by Fyodor Dostoevsky
translated by Constance Garnett
SEMYON ARDALYONOVITCH said to me all of a sudden the day
before yesterday: "Why, will you ever be sober, Ivan Ivano-
vitch? Tell me that, pray."
A strange requirement. I did not resent it, I am a timid man;
but here they have actually made me out mad. An artist
painted my portrait as it happened: "After all, you are a
literary man," he said. I submitted, he exhibited it. I read:
"Go and look at that morbid face suggesting insanity."
It may be so, but think of putting it so bluntly into print. In
print everything ought to be decorous; there ought to be ideals,
while instead of that . . .
Say it indirectly, at least; that's what you have style for. But
no, he doesn't care to do it indirectly. Nowadays humour and
a fine style have disappeared, and abuse is accepted as wit. I
do not resent it: but God knows I am not enough of a literary
man to go out of my mind. I have written a novel, it has not
been published. I have written articles - they have been
refused. Those articles I took about from one editor to
another; everywhere they refused them: you have no salt they
told me. "What sort of salt do you want?" I asked with a
eer. "Attic salt?"
They did not even understand, For the most part I translate
from the French for the booksellers. I write advertisements for
shopkeepers too: "Unique opportunity! Fine tea, from our
own plantations . . ." I made a nice little sum over a panegyric
on his deceased excellency Pyotr Matveyitch. I compiled the
"Art of pleasing the ladies", a commission from a bookseller.
I have brought out some six little works of this kind in the
course of my life. I am thinking of making a collection of the
bons mobs of Voltaire, but am afraid it may seem a little flat to
our people. Voltaire's no good now; nowadays we want a
cudgel, not Voltaire. We knock each other's last teeth out
nowadays. Well, so that's the whole extent of my literary
activity. Though indeed I do send round letters to the editors
gratis and fully signed. I give them all sorts of counsels and
admonitions, criticise and point out the true path. The letter I
sent last week to an editor's office was the fortieth I had sent
in the last two years. I have wasted four roubles over stamps
alone for them. My temper is at the bottom of it all.
I believe that the artist who painted me did so not for the sake
of literature, but for the sake of two symmetrical warts on my
forehead, a natural phenomenon, he would say. They have no
ideas, so now they are out for phenomena. And didn't he
succeed in getting my warts in his portrait - to the life. That
is what they call realism.
And as to madness, a great many people were put down as
mad among us last year. And in such language! "With such
original talent ....... and yet, after all, it appears" . . . "how-
ever, one ought to have foreseen it long ago." That is rather
artful; so that from the point of view of pure art one may
really commend it. Well, but after all, these so-called madmen
have turned out cleverer than ever. So it seems the critics can
call them mad, but they cannot produce anyone better.
The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a
month, call himself a fool - a faculty unheard of nowadays.
In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognise that
he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it. And they have so
muddled things up that there is no telling a fool from a wise
man. They have done that on purpose.
I remember a witty Spaniard saying when, two hundred and
fifty years ago, the French built their first madhouses: "They
have shut up all their fools in a house apart, to make sure that
they are wise men themselves." Just so: you don't show your
own wisdom by shutting someone else in a madhouse. "K. has
gone out of his mind, means that we are sane now." No, it
doesn't mean that yet.
Hang it though, why am I maundering on? I go on grumbling
and grumbling. Even my maidservant is sick of me. Yester-
day a friend came to see me. "Your style is changing," he said;
"it is choppy: you chop and chop - and then a parenthesis,
then a parenthesis in the parenthesis, then you stick in some-
thing else in brackets, then you begin chopping and chopping
The friend is right. Something strange is happening to me.
My character is changing and my head aches. I am beginning
to see and hear strange things, not voices exactly, but as though
someone beside me were muttering, "bobok, bobok, bobok!"
What's the meaning of this bobok? I must divert my mind.
I went out in search of diversion, I hit upon a funeral. A
distant relation - a collegiate counsellor, however. A widow
and five daughters, all marriageable young ladies. What must
it come to even to keep them in slippers. Their father managed
it, but now there is only a little pension. They will have to eat
humble pie. They have always received me ungraciously. And
indeed I should not have gone to the funeral now had it not
been for a peculiar circumstance. I followed the procession to
the cemetery with the rest; they were stuck-up and held aloof
from me. My uniform was certainly rather shabby. It's five-
and-twenty years, I believe, since I was at the cemetery; what a
To begin with the smell. There were fifteen hearses, with
palls varying in expensiveness; there were actually two cata-
falques. One was a general's and one some lady's. There were
many mourners, a great deal of feigned mourning and a great
deal of open gaiety. The clergy have nothing to complain of;
it brings them a good income. But the smell, the smell. I
should not like to be one of the clergy here.
