you saw it, is it true that he ismad?’ Where they got the idea I can’t make out. Why is it that Praskovyais so anxious Nicolas should be mad? The woman will have it so, shewill. Ce Maurice, or what’s his name, Mavriky Nikolaevitch, brave hommetout de même … but can it be for his sake, and after she wrote herselffrom Paris to cette pauvre amie?… Enfin, this Praskovya, as cettechère amie calls her, is a type. She’s Gogol’s Madame Box, of immortalmemory, only she’s a spiteful Madame Box, a malignant Box, and in animmensely exaggerated form.”

“That’s making her out a regular packing-case if it’s an exaggeratedform.”

“Well, perhaps it’s the opposite; it’s all the same, only don’tinterrupt me, for I’m all in a whirl. They are all at loggerheads,except Lise, she keeps on with her ‘Auntie, auntie!’ but Lise’s sly, andthere’s something behind it too. Secrets. She has quarrelled with theold lady. Cette pauvre auntie tyrannises over every one it’s true, andthen there’s the governor’s wife, and the rudeness of local society, andKarmazinov’s ‘rudeness’; and then this idea of madness, ce Lipoutine,ce que je ne comprends pas … and … and they say she’s been puttingvinegar on her head, and here are we with our complaints andletters.… Oh, how I have tormented her and at such a time! Je suis uningrat! Only imagine, I come back and find a letter from her; read it,read it! Oh, how ungrateful it was of me!”

He gave me a letter he had just received from Varvara Petrovna. Sheseemed to have repented of her “stay at home.” The letter was amiablebut decided in tone, and brief. She invited Stepan Trofimovitch to cometo her the day after to-morrow, which was Sunday, at twelve o’clock, andadvised him to bring one of his friends with him. (My name was mentionedin parenthesis). She promised on her side to invite Shatov, as thebrother of Darya Pavlovna. “You can obtain a final answer from her: willthat be enough for you? Is this the formality you were so anxious for?”

“Observe that irritable phrase about formality. Poor thing, poor thing,the friend of my whole life! I confess the sudden determination of mywhole future almost crushed me.… I confess I still had hopes, but nowtout est dit. I know now that all is over. C’est terrible! Oh, thatthat Sunday would never come and everything would go on in the old way.You would have gone on coming and I’d have gone on here.…”

“You’ve been upset by all those nasty things Liputin said, thoseslanders.”

“My dear, you have touched on another sore spot with your friendlyfinger. Such friendly fingers are generally merciless and sometimesunreasonable; pardon, you may not believe it, but I’d almost forgottenall that, all that nastiness, not that I forgot it, indeed, but inmy foolishness I tried all the while I was with Lise to be happy andpersuaded myself I was happy. But now … Oh, now I’m thinking ofthat generous, humane woman, so long-suffering with my contemptiblefailings—not that she’s been altogether long-suffering, but what haveI been with my horrid, worthless character! I’m a capricious child, withall the egoism of a child and none of the innocence. For the last twentyyears she’s been looking after me like a nurse, cette pauvre auntie, asLise so charmingly calls her.… And now, after twenty years, the childclamours to be married, sending letter after letter, while her head’sin a vinegar-compress and … now he’s got it—on Sunday I shall be amarried man, that’s no joke.… And why did I keep insisting myself,what did I write those letters for? Oh, I forgot. Lise idolizes DaryaPavlovna, she says so anyway; she says of her ‘c’est un ange, onlyrather a reserved one.’ They both advised me, even Praskovya. …Praskovya didn’t advise me though. Oh, what venom lies concealed inthat ‘Box’! And Lise didn’t exactly advise me: ‘What do you want to getmarried for,’ she said, ‘your intellectual pleasures ought to be enoughfor you.’ She laughed. I forgive her for laughing, for there’s an achein her own heart. You can’t get on without a woman though, they said tome. The infirmities of age are coming upon you, and she will tuck youup, or whatever it is.… Ma foi, I’ve been thinking myself all thistime I’ve been sitting with you that Providence was sending her to mein the decline of my stormy years and that she would tuck me up, orwhatever they call it … enfin, she’ll be handy for the housekeeping.See what a litter there is, look how everything’s lying about. I said itmust be cleared up this morning, and look at the book on the floor! Lapauvre amie was always angry at the untidiness here. … Ah, now I shallno longer hear her voice! Vingt ans! And it seems they’ve had anonymousletters. Only fancy, it’s said that Nicolas has sold Lebyadkin hisproperty. C’est un monstre; et enfin what is Lebyadkin? Lise listens,and listens, ooh, how she listens! I forgave her laughing. I saw herface as she listened, and ce Maurice … I shouldn’t care to be in hisshoes now, brave homme tout de même, but rather shy; but never mindhim.…”

He paused. He was tired and upset, and sat with drooping head, staringat the floor with his tired eyes. I took advantage of the interval totell him of my visit to Filipov’s house, and curtly and dryly expressedmy opinion that Lebyadkin’s sister (whom I had never seen) reallymight have been somehow victimised by Nicolas at some time during thatmysterious period of his life, as Liputin had called it, and that itwas very possible that Lebyadkin received sums of money from Nicolas forsome reason, but that was all. As for the scandal about Darya Pavlovna,that was all nonsense, all that brute Liputin’s misrepresentations, thatthis was anyway what Alexey Nilitch warmly maintained, and we hadno grounds for disbelieving him. Stepan Trofimovitch listened to myassurances with an absent air, as though they did not concern him. Imentioned by the way my conversation with Kirillov, and added that hemight be mad.

“He’s not mad, but one of those shallow-minded people,” he mumbledlistlessly. “Ces gens-là supposent la nature et la societé humaineautres que Dieu ne les a faites et qu’elles ne sont réellement. Peopletry to make up to them, but Stepan Verhovensky does not, anyway. I sawthem that time in Petersburg avec cette chère amie (oh, how I used towound her then), and I wasn’t afraid of their abuse or even of theirpraise. I’m not afraid now either. Mais parlons d’autre chose.…I believe I have done dreadful things. Only fancy, I sent a letteryesterday to Darya Pavlovna and … how I curse myself for it!”

“What did you write about?”

“Oh, my friend, believe me, it was all done in a noble spirit. I lether know that I had written to Nicolas five days before, also in a noblespirit.”

“I understand now!” I cried with heat. “And what right had you to coupletheir names like that?”

“But, mon cher, don’t crush me completely, don’t shout at me; as it isI’m utterly squashed like … a black-beetle. And, after all, I thoughtit was all so honourable. Suppose that something really happened …en Suisse … or was beginning. I was bound to question their heartsbeforehand that I … enfin, that I might not constrain their hearts,and be a stumbling-block in their paths. I acted simply from honourablefeeling.”

“Oh, heavens! What a stupid thing you’ve done!” I cried involuntarily.

“Yes, yes,” he assented with positive eagerness. “You have never saidanything more just, c’était bête, mais que faire? Tout est dit. I shallmarry her just the same even if it be to cover ‘another’s sins.’ Sothere was no object in writing, was there?”

“You’re at that idea again!”

“Oh, you won’t frighten me with your shouts now. You see a differentStepan Verhovensky before you now. The man I was is buried. Enfin,tout est dit. And why do you cry out? Simply because you’re not gettingmarried, and you won’t have to wear a certain decoration on your head.Does that shock you again? My poor friend, you don’t know woman, whileI have done nothing but study her. ‘If you want to conquer the world,conquer yourself’—the one good thing that another romantic like you, mybride’s brother, Shatov, has succeeded in saying. I would gladly borrowfrom him his phrase. Well, here I am ready to conquer myself, and I’mgetting married. And what am I conquering by way of the whole world?Oh, my friend, marriage is the moral death of every proud soul, of allindependence. Married life will corrupt me, it will sap my energy, mycourage in the service of the cause. Children will come, probably not myown either—certainly not my own: a wise man is not afraid to face thetruth. Liputin proposed this morning putting up barricades to keep outNicolas; Liputin’s a fool. A woman would deceive the all-seeing eyeitself. Le bon Dieu knew what He was in for when He was creating woman,but I’m sure that she meddled in it herself and forced Him to create hersuch as she is … and with such attributes: for who would have incurredso much trouble for nothing? I know Nastasya may be angry with me forfree-thinking, but … enfin, tout est dit.

He wouldn’t have been himself if he could have dispensed with the cheapgibing free-thought which was in vogue in his day. Now, at any rate, hecomforted himself with a gibe, but not for long.

“Oh, if that day after to-morrow, that Sunday, might never come!” heexclaimed suddenly, this time in utter despair. “Why could not thisone week be without a Sunday—si le miracle existe? What would it be toProvidence to blot out one Sunday from the calendar? If only to proveHis power to the atheists et que tout soit dit! Oh, how I loved her!Twenty years, these twenty years, and she has never understood me!”

“But of whom are you talking? Even I don’t understand you!” I asked,wondering.

Vingt ans! And she has not once understood me; oh, it’s cruel! And canshe really believe that I am marrying from fear, from poverty? Oh, theshame of it! Oh, Auntie, Auntie, I do it for you!… Oh, let her know,that Auntie, that she is the one woman I have adored for twenty years!She must learn this, it must be so, if not they will need force to dragme under ce qu’on appelle le wedding-crown.”

It was the first time I had heard this confession, and so vigorouslyuttered. I won’t conceal the fact that I was terribly tempted to laugh.I was wrong.

“He is the only one left me now, the only one, my one hope!” he criedsuddenly, clasping his hands as though struck by a new idea. “Only he,my poor boy, can save me now, and, oh, why doesn’t he come! Oh, my son,oh, my Petrusha.… And though I do not deserve the name of father,but rather that of tiger, yet … Laissez-moi, mon ami, I’ll lie down alittle, to collect my ideas. I am so tired, so tired. And I think it’stime you were in bed. Voyez vous, it’s twelve o’clock.…”



SHATOV WAS NOT PERVERSE but acted on my note, and called at midday onLizaveta Nikolaevna. We went in almost together; I was also going tomake my first call. They were all, that is Liza, her mother, and MavrikyNikolaevitch, sitting in the big drawing-room, arguing. The mother wasasking Liza to play some waltz on the piano, and as soon as Liza beganto play the piece asked for, declared it was not the right one.Mavriky Nikolaevitch in the simplicity of his heart took Liza’s part,maintaining that it was the right waltz. The elder lady was so angrythat she began to cry. She was ill and walked with difficulty. Herlegs were swollen, and for the last few days she had been continuallyfractious, quarrelling with every one, though she always stood ratherin awe of Liza. They were pleased to see us. Liza flushed with pleasure,and saying “merci” to me, on Shatov’s account of course, went to meethim, looking at him with interest.

Shatov stopped awkwardly in the doorway. Thanking him for coming she ledhim up to her mother.

“This is Mr. Shatov, of whom I have told you, and this is Mr. G——v, agreat friend of mine and of Stepan Trofimovitch’s. Mavriky Nikolaevitchmade his acquaintance yesterday, too.”

“And which is the professor?”

“There’s no professor at all, maman.”

“But there is. You said yourself that there’d be a professor. It’s thisone, probably.” She disdainfully indicated Shatov.

“I didn’t tell you that there’d be a professor. Mr. G——v isin the service, and Mr. Shatov is a former student.”

“A student or professor, they all come from the university just thesame. You only want to argue. But the Swiss one had moustaches and abeard.”

“It’s the son of Stepan Trofimovitch that maman always calls theprofessor,” said Liza, and she took Shatov away to the sofa at the otherend of the drawing-room.

“When her legs swell, she’s always like this, you understand she’sill,” she whispered to Shatov, still with the same marked curiosity,scrutinising him, especially his shock of hair.

“Are you an officer?” the old lady inquired of me. Liza had mercilesslyabandoned me to her.

“N-no.—I’m in the service.…”

“Mr. G——v is a great friend of Stepan Trofimovitch’s,” Liza chimed inimmediately.

“Are you in Stepan Trofimovitch’s service? Yes, and he’s a professor,too, isn’t he?”

“Ah, maman, you must dream at night of professors,” cried Liza withannoyance.

“I see too many when I’m awake. But you always will contradict yourmother. Were you here four years ago when Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was inthe neighbourhood?”

I answered that I was.

“And there was some Englishman with you?”

“No, there was not.”

Liza laughed.

“Well, you see there was no Englishman, so it must have been idlegossip. And Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Trofimovitch both tell lies. Andthey all tell lies.”

“Auntie and Stepan Trofimovitch yesterday thought there was aresemblance between Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch and Prince Harry inShakespeare’s Henry IV, and in answer to that maman says that there wasno Englishman here,” Liza explained to us.

“If Harry wasn’t here, there was no Englishman. It was no one else butNikolay Vsyevolodovitch at his tricks.”

“I assure you that maman’s doing it on purpose,” Liza thought necessaryto explain to Shatov. “She’s really heard of Shakespeare. I read her thefirst act of Othello myself. But she’s in great pain now. Maman, listen,it’s striking twelve, it’s time you took your medicine.”

“The doctor’s come,” a maid-servant announced at the door.

The old lady got up and began calling her dog: “Zemirka, Zemirka, youcome with me at least.”

Zemirka, a horrid little old dog, instead of obeying, crept under thesofa where Liza was sitting.

“Don’t you want to? Then I don’t want you. Good-bye, my good sir, Idon’t know your name or your father’s,” she said, addressing me.

“Anton Lavrentyevitch …”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, with me it goes in at one ear and out of theother. Don’t you come with me, Mavriky Nikolaevitch, it was Zemirka Icalled. Thank God I can still walk without help and to-morrow I shall gofor a drive.”

She walked angrily out of the drawing-room.

“Anton Lavrentyevitch, will you talk meanwhile to Mavriky Nikolaevitch;I assure you you’ll both be gainers by getting to know one anotherbetter,” said Liza, and she gave a friendly smile to MavrikyNikolaevitch, who beamed all over as she looked at him. There was nohelp for it, I remained to talk to Mavriky Nikolaevitch.


Lizaveta Nikolaevna’s business with Shatov turned out, to my surprise,to be really only concerned with literature. I had imagined, I don’tknow why, that she had asked him to come with some other object. We,Mavriky Nikolaevitch and I that is, seeing that they were talking aloudand not trying to hide anything from us, began to listen, and at lastthey asked our advice. It turned out that Lizaveta Nikolaevna wasthinking of bringing out a book which she thought would be of use,but being quite inexperienced she needed someone to help her. Theearnestness with which she began to explain her plan to Shatov quitesurprised me.

“She must be one of the new people,” I thought. “She has not been toSwitzerland for nothing.”

Shatov listened with attention, his eyes fixed on the ground, showingnot the slightest surprise that a giddy young lady in society shouldtake up work that seemed so out of keeping with her.

Her literary scheme was as follows. Numbers of papers and journals arepublished in the capitals and the provinces of Russia, and every day anumber of events are reported in them. The year passes, the newspapersare everywhere folded up and put away in cupboards, or are torn upand become litter, or are used for making parcels or wrapping things.Numbers of these facts make an impression and are remembered by thepublic, but in the course of years they are forgotten. Many people wouldlike to look them up, but it is a labour for them to embark upon thissea of paper, often knowing nothing of the day or place or even year inwhich the incident occurred. Yet if all the facts for a whole year werebrought together into one book, on a definite plan, and with a definiteobject, under headings with references, arranged according to months anddays, such a compilation might reflect the characteristics of Russianlife for the whole year, even though the facts published are only asmall fraction of the events that take place.

“Instead of a number of newspapers there would be a few fat books,that’s all,” observed Shatov.

But Lizaveta Nikolaevna clung to her idea, in spite of the difficultyof carrying it out and her inability to describe it. “It ought to beone book, and not even a very thick one,” she maintained. But even if itwere thick it would be clear, for the great point would be the plan andthe character of the presentation of facts. Of course not all wouldbe collected and reprinted. The decrees and acts of government,local regulations, laws—all such facts, however important, might bealtogether omitted from the proposed publication. They could leave out agreat deal and confine themselves to a selection of events more orless characteristic of the moral life of the people, of the personalcharacter of the Russian people at the present moment. Of courseeverything might be put in: strange incidents, fires, publicsubscriptions, anything good or bad, every speech or word, perhaps evenfloodings of the rivers, perhaps even some government decrees, butonly such things to be selected as are characteristic of the period;everything would be put in with a certain view, a special significanceand intention, with an idea which would illuminate the facts lookedat in the aggregate, as a whole. And finally the book ought to beinteresting even for light reading, apart from its value as a work ofreference. It would be, so to say, a presentation of the spiritual,moral, inner life of Russia for a whole year.

“We want every one to buy it, we want it to be a book that will be foundon every table,” Liza declared. “I understand that all lies in the plan,and that’s why I apply to you,” she concluded. She grew very warm overit, and although her explanation was obscure and incomplete, Shatovbegan to understand.

“So it would amount to something with a political tendency, a selectionof facts with a special tendency,” he muttered, still not raising hishead.

“Not at all, we must not select with a particular bias, and we oughtnot to have any political tendency in it. Nothing but impartiality—thatwill be the only tendency.”

“But a tendency would be no harm,” said Shatov, with a slight movement,“and one can hardly avoid it if there is any selection at all. The veryselection of facts will suggest how they are to be understood. Your ideais not a bad one.”

“Then such a book is possible?” cried Liza delightedly.

“We must look into it and consider. It’s an immense undertaking. Onecan’t work it out on the spur of the moment. We need experience. Andwhen we do publish the book I doubt whether we shall find out how todo it. Possibly after many trials; but the thought is alluring. It’s auseful idea.”

He raised his eyes at last, and they were positively sparkling withpleasure, he was so interested.

“Was it your own idea?” he asked Liza, in a friendly and, as it were,bashful way.

“The idea’s no trouble, you know, it’s the plan is the trouble,” Lizasmiled. “I understand very little. I am not very clever, and I onlypursue what is clear to me, myself.…”


“Perhaps that’s not the right word?” Liza inquired quickly.

“The word is all right; I meant nothing.”

“I thought while I was abroad that even I might be of some use. I havemoney of my own lying idle. Why shouldn’t I—even I—work for the commoncause? Besides, the idea somehow occurred to me all at once of itself.I didn’t invent it at all, and was delighted with it. But I saw atonce that I couldn’t get on without someone to help, because I am notcompetent to do anything of myself. My helper, of course, would be theco-editor of the book. We would go halves. You would give the plan andthe work. Mine would be the original idea and the means for publishingit. Would the book pay its expenses, do you think?”

“If we hit on a good plan the book will go.”

“I warn you that I am not doing it for profit; but I am very anxiousthat the book should circulate and should be very proud of making aprofit.”

“Well, but how do I come in?”

“Why, I invite you to be my fellow-worker, to go halves. You will thinkout the plan.”

“How do you know that I am capable of thinking out the plan?”

“People have talked about you to me, and here I’ve heard… I know that you are very clever and … are working for the cause …and think a great deal. Pyotr Stepanovitch Verhovensky spoke about youin Switzerland,” she added hurriedly. “He’s a very clever man, isn’the?”

Shatov stole a fleeting, momentary glance at her, but dropped his eyesagain.

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch told me a great deal about you, too.”

Shatov suddenly turned red.

“But here are the newspapers.” Liza hurriedly picked up from a chaira bundle of newspapers that lay tied up ready. “I’ve tried to markthe facts here for selection, to sort them, and I have put the paperstogether … you will see.”

Shatov took the bundle.

“Take them home and look at them. Where do you live?”

“In Bogoyavlensky Street, Filipov’s house.”

“I know. I think it’s there, too, I’ve been told, a captain lives,beside you, Mr. Lebyadkin,” said Liza in the same hurried manner.

Shatov sat for a full minute with the bundle in his outstretched hand,making no answer and staring at the floor.

“You’d better find someone else for these jobs. I shouldn’t suit you atall,” he brought out at last, dropping his voice in an awfully strangeway, almost to a whisper.

Liza flushed crimson.

“What jobs are you speaking of? Mavriky Nikolaevitch,” she cried,“please bring that letter here.”

I too followed Mavriky Nikolaevitch to the table.

“Look at this,” she turned suddenly to me, unfolding the letter in greatexcitement. “Have you ever seen anything like it. Please read it aloud.I want Mr. Shatov to hear it too.”

With no little astonishment I read aloud the following missive:

 “To the Perfection, Miss Tushin.
“Gracious Lady “Lizaveta Nikolaevna! “Oh, she’s a sweet queen, Lizaveta Tushin! When on side-saddle she gallops by, And in the breeze her fair tresses fly! Or when with her mother in church she bows low And on devout faces a red flush doth flow! Then for the joys of lawful wedlock I aspire, And follow her and her mother with tears of desire.“Composed by an unlearned man in the midst of a discussion.“Gracious Lady! “I pity myself above all men that I did not lose my arm at Sevastopol,not having been there at all, but served all the campaign deliveringpaltry provisions, which I look on as a degradation. You are a goddessof antiquity, and I am nothing, but have had a glimpse of infinity.Look on it as a poem and no more, for, after all, poetry is nonsense andjustifies what would be considered impudence in prose. Can the sun beangry with the infusoria if the latter composes verses to her from thedrop of water, where there is a multitude of them if you look throughthe microscope? Even the club for promoting humanity to the largeranimals in tip-top society in Petersburg, which rightly feels compassionfor dogs and horses, despises the brief infusoria making no referenceto it whatever, because it is not big enough. I’m not big enough either.The idea of marriage might seem droll, but soon I shall have propertyworth two hundred souls through a misanthropist whom you ought todespise. I can tell a lot and I can undertake to produce documentsthat would mean Siberia. Don’t despise my proposal. A letter from aninfusoria is of course in verse. “Captain Lebyadkin your most humble friend. And he has time no end.”

“That was written by a man in a drunken condition, a worthless fellow,”I cried indignantly. “I know him.”

“That letter I received yesterday,” Liza began to explain, flushingand speaking hurriedly. “I saw myself, at once, that it came from somefoolish creature, and I haven’t yet shown it to maman, for fear ofupsetting her more. But if he is going to keep on like that, I don’tknow how to act. Mavriky Nikolaevitch wants to go out and forbid him todo it. As I have looked upon you as a colleague,” she turned to Shatov,“and as you live there, I wanted to question you so as to judge whatmore is to be expected of him.”

“He’s a drunkard and a worthless fellow,” Shatov muttered with apparentreluctance.

“Is he always so stupid?”

“No, he’s not stupid at all when he’s not drunk.”

“I used to know a general who wrote verses exactly like that,” Iobserved, laughing.

“One can see from the letter that he is clever enough for his ownpurposes,” Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who had till then been silent, put inunexpectedly.

“He lives with some sister?” Liza queried.

“Yes, with his sister.”

“They say he tyrannises over her, is that true?”

Shatov looked at Liza again, scowled, and muttering, “What business isit of mine?” moved towards the door.

“Ah, stay!” cried Liza, in a flutter. “Where are you going? We have somuch still to talk over.…”

“What is there to talk over? I’ll let you know to-morrow.”

“Why, the most important thing of all—the printing-press! Do believe methat I am not in jest, that I really want to work in good earnest!” Lizaassured him in growing agitation. “If we decide to publish it, where isit to be printed? You know it’s a most important question, for we shan’tgo to Moscow for it, and the printing-press here is out of thequestion for such a publication. I made up my mind long ago to set upa printing-press of my own, in your name perhaps—and I know maman willallow it so long as it is in your name.…”

“How do you know that I could be a printer?” Shatov asked sullenly.

“Why, Pyotr Stepanovitch told me of you in Switzerland, and referredme to you as one who knows the business and able to set up aprinting-press. He even meant to give me a note to you from himself, butI forgot it.”

Shatov’s face changed, as I recollect now. He stood for a few secondslonger, then went out of the room.

Liza was angry.

“Does he always go out like that?” she asked, turning to me.

I was just shrugging my shoulders when Shatov suddenly came back, wentstraight up to the table and put down the roll of papers he had taken.

“I’m not going to be your helper, I haven’t the time.…”

“Why? Why? I think you are angry!” Liza asked him in a grieved andimploring voice.

The sound of her voice seemed to strike him; for some moments he lookedat her intently, as though trying to penetrate to her very soul.

“No matter,” he muttered, softly, “I don’t want to.…”

And he went away altogether.

Liza was completely overwhelmed, quite disproportionately in fact, so itseemed to me.

“Wonderfully queer man,” Mavriky Nikolaevitch observed aloud.


He certainly was queer, but in all this there was a very great deal notclear to me. There was something underlying it all. I simply did notbelieve in this publication; then that stupid letter, in which therewas an offer, only too barefaced, to give information and produce“documents,” though they were all silent about that, and talked ofsomething quite different; finally that printing-press and Shatov’ssudden exit, just because they spoke of a printing-press. All this ledme to imagine that something had happened before I came in of which Iknew nothing; and, consequently, that it was no business of mine andthat I was in the way. And, indeed, it was time to take leave, I hadstayed long enough for the first call. I went up to say good-bye toLizaveta Nikolaevna.

She seemed to have forgotten that I was in the room, and was stillstanding in the same place by the table with her head bowed, plunged inthought, gazing fixedly at one spot on the carpet.

“Ah, you, too, are going, good-bye,” she murmured in an ordinaryfriendly tone. “Give my greetings to Stepan Trofimovitch, and persuadehim to come and see me as soon as he can. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, AntonLavrentyevitch is going. Excuse maman’s not being able to come out andsay good-bye to you.…”

I went out and had reached the bottom of the stairs when a footmansuddenly overtook me at the street door.

“My lady begs you to come back.…”

“The mistress, or Lizaveta Nikolaevna?”

“The young lady.”

I found Liza not in the big room where we had been sitting, but in thereception-room next to it. The door between it and the drawing-room,where Mavriky Nikolaevitch was left alone, was closed.

Liza smiled to me but was pale. She was standing in the middle of theroom in evident indecision, visibly struggling with herself; but shesuddenly took me by the hand, and led me quickly to the window.

“I want to see her at once,” she whispered, bending upon me aburning, passionate, impatient glance, which would not admit a hint ofopposition. “I must see her with my own eyes, and I beg you to helpme.”

She was in a perfect frenzy, and—in despair.

“Who is it you want to see, Lizaveta Nikolaevna?” I inquired in dismay.

“That Lebyadkin’s sister, that lame girl.… Is it true that she’slame?”

I was astounded.

“I have never seen her, but I’ve heard that she’s lame. I heard ityesterday,” I said with hurried readiness, and also in a whisper.

“I must see her, absolutely. Could you arrange it to-day?”

I felt dreadfully sorry for her.

“That’s utterly impossible, and, besides, I should not know at all howto set about it,” I began persuading her. “I’ll go to Shatov.…”

“If you don’t arrange it by to-morrow I’ll go to her by myself, alone,for Mavriky Nikolaevitch has refused. I rest all my hopes on you andI’ve no one else; I spoke stupidly to Shatov.… I’m sure that you areperfectly honest and perhaps ready to do anything for me, only arrangeit.”

I felt a passionate desire to help her in every way.

“This is what I’ll do,” I said, after a moment’s thought. “I’ll gomyself to-day and will see her for sure, for sure. I will manage soas to see her. I give you my word of honour. Only let me confide inShatov.”

“Tell him that I do desire it, and that I can’t wait any longer, butthat I wasn’t deceiving him just now. He went away perhaps becausehe’s very honest and he didn’t like my seeming to deceive him. Iwasn’t deceiving him, I really do want to edit books and found aprinting-press.…”

“He is honest, very honest,” I assented warmly.

“If it’s not arranged by to-morrow, though, I shall go myself whateverhappens, and even if every one were to know.”

“I can’t be with you before three o’clock to-morrow,” I observed, aftera moment’s deliberation.

“At three o’clock then. Then it was true what I imagined yesterday atStepan Trofimovitch’s, that you—are rather devoted to me?” she saidwith a smile, hurriedly pressing my hand to say good-bye, and hurryingback to the forsaken Mavriky Nikolaevitch.

I went out weighed down by my promise, and unable to understand whathad happened. I had seen a woman in real despair, not hesitating tocompromise herself by confiding in a man she hardly knew. Her womanlysmile at a moment so terrible for her and her hint that she had noticedmy feelings the day before sent a pang to my heart; but I felt sorryfor her, very sorry—that was all! Her secrets became at once somethingsacred for me, and if anyone had begun to reveal them to me now, I thinkI should have covered my ears, and should have refused to hear anythingmore. I only had a presentiment of something … yet I was utterly ata loss to see how I could do anything. What’s more I did not even yetunderstand exactly what I had to arrange; an interview, but what sortof an interview? And how could I bring them together? My only hope wasShatov, though I could be sure that he wouldn’t help me in any way. Butall the same, I hurried to him.


I did not find him at home till past seven o’clock that evening. To mysurprise he had visitors with him—Alexey Nilitch, and another gentlemanI hardly knew, one Shigalov, the brother of Virginsky’s wife.

This gentleman must, I think, have been staying about two months inthe town; I don’t know where he came from. I had only heard that hehad written some sort of article in a progressive Petersburg magazine.Virginsky had introduced me casually to him in the street. I hadnever in my life seen in a man’s face so much despondency, gloom, andmoroseness. He looked as though he were expecting the destruction of theworld, and not at some indefinite time in accordance with prophecies,which might never be fulfilled, but quite definitely, as though it wereto be the day after to-morrow at twenty-five minutes past ten. We hardlysaid a word to one another on that occasion, but had simply shaken handslike two conspirators. I was most struck by his ears, which were ofunnatural size, long, broad, and thick, sticking out in a peculiar way.His gestures were slow and awkward.

If Liputin had imagined that a phalanstery might be established in ourprovince, this gentleman certainly knew the day and the hour when itwould be founded. He made a sinister impression on me. I was the moresurprised at finding him here, as Shatov was not fond of visitors.

I could hear from the stairs that they were talking very loud, all threeat once, and I fancy they were disputing; but as soon as I went in, theyall ceased speaking. They were arguing, standing up, but now they allsuddenly sat down, so that I had to sit down too. There was a stupidsilence that was not broken for fully three minutes. Though Shigalovknew me, he affected not to know me, probably not from hostile feelings,but for no particular reason. Alexey Nilitch and I bowed to one anotherin silence, and for some reason did not shake hands. Shigalov began atlast looking at me sternly and frowningly, with the most naïve assurancethat I should immediately get up and go away. At last Shatov got up fromhis chair and the others jumped up at once. They went out without sayinggood-bye. Shigalov only said in the doorway to Shatov, who was seeinghim out:

“Remember that you are bound to give an explanation.”

“Hang your explanation, and who the devil am I bound to?” said Shatov.He showed them out and fastened the door with the latch.

“Snipes!” he said, looking at me, with a sort of wry smile.

His face looked angry, and it seemed strange to me that he spoke first.When I had been to see him before (which was not often) it had usuallyhappened that he sat scowling in a corner, answered ill-humouredlyand only completely thawed and began to talk with pleasure after aconsiderable time. Even so, when he was saying good-bye he alwaysscowled, and let one out as though he were getting rid of a personalenemy.

“I had tea yesterday with that Alexey Nilitch,” I observed. “I thinkhe’s mad on atheism.”

“Russian atheism has never gone further than making a joke,” growledShatov, putting up a new candle in place of an end that had burnt out.

“No, this one doesn’t seem to me a joker, I think he doesn’t know how totalk, let alone trying to make jokes.”

“Men made of paper! It all comes from flunkeyism of thought,” Shatovobserved calmly, sitting down on a chair in the corner, and pressing thepalms of both hands on his knees.

“There’s hatred in it, too,” he went on, after a minute’s pause.“They’d be the first to be terribly unhappy if Russia could be suddenlyreformed, even to suit their own ideas, and became extraordinarilyprosperous and happy. They’d have no one to hate then, no one to curse,nothing to find fault with. There is nothing in it but an immense animalhatred for Russia which has eaten into their organism.… And it isn’ta case of tears unseen by the world under cover of a smile! There hasnever been a falser word said in Russia than about those unseen tears,”he cried, almost with fury.

“Goodness only knows what you’re saying,” I laughed.

“Oh, you’re a ‘moderate liberal,’” said Shatov, smiling too. “Do youknow,” he went on suddenly, “I may have been talking nonsense about the‘flunkeyism of thought.’ You will say to me no doubt directly, ‘it’s youwho are the son of a flunkey, but I’m not a flunkey.’”

“I wasn’t dreaming of such a thing.… What are you saying!”

“You need not apologise. I’m not afraid of you. Once I was only theson of a flunkey, but now I’ve become a flunkey myself, like you. OurRussian liberal is a flunkey before everything, and is only looking forsomeone whose boots he can clean.”

“What boots? What allegory is this?”

“Allegory, indeed! You are laughing, I see.… Stepan Trofimovitch saidtruly that I lie under a stone, crushed but not killed, and do nothingbut wriggle. It was a good comparison of his.”

“Stepan Trofimovitch declares that you are mad over the Germans,” Ilaughed. “We’ve borrowed something from them anyway.”

“We took twenty kopecks, but we gave up a hundred roubles of our own.”

We were silent a minute.

“He got that sore lying in America.”

“Who? What sore?”

“I mean Kirillov. I spent four months with him lying on the floor of ahut.”

“Why, have you been in America?” I asked, surprised. “You never told meabout it.”

“What is there to tell? The year before last we spent our last farthing,three of us, going to America in an emigrant steamer, to test thelife of the American workman on ourselves, and to verify by personalexperiment the state of a man in the hardest social conditions. That wasour object in going there.”

“Good Lord!” I laughed. “You’d much better have gone somewhere in ourprovince at harvest-time if you wanted to ‘make a personal experiment’instead of bolting to America.”

“We hired ourselves out as workmen to an exploiter; there were six ofus Russians working for him—students, even landowners coming from theirestates, some officers, too, and all with the same grand object. Well,so we worked, sweated, wore ourselves out; Kirillov and I were exhaustedat last; fell ill—went away—we couldn’t stand it. Our employer cheatedus when he paid us off; instead of thirty dollars, as he had agreed, hepaid me eight and Kirillov fifteen; he beat us, too, more than once. Sothen we were left without work, Kirillov and I, and we spent four monthslying on the floor in that little town. He thought of one thing and Ithought of another.”

“You don’t mean to say your employer beat you? In America? How you musthave sworn at him!”

“Not a bit of it. On the contrary, Kirillov and I made up our mindsfrom the first that we Russians were like little children beside theAmericans, and that one must be born in America, or at least live formany years with Americans to be on a level with them. And do you know,if we were asked a dollar for a thing worth a farthing, we used to payit with pleasure, in fact with enthusiasm. We approved of everything:spiritualism, lynch-law, revolvers, tramps. Once when we were travellinga fellow slipped his hand into my pocket, took my brush, and beganbrushing his hair with it. Kirillov and I only looked at one another,and made up our minds that that was the right thing and that we liked itvery much.…”

“The strange thing is that with us all this is not only in the brain butis carried out in practice,” I observed.

“Men made of paper,” Shatov repeated.

“But to cross the ocean in an emigrant steamer, though, to go to anunknown country, even to make a personal experiment and all that—byJove … there really is a large-hearted staunchness about it.… Buthow did you get out of it?”

“I wrote to a man in Europe and he sent me a hundred roubles.”

As Shatov talked he looked doggedly at the ground as he always did, evenwhen he was excited. At this point he suddenly raised his head.

“Do you want to know the man’s name?”

“Who was it?”

“Nikolay Stavrogin.”

He got up suddenly, turned to his limewood writing-table andbegan searching for something on it. There was a vague, thoughwell-authenticated rumour among us that Shatov’s wife had at one timehad a liaison with Nikolay Stavrogin, in Paris, and just about two yearsago, that is when Shatov was in America. It is true that this was longafter his wife had left him in Geneva.

“If so, what possesses him now to bring his name forward and to laystress on it?” I thought.

“I haven’t paid him back yet,” he said, turning suddenly to me again,and looking at me intently he sat down in the same place as before inthe corner, and asked abruptly, in quite a different voice:

“You have come no doubt with some object. What do you want?”

I told him everything immediately, in its exact historical order, andadded that though I had time to think it over coolly after the firstexcitement was over, I was more puzzled than ever. I saw that it meantsomething very important to Lizaveta Nikolaevna. I was extremely anxiousto help her, but the trouble was that I didn’t know how to keep thepromise I had made her, and didn’t even quite understand now what I hadpromised her. Then I assured him impressively once more that she had notmeant to deceive him, and had had no thought of doing so; that there hadbeen some misunderstanding, and that she had been very much hurt by theextraordinary way in which he had gone off that morning.

He listened very attentively.

“Perhaps I was stupid this morning, as I usually am.… Well, if shedidn’t understand why I went away like that … so much the better forher.”

He got up, went to the door, opened it, and began listening on thestairs.

“Do you want to see that person yourself?”

“That’s just what I wanted, but how is it to be done?” I cried,delighted.

“Let’s simply go down while she’s alone. When he comes in he’ll beather horribly if he finds out we’ve been there. I often go in on the sly.I went for him this morning when he began beating her again.”

“What do you mean?”

“I dragged him off her by the hair. He tried to beat me, but Ifrightened him, and so it ended. I’m afraid he’ll come back drunk, andwon’t forget it—he’ll give her a bad beating because of it.”

We went downstairs at once.

The Lebyadkins’ door was shut but not locked, and we were able to go in.Their lodging consisted of two nasty little rooms, with smoke-begrimedwalls on which the filthy wall-paper literally hung in tatters. Ithad been used for some years as an eating-house, until Filipov, thetavern-keeper, moved to another house. The other rooms below what hadbeen the eating-house were now shut up, and these two were all theLebyadkins had. The furniture consisted of plain benches and dealtables, except for an old arm-chair that had lost its arms. In thesecond room there was the bedstead that belonged to Mlle. Lebyadkinstanding in the corner, covered with a chintz quilt; the captain himselfwent to bed anywhere on the floor, often without undressing. Everythingwas in disorder, wet and filthy; a huge soaking rag lay in the middleof the floor in the first room, and a battered old shoe lay beside itin the wet. It was evident that no one looked after anything here. Thestove was not heated, food was not cooked; they had not even a samovaras Shatov told me. The captain had come to the town with his sisterutterly destitute, and had, as Liputin said, at first actually gone fromhouse to house begging. But having unexpectedly received some money, hehad taken to drinking at once, and had become so besotted that he wasincapable of looking after things.

Mlle. Lebyadkin, whom I was so anxious to see, was sitting quietly ata deal kitchen table on a bench in the corner of the inner room, notmaking a sound. When we opened the door she did not call out to us oreven move from her place. Shatov said that the door into the passagewould not lock and it had once stood wide open all night. By the dimlight of a thin candle in an iron candlestick, I made out a woman ofabout thirty, perhaps, sickly and emaciated, wearing an old dress ofdark cotton material, with her long neck uncovered, her scanty dark hairtwisted into a knot on the nape of her neck, no larger than the fist ofa two-year-old child. She looked at us rather cheerfully. Besides thecandlestick, she had on the table in front of her a little peasantlooking-glass, an old pack of cards, a tattered book of songs, and awhite roll of German bread from which one or two bites had been taken.It was noticeable that Mlle. Lebyadkin used powder and rouge, andpainted her lips. She also blackened her eyebrows, which were fine,long, and black enough without that. Three long wrinkles stood sharplyconspicuous across her high, narrow forehead in spite of the powder onit. I already knew that she was lame, but on this occasion she did notattempt to get up or walk. At some time, perhaps in early youth, thatwasted face may have been pretty; but her soft, gentle grey eyes wereremarkable even now. There was something dreamy and sincere in hergentle, almost joyful, expression. This gentle serene joy, which wasreflected also in her smile, astonished me after all I had heard of theCossack whip and her brother’s violence. Strange to say, instead of theoppressive repulsion and almost dread one usually feels in the presenceof these creatures afflicted by God, I felt it almost pleasant to lookat her from the first moment, and my heart was filled afterwards withpity in which there was no trace of aversion.

“This is how she sits literally for days together, utterly alone,without moving; she tries her fortune with the cards, or looks in thelooking-glass,” said Shatov, pointing her out to me from the doorway.“He doesn’t feed her, you know. The old woman in the lodge brings hersomething sometimes out of charity; how can they leave her all alonelike this with a candle!”

To my surprise Shatov spoke aloud, just as though she were not in theroom.

“Good day, Shatushka!” Mlle. Lebyadkin said genially.

“I’ve brought you a visitor, Marya Timofyevna,” said Shatov.

“The visitor is very welcome. I don’t know who it is you’ve brought, Idon’t seem to remember him.” She scrutinised me intently from behind thecandle, and turned again at once to Shatov (and she took no more noticeof me for the rest of the conversation, as though I had not been nearher).

“Are you tired of walking up and down alone in your garret?” shelaughed, displaying two rows of magnificent teeth.

“I was tired of it, and I wanted to come and see you.”

Shatov moved a bench up to the table, sat down on it and made me sitbeside him.

“I’m always glad to have a talk, though you’re a funny person,Shatushka, just like a monk. When did you comb your hair last? Let medo it for you.” And she pulled a little comb out of her pocket. “I don’tbelieve you’ve touched it since I combed it last.”

“Well, I haven’t got a comb,” said Shatov, laughing too.

“Really? Then I’ll give you mine; only remind me, not this one butanother.”

With a most serious expression she set to work to comb his hair. Sheeven parted it on one side; drew back a little, looked to see whether itwas right and put the comb back in her pocket.

“Do you know what, Shatushka?” She shook her head. “You may be a verysensible man but you’re dull. It’s strange for me to look at all of you.I don’t understand how it is people are dull. Sadness is not dullness.I’m happy.”

“And are you happy when your brother’s here?”

“You mean Lebyadkin? He’s my footman. And I don’t care whether he’shere or not. I call to him: ‘Lebyadkin, bring the water!’ or ‘Lebyadkin,bring my shoes!’ and he runs. Sometimes one does wrong and can’t helplaughing at him.”

“That’s just how it is,” said Shatov, addressing me aloud withoutceremony. “She treats him just like a footman. I’ve heard her myselfcalling to him, ‘Lebyadkin, give me some water!’ And she laughed asshe said it. The only difference is that he doesn’t fetch the water butbeats her for it; but she isn’t a bit afraid of him. She has some sortof nervous fits, almost every day, and they are destroying her memoryso that afterwards she forgets everything that’s just happened, and isalways in a muddle over time. You imagine she remembers how you came in;perhaps she does remember, but no doubt she has changed everything toplease herself, and she takes us now for different people from what weare, though she knows I’m ‘Shatushka.’ It doesn’t matter my speakingaloud, she soon leaves off listening to people who talk to her, andplunges into dreams. Yes, plunges. She’s an extraordinary person fordreaming; she’ll sit for eight hours, for whole days together in thesame place. You see there’s a roll lying there, perhaps she’s only takenone bite at it since the morning, and she’ll finish it to-morrow. Nowshe’s begun trying her fortune on cards.…”

“I keep trying my fortune, Shatushka, but it doesn’t come out right,”Marya Timofyevna put in suddenly, catching the last word, and withoutlooking at it she put out her left hand for the roll (she had heardsomething about the roll too very likely). She got hold of the rollat last and after keeping it for some time in her left hand, while herattention was distracted by the conversation which sprang up again, sheput it back again on the table unconsciously without having taken a biteof it.

“It always comes out the same, a journey, a wicked man, somebody’streachery, a death-bed, a letter, unexpected news. I think it’s allnonsense. Shatushka, what do you think? If people can tell lies whyshouldn’t a card?” She suddenly threw the cards together again. “I saidthe same thing to Mother Praskovya, she’s a very venerable woman, sheused to run to my cell to tell her fortune on the cards, without lettingthe Mother Superior know. Yes, and she wasn’t the only one who came tome. They sigh, and shake their heads at me, they talk it over while Ilaugh. ‘Where are you going to get a letter from, Mother Praskovya,’ Isay, ‘when you haven’t had one for twelve years?’ Her daughter had beentaken away to Turkey by her husband, and for twelve years there had beenno sight nor sound of her. Only I was sitting the next evening at teawith the Mother Superior (she was a princess by birth), there was somelady there too, a visitor, a great dreamer, and a little monk from Athoswas sitting there too, a rather absurd man to my thinking. What do youthink, Shatushka, that monk from Athos had brought Mother Praskovya aletter from her daughter in Turkey, that morning—so much for the knaveof diamonds—unexpected news! We were drinking our tea, and the monkfrom Athos said to the Mother Superior, ‘Blessed Mother Superior, Godhas blessed your convent above all things in that you preserve so greata treasure in its precincts,’ said he. ‘What treasure is that?’ askedthe Mother Superior. ‘The Mother Lizaveta, the Blessed.’ This Lizavetathe Blessed was enshrined in the nunnery wall, in a cage seven feet longand five feet high, and she had been sitting there for seventeen yearsin nothing but a hempen shift, summer and winter, and she always keptpecking at the hempen cloth with a straw or a twig of some sort, and shenever said a word, and never combed her hair, or washed, for seventeenyears. In the winter they used to put a sheepskin in for her, and everyday a piece of bread and a jug of water. The pilgrims gaze at her, sighand exclaim, and make offerings of money. ‘A treasure you’ve pitchedon,’ answered the Mother Superior—(she was angry, she disliked Lizavetadreadfully)—‘Lizaveta only sits there out of spite, out of pureobstinacy, it is nothing but hypocrisy.’ I didn’t like this; I wasthinking at the time of shutting myself up too. ‘I think,’ said I, ‘thatGod and nature are just the same thing.’ They all cried out withone voice at me, ‘Well, now!’ The Mother Superior laughed, whisperedsomething to the lady and called me up, petted me, and the lady gave mea pink ribbon. Would you like me to show it to you? And the monk beganto admonish me. But he talked so kindly, so humbly, and so wisely, Isuppose. I sat and listened. ‘Do you understand?’ he asked. ‘No,’ Isaid, ‘I don’t understand a word, but leave me quite alone.’ Ever sincethen they’ve left me in peace, Shatushka. And at that time an old womanwho was living in the convent doing penance for prophesying the future,whispered to me as she was coming out of church, ‘What is the mother ofGod? What do you think?’ ‘The great mother,’ I answer, ‘the hope ofthe human race.’ ‘Yes,’ she answered, ‘the mother of God is the greatmother—the damp earth, and therein lies great joy for men. And everyearthly woe and every earthly tear is a joy for us; and when you waterthe earth with your tears a foot deep, you will rejoice at everything atonce, and your sorrow will be no more, such is the prophecy.’ That wordsank into my heart at the time. Since then when I bow down to the groundat my prayers, I’ve taken to kissing the earth. I kiss it and weep. Andlet me tell you, Shatushka, there’s no harm in those tears; and evenif one has no grief, one’s tears flow from joy. The tears flow ofthemselves, that’s the truth. I used to go out to the shores of thelake; on one side was our convent and on the other the pointed mountain,they called it the Peak. I used to go up that mountain, facing the east,fall down to the ground, and weep and weep, and I don’t know how longI wept, and I don’t remember or know anything about it. I would get up,and turn back when the sun was setting, it was so big, and splendid andglorious—do you like looking at the sun, Shatushka? It’s beautiful butsad. I would turn to the east again, and the shadow, the shadow of ourmountain was flying like an arrow over our lake, long, long and narrow,stretching a mile beyond, right up to the island on the lake and cuttingthat rocky island right in two, and as it cut it in two, the sun wouldset altogether and suddenly all would be darkness. And then I used to bequite miserable, suddenly I used to remember, I’m afraid of the dark,Shatushka. And what I wept for most was my baby.…”

“Why, had you one?” And Shatov, who had been listening attentively allthe time, nudged me with his elbow.

“Why, of course. A little rosy baby with tiny little nails, and my onlygrief is I can’t remember whether it was a boy or a girl. SometimesI remember it was a boy, and sometimes it was a girl. And when he wasborn, I wrapped him in cambric and lace, and put pink ribbons on him,strewed him with flowers, got him ready, said prayers over him. I tookhim away un-christened and carried him through the forest, and I wasafraid of the forest, and I was frightened, and what I weep for most isthat I had a baby and I never had a husband.”

“Perhaps you had one?” Shatov queried cautiously.

“You’re absurd, Shatushka, with your reflections. I had, perhaps I had,but what’s the use of my having had one, if it’s just the same as thoughI hadn’t. There’s an easy riddle for you. Guess it!” she laughed.

“Where did you take your baby?”

“I took it to the pond,” she said with a sigh.

Shatov nudged me again.

“And what if you never had a baby and all this is only a wild dream?”

“You ask me a hard question, Shatushka,” she answered dreamily, withouta trace of surprise at such a question. “I can’t tell you anything aboutthat, perhaps I hadn’t; I think that’s only your curiosity. I shan’tleave off crying for him anyway, I couldn’t have dreamt it.” And bigtears glittered in her eyes. “Shatushka, Shatushka, is it true that yourwife ran away from you?”

She suddenly put both hands on his shoulders, and looked at himpityingly. “Don’t be angry, I feel sick myself. Do you know, Shatushka,I’ve had a dream: he came to me again, he beckoned me, called me. ‘Mylittle puss,’ he cried to me, ‘little puss, come to me!’ And I was moredelighted at that ‘little puss’ than anything; he loves me, I thought.”

“Perhaps he will come in reality,” Shatov muttered in an undertone.

“No, Shatushka, that’s a dream.… He can’t come in reality. You knowthe song:

 ‘A new fine house I do not crave, This tiny cell’s enough for me; There will I dwell my soul to save And ever pray to God for thee.’

Ach, Shatushka, Shatushka, my dear, why do you never ask me aboutanything?”

“Why, you won’t tell. That’s why I don’t ask.”

“I won’t tell, I won’t tell,” she answered quickly. “You may kill me, Iwon’t tell. You may burn me, I won’t tell. And whatever I had to bearI’d never tell, people won’t find out!”

“There, you see. Every one has something of their own,” Shatov said,still more softly, his head drooping lower and lower.

“But if you were to ask perhaps I should tell, perhaps I should!”she repeated ecstatically. “Why don’t you ask? Ask, ask me nicely,Shatushka, perhaps I shall tell you. Entreat me, Shatushka, so that Ishall consent of myself. Shatushka, Shatushka!”

But Shatushka was silent. There was complete silence lasting a minute.Tears slowly trickled down her painted cheeks. She sat forgetting hertwo hands on Shatov’s shoulders, but no longer looking at him.

“Ach, what is it to do with me, and it’s a sin.” Shatov suddenly got upfrom the bench.

“Get up!” He angrily pulled the bench from under me and put it backwhere it stood before.

“He’ll be coming, so we must mind he doesn’t guess. It’s time we wereoff.”

“Ach, you’re talking of my footman,” Marya Timofyevna laughed suddenly.“You’re afraid of him. Well, good-bye, dear visitors, but listen for oneminute, I’ve something to tell you. That Nilitch came here with Filipov,the landlord, a red beard, and my fellow had flown at me just then, sothe landlord caught hold of him and pulled him about the room while heshouted ‘It’s not my fault, I’m suffering for another man’s sin!’ Sowould you believe it, we all burst out laughing.…”

“Ach, Timofyevna, why it was I, not the red beard, it was I pulledhim away from you by his hair, this morning; the landlord came the daybefore yesterday to make a row; you’ve mixed it up.”

“Stay, I really have mixed it up. Perhaps it was you. Why dispute abouttrifles? What does it matter to him who it is gives him a beating?” Shelaughed.

“Come along!” Shatov pulled me. “The gate’s creaking, he’ll find us andbeat her.”

And before we had time to run out on to the stairs we heard a drunkenshout and a shower of oaths at the gate.

Shatov let me into his room and locked the door.

“You’ll have to stay a minute if you don’t want a scene. He’s squealinglike a little pig, he must have stumbled over the gate again. He fallsflat every time.”

We didn’t get off without a scene, however.


Shatov stood at the closed door of his room and listened; suddenly hesprang back.

“He’s coming here, I knew he would,” he whispered furiously. “Nowthere’ll be no getting rid of him till midnight.”

Several violent thumps of a fist on the door followed.

“Shatov, Shatov, open!” yelled the captain. “Shatov, friend!

 ‘I have come, to thee to tell thee That the sun doth r-r-rise apace, That the forest glows and tr-r-rembles In … the fire of … his … embrace. Tell thee I have waked, God damn thee, Wakened under the birch-twigs.…’

(“As it might be under the birch-rods, ha ha!”)

 ‘Every little bird … is … thirsty, Says I’m going to … have a drink, But I don’t … know what to drink.…’

“Damn his stupid curiosity! Shatov, do you understand how good it is tobe alive!”

“Don’t answer!” Shatov whispered to me again.

“Open the door! Do you understand that there’s something higher thanbrawling … in mankind; there are moments of an hon-hon-honourableman.… Shatov, I’m good; I’ll forgive you.… Shatov, damn themanifestoes, eh?”


“Do you understand, you ass, that I’m in love, that I’ve bought adress-coat, look, the garb of love, fifteen roubles; a captain’s lovecalls for the niceties of style.… Open the door!” he roared savagelyall of a sudden, and he began furiously banging with his fists again.

“Go to hell!” Shatov roared suddenly.

“S-s-slave! Bond-slave, and your sister’s a slave, a bondswoman … ath … th … ief!”

“And you sold your sister.”

“That’s a lie! I put up with the libel though. I could with one word …do you understand what she is?”

“What?” Shatov at once drew near the door inquisitively.

“But will you understand?”

“Yes, I shall understand, tell me what?”

“I’m not afraid to say! I’m never afraid to say anything in public!…”

“You not afraid? A likely story,” said Shatov, taunting him, and noddingto me to listen.

“Me afraid?”

“Yes, I think you are.”

“Me afraid?”

“Well then, tell away if you’re not afraid of your master’s whip.…You’re a coward, though you are a captain!”

“I … I … she’s … she’s …” faltered Lebyadkin in a voice shaking withexcitement.

“Well?” Shatov put his ear to the door.

A silence followed, lasting at least half a minute.

“Sc-ou-oundrel!” came from the other side of the door at last, and thecaptain hurriedly beat a retreat downstairs, puffing like a samovar,stumbling on every step.

“Yes, he’s a sly one, and won’t give himself away even when he’s drunk.”

Shatov moved away from the door.

“What’s it all about?” I asked.

Shatov waved aside the question, opened the door and began listeningon the stairs again. He listened a long while, and even stealthilydescended a few steps. At last he came back.

“There’s nothing to be heard; he isn’t beating her; he must have floppeddown at once to go to sleep. It’s time for you to go.”

“Listen, Shatov, what am I to gather from all this?”

“Oh, gather what you like!” he answered in a weary and disgusted voice,and he sat down to his writing-table.

I went away. An improbable idea was growing stronger and stronger in mymind. I thought of the next day with distress.…


This “next day,” the very Sunday which was to decide StepanTrofimovitch’s fate irrevocably, was one of the most memorable days inmy chronicle. It was a day of surprises, a day that solved past riddlesand suggested new ones, a day of startling revelations, and still morehopeless perplexity. In the morning, as the reader is already aware, Ihad by Varvara Petrovna’s particular request to accompany my friend onhis visit to her, and at three o’clock in the afternoon I had to be withLizaveta Nikolaevna in order to tell her—I did not know what—and toassist her—I did not know how. And meanwhile it all ended as no onecould have expected. In a word, it was a day of wonderful coincidences.

To begin with, when Stepan Trofimovitch and I arrived at VarvaraPetrovna’s at twelve o’clock punctually, the time she had fixed, we didnot find her at home; she had not yet come back from church. My poorfriend was so disposed, or, more accurately speaking, so indisposed thatthis circ*mstance crushed him at once; he sank almost helpless intoan arm-chair in the drawing-room. I suggested a glass of water; but inspite of his pallor and the trembling of his hands, he refused itwith dignity. His get-up for the occasion was, by the way, extremelyrecherché: a shirt of batiste and embroidered, almost fit for a ball, awhite tie, a new hat in his hand, new straw-coloured gloves, and even asuspicion of scent. We had hardly sat down when Shatov was shown in bythe butler, obviously also by official invitation. Stepan Trofimovitchwas rising to shake hands with him, but Shatov, after lookingattentively at us both, turned away into a corner, and sat down therewithout even nodding to us. Stepan Trofimovitch looked at me in dismayagain.

We sat like this for some minutes longer in complete silence. StepanTrofimovitch suddenly began whispering something to me very quickly,but I could not catch it; and indeed, he was so agitated himself that hebroke off without finishing. The butler came in once more, ostensibly toset something straight on the table, more probably to take a look at us.

Shatov suddenly addressed him with a loud question:

“Alexey Yegorytch, do you know whether Darya Pavlovna has gone withher?”

“Varvara Petrovna was pleased to drive to the cathedral alone, and DaryaPavlovna was pleased to remain in her room upstairs, being indisposed,”Alexey Yegorytch announced formally and reprovingly.

My poor friend again stole a hurried and agitated glance at me, sothat at last I turned away from him. Suddenly a carriage rumbled at theentrance, and some commotion at a distance in the house made us awareof the lady’s return. We all leapt up from our easy chairs, but againa surprise awaited us; we heard the noise of many footsteps, so ourhostess must have returned not alone, and this certainly was ratherstrange, since she had fixed that time herself. Finally, we heard someone come in with strange rapidity as though running, in a way thatVarvara Petrovna could not have come in. And, all at once she almostflew into the room, panting and extremely agitated. After her a littlelater and much more quickly Lizaveta Nikolaevna came in, and with her,hand in hand, Marya Timofyevna Lebyadkin! If I had seen this in mydreams, even then I should not have believed it.

To explain their utterly unexpected appearance, I must go back anhour and describe more in detail an extraordinary adventure which hadbefallen Varvara Petrovna in church.

In the first place almost the whole town, that is, of course, all of theupper stratum of society, were assembled in the cathedral. It was knownthat the governor’s wife was to make her appearance there for thefirst time since her arrival amongst us. I must mention that there werealready rumours that she was a free-thinker, and a follower of “the newprinciples.” All the ladies were also aware that she would be dressedwith magnificence and extraordinary elegance. And so the costumes of ourladies were elaborate and gorgeous for the occasion.

Only Varvara Petrovna was modestly dressed in black as she always was,and had been for the last four years. She had taken her usual place inchurch in the first row on the left, and a footman in livery had putdown a velvet cushion for her to kneel on; everything in fact, had beenas usual. But it was noticed, too, that all through the service sheprayed with extreme fervour. It was even asserted afterwards when peoplerecalled it, that she had had tears in her eyes. The service was over atlast, and our chief priest, Father Pavel, came out to deliver a solemnsermon. We liked his sermons and thought very highly of them. We usedeven to try to persuade him to print them, but he never could make uphis mind to. On this occasion the sermon was a particularly long one.

And behold, during the sermon a lady drove up to the church in an oldfashioned hired droshky, that is, one in which the lady could only sitsideways, holding on to the driver’s sash, shaking at every jolt like ablade of grass in the breeze. Such droshkys are still to be seen in ourtown. Stopping at the corner of the cathedral—for there were a numberof carriages, and mounted police too, at the gates—the lady sprang outof the droshky and handed the driver four kopecks in silver.

“Isn’t it enough, Vanya?” she cried, seeing his grimace. “It’s all I’vegot,” she added plaintively.

“Well, there, bless you. I took you without fixing the price,” said thedriver with a hopeless gesture, and looking at her he added as thoughreflecting:

“And it would be a sin to take advantage of you too.”

Then, thrusting his leather purse into his bosom, he touched up hishorse and drove off, followed by the jeers of the drivers standing near.Jeers, and wonder too, followed the lady as she made her way to thecathedral gates, between the carriages and the footmen waiting fortheir masters to come out. And indeed, there certainly was somethingextraordinary and surprising to every one in such a person’s suddenlyappearing in the street among people. She was painfully thin and shelimped, she was heavily powdered and rouged; her long neck was quitebare, she had neither kerchief nor pelisse; she had nothing on but anold dark dress in spite of the cold and windy, though bright, Septemberday. She was bareheaded, and her hair was twisted up into a tiny knot,and on the right side of it was stuck an artificial rose, such as areused to dedicate cherubs sold in Palm week. I had noticed just such aone with a wreath of paper roses in a corner under the ikons when I wasat Marya Timofyevna’s the day before. To put a finishing-touch to it,though the lady walked with modestly downcast eyes there was a sly andmerry smile on her face. If she had lingered a moment longer, she wouldperhaps not have been allowed to enter the cathedral. But she succeededin slipping by, and entering the building, gradually pressed forward.

Though it was half-way through the sermon, and the dense crowd thatfilled the cathedral was listening to it with absorbed and silentattention, yet several pairs of eyes glanced with curiosity andamazement at the new-comer. She sank on to the floor, bowed her paintedface down to it, lay there a long time, unmistakably weeping; butraising her head again and getting up from her knees, she soonrecovered, and was diverted. Gaily and with evident and intenseenjoyment she let her eyes rove over the faces, and over the wallsof the cathedral. She looked with particular curiosity at some of theladies, even standing on tip-toe to look at them, and even laughed onceor twice, giggling strangely. But the sermon was over, and they broughtout the cross. The governor’s wife was the first to go up to the cross,but she stopped short two steps from it, evidently wishing to make wayfor Varvara Petrovna, who, on her side, moved towards it quite directlyas though she noticed no one in front of her. There was an obvious and,in its way, clever malice implied in this extraordinary act of deferenceon the part of the governor’s wife; every one felt this; VarvaraPetrovna must have felt it too; but she went on as before, apparentlynoticing no one, and with the same unfaltering air of dignity kissed thecross, and at once turned to leave the cathedral. A footman in liverycleared the way for her, though every one stepped back spontaneously tolet her pass. But just as she was going out, in the porch the closelypacked mass of people blocked the way for a moment. Varvara Petrovnastood still, and suddenly a strange, extraordinary creature, the womanwith the paper rose on her head, squeezed through the people, andfell on her knees before her. Varvara Petrovna, who was not easilydisconcerted, especially in public, looked at her sternly and withdignity.

I hasten to observe here, as briefly as possible, that though VarvaraPetrovna had become, it was said, excessively careful and even stingy,yet sometimes she was not sparing of money, especially for benevolentobjects. She was a member of a charitable society in the capital. Inthe last famine year she had sent five hundred roubles to the chiefcommittee for the relief of the sufferers, and people talked of it inthe town. Moreover, just before the appointment of the new governor, shehad been on the very point of founding a local committee of ladies toassist the poorest mothers in the town and in the province. Shewas severely censured among us for ambition; but Varvara Petrovna’swell-known strenuousness and, at the same time, her persistence nearlytriumphed over all obstacles. The society was almost formed, and theoriginal idea embraced a wider and wider scope in the enthusiastic mindof the foundress. She was already dreaming of founding a similar societyin Moscow, and the gradual expansion of its influence over all theprovinces of Russia. And now, with the sudden change of governor,everything was at a standstill; and the new governor’s wife had, it wassaid, already uttered in society some biting, and, what was worse, aptand sensible remarks about the impracticability of the fundamental ideaof such a committee, which was, with additions of course, repeated toVarvara Petrovna. God alone knows the secrets of men’s hearts; but Iimagine that Varvara Petrovna stood still now at the very cathedralgates positively with a certain pleasure, knowing that the governor’swife and, after her, all the congregation, would have to pass byimmediately, and “let her see for herself how little I care whatshe thinks, and what pointed things she says about the vanity of mybenevolence. So much for all of you!”

“What is it my dear? What are you asking?” said Varvara Petrovna,looking more attentively at the kneeling woman before her, who gazed ather with a fearfully panic-stricken, shame-faced, but almost reverentexpression, and suddenly broke into the same strange giggle.

“What does she want? Who is she?”

Varvara Petrovna bent an imperious and inquiring gaze on all around her.Every one was silent.

“You are unhappy? You are in need of help?”

“I am in need.… I have come …” faltered the “unhappy” creature, in avoice broken with emotion. “I have come only to kiss your hand.…”

Again she giggled. With the childish look with which little childrencaress someone, begging for a favour, she stretched forward to seizeVarvara Petrovna’s hand, but, as though panic-stricken, drew her handsback.

“Is that all you have come for?” said Varvara Petrovna, with acompassionate smile; but at once she drew her mother-of-pearl purse outof her pocket, took out a ten-rouble note and gave it to the unknown.The latter took it. Varvara Petrovna was much interested and evidentlydid not look upon her as an ordinary low-class beggar.

“I say, she gave her ten roubles!” someone said in the crowd.

“Let me kiss your hand,” faltered the unknown, holding tight in thefingers of her left hand the corner of the ten-rouble note, whichfluttered in the draught. Varvara Petrovna frowned slightly, and witha serious, almost severe, face held out her hand. The cripple kissed itwith reverence. Her grateful eyes shone with positive ecstasy. At thatmoment the governor’s wife came up, and a whole crowd of ladies and highofficials flocked after her. The governor’s wife was forced to standstill for a moment in the crush; many people stopped.

“You are trembling. Are you cold?” Varvara Petrovna observed suddenly,and flinging off her pelisse which a footman caught in mid-air, she tookfrom her own shoulders a very expensive black shawl, and with her ownhands wrapped it round the bare neck of the still kneeling woman.

“But get up, get up from your knees I beg you!”

The woman got up.

“Where do you live? Is it possible no one knows where she lives?”Varvara Petrovna glanced round impatiently again. But the crowd wasdifferent now: she saw only the faces of acquaintances, people insociety, surveying the scene, some with severe astonishment, others withsly curiosity and at the same time guileless eagerness for a sensation,while others positively laughed.

“I believe her name’s Lebyadkin,” a good-natured person volunteered atlast in answer to Varvara Petrovna. It was our respectable and respectedmerchant Andreev, a man in spectacles with a grey beard, wearing Russiandress and holding a high round hat in his hands. “They live in theFilipovs’ house in Bogoyavlensky Street.”

“Lebyadkin? Filipovs’ house? I have heard something.… Thank you, NikonSemyonitch. But who is this Lebyadkin?”

“He calls himself a captain, a man, it must be said, not over carefulin his behaviour. And no doubt this is his sister. She must have escapedfrom under control,” Nikon Semyonitch went on, dropping his voice, andglancing significantly at Varvara Petrovna.

“I understand. Thank you, Nikon Semyonitch. Your name is Mlle.Lebyadkin?”

“No, my name’s not Lebyadkin.”

“Then perhaps your brother’s name is Lebyadkin?”

“My brother’s name is Lebyadkin.”

“This is what I’ll do, I’ll take you with me now, my dear, and you shallbe driven from me to your family. Would you like to go with me?”

“Ach, I should!” cried Mlle. Lebyadkin, clasping her hands.

“Auntie, auntie, take me with you too!” the voice of Lizaveta Nikolaevnacried suddenly.

I must observe that Lizaveta Nikolaevna had come to the cathedral withthe governor’s wife, while Praskovya Ivanovna had by the doctor’sorders gone for a drive in her carriage, taking Mavriky Nikolaevitchto entertain her. Liza suddenly left the governor’s wife and ran up toVarvara Petrovna.

“My dear, you know I’m always glad to have you, but what will yourmother say?” Varvara Petrovna began majestically, but she becamesuddenly confused, noticing Liza’s extraordinary agitation.

“Auntie, auntie, I must come with you!” Liza implored, kissing VarvaraPetrovna.

“Mais qu’avez vous donc, Lise?” the governor’s wife asked withexpressive wonder.

“Ah, forgive me, darling, chère cousine, I’m going to auntie’s.”

Liza turned in passing to her unpleasantly surprised chère cousine, andkissed her twice.

“And tell maman to follow me to auntie’s directly; maman meant, fullymeant to come and see you, she said so this morning herself, I forgot totell you,” Liza pattered on. “I beg your pardon, don’t be angry, Julie,chère … cousine.… Auntie, I’m ready!”

“If you don’t take me with you, auntie, I’ll run after your carriage,screaming,” she whispered rapidly and despairingly in Varvara Petrovna’sear; it was lucky that no one heard. Varvara Petrovna positivelystaggered back, and bent her penetrating gaze on the mad girl. That gazesettled everything. She made up her mind to take Liza with her.

“We must put an end to this!” broke from her lips. “Very well, I’lltake you with pleasure, Liza,” she added aloud, “if Yulia Mihailovnais willing to let you come, of course.” With a candid air andstraightforward dignity she addressed the governor’s wife directly.

“Oh, certainly, I don’t want to deprive her of such a pleasureespecially as I am myself …” Yulia Mihailovna lisped with amazingaffability—“I myself … know well what a fantastic, wilful little headit is!” Yulia Mihailovna gave a charming smile.

“I thank you extremely,” said Varvara Petrovna, with a courteous anddignified bow.

“And I am the more gratified,” Yulia Mihailovna went on, lisping almostrapturously, flushing all over with agreeable excitement, “that, apartfrom the pleasure of being with you Liza should be carried away by suchan excellent, I may say lofty, feeling … of compassion …” (sheglanced at the “unhappy creature”) “and … and at the very portal of thetemple.…”

“Such a feeling does you honour,” Varvara Petrovna approvedmagnificently. Yulia Mihailovna impulsively held out her hand andVarvara Petrovna with perfect readiness touched it with her fingers. Thegeneral effect was excellent, the faces of some of those present beamedwith pleasure, some bland and insinuating smiles were to be seen.

In short it was made manifest to every one in the town that it was notYulia Mihailovna who had up till now neglected Varvara Petrovna in notcalling upon her, but on the contrary that Varvara Petrovna had “keptYulia Mihailovna within bounds at a distance, while the latter wouldhave hastened to pay her a visit, going on foot perhaps if necessary,had she been fully assured that Varvara Petrovna would not turn heraway.” And Varvara Petrovna’s prestige was enormously increased.

“Get in, my dear.” Varvara Petrovna motioned Mlle. Lebyadkin towards thecarriage which had driven up.

The “unhappy creature” hurried gleefully to the carriage door, and therethe footman lifted her in.

“What! You’re lame!” cried Varvara Petrovna, seeming quite alarmed,and she turned pale. (Every one noticed it at the time, but did notunderstand it.)

The carriage rolled away. Varvara Petrovna’s house was very nearthe cathedral. Liza told me afterwards that Miss Lebyadkin laughedhysterically for the three minutes that the drive lasted, while VarvaraPetrovna sat “as though in a mesmeric sleep.” Liza’s own expression.



VARVARA PETROVNA rang the bell and threw herself into an easy chair bythe window.

“Sit here, my dear.” She motioned Marya Timofyevna to a seat in themiddle of the room, by a large round table. “Stepan Trofimovitch,what is the meaning of this? See, see, look at this woman, what is themeaning of it?”

“I … I …” faltered Stepan Trofimovitch.

But a footman came in.

“A cup of coffee at once, we must have it as quickly as possible! Keepthe horses!”

“Mais, chère et excellente amie, dans quelle inquiétude …” StepanTrofimovitch exclaimed in a dying voice.

“Ach! French! French! I can see at once that it’s the highest society,”cried Marya Timofyevna, clapping her hands, ecstatically preparingherself to listen to a conversation in French. Varvara Petrovna staredat her almost in dismay.

We all sat in silence, waiting to see how it would end. Shatov did notlift up his head, and Stepan Trofimovitch was overwhelmed with confusionas though it were all his fault; the perspiration stood out on histemples. I glanced at Liza (she was sitting in the corner almost besideShatov). Her eyes darted keenly from Varvara Petrovna to the cripple andback again; her lips were drawn into a smile, but not a pleasantone. Varvara Petrovna saw that smile. Meanwhile Marya Timofyevna wasabsolutely transported. With evident enjoyment and without a traceof embarrassment she stared at Varvara Petrovna’s beautifuldrawing-room—the furniture, the carpets, the pictures on the walls, theold-fashioned painted ceiling, the great bronze crucifix in the corner,the china lamp, the albums, the objects on the table.

“And you’re here, too, Shatushka!” she cried suddenly. “Only fancy, Isaw you a long time ago, but I thought it couldn’t be you! How could youcome here!” And she laughed gaily.

“You know this woman?” said Varvara Petrovna, turning to him at once.

“I know her,” muttered Shatov. He seemed about to move from his chair,but remained sitting.

“What do you know of her? Make haste, please!”

“Oh, well …” he stammered with an incongruous smile. “You see foryourself.…”

“What do I see? Come now, say something!”

“She lives in the same house as I do … with her brother … an officer.”


Shatov stammered again.

“It’s not worth talking about …” he muttered, and relapsed intodetermined silence. He positively flushed with determination.

“Of course one can expect nothing else from you,” said Varvara Petrovnaindignantly. It was clear to her now that they all knew something and,at the same time, that they were all scared, that they were evading herquestions, and anxious to keep something from her.

The footman came in and brought her, on a little silver tray, the cup ofcoffee she had so specially ordered, but at a sign from her moved withit at once towards Marya Timofyevna.

“You were very cold just now, my dear; make haste and drink it and getwarm.”


Marya Timofyevna took the cup and at once went off into a giggleat having said merci to the footman. But meeting Varvara Petrovna’sreproving eyes, she was overcome with shyness and put the cup on thetable.

“Auntie, surely you’re not angry?” she faltered with a sort of flippantplayfulness.

“Wh-a-a-t?” Varvara Petrovna started, and drew herself up in her chair.“I’m not your aunt. What are you thinking of?”

Marya Timofyevna, not expecting such an angry outburst, began tremblingall over in little convulsive shudders, as though she were in a fit, andsank back in her chair.

“I … I … thought that was the proper way,” she faltered, gazingopen-eyed at Varvara Petrovna. “Liza called you that.”

“What Liza?”

“Why, this young lady here,” said Marya Timofyevna, pointing with herfinger.

“So she’s Liza already?”

“You called her that yourself just now,” said Marya Timofyevna growinga little bolder. “And I dreamed of a beauty like that,” she added,laughing, as it were accidentally.

Varvara Petrovna reflected, and grew calmer, she even smiled faintly atMarya Timofyevna’s last words; the latter, catching her smile, got upfrom her chair, and limping, went timidly towards her.

“Take it. I forgot to give it back. Don’t be angry with my rudeness.”

She took from her shoulders the black shawl that Varvara Petrovna hadwrapped round her.

“Put it on again at once, and you can keep it always. Go and sit down,drink your coffee, and please don’t be afraid of me, my dear, don’tworry yourself. I am beginning to understand you.”

“Chère amie …” Stepan Trofimovitch ventured again.

“Ach, Stepan Trofimovitch, it’s bewildering enough without you. Youmight at least spare me.… Please ring that bell there, near you, tothe maid’s room.”

A silence followed. Her eyes strayed irritably and suspiciously over allour faces. Agasha, her favourite maid, came in.

“Bring me my check shawl, the one I bought in Geneva. What’s DaryaPavlovna doing?”

“She’s not very well, madam.”

“Go and ask her to come here. Say that I want her particularly, even ifshe’s not well.”

At that instant there was again, as before, an unusual noise of stepsand voices in the next room, and suddenly Praskovya Ivanovna, pantingand “distracted,” appeared in the doorway. She was leaning on the arm ofMavriky Nikolaevitch.

“Ach, heavens, I could scarcely drag myself here. Liza, you mad girl,how you treat your mother!” she squeaked, concentrating in that squeak,as weak and irritable people are wont to do, all her accumulatedirritability. “Varvara Petrovna, I’ve come for my daughter!”

Varvara Petrovna looked at her from under her brows, half rose to meether, and scarcely concealing her vexation brought out: “Good morning,Praskovya Ivanovna, please be seated, I knew you would come!”


There could be nothing surprising to Praskovya Ivanovna in such areception. Varvara Petrovna had from childhood upwards treated herold school friend tyrannically, and under a show of friendship almostcontemptuously. And this was an exceptional occasion too. During thelast few days there had almost been a complete rupture between the twohouseholds, as I have mentioned incidentally already. The reason of thisrupture was still a mystery to Varvara Petrovna, which made it allthe more offensive; but the chief cause of offence was that PraskovyaIvanovna had succeeded in taking up an extraordinarily superciliousattitude towards Varvara Petrovna. Varvara Petrovna was wounded ofcourse, and meanwhile some strange rumours had reached her which alsoirritated her extremely, especially by their vagueness. Varvara Petrovnawas of a direct and proudly frank character, somewhat slap-dash in hermethods, indeed, if the expression is permissible. There was nothingshe detested so much as secret and mysterious insinuations, she alwayspreferred war in the open. Anyway, the two ladies had not met for fivedays. The last visit had been paid by Varvara Petrovna, who had comeback from “that Drozdov woman” offended and perplexed. I can say withcertainty that Praskovya Ivanovna had come on this occasion with thenaïve conviction that Varvara Petrovna would, for some reason, be sureto stand in awe of her. This was evident from the very expression of herface. Evidently too, Varvara Petrovna was always possessed by a demon ofhaughty pride whenever she had the least ground for suspecting that shewas for some reason supposed to be humiliated. Like many weak people,who for a long time allow themselves to be insulted without resentingit, Praskovya Ivanovna showed an extraordinary violence in her attack atthe first favourable opportunity. It is true that she was not well, andalways became more irritable in illness. I must add finally, that ourpresence in the drawing-room could hardly be much check to the twoladies who had been friends from childhood, if a quarrel had broken outbetween them. We were looked upon as friends of the family, and almostas their subjects. I made that reflection with some alarm at the time.Stepan Trofimovitch, who had not sat down since the entrance of VarvaraPetrovna, sank helplessly into an arm-chair on hearing PraskovyaIvanovna’s squeal, and tried to catch my eye with a look of despair.Shatov turned sharply in his chair, and growled something to himself.I believe he meant to get up and go away. Liza rose from her chair butsank back again at once without even paying befitting attention to hermother’s squeal—not from “waywardness,” but obviously because shewas entirely absorbed by some other overwhelming impression. She waslooking absent-mindedly into the air, no longer noticing even MaryaTimofyevna.


