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Full text of "Poor folk ; The gambler"

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DEMCO, INC. 38-2931 



ШЖЖ 



МНННМВ^НВН^В^^на^В^Н 



EVERYMAN, I will go with thee, 

and be thy guide, 

In thy most need to go by thy side 



FYODOR MIKHAILOVICH DOSTOYEVSKY 

Born at Moscow on nth November 1821. Sent to 
Siberia for revolutionary activities in 1849, serving 
four years in the penal settlement at Omsk and 
another four with a line-battalion at Semipalatinsk, 
where, in 1857, he married Marya Dmitrievna Isayeva. 
Resumed literary work shortly before his return to 
European Russia in 1859; married secondly Anna 
Gregorevna Snitkin in 1867, and died at St Petersburg 
on 9th February 1881. 



FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY 



Poor Folk 
The Gambler 



TRANSLATED BY 

C. J. HOGARTH 

INTRODUCTION BY 

NIKOLAY ANDREYEV, ph.d., m.a 

Lecturer in Slavonic Studies in the 
University of Cambridge 




DENT : LONDON 

EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY 
dutton: new york 



All rights reserved 

Made in Great Britain 

at the 

Aldine Press • Letchworth • Herts 

for 

J. M. DENT & SONS LTD 

Aldine House • Bedford Street • London 

First included in Everyman s Library i$)i5 

Last reprinted 1969 



NO. Jll 



SBN : 460 0071 1 4 



INTRODUCTION 

In 1877 Dostoyevsky recorded in his Diary of a Writer 
the circumstances in which he first obtained recognition 
from the literary celebrities of his day. 'With all my 
being I felt that this was a solemn moment, a turning 
point from which there could be no return, something 
quite new was beginning, something beyond anything I 
had ever imagined, even in my most fervid dreams. . . . 
It was the most wonderful moment of my whole life. 
When I was a convict I remembered it, it gave me 
courage. Even now I still remember it with profound 
emotion.' 

This 'most wonderful moment' had occurred when 
Dostoyevsky realized that his talents had been recog- 
nized by the leading critic of the period — Vissarion 
Belinsky. What had led up to this momentous recogni- 
tion ? Dostoyevsky had written his first story, Poor Folk. 
He revised it radically four times. After the last revision 
in May 1845 he wrote to his brother: 'I took it into my 
head to alter it yet again. ... It is now almost twice as 
good.' A friend, Grigorovich, a writer with whom he was 
sharing rooms, advised Dostoyevsky to show the manu- 
script to a publisher — the poet Nekrassov. Nekrassov 
and Grigorovich started to read the manuscript and 
became so enthusiastic that they read the whole novel 
aloud to each other without a break. At four o'clock in 
the morning, almost weeping with excitement, they burst 
in on the author to congratulate him. Nekrassov passed 
on the manuscript to Belinsky, with the words: 'A new 
Gogol has been born!' Belinsky, we are told, replied 
dampingly: 'If we're to believe you, new Gogols are 
always springing up overnight like mushrooms.' When, 
however, Belinsky had read Poor Folk and Dostoyevsky 
was subsequently introduced to him, the young author 
was met by a torrent of excited praise and exhortation 
ending with the words : ' Because you are an artist truth 
is revealed to you: you have the gift of perceiving the 



vi Introduction 

truth — a gift you must treasure. Be true to your vocation 
and become a great writer.' 

But what is so remarkable about the rather slight 
story, told in letter form, which constitutes Poor Folk} 
What qualities awoke such enthusiasm and gave rise to 
such accurate prognostications of greatness in highly 
qualified circles even before it had been published ? 

Dostoyevsky himself, in the beautiful lyrical article 
entitled 'Petersburg Dreams in Poetry and Prose', tells 
of the genesis of this first book. He recalls how as a very 
young man, having given up his brief military career as an 
engineer, he was feeling his way towards some form of 
literary activity (which he originally envisaged in the 
sphere of drama and in the spirit of Schiller). One 
'wintry January evening', when he was walking along 
the banks of the River Neva, it suddenly came over him 
that 'the whole world' was 'like some improbable, 
magical fantasy, like a dream '. The ' ardent imaginings ' 
in which he had previously indulged, the world of 
romantic heroes, Don Carlos and Posa, faded before a 
very different 'dream'. 'And a different kind of story 
began to take shape : dark corners, the heart of a minor 
official, honest and disinterested, moral and loyal to his 
superiors, and, together with him, a young girl, ill- 
treated and sad ; and my heart was deeply torn by their 
story.' This, according to Dostoyevsky, was the origin of 
the plot of Poor Folk. The plot itself, in the opinion of 
most literary historians, was an immense event in the 
development of Russian prose. Dostoyevsky had intro- 
duced — in the words of the nineteenth-century critic 
N. N. Strakhov — 'a bold and decisive amendment to 
Gogol', who had been up till then the idol of literary 
Russia. The 'amendment' consisted in introducing 
living people into Gogol's world of masks, marionettes, 
ruthless irony and grotesque. For this experiment, 
Dostoyevsky selected Gogol's Overcoat. In this brilliant 
short story the great satirist made his hero a caricature 
of a civil servant — dull, crushed by life, without a word 
to say for himself — who has to make the most drastic 
sacrifices in order to be able to buy a new overcoat and, 



Introduction vii 

when this is almost immediately stolen from him, dies of 
grief. In Poor Folk Dostoyevsky's hero, Makar Dievush- 
kin, is also a little man — an insignificant, unhappy civil 
servant : but his dreams are centred not on such symbols 
of material felicity as the possession of a new winter coat 
but on his unselfish, inspiring and unrequited love for the 
girl Varen'ka. 1 Dievushkin reads Gogol's Overcoat and 
reacts with indignation to Gogol's 'libel' on the human 
race, somewhat naively considering that the elements of 
caricature are applicable directly to himself: 'And why 
should anyone write such a thing ? What 's the use of it ? 
Why, it's a malicious book, Varen'ka; it is simply not 
true to life, because it just couldn't be that a civil 
servant like that should ever have existed. No, I shall put 
in a complaint, Varen'ka, I shall put in a formal com- 
plaint.' Dostoyevsky's hero admires another story — 
Pushkin's The Station-master. 2 Here, in the character of 
Pushkin's hero, he sees the reflection of his 'own heart'. 
There is much in common between the situation in which 
Dievushkin finds himself and that of the father in 
Pushkin's story. Both are trying to 'save' a beloved 
young girl from a seducer. Both are 'thrust aside'. The 
father takes to drink and dies. Dostoyevsky's hero 
plunges into 'debauch' and the inference is that he, too, 
will hardly survive for long his separation from Varen'ka. 
The young Dostoyevsky, using Dievushkin as his 
mouthpiece, appeared as the protagonist of the Pushkin 
tradition in his attitude to living people. This attitude is 
an intrinsic part of the natural pathos not only of 
Dostoyevsky's work but of all Russian nineteenth- and 
twentieth-century literature with its profound humanity 
and its heedful compassion towards 'the injured and the 
insulted'. Against this factual background, Dostoy- 
evsky's famous statement, 'We have all come out from 
under Gogol's Overcoat,' takes on a different meaning 
from that so frequently and superficially ascribed to it. 
It is not only the acknowledgment of a debt, but also the 

1 Barbara in C. J. Hogarth's translation. 

s This story is brilliantly translated by Natalie Duddington and 
published in Everyman's Library, No. 898. 



viii Introduction 

declaration of Russian literature's emancipation from 
the 'soullessness' of Gogol and of his school of which the 
novel Poor Folk is the literary refutation. 

Multiple quotations could be given to illustrate the 
underlying polemic with Gogol which runs through 
Dostoyevsky's story. Perhaps, however, the symbolism 
inherent in the names which Gogol and Dostoyevsky gave 
their heroes is in itself sufficient evidence: Gogol's civil 
servant is called Bashmachkin, a contemptuous deriva- 
tive of shoe suggesting something whose natural function 
is to be trodden on, whereas Dostoyevsky's is Makar 
Dievushkin. The Christian name Makar is associated in a 
Russian proverb with a man beset by misfortunes; the 
surname Dievushkin, on the other hand, is associated 
with tenderness of soul — the folk-lore ' dusha-devitsa ' or 
'soul-maiden' — and creates the impression that it? 
bearer must have the sensitive and loving soul of a young 
girl. 

Literary historians also point out — with some justifica- 
tion — that Dostoyevsky at the time of writing Poor 
Folk was influenced by the French sociological novel, 
perhaps particularly by Balzac, whose work he was 
translating into Russian. Dostoyevsky's novel is of 
course much more than a pamphlet directed against 
Gogol; it is also a deliberately tendentious sociological 
novel which touches on many very actual problems 
treated in other Russian works of the period, a revival of 
the sentimental manner, justified by the personality of 
the hero, a rebuttal of romantic prejudice (the substitu- 
tion of a simple middle-aged man and his love for the 
glamour of 'exceptional individuals'), a realistic essay in 
the depiction of details of everyday life and an affirma- 
tion of the absolute value of every human personality. 

It was the combination of all these features which so 
impressed Dostoyevsky's contemporaries when they 
first read Poor Folk in manuscript and which ensured the 
novel's popularity with later generations. 

Poor Folk may be considered as a kind of literary 
manifesto based on a deliberate struggle for the accep- 
tance of certain literary conventions in Russian prose. 



Introduction ix 

The Gambler is a very different proposition. It is almost 
an extract from Dostoyevsky's own biography, the bitter 
fruit of experience retold in the form of a story of two 
conflicting passions — love and gambling. 

On 1 8th September 1863 Dostoyevsky wrote from 
Rome to his friend, the critic N. N. Strakhov: 'The plan 
of my story is getting along quite well, as far as I can 
judge. . . . The hero is a Russian living abroad. . . . All his 
vital juices, strength, vigour and boldness have gone 
into roulette. He's a gambler — but not an ordinary 
gambler. . . . He is a poet in his own way, but the thing is 
that he is ashamed of this poetry [gambling] because he 
is profoundly aware of its ignobility, even though the 
love of risk sets him up in his own eyes. The whole story 
is the account of how, for the third year running, he 
plays at roulette from gaming-house to gaming-house.' 

Dostoyevsky emphasizes : ' If The House of the Dead 
captured the attention of the public as a description of 
convicts, whom no one had described graphically before 
The House of the Dead, then this story is bound to attract 
attention as a graphic and very detailed description of 
the game of roulette. I think that it may turn out to be 
quite a good piece of work. After all, The House of the 
Dead was interesting. And I shall endeavour to make this 
description of a kind of hell, of a scene like that of the 
"convicts' bath-house" into a real picture.' 

At the same time Dostoyevsky wanted to describe ' the 
contemporary state of the Russian abroad ' who, because 
he 'has no reason for existence in Russia', wastes his 
strength on pointless passions. 

The first draft of the novel was made then and there 
'on scraps of paper'. But the book was actually written 
in October 1866 when, in the course of a month, the 
writer dictated the whole novel. (The young lady who 
took the dictation was Anna Grigor'evna Snitkina, who 
became Dostoyevsky's second wife in February of the 
following year.) 

Dostoyevsky's biographers have now estabUshed quite 
definitely that the heroine of The Gambler, the proud and 
imperious beauty Polina, is in many ways a picture of 

* 711 



x Introduction 

Appolinaria Suslova, who served to a greater or lesser 
degree as the prototype of all Dostoyevsky's 'infernal 
heroines'. 

Suslova was a young authoress, a convinced advocate 
of emancipation for women, and a contributor to 
Dostoyevsky's journal Time. Dostoyevsky fell in love 
with her and she became his mistress, probably in 1861, 
but Suslova was bored by his passion and, in 1863, left 
for Paris; Dostoyevsky followed her but, on the way, in 
Wiesbaden, he yielded for the first time to the obsession 
with roulette which was to prove his most ruinous 
pastime. On 26th August he arrived in Paris, where he 
learnt that Suslova had become enamoured of a medical 
student who had already abandoned her. Dostoyevsky 
took on the role of platonic friend and comforter and 
they set out together on a two months' journey through 
Europe in a turgid atmosphere of suppressed passion and 
desperate gambling fever. Dostoyevsky met Suslova 
once again in Wiesbaden in 1865, but his 'fatal passion' 
for her continued to haunt him for many years — even 
after his second marriage. 

Suslova's diary and Dostoyevsky's letters of this 
period confirm the authenticity of many details which 
appear in The Gambler. The autobiographical element is 
very marked, and in this, perhaps, lies the chief interest 
of the work. There are, however, other significant 
features in the structure of the novel. The story is made 
up of rather superficial intrigues, not very profound but 
effectively sensational, which combine to expose the 
emptiness of the life of ' Russians abroad ' and thus lend 
the novel a certain socio-historical interest. Dostoyevsky 
also lavishes much attention on the characterization of 
'the national traits' of his personages. It may be that 
certain features of Dostoyevsky the journalist, the 
author of the more chauvinistic pages of The Diary of a 
Writer, are already in evidence in these malevolent 
portraits of the French, whom the narrator detests, and 
of the Germans and Poles, whom he despises. Only the 
Englishman Mr Astley finds favour in his eyes, and it 
seems therefore natural that he should be chosen to 



Select Bibliography xi 

reveal 'the secret' that Polina, in her heart of hearts, 
loves and has always loved the 'Gambler'. The Russians 
themselves, however, do not escape sharp criticism and 
reproach. ' Russians are endowed with too great a pro- 
fusion and variety of talents,' muses the hero — and in 
the meantime Russian ability founders uselessly in a 
morass of vain passions. 

Various motifs are interwoven in The Gambler but the 
central theme of the novel is the irreconcilability of the 
hero's two passionate obsessions, love and gambling. His 
inability to resist the fascination of the gaming tables in 
order to devote himself whole-heartedly to the tragically 
complicated affairs of the proud and demanding Polina 
arouses in her that 'love-hatred' which Dostoyevsky 
was to depict with ever deepening psychological insight 
as the dominating emotion of the 'infernal' heroines of 
his later novels. 

Nikolay Andreyev. 

1962. 



SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 

collected works. The Novels of Dostoevsky, translated by Constance 
Garnett, 12 vols., 1912-20. 

separate works (titles in English; dates of first Russian editions). 
Poor Folk, 1846 (trans. L. Milman, 1894) ; The Double, 1846; The Family 
Friend, 1859; Memoirs from the House of the Dead, 1861-2 (trans. H. S. 
Edwards, 1888; Jessie Coulson, 1956) ; Summer Impressions, 1863 (trans. 
K. Fitzlyon); Letters from the Underworld, 1864; Crime and Punishment, 
1866 (trans. D. Magarshack, 1951; A. Kropotkin, 1953, Jessie Coulson, 
1953); The Gambler, 1866; The Idiot, 1868 (trans. F. Whishaw, 1887; D. 
Magarshack, 1955); The Eternal Husband, 1870; The Possessed, 1871-2 
(trans. Constance Garnett, 1931); The Raw Youth, 1875; An Author's 
Diary, 1876-7 (trans. B. Brasol, 1949); The Brothers Karamazov, 
1879-80. 

The three suppressed chapters of The Possessed were published (in 
translation by S. S. Koteliansky and Virginia Woolf) as Stavrogin's 
Confession, 1922. 

letters. Letters of F. M. Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends, trans. 
Ethel Colbourne Mayne, 1914, 1917, 1961, with an Introduction by A. 
Yarmolinsky; New Dostoevsky Letters, trans. S. S. Koteliansky, 1929; 
Letters of Dostoevsky to his Wife, trans. E. Hill and D. Mudie, 1930. 

biography and criticism. J. A. T. Lloyd, A Great Russian Realist, 
1912 ; E. A. Soloviev, Dostoyevsky : his Life and Literary Activity, 1916; J. 
Lavrin, Dostoyevsky and hi" Creation, 1920; A. Dostoyevskaya, Feodor 



xii Select Bibliography 

Dostoyevsky: a Study, 1921; J. Middleton Murry, Feodor Dostoyevsky, 
1923; Hermann Hesse, In Sight of Chaos, 1923; A. Gide, Dostoyevsky, 
1925; A. J. Meier-Graefe, Dostoyevsky, the Man and his Work, 1928; 
E. H. Carr, Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881, 1931; N. A. Berdyaev, Dostoyevsky, 
an Interpretation, 1934; A. Yarmolinsky, Dostoyevsky: a Life, 1934; G. 
Abraham, Dostoyevsky, 1936; Z. Maurina, A Prophet of the Soul, 1940; 
E. J. Simmons, Dostoyevsky, 1940; I. Roe, The Breath of Corruption. An 
Interpretation of Dostoyevsky, 1946; H. Troyat, The Firebrand, 1946; S. 
Freud, Dostoyevsky and Pairicide, 1947; S. Mackiewicz, Dostoyevsky, 
1947; J- C. Powys, Dostoyevsky, 1947; L. A. Zander, Dostoyevsky, 
1948; R. Curie, Characters of Dostoyevsky, 1950; С. M. Woodhouse, 
Dostoievsky. A Biography, 195 1 ; V. Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life. 
A Study in Dostoyevsky, 1952; С. E. Passage, Dostoyevsky the Adaptor, 
1954; M. Slonim, Three Loves of Dostoyevsky, 1957; V. Seduro, Dostoy- 
evski in Russian Literary Criticism, 1957; R. E. Matlaw, The Brothers 
Karamazov. Novelistic Technique, 1957; R. L. Jackson, Dostoyevsky* s 
Undet ground Man in Russian Literature, 1958; G. Steiner, Dostoyevsky 
or Tolstoy, 1959; R. Payne, Dostoyevsky, a Human Portrait, 1961; P. D. 
Westbrook, The Greatness of Man: an Essay on Dostoyevsky and 
Whitman, 1961; D. Magarshack, Dostoyevsky: A Life, 1962; R. L. 
Jackson, Dostoyevsky 1 s Quest for Form, 1966. 

see also: K. Waliszewski, A History of Russian Literature, 1897; 
A. Bruckner, A Literary History of Russia, 1908; Maurice Baring, Land- 
marks in Russian Literature, 1910; E.-M. de Vogue, The Russian Novel, 
1913; P. Kropotkin, Russian Literature, Ideals and Realities, 1916; 
Maurice Baring, An Outline of Russian Literature, 1029; Ivar Spectar, 
The Golden Age of Russian Literature, 1943; J. Lavrin, An Introduction 
to the Russian Novel, 1945; R. Hare, Russian Literature from Pushkin to 
the Present Day, 1947; D. S. Mirsky, A History of Russian Literature, 
1949; M. Slonim, The Epic of Russian Literature, 1950; V. Zenkovsky, A 
History of Russian Philosophy, 1953; V. Zenkovsky, Russian Thinkers 
and Europe, 1953; M. Slonim, An Outline of Russian Literature, 1958. 

bibliographical survey. H. Muchnic, ' Dostoyevsky's English 
Reputation, 1881-1936/ in Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, 
xx, 3/4, 1938. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



Introduction by Nikolay Andreyev v 

Poor Folk 3 

The Gambler ....... 141 



xiii 



POOR FOLK 

April Sth. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — How happy I was 
last night — how immeasurably, how impossibly happy! 
That was because for once in your life you had relented 
so far as to obey my wishes. At about eight o'clock I 
awoke from sleep (you know, my beloved one, that I 
always like to sleep for a short hour after my work is 
done) — I awoke, I say, and, lighting a candle, prepared 
my paper to write, and trimmed my pen. Then 
suddenly, for some reason or another, I raised my eyes 
— and felt my very heart leap within me ! For you had 
understood what I wanted, you had understood what 
my heart was craving for. Yes, I perceived that a 
corner of the curtain in your window had been looped 
up and fastened to the cornice as I had suggested should 
be done; and it seemed to me that your dear face was 
glimmering at the window, and that you were looking at 
me from out of the darkness of your room, and that you 
were thinking of me. Yet how vexed I felt that I could 
not distinguish your sweet face clearly ! For there was a 
time when you and I could see one another without any 
difficulty at all. Ah me, but old age is not always a 
blessing, my beloved one ! At this very moment every- 
thing is standing awry to my eyes, for a man needs only to 
work late overnight in his writing of something or other 
for, in the morning, his eyes to be red, and the tears to be 
gushing from them in a way that makes him ashamed 
to be seen before strangers. However, I was able to 
picture to myself your beaming smile, my angel — your 
kind, bright smile; and in my heart there lurked just 
such a feeling as on the occasion when I first kissed you, 
my little Barbara. Do you remember that, my darling? 
Yet somehow you seemed to be threatening me with 
your tiny finger. Was it so, little wanton? You must 
write and tell me about it in your next letter. 

3 



4- Poor Folk 

But what think you of the plan of the curtain, 
Barbara ? It is a charming one, is it not ? No matter 
whether I be at work, or about to retire to rest, or just 
awaking from sleep, it enables me to know that you are 
thinking of me, and remembering me — that you are both 
well and happy. Then when you lower the curtain it 
means that it is time that I, Makar Alexievitch, should 
go to bed ; and when again you raise the curtain it means 
that you are saying to me, " Good morning," and asking 
me how I am, and whether I have slept well. " As for 
myself," adds the curtain, " I am altogether in good 
health and spirits, glory be to God! " Yes, my heart's 
delight, you see how easy a plan it was to devise, and 
how much writing it will save us! It is a clever plan, is 
it not ? And it was my own invention, too ! Am I not 
cunning in such matters, Barbara Alexievna ? 

Well, next let me tell you, dearest, that last night I 
slept better and more soundly than I had ever hoped to 
do, and that I am the more delighted at the fact in that, 
as you know, I had just settled into a new lodging — a 
circumstance only too apt to keep one from sleeping! 
This morning, too, I arose (joyous and full of love) at 
cockcrow. How good seemed everything at that hour, 
my darling ! When I opened my window I could see the 
sun shining, and hear the birds singing, and smell the air 
laden with scents of spring. In short, all nature was 
awaking to life again. Everything was in consonance 
with my mood; everything seemed fair and spring-like. 
Moreover, I had a fancy that I should fare well to-day. 
But my whole thoughts were bent upon you. " Surely," 
thought I, "we mortals who dwell in pain and sorrow 
might with reason envy the birds of heaven which 
know not either ! " And my other thoughts were similar 
to these. In short, I gave myself up to fantastic com- 
parisons. A little book which I have says the same kind 
of thing in a variety of ways. For instance, it says that 
one may have many, many fancies, my Barbara — that 
as soon as the spring comes one's thoughts become 
uniformly pleasant and sportive and witty, for the reason 
that, at that season, the mind inclines readily to tender- 
ness, and the world takes on a more roseate hue. From 



Poor Folk 5 

that little book of mine I have culled the following 
passage, and written it down for you to see. In parti- 
cular does the author express a longing similar to my 
own where he writes: 

" Why am I not a bird free to seek its quest? '* 

And he has written much else, God bless him ! 

But tell me, my love — where did you go for your walk 
this morning ? Even before I had started for the office 
you had taken flight from your room, and passed through 
the courtyard — yes, looking as vernal-like as a bird in 
spring. What rapture it gave me to see you ! Ah, little 
Barbara, little Barbara, you must never give way to 
grief, for tears are of no avail, nor sorrow. I know this 
well — I know it of my own experience. So do you rest 
quietly until you have a little regained your health. 
But how is our good Thedora? What a kind heart she 
has ! You write that she is now living with you, and that 
you are satisfied with what she does. True, you say that 
she is inclined to grumble, but do not mind that, Barbara. 
God bless her, for she is an excellent soul ! 

But what sort of an abode have / lighted upon, 
Barbara Alexievna? W T hat sort of a tenement, do you 
think, is this ? Formerly, as you know, I used to live in 
absolute stillness — so much so that if a fly took wing 
it could plainly be heard buzzing. Here, however, all 
is turmoil and shouting and clatter. The plan of the 
tenement you know already. Imagine a long corridor, 
quite dark, and by no means clean. To the right a dead 
wall, and to the left a row of doors stretching as far as the 
line of rooms extends. These rooms are tenanted by 
different people — by one, by two, or by three lodgers as 
the case may be, but in this arrangement there is no 
sort of system, and the place is a perfect Noah's Ark. 
Most of the lodgers are respectable, educated, and 
even bookish people. In particular they include a 
tchinovnik (one of the literary staff in some government 
department), who is so well-read that he can expound 
Homer or any other author — in fact, anything, such a 
man of talent is he! Also, there are a couple of officers 
(for ever playing cards), a midshipman, and an English 



6 Poor Folk 

tutor. But, to amuse you, dearest, let me describe 
these people more categorically in my next letter, and 
tell you in detail about their lives. As for our landlady, 
she is a dirty little old woman who always walks about in 
a dressing-gown and slippers, and never ceases to shout 
at Theresa. I myself live in the kitchen — or, rather, in 
a small room which forms part of the kitchen. The latter 
is a very large, bright, clean, cheerful apartment with 
three windows in it, and a partition-wall which, running 
outwards from the front wall, makes a sort of little den, 
a sort of extra room, for myself. Everything in this den 
is comfortable and convenient, and I have, as I say, a 
window to myself. So much for a description of my 
dwelling-place. Do not think, dearest, that in all this 
there is any hidden intention. The fact that I live in 
the kitchen merely means that I live behind the partition 
wall in that apartment — that I live quite alone, and 
spend my time in a quiet fashion compounded of trifles. 
For furniture I have provided myself with a bed, a table, 
a chest of drawers, and two small chairs. Also, I have 
suspended an ikon. True, better rooms may exist in the 
world than this — much better rooms; yet comfort is the 
chief thing. In fact I have made all my arrangements 
for comfort's sake alone; so do not for a moment imagine 
that I had any other end in view. And since your 
window happens to be just opposite to mine; and since 
the courtyard between us is narrow, and I can see you as 
you pass, — why, the result is that this miserable wretch 
will be able to live at once more happily and with less 
outlay. The dearest room in this house costs, with 
board, thirty-five roubles— more than my purse could 
well afford; whereas my room costs only twenty-four, 
though formerly I used to pay thirty, and so had to deny 
myself many things (I could drink tea but seldom, and 
never could indulge in tea and sugar as I do now). 
But, somehow, I do not like having to go without tea, 
for every one else here is respectable, and the fact makes 
me ashamed. After all, one drinks tea largely to please 
one's fellow men, Barbara, and to give oneself tone and 
an air of gentility (though, of myself, I care little about 
such things, for I am not a man of the finicking sort). 



Poor Folk 7 

Yet think you that, when all things needful — boots and 
the rest — have been paid for, much will remain ? Yet I 
ought not to grumble at my salary, — I am quite satisfied 
with it ; it is sufficient. It has sufficed me now for some 
years, and, in addition, I receive certain gratuities. 

Well, good-bye, my darling. I have bought you two 
little pots of geraniums — quite cheap little pots, too — 
as a present. Perhaps you would also like some 
mignonette? Mignonette it shall be if only you will 
write to inform me of everything in detail. Also, do 
not misunderstand the fact that 1 have taken this room, 
my dearest. Convenience and nothing else, has made me 
do so. The snugness of the place has caught my fancy. 
Also, I shall be able to save money here, and to hoard 
it against the future. Already I have saved a little 
money as a beginning. Nor must you despise me 
because I am such an insignificant old fellow that a fly 
could break me with its wing. True, I am not a swash- 
buckler; but perhaps there may also abide in me the 
spirit which should pertain to every man who is at once 
resigned and sure of himself. Good-bye, then, again, 
my angel. I have now covered close upon a whole two 
sheets of notepaper, though I ought long ago to have 
been starting for the office. I kiss your hands, and 
remain ever your devoted slave, your faithful friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

P.S. — One thing I beg of you above all things — and 
that is, that you will answer this letter as fully as 
possible. With the letter I send you a packet of bon- 
bons. Eat them for your health's sake, nor, for the 
love of God, feel any uneasiness about me. Once more, 
dearest one, good-bye. 

April 8th. 

My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — Do you know, 
I must quarrel with you. Yes, good Makar Alexievitch, 
I really cannot accept your presents, for I know what 
they must have cost you — I know to what privations 
and self-denial they must have led. How many times 
have I not told you that I stand in need of nothing, of 



8 Poor Folk 

absolutely nothing, as well as that I shall never be in a 
position to recompense you for all the kindly acts with 
which you have loaded me? Why, for instance, have 
you sent me geraniums ? A little sprig of balsam would 
not have mattered so much: but geraniums ! Only have 
I to let fall an unguarded word — for example, about 
geraniums — and at once you buy me some ! How much 
they must have cost you! Yet what a charm there is 
in them, with their flaming petals! Wherever did you 
get these beautiful plants? I have set them in my 
window as the most conspicuous place possible, while 
on the floor I have placed a bench for my other flowers 
to stand on (since you are good enough to enrich me 
with such presents). Unfortunately, Thedora, who, 
with her sweeping and polishing, makes a perfect sanc- 
tuary of my room, is not over-pleased at the arrange- 
ment. But why have you sent me also bon-bons? 
Your letter tells me that something special is on foot 
with you, for I find in it so much about paradise and 
spring and sweet odours and the songs of birds. Surely, 
thought I to myself when I received it, this is as good 
as poetry! Indeed, verses are the only thing that youi 
letter lacks, Makar Alexievitch. And what tender feel- 
ings I can read in it — what roseate-coloured fancies! 
To the curtain, however, I had never given a thought. 
The fact is that when I moved the flower -pots it looped 
itself up. There now! 

Ah, Makar Alexievitch, you neither speak of nor give 
any account of what you have spent upon me. You hope 
thereby to deceive me, to make it seem as though the 
cost always falls upon you alone, and that there is nothing 
to conceal. Yet I know that for my sake you deny your- 
self necessaries. For instance, what has made you go 
and take the room which you have done, where you will 
be worried and disturbed, and where you have neither 
elbow-space nor comfort — you who love solitude, and 
never like to have any one near you? To judge from 
your salary, I should think that you might well live in 
greater ease than that. Also, Thedora tells me that 
your circumstances used to be much more affluent than 
they are at present. Do you wish, then, to persuade 



Poor Folk 9 

me that your whole existence has been passed in loneli- 
ness and want and gloom, with never a cheering word to 
help you, nor a seat in a friend's chimney-corner? Ah, 
kind comrade, how my heart aches for you! But do 
not overtask your health, Makar Alexievitch. For in- 
stance, you say that your eyes are over-weak for you to 
go on writing in your office by candle-light. Then why 
do so? I am sure that your official superiors do not 
need to be convinced of your diligence! 

Once more I im£lore^you not to waste so much money 
upon me. I know how much you love me, but I also 
know that you are not rich. . . . This morning I too 
rose in good spirits. Thedora had long been at work, 
and it was time that I too should bestir myself. Indeed, 
I was yearning to do so, so I went out for some silk, and 
then sat down to my labours. All the morning I felt 
light-hearted and cheerful. Yet now my thoughts are 
once more dark and sad — once more my heart is ready 
to sink. 

Ah, what is going to become of me? What will be 
my fate? To have to be so uncertain as to the future, 
to have to be unable to foretell what is going to happen, 
distresses me deeply. Even to look back at the past is 
horrible, for it contains sorrow that breaks my very 
heart at the thought of it. Yes, a whole century in 
tears could I spend because of the wicked people who 
have wrecked my life ! 

But dusk is coming on, and I must set to work again. 
Much else should I have liked to write to you, but time 
is lacking, and I must hasten. Of course, to write this 
letter is a pleasure enough, and could never be weari- 
some; but why do you not come to see me in person? 
Why do you not, Makar Alexievitch ? You live so close 
to me, and at least some of your time is your own. I 
pray you, come. I have just seen Theresa. She was 
looking so ill, and I felt so sorry for her, that I gave her 
twenty kopecks. I am almost falling asleep. Write to 
me, in fullest detail, both concerning your mode of life, 
and concerning the people who live with you, and con- 
cerning how you fare with them. I should so like to 
know! Yes, you must write again. To-night I have 



I о Poor Folk 

purposely looped the curtain up. Go to bed early, for, 
last night, I saw your candle burning until nearly mid- 
night. Good-bye! I am now feeling sad and weary. 
Ah that I should have to spend such days as this one 
has been. Again good-bye. — Your friend, 

Barbara Dobroselova. 

April 8th. 

my dearest Barbara Alexievna, — To think that 
a day like this should have fallen to my miserable lot! 
Surely you are making fun of an old man? . . . How- 
ever, it was my own fault — my own fault entirely. 
One ought not to grow old holding a lock of Cupid's 
hair in one's hand. Naturally one is misunderstood. . . . 
Yet man is sometimes a very strange being. By all 
the Saints, he will talk of doing things, yet leave them 
undone, and remain looking the kind of fool from whom 
may the Lord preserve us! . . . Nay, I am not 
angry, my beloved; I am only vexed to think that I 
should have written to you in such stupid, flowery 
phraseology. To-day I went hopping and skipping to 
the office, for my heart was under your influence, and 
my soul was keeping holiday, as it were. Yes, every- 
thing seemed to be going well with me. Then I betook 
myself to my work. But with what result? I gazed 
around at the old familiar objects, at the old familiar 
grey and gloomy objects. They looked just the same 
as before. Yet were those the same inkstains, the same 
tables and chairs, that I had hitherto known? Yes, 
they were the same, exactly the same: so why should 
I have gone off riding on Pegasus back? Whence had 
that mood arisen? It had arisen from the fact that a 
certain sun had beamed upon me, and turned the sky 
to blue. But why so ? Why is it, sometimes, that sweet 
odours seem to be blowing through a courtyard where 
nothing of the sort can be? They must be born of my 
foolish fancy, for a man may stray so far into sentiment 
as to forget his immediate surroundings, and to give 
way to the superfluity of fond ardour with which his 
heart is charged. On the other hand, as I walked home 
from the office at nightfall my feet seemed to lag, and 



Poor Folk 1 1 

mv head to be aching. Also, a cold wind seemed to be 
blowing down my back (enraptured with the spring, 
I had gone out clad only in a thin overcoat). Yet you 
have misunderstood my sentiments, dearest. They 
are altogether different to what you suppose. It is a 
purely paternal feeling that I have for you. I stand 
towards you in the position of a relative who is bound 
to watch over your lonely orphanhood. This I say in 
all sincerity, and with a single purpose, as any kinsman 
might do. For, after all, I am a distant kinsman of 
yours — the seventh drop of water in the pudding, as the 
proverb has it — yet still a kinsman, and at the present 
time your nearest relative and protector, seeing that 
where you had the right to look for help and protection 
you found only treachery and insult. As for poetry, 
I may say that I consider it unbecoming for a man of 
my years to devote his faculties to the making of verses. 
Poetry is rubbish. Even boys at school ought to be 
whipped for writing it. 

Why do you write thus about " comfort " and 
" peace " and the rest? I am not a fastidious man, nor 
one who requires much. Never in my life have I been 
so comfortable as now. Why, then, should I complain 
in my old age ? I have enough to eat, I am well dressed 
and booted. Also, I have my diversions. You see, I 
am not of noble blood. My father himself was not a 
gentleman; he and his family had to live even more 
plainly than I do. Nor am I a milksop. Nevertheless, 
to speak frankly, I do not like my present abode so much 
as I used to like my old one. Somehow the latter seemed 
more cosy, dearest. Of course, this room is a good 
one enough; in fact, in some respects it is the more 
cheerful and interesting of the two. I have nothing to 
say against it — no. Yet I miss the room that used to 
be so familiar to me. Old lodgers like myself soon grow 
as attached to our chattels as to a kinsman. My old 
room was such a snug little place! True, its walls 
resembled those of any other room — I am not speaking 
of that: the point is that the recollection of them 
seems to haunt my mind with sadness. Curious that 
recollections should be so mournful! Even what in 



12 Poor Folk 

that room used to vex me and inconvenience me now 
looms in a punned light, and figures in my imagination 
as a thing to be desired. We used to live there so quietly 
— I and an old landlady who is now dead! How my 
heart aches to remember her, for she was a good woman, 
and never overcharged for her rooms. Her whole time 
was spent in making patchwork quilts with knitting- 
needles that were an arshin x long. Oftentimes we 
shared the same candle and board. Also she had a 
granddaughter, Masha — a girl who was then a mere 
baby, but must now be a girl of thirteen. This little 
piece of mischief, how she used to make us laugh the 
day long! We lived together, a happy family of three. 
Often of a long winter's evening we would first have 
tea at the big round table, and then betake ourselves 
to our work; the while that, to amuse the child and to 
keep her out of mischief, the old lady would set herself 
to tell stories. What stories they were ! — though stories 
less suitable for a child than for a grown-up, educated 
person. My word! Why, I myself have sat listening 
to them, as I smoked my pipe, until I have forgotten 
about work altogether. And then, as the story grew 
grimmer, the little child, our little bag of mischief, would 
grow thoughtful in proportion, and clasp her rosy 
cheeks in her tiny hands, and, hiding her face, press 
closer to the old landlady. Ah, how I loved to see her 
at those moments ! As one gazed at her one would fail 
to notice how the candle was flickering, or how the storm 
was swishing the snow about the courtyard. Yes, 
that was a goodly life, my Barbara, and we lived it for 
nearly twenty years. . . . How my tongue does carry 
me away! Maybe the subject does not interest you, 
and I myself find it a not over-easy subject to recall — 
especially at the present time. Darkness is falling, and 
Theresa is busying herself with something or another. 
My head and my back are aching, and even my thoughts 
seem to be in pain, so strangely do they occur. Yes, 
my heart is sad to-day, Barbara. . . . What is it you 
have written to me ? " Why do you not come in person 
to see me? " Dear one, what would people say? I 

1 An ell. 



Poor Folk 



! 3 



should have but to cross the courtyard for people to 
begin noticing us, and asking themselves questions. 
Gossip and scandal would arise, and there would be 
read into the affair quite another meaning than the real 
one. No, little angel, it were better that I should see 
you to-morrow at Vespers. That will be the better 
plan, and less hurtful to us both. Nor must you chide 
me, beloved, because I have written you a letter like 
this (reading it through, I see it to be all odds and 
ends) ; for I am an old man now, dear Barbara, and an 
uneducated one. Little learning had I in my youth, 
and things refuse to fix themselves in my brain when I 
try to learn them anew. No, I am not skilled in letter- 
writing, Barbara, and, without being told so, or any one 
laughing at me for it, I know that, whenever I try to 
describe anything with more than ordinary distinctness, 
I fall into the mistake of talking sheer rubbish. . . . 
I saw you at your window to-day — yes, I saw you as 
you were drawing down the blind ! Good-bye, good-bye, 
little Barbara, and may God keep you! Good-bye, 
my own Barbara Alexievna! — Your sincere friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

P.S. — Do not think that I could write to you in a 
satirical vein, for I am too old to show my teeth to no 
purpose, and people would laugh at me, and quote our 
Russian proverb, " Who diggeth a pit for another one, 
the same shall fall into it himself." 

April gth. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — Are not you, 
my friend and benefactor, just a little ashamed to 
repine and give way to such despondency ? And surely 
you are not offended with me? Ah! Though often 
thoughtless in my speech, I never should have imagined 
that you would take my words as a jest at your expense. 
Rest assured that never should I make sport of your 
years or of your character. Only my own levity is at 
fault ; still more, the fact that I am so weary of life. 

What will such a feeling not engender? To tell you 
the truth, I had supposed that you were jesting in your 



14 Poor Folk 

letter; wherefore my heart was feeling heavy at the 
thought that you could feel so displeased with me. Kind 
comrade and helper, you will be doing me an injustice if 
for a single moment you ever suspect that I am lacking 
in feeling or in gratitude towards you. My heart, believe 
me, is able to appraise at its true worth all that you have 
done for me by protecting me from my enemies, and 
from hatred and persecution. Never shall I cease to 
pray to God for you: and should my prayers ever 
reach Him and be received of Heaven, then assuredly 
fortune will smile upon you ! 

To-day I am not well. By turns I shiver and flush 
with heat, and Thedora is greatly disturbed about 
me. . . . Do not scruple to come and see me, Makar 
Alexievitch. How can it concern other people what you 
do? You and I are well enough acquainted with each 
other, and one's own affairs are one's own affairs. Good- 
bye, Makar Alexievitch, for I have come to the end of all 
I had to say, and am feeling too unwell to write more. 
Again I beg of you not to be angry with me, but to rest 
assured of my constant respect and attachment. — Your 
humble, devoted servant, 

Barbara Dobroselova. 

April 12th. 

Dearest Mistress Barbara Alexievna, — I pray 
you, my beloved, to tell me what ails you. Every one 
of your letters fills me with alarm. On the other hand, 
in every letter I urge you to be more careful of yourself, 
and to wrap up yourself warmly, and to avoid going out 
in bad weather, and to be in all things prudent. Yet 
you go and disobey me! Ah, little angei7~you are a 
perfect child! I know well that you are as weak as a 
blade of grass, and that, no matter what wind blows 
upon you, you are ready to fade. But you must be 
careful of yourself, dearest; you must look after your- 
self better; you must avoid all risks, lest you plunge 
your friends into desolation and despair. 

Dearest, you also express a wish to learn the details of 
my daily life and surroundings. That wish I hasten 
to satisfy. Let me begin at the beginning, since, by 



Poor Folk 



>5 



doing so, I shall explain things more systematically. In 
the first place, on entering this house, one passes into 
a very bare ball, and thence along a passage to a mean 
staircase. The reception-room, however, is bright, clean, 
and spacious, and is lined with redwood and metal-work. 
But the scullery you would not care to see; it is greasy, 
dirty, and odoriferous, while the stairs are in rags, and 
the walls so covered with filth that the hand sticks 
fast wherever it touches them. Also, on each landing 
there is a medley of boxes, chairs, and dilapidated ward- 
robes; while the windows have had most of their panes 
shattered, and everywhere stand washtubs filled with 
dirt, litter, eggshells, and fish-bladders. The smell is 
abominable. In short, the house is not a nice one. 

As to the disposition of the rooms, I have described 
it to you already. True, they are convenient enough, 
yet every one of them has an atmosphere. I do not mean 
that they smell badly so much as that each of them 
seems to contain something which gives forth a rank, 
sickly-sweet odour. At first the impression is an un- 
pleasant one, but a couple of minutes will suffice to 
dissipate it, for the reason that everything here smells — 
people's clothes, hands, and everything else — and one 
grows accustomed to the rankness. Canaries, however, 
soon die in this house. A naval officer here has just 
bought his fifth. Birds cannot live long in such an 
air. Every morning, when fish or beef is being cooked, 
and washing and scrubbing are in progress, the house 
is filled with steam. Always, too, the kitchen is full of 
linen hanging out to dry; and since my room adjoins 
that apartment, the smell from the clothes causes me 
not a little annoyance. However, one can grow used 
to anything. 

From earliest dawn the house is astir as its inmates 
rise, walk about, and stamp their feet. That is to say, 
every one who has to go to work then gets out of 
bed. First of all, tea is partaken of. Most of the tea- 
urns belong to the landlady; and since there are not 
over many of them, we have to wait our turn. Anyone 
who fails so to do will find his teapot emptied and put 
away. On the first occasion that was what happened 



1 6 Poor Folk 

to myself. Well, is there anything else to tell you? 
Already I have made the acquaintance of the company 
here. The naval officer took the initiative in calling 
upon me, and his frankness was such that he told me all 
about his father, his mother, his sister (who is married 
to a lawyer of Tula), and the town of Kronstadt. Also, 
he promised me his patronage, and asked me to come 
and take tea with him. I kept the appointment in a 
room where card-playing is continually in progress; 
and, after tea had been drunk, efforts were made to 
induce me to gamble. Whether or no my refusal seemed 
to the company ridiculous I cannot say, but at all events 
my companions played the whole evening, and were 
playing when I left. The dust and smoke in the room 
made my eyes ache. I declined, as I say, to play cards, 
and was therefore requested to discourse on philosophy ; 
after which no one spoke to me at all — a result which I 
did not regret. In fact, I have no intention of going 
there again, since every one is for gambling, and for 
nothing but gambling. Even the literary tchinovnil* 
gives such parties in his room — though, in his case, 
everything is done delicately and with a certain refine- 
ment, so that the thing has something of a retiring and 
innocent air. 

