by Leo Tolstoy
Translated by CJ Hogarth
I. THE TUTOR,
I. THE TUTOR, KARL IVANITCH
V. THE IDIOT
FOR THE CHASE
VII. THE HUNT
VIII. WE PLAY
IX. A FIRST
ESSAY IN LOVE
X. THE SORT OF
MAN MY FATHER
XI. IN THE
XIV. THE PARTING
XIX. THE IWINS
FOR THE PARTY
XXI. BEFORE THE
XXIII. AFTER THE
XXIV. IN BED
XXV. THE LETTER
AWAITED US AT
On the 12th of August, 18-- (just three days after my tenth
birthday, when I had been given such wonderful presents), I was
awakened at seven o'clock in the morning by Karl Ivanitch slapping
the wall close to my head with a fly-flap made of sugar paper and a
stick. He did this so roughly that he hit the image of my patron saint
suspended to the oaken back of my bed, and the dead fly fell down on
my curls. I peeped out from under the coverlet, steadied the still
shaking image with my hand, flicked the dead fly on to the floor, and
gazed at Karl Ivanitch with sleepy, wrathful eyes. He, in a
parti-coloured wadded dressing- gown fastened about the waist with a
wide belt of the same material, a red knitted cap adorned with a
tassel, and soft slippers of goat skin, went on walking round the
walls and taking aim at, and slapping, flies.
"Suppose," I thought to myself," that I am only a small boy, yet
why should he disturb me? Why does he not go killing flies around
Woloda's bed? No; Woloda is older than I, and I am the youngest of the
family, so he torments me. That is what he thinks of all day long--how
to tease me. He knows very well that he has woken me up and frightened
me, but he pretends not to notice it. Disgusting brute! And his
dressing-gown and cap and tassel too-- they are all of them
While I was thus inwardly venting my wrath upon Karl Ivanitch, he
had passed to his own bedstead, looked at his watch (which hung
suspended in a little shoe sewn with bugles), and deposited the
fly-flap on a nail, then, evidently in the most cheerful mood
possible, he turned round to us.
"Get up, children! It is quite time, and your mother is already in
the drawing-room," he exclaimed in his strong German accent. Then he
crossed over to me, sat down at my feet, and took his snuff-box out of
his pocket. I pretended to be asleep. Karl Ivanitch sneezed, wiped his
nose, flicked his fingers, and began amusing himself by teasing me and
tickling my toes as he said with a smile, "Well, well, little lazy
For all my dread of being tickled, I determined not to get out of
bed or to answer him,. but hid my head deeper in the pillow, kicked
out with all my strength, and strained every nerve to keep from
"How kind he is, and how fond of us!" I thought to myself, Yet to
think that I could be hating him so just now!"
I felt angry, both with myself and with Karl Ivanitch, I wanted to
laugh and to cry at the same time, for my nerves were all on edge.
"Leave me alone, Karl!" I exclaimed at length, with tears in my
eyes, as I raised my head from beneath the bed-clothes.
Karl Ivanitch was taken aback, He left off tickling my feet, and
asked me kindly what the matter was, Had I had a disagreeable dream?
His good German face and the sympathy with which he sought to know the
cause of my tears made them flow the faster. I felt
conscience-stricken, and could not understand how, only a minute ago,
I had been hating Karl, and thinking his dressing-gown and cap and
tassel disgusting. On the contrary, they looked eminently lovable now.
Even the tassel seemed another token of his goodness. I replied that I
was crying because I had had a bad dream, and had seen Mamma dead and
being buried. Of course it was a mere invention, since I did not
remember having dreamt anything at all that night, but the truth was
that Karl's sympathy as he tried to comfort and reassure me had
gradually made me believe that I HAD dreamt such a horrible dream, and
so weep the more-- though from a different cause to the one he
When Karl Ivanitch had left me, I sat up in bed and proceeded to
draw my stockings over my little feet. The tears had quite dried now,
yet the mournful thought of the invented dream was still haunting me a
little. Presently Uncle [This term is often applied by children to old
servants in Russia] Nicola came in--a neat little man who was always
grave, methodical, and respectful, as well as a great friend of
Karl's, He brought with him our clothes and boots--at least, boots for
Woloda, and for myself the old detestable, be-ribanded shoes. In his
presence I felt ashamed to cry, and, moreover, the morning sun was
shining so gaily through the window, and Woloda, standing at the
washstand as he mimicked Maria Ivanovna (my sister's governess), was
laughing so loud and so long, that even the serious Nicola--a towel
over his shoulder, the soap in one hand, and the basin in the
other--could not help smiling as he said, "Will you please let me wash
you, Vladimir Petrovitch?" I had cheered up completely.
"Are you nearly ready?" came Karl's voice from the schoolroom. The
tone of that voice sounded stern now, and had nothing in it of the
kindness which had just touched me so much. In fact, in the schoolroom
Karl was altogether a different man from what he was at other times.
There he was the tutor. I washed and dressed myself hurriedly, and, a
brush still in my hand as I smoothed my wet hair, answered to his
call. Karl, with spectacles on nose and a book in his hand, was
sitting, as usual, between the door and one of the windows. To the
left of the door were two shelves-- one of them the children's (that
is to say, ours), and the other one Karl's own. Upon ours were heaped
all sorts of books--lesson books and play books--some standing up and
some lying down. The only two standing decorously against the wall
were two large volumes of a Histoire des Voyages, in red binding. On
that shelf could be seen books thick and thin and books large and
small, as well as covers without books and books without covers, since
everything got crammed up together anyhow when play time arrived and
we were told to put the "library" (as Karl called these shelves) in
order The collection of books on his own shelf was, if not so numerous
as ours, at least more varied. Three of them in particular I remember,
namely, a German pamphlet (minus a cover) on Manuring Cabbages in
Kitchen-Gardens, a History of the Seven Years' War (bound in parchment
and burnt at one corner), and a Course of Hydrostatics. Though Karl
passed so much of his time in reading that he had injured his sight by
doing so, he never read anything beyond these books and The Northern
Another article on Karl's shelf I remember well. This was a round
piece of cardboard fastened by a screw to a wooden stand, with a sort
of comic picture of a lady and a hairdresser glued to the cardboard.
Karl was very clever at fixing pieces of cardboard together, and had
devised this contrivance for shielding his weak eyes from any very
I can see him before me now--the tall figure in its wadded
dressing-gown and red cap (a few grey hairs visible beneath the
latter) sitting beside the table; the screen with the hairdresser
shading his face; one hand holding a book, and the other one resting
on the arm of the chair. Before him lie his watch, with a huntsman
painted on the dial, a check cotton handkerchief, a round black
snuff-box, and a green spectacle- case, The neatness and orderliness
of all these articles show clearly that Karl Ivanitch has a clear
conscience and a quiet mind.
Sometimes, when tired of running about the salon downstairs, I
would steal on tiptoe to the schoolroom and find Karl sitting alone
in his armchair as, with a grave and quiet expression on his face, he
perused one of his favourite books. Yet sometimes, also, there were
moments when he was not reading, and when the spectacles had slipped
down his large aquiline nose, and the blue, half-closed eyes and
faintly smiling lips seemed to be gazing before them with a curious
expression, All would be quiet in the room--not a sound being audible
save his regular breathing and the ticking of the watch with the
hunter painted on the dial. He would not see me, and I would stand at
the door and think:
"Poor, poor old man! There are many of us, and we can play
together and be happy, but he sits there all alone, and has nobody to
be fond of him. Surely he speaks truth when he says that he is an
orphan. And the story of his life, too--how terrible it is! I remember
him telling it to Nicola, How dreadful to be in his position!" Then I
would feel so sorry for him that I would go to him, and take his hand,
and say, "Dear Karl Ivanitch!" and he would be visibly delighted
whenever I spoke to him like this, and would look much brighter.
On the second wall of the schoolroom hung some maps--mostly torn,
but glued together again by Karl's hand. On the third wall (in the
middle of which stood the door) hung, on one side of the door, a
couple of rulers (one of them ours--much bescratched, and the other
one his--quite a new one), with, on the further side of the door, a
blackboard on which our more serious faults were marked by circles and
our lesser faults by crosses. To the left of the blackboard was the
corner in which we had to kneel when naughty. How well I remember that
corner--the shutter on the stove, the ventilator above it, and the
noise which it made when turned! Sometimes I would be made to stay in
that corner till my back and knees were aching all over, and I would
think to myself. "Has Karl Ivanitch forgotten me? He goes on sitting
quietly in his arm-chair and reading his Hydrostatics, while I--!"
Then, to remind him of my presence, I would begin gently turning the
ventilator round. Or scratching some plaster off the wall; but if by
chance an extra large piece fell upon the floor, the fright of it was
worse than any punishment. I would glance round at Karl, but he would
still be sitting there quietly, book in hand, and pretending that he
had noticed nothing.
In the middle of the room stood a table, covered with a torn black
oilcloth so much cut about with penknives that the edge of the table
showed through. Round the table stood unpainted chairs which, through
use, had attained a high degree of polish. The fourth and last wall
contained three windows, from the first of which the view was as
follows, Immediately beneath it there ran a high road on which every
irregularity, every pebble, every rut was known and dear to me. Beside
the road stretched a row of lime-trees, through which glimpses could
be caught of a wattled fence, with a meadow with farm buildings on one
side of it and a wood on the other--the whole bounded by the keeper's
hut at the further end of the meadow, The next window to the right
overlooked the part of the terrace where the "grownups" of the family
used to sit before luncheon. Sometimes, when Karl was correcting our
exercises, I would look out of that window and see Mamma's dark hair
and the backs of some persons with her, and hear the murmur of their
talking and laughter. Then I would feel vexed that I could not be
there too, and think to myself, "When am I going to be grown up, and
to have no more lessons, but sit with the people whom I love instead
of with these horrid dialogues in my hand?" Then my anger would change
to sadness, and I would fall into such a reverie that I never heard
Karl when he scolded me for my mistakes.
At last, on the morning of which I am speaking, Karl Ivanitch took
off his dressing-gown, put on his blue frockcoat with its creased and
crumpled shoulders, adjusted his tie before the looking-glass, and
took us down to greet Mamma.
Mamma was sitting in the drawing-room and making tea. In one hand
she was holding the tea-pot, while with the other one she was drawing
water from the urn and letting it drip into the tray. Yet though she
appeared to be noticing what she doing, in reality she noted neither
this fact nor our entry.
However vivid be one's recollection of the past, any attempt to
recall the features of a beloved being shows them to one's vision as
through a mist of tears--dim and blurred. Those tears are the tears of
the imagination. When I try to recall Mamma as she was then, I see,
true, her brown eyes, expressive always of love and kindness, the
small mole on her neck below where the small hairs grow, her white
embroidered collar, and the delicate, fresh hand which so often
caressed me, and which I so often kissed; but her general appearance
escapes me altogether.
To the left of the sofa stood an English piano, at which my dark-
haired sister Lubotshka was sitting and playing with manifest effort
(for her hands were rosy from a recent washing in cold water)
Clementi's "Etudes." Then eleven years old, she was dressed in a short
cotton frock and white lace-frilled trousers, and could take her
octaves only in arpeggio. Beside her was sitting Maria Ivanovna, in a
cap adorned with pink ribbons and a blue shawl, Her face was red and
cross, and it assumed an expression even more severe when Karl
Ivanitch entered the room. Looking angrily at him without answering
his bow, she went on beating time with her foot and counting, " One,
two, three--one, two, three," more loudly and commandingly than ever.
Karl Ivanitch paid no attention to this rudeness, but went, as
usual, with German politeness to kiss Mamma's hand, She drew herself
up, shook her head as though by the movement to chase away sad
thoughts from her, and gave Karl her hand, kissing him on his wrinkled
temple as he bent his head in salutation.
"I thank you, dear Karl Ivanitch," she said in German, and then,
still using the same language asked him how we (the children) had
slept. Karl Ivanitch was deaf in one ear, and the added noise of the
piano now prevented him from hearing anything at all. He moved nearer
to the sofa, and, leaning one hand upon the table and lifting his cap
above his head, said with, a smile which in those days always seemed
to me the perfection of politeness: "You, will excuse me, will you
not, Natalia Nicolaevna?"
The reason for this was that, to avoid catching cold, Karl never
took off his red cap, but invariably asked permission, on entering
the drawing-room, to retain it on his head.
"Yes, pray replace it, Karl Ivanitch," said Mamma, bending towards
him and raising her voice, "But I asked you whether the children had
slept well? "
Still he did not hear, but, covering his bald head again with the
red cap, went on smiling more than ever,
"Stop a moment, Mimi." said Mamma (now smiling also) to Maria
Ivanovna. "It is impossible to hear anything."
How beautiful Mamma's face was when she smiled! It made her so
infinitely more charming, and everything around her seemed to grow
brighter! If in the more painful moments of my life I could have seen
that smile before my eyes, I should never have known what grief is. In
my opinion, it is in the smile of a face that the essence of what we
call beauty lies. If the smile heightens the charm of the face, then
the face is a beautiful one. If the smile does not alter the face,
then the face is an ordinary one. But if the smile spoils the face,
then the face is an ugly one indeed.
Mamma took my head between her hands, bent it gently backwards,
looked at me gravely, and said: "You have been crying this morning?"
I did not answer. She kissed my eyes, and said again in German:
"Why did you cry?"
When talking to us with particular intimacy she always used this
language, which she knew to perfection.
"I cried about a dream, Mamma" I replied, remembering the invented
vision, and trembling involuntarily at the recollection.
Karl Ivanitch confirmed my words, but said nothing as to the
subject of the dream. Then, after a little conversation on the
weather, in which Mimi also took part, Mamma laid some lumps of sugar
on the tray for one or two of the more privileged servants, and
crossed over to her embroidery frame, which stood near one of the
"Go to Papa now, children," she said, "and ask him to come to me
before he goes to the home farm."
Then the music, the counting, and the wrathful looks from Mimi
began again, and we went off to see Papa. Passing through the room
which had been known ever since Grandpapa's time as "the pantry," we
entered the study,
He was standing near his writing-table, and pointing angrily to
some envelopes, papers, and little piles of coin upon it as he
addressed some observations to the bailiff, Jakoff Michaelovitch, who
was standing in his usual place (that is to say, between the door and
the barometer) and rapidly closing and unclosing the fingers of the
hand which he held behind his back, The more angry Papa grew, the more
rapidly did those fingers twirl, and when Papa ceased speaking they
came to rest also. Yet, as soon as ever Jakoff himself began to talk,
they flew here, there, and everywhere with lightning rapidity. These
movements always appeared to me an index of Jakoff's secret thoughts,
though his face was invariably placid, and expressive alike of dignity
and submissiveness, as who should say, "I am right, yet let it be as
you wish." On seeing us, Papa said, "Directly--wait a moment," and
looked towards the door as a hint for it to be shut.
"Gracious heavens! What can be the matter with you to-day,
Jakoff?" he went on with a hitch of one shoulder (a habit of his).
"This envelope here with the 800 roubles enclosed,"--Jacob took out a
set of tablets, put down "800" and remained looking at the figures
while he waited for what was to come next--"is for expenses during my
absence. Do you understand? From the mill you ought to receive 1000
roubles. Is not that so? And from the Treasury mortgage you ought to
receive some 8000 roubles. From the hay--of which, according to your
calculations, we shall be able to sell 7000 poods [The pood = 40
lbs.]at 45 copecks a piece
there should come in 3000, Consequently the sum-total that you
ought to have in hand soon is--how much?--12,000 roubles. Is that
"Precisely," answered Jakoff, Yet by the extreme rapidity with
which his fingers were twitching I could see that he had an objection
to make. Papa went on:
"Well, of this money you will send 10,000 roubles to the
Petrovskoe local council, As for the money already at the office, you
will remit it to me, and enter it as spent on this present date."
Jakoff turned over the tablet marked "12,000," and put down
"21,000"--seeming, by his action, to imply that 12,000 roubles had
been turned over in the same fashion as he had turned the tablet. "And
this envelope with the enclosed money," concluded Papa, "you will
deliver for me to the person to whom it is addressed."
I was standing close to the table, and could see the address. It
was "To Karl Ivanitch Mayer." Perhaps Papa had an idea that I had
read something which I ought not, for he touched my shoulder with his
hand and made me aware, by a slight movement, that I must withdraw
from the table. Not sure whether the movement was meant for a caress
or a command, I kissed the large, sinewy hand which rested upon my
"Very well," said Jakoff. "And what are your orders about the
accounts for the money from Chabarovska?" (Chabarovska was Mamma's
"Only that they are to remain in my office, and not to be taken
thence without my express instructions."
For a minute or two Jakoff was silent. Then his fingers began to
twitch with extraordinary rapidity, and, changing the expression of
deferential vacancy with which he had listened to his orders for one
of shrewd intelligence, he turned his tablets back and spoke.
"Will you allow me to inform you, Peter Alexandritch," he said,
with frequent pauses between his words, "that, however much you wish
it, it is out of the question to repay the local council now. You
enumerated some items, I think, as to what ought to come in from the
mortgage, the mill, and the hay (he jotted down each of these items on
his tablets again as he spoke)." Yet I fear that we must have made a
mistake somewhere in the accounts." Here he paused a while, and looked
gravely at Papa.
"Well, will you be good enough to look for yourself? There is the
account for the mill. The miller has been to me twice to ask for
time, and I am afraid that he has no money whatever in hand. He is
here now. Would you like to speak to him?"
"No. Tell me what he says," replied Papa, showing by a movement of
his head that he had no desire to have speech with the miller,
"Well, it is easy enough to guess what he says. He declares that
there is no grinding to be got now, and that his last remaining money
has gone to pay for the dam. What good would it do for us to turn him
out? As to what you were pleased to say about the mortgage, you
yourself are aware that your money there is locked up and cannot be
recovered at a moment's notice. I was sending a load of flour to Ivan
Afanovitch to-day, and sent him a letter as well, to which he replies
that he would have been glad to oblige you, Peter Alexandritch, were
it not that the matter is out of his hands now, and that all the
circumstances show that it would take you at least two months to
withdraw the money. From the hay I understood you to estimate a
return of 3000 roubles?" (Here Jakoff jotted down "3000" on his
tablets, and then looked for a moment from the figures to Papa with a
peculiar expression on his face.) "Well, surely you see for yourself
how little that is? And even then we should lose if we were to sell
the stuff now, for you must know that--"
It was clear that he would have had many other arguments to adduce
had not Papa interrupted him,
"I cannot make any change in my arrangements," said Papa. "Yet if
there should REALLY have to be any delay in the recovery of these
sums, we could borrow what we wanted from the Chabarovska funds."
"Very well, sir." The expression of Jakoff's face and the way in
which he twitched his fingers showed that this order had given him
great satisfaction. He was a serf, and a most zealous, devoted one,
but, like all good bailiffs, exacting and parsimonious to a degree in
the interests of his master. Moreover, he had some queer notions of
his own. He was forever endeavouring to increase his master's property
at the expense of his mistress's, and to prove that it would be
impossible to avoid using the rents from her estates for the benefit
of Petrovskoe (my father's village, and the place where we lived).
This point he had now gained and was delighted in consequence.
Papa then greeted ourselves, and said that if we stayed much
longer in the country we should become lazy boys; that we were
growing quite big now, and must set about doing lessons in earnest,
"I suppose you know that I am starting for Moscow to-night?" he
went on, "and that I am going to take you with me? You will live with
Grandmamma, but Mamma and the girls will remain here. You know, too, I
am sure, that Mamma's one consolation will be to hear that you are
doing your lessons well and pleasing every one around you."
The preparations which had been in progress for some days past had
made us expect some unusual event, but this news left us
thunderstruck, Woloda turned red, and, with a shaking voice,
delivered Mamma's message to Papa.
"So this was what my dream foreboded!" I thought to myself. "God
send that there come nothing worse!" I felt terribly sorry to have to
leave Mamma, but at the same rejoiced to think that I should soon be
grown up, "If we are going to-day, we shall probably have no lessons
to do, and that will be splendid, However, I am sorry for Karl
Ivanitch, for he will certainly be dismissed now. That was why that
envelope had been prepared for him. I think I would almost rather stay
and do lessons here than leave Mamma or hurt poor Karl. He is
miserable enough already."
As these thoughts crossed my mind I stood looking sadly at the
black ribbons on my shoes, After a few words to Karl Ivanitch about
the depression of the barometer and an injunction to Jakoff not to
feed the hounds, since a farewell meet was to be held after luncheon,
Papa disappointed my hopes by sending us off to lessons--though he
also consoled us by promising to take us out hunting later.
On my way upstairs I made a digression to the terrace. Near the
door leading on to it Papa's favourite hound, Milka, was lying in the
sun and blinking her eyes.
"Miloshka," I cried as I caressed her and kissed her nose, we are
going away today. Good-bye. Perhaps we shall never see each other
again." I was crying and laughing at the same time.
Karl Ivanitch was in a bad temper, This was clear from his
contracted brows, and from the way in which he flung his frockcoat
into a drawer, angrily donned his old dressing-gown again, and made
deep dints with his nails to mark the place in the book of dialogues
to which we were to learn by heart. Woloda began working diligently,
but I was too distracted to do anything at all. For a long while I
stared vacantly at the book; but tears at the thought of the impending
separation kept rushing to my eyes and preventing me from reading a
single word. When at length the time came to repeat the dialogues to
Karl (who listened to us with blinking eyes--a very bad sign), I had
no sooner reached the place where some one asks, "Wo kommen Sie her?"
("Where do you come from?") and some one else answers him, "lch komme
vom Kaffeehaus" ("I come from the coffee-house"), than I burst into
tears and, for sobbing, could not pronounce, "Haben Sie die Zeitung
nicht gelesen?" (Have you not read the newspaper?") at all. Next, when
we came to our writing lesson, the tears kept falling from my eyes
and, making a mess on the paper, as though some one had written on
blotting- paper with water, Karl was very angry. He ordered me to go
down upon my knees, declared that it was all obstinacy and " puppet-
comedy playing" (a favourite expression of his) on my part,
threatened me with the ruler, and commanded me to say that I was
sorry. Yet for sobbing and crying I could not get a word out. At
last--conscious, perhaps, that he was unjust--he departed to Nicola's
pantry, and slammed the door behind him. Nevertheless their
conversation there carried to the schoolroom.