“Ach, here!” Praskovya Ivanovna indicated an easy chair near the tableand sank heavily into it with the assistance of Mavriky Nikolaevitch.“I wouldn’t have sat down in your house, my lady, if it weren’t for mylegs,” she added in a breaking voice.

Varvara Petrovna raised her head a little, and with an expression ofsuffering pressed the fingers of her right hand to her right temple,evidently in acute pain (tic douloureux).

“Why so, Praskovya Ivanovna; why wouldn’t you sit down in my house? Ipossessed your late husband’s sincere friendship all his life; and youand I used to play with our dolls at school together as girls.”

Praskovya Ivanovna waved her hands.

“I knew that was coming! You always begin about the school when you wantto reproach me—that’s your way. But to my thinking that’s only finetalk. I can’t stand the school you’re always talking about.”

“You’ve come in rather a bad temper, I’m afraid; how are your legs? Herethey’re bringing you some coffee, please have some, drink it and don’tbe cross.”

“Varvara Petrovna, you treat me as though I were a child. I won’t haveany coffee, so there!”

And she pettishly waved away the footman who was bringing her coffee.(All the others refused coffee too except Mavriky Nikolaevitch and me.Stepan Trofimovitch took it, but put it aside on the table. Though MaryaTimofyevna was very eager to have another cup and even put out her handto take it, on second thoughts she refused it ceremoniously, and wasobviously pleased with herself for doing so.)

Varvara Petrovna gave a wry smile.

“I’ll tell you what it is, Praskovya Ivanovna, my friend, you musthave taken some fancy into your head again, and that’s why you’ve come.You’ve simply lived on fancies all your life. You flew into a fury atthe mere mention of our school; but do you remember how you came andpersuaded all the class that a hussar called Shablykin had proposed toyou, and how Mme. Lefebure proved on the spot you were lying. Yet youweren’t lying, you were simply imagining it all to amuse yourself. Come,tell me, what is it now? What are you fancying now; what is it vexesyou?”

“And you fell in love with the priest who used to teach us scripture atschool—so much for you, since you’ve such a spiteful memory. Ha ha ha!”

She laughed viciously and went off into a fit of coughing.

“Ah, you’ve not forgotten the priest then …” said Varvara Petrovna,looking at her vindictively.

Her face turned green. Praskovya Ivanovna suddenly assumed a dignifiedair.

“I’m in no laughing mood now, madam. Why have you drawn my daughterinto your scandals in the face of the whole town? That’s what I’ve comeabout.”

“My scandals?” Varvara Petrovna drew herself up menacingly.

“Maman, I entreat you too, to restrain yourself,” Lizaveta Nikolaevnabrought out suddenly.

“What’s that you say?” The maman was on the point of breaking into asqueal again, but catching her daughter’s flashing eye, she subsidedsuddenly.

“How could you talk about scandal, maman?” cried Liza, flushing red.“I came of my own accord with Yulia Mihailovna’s permission, because Iwanted to learn this unhappy woman’s story and to be of use to her.”

“This unhappy woman’s story!” Praskovya Ivanovna drawled with a spitefullaugh. “Is it your place to mix yourself up with such ‘stories.’ Ach,enough of your tyrannising!” She turned furiously to Varvara Petrovna.“I don’t know whether it’s true or not, they say you keep the whole townin order, but it seems your turn has come at last.”

Varvara Petrovna sat straight as an arrow ready to fly from the bow. Forten seconds she looked sternly and immovably at Praskovya Ivanovna.

“Well, Praskovya, you must thank God that all here present are ourfriends,” she said at last with ominous composure. “You’ve said a greatdeal better unsaid.”

“But I’m not so much afraid of what the world will say, my lady, assome people. It’s you who, under a show of pride, are trembling at whatpeople will say. And as for all here being your friends, it’s better foryou than if strangers had been listening.”

“Have you grown wiser during this last week?”

“It’s not that I’ve grown wiser, but simply that the truth has come outthis week.”

“What truth has come out this week? Listen, Praskovya Ivanovna, don’tirritate me. Explain to me this minute, I beg you as a favour, whattruth has come out and what do you mean by that?”

“Why there it is, sitting before you!” and Praskovya Ivanovna suddenlypointed at Marya Timofyevna with that desperate determination whichtakes no heed of consequences, if only it can make an impression atthe moment. Marya Timofyevna, who had watched her all the time withlight-hearted curiosity, laughed exultingly at the sight of the wrathfulguest’s finger pointed impetuously at her, and wriggled gleefully in hereasy chair.

“God Almighty have mercy on us, they’ve all gone crazy!” exclaimedVarvara Petrovna, and turning pale she sank back in her chair.

She turned so pale that it caused some commotion. Stepan Trofimovitchwas the first to rush up to her. I drew near also; even Liza got up fromher seat, though she did not come forward. But the most alarmed of allwas Praskovya Ivanovna herself. She uttered a scream, got up as far asshe could and almost wailed in a lachrymose voice:

“Varvara Petrovna, dear, forgive me for my wicked foolishness! Give hersome water, somebody.”

“Don’t whimper, please, Praskovya Ivanovna, and leave me alone,gentlemen, please, I don’t want any water!” Varvara Petrovna pronouncedin a firm though low voice, with blanched lips.

“Varvara Petrovna, my dear,” Praskovya Ivanovna went on, a littlereassured, “though I am to blame for my reckless words, what’s upset memore than anything are these anonymous letters that some low creatureskeep bombarding me with; they might write to you, since it concerns you,but I’ve a daughter!”

Varvara Petrovna looked at her in silence, with wide-open eyes,listening with wonder. At that moment a side-door in the corner openednoiselessly, and Darya Pavlovna made her appearance. She stood still andlooked round. She was struck by our perturbation. Probably she did notat first distinguish Marya Timofyevna, of whose presence she had notbeen informed. Stepan Trofimovitch was the first to notice her; he madea rapid movement, turned red, and for some reason proclaimed in a loudvoice: “Darya Pavlovna!” so that all eyes turned on the new-comer.

“Oh, is this your Darya Pavlovna!” cried Marya Timofyevna. “Well,Shatushka, your sister’s not like you. How can my fellow call such acharmer the serf-wench Dasha?”

Meanwhile Darya Pavlovna had gone up to Varvara Petrovna, but struckby Marya Timofyevna’s exclamation she turned quickly and stopped justbefore her chair, looking at the imbecile with a long fixed gaze.

“Sit down, Dasha,” Varvara Petrovna brought out with terrifyingcomposure. “Nearer, that’s right. You can see this woman, sitting down.Do you know her?”

“I have never seen her,” Dasha answered quietly, and after a pause sheadded at once:

“She must be the invalid sister of Captain Lebyadkin.”

“And it’s the first time I’ve set eyes on you, my love, though I’ve beeninterested and wanted to know you a long time, for I see howwell-bred you are in every movement you make,” Marya Timofyevna criedenthusiastically. “And though my footman swears at you, can such awell-educated charming person as you really have stolen money fromhim? For you are sweet, sweet, sweet, I tell you that from myself!” sheconcluded, enthusiastically waving her hand.

“Can you make anything of it?” Varvara Petrovna asked with prouddignity.

“I understand it.…”

“Have you heard about the money?”

“No doubt it’s the money that I undertook at Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’srequest to hand over to her brother, Captain Lebyadkin.”

A silence followed.

“Did Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch himself ask you to do so?”

“He was very anxious to send that money, three hundred roubles, to Mr.Lebyadkin. And as he didn’t know his address, but only knew that hewas to be in our town, he charged me to give it to Mr. Lebyadkin if hecame.”

“What is the money … lost? What was this woman speaking about justnow?”

“That I don’t know. I’ve heard before that Mr. Lebyadkin says I didn’tgive him all the money, but I don’t understand his words. There werethree hundred roubles and I sent him three hundred roubles.”

Darya Pavlovna had almost completely regained her composure. And it wasdifficult, I may mention, as a rule, to astonish the girl or ruffle hercalm for long—whatever she might be feeling. She brought out all heranswers now without haste, replied immediately to every question withaccuracy, quietly, smoothly, and without a trace of the sudden emotionshe had shown at first, or the slightest embarrassment which mighthave suggested a consciousness of guilt. Varvara Petrovna’s eyes werefastened upon her all the time she was speaking. Varvara Petrovnathought for a minute:

“If,” she pronounced at last firmly, evidently addressing all present,though she only looked at Dasha, “if Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch did notappeal even to me but asked you to do this for him, he must have had hisreasons for doing so. I don’t consider I have any right to inquire intothem, if they are kept secret from me. But the very fact of your havingtaken part in the matter reassures me on that score, be sure of that,Darya, in any case. But you see, my dear, you may, through ignorance ofthe world, have quite innocently done something imprudent; and you didso when you undertook to have dealings with a low character. The rumoursspread by this rascal show what a mistake you made. But I will findout about him, and as it is my task to protect you, I shall know how todefend you. But now all this must be put a stop to.”

“The best thing to do,” said Marya Timofyevna, popping up from herchair, “is to send him to the footmen’s room when he comes. Let himsit on the benches there and play cards with them while we sit here anddrink coffee. We might send him a cup of coffee too, but I have a greatcontempt for him.”

And she wagged her head expressively.

“We must put a stop to this,” Varvara Petrovna repeated, listeningattentively to Marya Timofyevna. “Ring, Stepan Trofimovitch, I beg you.”

Stepan Trofimovitch rang, and suddenly stepped forward, all excitement.

“If … if …” he faltered feverishly, flushing, breaking off andstuttering, “if I too have heard the most revolting story, or ratherslander, it was with utter indignation … enfin c’est un homme perdu, etquelque chose comme un forçat evadé.…”

He broke down and could not go on. Varvara Petrovna, screwing up hereyes, looked him up and down.

The ceremonious butler Alexey Yegorytch came in.

“The carriage,” Varvara Petrovna ordered. “And you, Alexey Yegorytch,get ready to escort Miss Lebyadkin home; she will give you the addressherself.”

“Mr. Lebyadkin has been waiting for her for some time downstairs, andhas been begging me to announce him.”

“That’s impossible, Varvara Petrovna!” and Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who hadsat all the time in unbroken silence, suddenly came forward in alarm.“If I may speak, he is not a man who can be admitted into society.He … he … he’s an impossible person, Varvara Petrovna!”

“Wait a moment,” said Varvara Petrovna to Alexey Yegorytch, and hedisappeared at once.

“C’est un homme malhonnête et je crois même que c’est un forçat evadéou quelque chose dans ce genre,” Stepan Trofimovitch muttered again, andagain he flushed red and broke off.

“Liza, it’s time we were going,” announced Praskovya Ivanovnadisdainfully, getting up from her seat. She seemed sorry that in heralarm she had called herself a fool. While Darya Pavlovna was speaking,she listened, pressing her lips superciliously. But what struck me mostwas the expression of Lizaveta Nikolaevna from the moment Darya Pavlovnahad come in. There was a gleam of hatred and hardly disguised contemptin her eyes.

“Wait one minute, Praskovya Ivanovna, I beg you.” Varvara Petrovnadetained her, still with the same exaggerated composure. “Kindly sitdown. I intend to speak out, and your legs are bad. That’s right, thankyou. I lost my temper just now and uttered some impatient words. Be sogood as to forgive me. I behaved foolishly and I’m the first to regretit, because I like fairness in everything. Losing your temper too,of course, you spoke of certain anonymous letters. Every anonymouscommunication is deserving of contempt, just because it’s not signed. Ifyou think differently I’m sorry for you. In any case, if I were in yourplace, I would not pry into such dirty corners, I would not soil myhands with it. But you have soiled yours. However, since you havebegun on the subject yourself, I must tell you that six days ago I tooreceived a clownish anonymous letter. In it some rascal informs me thatNikolay Vsyevolodovitch has gone out of his mind, and that I have reasonto fear some lame woman, who ‘is destined to play a great part inmy life.’ I remember the expression. Reflecting and being aware thatNikolay Vsyevolodovitch has very numerous enemies, I promptly sent for aman living here, one of his secret enemies, and the most vindictive andcontemptible of them, and from my conversation with him I gathered whatwas the despicable source of the anonymous letter. If you too, my poorPraskovya Ivanovna, have been worried by similar letters on my account,and as you say ‘bombarded’ with them, I am, of course, the first toregret having been the innocent cause of it. That’s all I wanted to tellyou by way of explanation. I’m very sorry to see that you are sotired and so upset. Besides, I have quite made up my mind to see thatsuspicious personage of whom Mavriky Nikolaevitch said just now, alittle inappropriately, that it was impossible to receive him. Liza inparticular need have nothing to do with it. Come to me, Liza, my dear,let me kiss you again.”

Liza crossed the room and stood in silence before Varvara Petrovna. Thelatter kissed her, took her hands, and, holding her at arm’s-length,looked at her with feeling, then made the sign of the cross over her andkissed her again.

“Well, good-bye, Liza” (there was almost the sound of tears in VarvaraPetrovna’s voice), “believe that I shall never cease to love youwhatever fate has in store for you. God be with you. I have alwaysblessed His Holy Will.…”

She would have added something more, but restrained herself and brokeoff. Liza was walking back to her place, still in the same silence, asit were plunged in thought, but she suddenly stopped before her mother.

“I am not going yet, mother. I’ll stay a little longer at auntie’s,” shebrought out in a low voice, but there was a note of iron determinationin those quiet words.

“My goodness! What now?” wailed Praskovya Ivanovna, clasping her handshelplessly. But Liza did not answer, and seemed indeed not to hear her;she sat down in the same corner and fell to gazing into space again asbefore.

There was a look of pride and triumph in Varvara Petrovna’s face.

“Mavriky Nikolaevitch, I have a great favour to ask of you. Be so kindas to go and take a look at that person downstairs, and if there is anypossibility of admitting him, bring him up here.”

Mavriky Nikolaevitch bowed and went out. A moment later he brought inMr. Lebyadkin.


I have said something of this gentleman’s outward appearance. He was atall, curly-haired, thick-set fellow about forty with a purplish, ratherbloated and flabby face, with cheeks that quivered at every movement ofhis head, with little bloodshot eyes that were sometimes rather crafty,with moustaches and side-whiskers, and with an incipient double chin,fleshy and rather unpleasant-looking. But what was most striking abouthim was the fact that he appeared now wearing a dress-coat and cleanlinen.

“There are people on whom clean linen is almost unseemly,” as Liputinhad once said when Stepan Trofimovitch reproached him in jest for beinguntidy. The captain had perfectly new black gloves too, of which heheld the right one in his hand, while the left, tightly stretched andunbuttoned, covered part of the huge fleshy fist in which he held abrand-new, glossy round hat, probably worn for the first time that day.It appeared therefore that “the garb of love,” of which he had shoutedto Shatov the day before, really did exist. All this, that is, thedress-coat and clean linen, had been procured by Liputin’s advice withsome mysterious object in view (as I found out later). There was nodoubt that his coming now (in a hired carriage) was at the instigationand with the assistance of someone else; it would never have dawned onhim, nor could he by himself have succeeded in dressing, getting readyand making up his mind in three-quarters of an hour, even if the scenein the porch of the cathedral had reached his ears at once. He was notdrunk, but was in the dull, heavy, dazed condition of a man suddenlyawakened after many days of drinking. It seemed as though he would bedrunk again if one were to put one’s hands on his shoulders and rockhim to and fro once or twice. He was hurrying into the drawing-room butstumbled over a rug near the doorway. Marya Timofyevna was helpless withlaughter. He looked savagely at her and suddenly took a few rapid stepstowards Varvara Petrovna.

“I have come, madam …” he blared out like a trumpet-blast.

“Be so good, sir, as to take a seat there, on that chair,” said VarvaraPetrovna, drawing herself up. “I shall hear you as well from there, andit will be more convenient for me to look at you from here.”

The captain stopped short, looking blankly before him. He turned,however, and sat down on the seat indicated close to the door. Anextreme lack of self-confidence and at the same time insolence, and asort of incessant irritability, were apparent in the expression of hisface. He was horribly scared, that was evident, but his self-conceitwas wounded, and it might be surmised that his mortified vanity might onoccasion lead him to any effrontery, in spite of his cowardice. He wasevidently uneasy at every movement of his clumsy person. We all knowthat when such gentlemen are brought by some marvellous chance intosociety, they find their worst ordeal in their own hands, and theimpossibility of disposing them becomingly, of which they are consciousat every moment. The captain sat rigid in his chair, with his hat andgloves in his hands and his eyes fixed with a senseless stare on thestern face of Varvara Petrovna. He would have liked, perhaps, to havelooked about more freely, but he could not bring himself to do so yet.Marya Timofyevna, apparently thinking his appearance very funny, laughedagain, but he did not stir. Varvara Petrovna ruthlessly kept him in thisposition for a long time, a whole minute, staring at him without mercy.

“In the first place allow me to learn your name from yourself,” VarvaraPetrovna pronounced in measured and impressive tones.

“Captain Lebyadkin,” thundered the captain. “I have come, madam …” Hemade a movement again.

“Allow me!” Varvara Petrovna checked him again. “Is this unfortunateperson who interests me so much really your sister?”

“My sister, madam, who has escaped from control, for she is in a certaincondition.…”

He suddenly faltered and turned crimson. “Don’t misunderstand me,madam,” he said, terribly confused. “Her own brother’s not going tothrow mud at her … in a certain condition doesn’t mean in such acondition … in the sense of an injured reputation … in the laststage …” he suddenly broke off.

“Sir!” said Varvara Petrovna, raising her head.

“In this condition!” he concluded suddenly, tapping the middle of hisforehead with his finger.

A pause followed.

“And has she suffered in this way for long?” asked Varvara Petrovna,with a slight drawl.

“Madam, I have come to thank you for the generosity you showed in theporch, in a Russian, brotherly way.”


“I mean, not brotherly, but simply in the sense that I am my sister’sbrother; and believe me, madam,” he went on more hurriedly, turningcrimson again, “I am not so uneducated as I may appear at first sight inyour drawing-room. My sister and I are nothing, madam, compared with theluxury we observe here. Having enemies who slander us, besides. But onthe question of reputation Lebyadkin is proud, madam … and … and …and I’ve come to repay with thanks.… Here is money, madam!”

At this point he pulled out a pocket-book, drew out of it a bundle ofnotes, and began turning them over with trembling fingers in a perfectfury of impatience. It was evident that he was in haste to explainsomething, and indeed it was quite necessary to do so. But probablyfeeling himself that his fluster with the money made him look even morefoolish, he lost the last traces of self-possession. The money refusedto be counted. His fingers fumbled helplessly, and to complete his shamea green note escaped from the pocket-book, and fluttered in zigzags onto the carpet.

“Twenty roubles, madam.” He leapt up suddenly with the roll of notes inhis hand, his face perspiring with discomfort. Noticing the note whichhad dropped on the floor, he was bending down to pick it up, but forsome reason overcome by shame, he dismissed it with a wave.

“For your servants, madam; for the footman who picks it up. Let themremember my sister!”

“I cannot allow that,” Varvara Petrovna brought out hurriedly, even withsome alarm.

“In that case …”

He bent down, picked it up, flushing crimson, and suddenly going up toVarvara Petrovna held out the notes he had counted.

“What’s this?” she cried, really alarmed at last, and positivelyshrinking back in her chair.

Mavriky Nikolaevitch, Stepan Trofimovitch, and I all stepped forward.

“Don’t be alarmed, don’t be alarmed; I’m not mad, by God, I’m not mad,”the captain kept asseverating excitedly.

“Yes, sir, you’re out of your senses.”

“Madam, she’s not at all as you suppose. I am an insignificant link.Oh, madam, wealthy are your mansions, but poor is the dwelling of MaryaAnonyma, my sister, whose maiden name was Lebyadkin, but whom we’ll callAnonyma for the time, only for the time, madam, for God Himself willnot suffer it forever. Madam, you gave her ten roubles and she took it,because it was from you, madam! Do you hear, madam? From no one elsein the world would this Marya Anonyma take it, or her grandfather, theofficer killed in the Caucasus before the very eyes of Yermolov, wouldturn in his grave. But from you, madam, from you she will take anything.But with one hand she takes it, and with the other she holds out toyou twenty roubles by way of subscription to one of the benevolentcommittees in Petersburg and Moscow, of which you are a member … foryou published yourself, madam, in the Moscow News, that you are ready toreceive subscriptions in our town, and that any one may subscribe.…”

The captain suddenly broke off; he breathed hard as though after somedifficult achievement. All he said about the benevolent society hadprobably been prepared beforehand, perhaps under Liputin’s supervision.He perspired more than ever; drops literally trickled down his temples.Varvara Petrovna looked searchingly at him.

“The subscription list,” she said severely, “is always downstairs incharge of my porter. There you can enter your subscriptions if you wishto. And so I beg you to put your notes away and not to wave them in theair. That’s right. I beg you also to go back to your seat. That’s right.I am very sorry, sir, that I made a mistake about your sister, and gaveher something as though she were poor when she is so rich. There’s onlyone thing I don’t understand, why she can only take from me, and no oneelse. You so insisted upon that that I should like a full explanation.”

“Madam, that is a secret that may be buried only in the grave!” answeredthe captain.

“Why?” Varvara Petrovna asked, not quite so firmly.

“Madam, madam …”

He relapsed into gloomy silence, looking on the floor, laying his righthand on his heart. Varvara Petrovna waited, not taking her eyes off him.

“Madam!” he roared suddenly. “Will you allow me to ask you one question?Only one, but frankly, directly, like a Russian, from the heart?”

“Kindly do so.”

“Have you ever suffered madam, in your life?”

“You simply mean to say that you have been or are being ill-treated bysomeone.”

“Madam, madam!” He jumped up again, probably unconscious of doingso, and struck himself on the breast. “Here in this bosom so much hasaccumulated, so much that God Himself will be amazed when it is revealedat the Day of Judgment.”

“H’m! A strong expression!”

“Madam, I speak perhaps irritably.…”

“Don’t be uneasy. I know myself when to stop you.”

“May I ask you another question, madam?”

“Ask another question.”

“Can one die simply from the generosity of one’s feelings?”

“I don’t know, as I’ve never asked myself such a question.”

“You don’t know! You’ve never asked yourself such a question,” he saidwith pathetic irony. “Well, if that’s it, if that’s it …

“Be still, despairing heart!”

And he struck himself furiously on the chest. He was by now walkingabout the room again.

It is typical of such people to be utterly incapable of keeping theirdesires to themselves; they have, on the contrary, an irresistibleimpulse to display them in all their unseemliness as soon as they arise.When such a gentleman gets into a circle in which he is not at homehe usually begins timidly,—but you have only to give him an inch and hewill at once rush into impertinence. The captain was already excited.He walked about waving his arms and not listening to questions, talkedabout himself very, very quickly, so that sometimes his tongue would notobey him, and without finishing one phrase he passed to another. It istrue he was probably not quite sober. Moreover, Lizaveta Nikolaevnawas sitting there too, and though he did not once glance at her, herpresence seemed to over-excite him terribly; that, however, is only mysupposition. There must have been some reason which led Varvara Petrovnato resolve to listen to such a man in spite of her repugnance. PraskovyaIvanovna was simply shaking with terror, though, I believe she reallydid not quite understand what it was about. Stepan Trofimovitch wastrembling too, but that was, on the contrary, because he was disposed tounderstand everything, and exaggerate it. Mavriky Nikolaevitch stood inthe attitude of one ready to defend all present; Liza was pale, and shegazed fixedly with wide-open eyes at the wild captain. Shatov sat inthe same position as before, but, what was strangest of all, MaryaTimofyevna had not only ceased laughing, but had become terribly sad.She leaned her right elbow on the table, and with a prolonged, mournfulgaze watched her brother declaiming. Darya Pavlovna alone seemed to mecalm.

“All that is nonsensical allegory,” said Varvara Petrovna, getting angryat last. “You haven’t answered my question, why? I insist on an answer.”

“I haven’t answered, why? You insist on an answer, why?” repeatedthe captain, winking. “That little word ‘why’ has run through all theuniverse from the first day of creation, and all nature cries everyminute to it’s Creator, ‘why?’ And for seven thousand years it has hadno answer, and must Captain Lebyadkin alone answer? And is that justice,madam?”

“That’s all nonsense and not to the point!” cried Varvara Petrovna,getting angry and losing patience. “That’s allegory; besides, youexpress yourself too sensationally, sir, which I consider impertinence.”

“Madam,” the captain went on, not hearing, “I should have liked perhapsto be called Ernest, yet I am forced to bear the vulgar name Ignat—whyis that do you suppose? I should have liked to be called Prince deMonbart, yet I am only Lebyadkin, derived from a swan.* Why is that?I am a poet, madam, a poet in soul, and might be getting a thousandroubles at a time from a publisher, yet I am forced to live in a pigpail. Why? Why, madam? To my mind Russia is a freak of nature andnothing else.”

 * From lebyed, a swan.

“Can you really say nothing more definite?”

“I can read you the poem, ‘The co*ckroach,’ madam.”


“Madam, I’m not mad yet! I shall be mad, no doubt I shall be, but I’mnot so yet. Madam, a friend of mine—a most honourable man—has writtena Krylov’s fable, called ‘The co*ckroach.’ May I read it?”

“You want to read some fable of Krylov’s?”

“No, it’s not a fable of Krylov’s I want to read. It’s my fable, my owncomposition. Believe me, madam, without offence I’m not so uneducatedand depraved as not to understand that Russia can boast of a greatfable-writer, Krylov, to whom the Minister of Education has raised amonument in the Summer Gardens for the diversion of the young. Here,madam, you ask me why? The answer is at the end of this fable, inletters of fire.”

“Read your fable.”

 “Lived a co*ckroach in the world Such was his condition, In a glass he chanced to fall Full of fly-perdition.”

“Heavens! What does it mean?” cried Varvara Petrovna.

“That’s when fliesget into a glass in the summer-time,” the captain explained hurriedlywith the irritable impatience of an author interrupted in reading. “Thenit is perdition to the flies, any fool can understand. Don’t interrupt,don’t interrupt. You’ll see, you’ll see.…” He kept waving his arms.

 “But he squeezed against the flies, They woke up and cursed him, Raised to Jove their angry cries; ‘The glass is full to bursting!’ In the middle of the din Came along Nikifor, Fine old man, and looking in …

I haven’t quite finished it. But no matter, I’ll tell it in words,”the captain rattled on. “Nikifor takes the glass, and in spite of theiroutcry empties away the whole stew, flies, and beetles and all, into thepig pail, which ought to have been done long ago. But observe, madam,observe, the co*ckroach doesn’t complain. That’s the answer to yourquestion, why?” he cried triumphantly. “‘The co*ckroach does notcomplain.’ As for Nikifor he typifies nature,” he added, speakingrapidly and walking complacently about the room.

Varvara Petrovna was terribly angry.

“And allow me to ask you about that money said to have been receivedfrom Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, and not to have been given to you, aboutwhich you dared to accuse a person belonging to my household.”

“It’s a slander!” roared Lebyadkin, flinging up his right handtragically.

“No, it’s not a slander.”

“Madam, there are circ*mstances that force one to endure family disgracerather than proclaim the truth aloud. Lebyadkin will not blab, madam!”

He seemed dazed; he was carried away; he felt his importance; hecertainly had some fancy in his mind. By now he wanted to insult someone, to do something nasty to show his power.

“Ring, please, Stepan Trofimovitch,” Varvara Petrovna asked him.

“Lebyadkin’s cunning, madam,” he said, winking with his evil smile;“he’s cunning, but he too has a weak spot, he too at times is in theportals of passions, and these portals are the old military hussars’bottle, celebrated by Denis Davydov. So when he is in those portals,madam, he may happen to send a letter in verse, a most magnificentletter—but which afterwards he would have wished to take back, with thetears of all his life; for the feeling of the beautiful is destroyed.But the bird has flown, you won’t catch it by the tail. In those portalsnow, madam, Lebyadkin may have spoken about an honourable young lady,in the honourable indignation of a soul revolted by wrongs, and hisslanderers have taken advantage of it. But Lebyadkin is cunning, madam!And in vain a malignant wolf sits over him every minute, filling hisglass and waiting for the end. Lebyadkin won’t blab. And at the bottomof the bottle he always finds instead Lebyadkin’s cunning. But enough,oh, enough, madam! Your splendid halls might belong to the noblest inthe land, but the co*ckroach will not complain. Observe that, observethat he does not complain, and recognise his noble spirit!”

At that instant a bell rang downstairs from the porter’s room, andalmost at the same moment Alexey Yegorytch appeared in response toStepan Trofimovitch’s ring, which he had somewhat delayed answering. Thecorrect old servant was unusually excited.

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch has graciously arrived this moment and iscoming here,” he pronounced, in reply to Varvara Petrovna’s questioningglance. I particularly remember her at that moment; at first she turnedpale, but suddenly her eyes flashed. She drew herself up in her chairwith an air of extraordinary determination. Every one was astoundedindeed. The utterly unexpected arrival of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,who was not expected for another month, was not only strange from itsunexpectedness but from its fateful coincidence with the present moment.Even the captain remained standing like a post in the middle of the roomwith his mouth wide open, staring at the door with a fearfully stupidexpression.

And, behold, from the next room—a very large and long apartment—camethe sound of swiftly approaching footsteps, little, exceedingly rapidsteps; someone seemed to be running, and that someone suddenly flewinto the drawing-room, not Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but a young man whowas a complete stranger to all.


I will permit myself to halt here to sketch in a few hurried strokesthis person who had so suddenly arrived on the scene.

He was a young man of twenty-seven or thereabouts, a little above themedium height, with rather long, lank, flaxen hair, and with faintlydefined, irregular moustache and beard. He was dressed neatly, and inthe fashion, though not like a dandy. At the first glance he lookedround-shouldered and awkward, but yet he was not round-shouldered, andhis manner was easy. He seemed a queer fish, and yet later on we allthought his manners good, and his conversation always to the point.

No one would have said that he was ugly, and yet no one would have likedhis face. His head was elongated at the back, and looked flattened atthe sides, so that his face seemed pointed, his forehead was high andnarrow, but his features were small; his eyes were keen, his nose wassmall and sharp, his lips were long and thin. The expression of his facesuggested ill-health, but this was misleading. He had a wrinkle on eachcheek which gave him the look of a man who had just recovered from aserious illness. Yet he was perfectly well and strong, and had neverbeen ill.

He walked and moved very hurriedly, yet never seemed in a hurry tobe off. It seemed as though nothing could disconcert him; in everycirc*mstance and in every sort of society he remained the same. He had agreat deal of conceit, but was utterly unaware of it himself.

He talked quickly, hurriedly, but at the same time with assurance, andwas never at a loss for a word. In spite of his hurried manner his ideaswere in perfect order, distinct and definite—and this was particularlystriking. His articulation was wonderfully clear. His words pattered outlike smooth, big grains, always well chosen, and at your service.At first this attracted one, but afterwards it became repulsive, justbecause of this over-distinct articulation, this string of ever-readywords. One somehow began to imagine that he must have a tongue ofspecial shape, somehow exceptionally long and thin, extremely red with avery sharp everlastingly active little tip.

Well, this was the young man who darted now into the drawing-room, andreally, I believe to this day, that he began to talk in the next room,and came in speaking. He was standing before Varvara Petrovna in atrice.

“… Only fancy, Varvara Petrovna,” he pattered on, “I came in expectingto find he’d been here for the last quarter of an hour; he arrived anhour and a half ago; we met at Kirillov’s: he set off half an hour agomeaning to come straight here, and told me to come here too, a quarterof an hour later.…”

“But who? Who told you to come here?” Varvara Petrovna inquired.

“Why, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch! Surely this isn’t the first you’ve heardof it! But his luggage must have been here a long while, anyway. Howis it you weren’t told? Then I’m the first to bring the news. One mightsend out to look for him; he’s sure to be here himself directlythough. And I fancy, at the moment that just fits in with some ofhis expectations, and is far as I can judge, at least, some of hiscalculations.”

At this point he turned his eyes about the room and fixed them withspecial attention on the captain.

“Ach, Lizaveta Nikolaevna, how glad I am to meet you at the very firststep, delighted to shake hands with you.” He flew up to Liza, whowas smiling gaily, to take her proffered hand, “and I observe that myhonoured friend Praskovya Ivanovna has not forgotten her ‘professor,’and actually isn’t cross with him, as she always used to be inSwitzerland. But how are your legs, here, Praskovya Ivanovna, and werethe Swiss doctors right when at the consultation they prescribed yournative air? What? Fomentations? That ought to do good. But how sorry Iwas, Varvara Petrovna” (he turned rapidly to her) “that I didn’t arrivein time to meet you abroad, and offer my respects to you in person; Ihad so much to tell you too. I did send word to my old man here, but Ifancy that he did as he always does …”

“Petrusha!” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, instantly roused from hisstupefaction. He clasped his hands and flew to his son. “Pierre, monenfant! Why, I didn’t know you!” He pressed him in his arms and thetears rolled down his cheeks.

“Come, be quiet, be quiet, no flourishes, that’s enough, that’s enough,please,” Petrusha muttered hurriedly, trying to extricate himself fromhis embrace.

“I’ve always sinned against you, always!”

“Well, that’s enough. We can talk of that later. I knew you’d carry on.Come, be a little more sober, please.”

“But it’s ten years since I’ve seen you.”

“The less reason for demonstrations.”

“Mon enfant!…”

“Come, I believe in your affection, I believe in it, take your armsaway. You see, you’re disturbing other people.… Ah, here’s NikolayVsyevolodovitch; keep quiet, please.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was already in the room; he came in very quietlyand stood still for an instant in the doorway, quietly scrutinising thecompany.

I was struck by the first sight of him just as I had been four yearsbefore, when I saw him for the first time. I had not forgotten him inthe least. But I think there are some countenances which always seem toexhibit something new which one has not noticed before, every timeone meets them, though one may have seen them a hundred times already.Apparently he was exactly the same as he had been four years before. Hewas as elegant, as dignified, he moved with the same air of consequenceas before, indeed he looked almost as young. His faint smile had justthe same official graciousness and complacency. His eyes had the samestern, thoughtful and, as it were, preoccupied look. In fact, it seemedas though we had only parted the day before. But one thing struck me. Inold days, though he had been considered handsome, his face was “like amask,” as some of our sharp-tongued ladies had expressed it. Now—now,I don’t know why he impressed me at once as absolutely, incontestablybeautiful, so that no one could have said that his face was like a mask.Wasn’t it perhaps that he was a little paler and seemed rather thinnerthan before? Or was there, perhaps, the light of some new idea in hiseyes?

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch!” cried Varvara Petrovna, drawing herself upbut not rising from her chair. “Stop a minute!” She checked his advancewith a peremptory gesture.

But to explain the awful question which immediately followed thatgesture and exclamation—a question which I should have imagined to beimpossible even in Varvara Petrovna, I must ask the reader to rememberwhat that lady’s temperament had always been, and the extraordinaryimpulsiveness she showed at some critical moments. I beg him to consideralso, that in spite of the exceptional strength of her spirit andthe very considerable amount of common sense and practical, so to saybusiness, tact she possessed, there were moments in her life in whichshe abandoned herself altogether, entirely and, if it’s permissibleto say so, absolutely without restraint. I beg him to take intoconsideration also that the present moment might really be for her oneof those in which all the essence of life, of all the past and all thepresent, perhaps, too, all the future, is concentrated, as it were,focused. I must briefly recall, too, the anonymous letter of which shehad spoken to Praskovya Ivanovna with so much irritation, though I thinkshe said nothing of the latter part of it. Yet it perhaps contained theexplanation of the possibility of the terrible question with which shesuddenly addressed her son.

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,” she repeated, rapping out her words in aresolute voice in which there was a ring of menacing challenge, “I begyou to tell me at once, without moving from that place; is it true thatthis unhappy cripple—here she is, here, look at her—is it true thatshe is … your lawful wife?”

I remember that moment only too well; he did not wink an eyelash butlooked intently at his mother. Not the faintest change in his facefollowed. At last he smiled, a sort of indulgent smile, and withoutanswering a word went quietly up to his mother, took her hand, raised itrespectfully to his lips and kissed it. And so great was his invariableand irresistible ascendancy over his mother that even now she could notbring herself to pull away her hand. She only gazed at him, her wholefigure one concentrated question, seeming to betray that she could notbear the suspense another moment.

But he was still silent. When he had kissed her hand, he scanned thewhole room once more, and moving, as before, without haste went towardsMarya Timofyevna. It is very difficult to describe people’s countenancesat certain moments. I remember, for instance, that Marya Timofyevna,breathless with fear, rose to her feet to meet him and clasped her handsbefore her, as though beseeching him. And at the same time I rememberthe frantic ecstasy which almost distorted her face—an ecstasy almosttoo great for any human being to bear. Perhaps both were there, both theterror and the ecstasy. But I remember moving quickly towards her (I wasstanding not far off), for I fancied she was going to faint.

“You should not be here,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch said to her ina caressing and melodious voice; and there was the light of anextraordinary tenderness in his eyes. He stood before her in the mostrespectful attitude, and every gesture showed sincere respect for her.The poor girl faltered impulsively in a half-whisper.

“But may I … kneel down … to you now?”

“No, you can’t do that.”

He smiled at her magnificently, so that she too laughed joyfully atonce. In the same melodious voice, coaxing her tenderly as though shewere a child, he went on gravely.

“Only think that you are a girl, and that though I’m your devoted friendI’m an outsider, not your husband, nor your father, nor your betrothed.Give me your arm and let us go; I will take you to the carriage, and ifyou will let me I will see you all the way home.”

She listened, and bent her head as though meditating.

“Let’s go,” she said with a sigh, giving him her hand.

But at that point a slight mischance befell her. She must have turnedcarelessly, resting on her lame leg, which was shorter than the other.She fell sideways into the chair, and if the chair had not been therewould have fallen on to the floor. He instantly seized and supportedher, and holding her arm firmly in his, led her carefully andsympathetically to the door. She was evidently mortified at havingfallen; she was overwhelmed, blushed, and was terribly abashed. Lookingdumbly on the ground, limping painfully, she hobbled after him, almosthanging on his arm. So they went out. Liza, I saw, suddenly jumped upfrom her chair for some reason as they were going out, and she followedthem with intent eyes till they reached the door. Then she sat downagain in silence, but there was a nervous twitching in her face, asthough she had touched a viper.

While this scene was taking place between Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch andMarya Timofyevna every one was speechless with amazement; one could haveheard a fly; but as soon as they had gone out, every one began suddenlytalking.


It was very little of it talk, however; it was mostly exclamation. I’veforgotten a little the order in which things happened, for a scene ofconfusion followed. Stepan Trofimovitch uttered some exclamation inFrench, clasping his hands, but Varvara Petrovna had no thought for him.Even Mavriky Nikolaevitch muttered some rapid, jerky comment. But PyotrStepanovitch was the most excited of all. He was trying desperately withbold gesticulations to persuade Varvara Petrovna of something, but itwas a long time before I could make out what it was. He appealedto Praskovya Ivanovna, and Lizaveta Nikolaevna too, even, in hisexcitement, addressed a passing shout to his father—in fact he seemedall over the room at once. Varvara Petrovna, flushing all over, sprangup from her seat and cried to Praskovya Ivanovna:

“Did you hear what he said to her here just now, did you hear it?”

But the latter was incapable of replying. She could only muttersomething and wave her hand. The poor woman had troubles of her own tothink about. She kept turning her head towards Liza and was watching herwith unaccountable terror, but she didn’t even dare to think of gettingup and going away until her daughter should get up. In the meantime thecaptain wanted to slip away. That I noticed. There was no doubt that hehad been in a great panic from the instant that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchhad made his appearance; but Pyotr Stepanovitch took him by the arm andwould not let him go.

“It is necessary, quite necessary,” he pattered on to Varvara Petrovna,still trying to persuade her. He stood facing her, as she was sittingdown again in her easy chair, and, I remember, was listening to himeagerly; he had succeeded in securing her attention.

“It is necessary. You can see for yourself, Varvara Petrovna, that thereis a misunderstanding here, and much that is strange on the surface,and yet the thing’s as clear as daylight, and as simple as my finger. Iquite understand that no one has authorised me to tell the story, andI dare say I look ridiculous putting myself forward. But in the firstplace, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch attaches no sort of significance tothe matter himself, and, besides, there are incidents of which it isdifficult for a man to make up his mind to give an explanation himself.And so it’s absolutely necessary that it should be undertaken by a thirdperson, for whom it’s easier to put some delicate points into words.Believe me, Varvara Petrovna, that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch is not atall to blame for not immediately answering your question just now witha full explanation, it’s all a trivial affair. I’ve known him since hisPetersburg days. Besides, the whole story only does honour to NikolayVsyevolodovitch, if one must make use of that vague word ‘honour.’”

“You mean to say that you were a witness of some incident which gaverise … to this misunderstanding?” asked Varvara Petrovna.

“I witnessed it, and took part in it,” Pyotr Stepanovitch hastened todeclare.

“If you’ll give me your word that this will not wound NikolayVsyevolodovitch’s delicacy in regard to his feeling for me, from whomhe ne-e-ver conceals anything … and if you are convinced also that yourdoing this will be agreeable to him …”

“Certainly it will be agreeable, and for that reason I consider it aparticularly agreeable duty. I am convinced that he would beg me to doit himself.”

The intrusive desire of this gentleman, who seemed to have dropped onus from heaven to tell stories about other people’s affairs, was ratherstrange and inconsistent with ordinary usage.

But he had caught Varvara Petrovna by touching on too painful a spot.I did not know the man’s character at that time, and still less hisdesigns.

“I am listening,” Varvara Petrovna announced with a reserved andcautious manner. She was rather painfully aware of her condescension.

“It’s a short story; in fact if you like it’s not a story at all,” herattled on, “though a novelist might work it up into a novel in an idlehour. It’s rather an interesting little incident, Praskovya Ivanovna,and I am sure that Lizaveta Nikolaevna will be interested to hearit, because there are a great many things in it that are odd if notwonderful. Five years ago, in Petersburg, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchmade the acquaintance of this gentleman, this very Mr. Lebyadkin who’sstanding here with his mouth open, anxious, I think, to slip away atonce. Excuse me, Varvara Petrovna. I don’t advise you to make yourescape though, you discharged clerk in the former commissariatdepartment; you see, I remember you very well. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchand I know very well what you’ve been up to here, and, don’t forget,you’ll have to answer for it. I ask your pardon once more, VarvaraPetrovna. In those days Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch used to call thisgentleman his Falstaff; that must be,” he explained suddenly, “some oldburlesque character, at whom every one laughs, and who is willing tolet every one laugh at him, if only they’ll pay him for it. NikolayVsyevolodovitch was leading at that time in Petersburg a life, so tosay, of mockery. I can’t find another word to describe it, because heis not a man who falls into disillusionment, and he disdained to beoccupied with work at that time. I’m only speaking of that period,Varvara Petrovna. Lebyadkin had a sister, the woman who was sitting herejust now. The brother and sister hadn’t a corner* of their own, butwere always quartering themselves on different people. He used to hangabout the arcades in the Gostiny Dvor, always wearing his old uniform,and would stop the more respectable-looking passers-by, and everythinghe got from them he’d spend in drink. His sister lived like the birdsof heaven. She’d help people in their ‘corners,’ and do jobs for themon occasion. It was a regular Bedlam. I’ll pass over the descriptionof this life in ‘corners,’ a life to which Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch hadtaken,”

 * In the poorer quarters of Russian towns a single room is often let out to several families, each of which occupies a “corner.”

“at that time, from eccentricity. I’m only talking of that period,Varvara Petrovna; as for ‘eccentricity,’ that’s his own expression. Hedoes not conceal much from me. Mlle. Lebyadkin, who was thrown in theway of meeting Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch very often, at one time, wasfascinated by his appearance. He was, so to say, a diamond set in thedirty background of her life. I am a poor hand at describing feelings,so I’ll pass them over; but some of that dirty lot took to jeering ather once, and it made her sad. They always had laughed at her, but shedid not seem to notice it before. She wasn’t quite right in her headeven then, but very different from what she is now. There’s reason tobelieve that in her childhood she received something like an educationthrough the kindness of a benevolent lady. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchhad never taken the slightest notice of her. He used to spend his timechiefly in playing preference with a greasy old pack of cards forstakes of a quarter-farthing with clerks. But once, when she was beingill-treated, he went up (without inquiring into the cause) and seizedone of the clerks by the collar and flung him out of a second-floorwindow. It was not a case of chivalrous indignation at the sight ofinjured innocence; the whole operation took place in the midst of roarsof laughter, and the one who laughed loudest was Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchhimself. As it all ended without harm, they were reconciled and begandrinking punch. But the injured innocent herself did not forget it. Ofcourse it ended in her becoming completely crazy. I repeat I’m a poorhand at describing feelings. But a delusion was the chief feature inthis case. And Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch aggravated that delusion asthough he did it on purpose. Instead of laughing at her he began allat once treating Mlle. Lebyadkin with sudden respect. Kirillov, who wasthere (a very original man, Varvara Petrovna, and very abrupt, you’llsee him perhaps one day, for he’s here now), well, this Kirillov who,as a rule, is perfectly silent, suddenly got hot, and said to NikolayVsyevolodovitch, I remember, that he treated the girl as though she werea marquise, and that that was doing for her altogether. I must add thatNikolay Vsyevolodovitch had rather a respect for this Kirillov. What doyou suppose was the answer he gave him: ‘You imagine, Mr. Kirillov, thatI am laughing at her. Get rid of that idea, I really do respect her,for she’s better than any of us.’ And, do you know, he said it in such aserious tone. Meanwhile, he hadn’t really said a word to her for two orthree months, except ‘good morning’ and ‘good-bye.’ I remember, for Iwas there, that she came at last to the point of looking on him almostas her betrothed who dared not ‘elope with her,’ simply because he hadmany enemies and family difficulties, or something of the sort.There was a great deal of laughter about it. It ended in NikolayVsyevolodovitch’s making provision for her when he had to come here, andI believe he arranged to pay a considerable sum, three hundred roubles ayear, if not more, as a pension for her. In short it was all a caprice,a fancy of a man prematurely weary on his side, perhaps—it may evenhave been, as Kirillov says, a new experiment of a blasé man, withthe object of finding out what you can bring a crazy cripple to.” (Youpicked out on purpose, he said, the lowest creature, a cripple, forevercovered with disgrace and blows, knowing, too, that this creature wasdying of comic love for you, and set to work to mystify her completelyon purpose, simply to see what would come of it.) “Though, how is a manso particularly to blame for the fancies of a crazy woman, to whomhe had hardly uttered two sentences the whole time. There are things,Varvara Petrovna, of which it is not only impossible to speak sensibly,but it’s even nonsensical to begin speaking of them at all. Well,eccentricity then, let it stand at that. Anyway, there’s nothing worseto be said than that; and yet now they’ve made this scandal out ofit.… I am to some extent aware, Varvara Petrovna, of what is happeninghere.”

The speaker suddenly broke off and was turning to Lebyadkin. But VarvaraPetrovna checked him. She was in a state of extreme exaltation.

“Have you finished?” she asked.

“Not yet; to complete my story I should have to ask this gentleman oneor two questions if you’ll allow me … you’ll see the point in a minute,Varvara Petrovna.”

“Enough, afterwards, leave it for the moment I beg you. Oh, I was quiteright to let you speak!”

“And note this, Varvara Petrovna,” Pyotr Stepanovitch said hastily.“Could Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch have explained all this just now inanswer to your question, which was perhaps too peremptory?”

“Oh, yes, it was.”

“And wasn’t I right in saying that in some cases it’s much easier for athird person to explain things than for the person interested?”

“Yes, yes … but in one thing you were mistaken, and, I see with regret,are still mistaken.”

“Really, what’s that?”

“You see.… But won’t you sit down, Pyotr Stepanovitch?”

“Oh, as you please. I am tired indeed. Thank you.” He instantly moved upan easy chair and turned it so that he had Varvara Petrovna on oneside and Praskovya Ivanovna at the table on the other, while he facedLebyadkin, from whom he did not take his eyes for one minute.

“You are mistaken in calling this eccentricity.…”

“Oh, if it’s only that.…”

“No, no, no, wait a little,” said Varvara Petrovna, who was obviouslyabout to say a good deal and to speak with enthusiasm. As soon as PyotrStepanovitch noticed it, he was all attention.

“No, it was something higher than eccentricity, and I assure you,something sacred even! A proud man who has suffered humiliation earlyin life and reached the stage of ‘mockery’ as you so subtly calledit—Prince Harry, in fact, to use the capital nickname StepanTrofimovitch gave him then, which would have been perfectly correct ifit were not that he is more like Hamlet, to my thinking at least.”

“Et vous avez raison,” Stepan Trofimovitch pronounced, impressively andwith feeling.

“Thank you, Stepan Trofimovitch. I thank you particularly too for yourunvarying faith in Nicolas, in the loftiness of his soul and of hisdestiny. That faith you have even strengthened in me when I was losingheart.”

“Chère, chère.” Stepan Trofimovitch was stepping forward, when hechecked himself, reflecting that it was dangerous to interrupt.

“And if Nicolas had always had at his side” (Varvara Petrovna almostshouted) “a gentle Horatio, great in his humility—another excellentexpression of yours, Stepan Trofimovitch—he might long ago have beensaved from the sad and ‘sudden demon of irony,’ which has tormented himall his life. (‘The demon of irony’ was a wonderful expression of yoursagain, Stepan Trofimovitch.) But Nicolas has never had an Horatio or anOphelia. He had no one but his mother, and what can a mother do alone,and in such circ*mstances? Do you know, Pyotr Stepanovitch, it’sperfectly comprehensible to me now that a being like Nicolas could befound even in such filthy haunts as you have described. I can so clearlypicture now that ‘mockery’ of life. (A wonderfully subtle expressionof yours!) That insatiable thirst of contrast, that gloomy backgroundagainst which he stands out like a diamond, to use your comparisonagain, Pyotr Stepanovitch. And then he meets there a creatureill-treated by every one, crippled, half insane, and at the same timeperhaps filled with noble feelings.”

“H’m.… Yes, perhaps.”

“And after that you don’t understand that he’s not laughing at her likeevery one. Oh, you people! You can’t understand his defending her frominsult, treating her with respect ‘like a marquise’ (this Kirillovmust have an exceptionally deep understanding of men, though he didn’tunderstand Nicolas). It was just this contrast, if you like, that led tothe trouble. If the unhappy creature had been in different surroundings,perhaps she would never have been brought to entertain such a franticdelusion. Only a woman can understand it, Pyotr Stepanovitch, only awoman. How sorry I am that you … not that you’re not a woman, but thatyou can’t be one just for the moment so as to understand.”

“You mean in the sense that the worse things are the better it is. Iunderstand, I understand, Varvara Petrovna. It’s rather as it is inreligion; the harder life is for a man or the more crushed and poor thepeople are, the more obstinately they dream of compensation in heaven;and if a hundred thousand priests are at work at it too, inflamingtheir delusion, and speculating on it, then … I understand you, VarvaraPetrovna, I assure you.”

“That’s not quite it; but tell me, ought Nicolas to have laughed at herand have treated her as the other clerks, in order to extinguish thedelusion in this unhappy organism.” (Why Varvara Petrovna used the wordorganism I couldn’t understand.) “Can you really refuse to recognisethe lofty compassion, the noble tremor of the whole organism with whichNicolas answered Kirillov: ‘I do not laugh at her.’ A noble, sacredanswer!”

“Sublime,” muttered Stepan Trofimovitch.

“And observe, too, that he is by no means so rich as you suppose. Themoney is mine and not his, and he would take next to nothing from methen.”

“I understand, I understand all that, Varvara Petrovna,” said PyotrStepanovitch, with a movement of some impatience.

“Oh, it’s my character! I recognise myself in Nicolas. I recognise thatyouthfulness, that liability to violent, tempestuous impulses. And ifwe ever come to be friends, Pyotr Stepanovitch, and, for my part, Isincerely hope we may, especially as I am so deeply indebted to you,then, perhaps you’ll understand.…”

“Oh, I assure you, I hope for it too,” Pyotr Stepanovitch mutteredjerkily.

“You’ll understand then the impulse which leads one in the blindnessof generous feeling to take up a man who is unworthy of one in everyrespect, a man who utterly fails to understand one, who is ready totorture one at every opportunity and, in contradiction to everything, toexalt such a man into a sort of ideal, into a dream. To concentrate inhim all one’s hopes, to bow down before him; to love him all one’s life,absolutely without knowing why—perhaps just because he was unworthy ofit.… Oh, how I’ve suffered all my life, Pyotr Stepanovitch!”

Stepan Trofimovitch, with a look of suffering on his face, began tryingto catch my eye, but I turned away in time.

“… And only lately, only lately—oh, how unjust I’ve been to Nicolas!… You would not believe how they have been worrying me on all sides,all, all, enemies, and rascals, and friends, friends perhaps more thanenemies. When the first contemptible anonymous letter was sent to me,Pyotr Stepanovitch, you’ll hardly believe it, but I had not strengthenough to treat all this wickedness with contempt.… I shall never,never forgive myself for my weakness.”

“I had heard something of anonymous letters here already,” said PyotrStepanovitch, growing suddenly more lively, “and I’ll find out thewriters of them, you may be sure.”

“But you can’t imagine the intrigues that have been got up here. Theyhave even been pestering our poor Praskovya Ivanovna, and what reasoncan they have for worrying her? I was quite unfair to you to-dayperhaps, my dear Praskovya Ivanovna,” she added in a generous impulse ofkindliness, though not without a certain triumphant irony.

“Don’t say any more, my dear,” the other lady muttered reluctantly.“To my thinking we’d better make an end of all this; too much has beensaid.”

And again she looked timidly towards Liza, but the latter was looking atPyotr Stepanovitch.

“And I intend now to adopt this poor unhappy creature, this insanewoman who has lost everything and kept only her heart,” Varvara Petrovnaexclaimed suddenly. “It’s a sacred duty I intend to carry out. I takeher under my protection from this day.”

“And that will be a very good thing in one way,” Pyotr Stepanovitchcried, growing quite eager again. “Excuse me, I did not finish just now.It’s just the care of her I want to speak of. Would you believe it, thatas soon as Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had gone (I’m beginning from whereI left off, Varvara Petrovna), this gentleman here, this Mr. Lebyadkin,instantly imagined he had the right to dispose of the whole pensionthat was provided for his sister. And he did dispose of it. I don’tknow exactly how it had been arranged by Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch at thattime. But a year later, when he learned from abroad what had happened,he was obliged to make other arrangements. Again, I don’t know thedetails; he’ll tell you them himself. I only know that the interestingyoung person was placed somewhere in a remote nunnery, in verycomfortable surroundings, but under friendly superintendence—youunderstand? But what do you think Mr. Lebyadkin made up his mind to do?He exerted himself to the utmost, to begin with, to find wherehis source of income, that is his sister, was hidden. Only lately heattained his object, took her from the nunnery, asserting some claim toher, and brought her straight here. Here he doesn’t feed her properly,beats her, and bullies her. As soon as by some means he gets aconsiderable sum from Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, he does nothing butget drunk, and instead of gratitude ends by impudently defying NikolayVsyevolodovitch, making senseless demands, threatening him withproceedings if the pension is not paid straight into his hands. Sohe takes what is a voluntary gift from Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch as atax—can you imagine it? Mr. Lebyadkin, is that all true that I havesaid just now?”

The captain, who had till that moment stood in silence looking down,took two rapid steps forward and turned crimson.

“Pyotr Stepanovitch, you’ve treated me cruelly,” he brought outabruptly.

“Why cruelly? How? But allow us to discuss the question of cruelty orgentleness later on. Now answer my first question; is it true all that Ihave said or not? If you consider it’s false you are at liberty to giveyour own version at once.”

“I … you know yourself, Pyotr Stepanovitch,” the captain muttered, buthe could not go on and relapsed into silence. It must be observed thatPyotr Stepanovitch was sitting in an easy chair with one leg crossedover the other, while the captain stood before him in the mostrespectful attitude.

Lebyadkin’s hesitation seemed to annoy Pyotr Stepanovitch; a spasm ofanger distorted his face.

“Then you have a statement you want to make?” he said, looking subtly atthe captain. “Kindly speak. We’re waiting for you.”

“You know yourself Pyotr Stepanovitch, that I can’t say anything.”

“No, I don’t know it. It’s the first time I’ve heard it. Why can’t youspeak?”

The captain was silent, with his eyes on the ground.

“Allow me to go, Pyotr Stepanovitch,” he brought out resolutely.

“No, not till you answer my question: is it all true that I’ve said?”

“It is true,” Lebyadkin brought out in a hollow voice, looking at histormentor. Drops of perspiration stood out on his forehead.

“Is it all true?”

“It’s all true.”

“Have you nothing to add or to observe? If you think that we’ve beenunjust, say so; protest, state your grievance aloud.”

“No, I think nothing.”

“Did you threaten Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch lately?”

“It was … it was more drink than anything, Pyotr Stepanovitch.” Hesuddenly raised his head. “If family honour and undeserved disgracecry out among men then—then is a man to blame?” he roared suddenly,forgetting himself as before.

“Are you sober now, Mr. Lebyadkin?”

Pyotr Stepanovitch looked at him penetratingly.

“I am … sober.”

“What do you mean by family honour and undeserved disgrace?”

“I didn’t mean anybody, anybody at all. I meant myself,” the captainsaid, collapsing again.

“You seem to be very much offended by what I’ve said about you and yourconduct? You are very irritable, Mr. Lebyadkin. But let me tell you I’vehardly begun yet what I’ve got to say about your conduct, in its realsense. I’ll begin to discuss your conduct in its real sense. I shallbegin, that may very well happen, but so far I’ve not begun, in a realsense.”

Lebyadkin started and stared wildly at Pyotr Stepanovitch.

“Pyotr Stepanovitch, I am just beginning to wake up.”

“H’m! And it’s I who have waked you up?”

“Yes, it’s you who have waked me, Pyotr Stepanovitch; and I’ve beenasleep for the last four years with a storm-cloud hanging over me. May Iwithdraw at last, Pyotr Stepanovitch?”

“Now you may, unless Varvara Petrovna thinks it necessary …”

But the latter dismissed him with a wave of her hand.

The captain bowed, took two steps towards the door, stopped suddenly,laid his hand on his heart, tried to say something, did not say it, andwas moving quickly away. But in the doorway he came face to face withNikolay Vsyevolodovitch; the latter stood aside. The captain shrank intohimself, as it were, before him, and stood as though frozen to the spot,his eyes fixed upon him like a rabbit before a boa-constrictor. Aftera little pause Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch waved him aside with a slightmotion of his hand, and walked into the drawing-room.


He was cheerful and serene. Perhaps something very pleasant had happenedto him, of which we knew nothing as yet; but he seemed particularlycontented.

“Do you forgive me, Nicolas?” Varvara Petrovna hastened to say, and gotup suddenly to meet him.

But Nicolas positively laughed.

“Just as I thought,” he said, good-humouredly and jestingly. “I see youknow all about it already. When I had gone from here I reflected in thecarriage that I ought at least to have told you the story instead ofgoing off like that. But when I remembered that Pyotr Stepanovitch wasstill here, I thought no more of it.”

As he spoke he took a cursory look round.

“Pyotr Stepanovitch told us an old Petersburg episode in the life of aqueer fellow,” Varvara Petrovna rejoined enthusiastically—“a madand capricious fellow, though always lofty in his feelings, alwayschivalrous and noble.…”

“Chivalrous? You don’t mean to say it’s come to that,” laughed Nicolas.“However, I’m very grateful to Pyotr Stepanovitch for being in such ahurry this time.” He exchanged a rapid glance with the latter. “You mustknow, maman, that Pyotr Stepanovitch is the universal peacemaker; that’shis part in life, his weakness, his hobby, and I particularly recommendhim to you from that point of view. I can guess what a yarn he’sbeen spinning. He’s a great hand at spinning them; he has a perfectrecord-office in his head. He’s such a realist, you know, that he can’ttell a lie, and prefers truthfulness to effect … except, of course,in special cases when effect is more important than truth.” (As he saidthis he was still looking about him.) “So, you see clearly, maman, thatit’s not for you to ask my forgiveness, and if there’s any crazinessabout this affair it’s my fault, and it proves that, when all’s said anddone, I really am mad.… I must keep up my character here.…”

Then he tenderly embraced his mother.

“In any case the subject has been fully discussed and is done with,”he added, and there was a rather dry and resolute note in his voice.Varvara Petrovna understood that note, but her exaltation was notdamped, quite the contrary.

“I didn’t expect you for another month, Nicolas!”

“I will explain everything to you, maman, of course, but now …”

And he went towards Praskovya Ivanovna.

But she scarcely turned her head towards him, though she had beencompletely overwhelmed by his first appearance. Now she had freshanxieties to think of; at the moment the captain had stumbled uponNikolay Vsyevolodovitch as he was going out, Liza had suddenly begunlaughing—at first quietly and intermittently, but her laughter grewmore and more violent, louder and more conspicuous. She flushed crimson,in striking contrast with her gloomy expression just before.

While Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was talking to Varvara Petrovna, she hadtwice beckoned to Mavriky Nikolaevitch as though she wanted to whispersomething to him; but as soon as the young man bent down to her, sheinstantly burst into laughter; so that it seemed as though it was atpoor Mavriky Nikolaevitch that she was laughing. She evidently tried tocontrol herself, however, and put her handkerchief to her lips.Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch turned to greet her with a most innocent andopen-hearted air.

“Please excuse me,” she responded, speaking quickly. “You … you’ve seenMavriky Nikolaevitch of course.… My goodness, how inexcusably tall youare, Mavriky Nikolaevitch!”

And laughter again, Mavriky Nikolaevitch was tall, but by no meansinexcusably so.

“Have … you been here long?” she muttered, restraining herself again,genuinely embarrassed though her eyes were shining.

“More than two hours,” answered Nicolas, looking at her intently. I mayremark that he was exceptionally reserved and courteous, but that apartfrom his courtesy his expression was utterly indifferent, even listless.

“And where are you going to stay?”


Varvara Petrovna, too, was watching Liza, but she was suddenly struck byan idea.

“Where have you been all this time, Nicolas, more than two hours?” shesaid, going up to him. “The train comes in at ten o’clock.”

“I first took Pyotr Stepanovitch to Kirillov’s. I came across PyotrStepanovitch at Matveyev (three stations away), and we travelledtogether.”

“I had been waiting at Matveyev since sunrise,” put in PyotrStepanovitch. “The last carriages of our train ran off the rails in thenight, and we nearly had our legs broken.”

“Your legs broken!” cried Liza. “Maman, maman, you and I meant to go toMatveyev last week, we should have broken our legs too!”

“Heaven have mercy on us!” cried Praskovya Ivanovna, crossing herself.

“Maman, maman, dear maman, you mustn’t be frightened if I break both mylegs. It may so easily happen to me; you say yourself that I ride sorecklessly every day. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, will you go about with mewhen I’m lame?” She began giggling again. “If it does happen I won’t letanyone take me about but you, you can reckon on that.… Well, suppose Ibreak only one leg. Come, be polite, say you’ll think it a pleasure.”

“A pleasure to be crippled?” said Mavriky Nikolaevitch, frowninggravely.

“But then you’ll lead me about, only you and no one else.”

“Even then it’ll be you leading me about, Lizaveta Nikolaevna,”murmured Mavriky Nikolaevitch, even more gravely.

“Why, he’s trying to make a joke!” cried Liza, almost in dismay.“Mavriky Nikolaevitch, don’t you ever dare take to that! But what anegoist you are! I am certain that, to your credit, you’re slanderingyourself. It will be quite the contrary; from morning till night you’llassure me that I have become more charming for having lost my leg.There’s one insurmountable difficulty—you’re so fearfully tall, andwhen I’ve lost my leg I shall be so very tiny. How will you be able totake me on your arm; we shall look a strange couple!”

And she laughed hysterically. Her jests and insinuations were feeble,but she was not capable of considering the effect she was producing.

“Hysterics!” Pyotr Stepanovitch whispered to me. “A glass of water, makehaste!”

He was right. A minute later every one was fussing about, water wasbrought. Liza embraced her mother, kissed her warmly, wept on hershoulder, then drawing back and looking her in the face she fell tolaughing again. The mother too began whimpering. Varvara Petrovna madehaste to carry them both off to her own rooms, going out by the samedoor by which Darya Pavlovna had come to us. But they were not awaylong, not more than four minutes.

I am trying to remember now every detail of these last moments of thatmemorable morning. I remember that when we were left without the ladies(except Darya Pavlovna, who had not moved from her seat), NikolayVsyevolodovitch made the round, greeting us all except Shatov, who stillsat in his corner, his head more bowed than ever. Stepan Trofimovitchwas beginning something very witty to Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but thelatter turned away hurriedly to Darya Pavlovna. But before he reachedher, Pyotr Stepanovitch caught him and drew him away, almost violently,towards the window, where he whispered something quickly to him,apparently something very important to judge by the expression ofhis face and the gestures that accompanied the whisper. NikolayVsyevolodovitch listened inattentively and listlessly with his officialsmile, and at last even impatiently, and seemed all the time on thepoint of breaking away. He moved away from the window just as the ladiescame back. Varvara Petrovna made Liza sit down in the same seat asbefore, declaring that she must wait and rest another ten minutes; andthat the fresh air would perhaps be too much for her nerves at once.She was looking after Liza with great devotion, and sat down besideher. Pyotr Stepanovitch, now disengaged, skipped up to them at once,and broke into a rapid and lively flow of conversation. At that pointNikolay Vsyevolodovitch at last went up to Darya Pavlovna with hisleisurely step. Dasha began stirring uneasily at his approach, andjumped up quickly in evident embarrassment, flushing all over her face.

“I believe one may congratulate you … or is it too soon?” he broughtout with a peculiar line in his face.

Dasha made him some answer, but it was difficult to catch it.

“Forgive my indiscretion,” he added, raising his voice, “but you know Iwas expressly informed. Did you know about it?”

“Yes, I know that you were expressly informed.”

“But I hope I have not done any harm by my congratulations,” he laughed.“And if Stepan Trofimovitch …”

“What, what’s the congratulation about?” Pyotr Stepanovitch suddenlyskipped up to them. “What are you being congratulated about, DaryaPavlovna? Bah! Surely that’s not it? Your blush proves I’ve guessedright. And indeed, what else does one congratulate our charming andvirtuous young ladies on? And what congratulations make them blush mostreadily? Well, accept mine too, then, if I’ve guessed right! And payup. Do you remember when we were in Switzerland you bet you’d never bemarried.… Oh, yes, apropos of Switzerland—what am I thinking about?Only fancy, that’s half what I came about, and I was almost forgettingit. Tell me,” he turned quickly to Stepan Trofimovitch, “when are yougoing to Switzerland?”

“I … to Switzerland?” Stepan Trofimovitch replied, wondering andconfused.

“What? Aren’t you going? Why you’re getting married, too, you wrote?”

“Pierre!” cried Stepan Trofimovitch.

“Well, why Pierre?… You see, if that’ll please you, I’ve flown here toannounce that I’m not at all against it, since you were set on havingmy opinion as quickly as possible; and if, indeed,” he pattered on, “youwant to ‘be saved,’ as you wrote, beseeching my help in the same letter,I am at your service again. Is it true that he is going to be married,Varvara Petrovna?” He turned quickly to her. “I hope I’m not beingindiscreet; he writes himself that the whole town knows it and everyone’s congratulating him, so that, to avoid it he only goes out atnight. I’ve got his letters in my pocket. But would you believe it,Varvara Petrovna, I can’t make head or tail of it? Just tell me onething, Stepan Trofimovitch, are you to be congratulated or are you tobe ‘saved’? You wouldn’t believe it; in one line he’s despairing and inthe next he’s most joyful. To begin with he begs my forgiveness; well,of course, that’s their way … though it must be said; fancy, the man’sonly seen me twice in his life and then by accident. And suddenly now,when he’s going to be married for the third time, he imagines thatthis is a breach of some sort of parental duty to me, and entreats me athousand miles away not to be angry and to allow him to. Please don’tbe hurt, Stepan Trofimovitch. It’s characteristic of your generation,I take a broad view of it, and don’t blame you. And let’s admit it doesyou honour and all the rest. But the point is again that I don’t see thepoint of it. There’s something about some sort of ‘sins in Switzerland.’‘I’m getting married,’ he says, ‘for my sins or on account of the ‘sins’of another,’ or whatever it is—‘sins’ anyway. ‘The girl,’ says he, ‘isa pearl and a diamond,’ and, well, of course, he’s ‘unworthy of her’;it’s their way of talking; but on account of some sins or circ*mstances‘he is obliged to lead her to the altar, and go to Switzerland, andtherefore abandon everything and fly to save me.’ Do you understandanything of all that? However … however, I notice from the expressionof your faces”—(he turned about with the letter in his hand lookingwith an innocent smile into the faces of the company)—“that, as usual,I seem to have put my foot in it through my stupid way of being open,or, as Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch says, ‘being in a hurry.’ I thought, ofcourse, that we were all friends here, that is, your friends, StepanTrofimovitch, your friends. I am really a stranger, and I see … and Isee that you all know something, and that just that something I don’tknow.” He still went on looking about him.

“So Stepan Trofimovitch wrote to you that he was getting married forthe ‘sins of another committed in Switzerland,’ and that you were tofly here ‘to save him,’ in those very words?” said Varvara Petrovna,addressing him suddenly. Her face was yellow and distorted, and her lipswere twitching.

“Well, you see, if there’s anything I’ve not understood,” said PyotrStepanovitch, as though in alarm, talking more quickly than ever, “it’shis fault, of course, for writing like that. Here’s the letter. Youknow, Varvara Petrovna, his letters are endless and incessant, and,you know, for the last two or three months there has been letter uponletter, till, I must own, at last I sometimes didn’t read them through.Forgive me, Stepan Trofimovitch, for my foolish confession, but you mustadmit, please, that, though you addressed them to me, you wrote themmore for posterity, so that you really can’t mind.… Come, come, don’tbe offended; we’re friends, anyway. But this letter, Varvara Petrovna,this letter, I did read through. These ‘sins’—these ‘sins ofanother’—are probably some little sins of our own, and I don’t mindbetting very innocent ones, though they have suddenly made us take afancy to work up a terrible story, with a glamour of the heroic aboutit; and it’s just for the sake of that glamour we’ve got it up. Yousee there’s something a little lame about our accounts—it must beconfessed, in the end. We’ve a great weakness for cards, you know.…But this is unnecessary, quite unnecessary, I’m sorry, I chatter toomuch. But upon my word, Varvara Petrovna, he gave me a fright, and Ireally was half prepared to save him. He really made me feel ashamed.Did he expect me to hold a knife to his throat, or what? Am I such amerciless creditor? He writes something here of a dowry.… But are youreally going to get married, Stepan Trofimovitch? That would be justlike you, to say a lot for the sake of talking. Ach, Varvara Petrovna,I’m sure you must be blaming me now, and just for my way of talkingtoo.…”

“On the contrary, on the contrary, I see that you are driven out ofall patience, and, no doubt you have had good reason,” Varvara Petrovnaanswered spitefully. She had listened with spiteful enjoyment to all the“candid outbursts” of Pyotr Stepanovitch, who was obviously playinga part (what part I did not know then, but it was unmistakable, andover-acted indeed).

“On the contrary,” she went on, “I’m only too grateful to you forspeaking; but for you I might not have known of it. My eyes are openedfor the first time for twenty years. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, yousaid just now that you had been expressly informed; surely StepanTrofimovitch hasn’t written to you in the same style?”

“I did get a very harmless and … and … very generous letter fromhim.…”

“You hesitate, you pick out your words. That’s enough! StepanTrofimovitch, I request a great favour from you.” She suddenly turned tohim with flashing eyes. “Kindly leave us at once, and never set foot inmy house again.”

I must beg the reader to remember her recent “exaltation,” which had notyet passed. It’s true that Stepan Trofimovitch was terribly to blame!But what was a complete surprise to me then was the wonderful dignity ofhis bearing under his son’s “accusation,” which he had never thought ofinterrupting, and before Varvara Petrovna’s “denunciation.” How did hecome by such spirit? I only found out one thing, that he had certainlybeen deeply wounded at his first meeting with Petrusha, by the way hehad embraced him. It was a deep and genuine grief; at least in his eyesand to his heart. He had another grief at the same time, that is thepoignant consciousness of having acted contemptibly. He admitted thisto me afterwards with perfect openness. And you know real genuine sorrowwill sometimes make even a phenomenally frivolous, unstable man solidand stoical; for a short time at any rate; what’s more, even fools areby genuine sorrow turned into wise men, also only for a short time ofcourse; it is characteristic of sorrow. And if so, what might nothappen with a man like Stepan Trofimovitch? It worked a completetransformation—though also only for a time, of course.

He bowed with dignity to Varvara Petrovna without uttering a word (therewas nothing else left for him to do, indeed). He was on the point ofgoing out without a word, but could not refrain from approaching DaryaPavlovna. She seemed to foresee that he would do so, for she beganspeaking of her own accord herself, in utter dismay, as though in hasteto anticipate him.

“Please, Stepan Trofimovitch, for God’s sake, don’t say anything,” shebegan, speaking with haste and excitement, with a look of pain in herface, hurriedly stretching out her hands to him. “Be sure that I stillrespect you as much … and think just as highly of you, and … thinkwell of me too, Stepan Trofimovitch, that will mean a great deal to me,a great deal.…”

Stepan Trofimovitch made her a very, very low bow.

“It’s for you to decide, Darya Pavlovna; you know that you are perfectlyfree in the whole matter! You have been, and you are now, and you alwayswill be,” Varvara Petrovna concluded impressively.

“Bah! Now I understand it all!” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, slappinghimself on the forehead. “But … but what a position I am put in byall this! Darya Pavlovna, please forgive me!… What do you call yourtreatment of me, eh?” he said, addressing his father.

“Pierre, you might speak to me differently, mightn’t you, my boy,”Stepan Trofimovitch observed quite quietly.

“Don’t cry out, please,” said Pierre, with a wave of his hand. “Believeme, it’s all your sick old nerves, and crying out will do no good atall. You’d better tell me instead, why didn’t you warn me since youmight have supposed I should speak out at the first chance?”

Stepan Trofimovitch looked searchingly at him.

“Pierre, you who know so much of what goes on here, can you really haveknown nothing of this business and have heard nothing about it?”

“What? What a set! So it’s not enough to be a child in your old age,you must be a spiteful child too! Varvara Petrovna, did you hear what hesaid?”

There was a general outcry; but then suddenly an incident took placewhich no one could have anticipated.


First of all I must mention that, for the last two or three minutesLizaveta Nikolaevna had seemed to be possessed by a new impulse; shewas whispering something hurriedly to her mother, and to MavrikyNikolaevitch, who bent down to listen. Her face was agitated, but at thesame time it had a look of resolution. At last she got up from herseat in evident haste to go away, and hurried her mother whom MavrikyNikolaevitch began helping up from her low chair. But it seemed theywere not destined to get away without seeing everything to the end.

Shatov, who had been forgotten by every one in his corner (not far fromLizaveta Nikolaevna), and who did not seem to know himself why he wenton sitting there, got up from his chair, and walked, without haste, withresolute steps right across the room to Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, lookinghim straight in the face. The latter noticed him approaching at somedistance, and faintly smiled, but when Shatov was close to him he leftoff smiling.

When Shatov stood still facing him with his eyes fixed on him, andwithout uttering a word, every one suddenly noticed it and there was ageneral hush; Pyotr Stepanovitch was the last to cease speaking. Lizaand her mother were standing in the middle of the room. So passed fiveseconds; the look of haughty astonishment was followed by one of angeron Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s face; he scowled.…

And suddenly Shatov swung his long, heavy arm, and with all his mightstruck him a blow in the face. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch staggeredviolently.

Shatov struck the blow in a peculiar way, not at all after theconventional fashion (if one may use such an expression). It was not aslap with the palm of his hand, but a blow with the whole fist, and itwas a big, heavy, bony fist covered with red hairs and freckles. If theblow had struck the nose, it would have broken it. But it hit him on thecheek, and struck the left corner of the lip and the upper teeth, fromwhich blood streamed at once.

I believe there was a sudden scream, perhaps Varvara Petrovnascreamed—that I don’t remember, because there was a dead hush again;the whole scene did not last more than ten seconds, however.

Yet a very great deal happened in those seconds.

I must remind the reader again that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s was oneof those natures that know nothing of fear. At a duel he could face thepistol of his opponent with indifference, and could take aim and killwith brutal coolness. If anyone had slapped him in the face, I shouldhave expected him not to challenge his assailant to a duel, but tomurder him on the spot. He was just one of those characters, and wouldhave killed the man, knowing very well what he was doing, and withoutlosing his self-control. I fancy, indeed, that he never was liable tothose fits of blind rage which deprive a man of all power of reflection.Even when overcome with intense anger, as he sometimes was, he wasalways able to retain complete self-control, and therefore to realisethat he would certainly be sent to penal servitude for murdering a mannot in a duel; nevertheless, he’d have killed any one who insulted him,and without the faintest hesitation.