I kept glancing at the faces of the dead cautiously, distrust-
ing my impressionability. Some had a mild expression, some
looked unpleasant. As a rule the smiles were disagreeable, and
in some cases very much so. I don't like them; they haunt
During the service I went out of the church into the air: it
was a grey day, but dry. It was cold too, but then it was
October. I walked about among the tombs. They are of
different grades. The third grade cost thirty roubles; it's
decent and not so very dear. The first two grades are tombs
in the church and under the porch; they cost a pretty penny.
On this occasion they were burying in tombs of the third grade
six persons, among them the general and the lady.
I looked into the graves - and it was horrible: water and
such water! Absolutely green, and ... but there, why talk of
it! The gravedigger was baling it out every minute. I went out
while the service was going on and strolled outside the gates.
Close by was an almshouse, and a little further off there was a
restaurant. It was not a bad little restaurant: there was lunch
and everything. There were lots of the mourners here. I
noticed a great deal of gaiety and genuine heartiness. I had
something to eat and drink.
Then I took part in the bearing of the coffin from the church
to the grave. Why is it that corpses in their coffins are so
heavy? They say it is due to some sort of inertia, that the body
is no longer directed by its owner . . . or some nonsense of
that sort, in opposition to the laws of mechanics and common
sense. I don't like to hear people who have nothing but a
general education venture to solve the problems that require
special knowledge; and with us that's done continually.
Civilians love to pass opinions about subjects that are the
province of the soldier and even of the field-marshal; while
men who have been educated as engineers prefer discussing
philosophy and political economy.
I did not go to the requiem service. I have some pride,
and if I am only received owing to some special necessity,
why force myself on their dinners, even if it be a funeral
dinner. The only thing I don't understand is why I stayed at
the cemetery; I sat on a tombstone and sank into appropriate
I began with the Moscow exhibition and ended with reflect-
ing upon astonishment in the abstract. My deductions about
astonishment were these:
"To be surprised at everything is stupid of course, and to be
astonished at nothing is a great deal more becoming and for
some reason accepted as good form. But that is not really
true. To my mind to be astonished at nothing is much more
stupid than to be astonished at everything. And, moreover, to
be astonished at nothing is almost the same as feeling respect
for nothing. And indeed a stupid man is incapable of feeling
"But what I desire most of all is to feel respect. I thirst to
feel respect," one of my acquaintances said to me the other
He thirsts to feel respect! Goodness, I thought, what would
happen to you if you dared to print that nowadays?
At that point I sank into forgetfulness. I don't like reading
the epitaphs of tombstones: they are everlastingly the same.
An unfinished sandwich was lying on the tombstone near me;
stupid and inappropriate. I threw it on the ground, as it was
not bread but only a sandwich. Though I believe it is not a sin
to throw bread on the earth, but only on the floor. I must look
it up in Suvorin's calendar.
I suppose I sat there a long time-too long a time, in fact;
I must have lain down on a long stone which was of the shape
of a marble coffin. And how it happened I don't know, but I
began to hear things of all sorts being said. At first I did not
pay attention to it, but treated it with contempt. But the con-
versation went on. I heard muffled sounds as though the
speakers' mouths were covered with a pillow, and at the same
time they were distinct and very near. I came to myself, sat up
and began listening attentively.
"Your Excellency, it's utterly impossible. You led hearts, I
return your lead, and here you play the seven of diamonds.
You ought to have given me a hint about diamonds."
"What, play by hard and fast rules? Where is the charm of
"You must, your Excellency. One can't do anything with-
out something to go upon. We must play with dummy, let one
hand not be turned up."
"Well, you won't find a dummy here."
What conceited words! And it was queer and unexpected.
One was such a ponderous, dignified voice, the other softly
suave; I should not have believed it if I had not heard it
myself. I had not been to the requiem dinner, I believe. And
yet how could they be playing preference here and what general
was this? That the sounds came from under the tombstones
of that there could be no doubt. I bent down and read on the
"Here lies the body of Major-General Pervoyedov . . . a
cavalier of such and such orders." Hm! "Passed away in
August of this year ... fifty-seven.... Rest, beloved ashes,
till the joyful dawn!"