In passing, I may tell you that our landlady is not a 
nice woman. In fact, she is a regular beldame. You 
have seen her once, so what do you think of her? She 
is as lanky as a plucked chicken in consumption, and, 
with Phaldoni (her servant), constitutes the entire staff 
of the establishment. Whether or not Phaldoni has any 
other name I do not know, but at least he answers to 
this one, and every one calls him by it. A red-haired, 
swine-jowled, snub-nosed, crooked lout, he is for ever 
wrangling with Theresa, until the pair nearly come to 
blows. In short, life is not over pleasant in this place. 
Never at any time is the household wholly at rest, for 
always there are people sitting up to play cards. Some- 
times, too, certain things are done of which it would be 
shameful for me to speak. In particular, hardened 
though I am, it astonishes me that men with families 
should care to live in this Sodom. For example, 



Poor Folk 



'7 



there is a family of poor folk who have rented of the 
landlady a room which does not adjoin the other rooms, 
but is set apart in a corner by itself. Yet what quiet 
people they are ! Not a sound is to be heard from them. 
The father — he is called Goshkov — is a little grey- 
headed tchinovnik who, seven years ago, was dismissed 
the public service, and now walks about in a coat so 
dirty and ragged that it hurts one to see it. Indeed, it 
is a worse coat even than mine! Also, he is so thin and 
frail (at times I meet him : n the corridor) that his knees 
quake under him, his hands and head are tremulous with 
some disease (God only knows what!), and he so fears 
and distrusts everybody that he always walks alone. 
Reserved though I myself am, he is even worse. As for 
his family, it consists of a wife and three children. The 
eldest of the latter — a boy — is as frail as his father, while 
the mother — a woman who, formerly, must have been 
good looking, and still has a striking aspect in spite of 
her pallor — goes about in the sorriest of rags. Also I 
have heard that they are in debt to our landlady, as well 
as that she is not over kind to them. Moreover I have 
heard that Gorshkov lost his post through some un- 
pleasantness or other — through a legal suit or process 
of which I could not exactly tell you the nature. Yes, 
they certainly are poor — O, my God, how poor! At the 
same time, never a sound comes from their room. It 
is as though not a soul were living in it. Never does 
one hear even the children — which is an unusual thing, 
seeing that children are ever ready to sport and play, 
and if they fail to do so it is a bad sign. One evening 
when I chanced to be passing the door of their room, and 
all was quiet in the house, I heard through the door a 
sob, and then a whisper, and then another sob, as though 
somebody within were weeping, and with such subdued 
bitterness that it tore my heart to hear the sound. In 
fact, the thought of these poor people never left me all 
night, and quite prevented me from sleeping. 

Well, good-bye, my little Barbara, my little friend 
beyond price. I have described to you everything to 
the best of my ability. All to-day you have been in my 
thoughts ; all to-day my heart has been yearning for you. 



1 8 Poor Folk 

I happen to know, dearest one, that you lack a warm 
cloak. To me too these St. Petersburg springs, with 
their winds and their snow showers, spell death. Good 
heavens, how the breezes bite one! Do not be angry, 
beloved, that I should write like this. Style I have not. 
Would that I had! I write just what wanders into my 
brain, in the hope that I may cheer you up a little. Of 
course, had I had a good education, things might have 
been different ; but, as things were, I could not have one. 
Never did I learn even to do simple sums! — Your 
faithful and unchangeable friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

April 25/A. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — To-day I met 
my cousin Sasha. To see her going to wrack and ruin 
shocked me terribly. Moreover, it has reached me, 
through a side wind, that she has been making inquiry 
for me, and dogging my footsteps, under the pretext 
that she wishes to pardon me, to forget the past, and to 
renew our acquaintance. Well, among other things she 
told me that, whereas you are not a kinsman of mine, 
she is my nearest relative ; that you have no right what- 
ever to enter into family relations with us; and that it 
is wrong and shameful for me to be living upon your 
earnings and charity. Also, she said that I must have 
forgotten all that she did for me, though thereby she 
saved both myself and my mother from starvation, 
and gave us food and drink; that for two and a half 
years we caused her great loss; and, above all things, 
that she excused us what we owed her. Even my poor 
mother she did not spare. Would that she, my dead 
parent, could know how I am being treated ! But God 
knows all about it. . . . Also, Anna declared that it 
was solely through my own fault that my fortunes de- 
clined after she had bettered them; that she is in no 
way responsible for what then happened; and that I 
have but myself to blame for having been either unable 
or unwilling to defend my honour. Great God! Who, 
then, has been at fault ? According to Anna, Hospodin l 

» Mr. 



Poor Folk 19 

Bwikov was only right when he declined to marry a 

woman who But need I say it ? It is cruel to hear 

such lies as hers. What is to become of me I do not 
know. I tremble and sob and weep. Indeed, even to 
write this letter has cost me two hours. At least it 
might have been thought that Anna would have con- 
fessed her share in the past. Yet see what she says! . . . 
For the love of God do not be anxious about me, my 
friend, my only benefactor. Thedora is over apt to 
exaggerate matters. I am not really ill. I have merely 
caught a little cold. I caught it last night while I was 
walking to Bolkovo, to hear Mass sung for my mother. 
Ah, mother, my poor mother ! Could you but rise from 
the grave and learn what is being done to your daughter ! 

B. D. 

May 20th. 

My dearest Little Barbara, — I am sending you a 
few grapes, which are good for a convalescent person, 
and strongly recommended by doctors for the allayment 
of fever. Also, you were saying the other day that 
you would like some roses; wherefore I now send you 
a bunch. Are you at all able to eat, my darling? — 
for that is the chief point which ought to be seen to. 
Let us thank God that the past and all its unhappiness 
are gone! Yes, let us give thanks to Heaven for that 
much! As for books, I cannot get hold of any, except 
for a book which, written in excellent style, is, I believe, 
to be had here. At all events people keep praising it 
very much, and I have begged the loan of it for myself. 
Should you too like to read it ? In this respect, indeed, 
I feel nervous, for the reason that it is so difficult to 
divine what your taste in books may be, despite my 
knowledge of your character. Probably you would like 
poetry — the poetry of sentiment and of love making? 
Well, I will send you a book of my own poems. Already 
I have copied out part of the manuscript. 

Everything with me is going well; so pray do not be 
anxious on my account, beloved. What Thedora told 
you about me was sheer rubbish. Tell her from me that 
she has not been speaking the truth. Yes, do not fail 



2o Poor Folk 

to give this mischief-maker my message. It is not the 
case that I have gone and sold a new uniform. Why 
should I do so, seeing that I have forty roubles of salary 
still to come to me? Do not be uneasy, my darling. 
Thedora is a vindictive woman — merely a vindictive 
woman. We shall yet see better days. Only do you 
get well, my angel — only do you get well, for the love 
of God, lest you grieve an old man. Also, who told you 
that I was looking thin? Slanders again — nothing but 
slanders ! I am as healthy as could be, and have grown 
so fat that I am ashamed to be so sleek of paunch. 
Would that you were equally healthy ! . . . Now good- 
bye, my angel. I kiss every one of your tiny fingers, 
and remain ever your constant friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

P.S. — But what is this, dearest one, that you have 
written to me? Why do you place me upon such a 
pedestal? Moreover, how could I come and visit you 
frequently? How, I repeat? Of course, I might avail 
myself of the cover of night; but, alas! the season of 
the year is what it is, and includes no night time to 
speak of. In fact, although, throughout your illness 
and delirium, I scarcely left your side for a moment, 
I cannot think how I contrived to do the many things 
that I did. Later, I ceased to visit you at all, for the 
reason that people were beginning to notice things, and 
to ask me questions. Yet, even so, a scandal has arisen. 
Theresa I trust thoroughly, for she is not a talkative 
woman; but consider how it will be when the truth 
comes out in its entirety ! What then will folk not say 
and think ? Nevertheless, be of good cheer, my beloved, 
and regain your health. When you have done so we 
will contrive to arrange a rendezvous out of doors. 

June ist. 

My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — So eager am I 
to do something that will please and divert you in 
return for your care, for your ceaseless efforts on my 
behalf — in short, for your love for me — that I have 
decided to beguile a leisure hour for you by delving 



Poor Folk 21 

into my locker, and extracting thence the manuscript 
which I send you herewith. I began it during the 
happier period of my life, and have continued it at 
intervals since. So often have you asked me about my 
former existence — about my mother, about Pokrovski, 
about my sojourn with Anna Thedorovna, about my 
more recent misfortunes; so often have you expressed 
an earnest desire to read the manuscript in which (God 
knows why) I have recorded certain incidents of my life, 
that I feel no doubt but that the sending of it will give 
you sincere pleasure. Yet somehow I feel depressed 
when I read it, for I seem now to have grown twice as 
old as I was when I penned its concluding lines. Ah, 
Makar Alexievitch, how weary I am — how this insomnia 
tortures me I Convalescence is indeed a hard thing 
to bear! B. D. 

I 

Up to the age of fourteen, when my father died, my 
childhood was the happiest period of my life. It began 
very far away from here — in the depths of the province 
of Tula, where my father filled the position of steward 

on the vast estates of the Prince P . Our house was 

situated in one of the Prince's villages, and we lived a 
quiet, obscure, but happy life. A gay little child was I 
— my one idea being ceaselessly to run about the fields 
and the woods and the garden. No one ever gave me 
a thought, for my father was always occupied with 
business affairs, and my mother with her housekeeping. 
Nor did any one ever give me any lessons — a circumstance 
for which I was not sorry. At earliest dawn I would 
hie me to a pond or a copse, or to a hay or a harvest 
field, where the sun could warm me, and I could roam 
wherever I liked, and scratch my hands with bushes, 
and tear my clothes in pieces. For this I used to get 
blamed afterwards, but I did not care. 

Had it befallen me never to quit that village — had it 
befallen me to remain for ever in that spot — I should 
always have been happy; but fate ordained that I 
should leave my birthplace even before my girlhood 



в 



711 



22 Poor Folk 

had come to an end. In short, I was only twelve years 
old when we removed to St. Petersburg. Ah! how it 
hurts me to recall the mournful gatherings before our 
departure, and to recall how bitterly I wept when the 
time came for us to say farewell to all that I had held so 
dear! I remember throwing myself upon my father's 
neck, and beseeching him with tears to stay in the 
country a little longer; but he bid me be silent, and 
my mother, adding her tears to mine, explained that 
business matters compelled us to go. As a matter of 

fact, old Prince P had just died, and his heirs had 

dismissed my father from his post; whereupon, since 
he had a little money privately invested in St. Peters- 
burg, he bethought him that his personal presence in the 
capital was necessary for the due management of his 
affairs. It was my mother who told me this. Conse- 
quently we settled here in St. Petersburg, and did not 
again move until my father died. 

How difficult I found it to grow accustomed to my 
new life! At the time of our removal to St. Petersburg 
it was autumn — a season when, in the country, the 
weather is clear and keen and bright, all agricultural 
labour has come to an end, the great sheaves of corn are 
safely garnered in the byre, and the birds are flying 
hither and thither in clamorous flocks. Yes, at that 
season the country is joyous and fair, but here in St. 
Petersburg, at the time when we reached the city, we 
encountered nothing but rain, bitter autumn frosts, 
dull skies, ugliness, and crowds of strangers who looked 
hostile, discontented, and disposed to take offence. 
However, we managed to settle down — though I remem- 
ber that in our new home there was much noise and con- 
fusion as we set the establishment in order. After this 
my father was seldom at home, and my mother had few 
spare moments; wherefore I found myself forgotten. 

The first morning after our arrival, when I awoke 
from sleep, how sad I felt ! I could see that our windows 
looked out upon a drab space of wall, and that the street 
below was littered with filth. Passers-by were few, 
and as they walked they kept muffling themselves up 
against the cold. 



Poor Folk 23 

Then there ensued days when dullness and depression 
reigned supreme. Scarcely a relative or an acquaint- 
ance did we possess in St. Petersburg, and even Anna 
Thedorovna and my father had come to loggerheads 
with one another, owing to the fact that he owed her 
money. In fact, our only visitors were business callers, 
and as a rule these came but to wrangle, to argue, and 
to raise a disturbance. Such visits would make my 
father look very discontented, and seem out of temper. 
For hours and hours he would pace the room with a 
frown on his face and a brooding silence on his lips. 
Even my mother did not dare address him at these 
times, while, for my own part, I used to sit reading 
quietly and humbly in a corner — not venturing to make 
a movement of any sort. 

Three months after our arrival in St. Petersburg 
I was sent to a boarding-school. Here I found myself 
thrown among strange people; here everything was grim 
and uninviting, with teachers continually shouting at 
me, and my fellow-pupils for ever holding me up to 
derision, and myself constantly feeling awkward and 
uncouth. How strict, how exacting was the system! 
Appointed hours for everything, a common table, ever- 
insistent teachers! These things simply worried and 
tortured me. Never from the first could I sleep, but 
used to weep many a chill, weary night away. In the 
evenings every one would have to repeat or to learn her 
lessons. As I crouched over a dialogue or a vocabulary, 
without daring even to stir, how my thoughts would 
turn to the chimney-corner at home, to my father, to 
my mother, to my old nurse, to the tales which the latter 
had been used to tell! How sad it all was! The 
memory of the merest trifle at home would please me, 
and I would think and think how nice things used to be 
at home. Once more I would be sitting in our little 
parlour at tea with my parents — in the familiar little 
parlour where everything was snug and warm! How 
ardently, how convulsively I would seem to be embrac- 
ing my mother! Thus I would ponder, until at length 
tears of sorrow would softly gush forth and choke my 
bosom, and drive the lessons out of my head. For 



24 Poor Folk 

I never could master the tasks of the morrow; no matter 
how much my mistress and fellow-pupils might gird 
at me, no matter how much I might repeat my lessons 
over and over to myself, knowledge never came with 
the morning. Consequently I used to be ordered the 
kneeling punishment, and given only one meal in the 
day. How dull and dispirited I used to feel ! From the 
first my fellow-pupils used to tease and deride and mock 
me whenever I was saying my lessons. Also, they used 
to pinch me as we were on our way to dinner or tea, and 
to make groundless complaints of me to the head mistress. 
On the other hand, how heavenly it seemed when, on 
Saturday evening, my old nurse arrived to fetch me' 
How I would embrace the old woman in transports f A 
joy ! After dressing me, and wrapping me up, she would 
find that she could scarcely keep pace with me on the 
way home, so full was I of chatter and tales about one 
thing and another. Then, when I had arrived home 
merry and lighthearted, how fervently I would embrace 
my parents, as though I had not seen them for ten years. 
Such a fussing would there be — such a talking and a 
telling of tales ! To every one I would run with a greet- 
ing, and laugh, and giggle, and scamper about, and skip 
for very joy. True, my father and I used to have grave 
conversations about lessons and teachers and the French 
language and grammar ; yet we were all very happy and 
contented together. Even now it thrills me to think of 
those moments. For my father's sake I tried hard to 
learn my lessons, for I could see that he was spending 
his last kopeck upon me, and himself subsisting God 
knows how. Every day he grew more morose and dis- 
contented and irritable; every day his character kept 
changing for the worse. He had suffered an influx of 
debts, nor were his business affairs prospering. As 
for my mother, she was afraid even to say a word, or 
to weep aloud, for fear of still further angering him. 
Gradually she sickened, grew thinner and thinner, and 
became taken with a painful cough. Whenever I 
reached home from school I would find every one low- 
spirited, and my mother shedding silent tears, and my 
father raging. Bickering and high words would arise, 



Poor Folk 25 

during which my father was wont to declare that, though 
he no longer derived the smallest pleasure or relaxa- 
tion from life, and had spent his last coin upon my 
education, I had not yet mastered the French language. 
In short, everything began to go wrong, to turn to 
unhappiness: and for that circumstance my father took 
vengeance upon myself and my mother. How he 
could treat my poor mother so I cannot understand. 
It used to rend my heart to see her, so hollow were her 
cheeks becoming, so sunken her eyes, so hectic her face. 
But it was chiefly around myself that the disputes raged. 
Though beginning only with some trifle, they would soon 
go on to God knows what. Frequently even I myself 
did not know to what they related. Anything and 
everything would enter into them, for my father would 
say that I was an utter dunce at the French language; 
that the head mistress of my school was a stupid, common 
sort of women who cared nothing for morals; that he 
(my father) had not yet succeeded in obtaining another 
post; that Lamonde's Grammar was a wretched book 
— even a worse one than Zapolski's; that a great deal 
of money had been squandered upon me; that it was 
clear that I was wasting my time in repeating dialogues 
and vocabularies; that I alone was at fault, and that 
I must answer for everything. Yet this did not arise 
from any want of love for me on the part of my father, 
but rather from the fact that he was incapable of putting 
himself in my own and my mother's place. It came of a 
defect of character. 

All these cares and worries and disappointments 
tortured my poor father until he became moody and 
distrustful. Next he began to neglect his health: 
with the result that, catching a chill, he died, after a 
short illness, so suddenly and unexpectedly that for a 
few days we were almost beside ourselves with the shock 
— my mother, in particular, lying for a while in such a 
state of torpor that I had fears for her reason. The 
instant my father was dead creditors seemed to spring 
up out of the ground, and to assail us en masse. Every- 
thing that we possessed had to be surrendered to them, 
including a little house which my father had bought 



26 Poor Folk 

six months after our arrival in St. Petersburg. How 
matters were finally settled I do not know, but we found 
ourselves roofless, shelterless, and without a copper. 
My mother was grievously ill, and of means of subsistence 
we had none. Before us there loomed only ruin, sheer 
ruin. At the time I was fourteen years old. Soon 
afterwards Anna Thedorovna came to see us, saying 
that she was a lady of property and our relative; and 
this my mother confirmed — though, true, she added 
that Anna was only a very distant relative. Anna had 
never taken the least notice of us during my father's 
lifetime, yet now she entered our presence with tears in 
her eyes, and an assurance that she meant to better our 
fortunes. Having condoled with us on our loss and 
destitute position, she added that my father had been 
to blame for everything, in that he had lived beyond 
his means, and taken upon himself more than he was 
able to perform. Also, she expressed a wish to draw 
closer to us, and to forget old scores; and when my 
mother explained that, for her own part, she harboured 
no resentment against Anna, the latter burst into tears, 
and, hurrying my mother away to church, then and there 
ordered Mass to be said for the " dear departed," as 
she called my father. In this manner she effected a 
solemn reconciliation with my mother. 

Next, after long negotiations and vacillations, coupled 
with much vivid description of our destitute position, 
our desolation, and our helplessness, Anna invited us to 
pay her (as she expressed it) a " return visit." For this 
my mother duly thanked her, and considered the invita- 
tion for a while; after which, seeing that there was 
nothing else to be done, she informed Anna Thedorovna 
that she was prepared gratefully to accept her offer. 
Ah, how I remember the morning when we removed to 
Vassilievski Island ! x It was a clear, dry, frosty morn- 
ing in autumn. My mother could not restrain her tears, 
and I too felt depressed. Nay, my very heart seemed 
to be breaking under a strange, undefined load of sorrow. 
How terrible it all seemed! . . . 

1 A quarter of St. Petersburg. 



Poor Folk 27 



II 

At first — that is to say, until my mother and myself 
grew used to our new abode — we found living at Anna 
Thedorovna's both strange and disagreeable. The house 
was her own, and contained five rooms, three of which 
she shared with my orphaned cousin, Sasha (whom she 
had brought up from babyhood), a fourth was occupied 
by my mother and myself, and the fifth was rented of 
Anna by a poor student named Pokrovski. Although 
Anna lived in good style — in far better style than might 
have been expected — her means and her avocation were 
conjectural. Never was she at rest ; never was she not 
busy with some mysterious something or other. Also, 
she possessed a wide and varied circle of friends. The 
stream of callers was perpetual — although God only 
knows who they were, or what their business was. No 
sooner did my mother hear the door-bell ring than 
off she would carry me to our own apartment. This 
greatly displeased Anna, who used again and again 
to assure my mother that we were too proud for our 
station in life. In fact, she would sulk for hours about 
it. At the time I could not understand these reproaches, 
and it was not until long afterwards that I learnt — or 
rather, I guessed — why eventually my mother declared 
that she could not go on living with Anna. Yes, Anna 
was a bad woman. Never did she let us alone. As to 
the exact motive why she had asked us to come and 
share her house with her I am still in the dark. At first 
she was not altogether unkind to us, but, later, she 
revealed to us her real character — as soon, that is to say, 
as she saw that we were at her mercy, and had nowhere 
else to go. Yes, in early days she was quite kind to 
me — even offensively so, but afterwards I had to suffer 
as much as my mother. Constantly did Anna re- 
proach us; constantly did she remind us of her bene- 
factions, and introduce us to her friends as poor relatives 
of hers whom, out of goodness of heart and for the love 
of Christ, she had received into her bosom. At table, 
also, she would watch every mouthful that we took; 



28 Poor Folk 

and if our appetite failed, immediately she would begin 
as before, and reiterate that we were over-dainty, 
that we must not assume that riches would mean happi- 
ness, and that we had better go and live by ourselves. 
Moreover, she never ceased to inveigh against my father 
— saying that he had sought to be better than other 
people, and thereby had brought himself to a bad end; 
that he had left his wife and daughter destitute; and 
that, but for the fact that we had happened to meet 
with a kind and sympathetic Christian soul, God alone 
knew where we should have laid our heads, save in the 
street. What did that woman not say? To hear her 
was not so much galling as disgusting. From time 
to time my mother would burst into tears; her health 
grew worse from day to day, and her body was becoming 
sheer skin and bone. All the while, too, we had to work 
— to work from morning till night, for we had contrived 
to obtain some employment as occasional sempstresses. 
This, however, did not please Anna, who used to tell 
us that there was no room in her house for a modiste's 
establishment. Yet we had to get clothes to wear, to 
provide for unforeseen expenses, and to have a little 
money at our disposal in case we should some day wish 
to remove elsewhere. Unfortunately the strain under- 
mined my mother's health, and she became gradually 
weaker. Sickness, like a cankerworm, was gnawing at 
her life, and dragging her towards the tomb. Well could 
I see what she was enduring, what she was suffering. 
Yes, it all lay open to my eyes. 

Day succeeded day, and each day was like the last 
one. We lived a life as quiet as though we had been in 
the country. Anna herself grew quieter in proportion 
as she came to realise the extent of her power over us. 
In nothing did we dare to thwart her. From her portion 
of the house our apartment was divided by a corridor, 
while next to us (as mentioned above) dwelt a certain 
Pokrovski, who was engaged in teaching Sasha the French 
and German languages, as well as history and geography 
— " all the sciences," as Anna used to say. In return for 
these services he received free board and lodging. As 
for Sasha, she was a clever, but rude and uncouth, girl of 



Poor Folk 29 

thirteen. On one occasion Anna remarked to my mother 
that it might be as well if I also were to take some 
lessons, seeing that my education had been neglected at 
school; and, my mother joyfully assenting, I joined 
Sasha for a year in studying under this Pokrovski. 

The latter was a poor — a very poor — young man whose 
health would not permit of his undertaking the regular 
university course. Indeed, it was only for form's sake 
that we called him " The Student." He lived in such a 
quiet, humble, retiring fashion that never a sound reached 
us from his room. Also, his exterior was peculiar — he 
moved and walked awkwardly, and uttered his words 
in such a strange manner that at first I could never look 
at him without laughing. Sasha was for ever playing 
tricks upon him — more especially when he was giving us 
our lessons. But unfortunately, he was of a temperament 
as excitable as herself. Indeed, he was so irritable 
that the least trifle would send him into a frenzy, and set 
him shouting at us, and complaining of our conduct. 
Sometimes he would even rush away to his room before 
school hours were over, and sit there for days over his 
books, of which he had a store that was both rare and 
valuable. In addition, he acted as teacher at another 
establishment, and received payment for his services 
there; and whenever he had received his fees for this 
extra work he would hasten off and purchase more books. 

In time I got to know and like him better, for in 
reality he was a good, worthy fellow — more so than any of 
the people with whom we otherwise came in contact. My 
mother in particular had a great respect for him, and, 
after herself, he was my best friend. But at first I was 
just an overgrown hoyden, and joined Sasha in playing 
the fool. For hours we would devise tricks to anger and 
distract him, for he looked extremely ridiculous when he 
was angry, and so diverted us the more (ashamed though 
I am now to admit it). But once, when we had driven 
him nearly to tears, I heard him say to himself under his 
breath, " What cruel children! " and instantly I repented 
— I began to feel sad and ashamed and sorry for him. 
I reddened to my ears, and begged him, almost with 
tears, not to mind us, nor to take offence at our stupid 

*t, 711 



3o Poor Folk 

jests. Nevertheless, without finishing the lesson, he 
closed his book, and departed to his own room. All that 
day I felt torn with remorse. To think that we two 
children had forced him, the poor, the unhappy one, to 
remember his hard lot ! And at night I could not sleep 
for grief and regret. Remorse is said to bring relief to the 
soul, but it is not so. How far my grief was internally 
connected with my conceit I do not know, but at least 
I did not wish him to think me a baby, seeing that I had 
now reached the age of fifteen years. Therefore, from 
that day onwards I began to torture my imagination 
with devising a thousand schemes which should compel 
Pokrovski to alter his opinion of me. At the same time, 
being yet shy and reserved by nature, I ended by finding 
that, in my present position, I could make up my mind 
to nothing but vague dreams (and such dreams !). How- 
ever, I ceased to join Sasha in playing the fool, while 
Pokrovski, for his part, ceased to lose his temper with 
us so much. Unfortunately this was not enough to satisfy 
my self-esteem. 

At this point I must say a few words about the 
strangest, the most interesting, the most pitiable human 
being that I have ever come across. I speak of him 
now — at this particular point in these memoirs — for the 
reason that hitherto I had paid him no attention what- 
ever, and began to do so now only because everything 
connected with Pokrovski had suddenly become of 
absorbing interest in my eyes. 

Sometimes there came to the house a ragged, poorly- 
dressed, grey-headed, awkward, amorphous — in short, a 
very strange-looking — little old man. At first glance 
it might have been thought that he was perpetually 
ashamed of something — that he had on his conscience 
something which always made him, as it were, bristle 
up and then shrink into himself. Such curious starts 
and grimaces did he indulge in that one was forced to 
conclude that he was scarcely in his right mind. On 
arriving he would halt for a while by the window in 
the hall, as though afraid to enter; until, should any 
one happen to pass in or out of the door — whether 
Sasha or myself or one of the servants (to the latter he 



Poor Folk 3 i 

ahvavs ivsorted the most readily, as being the most 
nearly akii. to his own class) — he would begin to gesticu- 
late and to beckon to that person, and to make various 
signs. Then, should the person in question nod to him, 
or call him by name (the recognised token that no other 
visitor was present, and that he might enter freely), he 
would open the door gently, give a smile of satisfaction 
as he rubbed his hands together, and proceed on tiptoe 
to young Pokrovski's room. This old fellow was none 
other than Pokrovski's father. 

Later I came to know his story in detail. Formerly 
a civil servant, he had possessed no additional means, 
and so had occupied a very low and insignificant 
position in the service. Then, after his first wife (mother 
of the younger Pokrovski) had died, the widower be- 
thought him of marrying a second time, and took to 
himself a tradesman's daughter, who soon assumed the 
reins over everything, and brought the home to rack 
and ruin, so that the old man was worse off than before. 
But to the younger Pokrovski fate proved kinder, for 
a landowner named Bwikov, who had formerly known 
the lad's father and been his benefactor, took the boy 
under his protection, and sent him to school. Another 
reason why this Bwikov took an interest in young 
Pokrovski was that he had known the lad's dead mother, 
who, while still a serving-maid, had been befriended by 
Anna Thedorovna, and subsequently married to the 
elder Pokrovski. At the wedding Bwikov, actuated by 
his friendship for Anna, conferred upon the young bride 
a dowry of five thousand roubles; but whither that 
money had since disappeared I cannot say. It was 
from Anna's lips that I heard the story, for the student 
Pokrovski was never prone to talk about his family 
affairs. His mother was said to have been very good- 
looking; wherefore it is the more mysterious why she 
should have made so poor a match. She died when 
young — only four years after her espousal. 

From school the young Pokrovski advanced to a 
gymnasium, 1 and thence to the University, where 
Bwikov (who frequently visited the capital) continued 

1 Secondary school. 



32 Poor Folk 

to accord the youth his protection. Gradually, how- 
ever, ill-health put an end to the young man's university 
course; whereupon Bwikov introduced and personally 
recommended him to Anna Thedorovna, and he came 
to lodge with her on condition that he taught Sasha 
whatever might be required of him. 

Grief at the harshness of his wife led the elder Pokrov- 
ski to plunge into dissipation, and to remain in an almost 
permanent condition of drunkenness. Constantly his 
wife beat him, or sent him to sit in the kitchen; with 
the result that in time he became so inured to blows and 
neglect that he ceased to complain. Still not greatly 
advanced in years, he had nevertheless endangered his 
reason through evil courses — his only sign of decent 
human feeling being his love for his son. The latter 
was said to resemble his dead mother as one pea may 
resemble another. What recollections, therefore, of the 
kind helpmeet of former days may not have moved the 
breast of the poor broken old man to this boundless 
affection for the boy? Of naught else could the father 
ever speak but of his son, and never did he fail to visit 
him twice a week. To come oftener he did not dare, 
for the reason that the younger Pokrovski did not like 
these visits of his father's. In fact, there can be no 
doubt that the youth's greatest fault was his lack of 
filial respect. Yet the father was certainly rather a 
difficult person to deal with, for, in the first place, he 
was extremely inquisitive, while, in the second place, 
his long-winded conversation and questions — questions 
of the most vapid and senseless order conceivable — 
always prevented the son from working. Likewise the 
old man occasionally arrived there drunk. Gradually, 
however, the son was weaning his parent from his 
vicious ways and everlasting inquisitiveness, and teach- 
ing the old man to look upon him, his son, as an oracle, 
and never to speak" without that son's permission. 

On the subject of his Petinka, as he called him, the 
poor old man could never sufficiently rhapsodise and 
dilate. Yet when he arrived to see his son he almost 
invariably had on his face a downcast, timid expression 
that was probably due to uncertainty concerning the 



Poor Folk 



33 



«ray in which he would be received. For a long time he 
would hesitate to enter, and if I happened to be there 
he would question me for twenty minutes or so as to 
whether his Petinka was in good health, as well as to 
the sort of mood he was in, whether he was engaged on 
matters of importance, what precisely he was doing 
(writing or meditating), and so on. Then, when I had 
sufficiently encouraged and reassured the old man, he 
would make up his mind to enter, and quietly and 
cautiously open the door. Next he would protrude his 
head through the chink, and if he saw that his son was 
not angry, but threw him a nod, he would glide noise- 
lessly into the room, take off his scarf, and hang up his 
hat (the latter perennially in a bad state of repair, full 
of holes, and with a smashed brim) — the whole being 
done without a word or a sound of any kind. Next the 
old man would seat himself warily on a chair, and, 
never removing his eyes from his son, follow his every 
movement, as though seeking to gauge Petinka's state 
of mind. On the other hand, if the son was not in 
good spirits, the father would make a note of the fact, 
and at once get up, saying that he had " only called 
for a minute or two," that, " having been out for a 
long walk, and happening at the moment to be passing," 
he had " looked in for a moment's rest." Then silently 
and humbly the old man would resume his hat and 
scarf; softly he would open the door, and noiselessly 
depart with a forced smile on his face — the better to 
bear the disappointment which was seething in his 
breast, the better to help him not to show it to his son. 
On the other hand, whenever the son received his 
father civilly the old man would be struck dumb with 
joy. Satisfaction would beam in his face, in his every 
gesture, in his every movement. And if the son deigned 
to engage in conversation with him, the old man always 
rose a little from his chair, and answered softly, sym- 
pathetically, with something like reverence, while 
strenuously endeavouring to make use of the most 
recherche (that is to say, the most ridiculous) expressions. 
But, alas! he had not the gift of words. Always he 
grew confused, and turned red in the face; never did 



34 Poor Folk 

he know what to do with his hands or with himself. 
Likewise, whenever he had returned an answer of any 
kind, he would go on repeating the same in a whisper, as 
though he were seeking to justify what he had just said. 
And if he happened to have returned a good answer he 
would begin to preen himself, and to straighten his 
waistcoat, frockcoat, and tie, and to assume an air of 
conscious dignity. Indeed, on these occasions he would 
feel so encouraged, he would carry his daring to such a 
pitch, that, rising softly from his chair, he would approach 
the bookshelves, take thence a book, and read over to 
himself some passage or another. All this he would do 
with an air of feigned indifference and sangfroid, as 
though he were free always to use his son's books, and 
his son's kindness were no rarity at all. Yet on one 
occasion I saw the poor old fellow actually turn pale on 
being told by his son not to touch the books. Abashed 
and confused, he, in his awkward hurry, replaced the 
volume wrong side uppermost; whereupon, with a 
supreme effort to recover himself, he turned it round 
with a smile and a blush, as though he were at a loss 
how to view his own misdemeanour. Gradually, as 
already said, the younger Pokrovski w T eaned his father 
from his dissipated ways by giving him a small coin 
whenever, on three successive occasions, he (the father) 
arrived sober. Sometimes, also, the younger man 
would buy the older one shoes, or a tie, or a waistcoat ; 
whereafter the old man would be as proud of his acquisi- 
tion as a peacock. Not infrequently, also, the old man 
would step in to visit ourselves, and bring Sasha and 
myself gingerbread birds or apples, while talking 
unceasingly of Petinka. Always he would beg of us to 
pay attention to our lessons, on the plea that Petinka 
was a good son, an exemplary son, a son who was in 
twofold measure a man of learning; after which he 
would wink at us so quizzingly with his left eye, and 
twist himself about in such amusing fashion, that we 
were forced to burst out laughing. My mother had a 
great liking for him, but he detested Anna Thedorovna — 
although in her presence he would be quieter than water 
and lowlier than the earth. 



Poor Folk 



35 



Soon after this I ceased to take lessons of Pokrovski. 
Even now he thought me a child, a raw schoolgirl, as 
much as he did Sasha; and this hurt me extremely, seeing 
that I had done so much to expiate my former behaviour. 
Of my efforts in this direction no notice had been taken, 
and the fact continued to anger me more and more. 
Scarcely ever did I address a word to my tutor between 
school hours, for I simply could not bring myself 
to do it. If I made the attempt I only grew red and 
confused, and rushed away to weep in a corner. How 
it would all have ended I do not know, had not a curious 
incident helped to bring about a rapprochement. One 
evening, when my mother was sitting in Anna The- 
dorovna's room, I crept on tiptoe to Pokrovski's apart- 
ment, in the belief that he was not at home. Some 
strange impulse moved me to do so. True, we had 
lived cheek by jowl with one another; yet never once 
had I caught a glimpse of his abode. Consequently my 
heart beat loudly — so loudly, indeed, that it seemed 
almost to be bursting from my breast. On entering the 
room I glanced around me with tense interest. The 
apartment was very poorly furnished, and bore few 
traces of orderliness. On table and chairs there lay 
heaps of books; everywhere were books and papers. 
Then a strange thought entered my head, as well as, 
with the thought, an unpleasant feeling of irritation. 
It seemed to me that my friendship, my heart's affection, 
meant little to him, for he was well-educated, whereas 
/ was stupid, and had learnt nothing, and had read not a 
single book. So I stood looking wistfully at the long 
bookshelves where they groaned under their weight of 
volumes. I felt filled with grief, disappointment, and 
a sort of frenzy. I felt that I must read those books, 
and decided to do so — to read them one by one, and 
with all possible speed. Probably the idea was that, by 
learning whatsoever he knew, I should render myself more 
worthy of his friendship. So I made a rush towards the 
bookcase nearest me, and, without stopping further to 
consider matters, seized hold of the first dusty tome upon 
which my hands chanced to alight, and, reddening and 
growing pale by turns, and trembling with fear and 



36 Poor Folk 

excitement, clasped the stolen book to my breast with the 
intention of reading it by candle light while my mother 
lay asleep o' nights. 

But how vexed I felt when, on returning to our own 
room, and hastily turning the pages, only an old, battered 
worm-eaten Latin work greeted my eves ! Without loss 
of time I retraced my steps. Just when I was about to 
replace the book I heard a noise in the corridor outside, 
and the sound of footsteps approaching. Fumblingly 
I hastened to complete what I was about, but the tire- 
some book had become so tightly wedged into its row 
that, on being pulled out, it caused its fellows to close 
up too compactly to leave any place for their comrade. 
To insert the book was beyond my strength; yet still I 
kept pushing and pushing at the row. At last the rusty 
nail which supported the shelf (the thing seemed to have 
been waiting on purpose for that moment!) broke off 
short; with the result that the shelf descended with a 
crash, and the books piled themselves in a heap on the 
floor ! Then the door of the room opened, and Pokrovski 
entered ! 

I must here remark that he never could bear to have 
his possessions tampered with. Woe to the person, in 
particular, who touched his books! Judge, therefore, 
of my horror when books small and great, books of every 
possible shape and size and thickness, came tumbling 
from the shelf, and flew and sprang over the table, and 
under the chairs, and about the whole room. I would 
have turned and fled, but it was too late. " All is over ! " 
thought I. " All is over! I am ruined, I am undone! 
Here have I been playing the fool like a ten-year-old 
child ! What a stupid girl I am ! The monstrous fool ! " 

Indeed, Pokrovski was very angry. " What? Have 
you not done enough?" he cried. "Are you not 
ashamed to be for ever indulging in such pranks? Are 
you never going to grow sensible? " With that he 
darted forward to pick up the books, while I bent down 
to help him. 

" You need not, you need not! " he went on. " You 
would have done far better not to have entered without 
an invitation." 



Poor Folk 



37 



Next, a little mollified by my humble demeanour, he 
resumed in his usual tutorial tone — the tone which he 
had adopted in his new-found role of preceptor: 

" When are you going to grow steadier and more 
thoughtful ? Consider yourself for a moment. You are 
no longer a child, a little girl, but a maiden of fifteen." 

Then, with a desire (probably) to satisfy himself that 
I was no longer a being of tender years, he threw me 
a glance — but straightway reddened to his very ears. 
This I could not understand, but stood gazing at him 
in astonishment. Presently he straightened himself a 
little, approached me with a sort of confused expres- 
sion, and haltingly said something — probably it was 
an apology for not having before perceived that I was 
now a grown-up young person. But the next moment 
I understood. What I did I hardly know, save that, in 
my dismay and confusion, I blushed even more hotly 
than he had done and, covering my face with my hands, 
rushed from the room. 

What to do with myself for shame I could not think. 
The one thought in my head was that he had surprised 
me in his room. For three whole days I found myself 
unable to raise my eyes to his, but blushed always to 
the point of weeping. The strangest and most confused 
of thoughts kept entering my brain. One of them — the 
most extravagant — was that I should dearly like to go 
to Pokrovski, and to explain to him the situation, and 
to make full confession, and to tell him everything 
without concealment, and to assure him that I had not 
acted foolishly as a minx, but honestly and of set pur- 
pose. In fact, I did make up my mind to take this 
course, but lacked the necessary courage to do it. If I 
had done so what a figure I should have cut ! Even now 
I am ashamed to think of it. 

A few days later my mother suddenly fell dangerously 
ill. For two days past she had not left her bed, while 
during the third night of her illness she became seized 
with fever and delirium. I also had not closed my eyes 
during the previous night, but now waited upon my 
mother, sat by her bed, brought her drink at intervals, 
and gave her medicine at duly appointed hours. The 



38 Poor Folk 

next night I suffered terribly. Every now and then 
sleep would cause me to nod, and objects grow dim before 
my eyes. Also, my head was turning dizzy, and I could 
have fainted for very weariness. Yet always my 
mother's feeble moans recalled me to myself as I started, 
momentarily awoke, and then again felt drowsiness over- 
coming me. What torture it was ! I do not know, I can- 
not clearly remember, but I think that, during a moment 
when wakefulness was thus contending with slumber, a 
strange dream, a horrible vision, visited my overwrought 
brain, and I awoke in terror. The room was nearly in 
darkness, for the candle was flickering, and throwing 
stray beams of light which suddenly illuminated the 
room, danced for a moment on the walls, and then dis- 
appeared. Somehow I felt afraid — a sort of horror had 
come upon me — my imagination had been over-excited 
by the evil dream which I had experienced, and a feeling 
of oppression was crushing my heart. ... I leapt from 
the chair, and involuntarily uttered a cry — a cry wrung 
from me by the terrible, torturing sensation that was 
upon me. Presently the door opened, and Pokrovski 
entered. 

I remember that I was in his arms when I recovered 
my senses. Carefully seating me on a bench, he handed 
me a glass of water, and then asked me a few questions — 
though how I answered them I do not know. " You 
yourself are ill," he said as he took my hand. " You 
yourself are very ill. You are feverish, and I can see 
that you are knocking yourself up through your neglect 
of your own health. Take a little rest. Lie down and 
go to sleep. Yes, lie down, lie down," he continued 
without giving me time to protest. Indeed, fatigue had 
so exhausted my strength that my eyes were closing 
from very weakness. So I lay down on the bench with 
the intention of sleeping for half an hour only; but I 
slept till morning. Pokrovski then awoke me, saying 
that it was time for me to go and give my mother her 
medicine. 

When the next evening, about eight o'clock, I had 
rested a little and was preparing to spend the night in a 
chair beside my mother (fixedly meaning not to go to 



Poor Folk 39 

sleep this time), Pokrovski suddenly knocked at the door. 
I opened it, and he informed me that, since, possibly, I 
might find the time wearisome, he had brought me a few 
books to read. I accepted the books, but do not, even 
now, know what books they were, nor whether I looked 
into them, despite the fact that I never closed my eyes 
the whole night long. The truth was that a strange 
feeling of excitement was preventing me from sleeping, 
and I could not rest long in any one spot, but had to 
keep rising from my chair, and walking about the room. 
Throughout my whole being there seemed to be diffused 
a kind of elation — of elation at Pokrovski's attentions, 
at the thought that he was anxious and uneasy about me. 
Until dawn I pondered and dreamed; and though, I 
felt sure, Pokrovski would not again visit us that night, 
I gave myself up to fancies concerning what he might 
do the following evening. 

That evening, when every one else in the house had 
retired to rest, Pokrovski opened his door, and opened 
a conversation from the threshold of his room. 
Although, at this distance of time, I cannot remember 
a word of what we said to one another, I remember that 
I blushed, grew confused, felt vexed with myself, and 
awaited with impatience the end of the conversation — 
although I myself had been longing for the meeting to 
take place, and had spent the day in dreaming of it, and 
devising a string of suitable questions and replies. Yes, 
that evening saw the first strand in our friendship 
knitted; and each subsequent night of my mother's 
illness we spent several hours together. Little by little 
I overcame his reserve, but found that each of these 
conversations left me filled with a sense of vexation at 
myself. At the same time, I could see with secret joy 
and a sense of proud elation that I was leading him to 
forget his tiresome books. At last the conversation 
turned jestingly upon the upsetting of the shelf. The 
moment was a peculiar one, for it came upon me just 
when I was in the right mood for self-revelation and 
candour. In my ardour, my curious phase of exaltation, 
I found myself led to make a full confession of the fact 
that I had become wishful to learn, to know, something. 



40 Poor Folk 

since I had felt hurt at being taken for a chit, a mere 
baby. ... I repeat that that night I was in a very 
strange frame of mind. My heart was inclined to be 
tender, and there were tears standing in my eyes. Noth- 
ing did I conceal as I told him about my friendship for 
him, about my desire to love him, about my scheme for 
living in sympathy with him, and comforting him, and 
making his life easier. In return he threw me a look of 
confusion mingled with astonishment, and said nothing. 
Then suddenly I began to feel terribly pained and dis- 
appointed, for I conceived that he had failed to under- 
stand me, or even that he might be laughing at me. 
Bursting into tears like a child, I sobbed, and could not 
stop myself, for I had fallen into a kind of fit ; whereupon 
he seized my hand, kissed it, and clasped it to his breast 
— saying various things, meanwhile, to comfort me, for 
he was labouring under a strong emotion. Exactly 
what he said I do not remember — I merely wept and 
laughed by turns, and blushed, and found myself unable 
to speak a word for joy. Yet, for all my agitation, I 
noticed that about him there still lingered an air of 
constraint and uneasiness. Evidently he was lost in 
wonder at my enthusiasm and raptures — at my curiously 
ardent, unexpected, consuming friendship. It may be 
that at first he was amazed, but that afterwards he 
accepted my devotion and words of invitation and 
expressions of interest with the same simple frankness 
as I had offered them, and responded to them with an 
interest, a friendliness, a devotion equal to my own, 
even as a friend or a brother would do. How happy, 
how warm was the feeling in my heart! Nothing had 
I concealed or repressed. No, I had bared all to his 
sight, and each day would see him draw nearer to me. 