I have been studying Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch of late, and throughspecial circ*mstances I know a great many facts about him now, at thetime I write. I should compare him, perhaps, with some gentlemen of thepast of whom legendary traditions are still perceived among us. We aretold, for instance, about the Decabrist L—n, that he was always seekingfor danger, that he revelled in the sensation, and that it had becomea craving of his nature; that in his youth he had rushed into duels fornothing; that in Siberia he used to go to kill bears with nothing buta knife; that in the Siberian forests he liked to meet with runawayconvicts, who are, I may observe in passing, more formidable than bears.There is no doubt that these legendary gentlemen were capable of afeeling of fear, and even to an extreme degree, perhaps, or they wouldhave been a great deal quieter, and a sense of danger would never havebecome a physical craving with them. But the conquest of fear waswhat fascinated them. The continual ecstasy of vanquishing and theconsciousness that no one could vanquish them was what attracted them.The same L—n struggled with hunger for some time before he was sentinto exile, and toiled to earn his daily bread simply because he did notcare to comply with the requests of his rich father, which he consideredunjust. So his conception of struggle was many-sided, and he did notprize stoicism and strength of character only in duels and bear-fights.

But many years have passed since those times, and the nervous,exhausted, complex character of the men of to-day is incompatible withthe craving for those direct and unmixed sensations which were so soughtafter by some restlessly active gentlemen of the good old days. NikolayVsyevolodovitch would, perhaps, have looked down on L—n, and havecalled him a boastful co*ck-a-hoop coward; it’s true he wouldn’t haveexpressed himself aloud. Stavrogin would have shot his opponent in aduel, and would have faced a bear if necessary, and would have defendedhimself from a brigand in the forest as successfully and as fearlesslyas L—n, but it would be without the slightest thrill of enjoyment,languidly, listlessly, even with ennui and entirely from unpleasantnecessity. In anger, of course, there has been a progress compared withL—n, even compared with Lermontov. There was perhaps more malignantanger in Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch than in both put together, but it was acalm, cold, if one may so say, reasonable anger, and therefore the mostrevolting and most terrible possible. I repeat again, I considered himthen, and I still consider him (now that everything is over), a man who,if he received a slap in the face, or any equivalent insult, would becertain to kill his assailant at once, on the spot, without challenginghim.

Yet, in the present case, what happened was something different andamazing.

He had scarcely regained his balance after being almost knocked over inthis humiliating way, and the horrible, as it were, sodden, thud ofthe blow in the face had scarcely died away in the room when he seizedShatov by the shoulders with both hands, but at once, almost at the sameinstant, pulled both hands away and clasped them behind his back. He didnot speak, but looked at Shatov, and turned as white as his shirt. But,strange to say, the light in his eyes seemed to die out. Ten secondslater his eyes looked cold, and I’m sure I’m not lying—calm. Only hewas terribly pale. Of course I don’t know what was passing within theman, I saw only his exterior. It seems to me that if a man should snatchup a bar of red-hot iron and hold it tight in his hand to test hisfortitude, and after struggling for ten seconds with insufferable painend by overcoming it, such a man would, I fancy, go through somethinglike what Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was enduring during those ten seconds.

Shatov was the first to drop his eyes, and evidently because he wasunable to go on facing him; then he turned slowly and walked out of theroom, but with a very different step. He withdrew quietly, with peculiarawkwardness, with his shoulders hunched, his head hanging as thoughhe were inwardly pondering something. I believe he was whisperingsomething. He made his way to the door carefully, without stumblingagainst anything or knocking anything over; he opened the door a verylittle way, and squeezed through almost sideways. As he went out hisshock of hair standing on end at the back of his head was particularlynoticeable.

Then first of all one fearful scream was heard. I saw LizavetaNikolaevna seize her mother by the shoulder and Mavriky Nikolaevitch bythe arm and make two or three violent efforts to draw them out of theroom. But she suddenly uttered a shriek, and fell full length on thefloor, fainting. I can hear the thud of her head on the carpet to thisday.




EIGHT DAYS HAD PASSED. Now that it is all over and I am writing a recordof it, we know all about it; but at the time we knew nothing, and it wasnatural that many things should seem strange to us: Stepan Trofimovitchand I, anyway, shut ourselves up for the first part of the time, andlooked on with dismay from a distance. I did, indeed, go about here andthere, and, as before, brought him various items of news, without whichhe could not exist.

I need hardly say that there were rumours of the most varied kindgoing about the town in regard to the blow that Stavrogin had received,Lizaveta Nikolaevna’s fainting fit, and all that happened on thatSunday. But what we wondered was, through whom the story had got aboutso quickly and so accurately. Not one of the persons present had anyneed to give away the secret of what had happened, or interest to serveby doing so.

The servants had not been present. Lebyadkin was the only one who mighthave chattered, not so much from spite, for he had gone out in greatalarm (and fear of an enemy destroys spite against him), but simply fromincontinence of speech. But Lebyadkin and his sister had disappeared nextday, and nothing could be heard of them. There was no trace of them atFilipov’s house, they had moved, no one knew where, and seemed to havevanished. Shatov, of whom I wanted to inquire about Marya Timofyevna,would not open his door, and I believe sat locked up in his room for thewhole of those eight days, even discontinuing his work in the town. Hewould not see me. I went to see him on Tuesday and knocked at his door.I got no answer, but being convinced by unmistakable evidence that hewas at home, I knocked a second time. Then, jumping up, apparently fromhis bed, he strode to the door and shouted at the top of his voice:

“Shatov is not at home!”

With that I went away.

Stepan Trofimovitch and I, not without dismay at the boldness of thesupposition, though we tried to encourage one another, reached at lasta conclusion: we made up our mind that the only person who could beresponsible for spreading these rumours was Pyotr Stepanovitch, thoughhe himself not long after assured his father that he had found the storyon every one’s lips, especially at the club, and that the governorand his wife were familiar with every detail of it. What is even moreremarkable is that the next day, Monday evening, I met Liputin, andhe knew every word that had been passed, so that he must have heard itfirst-hand. Many of the ladies (and some of the leading ones) werevery inquisitive about the “mysterious cripple,” as they called MaryaTimofyevna. There were some, indeed, who were anxious to see her andmake her acquaintance, so the intervention of the persons who hadbeen in such haste to conceal the Lebyadkins was timely. But LizavetaNikolaevna’s fainting certainly took the foremost place in the story,and “all society” was interested, if only because it directly concernedYulia Mihailovna, as the kinswoman and patroness of the young lady.And what was there they didn’t say! What increased the gossip was themysterious position of affairs; both houses were obstinately closed;Lizaveta Nikolaevna, so they said, was in bed with brain fever. Thesame thing was asserted of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, with the revoltingaddition of a tooth knocked out and a swollen face. It was evenwhispered in corners that there would soon be murder among us, thatStavrogin was not the man to put up with such an insult, and that hewould kill Shatov, but with the secrecy of a Corsican vendetta. Peopleliked this idea, but the majority of our young people listened withcontempt, and with an air of the most nonchalant indifference, whichwas, of course, assumed. The old hostility to Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchin the town was in general strikingly manifest. Even sober-minded peoplewere eager to throw blame on him though they could not have saidfor what. It was whispered that he had ruined Lizaveta Nikolaevna’sreputation, and that there had been an intrigue between them inSwitzerland. Cautious people, of course, restrained themselves, butall listened with relish. There were other things said, though notin public, but in private, on rare occasions and almost in secret,extremely strange things, to which I only refer to warn my readers ofthem with a view to the later events of my story. Some people, withknitted brows, said, God knows on what foundation, that NikolayVsyevolodovitch had some special business in our province, that hehad, through Count K., been brought into touch with exalted circles inPetersburg, that he was even, perhaps, in government service, and mightalmost be said to have been furnished with some sort of commission fromsomeone. When very sober-minded and sensible people smiled at thisrumour, observing very reasonably that a man always mixed up withscandals, and who was beginning his career among us with a swollen facedid not look like a government official, they were told in a whisperthat he was employed not in the official, but, so to say, theconfidential service, and that in such cases it was essential to be aslittle like an official as possible. This remark produced a sensation;we knew that the Zemstvo of our province was the object of markedattention in the capital. I repeat, these were only flitting rumoursthat disappeared for a time when Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch first cameamong us. But I may observe that many of the rumours were partly due toa few brief but malicious words, vaguely and disconnectedly dropped atthe club by a gentleman who had lately returned from Petersburg. Thiswas a retired captain in the guards, Artemy Pavlovitch Gaganov. He wasa very large landowner in our province and district, a man used to thesociety of Petersburg, and a son of the late Pavel Pavlovitch Gaganov,the venerable old man with whom Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had, over fouryears before, had the extraordinarily coarse and sudden encounter whichI have described already in the beginning of my story.

It immediately became known to every one that Yulia Mihailovna hadmade a special call on Varvara Petrovna, and had been informed at theentrance: “Her honour was too unwell to see visitors.” It was known,too, that Yulia Mihailovna sent a message two days later to inquireafter Varvara Petrovna’s health. At last she began “defending” VarvaraPetrovna everywhere, of course only in the loftiest sense, that is, inthe vaguest possible way. She listened coldly and sternly to the hurriedremarks made at first about the scene on Sunday, so that during thelater days they were not renewed in her presence. So that the beliefgained ground everywhere that Yulia Mihailovna knew not only the wholeof the mysterious story but all its secret significance to the smallestdetail, and not as an outsider, but as one taking part in it. I mayobserve, by the way, that she was already gradually beginning to gainthat exalted influence among us for which she was so eager and whichshe was certainly struggling to win, and was already beginning to seeherself “surrounded by a circle.” A section of society recognised herpractical sense and tact … but of that later. Her patronage partlyexplained Pyotr Stepanovitch’s rapid success in our society—a successwith which Stepan Trofimovitch was particularly impressed at the time.

We possibly exaggerated it. To begin with, Pyotr Stepanovitch seemed tomake acquaintance almost instantly with the whole town within the firstfour days of his arrival. He only arrived on Sunday; and on TuesdayI saw him in a carriage with Artemy Pavlovitch Gaganov, a man who wasproud, irritable, and supercilious, in spite of his good breeding,and who was not easy to get on with. At the governor’s, too, PyotrStepanovitch met with a warm welcome, so much so that he was at onceon an intimate footing, like a young friend, treated, so to say,affectionately. He dined with Yulia Mihailovna almost every day. He hadmade her acquaintance in Switzerland, but there was certainly somethingcurious about the rapidity of his success in the governor’s house. Inany case he was reputed, whether truly or not, to have been at onetime a revolutionist abroad, he had had something to do with somepublications and some congresses abroad, “which one can prove from thenewspapers,” to quote the malicious remark of Alyosha Telyatnikov, whohad also been once a young friend affectionately treated in the house ofthe late governor, but was now, alas, a clerk on the retired list. Butthe fact was unmistakable: the former revolutionist, far from beinghindered from returning to his beloved Fatherland, seemed almost to havebeen encouraged to do so, so perhaps there was nothing in it. Liputinwhispered to me once that there were rumours that Pyotr Stepanovitch hadonce professed himself penitent, and on his return had been pardoned onmentioning certain names and so, perhaps, had succeeded in expiating hisoffence, by promising to be of use to the government in the future. Irepeated these malignant phrases to Stepan Trofimovitch, and althoughthe latter was in such a state that he was hardly capable of reflection,he pondered profoundly. It turned out later that Pyotr Stepanovitch hadcome to us with a very influential letter of recommendation, thathe had, at any rate, brought one to the governor’s wife from a veryimportant old lady in Petersburg, whose husband was one of the mostdistinguished old dignitaries in the capital. This old lady, who wasYulia Mihailovna’s godmother, mentioned in her letter that Count K. knewPyotr Stepanovitch very well through Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, made muchof him, and thought him “a very excellent young man in spite of hisformer errors.” Yulia Mihailovna set the greatest value on herrelations with the “higher spheres,” which were few and maintained withdifficulty, and was, no doubt, pleased to get the old lady’s letter, butstill there was something peculiar about it. She even forced her husbandupon a familiar footing with Pyotr Stepanovitch, so much so that Mr. vonLembke complained of it … but of that, too, later. I may mention,too, that the great author was also favourably disposed to PyotrStepanovitch, and at once invited him to go and see him. Such alacrityon the part of a man so puffed up with conceit stung Stepan Trofimovitchmore painfully than anything; but I put a different interpretation onit. In inviting a nihilist to see him, Mr. Karmazinov, no doubt, had inview his relations with the progressives of the younger generationin both capitals. The great author trembled nervously before therevolutionary youth of Russia, and imagining, in his ignorance, that thefuture lay in their hands, fawned upon them in a despicable way, chieflybecause they paid no attention to him whatever.


Pyotr Stepanovitch ran round to see his father twice, but unfortunatelyI was absent on both occasions. He visited him for the first timeonly on Wednesday, that is, not till the fourth day after their firstmeeting, and then only on business. Their difficulties over the propertywere settled, by the way, without fuss or publicity. Varvara Petrovnatook it all on herself, and paid all that was owing, taking over theland, of course, and only informed Stepan Trofimovitch that it was allsettled and her butler, Alexey Yegorytch, was, by her authorisation,bringing him something to sign. This Stepan Trofimovitch did, insilence, with extreme dignity. Apropos of his dignity, I may mentionthat I hardly recognised my old friend during those days. He behavedas he had never done before; became amazingly taciturn and had not evenwritten one letter to Varvara Petrovna since Sunday, which seemed to mealmost a miracle. What’s more, he had become quite calm. He had fastenedupon a final and decisive idea which gave him tranquillity. That wasevident. He had hit upon this idea, and sat still, expecting something.At first, however, he was ill, especially on Monday. He had an attackof his summer cholera. He could not remain all that time without newseither; but as soon as I departed from the statement of facts, and begandiscussing the case in itself, and formulated any theory, he at oncegesticulated to me to stop. But both his interviews with his son had adistressing effect on him, though they did not shake his determination.After each interview he spent the whole day lying on the sofa with ahandkerchief soaked in vinegar on his head. But he continued to remaincalm in the deepest sense.

Sometimes, however, he did not hinder my speaking. Sometimes, too, itseemed to me that the mysterious determination he had taken seemed tobe failing him and he appeared to be struggling with a new, seductivestream of ideas. That was only at moments, but I made a note of it. Isuspected that he was longing to assert himself again, to come forthfrom his seclusion, to show fight, to struggle to the last.

Cher, I could crush them!” broke from him on Thursday evening after hissecond interview with Pyotr Stepanovitch, when he lay stretched on thesofa with his head wrapped in a towel.

Till that moment he had not uttered one word all day.

“Fils, fils, cher,” and so on, “I agree all those expressions arenonsense, kitchen talk, and so be it. I see it for myself. I never gavehim food or drink, I sent him a tiny baby from Berlin to X province bypost, and all that, I admit it.… ‘You gave me neither food nor drink,and sent me by post,’ he says, ‘and what’s more you’ve robbed me here.’”

“‘But you unhappy boy,’ I cried to him, ‘my heart has been aching foryou all my life; though I did send you by post.’ Il rit.

“But I admit it. I admit it, granted it was by post,” he concluded,almost in delirium.

“Passons,” he began again, five minutes later. “I don’t understandTurgenev. That Bazarov of his is a fictitious figure, it does not existanywhere. The fellows themselves were the first to disown him as unlikeanyone. That Bazarov is a sort of indistinct mixture of Nozdryov andByron, c’est le mot. Look at them attentively: they caper about andsqueal with joy like puppies in the sun. They are happy, they arevictorious! What is there of Byron in them!… and with that, suchordinariness! What a low-bred, irritable vanity! What an abject cravingto faire du bruit autour de son nom, without noticing that sonnom.… Oh, it’s a caricature! ‘Surely,’ I cried to him, ‘you don’t wantto offer yourself just as you are as a substitute for Christ?’ Il rit.Il rit beaucoup. Il rit trop. He has a strange smile. His mother had nota smile like that. Il rit toujours.

Silence followed again.

“They are cunning; they were acting in collusion on Sunday,” he blurtedout suddenly.…

“Oh, not a doubt of it,” I cried, pricking up my ears. “It was a got-upthing and it was too transparent, and so badly acted.”

“I don’t mean that. Do you know that it was all too transparenton purpose, that those … who had to, might understand it. Do youunderstand that?”

“I don’t understand.”

Tant mieux; passons. I am very irritable to-day.”

“But why have you been arguing with him, Stepan Trofimovitch?” I askedhim reproachfully.

Je voulais convertir—you’ll laugh of course—cette pauvre auntie,elle entendra de belles choses! Oh, my dear boy, would you believe it.I felt like a patriot. I always recognised that I was a Russian,however … a genuine Russian must be like you and me. Il y a là dedansquelque chose d’aveugle et de louche.

“Not a doubt of it,” I assented.

“My dear, the real truth always sounds improbable, do you know that? Tomake truth sound probable you must always mix in some falsehood with it.Men have always done so. Perhaps there’s something in it that passes ourunderstanding. What do you think: is there something we don’t understandin that triumphant squeal? I should like to think there was. I shouldlike to think so.”

I did not speak. He, too, was silent for a long time. “They say thatFrench cleverness …” he babbled suddenly, as though in a fever …“that’s false, it always has been. Why libel French cleverness? It’ssimply Russian indolence, our degrading impotence to produce ideas, ourrevolting parasitism in the rank of nations. Ils sont tout simplementdes paresseux, and not French cleverness. Oh, the Russians ought to beextirpated for the good of humanity, like noxious parasites! We’ve beenstriving for something utterly, utterly different. I can make nothing ofit. I have given up understanding. ‘Do you understand,’ I cried to him,‘that if you have the guillotine in the foreground of your programme andare so enthusiastic about it too, it’s simply because nothing’s easierthan cutting off heads, and nothing’s harder than to have an idea. Vousêtes des paresseux! Votre drapeau est un guenille, une impuissance. It’sthose carts, or, what was it?… the rumble of the carts carrying breadto humanity being more important than the Sistine Madonna, or, what’sthe saying?… une bêtise dans ce genre. Don’t you understand, don’t youunderstand,’ I said to him, ‘that unhappiness is just as necessary toman as happiness.’ Il rit. ‘All you do is to make a bon mot,’ hesaid, ‘with your limbs snug on a velvet sofa.’ … (He used a coarserexpression.) And this habit of addressing a father so familiarly is verynice when father and son are on good terms, but what do you think of itwhen they are abusing one another?”

We were silent again for a minute.

“Cher,” he concluded at last, getting up quickly, “do you know this isbound to end in something?”

“Of course,” said I.

Vous ne comprenez pas. Passons. But … usually in our world things cometo nothing, but this will end in something; it’s bound to, it’s boundto!”

He got up, and walked across the room in violent emotion, and comingback to the sofa sank on to it exhausted.

On Friday morning, Pyotr Stepanovitch went off somewhere in theneighbourhood, and remained away till Monday. I heard of his departurefrom Liputin, and in the course of conversation I learned that theLebyadkins, brother and sister, had moved to the riverside quarter.“I moved them,” he added, and, dropping the Lebyadkins, he suddenlyannounced to me that Lizaveta Nikolaevna was going to marry MavrikyNikolaevitch, that, although it had not been announced, the engagementwas a settled thing. Next day I met Lizaveta Nikolaevna out riding withMavriky Nikolaevitch; she was out for the first time after her illness.She beamed at me from the distance, laughed, and nodded in a veryfriendly way. I told all this to Stepan Trofimovitch; he paid noattention, except to the news about the Lebyadkins.

And now, having described our enigmatic position throughout those eightdays during which we knew nothing, I will pass on to the description ofthe succeeding incidents of my chronicle, writing, so to say, with fullknowledge, and describing things as they became known afterwards, andare clearly seen to-day. I will begin with the eighth day after thatSunday, that is, the Monday evening—for in reality a “new scandal”began with that evening.


It was seven o’clock in the evening. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was sittingalone in his study—the room he had been fond of in old days. It waslofty, carpeted with rugs, and contained somewhat heavy old-fashionedfurniture. He was sitting on the sofa in the corner, dressed as thoughto go out, though he did not seem to be intending to do so. On the tablebefore him stood a lamp with a shade. The sides and corners of the bigroom were left in shadow. His eyes looked dreamy and concentrated,not altogether tranquil; his face looked tired and had grown a littlethinner. He really was ill with a swollen face; but the story of a toothhaving been knocked out was an exaggeration. One had been loosened, butit had grown into its place again: he had had a cut on the inner side ofthe upper lip, but that, too, had healed. The swelling on his face hadlasted all the week simply because the invalid would not have a doctor,and instead of having the swelling lanced had waited for it to go down.He would not hear of a doctor, and would scarcely allow even his motherto come near him, and then only for a moment, once a day, and only atdusk, after it was dark and before lights had been brought in. He didnot receive Pyotr Stepanovitch either, though the latter ran round toVarvara Petrovna’s two or three times a day so long as he remained inthe town. And now, at last, returning on the Monday morning after histhree days’ absence, Pyotr Stepanovitch made a circuit of the town,and, after dining at Yulia Mihailovna’s, came at last in the evening toVarvara Petrovna, who was impatiently expecting him. The interdict hadbeen removed, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was “at home.” Varvara Petrovnaherself led the visitor to the door of the study; she had long lookedforward to their meeting, and Pyotr Stepanovitch had promised to runto her and repeat what passed. She knocked timidly at NikolayVsyevolodovitch’s door, and getting no answer ventured to open the doora couple of inches.

“Nicolas, may I bring Pyotr Stepanovitch in to see you?” she asked, in asoft and restrained voice, trying to make out her son’s face behind thelamp.

“You can—you can, of course you can,” Pyotr Stepanovitch himself criedout, loudly and gaily. He opened the door with his hand and went in.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had not heard the knock at the door, and onlycaught his mother’s timid question, and had not had time to answer it.Before him, at that moment, there lay a letter he had just read over,which he was pondering deeply. He started, hearing Pyotr Stepanovitch’ssudden outburst, and hurriedly put the letter under a paper-weight,but did not quite succeed; a corner of the letter and almost the wholeenvelope showed.

“I called out on purpose that you might be prepared,” Pyotr Stepanovitchsaid hurriedly, with surprising naïveté, running up to the table, andinstantly staring at the corner of the letter, which peeped out frombeneath the paper-weight.

“And no doubt you had time to see how I hid the letter I had justreceived, under the paper-weight,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch calmly,without moving from his place.

“A letter? Bless you and your letters, what are they to do with me?”cried the visitor. “But … what does matter …” he whispered again,turning to the door, which was by now closed, and nodding his head inthat direction.

“She never listens,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch observed coldly.

“What if she did overhear?” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, raising his voicecheerfully, and settling down in an arm-chair. “I’ve nothing againstthat, only I’ve come here now to speak to you alone. Well, at last I’vesucceeded in getting at you. First of all, how are you? I see you’regetting on splendidly. To-morrow you’ll show yourself again—eh?”


“Set their minds at rest. Set mine at rest at last.” He gesticulatedviolently with a jocose and amiable air. “If only you knew what nonsenseI’ve had to talk to them. You know, though.” He laughed.

“I don’t know everything. I only heard from my mother that you’vebeen … very active.”

“Oh, well, I’ve said nothing definite,” Pyotr Stepanovitch flared upat once, as though defending himself from an awful attack. “I simplytrotted out Shatov’s wife; you know, that is, the rumours of yourliaison in Paris, which accounted, of course, for what happened onSunday. You’re not angry?”

“I’m sure you’ve done your best.”

“Oh, that’s just what I was afraid of. Though what does that mean, ‘doneyour best’? That’s a reproach, isn’t it? You always go straight forthings, though.… What I was most afraid of, as I came here, was thatyou wouldn’t go straight for the point.”

“I don’t want to go straight for anything,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchwith some irritation. But he laughed at once.

“I didn’t mean that, I didn’t mean that, don’t make a mistake,” criedPyotr Stepanovitch, waving his hands, rattling his words out like peas,and at once relieved at his companion’s irritability. “I’m not going toworry you with our business, especially in your present position. I’veonly come about Sunday’s affair, and only to arrange the most necessarysteps, because, you see, it’s impossible. I’ve come with the frankestexplanations which I stand in more need of than you—so much for yourvanity, but at the same time it’s true. I’ve come to be open with youfrom this time forward.”

“Then you have not been open with me before?”

“You know that yourself. I’ve been cunning with you many times … yousmile; I’m very glad of that smile as a prelude to our explanation. Iprovoked that smile on purpose by using the word ‘cunning,’ so that youmight get cross directly at my daring to think I could be cunning, sothat I might have a chance of explaining myself at once. You see, yousee how open I have become now! Well, do you care to listen?”

In the expression of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s face, which wascontemptuously composed, and even ironical, in spite of his visitor’sobvious desire to irritate him by the insolence of his premeditatedand intentionally coarse naïvetés, there was, at last, a look of ratheruneasy curiosity.

“Listen,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, wriggling more than ever, “when I setoff to come here, I mean here in the large sense, to this town, ten daysago, I made up my mind, of course, to assume a character. It wouldhave been best to have done without anything, to have kept one’sown character, wouldn’t it? There is no better dodge than one’s owncharacter, because no one believes in it. I meant, I must own, to assumethe part of a fool, because it is easier to be a fool than to actone’s own character; but as a fool is after all something extreme,and anything extreme excites curiosity, I ended by sticking to my owncharacter. And what is my own character? The golden mean: neither wisenor foolish, rather stupid, and dropped from the moon, as sensiblepeople say here, isn’t that it?”

“Perhaps it is,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, with a faint smile.

“Ah, you agree—I’m very glad; I knew beforehand that it was your ownopinion.… You needn’t trouble, I am not annoyed, and I didn’t describemyself in that way to get a flattering contradiction from you—no,you’re not stupid, you’re clever.… Ah! you’re smiling again!… I’veblundered once more. You would not have said ‘you’re clever,’ granted;I’ll let it pass anyway. Passons, as papa says, and, in parenthesis,don’t be vexed with my verbosity. By the way, I always say a lot, thatis, use a great many words and talk very fast, and I never speak well.And why do I use so many words, and why do I never speak well? BecauseI don’t know how to speak. People who can speak well, speak briefly. Sothat I am stupid, am I not? But as this gift of stupidity is naturalto me, why shouldn’t I make skilful use of it? And I do make use of it.It’s true that as I came here, I did think, at first, of being silent.But you know silence is a great talent, and therefore incongruous forme, and secondly silence would be risky, anyway. So I made up my mindfinally that it would be best to talk, but to talk stupidly—that is, totalk and talk and talk—to be in a tremendous hurry to explain things,and in the end to get muddled in my own explanations, so that mylistener would walk away without hearing the end, with a shrug, or,better still, with a curse. You succeed straight off in persuading themof your simplicity, in boring them and in being incomprehensible—threeadvantages all at once! Do you suppose anybody will suspect you ofmysterious designs after that? Why, every one of them would take it asa personal affront if anyone were to say I had secret designs. And Isometimes amuse them too, and that’s priceless. Why, they’re ready toforgive me everything now, just because the clever fellow who usedto publish manifestoes out there turns out to be stupider thanthemselves—that’s so, isn’t it? From your smile I see you approve.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was not smiling at all, however.

On the contrary, he was listening with a frown and some impatience.

“Eh? What? I believe you said ‘no matter.’”

Pyotr Stepanovitch rattled on. (Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had said nothingat all.) “Of course, of course. I assure you I’m not here to compromiseyou by my company, by claiming you as my comrade. But do you know you’rehorribly captious to-day; I ran in to you with a light and open heart,and you seem to be laying up every word I say against me. I assure youI’m not going to begin about anything shocking to-day, I give you myword, and I agree beforehand to all your conditions.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was obstinately silent.

“Eh? What? Did you say something? I see, I see that I’ve made a blunderagain, it seems; you’ve not suggested conditions and you’re not goingto; I believe you, I believe you; well, you can set your mind at rest;I know, of course, that it’s not worth while for me to suggest them, isit? I’ll answer for you beforehand, and—just from stupidity, of course;stupidity again.… You’re laughing? Eh? What?”

“Nothing,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch laughed at last. “I just rememberedthat I really did call you stupid, but you weren’t there then, so theymust have repeated it.… I would ask you to make haste and come to thepoint.”

“Why, but I am at the point! I am talking about Sunday,” babbled PyotrStepanovitch. “Why, what was I on Sunday? What would you call it? Justfussy, mediocre stupidity, and in the stupidest way I took possession ofthe conversation by force. But they forgave me everything, first becauseI dropped from the moon, that seems to be settled here, now, by everyone; and, secondly, because I told them a pretty little story, and gotyou all out of a scrape, didn’t they, didn’t they?”

“That is, you told your story so as to leave them in doubt and suggestsome compact and collusion between us, when there was no collusion andI’d not asked you to do anything.”

“Just so, just so!” Pyotr Stepanovitch caught him up, apparentlydelighted. “That’s just what I did do, for I wanted you to see that Iimplied it; I exerted myself chiefly for your sake, for I caught you andwanted to compromise you, above all I wanted to find out how far you’reafraid.”

“It would be interesting to know why you are so open now?”

“Don’t be angry, don’t be angry, don’t glare at me.… You’re not,though. You wonder why I am so open? Why, just because it’s all changednow; of course, it’s over, buried under the sand. I’ve suddenly changedmy ideas about you. The old way is closed; now I shall never compromiseyou in the old way, it will be in a new way now.”

“You’ve changed your tactics?”

“There are no tactics. Now it’s for you to decide in everything, thatis, if you want to, say yes, and if you want to, say no. There you havemy new tactics. And I won’t say a word about our cause till you bid meyourself. You laugh? Laugh away. I’m laughing myself. But I’m in earnestnow, in earnest, in earnest, though a man who is in such a hurry isstupid, isn’t he? Never mind, I may be stupid, but I’m in earnest, inearnest.”

He really was speaking in earnest in quite a different tone, and with apeculiar excitement, so that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked at him withcuriosity.

“You say you’ve changed your ideas about me?” he asked.

“I changed my ideas about you at the moment when you drew your handsback after Shatov’s attack, and, that’s enough, that’s enough, noquestions, please, I’ll say nothing more now.”

He jumped up, waving his hands as though waving off questions. But asthere were no questions, and he had no reason to go away, he sank intoan arm-chair again, somewhat reassured.

“By the way, in parenthesis,” he rattled on at once, “some people hereare babbling that you’ll kill him, and taking bets about it, so thatLembke positively thought of setting the police on, but Yulia Mihailovnaforbade it.… But enough about that, quite enough, I only spoke of itto let you know. By the way, I moved the Lebyadkins the same day, youknow; did you get my note with their address?”

“I received it at the time.”

“I didn’t do that by way of ‘stupidity.’ I did it genuinely, to serveyou. If it was stupid, anyway, it was done in good faith.”

“Oh, all right, perhaps it was necessary.…” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch dreamily, “only don’t write any more letters to me, Ibeg you.”

“Impossible to avoid it. It was only one.”

“So Liputin knows?”

“Impossible to help it: but Liputin, you know yourself, dare not … Bythe way, you ought to meet our fellows, that is, the fellows not ourfellows, or you’ll be finding fault again. Don’t disturb yourself,not just now, but sometime. Just now it’s raining. I’ll let them know,they’ll meet together, and we’ll go in the evening. They’re waiting,with their mouths open like young crows in a nest, to see what presentwe’ve brought them. They’re a hot-headed lot. They’ve brought outleaflets, they’re on the point of quarrelling. Virginsky is a universalhumanity man, Liputin is a Fourierist with a marked inclination forpolice work; a man, I assure you, who is precious from one point ofview, though he requires strict supervision in all others; and, last ofall, that fellow with the long ears, he’ll read an account of his ownsystem. And do you know, they’re offended at my treating them casually,and throwing cold water over them, but we certainly must meet.”

“You’ve made me out some sort of chief?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch droppedas carelessly as possible.

Pyotr Stepanovitch looked quickly at him.

“By the way,” he interposed, in haste to change the subject, as thoughhe had not heard. “I’ve been here two or three times, you know, to seeher excellency, Varvara Petrovna, and I have been obliged to say a greatdeal too.”

“So I imagine.”

“No, don’t imagine, I’ve simply told her that you won’t kill him, well,and other sweet things. And only fancy; the very next day she knew I’dmoved Marya Timofyevna beyond the river. Was it you told her?”

“I never dreamed of it!”

“I knew it wasn’t you. Who else could it be? It’s interesting.”

“Liputin, of course.”

“N-no, not Liputin,” muttered Pyotr Stepanovitch, frowning; “I’ll findout who. It’s more like Shatov.… That’s nonsense though. Let’s leavethat! Though it’s awfully important.… By the way, I kept expectingthat your mother would suddenly burst out with the great question.…Ach! yes, she was horribly glum at first, but suddenly, when I cameto-day, she was beaming all over, what does that mean?”

“It’s because I promised her to-day that within five days I’ll beengaged to Lizaveta Nikolaevna,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch said withsurprising openness.

“Oh!… Yes, of course,” faltered Pyotr Stepanovitch, seemingdisconcerted. “There are rumours of her engagement, you know. It’s true,too. But you’re right, she’d run from under the wedding crown, you’veonly to call to her. You’re not angry at my saying so?”

“No, I’m not angry.”

“I notice it’s awfully hard to make you angry to-day, and I begin to beafraid of you. I’m awfully curious to know how you’ll appear to-morrow.I expect you’ve got a lot of things ready. You’re not angry at my sayingso?”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch made no answer at all, which completed PyotrStepanovitch’s irritation.

“By the way, did you say that in earnest to your mother, about LizavetaNikolaevna?” he asked.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked coldly at him.

“Oh, I understand, it was only to soothe her, of course.”

“And if it were in earnest?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch asked firmly.

“Oh, God bless you then, as they say in such cases. It won’t hinder thecause (you see, I don’t say ‘our,’ you don’t like the word ‘our’) and I… well, I … am at your service, as you know.”

“You think so?”

“I think nothing—nothing,” Pyotr Stepanovitch hurriedly declared,laughing, “because I know you consider what you’re about beforehand foryourself, and everything with you has been thought out. I only mean thatI am seriously at your service, always and everywhere, and in every sortof circ*mstance, every sort really, do you understand that?”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch yawned.

“I’ve bored you,” Pyotr Stepanovitch cried, jumping up suddenly, andsnatching his perfectly new round hat as though he were going away. Heremained and went on talking, however, though he stood up, sometimespacing about the room and tapping himself on the knee with his hat atexciting parts of the conversation.

“I meant to amuse you with stories of the Lembkes, too,” he cried gaily.

“Afterwards, perhaps, not now. But how is Yulia Mihailovna?”

“What conventional manners all of you have! Her health is no more toyou than the health of the grey cat, yet you ask after it. I approveof that. She’s quite well, and her respect for you amounts to asuperstition, her immense anticipations of you amount to a superstition.She does not say a word about what happened on Sunday, and is convincedthat you will overcome everything yourself by merely making yourappearance. Upon my word! She fancies you can do anything. You’re anenigmatic and romantic figure now, more than ever you were—extremelyadvantageous position. It is incredible how eager every one is to seeyou. They were pretty hot when I went away, but now it is more so thanever. Thanks again for your letter. They are all afraid of Count K. Doyou know they look upon you as a spy? I keep that up, you’re not angry?”

“It does not matter.”

“It does not matter; it’s essential in the long run. They have theirways of doing things here. I encourage it, of course; Yulia Mihailovna,in the first place, Gaganov too.… You laugh? But you know I have mypolicy; I babble away and suddenly I say something clever just as theyare on the look-out for it. They crowd round me and I humbug away again.They’ve all given me up in despair by now: ‘he’s got brains but he’sdropped from the moon.’ Lembke invites me to enter the service so thatI may be reformed. You know I treat him mockingly, that is, I compromisehim and he simply stares. Yulia Mihailovna encourages it. Oh, by theway, Gaganov is in an awful rage with you. He said the nastiest thingsabout you yesterday at Duhovo. I told him the whole truth on the spot,that is, of course, not the whole truth. I spent the whole day atDuhovo. It’s a splendid estate, a fine house.”

“Then is he at Duhovo now?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch broke in suddenly,making a sudden start forward and almost leaping up from his seat.

“No, he drove me here this morning, we returned together,” said PyotrStepanovitch, appearing not to notice Stavrogin’s momentary excitement.“What’s this? I dropped a book.” He bent down to pick up the “keepsake”he had knocked down. “‘The Women of Balzac,’ with illustrations.” Heopened it suddenly. “I haven’t read it. Lembke writes novels too.”

“Yes?” queried Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, as though beginning to beinterested.

“In Russian, on the sly, of course, Yulia Mihailovna knows and allowsit. He’s henpecked, but with good manners; it’s their system. Suchstrict form—such self-restraint! Something of the sort would be thething for us.”

“You approve of government methods?”

“I should rather think so! It’s the one thing that’s natural andpracticable in Russia.… I won’t … I won’t,” he cried out suddenly,“I’m not referring to that—not a word on delicate subjects. Good-bye,though, you look rather green.”

“I’m feverish.”

“I can well believe it; you should go to bed. By the way, there areSkoptsi here in the neighbourhood—they’re curious people … of thatlater, though. Ah, here’s another anecdote. There’s an infantry regimenthere in the district. I was drinking last Friday evening with theofficers. We’ve three friends among them, vous comprenez? They werediscussing atheism and I need hardly say they made short work of God.They were squealing with delight. By the way, Shatov declares that ifthere’s to be a rising in Russia we must begin with atheism. Maybe it’strue. One grizzled old stager of a captain sat mum, not saying a word.All at once he stands up in the middle of the room and says aloud, asthough speaking to himself: ‘If there’s no God, how can I be a captainthen?’ He took up his cap and went out, flinging up his hands.”

“He expressed a rather sensible idea,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,yawning for the third time.

“Yes? I didn’t understand it; I meant to ask you about it. Well whatelse have I to tell you? The Shpigulin factory’s interesting; as youknow, there are five hundred workmen in it, it’s a hotbed of cholera,it’s not been cleaned for fifteen years and the factory hands areswindled. The owners are millionaires. I assure you that some amongthe hands have an idea of the Internationale. What, you smile? You’llsee—only give me ever so little time! I’ve asked you to fix the timealready and now I ask you again and then.… But I beg your pardon,I won’t, I won’t speak of that, don’t frown. There!” He turned backsuddenly. “I quite forgot the chief thing. I was told just now that ourbox had come from Petersburg.”

“You mean …” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked at him, not understanding.

“Your box, your things, coats, trousers, and linen have come. Is ittrue?”

“Yes … they said something about it this morning.”

“Ach, then can’t I open it at once!…”

“Ask Alexey.”

“Well, to-morrow, then, will to-morrow do? You see my new jacket,dress-coat and three pairs of trousers are with your things, fromSharmer’s, by your recommendation, do you remember?”

“I hear you’re going in for being a gentleman here,” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch with a smile. “Is it true you’re going to take lessonsat the riding school?”

Pyotr Stepanovitch smiled a wry smile. “I say,” he said suddenly, withexcessive haste in a voice that quivered and faltered, “I say, NikolayVsyevolodovitch, let’s drop personalities once for all. Of course, youcan despise me as much as you like if it amuses you—but we’d betterdispense with personalities for a time, hadn’t we?”

“All right,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch assented.

Pyotr Stepanovitch grinned, tapped his knee with his hat, shifted fromone leg to the other, and recovered his former expression.

“Some people here positively look upon me as your rival with LizavetaNikolaevna, so I must think of my appearance, mustn’t I,” he laughed.“Who was it told you that though? H’m. It’s just eight o’clock; well Imust be off. I promised to look in on Varvara Petrovna, but I shallmake my escape. And you go to bed and you’ll be stronger to-morrow. It’sraining and dark, but I’ve a cab, it’s not over safe in the streets hereat night.… Ach, by the way, there’s a run-away convict from Siberia,Fedka, wandering about the town and the neighbourhood. Only fancy, heused to be a serf of mine, and my papa sent him for a soldier fifteenyears ago and took the money for him. He’s a very remarkable person.”

“You have been talking to him?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch scanned him.

“I have. He lets me know where he is. He’s ready for anything, anything,for money of course, but he has convictions, too, of a sort, of course.Oh yes, by the way, again, if you meant anything of that plan, youremember, about Lizaveta Nikolaevna, I tell you once again, I too am afellow ready for anything of any kind you like, and absolutely atyour service.… Hullo! are you reaching for your stick. Oh no … onlyfancy … I thought you were looking for your stick.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was looking for nothing and said nothing.

But he had risen to his feet very suddenly with a strange look in hisface.

“If you want any help about Mr. Gaganov either,” Pyotr Stepanovitchblurted out suddenly, this time looking straight at the paper-weight,“of course I can arrange it all, and I’m certain you won’t be able tomanage without me.”

He went out suddenly without waiting for an answer, but thrust hishead in at the door once more. “I mention that,” he gabbled hurriedly,“because Shatov had no right either, you know, to risk his life lastSunday when he attacked you, had he? I should be glad if you would makea note of that.” He disappeared again without waiting for an answer.


Perhaps he imagined, as he made his exit, that as soon as he was leftalone, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch would begin beating on the wall with hisfists, and no doubt he would have been glad to see this, if thathad been possible. But, if so, he was greatly mistaken. NikolayVsyevolodovitch was still calm. He remained standing for two minutes inthe same position by the table, apparently plunged in thought, but soona cold and listless smile came on to his lips. He slowly sat down againin the same place in the corner of the sofa, and shut his eyes as thoughfrom weariness. The corner of the letter was still peeping from underthe paperweight, but he didn’t even move to cover it.

He soon sank into complete forgetfulness.

When Pyotr Stepanovitch went out without coming to see her, as he hadpromised, Varvara Petrovna, who had been worn out by anxiety duringthese days, could not control herself, and ventured to visit her sonherself, though it was not her regular time. She was still haunted bythe idea that he would tell her something conclusive. She knocked atthe door gently as before, and again receiving no answer, she openedthe door. Seeing that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was sitting strangelymotionless, she cautiously advanced to the sofa with a throbbing heart.She seemed struck by the fact that he could fall asleep so quickly andthat he could sleep sitting like that, so erect and motionless, sothat his breathing even was scarcely perceptible. His face was pale andforbidding, but it looked, as it were, numb and rigid. His brows weresomewhat contracted and frowning. He positively had the look of alifeless wax figure. She stood over him for about three minutes,almost holding her breath, and suddenly she was seized with terror. Shewithdrew on tiptoe, stopped at the door, hurriedly made the sign of thecross over him, and retreated unobserved, with a new oppression and anew anguish at her heart.

He slept a long while, more than an hour, and still in the same rigidpose: not a muscle of his face twitched, there was not the faintestmovement in his whole body, and his brows were still contracted in thesame forbidding frown. If Varvara Petrovna had remained another threeminutes she could not have endured the stifling sensation that thismotionless lethargy roused in her, and would have waked him. But hesuddenly opened his eyes, and sat for ten minutes as immovable asbefore, staring persistently and curiously, as though at some objectin the corner which had struck him, although there was nothing new orstriking in the room.

Suddenly there rang out the low deep note of the clock on the wall.

With some uneasiness he turned to look at it, but almost at the samemoment the other door opened, and the butler, Alexey Yegorytch came in.He had in one hand a greatcoat, a scarf, and a hat, and in the other asilver tray with a note on it.

“Half-past nine,” he announced softly, and laying the other things on achair, he held out the tray with the note—a scrap of paper unsealed andscribbled in pencil. Glancing through it, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch tooka pencil from the table, added a few words, and put the note back on thetray.

“Take it back as soon as I have gone out, and now dress me,” he said,getting up from the sofa.

Noticing that he had on a light velvet jacket, he thought a minute,and told the man to bring him a cloth coat, which he wore on moreceremonious occasions. At last, when he was dressed and had put on hishat, he locked the door by which his mother had come into the room, tookthe letter from under the paperweight, and without saying a word wentout into the corridor, followed by Alexey Yegorytch. From the corridorthey went down the narrow stone steps of the back stairs to a passagewhich opened straight into the garden. In the corner stood a lantern anda big umbrella.

“Owing to the excessive rain the mud in the streets is beyond anything,”Alexey Yegorytch announced, making a final effort to deter his masterfrom the expedition. But opening his umbrella the latter went withouta word into the damp and sodden garden, which was dark as a cellar. Thewind was roaring and tossing the bare tree-tops. The little sandypaths were wet and slippery. Alexey Yegorytch walked along as he was,bareheaded, in his swallow-tail coat, lighting up the path for aboutthree steps before them with the lantern.

“Won’t it be noticed?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch asked suddenly.

“Not from the windows. Besides I have seen to all that already,” the oldservant answered in quiet and measured tones.

“Has my mother retired?”

“Her excellency locked herself in at nine o’clock as she has done thelast few days, and there is no possibility of her knowing anything. Atwhat hour am I to expect your honour?”

“At one or half-past, not later than two.”

“Yes, sir.”

Crossing the garden by the winding paths that they both knew by heart,they reached the stone wall, and there in the farthest corner founda little door, which led out into a narrow and deserted lane, and wasalways kept locked. It appeared that Alexey Yegorytch had the key in hishand.

“Won’t the door creak?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch inquired again.

But Alexey Yegorytch informed him that it had been oiled yesterday “aswell as to-day.” He was by now wet through. Unlocking the door he gavethe key to Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch.

“If it should be your pleasure to be taking a distant walk, I would warnyour honour that I am not confident of the folk here, especially inthe back lanes, and especially beyond the river,” he could not resistwarning him again. He was an old servant, who had been like a nurse toNikolay Vsyevolodovitch, and at one time used to dandle him in his arms;he was a grave and severe man who was fond of listening to religiousdiscourse and reading books of devotion.

“Don’t be uneasy, Alexey Yegorytch.”

“May God’s blessing rest on you, sir, but only in your righteousundertakings.”

“What?” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, stopping short in the lane.

Alexey Yegorytch resolutely repeated his words. He had never beforeventured to express himself in such language in his master’s presence.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch locked the door, put the key in his pocket, andcrossed the lane, sinking five or six inches into the mud at every step.He came out at last into a long deserted street. He knew the town likethe five fingers of his hand, but Bogoyavlensky Street was a long wayoff. It was past ten when he stopped at last before the locked gates ofthe dark old house that belonged to Filipov. The ground floor had stoodempty since the Lebyadkins had left it, and the windows were boarded up,but there was a light burning in Shatov’s room on the second floor. Asthere was no bell he began banging on the gate with his hand. A windowwas opened and Shatov peeped out into the street. It was terribly dark,and difficult to make out anything. Shatov was peering out for sometime, about a minute.

“Is that you?” he asked suddenly.

“Yes,” replied the uninvited guest.

Shatov slammed the window, went downstairs and opened the gate. NikolayVsyevolodovitch stepped over the high sill, and without a word passed byhim straight into Kirillov’s lodge.


There everything was unlocked and all the doors stood open. The passageand the first two rooms were dark, but there was a light shining in thelast, in which Kirillov lived and drank tea, and laughter and strangecries came from it. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went towards the light, butstood still in the doorway without going in. There was tea on the table.In the middle of the room stood the old woman who was a relation of thelandlord. She was bareheaded and was dressed in a petticoat and ahare-skin jacket, and her stockingless feet were thrust into slippers.In her arms she had an eighteen-months-old baby, with nothing on but itslittle shirt; with bare legs, flushed cheeks, and ruffled white hair. Ithad only just been taken out of the cradle. It seemed to have just beencrying; there were still tears in its eyes. But at that instant it wasstretching out its little arms, clapping its hands, and laughing with asob as little children do. Kirillov was bouncing a big red india-rubberball on the floor before it. The ball bounced up to the ceiling, and backto the floor, the baby shrieked “Baw! baw!” Kirillov caught the “baw”,and gave it to it. The baby threw it itself with its awkward little hands,and Kirillov ran to pick it up again.

At last the “baw” rolled under the cupboard. “Baw! baw!” cried thechild. Kirillov lay down on the floor, trying to reach the ball with hishand under the cupboard. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went into the room. Thebaby caught sight of him, nestled against the old woman, and went offinto a prolonged infantile wail. The woman immediately carried it out ofthe room.

“Stavrogin?” said Kirillov, beginning to get up from the floor with theball in his hand, and showing no surprise at the unexpected visit. “Willyou have tea?”

He rose to his feet.

“I should be very glad of it, if it’s hot,” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch; “I’m wet through.”

“It’s hot, nearly boiling in fact,” Kirillov declared delighted. “Sitdown. You’re muddy, but that’s nothing; I’ll mop up the floor later.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sat down and emptied the cup he handed himalmost at a gulp.

“Some more?” asked Kirillov.

“No, thank you.”

Kirillov, who had not sat down till then, seated himself facing him, andinquired:

“Why have you come?”

“On business. Here, read this letter from Gaganov; do you remember, Italked to you about him in Petersburg.”

Kirillov took the letter, read it, laid it on the table and looked athim expectantly.

“As you know, I met this Gaganov for the first time in my life a monthago, in Petersburg,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch began to explain. “Wecame across each other two or three times in company with other people.Without making my acquaintance and without addressing me, he managed tobe very insolent to me. I told you so at the time; but now for somethingyou don’t know. As he was leaving Petersburg before I did, he sent mea letter, not like this one, yet impertinent in the highest degree, andwhat was queer about it was that it contained no sort of explanation ofwhy it was written. I answered him at once, also by letter, and said,quite frankly, that he was probably angry with me on account of theincident with his father four years ago in the club here, and that I formy part was prepared to make him every possible apology, seeing that myaction was unintentional and was the result of illness. I begged him toconsider and accept my apologies. He went away without answering, andnow here I find him in a regular fury. Several things he has said aboutme in public have been repeated to me, absolutely abusive, and makingastounding charges against me. Finally, to-day, I get this letter, aletter such as no one has ever had before, I should think, containingsuch expressions as ‘the punch you got in your ugly face.’ I came in thehope that you would not refuse to be my second.”

“You said no one has ever had such a letter,” observed Kirillov, “theymay be sent in a rage. Such letters have been written more than once.Pushkin wrote to Hekern. All right, I’ll come. Tell me how.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch explained that he wanted it to be to-morrow, andthat he must begin by renewing his offers of apology, and even with thepromise of another letter of apology, but on condition that Gaganov,on his side, should promise to send no more letters. The letter he hadreceived he would regard as unwritten.

“Too much concession; he won’t agree,” said Kirillov.

“I’ve come first of all to find out whether you would consent to be thebearer of such terms.”

“I’ll take them. It’s your affair. But he won’t agree.”

“I know he won’t agree.”

“He wants to fight. Say how you’ll fight.”

“The point is that I want the thing settled to-morrow. By nine o’clockin the morning you must be at his house. He’ll listen, and won’t agree,but will put you in communication with his second—let us say abouteleven. You will arrange things with him, and let us all be on thespot by one or two o’clock. Please try to arrange that. The weapons, ofcourse, will be pistols. And I particularly beg you to arrange to fixthe barriers at ten paces apart; then you put each of us ten paces fromthe barrier, and at a given signal we approach. Each must go right up tohis barrier, but you may fire before, on the way. I believe that’s all.”

“Ten paces between the barriers is very near,” observed Kirillov.

“Well, twelve then, but not more. You understand that he wants to fightin earnest. Do you know how to load a pistol?”

“I do. I’ve got pistols. I’ll give my word that you’ve never firedthem. His second will give his word about his. There’ll be two pairs ofpistols, and we’ll toss up, his or ours?”


“Would you like to look at the pistols?”

“Very well.”

Kirillov squatted on his heels before the trunk in the corner, whichhe had never yet unpacked, though things had been pulled out of it asrequired. He pulled out from the bottom a palm-wood box lined with redvelvet, and from it took out a pair of smart and very expensive pistols.

“I’ve got everything, powder, bullets, cartridges. I’ve a revolverbesides, wait.”

He stooped down to the trunk again and took out a six-chambered Americanrevolver.

“You’ve got weapons enough, and very good ones.”

“Very, extremely.”

Kirillov, who was poor, almost destitute, though he never noticed hispoverty, was evidently proud of showing precious weapons, which he hadcertainly obtained with great sacrifice.

“You still have the same intentions?” Stavrogin asked after a moment’ssilence, and with a certain wariness.

“Yes,” answered Kirillov shortly, guessing at once from his voice whathe was asking about, and he began taking the weapons from the table.

“When?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch inquired still more cautiously, after apause.

In the meantime Kirillov had put both the boxes back in his trunk, andsat down in his place again.

“That doesn’t depend on me, as you know—when they tell me,” hemuttered, as though disliking the question; but at the same time withevident readiness to answer any other question. He kept his black,lustreless eyes fixed continually on Stavrogin with a calm but warm andkindly expression in them.

“I understand shooting oneself, of course,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchbegan suddenly, frowning a little, after a dreamy silence that lastedthree minutes. “I sometimes have thought of it myself, and then therealways came a new idea: if one did something wicked, or, worse still,something shameful, that is, disgraceful, only very shameful and …ridiculous, such as people would remember for a thousand years and holdin scorn for a thousand years, and suddenly the thought comes: ‘one blowin the temple and there would be nothing more.’ One wouldn’t care thenfor men and that they would hold one in scorn for a thousand years,would one?”

“You call that a new idea?” said Kirillov, after a moment’s thought.

“I … didn’t call it so, but when I thought it I felt it as a new idea.”

“You ‘felt the idea’?” observed Kirillov. “That’s good. There are lotsof ideas that are always there and yet suddenly become new. That’s true.I see a great deal now as though it were for the first time.”

“Suppose you had lived in the moon,” Stavrogin interrupted, notlistening, but pursuing his own thought, “and suppose there you had doneall these nasty and ridiculous things.… You know from here for certainthat they will laugh at you and hold you in scorn for a thousand yearsas long as the moon lasts. But now you are here, and looking at the moonfrom here. You don’t care here for anything you’ve done there, and thatthe people there will hold you in scorn for a thousand years, do you?”

“I don’t know,” answered Kirillov. “I’ve not been in the moon,” headded, without any irony, simply to state the fact.

“Whose baby was that just now?”

“The old woman’s mother-in-law was here—no, daughter-in-law, it’s allthe same. Three days. She’s lying ill with the baby, it cries a lot atnight, it’s the stomach. The mother sleeps, but the old woman picks itup; I play ball with it. The ball’s from Hamburg. I bought it in Hamburgto throw it and catch it, it strengthens the spine. It’s a girl.”

“Are you fond of children?”

“I am,” answered Kirillov, though rather indifferently.

“Then you’re fond of life?”

“Yes, I’m fond of life! What of it?”

“Though you’ve made up your mind to shoot yourself.”

“What of it? Why connect it? Life’s one thing and that’s another. Lifeexists, but death doesn’t at all.”

“You’ve begun to believe in a future eternal life?”

“No, not in a future eternal life, but in eternal life here. There aremoments, you reach moments, and time suddenly stands still, and it willbecome eternal.”

“You hope to reach such a moment?”


“That’ll scarcely be possible in our time,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchresponded slowly and, as it were, dreamily; the two spoke without theslightest irony. “In the Apocalypse the angel swears that there will beno more time.”

“I know. That’s very true; distinct and exact. When all mankind attainshappiness then there will be no more time, for there’ll be no need ofit, a very true thought.”

“Where will they put it?”

“Nowhere. Time’s not an object but an idea. It will be extinguished inthe mind.”

“The old commonplaces of philosophy, the same from the beginning oftime,” Stavrogin muttered with a kind of disdainful compassion.

“Always the same, always the same, from the beginning of time and neverany other,” Kirillov said with sparkling eyes, as though there werealmost a triumph in that idea.

“You seem to be very happy, Kirillov.”

“Yes, very happy,” he answered, as though making the most ordinaryreply.

“But you were distressed so lately, angry with Liputin.”

“H’m … I’m not scolding now. I didn’t know then that I was happy. Haveyou seen a leaf, a leaf from a tree?”


“I saw a yellow one lately, a little green. It was decayed at the edges.It was blown by the wind. When I was ten years old I used to shut myeyes in the winter on purpose and fancy a green leaf, bright, with veinson it, and the sun shining. I used to open my eyes and not believe them,because it was very nice, and I used to shut them again.”

“What’s that? An allegory?”

“N-no … why? I’m not speaking of an allegory, but of a leaf, only aleaf. The leaf is good. Everything’s good.”


“Everything. Man is unhappy because he doesn’t know he’s happy. It’sonly that. That’s all, that’s all! If anyone finds out he’ll becomehappy at once, that minute. That mother-in-law will die; but the babywill remain. It’s all good. I discovered it all of a sudden.”

“And if anyone dies of hunger, and if anyone insults and outrages thelittle girl, is that good?”

“Yes! And if anyone blows his brains out for the baby, that’s good too.And if anyone doesn’t, that’s good too. It’s all good, all. It’s goodfor all those who know that it’s all good. If they knew that it was goodfor them, it would be good for them, but as long as they don’t know it’sgood for them, it will be bad for them. That’s the whole idea, the wholeof it.”

“When did you find out you were so happy?”

“Last week, on Tuesday, no, Wednesday, for it was Wednesday by thattime, in the night.”

“By what reasoning?”

“I don’t remember; I was walking about the room; never mind. I stoppedmy clock. It was thirty-seven minutes past two.”

“As an emblem of the fact that there will be no more time?”

Kirillov was silent.

“They’re bad because they don’t know they’re good. When they find out,they won’t outrage a little girl. They’ll find out that they’re good andthey’ll all become good, every one of them.”

“Here you’ve found it out, so have you become good then?”

“I am good.”

“That I agree with, though,” Stavrogin muttered, frowning.

“He who teaches that all are good will end the world.”

“He who taught it was crucified.”

“He will come, and his name will be the man-god.”

“The god-man?”

“The man-god. That’s the difference.”

“Surely it wasn’t you lighted the lamp under the ikon?”

“Yes, it was I lighted it.”

“Did you do it believing?”

“The old woman likes to have the lamp and she hadn’t time to do itto-day,” muttered Kirillov.

“You don’t say prayers yourself?”

“I pray to everything. You see the spider crawling on the wall, I lookat it and thank it for crawling.”

His eyes glowed again. He kept looking straight at Stavrogin withfirm and unflinching expression. Stavrogin frowned and watched himdisdainfully, but there was no mockery in his eyes.

“I’ll bet that when I come next time you’ll be believing in God too,”he said, getting up and taking his hat.

“Why?” said Kirillov, getting up too.

“If you were to find out that you believe in God, then you’d believe inHim; but since you don’t know that you believe in Him, then you don’tbelieve in Him,” laughed Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch.

“That’s not right,” Kirillov pondered, “you’ve distorted the idea. It’sa flippant joke. Remember what you have meant in my life, Stavrogin.”

“Good-bye, Kirillov.”

“Come at night; when will you?”

“Why, haven’t you forgotten about to-morrow?”

“Ach, I’d forgotten. Don’t be uneasy. I won’t oversleep. At nineo’clock. I know how to wake up when I want to. I go to bed saying ‘seveno’clock,’ and I wake up at seven o’clock, ‘ten o’clock,’ and I wake upat ten o’clock.”

“You have remarkable powers,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, looking athis pale face.

“I’ll come and open the gate.”

“Don’t trouble, Shatov will open it for me.”

“Ah, Shatov. Very well, good-bye.”


The door of the empty house in which Shatov was lodging was not closed;but, making his way into the passage, Stavrogin found himself in utterdarkness, and began feeling with his hand for the stairs to the upperstory. Suddenly a door opened upstairs and a light appeared. Shatovdid not come out himself, but simply opened his door. When NikolayVsyevolodovitch was standing in the doorway of the room, he saw Shatovstanding at the table in the corner, waiting expectantly.

“Will you receive me on business?” he queried from the doorway.

“Come in and sit down,” answered Shatov. “Shut the door; stay, I’ll shutit.”

He locked the door, returned to the table, and sat down, facing NikolayVsyevolodovitch. He had grown thinner during that week, and now heseemed in a fever.

“You’ve been worrying me to death,” he said, looking down, in a softhalf-whisper. “Why didn’t you come?”

“You were so sure I should come then?”

“Yes, stay, I have been delirious … perhaps I’m delirious now.… Staya moment.”

He got up and seized something that was lying on the uppermost of histhree bookshelves. It was a revolver.

“One night, in delirium, I fancied that you were coming to kill me, andearly next morning I spent my last farthing on buying a revolver fromthat good-for-nothing fellow Lyamshin; I did not mean to let you do it.Then I came to myself again … I’ve neither powder nor shot; it has beenlying there on the shelf till now; wait a minute.…”

He got up and was opening the casem*nt.

“Don’t throw it away, why should you?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch checkedhim. “It’s worth something. Besides, tomorrow people will begin sayingthat there are revolvers lying about under Shatov’s window. Put it back,that’s right; sit down. Tell me, why do you seem to be penitent forhaving thought I should come to kill you? I have not come now to bereconciled, but to talk of something necessary. Enlighten me to beginwith. You didn’t give me that blow because of my connection with yourwife?”

“You know I didn’t, yourself,” said Shatov, looking down again.

“And not because you believed the stupid gossip about Darya Pavlovna?”

“No, no, of course not! It’s nonsense! My sister told me from the veryfirst …” Shatov said, harshly and impatiently, and even with a slightstamp of his foot.

“Then I guessed right and you too guessed right,” NikolayVsyevolodovitch went on in a tranquil voice. “You are right. MaryaTimofyevna Lebyadkin is my lawful wife, married to me four and a halfyears ago in Petersburg. I suppose the blow was on her account?”

Shatov, utterly astounded, listened in silence.

“I guessed, but did not believe it,” he muttered at last, lookingstrangely at Stavrogin.

“And you struck me?”

Shatov flushed and muttered almost incoherently:

“Because of your fall … your lie. I didn’t go up to you to punishyou … I didn’t know when I went up to you that I should strike you … Idid it because you meant so much to me in my life … I …”

“I understand, I understand, spare your words. I am sorry you arefeverish. I’ve come about a most urgent matter.”

“I have been expecting you too long.” Shatov seemed to be quivering allover, and he got up from his seat. “Say what you have to say … I’llspeak too … later.”

He sat down.

“What I have come about is nothing of that kind,” began NikolayVsyevolodovitch, scrutinising him with curiosity. “Owing to certaincirc*mstances I was forced this very day to choose such an hour to comeand tell you that they may murder you.”

Shatov looked wildly at him.

“I know that I may be in some danger,” he said in measured tones, “buthow can you have come to know of it?”

“Because I belong to them as you do, and am a member of their society,just as you are.”

“You … you are a member of the society?”

“I see from your eyes that you were prepared for anything from me ratherthan that,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, with a faint smile. “But,excuse me, you knew then that there would be an attempt on your life?”

“Nothing of the sort. And I don’t think so now, in spite of your words,though … though there’s no being sure of anything with these fools!”he cried suddenly in a fury, striking the table with his fist. “I’m notafraid of them! I’ve broken with them. That fellow’s run here four timesto tell me it was possible … but”—he looked at Stavrogin—“what doyou know about it, exactly?”

“Don’t be uneasy; I am not deceiving you,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch wenton, rather coldly, with the air of a man who is only fulfilling a duty.“You question me as to what I know. I know that you entered that societyabroad, two years ago, at the time of the old organisation, just beforeyou went to America, and I believe, just after our last conversation,about which you wrote so much to me in your letter from America. Bythe way, I must apologise for not having answered you by letter, butconfined myself to …”

“To sending the money; wait a bit,” Shatov interrupted, hurriedlypulling out a drawer in the table and taking from under some papers arainbow-coloured note. “Here, take it, the hundred roubles you sent me;but for you I should have perished out there. I should have been a longtime paying it back if it had not been for your mother. She made me apresent of that note nine months ago, because I was so badly off aftermy illness. But, go on, please.…”

He was breathless.

“In America you changed your views, and when you came back you wanted toresign. They gave you no answer, but charged you to take over a printingpress here in Russia from someone, and to keep it till you handedit over to someone who would come from them for it. I don’t knowthe details exactly, but I fancy that’s the position in outline. Youundertook it in the hope, or on the condition, that it would be the lasttask they would require of you, and that then they would release youaltogether. Whether that is so or not, I learnt it, not from them, butquite by chance. But now for what I fancy you don’t know; these gentryhave no intention of parting with you.”

“That’s absurd!” cried Shatov. “I’ve told them honestly that I’ve cutmyself off from them in everything. That is my right, the right tofreedom of conscience and of thought.… I won’t put up with it! There’sno power which could …”

“I say, don’t shout,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch said earnestly, checkinghim. “That Verhovensky is such a fellow that he may be listening to usnow in your passage, perhaps, with his own ears or someone else’s. Eventhat drunkard, Lebyadkin, was probably bound to keep an eye on you,and you on him, too, I dare say? You’d better tell me, has Verhovenskyaccepted your arguments now, or not?”

“He has. He has said that it can be done and that I have the right.…”

“Well then, he’s deceiving you. I know that even Kirillov, who scarcelybelongs to them at all, has given them information about you. And theyhave lots of agents, even people who don’t know that they’re servingthe society. They’ve always kept a watch on you. One of the things PyotrVerhovensky came here for was to settle your business once for all, andhe is fully authorised to do so, that is at the first good opportunity,to get rid of you, as a man who knows too much and might give them away.I repeat that this is certain, and allow me to add that they are, forsome reason, convinced that you are a spy, and that if you haven’tinformed against them yet, you will. Is that true?”

Shatov made a wry face at hearing such a question asked in such amatter-of fact tone.

“If I were a spy, whom could I inform?” he said angrily, not giving adirect answer. “No, leave me alone, let me go to the devil!” he criedsuddenly, catching again at his original idea, which agitated himviolently. Apparently it affected him more deeply than the news of hisown danger. “You, you, Stavrogin, how could you mix yourself up withsuch shameful, stupid, second-hand absurdity? You a member of thesociety? What an exploit for Stavrogin!” he cried suddenly, in despair.

He clasped his hands, as though nothing could be a bitterer and moreinconsolable grief to him than such a discovery.

“Excuse me,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, extremely surprised, “but youseem to look upon me as a sort of sun, and on yourself as an insect incomparison. I noticed that even from your letter in America.”

“You … you know.… Oh, let us drop me altogether,” Shatov broke offsuddenly, “and if you can explain anything about yourself explain it.…Answer my question!” he repeated feverishly.

“With pleasure. You ask how I could get into such a den? After whatI have told you, I’m bound to be frank with you to some extent on thesubject. You see, strictly speaking, I don’t belong to the society atall, and I never have belonged to it, and I’ve much more right thanyou to leave them, because I never joined them. In fact, from the verybeginning I told them that I was not one of them, and that if I’vehappened to help them it has simply been by accident as a man ofleisure. I took some part in reorganising the society, on the new plan,but that was all. But now they’ve changed their views, and have made uptheir minds that it would be dangerous to let me go, and I believe I’msentenced to death too.”

“Oh, they do nothing but sentence to death, and all by means of sealeddocuments, signed by three men and a half. And you think they’ve anypower!”

“You’re partly right there and partly not,” Stavrogin answered with thesame indifference, almost listlessness. “There’s no doubt that there’s agreat deal that’s fanciful about it, as there always is in such cases: ahandful magnifies its size and significance. To my thinking, if you willhave it, the only one is Pyotr Verhovensky, and it’s simply good-natureon his part to consider himself only an agent of the society. Butthe fundamental idea is no stupider than others of the sort. They areconnected with the Internationale. They have succeeded in establishingagents in Russia, they have even hit on a rather original method, thoughit’s only theoretical, of course. As for their intentions here, themovements of our Russian organisation are something so obscure andalmost always unexpected that really they might try anything among us.Note that Verhovensky is an obstinate man.”

“He’s a bug, an ignoramus, a buffoon, who understands nothing inRussia!” cried Shatov spitefully.

“You know him very little. It’s quite true that none of them understandmuch about Russia, but not much less than you and I do. Besides,Verhovensky is an enthusiast.”

“Verhovensky an enthusiast?”

“Oh, yes. There is a point when he ceases to be a buffoon and becomesa madman. I beg you to remember your own expression: ‘Do you know howpowerful a single man may be?’ Please don’t laugh about it, he’s quitecapable of pulling a trigger. They are convinced that I am a spy too.As they don’t know how to do things themselves, they’re awfully fond ofaccusing people of being spies.”

“But you’re not afraid, are you?”

“N—no. I’m not very much afraid.… But your case is quite different. Iwarned you that you might anyway keep it in mind. To my thinking there’sno reason to be offended in being threatened with danger by fools; theirbrains don’t affect the question. They’ve raised their hand againstbetter men than you or me. It’s a quarter past eleven, though.” Helooked at his watch and got up from his chair. “I wanted to ask you onequite irrelevant question.”

“For God’s sake!” cried Shatov, rising impulsively from his seat.

“I beg your pardon?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked at him inquiringly.

“Ask it, ask your question for God’s sake,” Shatov repeated inindescribable excitement, “but on condition that I ask you a questiontoo. I beseech you to allow me … I can’t … ask your question!”

Stavrogin waited a moment and then began. “I’ve heard that you have someinfluence on Marya Timofyevna, and that she was fond of seeing you andhearing you talk. Is that so?”

“Yes … she used to listen …” said Shatov, confused.

“Within a day or two I intend to make a public announcement of ourmarriage here in the town.”

“Is that possible?” Shatov whispered, almost with horror.

“I don’t quite understand you. There’s no sort of difficulty about it,witnesses to the marriage are here. Everything took place in Petersburg,perfectly legally and smoothly, and if it has not been made known tillnow, it is simply because the witnesses, Kirillov, Pyotr Verhovensky,and Lebyadkin (whom I now have the pleasure of claiming as abrother-in-law) promised to hold their tongues.”

“I don’t mean that … You speak so calmly … but good! Listen! Youweren’t forced into that marriage, were you?”

“No, no one forced me into it.” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch smiled atShatov’s importunate haste.

“And what’s that talk she keeps up about her baby?” Shatov interposeddisconnectedly, with feverish haste.

“She talks about her baby? Bah! I didn’t know. It’s the first timeI’ve heard of it. She never had a baby and couldn’t have had: MaryaTimofyevna is a virgin.”

“Ah! That’s just what I thought! Listen!”

“What’s the matter with you, Shatov?”

Shatov hid his face in his hands, turned away, but suddenly clutchedStavrogin by the shoulders.

“Do you know why, do you know why, anyway,” he shouted, “why you did allthis, and why you are resolved on such a punishment now!”

“Your question is clever and malignant, but I mean to surprise you too;I fancy I do know why I got married then, and why I am resolved on sucha punishment now, as you express it.”

“Let’s leave that … of that later. Put it off. Let’s talk of the chiefthing, the chief thing. I’ve been waiting two years for you.”


“I’ve waited too long for you. I’ve been thinking of you incessantly.You are the only man who could move … I wrote to you about it fromAmerica.”

“I remember your long letter very well.”

“Too long to be read? No doubt; six sheets of notepaper. Don’t speak!Don’t speak! Tell me, can you spare me another ten minutes?… But now,this minute … I have waited for you too long.”

“Certainly, half an hour if you like, but not more, if that will suityou.”

“And on condition, too,” Shatov put in wrathfully, “that you take adifferent tone. Do you hear? I demand when I ought to entreat. Do youunderstand what it means to demand when one ought to entreat?”

“I understand that in that way you lift yourself above allordinary considerations for the sake of loftier aims,” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch with a faint smile. “I see with regret, too, that you’refeverish.”

“I beg you to treat me with respect, I insist on it!” shouted Shatov,“not my personality—I don’t care a hang for that, but something else,just for this once. While I am talking … we are two beings, and havecome together in infinity … for the last time in the world. Drop yourtone, and speak like a human being! Speak, if only for once in your lifewith the voice of a man. I say it not for my sake but for yours. Do youunderstand that you ought to forgive me that blow in the face if onlybecause I gave you the opportunity of realising your immensepower.… Again you smile your disdainful, worldly smile! Oh, when will youunderstand me! Have done with being a snob! Understand that I insiston that. I insist on it, else I won’t speak, I’m not going to foranything!”

His excitement was approaching frenzy. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch frownedand seemed to become more on his guard.

“Since I have remained another half-hour with you when time is soprecious,” he pronounced earnestly and impressively, “you may restassured that I mean to listen to you at least with interest … and I amconvinced that I shall hear from you much that is new.”

He sat down on a chair.

“Sit down!” cried Shatov, and he sat down himself.

“Please remember,” Stavrogin interposed once more, “that I was aboutto ask a real favour of you concerning Marya Timofyevna, of greatimportance for her, anyway.…”

“What?” Shatov frowned suddenly with the air of a man who has just beeninterrupted at the most important moment, and who gazes at you unable tograsp the question.

“And you did not let me finish,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went on with asmile.

“Oh, nonsense, afterwards!” Shatov waved his hand disdainfully,grasping, at last, what he wanted, and passed at once to his principaltheme.


“Do you know,” he began, with flashing eyes, almost menacingly, bendingright forward in his chair, raising the forefinger of his right handabove him (obviously unaware that he was doing so), “do you know who arethe only ‘god-bearing’ people on earth, destined to regenerate and savethe world in the name of a new God, and to whom are given the keys oflife and of the new world … Do you know which is that people and whatis its name?”

“From your manner I am forced to conclude, and I think I may as well doso at once, that it is the Russian people.”

“And you can laugh, oh, what a race!” Shatov burst out.

“Calm yourself, I beg of you; on the contrary, I was expecting somethingof the sort from you.”

“You expected something of the sort? And don’t you know those wordsyourself?”

“I know them very well. I see only too well what you’re driving at. Allyour phrases, even the expression ‘god-bearing people’ is only a sequelto our talk two years ago, abroad, not long before you went to America.… Atleast, as far as I can recall it now.”

“It’s your phrase altogether, not mine. Your own, not simply the sequelof our conversation. ‘Our’ conversation it was not at all. It was ateacher uttering weighty words, and a pupil who was raised from thedead. I was that pupil and you were the teacher.”

“But, if you remember, it was just after my words you joined theirsociety, and only afterwards went away to America.”

“Yes, and I wrote to you from America about that. I wrote to you abouteverything. Yes, I could not at once tear my bleeding heart from whatI had grown into from childhood, on which had been lavished all theraptures of my hopes and all the tears of my hatred.… It is difficultto change gods. I did not believe you then, because I did not want tobelieve, I plunged for the last time into that sewer.… But the seedremained and grew up. Seriously, tell me seriously, didn’t you read allmy letter from America, perhaps you didn’t read it at all?”

“I read three pages of it. The two first and the last. And I glancedthrough the middle as well. But I was always meaning …”

“Ah, never mind, drop it! Damn it!” cried Shatov, waving his hand. “Ifyou’ve renounced those words about the people now, how could you haveuttered them then?… That’s what crushes me now.”

“I wasn’t joking with you then; in persuading you I was perhapsmore concerned with myself than with you,” Stavrogin pronouncedenigmatically.

“You weren’t joking! In America I was lying for three months on strawbeside a hapless creature, and I learnt from him that at the very timewhen you were sowing the seed of God and the Fatherland in my heart, atthat very time, perhaps during those very days, you were infecting theheart of that hapless creature, that maniac Kirillov, with poison … youconfirmed false malignant ideas in him, and brought him to the verge ofinsanity.… Go, look at him now, he is your creation … you’ve seen himthough.”

“In the first place, I must observe that Kirillov himself told me thathe is happy and that he’s good. Your supposition that all this was goingon at the same time is almost correct. But what of it? I repeat, I wasnot deceiving either of you.”

“Are you an atheist? An atheist now?”


“And then?”

“Just as I was then.”

“I wasn’t asking you to treat me with respect when I began theconversation. With your intellect you might have understood that,”Shatov muttered indignantly.

“I didn’t get up at your first word, I didn’t close the conversation,I didn’t go away from you, but have been sitting here ever sincesubmissively answering your questions and … cries, so it seems I havenot been lacking in respect to you yet.”

Shatov interrupted, waving his hand.

“Do you remember your expression that ‘an atheist can’t be a Russian,’that ‘an atheist at once ceases to be a Russian’? Do you remember sayingthat?”

“Did I?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch questioned him back.

“You ask? You’ve forgotten? And yet that was one of the truest statementsof the leading peculiarity of the Russian soul, which you divined. Youcan’t have forgotten it! I will remind you of something else: you saidthen that ‘a man who was not orthodox could not be Russian.’”

“I imagine that’s a Slavophil idea.”

“The Slavophils of to-day disown it. Nowadays, people have growncleverer. But you went further: you believed that Roman Catholicism wasnot Christianity; you asserted that Rome proclaimed Christ subject tothe third temptation of the devil. Announcing to all the world thatChrist without an earthly kingdom cannot hold his ground upon earth,Catholicism by so doing proclaimed Antichrist and ruined the wholeWestern world. You pointed out that if France is in agonies now it’ssimply the fault of Catholicism, for she has rejected the iniquitous Godof Rome and has not found a new one. That’s what you could say then! Iremember our conversations.”

“If I believed, no doubt I should repeat it even now. I wasn’t lyingwhen I spoke as though I had faith,” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch pronouncedvery earnestly. “But I must tell you, this repetition of my ideas in thepast makes a very disagreeable impression on me. Can’t you leave off?”

“If you believe it?” repeated Shatov, paying not the slightest attentionto this request. “But didn’t you tell me that if it were mathematicallyproved to you that the truth excludes Christ, you’d prefer to stick toChrist rather than to the truth? Did you say that? Did you?”

“But allow me too at last to ask a question,” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch, raising his voice. “What is the object of thisirritable and … malicious cross-examination?”

“This examination will be over for all eternity, and you will never hearit mentioned again.”

“You keep insisting that we are outside the limits of time and space.”

“Hold your tongue!” Shatov cried suddenly. “I am stupid and awkward, butlet my name perish in ignominy! Let me repeat your leading idea.… Oh,only a dozen lines, only the conclusion.”

“Repeat it, if it’s only the conclusion.…” Stavrogin made a movementto look at his watch, but restrained himself and did not look.