Hm, dash it, it really is a general! There was no monument
on the grave from which the obsequious voice came, there was
only a tombstone. He must have been a fresh arrival. From
his voice he was a lower court councillor.
"Oh-ho-ho-ho!" I heard in a new voice a dozen yards from
the general's resting-place, coming from quite a fresh grave.
The voice belonged to a man and a plebeian, mawkish with its
affectation of religious fervour. "Oh-ho-ho-ho!"
"Oh, here he is hiccupping again!" cried the haughty and
disdainful voice of an irritated lady, apparently of the highest
society. "It is an affliction to be by this shopkeeper!"
"I didn't hiccup; why, I've had nothing to eat. It's simply
my nature. Really, madam, you don't seem able to get rid of
your caprices here."
"Then why did you come and lie down here?"
"They put me here, my wife and little children put me here,
I did not lie down here of myself. The mystery of death! And
I would not have lain down beside you not for any money; I
lie here as befitting my fortune, judging by the price. For we
can always do that - pay for a tomb of the third grade."
"You made money, I suppose? You fleeced people?"
"Fleece you, indeed! We haven't seen the colour of your
money since January. There's a little bill against you at the
"Well, that's really stupid; to try and recover debts here is
too stupid, to my thinking! Go to the surface. Ask my niece
- she is my heiress."
"There's no asking anyone now, and no going anywhere.
We have both reached our limit and, before the judgment-seat
of God, are equal in our sins."
"In our sins," the lady mimicked him contemptuously.
"Don't dare to speak to me."
"You see, the shopkeeper obeys the lady, your Excellency."
"Why shouldn't he?"
"Why, your Excellency, because, as we all know, things are
"We are dead, so to speak, your Excellency."
"Oh, yes! But still . . ."
Well, this is an entertainment, it is a fine show, I must say!
If it has come to this down here, what can one expect on the
surface? But what a queer business! I went on listening, how-
ever, though with extreme indignation.
"Yes, I should like a taste of life! Yes, you know . . . I
should like a taste of fife." I heard a new voice suddenly
somewhere in the space between the general and the irritable
"Do you hear, your Excellency, our friend is at the same
game again. For three days at a time he says nothing, and
then he bursts out with 'I should like a taste of life, yes, a taste
of life!' And with such appetite, he-he!"
"And such frivolity."
"It gets hold of him, your Excellency, and do you know, he
is growing sleepy, quite sleepy - he has been here since April;
and then all of a sudden 'I should like a taste of life!'"
"It is rather dull, though," observed his Excellency.
"It is, your Excellency. Shall we tease Avdotya Ignatyevna
"No, spare me, please. I can't endure that quarrelsome
"And I can't endure either of you," cried the virago disdain-
fully. "You are both of you bores and can't tell me anything
ideal. I know one little story about you, your Excellency-
don't turn up your nose, please - how a manservant swept you
out from under a married couple's bed one morning."
"Nasty woman," the general muttered through his teeth.
"Avdotya lgnatycvna, ma'am," the shopkeeper wailed
suddenly again, "my dear lady, don't be angry, but tell me,
am I going through the ordeal by torment now, or is it some-
"Ah, he is at it again, as I expected! For there's a smell
from him which means he is turning round!"
"I am not turning round, ma'am, and there's no particular
smell from me, for I've kept my body whole as it should be,
while you're regularly high. For the smell is really horrible
even for a place like this. I don't speak of it, merely from
"Ah, you horrid, insulting wretch. He positively stinks and
talks about me."
"Oh-ho-ho-ho! If only the time for my requiem would come
quickly: I should hear their tearful voices over my head, my
wife's lament and my children's soft weeping! . . ."
"Well, that's a thing to fret for! They'll stuff themselves
with funeral rice and go home.... Oh, I wish somebody would
"Avdotya Ignatyevna," said the insinuating government
clerk, "wait a bit, the new arrivals will speak."
"And are there any young people among them?"
"Yes, there are, Avdotya lgnatyevna. There are some not
more than lads."
"Oh, how welcome that would be!"
"Haven't they begun yet?" inquired his Excellency.