Truly I could not say what we did not talk about 
during those painful, yet rapturous, hours when, by the 
trembling light of a lamp, and almost at the very bed- 
side of my poor sick mother, we kept midnight tryst. 
Whatsoever first came into our heads we spoke of — 
whatsoever came riven from our hearts, whatsoever 
seemed to call for utterance, found voice. And almost 
always we were happy. What a grievous, yet joyous, 



Poor Folk 41 

period it was — a period grievous and joyous at the same 
time! To this day it both hurts and delights me to 
recall it. Joyous or bitter though it was, its memories 
are yet painful. At least they seem so to me, though 
a certain sweetness assuaged the pain. So whenever I 
am feeling heartsick and oppressed and jaded and sad 
those memories return to freshen and revive me, even 
as drops of evening dew return to freshen and revive, 
after a sultry day, the poor faded flower which has long 
been drooping in the noontide heat. 

My mother grew better, but still I continued to spend 
the nights on a chair by her bedside. Often, too, 
Pokrovski would give me books. At first I read them 
merely so as to avoid going to sleep, but afterwards I 
examined them with more attention, and subsequently 
with actual avidity, for they opened up to me a new, an 
unexpected, an unknown, an unfamiliar world. New 
thoughts, added to new impressions, would come pour- 
ing into my heart in a rich flood; and the more emotion, 
the more pain and labour, it cost me to assimilate these 
new impressions, the dearer did they become to me, and 
the more gratefully did they stir my soul to its very 
depths. Crowding into my heart without giving it 
time even to breathe, they would cause my whole being 
to become lost in a wondrous chaos. Yet this spiritual 
ferment was not sufficiently strong wholly to undo me. 
For that I was too fanciful, and the fact saved me. 

With the passing of my mother's illness the midnight 
meetings and long conversations between myself and 
Pokrovski came to an end. Only occasionally did we 
exchange a few words with one another — words, for the 
most part, that were of little purport or substance, yet 
words to which it delighted me to apportion their 
several meanings, their peculiar secret values. My life 
had now become full: I was happy — I was quietly, 
restfully happy. Thus did several weeks elapse. . . . 

One day the elder Pokrovski came to see us, and 
chattered in a brisk, cheerful, garrulous sort of way. 
He laughed, launched out into witticisms, and, finally, 
resolved the riddle of his transports by informing us that 
in a week's time it would be his Petinka's birthday, 






42 Poor Folk 

when, in honour of the occasion, he (the father) meant to 
don a new jacket (as well as new shoes which his wife was 
going to buy for him), and to come and pay a visit to his 
son. In short, the old man was perfectly happy, and 
gossiped about whatsoever first entered his head. 

My lover's birthday ! Thenceforward I could not rest 
by night or day. Whatever might happen, it was 
my fixed intention to remind Pokrovski of our friendship 
by giving him a present. But what sort of present? 
Finally I decided to give him books. I knew that he 
had long wanted to possess a complete set of Pushkin's 
works, in the latest edition ; so I decided to buy Pushkin. 
My private fund consisted of thirty roubles, earned by 
handiwork, and designed eventually to procure me a new 
dress; but at once I dispatched our cook, old Matrena, 
to ascertain the price of such an edition. Horrors! 
The price of the eleven volumes, added to extra outlay 
upon the binding, would amount to at least sixty roubles ! 
Where was the money to come from? I thought and 
thought, yet could not decide. I did not like to resort 
to my mother. Of course she would help me, but in 
that case every one in the house would become aware of 
my gift, and the gift itself would assume the guise of a 
recompense — of payment for Pokrovski's labours on my 
behalf during the past year ; whereas I wished to present 
the gift alone, and without the knowledge of any one. 
For the trouble that he had taken with me I wished 
to be his perpetual debtor — to make him no payment at 
all save my friendship. At length I thought of a way 
out of the difficulty. 

I knew that of the hucksters in the Gostinni Dvor one 
could sometimes buy a book — even one that had been 
little used and was almost entirely new — for a half of 
its price, provided that one haggled sufficiently over it; 
wherefore I determined to repair thither. It so hap- 
pened that, next day, both Anna Thedorovna and 
ourselves were in want of sundry articles; and since 
my mother was unwell and Anna lazy, the execution of 
the commissions devolved upon me, and I set forth with 
Matrena. 

Luckily I soon chanced upon a set of Pushkin, hand- 



Poor Folk 



43 



somely bound, and set myself to bargain for it. At 
first more was demanded than would have been asked 
of me in a shop ; but afterwards — though not without a 
great deal of trouble on my part, and several feints at 
departing — I induced the dealer to lower his price, and 
to limit his demands to ten roubles in silver. How I 
rejoiced that I had engaged in this bargaining! Poor 
Matrena could not imagine what had come to me, noi 
why I so desired to buy books. But, oh horror of 
horrors! as soon as ever the dealer caught sight of my 
capital of thirty roubles in notes, he refused to let the 
Pushkin go for less than the sum he had first named; 
and though, in answer to my prayers and protestations, 
he eventually yielded a little, he did so only to the tune 
of two-and-a-half roubles more than I possessed, while 
swearing that he was making the concession for my sake 
alone, since I was " a sweet young lady," and that he 
would have done so for no one else in the world. To 
think that only two-and-a-half roubles should still be 
wanting ! I could have wept with vexation. Suddenly 
an unlooked-for circumstance occurred to help me in 
my distress. 

Not far away, near another table that was heaped 
with books, I perceived the elder Pokrovski, and a 
crowd of four or five hucksters plaguing him nearly out 
of his senses. Each of these fellows was proffering the 
old man his own particular wares; and while there was 
nothing that they did not submit for his approval, 
there was nothing that he wished to buy. The poor 
old fellow had the air of a man who is receiving a thrash- 
ing. What to make of what he was being offered 
him he did not know. Approaching him, I inquired 
what he happened to be doing there; whereat the old 
man was delighted, since he liked me (it may be) no 
less than he did Petinka. 

" I am buying some books, Barbara Alexievna," 
said he, "I am buying them for my Petinka. It will 
be his birthday soon, and since he likes books I thought 
I would get him some." 

The old man always expressed himself in a very 
roundabout sort of fashion, and on the present occasion 



44 Poor Folk 

he was doubly, terribly confused. Of no matter what 
book he asked the price, it was sure to be one, two, or 
three roubles. The larger books he could not afford 
at all; he could only look at them wistfully, fumble 
their leaves with his finger, turn over the volumes in 
his hands, and then replace them. " No, no, that is 
too dear," he would mutter under his breath. " I 
must go and try somewhere else." Then again he would 
fall to examining copy-books, collections of poems, and 
almanacs of the cheaper order. 

" Why should you buy things like those? " I asked 
him. " They are such rubbish! " 

" No, no! " he replied. " See what nice books they 
are! Yes, they are nice books! " Yet these last words 
he uttered so lingeringly that I could see he was ready 
to weep with vexation at finding the better sorts of books 
so expensive. Already a little tear was trickling down 
his pale cheeks and red nose. I inquired whether he 
had much money on him; whereupon the poor old 
fellow pulled out his entire stock, wrapped in a piece of 
dirty newspaper, and consisting of a few small silver 
coins, with twenty kopecks in copper. At once I seized 
the lot, and, dragging him off to my huckster, said: 
" Look here. These eleven volumes of Pushkin are 
priced at thirty-two-and-a-half roubles, and I have only 
thirty roubles. Let us add to them these two-and-a- 
half roubles of yours, and buy the books together, and 
make them our joint gift." The old man was over- 
joyed, and pulled out his money en masse ; whereupon 
the huckster loaded him with our common library. 
Stuffing it into his pockets, as well as filling both arms 
with it, he departed homewards with his prize, after 
giving me his word to bring me the books privately on 
the morrow. 

Next day the old man came to see his son, and sat 
with him, as usual, for about an hour; after which he 
visited ourselves, wearing on his face the most comical, 
the most mysterious expression conceivable. Smiling 
broadly with satisfaction at the thought that he was 
the possessor of a secret, he informed me that he had 
stealthily brought the books to our rooms, and hidden 



Poor Folk 



45 



them in a corner of the kitchen, under Matrena's care. 
Next, by a natural transition, the conversation passed 
to the coming fete-day; whereupon the old man pro- 
ceeded to hold forth extensively on the subject of gifts. 
The further he delved into his thesis, and the more he 
expounded it, the clearer could I see that on his mind 
there was something which he could not, dared not, 
divulge. So I waited and kept silence. The mysterious 
exaltation, the repressed satisfaction which I had 
hitherto discerned in his antics and grimaces and left- 
eyed winks gradually disappeared, and he began to 
grow momentarily more anxious and uneasy. At length 
he could contain himself no longer. 

" Listen, Barbara Alexievna," he said timidly. 
" Listen to what I have got to say to you. When his 
birthday is come, do you take ten of the books, and 
give them to him yourself — that is, for yourself, as 
being your share of the gift. Then / will take the 
eleventh book, and give it to him myself, as being my 
gift. If we do that, you will have a present for him 
and / shall have one — both of us alike." 

" Why do you not want us to present our gifts to- 
gether, Zachar Petrovitch? " I asked him. 

" Oh, very well," he replied. " Very well, Barbara 
Alexievna. Only — only, I thought that " 

The old man broke off in confusion, while his face 
flushed with the exertion of thus expressing himself. 
For a moment or two he sat glued to his seat. 

" You see," he went on, " I play the fool too much. 
I am for ever playing the fool, and cannot help myself, 
though I know that it is wrong to do so. At home it 
is often cold, and sometimes there are other troubles 
as well, and it all makes me depressed. Well, when- 
ever that happens, I indulge a little, and occasionally 
drink too much. Now, Petinka does not like that; 
he loses his temper about it, Barbara Alexievna, and 
scolds me, and reads me lectures. So I want by my 
gift to show him that I am mending my ways, and 
beginning to conduct myself better. For a long time 
past I have been saving up to buy him a book — yes, 
for a long time past I have been saving up for it, since 



46 Poor Folk 

it is seldom that I have any money, unless Petinka 
happens to give me some. He knows that, and, conse- 
quently, as soon as ever he perceives the use to which 
I have put his money, he will understand that it is for 
his sake alone that I have acted." 

My heart ached for the old man. Seeing him looking 
at me with such anxiety, I made up my mind without 
delay. 

' I tell you what," I said. " Do you give him all 
the books." 

" All? " he ejaculated. " All the books? " 

" Yes, all of them." 

" As my own gift? " 

" Yes, as your own gift." 

" As my gift alone? " 

" Yes, as your gift alone." 

Surely I had spoken clearly enough, yet the old man 
seemed hardly to understand me. 

" Well," said he after reflection, " that certainly 
would be splendid — certainly it would be most splendid. 
But what about yourself, Barbara Alexievna?" 

" Oh, I shall give your son nothing." 

" What? " he cried in dismay. " Are you going to 
give Petinka nothing — do you wish to give him nothing ?" 
So put about was the old fellow with what I had said that 
he seemed almost ready to renounce his own proposal 
if only I would give his son something. What a kind 
heart he had! I hastened to assure him that I should 
certainly have a gift of some sort ready, since my one 
wish was to avoid spoiling his pleasure. 

" Provided that your son is pleased," I added, " and 
that you are pleased, / shall be equally pleased, for in my 
secret heart I shall feel as though/ had presented the gift." 

This fully reassured the old man. He stopped with 
us another couple of hours, yet could not sit still for a 
moment, but kept jumping up from his seat, laughing, 
cracking jokes with Sasha, bestowing stealthy kisses 
upon myself, pinching my hands, and making silent 
grimaces at Anna Thedorovna. At length she turned 
him out of the house. In short, his transports of joy 
exceeded anything that I had yet beheld. 



Poor Folk 47 

On the festal day he arrived exactly at eleven o'clock, 
direct from Mass. He was dressed in a carefully mended 
frockcoat, a new waistcoat, and a pair of new shoes, 
while in his arms he carried our pile of books. Next we 
all sat down to coffee (the day being Sunday) in Anna 
Thedorovna's parlour. The old man ied off the meal 
by saying that Pushkin was a magnificent poet. There- 
after, with a return to shamefacedness and confusion, 
he passed suddenly to the statement that a man ought 
to conduct himself properly; that, should he not do so, 
it might be taken as a sign that he was in some way over- 
indulging himself; and that evil tendencies of this sort 
led to the man's ruin and degradation. Then the orator 
sketched for our benefit some terrible instances of such 
incontinence, and concluded by informing us that for 
some time past he had been mending his own ways, and 
conducting himself in exemplary fashion, for the reason 
that he had perceived the justice of his son's precepts, 
and had laid them to heart so well that he, the father, 
had really changed for the better: in proof whereof, he 
now begged to present to the said son some books for 
which he had long been setting aside his savings. 

As I listened to the old man I could not help laughing 
and crying in a breath. Certainly he knew how to lie 
when the occasion required! The books were trans- 
ferred to his son's room, and ranged upon a shelf, where 
Pokrovski at once guessed the truth about them. Then 
the old man was invited to dinner, and we all spent a 
merry day together at cards and forfeits. Sasha was 
full of life, and I rivalled her, while Pokrovski paid me 
numerous attentions, and kept seeking an occasion to 
speak to me alone. But to allow this to happen I refused. 
Yes, taken all in all, it was the happiest day that I had 
known for four years. 

But now only grievous, painful memories come to my 
recollection, for I must enter upon the story of my darker 
experiences. It may be that that is why my pen begins 
to move more slowly, and seems as though it were going 
altogether to refuse to write. The same reason may 
account for my having undertaken so lovingly and 
enthusiastically a recounting of even the smallest details 



4 8 



Poor Folk 



of my younger, happier days. But alas ! those days did 
not last long, and were succeeded by a period of black 
sorrow which will close only God knows when ! 

My misfortunes began with the illness and death of 
Pokrovski, who was taken worse two months after what 
I have last recorded in these memoirs. During those two 
months he worked hard to procure himself a livelihood, 
since hitherto he had had no assured position. Like all 
consumptives, he never — not even up to his last moment 
— altogether abandoned the hope of being able to enjoy 
a long life. A post as tutor fell in his way, but he had 
never liked the profession; while for him to become a 
civil servant was out of the question, owing to his weak 
state of health. Moreover, in the latter capacity he 
would have had to have waited a long time for his first 
instalment of salary. Again, he always looked at the 
darker side of things, for his character was gradually 
being warped, and his health undermined, by his illness, 
though he never noticed it. Then autumn came on, and 
daily he went out to business — that is to say, to apply 
for and to canvass for posts — clad only in a light jacket ; 
with the result that, after repeated soakings with rain, 
he had to take to his bed, and never again left it. He 
died in mid-autumn, at the close of the month of 
October. 

Throughout his illness I scarcely ever left his room, 
but waited on him hand and foot. Often he could not 
sleep for several nights at a time. Often, too, he was 
unconscious, or else in a delirium; and at such times he 
would talk of all sorts of things — of his work, of his 
books, of his father, of myself. At such times I learnt 
much which I had not hitherto known or divined about his 
affairs. During the early part of his illness every one in 
the house looked askance at me, and Anna Thedorovna 
would nod her head in a meaning manner; but I always 
looked them straight in the face, and gradually they 
ceased to take anv notice of my concern for Pokrovski. 
At all events my mother ceased to trouble her head 
about it. 

Sometimes Pokrovski would know who I was, but not 
often, for more usually he was unconscious. Sometimes, 



Poor Folk 49 

too, he would talk all night with some unknown person, 
in dim, mysterious language that caused his gasping 
voice to echo hoarsely through the narrow room as 
through a sepulchre : and at such times I found the situa- 
tion a strange one. Especially during his last night was 
he lightheaded, for then he was in terrible agony, and kept 
rambling in his speech until my soul was torn with pity. 
Every one in the house was alarmed, and Anna Thedo- 
rovna fell to praying that God might soon take him. 
When the doctor had been summoned the verdict was 
that the patient would die with the morning. 

That night the elder Pokrovski spent in the corridor, 
at the door of his son's room. Though given a mattress 
to lie upon, he spent his time in running in and out of the 
apartment. So broken with grief was he that he pre- 
sented a dreadful spectacle, and appeared to have lost 
both perception and feeling. His head trembled with 
agony, and his body quivered from head to foot as at 
times he murmured to himself something which he 
appeared to be debating. Every moment I expected 
to see him go out of his mind. Just before dawn he 
succumbed to the stress of mental agony, and fell asleep 
on his mattress like a man who has been beaten ; but by 
eight o'clock the son was at the point of death, and 
I ran to wake the father. The dying man was quite 
conscious, and bid us all farewell. Somehow I could not 
weep, though my heart seemed to be breaking. 

The last moments were the most harassing and heart- 
breaking of all. For some time past Pokrovski had been 
asking for something with his failing tongue, but I had 
been unable to distinguish his words. Yet my heart 
had been bursting with grief. Then for an hour he had 
lain quieter, except that he had looked sadly in my 
direction, and striven to make some sign with his death- 
cold hands. At last he again essayed his piteous request 
in a hoarse, deep voice, but the words issued in so many 
inarticulate sounds, and once more I failed to divine his 
meaning. By turns I brought each member of the house- 
hold to his bedside, and gave him something to drink, 
but he only shook his head sorrowfully. Finally I 
understood what it was he wanted. He was asking 



5 о Poor Folk 

me to draw aside the curtain from the window, and 
to open the casements. Probably he wished to take 
his last look at the daylight and the sun and all God's 
world. I pulled back the curtain, but the opening 
day was as dull and mournful-looking as though it had 
been the fast-flickering life of the poor invalid. Of sun- 
shine there was none. Clouds overlaid the sky as with 
a shroud of mist, and everything looked sad, rainy, 
and threatening under a fine drizzle which was beating 
against the window-panes, and streaking their dull, dark 
surfaces with runlets of cold, dirty moisture. Only a 
scanty modicum of daylight entered to war with the 
trembling rays of the ikon lamp. The dying man threw 
me a wistful look, and nodded. The next moment he 
had passed away. 

The funeral was arranged for by Anna Thedorovna. A 
plain coffin was bought, and a broken-down hearse hired ; 
while, as security for this outlay, she seized the dead 
man's books and other articles. Nevertheless the old 
man disputed the books with her, and, raising an uproar, 
carried off as many of them as he could — stuffing his 
pockets full, and even filling his hat. Indeed, he spent 
the next three days with them thus, and refused to let 
them leave his sight even when it was time for him to go 
to church. Throughout he acted like a man bereft of 
sense and memory. With quaint assiduity he busied 
himself about the bier — now straightening the candle- 
stick on the dead man's breast, now snuffing and lighting 
the other candles. Clearly his thoughts were powerless 
to remain long fixed on any subject. Neither my 
mother nor Anna Thedorovna were present at the 
requiem, for the former was ill and the latter was at 
loggerheads with the old man. Only myself and the 
father were there. During the service a sort of panic, 
a sort of premonition of the future, came over me, and I 
could hardly hold myself upright. At length the coffin 
had received its burden and was screwed down; after 
which the bearers placed it upon a bier, and set out. I 
accompanied the cortege only to the end of the street. 
Here the driver broke into a trot, and the old man started 
to run behind the hearse — sobbing loudly, but with the 



Poor Folk 51 

motion of his running ever and anon causing the sobs to 
quaver and become broken off. Next he lost his hat, the 
poor old fellow, yet would not stop to pick it up, even 
though the rain was beating upon his head, and a wind 
was rising and the sleet kept stinging and lashing his face. 
It seemed as though he were impervious to the cruel 
elements as he ran from one side of the hearse to the 
other — the skirts of his old greatcoat flapping about him 
like a pair of wings. From every pocket of the garment 
protruded books, while in his arms he carried a specially 
large volume, which he hugged closely to his breast. 
The passers-by uncovered their heads and crossed them- 
selves as the cortege passed, and some of them, having 
done so, remained staring in amazement at the poor old 
man. Every now and then a book would slip from one 
of his pockets, and fall into the mud ; whereupon some- 
body, stopping him, would direct his attention to his 
loss, and he would stop, pick up the book, and again set 
off in pursuit of the hearse. At the corner of the street 
he was joined by a ragged old woman; until at length 
the hearse turned a corner, and became hidden from my 
eyes. Then I went home, and threw myself, in a trans- 
port of grief, upon my mother's breast — clasping her in 
my arms, kissing her amid a storm of sobs and tears, and 
clinging to her form as though in my embraces I were 
holding my last friend on earth, that I might preserve her 
from death. Yet already death was standing over her. . . . 

June 1 ith. 

How I thank you for our walk to the Islands yesterday, 
Makar Alexievitch ! How fresh and pleasant, how full of 
verdure, was everything ! And I had not seen anything 
green for such a long time ! — During my illness I used to 
think that I should never get better, that I was certainly 
going to die. Judge, then, how I felt yesterday ! True, 
I may have seemed to you a little sad, and you must not 
be angry with me for that. Happy and light-hearted 
though I was, there were moments, even at the height of 
my felicity, when, for some unknown reason, depression 
came sweeping over my soul. I kept weeping about 
trifles, yet could not say why I was grieved. The truth 



52 Poor Folk 

is that I am unwell — so much so, that I look at every- 
thing from the gloomy point of view. The pale, clear 
sky, the setting sun, the evening stillness — ah, somehow 
I felt disposed to grieve and feel hurt at these things; 
my heart seemed to be over-charged, and to be calling 
for tears to relieve it. But why should I write this to 
you ? It is difficult for my heart to express itself ; still 
more difficult for it to forego self-expression. Yet 
possibly you may understand me. Tears and laughter! 
. . . How good you are, Makar Alexievitch ! Yesterday 
you looked into my eyes as though you could read in 
them all that I was feeling — as though you were rejoicing 
at my happiness. Whether it were a group of shrubs or 
an alley-way or a vista of water that we were passing, 
you would halt before me, and stand gazing at my face as 
though you were showing me possessions of your own. 
It told me how kind is your nature, and I love you for it. 
To-day I am again unwell, for yesterday I wetted my 
feet, and took a chill. Thedora also is unwell; both of 
us are ailing. Do not forget me. Come and see me as 
often as you can. — Your own, 

Barbara Alexievna. 

June 1 2th. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — I had supposed 
that you meant to describe our doings of the other day 
in verse; yet from you there has arrived only a single 
sheet of writing. Nevertheless, I must say that, little 
though you have put into your letter, that little is 
expressed with rare beauty and grace. Nature, your 
descriptions of rural scenes, your analysis of your own 
feelings, — the whole is beautifully written. Alas, I have 
no such talent! Though I may fill a score of pages, 
nothing comes of it — I might as well never have put pen 
to paper. Yes, this I know of experience. 

You say, my darling, that I am kind and good, that I 
could not harm my fellow-men, that I have power to 
comprehend the goodness of God (as expressed in nature's 
handiwork), and so on. It may all be so, my dearest one 
— it may all be exactly as you say. Indeed, I think that 
you are right. But if so, the reason is that when one 



Poor Folk 53 

reads such a letter as you have just sent me one's heart 
Involuntarily softens, and affords entrance to thoughts 
of a graver and weightier order. Listen, my darling; 
I have something to tell you, my beloved one. 

I will begin from the time when I was seventeen years 
old and first entered the service — though I shall soon 
have completed my thirtieth year of official activity. 
I may say that at first I was much pleased with my new 
uniform ; and as I grew older I grew in mind, and fell to 
studying my fellow-men. Likewise I may say that I 
lived an upright life — so much so that at last I incurred 
persecution. This you may not believe, but it is true. 
To think that men so cruel should exist! For, though, 
dearest one, I am dull and of no account, I have feelings 
like every one else. Consequently, would you believe it, 
Barbara, when I tell you what these cruel fellows did 
to me ? I feel ashamed to tell it you — and all because 
I was of a quiet, peaceful, good-natured disposition! 
Things began with " this or that, Makar Alexievitch, is 
your fault." Then it went on to " I need hardly say that 
the fault is wholly Makar Alexievitch's." Finally it 
became " Of course Makar Alexievitch is to blame." 
Do you see the sequence of things, my darling ? Every 
mistake was attributed to me, until " Makar Alexievitch " 
became a byword in our department. Also, while 
making of me a proverb, these fellows could not give me 
a smile or a civil word. They found fault with my boots, 
with my uniform, with my hair, with my figure. None 
of these things were to their taste : everything had to be 
changed. And so it has been from that day to this. 
True, I have now grown used to it, for I can grow accus- 
tomed to anything (being, as you know, a man of peace- 
able disposition, like all men of small stature) : yet 
why should these things be? Whom have I harmed? 
Whom have I ever supplanted? W T hom have I ever 
traduced to his superiors? No, the fault is that more 
than once I have asked for an increase of salary. But I 
have never caballed for it ? No, you would be wrong in 
thinking so, my dearest one. How could I ever have 
done so? You yourself have had many opportunities 
of seeing how incapable I am of deceit or chicanery. 

С 'И 



54 Poor Folk 

Why, then, should this have fallen to my lot? . . . 
However, since yon think me worthy of respect, my 
darling, I do not care, for you are far and away the best 
person in the world. . . . What do you consider to 
be the greatest social virtue? In private conversation 
Evstafi Ivanovitch once told me that the greatest social 
virtue might be considered to be an ability to get money 
to spend. Also, my comrades used jestingly (yes, I 
know only jestingly) to propound the ethical maxim 
that a man ought never to let himself become a burden 
upon any one. Well, I am a burden upon no one. It 
is my own crust of bread that I eat; and though that 
crust is but a poor one, and sometimes actually a 
maggoty one, it has at least been earned, and therefore is 
being put to a right and lawful use. What, therefore, 
ought I to do ? I know that I can earn but little by my 
labours as a copyist ; yet even of that little I am proud, 
for it has entailed work, and has wrung sweat from my 
brow. What harm is there in being a copyist? "He 
is only an amanuensis," people say of me. But what is 
there so disgraceful in that? My writing is at least 
legible, and neat and pleasant to look upon, and his 
Excellency is satisfied with it. Indeed, I transcribe 
many important documents. At the same time, I know 
that my writing lacks style ; which is why I have never 
risen in the service. Even to you, my dear one, I write 
simply and without tricks, but just as a thought may 
happen to enter my head. Yes, I know all this ; but if 
every one were to become a fine writer, who would there 
be left to act as copyists ? . . . Whatsoever questions I 
may put to you in my letters, dearest, I pray you to answer 
them. I am sure that you need me, that I can be of use 
to you; and, since that is so, I must not allow myself to 
be distracted by any trifle. Even if I be likened to a 
rat I do not care, provided that that particular rat be 
wanted by you, and be of use in the world, and be 
retained in its position, and receive its reward. But 
what a rat it is ! 

Enough of this, dearest one. I ought not to have 
spoken of it, but I lost my temper. Still, it is pleasant 
to speak the truth sometimes. Good-bye, my own, my 



Poor Folk 



55 



darling, my sweet little comforter! I will come to you 
soon — yes, I will certainly come to you. Till I do so do 
not fret yourself. With me I shall be bringing a book. 
Once more good-bye. — Your heartfelt well-wisher, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

June 20/A. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — I am writing to 
you post-haste — I am hurrying my utmost to get my 
work finished in time. What do you suppose is the 
reason for this? It is because an opportunity has 
occurred for you to make a splendid purchase. Thedora 
tells me that a retired civil servant of her acquaintance 
has a uniform to sell — one cut to regulation pattern and 
in good repair, as well as likely to go very cheap. Now, 
do not tell me that you have not got the money, for I 
know from your own lips that you have. Use that money, 
I pray you, and do not hoard it. See what terrible 
garments you walk about in! They are shameful — 
they are patched all over ! In fact you have nothing new 
whatever. That this is so I know for certain, and I care 
not what you tell me about it. So listen to me for once, 
and buy this uniform. Do it for my sake. Do it to 
show that you really love me. 

You have sent me some linen as a gift. But listen to 
me, Makar Alexievitch. You are simply ruining your- 
self. Is it a jest that you should spend so much money, 
such a terrible amount of money, upon me? How you 
love to play the spendthrift! I tell you that I do not 
need it, that such expenditure is unnecessary. I know, 
I am certain, that you love me : therefore it is useless to 
remind me of the fact with gifts. Nor, since I know 
how much they must have cost you, do I like receiving 
them. No; put your money to a better use. I beg, I 
beseech of you to do so. Also, you ask me to send you a 
continuation of my memoirs — to conclude them. But 
I know not how I contrived even to write as much of 
them as I did ; and now I have not the strength to write 
further of my past, nor the desire to give it a single 
thought. Such recollections are terrible to me. Most 
difficult of all is it for me to speak of my poor mother, 



56 Poor Folk 

who left her destitute daughter a prey to villains. My 
heart runs blood whenever I think of it ; it is so fresh in 
my memory that I cannot dismiss it from my thoughts, 
nor rest for its insistence, although a year has now elapsed 
since the events took place. But all this you know. 

Also, I have told you what Anna Thedorovna is now 
intending. She accuses me of ingratitude, and denies 
the accusations made against herself with regard to 
Monsieur Bwikov. Also, she keeps sending for me, and 
telling me that I have taken to evil courses, but that if 
I will return to her, she will smooth over matters with 
Bwikov, and force him to confess his fault. Also, she 
says that he desires to give me a dowry. Away with 
them all! I am quite happy here with you and good 
Thedora, whose devotion to me reminds me of my old 
nurse, long since dead. Distant kinsman though you 
may be, I pray you always to defend my honour. Other 
people I do not wish to know, and would gladly forget 
if I could. . . . What are they wanting with me now ? 
Thedora declares it all to be a trick, and says that in time 
they will leave me alone. God grant it be so ! B. D. 

June 21 st. 

My Own, my Darling, — I wish to write to you, yet 
know not where to begin. Things are as strange as 
though we were actually living together. Also I would 
add that never in my life have I passed such happy 
days as I am spending at present. 'Tis as though God 
had blessed me with a home and a family of my own! 
Yes, you are my little daughter, beloved. But why 
mention the four sorry roubles that I sent you? You 
needed them; I know that from Thedora herself, and it 
will always be a particular pleasure to me to gratify 
you in anything. It will always be my one happiness 
in life. Pray, therefore, leave me that happiness, and 
do not seek to cross me in it. Things are not as you 
suppose. I have now reached the sunshine since, in 
the first place, I am living so close to you as almost to 
be with you (which is a great consolation to my mind), 
while, in the second place, a neighbour of mine named 
Rataziaev (the retired official who gives the literary 



Poor Folk 



57 



parties) has today invited me to tea. This evening, 
therefore, there will be a gathering at which we shall 
discuss literature! Think of that, my darling! Well, 
good-bye now. I have written this without any definite 
aim in my mind, but solely to assure you of my welfare. 
Through Theresa I have received your message that you 
need an embroidered cloak to wear, so I will go and pur- 
chase one. Yes, to-morrow I mean to purchase that em- 
broidered cloak, and so give myself the pleasure of having 
satisfied one of your wants. I know where to go for 
such a garment. For the time being I remain your 
sincere friend, Makar Dievushkin. 

June 22nd. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — I have to tell 
you that a sad event has happened in this house — an 
event to excite one's utmost pity. This morning, about 
five o'clock, one of Gorshkov's children died of scarlatina, 
or something of the kind. I have been to pay the 
parents a visit of condolence, and found them living in 
the direst poverty and disorder. Nor is that surprising, 
seeing that the family lives in a single room, with 
only a screen to divide it for decency's sake. Already 
the coffin was standing in their midst — a plain but 
decent shell which had been bought ready-made. The 
child, they told me, had been a boy of nine, and full of 
promise. What a pitiful spectacle ! Though not weep- 
ing, the mother, poor woman, looked broken with grief. 
After all, to have one burden the less on their shoulders 
may prove a relief, though there are still two children left 
— a babe at the breast and a little girl of six. How 
painful to see these suffering children, and to be unable 
to help them! The father, clad in an old, dirty frock- 
coat, was seated on a dilapidated chair. Down his 
cheeks there were coursing tears — though less through 
grief than owing to a long-standing affliction of the 
eyes. He was so thin, too! Always he reddens in the 
face when he is addressed, and becomes too confused to 
answer. A little girl, his daughter, was leaning against 
the coffin — her face looking so worn and thoughtful, 
poor mite ! Do you know, I cannot bear to see a child 



58 Poor Folk 

look thoughtful. On the floor there lay a rag doll, but 
she was not playing with it as, motionless, she stood 
there with her finger to her lips. Even a bon-bon which 
the landlady had given her she was not eating. Is it 
not all sad, sad, Barbara? Makar Dievushkin. 

June 2$th. 

My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — I return you 
your book. In my opinion it is a worthless one, and 
I would rather not have it in my possession. Why 
do you save up your money to buy such trash ? Except 
in jest, do such books really please you? However, 
you have now promised to send me something else to 
read. I will share the cost of it. Now, farewell until 
we meet again. I have nothing more to say. B. D. 

June 26th. 

My dear little Barbara, — To tell you the truth, I 
myself have not read the book of which you speak. 
That is to say, though I began to read it, I soon saw that 
it was nonsense, and written only to make people laugh. 
" However," thought I, " it is at least a cheerful work, 
and so may please Barbara." That is why I sent it you. 

Rateziaev has now promised to give me something 
really literary to read; so you shall soon have your 
book, my darling. He is a man who reflects; he is a 
clever fellow, as well as himself a writer — such a writer ! 
His pen glides along with ease, and in such a style (even 
when he is writing the most ordinary, the most insigni- 
ficant of articles) that I have often remarked upon the 
fact, both to Phaldoni and to Theresa. Often, too, I 
go to spend an evening with him. He reads aloud to us 
until five o'clock in the morning, and we listen to him. 
It is a revelation of things rather than a reading. It is 
charming, it is like a bouquet of flowers — there is a bou- 
quet of flowers in every line of each page. Besides, he 
is such an approachable, courteous, kind-hearted fellow ! 
What am / compared with him ? Why, nothing, simply 
nothing! He is a man of reputation, whereas I — well, 
I do not exist at all. Yet he condescends to my level. 
At this very moment I am copying out a document for 
him. But you must not think that he finds any difficulty 



Poor Folk 59 

in condescending to me who am only a copyist. No, 
you must not believe the base gossip that you may 
hear. I do copying work for him simply in order to 
please myself, as well as that he may notice me — a thing 
that always gives me pleasure. I appreciate the deli- 
cacy of his position. He is a good, a very good, man, 
and an unapproachable writer. 

What a splendid thing is literature, Barbara — what a 
splendid thing! This I learnt before I had known 
Rataziaev even for three days. It strengthens and 
instructs the heart of man. . . . No matter what 
there be in the world, you will find it all written 
down in Rataziaev's works. And so well written down, 
too! Literature is a sort of picture — a sort of picture 
or mirror. It connotes at once passion, expression, 
fine criticism, good learning, and a document. Yes, 
I have learnt this from Rataziaev himself. I can assure 
you, Barbara, that if only you could be sitting among 
us, and listening to the talk (while, with the rest of us, 
you smoked a pipe), and were to hear those present 
begin to argue and dispute concerning different matters, 
you would feel of as little account among them as I 
do; for I myself figure there only as a blockhead, and 
feel ashamed, since it takes me a whole evening to 
think of a single word to interpolate — and even then 
the word will not come! In a case like that a man 
regrets that, as the proverb has it, he should have 
reached man's estate but not man's understanding. . . . 
What do I do in my spare time? I sleep like a fool, 
though I would far rather be occupied with some- 
thing else — say, with eating or writing, since the one 
is useful to oneself, and the other is beneficial to 
one's fellows. You should see how much money these 
fellows contrive to save! How much, for instance, 
does not Rataziaev lay by? A few days' writing, I 
am told, can earn him as much as three hundred roubles ! 
Indeed, if a man be a writer of short stories or anything 
else that is interesting, he can sometimes pocket five 
hundred roubles, or a thousand, at a time! Think of 
it, Barbara! Rataziaev has by him a small manuscript 
of verses, and for it he is asking — what do you think? 



6o Poor Folk 

seven thousand roubles! Why, one could buy a whole 
house for that sum ! He has even refused five thousand 
for a manuscript, and on that occasion I reasoned with 
him, and advised him to accept the five thousand. 
But it was of no use. " For," said he, " they will soon 
offer me seven thousand," and kept to his point, for he 
is a man of some determination. 

Suppose, now, that I were to give you an extract 
from Passion in Italy (as another work of his is called). 
Read this, dearest Barbara, and judge for yourself: 

" Vladimir started, for in his veins the lust of passion 
had welled until it had reached boiling point. 

" ' Countess,' he cried, ' do you know how terrible 
is this adoration of mine, how infinite this madness? 
No ! My fancies have not deceived me — I love you 
ecstatically, diabolically, as a madman might! All the 
blood that is in your husband's body could never quench 
the furious, surging rapture that is in my soul! No 
puny obstacle could thwart the all-destroying, infernal 
flame which is eating into my exhausted breast! О 
Zinaida, my Zinaida! ' 

" ' Vladimir! ' she whispered, almost beside herself, 
as she sank upon his bosom. 

" ' My Zinaida! ' cried the enraptured Smileski once 
more. 

" His breath was coming in sharp, broken pants. 
The lamp of love was burning brightly on the altar of 
passion, and searing the hearts of the two unfortunate 
sufferers. 

" ' Vladimir! ' again she whispered in her intoxication, 
while her bosom heaved, her cheeks glowed, and her 
eyes flashed fire. 

" Thus was a new and dread union consummated. 

• •••••• 

" Half an hour later the aged Count entered his wife's 
boudoir. 

" ' How now, my love? ' said he. ' Surely it is for 
some welcome guest beyond the common that you have 
had the samovar x thus prepared ? ' And he smote 
her lightly on the cheek." 

1 Tea-urn. 



Poor Folk 6 1 

What think you of that, Barbara? True, it is a little 
too outspoken — there can be no doubt of that ; yet how 
grand it is, how splendid! With your permission I 
will quote you also an extract from Rataziaev's story, 
Ermak and Zuleika. 

You love me, Zuleika? Say again that you love 
me, you love me! ' 

' I do love you, Ermak/ whispered Zuleika. 
Then by heaven and earth I thank you! By 
heaven and earth you have made me happy! You 
have given me all, all that my tortured soul has for 
immemorial years been seeking! 'Tis for this that you 
have led me hither, my guiding star — 'tis for this that 
you have conducted me to the Girdle of Stone! To all 
the world will I now show my Zuleika, and no man, 
demon or monster of Hell, shall bid me nay! Oh, if 
men would but understand the mysterious passions of 
her tender heart, and see the poem which lurks in each 
of her little tears ! Suffer me to dry those tears with my 
kisses! Suffer me to drink of those heavenly drops, О 
being who art not of this earth ! ' 

" ' Ermak/ said Zuleika, ' the world is cruel, and men 
are unjust. But let them drive us from their midst — 
let them judge us, my beloved Ermak ! What has a poor 
maiden who was reared amid the snows of Siberia to do 
with their cold, icy, self-sufficient world? Men cannot 
understand me, my darling, my sweetheart/ 

" ' Is that so? Then shall the sword of the Cossacks 
sing and whistle over their heads! ' cried Ermak with a 
furious look in his eyes." 

What must Ermak have felt when he learnt that his 
Zuleika had been murdered, Barbara? — that, taking 
advantages of the cover of night, the blind old Kouchoum 
had, in Ermak's absence, broken into the latter's tent, 
and stabbed his own daughter in mistake for the man 
who had robbed him of sceptre and crown? 

" ' Oh that I had a stone whereon to whet my sword ! ' 
cried Ermak in the madness of his wrath as he strove to 
sharpen his steel blade upon the enchanted rock. ' I 
would have his blood, his blood! I would tear him 
limb from limb, the villain! ' " 

*c 711 



62 Poor Folk 

Then Ermak, unable to survive the loss of his Zuleika, 
throws himself into the Irtisch, and the tale comes to 
an end. 

Here, again, is another short extract — this time 
written in a more comical vein, to make people laugh. 

" Do you know Ivan Prokofievitch Zheltopuzh? He 
is the man who took a piece out of Prokofi Ivanovitch's 
leg. Ivan's character is one of the rugged order, and 
therefore one that is rather lacking in virtue. Yet 
he has a passionate relish for radishes and honey. Once, 
also, he possessed a friend named Pelagea Antonovna. 
Do you know Pelagea Antonovna? She is the woman 
who always puts on her petticoat wrong side outwards." 

What humour, Barbara — what purest humour! We 
rocked with laughter when he read it aloud to us. Yes, 
that is the kind of man he is. Possibly the passage 
is a trifle over-frolicsome, but at least it is harmless, and 
contains no freethought or liberal ideas. In passing, 
I may say that Rataziaev is not only a supreme writer, 
but also a man of upright life — which is more than can 
be said for most writers. 

What, do you think, is an idea that sometimes enters 
my head? In fact, what if I myself were to write 
something? How if suddenly a book were to make its 
appearance in the world bearing the title of u The Poetical 
Works of Makar Dievushkin" ? What then, my angel? 
How should you view, should you receive, such an event ? 
I may say of myself that never, after my book had 
appeared, should I have the hardihood to show my face 
on the Nevski Prospect ; for would it not be too dreadful 
to hear every one saying, " Here comes the litterateur 
and poet, Dievushkin — yes, it is Dievushkin himself"? 
What, in such a case, should I do with my feet (for I may 
tell you that almost always my shoes are patched, 01 
have just been resoled, and therefore look anything but 
becoming) ? To think that the great writer Dievushkin 
should walk about in patched footgear! If a duchess 
or a countess should recognise me, what would she say, 
poor woman? Perhaps, though, she would not notice 
my shoes at all, since it may reasonably be supposed 
that countesses do not greatly occupy themselves with 



Poor Folk 63 

footgear, especially with the footgear of civil service 
officials (footgear may differ from footgear, it must be 
remembered). Besides, I should find that the countess 
had heard all about me, for my friends would have 
betrayed me to her — Rataziaev among the first of them, 
seeing that he often goes to visit Countess V., and 
practically lives at her house. She is said to be a woman 
of great intellect and wit. An artful dog, that 
Rataziaev ! 

But enough of this. I write this sort of thing both 
to amuse myself and to divert your thoughts. Good-bye 
now, my angel. This is a long epistle that I am sending 
you, but the reason is that to-day I feel in good spirits 
after dining at Rataziaev's. There I came across a 
novel which I hardly know how to describe to you. Do 
not think the worse of me on that account, even though 
I bring you another book instead (for I certainly 
mean to bring one). The novel in question was one of 
Paul de Kock's, and not a novel for you to read. No, 
no! Such a work is unfit for your eyes. In fact, it is 
said to have greatly offended the critics of St. Peters- 
burg. Also, I am sending you a pound of bon-bons — 
bought specially for yourself. Each time that you eat 
one, beloved, remember the sender. Only, do not bite 
the iced ones, but suck them gently, lest they make 
your teeth ache. Perhaps, too, you like comfits? Well, 
write and tell me if it is so. Good-bye, good-bye. 
Christ watch over you, my darling! — Always your 
faithful friend, Makar Dievushkin. 

June 2jth. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — Thedora tells 
me that, should I wish, there are some people who will 
be glad to help me by obtaining me an excellent post as 
governess in a certain house. What think you, my 
friend? Shall I go or not? Of course, I should then 
cease to be a burden to you, and the post appears to be 
a comfortable one. On the other hand, the idea of 
entering a strange house appals me. The people in it 
are landed gentry, and they will begin to ask me ques- 
tions, and to busy themselves about me. What answers 



64 Poor Folk 

shall I then return? You see, I am now so unused to 
society — so shy! I like to live in a corner to which I 
have long grown used. Yes, the place with which one 
is familiar is always the best. Even if for companion one 
has but sorrow, that place will still be the best. . . . God 
alone knows what duties the post will entail. Perhaps I 
shall merely be required to act as nursemaid ; and in any 
case I hear that the governess there has been changed 
three times in two years. For God's sake, Makar Alexie- 
vitch, advise me whether to go or not. Why do you 
never come near me now? Do let my eyes have an 
occasional sight of you. Mass on Sundays is almost 
the only time when we see one another. How retiring 
you have become! So also have I, even though, in a 
way, I am your kinswoman. You must have ceased 
to love me, Makar Alexievitch. I spend many a weary 
hour because of it. Sometimes, when dusk is falling, I 
find myself lonely — oh, so lonely! Thedora has gone 
out somewhere, and I sit here and think, and think, and 
think. I remember all the past, its joys and its sorrows. 
It passes before my eyes in detail, it glimmers at me 
as out of a mist; and as it does so well known faces 
appear which seem actually to be present with me in 
this room! Most frequently of all I see my mother. 
Ah, the dreams that come to me ! I feel that my health 
is breaking, so weak am I. When this morning I arose 
sickness took me until I vomited and vomited. Yes, 
I feel, I know, that death is approaching. Who will 
bury me when it has come ? Who will visit my tomb ? 
Who will sorrow for me ? And now it is in a strange place, 
in the house of a stranger, that I may have to die ! Yes, 
in a corner which I do not know ! . . . My God, how sad 
a thing is life ! . . . Why do you send me comfits to eat ? 
Whence do you get the money to buy them? Ah, for 
God's sake keep the money, keep the money. Thedora 
has sold a carpet which I have made. She got fifty 
roubles for it, which is very good — I had expected less. 
Of the fifty roubles I shall give Thedora three, and with 
the remainder make myself a plain, warm dress. Also, 
I am going to make you a waistcoat — to make it myself, 
and out of good material. 