Shatov bent forward in his chair again and again held up his finger fora moment.

“Not a single nation,” he went on, as though reading it line by line,still gazing menacingly at Stavrogin, “not a single nation has everbeen founded on principles of science or reason. There has never beenan example of it, except for a brief moment, through folly. Socialismis from its very nature bound to be atheism, seeing that it has from thevery first proclaimed that it is an atheistic organisation of society,and that it intends to establish itself exclusively on the elements ofscience and reason. Science and reason have, from the beginning of time,played a secondary and subordinate part in the life of nations; so itwill be till the end of time. Nations are built up and moved by anotherforce which sways and dominates them, the origin of which is unknown andinexplicable: that force is the force of an insatiable desire to go onto the end, though at the same time it denies that end. It is the forceof the persistent assertion of one’s own existence, and a denial ofdeath. It’s the spirit of life, as the Scriptures call it, ‘the river ofliving water,’ the drying up of which is threatened in the Apocalypse.It’s the æsthetic principle, as the philosophers call it, the ethicalprinciple with which they identify it, ‘the seeking for God,’ as I callit more simply. The object of every national movement, in every peopleand at every period of its existence is only the seeking for its god,who must be its own god, and the faith in Him as the only true one.God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from itsbeginning to its end. It has never happened that all, or even many,peoples have had one common god, but each has always had its own. It’sa sign of the decay of nations when they begin to have gods in common.When gods begin to be common to several nations the gods are dying andthe faith in them, together with the nations themselves. The strongera people the more individual their God. There never has been a nationwithout a religion, that is, without an idea of good and evil. Everypeople has its own conception of good and evil, and its own good andevil. When the same conceptions of good and evil become prevalentin several nations, then these nations are dying, and then the verydistinction between good and evil is beginning to disappear. Reasonhas never had the power to define good and evil, or even to distinguishbetween good and evil, even approximately; on the contrary, it hasalways mixed them up in a disgraceful and pitiful way; science has evengiven the solution by the fist. This is particularly characteristicof the half-truths of science, the most terrible scourge of humanity,unknown till this century, and worse than plague, famine, or war. Ahalf-truth is a despot … such as has never been in the world before.A despot that has its priests and its slaves, a despot to whom all dohomage with love and superstition hitherto inconceivable, before whichscience itself trembles and cringes in a shameful way. These are yourown words, Stavrogin, all except that about the half-truth; that’s myown because I am myself a case of half-knowledge, and that’s why I hateit particularly. I haven’t altered anything of your ideas or even ofyour words, not a syllable.”

“I don’t agree that you’ve not altered anything,” Stavrogin observedcautiously. “You accepted them with ardour, and in your ardour havetransformed them unconsciously. The very fact that you reduce God to asimple attribute of nationality …”

He suddenly began watching Shatov with intense and peculiar attention,not so much his words as himself.

“I reduce God to the attribute of nationality?” cried Shatov. “On thecontrary, I raise the people to God. And has it ever been otherwise? Thepeople is the body of God. Every people is only a people so long as ithas its own god and excludes all other gods on earth irreconcilably; solong as it believes that by its god it will conquer and drive out ofthe world all other gods. Such, from the beginning of time, has beenthe belief of all great nations, all, anyway, who have been speciallyremarkable, all who have been leaders of humanity. There is no goingagainst facts. The Jews lived only to await the coming of the trueGod and left the world the true God. The Greeks deified nature andbequeathed the world their religion, that is, philosophy and art. Romedeified the people in the State, and bequeathed the idea of the State tothe nations. France throughout her long history was only the incarnationand development of the Roman god, and if they have at last flung theirRoman god into the abyss and plunged into atheism, which, for the timebeing, they call socialism, it is solely because socialism is, anyway,healthier than Roman Catholicism. If a great people does not believethat the truth is only to be found in itself alone (in itself aloneand in it exclusively); if it does not believe that it alone is fit anddestined to raise up and save all the rest by its truth, it would atonce sink into being ethnographical material, and not a great people. Areally great people can never accept a secondary part in the historyof Humanity, nor even one of the first, but will have the first part. Anation which loses this belief ceases to be a nation. But there is onlyone truth, and therefore only a single one out of the nations can havethe true God, even though other nations may have great gods of theirown. Only one nation is ‘god-bearing,’ that’s the Russian people,and … and … and can you think me such a fool, Stavrogin,” he yelledfrantically all at once, “that I can’t distinguish whether my words atthis moment are the rotten old commonplaces that have been ground out inall the Slavophil mills in Moscow, or a perfectly new saying, the lastword, the sole word of renewal and resurrection, and … and what do Icare for your laughter at this minute! What do I care that you utterly,utterly fail to understand me, not a word, not a sound! Oh, how Idespise your haughty laughter and your look at this minute!”

He jumped up from his seat; there was positively foam on his lips.

“On the contrary Shatov, on the contrary,” Stavrogin began withextraordinary earnestness and self-control, still keeping his seat, “onthe contrary, your fervent words have revived many extremely powerfulrecollections in me. In your words I recognise my own mood two yearsago, and now I will not tell you, as I did just now, that you haveexaggerated my ideas. I believe, indeed, that they were even moreexceptional, even more independent, and I assure you for the third timethat I should be very glad to confirm all that you’ve said just now,every syllable of it, but …”

“But you want a hare?”


“Your own nasty expression,” Shatov laughed spitefully, sitting downagain. “To cook your hare you must first catch it, to believe in Godyou must first have a god. You used to say that in Petersburg, I’m told,like Nozdryov, who tried to catch a hare by his hind legs.”

“No, what he did was to boast he’d caught him. By the way, allow me totrouble you with a question though, for indeed I think I have the rightto one now. Tell me, have you caught your hare?”

“Don’t dare to ask me in such words! Ask differently, quitedifferently.” Shatov suddenly began trembling all over.

“Certainly I’ll ask differently.” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked coldlyat him. “I only wanted to know, do you believe in God, yourself?”

“I believe in Russia.… I believe in her orthodoxy.… I believe inthe body of Christ.… I believe that the new advent will take place inRussia.… I believe …” Shatov muttered frantically.

“And in God? In God?”

“I … I will believe in God.”

Not one muscle moved in Stavrogin’s face. Shatov looked passionately anddefiantly at him, as though he would have scorched him with his eyes.

“I haven’t told you that I don’t believe,” he cried at last. “I willonly have you know that I am a luckless, tedious book, and nothing moreso far, so far.… But confound me! We’re discussing you not me.… I’ma man of no talent, and can only give my blood, nothing more, like everyman without talent; never mind my blood either! I’m talking about you.I’ve been waiting here two years for you.… Here I’ve been dancingabout in my nakedness before you for the last half-hour. You, only youcan raise that flag!…”

He broke off, and sat as though in despair, with his elbows on the tableand his head in his hands.

“I merely mention it as something queer,” Stavrogin interruptedsuddenly. “Every one for some inexplicable reason keeps foisting a flagupon me. Pyotr Verhovensky, too, is convinced that I might ‘raise hisflag,’ that’s how his words were repeated to me, anyway. He has taken itinto his head that I’m capable of playing the part of Stenka Razin forthem, ‘from my extraordinary aptitude for crime,’ his saying too.”

“What?” cried Shatov, “‘from your extraordinary aptitude for crime’?”

“Just so.”

“H’m! And is it true?” he asked, with an angry smile. “Is it truethat when you were in Petersburg you belonged to a secret society forpractising beastly sensuality? Is it true that you could give lessons tothe Marquis de Sade? Is it true that you decoyed and corrupted children?Speak, don’t dare to lie,” he cried, beside himself. “Nikolay Stavrogincannot lie to Shatov, who struck him in the face. Tell me everything,and if it’s true I’ll kill you, here, on the spot!”

“I did talk like that, but it was not I who outraged children,”Stavrogin brought out, after a silence that lasted too long. He turnedpale and his eyes gleamed.

“But you talked like that,” Shatov went on imperiously, keeping hisflashing eyes fastened upon him. “Is it true that you declared that yousaw no distinction in beauty between some brutal obscene action and anygreat exploit, even the sacrifice of life for the good of humanity? Isit true that you have found identical beauty, equal enjoyment, in bothextremes?”

“It’s impossible to answer like this.… I won’t answer,” mutteredStavrogin, who might well have got up and gone away, but who did not getup and go away.

“I don’t know either why evil is hateful and good is beautiful, but Iknow why the sense of that distinction is effaced and lost in peoplelike the Stavrogins,” Shatov persisted, trembling all over. “Do you knowwhy you made that base and shameful marriage? Simply because the shameand senselessness of it reached the pitch of genius! Oh, you are notone of those who linger on the brink. You fly head foremost. You marriedfrom a passion for martyrdom, from a craving for remorse, through moralsensuality. It was a laceration of the nerves … Defiance of commonsense was too tempting. Stavrogin and a wretched, half-witted, crippledbeggar! When you bit the governor’s ear did you feel sensual pleasure?Did you? You idle, loafing, little snob. Did you?”

“You’re a psychologist,” said Stavrogin, turning paler and paler,“though you’re partly mistaken as to the reasons of my marriage. Butwho can have given you all this information?” he asked, smiling, with aneffort. “Was it Kirillov? But he had nothing to do with it.”

“You turn pale.”

“But what is it you want?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch asked, raisinghis voice at last. “I’ve been sitting under your lash for the lasthalf-hour, and you might at least let me go civilly. Unless you reallyhave some reasonable object in treating me like this.”

“Reasonable object?”

“Of course, you’re in duty bound, anyway, to let me know your object.I’ve been expecting you to do so all the time, but you’ve shown menothing so far but frenzied spite. I beg you to open the gate for me.”

He got up from the chair. Shatov rushed frantically after him. “Kissthe earth, water it with your tears, pray for forgiveness,” he cried,clutching him by the shoulder.

“I didn’t kill you … that morning, though … I drew back myhands …” Stavrogin brought out almost with anguish, keeping his eyeson the ground.

“Speak out! Speak out! You came to warn me of danger. You have let mespeak. You mean to-morrow to announce your marriage publicly.… Doyou suppose I don’t see from your face that some new menacing ideais dominating you?… Stavrogin, why am I condemned to believe in youthrough all eternity? Could I speak like this to anyone else? I havemodesty, but I am not ashamed of my nakedness because it’s StavroginI am speaking to. I was not afraid of caricaturing a grand idea byhandling it because Stavrogin was listening to me.… Shan’t I kiss yourfootprints when you’ve gone? I can’t tear you out of my heart, NikolayStavrogin!”

“I’m sorry I can’t feel affection for you, Shatov,” Stavrogin repliedcoldly.

“I know you can’t, and I know you are not lying. Listen. I can set itall right. I can ‘catch your hare’ for you.”

Stavrogin did not speak.

“You’re an atheist because you’re a snob, a snob of the snobs. You’velost the distinction between good and evil because you’ve lost touchwith your own people. A new generation is coming, straight from theheart of the people, and you will know nothing of it, neither you northe Verhovenskys, father or son; nor I, for I’m a snob too—I, the sonof your serf and lackey, Pashka.… Listen. Attain to God by work; itall lies in that; or disappear like rotten mildew. Attain to Him bywork.”

“God by work? What sort of work?”

“Peasants’ work. Go, give up all your wealth.… Ah! you laugh, you’reafraid of some trick?”

But Stavrogin was not laughing.

“You suppose that one may attain to God by work, and by peasants’ work,”he repeated, reflecting as though he had really come across somethingnew and serious which was worth considering. “By the way,” he passedsuddenly to a new idea, “you reminded me just now. Do you know thatI’m not rich at all, that I’ve nothing to give up? I’m scarcely ina position even to provide for Marya Timofyevna’s future.… Anotherthing: I came to ask you if it would be possible for you to remain nearMarya Timofyevna in the future, as you are the only person who hassome influence over her poor brain. I say this so as to be prepared foranything.”

“All right, all right. You’re speaking of Marya Timofyevna,” saidShatov, waving one hand, while he held a candle in the other. “Allright. Afterwards, of course.… Listen. Go to Tikhon.”

“To whom?”

“To Tikhon, who used to be a bishop. He lives retired now, on account ofillness, here in the town, in the Bogorodsky monastery.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing. People go and see him. You go. What is it to you? What is itto you?”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard of him, and … I’ve never seen anythingof that sort of people. Thank you, I’ll go.”

“This way.”

Shatov lighted him down the stairs. “Go along.” He flung open the gateinto the street.

“I shan’t come to you any more, Shatov,” said Stavrogin quietly as hestepped through the gateway.

The darkness and the rain continued as before.

CHAPTER II. NIGHT (continued)


HE WALKED THE LENGTH of Bogoyavlensky Street. At last the road beganto go downhill; his feet slipped in the mud and suddenly there layopen before him a wide, misty, as it were empty expanse—the river. Thehouses were replaced by hovels; the street was lost in a multitude ofirregular little alleys.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was a long while making his way betweenthe fences, keeping close to the river bank, but finding his wayconfidently, and scarcely giving it a thought indeed. He was absorbed insomething quite different, and looked round with surprise when suddenly,waking up from a profound reverie, he found himself almost in the middleof one long, wet, floating bridge.

There was not a soul to be seen, so that it seemed strange to him whensuddenly, almost at his elbow, he heard a deferentially familiar, butrather pleasant, voice, with a suave intonation, such as is affected byour over-refined tradespeople or befrizzled young shop assistants.

“Will you kindly allow me, sir, to share your umbrella?”

There actually was a figure that crept under his umbrella, or tried toappear to do so. The tramp was walking beside him, almost “feelinghis elbow,” as the soldiers say. Slackening his pace, NikolayVsyevolodovitch bent down to look more closely, as far as he could, inthe darkness. It was a short man, and seemed like an artisan who hadbeen drinking; he was shabbily and scantily dressed; a cloth cap, soakedby the rain and with the brim half torn off, perched on his shaggy,curly head. He looked a thin, vigorous, swarthy man with dark hair;his eyes were large and must have been black, with a hard glitter and ayellow tinge in them, like a gipsy’s; that could be divined even in thedarkness. He was about forty, and was not drunk.

“Do you know me?” asked Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. “Mr. Stavrogin, NikolayVsyevolodovitch. You were pointed out to me at the station, when thetrain stopped last Sunday, though I had heard enough of you beforehand.”

“From Pyotr Stepanovitch? Are you … Fedka the convict?”

“I was christened Fyodor Fyodorovitch. My mother is living to this dayin these parts; she’s an old woman, and grows more and more bent everyday. She prays to God for me, day and night, so that she doesn’t wasteher old age lying on the stove.”

“You escaped from prison?”

“I’ve had a change of luck. I gave up books and bells and church-goingbecause I’d a life sentence, so that I had a very long time to finish myterm.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Well, I do what I can. My uncle, too, died last week in prison here. Hewas there for false coin, so I threw two dozen stones at the dogs byway of memorial. That’s all I’ve been doing so far. Moreover PyotrStepanovitch gives me hopes of a passport, and a merchant’s one, too, togo all over Russia, so I’m waiting on his kindness. ‘Because,’ says he,‘my papa lost you at cards at the English club, and I,’ says he, ‘findthat inhumanity unjust.’ You might have the kindness to give me threeroubles, sir, for a glass to warm myself.”

“So you’ve been spying on me. I don’t like that. By whose orders?”

“As to orders, it’s nothing of the sort; it’s simply that I knew of yourbenevolence, which is known to all the world. All we get, as you know,is an armful of hay, or a prod with a fork. Last Friday I filled myselfas full of pie as Martin did of soap; since then I didn’t eat one day,and the day after I fasted, and on the third I’d nothing again. I’ve hadmy fill of water from the river. I’m breeding fish in my belly.… Sowon’t your honour give me something? I’ve a sweetheart expecting me notfar from here, but I daren’t show myself to her without money.”

“What did Pyotr Stepanovitch promise you from me?”

“He didn’t exactly promise anything, but only said that I might be ofuse to your honour if my luck turns out good, but how exactly he didn’texplain; for Pyotr Stepanovitch wants to see if I have the patience of aCossack, and feels no sort of confidence in me.”


“Pyotr Stepanovitch is an astronomer, and has learnt all God’s planets,but even he may be criticised. I stand before you, sir, as before God,because I have heard so much about you. Pyotr Stepanovitch is one thing,but you, sir, maybe, are something else. When he’s said of a man he’s ascoundrel, he knows nothing more about him except that he’s a scoundrel.Or if he’s said he’s a fool, then that man has no calling with himexcept that of fool. But I may be a fool Tuesday and Wednesday, and onThursday wiser than he. Here now he knows about me that I’m awfullysick to get a passport, for there’s no getting on in Russia withoutpapers—so he thinks that he’s snared my soul. I tell you, sir, life’sa very easy business for Pyotr Stepanovitch, for he fancies a man to bethis and that, and goes on as though he really was. And, what’s more,he’s beastly stingy. It’s his notion that, apart from him, I daren’ttrouble you, but I stand before you, sir, as before God. This is thefourth night I’ve been waiting for your honour on this bridge, to showthat I can find my own way on the quiet, without him. I’d better bow toa boot, thinks I, than to a peasant’s shoe.”

“And who told you that I was going to cross the bridge at night?”

“Well, that, I’ll own, came out by chance, most through CaptainLebyadkin’s foolishness, because he can’t keep anything to himself.…So that three roubles from your honour would pay me for the weary timeI’ve had these three days and nights. And the clothes I’ve had soaked, Ifeel that too much to speak of it.”

“I’m going to the left; you’ll go to the right. Here’s the end of thebridge. Listen, Fyodor; I like people to understand what I say, once forall. I won’t give you a farthing. Don’t meet me in future on the bridgeor anywhere. I’ve no need of you, and never shall have, and if you don’tobey, I’ll tie you and take you to the police. March!”

“Eh-heh! Fling me something for my company, anyhow. I’ve cheered you onyour way.”

“Be off!”

“But do you know the way here? There are all sorts of turnings.… Icould guide you; for this town is for all the world as though the devilcarried it in his basket and dropped it in bits here and there.”

“I’ll tie you up!” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, turning upon himmenacingly.

“Perhaps you’ll change your mind, sir; it’s easy to ill-treat thehelpless.”

“Well, I see you can rely on yourself!”

“I rely upon you, sir, and not very much on myself.…”

“I’ve no need of you at all. I’ve told you so already.”

“But I have need, that’s how it is! I shall wait for you on the wayback. There’s nothing for it.”

“I give you my word of honour if I meet you I’ll tie you up.”

“Well, I’ll get a belt ready for you to tie me with. A lucky journey toyou, sir. You kept the helpless snug under your umbrella. For thatalone I’ll be grateful to you to my dying day.” He fell behind. NikolayVsyevolodovitch walked on to his destination, feeling disturbed. Thisman who had dropped from the sky was absolutely convinced that he wasindispensable to him, Stavrogin, and was in insolent haste to tell himso. He was being treated unceremoniously all round. But it was possible,too, that the tramp had not been altogether lying, and had triedto force his services upon him on his own initiative, without PyotrStepanovitch’s knowledge, and that would be more curious still.


The house which Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had reached stood alone in adeserted lane between fences, beyond which market gardens stretched, atthe very end of the town. It was a very solitary little wooden house,which was only just built and not yet weather-boarded. In one of thelittle windows the shutters were not yet closed, and there was a candlestanding on the window-ledge, evidently as a signal to the late guestwho was expected that night. Thirty paces away Stavrogin made out on thedoorstep the figure of a tall man, evidently the master of the house,who had come out to stare impatiently up the road. He heard his voice,too, impatient and, as it were, timid.

“Is that you? You?”

“Yes,” responded Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but not till he had mountedthe steps and was folding up his umbrella.

“At last, sir.” Captain Lebyadkin, for it was he, ran fussily to andfro. “Let me take your umbrella, please. It’s very wet; I’ll open it onthe floor here, in the corner. Please walk in. Please walk in.”

The door was open from the passage into a room that was lighted by twocandles.

“If it had not been for your promise that you would certainly come, Ishould have given up expecting you.”

“A quarter to one,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, looking at his watch,as he went into the room.

“And in this rain; and such an interesting distance. I’ve no clock …and there are nothing but market-gardens round me … so that you fallbehind the times. Not that I murmur exactly; for I dare not, I dare not,but only because I’ve been devoured with impatience all the week … tohave things settled at last.”

“How so?”

“To hear my fate, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. Please sit down.”

He bowed, pointing to a seat by the table, before the sofa.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked round. The room was tiny and low-pitched.The furniture consisted only of the most essential articles, plainwooden chairs and a sofa, also newly made without covering or cushions.There were two tables of limewood; one by the sofa, and the other inthe corner was covered with a table-cloth, laid with things over whicha clean table-napkin had been thrown. And, indeed, the whole room wasobviously kept extremely clean.

Captain Lebyadkin had not been drunk for eight days. His face lookedbloated and yellow. His eyes looked uneasy, inquisitive, and obviouslybewildered. It was only too evident that he did not know what tone hecould adopt, and what line it would be most advantageous for him totake.

“Here,” he indicated his surroundings, “I live like Zossima. Sobriety,solitude, and poverty—the vow of the knights of old.”

“You imagine that the knights of old took such vows?”

“Perhaps I’m mistaken. Alas! I have no culture. I’ve ruined all. Believeme, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, here first I have recovered from shamefulpropensities—not a glass nor a drop! I have a home, and for six dayspast I have experienced a conscience at ease. Even the walls smell ofresin and remind me of nature. And what have I been; what was I?

 ‘At night without a bed I wander And my tongue put out by day …’

to use the words of a poet of genius. But you’re wet through.…Wouldn’t you like some tea?”

“Don’t trouble.”

“The samovar has been boiling since eight o’clock, but it went out atlast like everything in this world. The sun, too, they say, will goout in its turn. But if you like I’ll get up the samovar. Agafya is notasleep.”

“Tell me, Marya Timofyevna …”

“She’s here, here,” Lebyadkin replied at once, in a whisper. “Would youlike to have a look at her?” He pointed to the closed door to the nextroom.

“She’s not asleep?”

“Oh, no, no. How could she be? On the contrary, she’s been expectingyou all the evening, and as soon as she heard you were coming she beganmaking her toilet.”

He was just twisting his mouth into a jocose smile, but he instantlychecked himself.

“How is she, on the whole?” asked Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, frowning.

“On the whole? You know that yourself, sir.” He shrugged his shoulderscommiseratingly. “But just now … just now she’s telling her fortunewith cards.…”

“Very good. Later on. First of all I must finish with you.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch settled himself in a chair. The captain did notventure to sit down on the sofa, but at once moved up another chair forhimself, and bent forward to listen, in a tremor of expectation.

“What have you got there under the table-cloth?” asked NikolayVsyevolodovitch, suddenly noticing it.

“That?” said Lebyadkin, turning towards it also. “That’s from yourgenerosity, by way of house-warming, so to say; considering alsothe length of the walk, and your natural fatigue,” he snigg*redingratiatingly. Then he got up on tiptoe, and respectfully and carefullylifted the table-cloth from the table in the corner. Under it was seen aslight meal: ham, veal, sardines, cheese, a little green decanter, and along bottle of Bordeaux. Everything had been laid neatly, expertly, andalmost daintily.

“Was that your effort?”

“Yes, sir. Ever since yesterday I’ve done my best, and all to do youhonour.… Marya Timofyevna doesn’t trouble herself, as you know, onthat score. And what’s more its all from your liberality, your ownproviding, as you’re the master of the house and not I, and I’m only, soto say, your agent. All the same, all the same, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,all the same, in spirit, I’m independent! Don’t take away from me thislast possession!” he finished up pathetically.

“H’m! You might sit down again.”

“Gra-a-teful, grateful, and independent.” He sat down. “Ah, NikolayVsyevolodovitch, so much has been fermenting in this heart that I havenot known how to wait for your coming. Now you will decide my fate,and … that unhappy creature’s, and then … shall I pour out all I feelto you as I used to in old days, four years ago? You deigned to listento me then, you read my verses.… They might call me your Falstaff fromShakespeare in those days, but you meant so much in my life! I havegreat terrors now, and it’s only to you I look for counsel and light.Pyotr Stepanovitch is treating me abominably!”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch listened with interest, and looked at himattentively. It was evident that though Captain Lebyadkin had left offdrinking he was far from being in a harmonious state of mind.Drunkards of many years’ standing, like Lebyadkin, often show traces ofincoherence, of mental cloudiness, of something, as it were, damaged,and crazy, though they may deceive, cheat, and swindle, almost as wellas anybody if occasion arises.

“I see that you haven’t changed a bit in these four years and more,captain,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, somewhat more amiably. “Itseems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is usuallymade up of nothing but the habits he has accumulated during the firsthalf.”

“Grand words! You solve the riddle of life!” said the captain, halfcunningly, half in genuine and unfeigned admiration, for he was agreat lover of words. “Of all your sayings, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, Iremember one thing above all; you were in Petersburg when you said it:‘One must really be a great man to be able to make a stand even againstcommon sense.’ That was it.”

“Yes, and a fool as well.”

“A fool as well, maybe. But you’ve been scattering clever sayings allyour life, while they.… Imagine Liputin, imagine Pyotr Stepanovitchsaying anything like that! Oh, how cruelly Pyotr Stepanovitch hastreated me!”

“But how about yourself, captain? What can you say of your behaviour?”

“Drunkenness, and the multitude of my enemies. But now that’s all over,all over, and I have a new skin, like a snake. Do you know, NikolayVsyevolodovitch, I am making my will; in fact, I’ve made it already?”

“That’s interesting. What are you leaving, and to whom?”

“To my fatherland, to humanity, and to the students. NikolayVsyevolodovitch, I read in the paper the biography of an American. Heleft all his vast fortune to factories and to the exact sciences, andhis skeleton to the students of the academy there, and his skin to bemade into a drum, so that the American national hymn might be beatenupon it day and night. Alas! we are pigmies in mind compared with thesoaring thought of the States of North America. Russia is the play ofnature but not of mind. If I were to try leaving my skin for a drum, forinstance, to the Akmolinsky infantry regiment, in which I had the honourof beginning my service, on condition of beating the Russian nationalhymn upon it every day, in face of the regiment, they’d take it forliberalism and prohibit my skin … and so I confine myself to thestudents. I want to leave my skeleton to the academy, but on thecondition though, on the condition that a label should be stuck on theforehead forever and ever, with the words: ‘A repentant free-thinker.’There now!”

The captain spoke excitedly, and genuinely believed, of course, thatthere was something fine in the American will, but he was cunning too,and very anxious to entertain Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, with whom he hadplayed the part of a buffoon for a long time in the past. But the latterdid not even smile, on the contrary, he asked, as it were, suspiciously:

“So you intend to publish your will in your lifetime and get rewardedfor it?”

“And what if I do, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch? What if I do?” saidLebyadkin, watching him carefully. “What sort of luck have I had? I’vegiven up writing poetry, and at one time even you were amused by myverses, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. Do you remember our reading them over abottle? But it’s all over with my pen. I’ve written only one poem, likeGogol’s ‘The Last Story.’ Do you remember he proclaimed to Russia thatit broke spontaneously from his bosom? It’s the same with me; I’ve sungmy last and it’s over.”

“What sort of poem?”

“‘In case she were to break her leg.’”


That was all the captain was waiting for. He had an unbounded admirationfor his own poems, but, through a certain cunning duplicity, he waspleased, too, that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch always made merry over hispoems, and sometimes laughed at them immoderately. In this way he killedtwo birds with one stone, satisfying at once his poetical aspirationsand his desire to be of service; but now he had a third special and veryticklish object in view. Bringing his verses on the scene, the captainthought to exculpate himself on one point about which, for some reason,he always felt himself most apprehensive, and most guilty.

“‘In case of her breaking her leg.’ That is, of her riding onhorseback. It’s a fantasy, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, a wild fancy,but the fancy of a poet. One day I was struck by meeting a lady onhorseback, and asked myself the vital question, ‘What would happenthen?’ That is, in case of accident. All her followers turn away, allher suitors are gone. A pretty kettle of fish. Only the poetremains faithful, with his heart shattered in his breast, NikolayVsyevolodovitch. Even a louse may be in love, and is not forbidden bylaw. And yet the lady was offended by the letter and the verses. I’mtold that even you were angry. Were you? I wouldn’t believe in anythingso grievous. Whom could I harm simply by imagination? Besides, I swearon my honour, Liputin kept saying, ‘Send it, send it,’ every man,however humble, has a right to send a letter! And so I sent it.”

“You offered yourself as a suitor, I understand.”

“Enemies, enemies, enemies!”

“Repeat the verses,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sternly.

“Ravings, ravings, more than anything.”

However, he drew himself up, stretched out his hand, and began:

 “With broken limbs my beauteous queen Is twice as charming as before, And, deep in love as I have been, To-day I love her even more.”

“Come, that’s enough,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,with a wave of his hand.

“I dream of Petersburg,” cried Lebyadkin, passing quickly to anothersubject, as though there had been no mention of verses. “I dream ofregeneration.… Benefactor! May I reckon that you won’t refuse the meansfor the journey? I’ve been waiting for you all the week as my sunshine.”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort. I’ve scarcely any money left. And whyshould I give you money?”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch seemed suddenly angry. Dryly and briefly herecapitulated all the captain’s misdeeds; his drunkenness, his lying,his squandering of the money meant for Marya Timofyevna, his havingtaken her from the nunnery, his insolent letters threatening to publishthe secret, the way he had behaved about Darya Pavlovna, and so on, andso on. The captain heaved, gesticulated, began to reply, but every timeNikolay Vsyevolodovitch stopped him peremptorily.

“And listen,” he observed at last, “you keep writing about ‘familydisgrace.’ What disgrace is it to you that your sister is the lawfulwife of a Stavrogin?”

“But marriage in secret, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch—a fatal secret. Ireceive money from you, and I’m suddenly asked the question, ‘What’sthat money for?’ My hands are tied; I cannot answer to the detriment ofmy sister, to the detriment of the family honour.”

The captain raised his voice. He liked that subject and reckoned boldlyupon it. Alas! he did not realise what a blow was in store for him.

Calmly and exactly, as though he were speaking of the most everydayarrangement, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch informed him that in a few days,perhaps even to-morrow or the day after, he intended to make hismarriage known everywhere, “to the police as well as to local society.”And so the question of family honour would be settled once for all, andwith it the question of subsidy. The captain’s eyes were ready todrop out of his head; he positively could not take it in. It had to beexplained to him.

“But she is … crazy.”

“I shall make suitable arrangements.”

“But … how about your mother?”

“Well, she must do as she likes.”

“But will you take your wife to your house?”

“Perhaps so. But that is absolutely nothing to do with you and noconcern of yours.”

“No concern of mine!” cried the captain. “What about me then?”

“Well, certainly you won’t come into my house.”

“But, you know, I’m a relation.”

“One does one’s best to escape from such relations. Why should I go ongiving you money then? Judge for yourself.”

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, this is impossible.You will think better of it, perhaps? You don’t want to lay handsupon.… What will people think? What will the world say?”

“Much I care for your world. I married your sister when the fancy tookme, after a drunken dinner, for a bet, and now I’ll make it public …since that amuses me now.”

He said this with a peculiar irritability, so that Lebyadkin began withhorror to believe him.

“But me, me? What about me? I’m what matters most!… Perhaps you’rejoking, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch?”

“No, I’m not joking.”

“As you will, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but I don’t believe you.… ThenI’ll take proceedings.”

“You’re fearfully stupid, captain.”

“Maybe, but this is all that’s left me,” said the captain, losing hishead completely. “In old days we used to get free quarters, anyway, forthe work she did in the ‘corners.’ But what will happen now if you throwme over altogether?”

“But you want to go to Petersburg to try a new career. By the way, is ittrue what I hear, that you mean to go and give information, in the hopeof obtaining a pardon, by betraying all the others?”

The captain stood gaping with wide-open eyes, and made no answer.

“Listen, captain,” Stavrogin began suddenly, with great earnestness,bending down to the table. Until then he had been talking, as it were,ambiguously, so that Lebyadkin, who had wide experience in playing thepart of buffoon, was up to the last moment a trifle uncertain whetherhis patron were really angry or simply putting it on; whether he reallyhad the wild intention of making his marriage public, or whether hewere only playing. Now Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s stern expression was soconvincing that a shiver ran down the captain’s back.

“Listen, and tell the truth, Lebyadkin. Have you betrayed anything yet,or not? Have you succeeded in doing anything really? Have you sent aletter to somebody in your foolishness?”

“No, I haven’t … and I haven’t thought of doing it,” said the captain,looking fixedly at him.

“That’s a lie, that you haven’t thought of doing it. That’s what you’reasking to go to Petersburg for. If you haven’t written, have you blabbedto anybody here? Speak the truth. I’ve heard something.”

“When I was drunk, to Liputin. Liputin’s a traitor. I opened my heart tohim,” whispered the poor captain.

“That’s all very well, but there’s no need to be an ass. If you had anidea you should have kept it to yourself. Sensible people hold theirtongues nowadays; they don’t go chattering.”

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch!” said the captain, quaking. “You’ve hadnothing to do with it yourself; it’s not you I’ve …”

“Yes. You wouldn’t have ventured to kill the goose that laid your goldeneggs.”

“Judge for yourself, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, judge for yourself,” and,in despair, with tears, the captain began hurriedly relating the storyof his life for the last four years. It was the most stupid story ofa fool, drawn into matters that did not concern him, and in hisdrunkenness and debauchery unable, till the last minute, to grasp theirimportance. He said that before he left Petersburg ‘he had been drawnin, at first simply through friendship, like a regular student, althoughhe wasn’t a student,’ and knowing nothing about it, ‘without beingguilty of anything,’ he had scattered various papers on staircases, leftthem by dozens at doors, on bell-handles, had thrust them in as thoughthey were newspapers, taken them to the theatre, put them in people’shats, and slipped them into pockets. Afterwards he had taken money fromthem, ‘for what means had I?’ He had distributed all sorts of rubbishthrough the districts of two provinces. “Oh, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch!”he exclaimed, “what revolted me most was that this was utterly opposedto civic, and still more to patriotic laws. They suddenly printed thatmen were to go out with pitchforks, and to remember that those who wentout poor in the morning might go home rich at night. Only think of it!It made me shudder, and yet I distributed it. Or suddenly five or sixlines addressed to the whole of Russia, apropos of nothing, ‘Make hasteand lock up the churches, abolish God, do away with marriage, destroythe right of inheritance, take up your knives,’ that’s all, and Godknows what it means. I tell you, I almost got caught with this five-lineleaflet. The officers in the regiment gave me a thrashing, but, blessthem for it, let me go. And last year I was almost caught when I passedoff French counterfeit notes for fifty roubles on Korovayev, but, thankGod, Korovayev fell into the pond when he was drunk, and was drownedin the nick of time, and they didn’t succeed in tracking me. Here, atVirginsky’s, I proclaimed the freedom of the communistic life. In JuneI was distributing manifestoes again in X district. They say theywill make me do it again.… Pyotr Stepanovitch suddenly gave me tounderstand that I must obey; he’s been threatening me a long time. Howhe treated me that Sunday! Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, I am a slave, I ama worm, but not a God, which is where I differ from Derzhavin.* But I’veno income, no income!”

 * The reference is to a poem of Derzhavin’s.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch heard it all with curiosity.

“A great deal of that I had heard nothing of,” he said. “Of course,anything may have happened to you.… Listen,” he said, after a minute’sthought. “If you like, you can tell them, you know whom, that Liputinwas lying, and that you were only pretending to give information tofrighten me, supposing that I, too, was compromised, and that you mightget more money out of me that way.… Do you understand?”

“Dear Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, is it possible that there’s such a dangerhanging over me? I’ve been longing for you to come, to ask you.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch laughed.

“They certainly wouldn’t let you go to Petersburg, even if I were togive you money for the journey.… But it’s time for me to see MaryaTimofyevna.” And he got up from his chair.

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but how about Marya Timofyevna?”

“Why, as I told you.”

“Can it be true?”

“You still don’t believe it?”

“Will you really cast me off like an old worn-out shoe?”

“I’ll see,” laughed Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. “Come, let me go.”

“Wouldn’t you like me to stand on the steps … for fear I might bychance overhear something … for the rooms are small?”

“That’s as well. Stand on the steps. Take my umbrella.”

“Your umbrella.… Am I worth it?” said the captain over-sweetly.

“Anyone is worthy of an umbrella.”

“At one stroke you define the minimum of human rights.…”

But he was by now muttering mechanically. He was too much crushed bywhat he had learned, and was completely thrown out of his reckoning. Andyet almost as soon as he had gone out on to the steps and had put upthe umbrella, there his shallow and cunning brain caught again theever-present, comforting idea that he was being cheated and deceived,and if so they were afraid of him, and there was no need for him to beafraid.

“If they’re lying and deceiving me, what’s at the bottom of it?” was thethought that gnawed at his mind. The public announcement of the marriageseemed to him absurd. “It’s true that with such a wonder-worker anythingmay come to pass; he lives to do harm. But what if he’s afraid himself,since the insult of Sunday, and afraid as he’s never been before? Andso he’s in a hurry to declare that he’ll announce it himself, from fearthat I should announce it. Eh, don’t blunder, Lebyadkin! And why does hecome on the sly, at night, if he means to make it public himself? Andif he’s afraid, it means that he’s afraid now, at this moment, for thesefew days.… Eh, don’t make a mistake, Lebyadkin!

“He scares me with Pyotr Stepanovitch. Oy, I’m frightened, I’mfrightened! Yes, this is what’s so frightening! And what induced me toblab to Liputin. Goodness knows what these devils are up to. I never canmake head or tail of it. Now they are all astir again as they were fiveyears ago. To whom could I give information, indeed? ‘Haven’t I writtento anyone in my foolishness?’ H’m! So then I might write as thoughthrough foolishness? Isn’t he giving me a hint? ‘You’re going toPetersburg on purpose.’ The sly rogue. I’ve scarcely dreamed of it, andhe guesses my dreams. As though he were putting me up to going himself.It’s one or the other of two games he’s up to. Either he’s afraidbecause he’s been up to some pranks himself … or he’s not afraid forhimself, but is simply egging me on to give them all away! Ach, it’sterrible, Lebyadkin! Ach, you must not make a blunder!”

He was so absorbed in thought that he forgot to listen. It was not easyto hear either. The door was a solid one, and they were talking in avery low voice. Nothing reached the captain but indistinct sounds. Hepositively spat in disgust, and went out again, lost in thought, towhistle on the steps.


Marya Timofyevna’s room was twice as large as the one occupied by thecaptain, and furnished in the same rough style; but the table in frontof the sofa was covered with a gay-coloured table-cloth, and on it alamp was burning. There was a handsome carpet on the floor. The bed wasscreened off by a green curtain, which ran the length of the room, andbesides the sofa there stood by the table a large, soft easy chair, inwhich Marya Timofyevna never sat, however. In the corner there was anikon as there had been in her old room, and a little lamp was burningbefore it, and on the table were all her indispensable properties. Thepack of cards, the little looking-glass, the song-book, even a milkloaf. Besides these there were two books with coloured pictures—one,extracts from a popular book of travels, published for juvenile reading,the other a collection of very light, edifying tales, for the most partabout the days of chivalry, intended for Christmas presents or schoolreading. She had, too, an album of photographs of various sorts.

Marya Timofyevna was, of course, expecting the visitor, as the captainhad announced. But when Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went in, she was asleep,half reclining on the sofa, propped on a woolwork cushion. Her visitorclosed the door after him noiselessly, and, standing still, scrutinisedthe sleeping figure.

The captain had been romancing when he told Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch shehad been dressing herself up. She was wearing the same dark dress as onSunday at Varvara Petrovna’s. Her hair was done up in the same littleclose knot at the back of her head; her long thin neck was exposedin the same way. The black shawl Varvara Petrovna had given her laycarefully folded on the sofa. She was coarsely rouged and powdered asbefore. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch did not stand there more than a minute.She suddenly waked up, as though she were conscious of his eyesfixed upon her; she opened her eyes, and quickly drew herself up.But something strange must have happened to her visitor: he remainedstanding at the same place by the door. With a fixed and searchingglance he looked mutely and persistently into her face. Perhaps thatlook was too grim, perhaps there was an expression of aversion in it,even a malignant enjoyment of her fright—if it were not a fancy left byher dreams; but suddenly, after almost a moment of expectation, the poorwoman’s face wore a look of absolute terror; it twitched convulsively;she lifted her trembling hands and suddenly burst into tears, exactlylike a frightened child; in another moment she would have screamed. ButNikolay Vsyevolodovitch pulled himself together; his face changed in oneinstant, and he went up to the table with the most cordial and amiablesmile.

“I’m sorry, Marya Timofyevna, I frightened you coming in suddenly whenyou were asleep,” he said, holding out his hand to her.

The sound of his caressing words produced their effect. Her fearvanished, although she still looked at him with dismay, evidently tryingto understand something. She held out her hands timorously also. At lasta shy smile rose to her lips.

“How do you do, prince?” she whispered, looking at him strangely.

“You must have had a bad dream,” he went on, with a still more friendlyand cordial smile.

“But how do you know that I was dreaming about that?” And again shebegan trembling, and started back, putting up her hand as though toprotect herself, on the point of crying again. “Calm yourself. That’senough. What are you afraid of? Surely you know me?” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch, trying to soothe her; but it was long before hecould succeed. She gazed at him dumbly with the same look of agonisingperplexity, with a painful idea in her poor brain, and she still seemedto be trying to reach some conclusion. At one moment she dropped hereyes, then suddenly scrutinised him in a rapid comprehensive glance. Atlast, though not reassured, she seemed to come to a conclusion.

“Sit down beside me, please, that I may look at you thoroughly lateron,” she brought out with more firmness, evidently with a new object.“But don’t be uneasy, I won’t look at you now. I’ll look down. Don’t youlook at me either till I ask you to. Sit down,” she added, with positiveimpatience.

A new sensation was obviously growing stronger and stronger in her.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sat down and waited. Rather a long silencefollowed.

“H’m! It all seems so strange to me,” she suddenly muttered almostdisdainfully. “Of course I was depressed by bad dreams, but why have Idreamt of you looking like that?”

“Come, let’s have done with dreams,” he said impatiently, turning to herin spite of her prohibition, and perhaps the same expression gleamed fora moment in his eyes again. He saw that she several times wanted, verymuch in fact, to look at him again, but that she obstinately controlledherself and kept her eyes cast down.

“Listen, prince,” she raised her voice suddenly, “listen prince.…”

“Why do you turn away? Why don’t you look at me? What’s the object ofthis farce?” he cried, losing patience.

But she seemed not to hear him.

“Listen, prince,” she repeated for the third time in a resolute voice,with a disagreeable, fussy expression. “When you told me in the carriagethat our marriage was going to be made public, I was alarmed at therebeing an end to the mystery. Now I don’t know. I’ve been thinking it allover, and I see clearly that I’m not fit for it at all. I know how todress, and I could receive guests, perhaps. There’s nothing much inasking people to have a cup of tea, especially when there are footmen.But what will people say though? I saw a great deal that Sunday morningin that house. That pretty young lady looked at me all the time,especially after you came in. It was you came in, wasn’t it? Hermother’s simply an absurd worldly old woman. My Lebyadkin distinguishedhimself too. I kept looking at the ceiling to keep from laughing; theceiling there is finely painted. His mother ought to be an abbess. I’mafraid of her, though she did give me a black shawl. Of course, theymust all have come to strange conclusions about me. I wasn’t vexed,but I sat there, thinking what relation am I to them? Of course, froma countess one doesn’t expect any but spiritual qualities; for thedomestic ones she’s got plenty of footmen; and also a little worldlycoquetry, so as to be able to entertain foreign travellers. But yet thatSunday they did look upon me as hopeless. Only Dasha’s an angel. I’mawfully afraid they may wound him by some careless allusion to me.”

“Don’t be afraid, and don’t be uneasy,” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,making a wry face.

“However, that doesn’t matter to me, if he is a little ashamed of me,for there will always be more pity than shame, though it differs withpeople, of course. He knows, to be sure, that I ought rather to pitythem than they me.”

“You seem to be very much offended with them, Marya Timofyevna?”

“I? Oh, no,” she smiled with simple-hearted mirth. “Not at all. I lookedat you all, then. You were all angry, you were all quarrelling. Theymeet together, and they don’t know how to laugh from their hearts. Somuch wealth and so little gaiety. It all disgusts me. Though I feel forno one now except myself.”

“I’ve heard that you’ve had a hard life with your brother without me?”

“Who told you that? It’s nonsense. It’s much worse now. Now my dreamsare not good, and my dreams are bad, because you’ve come. What have youcome for, I’d like to know. Tell me please?”

“Wouldn’t you like to go back into the nunnery?”

“I knew they’d suggest the nunnery again. Your nunnery is a fine marvelfor me! And why should I go to it? What should I go for now? I’m allalone in the world now. It’s too late for me to begin a third life.”

“You seem very angry about something. Surely you’re not afraid that I’veleft off loving you?”

“I’m not troubling about you at all. I’m afraid that I may leave offloving somebody.”

She laughed contemptuously.

“I must have done him some great wrong,” she added suddenly, as it wereto herself, “only I don’t know what I’ve done wrong; that’s always whattroubles me. Always, always, for the last five years. I’ve been afraidday and night that I’ve done him some wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed andalways thought of the great wrong I’d done him. And now it turns out itwas true.”

“What’s turned out?”

“I’m only afraid whether there’s something on his side,” she went on,not answering his question, not hearing it in fact. “And then, again, hecouldn’t get on with such horrid people. The countess would have likedto eat me, though she did make me sit in the carriage beside her.They’re all in the plot. Surely he’s not betrayed me?” (Her chin andlips were twitching.) “Tell me, have you read about Grishka Otrepyev,how he was cursed in seven cathedrals?”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch did not speak.

“But I’ll turn round now and look at you.” She seemed to decidesuddenly. “You turn to me, too, and look at me, but more attentively. Iwant to make sure for the last time.”

“I’ve been looking at you for a long time.”

“H’m!” said Marya Timofyevna, looking at him intently. “You’ve grownmuch fatter.”

She wanted to say something more, but suddenly, for the third time,the same terror instantly distorted her face, and again she drew back,putting her hand up before her.

“What’s the matter with you?” cried Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, almostenraged.

But her panic lasted only one instant, her face worked with a sort ofstrange smile, suspicious and unpleasant.

“I beg you, prince, get up and come in,” she brought out suddenly, in afirm, emphatic voice.

“Come in? Where am I to come in?”

“I’ve been fancying for five years how he would come in. Get up andgo out of the door into the other room. I’ll sit as though I weren’texpecting anything, and I’ll take up a book, and suddenly you’ll come inafter five years’ travelling. I want to see what it will be like.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch ground his teeth, and muttered something tohimself.

“Enough,” he said, striking the table with his open hand. “I beg you tolisten to me, Marya Timofyevna. Do me the favour to concentrate all yourattention if you can. You’re not altogether mad, you know!” he broke outimpatiently. “Tomorrow I shall make our marriage public. You never willlive in a palace, get that out of your head. Do you want to live withme for the rest of your life, only very far away from here? In themountains in Switzerland, there’s a place there.… Don’t be afraid.I’ll never abandon you or put you in a madhouse. I shall have moneyenough to live without asking anyone’s help. You shall have a servant,you shall do no work at all. Everything you want that’s possible shallbe got for you. You shall pray, go where you like, and do what you like.I won’t touch you. I won’t go away from the place myself at all. If youlike, I won’t speak to you all my life, or if you like, you can tellme your stories every evening as you used to do in Petersburg in thecorners. I’ll read aloud to you if you like. But it must be all yourlife in the same place, and that place is a gloomy one. Will you? Areyou ready? You won’t regret it, torment me with tears and curses, willyou?”

She listened with extreme curiosity, and for a long time she was silent,thinking.

“It all seems incredible to me,” she said at last, ironically anddisdainfully. “I might live for forty years in those mountains,” shelaughed.

“What of it? Let’s live forty years then …” said NikolayVsyevolodovitch, scowling.

“H’m! I won’t come for anything.”

“Not even with me?”

“And what are you that I should go with you? I’m to sit on a mountainbeside him for forty years on end—a pretty story! And upon my word,how long-suffering people have become nowadays! No, it cannot be that afalcon has become an owl. My prince is not like that!” she said, raisingher head proudly and triumphantly.

Light seemed to dawn upon him.

“What makes you call me a prince, and … for whom do you take me?” heasked quickly.

“Why, aren’t you the prince?”

“I never have been one.”

“So yourself, yourself, you tell me straight to my face that you’re notthe prince?”

“I tell you I never have been.”

“Good Lord!” she cried, clasping her hands. “I was ready to expectanything from his enemies, but such insolence, never! Is he alive?” sheshrieked in a frenzy, turning upon Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. “Have youkilled him? Confess!”

“Whom do you take me for?” he cried, jumping up from his chair witha distorted face; but it was not easy now to frighten her. She wastriumphant.

“Who can tell who you are and where you’ve sprung from? Only my heart,my heart had misgivings all these five years, of all the intrigues. AndI’ve been sitting here wondering what blind owl was making up to me? No,my dear, you’re a poor actor, worse than Lebyadkin even. Give my humblegreetings to the countess and tell her to send someone better than you.Has she hired you, tell me? Have they given you a place in her kitchenout of charity? I see through your deception. I understand you all,every one of you.”

He seized her firmly above the elbow; she laughed in his face.

“You’re like him, very like, perhaps you’re a relation—you’re a slylot! Only mine is a bright falcon and a prince, and you’re an owl, anda shopman! Mine will bow down to God if it pleases him, and won’t if itdoesn’t. And Shatushka (he’s my dear, my darling!) slapped you on thecheeks, my Lebyadkin told me. And what were you afraid of then, when youcame in? Who had frightened you then? When I saw your mean face afterI’d fallen down and you picked me up—it was like a worm crawling intomy heart. It’s not he, I thought, not he! My falcon would never havebeen ashamed of me before a fashionable young lady. Oh heavens! Thatalone kept me happy for those five years that my falcon was livingsomewhere beyond the mountains, soaring, gazing at the sun.… Tellme, you impostor, have you got much by it? Did you need a big bribe toconsent? I wouldn’t have given you a farthing. Ha ha ha! Ha ha!…”

“Ugh, idiot!” snarled Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, still holding her tightby the arm.

“Go away, impostor!” she shouted peremptorily. “I’m the wife of myprince; I’m not afraid of your knife!”


“Yes, knife, you’ve a knife in your pocket. You thought I was asleep butI saw it. When you came in just now you took out your knife!”

“What are you saying, unhappy creature? What dreams you have!” heexclaimed, pushing her away from him with all his might, so that herhead and shoulders fell painfully against the sofa. He was rushing away;but she at once flew to overtake him, limping and hopping, and thoughLebyadkin, panic-stricken, held her back with all his might, shesucceeded in shouting after him into the darkness, shrieking andlaughing:

“A curse on you, Grishka Otrepyev!”


“A knife, a knife,” he repeated with uncontrollable anger, stridingalong through the mud and puddles, without picking his way. It is truethat at moments he had a terrible desire to laugh aloud frantically; butfor some reason he controlled himself and restrained his laughter. Herecovered himself only on the bridge, on the spot where Fedka had methim that evening. He found the man lying in wait for him again. SeeingNikolay Vsyevolodovitch he took off his cap, grinned gaily, andbegan babbling briskly and merrily about something. At first NikolayVsyevolodovitch walked on without stopping, and for some time did noteven listen to the tramp who was pestering him again. He was suddenlystruck by the thought that he had entirely forgotten him, and hadforgotten him at the very moment when he himself was repeating, “Aknife, a knife.” He seized the tramp by the collar and gave vent tohis pent-up rage by flinging him violently against the bridge. For oneinstant the man thought of fighting, but almost at once realising thatcompared with his adversary, who had fallen upon him unawares, he wasno better than a wisp of straw, he subsided and was silent, withoutoffering any resistance. Crouching on the ground with his elbows crookedbehind his back, the wily tramp calmly waited for what would happennext, apparently quite incredulous of danger. He was right in hisreckoning. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had already with his left hand takenoff his thick scarf to tie his prisoner’s arms, but suddenly, for somereason, he abandoned him, and shoved him away. The man instantly sprangon to his feet, turned round, and a short, broad boot-knife suddenlygleamed in his hand.

“Away with that knife; put it away, at once!” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchcommanded with an impatient gesture, and the knife vanished asinstantaneously as it had appeared.

Without speaking again or turning round, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went onhis way. But the persistent vagabond did not leave him even now, thoughnow, it is true, he did not chatter, and even respectfully kept hisdistance, a full step behind.

They crossed the bridge like this and came out on to the river bank,turning this time to the left, again into a long deserted back street,which led to the centre of the town by a shorter way than going throughBogoyavlensky Street.

“Is it true, as they say, that you robbed a church in the district theother day?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch asked suddenly.

“I went in to say my prayers in the first place,” the tramp answered,sedately and respectfully as though nothing had happened; more thansedately, in fact, almost with dignity. There was no trace of hisformer “friendly” familiarity. All that was to be seen was a serious,business-like man, who had indeed been gratuitously insulted, but whowas capable of overlooking an insult.

“But when the Lord led me there,” he went on, “ech, I thought what aheavenly abundance! It was all owing to my helpless state, as in ourway of life there’s no doing without assistance. And, now, God be mywitness, sir, it was my own loss. The Lord punished me for my sins, andwhat with the censer and the deacon’s halter, I only got twelve roublesaltogether. The chin setting of St. Nikolay of pure silver went for nextto nothing. They said it was plated.”

“You killed the watchman?”

“That is, I cleared the place out together with that watchman, butafterwards, next morning, by the river, we fell to quarrelling whichshould carry the sack. I sinned, I did lighten his load for him.”

“Well, you can rob and murder again.”

“That’s the very advice Pyotr Stepanovitch gives me, in the verysame words, for he’s uncommonly mean and hard-hearted about helping afellow-creature. And what’s more, he hasn’t a ha’p’orth of belief in theHeavenly Creator, who made us out of earthly clay; but he says it’s allthe work of nature even to the last beast. He doesn’t understand eitherthat with our way of life it’s impossible for us to get along withoutfriendly assistance. If you begin to talk to him he looks like asheep at the water; it makes one wonder. Would you believe, at CaptainLebyadkin’s, out yonder, whom your honour’s just been visiting, when hewas living at Filipov’s, before you came, the door stood open all nightlong. He’d be drunk and sleeping like the dead, and his money droppingout of his pockets all over the floor. I’ve chanced to see it withmy own eyes, for in our way of life it’s impossible to live withoutassistance.…”

“How do you mean with your own eyes? Did you go in at night then?”

“Maybe I did go in, but no one knows of it.”

“Why didn’t you kill him?”

“Reckoning it out, I steadied myself. For once having learned for surethat I can always get one hundred and fifty roubles, why should I go sofar when I can get fifteen hundred roubles, if I only bide my time. ForCaptain Lebyadkin (I’ve heard him with my own ears) had great hopes ofyou when he was drunk; and there isn’t a tavern here—not the lowestpot-house—where he hasn’t talked about it when he was in that state.So that hearing it from many lips, I began, too, to rest all my hopeson your excellency. I speak to you, sir, as to my father, or my ownbrother; for Pyotr Stepanovitch will never learn that from me, and nota soul in the world. So won’t your excellency spare me three roubles inyour kindness? You might set my mind at rest, so that I might know thereal truth; for we can’t get on without assistance.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch laughed aloud, and taking out his purse, inwhich he had as much as fifty roubles, in small notes, threw him onenote out of the bundle, then a second, a third, a fourth. Fedka flew tocatch them in the air. The notes dropped into the mud, and he snatchedthem up crying, “Ech! ech!” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch finished by flingingthe whole bundle at him, and, still laughing, went on down the street,this time alone. The tramp remained crawling on his knees in the mud,looking for the notes which were blown about by the wind and soaking inthe puddles, and for an hour after his spasmodic cries of “Ech! ech!”were still to be heard in the darkness.



THE NEXT DAY, at two o’clock in the afternoon, the duel took place asarranged. Things were hastened forward by Gaganov’s obstinate desire tofight at all costs. He did not understand his adversary’s conduct,and was in a fury. For a whole month he had been insulting him withimpunity, and had so far been unable to make him lose patience. What hewanted was a challenge on the part of Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, as he hadnot himself any direct pretext for challenging him. His secret motivefor it, that is, his almost morbid hatred of Stavrogin for the insult tohis family four years before, he was for some reason ashamed to confess.And indeed he regarded this himself as an impossible pretext for achallenge, especially in view of the humble apology offered by NikolayStavrogin twice already. He privately made up his mind that Stavroginwas a shameless coward; and could not understand how he could haveaccepted Shatov’s blow. So he made up his mind at last to send himthe extraordinarily rude letter that had finally roused NikolayVsyevolodovitch himself to propose a meeting. Having dispatched thisletter the day before, he awaited a challenge with feverish impatience,and while morbidly reckoning the chances at one moment with hope andat the next with despair, he got ready for any emergency by securing asecond, to wit, Mavriky Nikolaevitch Drozdov, who was a friend of his,an old schoolfellow, a man for whom he had a great respect. So whenKirillov came next morning at nine o’clock with his message he foundthings in readiness. All the apologies and unheard-of condescension ofNikolay Vsyevolodovitch were at once, at the first word, rejected withextraordinary exasperation. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who had only been madeacquainted with the position of affairs the evening before, opened hismouth with surprise at such incredible concessions, and would have urgeda reconciliation, but seeing that Gaganov, guessing his intention, wasalmost trembling in his chair, refrained, and said nothing. If it hadnot been for the promise given to his old schoolfellow he would haveretired immediately; he only remained in the hope of being some help onthe scene of action. Kirillov repeated the challenge. All the conditionsof the encounter made by Stavrogin were accepted on the spot, withoutthe faintest objection. Only one addition was made, and that a ferociousone. If the first shots had no decisive effect, they were to fire again,and if the second encounter were inconclusive, it was to be followed bya third. Kirillov frowned, objected to the third encounter, but gainingnothing by his efforts agreed on the condition, however, that threeshould be the limit, and that “a fourth encounter was out of thequestion.” This was conceded. Accordingly at two o’clock in theafternoon the meeting took place at Brykov, that is, in a littlecopse in the outskirts of the town, lying between Skvoreshniki and theShpigulin factory. The rain of the previous night was over, but it wasdamp, grey, and windy. Low, ragged, dingy clouds moved rapidly acrossthe cold sky. The tree-tops roared with a deep droning sound, andcreaked on their roots; it was a melancholy morning.

Mavriky Nikolaevitch and Gaganov arrived on the spot in a smartchar-à-banc with a pair of horses driven by the latter. They wereaccompanied by a groom. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch and Kirillov arrivedalmost at the same instant. They were not driving, they were onhorseback, and were also followed by a mounted servant. Kirillov, whohad never mounted a horse before, sat up boldly, erect in the saddle,grasping in his right hand the heavy box of pistols which he would notentrust to the servant. In his inexperience he was continually with hisleft hand tugging at the reins, which made the horse toss his head andshow an inclination to rear. This, however, seemed to cause his rider nouneasiness. Gaganov, who was morbidly suspicious and always ready to bedeeply offended, considered their coming on horseback as a fresh insultto himself, inasmuch as it showed that his opponents were too confidentof success, since they had not even thought it necessary to have acarriage in case of being wounded and disabled. He got out of hischar-à-banc, yellow with anger, and felt that his hands were trembling,as he told Mavriky Nikolaevitch. He made no response at all to NikolayVsyevolodovitch’s bow, and turned away. The seconds cast lots. The lotfell on Kirillov’s pistols. They measured out the barrier and placed thecombatants. The servants with the carriage and horses were movedback three hundred paces. The weapons were loaded and handed to thecombatants.

I’m sorry that I have to tell my story more quickly and have no timefor descriptions. But I can’t refrain from some comments. MavrikyNikolaevitch was melancholy and preoccupied. Kirillov, on the otherhand, was perfectly calm and unconcerned, very exact over the detailsof the duties he had undertaken, but without the slightest fussiness oreven curiosity as to the issue of the fateful contest that was so nearat hand. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was paler than usual. He was ratherlightly dressed in an overcoat and a white beaver hat. He seemed verytired, he frowned from time to time, and seemed to feel it superfluousto conceal his ill-humour. But Gaganov was at this moment more worthyof mention than anyone, so that it is quite impossible not to say a fewwords about him in particular.


I have hitherto not had occasion to describe his appearance. He was atall man of thirty-three, and well fed, as the common folk express it,almost fat, with lank flaxen hair, and with features which might becalled handsome. He had retired from the service with the rank ofcolonel, and if he had served till he reached the rank of general hewould have been even more impressive in that position, and would verylikely have become an excellent fighting general.

I must add, as characteristic of the man, that the chief cause ofhis leaving the army was the thought of the family disgrace which hadhaunted him so painfully since the insult paid to his father by NikolayVsyevolodovitch four years before at the club. He conscientiouslyconsidered it dishonourable to remain in the service, and was inwardlypersuaded that he was contaminating the regiment and his companions,although they knew nothing of the incident. It’s true that he had oncebefore been disposed to leave the army long before the insult to hisfather, and on quite other grounds, but he had hesitated. Strange as itis to write, the original design, or rather desire, to leave the armywas due to the proclamation of the 19th of February of the emancipationof the serfs. Gaganov, who was one of the richest landowners in theprovince, and who had not lost very much by the emancipation, and was,moreover, quite capable of understanding the humanity of the reform andits economic advantages, suddenly felt himself personally insulted bythe proclamation. It was something unconscious, a feeling; but wasall the stronger for being unrecognised. He could not bring himself,however, to take any decisive step till his father’s death. But he beganto be well known for his “gentlemanly” ideas to many persons of highposition in Petersburg, with whom he strenuously kept up connections. Hewas secretive and self-contained. Another characteristic: he belonged tothat strange section of the nobility, still surviving in Russia, whoset an extreme value on their pure and ancient lineage, and take it tooseriously. At the same time he could not endure Russian history, and,indeed, looked upon Russian customs in general as more or less piggish.Even in his childhood, in the special military school for the sons ofparticularly wealthy and distinguished families in which he had theprivilege of being educated, from first to last certain poetic notionswere deeply rooted in his mind. He loved castles, chivalry; all thetheatrical part of it. He was ready to cry with shame that in the daysof the Moscow Tsars the sovereign had the right to inflict corporalpunishment on the Russian boyars, and blushed at the contrast. Thisstiff and extremely severe man, who had a remarkable knowledge ofmilitary science and performed his duties admirably, was at heart adreamer. It was said that he could speak at meetings and had the gift oflanguage, but at no time during the thirty-three years of his life hadhe spoken. Even in the distinguished circles in Petersburg, in whichhe had moved of late, he behaved with extraordinary haughtiness.His meeting in Petersburg with Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, who had justreturned from abroad, almost sent him out of his mind. At the presentmoment, standing at the barrier, he was terribly uneasy. He keptimagining that the duel would somehow not come off; the least delaythrew him into a tremor. There was an expression of anguish in his facewhen Kirillov, instead of giving the signal for them to fire, begansuddenly speaking, only for form, indeed, as he himself explained aloud.

“Simply as a formality, now that you have the pistols in your hands,and I must give the signal, I ask you for the last time, will you not bereconciled? It’s the duty of a second.”

As though to spite him, Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who had till then keptsilence, although he had been reproaching himself all day for hiscompliance and acquiescence, suddenly caught up Kirillov’s thought andbegan to speak:

“I entirely agree with Mr. Kirillov’s words.… This idea thatreconciliation is impossible at the barrier is a prejudice, onlysuitable for Frenchmen. Besides, with your leave, I don’t understandwhat the offence is. I’ve been wanting to say so for a long time …because every apology is offered, isn’t it?”

He flushed all over. He had rarely spoken so much, and with suchexcitement.

“I repeat again my offer to make every possible apology,” NikolayVsyevolodovitch interposed hurriedly.

“This is impossible,” shouted Gaganov furiously, addressing MavrikyNikolaevitch, and stamping with rage. “Explain to this man,” he pointedwith his pistol at Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, “if you’re my second and notmy enemy, Mavriky Nikolaevitch, that such overtures only aggravate theinsult. He feels it impossible to be insulted by me!… He feels it nodisgrace to walk away from me at the barrier! What does he take me for,after that, do you think?… And you, you, my second, too! You’re simplyirritating me that I may miss.”

He stamped again. There were flecks of foam on his lips.

“Negotiations are over. I beg you to listen to the signal!” Kirillovshouted at the top of his voice. “One! Two! Three!”

At the word “Three” the combatants took aim at one another. Gaganov atonce raised his pistol, and at the fifth or sixth step he fired. For asecond he stood still, and, making sure that he had missed, advanced tothe barrier. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch advanced too, raising his pistol,but somehow holding it very high, and fired, almost without taking aim.Then he took out his handkerchief and bound it round the little fingerof his right hand. Only then they saw that Gaganov had not missed himcompletely, but the bullet had only grazed the fleshy part of his fingerwithout touching the bone; it was only a slight scratch. Kirillov atonce announced that the duel would go on, unless the combatants weresatisfied.

“I declare,” said Gaganov hoarsely (his throat felt parched), againaddressing Mavriky Nikolaevitch, “that this man,” again he pointedin Stavrogin’s direction, “fired in the air on purpose …intentionally.… This is an insult again.… He wants to make theduel impossible!”

“I have the right to fire as I like so long as I keep the rules,”Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch asserted resolutely.

“No, he hasn’t! Explain it to him! Explain it!” cried Gaganov.

“I’m in complete agreement with Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch,” proclaimedKirillov.

“Why does he spare me?” Gaganov raged, not hearing him. “I despise hismercy.… I spit on it.… I …”

“I give you my word that I did not intend to insult you,” cried NikolayVsyevolodovitch impatiently. “I shot high because I don’t want to killanyone else, either you or anyone else. It’s nothing to do with youpersonally. It’s true that I don’t consider myself insulted, and I’msorry that angers you. But I don’t allow any one to interfere with myrights.”

“If he’s so afraid of bloodshed, ask him why he challenged me,” yelledGaganov, still addressing Mavriky Nikolaevitch.

“How could he help challenging you?” said Kirillov, intervening. “Youwouldn’t listen to anything. How was one to get rid of you?”

“I’ll only mention one thing,” observed Mavriky Nikolaevitch, ponderingthe matter with painful effort. “If a combatant declares beforehand thathe will fire in the air the duel certainly cannot go on … for obviousand … delicate reasons.”

“I haven’t declared that I’ll fire in the air every time,” criedStavrogin, losing all patience. “You don’t know what’s in my mind or howI intend to fire again.… I’m not restricting the duel at all.”

“In that case the encounter can go on,” said Mavriky Nikolaevitch toGaganov.

“Gentlemen, take your places,” Kirillov commanded. Again they advanced,again Gaganov missed and Stavrogin fired into the air. There might havebeen a dispute as to his firing into the air. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchmight have flatly declared that he’d fired properly, if he had notadmitted that he had missed intentionally. He did not aim straight atthe sky or at the trees, but seemed to aim at his adversary, though ashe pointed the pistol the bullet flew a yard above his hat. The secondtime the shot was even lower, even less like an intentional miss.Nothing would have convinced Gaganov now.

“Again!” he muttered, grinding his teeth. “No matter! I’ve beenchallenged and I’ll make use of my rights. I’ll fire a third time …whatever happens.”

“You have full right to do so,” Kirillov rapped out. MavrikyNikolaevitch said nothing. The opponents were placed a third time, thesignal was given. This time Gaganov went right up to the barrier, andbegan from there taking aim, at a distance of twelve paces. His handwas trembling too much to take good aim. Stavrogin stood with his pistollowered and awaited his shot without moving.

“Too long; you’ve been aiming too long!” Kirillov shouted impetuously.“Fire! Fire!”

But the shot rang out, and this time Stavrogin’s white beaver hat flewoff. The aim had been fairly correct. The crown of the hat was piercedvery low down; a quarter of an inch lower and all would have been over.Kirillov picked up the hat and handed it to Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch.

“Fire; don’t detain your adversary!” cried Mavriky Nikolaevitch inextreme agitation, seeing that Stavrogin seemed to have forgotten tofire, and was examining the hat with Kirillov. Stavrogin started, lookedat Gaganov, turned round and this time, without the slightest regard forpunctilio, fired to one side, into the copse. The duel was over. Gaganovstood as though overwhelmed. Mavriky Nikolaevitch went up and begansaying something to him, but he did not seem to understand. Kirillovtook off his hat as he went away, and nodded to Mavriky Nikolaevitch.But Stavrogin forgot his former politeness. When he had shot into thecopse he did not even turn towards the barrier. He handed his pistol toKirillov and hastened towards the horses. His face looked angry; he didnot speak. Kirillov, too, was silent. They got on their horses and setoff at a gallop.


“Why don’t you speak?” he called impatiently to Kirillov, when they werenot far from home.

“What do you want?” replied the latter, almost slipping off his horse,which was rearing.

Stavrogin restrained himself.

“I didn’t mean to insult that … fool, and I’ve insulted him again,” hesaid quietly.

“Yes, you’ve insulted him again,” Kirillov jerked out, “and besides,he’s not a fool.”

“I’ve done all I can, anyway.”


“What ought I to have done?”

“Not have challenged him.”

“Accept another blow in the face?”

“Yes, accept another.”

“I can’t understand anything now,” said Stavrogin wrathfully. “Why doesevery one expect of me something not expected from anyone else? Why amI to put up with what no one else puts up with, and undertake burdens noone else can bear?”

“I thought you were seeking a burden yourself.”

“I seek a burden?”


“You’ve … seen that?”


“Is it so noticeable?”


There was silence for a moment. Stavrogin had a very preoccupied face.He was almost impressed.

“I didn’t aim because I didn’t want to kill anyone. There was nothingmore in it, I assure you,” he said hurriedly, and with agitation, asthough justifying himself.

“You ought not to have offended him.”

“What ought I to have done then?”

“You ought to have killed him.”

“Are you sorry I didn’t kill him?”

“I’m not sorry for anything. I thought you really meant to kill him. Youdon’t know what you’re seeking.”

“I seek a burden,” laughed Stavrogin.

“If you didn’t want blood yourself, why did you give him a chance tokill you?”

“If I hadn’t challenged him, he’d have killed me simply, without aduel.”

“That’s not your affair. Perhaps he wouldn’t have killed you.”

“Only have beaten me?”

“That’s not your business. Bear your burden. Or else there’s no merit.”

“Hang your merit. I don’t seek anyone’s approbation.”

“I thought you were seeking it,” Kirillov commented with terribleunconcern.

They rode into the courtyard of the house.

“Do you care to come in?” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch.

“No; I’m going home. Good-bye.”

He got off the horse and took his box of pistols under his arm.

“Anyway, you’re not angry with me?” said Stavrogin, holding out his handto him.

“Not in the least,” said Kirillov, turning round to shake hands withhim. “If my burden’s light it’s because it’s from nature; perhaps yourburden’s heavier because that’s your nature. There’s no need to be muchashamed; only a little.”

“I know I’m a worthless character, and I don’t pretend to be a strongone.”

“You’d better not; you’re not a strong person. Come and have tea.”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went into the house, greatly perturbed.


He learned at once from Alexey Yegorytch that Varvara Petrovna hadbeen very glad to hear that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had gone out for aride—the first time he had left the house after eight days’ illness.She had ordered the carriage, and had driven out alone for a breath offresh air “according to the habit of the past, as she had forgotten forthe last eight days what it meant to breathe fresh air.”

“Alone, or with Darya Pavlovna?” Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch interrupted theold man with a rapid question, and he scowled when he heard that DaryaPavlovna “had declined to go abroad on account of indisposition and wasin her rooms.”

“Listen, old man,” he said, as though suddenly making up his mind. “Keepwatch over her all to-day, and if you notice her coming to me, stop herat once, and tell her that I can’t see her for a few days at least …that I ask her not to come myself.… I’ll let her know myself, when thetime comes. Do you hear?”

“I’ll tell her, sir,” said Alexey Yegorytch, with distress in his voice,dropping his eyes.

“Not till you see clearly she’s meaning to come and see me of herself,though.”

“Don’t be afraid, sir, there shall be no mistake. Your interviews haveall passed through me, hitherto. You’ve always turned to me for help.”

“I know. Not till she comes of herself, anyway. Bring me some tea, ifyou can, at once.”

The old man had hardly gone out, when almost at the same instant thedoor reopened, and Darya Pavlovna appeared in the doorway. Her eyes weretranquil, though her face was pale.

“Where have you come from?” exclaimed Stavrogin.

“I was standing there, and waiting for him to go out, to come in toyou. I heard the order you gave him, and when he came out just now I hidround the corner, on the right, and he didn’t notice me.”

“I’ve long meant to break off with you, Dasha … for a while … for thepresent. I couldn’t see you last night, in spite of your note. I meantto write to you myself, but I don’t know how to write,” he added withvexation, almost as though with disgust.

“I thought myself that we must break it off. Varvara Petrovna is toosuspicious of our relations.”

“Well, let her be.”

“She mustn’t be worried. So now we part till the end comes.”

“You still insist on expecting the end?”

“Yes, I’m sure of it.”

“But nothing in the world ever has an end.”

“This will have an end. Then call me. I’ll come. Now, good-bye.”

“And what sort of end will it be?” smiled Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch.

“You’re not wounded, and … have not shed blood?” she asked, notanswering his question.

“It was stupid. I didn’t kill anyone. Don’t be uneasy. However, you’llhear all about it to-day from every one. I’m not quite well.”

“I’m going. The announcement of the marriage won’t be to-day?” she addedirresolutely.

“It won’t be to-day, and it won’t be to-morrow. I can’t say about theday after to-morrow. Perhaps we shall all be dead, and so much thebetter. Leave me alone, leave me alone, do.”

“You won’t ruin that other … mad girl?”

“I won’t ruin either of the mad creatures. It seems to be the sane I’mruining. I’m so vile and loathsome, Dasha, that I might really send foryou, ‘at the latter end,’ as you say. And in spite of your sanity you’llcome. Why will you be your own ruin?”

“I know that at the end I shall be the only one left you, and … I’mwaiting for that.”

“And what if I don’t send for you after all, but run away from you?”

“That can’t be. You will send for me.”

“There’s a great deal of contempt for me in that.”

“You know that there’s not only contempt.”

“Then there is contempt, anyway?”

“I used the wrong word. God is my witness, it’s my greatest wish thatyou may never have need of me.”

“One phrase is as good as another. I should also have wished not to haveruined you.”

“You can never, anyhow, be my ruin; and you know that yourself, betterthan anyone,” Darya Pavlovna said, rapidly and resolutely. “If I don’tcome to you I shall be a sister of mercy, a nurse, shall wait upon thesick, or go selling the gospel. I’ve made up my mind to that. I cannotbe anyone’s wife. I can’t live in a house like this, either. That’s notwhat I want.… You know all that.”

“No, I never could tell what you want. It seems to me that you’reinterested in me, as some veteran nurses get specially interested insome particular invalid in comparison with the others, or still more,like some pious old women who frequent funerals and find one corpse moreattractive than another. Why do you look at me so strangely?”

“Are you very ill?” she asked sympathetically, looking at him in apeculiar way. “Good heavens! And this man wants to do without me!”

“Listen, Dasha, now I’m always seeing phantoms. One devil offered meyesterday, on the bridge, to murder Lebyadkin and Marya Timofyevna, tosettle the marriage difficulty, and to cover up all traces. He asked meto give him three roubles on account, but gave me to understand thatthe whole operation wouldn’t cost less than fifteen hundred. Wasn’t he acalculating devil! A regular shopkeeper. Ha ha!”

“But you’re fully convinced that it was an hallucination?”

“Oh, no; not a bit an hallucination! It was simply Fedka the convict,the robber who escaped from prison. But that’s not the point. What doyou suppose I did! I gave him all I had, everything in my purse, and nowhe’s sure I’ve given him that on account!”

“You met him at night, and he made such a suggestion? Surely you mustsee that you’re being caught in their nets on every side!”

“Well, let them be. But you’ve got some question at the tip of yourtongue, you know. I see it by your eyes,” he added with a resentful andirritable smile.

Dasha was frightened.

“I’ve no question at all, and no doubt whatever; you’d better be quiet!”she cried in dismay, as though waving off his question.

“Then you’re convinced that I won’t go to Fedka’s little shop?”

“Oh, God!” she cried, clasping her hands. “Why do you torture me likethis?”

“Oh, forgive me my stupid joke. I must be picking up bad manners fromthem. Do you know, ever since last night I feel awfully inclined tolaugh, to go on laughing continually forever so long. It’s as thoughI must explode with laughter. It’s like an illness.… Oh! my mother’scoming in. I always know by the rumble when her carriage has stopped atthe entrance.”

Dasha seized his hand.

“God save you from your demon, and … call me, call me quickly!”

“Oh! a fine demon! It’s simply a little nasty, scrofulous imp, with acold in his head, one of the unsuccessful ones. But you have somethingyou don’t dare to say again, Dasha?”

She looked at him with pain and reproach, and turned towards the door.

“Listen,” he called after her, with a malignant and distorted smile.“If … Yes, if, in one word, if … you understand, even if I did go tothat little shop, and if I called you after that—would you come then?”

She went out, hiding her face in her hands, and neither turning noranswering.

“She will come even after the shop,” he whispered, thinking a moment,and an expression of scornful disdain came into his face. “A nurse!H’m!… but perhaps that’s what I want.”