"Even those who came the day before yesterday haven't
awakened yet, your Excellency. As you know, they sometimes
don't speak for a week. It's a good job that to-day and yester-
day and the day before they brought a whole lot. As it is, they
are all last year's for seventy feet round."
"Yes, it will be interesting."
"Yes, your Excellency, they buried Tarasevitch, the privy
councillor, to-day. I knew it from the voices. I know his
nephew, he helped to lower the coffin just now."
"Hm, where is he, then?"
"Five steps from you, your Excellency, on the left. . . .
Almost at your feet. You should make his acquaintance, your
"Hm, no - it's not for me to make advances."
"Oh, he will begin of himself, your Excellency. He will be
flattered. Leave it to me, your Excellency, and I . . ."
"Oh, oh! . . . What is happening to me?" croaked the
frightened voice of a new arrival.
"A new arrival, your Excellency, a new arrival, thank God!
And how quick he's been! Sometimes they don't say a word
for a week."
"Oh, I believe it's a young man!" Avdotya Ignatyevna cried
"I. . . I . . . it was a complication, and so sudden!" faltered
the young man again. "Only the evening before, Schultz said
to me, 'There's a complication,' and I died suddenly before
morning. Oh! oh!"
"Well, there's no help for it, young man," the general
observed graciously, evidently pleased at a new arrival. "You
must be comforted. You are kindly welcome to our Vale of
Jehoshaphat, so to call it. We are kind-hearted people, you
will come to know us and appreciate us. Major-General Vassili
Vassilitch Pervoyedov, at your service."
"Oh, no, no! Certainly not! I was at Schultz's; I had a
complication, you know, at first it was my chest and a cough,
and then I caught a cold: my lungs and influenza . . . and all
of a sudden, quite unexpectedly . . . the worst of all was its
being so unexpected."
"You say it began with the chest," the government clerk
put in suavely, as though he wished to reassure the new
"Yes, my chest and catarrh and then no catarrh, but still the
chest, and I couldn't breathe ... and you know. . . "
"l know, I know. But if it was the chest you ought to have
gone to Ecke and not to Schultz."
"You know, I kept meaning to go to Botkin's, and all at
once . . ."
"Botkin is quite prohibitive," observed the general.
"Oh, no, he is not forbidding at all; I've heard he is so
attentive and foretells everything beforehand."
"His Excellency was referring to his fees," the government
clerk corrected him.
"Oh, not at all, he only asks three roubles, and he makes
such an examination, and gives you a prescription . . .and I
was very anxious to see him, for I have been told . . . Well,
gentlemen, had I better go to Ecke or to Botkin?"
"What? To whom?" The general's corpse shook with
agreeable laughter. The government clerk echoed it in falsetto.
"Dear boy, dear, delightful boy, how I love you!" Avdotya
Ignatyevna squealed ecstatically. "I wish they had put some-
one like you next to me."
No, that was too much! And these were the dead of our
times! Still, I ought to listen to more and not be in too great
a hurry to draw conclusions. That snivelling new arrival - I
remember him just now in his coffin - had the expression of a
frightened chicken, the most revolting expression in the world!
However, let us wait and see.
But what happened next was such a Bedlam that I could not
keep it all in my memory. For a great many woke up at once;
an official - a civil councillor - woke up, and began discussing
at once the project of a new sub-committee in a government
department and of the probable transfer of various func-
tionaries in connection with the sub-committee - which very
greatly interested the general. I must confess I learnt a great
deal that was new myself, so much so that I marvelled at the
channels by which one may sometimes in the metropolis learn
government news. Then an engineer half woke up, but for a
long time muttered absolute nonsense, so that our friends left
off worrying him and let him lie till he was ready. At last the
distinguished lady who had been buried in the morning under
the catafalque showed symptoms of the reanimation of the
tomb. Lebeziatnikov (for the obsequious lower court councillor
whom I detested and who lay beside General Pervoyedov was
called, it appears, Lebeziatnikov) became much excited, and
surprised that they were all waking up so soon tllis time. I
must own I was surprised too; though some of those who woke
had been buried for three days, as, for instance, a very young
girl of sixteen who kept giggling ... giggling in a horrible and
"Your Excellency, privy councillor Tarasevitch is waking!"
Lebeziatnikov announced with extreme fussiness.
"Eh? What?" the privy councillor, waking up suddenly
mumbled, with a lisp of disgust. There was a note of ill-
humoured peremptoriness in the sound of his voice.