Poor Folk 65 

Also, Thedora has brought me a book — The Stories 0] 
Bielkin — which I will forward you if you would care to read 
it. Only, do not soil it, nor yet retain it, for it does not 
belong to me. It is by Pushkin. Two years ago I read 
these stories with my mother, and it would hurt me to 
read them again. If you yourself have any books, pray 
let me have them — so long as they have not been ob- 
tained from Rataziaev. Probably he will be giving you 
one of his own works when he has had one printed. 
How is it that his compositions please you so much, 
Makar Alexievitch ? I think them such rubbish ! — Now 
good-bye. How I have been chattering on! When 
feeling sad, I always like to talk of something, for it acts 
upon me like medicine — I begin to feel easier as soon as 
I have uttered what is preying upon my heart. Good- 
bye, good-bye, my friend. — Your own B. D. 

June 28th. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — Away with 
melancholy ! Really, beloved, you ought to be ashamed 
of yourself ! How can you allow such thoughts to enter 
your head? Really and truly you are quite well; really 
and truly you are, my darling. Why, you are blooming 
— simply blooming. True, I see a certain touch of 
pallor in your face, but still you are blooming. A fig 
for dreams and visions! Yes, for shame, dearest! 
Drive away those fancies; try to despise them. Why 
do / sleep so well ? Why am / never ailing ? Look at 
me, beloved. I live well, I sleep peacefully, I retain 
my health, I can ruffle it with my juniors. In fact, it 
is a pleasure to see me. Come, come, then, sweetheart ! 
Let us have no more of this. I know that that little 
head of yours is capable of any fancy — that all too easily 
you take to dreaming and repining; but for my sake 
cease to do so. Are you to go to these people, you ask 
me? Never! No, no, again no ! How could you think 
of doing such a thing as taking a journey? I will not 
allow it — I intend to combat your intention with all my 
might. I will sell my frockcoat, and walk the streets 
in my shirt sleeves, rather than let you be in want. But 
no, Barbara. / know you, / know you. This is merely 



66 Poor Folk 

a trick, merely a trick. And probably Thedora alone 
is to blame for it. She appears to be a foolish old woman, 
and to be able to persuade you to do anything. Do not 
believe her, my dearest. I am sure that you know what 
is what as well as she does. Eh, sweetheart? She is 
a stupid, quarrelsome, rubbish-talking old woman who 
brought her late husband to the grave. Probably she 
has been plaguing you as much as she did him. No, no, 
dearest; you must not take this step. What should / 
do then ? What would there be left for me to do ? Pray 
put the idea out of your head. What is it you lack here ? 
I cannot feel sufficiently overjoyed to be near you, while, 
for your part, you love me well, and can live your life 
here as quietly as you wish. Read or sew, whichever 
you like — or read and do not sew. Only, do not desert 
me. Try, yourself, to imagine how things would seem 
after you had gone. Here am I sending you books, and 
later we will go for a walk. Come, come, then, my 
Barbara! Summon to your aid your reason, and cease 
to babble of trifles. As soon as I can I will come and see 
you, and then you shall tell me the whole story. This 
will not do, sweetheart; this certainly will not do. Of 
course I know that I am not an educated man, and have 
received but a sorry schooling, and have had no inclination 
for it, and think too much of Rataziaev, if you will; but 
he is my friend, and therefore I must put in a word or two 
for him. Yes, he is a splendid writer. Again and again 
I assert that he writes magnificently. I do not agree 
with you about his works, and never shall. He writes 
too ornately, too laconically, with too great a wealth 
of imagery and imagination. Perhaps you have read 
him without insight, Barbara? Or perhaps you were 
out of spirits at the time, or angry with Thedora about 
something, or worried about some mischance? Ah, 
but you should read him sympathetically, and, best of 
all, at a time when you are feeling happy and contented 
and pleasantly disposed — for instance, when you have 
a bon-bon or two in your mouth. Yes, that is the way 
to read Rataziaev. I do not dispute (indeed, who would 
do so ?) that better writers than he exist — even far better; 
but they are good, and he is good too — they write well, 



Poor Folk 67 

and he writes well. It is chiefly for his own sake that 
he writes, and he is to be approved for so doing. 

Now good-bye, dearest. More I cannot write, for 
I must hurry away to business. Be of good cheer, and 
the Lord God watch over you! — Your faithful friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

PS. — Thank you so much for the book, darling! 
I will read it through, this volume of Pushkin, and 
to-night come to you. 

My dear Makar Alexievitch, — No, no, my friend; 
I must not go on living near you. I have been thinking 
the matter over, and come to the conclusion that I 
should be doing very wrong to refuse so good a post. 
I should at least have an assured crust of bread; I 
might at least set to work to earn my employers' favour, 
and even try to change my character if required to do 
so. Of course it is a sad and sorry thing to have to 
live among strangers, and to be forced to seek their 
patronage, and to conceal and constrain one's own 
personality: but God will help me. I must not remain 
for ever a recluse, for similar chances have come my 
way before. I remember how, when a little girl at 
school, I used to go home on Sundays and spend the 
time in frisking and dancing about. Sometimes my 
mother would chide me for so doing, but / did not care, 
for my heart was too joyous, and my spirits too buoyant, 
for that. Yet as the evening of Sunday came on, a 
sadness as of death would overtake me, for at nine 
o'clock I had to return to school, where everything was 
cold and strange and severe — where the governesses, 
on Mondays, lost their tempers, and nipped my ears, 
and made me cry. On such occasions I would retire 
to a corner and weep alone; concealing my tears lest 
I should be called lazy. Yet it was not because I had 
to study that I used to weep, and in time I grew more 
used to things, and, after my schooldays were over, 
shed tears only when I was parting with friends. . . . 
It is not right for me to live in dependence upon you. 
The thought tortures me. I tell you this frankly, foi 



68 Poor Folk 

the reason that frankness with you has become a habit. 
Cannot I see that daily, at earliest dawn, Thedora 
rises to do washing and scrubbing, and remains working 
at it until late at night, even though her poor old bones 
must be aching for want of rest? Cannot I also see 
that you are ruining yourself for me, and hoarding your 
last kopeck that you may spend it on my behalf? 
You ought not so to act, my friend, even though you 
write that you would rather sell your all than let me 
want for anything. I believe in you, my friend — I 
entirely believe in your good heart; but you say that 
to me now (when, perhaps, you have received some 
unexpected sum or gratuity) and there is still the future 
to be thought of. You yourself know that I am always 
ailing — that I cannot work as you do, glad though I 
should be of any work if I could get it; so what else is 
there for me to do? To sit and repine as I watch you 
and Thedora? But how would that be of any use to 
you? Am I necessary to you, comrade of mine? Have 
I ever done you any good ? Though I am bound to you 
with my whole soul, and love you dearly and strongly 
and wholeheartedly, a bitter fate has ordained that 
that love should be all that I have to give — that J 
should be unable, by creating for you subsistence, to 
repay you for all your kindness. Do not, therefore, 
detain me longer, but think the matter out, and give 
me your opinion on it. In expectation of which I 
remain your sweetheart, B. D. 

July ist. 

Rubbish, rubbish, Barbara! — What you say is sheer 
rubbish. Stay here, rather, and put such thoughts 
out of your head. None of what you suppose is true. 
I can see for myself that it is not. Whatsoever you 
lack here, you have but to ask me for it. Here you 
love and are loved, and we might easily be happy and 
contented together. What could you want more? 
What have you to do with strangers? You cannot 
possibly know what strangers are like. I know it, 
though, and could have told you if you had asked me. 
There is a stranger whom I know, and whose bread I 



Poor Folk 69 

have eaten. He is a cruel man, Barbara — a man so 
bad that he would be unworthy of your little heart, 
and would soon tear it to pieces with his railings and 
reproaches and black looks. On the other hand, you 
are safe and well here — you are as safe as though you 
were sheltered in a nest. Besides, you would, as it were, 
leave me with my head gone. For what should I have 
to do when you were gone? What could I, an old man, 
find to do? Are not you necessary to me? Are not 
you useful to me ? Eh ? Surely you do not think that 
you are not useful? You are of great use to me, Bar- 
bara, for you exercise a beneficial influence upon my 
life. Even at this moment, as I think of you, I feel 
cheered, for always I can write letters to you, and put 
into them what I am feeling, and receive from you de- 
tailed answers. ... I have bought you a wardrobe, and 
also procured you a bonnet ; so you see that you have 
only to give me a commission for it to be executed. . . . 
No; in what way are you not useful? What 
should I do if I were deserted in my old age? What 
would become of me? Perhaps you never thought of 
that, Barbara — perhaps you never said to yourself, 
" How could he get on without me? " You see, I have 
grown so accustomed to you. What else would it end 
in if you were to go away? Why, in my hieing me to 
the Neva's bank and doing away with myself. Ah, 
Barbara, darling, I can see that you want me to be 
taken away to the Volkovo Cemetery in a broken-down 
old hearse, with some poor outcast of the streets to 
accompany my coffin as chief mourner, and the grave- 
diggers to heap my body with clay, and depart and 
leave me there. How wrong of you, how wrong of you, 
my beloved! Yes, by heavens, how wrong of you! 
I am returning you your book, little friend; and if you 
were to ask of me my opinion of it I should say that 
never before in my life had I read a book so splendid. I 
keep wondering how I have hitherto contrived to 
remain such an owl. For what have I ever done? 
From what wilds did I spring into existence? I know 
nothing — I know simply nothing. My ignorance is 
complete. Frankly, I am not an educated man, for 



jo Poor Folk 

until now 1 have read scarcely a single book — only A 
Portrait of Man (a clever enough work in its way), 
The Boy who could Play Many Tunes upon Bells, and 
Ivik's Storks. That is all. But now I have also read 
The Station Overseer in your little volume; and it is 
wonderful to think that one may live and yet be ignor- 
ant of the fact that under one's very nose there may 
be a book in which one's whole life is described as in a 
picture. Never should I have guessed that, as soon 
as ever one begins to read such a book, it sets one on 
both to remember and to consider and to foretell events. 
Another reason why I liked this book so much is that, 
though, in the case of other works (however clever they 
be), one may read them, yet remember not a word of 
them (for I am a man naturally dull of comprehension, 
and unable to read works of any great importance), 
— although, as I say, one may read such works, one 
reads such a book as yours as easily as though it had 
been written by oneself, and had taken possession of 
one's heart, and turned it inside out for inspection, and 
were describing it in detail as a matter of perfect simpli- 
city. Why, I might almost have written the book myself ! 
Why not, indeed? I can feel just as the people in the 
book do, and find myself in positions precisely similar 
to those of, say, the character Samson Virin. In fact, 
how many good-hearted wretches like Virin are there 
not walking about amongst us? How easily, too, it is 
all described! I assure you, my darling, that I almost 
shed tears when I read that Virin so took to drink as to 
lose his memory, become morose, and spend whole days 
over his liquor; as also that he choked with grief and 
wept bitterly when, rubbing his eyes with his dirty 
hand, he bethought him of his wandering lamb, his 
daughter Dunasha! How natural, how natural! You 
should read the book for yourself. The thing is actually 
alive. Even / can see that; even / can realise that 
it is a picture cut from the very life around me. In 
it I see our own Theresa (to go no further) and the 
poor tchinovnik — who is just such a man as this Samson 
Virin, except for his surname of Gorshkov. The book 
describes just what might happen to ourselves — to 



Poor Folk 71 

myself in particular. Even a count who lives in the 
Nevski Prospect or in Naberezhnaia Street might have 
a similar experience, though he might appear to be 
different, owing to the fact that his life is cast on a 
higher plane. Yes, just the same things might happen 
to him — just the same things. . . . Here are you wish- 
ing to go away and leave us; yet be careful lest it 
would not be / who had to pay the penalty of your 
doing so. For you might ruin both yourself and me. 
For the love of God put away these thoughts from you, 
my darling, and do not torture me in vain. How could 
you, my poor little unfledged nestling, find yourself 
food, and defend yourself from misfortune, and ward 
off the wiles of evil men ? Think better of it, Barbara, 
and pay no more heed to foolish advice and calumny, 
but read your book again, and read it with attention. 
It may do you much good. 

I have spoken of Rataziaev's The Station Overseer. 
However, the author has told me that the work is old- 
fashioned, since, nowadays, books are issued with 
illustrations and embellishments of different sorts (though 
I could not make out all that he said). Pushkin 
he adjudges a splendid poet, and one who has done 
honour to Holy Russia. Read your book again, Bar- 
bara, and follow my advice, and make an old man 
happy. The Lord God Himself will reward you. Yes, 
He will surely reward you. — Your faithful friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — To-day Thedora 
came to me with fifteen roubles in silver. How glad 
was the poor woman when I gave her three of them! 

I am writing to you in great haste, for I am busy cutting 
out a waistcoat to send to you — buff, with a pattern of 
flowers. Also I am sending you a book of stories ; some 
of which I have read myself, particularly one called 

II The Cloak." . . . You invite me to go to the theatre 
with you. But will it not cost too much? Of course 
we might sit in the gallery. It is a long time (indeed I 
cannot remember when I last did so) since I visited a 
theatre ! Yet I cannot help fearing that such an amuse- 



72 Poor Folk 

ment is beyond our means. Thedora keeps nodding 
her head, and saying that you have taken to living above 
your income. I myself divine the same thing by the 
amount which you have spent upon me. Take care, 
dear friend, that misfortune does not come of it, for 
Thedora has also informed me of certain rumours con- 
cerning your inability to meet your landlady's bills. 
In fact, I am very anxious about you. Now, good-bye, 
for I must hasten away to see about another matter — 
about the changing of the ribands on my bonnet. 

P.S. — Do you know, if we go to the theatre, I think 
that I shall wear my new hat and black mantilla. 
Will not that look nice ? 

July -jth. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — So much for 
yesterday! Yes, dearest, we have both been caught 
playing the fool, for I have become thoroughly bitten 
with the actress of whom I spoke. Last night I listened 
to her with all my ears, although, strangely enough, it 
was practically my first sight of her, seeing that only 
once before had I been to the theatre. In those days I 
lived cheek by jowl with a party of five young men — a 
most noisy crew — and one night I accompanied them, 
willy-nilly, to the theatre, though I held myself decently 
aloof from their doings, and only assisted them for com- 
pany's sake. How those fellows talked to me of this 
actress! Every night when the theatre was open the 
entire band of them (they always seemed to possess the 
requisite money) would betake themselves to that place 
of entertainment, where they ascended to the gallery, 
and clapped their hands, and repeatedly recalled the 
actress in question. In fact, they went simply mad 
over her. Even after we had returned home they would 
give me no rest, but would go on talking about her ail 
night, and calling her their Glasha, and declaring them- 
selves to be in love with "the canary-bird of their hearts." 
My defenceless self, too, they would plague about the 
woman, for I was as young as they. What a figure I 
must have cut with them on the fourth tier of the 
gallery! Yet I never got a sight of more than just a 



Poor Folk 73 

corner of the curtain, but had to content myself with 
listening. She had a fine, resounding, mellow voice 
like a nightingale's, and we all of us used to clap our 
hands loudly, and to shout at the top of our lungs. In 
short, we came very near to being ejected. On the 
first occasion I went home walking as in a mist, with a 
single rouble left in my pocket, and an interval of ten 
clear days confronting me before next pay-day. Yet, 
what think you, dearest? The very next day, before 
going to work, I called at a French perfumer's, and 
spent my whole remaining capital on some eau-de- 
Cologne and scented soap! Why I did so I do not 
know. Nor did I dine at home that day, but kept 
walking and walking past her windows (she lived in a 
fourth-storey flat on the Nevski Prospect). At length 
I returned to my own lodging, but only to rest a short 
hour before again setting off to the Nevski Prospect 
and resuming my vigil before her windows. For a 
month and a half I kept this up — dangling in her train. 
Sometimes I would hire cabs, and discharge them in 
view of her abode ; until at length I had entirely ruined 
myself, and got into debt. Then I fell out of love with 
her — I grew weary of the pursuit. . . . You see, there- 
fore, to what depths an actress can reduce a decent 
man. In those days I was young. Yes, in those days 
I was very young. M. D. 

July Bth. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — The book which 
I received from you on the 6th of this month I now 
hasten to return, while at the same time hastening also 
to explain matters to you in this accompanying letter. 
What a misfortune, my beloved, that you should have 
brought me to such a pass ! Our lots in life are appor- 
tioned by the Almighty according to our human deserts. 
To such a one He assigns a life in a general's epaulets 
or as a privy councillor, — to such a one, I say, He 
assigns a life of command; whereas to another one He 
allots only a life of unmurmuring toil and suffering. 
These things are calculated according to a man's capacity. 
One man may be capable of one thing, and another of 



74 Poor Folk 

another, and their several capacities are ordered by the 
Lord God himself. I have now been thirty years in the 
public service, and have fulfilled my duties irreproach- 
ably, remained abstemious, and never been detected in 
any unbecoming behaviour. As a citizen, I may confess 
— I confess it freely — I have been guilty of certain 
shortcomings: yet those shortcomings have been com- 
bined with certain virtues. I am respected of my 
superiors, and even his Excellency has had no fault to 
find with me; and though I have never been shown 
any special marks of favour, I know that every one finds 
me at least satisfactory. Also, my writing is sufficiently 
legible and clear. Neither too rounded nor too fine, 
it is a running hand, yet always suitable. Of our staff 
only Ivan Prokofievitch writes a similar hand. Thus 
have I lived till the grey hairs of my old age; yet I 
can think of no serious fault committed. Of course, 
no one is free from minor faults. Every one has some 
of them, and you among the rest, my beloved. But 
in grave or in audacious offences never have I been 
detected, nor in infringements of regulations, nor in 
breaches of the public peace. No, never! This you 
surely know, even as the author of your book must 
have known it. Yes, he also must have known it when 
he sat down to write. I had not expected this of you, 
my Barbara. I should never have expected it. 

What ? In future I am not to go on living peacefully 
in my little corner, poor though that corner be — I am 
not to go on living, as the proverb has it, without 
muddying the water, or hurting any one, or forgetting 
the fear of the Lord God and of oneself? I am not to 
see, forsooth, that no man does me an injury, or breaks 
into my home — I am not to take care that all shall go 
well with me, or that I have clothes to wear, or that 
my shoes do not require mending, or that I be given 
work to do, or that I possess sufficient meat and drink ? 
Is it nothing that, where the pavement is rotten, I 
have to walk on tiptoe to save my boots? If I write 
to you overmuch concerning myself, is it concerning 
another man, rather, that I ought to write — concerning 
his wants, concerning his lack of tea to drink (and all 



Poor Folk 



75 



the world needs tea) ? Has it ever been my custom to 
pry into other men's mouths, to see what is being put 
into them ? Have I ever been known to offend any one 
in that respect? No, no, beloved! Why should I 
desire to insult other folks when they are not molesting 
me ? Let me give you an example of what I mean. 
A man may go on slaving and slaving in the public 
service, and earn the respect of his superiors (for what 
it is worth), and then, for no visible reason at all, find 
himself made a fool of. Of course he may break out 
now and then (I am not now referring only to drunken- 
ness), and (for example) buy himself a new pair of 
shoes, and take pleasure in seeing his feet looking well 
and smartly shod. Yes, I myself have known what it 
is to feel like that (I write this in good faith). Yet I 
am none the less astonished that Thedor Thedorovitch 
should neglect what is being said about him, and take 
no steps to defend himself. True, he is only a sub- 
ordinate official, and sometimes loves to rate and scold : 
yet why should he not do so — why should he not indulge 
in a little vituperation when he feels like it? Suppose 
it to be necessary, for form's sake, to scold, and to set 
every one right, and to shower around abuse (for, between 
ourselves, Barbara, our friend cannot get on without 
abuse — so much so that every one humours him, and 
does things behind his back) ? Well, since officials differ 
in rank, and every official demands that he shall be 
allowed to abuse his fellow officials in proportion to his 
rank, it follows that the tone also of official abuse should 
become divided into ranks, and thus accord with the 
natural order of things. All the world is built upon the 
system that each one of us shall have to yield prece- 
dence to some other one, as well as to enjoy a certain 
power of abusing his fellows. Without such a provision 
the world could not get on at all, and simple chaos would 
ensue. Yet I am surprised that our Thedor should 
continue to overlook insults of the kind that he endures. 
Why do I do my official work at all? Why is that 
necessary ? Will my doing of it lead any one who reads 
it to give me a greatcoat, or to buy me a new pair of 
shoes? No, Barbara. Men only read the documents, 



7b Poor Folk 

and then require me to write more. Sometimes a man 
will hide himself away, and not show his face abroad, 
for the mere reason that, though he has done nothing 
to be ashamed of, he dreads the gossip and slandering 
which are everywhere to be encountered. If his civic 
and family life have to do with literature, everything 
will be printed and read and laughed over and discussed ; 
until at length he hardly dare show his face in the street 
at all, seeing that he will have been described by report 
as recognisable through his gait alone! Then, when 
he has amended his ways, and grown gentler (even 
though he still continue to be loaded with official 
work), he will come to be accounted a virtuous, 
decent citizen who has deserved well of his comrades, 
rendered obedience to his superiors, wished no one any 
evil, preserved the fear of God in his heart, and died 
lamented. Yet would it not be better, instead of 
letting the poor fellow die, to give him a cloak while yet 
he is alive — to give it to this same Thedor Thedorovitch 
(that is to say, to myself) ? Yes, 'twere far better if, 
on hearing the tale of his subordinate's virtues, the 
chief of the department were to call the deserving man 
into his office, and then and there to promote him, and 
to grant him an increase of salary. Thus vice would be 
punished, virtue would prevail, and the staff of that 
department would live in peace together. Here we 
have an example from everyday, commonplace life. 
How, therefore, could you bring yourself to send me 
that book, my beloved? It is a badly conceived work, 
Barbara, and also unreal, for the reason that in creation 
such a tchinovnik does not exist. No, again I protest 
against it, little Barbara; again I protest. — Your most 
humble, devoted servant, M. D. 

July 27th. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — Your latest 
conduct and letters had frightened me, and left me 
thunderstruck and plunged in doubt, until what you 
have said about Thedor explained the situation. Why 
despair and go into such frenzies, Makar Alexievitch? 
Your explanations only partially satisfy me. Per- 



Poor Folk 



77 



haps I did wrong to insist upon accepting a good 
situation when it was offered me, seeing that from my 
last experience in that way I derived a shock which was 
anything but a matter for jesting. You say also that 
your love for me has compelled you to hide yourself 
in retirement. Now, how much I am indebted to you 
I realised when you told me that you were spending for 
my benefit the sum which you are always reported to 
have laid by at your bankers; but now that I have 
learnt that you never possessed such a fund, but 
that, on hearing of my destitute plight, and being 
moved by it, you decided to spend upon me the whole 
of your salary — even to forestall it — and when I had 
fallen ill actually to sell your clothes — when I learnt 
all this I found myself placed in the harassing position 
of not knowing how to accept it all, nor what to think 
of it. Ah, Makar Alexievitch! You ought to have 
stopped at your first acts of charity — acts inspired by 
sympathy and the love of kinsfolk, rather than have 
continued to squander your means upon what was 
unnecessary. Yes, you have betrayed our friendship, 
Makar Alexievitch, in that you have not been open with 
me; and, now that I see that your last coin has been 
spent upon dresses and bon-bons and excursions and 
books and visits to the theatre for me, I weep bitter 
tears for my unpardonable improvidence in having 
accepted these things without giving so much as a 
thought to your welfare. Yes, all that you have done 
to give me pleasure has become converted into a source 
of grief, and left behind it only useless regret. Of late 
I have remarked that you were looking depressed; and 
though I felt fearful that something unfortunate was 
impending, what has happened would otherwise never 
have entered my head. To think that your better 
sense should so play you false, Makar Alexievitch! 
What will people think of you, and say of you? Who 
will want to know you? You whom, like every one 
else, I have valued for your goodness of heart and 
modesty and good sense — you, I say, have now given 
way to an unpleasant vice of which you seem never 
before to have been guilty. What were my feelings 



78 



Poor Folk 



when Thedora informed me that you had been dis- 
covered drunk in the street, and taken home by the 
police? Why, I felt petrified with astonishment — 
although, in view of the fact that you had failed me for 
four days, I had been expecting some such extraordinary 
occurrence. Also, have you thought what your superiors 
will say of you when they come to learn the true reason 
of your absence? You say that every one is laughing 
at you, that every one has learnt of the bond which 
exists between us, and that your neighbours habitually 
refer to me with a sneer. Pay no attention to this, 
Makar Alexievitch; for the love of God be comforted. 
Also, the incident between you and the officers has 
much alarmed me, although I had heard certain rumours 
concerning it. Pray explain to me what it means. 
You write, too, that you have been afraid to be open 
with me, for the reason that your confessions might 
lose you my friendship. Also, you say that you are in 
despair at the thought of being unable to help me in my 
illness, owing to the fact that you have sold everything 
which might have maintained me, and preserved me 
in sickness, as well as that you have borrowed as much as 
it is possible for you to borrow, and are daily experienc- 
ing unpleasantness with your landlady. Well, in failing 
to reveal all this to me you chose the worser course. 
Now, however, I know all. You have forced me to 
recognise that I have been the cause of your unhappy 
plight, as well as that my own conduct has brought 
upon myself a twofold measure of sorrow. The fact 
leaves me thunderstruck, Makar Alexievitch. Ah, 
friend, an infectious disease is indeed a misfortune, 
for now we poor and miserable folk must perforce keep 
apart from one another, lest the infection be increased. 
Yes, I have brought upon you calamities which never 
before in your humble, solitary life you had experienced. 
This tortures and exhausts me more than I can tell to 
think of. 

Write to me quite frankly. Tell me how you came 
to embark upon such a course of conduct. Comfort, 
oh, comfort me if you can. It is not self-love that 
prompts me to speak of my own comforting, but my 



Poor Folk 79 

friendship and love for you, which will never fade from 
my heart. Good-bye. I await your answer with 
impatience. You have thought but poorly of me, 
Makar Alexievitch. — Your friend and lover, 

Barbara Dobroselova. 

July 28th. 

My priceless Barbara Alexievna, — What am I 
to say to you, now that all is over, and we are gradually 
returning to our old position? You say that you are 
anxious as to what will be thought of me. Let me tell 
you that the dearest thing in life to me is my self-respect; 
wherefore, in informing you of my misfortunes and 
misconduct, I would add that none of my superiors 
know of my doings, nor ever will know of them, and 
that therefore I still enjoy a measure of respect in that 
quarter. Only one thing do I fear: I fear gossip. 
Garrulous though my landlady be, she said but little 
when, with the aid of your ten roubles, I to-day paid her 
part of her account; and as for the rest of my com- 
panions, they do not matter at all. So long as I have 
not to borrow money of them I need pay them no 
attention. To conclude my explanations, let me tell 
you that I value your respect for me above everything 
in the world, and have found it my greatest comfort 
during this temporary distress of mine. Thank God, 
the first shock of things has abated, now that you have 
agreed not to look upon me as faithless and an egotist 
simply because I have deceived you. I wish to hold 
you to myself, for the reason that I cannot bear to 
part with you, and love you as my guardian angel. . . . 
I have now returned to work, and am applying my- 
self diligently to my duties. Also, yesterday Evstafi 
Ivanovitch exchanged a word or two with me. Yet 
I will not conceal from you the fact that my debts are 
crushing me down, and that my wardrobe is in a sorry 
state. At the same time, these things do not really 
matter, and I would bid you not despair about them. 
Send me, however, another half-rouble if you can 
(though that half-rouble will stab me to the heart — 
stab me with the thought that it is not / who am helping 



8o Poor Folk 

you, but you who are helping me). Thedora has done 
well to get those fifteen roubles for you. At the moment, 
fool of an old man that I am, I have no hope of acquiring 
any more money; but as soon as ever I do so I will 
write to you and let you know all about it. What 
chiefly worries me is the fear of gossip. Good-bye, 
little angel. I kiss your hands, and beseech you to 
regain your health. If this is not a detailed letter, the 
reason is that I must soon be starting for the office, 
in order that, by strict application to duty, I may make 
amends for the past. Further information concerning 
my doings (as well as concerning that affair with the 
officers) must be deferred until to-night. — Your affec- 
tionate and respectful friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

July 28th. 

Dearest little Barbara, — It is you who have com- 
mitted a fault — and one which must weigh heavily 
upon your conscience. Indeed, your last letter has 
amazed and confounded me, — so much so that, on once 
more looking into the recesses of my heart, I perceive 
that I was perfectly right in what I did. Of course I 
am not now referring to my debauch (no, indeed!), but to 
the fact that I love you, and to the fact that it is unwise 
of me to love you — very unwise. You know not how 
matters stand, my darling. You know not why I am 
bound to love you. Otherwise you would not say all 
that you do. Yet I am persuaded that it is your head 
rather than your heart that is speaking. I am certain 
that your heart thinks very differently. 

What occurred that night between myself and those 
officers I scarcely know, I scarcely remember. You 
must bear in mind that for some time past I have been 
in terrible distress — that for a whole month I have been, 
so to speak, hanging by a single thread. Indeed, my 
position has been most pitiable. Though I hid myself 
from you, my landlady was for ever shouting and railing 
at me. This would not have mattered a jot — the 
horrible old woman might have shouted as much as she 
pleased — had it not been that, in the first place, there 



Poor Folk 8 1 

was the disgrace of it, and, in the second place, she had 
somehow learnt of our connection, and kept proclaiming 
it to the household, until I felt perfectly deafened, and 
had to stop my ears. The point, however, is that other 
people did not stop their ears, but, on the contrary, 
pricked them. Indeed, I am at a loss what to do. 

Really this wretched rabble has driven me to extremi- 
ties. It all began with my hearing a strange rumour 
from Thedora — namely, that an unworthy suitor had 
been to visit you, and had insulted you with an improper 
proposal. That he had insulted you deeply I knew from 
my own feelings, for I felt insulted in an equal degree. 
Upon that, my angel, I went to pieces, and, losing all 
self-control, plunged headlong. Bursting into an un- 
speakable frenzy, I was at once going to call upon this 
villain of a seducer — though what to do next I knew not, 
seeing that I was fearful of giving you offence. Ah, 
what a night of sorrow it was, and what a time of gloom, 
rain, and sleet! Next, I was for returning home, but 
found myself unable to stand upon my feet. Then 
Emelia Ilyitch happened to come by. He also is a 
tchinovnik — or rather, was a tchinovnik, since he was 
turned out of the service some time ago. What he was 
doing there at that moment I do not know; I only 
know that I went with him. . . . Surely it cannot give 
you pleasure to read of the misfortunes of your friend — 
of his sorrows, and of the temptations which he experi- 
enced? ... On the evening of the third day Emelia 
urged me to go and see the officer of whom I have spoken, 
and whose address I had learnt from our dvornik. More 
strictly speaking, I had noticed him when, on a previous 
occasion, he had come to play cards here, and I had 
followed him home. Of course I now see that I did 
wrong, but I felt beside myself when I heard them 
telling him stories about me. Exactly what happened 
next I cannot remember. I only remember that several 
other officers were present as well as he. Or it may be 
that I saw everything double, — God alone knows. Also 
I cannot exactly remember what I said. I only remem- 
ber that in my fury I said a great deal. Then they 
turned me out of the room, and threw me down the 



82 Poor Folk 

staircase — pushed me down it, that is to say. How 1 
got home you know. That is all. Of course, later I 
blamed myself, and my pride underwent a fall; but no 
extraneous person except yourself knows of the affair — 
and in any case it does not matter. Perhaps the affair 
is as you imagine it to have been, Barbara? One thing 
I know for certain, and that is that last year one of our 
lodgers, Aksenti Osipovitch, took a similar liberty with 
Peter Petrovitch, yet kept the fact secret, an absolute 
secret. He called him into his room (I happened to be 
looking through a crack in the partition-wall), and had 
an explanation with him in the way that a gentleman 
should — no one except myself being a witness of the 
scene; whereas in my own case I had no explanation 
at all. After the scene was over nothing further 
transpired between Aksenti Osipovitch and Peter Petro- 
vitch, for the reason that the latter was so desirous of 
getting on in life that he held his tongue. As a result 
they bow and shake hands whenever they meet. ... I 
will not dispute the fact that I have erred most grievously 
— that I should never dare to dispute, or that I have 
fallen greatly in my own estimation; but I think I was 
fated from birth so to do — and one cannot escape fate, 
my beloved. Here, therefore, is a detailed explanation 
of my misfortunes and sorrows, written for you to read 
whenever you may find it convenient. I am far from 
well, beloved, and have lost all my gaiety of disposition, 
but I send you this letter as a token of my love, devotion, 
and respect, О dear lady of my affections. — Your humble 
servant, Makar Dievushkin. 

July 2gth. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — I have read your 
two letters, and they make my heart ache. See here, 
dear friend of mine. You pass over certain things in 
silence, and write about a portion only of your misfor- 
tunes. Can it be that the letters are the outcome of a 
mental disorder ? . . . Come and see me, for God's sake. 
Come to-day, direct from the office, and dine with us as 
you have done before. As to how you are living now, 
or as to what settlement you have made with your land- 



Poor Folk 83 

lady, I know not, for you write nothing concerning those 
two points, and seem purposely to have left them un- 
mentioned. Au revoir, my friend. Come to me to-day 
without fail. You would do better always to dine here. 
Thedora is an excellent cook. Good-bye. — Your own, 

Barbara Dobroselova. 

August 1st. 

My darling Barbara Alexievna, — Thank God that 
He has sent you a chance of repaying my good with good. 
I believe in so doing, as well as in the sweetness of уош 
angelic heart. Therefore I will not reproach you. Only 
I pray you, do not again blame me because in the decline 
of my life I have played the spendthrift. It was such 
a sin, was it not ? — such a thing to do ? And even if you 
would still have it that the sin was there, remember, 
little friend, what it costs me to hear such words fall 
•from your lips. Do not be vexed with me for saying 
this, for my heart is fainting. Poor people are subject 
to fancies — this is a provision of nature. I myself have 
had reason to know this. The poor man is exacting. He 
cannot see God's world as it is, but eyes each passer-by 
askance, and looks around him uneasily in order that he 
may listen to every word that is being uttered. May not 
people be talking of him? How is it that he is so un- 
sightly ? What is he feeling at all ? What sort of figure 
is he cutting on the one side or on the other? It is 
matter of common knowledge, my Barbara, that the 
poor man ranks lower than a rag, and will never earn 
the respect of any one. Yes, write about him as you 
like — let scribblers say what they choose about him : he 
will ever remain as he was. And why is this? It is 
because, from his very nature, the poor man has to wear 
his feelings on his sleeve, so that nothing about him is 

sacred, and as for his self-respect ! Well, Emelia 

told me the other day that once, when he had to collect 
subscriptions, official sanction was demanded for every 
single coin, since people thought that it would be no 
use paying their money to a poor man. Nowadays 
charity is strangely administered. Perhaps it has 
always been so. Either folk do not know how to ad- 



84 Poor Folk 

minister it, or they are adepts in the art — one of the two. 
Perhaps you did not know this, so I beg to tell it you. 
And how comes it that the poor man knows, is so con- 
scious of, it all? The answer is — by experience. He 
knows because any day he may see a gentleman enter a 
restaurant and ask himself, " What shall I have to eat 
to-day? I will have such and such a dish," while all 
the time the poor man will have nothing to eat that day 
but gruel. There are men, too — wretched busybodies — 
who walk about merely to see if they can find some 
wretched tchinovnik or broken-down official who has got 
toes projecting from his boots or his hair uncut! And 
when they have found such a one they make a report 
of the circumstance, and their rubbish gets entered on 
the file. . . . But what does it matter to you if my hair 
lacks the shears ? If you will forgive me what may seem 
to you a piece of rudeness, I declare that the poor man 
is ashamed of such things with the sensitiveness of a 
young girl. You, for instance, would not care (pray 
pardon my bluntness) to unrobe yourself before the 
public eye ; and in the same way the poor man does not 
like to be pried at or questioned concerning his family 
relations, and so forth. A man of honour and self- 
respect such as I am finds it pain and grief to have to 
consort with men who would deprive him of both. 

To-day I sat before my colleagues like a bear's cub 
or a plucked sparrow ; so that I fairly burned with shame. 
Yes, it hurt me terribly, Barbara. Naturally one 
blushes when one can see one's naked toes projecting 
through one's boots, and one's buttons hanging by a 
single thread ! As though on purpose, I seemed, on this 
occasion, to be peculiarly dishevelled. No wonder that 
my spirits fell. When I was talking on business matters 
to Stepan Karlovitch he suddenly exclaimed, for no 
apparent reason, "Ah, poor old Makar Alexievitch! " 
and then left the rest unfinished. But / knew what he 
had in his mind, and blushed so hotly that even the 
bald patch on my head grew red. Of course the whole 
thing is nothing, but it worries me, and leads to anxious 
thoughts. What can these fellows know about me? 
God send that they know nothing! But I confess that 



Poor Folk 85 

I suspect, I strongly suspect, one of my colleagues. Let 
them only betray me ! They would betray one's private 
life for a groat, for they hold nothing sacred. 

I have an idea who is at the bottom of it all. It is 
Rataziaev. Probably he knows some one in our depart- 
ment to whom he has recounted the story with additions. 
Or perhaps he has spread it abroad in his own depart- 
ment, and thence it has crept and crawled into ours. 
Every one here knows it, down to the last detail, for I 
have seen them point at you with their fingers through 
the window. Oh yes, I have seen them do it. Yesterday, 
when I stepped across to dine with you, the whole crew 
were hanging out of the window to watch me, and the 
landlady exclaimed that the devil was in young people, 
and called you certain unbecoming names. But this 
is as nothing compared with Rataziaev's foul intention 
to place us in his books, and to describe us in a satire. 
He himself has declared that he is going to do so, and 
other people say the same. In fact, I know not what to 
think, nor what to decide. It is no use concealing the fact 
that you and I have sinned against the Lord God. . . . 
You were going to send me a book of some sort, to divert 
my mind. Were you not, dearest ? What book, though, 
could now divert me? Only such books as have never 
existed on earth. Novels are rubbish, and written for 
fools and the idle. Believe me, dearest, I know it 
through long experience. Even should they vaunt 
Shakespeare to you, / tell you that Shakespeare is 
rubbish, and proper only for lampoons. — Your own, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

August 2nd. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — Do not disquiet 
yourself. God will grant that all shall turn out well. 
Thedora has obtained a quantity of work, both for me 
and herself, and we are setting about it with a will. 
Perhaps it will put us straight again. Thedora sus- 
pects my late misfortunes to be connected with Anna 
Thedorovna; but I do not care — I feel extraordinarily 
cheerful to-day. So you are thinking of borrowing 
more money? If so, may God preserve you, for you 



D 



Til 



86 Poor Folk 

will assuredly be ruined when the time comes for repay- 
ment! You had far better come and live with us here 
for a little while. Yes, come and take up your abode 
here, and pay no attention whatever to what your land- 
lady says. As for the rest of your enemies and ill- 
wishers, I am certain that it is with vain imaginings that 
you are vexing yourself. ... In passing, let me tell 
you that your style differs greatly from letter to letter. 
Good-bye until we meet again. 1 await your coming 
with impatience. — Your own, B. D. 

August yd. 

My Angel, Barbara Alexievna, — I hasten to inform 
you, О light of my life, that my hopes are rising again. 
But, little daughter of mine — do you really mean it when 
you say that I am to indulge in no more borrowings? 
Why, I could not do without them. Things would go 
badly with us both if I did so. You are ailing. Con- 
sequently I tell you roundly that I must borrow, and that 
1 must continue to do so. 

Also, I may tell you that my seat in the office is now 
next to that of a certain Emelia Ivanovitch. He is not 
the Emelia whom you know, but a man who, like myself, 
is a privy councillor, as well as represents with myself, 
the senior and oldest official in our department. Like- 
wise he is a good, disinterested soul, and one that is 
not over-talkative, though a true bear in appearance 
and demeanour. Industrious, and possessed of a hand- 
writing purely English, his caligraphy is, it must be con- 
fessed, even worse than my own. Yes, he is a good soul. 
At the same time, we have never been intimate with 
one another. We have done no more than exchange 
greetings on meeting or parting, borrow one another's 
penknife if we needed one, and, in short, observe such 
bare civilities as convention demands. Well, to-day 
he said to me, " Makar Alexievitch, what makes you 
look so thoughtful? " and inasmuch as I could see that 
he wished me well, I told him all: or, rather, I did not 
tell him everything, for that 1 do to no man (I have not 
the heart to do it) ; I told him just a few scattered details 
concerning my financial straits. " Then you ought to 



Poor Folk 87 

oorrow," said he. " You ought to obtain a loan of Peter 
Petrovitch, who does a little in that way. I myself once 
borrowed some money of him, and he charged me fair 
and light interest." Well, Barbara, my heart leapt 
within me at these words. I kept thinking and thinking, 
" If only God would put it into the mind of Peter 
Petrovitch to be my benefactor by advancing me a loan ! " 
I calculated that with its aid I might both repay my 
landlady and assist yourself and get rid of my surround- 
ings (where I can hardly sit down to table without 
the rascals making jokes about me). Sometimes his 
Excellency passes our desk in the office. He glances at 
me, and cannot but perceive how poorly I am dressed. 
Now, neatness and cleanliness are two of his strongest 
points. Even though he says nothing, I feel ready to 
die with shame when he approaches. Well, hardening 
my heart, and putting my diffidence into my ragged 
pocket, I approached Peter Petrovitch, and halted before 
him more dead than alive. Yet I was hopeful, and 
though, as it turned out, he was busily engaged in talking 
to Thedosei Ivanovitch, I walked up to him from behind, 
and plucked at his sleeve. He looked away from me, 
but I recited my speech about thirty roubles, et cetera, 
et cetera, of which, at first, he failed to catch the meaning. 
Even when I had explained matters to him more fully, 
he only burst out laughing, and said nothing. Again I 
addressed to him my request; whereupon, asking me 
what security I could give, he again buried himself in his 
papers, and went on writing without deigning me even a 
second glance. Dismay seized me. " Peter Petrovitch," 
I said, "• I can offer you no security," but to this I added 
an explanation that some salary would, in time, be due 
to me, which I would make over to him, and account the 
loan my first debt. At that moment some one called 
him away, and I had to wait a little. On returning he 
began to mend his pen as though he had not even noticed 
that I was there. But I was for myself this time. 
" Peter Petrovitch," I continued, " cannot you do 
anything ? " Still he maintained silence, and seemed 
not to have heard me. I waited and waited. At length 
I determined to make a final attempt, and plucked him 



88 Poor Folk 

by the sleeve. He muttered something, and, his pen 
mended, set about his writing. There was nothing for 
me to do but to depart. He and the rest of them are 
worthy fellows, dearest, — that I do not doubt ; but they 
are also proud, very proud. What have / to do with 
them? Yet I thought I would write and tell you all 
about it. Meanwhile Emelia Ivanovitch had been 
encouraging me with nods and smiles. He is a good 
soul, and has promised to recommend me to a friend of 
his who lives in Viborskaia Street and lends money. 
Emelia declares that this friend will certainly lend me 
a little ; so to-morrow, beloved, I am going to call upon 
the gentleman in question. . . . What do you think 
about it ? It would be a pity not to obtain a loan. My 
landlady is on the point of turning me out of doors, and 
has refused to allow me any more board. Also, my 
boots are wearing through, and have lost every button — 
and I do not possess another pair! Could any one in 
a government office display greater shabbiness? It is 
dreadful, my Barbara — it is simply dreadful ! 

Makar Dievushkin. 

August 4th. 