The impression made on the whole neighbourhood by the story of the duel,which was rapidly noised abroad, was particularly remarkable from theunanimity with which every one hastened to take up the cudgels forNikolay Vsyevolodovitch. Many of his former enemies declared themselveshis friends. The chief reason for this change of front in public opinionwas chiefly due to one person, who had hitherto not expressed heropinion, but who now very distinctly uttered a few words, which atonce gave the event a significance exceedingly interesting to the vastmajority. This was how it happened. On the day after the duel, all thetown was assembled at the Marshal of Nobility’s in honour of his wife’snameday. Yulia Mihailovna was present, or, rather, presided, accompaniedby Lizaveta Nikolaevna, radiant with beauty and peculiar gaiety, whichstruck many of our ladies at once as particularly suspicious atthis time. And I may mention, by the way, her engagement to MavrikyNikolaevitch was by now an established fact. To a playful question froma retired general of much consequence, of whom we shall have more tosay later, Lizaveta Nikolaevna frankly replied that evening that she wasengaged. And only imagine, not one of our ladies would believe in herengagement. They all persisted in assuming a romance of some sort, somefatal family secret, something that had happened in Switzerland, and forsome reason imagined that Yulia Mihailovna must have had some hand init. It was difficult to understand why these rumours, or rather fancies,persisted so obstinately, and why Yulia Mihailovna was so positivelyconnected with it. As soon as she came in, all turned to her withstrange looks, brimful of expectation. It must be observed that owing tothe freshness of the event, and certain circ*mstances accompanyingit, at the party people talked of it with some circ*mspection, inundertones. Besides, nothing yet was known of the line taken by theauthorities. As far as was known, neither of the combatants had beentroubled by the police. Every one knew, for instance, that Gaganov hadset off home early in the morning to Duhovo, without being hindered.Meanwhile, of course, all were eager for someone to be the first tospeak of it aloud, and so to open the door to the general impatience.They rested their hopes on the general above-mentioned, and they werenot disappointed.

This general, a landowner, though not a wealthy one, was one of the mostimposing members of our club, and a man of an absolutely unique turn ofmind. He flirted in the old-fashioned way with the young ladies, and wasparticularly fond, in large assemblies, of speaking aloud with all theweightiness of a general, on subjects to which others were alludingin discreet whispers. This was, so to say, his special rôle in localsociety. He drawled, too, and spoke with peculiar suavity, probablyhaving picked up the habit from Russians travelling abroad, or fromthose wealthy landowners of former days who had suffered most from theemancipation. Stepan Trofimovitch had observed that the more completelya landowner was ruined, the more suavely he lisped and drawled hiswords. He did, as a fact, lisp and drawl himself, but was not aware ofit in himself.

The general spoke like a person of authority. He was, besides, a distantrelation of Gaganov’s, though he was on bad terms with him, and evenengaged in litigation with him. He had, moreover, in the past, foughttwo duels himself, and had even been degraded to the ranks and sent tothe Caucasus on account of one of them. Some mention was made of VarvaraPetrovna’s having driven out that day and the day before, after beingkept indoors “by illness,” though the allusion was not to her, but tothe marvellous matching of her four grey horses of the Stavrogins’own breeding. The general suddenly observed that he had met “youngStavrogin” that day, on horseback.… Every one was instantly silent.The general munched his lips, and suddenly proclaimed, twisting in hisfingers his presentation gold snuff-box.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here some years ago … I mean when I was atCarlsbad … H’m! I’m very much interested in that young man about whomI heard so many rumours at that time. H’m! And, I say, is it true thathe’s mad? Some one told me so then. Suddenly I’m told that he has beeninsulted by some student here, in the presence of his cousins, and heslipped under the table to get away from him. And yesterday I heardfrom Stepan Vysotsky that Stavrogin had been fighting with Gaganov. Andsimply with the gallant object of offering himself as a target to aninfuriated man, just to get rid of him. H’m! Quite in the style of theguards of the twenties. Is there any house where he visits here?”

The general paused as though expecting an answer. A way had been openedfor the public impatience to express itself.

“What could be simpler?” cried Yulia Mihailovna, raising her voice,irritated that all present had turned their eyes upon her, as thoughat a word of command. “Can one wonder that Stavrogin fought Gaganov andtook no notice of the student? He couldn’t challenge a man who used tobe his serf!”

A noteworthy saying! A clear and simple notion, yet it had enterednobody’s head till that moment. It was a saying that had extraordinaryconsequences. All scandal and gossip, all the petty tittle-tattle wasthrown into the background, another significance had been detected. Anew character was revealed whom all had misjudged; a character, almostideally severe in his standards. Mortally insulted by a student, thatis, an educated man, no longer a serf, he despised the affront becausehis assailant had once been his serf. Society had gossiped and slanderedhim; shallow-minded people had looked with contempt on a man who hadbeen struck in the face. He had despised a public opinion, which had notrisen to the level of the highest standards, though it discussed them.

“And, meantime, you and I, Ivan Alexandrovitch, sit and discuss thecorrect standards,” one old club member observed to another, with a warmand generous glow of self-reproach.

“Yes, Pyotr Mihailovitch, yes,” the other chimed in with zest, “talk ofthe younger generation!”

“It’s not a question of the younger generation,” observed a third,putting in his spoke, “it’s nothing to do with the younger generation;he’s a star, not one of the younger generation; that’s the way to lookat it.”

“And it’s just that sort we need; they’re rare people.” The chiefpoint in all this was that the “new man,” besides showing himself anunmistakable nobleman, was the wealthiest landowner in the province, andwas, therefore, bound to be a leading man who could be of assistance.I’ve already alluded in passing to the attitude of the landowners of ourprovince. People were enthusiastic:

“He didn’t merely refrain from challenging the student. He put his handsbehind him, note that particularly, your excellency,” somebody pointedout.

“And he didn’t haul him up before the new law-courts, either,” addedanother.

“In spite of the fact that for a personal insult to a nobleman he’d havegot fifteen roubles damages! He he he!”

“No, I’ll tell you a secret about the new courts,” cried a third, ina frenzy of excitement, “if anyone’s caught robbing or swindling andconvicted, he’d better run home while there’s yet time, and murder hismother. He’ll be acquitted of everything at once, and ladies will wavetheir batiste handkerchiefs from the platform. It’s the absolute truth!”

“It’s the truth. It’s the truth!”

The inevitable anecdotes followed: Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s friendlyrelations with Count K. were recalled. Count K.’s stern and independentattitude to recent reforms was well known, as well as his remarkablepublic activity, though that had somewhat fallen off of late. Andnow, suddenly, every one was positive that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch wasbetrothed to one of the count’s daughters, though nothing had givengrounds for such a supposition. And as for some wonderful adventures inSwitzerland with Lizaveta Nikolaevna, even the ladies quite dropped allreference to it. I must mention, by the way, that the Drozdovs had bythis time succeeded in paying all the visits they had omitted at first.Every one now confidently considered Lizaveta Nikolaevna a most ordinarygirl, who paraded her delicate nerves. Her fainting on the day ofNikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s arrival was explained now as due to herterror at the student’s outrageous behaviour. They even increased theprosaicness of that to which before they had striven to give such afantastic colour. As for a lame woman who had been talked of, she wasforgotten completely. They were ashamed to remember her.

“And if there had been a hundred lame girls—we’ve all been young once!”

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s respectfulness to his mother was enlargedupon. Various virtues were discovered in him. People talked withapprobation of the learning he had acquired in the four years he hadspent in German universities. Gaganov’s conduct was declared utterlytactless: “not knowing friend from foe.” Yulia Mihailovna’s keen insightwas unhesitatingly admitted.

So by the time Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch made his appearance among themhe was received by every one with naïve solemnity. In all eyes fastenedupon him could be read eager anticipation. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch atonce wrapped himself in the most austere silence, which, of course,gratified every one much more than if he had talked till doomsday. In aword, he was a success, he was the fashion. If once one has figured inprovincial society, there’s no retreating into the background. NikolayVsyevolodovitch began to fulfil all his social duties in the provincepunctiliously as before. He was not found cheerful company: “a man whohas seen suffering; a man not like other people; he has something to bemelancholy about.” Even the pride and disdainful aloofness for which hehad been so detested four years before was now liked and respected.

Varvara Petrovna was triumphant. I don’t know whether she grieved muchover the shattering of her dreams concerning Lizaveta Nikolaevna. Familypride, of course, helped her to get over it. One thing was strange:Varvara Petrovna was suddenly convinced that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitchreally had “made his choice” at Count K.’s. And what was strangest ofall, she was led to believe it by rumours which reached her on nobetter authority than other people. She was afraid to ask NikolayVsyevolodovitch a direct question. Two or three times, however, shecould not refrain from slyly and good-humouredly reproaching him for notbeing open with her. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch smiled and remained silent.The silence was taken as a sign of assent. And yet, all the time shenever forgot the cripple. The thought of her lay like a stone on herheart, a nightmare, she was tortured by strange misgivings and surmises,and all this at the same time as she dreamed of Count K.’s daughters.But of this we shall speak later. Varvara Petrovna began again, ofcourse, to be treated with extreme deference and respect in society, butshe took little advantage of it and went out rarely.

She did, however, pay a visit of ceremony to the governor’s wife. Ofcourse, no one had been more charmed and delighted by Yulia Mihailovna’swords spoken at the marshal’s soirée than she. They lifted a load ofcare off her heart, and had at once relieved much of the distress shehad been suffering since that luckless Sunday.

“I misunderstood that woman,” she declared, and with her characteristicimpulsiveness she frankly told Yulia Mihailovna that she had come tothank her. Yulia Mihailovna was flattered, but she behaved with dignity.She was beginning about this time to be very conscious of her ownimportance, too much so, in fact. She announced, for example, in thecourse of conversation, that she had never heard of Stepan Trofimovitchas a leading man or a savant.

“I know young Verhovensky, of course, and make much of him. He’simprudent, but then he’s young; he’s thoroughly well-informed, though.He’s not an out-of-date, old-fashioned critic, anyway.” Varvara Petrovnahastened to observe that Stepan Trofimovitch had never been a critic,but had, on the contrary, spent all his life in her house. He wasrenowned through circ*mstances of his early career, “only too well knownto the whole world,” and of late for his researches in Spanishhistory. Now he intended to write also on the position of modern Germanuniversities, and, she believed, something about the Dresden Madonnatoo. In short, Varvara Petrovna refused to surrender Stepan Trofimovitchto the tender mercies of Yulia Mihailovna.

“The Dresden Madonna? You mean the Sistine Madonna? Chère VarvaraPetrovna, I spent two hours sitting before that picture and came awayutterly disillusioned. I could make nothing of it and was in completeamazement. Karmazinov, too, says it’s hard to understand it. They allsee nothing in it now, Russians and English alike. All its fame is justthe talk of the last generation.”

“Fashions are changed then?”

“What I think is that one mustn’t despise our younger generation either.They cry out that they’re communists, but what I say is that we mustappreciate them and mustn’t be hard on them. I read everything now—thepapers, communism, the natural sciences—I get everything because, afterall, one must know where one’s living and with whom one has to do. Onemustn’t spend one’s whole life on the heights of one’s own fancy. I’vecome to the conclusion, and adopted it as a principle, that one must bekind to the young people and so keep them from the brink. Believe me,Varvara Petrovna, that none but we who make up good society can by ourkindness and good influence keep them from the abyss towards which theyare brought by the intolerance of all these old men. I am glad though tolearn from you about Stepan Trofimovitch. You suggest an idea to me:he may be useful at our literary matinée, you know I’m arranging for awhole day of festivities, a subscription entertainment for the benefitof the poor governesses of our province. They are scattered aboutRussia; in our district alone we can reckon up six of them. Besidesthat, there are two girls in the telegraph office, two are being trainedin the academy, the rest would like to be but have not the means. TheRussian woman’s fate is a terrible one, Varvara Petrovna! It’s out ofthat they’re making the university question now, and there’s even been ameeting of the Imperial Council about it. In this strange Russia of oursone can do anything one likes; and that, again, is why it’s only by thekindness and the direct warm sympathy of all the better classes that wecan direct this great common cause in the true path. Oh, heavens, havewe many noble personalities among us! There are some, of course, butthey are scattered far and wide. Let us unite and we shall be stronger.In one word, I shall first have a literary matinée, then a lightluncheon, then an interval, and in the evening a ball. We meant to beginthe evening by living pictures, but it would involve a great dealof expense, and so, to please the public, there will be one or twoquadrilles in masks and fancy dresses, representing well-known literaryschools. This humorous idea was suggested by Karmazinov. He has been agreat help to me. Do you know he’s going to read us the last thing he’swritten, which no one has seen yet. He is laying down the pen, and willwrite no more. This last essay is his farewell to the public. It’s acharming little thing called ‘Merci.’ The title is French; he thinksthat more amusing and even subtler. I do, too. In fact I advised it. Ithink Stepan Trofimovitch might read us something too, if it were quiteshort and … not so very learned. I believe Pyotr Stepanovitch and someone else too will read something. Pyotr Stepanovitch shall run roundto you and tell you the programme. Better still, let me bring it to youmyself.”

“Allow me to put my name down in your subscription list too. I’ll tellStepan Trofimovitch and will beg him to consent.”

Varvara Petrovna returned home completely fascinated. She was readyto stand up for Yulia Mihailovna through thick and thin, and for somereason was already quite put out with Stepan Trofimovitch, while he,poor man, sat at home, all unconscious.

“I’m in love with her. I can’t understand how I could be so mistaken inthat woman,” she said to Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch and Pyotr Stepanovitch,who dropped in that evening.

“But you must make peace with the old man all the same,” PyotrStepanovitch submitted. “He’s in despair. You’ve quite sent him toCoventry. Yesterday he met your carriage and bowed, and you turned away.We’ll trot him out, you know; I’m reckoning on him for something, and hemay still be useful.”

“Oh, he’ll read something.”

“I don’t mean only that. And I was meaning to drop in on him to-day. Soshall I tell him?”

“If you like. I don’t know, though, how you’ll arrange it,” she saidirresolutely. “I was meaning to have a talk with him myself, and wantedto fix the time and place.”

She frowned.

“Oh, it’s not worth while fixing a time. I’ll simply give him themessage.”

“Very well, do. Add that I certainly will fix a time to see him though.Be sure to say that too.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch ran off, grinning. He was, in fact, to the best ofmy recollection, particularly spiteful all this time, and ventured uponextremely impatient sallies with almost every one. Strange to say, everyone, somehow, forgave him. It was generally accepted that he was not tobe looked at from the ordinary standpoint. I may remark that he took upan extremely resentful attitude about Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch’s duel.It took him unawares. He turned positively green when he was told of it.Perhaps his vanity was wounded: he only heard of it next day when everyone knew of it.

“You had no right to fight, you know,” he whispered to Stavrogin, fivedays later, when he chanced to meet him at the club. It was remarkablethat they had not once met during those five days, though PyotrStepanovitch had dropped in at Varvara Petrovna’s almost every day.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked at him in silence with an absent-mindedair, as though not understanding what was the matter, and he went onwithout stopping. He was crossing the big hall of the club on his way tothe refreshment room.

“You’ve been to see Shatov too.… You mean to make it known about MaryaTimofyevna,” Pyotr Stepanovitch muttered, running after him, and, asthough not thinking of what he was doing he clutched at his shoulder.

Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch shook his hand off and turned round quicklyto him with a menacing scowl. Pyotr Stepanovitch looked at him witha strange, prolonged smile. It all lasted only one moment. NikolayVsyevolodovitch walked on.


He went to the “old man” straight from Varvara Petrovna’s, and he wasin such haste simply from spite, that he might revenge himself for aninsult of which I had no idea at that time. The fact is that attheir last interview on the Thursday of the previous week, StepanTrofimovitch, though the dispute was one of his own beginning, hadended by turning Pyotr Stepanovitch out with his stick. He concealed theincident from me at the time. But now, as soon as Pyotr Stepanovitch ranin with his everlasting grin, which was so naïvely condescending, andhis unpleasantly inquisitive eyes peering into every corner, StepanTrofimovitch at once made a signal aside to me, not to leave the room.This was how their real relations came to be exposed before me, for onthis occasion I heard their whole conversation.

Stepan Trofimovitch was sitting stretched out on a lounge. He had grownthin and sallow since that Thursday. Pyotr Stepanovitch seated himselfbeside him with a most familiar air, unceremoniously tucking his legs upunder him, and taking up more room on the lounge than deference to hisfather should have allowed. Stepan Trofimovitch moved aside, in silence,and with dignity.

On the table lay an open book. It was the novel, “What’s to be done?”Alas, I must confess one strange weakness in my friend; the fantasy thathe ought to come forth from his solitude and fight a last battle wasgetting more and more hold upon his deluded imagination. I guessed thathe had got the novel and was studying it solely in order that when theinevitable conflict with the “shriekers” came about he might know theirmethods and arguments beforehand, from their very “catechism,” and inthat way be prepared to confute them all triumphantly, before her eyes.Oh, how that book tortured him! He sometimes flung it aside in despair,and leaping up, paced about the room almost in a frenzy.

“I agree that the author’s fundamental idea is a true one,” he said tome feverishly, “but that only makes it more awful. It’s just our idea,exactly ours; we first sowed the seed, nurtured it, prepared the way,and, indeed, what could they say new, after us? But, heavens! How it’sall expressed, distorted, mutilated!” he exclaimed, tapping the bookwith his fingers. “Were these the conclusions we were striving for? Whocan understand the original idea in this?”

“Improving your mind?” snigg*red Pyotr Stepanovitch, taking the bookfrom the table and reading the title. “It’s high time. I’ll bring youbetter, if you like.”

Stepan Trofimovitch again preserved a dignified silence. I was sittingon a sofa in the corner.

Pyotr Stepanovitch quickly explained the reason of his coming. Ofcourse, Stepan Trofimovitch was absolutely staggered, and he listened inalarm, which was mixed with extreme indignation.

“And that Yulia Mihailovna counts on my coming to read for her!”

“Well, they’re by no means in such need of you. On the contrary, it’s byway of an attention to you, so as to make up to Varvara Petrovna. But,of course, you won’t dare to refuse, and I expect you want to yourself,”he added with a grin. “You old fogies are all so devilishly ambitious.But, I say though, you must look out that it’s not too boring. What haveyou got? Spanish history, or what is it? You’d better let me look at itthree days beforehand, or else you’ll put us to sleep perhaps.”

The hurried and too barefaced coarseness of these thrusts was obviouslypremeditated. He affected to behave as though it were impossible to talkto Stepan Trofimovitch in different and more delicate language. StepanTrofimovitch resolutely persisted in ignoring his insults, but what hisson told him made a more and more overwhelming impression upon him.

“And she, she herself sent me this message through you?” he asked,turning pale.

“Well, you see, she means to fix a time and place for a mutualexplanation, the relics of your sentimentalising. You’ve been coquettingwith her for twenty years and have trained her to the most ridiculoushabits. But don’t trouble yourself, it’s quite different now. She keepssaying herself that she’s only beginning now to ‘have her eyes opened.’I told her in so many words that all this friendship of yours is nothingbut a mutual pouring forth of sloppiness. She told me lots, my boy. Foo!what a flunkey’s place you’ve been filling all this time. I positivelyblushed for you.”

“I filling a flunkey’s place?” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, unable torestrain himself.

“Worse, you’ve been a parasite, that is, a voluntary flunkey too lazy towork, while you’ve an appetite for money. She, too, understands all thatnow. It’s awful the things she’s been telling me about you, anyway. Idid laugh, my boy, over your letters to her; shameful and disgusting.But you’re all so depraved, so depraved! There’s always somethingdepraving in charity—you’re a good example of it!”

“She showed you my letters!”

“All; though, of course, one couldn’t read them all. Foo, what a lot ofpaper you’ve covered! I believe there are more than two thousand lettersthere. And do you know, old chap, I believe there was one moment whenshe’d have been ready to marry you. You let slip your chance in thesilliest way. Of course, I’m speaking from your point of view, though,anyway, it would have been better than now when you’ve almost beenmarried to ‘cover another man’s sins,’ like a buffoon, for a jest, formoney.”

“For money! She, she says it was for money!” Stepan Trofimovitch wailedin anguish.

“What else, then? But, of course, I stood up for you. That’s your onlyline of defence, you know. She sees for herself that you needed moneylike every one else, and that from that point of view maybe you wereright. I proved to her as clear as twice two makes four that it was amutual bargain. She was a capitalist and you were a sentimental buffoonin her service. She’s not angry about the money, though you have milkedher like a goat. She’s only in a rage at having believed in youfor twenty years, at your having so taken her in over these noblesentiments, and made her tell lies for so long. She never will admitthat she told lies of herself, but you’ll catch it the more for that. Ican’t make out how it was you didn’t see that you’d have to have a dayof reckoning. For after all you had some sense. I advised her yesterdayto put you in an almshouse, a genteel one, don’t disturb yourself;there’ll be nothing humiliating; I believe that’s what she’ll do. Do youremember your last letter to me, three weeks ago?”

“Can you have shown her that?” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, leaping up inhorror.

“Rather! First thing. The one in which you told me she was exploitingyou, envious of your talent; oh, yes, and that about ‘other men’s sins.’You have got a conceit though, my boy! How I did laugh. As a rule yourletters are very tedious. You write a horrible style. I often don’t readthem at all, and I’ve one lying about to this day, unopened. I’ll sendit to you to-morrow. But that one, that last letter of yours was thetiptop of perfection! How I did laugh! Oh, how I laughed!”

“Monster, monster!” wailed Stepan Trofimovitch.

“Foo, damn it all, there’s no talking to you. I say, you’re gettinghuffy again as you were last Thursday.”

Stepan Trofimovitch drew himself up, menacingly.

“How dare you speak to me in such language?”

“What language? It’s simple and clear.”

“Tell me, you monster, are you my son or not?”

“You know that best. To be sure all fathers are disposed to be blind insuch cases.”

“Silence! Silence!” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, shaking all over.

“You see you’re screaming and swearing at me as you did last Thursday.You tried to lift your stick against me, but you know, I found thatdocument. I was rummaging all the evening in my trunk from curiosity.It’s true there’s nothing definite, you can take that comfort. It’s onlya letter of my mother’s to that Pole. But to judge from hercharacter …”

“Another word and I’ll box your ears.”

“What a set of people!” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, suddenly addressinghimself to me. “You see, this is how we’ve been ever since lastThursday. I’m glad you’re here this time, anyway, and can judge betweenus. To begin with, a fact: he reproaches me for speaking like this of mymother, but didn’t he egg me on to it? In Petersburg before I left theHigh School, didn’t he wake me twice in the night, to embrace me, andcry like a woman, and what do you suppose he talked to me about at night?Why, the same modest anecdotes about my mother! It was from him Ifirst heard them.”

“Oh, I meant that in a higher sense! Oh, you didn’t understand me! Youunderstood nothing, nothing.”

“But, anyway, it was meaner in you than in me, meaner, acknowledge that.You see, it’s nothing to me if you like. I’m speaking from your pointof view. Don’t worry about my point of view. I don’t blame my mother; ifit’s you, then it’s you, if it’s a Pole, then it’s a Pole, it’s all thesame to me. I’m not to blame because you and she managed so stupidly inBerlin. As though you could have managed things better. Aren’t you anabsurd set, after that? And does it matter to you whether I’m your sonor not? Listen,” he went on, turning to me again, “he’s never spent apenny on me all his life; till I was sixteen he didn’t know me at all;afterwards he robbed me here, and now he cries out that his heart hasbeen aching over me all his life, and carries on before me like anactor. I’m not Varvara Petrovna, mind you.”

He got up and took his hat.

“I curse you henceforth!”

Stepan Trofimovitch, as pale as death, stretched out his hand above him.

“Ach, what folly a man will descend to!” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch,actually surprised. “Well, good-bye, old fellow, I shall never come andsee you again. Send me the article beforehand, don’t forget, and try andlet it be free from nonsense. Facts, facts, facts. And above all, let itbe short. Good-bye.”


Outside influences, too, had come into play in the matter, however.Pyotr Stepanovitch certainly had some designs on his parent. In myopinion he calculated upon reducing the old man to despair, and so todriving him to some open scandal of a certain sort. This was to servesome remote and quite other object of his own, of which I shall speakhereafter. All sorts of plans and calculations of this kind wereswarming in masses in his mind at that time, and almost all, of course,of a fantastic character. He had designs on another victim besides StepanTrofimovitch. In fact, as appeared afterwards, his victims were not fewin number, but this one he reckoned upon particularly, and it was Mr.von Lembke himself.

Andrey Antonovitch von Lembke belonged to that race, so favoured bynature, which is reckoned by hundreds of thousands at the Russiancensus, and is perhaps unconscious that it forms throughout its wholemass a strictly organised union. And this union, of course, is notplanned and premeditated, but exists spontaneously in the whole race,without words or agreements as a moral obligation consisting in mutualsupport given by all members of the race to one another, at all timesand places, and under all circ*mstances. Andrey Antonovitch hadthe honour of being educated in one of those more exalted Russianeducational institutions which are filled with the youth from familieswell provided with wealth or connections. Almost immediately onfinishing their studies the pupils were appointed to rather importantposts in one of the government departments. Andrey Antonovitch had oneuncle a colonel of engineers, and another a baker. But he managed to getinto this aristocratic school, and met many of his fellow-countrymen ina similar position. He was a good-humoured companion, was rather stupidat his studies, but always popular. And when many of his companions inthe upper forms—chiefly Russians—had already learnt to discuss theloftiest modern questions, and looked as though they were onlywaiting to leave school to settle the affairs of the universe, AndreyAntonovitch was still absorbed in the most innocent schoolboy interests.He amused them all, it is true, by his pranks, which were of a verysimple character, at the most a little coarse, but he made it his objectto be funny. At one time he would blow his nose in a wonderful waywhen the professor addressed a question to him, thereby making hisschoolfellows and the professor laugh. Another time, in the dormitory,he would act some indecent living picture, to the general applause,or he would play the overture to “Fra Diavolo” with his nose ratherskilfully. He was distinguished, too, by intentional untidiness,thinking this, for some reason, witty. In his very last year at schoolhe began writing Russian poetry.

Of his native language he had only an ungrammatical knowledge, like manyof his race in Russia. This turn for versifying drew him to a gloomyand depressed schoolfellow, the son of a poor Russian general, who wasconsidered in the school to be a great future light in literature. Thelatter patronised him. But it happened that three years after leavingschool this melancholy schoolfellow, who had flung up his officialcareer for the sake of Russian literature, and was consequently goingabout in torn boots, with his teeth chattering with cold, wearing alight summer overcoat in the late autumn, met, one day on the Anitchinbridge, his former protégé, “Lembka,” as he always used to be called atschool. And, what do you suppose? He did not at first recognise him,and stood still in surprise. Before him stood an irreproachably dressedyoung man with wonderfully well-kept whiskers of a reddish hue, withpince-nez, with patent-leather boots, and the freshest of gloves, in afull overcoat from Sharmer’s, and with a portfolio under his arm. Lembkewas cordial to his old schoolfellow, gave him his address, and beggedhim to come and see him some evening. It appeared, too, that he was bynow not “Lembka” but “Von Lembke.” The schoolfellow came to see him,however, simply from malice perhaps. On the staircase, which was coveredwith red felt and was rather ugly and by no means smart, he was met andquestioned by the house-porter. A bell rang loudly upstairs. But insteadof the wealth which the visitor expected, he found Lembke in avery little side-room, which had a dark and dilapidated appearance,partitioned into two by a large dark green curtain, and furnished withvery old though comfortable furniture, with dark green blinds onhigh narrow windows. Von Lembke lodged in the house of a very distantrelation, a general who was his patron. He met his visitor cordially,was serious and exquisitely polite. They talked of literature, too, butkept within the bounds of decorum. A manservant in a white tie broughtthem some weak tea and little dry, round biscuits. The schoolfellow,from spite, asked for some seltzer water. It was given him, but aftersome delays, and Lembke was somewhat embarrassed at having to summon thefootman a second time and give him orders. But of himself he asked hisvisitor whether he would like some supper, and was obviously relievedwhen he refused and went away. In short, Lembke was making his career,and was living in dependence on his fellow-countryman, the influentialgeneral.

He was at that time sighing for the general’s fifth daughter, and itseemed to him that his feeling was reciprocated. But Amalia was none theless married in due time to an elderly factory-owner, a German, andan old comrade of the general’s. Andrey Antonovitch did not shed manytears, but made a paper theatre. The curtain drew up, the actors camein, and gesticulated with their arms. There were spectators in theboxes, the orchestra moved their bows across their fiddles by machinery,the conductor waved his baton, and in the stalls officers and dandiesclapped their hands. It was all made of cardboard, it was all thoughtout and executed by Lembke himself. He spent six months over thistheatre. The general arranged a friendly party on purpose. The theatrewas exhibited, all the general’s five daughters, including the newlymarried Amalia with her factory-owner, numerous fraus and frauleinswith their men folk, attentively examined and admired the theatre, afterwhich they danced. Lembke was much gratified and was quickly consoled.

The years passed by and his career was secured. He always obtained goodposts and always under chiefs of his own race; and he worked his way upat last to a very fine position for a man of his age. He had, for a longtime, been wishing to marry and looking about him carefully. Withoutthe knowledge of his superiors he had sent a novel to the editor of amagazine, but it had not been accepted. On the other hand, he cut outa complete toy railway, and again his creation was most successful.Passengers came on to the platform with bags and portmanteaux, with dogsand children, and got into the carriages. The guards and porters movedaway, the bell was rung, the signal was given, and the train startedoff. He was a whole year busy over this clever contrivance. But he hadto get married all the same. The circle of his acquaintance was fairlywide, chiefly in the world of his compatriots, but his duties broughthim into Russian spheres also, of course. Finally, when he was in histhirty-ninth year, he came in for a legacy. His uncle the baker died,and left him thirteen thousand roubles in his will. The one thingneedful was a suitable post. In spite of the rather elevated style ofhis surroundings in the service, Mr. von Lembke was a very modest man.He would have been perfectly satisfied with some independent littlegovernment post, with the right to as much government timber as heliked, or something snug of that sort, and he would have been contentall his life long. But now, instead of the Minna or Ernestine he hadexpected, Yulia Mihailovna suddenly appeared on the scene. His careerwas instantly raised to a more elevated plane. The modest and preciseman felt that he too was capable of ambition.

Yulia Mihailovna had a fortune of two hundred serfs, to reckon in theold style, and she had besides powerful friends. On the other handLembke was handsome, and she was already over forty. It is remarkablethat he fell genuinely in love with her by degrees as he became moreused to being betrothed to her. On the morning of his wedding day hesent her a poem. She liked all this very much, even the poem; it’s nojoke to be forty. He was very quickly raised to a certain grade andreceived a certain order of distinction, and then was appointed governorof our province.

Before coming to us Yulia Mihailovna worked hard at moulding herhusband. In her opinion he was not without abilities, he knew how tomake an entrance and to appear to advantage, he understood how tolisten and be silent with profundity, had acquired a quite distinguisheddeportment, could make a speech, indeed had even some odds and ends ofthought, and had caught the necessary gloss of modern liberalism. Whatworried her, however, was that he was not very open to new ideas, andafter the long, everlasting plodding for a career, was unmistakablybeginning to feel the need of repose. She tried to infect him with herown ambition, and he suddenly began making a toy church: the pastor cameout to preach the sermon, the congregation listened with their handsbefore them, one lady was drying her tears with her handkerchief, oneold gentleman was blowing his nose; finally the organ pealed forth. Ithad been ordered from Switzerland, and made expressly in spite of allexpense. Yulia Mihailovna, in positive alarm, carried off the wholestructure as soon as she knew about it, and locked it up in a box inher own room. To make up for it she allowed him to write a novel oncondition of its being kept secret. From that time she began to reckononly upon herself. Unhappily there was a good deal of shallowness andlack of judgment in her attitude. Destiny had kept her too long an oldmaid. Now one idea after another fluttered through her ambitious andrather over-excited brain. She cherished designs, she positively desiredto rule the province, dreamed of becoming at once the centre of acircle, adopted political sympathies. Von Lembke was actually a littlealarmed, though, with his official tact, he quickly divined that he hadno need at all to be uneasy about the government of the province itself.The first two or three months passed indeed very satisfactorily. But nowPyotr Stepanovitch had turned up, and something queer began to happen.

The fact was that young Verhovensky, from the first step, had displayeda flagrant lack of respect for Andrey Antonovitch, and had assumed astrange right to dictate to him; while Yulia Mihailovna, who had alwaystill then been so jealous of her husband’s dignity, absolutely refusedto notice it; or, at any rate, attached no consequence to it. The youngman became a favourite, ate, drank, and almost slept in the house. VonLembke tried to defend himself, called him “young man” before otherpeople, and slapped him patronisingly on the shoulder, but made noimpression. Pyotr Stepanovitch always seemed to be laughing in his faceeven when he appeared on the surface to be talking seriously to him, andhe would say the most startling things to him before company. Returninghome one day he found the young man had installed himself in his studyand was asleep on the sofa there, uninvited. He explained that he hadcome in, and finding no one at home had “had a good sleep.”

Von Lembke was offended and again complained to his wife. Laughing athis irritability she observed tartly that he evidently did not know howto keep up his own dignity; and that with her, anyway, “the boy” hadnever permitted himself any undue familiarity, “he was naïve and freshindeed, though not regardful of the conventions of society.” Von Lembkesulked. This time she made peace between them. Pyotr Stepanovitch didnot go so far as to apologise, but got out of it with a coarse jest,which might at another time have been taken for a fresh offence, butwas accepted on this occasion as a token of repentance. The weak spotin Andrey Antonovitch’s position was that he had blundered in the firstinstance by divulging the secret of his novel to him. Imagining himto be an ardent young man of poetic feeling and having long dreamedof securing a listener, he had, during the early days of theiracquaintance, on one occasion read aloud two chapters to him. The youngman had listened without disguising his boredom, had rudely yawned,had vouchsafed no word of praise; but on leaving had asked for themanuscript that he might form an opinion of it at his leisure, andAndrey Antonovitch had given it him. He had not returned the manuscriptsince, though he dropped in every day, and had turned off all inquirieswith a laugh. Afterwards he declared that he had lost it in the street.At the time Yulia Mihailovna was terribly angry with her husband whenshe heard of it.

“Perhaps you told him about the church too?” she burst out almost indismay.

Von Lembke unmistakably began to brood, and brooding was bad for him,and had been forbidden by the doctors. Apart from the fact that therewere signs of trouble in the province, of which we will speak later, hehad private reasons for brooding, his heart was wounded, not merely hisofficial dignity. When Andrey Antonovitch had entered upon married life,he had never conceived the possibility of conjugal strife, or dissensionin the future. It was inconsistent with the dreams he had cherishedall his life of his Minna or Ernestine. He felt that he was unequal toenduring domestic storms. Yulia Mihailovna had an open explanation withhim at last.

“You can’t be angry at this,” she said, “if only because you’ve still asmuch sense as he has, and are immeasurably higher in the social scale.The boy still preserves many traces of his old free-thinking habits;I believe it’s simply mischief; but one can do nothing suddenly, in ahurry; you must do things by degrees. We must make much of our youngpeople; I treat them with affection and hold them back from the brink.”

“But he says such dreadful things,” Von Lembke objected. “I can’t behavetolerantly when he maintains in my presence and before other peoplethat the government purposely drenches the people with vodka in order tobrutalise them, and so keep them from revolution. Fancy my position whenI’m forced to listen to that before every one.”

As he said this, Von Lembke recalled a conversation he had recentlyhad with Pyotr Stepanovitch. With the innocent object of displaying hisLiberal tendencies he had shown him his own private collection of everypossible kind of manifesto, Russian and foreign, which he had carefullycollected since the year 1859, not simply from a love of collecting butfrom a laudable interest in them. Pyotr Stepanovitch, seeing his object,expressed the opinion that there was more sense in one line of somemanifestoes than in a whole government department, “not even excludingyours, maybe.”

Lembke winced.

“But this is premature among us, premature,” he pronounced almostimploringly, pointing to the manifestoes.

“No, it’s not premature; you see you’re afraid, so it’s not premature.”

“But here, for instance, is an incitement to destroy churches.”

“And why not? You’re a sensible man, and of course you don’t believein it yourself, but you know perfectly well that you need religion tobrutalise the people. Truth is honester than falsehood.…”

“I agree, I agree, I quite agree with you, but it is premature,premature in this country …” said Von Lembke, frowning.

“And how can you be an official of the government after that, when youagree to demolishing churches, and marching on Petersburg armed withstaves, and make it all simply a question of date?”

Lembke was greatly put out at being so crudely caught.

“It’s not so, not so at all,” he cried, carried away and more and moremortified in his amour-propre. “You’re young, and know nothing ofour aims, and that’s why you’re mistaken. You see, my dear PyotrStepanovitch, you call us officials of the government, don’t you?Independent officials, don’t you? But let me ask you, how are we acting?Ours is the responsibility, but in the long run we serve the cause ofprogress just as you do. We only hold together what you are unsettling,and what, but for us, would go to pieces in all directions. We are notyour enemies, not a bit of it. We say to you, go forward, progress, youmay even unsettle things, that is, things that are antiquated and inneed of reform. But we will keep you, when need be, within necessarylimits, and so save you from yourselves, for without us you would setRussia tottering, robbing her of all external decency, while our task isto preserve external decency. Understand that we are mutually essentialto one another. In England the Whigs and Tories are in the same waymutually essential to one another. Well, you’re Whigs and we’re Tories.That’s how I look at it.”

Andrey Antonovitch rose to positive eloquence. He had been fond oftalking in a Liberal and intellectual style even in Petersburg, and thegreat thing here was that there was no one to play the spy on him.

Pyotr Stepanovitch was silent, and maintained an unusually grave air.This excited the orator more than ever.

“Do you know that I, the ‘person responsible for the province,’” he wenton, walking about the study, “do you know I have so many duties I can’tperform one of them, and, on the other hand, I can say just as trulythat there’s nothing for me to do here. The whole secret of it is,that everything depends upon the views of the government. Suppose thegovernment were ever to found a republic, from policy, or to pacifypublic excitement, and at the same time to increase the power of thegovernors, then we governors would swallow up the republic; and not therepublic only. Anything you like we’ll swallow up. I, at least, feelthat I am ready. In one word, if the government dictates to me bytelegram, activité dévorante, I’ll supply activité dévorante. I’vetold them here straight in their faces: ‘Dear sirs, to maintain theequilibrium and to develop all the provincial institutions one thingis essential; the increase of the power of the governor.’ You see it’snecessary that all these institutions, the zemstvos, the law-courts,should have a two-fold existence, that is, on the one hand, it’snecessary they should exist (I agree that it is necessary), on the otherhand, it’s necessary that they shouldn’t. It’s all according to theviews of the government. If the mood takes them so that institutionsseem suddenly necessary, I shall have them at once in readiness. Thenecessity passes and no one will find them under my rule. That’s whatI understand by activité dévorante, and you can’t have it without anincrease of the governor’s power. We’re talking tête-à-tête. You knowI’ve already laid before the government in Petersburg the necessity of aspecial sentinel before the governor’s house. I’m awaiting an answer.”

“You ought to have two,” Pyotr Stepanovitch commented.

“Why two?” said Von Lembke, stopping short before him.

“One’s not enough to create respect for you. You certainly ought to havetwo.”

Andrey Antonovitch made a wry face.

“You … there’s no limit to the liberties you take, Pyotr Stepanovitch.You take advantage of my good-nature, you say cutting things, and playthe part of a bourru bienfaisant.…”

“Well, that’s as you please,” muttered Pyotr Stepanovitch; “anyway youpave the way for us and prepare for our success.”

“Now, who are ‘we,’ and what success?” said Von Lembke, staring at himin surprise. But he got no answer.

Yulia Mihailovna, receiving a report of the conversation, was greatlydispleased.

“But I can’t exercise my official authority upon your favourite,”Andrey Antonovitch protested in self-defence, “especially when we’retête-à-tête.… I may say too much … in the goodness of my heart.”

“From too much goodness of heart. I didn’t know you’d got a collectionof manifestoes. Be so good as to show them to me.”

“But … he asked to have them for one day.”

“And you’ve let him have them, again!” cried Yulia Mihailovna gettingangry. “How tactless!”

“I’ll send someone to him at once to get them.”

“He won’t give them up.”

“I’ll insist on it,” cried Von Lembke, boiling over, and he jumped upfrom his seat. “Who’s he that we should be so afraid of him, and who amI that I shouldn’t dare to do any thing?”

“Sit down and calm yourself,” said Yulia Mihailovna, checking him.“I will answer your first question. He came to me with the highestrecommendations. He’s talented, and sometimes says extremely cleverthings. Karmazinov tells me that he has connections almost everywhere,and extraordinary influence over the younger generation in Petersburgand Moscow. And if through him I can attract them all and group themround myself, I shall be saving them from perdition by guiding theminto a new outlet for their ambitions. He’s devoted to me with his wholeheart and is guided by me in everything.”

“But while they’re being petted … the devil knows what they may not do.Of course, it’s an idea …” said Von Lembke, vaguely defending himself,“but … but here I’ve heard that manifestoes of some sort have beenfound in X district.”

“But there was a rumour of that in the summer—manifestoes, falsebank-notes, and all the rest of it, but they haven’t found one of themso far. Who told you?”

“I heard it from Von Blum.”

“Ah, don’t talk to me of your Blum. Don’t ever dare mention him again!”

Yulia Mihailovna flew into a rage, and for a moment could not speak. VonBlum was a clerk in the governor’s office whom she particularly hated.Of that later.

“Please don’t worry yourself about Verhovensky,” she said in conclusion.“If he had taken part in any mischief he wouldn’t talk as he does toyou, and every one else here. Talkers are not dangerous, and I willeven go so far as to say that if anything were to happen I should be thefirst to hear of it through him. He’s quite fanatically devoted to me.”

I will observe, anticipating events that, had it not been for YuliaMihailovna’s obstinacy and self-conceit, probably nothing of all themischief these wretched people succeeded in bringing about amongst uswould have happened. She was responsible for a great deal.



The date of the fête which Yulia Mihailovna was getting up for thebenefit of the governesses of our province had been several times fixedand put off. She had invariably bustling round her Pyotr Stepanovitchand a little clerk, Lyamshin, who used at one time to visit StepanTrofimovitch, and had suddenly found favour in the governor’s house forthe way he played the piano and now was of use running errands. Liputinwas there a good deal too, and Yulia Mihailovna destined him to be theeditor of a new independent provincial paper. There were also severalladies, married and single, and lastly, even Karmazinov who, though hecould not be said to bustle, announced aloud with a complacent air thathe would agreeably astonish every one when the literary quadrille began.An extraordinary multitude of donors and subscribers had turned up, allthe select society of the town; but even the unselect were admitted, ifonly they produced the cash. Yulia Mihailovna observed that sometimes itwas a positive duty to allow the mixing of classes, “for otherwise whois to enlighten them?”

A private drawing-room committee was formed, at which it was decidedthat the fête was to be of a democratic character. The enormous listof subscriptions tempted them to lavish expenditure. They wanted to dosomething on a marvellous scale—that’s why it was put off. They werestill undecided where the ball was to take place, whether in the immensehouse belonging to the marshal’s wife, which she was willing to give upto them for the day, or at Varvara Petrovna’s mansion at Skvoreshniki.It was rather a distance to Skvoreshniki, but many of the committee wereof opinion that it would be “freer” there. Varvara Petrovna would dearlyhave liked it to have been in her house. It’s difficult to understandwhy this proud woman seemed almost making up to Yulia Mihailovna.Probably what pleased her was that the latter in her turn seemed almostfawning upon Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch and was more gracious to himthan to anyone. I repeat again that Pyotr Stepanovitch was always, incontinual whispers, strengthening in the governor’s household an idea hehad insinuated there already, that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was a man whohad very mysterious connections with very mysterious circles, and thathe had certainly come here with some commission from them.

People here seemed in a strange state of mind at the time. Among theladies especially a sort of frivolity was conspicuous, and it couldnot be said to be a gradual growth. Certain very free-and-easy notionsseemed to be in the air. There was a sort of dissipated gaiety andlevity, and I can’t say it was always quite pleasant. A lax way ofthinking was the fashion. Afterwards when it was all over, people blamedYulia Mihailovna, her circle, her attitude. But it can hardly havebeen altogether due to Yulia Mihailovna. On the contrary; at first manypeople vied with one another in praising the new governor’s wife for hersuccess in bringing local society together, and for making thingsmore lively. Several scandalous incidents took place, for which YuliaMihailovna was in no way responsible, but at the time people were amusedand did nothing but laugh, and there was no one to check them. A ratherlarge group of people, it is true, held themselves aloof, and had viewsof their own on the course of events. But even these made no complaintat the time; they smiled, in fact.

I remember that a fairly large circle came into existence, as it were,spontaneously, the centre of which perhaps was really to be foundin Yulia Mihailovna’s drawing-room. In this intimate circle whichsurrounded her, among the younger members of it, of course, it wasconsidered admissible to play all sorts of pranks, sometimes ratherfree-and-easy ones, and, in fact, such conduct became a principle amongthem. In this circle there were even some very charming ladies. Theyoung people arranged picnics, and even parties, and sometimes wentabout the town in a regular cavalcade, in carriages and on horseback.They sought out adventures, even got them up themselves, simply for thesake of having an amusing story to tell. They treated our town as thoughit were a sort of Glupov. People called them the jeerers or sneerers,because they did not stick at anything. It happened, for instance, thatthe wife of a local lieutenant, a little brunette, very young though shelooked worn out from her husband’s ill-treatment, at an evening partythoughtlessly sat down to play whist for high stakes in the fervent hopeof winning enough to buy herself a mantle, and instead of winning, lostfifteen roubles. Being afraid of her husband, and having no means ofpaying, she plucked up the courage of former days and ventured on thesly to ask for a loan, on the spot, at the party, from the son of ourmayor, a very nasty youth, precociously vicious. The latter not onlyrefused it, but went laughing aloud to tell her husband. The lieutenant,who certainly was poor, with nothing but his salary, took his wife homeand avenged himself upon her to his heart’s content in spite of hershrieks, wails, and entreaties on her knees for forgiveness. Thisrevolting story excited nothing but mirth all over the town, and thoughthe poor wife did not belong to Yulia Mihailovna’s circle, one of theladies of the “cavalcade,” an eccentric and adventurous character whohappened to know her, drove round, and simply carried her off to herown house. Here she was at once taken up by our madcaps, made much of,loaded with presents, and kept for four days without being sent back toher husband. She stayed at the adventurous lady’s all day long, droveabout with her and all the sportive company in expeditions about thetown, and took part in dances and merry-making. They kept egging heron to haul her husband before the court and to make a scandal. Theydeclared that they would all support her and would come and bearwitness. The husband kept quiet, not daring to oppose them. The poorthing realised at last that she had got into a hopeless position and,more dead than alive with fright, on the fourth day she ran off in thedusk from her protectors to her lieutenant. It’s not definitely knownwhat took place between husband and wife, but two shutters of thelow-pitched little house in which the lieutenant lodged were not openedfor a fortnight. Yulia Mihailovna was angry with the mischief-makerswhen she heard about it all, and was greatly displeased with theconduct of the adventurous lady, though the latter had presented thelieutenant’s wife to her on the day she carried her off. However, thiswas soon forgotten.

Another time a petty clerk, a respectable head of a family, married hisdaughter, a beautiful girl of seventeen, known to every one in the town,to another petty clerk, a young man who came from a different district.But suddenly it was learned that the young husband had treated thebeauty very roughly on the wedding night, chastising her for what heregarded as a stain on his honour. Lyamshin, who was almost a witness ofthe affair, because he got drunk at the wedding and so stayed the night,as soon as day dawned, ran round with the diverting intelligence.

Instantly a party of a dozen was made up, all of them on horseback, someon hired Cossack horses, Pyotr Stepanovitch, for instance, and Liputin,who, in spite of his grey hairs, took part in almost every scandalousadventure of our reckless youngsters. When the young couple appeared inthe street in a droshky with a pair of horses to make the calls whichare obligatory in our town on the day after a wedding, in spite ofanything that may happen, the whole cavalcade, with merry laughter,surrounded the droshky and followed them about the town all the morning.They did not, it’s true, go into the house, but waited for themoutside, on horseback. They refrained from marked insult to the brideor bridegroom, but still they caused a scandal. The whole town begantalking of it. Every one laughed, of course. But at this Von Lembke wasangry, and again had a lively scene with Yulia Mihailovna. She, too, wasextremely angry, and formed the intention of turning the scapegraces outof her house. But next day she forgave them all after persuasions fromPyotr Stepanovitch and some words from Karmazinov, who considered theaffair rather amusing.

“It’s in harmony with the traditions of the place,” he said. “Anywayit’s characteristic and … bold; and look, every one’s laughing, you’rethe only person indignant.”

But there were pranks of a certain character that were absolutely pastendurance.

A respectable woman of the artisan class, who went about sellinggospels, came into the town. People talked about her, because someinteresting references to these gospel women had just appeared in thePetersburg papers. Again the same buffoon, Lyamshin, with the help of adivinity student, who was taking a holiday while waiting for a post inthe school, succeeded, on the pretence of buying books from the gospelwoman, in thrusting into her bag a whole bundle of indecent and obscenephotographs from abroad, sacrificed expressly for the purpose, as welearned afterwards, by a highly respectable old gentleman (I will omithis name) with an order on his breast, who, to use his own words, loved“a healthy laugh and a merry jest.” When the poor woman went to take outthe holy books in the bazaar, the photographs were scattered about theplace. There were roars of laughter and murmurs of indignation. A crowdcollected, began abusing her, and would have come to blows if the policehad not arrived in the nick of time. The gospel woman was taken tothe lock-up, and only in the evening, thanks to the efforts of MavrikyNikolaevitch, who had learned with indignation the secret details ofthis loathsome affair, she was released and escorted out of the town. Atthis point Yulia Mihailovna would certainly have forbidden Lyamshin herhouse, but that very evening the whole circle brought him to her withthe intelligence that he had just composed a new piece for the piano,and persuaded her at least to hear it. The piece turned out to be reallyamusing, and bore the comic title of “The Franco-Prussian War.” It beganwith the menacing strains of the “Marseillaise”:

“Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons.”

There is heard the pompous challenge, the intoxication of futurevictories. But suddenly mingling with the masterly variations on thenational hymn, somewhere from some corner quite close, on one side comethe vulgar strains of “Mein lieber Augustin.” The “Marseillaise” goeson unconscious of them. The “Marseillaise” is at the climax of itsintoxication with its own grandeur; but Augustin gains strength;Augustin grows more and more insolent, and suddenly the melody ofAugustin begins to blend with the melody of the “Marseillaise.” Thelatter begins, as it were, to get angry; becoming aware of Augustinat last she tries to fling him off, to brush him aside like a tiresomeinsignificant fly. But “Mein lieber Augustin” holds his ground firmly,he is cheerful and self-confident, he is gleeful and impudent, and the“Marseillaise” seems suddenly to become terribly stupid. She can nolonger conceal her anger and mortification; it is a wail of indignation,tears, and curses, with hands outstretched to Providence.

“Pas un pouce de notre terrain; pas une de nos forteresses.”

But she is forced to sing in time with “Mein lieber Augustin.” Hermelody passes in a sort of foolish way into Augustin; she yields anddies away. And only by snatches there is heard again:

“Qu’un sang impur …”

But at once it passes very offensively into the vulgar waltz. Shesubmits altogether. It is Jules Favre sobbing on Bismarck’s bosomand surrendering every thing.… But at this point Augustin too growsfierce; hoarse sounds are heard; there is a suggestion of countlessgallons of beer, of a frenzy of self-glorification, demands formillions, for fine cigars, champagne, and hostages. Augustin passes intoa wild yell.… “The Franco-Prussian War” is over. Our circle applauded,Yulia Mihailovna smiled, and said, “Now, how is one to turn him out?”Peace was made. The rascal really had talent. Stepan Trofimovitchassured me on one occasion that the very highest artistic talents mayexist in the most abominable blackguards, and that the one thingdoes not interfere with the other. There was a rumour afterwards thatLyamshin had stolen this burlesque from a talented and modest young manof his acquaintance, whose name remained unknown. But this is beside themark. This worthless fellow who had hung about Stepan Trofimovitch foryears, who used at his evening parties, when invited, to mimic Jews ofvarious types, a deaf peasant woman making her confession, or the birthof a child, now at Yulia Mihailovna’s caricatured Stepan Trofimovitchhimself in a killing way, under the title of “A Liberal of theForties.” Everybody shook with laughter, so that in the end it wasquite impossible to turn him out: he had become too necessary a person.Besides he fawned upon Pyotr Stepanovitch in a slavish way, and he,in his turn, had obtained by this time a strange and unaccountableinfluence over Yulia Mihailovna.

I wouldn’t have talked about this scoundrel, and, indeed, he would notbe worth dwelling upon, but there was another revolting story, so peopledeclare, in which he had a hand, and this story I cannot omit from myrecord.

One morning the news of a hideous and revolting sacrilege was all overthe town. At the entrance to our immense marketplace there stands theancient church of Our Lady’s Nativity, which was a remarkable antiquityin our ancient town. At the gates of the precincts there is a large ikonof the Mother of God fixed behind a grating in the wall. And behold, onenight the ikon had been robbed, the glass of the case was broken, thegrating was smashed and several stones and pearls (I don’t know whetherthey were very precious ones) had been removed from the crown and thesetting. But what was worse, besides the theft a senseless, scoffingsacrilege had been perpetrated. Behind the broken glass of the ikon theyfound in the morning, so it was said, a live mouse. Now, four monthssince, it has been established beyond doubt that the crime was committedby the convict Fedka, but for some reason it is added that Lyamshin tookpart in it. At the time no one spoke of Lyamshin or had any suspicionof him. But now every one says it was he who put the mouse there. Iremember all our responsible officials were rather staggered. A crowdthronged round the scene of the crime from early morning. There was acrowd continually before it, not a very huge one, but always about ahundred people, some coming and some going. As they approached theycrossed themselves and bowed down to the ikon. They began to giveofferings, and a church dish made its appearance, and with the dish amonk. But it was only about three o’clock in the afternoon it occurredto the authorities that it was possible to prohibit the crowds standingabout, and to command them when they had prayed, bowed down and lefttheir offerings, to pass on. Upon Von Lembke this unfortunate incidentmade the gloomiest impression. As I was told, Yulia Mihailovna saidafterwards it was from this ill-omened morning that she first noticed inher husband that strange depression which persisted in him until heleft our province on account of illness two months ago, and, I believe,haunts him still in Switzerland, where he has gone for a rest after hisbrief career amongst us.

I remember at one o’clock in the afternoon I crossed the marketplace;the crowd was silent and their faces solemn and gloomy. A merchant, fatand sallow, drove up, got out of his carriage, made a bow to the ground,kissed the ikon, offered a rouble, sighing, got back into his carriageand drove off. Another carriage drove up with two ladies accompaniedby two of our scapegraces. The young people (one of whom was not quiteyoung) got out of their carriage too, and squeezed their way up to theikon, pushing people aside rather carelessly. Neither of the young mentook off his hat, and one of them put a pince-nez on his nose. In thecrowd there was a murmur, vague but unfriendly. The dandy with thepince-nez took out of his purse, which was stuffed full of bank-notes,a copper farthing and flung it into the dish. Both laughed, and, talkingloudly, went back to their carriage. At that moment Lizaveta Nikolaevnagalloped up, escorted by Mavriky Nikolaevitch. She jumped off her horse,flung the reins to her companion, who, at her bidding, remained on hishorse, and approached the ikon at the very moment when the farthing hadbeen flung down. A flush of indignation suffused her cheeks; she tookoff her round hat and her gloves, fell straight on her knees before theikon on the muddy pavement, and reverently bowed down three times to theearth. Then she took out her purse, but as it appeared she had only afew small coins in it she instantly took off her diamond ear-rings andput them in the dish.

“May I? May I? For the adornment of the setting?” she asked the monk.

“It is permitted,” replied the latter, “every gift is good.” The crowdwas silent, expressing neither dissent nor approval.

Liza got on her horse again, in her muddy riding-habit, and gallopedaway.


Two days after the incident I have described I met her in a numerouscompany, who were driving out on some expedition in three coaches,surrounded by others on horseback. She beckoned to me, stopped hercarriage, and pressingly urged me to join their party. A place wasfound for me in the carriage, and she laughingly introduced me to hercompanions, gorgeously attired ladies, and explained to me that theywere all going on a very interesting expedition. She was laughing, andseemed somewhat excessively happy. Just lately she had been very lively,even playful, in fact.

The expedition was certainly an eccentric one. They were all going to ahouse the other side of the river, to the merchant Sevastyanov’s. Inthe lodge of this merchant’s house our saint and prophet, SemyonYakovlevitch, who was famous not only amongst us but in the surroundingprovinces and even in Petersburg and Moscow, had been living for thelast ten years, in retirement, ease, and comfort. Every one went to seehim, especially visitors to the neighbourhood, extracting from him somecrazy utterance, bowing down to him, and leaving an offering. Theseofferings were sometimes considerable, and if Semyon Yakovlevitch didnot himself assign them to some other purpose were piously sent tosome church or more often to the monastery of Our Lady. A monk fromthe monastery was always in waiting upon Semyon Yakovlevitch with thisobject.

All were in expectation of great amusem*nt. No one of the party had seenSemyon Yakovlevitch before, except Lyamshin, who declared that the sainthad given orders that he should be driven out with a broom, and had withhis own hand flung two big baked potatoes after him. Among the party Inoticed Pyotr Stepanovitch, again riding a hired Cossack horse, on whichhe sat extremely badly, and Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, also on horseback.The latter did not always hold aloof from social diversions, and on suchoccasions always wore an air of gaiety, although, as always, he spokelittle and seldom. When our party had crossed the bridge and reached thehotel of the town, someone suddenly announced that in one of the roomsof the hotel they had just found a traveller who had shot himself, andwere expecting the police. At once the suggestion was made that theyshould go and look at the suicide. The idea met with approval: ourladies had never seen a suicide. I remember one of them said aloud onthe occasion, “Everything’s so boring, one can’t be squeamish over one’samusem*nts, as long as they’re interesting.” Only a few of them remainedoutside. The others went in a body into the dirty corridor, and amongstthe others I saw, to my amazement, Lizaveta Nikolaevna. The door of theroom was open, and they did not, of course, dare to prevent our goingin to look at the suicide. He was quite a young lad, not more thannineteen. He must have been very good-looking, with thick fair hair,with a regular oval face, and a fine, pure forehead. The body wasalready stiff, and his white young face looked like marble. On the tablelay a note, in his handwriting, to the effect that no one was to blamefor his death, that he had killed himself because he had “squandered”four hundred roubles. The word “squandered” was used in the letter; inthe four lines of his letter there were three mistakes in spelling. Astout country gentleman, evidently a neighbour, who had been staying inthe hotel on some business of his own, was particularly distressed aboutit. From his words it appeared that the boy had been sent by his family,that is, a widowed mother, sisters, and aunts, from the country to thetown in order that, under the supervision of a female relation in thetown, he might purchase and take home with him various articles for thetrousseau of his eldest sister, who was going to be married. The familyhad, with sighs of apprehension, entrusted him with the four hundredroubles, the savings of ten years, and had sent him on his way withexhortations, prayers, and signs of the cross. The boy had till thenbeen well-behaved and trustworthy. Arriving three days before at thetown, he had not gone to his relations, had put up at the hotel, andgone straight to the club in the hope of finding in some back room a“travelling banker,” or at least some game of cards for money. But thatevening there was no “banker” there or gambling going on. Going backto the hotel about midnight he asked for champagne, Havana cigars, andordered a supper of six or seven dishes. But the champagne made himdrunk, and the cigar made him sick, so that he did not touch the foodwhen it was brought to him, and went to bed almost unconscious. Wakingnext morning as fresh as an apple, he went at once to the gipsies’ camp,which was in a suburb beyond the river, and of which he had heard theday before at the club. He did not reappear at the hotel for two days.At last, at five o’clock in the afternoon of the previous day, he hadreturned drunk, had at once gone to bed, and had slept till ten o’clockin the evening. On waking up he had asked for a cutlet, a bottle ofChateau d’Yquem, and some grapes, paper, and ink, and his bill. No onenoticed anything special about him; he was quiet, gentle, and friendly.He must have shot himself at about midnight, though it was strange thatno one had heard the shot, and they only raised the alarm at midday,when, after knocking in vain, they had broken in the door. The bottle ofChateau d’Yquem was half empty, there was half a plateful of grapes lefttoo. The shot had been fired from a little three-chambered revolver,straight into the heart. Very little blood had flowed. The revolver haddropped from his hand on to the carpet. The boy himself was half lyingin a corner of the sofa. Death must have been instantaneous. There wasno trace of the anguish of death in the face; the expression was serene,almost happy, as though there were no cares in his life. All our partystared at him with greedy curiosity. In every misfortune of one’sneighbour there is always something cheering for an onlooker—whoeverhe may be. Our ladies gazed in silence, their companions distinguishedthemselves by their wit and their superb equanimity. One observed thathis was the best way out of it, and that the boy could not have hit uponanything more sensible; another observed that he had had a good time ifonly for a moment. A third suddenly blurted out the inquiry why peoplehad begun hanging and shooting themselves among us of late, as thoughthey had suddenly lost their roots, as though the ground were giving wayunder every one’s feet. People looked coldly at this raisonneur. ThenLyamshin, who prided himself on playing the fool, took a bunch of grapesfrom the plate; another, laughing, followed his example, and a thirdstretched out his hand for the Chateau d’Yquem. But the head of policearriving checked him, and even ordered that the room should be cleared.As every one had seen all they wanted they went out without disputing,though Lyamshin began pestering the police captain about something. Thegeneral merrymaking, laughter, and playful talk were twice as lively onthe latter half of the way.

We arrived at Semyon Yakovlevitch’s just at one o’clock. The gate of therather large house stood unfastened, and the approach to the lodge wasopen. We learnt at once that Semyon Yakovlevitch was dining, but wasreceiving guests. The whole crowd of us went in. The room in which thesaint dined and received visitors had three windows, and was fairlylarge. It was divided into two equal parts by a wooden lattice-workpartition, which ran from wall to wall, and was three or four feet high.Ordinary visitors remained on the outside of this partition, but luckyones were by the saint’s invitation admitted through the partition doorsinto his half of the room. And if so disposed he made them sit down onthe sofa or on his old leather chairs. He himself invariably sat inan old-fashioned shabby Voltaire arm-chair. He was a rather big,bloated-looking, yellow-faced man of five and fifty, with a bald headand scanty flaxen hair. He wore no beard; his right cheek was swollen,and his mouth seemed somehow twisted awry. He had a large wart onthe left side of his nose; narrow eyes, and a calm, stolid, sleepyexpression. He was dressed in European style, in a black coat, but hadno waistcoat or tie. A rather coarse, but white shirt, peeped out belowhis coat. There was something the matter with his feet, I believe, andhe kept them in slippers. I’ve heard that he had at one time been aclerk, and received a rank in the service. He had just finished somefish soup, and was beginning his second dish of potatoes in their skins,eaten with salt. He never ate anything else, but he drank a greatdeal of tea, of which he was very fond. Three servants provided bythe merchant were running to and fro about him. One of them was in aswallow-tail, the second looked like a workman, and the third likea verger. There was also a very lively boy of sixteen. Besides theservants there was present, holding a jug, a reverend, grey-headedmonk, who was a little too fat. On one of the tables a huge samovar wasboiling, and a tray with almost two dozen glasses was standing near it.On another table opposite offerings had been placed: some loaves andalso some pounds of sugar, two pounds of tea, a pair of embroideredslippers, a foulard handkerchief, a length of cloth, a piece of linen,and so on. Money offerings almost all went into the monk’s jug. The roomwas full of people, at least a dozen visitors, of whom two were sittingwith Semyon Yakovlevitch on the other side of the partition. One was agrey-headed old pilgrim of the peasant class, and the other a little,dried-up monk, who sat demurely, with his eyes cast down. The othervisitors were all standing on the near side of the partition, andwere mostly, too, of the peasant class, except one elderly andpoverty-stricken lady, one landowner, and a stout merchant, who had comefrom the district town, a man with a big beard, dressed in the Russianstyle, though he was known to be worth a hundred thousand.

All were waiting for their chance, not daring to speak of themselves.Four were on their knees, but the one who attracted most attentionwas the landowner, a stout man of forty-five, kneeling right at thepartition, more conspicuous than any one, waiting reverently for apropitious word or look from Semyon Yakovlevitch. He had been there forabout an hour already, but the saint still did not notice him.

Our ladies crowded right up to the partition, whispering gaily andlaughingly together. They pushed aside or got in front of all the othervisitors, even those on their knees, except the landowner, who remainedobstinately in his prominent position even holding on to thepartition. Merry and greedily inquisitive eyes were turned upon SemyonYakovlevitch, as well as lorgnettes, pince-nez, and even opera-glasses.Lyamshin, at any rate, looked through an opera-glass. SemyonYakovlevitch calmly and lazily scanned all with his little eyes.

“Milovzors! Milovzors!” he deigned to pronounce, in a hoarse bass, andslightly staccato.

All our party laughed: “What’s the meaning of ‘Milovzors’?” But SemyonYakovlevitch relapsed into silence, and finished his potatoes. Presentlyhe wiped his lips with his napkin, and they handed him tea.

As a rule, he did not take tea alone, but poured out some for hisvisitors, but by no means for all, usually pointing himself to thosehe wished to honour. And his choice always surprised people by itsunexpectedness. Passing by the wealthy and the high-placed, he sometimespitched upon a peasant or some decrepit old woman. Another time hewould pass over the beggars to honour some fat wealthy merchant. Tea wasserved differently, too, to different people, sugar was put into some ofthe glasses and handed separately with others, while some got it withoutany sugar at all. This time the favoured one was the monk sitting byhim, who had sugar put in; and the old pilgrim, to whom it was givenwithout any sugar. The fat monk with the jug, from the monastery, forsome reason had none handed to him at all, though up till then he hadhad his glass every day.

“Semyon Yakovlevitch, do say something to me. I’ve been longing to makeyour acquaintance for ever so long,” carolled the gorgeously dressedlady from our carriage, screwing up her eyes and smiling. She wasthe lady who had observed that one must not be squeamish about one’samusem*nts, so long as they were interesting. Semyon Yakovlevitch didnot even look at her. The kneeling landowner uttered a deep, sonoroussigh, like the sound of a big pair of bellows.

“With sugar in it!” said Semyon Yakovlevitch suddenly, pointing to thewealthy merchant. The latter moved forward and stood beside the kneelinggentleman.

“Some more sugar for him!” ordered Semyon Yakovlevitch, after the glasshad already been poured out. They put some more in. “More, more, forhim!” More was put in a third time, and again a fourth. The merchantbegan submissively drinking his syrup.

“Heavens!” whispered the people, crossing themselves. The kneelinggentleman again heaved a deep, sonorous sigh.

“Father! Semyon Yakovlevitch!” The voice of the poor lady rang out allat once plaintively, though so sharply that it was startling. Our partyhad shoved her back to the wall. “A whole hour, dear father, I’ve beenwaiting for grace. Speak to me. Consider my case in my helplessness.”

“Ask her,” said Semyon Yakovlevitch to the verger, who went to thepartition.

“Have you done what Semyon Yakovlevitch bade you last time?” he askedthe widow in a soft and measured voice.

“Done it! Father Semyon Yakovlevitch. How can one do it with them?”wailed the widow. “They’re cannibals; they’re lodging a complaintagainst me, in the court; they threaten to take it to the senate. That’show they treat their own mother!”

“Give her!” Semyon Yakovlevitch pointed to a sugar-loaf. The boy skippedup, seized the sugar-loaf and dragged it to the widow.

“Ach, father; great is your merciful kindness. What am I to do with somuch?” wailed the widow.

“More, more,” said Semyon Yakovlevitch lavishly.

They dragged her another sugar-loaf. “More, more!” the saint commanded.They took her a third, and finally a fourth. The widow was surroundedwith sugar on all sides. The monk from the monastery sighed; all thismight have gone to the monastery that day as it had done on formeroccasions.

“What am I to do with so much,” the widow sighed obsequiously. “It’senough to make one person sick!… Is it some sort of a prophecy,father?”

“Be sure it’s by way of a prophecy,” said someone in the crowd.

“Another pound for her, another!” Semyon Yakovlevitch persisted.

There was a whole sugar-loaf still on the table, but the saint ordered apound to be given, and they gave her a pound.

“Lord have mercy on us!” gasped the people, crossing themselves. “It’ssurely a prophecy.”

“Sweeten your heart for the future with mercy and loving kindness, andthen come to make complaints against your own children; bone of yourbone. That’s what we must take this emblem to mean,” the stout monkfrom the monastery, who had had no tea given to him, said softly butself-complacently, taking upon himself the rôle of interpreter in anaccess of wounded vanity.

“What are you saying, father?” cried the widow, suddenly infuriated.“Why, they dragged me into the fire with a rope round me when theVerhishins’ house was burnt, and they locked up a dead cat in my chest.They are ready to do any villainy.…”

“Away with her! Away with her!” Semyon Yakovlevitch said suddenly,waving his hands.

The verger and the boy dashed through the partition. The verger took thewidow by the arm, and without resisting she trailed to the door, keepingher eyes fixed on the loaves of sugar that had been bestowed on her,which the boy dragged after her.

“One to be taken away. Take it away,” Semyon Yakovlevitch commanded tothe servant like a workman, who remained with him. The latter rushedafter the retreating woman, and the three servants returned somewhatlater bringing back one loaf of sugar which had been presented to thewidow and now taken away from her. She carried off three, however.

“Semyon Yakovlevitch,” said a voice at the door. “I dreamt of a bird, ajackdaw; it flew out of the water and flew into the fire. What does thedream mean?”

“Frost,” Semyon Yakovlevitch pronounced.

“Semyon Yakovlevitch, why don’t you answer me all this time? I’ve beeninterested in you ever so long,” the lady of our party began again.

“Ask him!” said Semyon Yakovlevitch, not heeding her, but pointing tothe kneeling gentleman.

The monk from the monastery to whom the order was given moved sedatelyto the kneeling figure.

“How have you sinned? And was not some command laid upon you?”

“Not to fight; not to give the rein to my hands,” answered the kneelinggentleman hoarsely.

“Have you obeyed?” asked the monk.

“I cannot obey. My own strength gets the better of me.”

“Away with him, away with him! With a broom, with a broom!” cried SemyonYakovlevitch, waving his hands. The gentleman rushed out of the roomwithout waiting for this penalty.

“He’s left a gold piece where he knelt,” observed the monk, picking up ahalf-imperial.

“For him!” said the saint, pointing to the rich merchant. The latterdared not refuse it, and took it.

“Gold to gold,” the monk from the monastery could not refrain fromsaying.

“And give him some with sugar in it,” said the saint, pointing toMavriky Nikolaevitch. The servant poured out the tea and took it bymistake to the dandy with the pince-nez.

“The long one, the long one!” Semyon Yakovlevitch corrected him.

Mavriky Nikolaevitch took the glass, made a military half-bow, and begandrinking it. I don’t know why, but all our party burst into peals oflaughter.

“Mavriky Nikolaevitch,” cried Liza, addressing him suddenly. “Thatkneeling gentleman has gone away. You kneel down in his place.”

Mavriky Nikolaevitch looked at her in amazement.

“I beg you to. You’ll do me the greatest favour. Listen, MavrikyNikolaevitch,” she went on, speaking in an emphatic, obstinate, excited,and rapid voice. “You must kneel down; I must see you kneel down. If youwon’t, don’t come near me. I insist, I insist!”

I don’t know what she meant by it; but she insisted upon itrelentlessly, as though she were in a fit. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, aswe shall see later, set down these capricious impulses, which had beenparticularly frequent of late, to outbreaks of blind hatred for him,not due to spite, for, on the contrary, she esteemed him, loved him,and respected him, and he knew that himself—but from a peculiarunconscious hatred which at times she could not control.

In silence he gave his cup to an old woman standing behind him, openedthe door of the partition, and, without being invited, stepped intoSemyon Yakovlevitch’s private apartment, and knelt down in the middleof the room in sight of all. I imagine that he was deeply shocked in hiscandid and delicate heart by Liza’s coarse and mocking freak beforethe whole company. Perhaps he imagined that she would feel ashamed ofherself, seeing his humiliation, on which she had so insisted. Of courseno one but he would have dreamt of bringing a woman to reason byso naïve and risky a proceeding. He remained kneeling with hisimperturbable gravity—long, tall, awkward, and ridiculous. But ourparty did not laugh. The unexpectedness of the action produced a painfulshock. Every one looked at Liza.

“Anoint, anoint!” muttered Semyon Yakovlevitch.

Liza suddenly turned white, cried out, and rushed through the partition.Then a rapid and hysterical scene followed. She began pulling MavrikyNikolaevitch up with all her might, tugging at his elbows with bothhands.

“Get up! Get up!” she screamed, as though she were crazy. “Get up atonce, at once. How dare you?”

Mavriky Nikolaevitch got up from his knees. She clutched his arms abovethe elbow and looked intently into his face. There was terror in herexpression.

“Milovzors! Milovzors!” Semyon Yakovlevitch repeated again.

She dragged Mavriky Nikolaevitch back to the other part of the room atlast. There was some commotion in all our company. The lady from ourcarriage, probably intending to relieve the situation, loudly andshrilly asked the saint for the third time, with an affected smile:

“Well, Semyon Yakovlevitch, won’t you utter some saying for me? I’vebeen reckoning so much on you.”

“Out with the ——, out with the ——,” said Semyon Yakovlevitch, suddenlyaddressing her, with an extremely indecent word. The words were utteredsavagely, and with horrifying distinctness. Our ladies shrieked, andrushed headlong away, while the gentlemen escorting them burst intoHomeric laughter. So ended our visit to Semyon Yakovlevitch.

At this point, however, there took place, I am told, an extremelyenigmatic incident, and, I must own, it was chiefly on account of itthat I have described this expedition so minutely.

I am told that when all flocked out, Liza, supported by MavrikyNikolaevitch, was jostled against Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch in the crushin the doorway. I must mention that since that Sunday morning when shefainted they had not approached each other, nor exchanged a word, thoughthey had met more than once. I saw them brought together in the doorway.I fancied they both stood still for an instant, and looked, as it were,strangely at one another, but I may not have seen rightly in thecrowd. It is asserted, on the contrary, and quite seriously, that Liza,glancing at Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, quickly raised her hand to thelevel of his face, and would certainly have struck him if he had notdrawn back in time. Perhaps she was displeased with the expression ofhis face, or the way he smiled, particularly just after such an episodewith Mavriky Nikolaevitch. I must admit I saw nothing myself, but allthe others declared they had, though they certainly could not all haveseen it in such a crush, though perhaps some may have. But I didnot believe it at the time. I remember, however, that NikolayVsyevolodovitch was rather pale all the way home.


Almost at the same time, and certainly on the same day, the interviewat last took place between Stepan Trofimovitch and Varvara Petrovna. Shehad long had this meeting in her mind, and had sent word about it toher former friend, but for some reason she had kept putting it off tillthen. It took place at Skvoreshniki; Varvara Petrovna arrived at hercountry house all in a bustle; it had been definitely decided theevening before that the fête was to take place at the marshal’s, butVarvara Petrovna’s rapid brain at once grasped that no one couldprevent her from afterwards giving her own special entertainment atSkvoreshniki, and again assembling the whole town. Then every one couldsee for themselves whose house was best, and in which more taste wasdisplayed in receiving guests and giving a ball. Altogether she washardly to be recognised. She seemed completely transformed, and insteadof the unapproachable “noble lady” (Stepan Trofimovitch’s expression)seemed changed into the most commonplace, whimsical society woman. Butperhaps this may only have been on the surface.

When she reached the empty house she had gone through all the rooms,accompanied by her faithful old butler, Alexey Yegorytch, and byFomushka, a man who had seen much of life and was a specialist indecoration. They began to consult and deliberate: what furniture was tobe brought from the town house, what things, what pictures, where theywere to be put, how the conservatories and flowers could be put tothe best use, where to put new curtains, where to have the refreshmentrooms, whether one or two, and so on and so on. And, behold, in themidst of this exciting bustle she suddenly took it into her head to sendfor Stepan Trofimovitch.

The latter had long before received notice of this interview and wasprepared for it, and he had every day been expecting just such a suddensummons. As he got into the carriage he crossed himself: his fate wasbeing decided. He found his friend in the big drawing-room on the littlesofa in the recess, before a little marble table with a pencil and paperin her hands. Fomushka, with a yard measure, was measuring the heightof the galleries and the windows, while Varvara Petrovna herself waswriting down the numbers and making notes on the margin. She nodded inStepan Trofimovitch’s direction without breaking off from what she wasdoing, and when the latter muttered some sort of greeting, she hurriedlygave him her hand, and without looking at him motioned him to a seatbeside her.

“I sat waiting for five minutes, ‘mastering my heart,’” he told meafterwards. “I saw before me not the woman whom I had known for twentyyears. An absolute conviction that all was over gave me a strength whichastounded even her. I swear that she was surprised at my stoicism inthat last hour.”

Varvara Petrovna suddenly put down her pencil on the table and turnedquickly to Stepan Trofimovitch.

“Stepan Trofimovitch, we have to talk of business. I’m sure you haveprepared all your fervent words and various phrases, but we’d better gostraight to the point, hadn’t we?”

She had been in too great a hurry to show the tone she meant to take.And what might not come next?