I listened with curiosity - for during the last few days I had
heard something about Tarasevitch - shocking and upsetting
in the extreme.
"It's I, your Excellency, so far only I."
"What is your petition? What do you want?"
"Merely to inquire after your Excellency's health; in
these unaccustomed surroundings everyone feels at first, as
it were, oppressed. General Pervoyedov wishes to have
the honour of making your Excellency's acquaintance, and
hopes . . ."
"I've never heard of him."
"Surely, your Excellency! General Pervoyedov, Vassili
Vassilitch . . ."
"Are you General Pervoyedov?"
"No, your Excellency, I am only the lower court councillor
Lebeziatnikov, at your service, but General Pervoyedov..."
"Nonsense! And I beg you to leave me alone."
"Let him be." General Pervoyedov at last himself checked
with dignity the disgusting officiousness of his sycophant in the
"He is not fully awake, your Excellency, you must consider
that; it's the novelty of it all. When he is fully awake he will
take it differently."
"Let him be," repeated the general.
"Vassili Vassilitch! Hey, your Excellency!" a perfectly new
voice shouted loudly and aggressively from close beside
Avdotya lgnatyevna. It was a voice of gentlemanly insolence,
with the languid pronunciation now fashionable and an
arrogant drawl. "I've been watching you all for the last two
hours. Do you remember me, Vassili Vassilitch? My name is
Klinevitch, we met at the Volokonskys' where you, too, were
received as a guest, I am sure I don't know why."
"What, Count Pyotr Petrovitch? . . . Can it be really
you . . . and at such an early age? How sorry I am to hear
"Oh, I am sorry myself, though I really don't mind, and I
want to amuse myself as far as I can everywhere. And I am
not a count but a baron, only a baron. We are only a set of
scurvy barons, risen from being flunkeys, but why I don't know
and I don't care. I am only a scoundrel of the pseudo-aristo-
cratic society, and I am regarded as 'a charming polisson'. My
father is a wretched little general, and my mother was at one
time received en haut lieu. With the help of the Jew Zifel I
forged fifty thousand rouble notes last year and then I informed
against him, while Julic Charpentier de Lusignan carried off
the money to Bordeaux. And only fancy, I was engaged to be
married - to a girl still at school, three months under sixteen,
with a dowry of ninety thousand. Avdotya lgnatyevna, do you
remember how you seduced me fifteen years ago when I was a
boy of fourteen in the Corps des Pages?"
"Ah, that's you, you rascal! Well, you are a godsend, any-
way, for here. . . ."
"You were mistaken in suspecting your neighbour, the
business gentleman, of unpleasant fragrance.... I said nothing,
but I laughed. The stench came from me: they had to bury me
in a nailed-up coffin."
"Ugh, you horrid creature! Still, I am glad you are here;
you can't imagine the lack of life and wit here."
"Quite so, quite so, and I intend to start here something
original. Your Excellency - I don't mean you, Pervoyedov -
your Excellency the other one, Tarasevitch, the privy councillor!
Answer! I am Klinevitch, who took you to Mlle. Furie in
Lent, do you hear?"
"I do, Klinevitch, and I am delighted, and trust me .
"I wouldn't trust you with a halfpenny, and I don't care. I
simply want to kiss you, dear old man, but luckily I can't. Do
you know, gentlemen, what this grand-pere's little game was?
He died three or four days ago, and would you believe it, he
left a deficit of four hundred thousand government money
from the fund for widows and orphans. He was the sole person
in control of it for some reason, so that his accounts were not
audited for the last eight years. I can fancy what long faces
they all have now, and what they call him. It's a delectable
thought, isn't it? I have been wondering for the last year how
a wretched old man of seventy, gouty and rheumatic, succeeded
in preserving the physical energy for his debaucheries - and
now the riddle is solved! Those widows and orphans - the very
thought of them must have egged him on! I knew about it
long ago, I was the only one who did know; it was Julie told
me, and as soon as I discovered it, I attacked him in a friendly
way at once in Easter week: 'Give me twenty-five thousand, if
you don't they'll look into your accounts to-morrow.' And
just fancy, he had only thirteen thousand left then, so it seems
it was very apropos his dying now. Grand-pere, grand-pere; do
"Cher Khnevitch, I quite agree with you, and there was no
need for you . . . to go into such details. Life is so full of
suffering and torment and so little to make up for it ... that
I wanted at last to be at rest, and so far as I can see I hope to
get all I can from here too."