My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — For God's sake 
borrow some money as soon as you can. I would not 
ask this help of you were it not for the situation in which 
I am placed. Thedora and myself cannot remain any 
longer in our present lodgings, for we have been sub- 
jected to great unpleasantness, and you cannot imagine 
my state of agitation and dismay. The reason is that 
this morning we received a visit from an elderly — almost 
an old — man whose breast was studded with orders. 
Greatly surprised, I asked him what he wanted (for at 
the moment Thedora had gone out shopping) ; where- 
upon he began to question me as to my mode of life 
and occupation, and then, without waiting for an answer, 
informed me that he was uncle to the officer of whom 
you have spoken; that he was very angry with his 
nephew for the way in which the latter had behaved, 
especially with regard to his slandering of me right and 
left; and that he, the uncle, was ready to protect me 



Poor Folk 89 

from the young spendthrift's insolence. Also he advised 
me to have nothing to say to young fellows of that stamp, 
and added that he sympathised with me as though he 
were my own father, and would gladly help me in any 
way he could. At this I blushed in some confusion, but 
did not greatly hasten to thank him. Next he took me 
forcibly by the hand, and, tapping my cheek, said that 
I was very good-looking, and that he greatly liked the 
dimples in my face (God only knows what he meant!). 
Finally he tried to kiss me, on the plea that he was an 
old man, the brute! At this moment Thedora returned; 
whereupon, in some confusion, he repeated that he felt a 
great respect for my modesty and virtue, and that he 
much wished to become acquainted with me ; after which 
he took Thedora aside, and tried, on some pretext or 
another, to give her money (though of course she declined 
it). At last he took himself off — again reiterating his 
assurances, and saying that he intended to return with 
some ear-rings as a present ; that he advised me to change 
my lodgings; and that he could recommend me a 
splendid flat which he had in his mind's eye as likely to 
cost me nothing. Yes, he also declared that he greatly 
liked me for my purity and good sense; that I must 
beware of dissolute young men ; and that he knew Anna 
Thedorovna, who had charged him to inform me that 
she would shortly be visiting me in person. Upon that 
I understood all. What I did next I scarcely know, 
for I had never before found myself in such a position; 
but I believe that I broke all restraints, and made the 
old man feel thoroughly ashamed of himself — Thedora 
helping me in the task, and well-nigh turning him neck 
and crop out of the tenement. Neither of us doubt that 
this is Anna Thedorovna's work : for how otherwise could 
the old man have got to know about us ? 

Now, therefore, Makar Alexievitch, I turn to you for 
help. Do not, for God's sake, leave me in this plight. 
Borrow all the money that you can get, for I have not 
the wherewithal to leave these lodgings, yet cannot 
possibly remain in them any longer. At all events this 
is Thedora's advice. She and I need at least twenty-five 
roubles, which I will repay you out of what I earn by 



9<э Poor Folk 

my work, while Thedora shall get me additional work 
from day to day, so that, if there be heavy interest to 
pay on the loan, you shall not be troubled with the 
extra burden. Nay, I will make over to you all that I 
possess if only you will continue to help me. Truly I 
grieve to have to trouble you when you yourself are so 
hardly situated, but my hopes rest upon you, and upon 
you alone. Good-bye, Makar Alexievitch. Think of 
me, and may God speed you on your errand! B. D. 

August 4th. 

My beloved Barbara Alexievna, — These unlooked- 
for blows have shaken me terribly, and these strange 
calamities have quite broken my spirit. Not content 
with trying to bring you to a bed of sickness, these lick- 
spittles and pestilent old men are trying to bring me to 
the same. And I assure you that they are succeeding — 
I assure you that they are. Yet I would rather die than 
not help you. If I cannot help you I shall die; but, 
to enable me to help you, you must flee like a bird out 
of the nest where these owls, these birds of prey, are 
seeking to peck you to death. How distressed I feel, 
my dearest! Yet how cruel you yourself are! Al- 
though you are enduring pain and insult, although you, 
little nestling, are in agony of spirit, you actually tell 
me that it grieves you to disturb me, and that you will 
work off your debt to me with the labour of your own 
hands! In other words, you, with your weak health, 
are proposing to kill yourself in order to relieve me 
to term of my financial embarrassments! Stop a 
moment, and think what you are saying. Why should 
you sew, and work, and torture your poor head with 
anxiety, and spoil your beautiful eyes, and ruin your 
health? Why, indeed? Ah, little Barbara, little 
Barbara! Do you not see that I shall never be any 
good to you, never any good to you? At all events, 
I myself see it. Yet I will help you in your distress. 
I will overcome every difficulty, I will get extra work 
to do, I will copy out manuscripts for authors, I will 
go to the latter and force them to employ me, I will 
so apply myself to the work that they shall see that I 



Poor Folk 91 

am a good copyist (and good copyists, I know, are 
always in demand). Thus there will be no need for 
you to exhaust your strength, nor will I allow you to 
do so — I will not have you carry out your disastrous 
intention. . . . Yes, little angel, I will certainly borrow 
some money. I would rather die than not do so. 
Merely tell me, my own darling, that I am not to shrink 
from heavy interest, and I will not shrink from it, I 
will not shrink from it — nay, I will shrink from nothing. 
I will ask for forty roubles, to begin with. That will 
not be much, will it, little Barbara? Yet will any one 
trust me even with that sum at the first asking? Do 
you think that I am capable of inspiring confidence at 
the first glance? Would the mere sight of my face 
lead any one to form of me a favourable opinion ? Have 
I ever been able, remember you, to appear to any one 
in a favourable light? What think you? Personally, 
I see difficulties in the way, and feel sick at heart at 
the mere prospect. However, of those forty roubles 
I mean to set aside twenty-five for yourself, two for 
my landlady, and the remainder for my own spending. 
Of course, I ought to give more than two to my land- 
lady, but you must remember my necessities, and see 
for yourself that that is the most that can be assigned 
to her. We need say no more about it. For one rouble 
I shall buy me a new pair of shoes, for I scarcely know 
whether my old ones will take me to the office to-morrow 
morning. Also, a new neck-scarf is indispensable, 
seeing that the old one has now passed its first year; 
but, since you have promised to make of your old apron 
not only a scarf, but also a shirt-front, I need think no 
more of the article in question. So much for shoes and 
scarves. Next, for buttons. You yourself will agree 
that I cannot do without buttons ; nor is there on my 
garments a single hem unfrayed. I tremble when I 
think that some day his Excellency may perceive my 
untidiness, and say — well, what will he not say? Yet 
/ shall never hear what he says, for I shall have expired 
where I sit — expired of mere shame at the thought of 
having been thus exposed. Ah, dearest! . . . Well, 
my various necessities will have left me three roubles 



92 Poor Folk 

to go on with. Part of this sum I shall expend upon a 
half-pound of tobacco — for I cannot live without tobacco, 
and it is nine days since I last put a pipe into my mouth. 
To tell the truth, I shall buy the tobacco without 
acquainting you with the fact, although I ought not 
so to do. The pity of it all is that, while you are depriv- 
ing yourself of everything, I keep solacing myself with 
various amenities: which is why I am telling you this, 
that the pangs of conscience may not torment me. 
Frankly, I confess that I am in desperate straits — in 
such straits as I have never yet known. My landlady 
flouts me, and I enjoy the respect of no one; my 
arrears and debts are terrible ; and in the office, though 
never have I found the place exactly a paradise, no one 
has a single word to say to me. Yet I hide, I carefully 
hide, this from every one. I would hide my person in 
the same way, were it not that daily I have to attend 
the office, where I have to be constantly on my 
guard against my fellows. Nevertheless, merely to be 
able to confess this to you renews my spiritual strength. 
We must not think of these things, Barbara, lest the 
thought of them break our courage. I write them down 
merely to warn you not to think of them, nor to torture 
yourself with bitter imaginings. Yet, my God, what 
is to become of us? Stay where you are until I can 
come to you; after which I shall not return hither, but 
simply disappear. Now I have finished my letter, and 
must go and shave myself, inasmuch as, when that is 
done, one always feels more decent, as well as consorts 
more easily with decency. God speed me ! One prayer 
to Him, and I must be off. AI. Dievushkin. 

August $th. 

Dearest Makar Alexievitch, — You must not 
despair. Away with melancholy! I am sending you 
thirty kopecks in silver, and regret that I cannot send 
you more. Buy yourself what you most need until 
to-morrow. I myself have almost nothing left, and 
what I am going to do I know not. Is it not dreadful, 
Makar Alexievitch? Yet do not be downcast — it is no 
good being that. Thedora declares that it would not 



Poor Folk 93 

be a bad thing if we were to remain in this tenement, 
since if we left it suspicions would arise, and our enemies 
might take it into their heads to look for us. On the 
other hand, / do not think it would be well for us to 
remain here. If I were feeling less sad I would tell you 
my reason. 

What a strange man you are, Makar Alexievitch! 
You take things so much to heart that you never know 
what it is to be happy. I read your letters attentively, 
and can see from them that, though you worry and 
disturb yourself about me, you never give a thought 
to yourself. Yes, every letter tells me that you have a 
kind heart ; but / tell you that that heart is over-kind. 
So I will give you a little friendly advice, Makar Alexie- 
vitch. I am full of gratitude towards you — I am indeed 
full for all that you have done for me, I am most sen- 
sible of your goodness; but to think that I should be 
forced to see that, in spite of your own troubles (of 
which I have been the involuntary cause), you live for 
me alone — you live but for my joys and my sorrows 
and my affection! If you take the affairs of another 
person so to heart, and suffer with her to such an extent, 
I do not wonder that you yourself are unhappy. To- 
day, when you came to see me after office-work was 
done, I felt afraid even to raise my eyes to yours, for 
you looked so pale and desperate, and your face had so 
fallen in. Yes, you were dreading to have to tell me 
of your failure to borrow money — you were dreading 
to have to grieve and alarm me ; but when you saw that 
/ came very near to smiling, the load was, I know, lifted 
from your heart. So do not be despondent, do not 
give way, but allow more rein to your better sense. I 
beg and implore this of you, for it will not be long before 
you see things take a turn for the better. You will but 
spoil your life if you constantly lament another person's 
sorrow. Good-bye, dear friend. I beseech you not to 
be over-anxious about me. B. D. 

August $th. 

My darling little Barbara, — This is well, this is 
well, my angel! So you are of opinion that the fact 

* D 711 



94 Poor Folk 

that I have failed to obtain any money does not matter? 
Then I too am reassured, I too am happy on your 
account. Also, I am delighted to think that you are 
not going to desert your old friend, but intend to remain 
in your present lodgings. Indeed, my heart was over- 
charged with joy when I read in your letter those kindly 
words about myself, as well as a not wholly unmerited 
recognition of my sentiments. I say this not out of 
pride, but because now I know how much you love me 
to be thus solicitous for my feelings. How good to 
think that I may speak to you of them! You bid me, 
darling, not be faint-hearted. Indeed, there is no need 
for me to be so. Think, for instance, of the pair of 
shoes which I shall be wearing to the office to-morrow! 
The fact is that over-brooding proves the undoing of a 
man — his complete undoing. What has saved me is 
the fact that it is not for myself that I am grieving, that 
I am suffering, but for you. Nor would it matter to 
me in the least that I should have to walk through the 
bitter cold without an overcoat or boots — I could bear 
it, I could well endure it, for I am a simple man in my 
requirements; but the point is — what would people 
say, what would every envious and hostile tongue 
exclaim, when I was seen without an overcoat ? It is 
for other folk that one wears an overcoat and boots. 
In any case, therefore, I should have needed boots to 
maintain my name and reputation; to both of which 
my ragged footgear would otherwise have spelt ruin. 
Yes, it is so, my beloved, and you may believe an old 
man who has had many years of experience, and knows 
both the world and mankind, rather than a set of 
scribblers and daubers. 

But I have not yet told you in detail how things have 
gone with me to-day. During the morning I suffered 
as much agony of spirit as might have been experienced 
in a year. Twas like this. First of all, I went out 
to call upon the gentleman of whom I have spoken. I 
started very early, before going to the office. Rain 
and sleet were falling, and I hugged myself in my great- 
coat as I walked along. " Lord," thought I, " pardon 
my offences, and send me fulfilment of all my desires; " 



Poor Folk. 



95 



and as I passed a church I crossed myself, repented of 
my sins, and reminded myself that I was unworthy to 
hold communication with the Lord God. Then I retired 
into myself, and tried to look at nothing; and so, 
walking without noticing the streets, I proceeded on 
my way. Everything had an empty air, and every 
one whom I met looked careworn and preoccupied, and 
no wonder, for who would choose to walk abroad at 
such an early hour, and in such weather? Next a 
band of ragged workmen met me, and jostled me boor- 
ishly as they passed; upon which nervousness overtook 
me, and I felt uneasy, and tried hard not to think of the 
money that was my errand. Near the Voskresenski 
Bridge my feet began to ache with weariness, until I 
could hardly pull myself along; until presently I met 
with Ermolaev, a writer in our office, who, stepping 
aside, halted, and followed me with his eyes, as though 
to beg of me a glass of vodka. " Ah, friend," thought 
I, "go you to your vodka, but what have / to do 
with such stuff? " Then, sadly weary, I halted for a 
moment's rest, and thereafter dragged myself further on 
my way. Purposely I kept looking about me for some- 
thing upon which to fasten my thoughts, with which to 
distract, to encourage myself; but there was nothing. 
Not a single idea could I connect with any given object, 
while, in addition, my appearance was so draggled that 
I felt utterly ashamed of it. At length I perceived 
from afar a gabled house that was built of yellow wood. 
This, I thought, must be the residence of the Monsieur 
Markov whom Emelia Ivanovitch had mentioned to me 
as ready to lend money on interest. Half unconscious 
of what I was doing, I asked a watchman if he could tell 
me to whom the house belonged; whereupon grudg- 
ingly, and as though he were vexed at something, the 
fellow muttered that it belonged to one Markov. Are 
all watchmen so unfeeling? Why did this one reply 
as he did? In any case I felt disagreeably impressed, 
for like always answers to like, and, no matter what 
position one be in, things invariably appear to corre- 
spond to it. Three times did I pass the house and walk 
the length of the street; until the further I walked 



96 Poor Folk 

the worse became my state of mind. " No, never, 
never will he lend me anything! " thought I to myself, 
" He does not know me, and my affairs will seem to him 
ridiculous, and I shall cut a sorry figure. However, 
let fate decide for me. Only, let Heaven send that I 
do not afterwards repent me, and eat out my heart 
with remorse! " Softly I opened the wicket-gate. 
Horrors! A great ragged brute of a watch-dog came 
flying out at me, and foaming at the mouth, and nearly 
jumping out his skin! Curious is it to note what little, 
trivial incidents will nearly send a man crazy, and 
strike terror to his heart, and annihilate the firm pur- 
pose with which he has armed himself. At all events, 
I approached the house more dead than alive, and 
walked straight into another catastrophe. That is to 
say, not noticing the slipperiness of the threshold, I 
stumbled against an old woman who was filling milk- 
jugs from a pail, and sent the milk flying in every direc- 
tion ! The foolish old dame gave a start and a cry, and 
then demanded of me whither I had been coming, and 
what it was I wanted ; after which she rated me soundly 
for my awkwardness. Always have I found something 
of the kind befall me when engaged on errands of this 
nature. It seems to be my destiny invariably to run 
into something. Upon that the noise and the commo- 
tion brought out the mistress of the house — an old 
beldame of mean appearance. I addressed myself 
directly to her. " Does Monsieur Markov live here? ' 
was my inquiry. " No," she replied, and then stood 
looking at me civilly enough. " But what want you 
with him? " she continued; upon which I told her 
about Emelia Ivanovitch and the rest of the business. 
As soon as I had finished she called her daughter — a 
barefooted girl in her teens — and told her to summon 
her father from upstairs. Meanwhile I was shown into 
a room which contained several portraits of generals 
on the walls and was furnished with a sofa, a large 
table, and a few pots of mignonette and balsam. 
" Shall I, or shall I not (come weal, come woe) take 
myself off? " was my thought as I waited there. Ah, 
how I longed to run away! "Yes," I continued, "I 



Poor Folk 



97 



had better come again to-morrow, for the weather may 
then be better, and I shall not have upset the milk, and 
these generals will not be looking at me so fiercely." 
In fact, I had actually begun to move towards the 
door when Monsieur Markov entered — a grey-headed 
man with thievish eyes, and clad in a dirty dressing-gown 
fastened with a belt. Greetings over, I stumbled out 
something about Emelia Ivanovitch and forty roubles, 
and then came to a dead halt, for his eyes told me that 
my errand had been futile. " No," said he, " I have 
no money. Moreover, what security could you offer? " 
I admitted that I could offer none, but again added 
something about Emelia, as well as about my pressing 
needs. Markov heard me out, and then repeated that 
he had no money. " Ah," thought I, " I might have 
known this — I might have foreseen it! ' And, to tell 
the truth, Barbara, I could have wished that the earth 
had opened under my feet, so chilled did I feel as 
he said what he did, so numbed did my legs grow as 
shivers began to run down my back. Thus I re- 
mained gazing at him while he returned my gaze with 
a look which said, "Well now, my friend? Why do 
you not go since you have no further business to do 
here? " Somehow I felt conscience-stricken. " How 
is it that you are in such need of money? " was what 
he appeared to be asking; whereupon I opened my 
mouth (anything rather than stand there to no purpose 
at all!) but found that he was not even listening. " I 
have no money," again he said, " or I would lend you 
some with pleasure." Several times I repeated that 
I myself possessed a little, and that I would repay any 
loan from him punctually, most punctually, and that 
he might charge me what interest he liked, since I 
would meet it without fail. Yes, at that moment 
I remembered our misfortunes, our necessities, and I 
remembered your half-rouble. " No," said he, " I can 
lend you nothing without security," and clinched his 
assurance with an oath, the robber! 

How I contrived to leave the house and, passing 
through Viborskaia Street, to reach the Voskresenski 
Bridge I do not know. I only remember that I felt 



98 Poor Folk 

terribly weary, cold, and starved, and that it was ten 
o'clock before I reached the office. Arriving, I tried to 
clean myself up a little, but Sniegirev, the porter, said 
that it was impossible for me to do so, and that I should 
only spoil the brush, which belonged to the Government. 
Thus, my darling, do such fellows rate me lower than 
the mat on which they wipe their boots! What is it 
that will most surely break me? It is not the want 
of money, but the little worries of life — these whisper- 
ings and nods and jeers. Any day his Excellency 
himself may round upon me. Ah, dearest, my golden 
days are gone. To-day I have spent in reading your 
letters through; and the reading of them has made 
me sad. Good-bye, my own, and may the Lord watch 
over you! M. Dievushkin. 

P.S. — To conceal my sorrow I would have written 
this letter half jestingly; but the faculty of jesting has 
not been given me. My one desire, however, is to 
afford you pleasure. Soon I will come and see you, 
dearest. Without fail I will come and see you. 

August 1 1 /A. 

О Barbara Alexievna, I am undone — we are both 
of us undone! Both of us are lost beyond recall! 
Everything is ruined — my reputation, my self-respect, 
all that I have in the world! And you as much as I. 
Never shall we retrieve what we have lost. /, / have 
brought you to this pass, for I have become an outcast, 
my darling — everywhere I am laughed at and despised. 
Even my landlady has taken to abusing me. To-day 
she overwhelmed me with shrill reproaches, and abased 
me to the level of a hearth-brush. And last night, when 
1 was in Rataziaev's rooms, one of his friends began to 
read a scribbled note which I had written to you and 
then inadvertently pulled out of my pocket. О beloved, 
what laughter there arose at the recital! How those 
scoundrels mocked at and derided you and myself! I 
walked up to them, and accused Rataziaev of breaking 
faith. I said that he had played the traitor. But he 
only replied that / had been the betrayer in the case, 



Poor Folk 



99 



by indulging in various amours. " You have kept 
them very dark though, Mr. Lovelace! " said he: and 
now I am known everywhere by this name of " Love- 
lace." They know everything about us, my darling, 
everything — both about you and your affairs and about 
myself; and when to-day I was for sending Phaldon? 
to the bakeshop for something or other he refused to 
go, saying that it was not his business. " But you 
must go," said I. " I will not," he replied. " You 
have not paid my mistress what you owe her, so I am 
not bound to run your errands." At such an insult 
from a raw peasant I lost my temper, and called him 
a fool; to which he retorted in a similar vein. Upon 
this I thought that he must be drunk, and told him 
so; whereupon he replied: " What say you that I am? 
Suppose you yourself go and sober up, for I know that 
the other day you went to visit a woman, and that you 
got drunk with her on two grivenniks." To such a pass 
have things come! I feel ashamed to be seen alive. 
I am, as it were, a man proclaimed; I am in a worse 
plight even than a tramp who has lost his passport. 
How misfortunes are heaping themselves upon me! 
I am lost — I am lost for ever! M. D. 

August 13th. 

"^ My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — It is true that 
misfortune is following upon misfortune. I myself 
scarcely know what to do. Yet, no matter how you 
may be fairing, you must not look for help from me, 
for only to-day I burnt my left hand with the iron! 
At one and the same moment I dropped the iron, 
made a mistake in my wo^k, and burnt myself! So 
now I can work no longer. / Also, these three days past 
Thedora has been ailing. /My anxiety is becoming 
positive torture. Nevertheless I send you thirty 
kopecks — almost the last coins that I have left to me, 
much as I should have liked to have helped you more 
when you are so much in need. I feel vexed to the 
point of weeping.y Good-bye, dear friend of mine. 
You will bring me much comfort if only you will come 
and see me to-day. B. D. 



i oo Poor Folk 

August 14th. 

What is the matter with you, Makar Alexievitch? 
Surely you cannot fear the Lord God as you ought to do ? 
You are not only driving me to distraction but also 
ruining yourself with this eternal solicitude for your repu- 
tation. You are a man of honour, nobility of character, 
and self-respect, as every one knows; yet at any moment 
you are ready to die with shame! Surely you should 
have more consideration for your grey hairs. No, the 
fear of God has departed from you. Thedora has told you 
that it is out of my power to render you any more help. 
See, therefore, to what a pass you have brought me! 
Probably you think it is nothing to me that you should 
behave so badly; probably you do not realise what you 
have made me suffer. I dare not set foot on the stair- 
case here, for if I do so I am stared at, and pointed at, 
and spoken about in the most horrible manner. Yes, 
it is even said of me that I am " united to a drunkard." 
What a thing to hear! And whenever you are brought 
home drunk folk say, " They are carrying in that 
tchinovnik." That is not the proper way to make me 
help you. I swear that I must leave this place, and go 
and get work as a cook or a laundress. It is impossible 
for me to stay here. Long ago I wrote and asked you 
to come and see me, yet you have not come. Truly 
my tears and prayers must mean nothing to you, Makar 
Alexievitch! Whence, too, did you get the money for 
your debauchery ? For the love of God be more careful 
of yourself, or you will be ruined. How shameful, 
how abominable of you ! So the landlady would not 
admit you last night, and you spent the night on the 
doorstep? Oh, I know all about it. Yet if only you 
could have seen my agony when I heard the news ! . . . 
Come and see me, Makar Alexievitch, and we will once 
more be happy together. Yes, we will read together, 
and talk of old times, and Thedora shall tell you of her 
pilgrimages in former days. For God's sake, beloved, 
do not ruin both yourself and me. I live for you alone ; 
it is for your sake alone that I am still here. Be your 
better self once more — the self which still can remain 
firm in the face of misfortune. Poverty is no crime; 



Poor Folk юг 

always remember that. After all, why should we 
despair? Our present difficulties will pass away, and 
God will right us. Only be brave. I send you two 
grivenniks for the purchase of some tobacco or anything 
else that you need; but for the love of heaven do not 
spend the money foolishly. Come you and see me soon ; 
come without fail. Perhaps you may be ashamed to 
meet me, as you were before, but you need not feel like 
that — such shame would be misplaced. Only do you 
bring with you sincere repentance and trust in God, 
who orders all things for the best. B. D. 

August igth. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — Yes, I am 
ashamed to meet you, my darling — I am ashamed. At 
the same time, what is there in all this? Why should 
we not be cheerful again ? Why should I mind the soles 
of my feet coming through my boots ? The sole of one's 
foot is a mere bagatelle — it will never be anything but 
just a base, dirty sole. And shoes do not matter, either. 
The Greek sages used to walk about without them, so 
why should we coddle ourselves with such things? 
Yet why, also, should I be insulted and despised because 
of them ? Tell Thedora that she is a rubbishy, tiresome, 
gabbling old woman, as well as an inexpressibly foolish 
one. As for my grey hairs, you are quite wrong about 
them, inasmuch as I am not such an old man as you 
think. Emelia sends you his greeting. You write 
that you are in great distress, and have been weeping. 
Well, I too am in great distress, and have been weeping. 
Nay, nay. I wish you the best of health and happiness, 
even as I am well and happy myself, so long as I may 
remain, my darling, — Your friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

August 21 St. 

My dear and kind Barbara Alexievna, — I feel 
that I am guilty, I feel that I have sinned against you. 
Yet also I feel, from what you say, that it is no use for 
me so to feel. Even before I had sinned I felt as I do 
now ; but I gave way to despair, and the more so as I 



юг Poor Folk 

recognised my fault. Darling, I am not cruel or hard- 
hearted. To rend your little soul would be the act of 
a blood-thirsty tiger, whereas I have the heart of a sheep. 
You yourself know that I am not addicted to blood- 
thirstiness, and therefore that I cannot really be guilty 
of the fault in question, seeing that neither my mind 
nor my heart have participated in it. Nor can I under- 
stand wherein the guilt lies. To me it is all a mystery. 
When you sent me those thirty kopecks, and thereafter 
those two grivenniks, my heart sank within me as I 
looked at the poor little money. To think that though 
you had burnt your hand, and would soon be hungry, 
you could write to me that I was to buy tobacco ! What 
was I to do? Remorselessly to rob you, an orphan, 
as any brigand might do? I felt greatly depressed, 
dearest. That is to say, persuaded that I should never 
do any good with my life, and that I was inferior even 
to the sole of my own boot, I took it into my head that 
it was absurd for me to aspire at all — rather, that I 
ought to account myself a disgrace and an abomination. 
Once a man has lost his self-respect, and decided to 
abjure his better qualities and human dignity, he falls 
headlong, and cannot choose but do so. It is decreed 
of fate, and therefore I am not guilty in this respect. 
That evening I went out merely to get a breath of fresh 
air, but one thing followed another: the weather was 
cold, all nature was looking mournful, and I had fallen 
in with Emelia. This man had spent everything that 
he possessed, and, at the time I met him, had not for 
two days tasted a crust of bread. He had tried to raise 
money by pawning, but what articles he had for the 
purpose had been refused by the pawnbrokers. It was 
more from sympathy for a fellow-man than from any 
liking for the individual that I yielded. That is how 
the fault arose, dearest. He spoke of you, and I mingled 
my tears with his. Yes, he is a man of kind, kind heart 
— a man of deep feeling. I often feel as he did, dearest, 
and, in addition, I know how beholden to you I am. 
As soon as ever I got to know you I began both to realise 
myself and to love you ; for until you came into my life 
I had been a lonely man — I had been, as it were, asleep 



Poor Folk 



103 



rather than alive. In former days my rascally colleagues 
used to tell me that I was unfit even to be seen; in 
fact they so disliked me that at length I began to dislike 
myself, for, being frequently told that I was stupid, 
I began to believe that I really was so. But the instant 
that you came into my life you lightened the dark 
places in it, you lightened both my heart and my soul. 
Gradually I gained rest of spirit, until I had come to see 
that I was no worse than other men, and that, though 
I had neither style nor brilliancy nor polish, I was still 
a man as regards my thoughts and feelings. But now, 
alas ! pursued and scorned of fate, I have again allowed 
myself to abjure my own dignity. Oppressed of mis- 
fortune, I have lost my courage. Here is my confession 
to you, dearest. With tears I beseech you not to inquire 
further into the matter, for my heart is breaking, and life 
has grown indeed hard and bitter for me. — Beloved, I 
offer you my respect, and remain ever your faithful 
friend, Makar Dievushkin. 

September 3rd. 

The reason why I did not finish my last letter, Makar 
Alexievitch, was that I found it so difficult to write. 
There are moments when I am glad to be alone — to grieve 
and repine without any one to share my sorrow: and 
those moments are beginning to come upon me with 
ever-increasing frequency. Always in my reminiscences 
I find something which is inexplicable, yet strongly 
attractive — so much so that for hours together I remain 
insensible to my surroundings, oblivious of reality. 
Indeed, in my present life there is not a single impression 
— pleasant or the reverse — that I encounter which does 
not recall to my mind something of a similar nature in 
the past. More particularly is this the case with regard 
to my childhood, my golden childhood. Yet such 
moments always leave me depressed. They render me 
weak, and exhaust my powers of fancy ; with the result 
that my health, already not good, grows steadily worse. 

However, this morning it is a fine, fresh, cloudless day, 
such as we seldom get in autumn. The air has revived 
me; and I greet it with joy. Yet to think that already 



io4 Poor Folk 

the fall of the year has come! How I used to love the 
country in autumn! Then but a child, I was yet a 
sensitive being who loved autumn evenings better than 
autumn mornings. I remember how beside our house, 
at the foot of a hill, there lay a large pond, and how the 
pond — I can see it even now ! — shone with a broad, level 
surface that was as clear as crystal. On still evenings 
this pond would be at rest, and not a rustle would dis- 
turb the trees which grew on its banks and overhung 
the motionless expanse of water. How fresh it used to 
seem, yet how cold ! The dew would be falling upon the 
turf, lights would be beginning to shine forth from the 
huts on the pond's margin, and the cattle would be 
wending their way home. Then quietly I would slip 
out of the house to look at my beloved pond, and forget 
myself in contemplation. Here and there a fisherman's 
bundle of brushwood would be burning at the water's 
edge, and sending its light far and wide over the surface. 
Above, the sky would be of a cold blue colour, save for 
a fringe of flame-coloured streaks on the horizon that 
kept turning ever paler and paler; and when the moon 
had come out there would be wafted through the limpid 
air the sounds of a frightened bird fluttering, of a bulrush 
rubbing against its fellows in the gentle breeze, and of 
a fish rising with a splash. Over the dark water there 
would gather a thin, transparent mist; and though, in 
the distance, night would be looming, and seemingly 
enveloping the entire horizon, everything closer at hand 
would be standing out as though shaped with a chisel — 
banks, boats, little islands, and all. Beside the margin 
a derelict barrel would be turning over and over in the 
water; a switch of laburnum, with yellowing leaves, 
would go meandering through the reeds; and a belated 
gull would flutter up, dive again into the cold depths, 
rise once more, and disappear into the mist. How I 
would watch and listen to these things ! How strangely 
good they all would seem ! But I was a mere infant in 
those days — a mere child. 

Yes, truly I loved autumn-tide — the late autumn when 
the crops are garnered, and field work is ended, and the 
evening gatherings in the huts have begun, and every one 



Poor Folk 



■°5 



is awaiting winter. Then does everything become more 
mysterious, the sky frowns with clouds, yellow leaves 
Strew the paths at the edge of the naked forest, and the 
forest itself turns black and blue — more especially at 
eventide when damp fog is spreading and the trees 
glimmer in the depths like giants, like formless, weird 
phantoms. Perhaps one may be out late, and have 
got separated from one's companions. Oh horrors! 
Suddenly one starts and trembles as one seems to see 
a strange-looking being peering from out of the dark- 
ness of a hollow tree, while all the while the wind is 
moaning and rattling and howling through the forest — 
moaning with a hungry sound as it strips the leaves from 
the bare boughs, and whirls them into the air. High 
over the tree-tops, in a widespread, trailing, noisy crew, 
there fly, with resounding cries, flocks of birds which 
seem to darken and over-lay the very heavens. Then 
a strange feeling comes over one, until one seems to 
hear the voice of some one whispering: " Run, run, 
little child ! Do not be out late, for this place will soon 
have become dreadful ! Run, little child! Run!" And 
at the words terror will possess one's soul, and one will 
rush and rush until one's breath is spent — until, panting, 
one has reached home. At home, however, all will look 
bright and bustling as we children are set to shell peas or 
poppies, and the damp twigs crackle in the stove, and 
our mother comes to look fondly at our work, and our old 
nurse, Iliana, tells us stories of bygone days, or terrible 
legends concerning wizards and dead men. At the recital 
we little ones will press closer to one another, yet smile 
as we do so ; when suddenly every one becomes silent. 
Surely somebody has knocked at the door? . . . 
But nay, nay; it is only the sound of Frolovna's 
spinning-wheel. What shouts of laughter arise ! Later 
one will be unable to sleep for fear of the strange dreams 
which come to visit one; or, if one falls asleep, one will 
soon wake again, and, afraid to stir, lie quaking under the 
coverlet until dawn. And in the morning one will arise 
as fresh as a lark, and look at the window, and see the 
fields overlaid with hoar-frost, and fine icicles hanging 
from the naked branches, and the pond covered over 



i об Poor Folk 

with ice as thin as paper, and a white steam rising from 
the surface, and birds flying overhead with cheerful 
cries. Next, as the sun rises, he throws his glittering 
beams everywhere, and melts the thin, glassy ice until 
the whole scene has come to look bright and clear and 
exhilarating; and as the fire begins to crackle again in 
the stove we sit down to the tea-urn, while, chilled with 
the night cold, our black dog, Polkan, will look in at us 
through the window, and wag his tail with a cheerful 
air. Presently a peasant will pass the window in his 
cart — bound for the forest to cut firewood, and the 
whole party will feel merry and contented together. 
Abundant grain lies stored in the byres, and great stacks 
of wheat are glowing comfortably in the morning sun- 
light. Every one is quiet and happy, for God has blessed 
us with a bounteous harvest, and we know that there 
will be abundance of food for the wintertide. Yes, the 
peasant may rest assured that his family will not want 
for aught. Song and dance will arise o'nights from the 
village girls, and on festival days every one will repair to 
God's house to thank Him with grateful tears for what 
He has done. . . . Ah, a golden time was my time of 
childhood! . . . 

Carried away by these memories, I could weep like a 
child. Everything, everything comes back so clearly to 
my recollection ! The past stands out so vividly before 
me ! Yet in the present everything looks dim and dark ! 
How will it all end? — how? Do you know, I have a 
feeling, a sort of sure premonition, that I am going to 
die this coming autumn ; for I feel terribly, oh so terribly 
ill ! Often do I think of death, yet feel that I should not 
like to die here and be laid to rest in the soil of St. Peters- 
burg. Once more I have had to take to my bed, as I 
did last spring, for I have never really recovered. Indeed 
I feel so depressed ! Thedora has gone out for the day, 
and I am alone. For a long while past I have been 
afraid to be left by myself, for I keep fancying that 
there is some one else in the room, and that that some one 
is speaking to me. Especially do I fancy this when I 
have gone off into a reverie, and then suddenly awoken 
from it, and am feeling bewildered. That is why I have 



Poor Folk 107 

made this letter such a long one; for when I am writing 
the mood passes away. Good-bye. I have neither time 
nor paper left for more, and must close. Of the money 
which I saved to buy a new dress and hat there remains 
but a single rouble; but I am glad that you have been 
able to pay your landlady two roubles, for they will 
keep her tongue quiet for a time. And you must repair 
your wardrobe. 

Good-bye once more. I am so tired ! Nor can I think 
why I am growing so weak — why it is that even the 
smallest task now wearies me. Even if work should 
come my way, how am I to do it ? That is what worries 
me above all things. B. D. 

September $th. 

My beloved Barbara, — To-day I have undergone a 
variety of experiences. In the first place, my head has 
been aching, and towards evening I went out to get 
a breath of fresh air along the Fontanka Canal. The 
weather was dull and damp, and even by six o'clock 
darkness had begun to set in. True, rain was not actually 
falling, but only a mist like rain, while the sky was 
streaked with masses of trailing cloud. Crowds of 
people were hurrying along Naberezhnaia Street, with 
faces that looked strange and dejected. There were 
drunken peasants ; snub-nosed old harridans in slippers, 
and bareheaded; artisans; cab-drivers; every species 
of beggar; boys; a locksmith's apprentice in a striped 
smock, with lean, emaciated features which seemed to 
have been washed in rancid oil; an ex-soldier who was 
offering penknives and copper rings for sale; and so on, 
and so on. It was the hour when one would expect to 
meet no other folk than these. And what a quantity of 
boats there were on the canal. It made one wonder how 
they could all find room there. On every bridge were 
old women selling damp ginger-bread or withered apples, 
and every woman looked as damp and dirty as her wares. 
In short, the Fontanka is a saddening spot for a walk, 
for there is wet granite under one's feet, and tall, dingy 
buildings on either side of one, and wet mist below and 
wet mist above. Yes, all was dark and gloomy there this 
evening. 



io8 Poor Folk 

By the time I had returned to Gorokhovaia Street 
darkness had fallen, and the lamps had been lit. How- 
ever, I did not linger long in that particular spot, for 
Gorokhovaia Street is too noisy a place. But what 
sumptuous shops and stores it contains! Everything 
sparkles and glitters, and the windows are full of nothing 
but bright colours and materials and hats of different 
shapes. One might think that they were decked merely 
for display; but no, — people buy these things, and 
give them to their wives! Yes, it is a sumptuous 
place. Hordes of German hucksters are there, as well 
as quite respectable traders. And the quantities of 
carriages which pass along the street ! One marvels that 
the pavement can support so many splendid vehicles, 
with windows like crystal, linings made of silk and velvet, 
and lacqueys dressed in epaulets and wearing swords! 
Into some of them I glanced, and saw that they con- 
tained ladies of various ages. Perhaps they were 
princesses and countesses ! Probably at that hour such 
folk would be hastening to balls and other gatherings. 
In fact, it was interesting to be able to look so closely at 
a princess or a great lady. They were all very fine. At 
all events, I had never before seen such persons as I 
beheld in those carriages. . . . Then I thought of you. 
Ah, my own, my darling, it is often that I think of you 
and feel my heart sink. How is it that you are so un- 
fortunate, Barbara? How is it that you are so much 
worse off than other people ? In my eyes you are kind- 
hearted, beautiful, and clever: why, then, has such an 
evil fate fallen to your lot? How comes it that you are 
left desolate — you, so good a human being! while to 
others happiness comes without an invitation at all? 
Yes, I know — I know it well — that I ought not to say it, 
for to do so savours of free-thought ; but why should that 
raven, Fate, croak out upon the fortunes of one person 
while she is yet in her mother's womb, while another 
person it permits to go forth in happiness from the 
home which has reared her? To even an idiot of an 
Ivanushka such happiness is sometimes granted. " You, 
you fool Ivanushka," says Fate, " shall succeed to your 
grandfather's money-bags, and eat, drink, and be merry; 



Poor Folk 109 

whereas you (such and such another one) shall do no more 
than lick the dish, since that is all that you are good for." 
Yes, I know that it is wrong to hold such opinions, but 
involuntarily the sin of so doing grows upon one's soul. 
Nevertheless it is you, my darling, who ought to be 
riding in one of those carriages. Generals would have 
come seeking your favour, and, instead of being clad in 
a humble cotton dress, you would have been walking in 
silken and golden attire. Then you would not have 
been thin and wan as now, but fresh and plump and 
rosy-cheeked as a figure on a sugar-cake. Then should 
I too have been happy — happy if only I could look at 
your lighted windows from the street, and watch your 
shadow — happy if only I could think that you were well 
and happy, my sweet little bird! Yet how are things 
in reality ? Not only have evil folk brought you to ruin, 
but there comes also an old rascal of a libertine to insult 
you! Just because he struts about in a frockcoat, and 
can ogle you through a gold-mounted lorgnette, the brute 
thinks that everything will fall into his hands — that you 
are bound to listen to his insulting condescension ! Out 
upon him ! But why is this ? It is because you are an 
orphan, it is because you are unprotected, it is because 
you have no powerful friend to afford you the decent 
support which is your due. What do such facts matter 
to a man or to men to whom the insulting of an orphan 
is an offence allowed? Such fellows are not men at all, 
but mere vermin, no matter what they think themselves 
to be. Of that I am certain. Why, an organ-grinder 
whom I met in Gorokhovaia Street would inspire more 
respect than they do, for at least he walks about all day, 
and suffers hunger — at least he looks for a stray, super- 
fluous groat to earn him subsistence, and is, therefore, a 
true gentleman, in that he supports himself. To beg 
alms he would be ashamed; and, moreover, he works 
for the benefit of mankind just as does a factory 
machine. " So far as in me lies," says he, " I will give 
you pleasure." True, he is a pauper, and nothing but a 
pauper ; but at least he is an honourable pauper. Though 
tired and hungry, he still goes on working — working in 
his own peculiar fashion, yet still doing honest labour. 



i i о Poor Folk 

Yes, many a decent fellow whose labour may be dispro- 
portionate to its utilit}' pulls the forelock to no one, and 
begs his bread of no one. I myself resemble that organ- 
grinder. That is to say, though not exactly he, I 
resemble him in this respect, that I work according to 
my capabilities, and so far as in me lies. More could be 
asked of no one; nor ought I to be adjudged to do more. 
Apropos of the organ-grinder, I may tell you, dearest, 
that to-day I experienced a double misfortune. As I 
was looking at the grinder certain thoughts entered my 
head, and I stood wrapped in a reverie. Some cabmen 
also had halted at the spot, as well as a young girl, with 
a yet smaller girl who was dressed in rags and tatters. 
These people had halted there to listen to the organ- 
grinder, who was playing in front of some one's windows. 
Next I caught sight of a little urchin of about ten — a boy 
who would have been good-looking but for the fact that 
his face was pinched and sickly. Almost barefooted, and 
clad only in a shirt, he was standing agape to listen to 
the music — a pitiful childish figure. Nearer to the 
grinder a few more urchins were dancing, but in the case 
of this lad his hands and feet looked numbed, and he kept 
biting the end of his sleeve and shivering. Also I 
noticed that in his hands he had a paper of some sort. 
Presently a gentleman came by, and tossed the grinder 
a small coin, which fell straight into a box adorned with 
a representation of a Frenchman and some ladies. The 
instant he heard the rattle of the coin the boy started, 
looked timidly round, and evidently made up his mind 
that / had thrown the money ; whereupon he ran to me, 
with his little hands all shaking, and said in a tremu- 
lous voice as he proffered me his paper: ' PI — please 
sign this." I turned over the paper, and saw that there 
was written on it what is usual under such circum- 
stances. " Kind friends I am a sick mother with three 
hungry children. Pray help me. Though soon I shall 
be dead, yet, if you will not forget my little ones in this 
world, neither will I forget you in the world that is to 
come." The thing seemed clear enough; it was a 
matter of life and death. Yet what was / to give the 
lad? Well, I gave him nothing. But my heart ached 



Poor Folk 1 1 i 

for him. I am certain that, shivering with cold though 
he was, and perhaps hungry, the poor lad was not lying. 
No, no, he was not lying. The shameful point is that 
so many mothers take no care of their children, but send 
them out, half-clad, into the cold. Perhaps this lad's 
mother also was a feckless old woman, and devoid of 
character ? Or perhaps she had no one to work for her, 
but was forced to sit with her legs crossed — a veritable 
invalid ? Or perhaps she was just an old rogue who was 
in the habit of sending out pinched and hungry boys to 
deceive the public ? What would such a boy learn from 
begging letters? His heart would soon be rendered 
callous, for, as he ran about begging, people would pass 
him by and give him nothing. Yes, their hearts would 
be as stone, and their replies rough and harsh. " Away 
with you! " they would say. " You are seeking but to 
trick us." He would hear that from every one, and his 
heart would grow hard, and he would shiver in vain 
with the cold, like some poor little fledgling that has 
fallen out of the nest. His hands and feet would be 
freezing, and his breath coming with difficulty; until, 
look you, he would begin to cough, and disease, like an 
unclean parasite, would worm its way into his breast 
until death itself had overtaken him — overtaken him in 
some fcetid corner whence there was no chance of escape. 
Yes, that is what his life would become. There are 
many such cases. Ah, Barbara, it is hard to hear " For 
Christ's sake! " and yet pass the suppliant by and give 
nothing, or say merely, "May the Lord give unto you!" 
Of course, some supplications mean nothing (for sup- 
plications differ greatly in character). Occasionally 
supplications are long-drawn-out, and drawling and 
stereotyped and mechanical — they are purely begging 
supplications. Requests of this kind it is less hard to 
refuse, for they are purely professional and of long 
standing. " The beggar is overdoing it," one thinks 
to oneself. " He knows the trick too well." But there 
are other supplications which voice a strange, hoarse, 
unaccustomed note, like that to-day when I took the 
poor boy's paper. He had been standing by the kerb- 
stone without speaking to anybody; save that at last 



1 1 2 Poor Folk 

to myself he said, " For the love of Christ give me a 
groat! " in a voice so hoarse and broken that I started, 
and felt a queer sensation in my heart, although I did 
not give him a groat. Indeed, I had not a groat on me. 
Rich folk dislike hearing poor people complain of their 
poverty. " They disturb us," they say, " and are 
impertinent as well. Why should poverty be so 
impertinent? Why should its hungry moans prevent 
us from sleeping? "... 