“Wait, be quiet; let me speak. Afterwards you shall, though really Idon’t know what you can answer me,” she said in a rapid patter. “Thetwelve hundred roubles of your pension I consider a sacred obligationto pay you as long as you live. Though why a sacred obligation, simplya contract; that would be a great deal more real, wouldn’t it? If youlike, we’ll write it out. Special arrangements have been made in caseof my death. But you are receiving from me at present lodging, servants,and your maintenance in addition. Reckoning that in money it wouldamount to fifteen hundred roubles, wouldn’t it? I will add another threehundred roubles, making three thousand roubles in all. Will that beenough a year for you? I think that’s not too little? In any extremeemergency I would add something more. And so, take your money, send meback my servants, and live by yourself where you like in Petersburg, inMoscow, abroad, or here, only not with me. Do you hear?”

“Only lately those lips dictated to me as imperatively and as suddenlyvery different demands,” said Stepan Trofimovitch slowly and withsorrowful distinctness. “I submitted … and danced the Cossack danceto please you. Oui, la comparaison peut être permise. C’était comme unpetit Cosaque du Don qui sautait sur sa propre tombe. Now …”

“Stop, Stepan Trofimovitch, you are horribly long-winded. You didn’tdance, but came to see me in a new tie, new linen, gloves, scentedand pomatumed. I assure you that you were very anxious to get marriedyourself; it was written on your face, and I assure you a most unseemlyexpression it was. If I did not mention it to you at the time, it wassimply out of delicacy. But you wished it, you wanted to be married, inspite of the abominable things you wrote about me and your betrothed.Now it’s very different. And what has the Cosaque du Don to do with it,and what tomb do you mean? I don’t understand the comparison. On thecontrary, you have only to live. Live as long as you can. I shall bedelighted.”

“In an almshouse?”

“In an almshouse? People don’t go into almshouses with three thousandroubles a year. Ah, I remember,” she laughed. “Pyotr Stepanovitchdid joke about an almshouse once. Bah, there certainly is a specialalmshouse, which is worth considering. It’s for persons who are highlyrespectable; there are colonels there, and there’s positively onegeneral who wants to get into it. If you went into it with all yourmoney, you would find peace, comfort, servants to wait on you. There youcould occupy yourself with study, and could always make up a party forcards.”


“Passons?” Varvara Petrovna winced. “But, if so, that’s all. You’ve beeninformed that we shall live henceforward entirely apart.”

“And that’s all?” he said. “All that’s left of twenty years? Our lastfarewell?”

“You’re awfully fond of these exclamations, Stepan Trofimovitch. It’snot at all the fashion. Nowadays people talk roughly but simply. Youkeep harping on our twenty years! Twenty years of mutual vanity, andnothing more. Every letter you’ve written me was written not for me butfor posterity. You’re a stylist, and not a friend, and friendship isonly a splendid word. In reality—a mutual exchange of sloppiness.…”

“Good heavens! How many sayings not your own! Lessons learned by heart!They’ve already put their uniform on you too. You, too, are rejoicing;you, too, are basking in the sunshine. Chère, chère, for what a mess ofpottage you have sold them your freedom!”

“I’m not a parrot, to repeat other people’s phrases!” cried VarvaraPetrovna, boiling over. “You may be sure I have stored up many sayingsof my own. What have you been doing for me all these twenty years? Yourefused me even the books I ordered for you, though, except for thebinder, they would have remained uncut. What did you give me to readwhen I asked you during those first years to be my guide? Always Kapfig,and nothing but Kapfig. You were jealous of my culture even, and tookmeasures. And all the while every one’s laughing at you. I must confessI always considered you only as a critic. You are a literary critic andnothing more. When on the way to Petersburg I told you that I meantto found a journal and to devote my whole life to it, you looked at meironically at once, and suddenly became horribly supercilious.”

“That was not that, not that.… we were afraid then ofpersecution.…”

“It was just that. And you couldn’t have been afraid of persecution inPetersburg at that time. Do you remember that in February, too, when thenews of the emancipation came, you ran to me in a panic, and demandedthat I should at once give you a written statement that the proposedmagazine had nothing to do with you; that the young people had beencoming to see me and not you; that you were only a tutor who lived inthe house, only because he had not yet received his salary. Isn’t thatso? Do remember that? You have distinguished yourself all your life,Stepan Trofimovitch.”

“That was only a moment of weakness, a moment when we were alone,” heexclaimed mournfully. “But is it possible, is it possible, to breakoff everything for the sake of such petty impressions? Can it be thatnothing more has been left between us after those long years?”

“You are horribly calculating; you keep trying to leave me in your debt.When you came back from abroad you looked down upon me and wouldn’tlet me utter a word, but when I came back myself and talked to youafterwards of my impressions of the Madonna, you wouldn’t hear me,you began smiling condescendingly into your cravat, as though I wereincapable of the same feelings as you.”

“It was not so. It was probably not so. J’ai oublié!

“No; it was so,” she answered, “and, what’s more, you’ve nothing topride yourself on. That’s all nonsense, and one of your fancies. Now,there’s no one, absolutely no one, in ecstasies over the Madonna; noone wastes time over it except old men who are hopelessly out of date.That’s established.”

“Established, is it?”

“It’s of no use whatever. This jug’s of use because one can pour waterinto it. This pencil’s of use because you can write anything with it.But that woman’s face is inferior to any face in nature. Try drawingan apple, and put a real apple beside it. Which would you take? Youwouldn’t make a mistake, I’m sure. This is what all our theories amountto, now that the first light of free investigation has dawned uponthem.”

“Indeed, indeed.”

“You laugh ironically. And what used you to say to me about charity?Yet the enjoyment derived from charity is a haughty and immoralenjoyment. The rich man’s enjoyment in his wealth, his power, and in thecomparison of his importance with the poor. Charity corrupts giver andtaker alike; and, what’s more, does not attain its object, as itonly increases poverty. Fathers who don’t want to work crowd round thecharitable like gamblers round the gambling-table, hoping for gain,while the pitiful farthings that are flung them are a hundred times toolittle. Have you given away much in your life? Less than a rouble, ifyou try and think. Try to remember when last you gave away anything;it’ll be two years ago, maybe four. You make an outcry and only hinderthings. Charity ought to be forbidden by law, even in the present stateof society. In the new regime there will be no poor at all.”

“Oh, what an eruption of borrowed phrases! So it’s come to the newregime already? Unhappy woman, God help you!”

“Yes; it has, Stepan Trofimovitch. You carefully concealed all these newideas from me, though every one’s familiar with them nowadays. And youdid it simply out of jealousy, so as to have power over me. So that noweven that Yulia is a hundred miles ahead of me. But now my eyes havebeen opened. I have defended you, Stepan Trofimovitch, all I could, butthere is no one who does not blame you.”

“Enough!” said he, getting up from his seat. “Enough! And what can Iwish you now, unless it’s repentance?”

“Sit still a minute, Stepan Trofimovitch. I have another question to askyou. You’ve been told of the invitation to read at the literary matinée.It was arranged through me. Tell me what you’re going to read?”

“Why, about that very Queen of Queens, that ideal of humanity, theSistine Madonna, who to your thinking is inferior to a glass or apencil.”

“So you’re not taking something historical?’” said Varvara Petrovnain mournful surprise. “But they won’t listen to you. You’ve got thatMadonna on your brain. You seem bent on putting every one to sleep! Letme assure you, Stepan Trofimovitch, I am speaking entirely in your owninterest. It would be a different matter if you would take some shortbut interesting story of mediæval court life from Spanish history, or,better still, some anecdote, and pad it out with other anecdotes andwitty phrases of your own. There were magnificent courts then; ladies,you know, poisonings. Karmazinov says it would be strange if youcouldn’t read something interesting from Spanish history.”

“Karmazinov—that fool who has written himself out—looking for asubject for me!”

“Karmazinov, that almost imperial intellect. You are too free in yourlanguage, Stepan Trofimovitch.”

“Your Karmazinov is a spiteful old woman whose day is over. Chère,chère, how long have you been so enslaved by them? Oh God!”

“I can’t endure him even now for the airs he gives himself. But I dojustice to his intellect. I repeat, I have done my best to defend youas far as I could. And why do you insist on being absurd and tedious?On the contrary, come on to the platform with a dignified smile asthe representative of the last generation, and tell them two or threeanecdotes in your witty way, as only you can tell things sometimes.Though you may be an old man now, though you may belong to a past age,though you may have dropped behind them, in fact, yet you’ll recogniseit yourself, with a smile, in your preface, and all will see that you’rean amiable, good-natured, witty relic … in brief, a man of the oldsavour, and so far advanced as to be capable of appreciating at theirvalue all the absurdities of certain ideas which you have hithertofollowed. Come, as a favour to me, I beg you.”

Chère, enough. Don’t ask me. I can’t. I shall speak of the Madonna,but I shall raise a storm that will either crush them all or shatter mealone.”

“It will certainly be you alone, Stepan Trofimovitch.”

“Such is my fate. I will speak of the contemptible slave, of thestinking, depraved flunkey who will first climb a ladder with scissorsin his hands, and slash to pieces the divine image of the great ideal,in the name of equality, envy, and … digestion. Let my curse thunderout upon them, and then—then …”

“The madhouse?”

“Perhaps. But in any case, whether I shall be left vanquished orvictorious, that very evening I shall take my bag, my beggar’s bag.I shall leave all my goods and chattels, all your presents, all yourpensions and promises of future benefits, and go forth on foot to end mylife a tutor in a merchant’s family or to die somewhere of hunger in aditch. I have said it. Alea jacta est.” He got up again.

“I’ve been convinced for years,” said Varvara Petrovna, getting up withflashing eyes, “that your only object in life is to put me and my houseto shame by your calumnies! What do you mean by being a tutor in amerchant’s family or dying in a ditch? It’s spite, calumny, and nothingmore.”

“You have always despised me. But I will end like a knight, faithful tomy lady. Your good opinion has always been dearer to me thananything. From this moment I will take nothing, but will worship youdisinterestedly.”

“How stupid that is!”

“You have never respected me. I may have had a mass of weaknesses. Yes,I have sponged on you. I speak the language of nihilism, but sponginghas never been the guiding motive of my action. It has happened soof itself. I don’t know how.… I always imagined there was somethinghigher than meat and drink between us, and—I’ve never, never been ascoundrel! And so, to take the open road, to set things right. I setoff late, late autumn out of doors, the mist lies over the fields, thehoarfrost of old age covers the road before me, and the wind howls aboutthe approaching grave.… But so forward, forward, on my new way

 ‘Filled with purest love and fervour, Faith which my sweet dream did yield.’

Oh, my dreams. Farewell. Twenty years. Alea jacta est!

His face was wet with a sudden gush of tears. He took his hat.

“I don’t understand Latin,” said Varvara Petrovna, doing her best tocontrol herself.

Who knows, perhaps, she too felt like crying. But caprice andindignation once more got the upper hand.

“I know only one thing, that all this is childish nonsense. You willnever be capable of carrying out your threats, which are a mass ofegoism. You will set off nowhere, to no merchant; you’ll end verypeaceably on my hands, taking your pension, and receiving your utterlyimpossible friends on Tuesdays. Good-bye, Stepan Trofimovitch.”

“Alea jacta est!” He made her a deep bow, and returned home, almostdead with emotion.



The date of the fête was definitely fixed, and Von Lembke became moreand more depressed. He was full of strange and sinister forebodings,and this made Yulia Mihailovna seriously uneasy. Indeed, things were notaltogether satisfactory. Our mild governor had left the affairs of theprovince a little out of gear; at the moment we were threatened withcholera; serious outbreaks of cattle plague had appeared in severalplaces; fires were prevalent that summer in towns and villages; whilstamong the peasantry foolish rumours of incendiarism grew stronger andstronger. Cases of robbery were twice as numerous as usual. But allthis, of course, would have been perfectly ordinary had there beenno other and more weighty reasons to disturb the equanimity of AndreyAntonovitch, who had till then been in good spirits.

What struck Yulia Mihailovna most of all was that he became more silentand, strange to say, more secretive every day. Yet it was hard toimagine what he had to hide. It is true that he rarely opposed her andas a rule followed her lead without question. At her instigation, forinstance, two or three regulations of a risky and hardly legal characterwere introduced with the object of strengthening the authority of thegovernor. There were several ominous instances of transgressions beingcondoned with the same end in view; persons who deserved to be sent toprison and Siberia were, solely because she insisted, recommendedfor promotion. Certain complaints and inquiries were deliberately andsystematically ignored. All this came out later on. Not only did Lembkesign everything, but he did not even go into the question of the sharetaken by his wife in the execution of his duties. On the other hand, hebegan at times to be restive about “the most trifling matters,” to thesurprise of Yulia Mihailovna. No doubt he felt the need to make up forthe days of suppression by brief moments of mutiny. Unluckily,Yulia Mihailovna was unable, for all her insight, to understand thishonourable punctiliousness in an honourable character. Alas, she hadno thought to spare for that, and that was the source of manymisunderstandings.

There are some things of which it is not suitable for me to write, andindeed I am not in a position to do so. It is not my business to discussthe blunders of administration either, and I prefer to leave out thisadministrative aspect of the subject altogether. In the chronicle I havebegun I’ve set before myself a different task. Moreover a great dealwill be brought to light by the Commission of Inquiry which has justbeen appointed for our province; it’s only a matter of waiting a little.Certain explanations, however, cannot be omitted.

But to return to Yulia Mihailovna. The poor lady (I feel very sorry forher) might have attained all that attracted and allured her (renown andso on) without any such violent and eccentric actions as she resolvedupon at the very first step. But either from an exaggerated passion forthe romantic or from the frequently blighted hopes of her youth, shefelt suddenly, at the change of her fortunes, that she had become one ofthe specially elect, almost God’s anointed, “over whom there gleamed aburning tongue of fire,” and this tongue of flame was the root of themischief, for, after all, it is not like a chignon, which will fit anywoman’s head. But there is nothing of which it is more difficult toconvince a woman than of this; on the contrary, anyone who cares toencourage the delusion in her will always be sure to meet with success.And people vied with one another in encouraging the delusion in YuliaMihailovna. The poor woman became at once the sport of conflictinginfluences, while fully persuaded of her own originality. Many cleverpeople feathered their nests and took advantage of her simplicity duringthe brief period of her rule in the province. And what a jumble therewas under this assumption of independence! She was fascinated at thesame time by the aristocratic element and the system of big landedproperties and the increase of the governor’s power, and the democraticelement, and the new reforms and discipline, and free-thinking and straySocialistic notions, and the correct tone of the aristocratic salon andthe free-and-easy, almost pot-house, manners of the young people thatsurrounded her. She dreamed of “giving happiness” and reconcilingthe irreconcilable, or, rather, of uniting all and everything inthe adoration of her own person. She had favourites too; she wasparticularly fond of Pyotr Stepanovitch, who had recourse at times tothe grossest flattery in dealing with her. But she was attracted by himfor another reason, an amazing one, and most characteristic of thepoor lady: she was always hoping that he would reveal to her a regularconspiracy against the government. Difficult as it is to imagine sucha thing, it really was the case. She fancied for some reason that theremust be a nihilist plot concealed in the province. By his silence at onetime and his hints at another Pyotr Stepanovitch did much to strengthenthis strange idea in her. She imagined that he was in communication withevery revolutionary element in Russia but at the same time passionatelydevoted to her. To discover the plot, to receive the gratitude of thegovernment, to enter on a brilliant career, to influence the young “bykindness,” and to restrain them from extremes—all these dreams existedside by side in her fantastic brain. She had saved Pyotr Stepanovitch,she had conquered him (of this she was for some reason firmlyconvinced); she would save others. None, none of them should perish,she should save them all; she would pick them out; she would send inthe right report of them; she would act in the interests of the loftiestjustice, and perhaps posterity and Russian liberalism would bless hername; yet the conspiracy would be discovered. Every advantage at once.

Still it was essential that Andrey Antonovitch should be in ratherbetter spirits before the festival. He must be cheered up and reassured.For this purpose she sent Pyotr Stepanovitch to him in the hope that hewould relieve his depression by some means of consolation best knownto himself, perhaps by giving him some information, so to speak, firsthand. She put implicit faith in his dexterity.

It was some time since Pyotr Stepanovitch had been in Mr. von Lembke’sstudy. He popped in on him just when the sufferer was in a most stubbornmood.


A combination of circ*mstances had arisen which Mr. von Lembke was quiteunable to deal with. In the very district where Pyotr Stepanovitch hadbeen having a festive time a sub-lieutenant had been called up to becensured by his immediate superior, and the reproof was given in thepresence of the whole company. The sub-lieutenant was a young man freshfrom Petersburg, always silent and morose, of dignified appearancethough small, stout, and rosy-cheeked. He resented the reprimand andsuddenly, with a startling shriek that astonished the whole company,he charged at his superior officer with his head bent down like a wildbeast’s, struck him, and bit him on the shoulder with all his might;they had difficulty in getting him off. There was no doubt that he hadgone out of his mind; anyway, it became known that of late he had beenobserved performing incredibly strange actions. He had, for instance,flung two ikons belonging to his landlady out of his lodgings andsmashed up one of them with an axe; in his own room he had, on threestands resembling lecterns, laid out the works of Vogt, Moleschott, andBuchner, and before each lectern he used to burn a church wax-candle.From the number of books found in his rooms it could be gathered thathe was a well-read man. If he had had fifty thousand francs he wouldperhaps have sailed to the island of Marquisas like the “cadet” to whomHerzen alludes with such sprightly humour in one of his writings. Whenhe was seized, whole bundles of the most desperate manifestoes werefound in his pockets and his lodgings.

Manifestoes are a trivial matter too, and to my thinking not worthtroubling about. We have seen plenty of them. Besides, they were notnew manifestoes; they were, it was said later, just the same as had beencirculated in the X province, and Liputin, who had travelled in thatdistrict and the neighbouring province six weeks previously, declaredthat he had seen exactly the same leaflets there then. But what struckAndrey Antonovitch most was that the overseer of Shpigulin’s factory hadbrought the police just at the same time two or three packets of exactlythe same leaflets as had been found on the lieutenant. The bundles,which had been dropped in the factory in the night, had not been opened,and none of the factory-hands had had time to read one of them. Theincident was a trivial one, but it set Andrey Antonovitch ponderingdeeply. The position presented itself to him in an unpleasantlycomplicated light.

In this factory the famous “Shpigulin scandal” was just then brewing,which made so much talk among us and got into the Petersburg and Moscowpapers with all sorts of variations. Three weeks previously one of thehands had fallen ill and died of Asiatic cholera; then several otherswere stricken down. The whole town was in a panic, for the cholera wascoming nearer and nearer and had reached the neighbouring province.I may observe that satisfactory sanitary measures had been, so far aspossible, taken to meet the unexpected guest. But the factory belongingto the Shpigulins, who were millionaires and well-connected people, hadsomehow been overlooked. And there was a sudden outcry from every onethat this factory was the hot-bed of infection, that the factoryitself, and especially the quarters inhabited by the workpeople, wereso inveterately filthy that even if cholera had not been in theneighbourhood there might well have been an outbreak there. Steps wereimmediately taken, of course, and Andrey Antonovitch vigorously insistedon their being carried out without delay within three weeks. The factorywas cleansed, but the Shpigulins, for some unknown reason, closed it.One of the Shpigulin brothers always lived in Petersburg and the otherwent away to Moscow when the order was given for cleansing the factory.The overseer proceeded to pay off the workpeople and, as it appeared,cheated them shamelessly. The hands began to complain among themselves,asking to be paid fairly, and foolishly went to the police, thoughwithout much disturbance, for they were not so very much excited. Itwas just at this moment that the manifestoes were brought to AndreyAntonovitch by the overseer.

Pyotr Stepanovitch popped into the study unannounced, like an intimatefriend and one of the family; besides, he had a message from YuliaMihailovna. Seeing him, Lembke frowned grimly and stood still at thetable without welcoming him. Till that moment he had been pacing up anddown the study and had been discussing something tête-à-tête with hisclerk Blum, a very clumsy and surly German whom he had brought with himfrom Petersburg, in spite of the violent opposition of Yulia Mihailovna.On Pyotr Stepanovitch’s entrance the clerk had moved to the door, buthad not gone out. Pyotr Stepanovitch even fancied that he exchangedsignificant glances with his chief.

“Aha, I’ve caught you at last, you secretive monarch of the town!” PyotrStepanovitch cried out laughing, and laid his hand over the manifesto onthe table. “This increases your collection, eh?”

Andrey Antonovitch flushed crimson; his face seemed to twitch.

“Leave off, leave off at once!” he cried, trembling with rage. “Anddon’t you dare … sir …”

“What’s the matter with you? You seem to be angry!”

“Allow me to inform you, sir, that I’ve no intention of putting up withyour sans façon henceforward, and I beg you to remember …”

“Why, damn it all, he is in earnest!”

“Hold your tongue, hold your tongue”—Von Lembke stamped on thecarpet—“and don’t dare …”

God knows what it might have come to. Alas, there was one circ*mstanceinvolved in the matter of which neither Pyotr Stepanovitch nor evenYulia Mihailovna herself had any idea. The luckless Andrey Antonovitchhad been so greatly upset during the last few days that he had begunto be secretly jealous of his wife and Pyotr Stepanovitch. In solitude,especially at night, he spent some very disagreeable moments.

“Well, I imagined that if a man reads you his novel two days runningtill after midnight and wants to hear your opinion of it, he has of hisown act discarded official relations, anyway.… Yulia Mihailovna treatsme as a friend; there’s no making you out,” Pyotr Stepanovitch broughtout, with a certain dignity indeed. “Here is your novel, by the way.” Helaid on the table a large heavy manuscript rolled up in blue paper.

Lembke turned red and looked embarrassed.

“Where did you find it?” he asked discreetly, with a rush of joy whichhe was unable to suppress, though he did his utmost to conceal it.

“Only fancy, done up like this, it rolled under the chest of drawers. Imust have thrown it down carelessly on the chest when I went out. It wasonly found the day before yesterday, when the floor was scrubbed. Youdid set me a task, though!”

Lembke dropped his eyes sternly.

“I haven’t slept for the last two nights, thanks to you. It was foundthe day before yesterday, but I kept it, and have been reading it eversince. I’ve no time in the day, so I’ve read it at night. Well, I don’tlike it; it’s not my way of looking at things. But that’s no matter;I’ve never set up for being a critic, but I couldn’t tear myself awayfrom it, my dear man, though I didn’t like it! The fourth and fifthchapters are … they really are … damn it all, they are beyond words!And what a lot of humour you’ve packed into it; it made me laugh! Howyou can make fun of things sans que cela paraisse! As for the ninthand tenth chapters, it’s all about love; that’s not my line, but it’seffective though. I was nearly blubbering over Egrenev’s letter, thoughyou’ve shown him up so cleverly.… You know, it’s touching, though atthe same time you want to show the false side of him, as it were, don’tyou? Have I guessed right? But I could simply beat you for the ending.For what are you setting up? Why, the same old idol of domestichappiness, begetting children and making money; ‘they were married andlived happy ever afterwards’—come, it’s too much! You will enchant yourreaders, for even I couldn’t put the book down; but that makes it allthe worse! The reading public is as stupid as ever, but it’s the dutyof sensible people to wake them up, while you … But that’s enough.Good-bye. Don’t be cross another time; I came in to you because I had acouple of words to say to you, but you are so unaccountable …”

Andrey Antonovitch meantime took his novel and locked it up in an oakbookcase, seizing the opportunity to wink to Blum to disappear. Thelatter withdrew with a long, mournful face.

“I am not unaccountable, I am simply … nothing but annoyances,” hemuttered, frowning but without anger, and sitting down to the table.“Sit down and say what you have to say. It’s a long time since I’ve seenyou, Pyotr Stepanovitch, only don’t burst upon me in the future withsuch manners … sometimes, when one has business, it’s …”

“My manners are always the same.…”

“I know, and I believe that you mean nothing by it, but sometimes one isworried.… Sit down.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch immediately lolled back on the sofa and drew his legsunder him.


“What sort of worries? Surely not these trifles?” He nodded towards themanifesto. “I can bring you as many of them as you like; I made theiracquaintance in X province.”

“You mean at the time you were staying there?”

“Of course, it was not in my absence. I remember there was a hatchetprinted at the top of it. Allow me.” (He took up the manifesto.) “Yes,there’s the hatchet here too; that’s it, the very same.”

“Yes, here’s a hatchet. You see, a hatchet.”

“Well, is it the hatchet that scares you?”

“No, it’s not … and I am not scared; but this business … it is abusiness; there are circ*mstances.”

“What sort? That it’s come from the factory? He he! But do you know,at that factory the workpeople will soon be writing manifestoes forthemselves.”

“What do you mean?” Von Lembke stared at him severely.

“What I say. You’ve only to look at them. You are too soft, AndreyAntonovitch; you write novels. But this has to be handled in the goodold way.”

“What do you mean by the good old way? What do you mean by advising me?The factory has been cleaned; I gave the order and they’ve cleaned it.”

“And the workmen are in rebellion. They ought to be flogged, every oneof them; that would be the end of it.”

“In rebellion? That’s nonsense; I gave the order and they’ve cleanedit.”

“Ech, you are soft, Andrey Antonovitch!”

“In the first place, I am not so soft as you think, and in the secondplace …” Von Lembke was piqued again. He had exerted himself to keepup the conversation with the young man from curiosity, wondering if hewould tell him anything new.

“Ha ha, an old acquaintance again,” Pyotr Stepanovitch interrupted,pouncing on another document that lay under a paper-weight, somethinglike a manifesto, obviously printed abroad and in verse. “Oh, come, Iknow this one by heart, ‘A Noble Personality.’ Let me have a look atit—yes, ‘A Noble Personality’ it is. I made acquaintance with thatpersonality abroad. Where did you unearth it?”

“You say you’ve seen it abroad?” Von Lembke said eagerly.

“I should think so, four months ago, or may be five.”

“You seem to have seen a great deal abroad.” Von Lembke looked at himsubtly.

Pyotr Stepanovitch, not heeding him, unfolded the document and read thepoem aloud:


 “He was not of rank exalted, He was not of noble birth, He was bred among the people In the breast of Mother Earth. But the malice of the nobles And the Tsar’s revengeful wrath Drove him forth to grief and torture On the martyr’s chosen path. He set out to teach the people Freedom, love, equality, To exhort them to resistance; But to flee the penalty Of the prison, whip and gallows, To a foreign land he went. While the people waited hoping From Smolensk to far Tashkent, Waited eager for his coming To rebel against their fate, To arise and crush the Tsardom And the nobles’ vicious hate, To share all the wealth in common, And the antiquated thrall Of the church, the home and marriage To abolish once for all.”

“You got it from that officer, I suppose, eh?” asked Pyotr Stepanovitch.

“Why, do you know that officer, then, too?”

“I should think so. I had a gay time with him there for two days; he wasbound to go out of his mind.”

“Perhaps he did not go out of his mind.”

“You think he didn’t because he began to bite?”

“But, excuse me, if you saw those verses abroad and then, it appears, atthat officer’s …”

“What, puzzling, is it? You are putting me through an examination,Andrey Antonovitch, I see. You see,” he began suddenly withextraordinary dignity, “as to what I saw abroad I have already givenexplanations, and my explanations were found satisfactory, otherwise Ishould not have been gratifying this town with my presence. I considerthat the question as regards me has been settled, and I am not obligedto give any further account of myself, not because I am an informer, butbecause I could not help acting as I did. The people who wrote to YuliaMihailovna about me knew what they were talking about, and they said Iwas an honest man.… But that’s neither here nor there; I’ve cometo see you about a serious matter, and it’s as well you’ve sentyour chimney-sweep away. It’s a matter of importance to me, AndreyAntonovitch. I shall have a very great favour to ask of you.”

“A favour? H’m … by all means; I am waiting and, I confess, withcuriosity. And I must add, Pyotr Stepanovitch, that you surprise me nota little.”

Von Lembke was in some agitation. Pyotr Stepanovitch crossed his legs.

“In Petersburg,” he began, “I talked freely of most things, but therewere things—this, for instance” (he tapped the “Noble Personality” withhis finger) “about which I held my tongue—in the first place, becauseit wasn’t worth talking about, and secondly, because I only answeredquestions. I don’t care to put myself forward in such matters; in thatI see the distinction between a rogue and an honest man forced bycirc*mstances. Well, in short, we’ll dismiss that. But now … now thatthese fools … now that this has come to the surface and is in yourhands, and I see that you’ll find out all about it—for you are a manwith eyes and one can’t tell beforehand what you’ll do—and these foolsare still going on, I … I … well, the fact is, I’ve come to ask youto save one man, a fool too, most likely mad, for the sake of his youth,his misfortunes, in the name of your humanity.… You can’t be so humaneonly in the novels you manufacture!” he said, breaking off with coarsesarcasm and impatience.

In fact, he was seen to be a straightforward man, awkward andimpolitic from excess of humane feeling and perhaps from excessivesensitiveness—above all, a man of limited intelligence, as Von Lembkesaw at once with extraordinary subtlety. He had indeed long suspectedit, especially when during the previous week he had, sitting alonein his study at night, secretly cursed him with all his heart for theinexplicable way in which he had gained Yulia Mihailovna’s good graces.

“For whom are you interceding, and what does all this mean?” he inquiredmajestically, trying to conceal his curiosity.

“It … it’s … damn it! It’s not my fault that I trust you! Is itmy fault that I look upon you as a most honourable and, above all, asensible man … capable, that is, of understanding … damn …”

The poor fellow evidently could not master his emotion.

“You must understand at last,” he went on, “you must understand that inpronouncing his name I am betraying him to you—I am betraying him, am Inot? I am, am I not?”

“But how am I to guess if you don’t make up your mind to speak out?”

“That’s just it; you always cut the ground from under one’s feet withyour logic, damn it.… Well, here goes … this ‘noble personality,’this ‘student’ … is Shatov … that’s all.”

“Shatov? How do you mean it’s Shatov?”

“Shatov is the ‘student’ who is mentioned in this. He lives here, he wasonce a serf, the man who gave that slap.…”

“I know, I know.” Lembke screwed up his eyes. “But excuse me, what is heaccused of? Precisely and, above all, what is your petition?”

“I beg you to save him, do you understand? I used to know himeight years ago, I might almost say I was his friend,” cried PyotrStepanovitch, completely carried away. “But I am not bound to give youan account of my past life,” he added, with a gesture of dismissal. “Allthis is of no consequence; it’s the case of three men and a half, andwith those that are abroad you can’t make up a dozen. But what Iam building upon is your humanity and your intelligence. You willunderstand and you will put the matter in its true light, as the foolishdream of a man driven crazy … by misfortunes, by continued misfortunes,and not as some impossible political plot or God knows what!”

He was almost gasping for breath.

“H’m. I see that he is responsible for the manifestoes with the axe,”Lembke concluded almost majestically. “Excuse me, though, if he were theonly person concerned, how could he have distributed it both here andin other districts and in the X province … and, above all, where did heget them?”

“But I tell you that at the utmost there are not more than five peoplein it—a dozen perhaps. How can I tell?”

“You don’t know?”

“How should I know?—damn it all.”

“Why, you knew that Shatov was one of the conspirators.”

“Ech!” Pyotr Stepanovitch waved his hand as though to keep off theoverwhelming penetration of the inquirer. “Well, listen. I’ll tell youthe whole truth: of the manifestoes I know nothing—that is, absolutelynothing. Damn it all, don’t you know what nothing means?… Thatsub-lieutenant, to be sure, and somebody else and someone else here …and Shatov perhaps and someone else too—well, that’s the lot ofthem … a wretched lot.… But I’ve come to intercede for Shatov. Hemust be saved, for this poem is his, his own composition, and it wasthrough him it was published abroad; that I know for a fact, but of themanifestoes I really know nothing.”

“If the poem is his work, no doubt the manifestoes are too. But whatdata have you for suspecting Mr. Shatov?”

Pyotr Stepanovitch, with the air of a man driven out of all patience,pulled a pocket-book out of his pocket and took a note out of it.

“Here are the facts,” he cried, flinging it on the table.

Lembke unfolded it; it turned out to be a note written six months beforefrom here to some address abroad. It was a brief note, only two lines:

“I can’t print ‘A Noble Personality’ here, and in fact I can do nothing;print it abroad.

“Iv. Shatov.”

Lembke looked intently at Pyotr Stepanovitch. Varvara Petrovna had beenright in saying that he had at times the expression of a sheep.

“You see, it’s like this,” Pyotr Stepanovitch burst out. “He wrote thispoem here six months ago, but he couldn’t get it printed here, in asecret printing press, and so he asks to have it printed abroad.… Thatseems clear.”

“Yes, that’s clear, but to whom did he write? That’s not clear yet,”Lembke observed with the most subtle irony.

“Why, Kirillov, of course; the letter was written to Kirillovabroad.… Surely you knew that? What’s so annoying is that perhaps youare only putting it on before me, and most likely you knew all aboutthis poem and everything long ago! How did it come to be on your table?It found its way there somehow! Why are you torturing me, if so?”

He feverishly mopped his forehead with his handkerchief.

“I know something, perhaps.” Lembke parried dexterously. “But who isthis Kirillov?”

“An engineer who has lately come to the town. He was Stavrogin’s second,a maniac, a madman; your sub-lieutenant may really only besuffering from temporary delirium, but Kirillov is a thoroughgoingmadman—thoroughgoing, that I guarantee. Ah, Andrey Antonovitch, if thegovernment only knew what sort of people these conspirators all are,they wouldn’t have the heart to lay a finger on them. Every singleone of them ought to be in an asylum; I had a good look at them inSwitzerland and at the congresses.”

“From which they direct the movement here?”

“Why, who directs it? Three men and a half. It makes one sick to thinkof them. And what sort of movement is there here? Manifestoes! And whatrecruits have they made? Sub-lieutenants in brain fever and two or threestudents! You are a sensible man: answer this question. Why don’tpeople of consequence join their ranks? Why are they all students andhalf-baked boys of twenty-two? And not many of those. I dare say thereare thousands of bloodhounds on their track, but have they tracked outmany of them? Seven! I tell you it makes one sick.”

Lembke listened with attention but with an expression that seemed tosay, “You don’t feed nightingales on fairy-tales.”

“Excuse me, though. You asserted that the letter was sent abroad, butthere’s no address on it; how do you come to know that it was addressedto Mr. Kirillov and abroad too and … and … that it really was writtenby Mr. Shatov?”

“Why, fetch some specimen of Shatov’s writing and compare it. You musthave some signature of his in your office. As for its being addressed toKirillov, it was Kirillov himself showed it me at the time.”

“Then you were yourself …”

“Of course I was, myself. They showed me lots of things out there. Andas for this poem, they say it was written by Herzen to Shatov when hewas still wandering abroad, in memory of their meeting, so they say, byway of praise and recommendation—damn it all … and Shatov circulatesit among the young people as much as to say, ‘This was Herzen’s opinionof me.’”

“Ha ha!” cried Lembke, feeling he had got to the bottom of it at last.“That’s just what I was wondering: one can understand the manifesto, butwhat’s the object of the poem?”

“Of course you’d see it. Goodness knows why I’ve been babbling to you.Listen. Spare Shatov for me and the rest may go to the devil—evenKirillov, who is in hiding now, shut up in Filipov’s house, where Shatovlodges too. They don’t like me because I’ve turned round … but promiseme Shatov and I’ll dish them all up for you. I shall be of use, AndreyAntonovitch! I reckon nine or ten men make up the whole wretched lot. Iam keeping an eye on them myself, on my own account. We know of threealready: Shatov, Kirillov, and that sub-lieutenant. The others I am onlywatching carefully … though I am pretty sharp-sighted too. It’s thesame over again as it was in the X province: two students, a schoolboy,two noblemen of twenty, a teacher, and a half-pay major of sixty, crazywith drink, have been caught with manifestoes; that was all—you cantake my word for it, that was all; it was quite a surprise that thatwas all. But I must have six days. I have reckoned it out—six days, notless. If you want to arrive at any result, don’t disturb them for sixdays and I can kill all the birds with one stone for you; but if youflutter them before, the birds will fly away. But spare me Shatov. Ispeak for Shatov.… The best plan would be to fetch him here secretly,in a friendly way, to your study and question him without disguisingthe facts.… I have no doubt he’ll throw himself at your feet and burstinto tears! He is a highly strung and unfortunate fellow; his wifeis carrying on with Stavrogin. Be kind to him and he will tell youeverything, but I must have six days.… And, above all, above all, nota word to Yulia Mihailovna. It’s a secret. May it be a secret?”

“What?” cried Lembke, opening wide his eyes. “Do you mean to say yousaid nothing of this to Yulia Mihailovna?”

“To her? Heaven forbid! Ech, Andrey Antonovitch! You see, I value herfriendship and I have the highest respect for her … and all the rest ofit … but I couldn’t make such a blunder. I don’t contradict her, for,as you know yourself, it’s dangerous to contradict her. I may havedropped a word to her, for I know she likes that, but to suppose thatI mentioned names to her as I have to you or anything of that sort! Mygood sir! Why am I appealing to you? Because you are a man, anyway,a serious person with old-fashioned firmness and experience in theservice. You’ve seen life. You must know by heart every detail of suchaffairs, I expect, from what you’ve seen in Petersburg. But if I wereto mention those two names, for instance, to her, she’d stir up such ahubbub.… You know, she would like to astonish Petersburg. No, she’stoo hot-headed, she really is.”

“Yes, she has something of that fougue,” Andrey Antonovitch mutteredwith some satisfaction, though at the same time he resented thisunmannerly fellow’s daring to express himself rather freely about YuliaMihailovna. But Pyotr Stepanovitch probably imagined that he had notgone far enough and that he must exert himself further to flatter Lembkeand make a complete conquest of him.

Fougue is just it,” he assented. “She may be a woman of genius, aliterary woman, but she would scare our sparrows. She wouldn’t beable to keep quiet for six hours, let alone six days. Ech, AndreyAntonovitch, don’t attempt to tie a woman down for six days! You doadmit that I have some experience—in this sort of thing, I mean; I knowsomething about it, and you know that I may very well know somethingabout it. I am not asking for six days for fun but with an object.”

“I have heard …” (Lembke hesitated to utter his thought) “I have heardthat on your return from abroad you made some expression … as it wereof repentance, in the proper quarter?”

“Well, that’s as it may be.”

“And, of course, I don’t want to go into it.… But it has seemed tome all along that you’ve talked in quite a different style—about theChristian faith, for instance, about social institutions, about thegovernment even.…”

“I’ve said lots of things, no doubt, I am saying them still; but suchideas mustn’t be applied as those fools do it, that’s the point. What’sthe good of biting his superior’s shoulder! You agreed with me yourself,only you said it was premature.”

“I didn’t mean that when I agreed and said it was premature.”

“You weigh every word you utter, though. He he! You are a careful man!”Pyotr Stepanovitch observed gaily all of a sudden. “Listen, old friend.I had to get to know you; that’s why I talked in my own style. You arenot the only one I get to know like that. Maybe I needed to find outyour character.”

“What’s my character to you?”

“How can I tell what it may be to me?” He laughed again. “You see, mydear and highly respected Andrey Antonovitch, you are cunning, butit’s not come to that yet and it certainly never will come to it, youunderstand? Perhaps you do understand. Though I did make an explanationin the proper quarter when I came back from abroad, and I really don’tknow why a man of certain convictions should not be able to work forthe advancement of his sincere convictions … but nobody there has yetinstructed me to investigate your character and I’ve not undertaken anysuch job from them. Consider: I need not have given those two names toyou. I might have gone straight there; that is where I made my firstexplanations. And if I’d been acting with a view to financial profit ormy own interest in any way, it would have been a bad speculation on mypart, for now they’ll be grateful to you and not to me at headquarters.I’ve done it solely for Shatov’s sake,” Pyotr Stepanovitch addedgenerously, “for Shatov’s sake, because of our old friendship.… Butwhen you take up your pen to write to headquarters, you may put ina word for me, if you like.… I’ll make no objection, he he! Adieu,though; I’ve stayed too long and there was no need to gossip so much!”he added with some amiability, and he got up from the sofa.

“On the contrary, I am very glad that the position has been defined, soto speak.” Von Lembke too got up and he too looked pleasant, obviouslyaffected by the last words. “I accept your services and acknowledgemy obligation, and you may be sure that anything I can do by way ofreporting your zeal …”

“Six days—the great thing is to put it off for six days, and that youshouldn’t stir for those six days, that’s what I want.”

“So be it.”

“Of course, I don’t tie your hands and shouldn’t venture to. You arebound to keep watch, only don’t flutter the nest too soon; I rely onyour sense and experience for that. But I should think you’ve plentyof bloodhounds and trackers of your own in reserve, ha ha!” PyotrStepanovitch blurted out with the gaiety and irresponsibility of youth.

“Not quite so.” Lembke parried amiably. “Young people are apt to supposethat there is a great deal in the background.… But, by the way, allowme one little word: if this Kirillov was Stavrogin’s second, then Mr.Stavrogin too …”

“What about Stavrogin?”

“I mean, if they are such friends?”

“Oh, no, no, no! There you are quite out of it, though you are cunning.You really surprise me. I thought that you had some information aboutit.… H’m … Stavrogin—it’s quite the opposite, quite.… Avis aulecteur.”

“Do you mean it? And can it be so?” Lembke articulated mistrustfully.“Yulia Mihailovna told me that from what she heard from Petersburg he isa man acting on some sort of instructions, so to speak.…”

“I know nothing about it; I know nothing, absolutely nothing. Adieu.Avis au lecteur!” Abruptly and obviously Pyotr Stepanovitch declined todiscuss it.

He hurried to the door.

“Stay, Pyotr Stepanovitch, stay,” cried Lembke. “One other tiny matterand I won’t detain you.”

He drew an envelope out of a table drawer.

“Here is a little specimen of the same kind of thing, and I let you seeit to show how completely I trust you. Here, and tell me your opinion.”

In the envelope was a letter, a strange anonymous letter addressed toLembke and only received by him the day before. With intense vexationPyotr Stepanovitch read as follows:

“Your excellency,—For such you are by rank. Herewith I make known thatthere is an attempt to be made on the life of personages of general’srank and on the Fatherland. For it’s working up straight for that.I myself have been disseminating unceasingly for a number of years.There’s infidelity too. There’s a rebellion being got up and there aresome thousands of manifestoes, and for every one of them there will bea hundred running with their tongues out, unless they’ve been takenaway beforehand by the police. For they’ve been promised a mighty lot ofbenefits, and the simple people are foolish, and there’s vodka too. Thepeople will attack one after another, taking them to be guilty, and,fearing both sides, I repent of what I had no share in, my circ*mstancesbeing what they are. If you want information to save the Fatherland,and also the Church and the ikons, I am the only one that can do it. Butonly on condition that I get a pardon from the Secret Police by telegramat once, me alone, but the rest may answer for it. Put a candle everyevening at seven o’clock in the porter’s window for a signal. Seeing it,I shall believe and come to kiss the merciful hand from Petersburg. Buton condition there’s a pension for me, for else how am I to live? Youwon’t regret it for it will mean a star for you. You must go secretlyor they’ll wring your neck. Your excellency’s desperate servant falls atyour feet.

“Repentant free-thinker incognito.”

Von Lembke explained that the letter had made its appearance in theporter’s room when it was left empty the day before.

“So what do you think?” Pyotr Stepanovitch asked almost rudely.

“I think it’s an anonymous skit by way of a hoax.”

“Most likely it is. There’s no taking you in.”

“What makes me think that is that it’s so stupid.”

“Have you received such documents here before?”

“Once or twice, anonymous letters.”

“Oh, of course they wouldn’t be signed. In a different style? Indifferent handwritings?”


“And were they buffoonery like this one?”

“Yes, and you know … very disgusting.”

“Well, if you had them before, it must be the same thing now.”

“Especially because it’s so stupid. Because these people are educatedand wouldn’t write so stupidly.”

“Of course, of course.”

“But what if this is someone who really wants to turn informer?”

“It’s not very likely,” Pyotr Stepanovitch rapped out dryly. “Whatdoes he mean by a telegram from the Secret Police and a pension? It’sobviously a hoax.”

“Yes, yes,” Lembke admitted, abashed.

“I tell you what: you leave this with me. I can certainly find out foryou before I track out the others.”

“Take it,” Lembke assented, though with some hesitation.

“Have you shown it to anyone?”

“Is it likely! No.”

“Not to Yulia Mihailovna?”

“Oh, Heaven forbid! And for God’s sake don’t you show it her!” Lembkecried in alarm. “She’ll be so upset … and will be dreadfully angry withme.”

“Yes, you’ll be the first to catch it; she’d say you brought it onyourself if people write like that to you. I know what women’s logic is.Well, good-bye. I dare say I shall bring you the writer in a couple ofdays or so. Above all, our compact!”


Though Pyotr Stepanovitch was perhaps far from being a stupid man, Fedkathe convict had said of him truly “that he would make up a man himselfand go on living with him too.” He came away from Lembke fully persuadedthat for the next six days, anyway, he had put his mind at rest, andthis interval was absolutely necessary for his own purposes. But it wasa false idea and founded entirely on the fact that he had made up forhimself once for all an Andrey Antonovitch who was a perfect simpleton.

Like every morbidly suspicious man, Andrey Antonovitch was alwaysexceedingly and joyfully trustful the moment he got on to sure ground.The new turn of affairs struck him at first in a rather favourable lightin spite of some fresh and troublesome complications. Anyway, his formerdoubts fell to the ground. Besides, he had been so tired for the lastfew days, so exhausted and helpless, that his soul involuntarily yearnedfor rest. But alas! he was again uneasy. The long time he had spent inPetersburg had left ineradicable traces in his heart. The official andeven the secret history of the “younger generation” was fairly familiarto him—he was a curious man and used to collect manifestoes—but hecould never understand a word of it. Now he felt like a man lost ina forest. Every instinct told him that there was something in PyotrStepanovitch’s words utterly incongruous, anomalous, and grotesque,“though there’s no telling what may not happen with this ‘youngergeneration,’ and the devil only knows what’s going on among them,” hemused, lost in perplexity.

And at this moment, to make matters worse, Blum poked his head in. Hehad been waiting not far off through the whole of Pyotr Stepanovitch’svisit. This Blum was actually a distant relation of Andrey Antonovitch,though the relationship had always been carefully and timorouslyconcealed. I must apologise to the reader for devoting a few words hereto this insignificant person. Blum was one of that strange class of“unfortunate” Germans who are unfortunate not through lack of abilitybut through some inexplicable ill luck. “Unfortunate” Germans are nota myth, but really do exist even in Russia, and are of a special type.Andrey Antonovitch had always had a quite touching sympathy for him, andwherever he could, as he rose himself in the service, had promoted himto subordinate positions under him; but Blum had never been successful.Either the post was abolished after he had been appointed to it, or anew chief took charge of the department; once he was almost arrested bymistake with other people. He was precise, but he was gloomy to excessand to his own detriment. He was tall and had red hair; he stooped andwas depressed and even sentimental; and in spite of his being humbled byhis life, he was obstinate and persistent as an ox, though always atthe wrong moment. For Andrey Antonovitch he, as well as his wife andnumerous family, had cherished for many years a reverent devotion.Except Andrey Antonovitch no one had ever liked him. Yulia Mihailovnawould have discarded him from the first, but could not overcome herhusband’s obstinacy. It was the cause of their first conjugal quarrel.It had happened soon after their marriage, in the early days of theirhoneymoon, when she was confronted with Blum, who, together with thehumiliating secret of his relationship, had been until then carefullyconcealed from her. Andrey Antonovitch besought her with clasped hands,told her pathetically all the story of Blum and their friendship fromchildhood, but Yulia Mihailovna considered herself disgraced forever,and even had recourse to fainting. Von Lembke would not budge aninch, and declared that he would not give up Blum or part from him foranything in the world, so that she was surprised at last and was obligedto put up with Blum. It was settled, however, that the relationshipshould be concealed even more carefully than before if possible, andthat even Blum’s Christian name and patronymic should be changed,because he too was for some reason called Andrey Antonovitch. Blum knewno one in the town except the German chemist, had not called on anyone,and led, as he always did, a lonely and nigg*rdly existence. He hadlong been aware of Andrey Antonovitch’s literary peccadilloes. He wasgenerally summoned to listen to secret tête-à-tête readings of hisnovel; he would sit like a post for six hours at a stretch, perspiringand straining his utmost to keep awake and smile. On reaching home hewould groan with his long-legged and lanky wife over their benefactor’sunhappy weakness for Russian literature.

Andrey Antonovitch looked with anguish at Blum.

“I beg you to leave me alone, Blum,” he began with agitated haste,obviously anxious to avoid any renewal of the previous conversationwhich had been interrupted by Pyotr Stepanovitch.

“And yet this may be arranged in the most delicate way and with nopublicity; you have full power.” Blum respectfully but obstinatelyinsisted on some point, stooping forward and coming nearer and nearer bysmall steps to Andrey Antonovitch.

“Blum, you are so devoted to me and so anxious to serve me that I amalways in a panic when I look at you.”

“You always say witty things, and sleep in peace satisfied with whatyou’ve said, but that’s how you damage yourself.”

“Blum, I have just convinced myself that it’s quite a mistake, quite amistake.”

“Not from the words of that false, vicious young man whom you suspectyourself? He has won you by his flattering praise of your talent forliterature.”

“Blum, you understand nothing about it; your project is absurd, Itell you. We shall find nothing and there will be a fearful upset andlaughter too, and then Yulia Mihailovna …”

“We shall certainly find everything we are looking for.” Blum advancedfirmly towards him, laying his right hand on his heart. “We will makea search suddenly early in the morning, carefully showing everyconsideration for the person himself and strictly observing all theprescribed forms of the law. The young men, Lyamshin and Telyatnikov,assert positively that we shall find all we want. They were constantvisitors there. Nobody is favourably disposed to Mr. Verhovensky. MadameStavrogin has openly refused him her graces, and every honest man, ifonly there is such a one in this coarse town, is persuaded that a hotbedof infidelity and social doctrines has always been concealed there. Hekeeps all the forbidden books, Ryliev’s ‘Reflections,’ all Herzen’sworks.… I have an approximate catalogue, in case of need.”

“Oh heavens! Every one has these books; how simple you are, my poorBlum.”

“And many manifestoes,” Blum went on without heeding the observation.“We shall end by certainly coming upon traces of the real manifestoeshere. That young Verhovensky I feel very suspicious of.”

“But you are mixing up the father and the son. They are not on goodterms. The son openly laughs at his father.”

“That’s only a mask.”

“Blum, you’ve sworn to torment me! Think! he is a conspicuous figurehere, after all. He’s been a professor, he is a well-known man. He’llmake such an uproar and there will be such gibes all over the town, andwe shall make a mess of it all.… And only think how Yulia Mihailovnawill take it.” Blum pressed forward and did not listen. “He was only alecturer, only a lecturer, and of a low rank when he retired.” He smotehimself on the chest. “He has no marks of distinction. He was dischargedfrom the service on suspicion of plots against the government. He hasbeen under secret supervision, and undoubtedly still is so. And in viewof the disorders that have come to light now, you are undoubtedly boundin duty. You are losing your chance of distinction by letting slip thereal criminal.”

“Yulia Mihailovna! Get away, Blum,” Von Lembke cried suddenly, hearingthe voice of his spouse in the next room. Blum started but did not givein.

“Allow me, allow me,” he persisted, pressing both hands still moretightly on his chest.

“Get away!” hissed Andrey Antonovitch. “Do what you like … afterwards.Oh, my God!”

The curtain was raised and Yulia Mihailovna made her appearance. Shestood still majestically at the sight of Blum, casting a haughty andoffended glance at him, as though the very presence of this man was anaffront to her. Blum respectfully made her a deep bow without speakingand, doubled up with veneration, moved towards the door on tiptoe withhis arms held a little away from him.

Either because he really took Andrey Antonovitch’s last hystericaloutbreak as a direct permission to act as he was asking, or whetherhe strained a point in this case for the direct advantage of hisbenefactor, because he was too confident that success would crown hisefforts; anyway, as we shall see later on, this conversation of thegovernor with his subordinate led to a very surprising event whichamused many people, became public property, moved Yulia Mihailovna tofierce anger, utterly disconcerting Andrey Antonovitch and reducing himat the crucial moment to a state of deplorable indecision.


It was a busy day for Pyotr Stepanovitch. From Von Lembke he hastened toBogoyavlensky Street, but as he went along Bykovy Street, past the housewhere Karmazinov was staying, he suddenly stopped, grinned, andwent into the house. The servant told him that he was expected, whichinterested him, as he had said nothing beforehand of his coming.

But the great writer really had been expecting him, not only that daybut the day before and the day before that. Three days before he hadhanded him his manuscript Merci (which he had meant to read at theliterary matinée at Yulia Mihailovna’s fête). He had done this out ofamiability, fully convinced that he was agreeably flattering the youngman’s vanity by letting him read the great work beforehand. PyotrStepanovitch had noticed long before that this vainglorious, spoiledgentleman, who was so offensively unapproachable for all but the elect,this writer “with the intellect of a statesman,” was simply tryingto curry favour with him, even with avidity. I believe the young manguessed at last that Karmazinov considered him, if not the leader ofthe whole secret revolutionary movement in Russia, at least one of thosemost deeply initiated into the secrets of the Russian revolution who hadan incontestable influence on the younger generation. The state of mindof “the cleverest man in Russia” interested Pyotr Stepanovitch, buthitherto he had, for certain reasons, avoided explaining himself.

The great writer was staying in the house belonging to his sister, whowas the wife of a kammerherr and had an estate in the neighbourhood.Both she and her husband had the deepest reverence for their illustriousrelation, but to their profound regret both of them happened to be inMoscow at the time of his visit, so that the honour of receiving himfell to the lot of an old lady, a poor relation of the kammerherr’s, whohad for years lived in the family and looked after the housekeeping. Allthe household had moved about on tiptoe since Karmazinov’s arrival. Theold lady sent news to Moscow almost every day, how he had slept, what hehad deigned to eat, and had once sent a telegram to announce that aftera dinner-party at the mayor’s he was obliged to take a spoonful of awell-known medicine. She rarely plucked up courage to enter his room,though he behaved courteously to her, but dryly, and only talked to herof what was necessary.

When Pyotr Stepanovitch came in, he was eating his morning cutlet withhalf a glass of red wine. Pyotr Stepanovitch had been to see him beforeand always found him eating this cutlet, which he finished in hispresence without ever offering him anything. After the cutlet a littlecup of coffee was served. The footman who brought in the dishes wore aswallow-tail coat, noiseless boots, and gloves.

“Ha ha!” Karmazinov got up from the sofa, wiping his mouth with atable-napkin, and came forward to kiss him with an air of unmixeddelight—after the characteristic fashion of Russians if they are veryillustrious. But Pyotr Stepanovitch knew by experience that, thoughKarmazinov made a show of kissing him, he really only proffered hischeek, and so this time he did the same: the cheeks met. Karmazinov didnot show that he noticed it, sat down on the sofa, and affably offeredPyotr Stepanovitch an easy chair facing him, in which the latterstretched himself at once.

“You don’t … wouldn’t like some lunch?” inquired Karmazinov, abandoninghis usual habit but with an air, of course, which would prompt a politerefusal. Pyotr Stepanovitch at once expressed a desire for lunch. Ashade of offended surprise darkened the face of his host, but only foran instant; he nervously rang for the servant and, in spite of all hisbreeding, raised his voice scornfully as he gave orders for a secondlunch to be served.

“What will you have, cutlet or coffee?” he asked once more.

“A cutlet and coffee, and tell him to bring some more wine, I amhungry,” answered Pyotr Stepanovitch, calmly scrutinising his host’sattire. Mr. Karmazinov was wearing a sort of indoor wadded jacket withpearl buttons, but it was too short, which was far from becoming to hisrather comfortable stomach and the solid curves of his hips. But tastesdiffer. Over his knees he had a checkered woollen plaid reaching to thefloor, though it was warm in the room.

“Are you unwell?” commented Pyotr Stepanovitch.

“No, not unwell, but I am afraid of being so in this climate,” answeredthe writer in his squeaky voice, though he uttered each word with a softcadence and agreeable gentlemanly lisp. “I’ve been expecting you sinceyesterday.”

“Why? I didn’t say I’d come.”

“No, but you have my manuscript. Have you … read it?”

“Manuscript? Which one?”

Karmazinov was terribly surprised.

“But you’ve brought it with you, haven’t you?” He was so disturbed thathe even left off eating and looked at Pyotr Stepanovitch with a face ofdismay.

“Ah, that Bonjour you mean.…”


“Oh, all right. I’d quite forgotten it and hadn’t read it; I haven’t hadtime. I really don’t know, it’s not in my pockets … it must be on mytable. Don’t be uneasy, it will be found.”

“No, I’d better send to your rooms at once. It might be lost; besides,it might be stolen.”

“Oh, who’d want it! But why are you so alarmed? Why, Yulia Mihailovnatold me you always have several copies made—one kept at a notary’sabroad, another in Petersburg, a third in Moscow, and then you send someto a bank, I believe.”

“But Moscow might be burnt again and my manuscript with it. No, I’dbetter send at once.”

“Stay, here it is!” Pyotr Stepanovitch pulled a roll of note-paperout of a pocket at the back of his coat. “It’s a little crumpled. Onlyfancy, it’s been lying there with my pocket-handkerchief ever since Itook it from you; I forgot it.”

Karmazinov greedily snatched the manuscript, carefully examined it,counted the pages, and laid it respectfully beside him on a specialtable, for the time, in such a way that he would not lose sight of itfor an instant.

“You don’t read very much, it seems?” he hissed, unable to restrainhimself.

“No, not very much.”

“And nothing in the way of Russian literature?”

“In the way of Russian literature? Let me see, I have readsomething.… ‘On the Way’ or ‘Away!’ or ‘At the Parting of the Ways’—something of the sort; I don’t remember.It’s a long time since I readit, five years ago. I’ve no time.”

A silence followed.

“When I came I assured every one that you were a very intelligent man,and now I believe every one here is wild over you.”

“Thank you,” Pyotr Stepanovitch answered calmly.

Lunch was brought in. Pyotr Stepanovitch pounced on the cutlet withextraordinary appetite, had eaten it in a trice, tossed off the wine andswallowed his coffee.

“This boor,” thought Karmazinov, looking at him askance as he munchedthe last morsel and drained the last drops—“this boor probablyunderstood the biting taunt in my words … and no doubt he has readthe manuscript with eagerness; he is simply lying with some object. Butpossibly he is not lying and is only genuinely stupid. I like a geniusto be rather stupid. Mayn’t he be a sort of genius among them? Deviltake the fellow!”

He got up from the sofa and began pacing from one end of the room to theother for the sake of exercise, as he always did after lunch.

“Leaving here soon?” asked Pyotr Stepanovitch from his easy chair,lighting a cigarette.

“I really came to sell an estate and I am in the hands of my bailiff.”

“You left, I believe, because they expected an epidemic out there afterthe war?”

“N-no, not entirely for that reason,” Mr. Karmazinov went on, utteringhis phrases with an affable intonation, and each time he turned round inpacing the corner there was a faint but jaunty quiver of his right leg.“I certainly intend to live as long as I can.” He laughed, not withoutvenom. “There is something in our Russian nobility that makes them wearout very quickly, from every point of view. But I wish to wear out aslate as possible, and now I am going abroad for good; there the climateis better, the houses are of stone, and everything stronger. Europe willlast my time, I think. What do you think?”

“How can I tell?”

“H’m. If the Babylon out there really does fall, and great will be thefall thereof (about which I quite agree with you, yet I think it willlast my time), there’s nothing to fall here in Russia, comparativelyspeaking. There won’t be stones to fall, everything will crumble intodirt. Holy Russia has less power of resistance than anything in theworld. The Russian peasantry is still held together somehow by theRussian God; but according to the latest accounts the Russian God is notto be relied upon, and scarcely survived the emancipation; it certainlygave Him a severe shock. And now, what with railways, what with you …I’ve no faith in the Russian God.”

“And how about the European one?”

“I don’t believe in any. I’ve been slandered to the youth of Russia.I’ve always sympathised with every movement among them. I was shown themanifestoes here. Every one looks at them with perplexity because theyare frightened at the way things are put in them, but every one isconvinced of their power even if they don’t admit it to themselves.Everybody has been rolling downhill, and every one has known for agesthat they have nothing to clutch at. I am persuaded of the success ofthis mysterious propaganda, if only because Russia is now pre-eminentlythe place in all the world where anything you like may happen withoutany opposition. I understand only too well why wealthy Russians allflock abroad, and more and more so every year. It’s simply instinct. Ifthe ship is sinking, the rats are the first to leave it. Holy Russia isa country of wood, of poverty … and of danger, the country of ambitiousbeggars in its upper classes, while the immense majority live in pokylittle huts. She will be glad of any way of escape; you have only topresent it to her. It’s only the government that still means toresist, but it brandishes its cudgel in the dark and hits its own men.Everything here is doomed and awaiting the end. Russia as she is has nofuture. I have become a German and I am proud of it.”

“But you began about the manifestoes. Tell me everything; how do youlook at them?”

“Every one is afraid of them, so they must be influential. They openlyunmask what is false and prove that there is nothing to lay hold ofamong us, and nothing to lean upon. They speak aloud while all issilent. What is most effective about them (in spite of their style) isthe incredible boldness with which they look the truth straight in theface. To look facts straight in the face is only possible to Russians ofthis generation. No, in Europe they are not yet so bold; it is a realmof stone, there there is still something to lean upon. So far as I seeand am able to judge, the whole essence of the Russian revolutionaryidea lies in the negation of honour. I like its being so boldly andfearlessly expressed. No, in Europe they wouldn’t understand it yet, butthat’s just what we shall clutch at. For a Russian a sense of honour isonly a superfluous burden, and it always has been a burden through allhis history. The open ‘right to dishonour’ will attract him more thananything. I belong to the older generation and, I must confess, stillcling to honour, but only from habit. It is only that I prefer the oldforms, granted it’s from timidity; you see one must live somehow what’sleft of one’s life.”

He suddenly stopped.

“I am talking,” he thought, “while he holds his tongue and watches me.He has come to make me ask him a direct question. And I shall ask him.”

“Yulia Mihailovna asked me by some stratagem to find out from you whatthe surprise is that you are preparing for the ball to-morrow,” PyotrStepanovitch asked suddenly.

“Yes, there really will be a surprise and I certainly shallastonish …” said Karmazinov with increased dignity. “But I won’t tellyou what the secret is.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch did not insist.

“There is a young man here called Shatov,” observed the great writer.“Would you believe it, I haven’t seen him.”

“A very nice person. What about him?”

“Oh, nothing. He talks about something. Isn’t he the person who gaveStavrogin that slap in the face?”


“And what’s your opinion of Stavrogin?”

“I don’t know; he is such a flirt.”

Karmazinov detested Stavrogin because it was the latter’s habit not totake any notice of him.

“That flirt,” he said, chuckling, “if what is advocated in yourmanifestoes ever comes to pass, will be the first to be hanged.”

“Perhaps before,” Pyotr Stepanovitch said suddenly.

“Quite right too,” Karmazinov assented, not laughing, and withpronounced gravity.

“You have said so once before, and, do you know, I repeated it to him.”

“What, you surely didn’t repeat it?” Karmazinov laughed again.

“He said that if he were to be hanged it would be enough for you tobe flogged, not simply as a complement but to hurt, as they flog thepeasants.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch took his hat and got up from his seat. Karmazinovheld out both hands to him at parting.

“And what if all that you are … plotting for is destined to cometo pass …” he piped suddenly, in a honeyed voice with a peculiarintonation, still holding his hands in his. “How soon could it comeabout?”

“How could I tell?” Pyotr Stepanovitch answered rather roughly. Theylooked intently into each other’s eyes.

“At a guess? Approximately?” Karmazinov piped still more sweetly.

“You’ll have time to sell your estate and time to clear out too,” PyotrStepanovitch muttered still more roughly. They looked at one anothereven more intently.

There was a minute of silence.

“It will begin early next May and will be over by October,” PyotrStepanovitch said suddenly.

“I thank you sincerely,” Karmazinov pronounced in a voice saturated withfeeling, pressing his hands.

“You will have time to get out of the ship, you rat,” Pyotr Stepanovitchwas thinking as he went out into the street. “Well, if that ‘imperialintellect’ inquires so confidently of the day and the hour and thanksme so respectfully for the information I have given, we mustn’t doubtof ourselves. [He grinned.] H’m! But he really isn’t stupid … and he issimply a rat escaping; men like that don’t tell tales!”

He ran to Filipov’s house in Bogoyavlensky Street.


Pyotr Stepanovitch went first to Kirillov’s. He found him, as usual,alone, and at the moment practising gymnastics, that is, standing withhis legs apart, brandishing his arms above his head in a peculiar way.On the floor lay a ball. The tea stood cold on the table, not clearedsince breakfast. Pyotr Stepanovitch stood for a minute on the threshold.

“You are very anxious about your health, it seems,” he said in a loudand cheerful tone, going into the room. “What a jolly ball, though; foo,how it bounces! Is that for gymnastics too?”

Kirillov put on his coat.

“Yes, that’s for the good of my health too,” he muttered dryly. “Sitdown.”

“I’m only here for a minute. Still, I’ll sit down. Health is all verywell, but I’ve come to remind you of our agreement. The appointed timeis approaching … in a certain sense,” he concluded awkwardly.

“What agreement?”

“How can you ask?” Pyotr Stepanovitch was startled and even dismayed.

“It’s not an agreement and not an obligation. I have not bound myself inany way; it’s a mistake on your part.”

“I say, what’s this you’re doing?” Pyotr Stepanovitch jumped up.

“What I choose.”

“What do you choose?”

“The same as before.”

“How am I to understand that? Does that mean that you are in the samemind?”

“Yes. Only there’s no agreement and never has been, and I have not boundmyself in any way. I could do as I like and I can still do as I like.”

Kirillov explained himself curtly and contemptuously.

“I agree, I agree; be as free as you like if you don’t change yourmind.” Pyotr Stepanovitch sat down again with a satisfied air. “You areangry over a word. You’ve become very irritable of late; that’s whyI’ve avoided coming to see you. I was quite sure, though, you would beloyal.”

“I dislike you very much, but you can be perfectly sure—though I don’tregard it as loyalty and disloyalty.”

“But do you know” (Pyotr Stepanovitch was startled again) “we must talkthings over thoroughly again so as not to get in a muddle. The businessneeds accuracy, and you keep giving me such shocks. Will you let mespeak?”

“Speak,” snapped Kirillov, looking away.

“You made up your mind long ago to take your life … I mean, you had theidea in your mind. Is that the right expression? Is there any mistakeabout that?”

“I have the same idea still.”

“Excellent. Take note that no one has forced it on you.”

“Rather not; what nonsense you talk.”

“I dare say I express it very stupidly. Of course, it would be verystupid to force anybody to it. I’ll go on. You were a member of thesociety before its organisation was changed, and confessed it to one ofthe members.”

“I didn’t confess it, I simply said so.”

“Quite so. And it would be absurd to confess such a thing. What aconfession! You simply said so. Excellent.”

“No, it’s not excellent, for you are being tedious. I am not obliged togive you any account of myself and you can’t understand my ideas. I wantto put an end to my life, because that’s my idea, because I don’t wantto be afraid of death, because … because there’s no need for you toknow. What do you want? Would you like tea? It’s cold. Let me get youanother glass.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch actually had taken up the teapot and was looking foran empty glass. Kirillov went to the cupboard and brought a clean glass.

“I’ve just had lunch at Karmazinov’s,” observed his visitor, “thenI listened to him talking, and perspired and got into a sweat againrunning here. I am fearfully thirsty.”

“Drink. Cold tea is good.”

Kirillov sat down on his chair again and again fixed his eyes on thefarthest corner.

“The idea had arisen in the society,” he went on in the same voice,“that I might be of use if I killed myself, and that when you get upsome bit of mischief here, and they are looking for the guilty, I mightsuddenly shoot myself and leave a letter saying I did it all, so thatyou might escape suspicion for another year.”

“For a few days, anyway; one day is precious.”

“Good. So for that reason they asked me, if I would, to wait. I said I’dwait till the society fixed the day, because it makes no difference tome.”

“Yes, but remember that you bound yourself not to make up your lastletter without me and that in Russia you would be at my … well, atmy disposition, that is for that purpose only. I need hardly say, ineverything else, of course, you are free,” Pyotr Stepanovitch addedalmost amiably.

“I didn’t bind myself, I agreed, because it makes no difference to me.”

“Good, good. I have no intention of wounding your vanity, but …”

“It’s not a question of vanity.”

“But remember that a hundred and twenty thalers were collected for yourjourney, so you’ve taken money.”

“Not at all.” Kirillov fired up. “The money was not on that condition.One doesn’t take money for that.”

“People sometimes do.”

“That’s a lie. I sent a letter from Petersburg, and in Petersburg I paidyou a hundred and twenty thalers; I put it in your hand … and it hasbeen sent off there, unless you’ve kept it for yourself.”

“All right, all right, I don’t dispute anything; it has been sent off.All that matters is that you are still in the same mind.”

“Exactly the same. When you come and tell me it’s time, I’ll carry itall out. Will it be very soon?”

“Not very many days.… But remember, we’ll make up the letter together,the same night.”

“The same day if you like. You say I must take the responsibility forthe manifestoes on myself?”

“And something else too.”

“I am not going to make myself out responsible for everything.”

“What won’t you be responsible for?” said Pyotr Stepanovitch again.

“What I don’t choose; that’s enough. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch controlled himself and changed the subject.

“To speak of something else,” he began, “will you be with us thisevening? It’s Virginsky’s name-day; that’s the pretext for our meeting.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Do me a favour. Do come. You must. We must impress them by our numberand our looks. You have a face … well, in one word, you have a fatefulface.”

“You think so?” laughed Kirillov. “Very well, I’ll come, but not for thesake of my face. What time is it?”

“Oh, quite early, half-past six. And, you know, you can go in, sit down,and not speak to any one, however many there may be there. Only, I say,don’t forget to bring pencil and paper with you.”

“What’s that for?”

“Why, it makes no difference to you, and it’s my special request. You’llonly have to sit still, speaking to no one, listen, and sometimes seemto make a note. You can draw something, if you like.”

“What nonsense! What for?”

“Why, since it makes no difference to you! You keep saying that it’sjust the same to you.”

“No, what for?”

“Why, because that member of the society, the inspector, has stopped atMoscow and I told some of them here that possibly the inspector may turnup to-night; and they’ll think that you are the inspector. And as you’vebeen here three weeks already, they’ll be still more surprised.”

“Stage tricks. You haven’t got an inspector in Moscow.”

“Well, suppose I haven’t—damn him!—what business is that of yoursand what bother will it be to you? You are a member of the societyyourself.”

“Tell them I am the inspector; I’ll sit still and hold my tongue, but Iwon’t have the pencil and paper.”

“But why?”

“I don’t want to.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch was really angry; he turned positively green, butagain he controlled himself. He got up and took his hat.

“Is that fellow with you?” he brought out suddenly, in a low voice.


“That’s good. I’ll soon get him away. Don’t be uneasy.”

“I am not uneasy. He is only here at night. The old woman is in thehospital, her daughter-in-law is dead. I’ve been alone for the last twodays. I’ve shown him the place in the paling where you can take a boardout; he gets through, no one sees.”

“I’ll take him away soon.”

“He says he has got plenty of places to stay the night in.”

“That’s rot; they are looking for him, but here he wouldn’t be noticed.Do you ever get into talk with him?”

“Yes, at night. He abuses you tremendously. I’ve been reading the‘Apocalypse’ to him at night, and we have tea. He listened eagerly, veryeagerly, the whole night.”

“Hang it all, you’ll convert him to Christianity!”

“He is a Christian as it is. Don’t be uneasy, he’ll do the murder. Whomdo you want to murder?”

“No, I don’t want him for that, I want him for something different.…And does Shatov know about Fedka?”

“I don’t talk to Shatov, and I don’t see him.”

“Is he angry?”

“No, we are not angry, only we shun one another. We lay too long side byside in America.”

“I am going to him directly.”

“As you like.”

“Stavrogin and I may come and see you from there, about ten o’clock.”


“I want to talk to him about something important.… I say, make mea present of your ball; what do you want with it now? I want it forgymnastics too. I’ll pay you for it if you like.”

“You can take it without.”

Pyotr Stepanovitch put the ball in the back pocket of his coat.

“But I’ll give you nothing against Stavrogin,” Kirillov muttered afterhis guest, as he saw him out. The latter looked at him in amazement butdid not answer.

Kirillov’s last words perplexed Pyotr Stepanovitch extremely; he had nottime yet to discover their meaning, but even while he was on the stairsof Shatov’s lodging he tried to remove all trace of annoyance and toassume an amiable expression. Shatov was at home and rather unwell. Hewas lying on his bed, though dressed.

“What bad luck!” Pyotr Stepanovitch cried out in the doorway. “Are youreally ill?”

The amiable expression of his face suddenly vanished; there was a gleamof spite in his eyes.

“Not at all.” Shatov jumped up nervously. “I am not ill at all … alittle headache …”

He was disconcerted; the sudden appearance of such a visitor positivelyalarmed him.

“You mustn’t be ill for the job I’ve come about,” Pyotr Stepanovitchbegan quickly and, as it were, peremptorily. “Allow me to sit down.” (Hesat down.) “And you sit down again on your bedstead; that’s right. Therewill be a party of our fellows at Virginsky’s to-night on the pretext ofhis birthday; it will have no political character, however—we’ve seento that. I am coming with Nikolay Stavrogin. I would not, of course,have dragged you there, knowing your way of thinking at present …simply to save your being worried, not because we think you would betrayus. But as things have turned out, you will have to go. You’ll meetthere the very people with whom we shall finally settle how you areto leave the society and to whom you are to hand over what is in yourkeeping. We’ll do it without being noticed; I’ll take you aside into acorner; there’ll be a lot of people and there’s no need for every one toknow. I must confess I’ve had to keep my tongue wagging on your behalf;but now I believe they’ve agreed, on condition you hand over theprinting press and all the papers, of course. Then you can go where youplease.”

Shatov listened, frowning and resentful. The nervous alarm of a momentbefore had entirely left him.

“I don’t acknowledge any sort of obligation to give an account to thedevil knows whom,” he declared definitely. “No one has the authority toset me free.”

“Not quite so. A great deal has been entrusted to you. You hadn’t theright to break off simply. Besides, you made no clear statement aboutit, so that you put them in an ambiguous position.”

“I stated my position clearly by letter as soon as I arrived here.”

“No, it wasn’t clear,” Pyotr Stepanovitch retorted calmly. “I sent you‘A Noble Personality’ to be printed here, and meaning the copies to bekept here till they were wanted; and the two manifestoes as well. Youreturned them with an ambiguous letter which explained nothing.”

“I refused definitely to print them.”

“Well, not definitely. You wrote that you couldn’t, but you didn’texplain for what reason. ‘I can’t’ doesn’t mean ‘I don’t want to.’ Itmight be supposed that you were simply unable through circ*mstances.That was how they took it, and considered that you still meant to keepup your connection with the society, so that they might have entrustedsomething to you again and so have compromised themselves. They say herethat you simply meant to deceive them, so that you might betray themwhen you got hold of something important. I have defended you to thebest of my powers, and have shown your brief note as evidence in yourfavour. But I had to admit on rereading those two lines that they weremisleading and not conclusive.”

“You kept that note so carefully then?”

“My keeping it means nothing; I’ve got it still.”

“Well, I don’t care, damn it!” Shatov cried furiously. “Your fools mayconsider that I’ve betrayed them if they like—what is it to me? Ishould like to see what you can do to me?”

“Your name would be noted, and at the first success of the revolutionyou would be hanged.”

“That’s when you get the upper hand and dominate Russia?”

“You needn’t laugh. I tell you again, I stood up for you. Anyway, Iadvise you to turn up to-day. Why waste words through false pride?Isn’t it better to part friends? In any case you’ll have to give up theprinting press and the old type and papers—that’s what we must talkabout.”

“I’ll come,” Shatov muttered, looking down thoughtfully.

Pyotr Stepanovitch glanced askance at him from his place.

“Will Stavrogin be there?” Shatov asked suddenly, raising his head.

“He is certain to be.”

“Ha ha!”

Again they were silent for a minute. Shatov grinned disdainfully andirritably.

“And that contemptible ‘Noble Personality’ of yours, that I wouldn’tprint here. Has it been printed?” he asked.


“To make the schoolboys believe that Herzen himself had written it inyour album?”

“Yes, Herzen himself.”

Again they were silent for three minutes. At last Shatov got up from thebed.

“Go out of my room; I don’t care to sit with you.”

“I’m going,” Pyotr Stepanovitch brought out with positive alacrity,getting up at once. “Only one word: Kirillov is quite alone in the lodgenow, isn’t he, without a servant?”

“Quite alone. Get along; I can’t stand being in the same room with you.”

“Well, you are a pleasant customer now!” Pyotr Stepanovitch reflectedgaily as he went out into the street, “and you will be pleasant thisevening too, and that just suits me; nothing better could be wished,nothing better could be wished! The Russian God Himself seems helpingme.”


He had probably been very busy that day on all sorts of errands andprobably with success, which was reflected in the self-satisfiedexpression of his face when at six o’clock that evening he turned up atStavrogin’s. But he was not at once admitted: Stavrogin had just lockedhimself in the study with Mavriky Nikolaevitch. This news instantly madePyotr Stepanovitch anxious. He seated himself close to the study doorto wait for the visitor to go away. He could hear conversation but couldnot catch the words. The visit did not last long; soon he heard a noise,the sound of an extremely loud and abrupt voice, then the door openedand Mavriky Nikolaevitch came out with a very pale face. He did notnotice Pyotr Stepanovitch, and quickly passed by. Pyotr Stepanovitchinstantly ran into the study.