"Have you heard that the children are going to Moscow, Nicola?"
"Yes. How could I help hearing it?"
At this point Nicola seemed to get up for Karl said, "Sit down,
Nicola," and then locked the door. However, I came out of my corner
and crept to the door to listen.
"However much you may do for people, and however fond of them you
may be, never expect any gratitude, Nicola," said Karl warmly. Nicola,
who was shoe-cobbling by the window, nodded his head in assent.
"Twelve years have I lived in this house," went on Karl, lifting
his eyes and his snuff-box towards the ceiling, "and before God I can
say that I have loved them, and worked for them, even more than if
they had been my own children. You recollect, Nicola, when Woloda had
the fever? You recollect how, for nine days and nights, I never closed
my eyes as I sat beside his bed? Yes, at that time I was 'the dear,
good Karl Ivanitch'--I was wanted then; but now"--and he smiled
ironically--"the children are growing up, and must go to study in
earnest. Perhaps they never learnt anything with me, Nicola? Eh?"
"I am sure they did," replied Nicola, laying his awl down and
straightening a piece of thread with his hands.
"No, I am wanted no longer, and am to be turned out. What good are
promises and gratitude? Natalia Nicolaevna"--here he laid his hand
upon his heart--"I love and revere, but what can SHE I do here? Her
will is powerless in this house."
He flung a strip of leather on the floor with an angry gesture.
"Yet I know who has been playing tricks here, and why I am no longer
wanted. It is because I do not flatter and toady as certain people do.
I am in the habit of speaking the truth in all places and to all
persons," he continued proudly, "God be with these children, for my
leaving them will benefit them little, whereas I--well, by God's help
I may be able to earn a crust of bread somewhere. Nicola, eh?"
Nicola raised his head and looked at Karl as though to consider
whether he would indeed be able to earn a crust of bread, but he said
nothing. Karl said a great deal more of the same kind--in particular
how much better his services had been appreciated at a certain
general's where he had formerly lived (I regretted to hear that).
Likewise he spoke of Saxony, his parents, his friend the tailor,
Schonheit (beauty), and so on.
I sympathised with his distress, and felt dreadfully sorry that he
and Papa (both of whom I loved about equally) had had a difference.
Then I returned to my corner, crouched down upon my heels, and fell to
thinking how a reconciliation between them might be effected.
Returning to the study, Karl ordered me to get up and prepare to
write from dictation. When I was ready he sat down with a dignified
air in his arm-chair, and in a voice which seemed to come from a
profound abyss began to dictate: "Von al-len Lei- den-shaf-ten die
grau-samste ist. Have you written that? " He paused, took a pinch of
snuff, and began again: "Die grausamste ist die Un-dank-bar-keit [The
most cruel of all passions is ingratitude.] a capital U, mind."
The last word written, I looked at him, for him to go on,
"Punctum" (stop), he concluded, with a faintly perceptible smile,
as he signed to us to hand him our copy-books.
Several times, and in several different tones, and always with an
expression of the greatest satisfaction, did he read out that
sentence, which expressed his predominant thought at the moment, Then
he set us to learn a lesson in history, and sat down near the window.
His face did not look so depressed now, but, on the contrary,
expressed eloquently the satisfaction of a man who had avenged himself
for an injury dealt him.
By this time it was a quarter to one o'clock, but Karl Ivanitch
never thought of releasing us, He merely set us a new lesson to
learn. My fatigue and hunger were increasing in equal proportions, so
that I eagerly followed every sign of the approach of luncheon. First
came the housemaid with a cloth to wipe the plates, Next, the sound of
crockery resounded in the dining-room, as the table was moved and
chairs placed round it, After that, Mimi, Lubotshka, and Katenka.
(Katenka was Mimi's daughter, and twelve years old) came in from the
garden, but Foka (the servant who always used to come and announce
luncheon) was not yet to be seen. Only when he entered was it lawful
to throw one's books aside and run downstairs.
Hark! Steps resounded on the staircase, but they were not Foka's.
Foka's I had learnt to study, and knew the creaking of his boots
well. The door opened, and a figure unknown to me made its
V. THE IDIOT
The man who now entered the room was about fifty years old, with a
pale, attenuated face pitted with smallpox, long grey hair, and a
scanty beard of a reddish hue. Likewise he was so tall that, on coming
through the doorway, he was forced not only to bend his head, but to
incline his whole body forward. He was dressed in a sort of smock that
was much torn, and held in his hand a stout staff. As he entered he
smote this staff upon the floor, and, contracting his brows and
opening his mouth to its fullest extent, laughed in a dreadful,
unnatural way. He had lost the sight of one eye, and its colourless
pupil kept rolling about and imparting to his hideous face an even
more repellent expression than it otherwise bore.
"Hullo, you are caught!" he exclaimed as he ran to Woloda with
little short steps and, seizing him round the head, looked at it
searchingly. Next he left him, went to the table, and, with a
perfectly serious expression on his face, began to blow under the
oil-cloth, and to make the sign of the cross over it, "O-oh, what a
pity! O-oh, how it hurts! They are angry! They fly from me!" he
exclaimed in a tearful choking voice as he glared at Woloda and wiped
away the streaming tears with his sleeve, His voice was harsh and
rough, all his movements hysterical and spasmodic, and his words
devoid of sense or connection (for he used no conjunctions). Yet the
tone of that voice was so heartrending, and his yellow, deformed face
at times so sincere and pitiful in its expression, that, as one
listened to him, it was impossible to repress a mingled sensation of
pity, grief, and fear.
This was the idiot Grisha. Whence he had come, or who were his
parents, or what had induced him to choose the strange life which he
led, no one ever knew. All that I myself knew was that from his
fifteenth year upwards he had been known as an imbecile who went
barefooted both in winter and summer, visited convents, gave little
images to any one who cared to take them, and spoke meaningless words
which some people took for prophecies; that nobody remembered him as
being different; that at, rate intervals he used to call at
Grandmamma's house; and that by some people
he was said to be the outcast son of rich parents and a pure,
saintly soul, while others averred that he was a mere peasant
and an idler.
At last the punctual and wished-for Foka arrived, and we went
downstairs. Grisha followed us sobbing and continuing to talk
nonsense, and knocking his staff on each step of the staircase. When
we entered the drawing-room we found Papa and Mamma walking up and
down there, with their hands clasped in each other's, and talking in
low tones. Maria Ivanovna was sitting bolt upright in an arm-chair
placed at tight angles to the sofa, and giving some sort of a lesson
to the two girls sitting beside her. When Karl Ivanitch entered the
room she looked at him for a moment, and then turned her eyes away
with an expression which seemed to say, "You are beneath my notice,
Karl Ivanitch." It was easy to see from the girls' eyes that they had
important news to communicate to us as soon as an opportunity occurred
(for to leave their seats and approach us first was contrary to Mimi's
rules). It was for us to go to her and say, "Bon jour, Mimi," and then
make her a low bow; after which we should possibly be permitted to
enter into conversation with the girls.
What an intolerable creature that Mimi was! One could hardly say a
word in her presence without being found fault with. Also whenever we
wanted to speak in Russian, she would say, "Parlez, donc, francais,"
as though on purpose to annoy us, while, if there was any particularly
nice dish at luncheon which we wished to enjoy in peace, she would
keep on ejaculating, "Mangez, donc, avec du pain!" or, "Comment est-ce
que vous tenez votre fourchette?" "What has SHE got to do with us?" I
used to think to myself. "Let her teach the girls. WE have our Karl
Ivanitch." I shared to the full his dislike of "certain people."
"Ask Mamma to let us go hunting too," Katenka whispered to me, as
she caught me by the sleeve just when the elders of the family were
making a move towards the dining-room.
"Very well. I will try."
Grisha likewise took a seat in the dining-room, but at a little
table apart from the rest. He never lifted his eyes from his plate,
but kept on sighing and making horrible grimaces, as he muttered to
himself: "What a pity! It has flown away! The dove is flying to
heaven! The stone lies on the tomb!" and so forth.
Ever since the morning Mamma had been absent-minded, and Grisha's
presence, words, and actions seemed to make her more so.
"By the way, there is something I forgot to ask you," she said, as
she handed Papa a plate of soup,
"What is it?"
"That you will have those dreadful dogs of yours tied up, They
nearly worried poor Grisha to death when he entered the courtyard,
and I am sure they will bite the children some day."
No sooner did Grisha hear himself mentioned that he turned towards
our table and showed us his torn clothes. Then, as he went on with his
meal, he said: "He would have let them tear me in pieces, but God
would not allow it! What a sin to let the dogs loose--a great sin! But
do not beat him, master; do not beat him! It is for God to forgive! It
is past now!"
"What does he say?" said Papa, looking at him gravely and sternly.
"I cannot understand him at all."
"I think he is saying," replied Mamma, "that one of the huntsmen
set the dogs on him, but that God would not allow him to be torn in
pieces, Therefore he begs you not to punish the man."
"Oh, is that it? " said Papa, "How does he know that I intended to
punish the huntsman? You know, I am pot very fond of fellows like
this," he added in French, "and this one offends me particularly.
Should it ever happen that--"
"Oh, don't say so," interrupted Mamma, as if frightened by some
thought. "How can you know what he is?"
"I think I have plenty of opportunities for doing so, since no
lack of them come to see you--all of them the same sort, and probably
all with the same story."
I could see that Mamma's opinion differed from his, but that she
did not mean to quarrel about it.
"Please hand me the cakes," she said to him, "Are they good to-
day or not?"
"Yes, I AM angry," he went on as he took the cakes and put them
where Mamma could not reach them, "very angry at seeing supposedly
reasonable and educated people let themselves be deceived," and he
struck the table with his fork.
"I asked you to hand me the cakes," she repeated with outstretched
"And it is a good thing," Papa continued as he put the hand aside,
"that the police run such vagabonds in. All they are good for is to
play upon the nerves of certain people who are already not over-strong
in that respect," and he smiled, observing that Mamma did not like the
conversation at all. However, he handed her the cakes.
"All that I have to say," she replied, "is that one can hardly
believe that a man who, though sixty years of age, goes barefooted
winter and summer, and always wears chains of two pounds' weight, and
never accepts the offers made to him to live a quiet, comfortable
life--it is difficult to believe that such a man should act thus out
of laziness." Pausing a moment, she added with a sigh: "As to
predictions, je suis payee pour y croire, I told you, I think, that
Grisha prophesied the very day and hour of poor Papa's death?"
"Oh, what HAVE you gone and done?" said Papa, laughing and putting
his hand to his cheek (whenever he did this I used to look for
something particularly comical from him). "Why did you call my
attention to his feet? I looked at them, and now can eat nothing
Luncheon was over now, and Lubotshka and Katenka were winking at
us, fidgeting about in their chairs, and showing great restlessness.
The winking, of course, signified, "Why don't you ask whether we too
may go to the hunt?" I nudged Woloda, and Woloda nudged me back, until
at last I took heart of grace, and began (at first shyly, but
gradually with more assurance) to ask if it would matter much if the
girls too were allowed to enjoy the sport. Thereupon a consultation
was held among the elder folks, and eventually leave was
granted--Mamma, to make things still more delightful, saying that she
would come too,
VI. PREPARATIONS FOR THE CHASE
During dessert Jakoff had been sent for, and orders given him to
have ready the carriage, the hounds, and the saddle-horses--every
detail being minutely specified, and every horse called by its own
particular name. As Woloda's usual mount was lame, Papa ordered a
"hunter" to be saddled for him; which term, "hunter" so horrified
Mamma's ears, that she imagined it to be some kind of an animal which
would at once run away and bring about Woloda's death. Consequently,
in spite of all Papa's and Woloda's assurances (the latter glibly
affirming that it was nothing, and that he liked his horse to go
fast), poor Mamma continued to exclaim that her pleasure would be
quite spoilt for her.
When luncheon was over, the grown-ups had coffee in the study,
while we younger ones ran into the garden and went chattering along
the undulating paths with their carpet of yellow leaves. We talked
about Woloda's riding a hunter and said what a shame it was that
Lubotshka, could not run as fast as Katenka, and what fun it would be
if we could see Grisha's chains, and so forth; but of the impending
separation we said not a word. Our chatter was interrupted by the
sound of the carriage driving up, with a village urchin perched on
each of its springs. Behind the carriage rode the huntsmen with the
hounds, and they, again, were followed by the groom Ignat on the steed
intended for Woloda, with my old horse trotting alongside. After
running to the garden fence to get a sight of all these interesting
objects, and indulging in a chorus of whistling and hallooing, we
rushed upstairs to dress--our one aim being to make ourselves look as
like the huntsmen as possible. The obvious way to do this was to tuck
one's breeches inside one's boots. We lost no time over it all, for we
were in a hurry to run to the entrance steps again there to feast our
eyes upon the horses and hounds, and to have a chat with the huntsmen.
The day was exceedingly warm while, though clouds of fantastic shape
had been gathering on the horizon since morning and driving before a
light breeze across the sun, it was clear that, for all their menacing
blackness, they did not really intend to form a thunderstorm and spoil
our last day's pleasure. Moreover, towards afternoon some of them
broke, grew pale and elongated, and sank to the horizon again, while
others of them changed to the likeness of white transparent
fish-scales. In the east, over Maslovska, a single lurid mass was
louring, but Karl Ivanitch (who always seemed to know the ways of the
heavens) said that the weather would still continue to be fair and
In spite of his advanced years, it was in quite a sprightly manner
that Foka came out to the entrance steps. to give the order "Drive
up." In fact, as he planted his legs firmly apart and took up his
station between the lowest step and the spot where the coachman was to
halt, his mien was that of a man who knew his duties and had no need
to be reminded of them by anybody. Presently the ladies, also came
out, and after a little discussions as to seats and the safety of the
girls (all of which seemed to me wholly superfluous), they settled
themselves in the vehicle, opened their parasols, and started. As the
carriage was, driving away, Mamma pointed to the hunter and asked
that the horse intended for Vladimir Petrovitch?" On the groom
answering in the affirmative, she raised her hands in horror and
turned her head away. As for myself, I was burning with impatience.
Clambering on to the back of my steed (I was just tall enough to see
between its ears), I proceeded to perform evolutions in the courtyard.
"Mind you don't ride over the hounds, sir," said one of the
"Hold your tongue, It is not the first time I have been one of the
party." I retorted with dignity.
Although Woloda had plenty of pluck, he was not altogether free
from apprehensions as he sat on the hunter. Indeed, he more than once
asked as he patted it, "Is he quiet?" He looked very well on
horseback--almost a grown-up young man, and held himself so upright in
the saddle that I envied him since my shadow seemed to show that I
could not compare with him in looks.
Presently Papa's footsteps sounded on the flagstones, the whip
collected the hounds, and the huntsmen mounted their steeds. Papa's
horse came up in charge of a groom, the hounds of his particular leash
sprang up from their picturesque attitudes to fawn upon him, and
Milka, in a collar studded with beads, came bounding joyfully from
behind his heels to greet and sport with the other dogs. Finally, as
soon as Papa had mounted we rode away.
VII. THE HUNT
AT the head of the cavalcade rode Turka, on a hog-backed roan. On
his head he wore a shaggy cap, while, with a magnificent horn slung
across his shoulders and a knife at his belt, he looked so cruel and
inexorable that one would have thought he was going to engage in
bloody strife with his fellow men rather than to hunt a small animal.
Around the hind legs of his horse the hounds gambolled like a cluster
of checkered, restless balls. If one of them wished to stop, it was
only with the greatest difficulty that it could do so, since not only
had its leash-fellow also to be induced to halt, but at once one of
the huntsmen would wheel round, crack his whip, and shout to the
"Back to the pack, there!"
Arrived at a gate, Papa told us and the huntsmen to continue our
way along the road, and then rode off across a cornfield. The harvest
was at its height. On the further side of a large, shining, yellow
stretch of cornland lay a high purple belt of forest which always
figured in my eyes as a distant, mysterious region behind which either
the world ended or an uninhabited waste began. This expanse of
corn-land was dotted with swathes and reapers, while along the lanes
where the sickle had passed could be seen the backs of women as they
stooped among the tall, thick grain or lifted armfuls of corn and
rested them against the shocks. In one corner a woman was bending over
a cradle, and the whole stubble was studded with sheaves and
cornflowers. In another direction shirt-sleeved men were standing on
waggons, shaking the soil from the stalks of sheaves, and stacking
them for carrying. As soon as the foreman (dressed in a blouse and
high boots, and carrying a tally-stick) caught sight of Papa, he
hastened to take off his lamb's-wool cap and, wiping his red head,
told the women to get up. Papa's chestnut horse went trotting along
with a prancing gait as it tossed its head and swished its tail to and
fro to drive away the gadflies and countless other insects which
tormented its flanks, while his two greyhounds--their tails curved
like sickles--went springing gracefully over the stubble. Milka was
always first, but every now and then she would halt with a shake of
her head to await the whipper-in. The chatter of the peasants; the
rumbling of horses and waggons; the joyous cries of quails; the hum of
insects as they hung suspended in the motionless air; the smell of the
soil and grain and steam from our horses; the thousand different
lights and shadows which the burning sun cast upon the yellowish-
white cornland; the purple forest in the distance; the white gossamer
threads which were floating in the air or resting on the soil-all
these things I observed and heard and felt to the core.
Arrived at the Kalinovo wood, we found the carriage awaiting us
there, with, beside it, a one-horse waggonette driven by the
butler--a waggonette in which were a tea-urn, some apparatus for
making ices, and many other attractive boxes and bundles, all packed
in straw! There was no mistaking these signs, for they meant that we
were going to have tea, fruit, and ices in the open air. This afforded
us intense delight, since to drink tea in a wood and on the grass and
where none else had ever drunk tea before seemed to us a treat beyond
When Turka arrived at the little clearing where the carriage was
halted he took Papa's detailed instructions as to how we were to
divide ourselves and where each of us was to go (though, as a matter
of fact, he never acted according to such instructions, but always
followed his own devices). Then he unleashed the hounds, fastened the
leashes to his saddle, whistled to the pack, and disappeared among the
young birch trees the liberated hounds jumping about him in high
delight, wagging their tails, and sniffing and gambolling with one
another as they dispersed themselves in different directions.
"Has anyone a pocket-handkerchief to spare?" asked Papa. I took
mine from my pocket and offered it to him.
"Very well, Fasten it to this greyhound here."
"Gizana?" I asked, with the air of a connoisseur.
"Yes. Then run him along the road with you. When you come to a
little clearing in the wood stop and look about you, and don't come
back to me without a hare."
Accordingly I tied my handkerchief round Gizana's soft neck, and
set off running at full speed towards the appointed spot, Papa
laughing as he shouted after me, "Hurry up, hurry up or you'll be
Every now and then Gizana kept stopping, pricking up his ears, and
listening to the hallooing of the beaters. Whenever he did this I was
not strong enough to move him, and could do no more than shout, "Come
on, come on!" Presently he set off so fast that I could not restrain
him, and I encountered more than one fall before we reached our
destination. Selecting there a level, shady spot near the roots of a
great oak-tree, I lay down on the turf, made Gizana crouch beside me,
and waited. As usual, my imagination far outstripped reality. I
fancied that I was pursuing at least my third hare when, as a matter
of fact, the first hound was only just giving tongue. Presently,
however, Turka's voice began to sound through the wood in louder and
more excited tones, the baying of a hound came nearer and nearer, and
then another, and then a third, and then a fourth, deep throat joined
in the rising and falling cadences of a chorus, until the whole had
united their voices in one continuous, tumultuous burst of melody. As
the Russian proverb expresses it, "The forest had found a tongue, and
the hounds were burning as with fire."
My excitement was so great that I nearly swooned where I stood. My
lips parted themselves as though smiling, the perspiration poured from
me in streams, and, in spite of the tickling sensation caused by the
drops as they trickled over my chin, I never thought of wiping them
away. I felt that a crisis was approaching. Yet the tension was too
unnatural to last. Soon the hounds came tearing along the edge of the
wood, and then--behold, they were racing away from me again, and of
hares there was not a sign to be seen! I looked in every direction and
Gizana did the same--pulling at his leash at first and whining. Then
he lay down again by my side, rested his muzzle on my knees, and
resigned himself to disappointment. Among the naked roots of the
oak-tree under which I was sitting. I could see countless ants
swarming over the parched grey earth and winding among the acorns,
withered oak-leaves, dry twigs, russet moss, and slender, scanty
blades of grass. In serried files they kept pressing forward on the
level track they had made for themselves--some carrying burdens, some
not. I took a piece of twig and barred their way. Instantly it was
curious to see how they made light of the obstacle. Some got past it
by creeping underneath, and some by climbing over it. A few, however,
there were (especially those weighted with loads) who were nonplussed
what to do. They either halted and searched for a way round, or
returned whence they had come, or climbed the adjacent herbage, with
the evident intention of reaching my hand and going up the sleeve of
my jacket. From this interesting spectacle my attention was distracted
by the yellow wings of a butterfly which was fluttering alluringly
before me. Yet I had scarcely noticed it before it flew away to a
little distance and, circling over some half-faded blossoms of white
clover, settled on one of them. Whether it was the sun's warmth that
delighted it, or whether it was busy sucking nectar from the flower,
at all events it seemed thoroughly comfortable. It scarcely moved its
wings at all, and pressed itself down into the clover until I could
hardly see its body. I sat with my chin on my hands and watched it
with intense interest.
Suddenly Gizana sprang up and gave me such a violent jerk that I
nearly rolled over. I looked round. At the edge of the wood a hare
had just come into view, with one ear bent down and the other one
sharply pricked, The blood rushed to my head, and I forgot everything
else as I shouted, slipped the dog, and rushed towards the spot. Yet
all was in vain. The hare stopped, made a rush, and was lost to view.