To tell you the truth, my darling, I have written the 
foregoing not merely to relieve my feelings, but, also, 
still more, to give you an example of the excellent style 
in which I can write. You yourself will recognise that 
my style was formed long ago, but of late such fits of 
despondency have seized upon me that my style has 
begun to correspond to my feelings ; and though I know 
that such correspondence gains one little, it at least 
renders one a certain justice. For not unfrequently it 
happens that, for some reason or another, one feels 
abased, and inclined to value oneself at nothing, and to 
account oneself lower than a dishclout ; but this merely 
arises from the fact that at the time one is feeling 
harassed and depressed, like the poor boy who to-day 
asked of me alms. Let me tell you an allegory, dearest, 
and do you hearken to it. Often, as I hasten to the 
office in the morning, I look around me at the city — I 
watch it awaking, getting out of bed, lighting its fires, 
cooking its breakfast, and becoming vocal; and at the 
sight I begin to feel smaller, as though some one had 
dealt me a rap on my inquisitive nose. Yes, at such 
times I slink along with a sense of utter humiliation 
in my heart. For one would have but to see what is 
passing within those great, black, grimy houses of the 
capital, and to penetrate within their walls, for one at 
once to realise what good reason there is for self-de- 
preciation and heart -searching. Of course you will note 
that I am speaking figuratively rather than literally. 
Let us look at what is passing within those houses. In 
some dingy corner, perhaps, in some damp kennel which 
is supposed to be a room, an artisan has just awakened 
from sleep. All night he has dreamt — if such an in- 



Poor Folk i i з 

significant fellow is capable of dreaming? — about the 
shoes which last night he mechanically cut out. He is 
a master-shoemaker, you see, and therefore able to 
think of nothing but his one subject of interest. Near 
by are some squalling children and a hungry wife. Nor 
is he the only man that has to greet the day in this 
fashion. Indeed, the incident would be nothing — it 
would not be worth writing about, save for another cir- 
cumstance. In that same house another person — a 
person of great wealth — may also have been dreaming 
of shoes; but of shoes of a very different pattern and 
fashion (in a manner of speaking, if you understand my 
metaphor, we are all of us shoemakers). This, again, 
would be nothing, were it not that the rich person has 
no one to whisper in his ear: " Why dost thou think of 
such things? Why dost thou think of thyself alone, 
and live only for thyself — thou who art not a shoemaker ? 
Thy children are not ailing. Thy wife is not hungry. 
Look around thee. Can'st thou not find a subject more 
fitting for thy thoughts than thy shoes? " That is what 
I want to say to you in allegorical language, Barbara. 
Maybe it savours a little of free-thought, dearest; but 
such ideas will keep arising in my mind, and finding 
utterance in impetuous speech. Why, therefore, should 
one not value oneself at a groat as one listens in fear 
and trembling to the roar and turmoil of the city? 
Maybe you think that I am exaggerating things — that 
this is a mere whim of mine, or that I am quoting from 
a book? No, no, Barbara. You may rest assured that 
it is not so. Exaggeration I abhor, with whims I have 
nothing to do, and of quotation Tarn guiltless. 

I arrived home to-day in melancholy mood. Sitting 
down to the table, I had warmed myself some tea, and 
was about to drink a second glass of it, when there 
entered Gorshkov, the poor lodger. Already, this morn- 
ing, I had noticed that he was hovering around the other 
lodgers, and also seeming to want to speak to myself. 
In passing I may say that his circumstances are infinitely 
worse than my own; for, only think of it, he has a wife 
and children ! Indeed, if I were he, I do not know what 
I should do. Well, he entered my room, and bowed to 
me with the pus standing, as usual, in drops on his 



i 1 4 Poor Folk 

eyelashes, his feet shuffling about, and his tongue 
unable, at first, to articulate a word. I motioned 
him to a chair (it was a dilapidated one enough, but I 
had no other), and asked him to have a glass of tea. 
To this he demurred — for quite a long time he demurred, 
but at length he accepted the оЯег. Next, he was for 
drinking the tea without sugar, and renewed his excuses, 
but upon the sugar I insisted. After long resistance 
and many refusals he did consent to take some, but only 
the smallest possible lump; after which he assured me 
that his tea was perfectly sweet. To what depths of 
humility can poverty reduce a man ! " Well, what is 
it, my good sir? " I inquired of him; whereupon he 
replied: "It is this, Makar Alexievitch. You have 
once before been my benefactor. Pray again show 
me the charity of God, and assist my unfortunate family. 
My wife and children have nothing to eat. To think 
that a father should have to say this! " I was about 
to speak again when he interrupted me. " You see," 
he continued, " I am afraid of the other lodgers here. 
That is to say, I am not so much afraid of, as ashamed 
to, address them, for they are a proud, conceited lot of 
men. Nor would I have troubled even you, my friend 
and former benefactor, were it not that I know that you 
yourself have experienced misfortune and are in debt: 
wherefore I have ventured to come and make this 
request of you, in that I know you not only to be kind- 
hearted, but also to be in need, and for that reason the 
more likely to sympathise with me in my distress." 
To this he added an apology for his awkwardness and 
presumption. I replied that, glad though I should have 
been to serve him, I had nothing, absolutely nothing, 
at my disposal. " Ah, Makar Alexievitch," he went on, 
" surely it is not much that I am asking of you? My — 
my wife and children are starving. C-could you not 
afford me just a grivennik? ' At that my heart 
contracted, " How these people put me to shame! " 
thought I. But I had only twenty kopecks left, and 
upon them I had been counting for meeting my most 
pressing requirements. " No, good sir, I cannot," 
said I. " Well, what you will," he persisted " Perhaps 
ten kopecks? " Well I got out my cash-box, and gave 



Poor Folk 



I! 5 



him the twenty. It was a good deed. To think that 
such poverty should exist! Then I had some further 
talk with him. " How is it," I asked him, " that, 
though you are in such straits, you have hired a room 
at five roubles? " He replied that though, when he 
engaged the room six months ago, he paid three months' 
rent in advance, his affairs had subsequently turned out 
badly, and never righted themselves since. You see, 
Barbara, he was sued at law by a merchant who had 
defrauded the Treasury in the matter of a contract. 
When the fraud was discovered the merchant was 
prosecuted, but the transactions in which he had 
engaged involved Gorshkov, although the latter had 
been guilty only of negligence, want of prudence, and 
culpable indifference to the Treasury's interests. True, 
the affair had taken place some years ago, but various 
obstacles had since combined to thwart Gorshkov. 
" Of the disgrace put upon me," said he to me, " I 
am innocent. True, I to a certain extent disobeyed 
orders, but never did I commit theft or embezzle- 
ment." Nevertheless the affair lost him his character. 
He was dismissed the service, and though not adjudged 
capitally guilty, has been unable since to recover 
from the merchant a large sum of money which is his 
by right, as spared to him (Gorshkov) by the legal 
tribunal. True, the tribunal in question did not 
altogether believe in Gorshkov, but / do so. The matter 
is of a nature so complex and crooked that probably 
a hundred years would be insufficient to unravel it; 
and though it has now to a certain extent been cleared 
up, the merchant still holds the key to the situation. 
Personally I side with Gorshkov, and am very sorry 
for him. Though lacking a post of any kind, he still 
refuses to despair, though his resources are completely 
exhausted. Yes, it is a tangled affair, and meanwhile 
he must live, for, unfortunately, another child which has 
been born to him has entailed upon the family fresh 
expenses. Also, another of his children recently fell 
ill and died: which meant yet further expense. Lastly, 
not only is his wife in bad health, but he himself is 
suffering from a complaint of long standing. In short, 
he has had a very great deal to undergo. Yet he declares 



1 1 6 Poor Folk 

that daily he expects a favourable issue to his affair — 
that he has no doubt of it whatever. I am terribly 
sorry foi him, and said what I could to give him comfort, 
for he is a man who has been much bullied and misled. 
He had come to me for protection from his troubles, 
so I did my best to soothe him. Now, good-bye, my 
darling. May Christ watch over you and preserve your 
health. Dearest one, even to think of you is like medicine 
to my ailing soul. Though I suffer for you, I at least 
suffer gladly. — Your true friend, Makar Dievushkin. 

September gth. 

My dearest Barbara Alexievna, — I am beside 
myself as I take up my pen, for a most terrible thing 
has happened. My head is whirling round. Ah, 
beloved, how am I to tell you about it all ? I had never 
foreseen what has happened. But no; I cannot say 
that I had never foreseen it, for my mind did get an 
inkling of what was coming, through my seeing some- 
thing very similar to it in a dream. 

I will tell you the whole story — simply, and as God 
may put it into my heart. To-day I went to the office 
as usual, and, on arrival, sat down to write. You must 
know that I had been engaged on the same sort of work 
yesterday, and that, while executing it, I had been ap- 
proached by Timothei Ivanovitch with an urgent request 
for a particular document. " Makar Alexievitch," he 
had said, " pray copy this out for me. Copy it as 
quickly and as carefully as you can, for it will require 
to be signed to-day." Also let me tell you, dearest, that 
yesterday I had not been feeling myself, nor able to look 
at anything. I had been troubled with grave depression 
— my breast had felt chilled, and my head clouded. 
All the while I had been thinking of you, my darling. 
Well, I set to work upon the copying, and executed it 
cleanly and well, except for the fact that, whether the 
devil confused my mind, or a mysterious fate so ordained, 
or the occurrence was simply bound to happen, I left 
out a whole line of the document, and thus made 
nonsense of it! The work had been given me too late 
for signature last night, so it went before his Excellency 
this morning. I reached the office at my usual hour, 



Poor Folk 



117 



and sat down beside Emelia Ivanovitch. Here I may 
remark that for a long time past I have been feeling 
twice as shy and diffident as I used to do; I have been 
finding it impossible to look people in the face. Let 
only a chair creak, and I become more dead than alive. 
To-day, therefore, I crept humbly to my seat and sat 
down in such a crouching posture that Enm Akimovitch 
(the most touchy man in the world) said to me sotto 
voce : ' What on earth makes you sit like that, Makar 
Alexievitch? " Then he pulled such a grimace that 
every one near us rocked with laughter at my expense. 
I stopped my ears, frowned, and sat without moving, 
for I found this the best method of putting a stop to such 
merriment. All at once I heard a bustle and a commo- 
tion and the sound of some one running towards us. 
Did my ears deceive me? It was / who was being 
summoned in peremptory tones! My heart started to 
tremble within me, though I could not say why. I only 
know that never in my life before had it trembled as 
it did then. Still I clung to my chair — and at that 
moment was hardly myself at all. The voices were 
coming nearer and nearer, until they were shouting 
in my ear: "Dievushkin! Dievushkin! Where is 
Dievushkin? " Then at length I raised my eyes, and 
saw before me Evstafi Ivanovitch. He said to me: 
" Makar Alexievitch, go at once to his Excellency. 
You have made a mistake in a document." That was 
all, but it was enough, was it not ? I felt dead and cold 
as ice — I felt absolutely deprived of the power of sensa- 
tion; but I rose from my seat and went whither I had 
been bidden. Through one room, through two rooms, 
through three rooms I passed, until I was conducted 
into his Excellency's cabinet itself. Of my thoughts 
at that moment I can give no exact account. I merely 
saw his Excellency standing before me, with a knot of 
people around him. I have an idea that I did not salute 
him — that I forgot to do so. Indeed, so panic-stricken 
was I that my teeth were chattering and my knees 
knocking together. In the first place, I was greatly 
ashamed of my appearance (a glance into a mirror on the 
right had frightened me with the reflection of myself 
that it presented), and, in the second place, I had always 

^ 711 



i i 8 Poor Folk 

been accustomed to comport myself as though no such 
person as I existed. Probably his Excellency had never 
before known even that I was alive. Of course, he 
might have heard, in passing, that there was a man 
named Dievushkin in his department; but never for a 
moment had he had any intercourse with me. 

He began angrily: " What is this you have done, sir? 
Why are you not more careful? The document was 
wanted in a hurry, and you have gone and spoilt it. 
What do you think of it? " — the last being addressed to 
Evstafi Ivanovitch. More I did not hear, except for 
some flying exclamations of " What negligence and 
carelessness! How awkward this is! " and so on. I 
opened my mouth to say something or other; I tried 
to beg pardon, but could not. To attempt to leave the 
room I had not the hardihood. There then happened 
something the recollection of which causes the pen to 
tremble in my hand with shame. A button of mine — 
the devil take it! — a button of mine that was hanging 
by a single thread suddenly broke off, and hopped and 
skipped and rattled and rolled until it had reached the 
feet of his Excellency himself- — this amid a profound 
general silence! That was what came of my intended 
self- justification and plea for mercy! That was the only 
answer that I had to return to my chief! The sequel 
I shudder to relate. At once his Excellency's attention 
became drawn to my figure and costume. I remembered 
what I had seen in the mirror, and hastened to pursue 
the button. Obstinacy of a sort seized upon me, and 
I did my best to arrest the thing, but it slipped away, 
and kept turning over and over, so that I could not 
grasp it, and made a sad spectacle of myself with my 
awkwardness. Then there came over me a feeling that 
my last remaining strength was about to leave me, 
and that all, all was lost — reputation, manhood, every- 
thing! In both ears I seemed to hear the voices of 
Theresa and Phaldoni. At length, however, I grasped 
the button, and, raising and straightening myself, 
stood humbly with clasped hands — looking a veritable 
fool ! But no. First of all I tried to attach the button 
to the ragged threads, and smiled each time that it 
broke away from them, and smiled again. In the 



Poor Folk i 19 

beginning his Excellency had turned away, but now 
he threw me another glance, and I heard him say to 
К \ stan Ivanovitch: " What on earth is the matter with 
the fellow? Look at the figure he cuts! Who to God 
is he? ' Ah, beloved, only to hear that, " Who to God 
is he? " Truly I had made myself a marked man! 
In reply to his Excellency Evstafi murmured: "He 
is no one of any note, though his character is good. 
Besides, his salary is sufficient as the scale goes." 
" Very well, then; but help him out of his difficulties 
somehow," said his Excellency. " Give him a trifle 
of salary in advance." " It is all forestalled," was the 
reply. " He drew it some time ago. But his record 
is good. There is nothing against him." At this I 
felt as though I were in Hell fire. I could actually have 
died! " Well, well," said his Excellency, " let him copy 
out the document a second time. Dievushkin, come 
here. You are to make another copy of this paper, and 
to make it as quickly as possible." With that he 
turned to some other officials present, issued to them a 
few orders, and the company dispersed. No sooner 
had they done so than his Excellency hurriedly pulled 
out a pocket-book, took thence a note for a hundred 
roubles, and, with the words, " Take this. It is as 
much as I can afford. Treat it as you like," placed the 
money in my hand! At this, dearest, I started and 
trembled, for I was moved to my very soul. What next 
I did I hardly know, except that I know that I seized his 
Excellency by the hand. But he only grew very red, 
and then — no, I am not departing by a hair's-breadth 
from the truth — it is true that he took this unworthy 
hand in his, and shook it! Yes, he took this hand of 
mine in his, and shook it, as though I had been his 
equal, as though I had been a general like himself! 
" Go now," he said. " This is all that I can do for you. 
Make no further mistakes, and I will overlook your 
fault." 

W T hat I think about it is this. I beg of you and of 
Thedora, and had I any children I should beg of them 
also, to pray ever to God for his Excellency. I should 
say to my children: " For your father you need not 
pray; but for his Excellency I bid you pray until your 



120 Poor Folk 

lives shall end/' Yes, dear one — I tell you this in all 
solemnity, so hearken well unto my words — that though, 
during these cruel days of our adversity, I have nearly 
died of distress of soul at the sight of you and your 
poverty, as well as at the sight of myself and my abase- 
ment and helplessness, I yet care less for the hundred 
roubles which his Excellency has given me than for the 
fact that he was good enough to take the hand of a 
wretched drunkard in his own and press it. By that 
act he restored me to myself. By that act he revived 
my courage, he made life for ever sweet to me. . . . 
Yes, sure am I that, sinner though I be before the 
Almighty, my prayers for the happiness and prosperity 
of his Excellency will yet ascend to the Heavenly 
Throne! . . . 

But, my darling, for the moment I am terribly agitated 
and distraught. My heart is beating as though it would 
burst my breast, and all my body seems weak. ... I 
send you forty-five roubles in notes. Another twenty 
I shall give to my landlady, and the remaining thirty- 
five I shall keep — twenty for new clothes and fifteen for 
actual living expenses. But these experiences of the 
morning have shaken me to the core, and I must rest a 
while. It is quiet, very quiet, here. My breath is 
coming in jerks: deep down in my breast I can hear it 
sobbing and trembling. ... I will come and see you 
soon, but at the moment my head is aching with these 
various sensations. God sees all things, my darling, my 
priceless treasure! — Your steadfast friend, 

Makar Dievusiikin. 

September \oth. 

My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — I am unspeak- 
ably rejoiced at your good fortune, and fully appreciate 
the kindness of your superior. Now, take a rest from 
your cares. Only do not again spend money to no 
advantage. Live as quietly and as frugally as possible, 
and from to-day begin always to set aside something, 
lest misfortune again overtake you. Do not, for God's 
sake, worry yourself: Thedora and I will get on some- 
how. Why have you sent me so much money? I 
really do not need it — what I had already would have 



Poor Folk t2t 

been quite sufficient. True, I shall soon be needing 
further funds if I am to leave these lodgings, but Thedora 
is hoping before long to receive repayment of an old 
debt. Of course, at least twenty roubles will have to 
be set aside for indispensable requirements, but the 
remainder shall be returned to you. Pray take care of 
it, Makar Alexievitch. Now, good-bye. May your life 
continue peaceful, and may you preserve your health 
and spirits. I would have written to you at greater 
length had I not felt so terribly weary. Yesterday I 
never left my bed. I am glad that you have promised 
to come and see me. Yes, you must pay me a visit. 

B. D. 

September nth. 

My darling Barbara Alexievna, — I implore you 
not to leave me now that I am once more happy and 
contented. Disregard what Thedora says, and I will do 
anything in the world for you. I will behave myself 
better, even if only out of respect for his Excellency, 
and guard my every action. Once more we will ex- 
change cheerful letters with one another, and make 
mutual confidence of our thoughts and joys and sorrows 
(if so be that we shall know any more sorrows?). Yes, 
we will live twice as happily and comfortably as of old. 
Also, we will exchange books. . . . Angel of my heart, 
a great change has taken place in my fortunes — a change 
very much for the better. My landlady has become 
more accommodating; Theresa has recovered her senses ; 
even Phaldoni springs to do my bidding. Likewise I 
have made my peace with Rataziaev. He came to see 
me of his own accord, the moment that he heard the 
glad tidings. There can be no doubt that he is a good 
fellow, that there is no truth in the slanders that one 
hears of him. For one thing, I have discovered that he 
never had any intention of putting me and yourself into 
a book. This he told me himself, and then read to me 
his latest work. As for his calling me " Lovelace," he 
had intended no rudeness or indecency thereby. The 
term is merely one of foreign derivation, meaning a 
clever fellow, or, in more literary and elegant language, 
a gentleman with whom one must reckon. That is all; 



i 22 Poor Folk 

it was a mere harmless jest, my beloved. Only ignorance 
made me lose my temper, and I have expressed to him 
my regret. . . . How beautiful is the weather to-day, 
my little Barbara! True, there was a slight frost in the 
early morning, as though scattered through a sieve, but 
it was nothing, and the breeze soon freshened the air. 
I went out to buy some shoes, and obtained a splendid 
pair. Then, after a stroll along the Nevski Prospect, I 
read The Daily Bee. This reminds me that I have for- 
gotten to tell you the most important thing of all. It 
happened like this: — 

This morning I had a talk with Emelia Ivanovitch 
and Aksenti Michaelovitch concerning his Excellency. 
Apparently I am not the only person to whom he has 
acted kindly and been charitable, for he is known to 
the whole world for his goodness of heart. In many 
quarters his praises are to be heard; in many quarters 
he has called forth tears of gratitude. Among other 
things he undertook the care of an orphaned girl, and 
married her to an official, the son of a poor widow, and 
found this man place in a certain chancellory, and in 
other ways benefited him. Well, dearest, I considered 
it to be my duty to add my mite by publishing abroad the 
story of his Excellency's gracious treatment of myself. 
Accordingly I related the whole occurrence to my inter- 
locutors, and concealed not a single detail. In fact, I 
put my pride into my pocket — though why should I 
feel ashamed of having been elated by such an occur- 
rence? " Let it only be noised afield," said I to myself, 
" and it will redound greatly to his Excellency's credit." 
So I expressed myself enthusiastically on the subject 
and never faltered. On the contrary, I felt proud to 
have such a story to tell. I referred to every one con- 
cerned (except to yourself, of course, dearest) — to my 
landlady, to Phaldoni, to Rataziaev, to Markov. I 
even mentioned the matter of my shoes ! Some of those 
standing by laughed — in fact every one present did so, 
but probably it was my own figure or the incident of 
my shoes — more particularly the latter — that excited 
merriment, for I am sure it was not meant ill-naturedly. 
My hearers may have been young men, or well off: 
certainly thev cannot have been laughing with evil intent 



Poor Folk 123 

at what I had said. Anything against his Excellency 
cannot have been in their thoughts. Eh, Barbara? 

Even now I cannot wholly collect my faculties, so 
upset am I by recent events. . . . Have you any fuel 
to go on with, Barbara ? You must not expose your- 
self to cold. Also, you have depressed my spirits with 
your fears for the future. Daily I pray to God on your 
behalf. Ah, how I pray to Him ! . . . Likewise, have 
you any woollen stockings to wear, and warm clothes 
generally? Mind you, if there is anything you need, 
you must not hurt an old man's feelings by failing to 
apply to him for what you require. The bad times are 
gone now, and the future is looking bright and fair. 

But what bad times they were, Barbara, even though 
they be gone, and can no longer matter! As the years 
pass on we shall gradually recover ourselves. How 
clearly I remember my youth! In those days I never 
had a kopeck to spare. Yet, cold and hungry though 
I was, I was always light-hearted. In the morning I 
would walk the Nevski Prospect, and meet nice-looking 
people, and be happy all day. Yes, it was a glorious, 
a glorious time! It was good to be alive, especially 
in St. Petersburg. Yet it is but yesterday that I was 
beseeching God with tears to pardon me my sins during 
the late sorrowful period — to pardon me my murmur- 
ings and evil thoughts and gambling and drunkenness. 
And you I remembered in my prayers, for you alone 
have encouraged and comforted me, you alone have 
given me advice and instruction. I shall never forget 
that, dearest. To-day I gave each one of your letters 
a kiss. . . . Good-bye, beloved. I have been told that 
there is going to be a sale of clothing somewhere in this 
neighbourhood. Once more good-bye, good-bye, my 
angel. — Yours in heart and soul, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

September i$th. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — I am in terrible 
distress. I feel sure that something is about to happen. 
The matter, my beloved friend, is that Monsieur Bwikov 
is again in St. Petersburg, for Thedora has met him. 
He was driving along in a drozhki, but, on meeting 



i 24 Poor Folk 

Thedora, he ordered the coachman to stop, sprang out, 
and inquired of her where she was living; but this she 
would not tell him. Next he said with a smile that he 
knew quite well who was living with her (evidently 
Anna Thedorovna had told him); whereupon Thedora 
could hold out no longer, but then and there, in the 
street, railed at and abused him — telling him that he 
was an immoral man, and the cause of all my misfor- 
tunes. To this he replied that a person who did not 
possess a groat must surely be rather badly off; to 
which Thedora retorted that I could always either live 
by the labour of my hands or marry — that it was not 
so much a question of my losing posts as of my losing 
my happiness, the ruin of which had led almost to my 
death. In reply he observed that, though I was still 
quite young, I seemed to have lost my wits, and that 
my " virtue appeared to be under a cloud " (I quote 
his exact words). Both I and Thedora had thought 
that he does not know where I live; but, last night, 
just as I had left the house to make a few purchases in 
the Gostinni Dvor, he appeared at our rooms (evidently 
he had not wanted to find me at home), and put many 
questions to Thedora concerning our way of living. 
Then, after inspecting my work, he wound up with: 
"Who is this tchinovnik friend of yours?" At the 
moment you happened to be passing through the court- 
yard, so Thedora pointed you out, and the man peered 
at you, and laughed. Thedora next asked him to 
depart — telling him that I was still ill from grief, and 
that it would give me great pain to see him there; to 
which, after a pause, he replied that he had come 
because he had had nothing better to do. Also, he was 
for giving Thedora twenty-five roubles, but, of course, 
she declined them. What does it all mean? Why 
has he paid this visit ? I cannot understand his getting 
to know about me. I am lost in conjecture. Thedora, 
however, says that Aksinia, her sister-in-law (who 
sometimes comes to see her), is acquainted with a 
laundress named Nastasia, and that this woman has a 
cousin in the position of watchman to a department 
of which a certain friend of Anna Thedorovna 's nephew 
forms one of the staff. Can it be, therefore, that an 



Poor Folk i 25 

intrigue has been hatched through this channel? But 
Thedora may be entirely mistaken. We hardly know 
what to think. What if he should come again? The 
very thought terrifies me. When Thedora told me of 
this last night such terror seized upon me that I almost 
swooned away. What can the man be wanting? At 
all events I refuse to know such people. What have 
they to do with my wretched self? Ah, how I am 
haunted with anxiety, for every moment I keep thinking 
that Bwikov is at hand! What will become of me? 
What more has fate in store for me? For Christ's sake 
come and see me, Makar Alexievitch! For Christ's 
sake come and see me soon ! 

September 18th. 

My beloved Barbara Alexievna, — To-day there 
took place in this house a most lamentable, a most 
mysterious, a most unlooked-for occurrence. First of 
all let me tell you that poor Gorshkov has been entirely 
absolved of guilt. The decision has been long in coming, 
but this morning he went to hear the final resolution 
read. It was entirely in his favour. Any culpability 
which had been imputed to him for negligence and 
irregularity was removed by the resolution. Likewise 
he was authorised to recover of the merchant a large 
sum of money. Thus he stands entirely justified, and 
has had his character cleansed from all stain. In short, 
he could not have wished for a more complete vindica- 
tion. When he arrived home at three o'clock he was 
looking as white as a sheet, and his lips were quivering. 
Yet there was a smile on his face as he embraced his wife 
and children. In a body the rest of us ran to congratu- 
late him, and he was greatly moved by the act. Bow- 
ing to us, he pressed our hands in turn. As he did so 
I thought, somehow, that he seemed to have grown 
taller and straighter, and that the pus-drops seemed to 
have disappeared from his eyelashes. Yet how agitated 
he was, poor fellow ! He could not rest quietly lor two 
minutes together, but kept picking up and then dropping 
whatsoever came to his hand, and bowing and smiling 
without intermission, and sitting down and getting up, 
and again sitting down, and chattering God only knows 

* E 711 



i 26 Poor Folk 

what about his honour and his good name and his little 
ones. How he did talk — yes, and weep too! Indeed, 
few of ourselves could refrain from tears; although 
Rataziaev remarked (probably to encourage Gorshkov) 
that honour mattered nothing when one had nothing to 
eat, and that money was the chief thing in the world, 
and that for it alone ought God to be thanked. Then 
he slapped Gorshkov on the shoulder, but I thought 
that Gorshkov somehow seemed hurt at this. He did 
not express any open displeasure, but threw Rataziaev 
a curious look, and removed his hand from his shoulder. 
Once upon a time he would not have acted thus; but 
characters differ. For example, I myself should have 
hesitated, at such a season of rejoicing, to seem proud, 
even though excessive deference and civility at such 
a moment might have been construed as a lapse both 
of moral courage and of mental vigour. However, 
this is none of my business. All that Gorshkov said 
was: " Yes, money is a good thing, glory be to God! " 
In fact, the whole time that we remained in his room 
he kept repeating to himself: " Glory be to God, glory 
be to God! " His wife ordered a richer and more 
delicate meal than usual, and the landlady herself 
cooked it, for at heart she is not a bad woman. But 
until the meal was served Gorshkov could not remain 
still. He kept entering every one's room in turn 
(whether invited thither or not), and, seating himself 
smilingly upon a chair, would sometimes say something, 
and sometimes not utter a word, but get up and go out 
again. In the naval officer's room he even took a pack 
of playing-cards into his hand, and was thereupon 
invited to make a fourth in a game; but after losing a 
few times, as well as making several blunders in his 
play, he abandoned the pursuit. " No," said he, " that 
is the sort of man that I am — that is all that I am good 
for," and departed. Next, encountering myself in the 
corridor, he took my hands in his, and gazed into my 
face with a rather curious air. Then he pressed my 
hands again, and moved away still smiling, smiling, 
but in an odd, weary sort of manner, much as a corpse 
might smile. Meanwhile his wife was weeping for joy, 
and everything in their room was decked in holiday 



Poor Folk 127 

guise. Presently dinner was served, and after they had 
dined Gorshkov said to his wife: " See now, dearest, 
I am going to rest a little while; " and with that went 
to bed. Presently he called his little daughter to his 
side, and, laying his hand upon the child's head, lay 
a long while looking at her. Then he turned to his wife 
again, and asked her: "What of Petinka? Where is 
our Petinka? " whereupon his wife crossed herself, 
and replied: "Why, our Petinka is dead!" "Yes, 
yes, I know — of course," said her husband. " Petinka 
is now in the Kingdom of Heaven." This showed his 
wife that her husband was not quite in his right senses — 
that the recent occurrence had upset him; so she said: 
' My dearest, you must sleep awhile." " I will do so," 

he replied, " — at once — I am rather " And he turned 

over, and lay silent for a time. Then again he turned 
round, and tried to say something, but his wife could 
not hear what it was. " What do you say? " she 
inquired, but he made no reply. Then again she waited 
a few moments until she thought to herself, " He has 
gone to sleep," and departed to spend an hour with the 
landlady. At the end of that hour she returned — only 
to find that her husband had not yet awoken, but was 
still lying motionless. " He is sleeping very soundly," 
she reflected as she sat down and began to work at 
something or other. Since then she has told us that 
when half an hour or so had elapsed she fell into a 
reverie. What she was thinking of she cannot remem- 
ber, save that she had forgotten altogether about her 
husband. Then she awoke with a curious sort of sensa- 
tion at her heart. The first thing that struck her was 
the deathlike stillness of the room. Glancing at the 
bed, she perceived her husband to be lying in the same 
position as before. Thereupon she approached him, 
turned the coverlet back, and saw that he was stiff and 
cold — that he had died suddenly, as though smitten 
with a stroke. But of what precisely he died God only 
knows. The affair has so terribly impressed me that 
even now I cannot fully collect my thoughts. It would 
scarcely be believed that a human being could die so 
simply — and he such a poor, needy wretch, this Gorsh- 
kov! What a fate, what a fate, to be sure ! His wife is 



128 Poor Folk 

plunged in tears and panic-stricken, while his little 
daughter has run away somewhere to hide herself. In 
their room, however, all is bustle and confusion, for the 
doctors are about to make an autopsy on the corpse. 
But I cannot tell you things for certain; I only know 
that I am most grieved, most grieved. How sad to 
think that one never knows what even a day, what 
even an hour, may bring forth! One seems to die to 
so little purpose! . . . — Your own 

Makar Dievushkin. 

September igth. 

My beloved Barbara Alexievna, — I hasten to let 
you know that Rataziaev has found me some work to 
do for a certain writer — the latter having submitted 
to him a large manuscript. Glory be to God, for this 
means a large amount of work to do. Yet, though 
the copy is wanted in haste, the original is so carelessly 
written that I hardly know how to set about my task. 
Indeed, certain parts of the manuscript are almost 
undecipherable. I have agreed to do the work for 
forty kopecks a sheet. You see, therefore (and this 
is my true reason for writing to you), that we shall soon 
be receiving money from an extraneous source. Good- 
bye now, as I must begin upon my labours. — Your 
sincere friend, Makar Dievushkin. 

September 2yd. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — I have not 
written to you these three days past for the reason that 
I have been so worried and alarmed. 

Three days ago Bwikov came again to see me. At 
the time I was alone, for Thedora had gone out some- 
where. As soon as I opened the door the sight of him 
so terrified me that I stood rooted to the spot, and could 
feel myself turning pale. Entering with his usual loud 
laugh, he took a chair, and sat down. For a long 
while I could not collect my thoughts: I just sat where 
I was, and went on with my work. Soon his smile 
faded, for my appearance seemed somehow to have 
struck him. You see, of late I have grown thin, and 
my eyes and cheeks have fallen in, and my face has 



Poor Folk 129 

become as white as a sheet; so that any one who knew 
me a year ago would scarcely recognise me now. After 
a prolonged inspection Bwikov seemed to recover his 
spirits, for he said something to which I duly replied. 
Then again he laughed. Thus he sat for a whole hour 
—talking to me the while, and asking me questions 
about one thing and another. At length, just before 
he rose to depart, he took me by the hand, and said (to 
quote his exact words): " Between ourselves, Barbara 
Alcxievna, that kinswoman of yours and my good 
friend and acquaintance — I refer to Anna Thedorovna 
— is a very bad woman " (he also added a grosser term 
of opprobrium). " First of all she led your cousin 
astray, and then she ruined yourself. I also have 
behaved like a villain, but such is the way of the world." 
Again he laughed. Next, having remarked that, 
though not a master of eloquence, he had always con- 
sidered that obligations of gentility obliged him to 
have with me a clear and outspoken explanation, he 
went on to say that he sought my hand in marriage; 
that he looked upon it as a duty to restore to me my 
honour; that he could offer me riches; that, after 
marriage, he would take me to his country seat in the 
Steppes, where we would hunt hares; that he intended 
never to visit St. Petersburg again, since everything 
there was horrible, and he had to entertain a worthless 
nephew whom he had sworn to disinherit in favour of 
a legal heir; and, finally, that it was to obtain such a 
legal heir that he was seeking my hand in marriage. 
Lastly he remarked that I seemed to be living in very 
poor circumstances (which was not surprising, said he, 
in view of the kennel that I inhabited) ; that I should 
die if I remained a month longer in that den; that 
all lodgings in St. Petersburg were detestable; and 
that he would be glad to know if I was in want of 
anything. 

So thunderstruck was I with the proposal that I 
could only burst into tears. These tears he interpreted 
as a sign of gratitude, for he told me that he had always 
felt assured of my good sense, cleverness, and sensibility, 
but that hitherto he had hesitated to take this step 
until he should have learnt precisely how I was getting 



130 Poor Folk 

on. Next he asked me some questions about you ; say- 
ing that he had heard of you as a man of good principle, 
and that since he was unwilling to remain your debtor, 
would a sum of five hundred roubles repay you for all you 
had done for me ? To this I replied that your services to 
myself had been such as could never be requited with 
money; whereupon he exclaimed that I was talking 
rubbish and nonsense; that evidently I was still young 
enough to read poetry; that romances of this kind were 
the undoing of young girls, that books only corrupted 
morality, and that, for his part, he could not abide them. 
" You ought to live as long as / have done," he added, 
" and then you will see what men can be." With that 
he requested me to give his proposal my favourable 
consideration — saying that he would not like me to take 
such an important step unguardedly, since want of 
thought and impetuosity often spelt ruin to youthful 
inexperience, but that he hoped to receive an answer 
in the affirmative. " Otherwise," said he, " I shall 
have no choice but to marry a certain merchant's 
daughter in Moscow, in order that I may keep my vow 
to deprive my nephew of the inheritance." Then he 
pressed five hundred roubles into my hand — to buy 
myself some bon-bons, as he phrased it — and wound 
up by saying that in the country I should grow as fat 
as a doughnut or a cheese rolled in butter; that at 
the present moment he was extremely busy; and that, 
deeply engaged in business though he had been all day, 
he had snatched the present opportunity of paying me 
a visit. At length he departed. For a long time I sat 
plunged in reflection. Great though my distress of 
mind was, I soon arrived at a decision. . . . My friend, 
I am going to marry this man; I have no choice but to 
accept his proposal. If any one could save me from 
this squalor, and restore to me my good name, and 
avert from me future poverty and want and misfortune, 
he is the man to do it. What else have I to look for 
from the future? What more am I to ask of fate? 
Thedora declares that one need never lose one's happi- 
ness; but what, I ask her, can be called happiness under 
such circumstances as mine? At all events I see no 
other road open, dear friend. I see nothing else to be 



Poor Folk 



•3 1 



done. I have worked until I have ruined my health. 
1 cannot go on working for ever. Shall I go out into 
the world? Nay; I am worn to a shadow with grief, 
and become good for nothing. Sickly by nature, I 
should merely be a burden upon other folks. Of course 
this marriage will not bring me paradise, but what else 
does there remain, my friend — what else does there 
remain? What other choice is left? 

I had not asked your advice earlier for the reason 
that I wanted to think the matter over alone. How- 
ever, the decision which you have just read is unalter- 
able, and I am about to announce it to Bwikov himself, 
who in any case has pressed me for a speedy reply, owing 
to the fact (so he says) that his business will not wait 
nor allow him to remain here longer, and that therefore 
no trifle must bg allowed to stand in its way. God 
alone knows whether I shall be happy, but my fate is 
in His holy, His inscrutable hand, and I have so decided. 
Bwikov is said to be kind hearted. He will at least 
respect me, and perhaps I shall be able to return that 
respect. What more could be looked for from such a 
marriage? 

I have now told you all, Makar Alexievitch, and feel 
sure that you will understand my despondency. Do 
not, however, try to divert me from my intention, for 
all your efforts will be in vain. Think for a moment; 
weigh in your heart for a moment all that has led me 
to take this step. At first my anguish was extreme, 
but now I am quieter. What awaits me I know not. 
What must be must be, and as God may send. . . . 

Bwikov has just arrived, so I am leaving this letter 
unfinished. Otherwise I had much else to say to you. 
Bwikov is even now at the door! . . . 

September 23rd. 

My beloved Barbara Alexievna, — I hasten to reply 
to you — I hasten to express to you my extreme astonish- 
ment. ... In passing I may mention that yesterday 
we buried poor Gorshkov. . . . Yes, Bwikov has acted 
nobly, and you have no choice but to accept him. All 
things are in God's hands. This is so, and must always 
be so; and the purposes of the Divine Creator are at 
эпсе good and inscrutable, as also is Fate, which is one 



132 Poor Folk 

with Him. . . . Thedora will share your happiness — 
for, of course, you will be happy, and free from want, 
darling, dearest, sweetest of angels! But why should 
the matter be so hurried? Oh, of course — Monsieur 
Bwikov's business affairs. Only a man who has no 
affairs to see to can afford to disregard such things. I 
got a glimpse of Monsieur Bwikov as he was leaving your 
door. He is a fine-looking man — a very fine-looking 
man: though that is not the point that I should most 
have noticed had I been quite myself at the time. . . . 
In future shall we be able to write letters to one another ? 
I keep wondering and wondering what has led you to 
say all that you have done. To think that just when 
twenty pages of my copying are completed this has 
happened! ... I suppose you will be able to make 
many purchases now — to buy shoes and dresses and all 
sorts of things ? Do you remember the shops in Gorok- 
hovaia Street of which I used to speak? . . . But no. 
You ought not to go out at present — you simply ought 
not to, and shall not. Presently you will be able to buy 
many, many things, and to keep a carriage. Also, at 
present the weather is bad. Rain is descending in pail- 
fuls, and it is such a soaking kind of rain that — that you 
might catch cold from it, my darling, and the chill might 
go to your heart. Why should your fear of this man 
lead you to take such risks when all the time / am here 
to do your bidding? So Thedora declares great happi- 
ness to be awaiting you, does she? She is a gossiping 
old woman, and evidently desires to ruin you. Shall you 
be at the all-night Mass this evening, dearest ? I should 
like to come and see you there. Yes, Bwikov spoke but 
the truth when he said that you are a woman of virtue, 
wit, and good feeling. Yet I think he would do far better 
to marry the merchant's daughter. What think you 
about it ? Yes, 'twould be far better for him. As soon 
as it grows dark to-night I mean to come and sit with 
you for an hour. To-night twilight will close in early, 
so I shall soon be with you. Yes, come what may, I 
mean to see you for an hour. At present, I suppose, you 
are expecting Bwikov, but I will come as soon as he has 
gone. So stay at home until I have arrived, dearest. 

Makar Dievushkin. 



Poor Folk i 33 

September 27th. 

Dear Makar Alexievitch, — Bwikov has just in- 
formed me that I must have at least three dozen linen 
blouses ; so I must go at once and look for sempstresses 
to make two out of the three dozen, since time presses. 
Indeed, Monsieur Bwikov is quite angry about the fuss 
which these fripperies are entailing, seeing that there 
remain but five days before the wedding, and we are to 
depart on the following day. He keeps rushing about 
and declaring that no time ought to be wasted on trifles. 

I am terribly worried, and scarcely able to stand on my 
feet. There is so much to do, and, perhaps, so much 
that were better left undone! Moreover, I have no 
blond or other lace; so there is another item to be 
purchased, since Bwikov declares that he cannot have his 
bride look like a cook, but, on the contrary, she must 

II put the noses of the great ladies out of joint." That 
is his expression. I wish, therefore, that you would go 
to Madame Chiffon's, in Gorokhovaia Street, and ask 
her, in the first place, to send me some sempstresses, 
and, in the second place, to give herself the trouble of 
coming in person, as I am too ill to go out. Our new flat 
is very cold, and still in great disorder. Also, Bwikov has 
an aunt who is at her last gasp through old age, and may 
die before our departure. He himself, however, declares 
this to be nothing, and says that she will soon recover. 
He is not yet living with me, and I have to go running 
hither and thither to find him. Only Thedora is acting 
as my servant, together with Bwikov's valet, who over- 
sees everything, but has been absent for the past three 
days. Each morning Bwikov goes to business, and loses 
his temper. Yesterday he even had some trouble 
v/ith the police because of his thrashing the steward of 
these buildings. ... I have no one to send with this 
letter, so I am going to post it. . . . Ah! I had almost 
forgotten the most important point — which is that I 
should like you to go and tell Madame Chiffon that I wish 
the blond lace to be changed in conformity with yester- 
day's patterns, if she will be good enough to bring with 
her a new assortment. Also say that I have altered 
my mind about the satin, which I wish to be tamboured 
with crochet-work ; also that tambour is to be used with 



i 34 Poor Folk 

monograms on the various garments. Do you hear? 
Tambour, not smooth work. Do not forget that it is 
to be tambour. Another thing I had almost forgotten: 
which is that the lappets of the fur cloak must be raised, 
and the collar bound with lace. Please tell her these 
things, Makar Alexievitch. — Your friend, B. D. 

P.S. — I am so ashamed to trouble you with my com- 
missions ! This is the third morning that you will have 
spent in running about for my sake. But what else am 
1 to do? The whole place is in disorder, and I myself 
am ill. Do not be vexed with me, Makar Alexievitch. 
1 am feeling so depressed ! What is going to become of 
me, dear friend, dear, kind, old Makar Alexievitch? I 
dread to look forward into the future. Somehow I feel 
apprehensive; I am living, as it were, in a mist. Yet, 
for God's sake, forget none of my commissions. I am 
so afraid lest you should make a mistake! Remember 
that everything is to be tambour work, not smooth. 

September 27th. 

My beloved Barbara Alexievna, — I have carefully 
fulfilled your commissions. Madame Chiffon informs 
me that she herself had thought of using tambour work, 
as being more suitable (though I did not quite take in all 
she said). Also, she has informed me that, since you 
have given certain directions in writing, she has followed 
them (though again I do not clearly remember all that 
she said — I only remember that she said a very great 
deal, for she is a most tiresome old woman). These 
observations she will soon be repeating to you in person. 
For myself, I feel absolutely exhausted, and have not 
been to the office to-day. . . . Do not despair about the 
future, dearest. To save you trouble I would visit every 
shop in St. Petersburg. You write that you dare not 
look forward into the future. But by to-night, at seven 
o'clock, you will have learnt all, for Madame Chiffon will 
have arrived in person to see you. Hope on, and every- 
thing will order itself for the best. Of course I am 
referring only to these accursed gewgaws, to these frills 
and fripperies! Ah me, ah me, how glad I shall be to 
see you, my angel! Yes, how glad I shall be! Twice 



Poor Folk 1 35 

already to-day I have passed the gates of your abode. 
Unfortunately, this Bwikov is a man of such choler 

that Well, things are as they are. 