I cannot omit a detailed account of the very brief interview that hadtaken place between the two “rivals”—an interview which might wellhave seemed impossible under the circ*mstances, but which had yet takenplace.

This is how it had come about. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had been enjoyingan after-dinner nap on the couch in his study when Alexey Yegorytch hadannounced the unexpected visitor. Hearing the name, he had positivelyleapt up, unwilling to believe it. But soon a smile gleamed on hislips—a smile of haughty triumph and at the same time of a blank,incredulous wonder. The visitor, Mavriky Nikolaevitch, seemed struck bythe expression of that smile as he came in; anyway, he stood still inthe middle of the room as though uncertain whether to come further in orto turn back. Stavrogin succeeded at once in transforming the expressionof his face, and with an air of grave surprise took a step towards him.The visitor did not take his outstretched hand, but awkwardly moved achair and, not uttering a word, sat down without waiting for his host todo so. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sat down on the sofa facing him obliquelyand, looking at Mavriky Nikolaevitch, waited in silence.

“If you can, marry Lizaveta Nikolaevna,” Mavriky Nikolaevitch broughtout suddenly at last, and what was most curious, it was impossibleto tell from his tone whether it was an entreaty, a recommendation, asurrender, or a command.

Stavrogin still remained silent, but the visitor had evidently said allhe had come to say and gazed at him persistently, waiting for an answer.

“If I am not mistaken (but it’s quite certain), Lizaveta Nikolaevna isalready betrothed to you,” Stavrogin said at last.

“Promised and betrothed,” Mavriky Nikolaevitch assented firmly andclearly.

“You have … quarrelled? Excuse me, Mavriky Nikolaevitch.”

“No, she ‘loves and respects me’; those are her words. Her words aremore precious than anything.”

“Of that there can be no doubt.”

“But let me tell you, if she were standing in the church at her weddingand you were to call her, she’d give up me and every one and go to you.”

“From the wedding?”

“Yes, and after the wedding.”

“Aren’t you making a mistake?”

“No. Under her persistent, sincere, and intense hatred for you love isflashing out at every moment … and madness … the sincerest infinitelove and … madness! On the contrary, behind the love she feels for me,which is sincere too, every moment there are flashes of hatred … themost intense hatred! I could never have fancied all these transitions …before.”

“But I wonder, though, how could you come here and dispose of the handof Lizaveta Nikolaevna? Have you the right to do so? Has she authorisedyou?”

Mavriky Nikolaevitch frowned and for a minute he looked down.

“That’s all words on your part,” he brought out suddenly, “words ofrevenge and triumph; I am sure you can read between the lines, and isthis the time for petty vanity? Haven’t you satisfaction enough? Must Ireally dot my i’s and go into it all? Very well, I will dot my i’s, ifyou are so anxious for my humiliation. I have no right, it’s impossiblefor me to be authorised; Lizaveta Nikolaevna knows nothing about itand her betrothed has finally lost his senses and is only fit for amadhouse, and, to crown everything, has come to tell you so himself. Youare the only man in the world who can make her happy, and I am the oneto make her unhappy. You are trying to get her, you are pursuing her,but—I don’t know why—you won’t marry her. If it’s because of a lovers’quarrel abroad and I must be sacrificed to end it, sacrifice me. She istoo unhappy and I can’t endure it. My words are not a sanction, not aprescription, and so it’s no slur on your pride. If you care to takemy place at the altar, you can do it without any sanction from me, andthere is no ground for me to come to you with a mad proposal, especiallyas our marriage is utterly impossible after the step I am taking now. Icannot lead her to the altar feeling myself an abject wretch. What I amdoing here and my handing her over to you, perhaps her bitterest foe, isto my mind something so abject that I shall never get over it.”

“Will you shoot yourself on our wedding day?”

“No, much later. Why stain her bridal dress with my blood? Perhaps Ishall not shoot myself at all, either now or later.”

“I suppose you want to comfort me by saying that?”

“You? What would the blood of one more mean to you?” He turned pale andhis eyes gleamed. A minute of silence followed.

“Excuse me for the questions I’ve asked you,” Stavrogin began again;“some of them I had no business to ask you, but one of them I think Ihave every right to put to you. Tell me, what facts have led you toform a conclusion as to my feelings for Lizaveta Nikolaevna? I mean toa conviction of a degree of feeling on my part as would justify yourcoming here … and risking such a proposal.”

“What?” Mavriky Nikolaevitch positively started. “Haven’t you beentrying to win her? Aren’t you trying to win her, and don’t you want towin her?”

“Generally speaking, I can’t speak of my feeling for this woman or thatto a third person or to anyone except the woman herself. You must excuseit, it’s a constitutional peculiarity. But to make up for it, I’ll tellyou the truth about everything else; I am married, and it’s impossiblefor me either to marry or to try ‘to win’ anyone.”

Mavriky Nikolaevitch was so astounded that he started back in his chairand for some time stared fixedly into Stavrogin’s face.

“Only fancy, I never thought of that,” he muttered. “You said then, thatmorning, that you were not married … and so I believed you were notmarried.”

He turned terribly pale; suddenly he brought his fist down on the tablewith all his might.

“If after that confession you don’t leave Lizaveta Nikolaevna alone,if you make her unhappy, I’ll kill you with my stick like a dog in aditch!”

He jumped up and walked quickly out of the room. Pyotr Stepanovitch,running in, found his host in a most unexpected frame of mind.

“Ah, that’s you!” Stavrogin laughed loudly; his laughter seemed to beprovoked simply by the appearance of Pyotr Stepanovitch as he ran inwith such impulsive curiosity.

“Were you listening at the door? Wait a bit. What have you come about?I promised you something, didn’t I? Ah, bah! I remember, to meet ‘ourfellows.’ Let us go. I am delighted. You couldn’t have thought ofanything more appropriate.” He snatched up his hat and they both went atonce out of the house.

“Are you laughing beforehand at the prospect of seeing ‘our fellows’?”chirped gaily Pyotr Stepanovitch, dodging round him with obsequiousalacrity, at one moment trying to walk beside his companion on thenarrow brick pavement and at the next running right into the mud ofthe road; for Stavrogin walked in the middle of the pavement withoutobserving that he left no room for anyone else.

“I am not laughing at all,” he answered loudly and gaily; “on thecontrary, I am sure that you have the most serious set of people there.”

“‘Surly dullards,’ as you once deigned to express it.”

“Nothing is more amusing sometimes than a surly dullard.”

“Ah, you mean Mavriky Nikolaevitch? I am convinced he came to give uphis betrothed to you, eh? I egged him on to do it, indirectly, would youbelieve it? And if he doesn’t give her up, we’ll take her, anyway, won’twe—eh?”

Pyotr Stepanovitch knew no doubt that he was running some risk inventuring on such sallies, but when he was excited he preferred to riskanything rather than to remain in uncertainty. Stavrogin only laughed.

“You still reckon you’ll help me?” he asked.

“If you call me. But you know there’s one way, and the best one.”

“Do I know your way?”

“Oh no, that’s a secret for the time. Only remember, a secret has itsprice.”

“I know what it costs,” Stavrogin muttered to himself, but he restrainedhimself and was silent.

“What it costs? What did you say?” Pyotr Stepanovitch was startled.

“I said, ‘Damn you and your secret!’ You’d better be telling me who willbe there. I know that we are going to a name-day party, but who will bethere?”

“Oh, all sorts! Even Kirillov.”

“All members of circles?”

“Hang it all, you are in a hurry! There’s not one circle formed yet.”

“How did you manage to distribute so many manifestoes then?”

“Where we are going only four are members of the circle. The others onprobation are spying on one another with jealous eagerness, and bringreports to me. They are a trustworthy set. It’s all material whichwe must organise, and then we must clear out. But you wrote the rulesyourself, there’s no need to explain.”

“Are things going badly then? Is there a hitch?”

“Going? Couldn’t be better. It will amuse you: the first thing which hasa tremendous effect is giving them titles. Nothing has more influencethan a title. I invent ranks and duties on purpose; I have secretaries,secret spies, treasurers, presidents, registrars, their assistants—theylike it awfully, it’s taken capitally. Then, the next force issentimentalism, of course. You know, amongst us socialism spreadsprincipally through sentimentalism. But the trouble is these lieutenantswho bite; sometimes you put your foot in it. Then come the out-and-outrogues; well, they are a good sort, if you like, and sometimes veryuseful; but they waste a lot of one’s time, they want incessant lookingafter. And the most important force of all—the cement that holdseverything together—is their being ashamed of having an opinionof their own. That is a force! And whose work is it, whose preciousachievement is it, that not one idea of their own is left in theirheads! They think originality a disgrace.”

“If so, why do you take so much trouble?”

“Why, if people lie simply gaping at every one, how can you resistannexing them? Can you seriously refuse to believe in the possibilityof success? Yes, you have the faith, but one wants will. It’s just withpeople like this that success is possible. I tell you I could make themgo through fire; one has only to din it into them that they are notadvanced enough. The fools reproach me that I have taken in every onehere over the central committee and ‘the innumerable branches.’ You onceblamed me for it yourself, but where’s the deception? You and I are thecentral committee and there will be as many branches as we like.”

“And always the same sort of rabble!”

“Raw material. Even they will be of use.”

“And you are still reckoning on me?”

“You are the chief, you are the head; I shall only be a subordinate,your secretary. We shall take to our barque, you know; the oars are ofmaple, the sails are of silk, at the helm sits a fair maiden, LizavetaNikolaevna … hang it, how does it go in the ballad?”

“He is stuck,” laughed Stavrogin. “No, I’d better give you my version.There you reckon on your fingers the forces that make up the circles.All that business of titles and sentimentalism is a very good cement,but there is something better; persuade four members of the circle todo for a fifth on the pretence that he is a traitor, and you’ll tiethem all together with the blood they’ve shed as though it were a knot.They’ll be your slaves, they won’t dare to rebel or call you to account.Ha ha ha!”

“But you … you shall pay for those words,” Pyotr Stepanovitch thoughtto himself, “and this very evening, in fact. You go too far.”

This or something like this must have been Pyotr Stepanovitch’sreflection. They were approaching Virginsky’s house.

“You’ve represented me, no doubt, as a member from abroad, an inspectorin connection with the Internationale?” Stavrogin asked suddenly.

“No, not an inspector; you won’t be an inspector; but you are one ofthe original members from abroad, who knows the most importantsecrets—that’s your rôle. You are going to speak, of course?”

“What’s put that idea into your head?”

“Now you are bound to speak.”

Stavrogin positively stood still in the middle of the street insurprise, not far from a street lamp. Pyotr Stepanovitch faced hisscrutiny calmly and defiantly. Stavrogin cursed and went on.

“And are you going to speak?” he suddenly asked Pyotr Stepanovitch.

“No, I am going to listen to you.”

“Damn you, you really are giving me an idea!”

“What idea?” Pyotr Stepanovitch asked quickly.

“Perhaps I will speak there, but afterwards I will give you ahiding—and a sound one too, you know.”

“By the way, I told Karmazinov this morning that you said he ought to bethrashed, and not simply as a form but to hurt, as they flog peasants.”

“But I never said such a thing; ha ha!”

“No matter. Se non è vero …”

“Well, thanks. I am truly obliged.”

“And another thing. Do you know, Karmazinov says that the essence ofour creed is the negation of honour, and that by the open advocacy of aright to be dishonourable a Russian can be won over more easily than byanything.”

“An excellent saying! Golden words!” cried Stavrogin. “He’s hit the markthere! The right to dishonour—why, they’d all flock to us for that, notone would stay behind! And listen, Verhovensky, you are not one of thehigher police, are you?”

“Anyone who has a question like that in his mind doesn’t utter it.”

“I understand, but we are by ourselves.”

“No, so far I am not one of the higher police. Enough, here we are.Compose your features, Stavrogin; I always do mine when I go in. Agloomy expression, that’s all, nothing more is wanted; it’s a verysimple business.”



VIRGINSKY LIVED IN HIS OWN house, or rather his wife’s, in MuravyinStreet. It was a wooden house of one story, and there were no lodgers init. On the pretext of Virginsky’s-name-day party, about fifteen guestswere assembled; but the entertainment was not in the least like anordinary provincial name-day party. From the very beginning of theirmarried life the husband and wife had agreed once for all that it wasutterly stupid to invite friends to celebrate name-days, and that “thereis nothing to rejoice about in fact.” In a few years they had succeededin completely cutting themselves off from all society. Though he wasa man of some ability, and by no means very poor, he somehow seemedto every one an eccentric fellow who was fond of solitude, and, what’smore, “stuck up in conversation.” Madame Virginsky was a midwife byprofession—and by that very fact was on the lowest rung of the socialladder, lower even than the priest’s wife in spite of her husband’srank as an officer. But she was conspicuously lacking in the humilitybefitting her position. And after her very stupid and unpardonably openliaison on principle with Captain Lebyadkin, a notorious rogue, even themost indulgent of our ladies turned away from her with marked contempt.But Madame Virginsky accepted all this as though it were what shewanted. It is remarkable that those very ladies applied to ArinaProhorovna (that is, Madame Virginsky) when they were in an interestingcondition, rather than to any one of the other three accoucheuses ofthe town. She was sent for even by country families living in theneighbourhood, so great was the belief in her knowledge, luck, and skillin critical cases. It ended in her practising only among the wealthiestladies; she was greedy of money. Feeling her power to the full, sheended by not putting herself out for anyone. Possibly on purpose,indeed, in her practice in the best houses she used to scare nervouspatients by the most incredible and nihilistic disregard of goodmanners, or by jeering at “everything holy,” at the very time when“everything holy” might have come in most useful. Our town doctor,Rozanov—he too was an accoucheur—asserted most positively that on oneoccasion when a patient in labour was crying out and calling on the nameof the Almighty, a free-thinking sally from Arina Prohorovna, fired offlike a pistol-shot, had so terrifying an effect on the patient that itgreatly accelerated her delivery.

But though she was a nihilist, Madame Virginsky did not, when occasionarose, disdain social or even old-fashioned superstitions and customsif they could be of any advantage to herself. She would never, forinstance, have stayed away from a baby’s christening, and always put ona green silk dress with a train and adorned her chignon with curls andringlets for such events, though at other times she positively revelledin slovenliness. And though during the ceremony she always maintained“the most insolent air,” so that she put the clergy to confusion, yetwhen it was over she invariably handed champagne to the guests (it wasfor that that she came and dressed up), and it was no use trying to takethe glass without a contribution to her “porridge bowl.”

The guests who assembled that evening at Virginsky’s (mostly men) had acasual and exceptional air. There was no supper nor cards. In the middleof the large drawing-room, which was papered with extremely old bluepaper, two tables had been put together and covered with a large thoughnot quite clean table-cloth, and on them two samovars were boiling. Theend of the table was taken up by a huge tray with twenty-five glasses onit and a basket with ordinary French bread cut into a number of slices,as one sees it in genteel boarding-schools for boys or girls. The teawas poured out by a maiden lady of thirty, Arina Prohorovna’s sister,a silent and malevolent creature, with flaxen hair and no eyebrows, whoshared her sister’s progressive ideas and was an object of terror toVirginsky himself in domestic life. There were only three ladies in theroom: the lady of the house, her eyebrowless sister, and Virginsky’ssister, a girl who had just arrived from Petersburg. Arina Prohorovna, agood-looking and buxom woman of seven-and-twenty, rather dishevelled, inan everyday greenish woollen dress, was sitting scanning the guests withher bold eyes, and her look seemed in haste to say, “You see I am notin the least afraid of anything.” Miss Virginsky, a rosy-cheeked studentand a nihilist, who was also good-looking, short, plump and round as alittle ball, had settled herself beside Arina Prohorovna, almost inher travelling clothes. She held a roll of paper in her hand, andscrutinised the guests with impatient and roving eyes. Virginsky himselfwas rather unwell that evening, but he came in and sat in an easy chairby the tea-table. All the guests were sitting down too, and the orderlyway in which they were ranged on chairs suggested a meeting. Evidentlyall were expecting something and were filling up the interval with loudbut irrelevant conversation. When Stavrogin and Verhovensky appearedthere was a sudden hush.

But I must be allowed to give a few explanations to make things clear.

I believe that all these people had come together in the agreeableexpectation of hearing something particularly interesting, and hadnotice of it beforehand. They were the flower of the reddest Radicalismof our ancient town, and had been carefully picked out by Virginsky forthis “meeting.” I may remark, too, that some of them (though not verymany) had never visited him before. Of course most of the guests had noclear idea why they had been summoned. It was true that at that timeall took Pyotr Stepanovitch for a fully authorised emissary from abroad;this idea had somehow taken root among them at once and naturallyflattered them. And yet among the citizens assembled ostensibly tokeep a name-day, there were some who had been approached with definiteproposals. Pyotr Verhovensky had succeeded in getting together a“quintet” amongst us like the one he had already formed in Moscow and,as appeared later, in our province among the officers. It was said thathe had another in X province. This quintet of the elect were sitting nowat the general table, and very skilfully succeeded in giving themselvesthe air of being quite ordinary people, so that no one could have knownthem. They were—since it is no longer a secret—first Liputin, thenVirginsky himself, then Shigalov (a gentleman with long ears, thebrother of Madame Virginsky), Lyamshin, and lastly a strange personcalled Tolkatchenko, a man of forty, who was famed for his vastknowledge of the people, especially of thieves and robbers. He usedto frequent the taverns on purpose (though not only with the object ofstudying the people), and plumed himself on his shabby clothes, tarredboots, and crafty wink and a flourish of peasant phrases. Lyamshin hadonce or twice brought him to Stepan Trofimovitch’s gatherings, where,however, he did not make a great sensation. He used to make hisappearance in the town from time to time, chiefly when he was out of ajob; he was employed on the railway.

Every one of these fine champions had formed this first group in thefervent conviction that their quintet was only one of hundreds andthousands of similar groups scattered all over Russia, and that they alldepended on some immense central but secret power, which in its turn wasintimately connected with the revolutionary movement all over Europe.But I regret to say that even at that time there was beginning tobe dissension among them. Though they had ever since the spring beenexpecting Pyotr Verhovensky, whose coming had been heralded firstby Tolkatchenko and then by the arrival of Shigalov, though they hadexpected extraordinary miracles from him, and though they had respondedto his first summons without the slightest criticism, yet they had nosooner formed the quintet than they all somehow seemed to feel insulted;and I really believe it was owing to the promptitude with which theyconsented to join. They had joined, of course, from a not ignoblefeeling of shame, for fear people might say afterwards that they hadnot dared to join; still they felt Pyotr Verhovensky ought to haveappreciated their heroism and have rewarded it by telling them somereally important bits of news at least. But Verhovensky was not at allinclined to satisfy their legitimate curiosity, and told them nothingbut what was necessary; he treated them in general with great sternnessand even rather casually. This was positively irritating, and ComradeShigalov was already egging the others on to insist on his “explaininghimself,” though, of course, not at Virginsky’s, where so many outsiderswere present.

I have an idea that the above-mentioned members of the first quintetwere disposed to suspect that among the guests of Virginsky’s thatevening some were members of other groups, unknown to them, belongingto the same secret organisation and founded in the town by the sameVerhovensky; so that in fact all present were suspecting one another,and posed in various ways to one another, which gave the whole party avery perplexing and even romantic air. Yet there were persons presentwho were beyond all suspicion. For instance, a major in the service, anear relation of Virginsky, a perfectly innocent person who had not beeninvited but had come of himself for the name-day celebration, so that itwas impossible not to receive him. But Virginsky was quite unperturbed,as the major was “incapable of betraying them”; for in spite of hisstupidity he had all his life been fond of dropping in wherever extremeRadicals met; he did not sympathise with their ideas himself, butwas very fond of listening to them. What’s more, he had even beencompromised indeed. It had happened in his youth that whole bundles ofmanifestoes and of numbers of The Bell had passed through his hands,and although he had been afraid even to open them, yet he would haveconsidered it absolutely contemptible to refuse to distribute them—andthere are such people in Russia even to this day.

The rest of the guests were either types of honourable amour-proprecrushed and embittered, or types of the generous impulsiveness of ardentyouth. There were two or three teachers, of whom one, a lame man offorty-five, a master in the high school, was a very malicious andstrikingly vain person; and two or three officers. Of the latter, onevery young artillery officer who had only just come from a militarytraining school, a silent lad who had not yet made friends with anyone,turned up now at Virginsky’s with a pencil in his hand, and, scarcelytaking any part in the conversation, continually made notes in hisnotebook. Everybody saw this, but every one pretended not to. There was,too, an idle divinity student who had helped Lyamshin to put indecentphotographs into the gospel-woman’s pack. He was a solid youth with afree-and-easy though mistrustful manner, with an unchangeably satiricalsmile, together with a calm air of triumphant faith in his ownperfection. There was also present, I don’t know why, the mayor’s son,that unpleasant and prematurely exhausted youth to whom I have referredalready in telling the story of the lieutenant’s little wife. He wassilent the whole evening. Finally there was a very enthusiastic andtousle-headed schoolboy of eighteen, who sat with the gloomy air of ayoung man whose dignity has been wounded, evidently distressed by hiseighteen years. This infant was already the head of an independentgroup of conspirators which had been formed in the highest class of thegymnasium, as it came out afterwards to the surprise of every one.

I haven’t mentioned Shatov. He was there at the farthest corner of thetable, his chair pushed back a little out of the row. He gazed at theground, was gloomily silent, refused tea and bread, and did not for oneinstant let his cap go out of his hand, as though to show that he wasnot a visitor, but had come on business, and when he liked would get upand go away. Kirillov was not far from him. He, too, was very silent,but he did not look at the ground; on the contrary, he scrutinisedintently every speaker with his fixed, lustreless eyes, and listenedto everything without the slightest emotion or surprise. Some of thevisitors who had never seen him before stole thoughtful glances at him.I can’t say whether Madame Virginsky knew anything about the existenceof the quintet. I imagine she knew everything and from her husband.The girl-student, of course, took no part in anything; but she had ananxiety of her own: she intended to stay only a day or two and then togo on farther and farther from one university town to another “to showactive sympathy with the sufferings of poor students and to rousethem to protest.” She was taking with her some hundreds of copies of alithographed appeal, I believe of her own composition. It is remarkablethat the schoolboy conceived an almost murderous hatred for her from thefirst moment, though he saw her for the first time in his life; and shefelt the same for him. The major was her uncle, and met her to-day forthe first time after ten years. When Stavrogin and Verhovensky came in,her cheeks were as red as cranberries: she had just quarrelled with heruncle over his views on the woman question.


With conspicuous nonchalance Verhovensky lounged in the chair at theupper end of the table, almost without greeting anyone. His expressionwas disdainful and even haughty. Stavrogin bowed politely, but in spiteof the fact that they were all only waiting for them, everybody, asthough acting on instruction, appeared scarcely to notice them. The ladyof the house turned severely to Stavrogin as soon as he was seated.

“Stavrogin, will you have tea?”

“Please,” he answered.

“Tea for Stavrogin,” she commanded her sister at the samovar. “And you,will you?” (This was to Verhovensky.)

“Of course. What a question to ask a visitor! And give me cream too;you always give one such filthy stuff by way of tea, and with a name-dayparty in the house!”

“What, you believe in keeping name-days too!” the girl-student laughedsuddenly. “We were just talking of that.”

“That’s stale,” muttered the schoolboy at the other end of the table.

“What’s stale? To disregard conventions, even the most innocent is notstale; on the contrary, to the disgrace of every one, so far it’s anovelty,” the girl-student answered instantly, darting forward on herchair. “Besides, there are no innocent conventions,” she added withintensity.

“I only meant,” cried the schoolboy with tremendous excitement, “to saythat though conventions of course are stale and must be eradicated, yetabout name-days everybody knows that they are stupid and very stale towaste precious time upon, which has been wasted already all over theworld, so that it would be as well to sharpen one’s wits on somethingmore useful.…”

“You drag it out so, one can’t understand what you mean,” shouted thegirl.

“I think that every one has a right to express an opinion as well asevery one else, and if I want to express my opinion like anybodyelse …”

“No one is attacking your right to give an opinion,” the lady of thehouse herself cut in sharply. “You were only asked not to ramble becauseno one can make out what you mean.”

“But allow me to remark that you are not treating me with respect. IfI couldn’t fully express my thought, it’s not from want of thoughtbut from too much thought,” the schoolboy muttered, almost in despair,losing his thread completely.

“If you don’t know how to talk, you’d better keep quiet,” blurted outthe girl.

The schoolboy positively jumped from his chair.

“I only wanted to state,” he shouted, crimson with shame and afraidto look about him, “that you only wanted to show off your clevernessbecause Mr. Stavrogin came in—so there!”

“That’s a nasty and immoral idea and shows the worthlessness of yourdevelopment. I beg you not to address me again,” the girl rattled off.

“Stavrogin,” began the lady of the house, “they’ve been discussing therights of the family before you came—this officer here”—she noddedtowards her relation, the major—“and, of course, I am not going toworry you with such stale nonsense, which has been dealt with longago. But how have the rights and duties of the family come about in thesuperstitious form in which they exist at present? That’s the question.What’s your opinion?”

“What do you mean by ‘come about’?” Stavrogin asked in his turn.

“We know, for instance, that the superstition about God came fromthunder and lightning.” The girl-student rushed into the fray again,staring at Stavrogin with her eyes almost jumping out of her head. “It’swell known that primitive man, scared by thunder and lightning, made agod of the unseen enemy, feeling their weakness before it. But how didthe superstition of the family arise? How did the family itself arise?”

“That’s not quite the same thing.…” Madame Virginsky tried to checkher.

“I think the answer to this question wouldn’t be quite discreet,”answered Stavrogin.

“How so?” said the girl-student, craning forward suddenly. But there wasan audible titter in the group of teachers, which was at once caught upat the other end by Lyamshin and the schoolboy and followed by a hoarsechuckle from the major.

“You ought to write vaudevilles,” Madame Virginsky observed toStavrogin.

“It does you no credit, I don’t know what your name is,” the girl rappedout with positive indignation.

“And don’t you be too forward,” boomed the major. “You are a young ladyand you ought to behave modestly, and you keep jumping about as thoughyou were sitting on a needle.”

“Kindly hold your tongue and don’t address me familiarly with yournasty comparisons. I’ve never seen you before and I don’t recognise therelationship.”

“But I am your uncle; I used to carry you about when you were a baby!”

“I don’t care what babies you used to carry about. I didn’t ask youto carry me. It must have been a pleasure to you to do so, yourude officer. And allow me to observe, don’t dare to address me sofamiliarly, unless it’s as a fellow-citizen. I forbid you to do it, oncefor all.”

“There, they are all like that!” cried the major, banging the table withhis fist and addressing Stavrogin, who was sitting opposite. “But, allowme, I am fond of Liberalism and modern ideas, and I am fond of listeningto clever conversation; masculine conversation, though, I warn you. Butto listen to these women, these nightly windmills—no, that makes meache all over! Don’t wriggle about!” he shouted to the girl, whowas leaping up from her chair. “No, it’s my turn to speak, I’ve beeninsulted.”

“You can’t say anything yourself, and only hinder other people talking,”the lady of the house grumbled indignantly.

“No, I will have my say,” said the major hotly, addressing Stavrogin. “Ireckon on you, Mr. Stavrogin, as a fresh person who has only just comeon the scene, though I haven’t the honour of knowing you. Without menthey’ll perish like flies—that’s what I think. All their woman questionis only lack of originality. I assure you that all this woman questionhas been invented for them by men in foolishness and to their own hurt.I only thank God I am not married. There’s not the slightest variety inthem, they can’t even invent a simple pattern; they have to get men toinvent them for them! Here I used to carry her in my arms, used to dancethe mazurka with her when she was ten years old; to-day she’s come,naturally I fly to embrace her, and at the second word she tells methere’s no God. She might have waited a little, she was in too great ahurry! Clever people don’t believe, I dare say; but that’s from theircleverness. But you, chicken, what do you know about God, I said toher. ‘Some student taught you, and if he’d taught you to light the lampbefore the ikons you would have lighted it.’”

“You keep telling lies, you are a very spiteful person. I proved toyou just now the untenability of your position,” the girl answeredcontemptuously, as though disdaining further explanations with such aman. “I told you just now that we’ve all been taught in the Catechismif you honour your father and your parents you will live long and havewealth. That’s in the Ten Commandments. If God thought it necessary tooffer rewards for love, your God must be immoral. That’s how I proved itto you. It wasn’t the second word, and it was because you asserted yourrights. It’s not my fault if you are stupid and don’t understand evennow. You are offended and you are spiteful—and that’s what explains allyour generation.”

“You’re a goose!” said the major.

“And you are a fool!”

“You can call me names!”

“Excuse me, Kapiton Maximitch, you told me yourself you don’t believe inGod,” Liputin piped from the other end of the table.

“What if I did say so—that’s a different matter. I believe, perhaps,only not altogether. Even if I don’t believe altogether, still I don’tsay God ought to be shot. I used to think about God before I left thehussars. From all the poems you would think that hussars do nothing butcarouse and drink. Yes, I did drink, maybe, but would you believe it,I used to jump out of bed at night and stood crossing myself before theimages with nothing but my socks on, praying to God to give me faith;for even then I couldn’t be at peace as to whether there was a God ornot. It used to fret me so! In the morning, of course, one would amuseoneself and one’s faith would seem to be lost again; and in fact I’venoticed that faith always seems to be less in the daytime.”

“Haven’t you any cards?” asked Verhovensky, with a mighty yawn,addressing Madame Virginsky.

“I sympathise with your question, I sympathise entirely,” thegirl-student broke in hotly, flushed with indignation at the major’swords.

“We are wasting precious time listening to silly talk,” snapped out thelady of the house, and she looked reprovingly at her husband.

The girl pulled herself together.

“I wanted to make a statement to the meeting concerning the sufferingsof the students and their protest, but as time is being wasted inimmoral conversation …”

“There’s no such thing as moral or immoral,” the schoolboy brought out,unable to restrain himself as soon as the girl began.

“I knew that, Mr. Schoolboy, long before you were taught it.”

“And I maintain,” he answered savagely, “that you are a child comefrom Petersburg to enlighten us all, though we know for ourselves thecommandment ‘honour thy father and thy mother,’ which you could notrepeat correctly; and the fact that it’s immoral every one in Russiaknows from Byelinsky.”

“Are we ever to have an end of this?” Madame Virginsky said resolutelyto her husband. As the hostess, she blushed for the ineptitude of theconversation, especially as she noticed smiles and even astonishmentamong the guests who had been invited for the first time.

“Gentlemen,” said Virginsky, suddenly lifting up his voice, “if anyonewishes to say anything more nearly connected with our business, or hasany statement to make, I call upon him to do so without wasting time.”

“I’ll venture to ask one question,” said the lame teacher suavely. Hehad been sitting particularly decorously and had not spoken till then.“I should like to know, are we some sort of meeting, or are we simply agathering of ordinary mortals paying a visit? I ask simply for the sakeof order and so as not to remain in ignorance.”

This “sly” question made an impression. People looked at each other,every one expecting someone else to answer, and suddenly all, as thoughat a word of command, turned their eyes to Verhovensky and Stavrogin.

“I suggest our voting on the answer to the question whether we are ameeting or not,” said Madame Virginsky.

“I entirely agree with the suggestion,” Liputin chimed in, “though thequestion is rather vague.”

“I agree too.”

“And so do I,” cried voices. “I too think it would make our proceedingsmore in order,” confirmed Virginsky.

“To the vote then,” said his wife. “Lyamshin, please sit down to thepiano; you can give your vote from there when the voting begins.”

“Again!” cried Lyamshin. “I’ve strummed enough for you.”

“I beg you most particularly, sit down and play. Don’t you care to doanything for the cause?”

“But I assure you, Arina Prohorovna, nobody is eavesdropping. It’sonly your fancy. Besides, the windows are high, and people would notunderstand if they did hear.”

“We don’t understand ourselves,” someone muttered. “But I tell you onemust always be on one’s guard. I mean in case there should be spies,”she explained to Verhovensky. “Let them hear from the street that wehave music and a name-day party.”

“Hang it all!” Lyamshin swore, and sitting down to the piano, beganstrumming a valse, banging on the keys almost with his fists, at random.

“I propose that those who want it to be a meeting should put up theirright hands,” Madame Virginsky proposed.

Some put them up, others did not. Some held them up and then put themdown again and then held them up again. “Foo! I don’t understand it atall,” one officer shouted. “I don’t either,” cried the other.

“Oh, I understand,” cried a third. “If it’s yes, you hold your hand up.”

“But what does ‘yes’ mean?”

“Means a meeting.”

“No, it means not a meeting.”

“I voted for a meeting,” cried the schoolboy to Madame Virginsky.

“Then why didn’t you hold up your hand?”

“I was looking at you. You didn’t hold up yours, so I didn’t hold upmine.”

“How stupid! I didn’t hold up my hand because I proposed it. Gentlemen,now I propose the contrary. Those who want a meeting, sit still and donothing; those who don’t, hold up their right hands.”

“Those who don’t want it?” inquired the schoolboy. “Are you doing it onpurpose?” cried Madame Virginsky wrathfully.

“No. Excuse me, those who want it, or those who don’t want it? For onemust know that definitely,” cried two or three voices.

“Those who don’t want it—those who don’t want it.”

“Yes, but what is one to do, hold up one’s hand or not hold it up if onedoesn’t want it?” cried an officer.

“Ech, we are not accustomed to constitutional methods yet!” remarked themajor.

“Mr. Lyamshin, excuse me, but you are thumping so that no one can hearanything,” observed the lame teacher.

“But, upon my word, Arina Prohorovna, nobody is listening, really!”cried Lyamshin, jumping up. “I won’t play! I’ve come to you as avisitor, not as a drummer!”

“Gentlemen,” Virginsky went on, “answer verbally, are we a meeting ornot?”

“We are! We are!” was heard on all sides. “If so, there’s no need tovote, that’s enough. Are you satisfied, gentlemen? Is there any need toput it to the vote?”

“No need—no need, we understand.”

“Perhaps someone doesn’t want it to be a meeting?”

“No, no; we all want it.”

“But what does ‘meeting’ mean?” cried a voice. No one answered.

“We must choose a chairman,” people cried from different parts of theroom.

“Our host, of course, our host!”

“Gentlemen, if so,” Virginsky, the chosen chairman, began, “I proposemy original motion. If anyone wants to say anything more relevant to thesubject, or has some statement to make, let him bring it forward withoutloss of time.”

There was a general silence. The eyes of all were turned again onVerhovensky and Stavrogin.

“Verhovensky, have you no statement to make?” Madame Virginsky asked himdirectly.

“Nothing whatever,” he answered, yawning and stretching on his chair.“But I should like a glass of brandy.”

“Stavrogin, don’t you want to?”

“Thank you, I don’t drink.”

“I mean don’t you want to speak, not don’t you want brandy.”

“To speak, what about? No, I don’t want to.”

“They’ll bring you some brandy,” she answered Verhovensky.

The girl-student got up. She had darted up several times already.

“I have come to make a statement about the sufferings of poor studentsand the means of rousing them to protest.”

But she broke off. At the other end of the table a rival had risen, andall eyes turned to him. Shigalov, the man with the long ears, slowlyrose from his seat with a gloomy and sullen air and mournfully laid onthe table a thick notebook filled with extremely small handwriting.He remained standing in silence. Many people looked at the notebookin consternation, but Liputin, Virginsky, and the lame teacher seemedpleased.

“I ask leave to address the meeting,” Shigalov pronounced sullenly butresolutely.

“You have leave.” Virginsky gave his sanction.

The orator sat down, was silent for half a minute, and pronounced in asolemn voice,


“Here’s the brandy,” the sister who had been pouring out tea and hadgone to fetch brandy rapped out, contemptuously and disdainfully puttingthe bottle before Verhovensky, together with the wineglass which shebrought in her fingers without a tray or a plate.

The interrupted orator made a dignified pause.

“Never mind, go on, I am not listening,” cried Verhovensky, pouringhimself out a glass.

“Gentlemen, asking your attention and, as you will see later, solicitingyour aid in a matter of the first importance,” Shigalov began again, “Imust make some prefatory remarks.”

“Arina Prohorovna, haven’t you some scissors?” Pyotr Stepanovitch askedsuddenly.

“What do you want scissors for?” she asked, with wide-open eyes.

“I’ve forgotten to cut my nails; I’ve been meaning to for the last threedays,” he observed, scrutinising his long and dirty nails with unruffledcomposure.

Arina Prohorovna crimsoned, but Miss Virginsky seemed pleased.

“I believe I saw them just now on the window.” She got up from thetable, went and found the scissors, and at once brought them. PyotrStepanovitch did not even look at her, took the scissors, and set towork with them. Arina Prohorovna grasped that these were realisticmanners, and was ashamed of her sensitiveness. People looked at oneanother in silence. The lame teacher looked vindictively and enviouslyat Verhovensky. Shigalov went on.

“Dedicating my energies to the study of the social organisation which isin the future to replace the present condition of things, I’ve come tothe conviction that all makers of social systems from ancient times upto the present year, 187-, have been dreamers, tellers of fairy-tales,fools who contradicted themselves, who understood nothing of naturalscience and the strange animal called man. Plato, Rousseau, Fourier,columns of aluminium, are only fit for sparrows and not for humansociety. But, now that we are all at last preparing to act, a newform of social organisation is essential. In order to avoid furtheruncertainty, I propose my own system of world-organisation. Here it is.”He tapped the notebook. “I wanted to expound my views to the meeting inthe most concise form possible, but I see that I should need to add agreat many verbal explanations, and so the whole exposition would occupyat least ten evenings, one for each of my chapters.” (There was thesound of laughter.) “I must add, besides, that my system is not yetcomplete.” (Laughter again.) “I am perplexed by my own data and myconclusion is a direct contradiction of the original idea with which Istart. Starting from unlimited freedom, I arrive at unlimited despotism.I will add, however, that there can be no solution of the social problembut mine.”

The laughter grew louder and louder, but it came chiefly from theyounger and less initiated visitors. There was an expression of someannoyance on the faces of Madame Virginsky, Liputin, and the lameteacher.

“If you’ve been unsuccessful in making your system consistent, and havebeen reduced to despair yourself, what could we do with it?” one officerobserved warily.

“You are right, Mr. Officer”—Shigalov turned sharply tohim—“especially in using the word despair. Yes, I am reduced to despair.Nevertheless, nothing can take the place of the system set forth in mybook, and there is no other way out of it; no one can invent anythingelse. And so I hasten without loss of time to invite the whole societyto listen for ten evenings to my book and then give their opinions ofit. If the members are unwilling to listen to me, let us break up fromthe start—the men to take up service under government, the women totheir cooking; for if you reject my solution you’ll find no other, nonewhatever! If they let the opportunity slip, it will simply be theirloss, for they will be bound to come back to it again.”

There was a stir in the company. “Is he mad, or what?” voices asked.

“So the whole point lies in Shigalov’s despair,” Lyamshin commented,“and the essential question is whether he must despair or not?”

“Shigalov’s being on the brink of despair is a personal question,”declared the schoolboy.

“I propose we put it to the vote how far Shigalov’s despair affects thecommon cause, and at the same time whether it’s worth while listening tohim or not,” an officer suggested gaily.

“That’s not right.” The lame teacher put in his spoke at last. As a rulehe spoke with a rather mocking smile, so that it was difficult to makeout whether he was in earnest or joking. “That’s not right, gentlemen.Mr. Shigalov is too much devoted to his task and is also too modest.I know his book. He suggests as a final solution of the question thedivision of mankind into two unequal parts. One-tenth enjoys absoluteliberty and unbounded power over the other nine-tenths. The othershave to give up all individuality and become, so to speak, a herd, and,through boundless submission, will by a series of regenerations attainprimæval innocence, something like the Garden of Eden. They’ll haveto work, however. The measures proposed by the author for deprivingnine-tenths of mankind of their freedom and transforming them into aherd through the education of whole generations are very remarkable,founded on the facts of nature and highly logical. One may not agreewith some of the deductions, but it would be difficult to doubt theintelligence and knowledge of the author. It’s a pity that the timerequired—ten evenings—is impossible to arrange for, or we might hear agreat deal that’s interesting.”

“Can you be in earnest?” Madame Virginsky addressed the lame gentlemanwith a shade of positive uneasiness in her voice, “when that man doesn’tknow what to do with people and so turns nine-tenths of them intoslaves? I’ve suspected him for a long time.”

“You say that of your own brother?” asked the lame man.

“Relationship? Are you laughing at me?”

“And besides, to work for aristocrats and to obey them as though theywere gods is contemptible!” observed the girl-student fiercely.

“What I propose is not contemptible; it’s paradise, an earthlyparadise, and there can be no other on earth,” Shigalov pronouncedauthoritatively.

“For my part,” said Lyamshin, “if I didn’t know what to do withnine-tenths of mankind, I’d take them and blow them up into the airinstead of putting them in paradise. I’d only leave a handful ofeducated people, who would live happily ever afterwards on scientificprinciples.”

“No one but a buffoon can talk like that!” cried the girl, flaring up.

“He is a buffoon, but he is of use,” Madame Virginsky whispered to her.

“And possibly that would be the best solution of the problem,” saidShigalov, turning hotly to Lyamshin. “You certainly don’t know what aprofound thing you’ve succeeded in saying, my merry friend. But as it’shardly possible to carry out your idea, we must confine ourselves to anearthly paradise, since that’s what they call it.”

“This is pretty thorough rot,” broke, as though involuntarily, fromVerhovensky. Without even raising his eyes, however, he went on cuttinghis nails with perfect nonchalance.

“Why is it rot?” The lame man took it up instantly, as though he hadbeen lying in wait for his first words to catch at them. “Why is itrot? Mr. Shigalov is somewhat fanatical in his love for humanity, butremember that Fourier, still more Cabet and even Proudhon himself,advocated a number of the most despotic and even fantastic measures. Mr.Shigalov is perhaps far more sober in his suggestions than they are. Iassure you that when one reads his book it’s almost impossible not toagree with some things. He is perhaps less far from realism than anyoneand his earthly paradise is almost the real one—if it ever existed—forthe loss of which man is always sighing.”

“I knew I was in for something,” Verhovensky muttered again.

“Allow me,” said the lame man, getting more and more excited.“Conversations and arguments about the future organisation of societyare almost an actual necessity for all thinking people nowadays. Herzenwas occupied with nothing else all his life. Byelinsky, as I know onvery good authority, used to spend whole evenings with his friendsdebating and settling beforehand even the minutest, so to speak,domestic, details of the social organisation of the future.”

“Some people go crazy over it,” the major observed suddenly.

“We are more likely to arrive at something by talking, anyway, than bysitting silent and posing as dictators,” Liputin hissed, as though atlast venturing to begin the attack.

“I didn’t mean Shigalov when I said it was rot,” Verhovensky mumbled.“You see, gentlemen,”—he raised his eyes a trifle—“to my mind allthese books, Fourier, Cabet, all this talk about the right to work,and Shigalov’s theories—are all like novels of which one can write ahundred thousand—an æsthetic entertainment. I can understand that inthis little town you are bored, so you rush to ink and paper.”

“Excuse me,” said the lame man, wriggling on his chair, “though we areprovincials and of course objects of commiseration on that ground, yetwe know that so far nothing has happened in the world new enough to beworth our weeping at having missed it. It is suggested to us in variouspamphlets made abroad and secretly distributed that we should uniteand form groups with the sole object of bringing about universaldestruction. It’s urged that, however much you tinker with the world,you can’t make a good job of it, but that by cutting off a hundredmillion heads and so lightening one’s burden, one can jump over theditch more safely. A fine idea, no doubt, but quite as impracticable asShigalov’s theories, which you referred to just now so contemptuously.”

“Well, but I haven’t come here for discussion.” Verhovensky let dropthis significant phrase, and, as though quite unaware of his blunder,drew the candle nearer to him that he might see better.

“It’s a pity, a great pity, that you haven’t come for discussion, andit’s a great pity that you are so taken up just now with your toilet.”

“What’s my toilet to you?”

“To remove a hundred million heads is as difficult as to transform theworld by propaganda. Possibly more difficult, especially in Russia,”Liputin ventured again.

“It’s Russia they rest their hopes on now,” said an officer.

“We’ve heard they are resting their hopes on it,” interposed the lameman. “We know that a mysterious finger is pointing to our delightfulcountry as the land most fitted to accomplish the great task. Butthere’s this: by the gradual solution of the problem by propaganda Ishall gain something, anyway—I shall have some pleasant talk, at least,and shall even get some recognition from government for my servicesto the cause of society. But in the second way, by the rapid methodof cutting off a hundred million heads, what benefit shall I getpersonally? If you began advocating that, your tongue might be cut out.”

“Yours certainly would be,” observed Verhovensky.

“You see. And as under the most favourable circ*mstances you would notget through such a massacre in less than fifty or at the best thirtyyears—for they are not sheep, you know, and perhaps they would not letthemselves be slaughtered—wouldn’t it be better to pack one’s bundleand migrate to some quiet island beyond calm seas and there close one’seyes tranquilly? Believe me”—he tapped the table significantly with hisfinger—“you will only promote emigration by such propaganda and nothingelse!”

He finished evidently triumphant. He was one of the intellects of theprovince. Liputin smiled slyly, Virginsky listened rather dejectedly,the others followed the discussion with great attention, especially theladies and officers. They all realised that the advocate of the hundredmillion heads theory had been driven into a corner, and waited to seewhat would come of it.

“That was a good saying of yours, though,” Verhovensky mumbledmore carelessly than ever, in fact with an air of positive boredom.“Emigration is a good idea. But all the same, if in spite of all theobvious disadvantages you foresee, more and more come forward every dayready to fight for the common cause, it will be able to do without you.It’s a new religion, my good friend, coming to take the place of the oldone. That’s why so many fighters come forward, and it’s a big movement.You’d better emigrate! And, you know, I should advise Dresden, not ‘thecalm islands.’ To begin with, it’s a town that has never been visited byan epidemic, and as you are a man of culture, no doubt you are afraidof death. Another thing, it’s near the Russian frontier, so you can moreeasily receive your income from your beloved Fatherland. Thirdly,it contains what are called treasures of art, and you are a man ofæsthetic tastes, formerly a teacher of literature, I believe. And,finally, it has a miniature Switzerland of its own—to provide youwith poetic inspiration, for no doubt you write verse. In fact it’s atreasure in a nutshell!” There was a general movement, especially amongthe officers. In another instant they would have all begun talking atonce. But the lame man rose irritably to the bait.

“No, perhaps I am not going to give up the common cause. You mustunderstand that …”

“What, would you join the quintet if I proposed it to you?” Verhovenskyboomed suddenly, and he laid down the scissors.

Every one seemed startled. The mysterious man had revealed himself toofreely. He had even spoken openly of the “quintet.”

“Every one feels himself to be an honest man and will not shirk his partin the common cause”—the lame man tried to wriggle out of it—“but …”

“No, this is not a question which allows of a but,” Verhovenskyinterrupted harshly and peremptorily. “I tell you, gentlemen, I musthave a direct answer. I quite understand that, having come here andhaving called you together myself, I am bound to give you explanations”(again an unexpected revelation), “but I can give you none till I knowwhat is your attitude to the subject. To cut the matter short—for wecan’t go on talking for another thirty years as people have done for thelast thirty—I ask you which you prefer: the slow way, which consists inthe composition of socialistic romances and the academic ordering ofthe destinies of humanity a thousand years hence, while despotism willswallow the savoury morsels which would almost fly into your mouths ofthemselves if you’d take a little trouble; or do you, whatever it mayimply, prefer a quicker way which will at last untie your hands, andwill let humanity make its own social organisation in freedom and inaction, not on paper? They shout ‘a hundred million heads’; that may beonly a metaphor; but why be afraid of it if, with the slow day-dream onpaper, despotism in the course of some hundred years will devour not ahundred but five hundred million heads? Take note too that an incurableinvalid will not be cured whatever prescriptions are written for him onpaper. On the contrary, if there is delay, he will grow so corrupt thathe will infect us too and contaminate all the fresh forces which onemight still reckon upon now, so that we shall all at last come to grieftogether. I thoroughly agree that it’s extremely agreeable to chatterliberally and eloquently, but action is a little trying.… However, Iam no hand at talking; I came here with communications, and so I begall the honourable company not to vote, but simply and directly to statewhich you prefer: walking at a snail’s pace in the marsh, or putting onfull steam to get across it?”

“I am certainly for crossing at full steam!” cried the schoolboy in anecstasy.

“So am I,” Lyamshin chimed in.

“There can be no doubt about the choice,” muttered an officer, followedby another, then by someone else. What struck them all most was thatVerhovensky had come “with communications” and had himself just promisedto speak.

“Gentlemen, I see that almost all decide for the policy of themanifestoes,” he said, looking round at the company.

“All, all!” cried the majority of voices.

“I confess I am rather in favour of a more humane policy,” said themajor, “but as all are on the other side, I go with all the rest.”

“It appears, then, that even you are not opposed to it,” saidVerhovensky, addressing the lame man.

“I am not exactly …” said the latter, turning rather red, “but if I doagree with the rest now, it’s simply not to break up—”

“You are all like that! Ready to argue for six months to practiseyour Liberal eloquence and in the end you vote the same as the rest!Gentlemen, consider though, is it true that you are all ready?”

(Ready for what? The question was vague, but very alluring.)

“All are, of course!” voices were heard. But all were looking at oneanother.

“But afterwards perhaps you will resent having agreed so quickly? That’salmost always the way with you.”

The company was excited in various ways, greatly excited. The lame manflew at him.

“Allow me to observe, however, that answers to such questions areconditional. Even if we have given our decision, you must note thatquestions put in such a strange way …”

“In what strange way?”

“In a way such questions are not asked.”

“Teach me how, please. But do you know, I felt sure you’d be the firstto take offence.”

“You’ve extracted from us an answer as to our readiness for immediateaction; but what right had you to do so? By what authority do you asksuch questions?”

“You should have thought of asking that question sooner! Why did youanswer? You agree and then you go back on it!”

“But to my mind the irresponsibility of your principal question suggeststo me that you have no authority, no right, and only asked from personalcuriosity.”

“What do you mean? What do you mean?” cried Verhovensky, apparentlybeginning to be much alarmed.

“Why, that the initiation of new members into anything you like is done,anyway, tête-à-tête and not in the company of twenty people one doesn’tknow!” blurted out the lame man. He had said all that was in his mindbecause he was too irritated to restrain himself. Verhovensky turned tothe general company with a capitally simulated look of alarm.

“Gentlemen, I deem it my duty to declare that all this is folly, andthat our conversation has gone too far. I have so far initiated no one,and no one has the right to say of me that I initiate members. We weresimply discussing our opinions. That’s so, isn’t it? But whether that’sso or not, you alarm me very much.” He turned to the lame man again.“I had no idea that it was unsafe here to speak of such practicallyinnocent matters except tête-à-tête. Are you afraid of informers? Canthere possibly be an informer among us here?”

The excitement became tremendous; all began talking.

“Gentlemen, if that is so,” Verhovensky went on, “I have compromisedmyself more than anyone, and so I will ask you to answer one question,if you care to, of course. You are all perfectly free.”

“What question? What question?” every one clamoured.

“A question that will make it clear whether we are to remain together,or take up our hats and go our several ways without speaking.”

“The question! The question!”

“If any one of us knew of a proposed political murder, would he, in viewof all the consequences, go to give information, or would he stay athome and await events? Opinions may differ on this point. The answerto the question will tell us clearly whether we are to separate, or toremain together and for far longer than this one evening. Let me appealto you first.” He turned to the lame man.

“Why to me first?”

“Because you began it all. Be so good as not to prevaricate; it won’thelp you to be cunning. But please yourself, it’s for you to decide.”

“Excuse me, but such a question is positively insulting.”

“No, can’t you be more exact than that?”

“I’ve never been an agent of the Secret Police,” replied the latter,wriggling more than ever.

“Be so good as to be more definite, don’t keep us waiting.”

The lame man was so furious that he left off answering. Without a wordhe glared wrathfully from under his spectacles at his tormentor.

“Yes or no? Would you inform or not?” cried Verhovensky.

“Of course I wouldn’t,” the lame man shouted twice as loudly.

“And no one would, of course not!” cried many voices.

“Allow me to appeal to you, Mr. Major. Would you inform or not?”Verhovensky went on. “And note that I appeal to you on purpose.”

“I won’t inform.”

“But if you knew that someone meant to rob and murder someone else, anordinary mortal, then you would inform and give warning?”

“Yes, of course; but that’s a private affair, while the other would be apolitical treachery. I’ve never been an agent of the Secret Police.”

“And no one here has,” voices cried again. “It’s an unnecessaryquestion. Every one will make the same answer. There are no informershere.”

“What is that gentleman getting up for?” cried the girl-student.

“That’s Shatov. What are you getting up for?” cried the lady of thehouse.

Shatov did, in fact, stand up. He was holding his cap in his hand andlooking at Verhovensky. Apparently he wanted to say something to him,but was hesitating. His face was pale and wrathful, but he controlledhimself. He did not say one word, but in silence walked towards thedoor.

“Shatov, this won’t make things better for you!” Verhovensky calledafter him enigmatically.

“But it will for you, since you are a spy and a scoundrel!” Shatovshouted to him from the door, and he went out.

Shouts and exclamations again.

“That’s what comes of a test,” cried a voice.

“It’s been of use,” cried another.

“Hasn’t it been of use too late?” observed a third.

“Who invited him? Who let him in? Who is he? Who is Shatov? Will heinform, or won’t he?” There was a shower of questions.

“If he were an informer he would have kept up appearances instead ofcursing it all and going away,” observed someone.

“See, Stavrogin is getting up too. Stavrogin has not answered thequestion either,” cried the girl-student.

Stavrogin did actually stand up, and at the other end of the tableKirillov rose at the same time.

“Excuse me, Mr. Stavrogin,” Madame Virginsky addressed him sharply, “weall answered the question, while you are going away without a word.”

“I see no necessity to answer the question which interests you,”muttered Stavrogin.

“But we’ve compromised ourselves and you won’t,” shouted several voices.

“What business is it of mine if you have compromised yourselves?”laughed Stavrogin, but his eyes flashed.

“What business? What business?” voices exclaimed.

Many people got up from their chairs.

“Allow me, gentlemen, allow me,” cried the lame man. “Mr. Verhovenskyhasn’t answered the question either; he has only asked it.”

The remark produced a striking effect. All looked at one another.Stavrogin laughed aloud in the lame man’s face and went out; Kirillovfollowed him; Verhovensky ran after them into the passage.

“What are you doing?” he faltered, seizing Stavrogin’s hand and grippingit with all his might in his. Stavrogin pulled away his hand without aword.

“Be at Kirillov’s directly, I’ll come.… It’s absolutely necessaryfor me to see you!…”

“It isn’t necessary for me,” Stavrogin cut him short.

“Stavrogin will be there,” Kirillov said finally. “Stavrogin, it isnecessary for you. I will show you that there.”

They went out.


They had gone. Pyotr Stepanovitch was about to rush back to the meetingto bring order into chaos, but probably reflecting that it wasn’t worthbothering about, left everything, and two minutes later was flying afterthe other two. On the way he remembered a short cut to Filipov’s house.He rushed along it, up to his knees in mud, and did in fact arrive atthe very moment when Stavrogin and Kirillov were coming in at the gate.

“You here already?” observed Kirillov. “That’s good. Come in.”

“How is it you told us you lived alone,” asked Stavrogin, passing aboiling samovar in the passage.

“You will see directly who it is I live with,” muttered Kirillov. “Goin.”

They had hardly entered when Verhovensky at once took out of his pocketthe anonymous letter he had taken from Lembke, and laid it beforeStavrogin. They all then sat down. Stavrogin read the letter in silence.

“Well?” he asked.

“That scoundrel will do as he writes,” Verhovensky explained. “So, ashe is under your control, tell me how to act. I assure you he may go toLembke to-morrow.”

“Well, let him go.”

“Let him go! And when we can prevent him, too!”

“You are mistaken. He is not dependent on me. Besides, I don’t care; hedoesn’t threaten me in any way; he only threatens you.”

“You too.”

“I don’t think so.”

“But there are other people who may not spare you. Surely you understandthat? Listen, Stavrogin. This is only playing with words. Surely youdon’t grudge the money?”

“Why, would it cost money?”

“It certainly would; two thousand or at least fifteen hundred. Give itto me to-morrow or even to-day, and to-morrow evening I’ll send him toPetersburg for you. That’s just what he wants. If you like, he can takeMarya Timofyevna. Note that.”

There was something distracted about him. He spoke, as it were, withoutcaution, and he did not reflect on his words. Stavrogin watched him,wondering.

“I’ve no reason to send Marya Timofyevna away.”

“Perhaps you don’t even want to,” Pyotr Stepanovitch smiled ironically.

“Perhaps I don’t.”

“In short, will there be the money or not?” he cried with angryimpatience, and as it were peremptorily, to Stavrogin. The latterscrutinised him gravely. “There won’t be the money.”

“Look here, Stavrogin! You know something, or have done somethingalready! You are going it!”

His face worked, the corners of his mouth twitched, and he suddenlylaughed an unprovoked and irrelevant laugh.

“But you’ve had money from your father for the estate,” Stavroginobserved calmly. “Maman sent you six or eight thousand for StepanTrofimovitch. So you can pay the fifteen hundred out of your own money.I don’t care to pay for other people. I’ve given a lot as it is.It annoys me.…” He smiled himself at his own words.

“Ah, you are beginning to joke!”

Stavrogin got up from his chair. Verhovensky instantly jumped up too,and mechanically stood with his back to the door as though barring theway to him. Stavrogin had already made a motion to push him aside and goout, when he stopped short.

“I won’t give up Shatov to you,” he said. Pyotr Stepanovitch started.They looked at one another.

“I told you this evening why you needed Shatov’s blood,” said Stavrogin,with flashing eyes. “It’s the cement you want to bind your groupstogether with. You drove Shatov away cleverly just now. You knew verywell that he wouldn’t promise not to inform and he would have thought itmean to lie to you. But what do you want with me? What do you want withme? Ever since we met abroad you won’t let me alone. The explanationyou’ve given me so far was simply raving. Meanwhile you are drivingat my giving Lebyadkin fifteen hundred roubles, so as to give Fedka anopportunity to murder him. I know that you think I want my wife murderedtoo. You think to tie my hands by this crime, and have me in your power.That’s it, isn’t it? What good will that be to you? What the devil doyou want with me? Look at me. Once for all, am I the man for you? Andlet me alone.”

“Has Fedka been to you himself?” Verhovensky asked breathlessly.

“Yes, he came. His price is fifteen hundred too.… But here; he’llrepeat it himself. There he stands.” Stavrogin stretched out his hand.

Pyotr Stepanovitch turned round quickly. A new figure, Fedka, wearing asheep-skin coat, but without a cap, as though he were at home, steppedout of the darkness in the doorway. He stood there laughing and showinghis even white teeth. His black eyes, with yellow whites, dartedcautiously about the room watching the gentlemen. There was something hedid not understand. He had evidently been just brought in by Kirillov,and his inquiring eyes turned to the latter. He stood in the doorway,but was unwilling to come into the room.

“I suppose you got him ready here to listen to our bargaining, orthat he may actually see the money in our hands. Is that it?” askedStavrogin; and without waiting for an answer he walked out of the house.Verhovensky, almost frantic, overtook him at the gate.

“Stop! Not another step!” he cried, seizing him by the arm. Stavrogintried to pull away his arm, but did not succeed. He was overcome withfury. Seizing Verhovensky by the hair with his left hand he flung himwith all his might on the ground and went out at the gate. But he hadnot gone thirty paces before Verhovensky overtook him again.

“Let us make it up; let us make it up!” he murmured in a spasmodicwhisper.

Stavrogin shrugged his shoulders, but neither answered nor turned round.

“Listen. I will bring you Lizaveta Nikolaevna to-morrow; shall I? No?Why don’t you answer? Tell me what you want. I’ll do it. Listen. I’lllet you have Shatov. Shall I?”

“Then it’s true that you meant to kill him?” cried Stavrogin.

“What do you want with Shatov? What is he to you?” Pyotr Stepanovitchwent on, gasping, speaking rapidly. He was in a frenzy, and kept runningforward and seizing Stavrogin by the elbow, probably unaware of what hewas doing. “Listen. I’ll let you have him. Let’s make it up. Your priceis a very great one, but … Let’s make it up!”

Stavrogin glanced at him at last, and was amazed. The eyes, the voice,were not the same as always, or as they had been in the room just now.What he saw was almost another face. The intonation of the voice wasdifferent. Verhovensky besought, implored. He was a man from whom whatwas most precious was being taken or had been taken, and who was stillstunned by the shock.

“But what’s the matter with you?” cried Stavrogin. The other did notanswer, but ran after him and gazed at him with the same imploring butyet inflexible expression.

“Let’s make it up!” he whispered once more. “Listen. Like Fedka, I havea knife in my boot, but I’ll make it up with you!”

“But what do you want with me, damn you?” Stavrogin cried, with intenseanger and amazement. “Is there some mystery about it? Am I a sort oftalisman for you?”

“Listen. We are going to make a revolution,” the other muttered rapidly,and almost in delirium. “You don’t believe we shall make a revolution?We are going to make such an upheaval that everything will be uprootedfrom its foundation. Karmazinov is right that there is nothing to layhold of. Karmazinov is very intelligent. Another ten such groups indifferent parts of Russia—and I am safe.”

“Groups of fools like that?” broke reluctantly from Stavrogin.

“Oh, don’t be so clever, Stavrogin; don’t be so clever yourself. And youknow you are by no means so intelligent that you need wish others tobe. You are afraid, you have no faith. You are frightened at our doingthings on such a scale. And why are they fools? They are not such fools.No one has a mind of his own nowadays. There are terribly few originalminds nowadays. Virginsky is a pure-hearted man, ten times as pure asyou or I; but never mind about him. Liputin is a rogue, but I know onepoint about him. Every rogue has some point in him.… Lyamshin is theonly one who hasn’t, but he is in my hands. A few more groups, and Ishould have money and passports everywhere; so much at least. Suppose itwere only that? And safe places, so that they can search as they like.They might uproot one group but they’d stick at the next. We’ll setthings in a ferment.… Surely you don’t think that we two are notenough?”

“Take Shigalov, and let me alone.…”

“Shigalov is a man of genius! Do you know he is a genius like Fourier,but bolder than Fourier; stronger. I’ll look after him. He’s discovered‘equality’!”

“He is in a fever; he is raving; something very queer has happenedto him,” thought Stavrogin, looking at him once more. Both walked onwithout stopping.

“He’s written a good thing in that manuscript,” Verhovensky went on. “Hesuggests a system of spying. Every member of the society spies on theothers, and it’s his duty to inform against them. Every one belongs toall and all to every one. All are slaves and equal in their slavery. Inextreme cases he advocates slander and murder, but the great thing aboutit is equality. To begin with, the level of education, science, andtalents is lowered. A high level of education and science is onlypossible for great intellects, and they are not wanted. The greatintellects have always seized the power and been despots. Greatintellects cannot help being despots and they’ve always done more harmthan good. They will be banished or put to death. Cicero will have histongue cut out, Copernicus will have his eyes put out, Shakespeare willbe stoned—that’s Shigalovism. Slaves are bound to be equal. There hasnever been either freedom or equality without despotism, but in the herdthere is bound to be equality, and that’s Shigalovism! Ha ha ha! Do youthink it strange? I am for Shigalovism.”

Stavrogin tried to quicken his pace, and to reach home as soon aspossible. “If this fellow is drunk, where did he manage to get drunk?”crossed his mind. “Can it be the brandy?”

“Listen, Stavrogin. To level the mountains is a fine idea, not an absurdone. I am for Shigalov. Down with culture. We’ve had enough science!Without science we have material enough to go on for a thousand years,but one must have discipline. The one thing wanting in the world isdiscipline. The thirst for culture is an aristocratic thirst. The momentyou have family ties or love you get the desire for property. We willdestroy that desire; we’ll make use of drunkenness, slander, spying;we’ll make use of incredible corruption; we’ll stifle every geniusin its infancy. We’ll reduce all to a common denominator! Completeequality! ‘We’ve learned a trade, and we are honest men; we need nothingmore,’ that was an answer given by English working-men recently.Only the necessary is necessary, that’s the motto of the whole worldhenceforward. But it needs a shock. That’s for us, the directors, tolook after. Slaves must have directors. Absolute submission, absoluteloss of individuality, but once in thirty years Shigalov would let themhave a shock and they would all suddenly begin eating one another up, toa certain point, simply as a precaution against boredom. Boredom is anaristocratic sensation. The Shigalovians will have no desires. Desireand suffering are our lot, but Shigalovism is for the slaves.”

“You exclude yourself?” Stavrogin broke in again.

“You, too. Do you know, I have thought of giving up the world to thePope. Let him come forth, on foot, and barefoot, and show himself to therabble, saying, ‘See what they have brought me to!’ and they will allrush after him, even the troops. The Pope at the head, with usround him, and below us—Shigalovism. All that’s needed is that theInternationale should come to an agreement with the Pope; so it will.And the old chap will agree at once. There’s nothing else he can do.Remember my words! Ha ha! Is it stupid? Tell me, is it stupid or not?”

“That’s enough!” Stavrogin muttered with vexation.

“Enough! Listen. I’ve given up the Pope! Damn Shigalovism! Damn thePope! We must have something more everyday. Not Shigalovism, forShigalovism is a rare specimen of the jeweller’s art. It’s an ideal;it’s in the future. Shigalov is an artist and a fool like everyphilanthropist. We need coarse work, and Shigalov despises coarse work.Listen. The Pope shall be for the west, and you shall be for us, youshall be for us!”

“Let me alone, you drunken fellow!” muttered Stavrogin, and he quickenedhis pace.

“Stavrogin, you are beautiful,” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, almostecstatically. “Do you know that you are beautiful! What’s the mostprecious thing about you is that you sometimes don’t know it. Oh,I’ve studied you! I often watch you on the sly! There’s a lot ofsimpleheartedness and naïveté about you still. Do you know that? Therestill is, there is! You must be suffering and suffering genuinely fromthat simple-heartedness. I love beauty. I am a nihilist, but I lovebeauty. Are nihilists incapable of loving beauty? It’s only idols theydislike, but I love an idol. You are my idol! You injure no one, andevery one hates you. You treat every one as an equal, and yet every oneis afraid of you—that’s good. Nobody would slap you on the shoulder.You are an awful aristocrat. An aristocrat is irresistible when he goesin for democracy! To sacrifice life, your own or another’s is nothingto you. You are just the man that’s needed. It’s just such a man as youthat I need. I know no one but you. You are the leader, you are the sunand I am your worm.”

He suddenly kissed his hand. A shiver ran down Stavrogin’s spine, and hepulled away his hand in dismay. They stood still.

“Madman!” whispered Stavrogin.

“Perhaps I am raving; perhaps I am raving,” Pyotr Stepanovitch assented,speaking rapidly. “But I’ve thought of the first step! Shigalov wouldnever have thought of it. There are lots of Shigalovs, but only one man,one man in Russia has hit on the first step and knows how to take it.And I am that man! Why do you look at me? I need you, you; without youI am nothing. Without you I am a fly, a bottled idea; Columbus withoutAmerica.”

Stavrogin stood still and looked intently into his wild eyes.

“Listen. First of all we’ll make an upheaval,” Verhovensky went on indesperate haste, continually clutching at Stavrogin’s left sleeve. “I’vealready told you. We shall penetrate to the peasantry. Do you know thatwe are tremendously powerful already? Our party does not consist only ofthose who commit murder and arson, fire off pistols in the traditionalfashion, or bite colonels. They are only a hindrance. I don’t acceptanything without discipline. I am a scoundrel, of course, and not asocialist. Ha ha! Listen. I’ve reckoned them all up: a teacher wholaughs with children at their God and at their cradle is on our side.The lawyer who defends an educated murderer because he is more culturedthan his victims and could not help murdering them to get money is oneof us. The schoolboys who murder a peasant for the sake of sensation areours. The juries who acquit every criminal are ours. The prosecutor whotrembles at a trial for fear he should not seem advanced enough is ours,ours. Among officials and literary men we have lots, lots, and theydon’t know it themselves. On the other hand, the docility of schoolboysand fools has reached an extreme pitch; the schoolmasters are bitterand bilious. On all sides we see vanity puffed up out of all proportion;brutal, monstrous appetites.… Do you know how many we shall catch bylittle, ready-made ideas? When I left Russia, Littre’s dictum that crimeis insanity was all the rage; I come back and I find that crime isno longer insanity, but simply common sense, almost a duty; anyway,a gallant protest. ‘How can we expect a cultured man not to commit amurder, if he is in need of money.’ But these are only the first fruits.The Russian God has already been vanquished by cheap vodka. The peasantsare drunk, the mothers are drunk, the children are drunk, the churchesare empty, and in the peasant courts one hears, ‘Two hundred lashes orstand us a bucket of vodka.’ Oh, this generation has only to grow up.It’s only a pity we can’t afford to wait, or we might have let them geta bit more tipsy! Ah, what a pity there’s no proletariat! But there willbe, there will be; we are going that way.…”

“It’s a pity, too, that we’ve grown greater fools,” muttered Stavrogin,moving forward as before.

“Listen. I’ve seen a child of six years old leading home his drunkenmother, whilst she swore at him with foul words. Do you suppose I amglad of that? When it’s in our hands, maybe we’ll mend things … if needbe, we’ll drive them for forty years into the wilderness.… But oneor two generations of vice are essential now; monstrous, abject vice bywhich a man is transformed into a loathsome, cruel, egoistic reptile.That’s what we need! And what’s more, a little ‘fresh blood’ that wemay get accustomed to it. Why are you laughing? I am not contradictingmyself. I am only contradicting the philanthropists and Shigalovism,not myself! I am a scoundrel, not a socialist. Ha ha ha! I’m only sorrythere’s no time. I promised Karmazinov to begin in May, and to make anend by October. Is that too soon? Ha ha! Do you know what, Stavrogin?Though the Russian people use foul language, there’s nothing cynicalabout them so far. Do you know the serfs had more self-respect thanKarmazinov? Though they were beaten they always preserved their gods,which is more than Karmazinov’s done.”

“Well, Verhovensky, this is the first time I’ve heard you talk, and Ilisten with amazement,” observed Stavrogin. “So you are really not asocialist, then, but some sort of … ambitious politician?”

“A scoundrel, a scoundrel! You are wondering what I am. I’ll tell youwhat I am directly, that’s what I am leading up to. It was not fornothing that I kissed your hand. But the people must believe that weknow what we are after, while the other side do nothing but ‘brandishtheir cudgels and beat their own followers.’ Ah, if we only had moretime! That’s the only trouble, we have no time. We will proclaimdestruction.… Why is it, why is it that idea has such a fascination.But we must have a little exercise; we must. We’ll set fires going.…We’ll set legends going. Every scurvy ‘group’ will be of use. Out ofthose very groups I’ll pick you out fellows so keen they’ll not shrinkfrom shooting, and be grateful for the honour of a job, too. Well, andthere will be an upheaval! There’s going to be such an upset asthe world has never seen before.… Russia will be overwhelmed withdarkness, the earth will weep for its old gods.… Well, then we shallbring forward … whom?”


“Ivan the Tsarevitch.”


“Ivan the Tsarevitch. You! You!”

Stavrogin thought a minute.

“A pretender?” he asked suddenly, looking with intense surprise at hisfrantic companion. “Ah! so that’s your plan at last!”

“We shall say that he is ‘in hiding,’” Verhovensky said softly, in asort of tender whisper, as though he really were drunk indeed. “Do youknow the magic of that phrase, ‘he is in hiding’? But he will appear,he will appear. We’ll set a legend going better than the Skoptsis’. Heexists, but no one has seen him. Oh, what a legend one can set going!And the great thing is it will be a new force at work! And we need that;that’s what they are crying for. What can Socialism do: it’s destroyedthe old forces but hasn’t brought in any new. But in this we have aforce, and what a force! Incredible. We only need one lever to lift upthe earth. Everything will rise up!”

“Then have you been seriously reckoning on me?” Stavrogin said with amalicious smile.

“Why do you laugh, and so spitefully? Don’t frighten me. I am like alittle child now. I can be frightened to death by one smile like that.Listen. I’ll let no one see you, no one. So it must be. He exists, butno one has seen him; he is in hiding. And do you know, one might showyou, to one out of a hundred-thousand, for instance. And the rumour willspread over all the land, ‘We’ve seen him, we’ve seen him.’

“Ivan Filipovitch the God of Sabaoth,* has been seen, too, when heascended into heaven in his chariot in the sight of men. They sawhim with their own eyes. And you are not an Ivan Filipovitch. You arebeautiful and proud as a God; you are seeking nothing for yourself,with the halo of a victim round you, ‘in hiding.’ The great thing isthe legend. You’ll conquer them, you’ll have only to look, and you willconquer them. He is ‘in hiding,’ and will come forth bringing a newtruth. And, meanwhile, we’ll pass two or three judgments as wiseas Solomon’s. The groups, you know, the quintets—we’ve no need ofnewspapers. If out of ten thousand petitions only one is granted, allwould come with petitions. In every parish, every peasant will know thatthere is somewhere a hollow tree where petitions are to be put. And thewhole land will resound with the cry, ‘A new just law is to come,’ andthe sea will be troubled and the whole gimcrack show will fall to theground, and then we shall consider how to build up an edifice of stone.For the first time! We are going to build it, we, and only we!”

 * The reference is to the legend current in the sect of Flagellants.—Translator’s note.

“Madness,” said Stavrogin.

“Why, why don’t you want it? Are you afraid? That’s why I caught at you,because you are afraid of nothing. Is it unreasonable? But you see, sofar I am Columbus without America. Would Columbus without America seemreasonable?”

Stavrogin did not speak. Meanwhile they had reached the house andstopped at the entrance.

“Listen,” Verhovensky bent down to his ear. “I’ll do it for you withoutthe money. I’ll settle Marya Timofyevna to-morrow!… Without the money,and to-morrow I’ll bring you Liza. Will you have Liza to-morrow?”

“Is he really mad?” Stavrogin wondered smiling. The front door wasopened.

“Stavrogin—is America ours?” said Verhovensky, seizing his hand for thelast time.

“What for?” said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, gravely and sternly.

“You don’t care, I knew that!” cried Verhovensky in an access of furiousanger. “You are lying, you miserable, profligate, perverted, littlearistocrat! I don’t believe you, you’ve the appetite of a wolf!…Understand that you’ve cost me such a price, I can’t give you up now!There’s no one on earth but you! I invented you abroad; I invented itall, looking at you. If I hadn’t watched you from my corner, nothing ofall this would have entered my head!”

Stavrogin went up the steps without answering.

“Stavrogin!” Verhovensky called after him, “I give you a day … two,then … three, then; more than three I can’t—and then you’re toanswer!”


Meanwhile an incident had occurred which astounded me and shatteredStepan Trofimovitch. At eight o’clock in the morning Nastasya ran roundto me from him with the news that her master was “raided.” At first Icould not make out what she meant; I could only gather that the “raid”was carried out by officials, that they had come and taken his papers,and that a soldier had tied them up in a bundle and “wheeled them awayin a barrow.” It was a fantastic story. I hurried at once to StepanTrofimovitch.

I found him in a surprising condition: upset and in great agitation, butat the same time unmistakably triumphant. On the table in the middle ofthe room the samovar was boiling, and there was a glass of tea pouredout but untouched and forgotten. Stepan Trofimovitch was wandering roundthe table and peeping into every corner of the room, unconscious of whathe was doing. He was wearing his usual red knitted jacket, but seeingme, he hurriedly put on his coat and waistcoat—a thing he had neverdone before when any of his intimate friends found him in his jacket. Hetook me warmly by the hand at once.

“Enfin un ami!” (He heaved a deep sigh.) “Cher, I’ve sent to you only,and no one knows anything. We must give Nastasya orders to lock thedoors and not admit anyone, except, of course them.… Vous comprenez?

He looked at me uneasily, as though expecting a reply. I made haste, ofcourse, to question him, and from his disconnected and broken sentences,full of unnecessary parentheses, I succeeded in learning that at seveno’clock that morning an official of the province had ‘all of a sudden’called on him.

Pardon, j’ai oublié son nom. Il n’est pas du pays, but I think he cameto the town with Lembke, quelque chose de bête et d’Allemand dans laphysionomie. Il s’appelle Rosenthal.

“Wasn’t it Blum?”

“Yes, that was his name. Vous le connaissez? Quelque chose d’hébété etde très content dans la figure, pourtant très sevère, roide et sérieux.A type of the police, of the submissive subordinates, je m’y connais. Iwas still asleep, and, would you believe it, he asked to have a look atmy books and manuscripts! Oui, je m’en souviens, il a employé ce mot. Hedid not arrest me, but only the books. Il se tenait à distance, and whenhe began to explain his visit he looked as though I … enfin ilavait l’air de croire que je tomberai sur lui immédiatement et que jecommencerai a le battre comme plâtre. Tous ces gens du bas étage sontcomme ça when they have to do with a gentleman. I need hardly say Iunderstood it all at once. Voilà vingt ans que je m’y prépare. I openedall the drawers and handed him all the keys; I gave them myself, I gavehim all. J’étais digne et calme. From the books he took the foreignedition of Herzen, the bound volume of The Bell, four copies of my poem,et enfin tout ça. Then he took my letters and my papers et quelques-unesde mes ébauches historiques, critiques et politiques. All that theycarried off. Nastasya says that a soldier wheeled them away in a barrowand covered them with an apron; oui, c’est cela, with an apron.” Itsounded like delirium. Who could make head or tail of it? I pelted himwith questions again. Had Blum come alone, or with others? On whoseauthority? By what right? How had he dared? How did he explain it?