How confused I felt when at that moment Turka stepped from the
undergrowth (he had been following the hounds as they ran along the
edges of the wood)! He had seen my mistake (which had consisted in my
not biding my time), and now threw me a contemptuous look as he said,
"Ah, master!" And you should have heard the tone in which he said it!
It would have been a relief to me if he had then and there suspended
me to his saddle instead of the hare. For a while I could only stand
miserably where I was, without attempting to recall the dog, and
ejaculate as I slapped my knees, "Good heavens! What a fool I was!" I
could hear the hounds retreating into the distance, and baying along
the further side of the wood as they pursued the hare, while Turka
rallied them with blasts on his gorgeous horn: yet I did not stir.
VIII. WE PLAY GAMES
THE hunt was over, a cloth had been spread in the shade of some
young birch-trees, and the whole party was disposed around it. The
butler, Gabriel, had stamped down the surrounding grass, wiped the
plates in readiness, and unpacked from a basket a quantity of plums
and peaches wrapped in leaves.
Through the green branches of the young birch-trees the sun
glittered and threw little glancing balls of light upon the pattern
of my napkin, my legs, and the bald moist head of Gabriel. A soft
breeze played in the leaves of the trees above us, and, breathing
softly upon my hair and heated face, refreshed me beyond measure, When
we had finished the fruit and ices, nothing remained to be done around
the empty cloth, so, despite the oblique, scorching rays of the sun,
we rose and proceeded to play.
"Well, what shall it be?" said Lubotshka, blinking in the sunlight
and skipping about the grass, "Suppose we play Robinson?"
"No, that's a tiresome game," objected Woloda, stretching himself
lazily on the turf and gnawing some leaves, "Always Robinson! If you
want to play at something, play at building a summerhouse."
Woloda was giving himself tremendous airs. Probably he was proud
of having ridden the hunter, and so pretended to be very tired.
Perhaps, also, he had too much hard-headedness and too little
imagination fully to enjoy the game of Robinson. It was a game which
consisted of performing various scenes from The Swiss Family Robinson,
a book which we had recently been reading.
"Well, but be a good boy. Why not try and please us this time?"
the girls answered. "You may be Charles or Ernest or the father,
whichever you like best," added Katenka as she tried to raise him
from the ground by pulling at his sleeve.
"No, I'm not going to; it's a tiresome game," said Woloda again,
though smiling as if secretly pleased.
"It would be better to sit at home than not to play at ANYTHING,"
murmured Lubotshka, with tears in her eyes. She was a great weeper.
"Well, go on, then. Only, DON'T cry; I can't stand that sort of
Woloda's condescension did not please us much. On the contrary,
his lazy, tired expression took away all the fun of the game. When we
sat on the ground and imagined that we were sitting in a boat and
either fishing or rowing with all our might, Woloda persisted in
sitting with folded hands or in anything but a fisherman's posture. I
made a remark about it, but he replied that, whether we moved our
hands or not, we should neither gain nor lose ground--certainly not
advance at all, and I was forced to agree with him. Again, when I
pretended to go out hunting, and, with a stick over my shoulder, set
off into the wood, Woloda only lay down on his back with his hands
under his head, and said that he supposed it was all the same whether
he went or not. Such behaviour and speeches cooled our ardour for the
game and were very disagreeable--the more so since it was impossible
not to confess to oneself that Woloda was right, I myself knew that it
was not only impossible to kill birds with a stick, but to shoot at
all with such a weapon. Still, it was the game, and if we were once to
begin reasoning thus, it would become equally impossible for us to go
for drives on chairs. I think that even Woloda himself cannot at that
moment have forgotten how, in the long winter evenings, we had been
used to cover an arm-chair with a shawl and make a carriage of it--one
of us being the coachman, another one the footman, the two girls the
passengers, and three other chairs the trio of horses abreast. With
what ceremony we used to set out, and with what adventures we used to
meet on the way! How gaily and quickly those long winter evenings used
to pass! If we were always to judge from reality, games would be
nonsense; but if games were nonsense, what else would there be left
IX. A FIRST ESSAY IN LOVE
PRETENDING to gather some "American fruit" from a tree, Lubotshka
suddenly plucked a leaf upon which was a huge caterpillar, and
throwing the insect with horror to the ground, lifted her hands and
sprang away as though afraid it would spit at her. The game stopped,
and we crowded our heads together as we stooped to look at the
I peeped over Katenka's shoulder as she was trying to lift the
caterpillar by placing another leaf in its way. I had observed before
that the girls had a way of shrugging their shoulders whenever they
were trying to put a loose garment straight on their bare necks, as
well as that Mimi always grew angry on witnessing this manoeuvre and
declared it to be a chambermaid's trick. As Katenka bent over the
caterpillar she made that very movement, while at the same instant the
breeze lifted the fichu on her white neck. Her shoulder was close to
my lips, I looked at it and kissed it, She did not turn round, but
Woloda remarked without raising his head, "What spooniness!" I felt
the tears rising to my eyes, and could not take my gaze from Katenka.
I had long been used to her fair, fresh face, and had always been fond
of her, but now I looked at her more closely, and felt more fond of
her, than I had ever done or felt before.
When we returned to the grown-ups, Papa informed us, to our great
joy, that, at Mamma's entreaties, our departure was to be postponed
until the following morning. We rode home beside the carriage--Woloda
and I galloping near it, and vieing with one another in our exhibition
of horsemanship and daring. My shadow looked longer now than it had
done before, and from that I judged that I had grown into a fine
rider. Yet my complacency was soon marred by an unfortunate
occurrence, Desiring to outdo Woloda before the audience in the
carriage, I dropped a little behind.
Then with whip and spur I urged my steed forward, and at the
same time assumed a natural, graceful attitude, with the intention
of whooting past the carriage on the side on which Katenka was
seated. My only doubt was whether to halloo or not as I did so.
In the event, my infernal horse stopped so abruptly when just
level with the carriage horses that I was pitched forward on
to its neck and cut a very sorry figure!
X. THE SORT OF MAN MY FATHER WAS
Papa was a gentleman of the last century, with all the chivalrous
character, self-reliance, and gallantry of the youth of that time.
Upon the men of the present day he looked with a contempt arising
partly from inborn pride and partly from a secret feeling of vexation
that, in this age of ours, he could no longer enjoy the influence and
success which had been his in his youth. His two principal failings
were gambling and gallantry, and he had won or lost, in the course of
his career, several millions of roubles.
Tall and of imposing figure, he walked with a curiously quick,
mincing gait, as well as had a habit of hitching one of his
shoulders. His eyes were small and perpetually twinkling, his nose
large and aquiline, his lips irregular and rather oddly (though
pleasantly) compressed, his articulation slightly defective and
lisping, and his head quite bald. Such was my father's exterior from
the days of my earliest recollection. It was an exterior which not
only brought him success and made him a man a bonnes fortunes but one
which pleased people of all ranks and stations. Especially did it
please those whom he desired to please.
At all junctures he knew how to take the lead, for, though not
deriving from the highest circles of society, he had always mixed
with them, and knew how to win their respect. He possessed in the
highest degree that measure of pride and self-confidence which,
without giving offence, maintains a man in the opinion of the world.
He had much originality, as well as the ability to use it in such a
way that it benefited him as much as actual worldly position or
fortune could have done. Nothing in the universe could surprise him,
and though not of eminent attainments in life, he seemed born to have
acquired them. He understood so perfectly how to make both himself and
others forget and keep at a distance the seamy side of life, with all
its petty troubles and vicissitudes, that it was impossible not to
envy him. He was a connoisseur in everything which could give ease and
pleasure, as well as knew how to make use of such knowledge. Likewise
he prided himself on the brilliant connections which he had formed
through my mother's family or through friends of his youth, and was
secretly jealous of any one of a higher rank than himself--any one,
that is to say, of a rank higher than a retired lieutenant of the
Guards. Moreover, like all ex-officers, he refused to dress himself in
the prevailing fashion, though he attired himself both originally and
artistically--his invariable wear being light, loose-fitting suits,
very fine shirts, and large collars and cuffs. Everything seemed to
suit his upright figure and quiet, assured air. He was sensitive to
the pitch of sentimentality, and, when reading a pathetic passage, his
voice would begin to tremble and the tears to come into his eyes,
until he had to lay the book aside. Likewise he was fond of music, and
could accompany himself on the piano as he sang the love songs of his
friend A- or gipsy songs or themes from operas; but he had no love for
serious music, and would frankly flout received opinion by declaring
that, whereas Beethoven's sonatas wearied him and sent him to sleep,
his ideal of beauty was "Do not wake me, youth" as Semenoff sang it,
or "Not one" as the gipsy Taninsha rendered that ditty. His nature was
essentially one of those which follow public opinion concerning what
is good, and consider only that good which the public declares to be
so. [It may be noted that the author has said earlier in the chapter
that his father possessed "much originality."] God only knows whether
he had any moral convictions. His life was so full of amusement that
probably he never had time to form any, and was too successful ever
to feel the lack of them.
As he grew to old age he looked at things always from a fixed
point of view, and cultivated fixed rules--but only so long as that
point or those rules coincided with expediency, The mode of life which
offered some passing degree of interest--that, in his opinion, was the
right one and the only one that men ought to affect. He had great
fluency of argument; and this, I think, increased the adaptability of
his morals and enabled him to speak of one and the same act, now as
good, and now, with abuse, as abominable.
XI. IN THE DRAWING-ROOM AND THE STUDY
Twilight had set in when we reached home. Mamma sat down to the
piano, and we to a table, there to paint and draw in colours and
pencil. Though I had only one cake of colour, and it was blue, I
determined to draw a picture of the hunt. In exceedingly vivid
fashion I painted a blue boy on a blue horse, and--but here I
stopped, for I was uncertain whether it was possible also to paint a
blue HARE. I ran to the study to consult Papa, and as he was busy
reading he never lifted his eyes from his book when I asked, "Can
there be blue hares?" but at once replied, "There can, my boy, there
can." Returning to the table I painted in my blue hare, but
subsequently thought it better to change it into a blue bush. Yet the
blue bush did not wholly please me, so I changed it into a tree, and
then into a rick, until, the whole paper having now become one blur of
blue, I tore it angrily in pieces, and went off to meditate in the
Mamma was playing Field's second concerto. Field, it may be said,
had been her master. As I dozed, the music brought up before my
imagination a kind of luminosity, with transparent dream-shapes. Next
she played the "Sonate Pathetique" of Beethoven, and I at once felt
heavy, depressed, and apprehensive. Mamma often played those two
pieces, and therefore I well recollect the feelings they awakened in
me. Those feelings were a reminiscence--of what? Somehow I seemed to
remember something which had never been.
Opposite to me lay the study door, and presently I saw Jakoff
enter it, accompanied by several long-bearded men in kaftans. Then
the door shut again.
"Now they are going to begin some business or other," I thought. I
believed the affairs transacted in that study to be the most important
ones on earth. This opinion was confirmed by the fact that people only
approached the door of that room on tiptoe and speaking in whispers.
Presently Papa's resonant voice sounded within, and I also scented
cigar smoke--always a very attractive thing to me. Next, as I dozed, I
suddenly heard a creaking of boots that I knew, and, sure enough, saw
Karl Ivanitch go on tiptoe, and with a depressed, but resolute,
expression on his face and a written document in his hand, to the
study door and knock softly. It opened, and then shut again behind
"I hope nothing is going to happen," I mused. "Karl Ivanitch is
offended, and might be capable of anything--" and again I dozed off.
Nevertheless something DID happen. An hour later I was disturbed
by the same creaking of boots, and saw Karl come out, and disappear
up the stairs, wiping away a few tears from his cheeks with his pocket
handkerchief as he went and muttering something between his teeth.
Papa came out behind him and turned aside into the drawing-room.
"Do you know what I have just decided to do?" he asked gaily as he
laid a hand upon Mamma's shoulder.
"What, my love?"
"To take Karl Ivanitch with the children. There will be room
enough for him in the carriage. They are used to him, and he seems
greatly attached to them. Seven hundred roubles a year cannot make
much difference to us, and the poor devil is not at all a bad sort of
a fellow." I could not understand why Papa should speak of him so
"I am delighted," said Mamma, "and as much for the children's sake
as his own. He is a worthy old man."
"I wish you could have seen how moved he was when I told him that
he might look upon the 500 roubles as a present! But the most amusing
thing of all is this bill which he has just handed me. It is worth
seeing," and with a smile Papa gave Mamma a paper inscribed in Karl's
handwriting. "Is it not capital? " he concluded.
The contents of the paper were as follows: [The joke of this bill
consists chiefly in its being written in very bad Russian, with
continual mistakes as to plural and singular, prepositions and so
"Two book for the children--70 copeck. Coloured paper, gold
frames, and a pop-guns, blockheads [This word has a double meaning in
Russian.] for cutting out several box for presents--6 roubles, 55
copecks. Several book and a bows, presents for the childrens--8
roubles, 16 copecks. A gold watches promised to me by Peter
Alexandrovitch out of Moscow, in the years 18-- for 140 roubles.
Consequently Karl Mayer have to receive 139 rouble, 79 copecks, beside
If people were to judge only by this bill (in which Karl Ivanitch
demanded repayment of all the money he had spent on presents, as well
as the value of a present promised to himself), they would take him to
have been a callous, avaricious egotist yet they would be wrong.
It appears that he had entered the study with the paper in his
hand and a set speech in his head, for the purpose of declaiming
eloquently to Papa on the subject of the wrongs which he believed
himself to have suffered in our house, but that, as soon as ever he
began to speak in the vibratory voice and with the expressive
intonations which he used in dictating to us, his eloquence wrought
upon himself more than upon Papa; with the result that, when he came
to the point where he had to say, "however sad it will be for me to
part with the children," he lost his self- command utterly, his
articulation became choked, and he was obliged to draw his coloured
pocket-handkerchief from his pocket.
"Yes, Peter Alexandrovitch," he said, weeping (this formed no part
of the prepared speech), "I am grown so used to the children that I
cannot think what I should do without them. I would rather serve you
without salary than not at all," and with one hand he wiped his eyes,
while with the other he presented the bill.
Although I am convinced that at that moment Karl Ivanitch was
speaking with absolute sincerity (for I know how good his heart was),
I confess that never to this day have I been able quite to reconcile
his words with the bill.
"Well, if the idea of leaving us grieves you, you may be sure that
the idea of dismissing you grieves me equally," said Papa, tapping him
on the shoulder. Then, after a pause, he added, "But I have changed my
mind, and you shall not leave us."
Just before supper Grisha entered the room. Ever since he had
entered the house that day he had never ceased to sigh and weep--a
portent, according to those who believed in his prophetic powers,
that misfortune was impending for the household. He had now come to
take leave of us, for to-morrow (so he said) he must be moving on. I
nudged Woloda, and we moved towards the door.
"What is the matter?" he said.
"This--that if we want to see Grisha's chains we must go upstairs
at once to the men-servants' rooms. Grisha is to sleep in the second
one, so we can sit in the store-room and see everything."
"All right. Wait here, and I'll tell the girls."
The girls came at once, and we ascended the stairs, though the
question as to which of us should first enter the store-room gave us
some little trouble. Then we cowered down and waited.
WE all felt a little uneasy in the thick darkness, so we pressed
close to one another and said nothing. Before long Grisha arrived
with his soft tread, carrying in one hand his staff and in the other
a tallow candle set in a brass candlestick. We scarcely ventured to
"Our Lord Jesus Christ! Holy Mother of God! Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost!" he kept repeating, with the different intonations and
abbreviations which gradually become peculiar to persons who are
accustomed to pronounce the words with great frequency.
Still praying, he placed his staff in a corner and looked at the
bed; after which he began to undress. Unfastening his old black
girdle, he slowly divested himself of his torn nankeen kaftan, and
deposited it carefully on the back of a chair. His face had now lost
its usual disquietude and idiocy. On the contrary, it had in it
something restful, thoughtful, and even grand, while all his movements
were deliberate and intelligent.
Next, he lay down quietly in his shirt on the bed, made the sign
of the cross towards every side of him, and adjusted his chains
beneath his shirt--an operation which, as we could see from his face,
occasioned him considerable pain. Then he sat up again, looked gravely
at his ragged shirt, and rising and taking the candle, lifted the
latter towards the shrine where the images of the saints stood. That
done, he made the sign of the cross again, and turned the candle
upside down, when it went out with a hissing noise.
Through the window (which overlooked the wood) the moon (nearly
full) was shining in such a way that one side of the tall white
figure of the idiot stood out in the pale, silvery moonlight, while
the other side was lost in the dark shadow which covered the floor,
walls, and ceiling. In the courtyard the watchman was tapping at
intervals upon his brass alarm plate. For a while Grisha stood
silently before the images and, with his large hands pressed to his
breast and his head bent forward, gave occasional sighs. Then with
difficulty he knelt down and began to pray.
At first he repeated some well-known prayers, and only accented a
word here and there. Next, he repeated thee same prayers, but louder
and with increased accentuation. Lastly he repeated them again and
with even greater emphasis, as well as with an evident effort to
pronounce them in the old Slavonic Church dialect. Though
disconnected, his prayers were very touching. He prayed for all his
benefactors (so he called every one who had received him hospitably),
with, among them, Mamma and ourselves. Next he prayed for himself, and
besought God to forgive him his sins, at the same time repeating, "God
forgive also my enemies!" Then, moaning with the effort, he rose from
his knees--only to fall to the floor again and repeat his phrases
afresh. At last he regained his feet, despite the weight of the
chains, which rattled loudly whenever they struck the floor.
Woloda pinched me rudely in the leg, but I took no notice of that
(except that I involuntarily touched the place with my hand), as I
observed with a feeling of childish astonishment, pity, and respect
the words and gestures of Grisha. Instead of the laughter and
amusement which I had expected on entering the store-room, I felt my
heart beating and overcome.
Grisha continued for some time in this state of religious ecstasy
as he improvised prayers and repeated again and yet again, "Lord,
have mercy upon me!" Each time that he said, "Pardon me, Lord, and
teach me to do what Thou wouldst have done," he pronounced the words
with added earnestness and emphasis, as though he expected an
immediate answer to his petition, and then fell to sobbing and moaning
once more. Finally, he went down on his knees again, folded his arms
upon his breast, and remained silent. I ventured to put my head round
the door (holding my breath as I did so), but Grisha still made no
movement except for the heavy sighs which heaved his breast. In the
moonlight I could see a tear glistening on the white patch of his
"Yes, Thy will be done!" he exclaimed suddenly, with an expression
which I cannot describe, as, prostrating himself with his forehead on
the floor, he fell to sobbing like a child.
Much sand has run out since then, many recollections of the past
have faded from my memory or become blurred in indistinct visions,
and poor Grisha himself has long since reached the end of his
pilgrimage; but the impression which he produced upon me, and the
feelings which he aroused in my breast, will never leave my mind. O
truly Christian Grisha, your faith was so strong that you could feel
the actual presence of God; your love so great that the words fell of
themselves from your lips. You had no reason to prove them, for you
did so with your earnest praises of His majesty as you fell to the
ground speechless and in tears!
Nevertheless the sense of awe with which I had listened to Grisha
could not last for ever. I had now satisfied my curiosity, and, being
cramped with sitting in one position so long, desired to join in the
tittering and fun which I could hear going on in the dark store-room
behind me. Some one took my hand and whispered,
"Whose hand is this?" Despite the darkness, I knew by the touch
and the low voice in my ear that it was Katenka. I took her by the
arm, but she withdrew it, and, in doing so, pushed a cane chair which
was standing near. Grisha lifted his head looked quietly about him,
and, muttering a prayer, rose and made the sign of the cross towards
each of the four corners of the room.
XIII. NATALIA SAVISHNA
In days gone by there used to run about the seignorial courtyard
of the country-house at Chabarovska a girl called Natashka. She
always wore a cotton dress, went barefooted, and was rosy, plump, and
gay. It was at the request and entreaties of her father, the clarionet
player Savi, that my grandfather had "taken her upstairs"--that is to
say, made her one of his wife's female servants. As chamber-maid,
Natashka so distinguished herself by her zeal and amiable temper that
when Mamma arrived as a baby and required a nurse Natashka was
honoured with the charge of her. In this new office the girl earned
still further praises and rewards for her activity, trustworthiness,
and devotion to her young mistress. Soon, however, the powdered head
and buckled shoes of the young and active footman Foka (who had
frequent opportunities of courting her, since they were in the same
service) captivated her unsophisticated, but loving, heart. At last
she ventured to go and ask my grandfather if she might marry Foka, but
her master took the request in bad part, flew into a passion, and
punished poor Natashka by exiling her to a farm which he owned in a
remote quarter of the Steppes. At length, when she had been gone six
months and nobody could be found to replace her, she was recalled to
her former duties. Returned, and with her dress in rags, she fell at
Grandpapa's feet, and besought him to restore her his favour and
kindness, and to forget the folly of which she had been guilty--folly
which, she assured him, should never recur again. And she kept her
From that time forth she called herself, not Natashka, but Natalia
Savishna, and took to wearing a cap, All the love in her heart was now
bestowed upon her young charge. When Mamma had a governess appointed
for her education, Natalia was awarded the keys as housekeeper, and
henceforth had the linen and provisions under her care. These new
duties she fulfilled with equal fidelity and zeal. She lived only for
her master's advantage. Everything in which she could detect fraud,
extravagance, or waste she endeavoured to remedy to the best of her
power. When Mamma married and wished in some way to reward Natalia
Savishna for her twenty years of care and labour, she sent for her
and, voicing in the tenderest terms her attachment and love, presented
her with a stamped charter of her (Natalia's) freedom, [It will be
remembered that this was in the days of serfdom] telling her at the
same time that, whether she continued to serve in the household or
not, she should always receive an annual pension Of 300 roubles.
Natalia listened in silence to this. Then, taking the document in her
hands and regarding it with a frown, she muttered something between
her teeth, and darted from the room, slamming the door behind her. Not
understanding the reason for such strange conduct, Mamma followed her
presently to her room, and found her sitting with streaming eyes on
her trunk, crushing her pocket-handkerchief between her fingers, and
looking mournfully at the remains of the document, which was lying
torn to pieces on the floor.