Makar Dievushkin. 

September 28th. 

My dearest Makar Alexievitch, — For God's sake 
go to the jeweller's, and tell him that, after all, he need 
not make the pearl and emerald ear-rings. Monsieur 
Bwikov says that they will cost him too much, that they 
will burn a veritable hole in his pocket. In fact, he has 
lost his temper again, and declares that he is being 
robbed. Yesterday he added that, had he but known, 
but foreseen, these expenses, he would never have 
married. Also, he says that, as things are, he intends 
only to have a plain wedding, and then to depart. " You 
must not look for any dancing or festivity or entertain- 
ment of guests, for our gala times are still in the air." 
Such were his words. God knows I do not want such 
things, but none the less Bwikov has forbidden them. 
I made him no answer on the subject, for he is a man all 
too easily irritated. What, what is going to become of 
me? B. D. 

September 28th. 

My beloved Barbara Alexievna, — All is well as 
regards the jeweller. Unfortunately I have also to say 
that I myself have fallen ill, and cannot rise from bed. 
Just when so many things need to be done I have gone 
and caught a chill, the devil take it ! Also I have to tell 
you that, to complete my misfortunes, his Excellency 
has been pleased to become stricter. To-day he railed 
at and scolded Emelia Ivanovitch until the poor fellow 
was quite put about. That is the sum of my news. 
No — there is something else concerning which I should 
like to write to you, but am afraid to obtrude upon your 
notice. I am a simple, dull fellow who writes down 
whatsoever first comes into his head. — Your friend, 

Makar Dievushkin. 

September 29th. 

My own Barbara Alexievna, — To-day, dearest, I 
saw Thedora, who informed me that you are to be 
married to-morrow, and on the following day to go 



136 



Poor Folk 



away — for which purpose Bwikov has ordered a post- 
chaise. . . . Well, of the incident of his Excellency I have 
already told you. Also I have verified the bill from the 
shop in Gorokhovaia Street. It is correct, but very long. 
Why is Monsieur Bwikov so out of humour with you? 
Nay, but you must be of good cheer, my darling. / am 
so, and shall always be so so long as you are happy. I 
should have come to the church to-morrow, but, alas! 
shall be prevented -from doing so by the pain in my loins. 
Also, I would have written an account of the ceremony, 
but that there will be no one to report to me the details. 
. . . Yes, you have been a very good friend to Thedora, 
dearest. You have acted kindly, very kindly, towards 
her. For every such deed God will bless you. Good 
deeds never go unrewarded, nor does virtue ever fail to 
win the crown of divine justice, be it early or be it late. 
Much else should I have liked to write to you. Every 
hour, every minute I could occupy in writing. Indeed 
I could write to you for ever! Only your book, The 
Stories of Bielkin, is left to me. Do not deprive me of it, 
I pray you, but suffer me to keep it. It is not so much 
because I wish to read the book for its own sake as 
because winter is coming on, when the evenings will be 
long and dreary, and one will want to read at least some- 
thing. Do you know, I am going to move from my 
present quarters into your old ones, which I intend to 
rent from Thedora ; for I could never part with that good 
old woman. Moreover, she is such a splendid worker. 
Yesterday I inspected your empty room in detail, and 
inspected your embroidery-frame, with the work still 
hanging on it. It had been left untouched in its corner. 
Next I inspected the work itself, of which there still 
remained a few remnants, and saw that you had used 
one of my letters for a spool upon which to wind your 
thread. Also, on the table I found a scrap of paper 
which had written on it, " My dearest Makar Alexie- 

vitch, I hasten to " that was all. Evidently some one 

had interrupted you at an interesting point. Lastly, 
behind a screen there was your little bed. ... О darling 
of darlings !! ! . . . Well, good-bye now, good-bye now, 
but for God's sake send me something in answer to this 
letter 1 Makar Dievushkin. 



Poor Folk 



137 



September 30/Л. 
My beloved Makar Alexievitch, — All is over! 
The die is cast ! What my lot may have in store I know 
not, but I am submissive to the will of God. To-morrow, 
then, we depart. For the last time I take my leave of 
you, my friend beyond price, my benefactor, my dear 
one! Do not grieve for me, but try to live happily. 
Think of me sometimes, and may the blessing of Almighty 
God light upon you ! For myself, I shall often have you 
in remembrance, and recall you in my prayers. Thus 
our time together has come to an end. Little comfort in 
my new life shall I derive from memories of the past. 
The more, therefore, shall I cherish the recollection of 
you, and the dearer will you ever be to my heart. Here 
you have been my only friend ; here you alone have loved 
me. Yes, I have seen all, I have known all — I have 
throughout known how well you love me. A single 
smile of mine, a single stroke from my pen, has been able 
to make you happy. . . . But now you must forget 
me. . . . How lonely you will be ! Why should you stay 
here at all, kind, inestimable, but solitary, friend of mine? 
To your care I entrust the book, the embroidery frame, 
and the letter upon which I had begun. When you look 
upon the few words which the letter contains you will 
be able mentally to read in thought all that you would 
have liked further to hear or receive from me — all that 
I would so gladly have written, but can never now write. 
Think sometimes of your poor little Barbara who loved 
you so well. All your letters I have left behind me in the 
top drawer of Thedora's chest of drawers. . . . You 
write that you are ill, but Monsieur Bwikov will not let me 
leave the house to-day; so that I can only write to you. 
Also, I will write again before long. That is a promise. 
Yet God only knows when I shall be able to do so. . . . 
Now we must bid one another for ever farewell, my 
friend, my beloved, my own! Yes, it must be for ever! 
Ah, how at this moment I could embrace you! Good- 
bye, dear friend — good-bye, good-bye! May you ever 
rest well and happy! To the end I shall keep you in 
my prayers. How my heart is aching under its load 
of sorrow! . . . Monsieur Bwikov is just calling for 
me. . . . — Your ever loving B. 



•38 



Poor Folk 



P.S. — My heart is full ! It is full to bursting of tears ! 
Sorrow has me in its grip, and is tearing me to pieces. 
Good-bye. My God, what grief! 

Do not, do not forget your poor Barbara! 

Jft Beloved Barbara — my jewel, my priceless one, — 
You are now almost en route, you are now just about to 
depart ! Would that they had torn my heart out of my 
breast rather than have taken you away from me ! How 
could you allow it ? You weep, yet you go ! And only 
this moment I have received from you a letter stained 
with your tears! It must be that you are departing 
unwillingly; it must be that you are being abducted 
against your will ; it must be that you are sorry for me ; 
it must be that — that you love me ! . . . Yet how will 
it fare with you now ? Your heart will soon have become 
chilled and sick and depressed. Grief will soon have 
sucked away its life; grief will soon have rent it in twain/ 
Yes, you will die where you be, and be laid to rest in the 
cold, moist earth where there is no one to bewail you. 
Monsieur Bwikov will only be hunting hares ! . . . Ah, 
my darling, my darling! Why did you come to this 
decision ? How could you bring yourself to take such a 
step? What have you done, have you done, have you 
done? Soon they will be carrying you away to the 
tomb; soon your beauty will have become defiled, my 
angel. Ah, dearest one, you are as weak as a feather. 
And where have / been all this time ? What have I been 
thinking of? I have treated you merely as a froward 
child whose head was aching. Fool that I was, I neither 
saw nor understood, I have behaved as though, right or 
wrong, the matter was in no way my concern. Yes, I 
have been running about after fripperies ! . . . Ah, but 
I will leave my bed. To-morrow I will rise sound and 
well, and be once more myself. . . . Dearest, I could 
throw myself under the wheels of a passing vehicle 
rather than that you should go like this. By what right 
is it being done? ... I will go with you; I will run 
behind your carriage if you will not take me — yes, I will 
run, and run so long as the power is in me, and until my 
breath shall have failed. Do you know whither you are 
going? Perhaps vou will not know, and will have to ask 



Poor Folk 



49 



me? Before you there lie the Steppes, my darling — only 
the Steppes, the naked Steppes, the Steppes that are as 
bare as the palm of my hand. There there live only heart- 
less old women and rude peasants and drunkards. There 
the trees have already shed their leaves. There there 
abide but rain and cold. Why should you go thither? 
True, Monsieur Bwikov will have his diversions in that 
country — he will be able to hunt the hare: but what of 
yourself? Do you wish to become a mere estate lady? 
Nay; look at yourself, my seraph of heaven. Are you 
in any way fitted for such a role ? How could you play 
\ty To whom should I write letters ? To whom should 
К send these missives? Whom should I call "my 
darling"? To whom should I apply that name of 
endearment? Where, too, could I find you? When 
you are gone, Barbara, I shall die — for certain I shall die, 
for my heart cannot bear this misery. I love you as I 
love the light of God; I love you as my own daughter; 
to you I have devoted my love in its entirety; only for 
you have I lived at all :/only because you were near me 
have I worked and copied manuscripts and committed 
my views to paper under the guise of friendly letters. 
Perhaps you did not know all this, but it has been so. 
How, then, my beloved, could you bring yourself to 
leave me ? Nay, you must not go — it is impossible, it is 
sheerly, it is utterly, impossible. The rain will fall upon 
you, and you are weak, and will catch cold. The floods 
will stop your carriage. No sooner will it have passed 
the city barriers than it will break down, purposely break 
down. Here, in St. Petersburg, they are bad builders 
of carriages. Yes, I know well these carriage-builders. 
They are jerry -builders who can fashion a toy, but 
nothing that is durable. Yes, I swear they can make 
nothing that is durable. . . . All that I can do is to go 
upon my knees before Monsieur Bwikov, and to tell him 
all, to tell him all. Do you also tell him all, dearest, and 
reason with him. Tell him that you must remain here, 
and must not go. Ah, why did he not marry that 
merchant's daughter in Moscow ? Let him go and marry 
her now. She would suit him far better and for reasons 
which I well know. Then I could keep you. For what 
is he to you, this Monsieur Bwikov? Why has he 



140 Poor Folk 

suddenly become so dear to your heart? Is it because 
he can buy you gewgaws ? What are they ? What use 
are they ? They are so much rubbish. One should 
consider human life rather than mere finery. Neverthe- 
less, as soon as I have received my next instalment of 
salary I mean to buy you a new cloak. I mean to buy 
it at a shop with which I am acquainted. Only, you 
must wait until my next instalment is due, my angel of 
a Barbara. Ah, God, my God ! To think that you are 
going away into the Steppes with Monsieur Bwikov — 
that you are going away never to return! . . . Nay, 
nay, but you shall write to me. You shall write me a 
letter as soon as you have started, even if it be your last 
letter of all, my dearest. Yet will it be your last letter? 
How has it come about so suddenly, so irrevocably, that 
this letter should be your last? Nay, nay; / will write, 
and you shall write — yes, now, when at length I am 
beginning to improve my style. Style ? I do not know 
what I am writing. I never do know what I am writing. 
I could not possibly know, for I never read over what 
I have written, nor correct its orthography. At the 
present moment I am writing merely for the sake of 
writing, and to put as much as possible into this last 
letter of mine. . . . 

Ah, dearest, my pet, my own darling! . • . 



THE GAMBLER 



THE GAMBLER 



At length I returned from two weeks' leave of absence 
to find that my patrons had arrived three days ago in 
Roulettenberg. I received from them a welcome quite 
different to that which I had expected. The General 
eyed me coldly, greeted me in rather haughty fashion, 
and dismissed me to pay my respects to his sister. 
It was clear that from somewhere money had been 
acquired. I thought I could even detect a certain 
shamefacedness in the General's glance. Maria Phili- 
povna, too, seemed distraught, and conversed with me 
with an air of detachment. Nevertheless, she took the 
money which 1 handed to her, counted it, and listened 
to what I had to tell. To luncheon there were expected 
that day a Monsieur Mezentsov, a French lady, and an 
Englishman; for, whenever money was in hand, a 
banquet in Muscovite style was always given. Polina 
Alexandrovna, on seeing me, inquired why I had been 
so long away. Then, without waiting for an answer, 
she departed. Evidently this was not mere accident, 
and I felt that I must throw some light upon matters. 
It was high time that I did so. 

I was assigned a small room on the fourth floor of the 
hotel (for you must know that I belonged to the General's 
suite). So far as I could see, the party had already 
gained some notoriety in the place, which had come to 
look upon the General as a Russian nobleman of great 
wealth. Indeed, even before luncheon he charged me, 
among other things, to get two thousand-franc notes 
changed for him at the hotel counter, which put us in a 
position to be thought millionaires — at all events for 
a week! Later I was about to take Mischa and 
Nadia for a walk when a summons reached me from 

143 



144 The Gambler 

the staircase that I must attend the General. Me 
began by deigning to inquire of me where I was going 
to take the children; and as he did so I could see that 
he failed to look me in the eyes. He wanted to do so, 
but each time was met by me with such a fixed, dis- 
respectful stare that he desisted in confusion. In 
pompous language, however, which jumbled one sentence 
into another, and at length grew disconnected, he gave 
me to understand that I was to lead the children alto- 
gether away from the Casino, and out into the park. 
Finally his anger exploded, and he added sharply: 

" I suppose you would like to take them to the 
Casino to play roulette? Well, excuse my speaking so 
plainly, but I know how addicted you are to gambling. 
Though I am not your mentor, nor wish to be, at least 
I have a right to require that you shall not actually 
compromise me." 

11 I have no money for gambling," I quietly replied. 

" But you will soon be in receipt of some," retorted 
the General, reddening a little as he dived into his 
writing desk and applied himself to a memorandum 
book. From it he saw that he had 120 roubles of mine 
in his keeping. 

" Let us calculate," he went on. " We must translate 
these roubles into thalers. Here — take 100 thalers, as 
a round sum. The rest will be safe in my hands." 

In silence I took the money. 

" You must not be offended at what I say," he con- 
tinued. " You are too touchy about these things. 
What I have said I have said merely as a warning. To 
do so is no more than my right." 

When returning home with the children before 
luncheon, I met a cavalcade of our party riding to 
view some ruins. Two splendid carriages, magnificently 
horsed, with Mile. Blanche, Maria Philipovna, and 
Polina Alexandrovna in one of them, and the French- 
man, the Englishman, and the General in attendance on 
horseback! The passers-by stopped to stare at them, 
for the effect was splendid — the General could not have 
improved upon it. I calculated that, with the 4000 
francs which I had brought with me, added to what my 



The Gambler 145 

patrons seemed already to have acquired, the party 
must be in possession of at least 7000 or 8000 francs — 
though that would be none too much for Mile. Blanche, 
who, with her mother and the Frenchman, was also 
lodging in our hotel. The latter gentleman was called 
by the lacqueys " Monsieur le Comte," and Mile. 
Blanche's mother was dubbed " Madame la Comtesse." 
Perhaps in very truth they were " Comte et Comtesse." 

I knew that " Monsieur le Comte " would take no 
notice of me when we met at dinner, as also that the 
General would not dream of introducing us, nor of 
recommending me to the " Comte." However, the latter 
had lived awhile in Russia, and knew that the person 
referred to as an " uchitel " is never looked upon as a 
bird of fine feather. Of course, strictly speaking, he 
knew me; but I was an uninvited guest at the luncheon 
— the General had forgotten to arrange otherwise, or I 
should have been dispatched to dine at the table d'hote. 
Nevertheless I presented myself in such guise that 
the General looked at me with a touch of approval; 
and though the good Maria Philipovna was for showing 
me my place, the fact of my having previously met the 
Englishman, Mr. Astley, saved me, and thenceforward 
I figured as one of the company. 

This strange Englishman I had met first in Prussia, 
where we had happened to sit vis-a-vis in a railway train 
in which I was travelling to overtake our party; while, 
later, I had run across him in France, and again in 
Switzerland — twice within the space of two weeks! To 
think, therefore, that I should suddenly encounter him 
again here, in Roulettenberg! Never in my life had I 
known a more retiring man, for he was shy to the pitch 
of imbecility, yet well aware of the fact (for he was no 
fool). At the same time, he was a gentle, amiable sort 
of an individual, and, even on our first encounter in 
Prussia I had contrived to draw him out, and he had 
told me that he had just been to the North Cape, and 
was now anxious to visit the fair at Nizhni Novgorod. 
How he had come to make the General's acquaintance 
I do not know, but, apparently, he was much struck 
with Polina. Also, he was delighted that I should sit 



146 The Gambler 

next him at table, for he appeared to look upon me as 
his bosom friend. 

During the meal the Frenchman was in great feather: 
he was discursive and pompous to every one. In 
Moscow too, I remembered, he had blown a great 
many bubbles. Interminably he discoursed on finance 
and Russian politics, and though, at times, the General 
made feints to cor/radict him, he did so humbly, and as 
though wishing not wholly to lose sight of his own dignity. 

For mvself, I was in a curious frame of mind. Even 
before luncheon was half finished I had asked myself the 
old, eternal question: " Why do I continue to dance 
attendance upon the General, instead of having left him 
and his family long ago? " Every now and then I 
would glance at Polina Alexandrovna, but she paid me 
no attention; until eventually I became so irritated that 
I decided to play the boor. 

First of all I suddenly, and for no reason whatever, 
plunged loudly and gratuitously into the general conver- 
sation. Above everything I wanted to pick a quarrel 
with the Frenchman; and with that end in view I 
turned to the General, and exclaimed in an overbearing 
sort of way — indeed, I think that I actually interrupted 
him — that that summer it had been almost impossible 
for a Russian to dine anywhere at tables d'hote. The 
General bent upon me a glance of astonishment. 

" If one is a man of self-respect," I went on, " one 
risks abuse by so doing, and is forced to put up with 
insults of every kind. Both at Paris and on the Rhine — 
yes, and even in Switzerland — there are so many Poles, 
with their sympathisers, the French, at these tables 
d'hote that one cannot get a word in edgeways if one 
happens only to be a Russian." 

This I said in French. The General eyed me doubt- 
fully, for he did not know whether to be angry or merely 
to feel surprised that I should so far forget myself . 

" Of course, one always learns something everywhere," 
said the Frenchman in a careless, contemptuous sort of 
tone. 

" In Paris, too, I had a dispute with a Pole," I con- 
tinued, " and then with a French officer who supported 



The Gambler 



47 



him. After that a section of the Frenchmen present 
took my part. They did so as soon as I told them the 
story of how once I threatened to spit into Monsignor's 
со If ее." 

' To spit into it? " the General inquired with grave 
disapproval in his tone, and a stare of astonishment, 
while the Frenchman looked at me unbelievingly. 

" Just so," I replied. " You must know that, on one 
occasion, when, for two days, I had felt certain that at 
any moment I might have to depart for Rome on busi- 
ness, I repaired to the Embassy of the Holy See in Paris, 
to have my passport visaed. There I encountered a 
sacristan of about fifty, and a man dry and cold of mien. 
After listening politely, but with great reserve, to my 
account of myself, this sacristan asked me to wait a 
little. I was in a great hurry to depart, but of course I 
sat down, pulled out a copy of L' Opinion Nationale, and 
fell to reading an extraordinary piece of invective against 
Russia which it happened to contain. As I was thus 
engaged I heard some one enter an adjoining room and 
ask for Monsignor; after which I saw the sacristan make 
a low bow to the visitor, and then another bow as the 
visitor took his leave. I ventured to remind the good 
man of my own business also; whereupon, with an 
expression of, if anything, increased dryness, he again 
asked me to wait. Soon a third visitor arrived who, 
like myself, had come on business (he was an Austrian 
of some sort) ; and as soon as ever he had stated his 
errand he was conducted upstairs ! This made me very 
angry. I rose, approached the sacristan, and told him 
that, since Monsignor was receiving callers, his lordship 
might just as well finish off my affair as well. Upon this 
the sacristan shrunk back in astonishment. It simply 
passed his understanding that any insignificant Russian 
should dare to compare himself with other visitors 
of Monsignor's! In a tone of the utmost effrontery, as 
though he were delighted to have a chance of insulting 
me, he looked me up and down, and then said: " Do 
you suppose that Monsignor is going to put aside his 
coffee for yon ? " But I only cried the louder: " Let me 
tell you that I am going to spit into that coffee! Yes, 



148 The Gambler 

and if you do not get me my passport visaed this very 
minute, I shall take it to Monsignor myself! " 

"What? While he is engaged with a Cardinal? " 
screeched the sacristan, again shrinking back in horror. 
Then, rushing to the door, he spread out his arms as 
though he would rather die than let me enter. 

Thereupon I declared that I was a heretic and a 
barbarian — " Je suis heretique et barbare," I said — 
and that these archbishops and cardinals and mon- 
signors, and the rest of them, meant nothing at all to 
me. In a word, I showed him that I was not going to 
give way. He looked at me with an air of infinite resent- 
ment. Then he snatched up my passport, and departed 
with it upstairs. A minute later the passport had been 
visaed! Here it is now, if you care to see it," — and I 
pulled out the document, and exhibited the Roman visa. 

" But " the General began. 

" What really saved you was the fact that you pro- 
claimed yourself a heretic and a barbarian," remarked 
the Frenchman with a smile. " Cela n'etait pas si bete." 

" But is that how Russian subjects ought to be 
treated? Why, when they settle here they dare not 
utter even a word — they are ready even to deny the 
fact that they are Russians ! At all events, at my hotel 
in Paris I received far more attention from the company 
after I had told them about the fracas with the sacristan. 
A fat Polish nobleman, who had been the most offensive 
of all who were present at the table d'hote, at once went 
upstairs, while some of the Frenchmen were simply 
disgusted when I told them that two years ago I had 
encountered a man at whom, in 1812, a French ' hero ' 
fired for the mere fun of discharging his musket. That 
man was then a boy of ten, and his family are still 
residing in Moscow." 

"Impossible!" the Frenchman spluttered. "No 
French soldier would fire at a child! " 

" Nevertheless the incident was as I say," I replied. 
" A very respected ex-captain told me the story, and I 
myself could see the scar left on his cheek." 

The Frenchman then began chattering volubly, and 
the General supported him; but I recommended the 



The Gambler 149 

former to read, for example, extracts from the memoirs 
of General Perovski, who, in 1812, was a prisoner in 
the hands of the French. Finally Maria Philipovna 
said something to interrupt the conversation. The 
General was furious with me for having started the 
altercation with the Frenchman. On the other hand, 
Mr. Astley seemed to take great pleasure in my brush 
with Monsieur, and, rising from the table, proposed that 
we should go and have a drink together. The same 
afternoon, at four o'clock, I went to have my customary 
talk with Polina Alexandra vna; and the talk soon 
extended to a stroll. We entered the Park, and ap- 
proached the Casino, where Polina seated herself upon 
a bench near the fountain, and sent Nadia away to a 
little distance to play with some other children. Mischa 
also I dispatched to play by the fountain, and in this 
fashion we — that is to say, Polina and myself — contrived 
to find ourselves alone. 

Of course, we began by talking on business matters. 
Polina seemed furious when I handed her only 700 
gulden, for she had thought to receive from Paris, as the 
proceeds of the pledging of her diamonds, at least 2000 
gulden, or even more. 

" Come what may, I must have money," she said. 
"And get it somehow I will — otherwise I shall be 
ruined." 

I asked her what had happened during my absence. 

" Nothing; except that two pieces of news have 
reached us from St. Petersburg. In the first place, my 
grandmother is very ill, and unlikely to last another 
couple of days. We had this from Timothy Petrovitch 
himself, and he is a reliable person. Every moment we 
are expecting to receive news of the end." 

"All of you are on the tiptoe of expectation? " I 
queried. 

" Of course — all of us, and every minute of the day. 
For a year-and-a-half now we have been looking for 
this." 

" Looking for it ? " 

" Yes, looking for it. I am not her blood relation, 
you know — I am merely the General's step-daughter. 

F 711 



i 50 The Gambler 

Yet I am certain that the old lady has remembered me 
in her will." 

" Yes, I believe that you will come in for a good deal," 
I said with some assurance. 

" Yes, for she is fond of me. But how come you to 
think so? " 

I answered this question with another one. " That 
Marquis of yours," I said, " — is he also familiar with 
your family secrets? " 

" And why are you yourself so interested in them? " 
was her retort as she eyed me with dry grimness. 

" Never mind. If I am not mistaken, the General 
has succeeded in borrowing money of the Marquis." 

" It may be so." 

"Is it likely that the Marquis would have lent the 
money if he had not known something or other about 
your grandmother? Did you notice, too, that three 
times during luncheon, when speaking of her, he called 
her ' La Baboulenka ' ? * What loving, friendly be- 
haviour, to be sure! " 

" Yes, that is true. As soon as ever he learnt that I 
was likely to inherit something from her he began to 
pay me his addresses. I thought you ought to know 
that." 

"Then he has only just begun his courting? Why, 
I thought he had been doing so a long while! " 

" You know he has not," retorted Polina angrily. 
" But where on earth did you pick up this Englishman ? " 
She said this after a pause. 

" I knew you would ask about him! " Whereupon I 
told her of my previous encounters with Astley while 
travelling. 

" He is very shy," I said, " and susceptible. Also, 
he is in love with you." 

" Yes, he is in love with me," she replied. 

" And he is ten times richer than the Frenchman. 
In fact, what does the Frenchman possess? To me it 
seems at least doubtful that he possesses anything at 
all." 

" Oh, no, there is no doubt about it. He does possess 

1 Dear little Grandmother. 



The Gambler 1 5 1 

some chateau or other. Last night the General told 
me that for certain. Now are you satisfied? " 

"Nevertheless, in your place I should marry the 
Englishman." 

"And why? " asked Polina. 

"Because, though the Frenchman is the handsomer 
of the two, he is also the baser; whereas the Englishman 
is not only a man of honour, but ten times the wealthier 
of the pair." 

"Yes? But then the Frenchman is a marquis, and 
the cleverer of the two," remarked Polina imperturb- 
ably. 

"Is that so?" I repeated. 

"Yes; absolutely." 

Polina was not at all pleased at my questions; I 
could see that she was doing her best to irritate me with 
the brusquerie of her answers. But I took no notice of 
this. 

"It amuses me to see you grow angry," she con- 
tinued. "However, inasmuch as I allow you to indulge 
in these questions and conjectures, you ought to pay me 
something for the privilege." 

"I consider that I have a perfect right to put these 
questions to you," was my calm retort; "for the reason 
that I am ready to pay for them, and also care little 
what becomes of me." 

Polina giggled. 

" Last time you told me — when on the Schlangenberg 
— that at a word from me you would be ready to jump 
down a thousand feet into the abyss. Some day I may 
remind you of that saying, in order to see if you will be 
as good as your word. Yes, you may depend upon it 
that I shall do so. I hate you because I have allowed 
you to go to such lengths, and I also hate you — and still 
more — because you are so necessary to me. For the 
time being I want you, so I must keep you." 

Then she made a movement to rise. Her tone had 
sounded very angry. Indeed, of late her talks with me 
had invariably ended on a note of temper and irritation 
—yes, of real temper. 

" May I ask you who is this Mile. Blanche ? " I inquired 



152 The Gambler 

(since I did not wish Polina to depart without an 
explanation). 

' You know who she is — just Mile. Blanche. Nothing 
further has transpired. Probably she will soon be 
Madame General — that is to say, if the rumours that 
Grandmamma is nearing her end should prove true. Ml]e. 
Blanche, with her mother and her cousin, the Marquis, 
know very well that, as things now stand, we are ruined." 

" And is the General at last in love? " 

" That has nothing to do with it. Listen to me. 
Take these 700 florins, and go and play roulette with 
them. Win as much for me as you can, for I am 
badly in need of money." 

So saying, she called Nadia back to her side, and 
entered the Casino, where she joined the rest of our 
party. For myself, I took, in musing astonishment, the 
first path to the left. Something had seemed to strike 
my brain when she told me to go and play roulette. 
Strangely enough, that something had also seemed to 
make me hesitate, and to set me analysing my feelings 
with regard to her. In fact, during the two weeks of 
my absence I had felt far more at my ease than I did 
now, on the day of my return ; although, while travelling, 
I had moped like an imbecile, rushed about like a man 
in a fever, and actually beheld her in my dreams. Indeed, 
on one occasion (this happened in Switzerland, when I 
was asleep in the train) I had spoken aloud to her, and 
set all my fellow-travellers laughing. Again, therefore, 
I put to myself the question: "Do I, or do I not, love 
her? " and again I could return myself no answer — 
or, rather, for the hundredth time I told myself that I 
detested her. Yes, I detested her ; there were moments 
(more especially at the close of our talks together) when 
I would gladly have given half my life to have strangled 
her! I swear that, had there, at such moments, been 
a sharp knife ready to my hand, I would have seized 
that knife with pleasure, and plunged it into her breast. 
Yet I also swear that if, on the Schlangenberg, she had 
really said to me, " Leap into that abyss," I should have 
leapt into it, and with equal pleasure. Yes, this I knew 
well. One way or the other, the thing must soon be 



The Gambler 153 

ended. She, too, knew it in some curious way; the 
thought that I was fully conscious of her inaccessibility, 
and of the impossibility of my ever realising my dreams, 
afforded her, I am certain, the keenest possible pleasure. 
Otherwise, is it likely that she, the cautious and clever 
woman that she was, would have indulged in this 
familiarity and openness with me? Hitherto (I 
concluded) she had looked upon me in the same light 
that the old Empress did upon her servant — the 
Empress who hesitated not to unrobe herself before 
her slave, since she did not account a slave a man. 
Yes, often Polina must have taken me for something less 
than a man! " 

Still, she had charged me with a commission — to win 
what I could at roulette. Yet all the time I could not 
help wondering why it was so necessary for her to win 
something, and what new schemes could have sprung 
to birth in her ever-fertile brain. A host of new and 
unknown factors seemed to have arisen during the last 
two weeks. Well, it behoved me to divine them, and 
to probe them, and that as soon as possible. Yet not 
now: at the present moment I must repair to the 
roulette-table. 



II 

I confess I did not like it. Although I had made up 
my mind to play, I felt averse to doing so on behalf of 
some one else. In fact, it almost upset my balance, 
and I entered the gaming -rooms with an angry 
feeling at my heart. At first glance the scene irri- 
tated me. Never at any time have I been able to 
bear the flunkeyishness which one meets in the Press 
of the world at large, but more especially in that of 
Russia, where, almost every evening, journalists write 
on two subjects in particular — namely, on the splen- 
dour and luxury of the casinos to be found in the Rhenish 
towns, and on the heaps of gold which are daily to be 
seen lying on their tables. Those journalists are not 
paid for doing so : they write thus merely out of a spirit 



154 The Gambler 

of disinterested complaisance. For there is nothing 
splendid about the establishments in question; and 
not only are there no heaps of gold to be seen lying on 
their tables, but also there is very little money to be 
seen at all. Of course, during the season, some mad- 
man or another may make his appearance — generally 
an Englishman, or an Asiatic, or a Turk — and (as had 
happened during the summer of which I write) win or 
lose a great deal; but, as regards the rest of the crowd, 
it plays only for petty gulden, and seldom does much 
wealth figure on the board. When, on the present 
occasion, I entered the gaming-rooms (for the first time 
in my life), it was several moments before I could even 
make up my mind to play. For one thing, the crowd 
oppressed me. Had I been playing for myself, I think 
I should have left at once, and never have embarked 
upon gambling at all, for I could feel my heart beginning 
to beat, and my heart was anything but cold-blooded. 
Also, I knew, I had long ago made up my mind, that 
never should I depart from Roulettenberg until some 
radical, some final, change had taken place in my 
fortunes. Thus it must and would be. However 
ridiculous it may seem to you that I was expecting to 
win at roulette, I look upon the generally accepted 
opinion concerning the folly and the grossness of hoping 
to win at gambling as a thing even more absurd. For 
why is gambling a whit worse than any other method of 
acquiring money? How, for instance, is it worse than 
trade? True, out of a hundred persons, only one can 
win; yet what business is that of yours or of mine? 

At all events, I confined myself at first simply to 
looking on, and decided to attempt nothing serious. 
Indeed, I felt that, if I began to do anything at all, I 
should do it in an absent-minded, haphazard sort of 
way — of that I felt certain. Also, it behoved me to 
learn the game itself; since, despite a thousand descrip- 
tions of roulette which I had read with ceaseless avidity, 
I knew nothing of its rules, and had never even seen it 
played. 

In the first place, everything about it seemed to me 
so foul — so morally mean and foul. Yet I am not 



The Gambler 155 

speaking of the hungry, restless folk who, by scores- 
nay, even by hundreds — could be seen crowded around 
the gaming-tables. For in a desire to win quickly and 
to win much I can see nothing sordid; I have always 
applauded the opinion of a certain dead and gone, but 
cocksure, moralist who replied to the excuse that " one 
may always gamble moderately " by saying that to 
do so makes things worse, since, in that case, the profits 
too will always be moderate. Insignificant profits and 
sumptuous profits do not stand on the same footing. 
No, it is all a matter of proportion. What may seem 
a small sum to a Rothschild may seem a large sum to 
me, and it is not the fault of stakes or of winnings that 
everywhere men can be found winning, can be found 
depriving their fellows of something, just as they do 
at roulette. As to the question whether stakes and 
winnings are, in themselves, immoral is another 
question altogether, and I wish to express no opinion 
upon it. Yet the very fact that I was full of a strong 
desire to win caused this gambling for gain, in spite of 
its attendant squalor, to contain, if you will, something 
intimate, something sympathetic, to my eyes: for it 
is always pleasant to see men dispensing with ceremony, 
and acting naturally, and in an unbuttoned mood. . . . 
Yet why should I so deceive myself? I could see that 
the whole thing was a vain and unreasoning pursuit ; and 
what, at the first glance, seemed to me the ugliest 
feature in this mob of roulette players was their respect 
for their occupation — the seriousness, and even the 
humility, with which they stood around the gaming- 
tables. Moreover, I had always drawn sharp distinc- 
tions between a game which is de mauvais genre and a 
game which is permissible to a decent man. In fact, 
there are two sorts of gaming — namely, the game of 
the gentleman and the game of the plebs — the game 
for gain, and the game of the herd. Herein, as said, 
I draw sharp distinctions. Yet how essentially base 
are the distinctions! For instance, a gentleman may 
stake, say, five or ten louis d'or — seldom more, unless 
he is a very rich man, when he may stake, say, a thou- 
sand francs; but he must do this simply for the love of 



156 The Gambler 

the game itself — simply for sport, simply in order to 
observe the process of winning or of losing, and, above 
all things, as a man who remains quite uninterested in 
the possibility of his issuing a winner. If he wins, he 
will be at liberty, perhaps, to give vent to a laugh, or 
to pass a remark on the circumstance to a bystander, 
or to stake again, or to double his stake; but even this 
he must do solely out of curiosity, and for the pleasure 
of watching the play of chances and of calculations, 
and not because of any vulgar desire to win. In a 
word, he must look upon the gaming-table, upon 
roulette, and upon trente et quarante, as mere relaxa- 
tions which have been arranged solely for his amuse- 
ment. Of the existence of the lures and gains upon 
which the bank is founded and maintained he must 
profess to have not an inkling. Best of all, he ought 
to imagine his fellow-gamblers and the rest of the mob 
which stands trembling over a coin to be equally rich 
and gentlemanly with himself, and playing solely for 
recreation and pleasure. This complete ignorance of 
the realities, this innocent view of mankind, is what, 
in my opinion, constitutes the truly aristocratic. For 
instance, I have seen even fond mothers so far indulge 
their guileless, elegant daughters — misses of fifteen or 
sixteen — as to give them a few gold coins and teach 
them how to play; and though the young ladies may 
have won or have lost, they have invariably laughed, 
and departed as though they were well pleased. In 
the same way, I saw our General once approach the 
table in a stolid, important manner. A lacquey darted 
to offer him a chair, but the General did not even notice 
him. Slowly he took out his money bags, and slowly 
extracted 300 francs in gold, which he staked on the 
black, and won. Yet he did not take up his winnings 
— he left them there on the table. Again the black 
turned up, and again he did not gather in what he had 
won; and when, in the third round, the red turned up 
he lost, at a stroke, 1200 francs. Yet even then he rose 
with a smile, and thus preserved his reputation; yet 
I knew that his money bags must be chafing his heart, 
as well as that, had the stake been twice or thrice as 



The Gambler i 57 

much again, he would still have restrained himself from 
venting his disappointment. On the other hand, I saw 
a Frenchman first win, and then lose, 30,000 francs — 
cheerfully, and without a murmur. Yes; even if a 
gentleman should lose his whole substance, he must 
never give way to annoyance. Money must be so 
subservient to gentility as never to be worth a thought. 
Of course, the supremely aristocratic thing is to be 
entirely oblivious of the mire of rabble, with its setting; 
but sometimes a reverse course may be aristocratic — 
to remark, to scan, and even to gape at, the mob (for 
preference, through a lorgnette), even as though one 
were taking the crowd and its squalor for a sort of raree 
show which had been organised specially for a gentle- 
man's diversion. Though one may be squeezed by the 
crowd, one must look as though one were fully assured 
of being the observer — of having neither part nor lot 
with the observed. At the same time, to stare fixedly 
about one is unbecoming; for that, again, is ungentle- 
manly, seeing that no spectacle is worth an open stare — 
there are no spectacles in the world which merit from 
a gentleman too pronounced an inspection. However, 
to me personally the scene did seem to be worth undis- 
guised contemplation — more especially in view of the 
fact that I had come there not only to look at, but also 
to number myself sincerely and wholeheartedly with, the 
mob. As for my secret moral views, I had no room 
for them amongst my actual, practical opinions. Let 
that stand as written: I am writing only to relieve my 
conscience. Yet let me say also this: that from the 
first I have been consistent in having an intense aversion 
to any trial of my acts and thoughts by a moral standard. 
Another standard altogether has directed my life. . . . 
As a matter of fact, the mob was playing in exceed- 
ingly foul fashion. Indeed, I have an idea that sheer 
robbery was going on around that gaming-table. The 
croupiers who sat at the two ends of it had not only to 
watch the stakes, but also to calculate the game — an 
immense amount of work for two men! As for the 
crowd itself — well, it consisted mostly of Frenchmen. 

Yet I was not then taking notes merely in order to be 
* F 7ii G 



i 5 8 



The Gambler 



able to give you a description of roulette, but in order 
to get my bearings as to my behaviour when I myself 
should begin to play. For example, I noticed that 
nothing was more common than for another's hand to 
stretch out and grab one's winnings whenever one had 
won. Then there would arise a dispute, and frequently 
an uproar; and it would be a case of " I beg of you to 
prove, and to produce witnesses to the fact, that the 
stake is yours." 

At first the proceedings were pure Greek to me. I 
could only divine and distinguish that stakes were 
hazarded on numbers, on " odd " or " even," and on 
colours. Polina's money I decided to risk, that evening, 
only to the amount of ioo gulden. The thought that 
I was not going to play for myself quite unnerved me. 
It was an unpleasant sensation, and I tried hard to 
banish it. I had a feeling that, once I had begun to 
play for Polina, I should wreck my own fortunes. Also, 
I wonder if any one has ever approached a gaming-table 
without falling an immediate prey to superstition? 
I began by pulling out fifty gulden, and staking them 
on " even." The wheel spun and stopped at 13. I 
had lost! With a feeling like a sick qualm, as though 
I would like to make my way out of the crowd and go 
home, I staked another fifty gulden — this time on the 
red. The red turned up. Next time I staked the 100 
gulden just where they lay — and again the red turned 
up. Again I staked the whole sum, and again the red 
turned up. Clutching my 400 gulden, I placed 200 of 
them on twelve figures, to see what would come of it. 
The result was that the croupier paid me out three 
times my total stake! Thus from 100 gulden my store 
had grown to 800! Upon that such a curious, such 
an inexplicable, unwonted feeling overcame me that I 
decided to depart. Always the thought kept recurring 
to me that if I had been playing for myself alone I should 
never have had such luck. Once more I staked the 
whole 800 gulden on the " even." The wheel stopped 
at 4. I was paid out another 800 gulden, and, snatch- 
ing up my pile of 1600, departed in search of Polina 
Alexandrovna. 



The Gambler 159 

I found the whole party walking in the park, and 
was able to get an interview with her only after supper. 
This time the Frenchman was absent from the meal, 
and the General seemed to be in a more expansive vein. 
Among other things he thought it necessary to remind 
me that he would be sorry to see me playing at the 
gaming-tables. In his opinion, such conduct would 
greatly compromise him — especially if I were to lose 
much. " And even if you were to win much I should 
be compromised," he added in a meaning sort of way. 
11 Of course I have no right to order your actions, but 

you yourself will agree that " As usual, he did 

not finish his sentence. I answered drily that I had 
very little money in my possession, and that, conse- 
quently, I was hardly in a position to indulge in any 
conspicuous play, even if I did gamble. At last, when 
ascending to my own room, I succeeded in handing 
Polina her winnings, and told her that, next time, I 
should not play for her. 

" Why not? " she asked excitedly. 

" Because I wish to play for myself У I replied with a 
feigned glance of astonishment. " That is my sole reason." 

" Then are you so certain that your roulette-playing 
will get us out of our difficulties? " she inquired with a 
quizzical smile. 

I said very seriously, " Yes; " and then added: 
" Possibly my certainty about winning may seem to 
you ridiculous; yet pray leave me in peace." 

None the less she insisted that I ouglrt to go halves 
with her in the day's winnings, and offered me 800 
gulden on condition that henceforth I gambled only on 
those terms; but I refused to do so, once and for all — 
stating, as my reason, that I found myself unable to 
play on behalf of any one else, " I am not unwilling so 
to do," I added, " but in all probability I should lose." 

" Well, absurd though it be, I place great hopes on 
your playing of roulette," she remarked musingly, 
" wherefore you ought to play as my partner and on 
equal shares; wherefore, of course, you will do as I wish." 

Then she left me without listening to any further 
protests on my part. 



i6o The Gambler 



III 



On the morrow she said not a word to me about gamb- 
ling. In fact, she purposely avoided me, although her 
old manner to me had not changed: the same serene 
coolness was hers on meeting me — a coolness that 
was mingled even with a spice of contempt and dis- 
like. In short, she was at no pains to conceal her 
aversion to me. That I could see plainly. Also, she did 
not trouble to conceal from me the fact that I was 
necessary to her, and that she was keeping me for some 
end which she had in view. Consequently there became 
established between us relations which, to a large 
extent, were incomprehensible to me, considering her 
general pride and aloofness. For example, although 
she knew that I was madly in love with her, she allowed 
me to speak to her of my passion (though she could 
not well have showed her contempt for me more than 
by permitting me, unhindered and unrebuked, to 
mention to her my love). 

" You see," her attitude expressed, " how little I 
regard your feelings, as well as how little I care for what 
you say to me, or for what you feel for me." Likewise, 
though she spoke as before concerning her affairs, it 
was never with complete frankness. In her contempt 
for me there were refinements. Although she knew well 
that I was aware of a certain circumstance in her life — 
of something which might one day cause her trouble, she 
would speak to me about her affairs (whenever she had 
need of me for a given end) as though I were a slave or 
a passing acquaintance — yet tell them me only in so far 
as one would need to know them if one were going to be 
made temporary use of. Had I not known the whole 
chain of events, or had she not seen how much I was 
pained and disturbed by her teasing insistency, she 
would never have thought it worth while to soothe me 
with this frankness — even though, since she not infre- 
quently used me to execute commissions that were not 
only troublesome, but risky, she ought, in my opinion, 
to have been frank in anv case. But, forsooth, it was 



The Gambler 161 

not worth her while to trouble about my feelings — about 
the fact that / was uneasy, and, perhaps, thrice as put 
about by her cares and misfortunes as she was herself ! 

For three weeks I had known of her intention to take 
to roulette. She had even warned me that she would 
like me to play on her behalf, since it was unbecoming 
for her to play in person ; and from the tone of her words 
I had gathered that there was something on her mind 
besides a mere desire to win money. As if money could 
matter to her ! No, she had some end in view, and there 
were circumstances at which I could guess, but which 
I did not know for certain. True, the slavery and 
abasement in which she held me might have given me 
(such things often do so) the power to question her with 
abrupt directness (seeing that, inasmuch as I figured 
in her eyes as a mere slave and nonentity, she could 
not very well have taken offence at any rude curiosity) ; 
but the fact was that, though she let me question her, 
she never returned me a single answer, and at times 
did not so much as notice me. That is how matters 
stood. 