Il etait seul, bien seul, but there was someone else dansl’antichambre, oui, je m’en souviens, et puis … Though I believe therewas someone else besides, and there was a guard standing in the entry.You must ask Nastasya; she knows all about it better than I do. J’étaissurexcité, voyez-vous. Il parlait, il parlait … un tas de chases; hesaid very little though, it was I said all that.… I told him thestory of my life, simply from that point of view, of course. J’étaissurexcité, mais digne, je vous assure.… I am afraid, though, I mayhave shed tears. They got the barrow from the shop next door.”

“Oh, heavens! how could all this have happened? But for mercy’s sake,speak more exactly, Stepan Trofimovitch. What you tell me sounds like adream.”

Cher, I feel as though I were in a dream myself.… Savez-vous! Ila prononcé le nom de Telyatnikof, and I believe that that man wasconcealed in the entry. Yes, I remember, he suggested calling theprosecutor and Dmitri Dmitritch, I believe … qui me doit encore quinzeroubles I won at cards, soit dit en passant. Enfin, je n’ai pas tropcompris. But I got the better of them, and what do I care for DmitriDmitritch? I believe I begged him very earnestly to keep it quiet;I begged him particularly, most particularly. I am afraid I demeanedmyself, in fact, comment croyez-vous? Enfin il a consenti. Yes, Iremember, he suggested that himself—that it would be better to keep itquiet, for he had only come ‘to have a look round’ et rien de plus, andnothing more, nothing more … and that if they find nothing, nothingwill happen. So that we ended it all en amis, je suis tout à faitcontent.

“Why, then he suggested the usual course of proceedings in such casesand regular guarantees, and you rejected them yourself,” I cried withfriendly indignation.

“Yes, it’s better without the guarantees. And why make a scandal? Let’skeep it en amis so long as we can. You know, in our town, if they get toknow it … mes ennemis, et puis, à quoi bon, le procureur, ce cochon denotre procureur, qui deux fois m’a manqué de politesse et qu’on a rosséà plaisir l’autre année chez cette charmante et belle Natalya Pavlovnaquand il se cacha dans son boudoir. Et puis, mon ami, don’t makeobjections and don’t depress me, I beg you, for nothing is moreunbearable when a man is in trouble than for a hundred friends to pointout to him what a fool he has made of himself. Sit down though and havesome tea. I must admit I am awfully tired.… Hadn’t I better lie downand put vinegar on my head? What do you think?”

“Certainly,” I cried, “ice even. You are very much upset. You are paleand your hands are trembling. Lie down, rest, and put off telling me.I’ll sit by you and wait.”

He hesitated, but I insisted on his lying down. Nastasya brought a cupof vinegar. I wetted a towel and laid it on his head. Then Nastasyastood on a chair and began lighting a lamp before the ikon in thecorner. I noticed this with surprise; there had never been a lamp therebefore and now suddenly it had made its appearance.

“I arranged for that as soon as they had gone away,” muttered StepanTrofimovitch, looking at me slyly. “Quand on a de ces choses-là dans sachambre et qu’on vient vous arrêter it makes an impression and they aresure to report that they have seen it.…”

When she had done the lamp, Nastasya stood in the doorway, leaned hercheek in her right hand, and began gazing at him with a lachrymose air.

Eloignez-la on some excuse,” he nodded to me from the sofa. “I can’tendure this Russian sympathy, et puis ça m’embête.

But she went away of herself. I noticed that he kept looking towards thedoor and listening for sounds in the passage.

“Il faut être prêt, voyez-vous,” he said, looking at me significantly,“chaque moment … they may come and take one and, phew!—a mandisappears.”

“Heavens! who’ll come? Who will take you?”

Voyez-vous, mon cher, I asked straight out when he was going away, whatwould they do to me now.”

“You’d better have asked them where you’d be exiled!” I cried out in thesame indignation.

“That’s just what I meant when I asked, but he went away withoutanswering. Voyez-vous: as for linen, clothes, warm things especially,that must be as they decide; if they tell me to take them—all right,or they might send me in a soldier’s overcoat. But I thrust thirty-fiveroubles” (he suddenly dropped his voice, looking towards the door bywhich Nastasya had gone out) “in a slit in my waistcoat pocket, here,feel.… I believe they won’t take the waistcoat off, and left sevenroubles in my purse to keep up appearances, as though that were all Ihave. You see, it’s in small change and the coppers are on the table,so they won’t guess that I’ve hidden the money, but will suppose thatthat’s all. For God knows where I may have to sleep to-night!”

I bowed my head before such madness. It was obvious that a man could notbe arrested and searched in the way he was describing, and he musthave mixed things up. It’s true it all happened in the days before ourpresent, more recent regulations. It is true, too, that according to hisown account they had offered to follow the more regular procedure, buthe “got the better of them” and refused.… Of course not long ago agovernor might, in extreme cases.… But how could this be an extremecase? That’s what baffled me.

“No doubt they had a telegram from Petersburg,” Stepan Trofimovitch saidsuddenly.

“A telegram? About you? Because of the works of Herzen and your poem?Have you taken leave of your senses? What is there in that to arrest youfor?”

I was positively angry. He made a grimace and was evidentlymortified—not at my exclamation, but at the idea that there was noground for arrest.

“Who can tell in our day what he may not be arrested for?” he mutteredenigmatically.

A wild and nonsensical idea crossed my mind.

“Stepan Trofimovitch, tell me as a friend,” I cried, “as a real friend,I will not betray you: do you belong to some secret society or not?”

And on this, to my amazement, he was not quite certain whether he was orwas not a member of some secret society.

“That depends, voyez-vous.

“How do you mean ‘it depends’?”

“When with one’s whole heart one is an adherent of progress and … whocan answer it? You may suppose you don’t belong, and suddenly it turnsout that you do belong to something.”

“Now is that possible? It’s a case of yes or no.”

Cela date de Pétersburg when she and I were meaning to found a magazinethere. That’s what’s at the root of it. She gave them the slip then, andthey forgot us, but now they’ve remembered. Cher, cher, don’t you knowme?” he cried hysterically. “And they’ll take us, put us in a cart, andmarch us off to Siberia forever, or forget us in prison.”

And he suddenly broke into bitter weeping. His tears positivelystreamed. He covered his face with his red silk handkerchief and sobbed,sobbed convulsively for five minutes. It wrung my heart. This wasthe man who had been a prophet among us for twenty years, a leader,a patriarch, the Kukolnik who had borne himself so loftily andmajestically before all of us, before whom we bowed down with genuinereverence, feeling proud of doing so—and all of a sudden here he wassobbing, sobbing like a naughty child waiting for the rod which theteacher is fetching for him. I felt fearfully sorry for him. He believedin the reality of that “cart” as he believed that I was sitting by hisside, and he expected it that morning, at once, that very minute, andall this on account of his Herzen and some poem! Such complete, absoluteignorance of everyday reality was touching and somehow repulsive.

At last he left off crying, got up from the sofa and began walking aboutthe room again, continuing to talk to me, though he looked out of thewindow every minute and listened to every sound in the passage. Ourconversation was still disconnected. All my assurances and attemptsto console him rebounded from him like peas from a wall. He scarcelylistened, but yet what he needed was that I should console him and keepon talking with that object. I saw that he could not do without me now,and would not let me go for anything. I remained, and we spent more thantwo hours together. In conversation he recalled that Blum had taken withhim two manifestoes he had found.

“Manifestoes!” I said, foolishly frightened. “Do you mean to sayyou …”

“Oh, ten were left here,” he answered with vexation (he talked to meat one moment in a vexed and haughty tone and at the next with dreadfulplaintiveness and humiliation), “but I had disposed of eight already,and Blum only found two.” And he suddenly flushed with indignation.“Vous me mettez avec ces gens-là! Do you suppose I could be workingwith those scoundrels, those anonymous libellers, with my son PyotrStepanovitch, avec ces esprits forts de lâcheté? Oh, heavens!”

“Bah! haven’t they mixed you up perhaps?… But it’s nonsense, it can’tbe so,” I observed.

“Savez-vous,” broke from him suddenly, “I feel at moments que je ferailà-bas quelque esclandre. Oh, don’t go away, don’t leave me alone! Macarrière est finie aujourd’hui, je le sens. Do you know, I might fall onsomebody there and bite him, like that lieutenant.”

He looked at me with a strange expression—alarmed, and at the same timeanxious to alarm me. He certainly was getting more and more exasperatedwith somebody and about something as time went on and the police-cartdid not appear; he was positively wrathful. Suddenly Nastasya, whohad come from the kitchen into the passage for some reason, upset aclothes-horse there. Stepan Trofimovitch trembled and turned numb withterror as he sat; but when the noise was explained, he almost shriekedat Nastasya and, stamping, drove her back to the kitchen. A minute laterhe said, looking at me in despair: “I am ruined! Cher”—he sat downsuddenly beside me and looked piteously into my face—“cher, it’s notSiberia I am afraid of, I swear. Oh, je vous jure!” (Tears positivelystood in his eyes.) “It’s something else I fear.”

I saw from his expression that he wanted at last to tell me something ofgreat importance which he had till now refrained from telling.

“I am afraid of disgrace,” he whispered mysteriously.

“What disgrace? On the contrary! Believe me, Stepan Trofimovitch, that allthis will be explained to-day and will end to your advantage.…”

“Are you so sure that they will pardon me?”

“Pardon you? What! What a word! What have you done? I assure you you’vedone nothing.”

Qu’en savez-vous; all my life has been … cher … They’ll remembereverything … and if they find nothing, it will be worse still,” headded all of a sudden, unexpectedly.

“How do you mean it will be worse?”

“It will be worse.”

“I don’t understand.”

“My friend, let it be Siberia, Archangel, loss of rights—if I mustperish, let me perish! But … I am afraid of something else.” (Againwhispering, a scared face, mystery.)

“But of what? Of what?”

“They’ll flog me,” he pronounced, looking at me with a face of despair.

“Who’ll flog you? What for? Where?” I cried, feeling alarmed that he wasgoing out of his mind.

“Where? Why there … where ‘that’s’ done.”

“But where is it done?”

“Eh, cher,” he whispered almost in my ear. “The floor suddenly givesway under you, you drop half through.… Every one knows that.”

“Legends!” I cried, guessing what he meant. “Old tales. Can you havebelieved them till now?” I laughed.

“Tales! But there must be foundation for them; flogged men tell notales. I’ve imagined it ten thousand times.”

“But you, why you? You’ve done nothing, you know.”

“That makes it worse. They’ll find out I’ve done nothing and flog me forit.”

“And you are sure that you’ll be taken to Petersburg for that.”

“My friend, I’ve told you already that I regret nothing, ma carrière estfinie. From that hour when she said good-bye to me at Skvoreshniki mylife has had no value for me … but disgrace, disgrace, que dira-t-elleif she finds out?”

He looked at me in despair. And the poor fellow flushed all over. Idropped my eyes too.

“She’ll find out nothing, for nothing will happen to you. I feel as if Iwere speaking to you for the first time in my life, Stepan Trofimovitch,you’ve astonished me so this morning.”

“But, my friend, this isn’t fear. For even if I am pardoned, even ifI am brought here and nothing is done to me—then I am undone. Elle mesoupçonnera toute sa vie—me, me, the poet, the thinker, the man whomshe has worshipped for twenty-two years!”

“It will never enter her head.”

“It will,” he whispered with profound conviction. “We’ve talked of itseveral times in Petersburg, in Lent, before we came away, when wewere both afraid.… Elle me soupçonnera toute sa vie … and how canI disabuse her? It won’t sound likely. And in this wretched town who’dbelieve it, c’est invraisemblable.… Et puis les femmes, she will bepleased. She will be genuinely grieved like a true friend, but secretlyshe will be pleased.… I shall give her a weapon against me for therest of my life. Oh, it’s all over with me! Twenty years of such perfecthappiness with her … and now!” He hid his face in his hands.

“Stepan Trofimovitch, oughtn’t you to let Varvara Petrovna know at onceof what has happened?” I suggested.

“God preserve me!” he cried, shuddering and leaping up from hisplace. “On no account, never, after what was said at parting atSkvoreshniki—never!”

His eyes flashed.

We went on sitting together another hour or more, I believe, expectingsomething all the time—the idea had taken such hold of us. He lay downagain, even closed his eyes, and lay for twenty minutes without utteringa word, so that I thought he was asleep or unconscious. Suddenly he gotup impulsively, pulled the towel off his head, jumped up from the sofa,rushed to the looking-glass, with trembling hands tied his cravat, andin a voice of thunder called to Nastasya, telling her to give him hisovercoat, his new hat and his stick.

“I can bear no more,” he said in a breaking voice. “I can’t, I can’t! Iam going myself.”

“Where?” I cried, jumping up too.

“To Lembke. Cher, I ought, I am obliged. It’s my duty. I am a citizenand a man, not a worthless chip. I have rights; I want my rights.…For twenty years I’ve not insisted on my rights. All my life I’veneglected them criminally … but now I’ll demand them. He must tell meeverything—everything. He received a telegram. He dare not torture me;if so, let him arrest me, let him arrest me!”

He stamped and vociferated almost with shrieks. “I approve of what yousay,” I said, speaking as calmly as possible, on purpose, though I wasvery much afraid for him.

“Certainly it is better than sitting here in such misery, but I can’tapprove of your state of mind. Just see what you look like and in what astate you are going there! Il faut être digne et calme avec Lembke. Youreally might rush at someone there and bite him.”

“I am giving myself up. I am walking straight into the jaws of the lion.…”

“I’ll go with you.”

“I expected no less of you, I accept your sacrifice, the sacrifice of atrue friend; but only as far as the house, only as far as the house. Youought not, you have no right to compromise yourself further by being myconfederate. Oh, croyez-moi, je serai calme. I feel that I am at thismoment à la hauteur de tout ce que il y a de plus sacré.…”

“I may perhaps go into the house with you,” I interrupted him. “I had amessage from their stupid committee yesterday through Vysotsky that theyreckon on me and invite me to the fête to-morrow as one of the stewardsor whatever it is … one of the six young men whose duty it is to lookafter the trays, wait on the ladies, take the guests to their places,and wear a rosette of crimson and white ribbon on the left shoulder. Imeant to refuse, but now why shouldn’t I go into the house on theexcuse of seeing Yulia Mihailovna herself about it?… So we will goin together.”

He listened, nodding, but I think he understood nothing. We stood on thethreshold.

“Cher”—he stretched out his arm to the lamp before the ikon—”cher,I have never believed in this, but … so be it, so be it!” He crossedhimself. “Allons!”

“Well, that’s better so,” I thought as I went out on to the steps withhim. “The fresh air will do him good on the way, and we shall calm down,turn back, and go home to bed.…”

But I reckoned without my host. On the way an adventure occurred whichagitated Stepan Trofimovitch even more, and finally determined him to goon … so that I should never have expected of our friend so much spiritas he suddenly displayed that morning. Poor friend, kind-hearted friend!



The adventure that befell us on the way was also a surprising one. But Imust tell the story in due order. An hour before Stepan Trofimovitchand I came out into the street, a crowd of people, the hands fromShpigulins’ factory, seventy or more in number, had been marchingthrough the town, and had been an object of curiosity to manyspectators. They walked intentionally in good order and almost insilence. Afterwards it was asserted that these seventy had been electedout of the whole number of factory hands, amounting to about ninehundred, to go to the governor and to try and get from him, in theabsence of their employer, a just settlement of their grievances againstthe manager, who, in closing the factory and dismissing the workmen, hadcheated them all in an impudent way—a fact which has since been provedconclusively. Some people still deny that there was any election ofdelegates, maintaining that seventy was too large a number to elect,and that the crowd simply consisted of those who had been most unfairlytreated, and that they only came to ask for help in their own case, sothat the general “mutiny” of the factory workers, about which therewas such an uproar later on, had never existed at all. Others fiercelymaintained that these seventy men were not simple strikers butrevolutionists, that is, not merely that they were the most turbulent,but that they must have been worked upon by seditious manifestoes.The fact is, it is still uncertain whether there had been any outsideinfluence or incitement at work or not. My private opinion is that theworkmen had not read the seditious manifestoes at all, and if they hadread them, would not have understood one word, for one reason becausethe authors of such literature write very obscurely in spite of theboldness of their style. But as the workmen really were in a difficultplight and the police to whom they appealed would not enter into theirgrievances, what could be more natural than their idea of going in abody to “the general himself” if possible, with the petition at theirhead, forming up in an orderly way before his door, and as soon as heshowed himself, all falling on their knees and crying out to him as toprovidence itself? To my mind there is no need to see in this a mutinyor even a deputation, for it’s a traditional, historical mode ofaction; the Russian people have always loved to parley with “the generalhimself” for the mere satisfaction of doing so, regardless of how theconversation may end.

And so I am quite convinced that, even though Pyotr Stepanovitch,Liputin, and perhaps some others—perhaps even Fedka too—had beenflitting about among the workpeople talking to them (and there is fairlygood evidence of this), they had only approached two, three, five at themost, trying to sound them, and nothing had come of their conversation.As for the mutiny they advocated, if the factory-workers did understandanything of their propaganda, they would have left off listening to itat once as to something stupid that had nothing to do with them. Fedkawas a different matter: he had more success, I believe, than PyotrStepanovitch. Two workmen are now known for a fact to have assistedFedka in causing the fire in the town which occurred three daysafterwards, and a month later three men who had worked in the factorywere arrested for robbery and arson in the province. But if in thesecases Fedka did lure them to direct and immediate action, he could onlyhave succeeded with these five, for we heard of nothing of the sortbeing done by others.

Be that as it may, the whole crowd of workpeople had at last reached theopen space in front of the governor’s house and were drawn up there insilence and good order. Then, gaping open-mouthed at the front door,they waited. I am told that as soon as they halted they took off theircaps, that is, a good half-hour before the appearance of the governor,who, as ill-luck would have it, was not at home at the moment. Thepolice made their appearance at once, at first individual policemen andthen as large a contingent of them as could be gathered together; theybegan, of course, by being menacing, ordering them to break up. Butthe workmen remained obstinately, like a flock of sheep at a fence, andreplied laconically that they had come to see “the general himself”; itwas evident that they were firmly determined. The unnatural shoutingof the police ceased, and was quickly succeeded by deliberations,mysterious whispered instructions, and stern, fussy perplexity, whichwrinkled the brows of the police officers. The head of the policepreferred to await the arrival of the “governor himself.” It was nottrue that he galloped to the spot with three horses at full speed, andbegan hitting out right and left before he alighted from his carriage.It’s true that he used to dash about and was fond of dashing about atfull speed in a carriage with a yellow back, and while his trace-horses,who were so trained to carry their heads that they looked “positivelyperverted,” galloped more and more frantically, rousing the enthusiasmof all the shopkeepers in the bazaar, he would rise up in the carriage,stand erect, holding on by a strap which had been fixed on purpose atthe side, and with his right arm extended into space like a figure on amonument, survey the town majestically. But in the present case he didnot use his fists, and though as he got out of the carriage he could notrefrain from a forcible expression, this was simply done to keep uphis popularity. There is a still more absurd story that soldiers werebrought up with bayonets, and that a telegram was sent for artillery andCossacks; those are legends which are not believed now even by thosewho invented them. It’s an absurd story, too, that barrels of water werebrought from the fire brigade, and that people were drenched with waterfrom them. The simple fact is that Ilya Ilyitch shouted in his heat thathe wouldn’t let one of them come dry out of the water; probably this wasthe foundation of the barrel legend which got into the columns of thePetersburg and Moscow newspapers. Probably the most accurate version wasthat at first all the available police formed a cordon round the crowd,and a messenger was sent for Lembke, a police superintendent, who dashedoff in the carriage belonging to the head of the police on the way toSkvoreshniki, knowing that Lembke had gone there in his carriage half anhour before.

But I must confess that I am still unable to answer the question howthey could at first sight, from the first moment, have transformed aninsignificant, that is to say an ordinary, crowd of petitioners, eventhough there were several of them, into a rebellion which threatened toshake the foundations of the state. Why did Lembke himself rush at thatidea when he arrived twenty minutes after the messenger? I imagine (butagain it’s only my private opinion) that it was to the interest of IlyaIlyitch, who was a crony of the factory manager’s, to represent thecrowd in this light to Lembke, in order to prevent him from going intothe case; and Lembke himself had put the idea into his head. In thecourse of the last two days, he had had two unusual and mysteriousconversations with him. It is true they were exceedingly obscure,but Ilya Ilyitch was able to gather from them that the governor hadthoroughly made up his mind that there were political manifestoes, andthat Shpigulins’ factory hands were being incited to a Socialist rising,and that he was so persuaded of it that he would perhaps have regrettedit if the story had turned out to be nonsense. “He wants to getdistinction in Petersburg,” our wily Ilya Ilyitch thought to himself ashe left Von Lembke; “well, that just suits me.”

But I am convinced that poor Andrey Antonovitch would not have desireda rebellion even for the sake of distinguishing himself. He was a mostconscientious official, who had lived in a state of innocence up to thetime of his marriage. And was it his fault that, instead of an innocentallowance of wood from the government and an equally innocent Minnchen,a princess of forty summers had raised him to her level? I know almostfor certain that the unmistakable symptoms of the mental conditionwhich brought poor Andrey Antonovitch to a well-known establishment inSwitzerland, where, I am told, he is now regaining his energies,were first apparent on that fatal morning. But once we admit thatunmistakable signs of something were visible that morning, it may wellbe allowed that similar symptoms may have been evident the day before,though not so clearly. I happen to know from the most private sources(well, you may assume that Yulia Mihailovna later on, not in triumphbut almost in remorse—for a woman is incapable of completeremorse—revealed part of it to me herself) that Andrey Antonovitch hadgone into his wife’s room in the middle of the previous night, pasttwo o’clock in the morning, had waked her up, and had insisted on herlistening to his “ultimatum.” He demanded it so insistently that shewas obliged to get up from her bed in indignation and curl-papers,and, sitting down on a couch, she had to listen, though with sarcasticdisdain. Only then she grasped for the first time how far gone herAndrey Antonovitch was, and was secretly horrified. She ought to havethought what she was about and have been softened, but she concealed herhorror and was more obstinate than ever. Like every wife she had herown method of treating Andrey Antonovitch, which she had tried more thanonce already and with it driven him to frenzy. Yulia Mihailovna’s methodwas that of contemptuous silence, for one hour, two, a whole day andalmost for three days and nights—silence whatever happened, whatever hesaid, whatever he did, even if he had clambered up to throw himselfout of a three-story window—a method unendurable for a sensitive man!Whether Yulia Mihailovna meant to punish her husband for his blunders ofthe last few days and the jealous envy he, as the chief authority in thetown, felt for her administrative abilities; whether she was indignantat his criticism of her behaviour with the young people and localsociety generally, and lack of comprehension of her subtle andfar-sighted political aims; or was angry with his stupid and senselessjealousy of Pyotr Stepanovitch—however that may have been, she madeup her mind not to be softened even now, in spite of its being threeo’clock at night, and though Andrey Antonovitch was in a state ofemotion such as she had never seen him in before.

Pacing up and down in all directions over the rugs of her boudoir,beside himself, he poured out everything, everything, quitedisconnectedly, it’s true, but everything that had been rankling inhis heart, for—“it was outrageous.” He began by saying that he was alaughing-stock to every one and “was being led by the nose.”

“Curse the expression,” he squealed, at once catching her smile, “let itstand, it’s true.… No, madam, the time has come; let me tell you it’snot a time for laughter and feminine arts now. We are not in the boudoirof a mincing lady, but like two abstract creatures in a balloon who havemet to speak the truth.” (He was no doubt confused and could not findthe right words for his ideas, however just they were.) “It is you,madam, you who have destroyed my happy past. I took up this postsimply for your sake, for the sake of your ambition.… You smilesarcastically? Don’t triumph, don’t be in a hurry. Let me tell you,madam, let me tell you that I should have been equal to this position,and not only this position but a dozen positions like it, for I haveabilities; but with you, madam, with you—it’s impossible, for withyou here I have no abilities. There cannot be two centres, and you havecreated two—one of mine and one in your boudoir—two centres of power,madam, but I won’t allow it, I won’t allow it! In the service, as inmarriage, there must be one centre, two are impossible.… How have yourepaid me?” he went on. “Our marriage has been nothing but your provingto me all the time, every hour, that I am a nonentity, a fool, andeven a rascal, and I have been all the time, every hour, forced in adegrading way to prove to you that I am not a nonentity, not a fool atall, and that I impress every one with my honourable character. Isn’tthat degrading for both sides?”

At this point he began rapidly stamping with both feet on the carpet,so that Yulia Mihailovna was obliged to get up with stern dignity. Hesubsided quickly, but passed to being pathetic and began sobbing (yes,sobbing!), beating himself on the breast almost for five minutes,getting more and more frantic at Yulia Mihailovna’s profound silence. Atlast he made a fatal blunder, and let slip that he was jealous of PyotrStepanovitch. Realising that he had made an utter fool of himself, hebecame savagely furious, and shouted that he “would not allow them todeny God” and that he would “send her salon of irresponsible infidelspacking,” that the governor of a province was bound to believe in God“and so his wife was too,” that he wouldn’t put up with these youngmen; that “you, madam, for the sake of your own dignity, ought to havethought of your husband and to have stood up for his intelligence evenif he were a man of poor abilities (and I’m by no means a man of poorabilities!), and yet it’s your doing that every one here despises me, itwas you put them all up to it!” He shouted that he would annihilatethe woman question, that he would eradicate every trace of it, thatto-morrow he would forbid and break up their silly fête for the benefitof the governesses (damn them!), that the first governess he came acrossto-morrow morning he would drive out of the province “with a Cossack!I’ll make a point of it!” he shrieked. “Do you know,” he screamed, “doyou know that your rascals are inciting men at the factory, and that Iknow it? Let me tell you, I know the names of four of these rascals andthat I am going out of my mind, hopelessly, hopelessly!…”

But at this point Yulia Mihailovna suddenly broke her silence andsternly announced that she had long been aware of these criminaldesigns, and that it was all foolishness, and that he had taken it tooseriously, and that as for these mischievous fellows, she knew not onlythose four but all of them (it was a lie); but that she had not thefaintest intention of going out of her mind on account of it, but, onthe contrary, had all the more confidence in her intelligence and hopedto bring it all to a harmonious conclusion: to encourage the youngpeople, to bring them to reason, to show them suddenly and unexpectedlythat their designs were known, and then to point out to them new aimsfor rational and more noble activity.

Oh, how can I describe the effect of this on Andrey Antonovitch! Hearingthat Pyotr Stepanovitch had duped him again and had made a fool of himso coarsely, that he had told her much more than he had told him, andsooner than him, and that perhaps Pyotr Stepanovitch was the chiefinstigator of all these criminal designs—he flew into a frenzy.“Senseless but malignant woman,” he cried, snapping his bonds at oneblow, “let me tell you, I shall arrest your worthless lover at once, Ishall put him in fetters and send him to the fortress, or—I shall jumpout of a window before your eyes this minute!”

Yulia Mihailovna, turning green with anger, greeted this tirade at oncewith a burst of prolonged, ringing laughter, going off into peals suchas one hears at the French theatre when a Parisian actress, imported fora fee of a hundred thousand to play a coquette, laughs in her husband’sface for daring to be jealous of her.

Von Lembke rushed to the window, but suddenly stopped as though rootedto the spot, folded his arms across his chest, and, white as a corpse,looked with a sinister gaze at the laughing lady. “Do you know, Yulia,do you know,” he said in a gasping and suppliant voice, “do you knowthat even I can do something?” But at the renewed and even louderlaughter that followed his last words he clenched his teeth, groaned,and suddenly rushed, not towards the window, but at his spouse, with hisfist raised! He did not bring it down—no, I repeat again and again, no;but it was the last straw. He ran to his own room, not knowing what hewas doing, flung himself, dressed as he was, face downwards on his bed,wrapped himself convulsively, head and all, in the sheet, and lay so fortwo hours—incapable of sleep, incapable of thought, with a load on hisheart and blank, immovable despair in his soul. Now and then he shiveredall over with an agonising, feverish tremor. Disconnected and irrelevantthings kept coming into his mind: at one minute he thought of the oldclock which used to hang on his wall fifteen years ago in Petersburg andhad lost the minute-hand; at another of the cheerful clerk, Millebois,and how they had once caught a sparrow together in AlexandrovskyPark and had laughed so that they could be heard all over the park,remembering that one of them was already a college assessor. I imaginethat about seven in the morning he must have fallen asleep without beingaware of it himself, and must have slept with enjoyment, with agreeabledreams.

Waking about ten o’clock, he jumped wildly out of bed rememberedeverything at once, and slapped himself on the head; he refused hisbreakfast, and would see neither Blum nor the chief of the police northe clerk who came to remind him that he was expected to preside overa meeting that morning; he would listen to nothing, and did not want tounderstand. He ran like one possessed to Yulia Mihailovna’s part of thehouse. There Sofya Antropovna, an old lady of good family who had livedfor years with Yulia Mihailovna, explained to him that his wife had setoff at ten o’clock that morning with a large company in three carriagesto Varvara Petrovna Stavrogin’s, to Skvoreshniki, to look over the placewith a view to the second fête which was planned for a fortnight later,and that the visit to-day had been arranged with Varvara Petrovna threedays before. Overwhelmed with this news, Andrey Antonovitch returned tohis study and impulsively ordered the horses. He could hardly wait forthem to be got ready. His soul was hungering for Yulia Mihailovna—tolook at her, to be near her for five minutes; perhaps she would glanceat him, notice him, would smile as before, forgive him … “O-oh! Aren’tthe horses ready?” Mechanically he opened a thick book lying on thetable. (He sometimes used to try his fortune in this way with a book,opening it at random and reading the three lines at the top of theright-hand page.) What turned up was: “Tout est pour le mieux dansle meilleur des mondes possibles.”—Voltaire, Candide. He utteredan ejacul*tion of contempt and ran to get into the carriage.“Skvoreshniki!”

The coachman said afterwards that his master urged him on all the way,but as soon as they were getting near the mansion he suddenly told himto turn and drive back to the town, bidding him “Drive fast; pleasedrive fast!” Before they reached the town wall “master told me to stopagain, got out of the carriage, and went across the road into the field;I thought he felt ill but he stopped and began looking at the flowers,and so he stood for a time. It was strange, really; I began to feelquite uneasy.” This was the coachman’s testimony. I remember the weatherthat morning: it was a cold, clear, but windy September day; beforeAndrey Antonovitch stretched a forbidding landscape of bare fields fromwhich the crop had long been harvested; there were a few dying yellowflowers, pitiful relics blown about by the howling wind. Did he want tocompare himself and his fate with those wretched flowers battered by theautumn and the frost? I don’t think so; in fact I feel sure it wasnot so, and that he realised nothing about the flowers in spite of theevidence of the coachman and of the police superintendent, who drove upat that moment and asserted afterwards that he found the governor witha bunch of yellow flowers in his hand. This police superintendent,Flibusterov by name, was an ardent champion of authority who had onlyrecently come to our town but had already distinguished himself andbecome famous by his inordinate zeal, by a certain vehemence in theexecution of his duties, and his inveterate inebriety. Jumping out ofthe carriage, and not the least disconcerted at the sight of what thegovernor was doing, he blurted out all in one breath, with a franticexpression, yet with an air of conviction, that “There’s an upset in thetown.”

“Eh? What?” said Andrey Antonovitch, turning to him with a stern face,but without a trace of surprise or any recollection of his carriage andhis coachman, as though he had been in his own study.

“Police-superintendent Flibusterov, your Excellency. There’s a riot inthe town.”

“Filibusters?” Andrey Antonovitch said thoughtfully.

“Just so, your Excellency. The Shpigulin men are making a riot.”

“The Shpigulin men!…”

The name “Shpigulin” seemed to remind him of something. He started andput his finger to his forehead: “The Shpigulin men!” In silence, andstill plunged in thought, he walked without haste to the carriage,took his seat, and told the coachman to drive to the town. Thepolice-superintendent followed in the droshky.

I imagine that he had vague impressions of many interesting things ofall sorts on the way, but I doubt whether he had any definite idea orany settled intention as he drove into the open space in front of hishouse. But no sooner did he see the resolute and orderly ranks of “therioters,” the cordon of police, the helpless (and perhaps purposelyhelpless) chief of police, and the general expectation of which he wasthe object, than all the blood rushed to his heart. With a pale face hestepped out of his carriage.

“Caps off!” he said breathlessly and hardly audibly. “On your knees!”he squealed, to the surprise of every one, to his own surprise too, andperhaps the very unexpectedness of the position was the explanation ofwhat followed. Can a sledge on a switchback at carnival stop short as itflies down the hill? What made it worse, Andrey Antonovitch had been allhis life serene in character, and never shouted or stamped at anyone;and such people are always the most dangerous if it once happens thatsomething sets their sledge sliding downhill. Everything was whirlingbefore his eyes.

“Filibusters!” he yelled still more shrilly and absurdly, and his voicebroke. He stood, not knowing what he was going to do, but knowingand feeling in his whole being that he certainly would do somethingdirectly.

“Lord!” was heard from the crowd. A lad began crossing himself; three orfour men actually did try to kneel down, but the whole mass moved threesteps forward, and suddenly all began talking at once: “YourExcellency … we were hired for a term … the manager … you mustn’tsay,” and so on and so on. It was impossible to distinguish anything.

Alas! Andrey Antonovitch could distinguish nothing: the flowers werestill in his hands. The riot was as real to him as the prison cartswere to Stepan Trofimovitch. And flitting to and fro in the crowdof “rioters” who gazed open-eyed at him, he seemed to see PyotrStepanovitch, who had egged them on—Pyotr Stepanovitch, whom he hatedand whose image had never left him since yesterday.

“Rods!” he cried even more unexpectedly. A dead silence followed.

From the facts I have learnt and those I have conjectured, this musthave been what happened at the beginning; but I have no such exactinformation for what followed, nor can I conjecture it so easily. Thereare some facts, however.

In the first place, rods were brought on the scene with strangerapidity; they had evidently been got ready beforehand in expectationby the intelligent chief of the police. Not more than two, or at mostthree, were actually flogged, however; that fact I wish to lay stresson. It’s an absolute fabrication to say that the whole crowd of rioters,or at least half of them, were punished. It is a nonsensical story,too, that a poor but respectable lady was caught as she passed byand promptly thrashed; yet I read myself an account of this incidentafterwards among the provincial items of a Petersburg newspaper. Manypeople in the town talked of an old woman called Avdotya PetrovnaTarapygin who lived in the almshouse by the cemetery. She was said,on her way home from visiting a friend, to have forced her way into thecrowd of spectators through natural curiosity. Seeing what was going on,she cried out, “What a shame!” and spat on the ground. For this it wassaid she had been seized and flogged too. This story not only appearedin print, but in our excitement we positively got up a subscription forher benefit. I subscribed twenty kopecks myself. And would you believeit? It appears now that there was no old woman called Tarapygin livingin the almshouse at all! I went to inquire at the almshouse by thecemetery myself; they had never heard of anyone called Tarapygin there,and, what’s more, they were quite offended when I told them the storythat was going round. I mention this fabulous Avdotya Petrovna becausewhat happened to her (if she really had existed) very nearly happenedto Stepan Trofimovitch. Possibly, indeed, his adventure may have been atthe bottom of the ridiculous tale about the old woman, that is, as thegossip went on growing he was transformed into this old dame.

What I find most difficult to understand is how he came to slip awayfrom me as soon as he got into the square. As I had a misgiving ofsomething very unpleasant, I wanted to take him round the squarestraight to the entrance to the governor’s, but my own curiosity wasroused, and I stopped only for one minute to question the first personI came across, and suddenly I looked round and found Stepan Trofimovitchno longer at my side. Instinctively I darted off to look for him in themost dangerous place; something made me feel that his sledge, too, wasflying downhill. And I did, as a fact, find him in the very centre ofthings. I remember I seized him by the arm; but he looked quietly andproudly at me with an air of immense authority.

“Cher,” he pronounced in a voice which quivered on a breaking note, “ifthey are dealing with people so unceremoniously before us, in an opensquare, what is to be expected from that man, for instance … if hehappens to act on his own authority?”

And shaking with indignation and with an intense desire to defy them, hepointed a menacing, accusing finger at Flibusterov, who was gazing at usopen-eyed two paces away.

“That man!” cried the latter, blind with rage. “What man? And who areyou?” He stepped up to him, clenching his fist. “Who are you?” he roaredferociously, hysterically, and desperately. (I must mention that heknew Stepan Trofimovitch perfectly well by sight.) Another moment and hewould have certainly seized him by the collar; but luckily, hearing himshout, Lembke turned his head. He gazed intensely but with perplexityat Stepan Trofimovitch, seeming to consider something, and suddenlyhe shook his hand impatiently. Flibusterov was checked. I drew StepanTrofimovitch out of the crowd, though perhaps he may have wished toretreat himself.

“Home, home,” I insisted; “it was certainly thanks to Lembke that wewere not beaten.”

“Go, my friend; I am to blame for exposing you to this. You havea future and a career of a sort before you, while I—mon heure estsonnée.

He resolutely mounted the governor’s steps. The hall-porter knew me; Isaid that we both wanted to see Yulia Mihailovna.

We sat down in the waiting-room and waited. I was unwilling to leave myfriend, but I thought it unnecessary to say anything more to him. He hadthe air of a man who had consecrated himself to certain death for thesake of his country. We sat down, not side by side, but in differentcorners—I nearer to the entrance, he at some distance facing me, withhis head bent in thought, leaning lightly on his stick. He held hiswide-brimmed hat in his left hand. We sat like that for ten minutes.


Lembke suddenly came in with rapid steps, accompanied by the chief ofpolice, looked absent-mindedly at us and, taking no notice of us, wasabout to pass into his study on the right, but Stepan Trofimovitch stoodbefore him blocking his way. The tall figure of Stepan Trofimovitch, sounlike other people, made an impression. Lembke stopped.

“Who is this?” he muttered, puzzled, as if he were questioning the chiefof police, though he did not turn his head towards him, and was all thetime gazing at Stepan Trofimovitch.

“Retired college assessor, Stepan Trofimovitch Verhovensky, yourExcellency,” answered Stepan Trofimovitch, bowing majestically. HisExcellency went on staring at him with a very blank expression, however.

“What is it?” And with the curtness of a great official he turned hisear to Stepan Trofimovitch with disdainful impatience, taking him for anordinary person with a written petition of some sort.

“I was visited and my house was searched to-day by an official acting inyour Excellency’s name; therefore I am desirous …”

“Name? Name?” Lembke asked impatiently, seeming suddenly to have aninkling of something. Stepan Trofimovitch repeated his name still moremajestically.

“A-a-ah! It’s … that hotbed … You have shown yourself, sir, in such alight.… Are you a professor? a professor?”

“I once had the honour of giving some lectures to the young men of the Xuniversity.”

“The young men!” Lembke seemed to start, though I am ready to bet thathe grasped very little of what was going on or even, perhaps, did notknow with whom he was talking.

“That, sir, I won’t allow,” he cried, suddenly getting terribly angry.“I won’t allow young men! It’s all these manifestoes? It’s an assaulton society, sir, a piratical attack, filibustering.… What is yourrequest?”

“On the contrary, your wife requested me to read something to-morrow ather fête. I’ve not come to make a request but to ask for my rights….”

“At the fête? There’ll be no fête. I won’t allow your fête. A lecture? Alecture?” he screamed furiously.

“I should be very glad if you would speak to me rather more politely,your Excellency, without stamping or shouting at me as though I were aboy.”

“Perhaps you understand whom you are speaking to?” said Lembke, turningcrimson.

“Perfectly, your Excellency.”

“I am protecting society while you are destroying it!… You … Iremember about you, though: you used to be a tutor in the house ofMadame Stavrogin?”

“Yes, I was in the position … of tutor … in the house of MadameStavrogin.”

“And have been for twenty years the hotbed of all that has nowaccumulated … all the fruits.… I believe I saw you just now in thesquare. You’d better look out, sir, you’d better look out; your way ofthinking is well known. You may be sure that I keep my eye on you. Icannot allow your lectures, sir, I cannot. Don’t come with such requeststo me.”

He would have passed on again.

“I repeat that your Excellency is mistaken; it was your wife who askedme to give, not a lecture, but a literary reading at the fête to-morrow.But I decline to do so in any case now. I humbly request that you willexplain to me if possible how, why, and for what reason I was subjectedto an official search to-day? Some of my books and papers, privateletters to me, were taken from me and wheeled through the town in abarrow.”

“Who searched you?” said Lembke, starting and returning to fullconsciousness of the position. He suddenly flushed all over. He turnedquickly to the chief of police. At that moment the long, stooping, andawkward figure of Blum appeared in the doorway.

“Why, this official here,” said Stepan Trofimovitch, indicating him. Blumcame forward with a face that admitted his responsibility but showed nocontrition.

“Vous ne faites que des bêtises,” Lembke threw at him in a tone ofvexation and anger, and suddenly he was transformed and completelyhimself again.

“Excuse me,” he muttered, utterly disconcerted and turning absolutelycrimson, “all this … all this was probably a mere blunder, amisunderstanding … nothing but a misunderstanding.”

“Your Excellency,” observed Stepan Trofimovitch, “once when I was youngI saw a characteristic incident. In the corridor of a theatre a man ranup to another and gave him a sounding smack in the face before the wholepublic. Perceiving at once that his victim was not the person whom hehad intended to chastise but someone quite different who only slightlyresembled him, he pronounced angrily, with the haste of one whosemoments are precious—as your Excellency did just now—‘I’ve madea mistake … excuse me, it was a misunderstanding, nothing but amisunderstanding.’ And when the offended man remained resentful andcried out, he observed to him, with extreme annoyance: ‘Why, I tell youit was a misunderstanding. What are you crying out about?’”

“That’s … that’s very amusing, of course”—Lembke gave a wrysmile—“but … but can’t you see how unhappy I am myself?”

He almost screamed, and seemed about to hide his face in his hands.

This unexpected and piteous exclamation, almost a sob, was almost morethan one could bear. It was probably the first moment since the previousday that he had full, vivid consciousness of all that had happened—andit was followed by complete, humiliating despair that could not bedisguised—who knows, in another minute he might have sobbed aloud.For the first moment Stepan Trofimovitch looked wildly at him; then hesuddenly bowed his head and in a voice pregnant with feeling pronounced:

“Your Excellency, don’t trouble yourself with my petulant complaint, andonly give orders for my books and letters to be restored to me.…”

He was interrupted. At that very instant Yulia Mihailovna returned andentered noisily with all the party which had accompanied her. But atthis point I should like to tell my story in as much detail as possible.


In the first place, the whole company who had filled three carriagescrowded into the waiting-room. There was a special entrance to YuliaMihailovna’s apartments on the left as one entered the house; but onthis occasion they all went through the waiting-room—and I imagine justbecause Stepan Trofimovitch was there, and because all that had happenedto him as well as the Shpigulin affair had reached Yulia Mihailovna’sears as she drove into the town. Lyamshin, who for some misdemeanourhad not been invited to join the party and so knew all that had beenhappening in the town before anyone else, brought her the news. Withspiteful glee he hired a wretched Cossack nag and hastened on the wayto Skvoreshniki to meet the returning cavalcade with the divertingintelligence. I fancy that, in spite of her lofty determination, YuliaMihailovna was a little disconcerted on hearing such surprising news,but probably only for an instant. The political aspect of the affair,for instance, could not cause her uneasiness; Pyotr Stepanovitch hadimpressed upon her three or four times that the Shpigulin ruffians oughtto be flogged, and Pyotr Stepanovitch certainly had for some time pastbeen a great authority in her eyes. “But … anyway, I shall make him payfor it,” she doubtless reflected, the “he,” of course, referring toher spouse. I must observe in passing that on this occasion, as thoughpurposely, Pyotr Stepanovitch had taken no part in the expedition,and no one had seen him all day. I must mention too, by the way, thatVarvara Petrovna had come back to the town with her guests (in thesame carriage with Yulia Mihailovna) in order to be present at the lastmeeting of the committee which was arranging the fête for the next day.She too must have been interested, and perhaps even agitated, by thenews about Stepan Trofimovitch communicated by Lyamshin.

The hour of reckoning for Andrey Antonovitch followed at once. Alas! hefelt that from the first glance at his admirable wife. With an open airand an enchanting smile she went quickly up to Stepan Trofimovitch, heldout her exquisitely gloved hand, and greeted him with a perfect showerof flattering phrases—as though the only thing she cared about thatmorning was to make haste to be charming to Stepan Trofimovitch becauseat last she saw him in her house. There was not one hint of the searchthat morning; it was as though she knew nothing of it. There was not oneword to her husband, not one glance in his direction—as though hehad not been in the room. What’s more, she promptly confiscated StepanTrofimovitch and carried him off to the drawing-room—as though he hadhad no interview with Lembke, or as though it was not worth prolongingif he had. I repeat again, I think that in this, Yulia Mihailovna,in spite of her aristocratic tone, made another great mistake. AndKarmazinov particularly did much to aggravate this. (He had taken partin the expedition at Yulia Mihailovna’s special request, and in that wayhad, incidentally, paid his visit to Varvara Petrovna, and she was sopoor-spirited as to be perfectly delighted at it.) On seeing StepanTrofimovitch, he called out from the doorway (he came in behind therest) and pressed forward to embrace him, even interrupting YuliaMihailovna.

“What years, what ages! At last … excellent ami.

He made as though to kiss him, offering his cheek, of course, and StepanTrofimovitch was so fluttered that he could not avoid saluting it.

“Cher,” he said to me that evening, recalling all the events of thatday, “I wondered at that moment which of us was the most contemptible:he, embracing me only to humiliate me, or I, despising him and his faceand kissing it on the spot, though I might have turned away.… Foo!”

“Come, tell me about yourself, tell me everything,” Karmazinov drawledand lisped, as though it were possible for him on the spur of the momentto give an account of twenty-five years of his life. But this foolishtrifling was the height of “chic.”

“Remember that the last time we met was at the Granovsky dinner inMoscow, and that twenty-four years have passed since then …” StepanTrofimovitch began very reasonably (and consequently not at all in thesame “chic” style).

“Ce cher homme,” Karmazinov interrupted with shrill familiarity,squeezing his shoulder with exaggerated friendliness. “Make haste andtake us to your room, Yulia Mihailovna; there he’ll sit down and tell useverything.”

“And yet I was never at all intimate with that peevish old woman,”Stepan Trofimovitch went on complaining to me that same evening, shakingwith anger; “we were almost boys, and I’d begun to detest him eventhen … just as he had me, of course.”

Yulia Mihailovna’s drawing-room filled up quickly. Varvara Petrovnawas particularly excited, though she tried to appear indifferent, butI caught her once or twice glancing with hatred at Karmazinov and withwrath at Stepan Trofimovitch—the wrath of anticipation, the wrath ofjealousy and love: if Stepan Trofimovitch had blundered this time andhad let Karmazinov make him look small before every one, I believe shewould have leapt up and beaten him. I have forgotten to say thatLiza too was there, and I had never seen her more radiant, carelesslylight-hearted, and happy. Mavriky Nikolaevitch was there too, of course.In the crowd of young ladies and rather vulgar young men who made upYulia Mihailovna’s usual retinue, and among whom this vulgarity wastaken for sprightliness, and cheap cynicism for wit, I noticed two orthree new faces: a very obsequious Pole who was on a visit in the town;a German doctor, a sturdy old fellow who kept loudly laughing with greatzest at his own wit; and lastly, a very young princeling from Petersburglike an automaton figure, with the deportment of a state dignitary anda fearfully high collar. But it was evident that Yulia Mihailovna had avery high opinion of this visitor, and was even a little anxious of theimpression her salon was making on him.

“Cher M. Karmazinov,” said Stepan Trofimovitch, sitting in a picturesquepose on the sofa and suddenly beginning to lisp as daintily asKarmazinov himself, “cher M. Karmazinov, the life of a man of our timeand of certain convictions, even after an interval of twenty-five years,is bound to seem monotonous …”

The German went off into a loud abrupt guffaw like a neigh, evidentlyimagining that Stepan Trofimovitch had said something exceedingly funny.The latter gazed at him with studied amazement but produced no effecton him whatever. The prince, too, looked at the German, turning head,collar and all, towards him and putting up his pince-nez, though withoutthe slightest curiosity.

“… Is bound to seem monotonous,” Stepan Trofimovitch intentionallyrepeated, drawling each word as deliberately and nonchalantly aspossible. “And so my life has been throughout this quarter of a century,et comme on trouve partout plus de moines que de raison, and as I amentirely of this opinion, it has come to pass that throughout thisquarter of a century I …”

“C’est charmant, les moines,” whispered Yulia Mihailovna, turning toVarvara Petrovna, who was sitting beside her.

Varvara Petrovna responded with a look of pride. But Karmazinov couldnot stomach the success of the French phrase, and quickly and shrillyinterrupted Stepan Trofimovitch.

“As for me, I am quite at rest on that score, and for the past sevenyears I’ve been settled at Karlsruhe. And last year, when it wasproposed by the town council to lay down a new water-pipe, I felt inmy heart that this question of water-pipes in Karlsruhe was dearer andcloser to my heart than all the questions of my precious Fatherland …in this period of so-called reform.”

“I can’t help sympathising, though it goes against the grain,” sighedStepan Trofimovitch, bowing his head significantly.

Yulia Mihailovna was triumphant: the conversation was becoming profoundand taking a political turn.

“A drain-pipe?” the doctor inquired in a loud voice.

“A water-pipe, doctor, a water-pipe, and I positively assisted them indrawing up the plan.”

The doctor went off into a deafening guffaw. Many people followed hisexample, laughing in the face of the doctor, who remained unconscious ofit and was highly delighted that every one was laughing.

“You must allow me to differ from you, Karmazinov,” Yulia Mihailovnahastened to interpose. “Karlsruhe is all very well, but you are fondof mystifying people, and this time we don’t believe you. What Russianwriter has presented so many modern types, has brought forward so manycontemporary problems, has put his finger on the most vital modernpoints which make up the type of the modern man of action? You, onlyyou, and no one else. It’s no use your assuring us of your coldnesstowards your own country and your ardent interest in the water-pipes ofKarlsruhe. Ha ha!”

“Yes, no doubt,” lisped Karmazinov. “I have portrayed in the characterof Pogozhev all the failings of the Slavophils and in the character ofNikodimov all the failings of the Westerners.…”

“I say, hardly all!” Lyamshin whispered slyly.

“But I do this by the way, simply to while away the tedious hours and tosatisfy the persistent demands of my fellow-countrymen.”

“You are probably aware, Stepan Trofimovitch,” Yulia Mihailovna went onenthusiastically, “that to-morrow we shall have the delight of hearingthe charming lines … one of the last of Semyon Yakovlevitch’s exquisiteliterary inspirations—it’s called Merci. He announces in this piecethat he will write no more, that nothing in the world will induce himto, if angels from Heaven or, what’s more, all the best society were toimplore him to change his mind. In fact he is laying down the pen forgood, and this graceful Merci is addressed to the public in gratefulacknowledgment of the constant enthusiasm with which it has for so manyyears greeted his unswerving loyalty to true Russian thought.”

Yulia Mihailovna was at the acme of bliss.

“Yes, I shall make my farewell; I shall say my Merci and depart andthere … in Karlsruhe … I shall close my eyes.” Karmazinov was graduallybecoming maudlin.

Like many of our great writers (and there are numbers of them amongstus), he could not resist praise, and began to be limp at once, in spiteof his penetrating wit. But I consider this is pardonable. They say thatone of our Shakespeares positively blurted out in private conversationthat “we great men can’t do otherwise,” and so on, and, what’s more, wasunaware of it.

“There in Karlsruhe I shall close my eyes. When we have done our duty,all that’s left for us great men is to make haste to close our eyeswithout seeking a reward. I shall do so too.”

“Give me the address and I shall come to Karlsruhe to visit your tomb,”said the German, laughing immoderately.

“They send corpses by rail nowadays,” one of the less important youngmen said unexpectedly.

Lyamshin positively shrieked with delight. Yulia Mihailovna frowned.Nikolay Stavrogin walked in.

“Why, I was told that you were locked up?” he said aloud, addressingStepan Trofimovitch before every one else.

“No, it was a case of unlocking,” jested Stepan Trofimovitch.

“But I hope that what’s happened will have no influence on what I askedyou to do,” Yulia Mihailovna put in again. “I trust that you will notlet this unfortunate annoyance, of which I had no idea, lead you todisappoint our eager expectations and deprive us of the enjoyment ofhearing your reading at our literary matinée.”

“I don’t know, I … now …”

“Really, I am so unlucky, Varvara Petrovna … and only fancy, just whenI was so longing to make the personal acquaintance of one of themost remarkable and independent intellects of Russia—and here StepanTrofimovitch suddenly talks of deserting us.”

“Your compliment is uttered so audibly that I ought to pretend not tohear it,” Stepan Trofimovitch said neatly, “but I cannot believe thatmy insignificant presence is so indispensable at your fête to-morrow.However, I …”

“Why, you’ll spoil him!” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, bursting into theroom. “I’ve only just got him in hand—and in one morning he has beensearched, arrested, taken by the collar by a policeman, and here ladiesare cooing to him in the governor’s drawing-room. Every bone in his bodyis aching with rapture; in his wildest dreams he had never hoped forsuch good fortune. Now he’ll begin informing against the Socialistsafter this!”

“Impossible, Pyotr Stepanovitch! Socialism is too grand an idea tobe unrecognised by Stepan Trofimovitch.” Yulia Mihailovna took up thegauntlet with energy.

“It’s a great idea but its exponents are not always great men, etbrisons-là, mon cher,” Stepan Trofimovitch ended, addressing his son andrising gracefully from his seat.

But at this point an utterly unexpected circ*mstance occurred. VonLembke had been in the room for some time but seemed unnoticed byanyone, though every one had seen him come in. In accordance with herformer plan, Yulia Mihailovna went on ignoring him. He took up hisposition near the door and with a stern face listened gloomily to theconversation. Hearing an allusion to the events of the morning, hebegan fidgeting uneasily, stared at the prince, obviously struck by hisstiffly starched, prominent collar; then suddenly he seemed to start onhearing the voice of Pyotr Stepanovitch and seeing him burst in; and nosooner had Stepan Trofimovitch uttered his phrase about Socialists thanLembke went up to him, pushing against Lyamshin, who at once skipped outof the way with an affected gesture of surprise, rubbing his shoulderand pretending that he had been terribly bruised.

“Enough!” said Von Lembke to Stepan Trofimovitch, vigorously grippingthe hand of the dismayed gentleman and squeezing it with all his mightin both of his. “Enough! The filibusters of our day are unmasked. Notanother word. Measures have been taken.…”

He spoke loudly enough to be heard by all the room, and concluded withenergy. The impression he produced was poignant. Everybody felt thatsomething was wrong. I saw Yulia Mihailovna turn pale. The effect washeightened by a trivial accident. After announcing that measures hadbeen taken, Lembke turned sharply and walked quickly towards the door,but he had hardly taken two steps when he stumbled over a rug, swervedforward, and almost fell. For a moment he stood still, looked at the rugat which he had stumbled, and, uttering aloud “Change it!” went out ofthe room. Yulia Mihailovna ran after him. Her exit was followed by anuproar, in which it was difficult to distinguish anything. Some said hewas “deranged,” others that he was “liable to attacks”; others put theirfingers to their forehead; Lyamshin, in the corner, put his two fingersabove his forehead. People hinted at some domestic difficulties—in awhisper, of course. No one took up his hat; all were waiting. I don’tknow what Yulia Mihailovna managed to do, but five minutes later shecame back, doing her utmost to appear composed. She replied evasivelythat Andrey Antonovitch was rather excited, but that it meant nothing,that he had been like that from a child, that she knew “much better,”and that the fête next day would certainly cheer him up. Then followed afew flattering words to Stepan Trofimovitch simply from civility, and aloud invitation to the members of the committee to open the meeting now,at once. Only then, all who were not members of the committee preparedto go home; but the painful incidents of this fatal day were not yetover.

I noticed at the moment when Nikolay Stavrogin came in that Liza lookedquickly and intently at him and was for a long time unable to take hereyes off him—so much so that at last it attracted attention. I sawMavriky Nikolaevitch bend over her from behind; he seemed to mean towhisper something to her, but evidently changed his intention and drewhimself up quickly, looking round at every one with a guilty air. NikolayVsyevolodovitch too excited curiosity; his face was paler than usual andthere was a strangely absent-minded look in his eyes. After flinginghis question at Stepan Trofimovitch he seemed to forget about himaltogether, and I really believe he even forgot to speak to his hostess.He did not once look at Liza—not because he did not want to, but I amcertain because he did not notice her either. And suddenly, after thebrief silence that followed Yulia Mihailovna’s invitation to open themeeting without loss of time, Liza’s musical voice, intentionally loud,was heard. She called to Stavrogin.

“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, a captain who calls himself a relation ofyours, the brother of your wife, and whose name is Lebyadkin, keepswriting impertinent letters to me, complaining of you and offering totell me some secrets about you. If he really is a connection of yours,please tell him not to annoy me, and save me from this unpleasantness.”

There was a note of desperate challenge in these words—every onerealised it. The accusation was unmistakable, though perhaps it was asurprise to herself. She was like a man who shuts his eyes and throwshimself from the roof.

But Nikolay Stavrogin’s answer was even more astounding.

To begin with, it was strange that he was not in the least surprised andlistened to Liza with unruffled attention. There was no trace of eitherconfusion or anger in his face. Simply, firmly, even with an air ofperfect readiness, he answered the fatal question:

“Yes, I have the misfortune to be connected with that man. I have beenthe husband of his sister for nearly five years. You may be sure I willgive him your message as soon as possible, and I’ll answer for it thathe shan’t annoy you again.”

I shall never forget the horror that was reflected on the face ofVarvara Petrovna. With a distracted air she got up from her seat,lifting up her right hand as though to ward off a blow. NikolayVsyevolodovitch looked at her, looked at Liza, at the spectators, andsuddenly smiled with infinite disdain; he walked deliberately out of theroom. Every one saw how Liza leapt up from the sofa as soon as heturned to go and unmistakably made a movement to run after him. But shecontrolled herself and did not run after him; she went quietly out ofthe room without saying a word or even looking at anyone, accompanied,of course, by Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who rushed after her.

The uproar and the gossip that night in the town I will not attempt todescribe. Varvara Petrovna shut herself up in her town house and NikolayVsyevolodovitch, it was said, went straight to Skvoreshniki withoutseeing his mother. Stepan Trofimovitch sent me that evening to cettechère amie to implore her to allow him to come to her, but she would notsee me. He was terribly overwhelmed; he shed tears. “Such a marriage!Such a marriage! Such an awful thing in the family!” he kept repeating.He remembered Karmazinov, however, and abused him terribly. He setto work vigorously to prepare for the reading too and—the artistictemperament!—rehearsed before the looking-glass and went over all thejokes and witticisms uttered in the course of his life which he hadwritten down in a separate notebook, to insert into his reading nextday.

“My dear, I do this for the sake of a great idea,” he said to me,obviously justifying himself. “Cher ami, I have been stationary fortwenty-five years and suddenly I’ve begun to move—whither, I knownot—but I’ve begun to move.…”




The fête took place in spite of all the perplexities of the preceding“Shpigulin” day. I believe that even if Lembke had died the previousnight, the fête would still have taken place next morning—so peculiarwas the significance Yulia Mihailovna attached to it. Alas! up to thelast moment she was blind and had no inkling of the state of publicfeeling. No one believed at last that the festive day would pass withoutsome tremendous scandal, some “catastrophe” as some people expressed it,rubbing their hands in anticipation. Many people, it is true, tried toassume a frowning and diplomatic countenance; but, speaking generally,every Russian is inordinately delighted at any public scandal anddisorder. It is true that we did feel something much more seriousthan the mere craving for a scandal: there was a general feelingof irritation, a feeling of implacable resentment; every one seemedthoroughly disgusted with everything. A kind of bewildered cynicism, aforced, as it were, strained cynicism was predominant in every one. Theonly people who were free from bewilderment were the ladies, and theywere clear on only one point: their remorseless detestation of YuliaMihailovna. Ladies of all shades of opinion were agreed in this. Andshe, poor dear, had no suspicion; up to the last hour she was persuadedthat she was “surrounded by followers,” and that they were still“fanatically devoted to her.”

I have already hinted that some low fellows of different sorts hadmade their appearance amongst us. In turbulent times of upheaval ortransition low characters always come to the front everywhere. I amnot speaking now of the so-called “advanced” people who are always in ahurry to be in advance of every one else (their absorbing anxiety) andwho always have some more or less definite, though often very stupid,aim. No, I am speaking only of the riff-raff. In every period oftransition this riff-raff, which exists in every society, rises to thesurface, and is not only without any aim but has not even a symptom ofan idea, and merely does its utmost to give expression to uneasiness andimpatience. Moreover, this riff-raff almost always falls unconsciouslyunder the control of the little group of “advanced people” who do actwith a definite aim, and this little group can direct all this rabbleas it pleases, if only it does not itself consist of absolute idiots,which, however, is sometimes the case. It is said among us now that itis all over, that Pyotr Stepanovitch was directed by the Internationale,and Yulia Mihailovna by Pyotr Stepanovitch, while she controlled, underhis rule, a rabble of all sorts. The more sober minds amongst us wonderat themselves now, and can’t understand how they came to be so foolishat the time.

What constituted the turbulence of our time and what transition it waswe were passing through I don’t know, nor I think does anyone, unlessit were some of those visitors of ours. Yet the most worthless fellowssuddenly gained predominant influence, began loudly criticisingeverything sacred, though till then they had not dared to open theirmouths, while the leading people, who had till then so satisfactorilykept the upper hand, began listening to them and holding their peace,some even simpered approval in a most shameless way. People likeLyamshin and Telyatnikov, like Gogol’s Tentyotnikov, drivellinghome-bred editions of Radishtchev, wretched little Jews with a mournfulbut haughty smile, guffawing foreigners, poets of advanced tendenciesfrom the capital, poets who made up with peasant coats and tarred bootsfor the lack of tendencies or talents, majors and colonels who ridiculedthe senselessness of the service, and who would have been ready for anextra rouble to unbuckle their swords, and take jobs as railway clerks;generals who had abandoned their duties to become lawyers; advancedmediators, advancing merchants, innumerable divinity students, womenwho were the embodiment of the woman question—all these suddenly gainedcomplete sway among us and over whom? Over the club, the venerableofficials, over generals with wooden legs, over the very strict andinaccessible ladies of our local society. Since even Varvara Petrovnawas almost at the beck and call of this rabble, right up to the timeof the catastrophe with her son, our other local Minervas may well bepardoned for their temporary aberration. Now all this is attributed,as I have mentioned already, to the Internationale. This idea has takensuch root that it is given as the explanation to visitors from otherparts. Only lately councillor Kubrikov, a man of sixty-two, with theStanislav Order on his breast, came forward uninvited and confessed ina voice full of feeling that he had beyond a shadow of doubt been forfully three months under the influence of the Internationale. When withevery deference for his years and services he was invited to be moredefinite, he stuck firmly to his original statement, though he couldproduce no evidence except that “he had felt it in all his feelings,” sothat they cross-examined him no further.

I repeat again, there was still even among us a small group who heldthemselves aloof from the beginning, and even locked themselves up. Butwhat lock can stand against a law of nature? Daughters will grow up evenin the most careful families, and it is essential for grown-up daughtersto dance.

And so all these people, too, ended by subscribing to the governesses’fund.

The ball was assumed to be an entertainment so brilliant, sounprecedented; marvels were told about it; there were rumours of princesfrom a distance with lorgnettes; of ten stewards, all young dandies,with rosettes on their left shoulder; of some Petersburg people whowere setting the thing going; there was a rumour that Karmazinov hadconsented to increase the subscriptions to the fund by reading his Merciin the costume of the governesses of the district; that there would bea literary quadrille all in costume, and every costume would symbolisesome special line of thought; and finally that “honest Russian thought”would dance in costume—which would certainly be a complete novelty initself. Who could resist subscribing? Every one subscribed.


The programme of the fête was divided into two parts: the literarymatinée from midday till four o’clock, and afterwards a ball from teno’clock onwards through the night. But in this very programme there layconcealed germs of disorder. In the first place, from the very beginninga rumour had gained ground among the public concerning a luncheonimmediately after the literary matinée, or even while it was goingon, during an interval arranged expressly for it—a free luncheon, ofcourse, which would form part of the programme and be accompanied bychampagne. The immense price of the tickets (three roubles) tended toconfirm this rumour. “As though one would subscribe for nothing? Thefête is arranged for twenty-four hours, so food must be provided. Peoplewill get hungry.” This was how people reasoned in the town. I must admitthat Yulia Mihailovna did much to confirm this disastrous rumour by herown heedlessness. A month earlier, under the first spell of the greatproject, she would babble about it to anyone she met; and even sent aparagraph to one of the Petersburg papers about the toasts and speechesarranged for her fête. What fascinated her most at that time wasthe idea of these toasts; she wanted to propose them herself and wascontinually composing them in anticipation. They were to make clear whatwas their banner (what was it? I don’t mind betting that the poor dearcomposed nothing after all), they were to get into the Petersburg andMoscow papers, to touch and fascinate the higher powers and then tospread the idea over all the provinces of Russia, rousing people towonder and imitation.

But for toasts, champagne was essential, and as champagne can’t bedrunk on an empty stomach, it followed that a lunch was essential too.Afterwards, when by her efforts a committee had been formed and hadattacked the subject more seriously, it was proved clearly to her atonce that if they were going to dream of banquets there would be verylittle left for the governesses, however well people subscribed. Therewere two ways out of the difficulty: either Belshazzar’s feast withtoasts and speeches, and ninety roubles for the governesses, or aconsiderable sum of money with the fête only as a matter of form toraise it. The committee, however, only wanted to scare her, and had ofcourse worked out a third course of action, which was reasonable andcombined the advantages of both, that is, a very decent fête in everyrespect only without champagne, and so yielding a very respectable sum,much more than ninety roubles. But Yulia Mihailovna would not agree toit: her proud spirit revolted from paltry compromise. She decided atonce that if the original idea could not be carried out they should rushto the opposite extreme, that is, raise an enormous subscription thatwould be the envy of other provinces. “The public must understand,”she said at the end of her flaming speech to the committee, “thatthe attainment of an object of universal human interest is infinitelyloftier than the corporeal enjoyments of the passing moment, that thefête in its essence is only the proclamation of a great idea, and so weought to be content with the most frugal German ball simply as a symbol,that is, if we can’t dispense with this detestable ball altogether,”so great was the aversion she suddenly conceived for it. But she waspacified at last. It was then that “the literary quadrille” and theother æsthetic items were invented and proposed as substitutes for thecorporeal enjoyments. It was then that Karmazinov finally consented toread Merci (until then he had only tantalised them by his hesitation) andso eradicate the very idea of victuals from the minds of our incontinentpublic. So the ball was once more to be a magnificent function, thoughin a different style. And not to be too ethereal it was decided that teawith lemon and round biscuits should be served at the beginning of theball, and later on “orchade” and lemonade and at the end even ices—butnothing else. For those who always and everywhere are hungry and, stillmore, thirsty, they might open a buffet in the farthest of the suite ofrooms and put it in charge of Prohorovitch, the head cook of the club,who would, subject to the strict supervision of the committee, servewhatever was wanted, at a fixed charge, and a notice should be put upon the door of the hall that refreshments were extra. But on the morningthey decided not to open the buffet at all for fear of disturbing thereading, though the buffet would have been five rooms off the White Hallin which Karmazinov had consented to read Merci.

It is remarkable that the committee, and even the most practical peoplein it, attached enormous consequence to this reading. As for peopleof poetical tendencies, the marshal’s wife, for instance, informedKarmazinov that after the reading she would immediately order a marbleslab to be put up in the wall of the White Hall with an inscriptionin gold letters, that on such a day and year, here, in this place, thegreat writer of Russia and of Europe had read Merci on laying aside hispen, and so had for the first time taken leave of the Russian publicrepresented by the leading citizens of our town, and that thisinscription would be read by all at the ball, that is, only five hoursafter Merci had been read. I know for a fact that Karmazinov it was whoinsisted that there should be no buffet in the morning on any account,while he was reading, in spite of some protests from members of thecommittee that this was rather opposed to our way of doing things.

This was the position of affairs, while in the town people were stillreckoning on a Belshazzar feast, that is, on refreshments provided bythe committee; they believed in this to the last hour. Even the youngladies were dreaming of masses of sweets and preserves, and somethingmore beyond their imagination. Every one knew that the subscriptions hadreached a huge sum, that all the town was struggling to go, that peoplewere driving in from the surrounding districts, and that there werenot tickets enough. It was known, too, that there had been some largesubscriptions apart from the price paid for tickets: Varvara Petrovna,for instance, had paid three hundred roubles for her ticket and hadgiven almost all the flowers from her conservatory to decorate the room.The marshal’s wife, who was a member of the committee, provided thehouse and the lighting; the club furnished the music, the attendants,and gave up Prohorovitch for the whole day. There were othercontributions as well, though lesser ones, so much so indeed that theidea was mooted of cutting down the price of tickets from three roublesto two. Indeed, the committee were afraid at first that three roubleswould be too much for young ladies to pay, and suggested that they mighthave family tickets, so that every family should pay for one daughteronly, while the other young ladies of the family, even if there were adozen specimens, should be admitted free. But all their apprehensionsturned out to be groundless: it was just the young ladies who did come.Even the poorest clerks brought their girls, and it was quite evidentthat if they had had no girls it would never have occurred to them tosubscribe for tickets. One insignificant little secretary brought allhis seven daughters, to say nothing of his wife and a niece into thebargain, and every one of these persons held in her hand an entranceticket that cost three roubles.

It may be imagined what an upheaval it made in the town! One has only toremember that as the fête was divided into two parts every lady neededtwo costumes for the occasion—a morning one for the matinée and aball dress for the evening. Many middle-class people, as it appearedafterwards, had pawned everything they had for that day, even the familylinen, even the sheets, and possibly the mattresses, to the Jews, whohad been settling in our town in great numbers during the previous twoyears and who became more and more numerous as time went on. Almost allthe officials had asked for their salary in advance, and some of thelandowners sold beasts they could ill spare, and all simply to bringtheir ladies got up as marchionesses, and to be as good as anybody. Themagnificence of dresses on this occasion was something unheard of in ourneighbourhood. For a fortnight beforehand the town was overflowing withfunny stories which were all brought by our wits to Yulia Mihailovna’scourt. Caricatures were passed from hand to hand. I have seen somedrawings of the sort myself, in Yulia Mihailovna’s album. All thisreached the ears of the families who were the source of the jokes; Ibelieve this was the cause of the general hatred of Yulia Mihailovnawhich had grown so strong in the town. People swear and gnash theirteeth when they think of it now. But it was evident, even at the time,that if the committee were to displease them in anything, or if anythingwent wrong at the ball, the outburst of indignation would be somethingsurprising. That’s why every one was secretly expecting a scandal; andif it was so confidently expected, how could it fail to come to pass?

The orchestra struck up punctually at midday. Being one of the stewards,that is, one of the twelve “young men with a rosette,” I saw with my owneyes how this day of ignominious memory began. It began with an enormouscrush at the doors. How was it that everything, including the police,went wrong that day? I don’t blame the genuine public: the fathers offamilies did not crowd, nor did they push against anyone, in spite oftheir position. On the contrary, I am told that they were disconcertedeven in the street, at the sight of the crowd shoving in a way unheardof in our town, besieging the entry and taking it by assault, insteadof simply going in. Meanwhile the carriages kept driving up, and at lastblocked the street. Now, at the time I write, I have good grounds foraffirming that some of the lowest rabble of our town were brought inwithout tickets by Lyamshin and Liputin, possibly, too, by other peoplewho were stewards like me. Anyway, some complete strangers, who had comefrom the surrounding districts and elsewhere, were present. As soon asthese savages entered the hall they began asking where the buffet was,as though they had been put up to it beforehand, and learning thatthere was no buffet they began swearing with brutal directness, and anunprecedented insolence; some of them, it is true, were drunk when theycame. Some of them were dazed like savages at the splendour of thehall, as they had never seen anything like it, and subsided for a minutegazing at it open-mouthed. This great White Hall really was magnificent,though the building was falling into decay: it was of immense size, withtwo rows of windows, with an old-fashioned ceiling covered with giltcarving, with a gallery with mirrors on the walls, red and whitedraperies, marble statues (nondescript but still statues) with heavy oldfurniture of the Napoleonic period, white and gold, upholstered in redvelvet. At the moment I am describing, a high platform had been putup for the literary gentlemen who were to read, and the whole hall wasfilled with chairs like the parterre of a theatre with wide aisles forthe audience.

But after the first moments of surprise the most senseless questions andprotests followed. “Perhaps we don’t care for a reading.… We’ve paidour money.… The audience has been impudently swindled.… This is ourentertainment, not the Lembkes!” They seemed, in fact, to have beenlet in for this purpose. I remember specially an encounter in which theprinceling with the stand-up collar and the face of a Dutch doll, whom Ihad met the morning before at Yulia Mihailovna’s, distinguished himself.He had, at her urgent request, consented to pin a rosette on his leftshoulder and to become one of our stewards. It turned out that this dumbwax figure could act after a fashion of his own, if he could not talk.When a colossal pockmarked captain, supported by a herd of rabblefollowing at his heels, pestered him by asking “which way to thebuffet?” he made a sign to a police sergeant. His hint was promptlyacted upon, and in spite of the drunken captain’s abuse he wasdragged out of the hall. Meantime the genuine public began to make itsappearance, and stretched in three long files between the chairs. Thedisorderly elements began to subside, but the public, even the most“respectable” among them, had a dissatisfied and perplexed air; some ofthe ladies looked positively scared.

At last all were seated; the music ceased. People began blowing theirnoses and looking about them. They waited with too solemn an air—whichis always a bad sign. But nothing was to be seen yet of the Lembkes.Silks, velvets, diamonds glowed and sparkled on every side; whiffs offragrance filled the air. The men were wearing all their decorations,and the old men were even in uniform. At last the marshal’s wife came inwith Liza. Liza had never been so dazzlingly charming or so splendidlydressed as that morning. Her hair was done up in curls, her eyessparkled, a smile beamed on her face. She made an unmistakablesensation: people scrutinised her and whispered about her. They saidthat she was looking for Stavrogin, but neither Stavrogin nor VarvaraPetrovna were there. At the time I did not understand the expressionof her face: why was there so much happiness, such joy, such energy andstrength in that face? I remembered what had happened the day before andcould not make it out.

But still the Lembkes did not come. This was distinctly a blunder. Ilearned that Yulia Mihailovna waited till the last minute for PyotrStepanovitch, without whom she could not stir a step, though she neveradmitted it to herself. I must mention, in parenthesis, that on theprevious day Pyotr Stepanovitch had at the last meeting of the committeedeclined to wear the rosette of a steward, which had disappointed herdreadfully, even to the point of tears. To her surprise and, later on,her extreme discomfiture (to anticipate things) he vanished for thewhole morning and did not make his appearance at the literary matinée atall, so that no one met him till evening. At last the audience beganto manifest unmistakable signs of impatience. No one appeared on theplatform either. The back rows began applauding, as in a theatre. Theelderly gentlemen and the ladies frowned. “The Lembkes are really givingthemselves unbearable airs.” Even among the better part of the audiencean absurd whisper began to gain ground that perhaps there would not be afête at all, that Lembke perhaps was really unwell, and so on and soon. But, thank God, the Lembkes at last appeared, she was leaning onhis arm; I must confess I was in great apprehension myself abouttheir appearance. But the legends were disproved, and the truthwas triumphant. The audience seemed relieved. Lembke himself seemedperfectly well. Every one, I remember, was of that opinion, for itcan be imagined how many eyes were turned on him. I may mention,as characteristic of our society, that there were very few of thebetter-class people who saw reason to suppose that there was anythingwrong with him; his conduct seemed to them perfectly normal, and so muchso that the action he had taken in the square the morning before wasaccepted and approved.

“That’s how it should have been from the first,” the higher officialsdeclared. “If a man begins as a philanthropist he has to come to thesame thing in the end, though he does not see that it was necessaryfrom the point of view of philanthropy itself”—that, at least, was theopinion at the club. They only blamed him for having lost his temper.“It ought to have been done more coolly, but there, he is a new man,”said the authorities.

All eyes turned with equal eagerness to Yulia Mihailovna. Of course noone has the right to expect from me an exact account in regard to onepoint: that is a mysterious, a feminine question. But I only know onething: on the evening of the previous day she had gone into AndreyAntonovitch’s study and was there with him till long after midnight.Andrey Antonovitch was comforted and forgiven. The husband and wife cameto a complete understanding, everything was forgotten, and when atthe end of the interview Lembke went down on his knees, recalling withhorror the final incident of the previous night, the exquisite hand,and after it the lips of his wife, checked the fervent flow of penitentphrases of the chivalrously delicate gentleman who was limp withemotion. Every one could see the happiness in her face. She walked inwith a