"What is the matter, dear Natalia Savishna?" said Mamma, taking
"Nothing, ma'am," she replied; "only--only I must have displeased
you somehow, since you wish to dismiss me from the house. Well, I will
She withdrew her hand and, with difficulty restraining her tears,
rose to leave the room, but Mamma stopped her, and they wept a while
in one another's arms.
Ever since I can remember anything I can remember Natalia Savishna
and her love and tenderness; yet only now have I learnt to appreciate
them at their full value. In early days it never occurred to me to
think what a rare and wonderful being this old domestic was. Not only
did she never talk, but she seemed never even to think, of herself.
Her whole life was compounded of love and self-sacrifice. Yet so used
was I to her affection and singleness of heart that I could not
picture things otherwise. I never thought of thanking her, or of
asking myself, "Is she also happy? Is she also contented?" Often on
some pretext or another I would leave my lessons and run to her room,
where, sitting down, I would begin to muse aloud as though she were
not there. She was forever mending something, or tidying the shelves
which lined her room, or marking linen, so that she took no heed of
the nonsense which I talked--how that I meant to become a general, to
marry a beautiful woman, to buy a chestnut horse, to, build myself a
house of glass, to invite Karl Ivanitch's relatives to come and visit
me from Saxony, and so forth; to all of which she would only reply,
"Yes, my love, yes." Then, on my rising, and preparing to go, she
would open a blue trunk which had pasted on the inside of its lid a
coloured picture of a hussar which had once adorned a pomade bottle
and a sketch made by Woloda, and take from it a fumigation pastille,
which she would light and shake for my benefit, saying:
"These, dear, are the pastilles which your grandfather (now in
Heaven) brought back from Otchakov after fighting against the Turks."
Then she would add with a sigh: "But this is nearly the last one."
The trunks which filled her room seemed to contain almost
everything in the world. Whenever anything was wanted, people said,
"Oh, go and ask Natalia Savishna for it," and, sure enough, it was
seldom that she did not produce the object required and say, "See what
comes of taking care of everything!" Her trunks contained thousands of
things which nobody in the house but herself would have thought of
Once I lost my temper with her. This was how it happened.
One day after luncheon I poured myself out a glass of kvass, and
then dropped the decanter, and so stained the tablecloth.
"Go and call Natalia, that she may come and see what her darling
has done," said Mamma.
Natalia arrived, and shook her head at me when she saw the damage
I had done; but Mamma whispered something in her car, threw a look at
myself, and then left the room.
I was just skipping away, in the sprightliest mood possible, when
Natalia darted out upon me from behind the door with the tablecloth
in her hand, and, catching hold of me, rubbed my face hard with the
stained part of it, repeating, "Don't thou go and spoil tablecloths
I struggled hard, and roared with temper.
"What?" I said to myself as I fled to the drawing-room in a mist
of tears, "To think that Natalia Savishna-just plain Natalia-should
say 'THOU' to me and rub my face with a wet tablecloth as though I
were a mere servant-boy! It is abominable!"
Seeing my fury, Natalia departed, while I continued to strut about
and plan how to punish the bold woman for her offence. Yet not more
than a few moments had passed when Natalia returned and, stealing to
my side, began to comfort me,
"Hush, then, my love. Do not cry. Forgive me my rudeness. It was
wrong of me. You WILL pardon me, my darling, will you not? There,
there, that's a dear," and she took from her handkerchief a cornet of
pink paper containing two little cakes and a grape, and offered it me
with a trembling hand. I could not look the kind old woman in the
face, but, turning aside, took the paper, while my tears flowed the
faster--though from love and shame now, not from anger.
XIV. THE PARTING
ON the day after the events described, the carriage and the
luggage-cart drew up to the door at noon. Nicola, dressed for the
journey, with his breeches tucked into his boots and an old overcoat
belted tightly about him with a girdle, got into the cart and arranged
cloaks and cushions on the seats. When he thought that they were piled
high enough he sat down on them, but finding them still
unsatisfactory, jumped up and arranged them once more.
"Nicola Dimitvitch, would you be so good as to take master's
dressing-case with you? " said Papa's valet, suddenly standing up in
the carriage, " It won't take up much room."
"You should have told me before, Michael Ivanitch," answered
Nicola snappishly as he hurled a bundle with all his might to the
floor of the cart. "Good gracious! Why, when my head is going round
like a whirlpool, there you come along with your dressing- case!" and
he lifted his cap to wipe away the drops of perspiration from his
The courtyard was full of bareheaded peasants in kaftans or simple
shirts, women clad in the national dress and wearing striped
handkerchiefs, and barefooted little ones--the latter holding their
mothers' hands or crowding round the entrance- steps. All were
chattering among themselves as they stared at the carriage. One of the
postillions, an old man dressed in a winter cap and cloak, took hold
of the pole of the carriage and tried it carefully, while the other
postillion (a young man in a white blouse with pink gussets on the
sleeves and a black lamb's-wool cap which he kept cocking first on one
side and then on the other as he arranged his flaxen hair) laid his
overcoat upon the box, slung the reins over it, and cracked his
thonged whip as he looked now at his boots and now at the other
drivers where they stood greasing the wheels of the cart--one driver
lifting up each wheel in turn and the other driver applying the
grease. Tired post-horses of various hues stood lashing away flies
with their tails near the gate--some stamping their great hairy legs,
blinking their eyes, and dozing, some leaning wearily against their
neighbours, and others cropping the leaves and stalks of dark-green
fern which grew near the entrance-steps. Some of the dogs were lying
panting in the sun, while others were slinking under the vehicles to
lick the grease from the wheels. The air was filled with a sort of
dusty mist, and the horizon was lilac- grey in colour, though no
clouds were to be seen, A strong wind from the south was raising
volumes of dust from the roads and fields, shaking the poplars and
birch-trees in the garden, and whirling their yellow leaves away. I
myself was sitting at a window and waiting impatiently for these
various preparations to come to an end.
As we sat together by the drawing-room table, to pass the last few
moments en famille, it never occurred to me that a sad moment was
impending. On the contrary, the most trivial thoughts were filling my
brain. Which driver was going to drive the carriage and which the
cart? Which of us would sit with Papa, and which with Karl Ivanitch?
Why must I be kept forever muffled up in a scarf and padded boots?
"Am I so delicate? Am I likely to be frozen?" I thought to myself.
"I wish it would all come to an end, and we could take our seats and
"To whom shall I give the list of the children's linen?" asked
Natalia Savishna of Mamma as she entered the room with a paper in her
hand and her eyes red with weeping.
"Give it to Nicola, and then return to say good-bye to them,"
replied Mamma. The old woman seemed about to say something more, but
suddenly stopped short, covered her face with her handkerchief, and
left the room. Something seemed to prick at my heart when I saw that
gesture of hers, but impatience to be off soon drowned all other
feeling, and I continued to listen indifferently to Papa and Mamma as
they talked together. They were discussing subjects which evidently
interested neither of them. What must be bought for the house? What
would Princess Sophia or Madame Julie say? Would the roads be
good?--and so forth.
Foka entered, and in the same tone and with the same air as though
he were announcing luncheon said, "The carriages are ready." I saw
Mamma tremble and turn pale at the announcement, just as though it
were something unexpected.
Next, Foka was ordered to shut all the doors of the room. This
amused me highly. As though we needed to be concealed from some one!
When every one else was seated, Foka took the last remaining chair.
Scarcely, however, had he done so when the door creaked and every one
looked that way. Natalia Savishna entered hastily, and, without
raising her eyes, sat own on the same chair as Foka. I can see them
before me now-Foka's bald head and wrinkled, set face, and, beside
him, a bent, kind figure in a cap from beneath which a few grey hairs
were straggling. The pair settled themselves together on the chair,
but neither of them looked comfortable.
I continued preoccupied and impatient. In fact, the ten minutes
during which we sat there with closed doors seemed to me an hour. At
last every one rose, made the sign of the cross, and began to say
good-bye. Papa embraced Mamma, and kissed her again and again.
"But enough," he said presently. "We are not parting for ever."
"No, but it is-so-so sad! " replied Mamma, her voice trembling
When I heard that faltering voice, and saw those quivering lips
and tear-filled eyes, I forgot everything else in the world. I felt
so ill and miserable that I would gladly have run away rather than bid
her farewell. I felt, too, that when she was embracing Papa she was
embracing us all. She clasped Woloda to her several times, and made
the sign of the cross over him; after which I approached her, thinking
that it was my turn. Nevertheless she took him again and again to her
heart, and blessed him. Finally I caught hold of her, and, clinging to
her, wept--wept, thinking of nothing in the world but my grief.
As we passed out to take our seats, other servants pressed round
us in the hall to say good-bye. Yet their requests to shake hands
with us, their resounding kisses on our shoulders, [The fashion in
which inferiors salute their superiors in Russia.] and the odour of
their greasy heads only excited in me a feeling akin to impatience
with these tiresome people. The same feeling made me bestow nothing
more than a very cross kiss upon Natalia's cap when she approached to
take leave of me. It is strange that I should still retain a perfect
recollection of these servants' faces, and be able to draw them with
the most minute accuracy in my mind, while Mamma's face and attitude
escape me entirely. It may be that it is because at that moment I had
not the heart to look at her closely. I felt that if I did so our
mutual grief would burst forth too unrestrainedly.
I was the first to jump into the carriage and to take one of the
hinder seats. The high back of the carriage prevented me from
actually seeing her, yet I knew by instinct that Mamma was still
"Shall I look at her again or not?" I said to myself. "Well, just
for the last time," and I peeped out towards the entrance- steps.
Exactly at that moment Mamma moved by the same impulse, came to the
opposite side of the carriage, and called me by name. Rearing her
voice behind me. I turned round, but so hastily that our heads knocked
together. She gave a sad smile, and kissed me convulsively for the
When we had driven away a few paces I determined to look at her
once more. The wind was lifting the blue handkerchief from her head
as, bent forward and her face buried in her hands, she moved slowly up
the steps. Foka was supporting her. Papa said nothing as he sat beside
me. I felt breathless with tears--felt a sensation in my throat as
though I were going to choke, just as we came out on to the open road
I saw a white handkerchief waving from the terrace. I waved mine in
return, and the action of so doing calmed me a little. I still went on
crying. but the thought that my tears were a proof of my affection
helped to soothe and comfort me.
After a little while I began to recover, and to look with interest
at objects which we passed and at the hind-quarters of the led horse
which was trotting on my side. I watched how it would swish its tail,
how it would lift one hoof after the other, how the driver's thong
would fall upon its back, and how all its legs would then seem to jump
together and the back-band, with the rings on it, to jump too--the
whole covered with the horse's foam. Then I would look at the rolling
stretches of ripe corn, at the dark ploughed fields where ploughs and
peasants and horses with foals were working, at their footprints, and
at the box of the carriage to see who was driving us; until, though my
face was still wet with tears, my thoughts had strayed far from her
with whom I had just parted--parted, perhaps, for ever. Yet ever and
again something would recall her to my memory. I remembered too how,
the evening before, I had found a mushroom under the birch- trees, how
Lubotshka had quarrelled with Katenka as to whose it should be, and
how they had both of them wept when taking leave of us. I felt sorry
to be parted from them, and from Natalia Savishna, and from the
birch-tree avenue, and from Foka. Yes, even the horrid Mimi I longed
for. I longed for everything at home. And poor Mamma!--The tears
rushed to my eyes again. Yet even this mood passed away before long.
HAPPY, happy, never-returning time of childhood! How can we help
loving and dwelling upon its recollections? They cheer and elevate
the soul, and become to one a source of higher joys.
Sometimes, when dreaming of bygone days, I fancy that, tired out
with running about, I have sat down, as of old, in my high arm- chair
by the tea-table. It is late, and I have long since drunk my cup of
milk. My eyes are heavy with sleep as I sit there and listen. How
could I not listen, seeing that Mamma is speaking to somebody, and
that the sound of her voice is so melodious and kind? How much its
echoes recall to my heart! With my eyes veiled with drowsiness I gaze
at her wistfully. Suddenly she seems to grow smaller and smaller, and
her face vanishes to a point; yet I can still see it--can still see
her as she looks at me and smiles. Somehow it pleases me to see her
grown so small. I blink and blink, yet she looks no larger than a boy
reflected in the pupil of an eye. Then I rouse myself, and the picture
fades. Once more I half-close my eyes, and cast about to try and
recall the dream, but it has gone,
I rise to my feet, only to fall back comfortably into the
"There! You are failing asleep again, little Nicolas," says Mamma.
"You had better go to by-by."
"No, I won't go to sleep, Mamma," I reply, though almost
inaudibly, for pleasant dreams are filling all my soul. The sound
sleep of childhood is weighing my eyelids down, and for a few moments
I sink into slumber and oblivion until awakened by some one. I feel in
my sleep as though a soft hand were caressing me. I know it by the
touch, and, though still dreaming, I seize hold of it and press it to
my lips. Every one else has gone to bed, and only one candle remains
burning in the drawing-room. Mamma has said that she herself will wake
me. She sits down on the arm of the chair in which I am asleep, with
her soft hand stroking my hair, and I hear her beloved, well-known
voice say in my ear:
"Get up, my darling. It is time to go by-by."
No envious gaze sees her now. She is not afraid to shed upon me
the whole of her tenderness and love. I do not wake up, yet I kiss
and kiss her hand.
"Get up, then, my angel."
She passes her other arm round my neck, and her fingers tickle me
as they move across it. The room is quiet and in half-darkness, but
the tickling has touched my nerves and I begin to awake. Mamma is
sitting near me--that I can tell--and touching me; I can hear her
voice and feel her presence. This at last rouses me to spring up, to
throw my arms around her neck, to hide my head in her bosom, and to
say with a sigh:
"Ah, dear, darling Mamma, how much I love you!"
She smiles her sad, enchanting smile, takes my head between her
two hands, kisses me on the forehead, and lifts me on to her lap.
"Do you love me so much, then?" she says. Then, after a few
moments' silence, she continues: "And you must love me always, and
never forget me. If your Mamma should no longer be here, will you
promise never to forget her--never, Nicolinka? and she kisses me more
fondly than ever.
"Oh, but you must not speak so, darling Mamma, my own darling
Mamma!" I exclaim as I clasp her knees, and tears of joy and love
fall from my eyes.
How, after scenes like this, I would go upstairs, and stand before
the ikons, and say with a rapturous feeling, "God bless Papa and
Mamma!" and repeat a prayer for my beloved mother which my childish
lips had learnt to lisp-the love of God and of her blending strangely
in a single emotion!
After saying my prayers I would wrap myself up in the bedclothes.
My heart would feel light, peaceful, and happy, and one dream would
follow another. Dreams of what? They were all of them vague, but all
of them full of pure love and of a sort of expectation of happiness. I
remember, too, that I used to think about Karl Ivanitch and his sad
lot. He was the only unhappy being whom I knew, and so sorry would I
feel for him, and so much did I love him, that tears would fall from
my eyes as I thought, "May God give him happiness, and enable me to
help him and to lessen his sorrow. I could make any sacrifice for
him!" Usually, also, there would be some favourite toy--a china dog or
hare-- stuck into the bed-corner behind the pillow, and it would
please me to think how warm and comfortable and well cared-for it was
there. Also, I would pray God to make every one happy, so that every
one might be contented, and also to send fine weather to- morrow for
our walk. Then I would turn myself over on to the other side, and
thoughts and dreams would become jumbled and entangled together until
at last I slept soundly and peacefully, though with a face wet with
Do in after life the freshness and light-heartedness, the craving
for love and for strength of faith, ever return which we experience
in our childhood's years? What better time is there in our lives than
when the two best of virtues--innocent gaiety and a boundless yearning
for affection--are our sole objects of pursuit?
Where now are our ardent prayers? Where now are our best gifts--
the pure tears of emotion which a guardian angel dries with a smile
as he sheds upon us lovely dreams of ineffable childish joy? Can it be
that life has left such heavy traces upon one's heart that those tears
and ecstasies are for ever vanished? Can it be that there remains to
us only the recollection of them?
RATHER less than a month after our arrival in Moscow I was sitting
upstairs in my Grandmamma's house and doing some writing at a large
table. Opposite to me sat the drawing master, who was giving a few
finishing touches to the head of a turbaned Turk, executed in black
pencil. Woloda, with out-stretched neck, was standing behind the
drawing master and looking over his shoulder. The head was Woloda's
first production in pencil and to-day-- Grandmamma's name-day--the
masterpiece was to be presented to her.
"Aren't you going to put a little more shadow there? " said Woloda
to the master as he raised himself on tiptoe and pointed to the Turk's
"No, it is not necessary," the master replied as he put pencil and
drawing-pen into a japanned folding box. "It is just right now, and
you need not do anything more to it. As for you, Nicolinka " he added,
rising and glancing askew at the Turk,
"won't you tell us your great secret at last? What are you going
to give your Grandmamma? I think another head would be your best
gift. But good-bye, gentlemen," and taking his hat and cardboard he
I too had thought that another head than the one at which I had
been working would be a better gift; so, when we were told that
Grandmamma's name-day was soon to come round and that we must each of
us have a present ready for her, I had taken it into my head to write
some verses in honour of the occasion, and had forthwith composed two
rhymed couplets, hoping that the rest would soon materialise. I really
do not know how the idea--one so peculiar for a child--came to occur
to me, but I know that I liked it vastly, and answered all questions
on the subject of my gift by declaring that I should soon have
something ready for Grandmamma, but was not going to say what it was.
Contrary to my expectation, I found that, after the first two
couplets executed in the initial heat of enthusiasm, even my most
strenuous efforts refused to produce another one. I began to read
different poems in our books, but neither Dimitrieff nor Derzhavin
could help me. On the contrary, they only confirmed my sense of
incompetence. Knowing, however, that Karl Ivanitch was fond of writing
verses, I stole softly upstairs to burrow among his papers, and found,
among a number of German verses, some in the Russian language which
seemed to have come from his own pen.
Remember near Remember far, Remember me. To-day be faithful, and
for ever-- Aye, still beyond the grave--remember That I have well
These verses (which were written in a fine, round hand on thin
letter-paper) pleased me with the touching sentiment with which they
seemed to be inspired. I learnt them by heart, and decided to take
them as a model. The thing was much easier now. By the time the
name-day had arrived I had completed a twelve-couplet congratulatory
ode, and sat down to the table in our school-room to copy them out on
Two sheets were soon spoiled--not because I found it necessary to
alter anything (the verses seemed to me perfect), but because, after
the third line, the tail-end of each successive one would go curving
upward and making it plain to all the world that the whole thing had
been written with a want of adherence to the horizontal--a thing which
I could not bear to see.
The third sheet also came out crooked, but I determined to make it
do. In my verses I congratulated Grandmamma, wished her many happy
returns, and concluded thus:
Endeavouring you to please and cheer, We love you like our Mother
This seemed to me not bad, yet it offended my car somehow.
"Lo-ve you li-ike our Mo-ther dear," I repeated to myself. "What
other rhyme could I use instead of 'dear'? Fear? Steer? Well, it must
go at that. At least the verses are better than Karl Ivanitch's."
Accordingly I added the last verse to the rest. Then I went into
our bedroom and recited the whole poem aloud with much feeling and
gesticulation. The verses were altogether guiltless of metre, but I
did not stop to consider that. Yet the last one displeased me more
than ever. As I sat on my bed I thought:
"Why on earth did I write 'like our Mother dear'? She is not here,
and therefore she need never have been mentioned. True, I love and
respect Grandmamma, but she is not quite the same as-- Why DID I write
that? What did I go and tell a lie for? They may be verses only, yet I
needn't quite have done that."
At that moment the tailor arrived with some new clothes for us.
"Well, so be it!" I said in much vexation as I crammed the verses
hastily under my pillow and ran down to adorn myself in the new Moscow
They fitted marvellously-both the brown jacket with yellow buttons
(a garment made skin-tight and not "to allow room for growth," as in
the country) and the black trousers (also close- fitting so that they
displayed the figure and lay smoothly over the boots).
"At last I have real trousers on!" I thought as I looked at my
legs with the utmost satisfaction. I concealed from every one the
fact that the new clothes were horribly tight and uncomfortable, but,
on the contrary, said that, if there were a fault, it was that they
were not tight enough. For a long while I stood before the
looking-glass as I combed my elaborately pomaded head, but, try as I
would, I could not reduce the topmost hairs on the crown to order. As
soon as ever I left off combing them, they sprang up again and
radiated in different directions, thus giving my face a ridiculous
Karl Ivanitch was dressing in another room, and I heard some one
bring him his blue frockcoat and under-linen. Then at the door
leading downstairs I heard a maid-servant's voice, and went to see
what she wanted. In her hand she held a well-starched shirt which she
said she had been sitting up all night to get ready. I took it, and
asked if Grandmamma was up yet.
"Oh yes, she has had her coffee, and the priest has come. My word,
but you look a fine little fellow! " added the girl with a smile at my
This observation made me blush, so I whirled round on one leg,
snapped my fingers, and went skipping away, in the hope that by these
manoeuvres I should make her sensible that even yet she had not
realised quite what a fine fellow I was.
However, when I took the shirt to Karl I found that he did not
need it, having taken another one. Standing before a small
looking-glass, he tied his cravat with both hands--trying, by various
motions of his head, to see whether it fitted him comfortably or
not--and then took us down to see Grandmamma. To this day I cannot
help laughing when I remember what a smell of pomade the three of us
left behind us on the staircase as we descended.
Karl was carrying a box which he had made himself, Woloda, his
drawing, and I my verses, while each of us also had a form of words
ready with which to present his gift. Just as Karl opened the door,
the priest put on his vestment and began to say prayers.
During the ceremony Grandmamma stood leaning over the back of a
chair, with her head bent down. Near her stood Papa. He turned and
smiled at us as we hurriedly thrust our presents behind our backs and
tried to remain unobserved by the door. The whole effect of a
surprise, upon which we had been counting, was entirely lost. When at
last every one had made the sign of the cross I became intolerably
oppressed with a sudden, invincible, and deadly attack of shyness, so
that the courage to, offer my present completely failed me. I hid
myself behind Karl Ivanitch, who solemnly congratulated Grandmamma
and, transferring his box from his right hand to his left, presented
it to her. Then he withdrew a few steps to make way for Woloda.