"I bet that he has already sniffed Katiche Berestoy!"
"Who? What Katiche?" There was a rapacious quiver in
the old man's voice.
"A-ah, what Katiche? Why, here on the left, five paces
from me and ten from you. She has been here for five days,
and if only you knew, grand-pere, what a little wretch she is!
Of good family and breeding and a monster, a regular monster!
I did not introduce her to anyone there, I was the only one who
knew her.... Katiche, answer!"
"He-he-he!" the girl responded with a jangling laugh, in
which there was a note of something as sharp as the prick of a
"And a little blonde?" the grand-pere faltered, drawling out
"I . . . have long . . . I have long," the old man faltered
breathlessly, "cherished the dream of a little fair thing of fifteen
and just in such surroundings."
"Ach, the monster!" cried Avdotya Ignatyevna.
"Enough!" Klinevitch decided. "I see there is excellent
material. We shall soon arrange things better. The great thing
is to spend the rest of our time cheerfully; but what time?
Hey, you, government clerk, Lebeziatnikov or whatever it is,
I hear that's your name!"
"Semyon Yevseitch Lebeziatnikov, lower court councillor,
at your service, very, very, very much delighted to meet you."
"I don't care whether you are delighted or not, but you
seem to know everything here. Tell me first of all how it
is we can talk? I've been wondering ever since yesterday. We
are dead and yet we are talking and seem to be moving -
and yet we are not talking and not moving. What jugglery is
"If you want an explanation, baron, Platon Nikolaevitch
could give you one better than I."
"What Platon Nikolaevitch is that? To the point. Don't
beat about the bush."
"Platon Nikolaevitch is our home-grown philosopher,
scientist and Master of Arts. He has brought out several
philosophical works, but for the last three months he has been
getting quite drowsy, and there is no stirring him up now.
Once a week he mutters something utterly irrelevant."
"To the point, to the point!"
"He explains all this by the simplest fact, namely, that when
we were living on the surface we mistakenly thought that death
there was death. The body revives, as it were, here, the remains
of life are concentrated, but only in consciousness. I don't
know how to express it, but life goes on, as it were, by inertia.
In his opinion everything is concentrated somewhere in con-
sciousness and goes on for two or three months ... sometimes
even for half a year.... There is one here, for instance, who is
almost completely decomposed, but once every six weeks he
suddenly utters one word, quite senseless of course, about
some bobok, 'Bobok, bobok,' but you see that an imper-
ceptible speck of life is still warm within him."
"It's rather stupid. Well, and how is it I have no sense of
smell and yet I feel there's a stench?"
"That ... he-he ... Well, on that point our philosopher is
a bit foggy. It's apropos of smell, he said, that the stench one
perceives here is, so to speak, moral - he-he! It's the stench of
the soul, he says, that in these two or three months it may
have time to recover itself ... and this is, so to speak, the last
mercy.... Only, I think, baron, that these are mystic ravings
very excusable in his position ...
"Enough; all the rest of it, I am sure, is nonsense. The great
thing is that we have two or three months more of life and then
- bobok! I propose to spend these two months as agreeably as
possible, and so to arrange everything on a new basis. Gentle-
men! I propose to cast aside all shame."
"Ah, let us cast aside all shame, let us!" many voices could
be heard saying; and strange to say, several new voices were
audible, which must have belonged to others newly awakened.
The engineer, now fully awake, boomed out his agreement with
peculiar delight. The girl Katiche giggled gleefully.
"Oh, how I long to cast off all shame!" Avdotya lgnatyevna
"I say, if Avdotya lgnatyevna wants to cast off all shame..."
"No, no, no, Klinevitch, I was ashamed up there all the
same, but here I should like to cast off shame, I should like it
"I understand, Klinevitch," boomed the engineer, "that you
want to rearrange life here on new and rational principles."
"Oh, I don't care a hang about that! For that we'll wait for
Kudeyarov who was brought here yesterday. When he wakes
he'll tell you all about it. He is such a personality, such a
titanic personality! To-morrow they'll bring along another
natural scientist, I believe, an officer for certain, and three or
four days later a journalist, and, I believe, his editor with him.