Grandmamma seemed highly pleased with the box (which was adorned with
a gold border), and smiled in the most friendly manner in order to
express her gratitude. Yet it was evident that, she did not know
where to set the box down, and this probably accounts for the fact
that she handed it to Papa, at the same time bidding him observe how
beautifully it was made.
His curiosity satisfied, Papa handed the box to the priest, who
also seemed particularly delighted with it, and looked with
astonishment, first at the article itself, and then at the artist who
could make such wonderful things. Then Woloda presented his Turk, and
received a similarly flattering ovation on all sides.
It was my turn now, and Grandmamma turned to me with her kindest
smile. Those who have experienced what embarrassment is know that it
is a feeling which grows in direct proportion to delay, while decision
decreases in similar measure. In other words the longer the condition
lasts, the more invincible does it become, and the smaller does the
power of decision come to be.
My last remnants of nerve and energy had forsaken me while Karl
and Woloda had been offering their presents, and my shyness now
reached its culminating point, I felt the blood rushing from my heart
to my head, one blush succeeding another across my face, and drops of
perspiration beginning to stand out on my brow and nose. My ears were
burning, I trembled from head to foot, and, though I kept changing
from one foot to the other, I remained rooted where I stood.
"Well, Nicolinka, tell us what you have brought?" said Papa.
"Is it a box or a drawing? "
There was nothing else to be done. With a trembling hand held out
the folded, fatal paper, but my voiced failed me completely and I
stood before Grandmamma in silence. I could not get rid of the
dreadful idea that, instead of a display of the expected drawing,
some bad verses of mine were about to be read aloud before every one,
and that the words "our Mother dear " would clearly prove that I had
never loved, but had only forgotten, her. How shall I express my
sufferings when Grandmamma began to read my poetry aloud?--when,
unable to decipher it, she stopped half-way and looked at Papa with a
smile (which I took to be one of ridicule)?--when she did not
pronounce it as I had meant it to be pronounced?--and when her weak
sight not allowing her to finish it, she handed the paper to Papa and
requested him to read it all over again from the beginning? I fancied
that she must have done this last because she did not like to read
such a lot of stupid, crookedly written stuff herself, yet wanted to
point out to Papa my utter lack of feeling. I expected him to slap me
in the face with the verses and say, "You bad boy! So you have
forgotten your Mamma! Take that for it!" Yet nothing of the sort
happened. On the contrary, when the whole had been read, Grandmamma
said, "Charming!" and kissed me on the forehead. Then our presents,
together with two cambric pocket-handkerchiefs and a snuff-box
engraved with Mamma's portrait, were laid on the table attached to
the great Voltairian arm-chair in which Grandmamma always sat.
"The Princess Barbara Ilinitsha!" announced one of the two footmen
who used to stand behind Grandmamma's carriage, but Grandmamma was
looking thoughtfully at the portrait on the snuff- box, and returned
"Shall I show her in, madam?" repeated the footman.
XVII. THE PRINCESS KORNAKOFF
"Yes, show her in," said Grandmamma, settling herself as far back
in her arm-chair as possible. The Princess was a woman of about
forty-five, small and delicate, with a shrivelled skin and
disagreeable, greyish-green eyes, the expression of which
contradicted the unnaturally suave look of the rest of her face.
Underneath her velvet bonnet, adorned with an ostrich feather, was
visible some reddish hair, while against the unhealthy colour of her
skin her eyebrows and eyelashes looked even lighter and redder that
they would other wise have done. Yet, for all that, her animated
movements, small hands, and peculiarly dry features communicated
something aristocratic and energetic to her general appearance. She
talked a great deal, and, to judge from her eloquence, belonged to
that class of persons who always speak as though some one were
contradicting them, even though no one else may be saying a word.
First she would raise her voice, then lower it and then take on a
fresh access of vivacity as she looked at the persons present, but not
participating in the conversation, with an air of endeavouring to draw
them into it.
Although the Princess kissed Grandmamma's hand and repeatedly
called her "my good Aunt," I could see that Grandmamma did not care
much about her, for she kept raising her eyebrows in a peculiar way
while listening to the Princess's excuses why Prince Michael had been
prevented from calling, and congratulating Grandmamma "as he would
like so-much to have done." At length, however, she answered the
Princess's French with Russian, and with a sharp accentuation of
"I am much obliged to you for your kindness," she said. "As for
Prince Michael's absence, pray do not mention it. He has so much else
to do. Besides, what pleasure could he find in coming to see an old
woman like me?" Then, without allowing the Princess time to reply, she
went on: "How are your children my dear?"
"Well, thank God, Aunt, they grow and do their lessons and play--
particularly my eldest one, Etienne, who is so wild that it is almost
impossible to keep him in order. Still, he is a clever and promising
boy. Would you believe it, cousin" this last to Papa, since Grandmamma
altogether uninterested in the Princess's children, had turned to us,
taken my verses out from beneath the presentation box, and unfolded
them again), "would you believe it, but one day not long ago--" and
leaning over towards Papa, the Princess related something or other
with great vivacity. Then, her tale concluded, she laughed, and, with
a questioning look at Papa, went on:
"What a boy, cousin! He ought to have been whipped, but the trick
was so spirited and amusing that I let him off." Then the Princess
looked at Grandmamma and laughed again.
"Ah! So you WHIP your children, do you" said Grandmamma, with a
significant lift of her eyebrows, and laying a peculiar stress on the
"Alas, my good Aunt," replied the Princess in a sort of tolerant
tone and with another glance at Papa, "I know your views on the
subject, but must beg to be allowed to differ with them. However much
I have thought over and read and talked about the matter, I have
always been forced to come to the conclusion that children must be
ruled through FEAR. To make something of a child, you must make it
FEAR something. Is it not so, cousin? And what, pray, do children fear
so much as a rod?"
As she spoke she seemed, to look inquiringly at Woloda and myself,
and I confess that I did not feel altogether comfortable.
"Whatever you may say," she went on, "a boy of twelve, or even of
fourteen, is still a child and should be whipped as such; but with
girls, perhaps, it is another matter."
"How lucky it is that I am not her son!" I thought to myself.
"Oh, very well," said Grandmamma, folding up my verses and
replacing them beneath the box (as though, after that exposition of
views, the Princess was unworthy of the honour of listening to such a
production). "Very well, my dear," she repeated "But please tell me
how, in return, you can look for any delicate sensibility from your
Evidently Grandmamma thought this argument unanswerable, for she
cut the subject short by adding:
"However, it is a point on which people must follow their own
The Princess did not choose to reply, but smiled condescendingly,
and as though out of indulgence to the strange prejudices of a person
whom she only PRETENDED to revere.
"Oh, by the way, pray introduce me to your young people," she went
on presently as she threw us another gracious smile.
Thereupon we rose and stood looking at the Princess, without in
the least knowing what we ought to do to show that we were being
"Kiss the Princess's hand," said Papa.
"Well, I hope you will love your old aunt," she said to Woloda,
kissing his hair, "even though we are not near relatives. But I value
friendship far more than I do degrees of relationship," she added to
Grandmamma, who nevertheless, remained hostile, and replied:
"Eh, my dear? Is that what they think of relationships nowadays?"
"Here is my man of the world," put in Papa, indicating Woloda;
"and here is my poet," he added as I kissed the small, dry hand of
the Princess, with a vivid picture in my mind of that same hand
holding a rod and applying it vigorously.
"WHICH one is the poet?" asked the Princess.
"This little one," replied Papa, smiling; "the one with the tuft
of hair on his top-knot."
"Why need he bother about my tuft?" I thought to myself as I
retired into a corner. "Is there nothing else for him to talk about?"
I had strange ideas on manly beauty. I considered Karl Ivanitch
one of the handsomest men in the world, and myself so ugly that I had
no need to deceive myself on that point. Therefore any remark on the
subject of my exterior offended me extremely. I well remember how, one
day after luncheon (I was then six years of age), the talk fell upon
my personal appearance, and how Mamma tried to find good features in
my face, and said that I had clever eyes and a charming smile; how,
nevertheless, when Papa had examined me, and proved the contrary, she
was obliged to confess that I was ugly; and how, when the meal was
over and I went to pay her my respects, she said as she patted my
"You know, Nicolinka, nobody will ever love you for your face
alone, so you must try all the more to be a good and clever boy."
Although these words of hers confirmed in me my conviction that I
was not handsome, they also confirmed in me an ambition to be just
such a boy as she had indicated. Yet I had my moments of despair at my
ugliness, for I thought that no human being with such a large nose,
such thick lips, and such small grey eyes as mine could ever hope to
attain happiness on this earth. I used to ask God to perform a miracle
by changing me into a beauty, and would have given all that I
possessed, or ever hoped to possess, to have a handsome face,
XVIII. PRINCE IVAN IVANOVITCH
When the Princess had heard my verses and overwhelmed the writer
of them with praise, Grandmamma softened to her a little. She began
to address her in French and to cease calling her "my dear." Likewise
she invited her to return that evening with her children. This
invitation having been accepted, the Princess took her leave. After
that, so many other callers came to congratulate Grandmamma that the
courtyard was crowded all day long with carriages.
"Good morning, my dear cousin," was the greeting of one guest in
particular as he entered the room and kissed Grandmamma's hand, He
was a man of seventy, with a stately figure clad in a military uniform
and adorned with large epaulettes, an embroidered collar, and a white
cross round the neck. His face, with its quiet and open expression, as
well as the simplicity and ease of his manners, greatly pleased me,
for, in spite of the thin half-circle of hair which was all that was
now left to him, and the want of teeth disclosed by the set of his
upper lip, his face was a remarkably handsome one.
Thanks to his fine character, handsome exterior, remarkable
valour, influential relatives, and, above all, good fortune, Prince,
Ivan Ivanovitch had early made himself a career. As that career
progressed, his ambition had met with a success which left nothing
more to be sought for in that direction. From his earliest youth
upward he had prepared himself to fill the exalted station in the
world to which fate actually called him later; wherefore, although in
his prosperous life (as in the lives of all) there had been failures,
misfortunes, and cares, he had never lost his quietness of character,
his elevated tone of thought, or his peculiarly moral, religious bent
of mind. Consequently, though he had won the universal esteem of his
fellows, he had done so less through his important position than
through his perseverance and integrity. While not of specially
distinguished intellect, the eminence of his station (whence he could
afford to look down upon all petty questions) had caused him to adopt
high points of view. Though in reality he was kind and sympathetic, in
manner he appeared cold and haughty--probably for the reason that he
had forever to be on his guard against the endless claims and
petitions of people who wished to profit through his influence. Yet
even then his coldness was mitigated by the polite condescension of a
man well accustomed to move in the highest circles of society.
Well-educated, his culture was that of a youth of the end of the last
century. He had read everything, whether philosophy or belles lettres,
which that age had produced in France, and loved to quote from Racine,
Corneille, Boileau, Moliere, Montaigne, and Fenelon. Likewise he had
gleaned much history from Segur, and much of the old classics from
French translations of them; but for mathematics, natural philosophy,
or contemporary literature he cared nothing whatever. However, he knew
how to be silent in conversation, as well as when to make general
remarks on authors whom he had never read-- such as Goethe, Schiller,
and Byron. Moreover, despite his exclusively French education, he was
simple in speech and hated originality (which he called the mark of an
untutored nature). Wherever he lived, society was a necessity to him,
and, both in Moscow and the country he had his reception days, on
which practically "all the town" called upon him. An introduction
from him was a passport to every drawing-room; few young and pretty
ladies in society objected to offering him their rosy cheeks for a
paternal salute; and people even in the highest positions felt
flattered by invitations to his parties.
The Prince had few friends left now like Grandmamma--that is to
say, few friends who were of the same standing as himself, who had
had the same sort of education, and who saw things from the same point
of view: wherefore he greatly valued his intimate, long-standing
friendship with her, and always showed her the highest respect.
I hardly dared to look at the Prince, since the honour paid him on
all sides, the huge epaulettes, the peculiar pleasure with which
Grandmamma received him, and the fact that he alone, seemed in no way
afraid of her, but addressed her with perfect freedom (even being so
daring as to call her "cousin"), awakened in me a feeling of reverence
for his person almost equal to that which I felt for Grandmamma
On being shown my verses, he called me to his side, and said:
"Who knows, my cousin, but that he may prove to be a second
Derzhavin?" Nevertheless he pinched my cheek so hard that I was only
prevented from crying by the thought that it must be meant for a
Gradually the other guests dispersed, and with them Papa and
Woloda. Thus only Grandmamma, the Prince, and myself were left in the
"Why has our dear Natalia Nicolaevna not come to-day" asked the
Prince after a silence.
"Ah, my friend," replied Grandmamma, lowering her voice and laying
a hand upon the sleeve of his uniform, "she would certainly have come
if she had been at liberty to do what she likes. She wrote to me that
Peter had proposed bringing her with him to town, but that she had
refused, since their income had not been good this year, and she could
see no real reason why the whole family need come to Moscow, seeing
that Lubotshka was as yet very young and that the boys were living
with me--a fact, she said, which made her feel as safe about them as
though she had been living with them herself."
"True, it is good for the boys to be here," went on Grandmamma,
yet in a tone which showed clearly that she did not think it was so
very good, "since it was more than time that they should be sent to
Moscow to study, as well as to learn how to comport themselves in
society. What sort of an education could they have got in the country?
The eldest boy will soon be thirteen, and the second one eleven. As
yet, my cousin, they are quite untaught, and do not know even how to
enter a room."
"Nevertheless" said the Prince, "I cannot understand these
complaints of ruined fortunes. He has a very handsome income, and
Natalia has Chabarovska, where we used to act plays, and which I know
as well as I do my own hand. It is a splendid property, and ought to
bring in an excellent return."
"Well," said Grandmamma with a sad expression on her face, "I do
not mind telling you, as my most intimate friend, that all this seems
to me a mere pretext on his part for living alone, for strolling about
from club to club, for attending dinner-parties, and for resorting
to--well, who knows what? She suspects nothing; you know her angelic
sweetness and her implicit trust of him in everything. He had only to
tell her that the children must go to Moscow and that she must be left
behind in the country with a stupid governess for company, for her to
believe him! I almost think that if he were to say that the children
must be whipped just as the Princess Barbara whips hers, she would
believe even that!" and Grandmamma leant back in her arm-chair with an
expression of contempt. Then, after a moment of silence, during which
she took her handkerchief out of her pocket to wipe away a few tears
which had stolen down her cheeks, she went, on:
"Yes, my friend, I often think that he cannot value and understand
her properly, and that, for all her goodness and love of him and her
endeavours to conceal her grief (which, however as I know only too
well, exists). She cannot really he happy with him. Mark my words if
he does not--" Here Grandmamma buried her face in the handkerchief.
"Ah, my dear old friend," said the Prince reproachfully. "I think
you are unreasonable. Why grieve and weep over imagined evils? That
is not right. I have known him a long time, and feel sure that he is
an attentive, kind, and excellent husband, as well as (which is the
chief thing of all) a perfectly honourable man."
At this point, having been an involuntary auditor of a
conversation not meant for my ears, I stole on tiptoe out of the
room, in a state of great distress.
XIX. THE IWINS
"Woloda, Woloda! The Iwins are just coming." I shouted on seeing
from the window three boys in blue overcoats, and followed by a young
tutor, advancing along the pavement opposite our house.
The Iwins were related to us, and of about the same age as
ourselves. We had made their acquaintance soon after our arrival in
Moscow. The second brother, Seriosha, had dark curly hair, a
turned-up, strongly pronounced nose, very bright red lips (which,
never being quite shut, showed a row of white teeth), beautiful
dark-blue eyes, and an uncommonly bold expression of face. He never
smiled but was either wholly serious or laughing a clear, merry,
agreeable laugh. His striking good looks had captivated me from the
first, and I felt an irresistible attraction towards him. Only to see
him filled me with pleasure, and at one time my whole mental faculties
used to be concentrated in the wish that I might do so. If three or
four days passed without my seeing him I felt listless and ready to
cry. Awake or asleep, I was forever dreaming of him. On going to bed I
used to see him in my dreams, and when I had shut my eyes and called
up a picture of him I hugged the vision as my choicest delight. So
much store did I set upon this feeling for my friend that I never
mentioned it to any one. Nevertheless, it must have annoyed him to see
my admiring eyes constantly fixed upon him, or else he must have felt
no reciprocal attraction, for he always preferred to play and talk
with Woloda. Still, even with that I felt satisfied, and wished and
asked for nothing better than to be ready at any time to make any
sacrifice for him. Likewise, over and above the strange fascination
which he exercised upon me, I always felt another sensation, namely, a
dread of making him angry, of offending him, of displeasing him. Was
this because his face bore such a haughty expression, or because I,
despising my own exterior, over-rated the beautiful in others, or,
lastly (and most probably), because it is a common sign of affection?
At all events, I felt as much fear, of him as I did love. The first
time that he spoke to me I was so overwhelmed with sudden happiness
that I turned pale, then red, and could not utter a word. He had an
ugly habit of blinking when considering anything seriously, as well as
of twitching his nose and eyebrows. Consequently every one thought
that this habit marred his face. Yet I thought it such a nice one that
I involuntarily adopted it for myself, until, a few days after I had
made his acquaintance, Grandmamma suddenly asked me whether my eyes
were hurting me, since I was winking like an owl! Never a word of
affection passed between us, yet he felt his power over me, and
unconsciously but tyrannically, exercised it in all our childish
intercourse. I used to long to tell him all that was in my heart, yet
was too much afraid of him to be frank in any way, and, while
submitting myself to his will, tried to appear merely careless and
indifferent. Although at times his influence seemed irksome and
intolerable, to throw it off was beyond my strength.
I often think with regret of that fresh, beautiful feeling of
boundless, disinterested love which came to an end without having
ever found self-expression or return. It is strange how, when a
child, I always longed to be like grown-up people, and yet how I have
often longed, since childhood's days, for those days to come back to
me! Many times, in my relations with Seriosha, this wish to resemble
grown-up people put a rude check upon the love that was waiting to
expand, and made me repress it. Not only was I afraid of kissing him,
or of taking his hand and saying how glad I was to see him, but I even
dreaded calling him "Seriosha" and always said "Sergius" as every one
else did in our house. Any expression of affection would have seemed
like evidence of childishness, and any one who indulged in it, a baby.
Not having yet passed through those bitter experiences which enforce
upon older years circumspection and coldness, I deprived myself of the
pure delight of a fresh, childish instinct for the absurd purpose of
trying to resemble grown-up people.
I met the Iwins in the ante-room, welcomed them, and then ran to
tell Grandmamma of their arrival with an expression as happy as
though she were certain to be equally delighted. Then, never taking
my eyes off Seriosha, I conducted the visitors to the drawing-room,
and eagerly followed every movement of my favourite. When Grandmamma
spoke to and fixed her penetrating glance upon him, I experienced that
mingled sensation of pride and solicitude which an artist might feel
when waiting for revered lips to pronounce a judgment upon his work.
With Grandmamma's permission, the Iwins' young tutor, Herr Frost,
accompanied us into the little back garden, where he seated himself
upon a bench, arranged his legs in a tasteful attitude, rested his
brass-knobbed cane between them, lighted a cigar, and assumed the air
of a man well-pleased with himself. He was a, German, but of a very
different sort to our good Karl Ivanitch. In the first place, he spoke
both Russian and French correctly, though with a hard accent Indeed,
he enjoyed--especially among the ladies--the reputation of being a
very accomplished fellow. In the second place, he wore a reddish
moustache, a large gold pin set with a ruby, a black satin tie, and a
very fashionable suit. Lastly, he was young, with a handsome,
self-satisfied face and fine muscular legs. It was clear that he set
the greatest store upon the latter, and thought them beyond compare,
especially as regards the favour of the ladies. Consequently, whether
sitting or standing, he always tried to exhibit them in the most
favourable light. In short, he was a type of the young German-
Russian whose main desire is to be thought perfectly gallant and
In the little garden merriment reigned. In fact, the game of
"robbers" never went better. Yet an incident occurred which came
near to spoiling it. Seriosha was the robber, and in pouncing upon
some travellers he fell down and knocked his leg so badly against a
tree that I thought the leg must be broken. Consequently, though I was
the gendarme and therefore bound to apprehend him, I only asked him
anxiously, when I reached him, if he had hurt himself very much.
Nevertheless this threw him into a passion, and made him exclaim with
fists clenched and in a voice which showed by its faltering what pain
he was enduring, "Why, whatever is the matter? Is this playing the
game properly? You ought to arrest me. Why on earth don't you do so?"
This he repeated several times, and then, seeing Woloda and the elder
Iwin (who were taking the part of the travellers) jumping and running
about the path, he suddenly threw himself upon them with a shout and
loud laughter to effect their capture. I cannot express my wonder and
delight at this valiant behaviour of my hero. In spite of the severe
pain, he had not only refrained from crying, but had repressed the
least symptom of suffering and kept his eye fixed upon the game!
Shortly after this occurrence another boy, Ilinka Grap, joined our
party. We went upstairs, and Seriosha gave me an opportunity of still
further appreciating and taking delight in his manly bravery and
fortitude. This was how it was.
Ilinka was the son of a poor foreigner who had been under certain
obligations to my Grandpapa, and now thought it incumbent upon him to
send his son to us as frequently as possible. Yet if he thought that
the acquaintance would procure his son any advancement or pleasure, he
was entirely mistaken, for not only were we anything but friendly to
Ilinka, but it was seldom that we noticed him at all except to laugh
at him. He was a boy of thirteen, tall and thin, with a pale, birdlike
face, and a quiet, good-tempered expression. Though poorly dressed, he
always had his head so thickly pomaded that we used to declare that on
warm days it melted and ran down his neck. When I think of him now, it
seems to me that he was a very quiet, obliging, and good- tempered
boy, but at the time I thought him a creature so contemptible that he
was not worth either attention or pity.
Upstairs we set ourselves to astonish each other with gymnastic
tours de force. Ilinka watched us with a faint smile of admiration,
but refused an invitation to attempt a similar feat, saying that he
had no strength.
Seriosha was extremely captivating. His face and eyes glowed with
laughter as he surprised us with tricks which we had never seen
before. He jumped over three chairs put together, turned somersaults
right across the room, and finally stood on his head on a pyramid of
Tatistchev's dictionaries, moving his legs about with such comical
rapidity that it was impossible not to help bursting with merriment.
After this last trick he pondered for a moment (blinking his eyes
as usual), and then went up to Ilinka with a very serious face.
"Try and do that," he said. "It is not really difficult."
Ilinka, observing that the general attention was fixed upon him,
blushed, and said in an almost inaudible voice that he could not do
"Well, what does he mean by doing nothing at all? What a girl the
fellow is! He has just GOT to stand on his head," and Seriosha, took
him by the hand.
"Yes, on your head at once! This instant, this instant!" every one
shouted as we ran upon Ilinka and dragged him to the dictionaries,
despite his being visibly pale and frightened.
"Leave me alone! You are tearing my jacket!" cried the unhappy
victim, but his exclamations of despair only encouraged us the more.
We were dying with laughter, while the green jacket was bursting at
Woloda and the eldest Iwin took his head and placed it on the
dictionaries, while Seriosha, and I seized his poor, thin legs (his
struggles had stripped them upwards to the knees), and with
boisterous, laughter held them uptight--the youngest Iwin
superintending his general equilibrium.
Suddenly a moment of silence occurred amid our boisterous
laughter--a moment during which nothing was to be heard in the room
but the panting of the miserable Ilinka. It occurred to me at that
moment that, after all, there was nothing so very comical and pleasant
in all this.
"Now, THAT'S a boy!" cried Seriosha, giving Ilinka a smack with
his hand. Ilinka said nothing, but made such desperate movements with
his legs to free himself that his foot suddenly kicked Seriosha in the
eye: with the result that, letting go of Ilinka's leg and covering the
wounded member with one hand, Seriosha hit out at him with all his
might with the other one. Of course Ilinka's legs slipped down as,
sinking exhausted to the floor and half-suffocated with tears, he
"Why should you bully me so?"
The poor fellow's miserable figure, with its streaming tears,
ruffled hair, and crumpled trousers revealing dirty boots, touched us
a little, and we stood silent and trying to smile,
Seriosha was the first to recover himself.
"What a girl! What a gaby!" he said, giving Ilinka a slight kick.
"He can't take things in fun a bit. Well, get up, then."
"You are an utter beast! That's what YOU are!" said Ilinka,
turning miserably away and sobbing.
"Oh, oh! Would it still kick and show temper, then?" cried
Seriosha, seizing a dictionary and throwing it at the unfortunate
boy's head. Apparently it never occurred to Ilinka to take refuge
from the missile; he merely guarded his head with his hands.
"Well, that's enough now," added Seriosha, with a forced laugh.
"You DESERVE to be hurt if you can't take things in fun. Now let's go
I could not help looking with some compassion at the miserable
creature on the floor as, his face buried in the dictionary, he lay
there sobbing almost as though he were in a fit.
"Oh, Sergius!" I said. "Why have you done this?"
"Well, you did it too! Besides, I did not cry this afternoon when
I knocked my leg and nearly broke it."
"True enough," I thought. "Ilinka is a poor whining sort of a
chap, while Seriosha is a boy--a REAL boy."
It never occurred to my mind that possibly poor Ilinka was
suffering far less from bodily pain than from the thought that five
companions for whom he may have felt a genuine liking had, for no
reason at all, combined to hurt and humiliate him.
I cannot explain my cruelty on this occasion. Why did I not step
forward to comfort and protect him? Where was the pitifulness which
often made me burst into tears at the sight of a young bird fallen
from its nest, or of a puppy being thrown over a wall, or of a chicken
being killed by the cook for soup?
Can it be that the better instinct in me was overshadowed by my
affection for Seriosha and the desire to shine before so brave a boy?
If so, how contemptible were both the affection and the desire! They
alone form dark spots on the pages of my youthful recollections.
XX. PREPARATIONS FOR THE PARTY
To judge from the extraordinary activity in the pantry, the
shining cleanliness which imparted such a new and festal guise to
certain articles in the salon and drawing-room which I had long known
as anything but resplendent, and the arrival of some musicians whom
Prince Ivan would certainly not have sent for nothing, no small amount
of company was to be expected that evening.
At the sound of every vehicle which chanced to pass the house I
ran to the window, leaned my head upon my arms, and peered with
impatient curiosity into the street.
At last a carriage stopped at our door, and, in the full belief
that this must be the Iwins, who had promised to come early, I at
once ran downstairs to meet them in the hall.
But, instead of the Iwins, I beheld from behind the figure of the
footman who opened the door two female figures-one tall and wrapped
in a blue cloak trimmed with marten, and the other one short and
wrapped in a green shawl from beneath which a pair of little feet,
stuck into fur boots, peeped forth.
Without paying any attention to my presence in the hall (although
I thought it my duty, on the appearance of these persons to salute
them), the shorter one moved towards the taller, and stood silently in
front of her. Thereupon the tall lady untied the shawl which enveloped
the head of the little one, and unbuttoned the cloak which hid her
form; until, by the time that the footmen had taken charge of these
articles and removed the fur boots, there stood forth from the
amorphous chrysalis a charming girl of twelve, dressed in a short
muslin frock, white pantaloons, and smart black satin shoes. Around
her, white neck she wore a narrow black velvet ribbon, while her head
was covered with flaxen curls which so perfectly suited her beautiful
face in front and her bare neck and shoulders behind that I, would
have believed nobody, not even Karl Ivanitch, if he, or she had told
me that they only hung so nicely because, ever since the morning, they
had been screwed up in fragments of a Moscow newspaper and then
warmed with a hot iron. To me it seemed as though she must have been
born with those curls.
The most prominent feature in her face was a pair of unusually
large half-veiled eyes, which formed a strange, but pleasing,
contrast to the small mouth. Her lips were closed, while her eyes
looked so grave that the general expression of her face gave one the
impression that a smile was never to be looked for from her:
wherefore, when a smile did come, it was all the more pleasing.
Trying to escape notice, I slipped through the door of the salon,
and then thought it necessary to be seen pacing to and fro, seemingly
engaged in thought, as though unconscious of the arrival of guests.
BY the time, however, that the ladies had advanced to the middle
of the salon I seemed suddenly to awake from my reverie and told them
that Grandmamma was in the drawing room, Madame Valakhin, whose face
pleased me extremely (especially since it bore a great resemblance to
her daughter's), stroked my head kindly.
Grandmamma seemed delighted to see Sonetchka, She invited her to
come to her, put back a curl which had fallen over her brow, and
looking earnestly at her said, "What a charming child!"
Sonetchka blushed, smiled, and, indeed, looked so charming that I
myself blushed as I looked at her.
"I hope you are going to enjoy yourself here, my love," said
Grandmamma." Pray be as merry and dance as much as ever you can. See,
we have two beaux for her already," she added, turning to Madame
Valakhin, and stretching out her hand to me.
This coupling of Sonetchka and myself pleased me so much that I
Feeling, presently, that, my embarrassment was increasing, and
hearing the sound of carriages approaching, I thought it wise to
retire. In the hall I encountered the Princess Kornakoff, her son,
and an incredible number of daughters. They had all of them the same
face as their mother, and were very ugly. None of them arrested my
attention. They talked in shrill tones as they took off their cloaks
and boas, and laughed as they bustled about-- probably at the fact
that there were so many of them!
Etienne was a boy of fifteen, tall and plump, with a sharp face,
deep-set bluish eyes, and very large hands and feet for his age.
Likewise he was awkward, and had a nervous, unpleasing voice.
Nevertheless he seemed very pleased with himself, and was, in my
opinion, a boy who could well bear being beaten with rods.
For a long time we confronted one another without speaking as we
took stock of each other. When the flood of dresses had swept past I
made shift to begin a conversation by asking him whether it had not
been very close in the carriage.
"I don't know," he answered indifferently. "I never ride inside
it, for it makes me feel sick directly, and Mamma knows that.
Whenever we are driving anywhere at night-time I always sit on the
box. I like that, for then one sees everything. Philip gives me the
reins, and sometimes the whip too, and then the people inside get a
regular--well, you know," he added with a significant gesture "It's
"Master Etienne," said a footman, entering the hall, "Philip
wishes me to ask you where you put the whip."
"Where I put it? Why, I gave it back to him."
"But he says that you did not."
"Well, I laid it across the carriage-lamps!"
"No, sir, he says that you did not do that either. You had better
confess that you took it and lashed it to shreds. I suppose poor
Philip will have to make good your mischief out of his own pocket."
The footman (who looked a grave and honest man) seemed much put out by
the affair, and determined to sift it to the bottom on Philip's
Out of delicacy I pretended to notice nothing and turned aside,
but the other footmen present gathered round and looked approvingly
at the old servant.
"Hm--well, I DID tear it in pieces," at length confessed Etienne,
shrinking from further explanations. "However, I will pay for it. Did
you ever hear anything so absurd?" he added to me as he drew me
towards the drawing-room.
"But excuse me, sir; HOW are you going to pay for it? I know your
ways of paying. You have owed Maria Valericana twenty copecks these
eight months now, and you have owed me something for two years, and
"Hold your tongue, will you! " shouted the young fellow, pale with
rage "I shall report you for this."
"Oh, you may do so," said the footman. "Yet it is not fair, your
highness," he added, with a peculiar stress on the title, as he
departed with the ladies' wraps to the cloak-room. We ourselves
entered the salon.
"Quite right, footman," remarked someone approvingly from the ball
Grandmamma had a peculiar way of employing, now the second person
singular, now the second person plural, in order to indicate her
opinion of people. When the young Prince Etienne went up to her she
addressed him as "YOU," and altogether looked at him with such an
expression of contempt that, had I been in his place, I should have
been utterly crestfallen. Etienne, however, was evidently not a boy of
that sort, for he not only took no notice of her reception of him, but
none of her person either. In fact, he bowed to the company at large
in a way which, though not graceful, was at least free from
Sonetchka now claimed my whole attention. I remember that, as I
stood in the salon with Etienne and Woloda, at a spot whence we could
both see and be seen by Sonetchka, I took great pleasure in talking
very loud (and all my utterances seemed to me both bold and comical)
and glancing towards the door of the drawing-room, but that, as soon
as ever we happened to move to another spot whence we could neither
see nor be seen by her, I became dumb, and thought the conversation
had ceased to be enjoyable. The rooms were now full of people--among
them (as at all children's parties) a number of elder children who
wished to dance and enjoy themselves very much, but who pretended to
do everything merely in order to give pleasure to the mistress of the
When the Iwins arrived I found that, instead of being as delighted
as usual to meet Seriosha, I felt a kind of vexation that he should
see and be seen by Sonetchka.
XXI. BEFORE THE MAZURKA
"HULLO, Woloda! So we are going to dance to-night," said Seriosha,
issuing from the drawing-room and taking out of his pocket a brand new
pair of gloves. "I suppose it IS necessary to put on gloves? "
"Goodness! What shall I do? We have no gloves," I thought to
myself. "I must go upstairs and search about." Yet though I rummaged
in every drawer, I only found, in one of them, my green travelling
mittens, and, in another, a single lilac-coloured glove, a thing which
could be of no use to me, firstly, because it was very old and dirty,
secondly, because it was much too large for me, and thirdly (and
principally), because the middle finger was wanting--Karl having long
ago cut it off to wear over a sore nail.
However, I put it on--not without some diffident contemplation of
the blank left by the middle finger and of the ink-stained edges
round the vacant space.
"If only Natalia Savishna had been here," I reflected, "we should
certainly have found some gloves. I can't go downstairs in this
condition. Yet, if they ask me why I am not dancing, what am I to say?
However, I can't remain here either, or they will be sending upstairs
to fetch me. What on earth am I to do?" and I wrung my hands.
"What are you up to here?" asked Woloda as he burst into the room.
"Go and engage a partner. The dancing will be beginning directly."
"Woloda," I said despairingly, as I showed him my hand with two
fingers thrust into a single finger of the dirty glove,
"Woloda, you, never thought of this."
"Of what? " he said impatiently. "Oh, of gloves," he added with a
careless glance at my hand. "That's nothing. We can ask Grandmamma
what she thinks about it," and without further ado he departed
downstairs. I felt a trifle relieved by the coolness with which he had
met a situation which seemed to me so grave, and hastened back to the
drawing-room, completely forgetful of the unfortunate glove which
still adorned my left hand.
Cautiously approaching Grandmamma's arm-chair, I asked her in a
"Grandmamma, what are we to do? We have no gloves."
"What, my love?"
"We have no gloves," I repeated, at the same time bending over
towards her and laying both hands on the arm of her chair,
" But what is that? " she cried as she caught hold of my left
hand. "Look, my dear! " she continued, turning to Madame Valakhin.
"See how smart this young man has made himself to dance with your
As Grandmamma persisted in retaining hold of my hand and gazing
with a mock air of gravity and interrogation at all around her,
curiosity was soon aroused, and a general roar of laughter ensued.
I should have been infuriated at the thought that Seriosha was
present to see this, as I scowled with embarrassment and struggled
hard to free my hand, had it not been that somehow Sonetchka's
laughter (and she was laughing to such a degree that the tears were
standing in her eyes and the curls dancing about her lovely face) took
away my feeling of humiliation. I felt that her laughter was not
satirical, but only natural and free; so that, as we laughed together
and looked at one another, there seemed to begin a kind of sympathy
between us. Instead of turning out badly, therefore, the episode of
the glove served only to set me at my ease among the dreaded circle of
guests, and to make me cease to feel oppressed with shyness. The
sufferings of shy people proceed only from the doubts which they feel
concerning the opinions of their fellows. No sooner are those opinions
expressed (whether flattering or the reverse) than the agony
How lovely Sonetchka looked when she was dancing a quadrille as my
vis-a-vis, with, as her partner, the loutish Prince Etienne! How
charmingly she smiled when, en chaine, she accorded me her hand! How
gracefully the curls, around her head nodded to the rhythm, and how
naively she executed the jete assemble with her little feet!
In the fifth figure, when my partner had to leave me for the other
side and I, counting the beats, was getting ready to dance my solo,
she pursed her lips gravely and looked in another direction; but her
fears for me were groundless. Boldly I performed the chasse en avant
and chasse en arriere glissade, until, when it came to my turn to move
towards her and I, with a comic gesture, showed her the poor glove
with its crumpled fingers, she laughed heartily, and seemed to move
her tiny feet more enchantingly than ever over the parquetted floor.
How well I remember how we formed the circle, and how, without
withdrawing her hand from mine, she scratched her little nose with
her glove! All this I can see before me still. Still can I hear the
quadrille from "The Maids of the Danube" to which we danced that
The second quadrille, I danced with Sonetchka herself; yet when we
went to sit down together during the interval, I felt overcome with
shyness and as though I had nothing to say. At last, when my silence
had lasted so long that I began to be afraid that she would think me a
stupid boy, I decided at all hazards to counteract such a notion.
"Vous etes une habitante de Moscou?" I began, and, on receiving an
affirmative answer, continued. "Et moi, je n'ai encore jamais
frequente la capitale" (with a particular emphasis on the word
"frequente"). Yet I felt that, brilliant though this introduction
might be as evidence of my profound knowledge of the French language,
I could not long keep up the conversation in that manner. Our turn for
dancing had not yet arrived, and silence again ensued between us. I
kept looking anxiously at her in the hope both of discerning what
impression I had produced and of her coming to my aid.
"Where did you get that ridiculous glove of yours?" she asked me
all of a sudden, and the question afforded me immense satisfaction and
relief. I replied that the glove belonged to Karl Ivanitch, and then
went on to speak ironically of his appearance, and to describe how
comical he looked in his red cap, and how he and his green coat had
once fallen plump off a horse into a pond.
The quadrille was soon over. Yet why had I spoken ironically of
poor Karl Ivanitch? Should I, forsooth, have sunk in Sonetchka's
esteem if, on the contrary, I had spoken of him with the love and
respect which I undoubtedly bore him?
The quadrille ended, Sonetchka said, "Thank you," with as lovely
an expression on her face as though I had really conferred, upon her
a favour. I was delighted. In fact I hardly knew myself for joy and
could not think whence I derived such case and confidence and even
"Nothing in the world can abash me now," I thought as I wandered
carelessly about the salon. "I am ready for anything."
Just then Seriosha came and requested me to be his vis-a-vis.
"Very well," I said. "I have no partner as yet, but I can soon
Glancing round the salon with a confident eye, I saw that every
lady was engaged save one--a tall girl standing near the drawing-
room door. Yet a grown-up young man was approaching her-probably for
the same purpose as myself! He was but two steps from her, while I was
at the further end of the salon. Doing a glissade over the polished
floor, I covered the intervening space, and in a brave, firm voice
asked the favour of her hand in the quadrille. Smiling with a
protecting air, the young lady accorded me her hand, and the tall
young man was left without a partner. I felt so conscious of my
strength that I paid no attention to his irritation, though I learnt
later that he had asked somebody who the awkward, untidy boy was who,
had taken away his lady from him.
XXII. THE MAZURKA
AFTERWARDS the same young man formed one of the first couple in a
mazurka. He sprang to his feet, took his partner's hand, and then,
instead of executing the pas de Basques which Mimi had taught us,
glided forward till he arrived at a corner of the room, stopped,
divided his feet, turned on his heels, and, with a spring, glided back
again. I, who had found no partner for this particular dance and was
sitting on the arm of Grandmamma's chair, thought to myself:
"What on earth is he doing? That is not what Mimi taught us. And
there are the Iwins and Etienne all dancing in the same way- without
the pas de Basques! Ah! and there is Woloda too! He too is adopting
the new style, and not so badly either. And there is Sonetchka, the
lovely one! Yes, there she comes!" I felt immensely happy at that
The mazurka came to an end, and already some of the guests were
saying good-bye to Grandmamma. She was evidently tired, yet she
assured them that she felt vexed at their early departure. Servants
were gliding about with plates and trays among the dancers, and the
musicians were carelessly playing the same tune for about the
thirteenth time in succession, when the young lady whom I had danced
with before, and who was just about to join in another mazurka, caught
sight of me, and, with a kindly smile, led me to Sonetchka And one of
the innumerable Kornakoff princesses, at the same time asking me,
"Rose or Hortie?"
"Ah, so it's YOU!" said Grandmamma as she turned round in her
armchair. "Go and dance, then, my boy."
Although I would fain have taken refuge behind the armchair rather
than leave its shelter, I could not refuse; so I got up, said, "Rose,"
and looked at Sonetchka. Before I had time to realise it, however, a
hand in a white glove laid itself on mine, and the Kornakoff girl
stepped forth with a pleased smile and evidently no suspicion that I
was ignorant of the steps of the dance. I only knew that the pas de
Basques (the only figure of it which I had been taught) would be out
of place. However, the strains of the mazurka falling upon my ears,
and imparting their usual impulse to my acoustic nerves (which, in
their turn, imparted their usual impulse to my feet), I involuntarily,
and to the amazement of the spectators, began executing on tiptoe the
sole (and fatal) pas which I had been taught.
So long as we went straight ahead I kept fairly right, but when it
came to turning I saw that I must make preparations to arrest my
course. Accordingly, to avoid any appearance of awkwardness, I stopped
short, with the intention of imitating the " wheel about"
which I had seen the young man perform so neatly.
Unfortunately, just as I divided my feet and prepared to make a
spring, the Princess Kornakoff looked sharply round at my legs with
such an expression of stupefied amazement and curiosity that the
glance undid me. Instead of continuing to dance, I remained moving my
legs up and down on the same spot, in a sort of extraordinary fashion
which bore no relation whatever either to form or rhythm. At last I
stopped altogether. Every-one was looking at me--some with curiosity,
some with astonishment, some with disdain, and some with compassion,
Grandmamma alone seemed unmoved.
"You should not dance if you don't know the step," said Papa's
angry voice in my ear as, pushing me gently aside, he took my
partner's hand, completed the figures with her to the admiration of
every one, and finally led her back to, her place. The mazurka was at
Ah me! What had I done to be punished so heavily?
"Every one despises me, and will always despise me," I thought to
myself. "The way is closed for me to friendship, love, and fame! All,
all is lost!"
Why had Woloda made signs to me which every one saw, yet which
could in no way help me? Why had that disgusting princess looked at
my legs? Why had Sonetchka--she was a darling, of course!--yet why, oh
why, had she smiled at that moment?
Why had Papa turned red and taken my hand? Can it be that he was
ashamed of me?
Oh, it was dreadful! Alas, if only Mamma had been there she would
never have blushed for her Nicolinka!
How on the instant that dear image led my imagination captive! I
seemed to see once more the meadow before our house, the tall
lime-trees in the garden, the clear pond where the ducks swain, the
blue sky dappled with white clouds, the sweet-smelling ricks of hay.
How those memories--aye, and many another quiet, beloved
recollection--floated through my mind at that time!
XXIII. AFTER THE MAZURKA
At supper the young man whom I have mentioned seated himself
beside me at the children's table, and treated me with an amount of
attention which would have flattered my self-esteem had I been able,
after the occurrence just related, to give a thought to anything
beyond my failure in the mazurka. However, the young man seemed
determined to cheer me up. He jested, called me "old boy," and finally
(since none of the elder folks were looking at us) began to help me to
wine, first from one bottle and then from another and to force me to
drink it off quickly.
By the time (towards the end of supper) that a servant had poured
me out a quarter of a glass of champagne, and the young man had
straightway bid him fill it up and urged me to drink the beverage off
at a draught, I had begun to feel a grateful warmth diffusing itself
through my body. I also felt well-disposed towards my kind patron, and
began to laugh heartily at everything. Suddenly the music of the
Grosvater dance struck up, and every one rushed from the table. My
friendship with the young man had now outlived its day; so, whereas he
joined a group of the older folks, I approached Madame Valakhin hear
what she and her daughter had to say to one another.