But deuce take them all, there will be a little group of us any-
way, and things will arrange themselves. Though meanwhile I
don't want us to be telling lies. That's all I care about, for that
is one thing that matters. One cannot exist on the surface with-
out lying, for life and lying are synonymous, but here we will
amuse ourselves by not lying. Hang it all, the grave has some
value after all! We'll all tell our stories aloud, and we won't be
ashamed of anything. First of all I'll tell you about myself. I
am one of the predatory kind, you know. All that was bound
and held in check by rotten cords up there on the surface.
Away with cords and let us spend these two months in shame-
less truthfulness! Let us strip and be naked!"
"Let us be naked, let us be naked!" cried all the voices.
"I long to be naked, I long to be," Avdotya Ignatyevna
"Ah ... ah, I see we shall have fun here; I don't want Ecke
"No, I tell you. Give me a taste of life!"
"He-he-he!" giggled Katiche.
"The great thing is that no one can interfere with us, and
though I see Pervoyedov is in a temper, he can't reach me with
his hand. Grand-pere, do you agree?"
"I fully agree, fully, and with the utmost satisfaction, but on
condition that Katiche is the first to give us her biography."
"I protest! I protest with all my heart!" General Pervoyedov
brought out firmly.
"Your Excellency!" the scoundrel Lebeziatnikov persuaded
him in a murmur of fussy excitement, "your Excellency, it will
be to our advantage to agree. Here, you see, there's this girl's
... and all their little affairs."
"There's the girl, it's true, but ..."
"It's to our advantage, your Excellency, upon my word it is!
If only as an experiment, let us try it. . ."
"Even in the grave they won't let us rest in peace."
"In the first place, General, you were playing preference in
the grave, and in the second we don't care a hang about you,"
"Sir, I beg you not to forget yourself."
"What? Why, you can't get at me, and I can tease you from
here as though you were Julie's lapdog. And another thing,
gentlemen, how is he a general here? He was a general there,
but here is mere refuse."
"No, not mere refuse.... Even here..."
"Here you will rot in the grave and six brass buttons will be
all that will be left of you."
"Bravo, Klinevitch, ha-ha-ha!" roared voices.
"I have served my sovereign.... I have the sword . . ."
"Your sword is only fit to prick mice, and you never drew it
even for that."
"That makes no difference; I formed a part of the whole."
"There are all sorts of parts in a whole."
"Bravo, Klinevitch, bravo! Ha-ha-ha!"
"I don't understand what the sword stands for," boomed the
"We shall run away from the Prussians like mice, they'll
crush us to powder!" cried a voice in the distance that was
unfamiliar to me, that was positively spluttering with glee.
"The sword, sir, is an honour," the general cried, but only I
heard him. There arose a prolonged and furious roar, clamour,
and hubbub, and only the hysterically impatient squeals of
Avdotya Ignatyevna were audible.
"But do let us make haste! Ah, when are we going to begin
to cast off all shame!"
"Oh-ho-ho! . . . The soul does in truth pass through
torments!" exclaimed the voice of the plebeian, "and . . ."
And here I suddenly sneezed. It happened suddenly and
unintentionally, but the effect was striking: all became as silent
as one expects it to be in a churchyard, it all vanished like a
dream. A real silence of the tomb set in. I don't believe they
were ashamed on account of my presence: they had made up
their minds to cast off all shame! I waited five minutes - not a
word, not a sound. It cannot be supposed that they were
afraid of my informing the police; for what could the police
do to them? I must conclude that they had some secret un-
known to the living, which they carefully concealed from every
"Well, my dears," I thought, "I shall visit you again." And
with those words, I left the cemetery.
No, that I cannot admit; no, I really cannot! The bobok
case does not trouble me (so that is what the bobok signified!)
Depravity in such a place, depravity of the last aspirations,
depravity of sodden and rotten corpses - and not even sparing
the last inoments of consciousness! Those moments have been
granted, vouchsafed to them, and ... and, worst of all, in such
a place! No, that I cannot admit.
I shall go to other tombs, I shall listen everywhere. Certainly
one ought to listen everywhere and not merely at one spot in
order to form an idea. Perhaps one may come across some-
But I shall certainly go back to those. They promised their
biographies and anecdotes of all sorts. Tfoo! But I shall go, I
shall certainly go; it is a question of conscience!
I shall take it to the Citizen; the editor there has had his
portrait exhibited too. Maybe he will print it.