"Just HALF-an-hour more? " Sonetchka was imploring her.
"Impossible, my dearest."
"Yet, only to please me--just this ONCE? " Sonetchka went on
"Well, what if I should be ill to-morrow through all this
dissipation?" rejoined her mother, and was incautious enough to
"There! You DO consent, and we CAN stay after all!" exclaimed
Sonetchka, jumping for joy.
"What is to be done with such a girl?" said Madame. "Well, run
away and dance. See," she added on perceiving myself, "here is a
cavalier ready waiting for you."
Sonetchka gave me her hand, and we darted off to the salon, The
wine, added to Sonetchka's presence and gaiety, had at once made me
forget all about the unfortunate end of the mazurka. I kept executing
the most splendid feats with my legs--now imitating a horse as he
throws out his hoofs in the trot, now stamping like a sheep infuriated
at a dog, and all the while laughing regardless of appearances.
Sonetchka also laughed unceasingly, whether we were whirling round
in a circle or whether we stood still to watch an old lady whose
painful movements with her feet showed the difficulty she had in
walking. Finally Sonetchka nearly died of merriment when I jumped
half-way to the ceiling in proof of my skill.
As I passed a mirror in Grandmamma's boudoir and glanced at myself
I could see that my face was all in a perspiration and my hair
dishevelled--the top-knot, in particular, being more erect than ever.
Yet my general appearance looked so happy, healthy, and good-tempered
that I felt wholly pleased with myself.
"If I were always as I am now," I thought, "I might yet be able to
please people with my looks." Yet as soon as I glanced at my partner's
face again, and saw there not only the expression of happiness,
health, and good temper which had just pleased me in my own, but also
a fresh and enchanting beauty besides, I felt dissatisfied with myself
again. I understood how silly of me it was to hope to attract the
attention of such a wonderful being as Sonetchka. I could not hope for
reciprocity--could not even think of it, yet my heart was overflowing
with happiness. I could not imagine that the feeling of love which was
filling my soul so pleasantly could require any happiness still
greater, or wish for more than that that happiness should never cease.
I felt perfectly contented. My heart beat like that of a dove, with
the blood constantly flowing back to it, and I almost wept for joy.
As we passed through the hall and peered into a little dark
store-room beneath the staircase I thought: "What bliss it would be
if I could pass the rest of my life with her in that dark corner, and
never let anybody know that we were there!"
"It HAS been a delightful evening, hasn't it?" I asked her in a
low, tremulous voice. Then I quickened my steps--as much out of fear
of what I had said as out of fear of what I had meant to imply.
"Yes, VERY! " she answered, and turned her face to look at me with
an expression so kind that I ceased to be afraid. I went on:
"Particularly since supper. Yet if you could only know how I
regret" (I had nearly said "how miserable I am at") your going, and
to think that we shall see each other no more!"
"But why SHOULDN'T we?" she asked, looking gravely at the corner
of her pocket-handkerchief, and gliding her fingers over a latticed
screen which we were passing. "Every Tuesday and Friday I go with
Mamma to the Iverskoi Prospect. I suppose you go for walks too
"Well, certainly I shall ask to go for one next Tuesday, and. if
they won't take me I shall go by myself--even without my hat, if
necessary. I know the way all right. "
"Do you know what I have just thought of?" she went on. "You know,
I call some of the boys who come to see us THOU. Shall you and I call
each other THOU too? Wilt THOU?" she added, bending her head towards
me and looking me straight in the eyes.
At this moment a more lively section of the Grosvater dance began.
"Give me your hand," I said, under the impression that the music
and din would drown my exact words, but she smilingly replied,
"THY hand, not YOUR hand." Yet the dance was over before I had
succeeded in saying THOU, even though I kept conning over phrases in
which the pronoun could be employed--and employed more than once. All
that I wanted was the courage to say it.
"Wilt THOU?" and "THY hand" sounded continually in my ears, and
caused in me a kind of intoxication I could hear and see nothing but
Sonetchka. I watched her mother take her curls, lay them flat behind
her ears (thus disclosing portions of her forehead and temples which I
had not yet seen), and wrap her up so completely in the green shawl
that nothing was left visible but the tip of her nose. Indeed, I could
see that, if her little rosy fingers had not made a small, opening
near her mouth, she would have been unable to breathe. Finally I saw
her leave her mother's arm for an instant on the staircase, and turn
and nod to us quickly before she disappeared through the doorway.
Woloda, the Iwins, the young Prince Etienne, and myself were all
of us in love with Sonetchka and all of us standing on the staircase
to follow her with our eyes. To whom in particular she had nodded I do
not know, but at the moment I firmly believed it to be myself. In
taking leave of the Iwins, I spoke quite unconcernedly, and even
coldly, to Seriosha before I finally shook hands with him. Though he
tried to appear absolutely indifferent, I think that he understood
that from that day forth he had lost both my affection and his power
over me, as well as that he regretted it.
XXIV. IN BED
"How could I have managed to be so long and so passionately devoted
to Seriosha?" I asked myself as I lay in bed that night. "He never
either understood, appreciated, or deserved my love. But Sonetchka!
What a darling SHE is! 'Wilt THOU?'--'THY hand'!"
I crept closer to the pillows, imagined to myself her lovely face,
covered my head over with the bedclothes, tucked the counterpane in on
all sides, and, thus snugly covered, lay quiet and enjoying the warmth
until I became wholly absorbed in pleasant fancies and reminiscences.
If I stared fixedly at the inside of the sheet above me I found
that I could see her as clearly as I had done an hour ago could talk
to her in my thoughts, and, though it was a conversation of irrational
tenor, I derived the greatest delight from it, seeing that "THOU" and
"THINE" and "for THEE" and "to THEE" occurred in it incessantly. These
fancies were so vivid that I could not sleep for the sweetness of my
emotion, and felt as though I must communicate my superabundant
happiness to some one.
"The darling!" I said, half-aloud, as I turned over; then,
"Woloda, are you asleep?"
"No," he replied in a sleepy voice. "What's the matter?"
"I am in love, Woloda--terribly in love with Sonetchka"
"Well? Anything else?" he replied, stretching himself.
"Oh, but you cannot imagine what I feel just now, as I lay covered
over with the counterpane, I could see her and talk to her so clearly
that it was marvellous! And, do you know, while I was lying thinking
about her--I don't know why it was, but all at once I felt so sad that
I could have cried."
Woloda made a movement of some sort.
"One thing only I wish for," I continued; "and that is that I
could always be with her and always be seeing her. Just that. You are
in love too, I believe. Confess that you are."
It was strange, but somehow I wanted every one to be in love with
Sonetchka, and every one to tell me that they were so.
"So that's how it is with you? " said Woloda, turning round to me.
"Well, I can understand it."
"I can see that you cannot sleep," I remarked, observing by his
bright eyes that he was anything but drowsy. "Well, cover yourself
over SO" (and I pulled the bedclothes over him), "and then let us talk
about her. Isn't she splendid? If she were to say to me, 'Nicolinka,
jump out of the window,' or 'jump into the fire,' I should say, 'Yes,
I will do it at once and rejoice in doing it.' Oh, how glorious she
I went on picturing her again and again to my imagination, and, to
enjoy the vision the better, turned over on my side and buried my head
in the pillows, murmuring, "Oh, I want to cry, Woloda."
"What a fool you are!" he said with a slight laugh. Then, after a
moment's silence he added: "I am not like you. I think I would rather
sit and talk with her."
"Ah! Then you ARE in love with her!" I interrupted.
"And then," went on Woloda, smiling tenderly, "kiss her fingers
and eyes and lips and nose and feet--kiss all of her."
"How absurd!" I exclaimed from beneath the pillows.
"Ah, you don't understand things," said Woloda with contempt.
"I DO understand. It's you who don't understand things, and you
talk rubbish, too," I replied, half-crying.
"Well, there is nothing to cry about," he concluded. "She is only
XXV. THE LETTER
ON the 16th of April, nearly six months after the day just
described, Papa entered our schoolroom and told us that that night we
must start with him for our country house. I felt a pang at my heart
when I heard the news, and my thoughts at once turned to Mamma, The
cause of our unexpected departure was the following letter:
"PETROVSKOE, 12th April.
"Only this moment (i.e. at ten o'clock in the evening) have I
received your dear letter of the 3rd of April, but as usual, I answer
it at once. Fedor brought it yesterday from town, but, as it was late,
he did not give it to Mimi till this morning, and Mimi (since I was
unwell) kept it from me all day. I have been a little feverish. In
fact, to tell the truth, this is the fourth day that I have been in
"Yet do not be uneasy. I feel almost myself again now, and if Ivan
Vassilitch should allow me, I think of getting up to-morrow.
"On Friday last I took the girls for a drive, and, close to the
little bridge by the turning on to the high road (the place which
always makes me nervous), the horses and carriage stuck fast in the
mud. Well, the day being fine, I thought that we would walk a little
up the road until the carriage should be extricated, but no sooner had
we reached the chapel than I felt obliged to sit down, I was so tired,
and in this way half-an-hour passed while help was being sent for to
get the carriage dug out. I felt cold, for I had only thin boots on,
and they had been wet through. After luncheon too, I had alternate
cold and hot fits, yet still continued to follow our ordinary routine
"When tea was over I sat down to the piano to play a duct with
Lubotshka. (you would be astonished to hear what progress she has
made!), but imagine my surprise when I found that I could not count
the beats! Several times I began to do so, yet always felt confused in
my head, and kept hearing strange noises in my ears. I would begin
'One-two-three--' and then suddenly go on '-eight- fifteen,' and so
on, as though I were talking nonsense and could not help it. At last
Mimi came to my assistance and forced me to retire to bed. That was
how my illness began, and it was all through my own fault. The next
day I had a good deal of fever, and our good Ivan Vassilitch came. He
has not left us since, but promises soon to restore me to the world."
"What a wonderful old man he is! While I was feverish and
delirious he sat the whole night by my bedside without once closing
his eyes; and at this moment (since he knows I am busy writing) he is
with the girls in the divannaia, and I can hear him telling them
German stories, and them laughing as they listen to him.
"'La Belle Flamande,' as you call her, is now spending her second
week here as my guest (her mother having gone to pay a visit
somewhere), and she is most attentive and attached to me, She even
tells me her secret affairs. Under different circumstances her
beautiful face, good temper, and youth might have made a most
excellent girl of her, but in the society in which according to her
own account, she moves she will be wasted. The idea has more than once
occurred to me that, had I not had so many children of my own, it
would have been a deed of mercy to have adopted her.
"Lubotshka had meant to write to you herself, but she has torn up
three sheets of paper, saying: 'I know what a quizzer Papa always is.
If he were to find a single fault in my letter he would show it to
everybody.' Katenka is as charming as usual, and Mimi, too, is good,
"Now let me speak of more serious matters. You write to me that
your affairs are not going well this winter, and that you wish to
break into the revenues of Chabarovska. It seems to me strange that
you should think it necessary to ask my consent. Surely what belongs
to me belongs no less to you? You are so kind-hearted, dear, that, for
fear of worrying me, you conceal the real state of things, but I can
guess that you have lost a great deal at cards, as also that you are
afraid of my being angry at that. Yet, so long as you can tide over
this crisis, I shall not think much of it, and you need not be uneasy,
I have grown accustomed to no longer relying, so far as the children
are concerned, upon your gains at play, nor yet--excuse me for saying
so--upon your income. Therefore your losses cause me as little anxiety
as your gains give me pleasure. What I really grieve over is your
unhappy passion itself for gambling--a passion which bereaves me of
part of your tender affection and obliges me to tell you such bitter
truths as (God knows with what pain) I am now telling you. I never
cease. to beseech Him that He may preserve us, not from poverty (for
what is poverty?), but from the terrible juncture which would arise
should the interests of the children, which I am called upon to
protect, ever come into collision with our own. Hitherto God has
listened to my prayers. You have never yet overstepped the limit
beyond which we should be obliged either to sacrifice property which
would no longer belong to us, but to the children, or-- It is terrible
to think of, but the dreadful misfortune at which I hint is forever
hanging over our heads. Yes, it is the heavy cross which God has given
us both to carry.
"Also, you write about the children, and come back to our old
point of difference by asking my consent to your placing them at a
boarding-school. You know my objection to that kind of education. I do
not know, dear, whether you will accede to my request, but I
nevertheless beseech you, by your love for me, to give me your promise
that never so long as I am alive, nor yet after my death (if God
should see fit to separate us), shall such a thing be done.
"Also you write that our affairs render it indispensable for you
to visit St. Petersburg. The Lord go with you! Go and return as, soon
as possible. Without you we shall all of us be lonely.
"Spring is coming in beautifully. We keep the door on to the
terrace always open now, while the path to the orangery is dry and
the peach-trees are in full blossom. Only here and there is there a
little snow remaining, The swallows are arriving, and to- day
Lubotshka brought me the first flowers. The doctor says that in about
three days' time I shall be well again and able to take the open air
and to enjoy the April sun. Now, au revoir, my dearest one. Do not he
alarmed, I beg of you, either on account of my illness or on account
of your losses at play. End the crisis as soon as possible, and then
return here with the children for the summer. I am making wonderful
plans for our passing of it, and I only need your presence to realise
The rest of the letter was written in French, as well as in a
strange, uncertain hand, on another piece of paper. I transcribe it
word for word:
"Do not believe what I have just written to you about my illness.
It is more serious than any one knows. I alone know that I shall never
leave my bed again. Do not, therefore, delay a minute in coming here
with the children. Perhaps it may yet be permitted me to embrace and
bless them. It is my last wish that it should be so. I know what a
terrible blow this will be to you, but you would have had to hear it
sooner or later--if not from me, at least from others. Let us try to,
bear the Calamity with fortitude, and place our trust in the mercy of
God. Let us submit ourselves to His will. Do not think that what I am
writing is some delusion of my sick imagination. On the contrary, I am
perfectly clear at this moment, and absolutely calm. Nor must you
comfort yourself with the false hope that these are the unreal,
confused feelings of a despondent spirit, for I feel indeed, I know,
since God has deigned to reveal it to me--that I have now but a very
short time to live. Will my love for you and the children cease with
my life? I know that that can never be. At this moment I am too full
of that love to be capable of believing that such a feeling (which
constitutes a part of my very existence) can ever, perish. My soul can
never lack its love for you; and I know that that love will exist for
ever, since such a feeling could never have been awakened if it were
not to be eternal. I shall no longer be with you, yet I firmly believe
that my love will cleave to you always, and from that thought I glean
such comfort that I await the approach of death calmly and without
fear. Yes, I am calm, and God knows that I have ever looked, and do
look now, upon death as no mere than the passage to a better life. Yet
why do tears blind my eyes? Why should the children lose a mother's
love? Why must you, my husband, experience such a heavy and
unlooked-for blow? Why must I die when your love was making life so
inexpressibly happy for me?
"But His holy will be done!
"The tears prevent my writing more. It may be that I shall never
see you again. I thank you, my darling beyond all price, for all the
felicity with which you have surrounded me in this life. Soon I shall
appear before God Himself to pray that He may reward you. Farewell, my
dearest! Remember that, if I am no longer here, my love will none the
less NEVER AND NOWHERE fail you. Farewell, Woloda--farewell, my pet!
Farewell, my Benjamin, my little Nicolinka! Surely they will never
With this letter had come also a French note from Mimi, in which
the latter said:
"The sad circumstances of which she has written to you are but too
surely confirmed by the words of the doctor. Yesterday evening she
ordered the letter to be posted at once, but, thinking at she did so
in delirium, I waited until this morning, with the intention of
sealing and sending it then. Hardly had I done so when Natalia
Nicolaevna asked me what I had done with the letter and told me to
burn it if not yet despatched. She is forever speaking of it, and
saying that it will kill you. Do not delay your departure for an
instant if you wish to see the angel before she leaves us. Pray excuse
this scribble, but I have not slept now for three nights. You know how
much I love her."
Later I heard from Natalia Savishna (who passed the whole of the
night of the 11th April at Mamma's bedside) that, after writing the
first part of the letter, Mamma laid it down upon the table beside her
and went to sleep for a while,
"I confess," said Natalia Savishna, "that I too fell asleep in the
arm-chair, and let my knitting slip from my hands. Suddenly, towards
one o'clock in the morning, I heard her saying something; whereupon I
opened my eyes and looked at her. My darling was sitting up in bed,
with her hands clasped together and streams of tears gushing from her
"'It is all over now,' she said, and hid her face in her hands.
"I sprang to my feet, and asked what the matter was.
"'Ah, Natalia Savishna, if you could only know what I have just
seen!' she said; yet, for all my asking, she would say no more,
beyond commanding me to hand her the letter. To that letter she added
something, and then said that it must be sent off directly. From that
moment she grew, rapidly worse."
XXVI. WHAT AWAITED US AT THE COUNTRY-HOUSE
On the 18th of April we descended from the carriage at the front
door of the house at Petrovskoe. All the way from Moscow Papa had
been preoccupied, and when Woloda had asked him "whether Mamma was
ill" he had looked at him sadly and nodded an affirmative.
Nevertheless he had grown more composed during the journey, and it
was only when we were actually approaching the house that his face
again began to grow anxious, until, as he leaped from the carriage and
asked Foka (who had run breathlessly to meet us),
"How is Natalia Nicolaevna now?" his voice, was trembling, and
his eyes had filled with tears. The good, old Foka looked at
us, and then lowered his gaze again. Finally he said as he
opened the hall-door and turned his head aside: "It is the
sixth day since she has not left her bed."
Milka (who, as we afterwards learned, had never ceased to whine
from the day when Mamma was taken ill) came leaping, joyfully to meet
Papa, and barking a welcome as she licked his hands, but Papa put her
aside, and went first to the drawing-room, and then into the
divannaia, from which a door led into the bedroom. The nearer he
approached the latter, the more, did his movements express the
agitation that he felt. Entering the divannaia he crossed it on
tiptoe, seeming to hold his breath. Even then he had to stop and make
the sign of the cross before he could summon up courage to turn the
handle. At the same moment Mimi, with dishevelled hair and eyes red
with weeping came hastily out of the corridor.
"Ah, Peter Alexandritch!" she said in a whisper and with a marked
expression of despair. Then, observing that Papa was trying to open
the door, she whispered again:
"Not here. This door is locked. Go round to the door on the other
Oh, how terribly all this wrought upon my imagination, racked as
it was by grief and terrible forebodings!
So we went round to the other side. In the corridor we met the
gardener, Akim, who had been wont to amuse us with his grimaces, but
at this moment I could see nothing comical in him. Indeed, the sight
of his thoughtless, indifferent face struck me more painfully than
anything else. In the maidservants' hall, through which we had to
pass, two maids were sitting at their work, but rose to salute us with
an expression so mournful that I felt completely overwhelmed.
Passing also through Mimi's room, Papa opened the door of the
bedroom, and we entered. The two windows on the right were curtained
over, and close to them was seated, Natalia Savishna, spectacles on
nose and engaged in darning stockings. She did not approach us to kiss
me as she had been used to do, but just rose and looked at us, her
tears beginning to flow afresh. Somehow it frightened me to see every
one, on beholding us, begin to cry, although they had been calm enough
On the left stood the bed behind a screen, while in the great
arm-chair the doctor lay asleep. Beside the bed a young, fair- haired
and remarkably beautiful girl in a white morning wrapper was applying
ice to Mamma's head, but Mamma herself I could not see. This girl was
"La Belle Flamande" of whom Mamma had written, and who afterwards
played so important a part in our family life. As we entered she
disengaged one of her hands, straightened the pleats of her dress on
her bosom, and whispered, " She is insensible," Though I was in an
agony of grief, I observed at that moment every little detail.
It was almost dark in the room, and very hot, while the air was
heavy with the mingled, scent of mint, eau-de-cologne, camomile, and
Hoffman's pastilles. The latter ingredient caught my attention so
strongly that even now I can never hear of it, or even think of it,
without my memory carrying me back to that dark, close room, and all
the details of that dreadful time.
Mamma's eyes were wide open, but they could not see us. Never
shall I forget the terrible expression in them--the expression of
agonies of suffering!
Then we were taken away.
When, later, I was able to ask Natalia Savishna about Mamma's last
moments she told me the following:
"After you were taken out of the room, my beloved one struggled
for a long time, as though some one were trying to strangle her. Then
at last she laid her head back upon the pillow, and slept softly,
peacefully, like an angel from Heaven. I went away for a moment to
see about her medicine, and just as I entered the room again my
darling was throwing the bedclothes from off her and calling for your
Papa. He stooped over her, but strength failed her to say what she
wanted to. All she could do was to open her lips and gasp, 'My God, my
God! The children, the children!' I would have run to fetch you, but
Ivan Vassilitch stopped me, saying that it would only excite her--it
were best not to do so. Then suddenly she stretched her arms out and
dropped them again. What she meant by that gesture the good God alone
knows, but I think that in it she was blessing you--you the children
whom she could not see. God did not grant her to see her little ones
before her death. Then she raised herself up--did my love, my
darling--yes, just so with her hands, and exclaimed in a voice which
I cannot bear to remember, 'Mother of God, never forsake them!'"
"Then the pain mounted to her heart, and from her eyes it as,
plain that she suffered terribly, my poor one! She sank back upon the
pillows, tore the bedclothes with her teeth, and wept--wept--"
"Yes and what then?" I asked but Natalia Savishna could say no
more. She turned away and cried bitterly.
Mamma had expired in terrible agonies.
LATE the following evening I thought I would like to look at her
once more; so, conquering an involuntary sense of fear, I gently
opened the door of the salon and entered on tiptoe.
In the middle of the room, on a table, lay the coffin, with wax
candles burning all round it on tall silver candelabra. In the
further corner sat the chanter, reading the Psalms in a low,
monotonous voice. I stopped at the door and tried to look, but my
eyes were so weak with crying, and my nerves so terribly on edge,
that I could distinguish nothing. Every object seemed to mingle
together in a strange blur--the candles, the brocade, the velvet, the
great candelabra, the pink satin cushion trimmed with lace, the
chaplet of flowers, the ribboned cap, and something of a transparent,
wax-like colour. I mounted a chair to see her face, yet where it
should have been I could see only that wax-like, transparent
something. I could not believe it to be her face. Yet, as I stood
grazing at it, I at last recognised the well- known, beloved features.
I shuddered with horror to realise that it WAS she. Why were those
eyes so sunken? What had laid that dreadful paleness upon her cheeks,
and stamped the black spot beneath the transparent skin on one of
them? Why was the expression of the whole face so cold and severe? Why
were the lips so white, and their outline so beautiful, so majestic,
so expressive of an unnatural calm that, as I looked at them, a chill
shudder ran through my hair and down my back?
Somehow, as I gazed, an irrepressible, incomprehensible power
seemed to compel me to keep my eyes fixed upon that lifeless face. I
could not turn away, and my imagination began to picture before me
scenes of her active life and happiness. I forgot that the corpse
lying before me now--the THING at which I was gazing unconsciously as
at an object which had nothing in common with my dreams--was SHE. I
fancied I could see her--now here, now there, alive, happy, and
smiling. Then some well-known feature in the face at which I was
gazing would suddenly arrest my attention, and in a flash I would
recall the terrible reality and shudder- though still unable to turn
my eyes away.
Then again the dreams would replace reality--then again the
reality put to flight the dreams. At last the consciousness of both
left me, and for a while I became insensible.
How long I remained in that condition I do not know, nor yet how
it occurred. I only know that for a time I lost all sense of
existence, and experienced a kind of vague blissfulness which though
grand and sweet, was also sad. It may be that, as it ascended to a
better world, her beautiful soul had looked down with longing at the
world in which she had left us--that it had seen my sorrow, and,
pitying me, had returned to earth on the wings of love to console and
bless me with a heavenly smile of compassion.
The door creaked as the chanter entered who was to relieve his
predecessor. The noise awakened me, and my first thought was that,
seeing me standing on the chair in a posture which had nothing
touching in its aspect, he might take me for an unfeeling boy who had
climbed on to the chair out of mere curiosity: wherefore I hastened to
make the sign of the cross, to bend down my head, and to burst out
crying. As I recall now my impressions of that episode I find that it
was only during my moments of self-forgetfulness that my grief was
wholehearted. True, both before and after the funeral I never ceased
to cry and to look miserable, yet I feel conscience-stricken when I
recall that grief of mine, seeing that always present in it there was
an element of conceit--of a desire to show that I was more grieved
than any one else, of an interest which I took in observing the
effect, produced upon others by my tears, and of an idle curiosity
leading me to remark Mimi's bonnet and the faces of all present. The
mere circumstance that I despised myself for not feeling grief to the
exclusion of everything else, and that I endeavoured to conceal the
fact, shows that my sadness was insincere and unnatural. I took a
delight in feeling that I was unhappy, and in trying to feel more so.
Consequently this egotistic consciousness completely annulled any
element of sincerity in my woe.
That night I slept calmly and soundly (as is usual after any great
emotion), and awoke with my tears dried and my nerves restored. At ten
o'clock we were summoned to attend the pre- funeral requiem.
The room was full of weeping servants and peasants who had come to
bid farewell to their late mistress. During the service I myself wept
a great deal, made frequent signs of the cross, and performed many
genuflections, but I did not pray with, my soul, and felt, if
anything, almost indifferent, My thoughts were chiefly centred upon
the new coat which I was wearing (a garment which was tight and
uncomfortable) and upon how to avoid soiling my trousers at the knees.
Also I took the most minute notice of all present.
Papa stood at the head of the coffin. He was as white as snow, and
only with difficulty restrained his tears. His tall figure in its
black frockcoat, his pale, expressive face, the graceful, assured
manner in which, as usual, he made the sign of the cross or bowed
until he touched the floor with his hand [A custom of the Greek
funeral rite.] or took the candle from the priest or went to the
coffin--all were exceedingly effective; yet for some reason or another
I felt a grudge against him for that very ability to appear effective
at such a moment. Mimi stood leaning against the wall as though
scarcely able to support herself. Her dress was all awry and covered
with feathers, and her cap cocked to one side, while her eyes were red
with weeping, her legs trembling under her, and she sobbed incessantly
in a heartrending manner as ever and again she buried her face in her
handkerchief or her hands. I imagine that she did this to check her
continual sobbing without being seen by the spectators. I remember,
too, her telling Papa, the evening before, that Mamma's death had come
upon her as a blow from which she could never hope to recover; that
with Mamma she had lost everything; but that "the angel," as she
called my mother, had not forgotten her when at the point of death,
since she had declared her wish to render her (Mimi's) and Katenka's
fortunes secure for ever. Mimi had shed bitter tears while relating
this, and very likely her sorrow, if not wholly pure and
disinterested, was in the main sincere. Lubotshka, in black garments
and suffused with tears, stood with her head bowed upon her breast.
She rarely looked at the coffin, yet whenever she did so her face
expressed a sort of childish fear. Katenka stood near her mother, and,
despite her lengthened face, looked as lovely as ever. Woloda's frank
nature was frank also in grief. He stood looking grave and as though
he were staring at some object with fixed eyes. Then suddenly his lips
would begin to quiver, and he would hastily make the sign of the
cross, and bend his head again.
Such of those present as were strangers I found intolerable. In
fact, the phrases of condolence with which they addressed Papa (such,
for instance, as that "she is better off now" "she was too good for
this world," and so on) awakened in me something like fury. What right
had they to weep over or to talk about her? Some of them, in referring
to ourselves, called us "orphans"-- just as though it were not a
matter of common knowledge that children who have lost their mother
are known as orphans! Probably (I thought) they liked to be the first
to give us that name, just as some people find pleasure in being the
first to address a newly-married girl as "Madame."
In a far corner of the room, and almost hidden by the open door,
of the dining-room, stood a grey old woman with bent knees. With
hands clasped together and eyes lifted to heaven, she prayed
only--not wept. Her soul was in the presence of God, and she was
asking Him soon to reunite her to her whom she had loved beyond all
beings on this earth, and whom she steadfastly believed that she would
very soon meet again.
"There stands one who SINCERELY loved her," I thought to myself,
and felt ashamed.
The requiem was over. They uncovered the face of the deceased, and
all present except ourselves went to the coffin to give her the kiss
One of the last to take leave of her departed mistress was a
peasant woman who was holding by the hand a pretty little girl of
five whom she had brought with her, God knows for what reason. Just
at a moment when I chanced to drop my wet handkerchief and was
stooping to pick it up again, a loud, piercing scream startled me, and
filled me with such terror that, were I to live a hundred years more,
I should never forget it. Even now the recollection always sends a
cold shudder through my frame. I raised my head. Standing on the chair
near the coffin was the peasant woman, while struggling and fighting
in her arms was the little girl, and it was this same poor child who
had screamed with such dreadful, desperate frenzy as, straining her
terrified face away, she still, continued to gaze with dilated eyes at
the face of the corpse. I too screamed in a voice perhaps more
dreadful still, and ran headlong from the room.
Only now did I understand the source of the strong, oppressive
smell which, mingling with the scent of the incense, filled the
chamber, while the thought that the face which, but a few days ago,
had been full of freshness and beauty--the face which I loved more
than anything else in all the world--was now capable of inspiring
horror at length revealed to me, as though for the first time, the
terrible truth, and filled my soul with despair.
XXVIII. SAD RECOLLECTIONS
Mamma was no longer with us, but our life went on as usual. We
went to bed and got up at the same times and in the same rooms;
breakfast, luncheon, and supper continued to be at their usual hours;
everything remained standing in its accustomed place; nothing in the
house or in our mode of life was altered: only, she was not there.
Yet it seemed to me as though such a, misfortune ought to have
changed everything. Our old mode of life appeared like an insult to
her memory. It recalled too vividly her presence.
The day before the funeral I felt as though I should like to rest
a little after luncheon, and accordingly went to Natalia Savishna's
room with the intention of installing myself comfortably under the
warm, soft down of the quilt on her bed. When I entered I found
Natalia herself lying on the bed and apparently asleep, but, on
hearing my footsteps, she raised herself up, removed the handkerchief
which had been protecting her face from the flies, and, adjusting her
cap, sat forward on the edge of the bed. Since it frequently happened
that I came to lie down in her room, she guessed my errand at once,
"So you have come to rest here a little, have you? Lie down, then,
"Oh, but what is the matter with you, Natalia Savishna?" I
exclaimed as I forced her back again. "I did not come for that. No,
you are tired yourself, so you LIE down."
"I am quite rested now, darling," she said (though I knew that it
was many a night since she had closed her eyes). "Yes, I am indeed,
and have no wish to sleep again," she added with a deep sigh.
I felt as though I wanted to speak to her of our misfortune, since
I knew her sincerity and love, and thought that it would be a
consolation to me to weep with her.
"Natalia Savishna," I said after a pause, as I seated myself upon
the bed, "who would ever have thought of this? "
The old woman looked at me with astonishment, for she did not
quite understand my question.
"Yes, who would ever have thought of it?" I repeated.
"Ah, my darling," she said with a glance of tender compassion,
"it is not only 'Who would ever have thought of it?' but 'Who,
even now, would ever believe it?' I am old, and my bones should long
ago have gone to rest rather than that I should have lived to see the
old master, your Grandpapa, of blessed memory, and Prince Nicola
Michaelovitch, and his two brothers, and your sister Amenka all buried
before me, though all younger than myself--and now my darling, to my
never-ending sorrow, gone home before me! Yet it has been God's will.
He took her away because she was worthy to be taken, and because He
has need of the good ones."
This simple thought seemed to me a consolation, and I pressed
closer to Natalia, She laid her hands upon my head as she looked
upward with eyes expressive of a deep, but resigned, sorrow. In her
soul was a sure and certain hope that God would not long separate her
from the one upon whom the whole strength of her love had for many
years been concentrated.
"Yes, my dear," she went on, "it is a long time now since I used
to nurse and fondle her, and she used to call me Natasha. She used to
come jumping upon me, and caressing and kissing me, and say, 'MY
Nashik, MY darling, MY ducky,' and I used to answer jokingly, 'Well,
my love, I don't believe that you DO love me. You will be a grown-up
young lady soon, and going away to be married, and will leave your
Nashik forgotten.' Then she would grow thoughtful and say, 'I think I
had better not marry if my Nashik cannot go with me, for I mean never
to leave her.' Yet, alas! She has left me now! Who was there in the
world she did not love? Yes, my dearest, it must never be POSSIBLE for
you to forget your Mamma. She was not a being of earth--she was an
angel from Heaven. When her soul has entered the heavenly kingdom she
will continue to love you and to be proud of you even there."
"But why do you say 'when her soul has entered the heavenly
kingdom'?" I asked. "I believe it is there now."
"No, my dearest," replied Natalia as she lowered her voice and
pressed herself yet closer to me, "her soul is still here," and she
pointed upwards. She spoke in a whisper, but with such an intensity of
conviction that I too involuntarily raised my eyes and looked at the
ceiling, as though expecting to see something there. 'Before the souls
of the just enter Paradise they have to undergo forty trials for forty
days, and during that time they hover around their earthly home." [A
Russian popular legend.]
She went on speaking for some time in this strain--speaking with
the same simplicity and conviction as though she were relating common
things which she herself had witnessed, and to doubt which could never
enter into any one's head. I listened almost breathlessly, and though
I did not understand all she said, I never for a moment doubted her
"Yes, my darling, she is here now, and perhaps looking at us and
listening to what we are saying," concluded Natalia. Raising her
head, she remained silent for a while. At length she wiped away the
tears which were streaming from her eyes, looked me straight in the
face, and said in a voice trembling with emotion:
"Ah, it is through many trials that God is leading me to Him. Why,
indeed, am I still here? Whom have I to live for? Whom have I to
"Do you not love US, then?" I asked sadly, and half-choking with
"Yes, God knows that I love you, my darling; but to love any one
as I loved HER--that I cannot do."
She could say no more, but turned her head aside and wept
bitterly. As for me, I no longer thought of going to sleep, but sat
silently with her and mingled my tears with hers.
Presently Foka entered the room, but, on seeing our emotion and
not wishing to disturb us, stopped short at the door.
"Do you want anything, my good Foka?" asked Natalia as she wiped
away her tears.
"If you please, half-a-pound of currants, four pounds of sugar,
and three pounds of rice for the kutia." [Cakes partaken of by the
mourners at a Russian funeral.]
"Yes, in one moment," said Natalia as she took a pinch of snuff
and hastened to her drawers. All traces of the grief, aroused by our
conversation disappeared on, the instant that she had duties to
fulfil, for she looked upon those duties as of paramount importance.
"But why FOUR pounds?" she objected as she weighed the sugar on a
steelyard. "Three and a half would be sufficient," and she withdrew a
few lumps. "How is it, too, that, though I weighed out eight pounds of
rice yesterday, more is wanted now? No offence to you, Foka, but I am
not going to waste rice like that. I suppose Vanka is glad that there
is confusion in the house just now, for he thinks that nothing will be
looked after, but I am not going to have any careless extravagance
with my master's goods. Did one ever hear of such a thing? Eight
pounds!" "Well, I have nothing to do with it. He says it is all gone,
"Hm, hm! Well, there it is. Let him take it."
I was struck by the sudden transition from the touching
sensibility with which she had just been speaking to me to this petty
reckoning and captiousness. Yet, thinking it over afterwards, I
recognised that it was merely because, in spite of what was lying on
her heart, she retained the habit of duty, and that it was the
strength of that habit which enabled her to pursue her functions as of
old. Her grief was too strong and too true to require any pretence of
being unable to fulfil trivial tasks, nor would she have understood
that any one could so pretend. Vanity is a sentiment so entirely at
variance with genuine grief, yet a sentiment so inherent in human
nature, that even the most poignant sorrow does not always drive it
wholly forth. Vanity mingled with grief shows itself in a desire to be
recognised as unhappy or resigned; and this ignoble desire--an
aspiration which, for all that we may not acknowledge it is rarely
absent, even in cases of the utmost affliction--takes off greatly from
the force, the dignity, and the sincerity of grief. Natalia Savishna
had been so sorely smitten by her misfortune that not a single wish of
her own remained in her soul--she went on living purely by habit.
Having handed over the provisions to Foka, and reminded him of the
refreshments which must be ready for the priests, she took up her
knitting and seated herself by my side again. The conversation
reverted to the old topic, and we once more mourned and shed tears
together. These talks with Natalia I repeated every day, for her quiet
tears and words of devotion brought me relief and comfort. Soon,
however, a parting came. Three days after the funeral we returned to
Moscow, and I never saw her again.
Grandmamma received the sad tidings only on our return to her
house, and her grief was extraordinary. At first we were not allowed
to see her, since for a whole week she was out of her mind, and the
doctors were afraid for her life. Not only did she decline all
medicine whatsoever, but she refused to speak to anybody or to take
nourishment, and never closed her eyes m sleep. Sometimes, as she sat
alone in the arm-chair in her room, she would begin laughing and
crying at the same time, with a sort of tearless grief, or else
relapse into convulsions, and scream out dreadful, incoherent words in
a horrible voice. It was the first dire sorrow which she had known in
her life, and it reduced her almost to distraction. She would begin
accusing first one person, and then another, of bringing this
misfortune upon her, and rail at and blame them with the most
extraordinary virulence, Finally she would rise from her arm-chair,
pace the room for a while, and end by falling senseless to the floor.
Once, when I went to her room, she appeared to be sitting quietly
in her chair, yet with an air which struck me as curious. Though her
eyes were wide open, their glance was vacant and meaningless, and she
seemed to gaze in my direction without seeing me. Suddenly her lips
parted slowly in a smile, and she said in a touchingly, tender voice:
"Come here, then, my dearest one; come here, my angel." Thinking that
it was myself she was addressing, I moved towards her, but it was not
I whom she was beholding at that moment. "Oh, my love," she went on.
"if only you could know how distracted I have been, and how delighted
I am to see you once more!" I understood then that she believed
herself to be looking upon Mamma, and halted where I was. "They told
me you were gone," she concluded with a frown; "but what nonsense! As
if you could die before ME!" and she laughed a terrible, hysterical
Only those who can love strongly can experience an overwhelming
grief. Yet their very need of loving sometimes serves to throw off
their grief from them and to save them. The moral nature of man is
more tenacious of life than the physical, and grief never kills.
After a time Grandmamma's power of weeping came back to her, and
she began to recover. Her first thought when her reason returned was
for us children, and her love for us was greater than ever. We never
left her arm-chair, and she would talk of Mamma, and weep softly, and
Nobody who saw her grief could say that it was consciously
exaggerated, for its expression was too strong and touching; yet for
some reason or another my sympathy went out more to Natalia Savishna,
and to this day I am convinced that nobody loved and regretted Mamma
so purely and sincerely as did that simple- hearted, affectionate
With Mamma's death the happy time of my childhood came to an end,
and a new epoch--the epoch of my boyhood--began; but since my
memories of Natalia Savishna (who exercised such a strong and
beneficial influence upon the bent of my mind and the development of
my sensibility) belong rather to the first period, I will add a few
words about her and her death before closing this portion of my life.
I heard later from people in the village that, after our return to
Moscow, she found time hang very heavy on her hands. Although the
drawers and shelves were still under her charge, and she never ceased
to arrange and rearrange them--to take things out and to dispose of
them afresh--she sadly missed the din and bustle of the seignorial
mansion to which she had been accustomed from her childhood up.
Consequently grief, the alteration in her mode of life, and her lack
of activity soon combined to develop in her a malady to which she had
always been more or less subject.
Scarcely more than a year after Mamma's death dropsy showed
itself, and she took to her bed. I can imagine how sad it must have
been for her to go on living--still more, to die--alone in that great
empty house at Petrovskoe, with no relations or any one near her.
Every one there esteemed and loved her, but she had formed no intimate
friendships in the place, and was rather proud of the fact. That was
because, enjoying her master's confidence as she did, and having so
much property under her care, she considered that intimacies would
lead to culpable indulgence and condescension, Consequently (and
perhaps, also, because she had nothing really in common with the other
servants) she kept them all at a distance, and used to say that she
"recognised neither kinsman nor godfather in the house, and would
permit of no exceptions with regard to her master's property."
Instead, she sought and found consolation in fervent prayers to
God. Yet sometimes, in those moments of weakness to which all of us
are subject, and when man's best solace is the tears and compassion of
his fellow-creatures, she would take her old dog Moska on to her bed,
and talk to it, and weep softly over it as it answered her caresses by
licking her hands, with its yellow eyes fixed upon her. When Moska
began to whine she would say as she quieted it: "Enough, enough! I
know without thy telling me that my time is near." A month before her
death she took out of her chest of drawers some fine white calico,
white cambric, and pink ribbon, and, with the help of the
maidservants, fashioned the garments in which she wished to be buried.
Next she put everything on her shelves in order and handed the bailiff
an inventory which she had made out with scrupulous accuracy. All
that she kept back was a couple of silk gowns, an old shawl, and
Grandpapa's military uniform--things which had been presented to her
absolutely, and which, thanks to her care and orderliness, were in an
excellent state of preservation--particularly the handsome gold
embroidery on the uniform.
Just before her death, again, she expressed a wish that one of the
gowns (a pink one) should be made into a robe de chambre for Woloda;
that the other one (a many-coloured gown) should be made into a
similar garment for myself; and that the shawl should go to Lubotshka.
As for the uniform, it was to devolve either to Woloda or to myself,
according as the one or the other of us should first become an
officer. All the rest of her property (save only forty roubles, which
she set aside for her commemorative rites and to defray the costs of
her burial) was to pass to her brother, a person with whom, since he
lived a dissipated life in a distant province, she had had no
intercourse during her lifetime. When, eventually, he arrived to claim
the inheritance, and found that its sum-total only amounted to
twenty-five roubles in notes, he refused to believe it, and declared
that it was impossible that his sister-a woman who for sixty years had
had sole charge in a wealthy house, as well as all her life had been
penurious and averse to giving away even the smallest thing should
have left no more: yet it was a fact.
Though Natalia's last illness lasted for two months, she bore her
sufferings with truly Christian fortitude. Never did she fret or
complain, but, as usual, appealed continually to God. An hour before
the end came she made her final confession, received the Sacrament
with quiet joy, and was accorded extreme unction. Then she begged
forgiveness of every one in the house for any wrong she might have
done them, and requested the priest to send us word of the number of
times she had blessed us for our love of her, as well as of how in her
last moments she had implored our forgiveness if, in her ignorance,
she had ever at any time given us offence. "Yet a thief have I never
been. Never have I used so much as a piece of thread that was not my
own." Such was the one quality which she valued in herself.
Dressed in the cap and gown prepared so long beforehand, and with
her head resting, upon the cushion made for the purpose, she
conversed with the priest up to the very last moment, until,
suddenly, recollecting that she had left him nothing for the poor,
she took out ten roubles, and asked him to distribute them in the
parish. Lastly she made the sign of the cross, lay down, and
expired--pronouncing with a smile of joy the name of the Almighty.
She quitted life without a pang, and, so far from fearing death,
welcomed it as a blessing. How often do we hear that said, and how
seldom is it a reality! Natalia Savishna had no reason to fear death
for the simple reason that she died in a sure and certain faith and in
strict obedience to the commands of the Gospel. Her whole life had
been one of pure, disinterested love, of utter self-negation. Had her
convictions been of a more enlightened order, her life directed to a
higher aim, would that pure soul have been the more worthy of love and
reverence? She accomplished the highest and best achievement in this
world: she died without fear and without repining.
They buried her where she had wished to lie--near the little
mausoleum which still covers Mamma's tomb. The little mound beneath
which she sleeps is overgrown with nettles and burdock, and surrounded
by a black railing, but I never forget, when leaving the mausoleum, to
approach that railing, and to salute the, plot of earth within by
bowing reverently to the ground.
Sometimes, too, I stand thoughtfully between the railing and the
mausoleum, and sad memories pass through my mind. Once the idea came
to me as I stood there: "Did Providence unite me to those two beings
solely in order to make me regret them my life long?"