Next day there was a good deal of talk about a 
telegram which, four days ago, had been sent to St. 
Petersburg, but to which there had come no answer. 
The General was visibly disturbed and moody, for the 
matter concerned his mother. The Frenchman, too, was 
excited, and after dinner the whole party talked long 
and seriously together — the Frenchman's tone being 
extraordinarily presumptuous and off-hand to everybody. 
It almost reminded one of the proverb, " Invite a man 
to your table, and soon he will place his feet upon it." 
Even to Polina he was brusque almost to the point of 
rudeness. Yet still he seemed glad to join us in our 
walks in the Casino, or in our rides and drives about the 
town. I had long been aware of certain circumstances 
which bound the General to him ; I had long been aware 
that in Russia they had hatched some scheme together 
— although I did not know whether the plot had come 
to anything, or whether it was still only in the stage of 
being talked of. Likewise I was aware, in part, of a 
familv secret — namely, that, last year, the Frenchman 



162 The Gambler 

had bailed the General out of debt, and given him 
30,000 roubles wherewith to pay his Treasury dues on 
retiring from the service. And now, of course, the 
General was in a vice — although the chief part in the 
affair was being played by Mile. Blanche. Yes, of this 
last I had no doubt. 

But who was this Mile. Blanche? It was said of her 
that she was a Frenchwoman of good birth who, living 
with her mother, possessed a colossal fortune. It was 
also said that she was some relation to the Marquis, 
but only a distant one — a cousin, or cousin-german, or 
something of the sort. Likewise I knew that, up to the 
time of my journey to Paris, she and the Frenchman 
had been more ceremonious towards our party — they 
had stood on a much more precise and delicate footing 
with them; but that now their acquaintanceship — 
their friendship, their intimacy — had taken on a much 
more off-hand and rough-and-ready air. Perhaps they 
thought that our means were too modest for them, and 
therefore unworthy of politeness or reticence. Also, 
for the last three days I had noticed certain looks which 
Astley had kept throwing at Mile. Blanche and her 
mother; and it had occurred to me that he must have 
had some previous acquaintance with the pair. I had 
even surmised that the Frenchman too must have met 
Mr. Astley before. Astley was a man so shy, reserved, 
and taciturn in his manner that one might have looked 
for anything from him. At all events the Frenchman 
accorded him only the slightest of greetings, and scarcely 
even looked at him. Certainly he did not seem to be 
afraid of him; which was intelligible enough. But 
why did Mile. Blanche also never look at the English- 
man? — particularly since, a propos of something or 
another, the Marquis had declared the Englishman to 
be immensely and indubitably rich? Was not that a 
sufficient reason to make Mile. Blanche look at the 
Englishman? Anyway the General seemed extremely 
uneasy ; and one could well understand what a telegram 
to announce the death of his mother would mean for him ! 

Although I thought it probable that Polina was 
avoiding me for a definite reason, I adoDted a cold 



The Gambler 163 

and indifferent air; for I felt pretty certain that it 
would not be long before she of herself approached 
me. For two days, therefore, I devoted my attention 
to Mile. Blanche. The poor General was in despair! 
To fall in love at fifty-five, and with such vehemence, 
is indeed a misfortune ! And add to that his widower- 
hood, his children, his ruined property, his debts, and 
the woman with whom he had fallen in love! Though 
Mile. Blanche was extremely good-looking, I may or may 
not be understood when I say that she had one of those 
faces which one is afraid of. At all events, I myself 
have always feared such women. Apparently about 
twenty-five years of age, she was tall and broad- 
shouldered, with shoulders that sloped; yet though her 
neck and bosom were ample in their proportions, her 
skin was dull yellow in colour, while her hair (which 
was extremely abundant — sufficient to make two 
coiffures) was as black as Indian ink. Add to that a 
pair of black eyes with yellowish whites, a proud glance, 
gleaming teeth, and lips which were perennially pomaded 
and redolent of musk. As for her dress, it was invariably 
rich, effective, and chic, yet in good taste. Lastly, her 
feet and hands were astonishing, and her voice a deep 
contralto. Sometimes, when she laughed, she displayed 
her teeth, but at ordinary times her air was taciturn 
and haughty — especially in the presence of Polina and 
Maria Philipovna. Yet she seemed to me almost des- 
titute of education, and even of wits, though cunning 
and suspicious. This, apparently, was not because her 
life had been lacking in incident. Perhaps, if all were 
known, the Marquis was not her kinsman at all, nor her 
mother her mother; but there was evidence that in 
Berlin, where we had first come across the pair, they 
had possessed acquaintances of good standing. As for 
the Marquis himself, I doubt to this day if he was a 
marquis — although about the fact that he had formerly 
belonged to high society (for instance, in Moscow and 
Germany) there could be no doubt whatever. What 
he had formerly been in France I had not a notion. 
All I knew was that he was said to possess a chateau. 
During the last two weeks I had looked for much to 



164 The Gambler 

transpire, but am still ignorant whether at that time 
anything decisive ever passed between Mademoiselle 
and the General. Everything seemed to depend upon 
our means — upon whether the General would be able 
to flourish sufficient money in her face. If ever the 
news should arrive that the grandmother was not 
dead, Mile. Blanche, I felt sure, would disappear in a 
twinkling. Indeed, it surprised and amused me to 
observe what a passion for intrigue I was developing. 
But how I loathed it all! With what pleasure would I 
have given everybody and everything the go-by ! Only 
— I could not leave Polina. How, then, could I show 
contempt for those who surrounded her ? Espionage is 
a base thing, but — what have I to do with that ? 

Mr. Astley, too, I found a curious person. I was 
only sure that he had fallen in love with Polina. A 
remarkable and diverting circumstance is the amount 
which may lie in the mien of a shy and painfully modest 
man who has been touched with the divine passion — 
especially when he would rather sink into the earth 
than betray himself by a single word or look. Though 
Mr. Astley frequently met us when we were out walking, 
he would merely take off his hat and pass us by, though 
I knew he was dying to join us. Even when invited to 
do so, he would refuse. Again, in places of amusement 
— in the Casino, at concerts, or near the fountain — 
he was never far from the spot where we were sitting. 
In fact, wherever we were — in the Park, in the forest, 
or on the Schlangenberg — one needed but to raise 
one's eyes and glance around to catch sight of at 
least a portion of Mr. Astley's frame sticking out — 
whether on an adjacent path or behind a bush. Yet 
never did he lose any chance of speaking to myself; 
and one morning when we had met, and exchanged 
a couple of words, he burst out in his usual abrupt way, 
without saying " Good-morning." 

" That Mile. Blanche," he said. " Well, I have seen 
a good many women like her." 

After that he was silent as he looked me meaningly 
in the face. What he meant I did not know, but 
to my glance of inquiry he returned only a dry nod, 



The Gambler 165 

and a reiterated " It is so." Presently, however, he 
resumed : 

" Does Mile. Polina like flowers? " 

" I really cannot say," was my reply. 
'What? You cannot say?" he cried in great 
astonishment. 

'No; I have never noticed whether she does so or 
not," I repeated with a smile. 

" Hm! Then I have an idea in my mind," he con- 
cluded. Lastly, with a nod, he walked away with a 
pleased expression on his face. The conversation had 
been carried on in execrable French. 



IV 

To-day has been a day of folly, stupidity, and ineptness. 
The time is now eleven o'clock in the evening, and I am 
sitting in my room and thinking. It all began, this 
morning, with my being forced to go and play roulette 
for Polina Alexandrovna. When she handed me over 
her store of six hundred gulden I exacted two conditions 
— namely, that I should not go halves with her in her 
winnings, if any (that is to say, I should not take any- 
thing for myself), and that she should explain to me, 
that same evening, why it was so necessary for her to 
win, and how much was the sum which she needed. 
For I could not suppose that she was doing all this 
merely for the sake of money. Yet clearly she did 
need some money, and that as soon as possible, and for a 
special purpose. Well, she promised to explain matters, 
and I departed. There was a tremendous crowd in 
the gaming-rooms. What an arrogant, greedy crowd 
it was! I pressed forward towards the middle of the 
room until I had secured a seat at a croupier's elbow. 
Then I began to play in timid fashion; venturing 
only twenty or thirty gulden at a time. Meanwhile 
I observed and took notes. It seemed to me that 
calculation was superfluous, and by no means possessed 
of the importance which certain other players attached 
to it, even though they sat with ruled papers in their 



1 66 The Gambler 

hands, whereon they set down the coups, calculated 
the chances, reckoned, staked, and — lost exactly as we 
more simple mortals did who played without any 
reckoning at all. However, I deduced from the scene 
one conclusion which seemed to me reliable — namely, 
that in the flow of fortuitous chances there is, if not a 
system, at all events a sort of order. This, of course, is 
a very strange thing. For instance, after a dozen 
middle figures there would always occur a dozen or so 
outer ones. Suppose the ball stopped twice at a 
dozen outer figures; it would then pass to a dozen of 
the first ones, and then, again, to a dozen of the middle 
ciphers, and fall upon them three or four times, and 
then revert to a dozen outers; whence, after another 
couple of rounds, the ball would again pass to the first 
figures, strike upon them once, and then return thrice 
to the middle series — continuing thus for an hour and 
a half, or two hours. One, three, two : one, three, two. 
It was all very curious. Again, for the whole of a day 
or a morning the red would alternate with the black, 
but almost without any order, and from moment to 
moment, so that scarcely two consecutive rounds would 
end upon either the one or the other. Yet, next day, 
or, perhaps, the next evening, the red alone would turn 
up, and attain a run of over two score, and continue so 
for quite a length of time — say, for a whole day. Of 
these circumstances the majority were pointed out to 
me by Mr. Astley, who stood by the gaming-table the 
whole morning, yet never once staked in person. For 
myself, I lost all that I had on me, and with great 
speed. To begin with, I staked two hundred gulden 
on " even," and won. Then I staked the same amount 
again, and won: and so on some two or three times. 
At one moment I must have had in my hands — gathered 
there within a space of five minutes — about 4000 
gulden. That, of course, was the proper moment for 
me to have departed, but there arose in me a strange 
sensation as of a challenge to Fate — as of a wish to deal 
her a blow on the cheek, and to put out my tongue at 
her. Accordingly I set down the largest stake allowed 
by the rules — namelv, 4000 gulden — and lost. Fired 



The Gambler 167 

by this mishap, I pulled out all the money left to me, 
staked it all on the same venture, and — again lost ! Then 
I rose from the table, feeling as though I were stupefied. 
What had happened to me I did not know, but before 
luncheon I told Polina of my losses; until which time 
I walked about the Park. 

At luncheon I was as excited as I had been at the 
meal three days ago. Mile. Blanche and the French- 
man were lunching with us, and it appeared that the 
former had been to the Casino that morning, and had 
seen my exploits there. So now she showed me more 
attention when talking to me; while, for his part, the 
Frenchman approached me, and asked outright if it had 
been my own money that I had lost. He appeared to 
be suspicious as to something being on foot between 
Polina and myself, but I merely fired up, and replied 
that the money had been all my own. 

At this the General seemed extremely surprised, and 
asked me whence I had procured it; whereupon I re- 
plied that, though I had begun only with 100 gulden, six 
or seven rounds had increased my capital to 5000 or 
6000 gulden, and that subsequently I had lost the whole 
in two rounds. 

All this, of course, was plausible enough. During 
my recital I glanced at Polina, but nothing was to be 
discerned on her face. However, she had allowed me 
to fire up without correcting me, and from that I con- 
cluded that it was my cue to fire up, and to conceal the 
fact that I had been playing on her behalf. " At all 
events," I thought to myself, " she, in her turn, has 
promised to give me an explanation to-night, and to 
reveal to me something or another." 

Although the General appeared to be taking stock 
of me, he said nothing. Yet I could see uneasiness and 
annoyance in his face. Perhaps his straitened circum- 
stances made it hard for him to have to hear of piles of 
gold passing through the hands of an irresponsible fool 
like myself within the space of a quarter of an hour. 
Now, I have an idea that, last night, he and the French- 
man had a sharp encounter with one another. At all 
events they closeted themselves together, and then 



1 68 The Gambler 

had a long and vehement discussion; after which the 
Frenchman departed in what appeared to be a passion, 
but returned, early this morning, to renew the combat. 
On hearing of my losses, however, he only remarked 
with a sharp, and even a malicious, air that a man ought 
to go more carefully. Next, for some reason or another, 
he added that, though a great many Russians go in for 
gambling, they are no good at the game. 

" / think that roulette was devised specially for 
Russians," I retorted; and when the Frenchman smiled 
contemptuously at my reply I further remarked that I 
was sure I was right; also that, speaking of Russians in 
the capacity of gamblers, I had far more blame for them 
than praise — of that he could be quite sure. 

" Upon what do you base your opinion? " he inquired. 

" Upon the fact that to the virtues and merits of the 
civilised Westerner there has become historically added 
— though this is not his chief point — a capacity for 
acquiring capital; whereas not only is the Russian in- 
capable of acquiring capital, but also he exhausts it 
wantonly and of sheer folly. None the less we Russians 
often need money; wherefore we are glad of, and greatly 
devoted to, a method of acquisition like roulette — 
whereby, in a couple of hours, one may grow rich with- 
out doing any work. This method, I repeat, has a great 
attraction for us, but since we play in wanton fashion, 
and without taking any trouble, we almost invariably 
lose." 

" To a certain extent that is true," assented the 
Frenchman with a self-satisfied air. 

" Oh no, it is not true," put in the General sternly. 
" And you," he added to me, " you ought to be 
ashamed of yourself for traducing your own country! " 

" I beg pardon," I said. " Yet it would be difficult 
to say which is the worst of the two — Russian inepti- 
tude or the German method of growing rich through 
honest toil." 

" What an extraordinary idea," cried the General. 

" And what a Russian idea! " added the Frenchman. 

I smiled, for I was rather glad to have a quarrel with 
them. 



The Gambler 169 

" I would rather live a wandering life in tents," I 
cried, " than bow the knee to a German idol! " 

' To what idol ? " exclaimed the General, now seriously 
angry. 

' To the German method of heaping up riches. I 
have not been here very long, but I can tell you that 
what I have seen and verified makes my Tartar blood 
boil. Good Lord! I wish for no virtues of that kind. 
Yesterday I went for a walk of about ten versts; 
and everywhere I found that things were even as we 
read of them in good German picture-books — that every 
house has its ' Vater,' who is horribly beneficent and 
extraordinarily honourable. So honourable is he that 
it is dreadful to have anything to do with him; and I 
cannot bear people of that sort. Each such ' Vater ' 
has his family, and in the evenings they read improv- 
ing books aloud. Over their roof-trees there murmur 
elms and chestnuts; the sun has sunk to his rest; a 
stork is roosting on the gable; and all is beautifully 
poetic and touching. Do not be angry, General. Let 
me tell you something that is even more touching than 
that. I can remember how, of an evening, my own 
father, now dead, used to sit under the lime trees in his 
little garden, and to read books aloud to myself and my 
mother. Yes, I know how things ought to be done. 
Yet every German family is bound to slavery and to 
submission to its ' Vater.' They work like oxen, and 
amass wealth like Jews. Suppose the ' Vater ' has put 
by a certain number of gulden which he hands over to 
his eldest son, in order that the said son may acquire 
a trade or a small plot of land. Well, one result is 
to deprive the daughter of a dowry, and so leave her 
among the un wedded. For the same reason, the 
parents will have to sell the younger son into bondage 
or the ranks of the army, in order that he may earn more 
towards the family capital. Yes, such things are done, 
for I have been making inquiries on the subject. It is 
all done out of sheer rectitude — out of a rectitude which 
is magnified to the point of the younger son believing 
that he has been rightly sold, and that it is simply idyllic 
for the victim to rejoice when he is made over into 



170 The Gambler 

pledge. What more have I to tell? Well, this — that 
matters bear just as hardly upon the eldest son. Per- 
haps he has his Gretchen to whom his heart is 
bound; but he cannot marry her, for the reason that 
he has not yet amassed sufficient gulden. So the pair 
wait on in a mood of sincere and virtuous expectation, 
and smilingly deposit themselves in pawn the while. 
Gretchen's cheeks grow sunken, and she begins to 
wither; until at last, after some twenty years, their 
substance has multiplied, and sufficient gulden have 
been honourably and virtuously accumulated. Then 
the ' Vater ' blesses his forty-year-old heir and the 
thirty-five-year-old Gretchen with the sunken bosom 
and the scarlet nose; after which he bursts into tears, 
reads the pair a lesson on morality, and dies. In turn 
the eldest son becomes a virtuous ' Vater,' and the old 
story begins again. In fifty or sixty years' time the 
grandson of the original ' Vater ' will have amassed a 
considerable sum ; and that sum he will hand over to his 
son, and the latter to his son, and so on for several 
generations; until at length there will issue a Baron 
Rothschild, or a ' Hoppe and Company,' or the devil 
knows what ! Is it not a beautiful spectacle — the 
spectacle of a century or two of inherited labour, 
patience, intellect, rectitude, character, perseverance, 
and calculation, with a stork sitting on the roof above 
it all? What is more, they think there can never be 
anything better than this; wherefore from their point 
of view they begin to judge the rest of the world, and to 
censure all who are at fault— that is to say, who are not 
exactly like themselves. Yes, there you have it in a nut- 
shell. For my own part, I would rather grow fat after 
the Russian manner, or squander my whole substance 
at roulette. I have no wish to be ' Hoppe and Com- 
pany ' at the end of five generations. I want the 
money for myself, for in no way do I look upon my per- 
sonality as necessary to, or meet to be given over to, 
capital. I may be wrong, but there you have it. Those 
are my views." 

" How far you may be right in what you have said I 
do not know," remarked the General moodily; " but 



The Gambler 171 

I do know that you are becoming an insufferable fargeut 
whenever you are given the least chance." 

As usual, he left his sentence unfinished. Indeed, 
whenever he embarked upon anything that in the least 
exceeded the limits of daily small-talk, he left un- 
finished what he was saying. The Frenchman had 
listened to me contemptuously, with a slight protruding 
of his eyes; but he could not have understood very 
much of my harangue. As for Polina, she had looked 
on with serene indifference. She seemed to have heard 
neither my voice nor any other during the progress of 
the meal. 



Yes, she had been extraordinarily meditative. Yet, on 
leaving the table, she immediately ordered me to ac- 
company her for a walk. We took the children with 
us, and set out for the fountain in the Park. 

I was in such an irritated frame of mind that in rude 
and abrupt fashion I blurted out a question as to " why 
our Marquis de Griers had ceased to accompany her for 
strolls, or to speak to her for days together." 

" Because he is a brute," she replied in rather a 
curious way. It was the first time that I had heard 
her speak so of De Griers: consequently I was momen- 
tarily awed into silence by this expression of resentment. 

" Have you noticed, too, that to-day he is by no means 
on good terms with the General? " I went on. 

" Yes; and I suppose you want to know why," she 
replied with dry captiousness. " You are aware, are 
you not, that the General is mortgaged to the Marquis, 
with all his property? Consequently, if the General's 
mother does not die, the Frenchman will become the 
absolute possessor of everything which he now holds 
only in pledge." 

" Then it is really the case that everything is mort- 
gaged? I have heard rumours to that effect, but was 
unaware how far they might be true." 

" Yes, they are true. What then? " 



172 The Gambler 

" Why, it will be a case of ' Farewell, Mile. Blanche,' " 
I remarked; "for in such an event she would never 
become Madame General. Do you know, I believe 
the old man is so much in love with her that he will 
shoot himself if she should throw him over. At his age 
it is a dangerous thing to fall in love." 

" Yes, something, I believe, will happen to him," 
assented Polina thoughtfully. 

"And what a fine thing it all is!" I continued. 
" Could anything be more abominable than the way in 
which she has agreed to marry for money alone? Not 
one of the decencies has been observed ; the whole affair 
has taken place without the least ceremony. And as 
for the grandmother, what could be more comical, yet 
more dastardly, than the sending of telegram after tele- 
gram to know if she is dead? What do you think of 
it, Polina Alexandro vna ? " 

" Yes, it is very horrible," she interrupted with a 
shudder. " Consequently I am the more surprised that 
you should be so cheerful. What are you so pleased 
about? About the fact that you have gone and lost 
my money? " 

" What? The money that you gave me to lose? I 
told you I should never win for other people — least of 
all for you. I obeyed you simply because you ordered 
me to; but you must not blame me for the result. I 
warned you that no good would ever come of it. You 
seem much depressed at having lost your money. Why 
do you need it so greatly? " 

" Why do you ask me these questions? " 

" Because you promised to explain matters to me. 
Listen. I am certain that, as soon as ever I begin to 
play for myself (and I still have 120 gulden left), I shall 
win. You can then take of me what you require." 

She made a contemptuous grimace. 

" You must not be angry with me," I continued, " for 
making such a proposal. I am so conscious of being 
only a nonentity in your eyes that you need not mind 
accepting money from me. A gift from me could not 
possibly offend you. Moreover, it was I who lost 
your gulden." 



The Gambler 



«73 



She glanced at me, but, seeing that I was in an 
irritable, sarcastic mood, changed the subject. 

" My affairs cannot possibly interest you," she said. 
" Still, if you do wish to know, I am in debt. I borrowed 
some money, and must pay it back again. I have a 
curious, a senseless idea that I am bound to win at the 
gaming-tables. Why I think so I cannot tell, but I do 
think so, and with some assurance. Perhaps it is because 
of that assurance that I now find myself without any 
other resource." 

" Or perhaps it is because it is so necessary for you to 
win. It is like a drowning man catching at a straw. 
You yourself will agree that, unless he were drowning 
he would not mistake a straw for the trunk of a tree." 

Polina looked surprised. 

" What? " she said. " Do not you also hope some- 
thing from it? Did you not tell me again and again, 
two weeks ago, that you were certain of winning at 
roulette if you played here? And did you not ask me 
not to consider you a fool for doing so? Were you 
joking? You cannot have been, for I remember that 
you spoke with a gravity which forbade the idea of your 
jesting." 

" True," I replied gloomily. " I always felt certain 
that I should win. Indeed, what you say makes me 
ask myself — Why have my absurd, senseless losses of 
to-day raised a doubt in my mind? Yet I am still 
positive that, so soon as ever I begin to play for myself, 
I shall infallibly win." 

" And why are you so certain? " 

" To tell the truth, I do not know. 1 only know that 
I must win — that it is the one resource I have left. Yes, 
why do I feel so assured on the point? " 

" Perhaps because one cannot help winning if one 
is fanatically certain of doing so." 

" Yet I dare wager that you do not think me capable 
of serious feeling in the matter? " 

" I do not care whether you are so or not," answered 
Polina with calm indifference. " Well, since you ask 
me, I do doubt your ability to take anything seriously. 
You are capable of worrying, but not deeply. You are 



174 The Gambler 

too ill-regulated and unsettled a person for that. But why 
do you want money? Not a single one of the reasons 
which you have given can be looked upon as serious." 

" By the way," I interrupted, " you say you want to 
pay off a debt. It must be a large one. Is it to the 
Frenchman? " 

" What do you mean by asking all these questions? 
You are very clever to-day. Surely you are not drunk ? " 

" You know that you and I stand on no ceremony, 
and that sometimes I put to you very plain questions. 
I repeat that I am your slave — and slaves cannot be 
shamed or offended." 

" You talk like a child. It is always possible to com- 
port oneself with dignity. If one has a quarrel it ought 
to elevate rather than to degrade one." 

" A maxim straight from the copybook! Suppose I 
cannot comport myself with dignity. By that I mean 
that, though I am a man of self-respect, I am unable 
to carry off a situation properly. Do you know the 
reason? It is because we Russians are too richly and 
multifariously gifted to be able at once to find the proper 
mode of expression. It is all a question of mode. 
Most of us are so bounteously endowed with intellect 
as to require also a spice of genius to choose the right 
form of behaviour. And genius is lacking in us for the 
reason that so little genius at all exists. It belongs only 
to the French — though a few other Europeans have 
elaborated their forms so well as to be able to figure 
with extreme dignity, and yet be wholly undignified 
persons. That is why, with us, the mode is so all- 
important. The Frenchman may receive an insult — 
a real, a venomous insult: yet he will not so much as 
frown. But a tweaking of the nose he cannot bear, for 
the reason that such an act is an infringement of the 
accepted, of the time-hallowed, order of decorum. That 
is why our good ladies are so fond of Frenchmen — the 
Frenchman's manners, they say, are perfect ! But in my 
opinion there is no such thing as a Frenchman's manners. 
The Frenchman is only a bird — the coq gaulois. At the 
same time, as I am not a woman, I do not properly 
understand the question. Cocks may be excellent birds. 



The Gambler 175 

If I am wrong you must stop me. You ought to stop 
and correct me more often when I am speaking to you, 
for I am too apt to say everything that is in my head. 
You see, I have lost my manners. I agree that I have 
none, nor yet any dignity. I will tell you why. I set 
no store upon such things. Everything in me has under- 
gone a check. You know the reason. I have not a 
single human thought in my head. For a long while 
I have been ignorant of what is going on in the world — 
here or in Russia. I have been to Dresden, yet am com- 
pletely in the dark as to what Dresden is like. You 
know the cause of my obsession. I have no hope now, 
and am a mere cipher in your eyes; wherefore I tell 
you outright that wherever I go I see only you — all the 
rest is a matter of indifference. Why or how I have 
come to love you I do not know. It may be that you 
are not altogether fair to look upon. Do you know, I 
am ignorant even as to what your face is like. In all 
probability, too, your heart is not comely, and it is 
possible that your mind is wholly ignoble." 

" And because you do not believe in my nobility of 
soul you think to purchase me with money ? " she said. 

" When have 1 thought to do so? " was my reply. 

" You are losing the thread of the argument. If you 
do not wish to purchase me, at all events you wish to 
purchase my respect." 

" Not at all. I have told you that I find it difficult 
to explain myself. You are hard upon me. Do not 
be angry at my chattering. You know why you ought 
not to be angry with me — that I am simply an imbecile. 
However, I do not mind if you are angry. Sitting in my 
room, I need but to think of you, to imagine to myself 
the rustle of your dress, and at once I fall almost to 
biting my hands. Why should you be angry with me ? 
Because I call myself your slave? Revel, I pray you, 
in my slavery — revel in it. Do you know that some- 
times I could kill you? — not because I do not love, or 
am jealous of, you, but because I feel as though I could 
simply devour you. You are laughing! " 

" No, I am not," she retorted. " But I order you, 
nevertheless, to be silent." 



176 



The Gambler 



She stopped, well nigh breathless with anger. God 
knows, she may not have been a beautiful woman, 
yet I loved to see her come to a halt like this, and 
was therefore the more fond of arousing her temper. 
Perhaps she divined this, and for that very reason gave 
way to rage. I said as much to her. 

" What rubbish ! " she cried with a shudder. 

" I do not care," I continued. " Also, do you know 
that it is not safe for us to take walks together ? Often 
I have a feeling that I should like to strike you, to 
disfigure you, to strangle you. Are you certain that it 
will never come to that ? You are driving me to frenzy. 
Am I afraid of a scandal, or of your anger? Why 
should I fear your anger? I love without hope, and 
know that hereafter I shall love you a thousand times 
more. If ever I should kill you I should have to kill 
myself too. But I shall put off doing so as long as 
possible, for I wish to continue enjoying the unbearable 
pain which your coldness gives me. Do you know a 
very strange thing? It is that, with every day, my love 
for you increases — though that would seem to be almost 
an impossibility. Why should I not become a fatalist ? 
Remember how, on the third day that we ascended the 
Schlangenberg, I was moved to whisper in your ear: 
1 Say but the word, and I will leap into the abyss.' 
Had you said it, I should have leapt. Do you not 
believe me? " 

" What stupid rubbish! " she cried. 

" I care not whether it be wise or stupid," I cried in 
return. " I only know that in your presence I must 
speak, speak, speak. Therefore I am speaking. I lose 
all conceit when I am with you, and everything ceases 
to matter." 

" Why should I have wanted you to leap from the 
Schlangenberg?" she said drily, and (I think) with wilful 
offensiveness. " That would have been of no use to me." 

" Splendid ! " I shouted. " I know well that you must 
have used the words ' of no use ' in order to crush me. 
/ can see through you. ' Of no use,' did you say? 
Why, to give pleasure is always of use; and as for 
barbarous, unlimited power — even if it be onlv over a 



The Gambler 177 

tly — why, it is a kind of luxury. Man is a despot by 
nature, and loves to torture. You, in particular, love 
to do so." 

I remember that at this moment she looked at me in 
a peculiar way. The fact is that my face must have 
been expressing all the maze of senseless, gross sensations 
which were seething within me. To this day I can 
remember, word for word, the conversation as I have 
written it down. My eyes were suffused with blood, and 
the foam had caked itself on my lips. Also, on my 
honour I swear that, had she bidden me cast myself from 
the summit of the Schlangenberg, I should have done it. 
Yes, had she bidden me in jest, or only in contempt and 
with a spit in my face, I should have cast myself down. 

" Oh no! Why so? I believe you," she said, but 
in such a manner — in the manner of which, at times, she 
was a mistress — and with such a note of disdain and 
viperish arrogance in her tone, that God knows I could 
have killed her. 

Yes, at that moment she stood in peril. I had not 
lied to her about that. 

" Surely you are not a coward? " suddenly she asked 
me. 

" I do not know," I replied. " Perhaps I am, but I 
do not know. I have long given up thinking about 
such things." 

" If I said to you, ' Kill that man,' would you kill 
him? " 

"Whom?" 

" Whomsoever I wish? " 

" The Frenchman? " 

" Do not ask me questions; return me answers. I 
repeat, whomsoever I wish ? I desire to see if you were 
speaking seriously just now." 

She awaited my reply with such gravity and impatience 
that I found the situation unpleasant. 

" Do you, rather, tell me," I said, " what is going on 
here. Why do you seem half-afraid of me? I can see 
for myself what is wrong. You are the step-daughter of 
a ruined and insensate man who is smitten with love for 
this devil of a Blanche. And there is this Frenchman, 



i 7 8 



The Gambler 



too, with his mysterious influence over you. Yet you 
actually ask me such a question ! If you do not tell me 
how things stand I shall have to put in my oar and do 
something. Are you ashamed to be frank with me? 
Are you shy of me? " 

" I am not going to talk to you on that subject. I 
have asked you a question, and am waiting for an 
answer." 

" Well, then — I will kill whomsoever you wish," I 
said. " But are you really going to bid me do such 
deeds? " 

" Why should you think that I am going to let you off? 
I shall bid you do it, or else renounce me. Could you ever 
do the latter? No, you know that you couldn't. You 
would first kill whom I had bidden you, and then kill 
me for having dared to send you away." 

Something seemed to strike upon my brain as I heard 
these words. Of course, at the time I took them half in 
jest and half as a challenge: yet she had spoken them 
with great seriousness. I felt thunderstruck that she 
should so express herself, that she should assert such 
a right over me, that she should assume such author- 
ity and say outright: "Either you kill whom I bid 
you, or I will have nothing more to do with you." 
Indeed, in what she had said there was something so 
cynical and unveiled as to pass all bounds. For how 
could she ever regard me as the same after the killing 
was done ? This was more than slavery and abasement ; 
it was sufficient to bring a man back to his right senses. 
Yet, despite the outrageous improbability of our con- 
versation, my heart shook within me. 

Suddenly she burst out laughing. We were seated on 
a bench near the spot where the children were playing — 
just opposite the point in the alley- way before the 
Casino where the carriages drew up in order to set down 
their occupants. 

" Do you see that fat Baroness ? " she cried. " It is the 
Baroness Burmergelm. She arrived three days ago. 
Just look at her husband — that tall, wizened Prussian 
there, with the stick in his hand. Do you remember 
how he stared at us the other day? Well, go to the 



The Gambler 179 

Baroness, take off your hat to her, and say something in 
French." 

"Why? " 

' Because you have sworn that you would leap from 
the Schlangenberg for my sake, and that you would kill 
any one whom I might bid you kill. Well, instead of 
such murders and tragedies, I wish only for a good laugh. 
Go without answering me, and let me see the Baron give 
you a sound thrashing with his stick." 

" Then you throw me out a challenge? — you think 
that I will not doit? " 

" Yes, I do challenge you. Go, for such is my will." 

" Then I will go, however mad be your fancy. Only, 
look here: shall you not be doing the General a great 
disservice, as well as, through him, a great disservice to 
yourself? It is not about myself I am worrying; it 
is about you and the General. Why, for a mere fancy, 
should I go and insult a woman? " 

" Ah! Then I can see that you are only a trifler," she 
said contemptuously. " Your eyes are swimming with 
blood — but only because you have drunk a little too 
much at luncheon. Do I not know that what I have 
asked you to do is foolish and wrong, and that the 
General will be angry about it? But I want to have a 
good laugh, all the same. I want that, and nothing else. 
Why should you insult a woman, indeed? Well, you 
will be given a sound thrashing for so doing." 

I turned away, and went silently to do her bidding. 
Of course the thing was folly, but I could not get out of 
it. I remember that, as I approached the Baroness, I 
felt as excited as a schoolboy. I was in a frenzy, as 
though I were drunk. 



VI 

Two days have passed since that day of lunacy. What 
a noise and a fuss and a chattering and an uproar there 
was! And what a welter of unseemliness and disorder 
and stupidity and bad manners! And / the cause of it 
all! Yet part of the scene was also ridiculous — at all 



i8o The Gambler 

events to myself it was so. I am not quite sure wiiat 
was the matter with me — whether I was merely stupefied 
or whether I purposely broke loose and ran amok. At 
times my mind seems all confused ; while at other times 
I seem almost to be back in my childhood, at the school 
desk, and to have done the deed simply out of mischief. 

It all came of Polina — yes, of Polina. But for her, 
there might never have been a fracas. Or perhaps I did 
the deed in a fit of despair (though it may be foolish of 
me to think so) ? What there is so attractive about her 
I cannot think. Yet there is something attractive about 
her — something passing fair, it would seem. Others 
besides myself she has driven to distraction. She is tall 
and straight, and very slim. Her body looks as though 
it could be tied into a knot, or bent double, like a cord. 
The imprint of her foot is long and narrow. It is a 
maddening imprint — yes, simply a maddening one! 
And her hair has a reddish tint about it, and her eyes are 
like cat's eyes — though able also to glance with proud, 
disdainful mien. On the evening of my first arrival, 
four months ago, I remember that she was sitting and 
holding an animated conversation with De Griers in the 
salon. And the way in which she looked at him was such 
that later, when I retired to my own room upstairs, I 
kept fancying that she had smitten him in the face — 
that she had smitten him right on the cheek, so peculiar 
had been her look as she stood confronting him. Ever 
since that evening I have loved her. 

But to my tale. 

I stepped from the path into the carriage-way, and 
took my stand in the middle of it. There I awaited the 
Baron and the Baroness. When they were but a few 
paces distant from me I took off my hat, and bowed. 

I remember that the Baroness was clad in a voluminous 
silk dress, pale grey in colour, and adorned with flounces 
and a crinoline and train. Also, she was short and in- 
ordinately stout, while her gross, flabby chin completely 
concealed her neck. Her face was purple, and the little 
eyes in it had an impudent, malicious expression. Yet 
she walked as though she were conferring a favour upon 
everybody by so doing. As for the Baron, he was tall, 



The Gambler 



1 8 i 



wizened, bony-faced after the German fashion, spectacled, 
and, apparently, about forty-five years of age. Also, he 
had legs which seemed to begin almost at his chest — or, 
rather, at his chin ! Yet, for all his air of peacock-like 
conceit, his clothes sagged a little, and his face wore a 
sheepish air which might have passed for profundity. 

These details I noted within a space of a few seconds. 

At first my bow and the fact that I had my hat in my 
hand barely caught their attention. The Baron only 
scowled a little, and the Baroness swept straight on. 

" Madame la Baronne," said I, loudly and distinctly — 
embroidering each word, as it were — " j'ai l'honneur 
d'etre votre esclave." 

Then I bowed again, put on my hat, and walked past 
the Baron with a rude smile on my face. 

Polina had ordered me merely to take off my hat : the 
bow and the general effrontery were of my own invention. 
God knows what instigated me to perpetrate the out- 
rage ! In my frenzy I felt as though I were walking on 
air. 

" Hein! " ejaculated — or, rather, growled — the Baron 
as he turned towards me in angry surprise. 

I too turned round, and stood waiting in pseudo- 
courteous expectation. Yet still I wore on my face an 
impudent smile as I gazed at him. He seemed to 
hesitate, and his brows contracted to their utmost limits. 
Every moment his visage was growing darker. The 
Baroness also turned in my direction, and gazed at me in 
wrathful perplexity, while some of the passers-by also 
began to stare at us, and others of them halted outright. 

'Hein!" the Baron vociferated again, with a 
redoubled growl and a note of growing wrath in his voice. 

" Ja wohl! " I replied, still looking him in the eyes. 

" Sind Sie rasend? " he exclaimed, brandishing his 
stick, and, apparently, beginning to feel nervous. 
Perhaps it was my costume which intimidated him, for 
I was well and fashionably dressed, after the manner of 
a man who belongs to indisputably good society. 

" Ja wo-o-ohl! " cried I again with all my might — 

with a long-drawn rolling of the " ohl " sound after the 

fashion of the Berliners (who constantly use the phrase 
с 7 " 



1 82 The Gambler 

" Ja wohl! " in conversation, and more or less prolong 
the syllable " ohl " according as they desire to express 
different shades of meaning or of mood). 

At this the Baron and the Baroness faced sharply 
about, and almost fled in their alarm. Some of the 
bystanders gave vent to excited exclamations, and 
others remained staring at me in astonishment. But I 
do not remember the details very well. 

Wheeling quietly about, I returned in the direction of 
Polina Alexandrovna. But when I had got within a 
hundred paces of her seat I saw her rise, and set out with 
the children towards the hotel. 

At the portico I caught her up. 

" I have perpetrated the — the piece of idiocy," I said 
as I came level with her. 

" Have you? Then you can take the consequences," 
she replied without so much as looking at me. Then 
she moved towards the staircase. 

I spent the rest of the evening walking in the park. 
Thence I passed into the forest, and walked on until I 
found myself in a neighbouring principality. At a way- 
side restaurant I partook of an omelette and some wine, 
and was charged for the idyllic repast a thaler and a half. 

Not until eleven o'clock did I return home — to find a 
summons awaiting me from the General. 

Our party occupied two suites in the hotel; each of 
which contained two rooms. The first (the larger suite) 
comprised a salon and a smoking-room, with, adjoining 
the latter, the General's study. It was here that he was 
awaiting me as he stood posed in a majestic attitude 
beside his writing-table. Lolling on a divan close by 
was De Griers. 

" My good sir," the General began, " may I ask you 
what this is that you have gone and done? " 

" I should be glad," I replied, " if we could come 
straight to the point. Probably you are referring to my 
encounter of to-day with a German? " 

" With a German? Why, the German was the Baron 
Burmergelm — a most important personage! I hear 
that you have been rude both to him and to the 
Baroness? " 



The Gambler 



183 



" No, I have not." 

" But I understand that you simply terrified them, 
my good sir? " shouted the General. 

" Not in the least," I replied. " You must know that 
when I was in Berlin I frequently used to hear the 
Berliners repeat, and repellently prolong, a certain 
phrase — namely, ' Ja wohl ! ' ; and, happening to meet 
this couple in the carriage-drive, I found, for some 
reason or another, that this phrase suddenly recurred 
to my memory, and exercised a rousing effect upon my 
spirits. Moreover, on the three previous occasions that 
I have met the Baroness she has walked towards me as 
though I were a worm which could easily be crushed 
with the foot. Not unnaturally, I too possess a measure 
of self-respect ; wherefore on this occasion I took off my 
hat, and said politely (yes, I assure you it was said 
politely) : ' Madame, j'ai l'honneur d'etre votre esclave.' 
Then the Baron turned round, and said ' Hein ! ' ; where- 
upon I felt moved to ejaculate in answer ' Ja wohl! ' 
Twice I shouted it at him — the first time in an ordinary 
tone, and the second time with the greatest prolonging 
of the words of which I was capable. That is all." 

I must confess that this puerile explanation gave me 
great pleasure. I felt a strong desire to overlay the 
incident with an even added measure of grossness; so, 
the further I proceeded, the more did the gusto of my 
proceeding increase. 

" You are only making fun of me! " vociferated the 
General as, turning to the Frenchman, he declared that 
my bringing about of the incident had been gratuitous. 
De Griers smiled contemptuously, and shrugged his 
shoulders. 

" Do not think that," I put in. " It was not so at all. 
I grant you that my behaviour was bad — I fully confess 
that it was so, and make no secret of the fact. I would 
even go so far as to grant you that my behaviour might 
well be called stupid and indecent tomfoolery; but 
more than that it was not. Also, let me tell you that 
I am very sorry for my conduct. Yet there is one cir- 
cumstance which, in my eyes, almost absolves me from 
regret in the matter. Of late — that is to say, for the 



184 



The Gambler 



last two or three weeks — I have been feeling not at all 
well. That is to say, I have been in a sick, nervous, 
irritable, fanciful condition, so that I have periodi- 
cally lost control over myself. For instance, on more 
than one occasion I have tried to pick a quarrel even 
with Monsieur le Marquise here ; and under the circum- 
stances he had no choice but to answer me. In short, 
I have recently been showing signs of ill-health. 
Whether the Baroness Burmergelm will take this circum- 
stance into consideration when I come to beg her pardon 
(for I do intend to make her amends) I do not know, 
but I doubt if she will, and the less so since, so far as I 
know, the circumstance is one which, of late, has begun 
to be abused in the legal world, in that advocates in 
criminal cases have taken to justifying their clients on 
the ground that, at the moment of the crime, they (the 
clients) were unconscious of what they were doing — 
that, in short, they were out of health. ' My client 
committed the murder — that is true; but he has no 
recollection of having committed it.' And doctors 
actually support these advocates by affirming that 
there really is such a malady — that there really can 
arise temporary delusions which make a man remember 
nothing of a given deed, or only a half or a quarter of it ! 
But the Baron and Baroness are members of an older 
generation, as well as Prussian Junkers and landowners. 
To them such a process in the medico- judicial world 
will be unknown, and therefore they are the more 
unlikely to accept any such explanation. What is 
your opinion about it, General? " 

" Enough, sir! " he thundered with barely restrained 
fury. " Enough, I say! Once and for all I must 
endeavour to rid myself of you and your impertinence. 
To justify yourself in the eyes of the Baron and Baroness 
will be impossible. Any intercourse with you, even 
though it be confined to a begging of their pardons, 
they would look upon as a degradation. I may tell 
you that, on learning that you formed part of my 
household, the Baron approached me in the Casino, 
and demanded of me additional satisfaction. Do you 
understand, then, what it is that you have entailed upon 



The Gambler 185 

me — upon me, my good sir? You have entailed upon 
me the fact of my being forced to sue humbly to the 
Baron, and to give him my word of honour that this very 
day you shall cease to belong to my establishment ! " 

" Excuse me, General," I interrupted, " but did he 
make an express point of it that I should ' cease to belong 
to your establishment/ as you call it? " 

"No; I of my own initiative thought that I ought 
to afford him that satisfaction: and with it he was 
satisfied. So we must part, good sir. It is my duty 
to hand over to you forty gulden, three florins, as per 
the accompanying statement. Here is the money, and 
here the account, which you are at liberty to verify. 
Farewell. From henceforth we are strangers. From 
you I have never had anything but trouble and un- 
pleasantness. I am about to call the landlord, and 
explain to him that from to-morrow onwards I shall 
no longer be responsible for your hotel expenses. Also 
I have the honour to remain your obedient servant." 

I took the money and the account (which was indited 
in pencil), and, bowing low to the General, said to him 
very gravely: 

" The matter cannot end here. I regret very much 
that you should have been put to unpleasantness at 
the Baron's hands; but the fault (pardon me) is your 
own. How came you to answer for me to the Baron? 
And what did you mean by saying that I formed part 
of your household? I am merely your family tutor — 
not a son of yours, nor yet your ward, nor a person of 
any kind for whose acts you need be responsible. I 
am a judicially competent person, a man of twenty-five 
years of age, a university graduate, a gentleman, and, 
until I met yourself, a complete stranger to you. Only 
my boundless respect for your merits restrains me from 
demanding satisfaction at your hands, as well as a 
further explanation as to the reasons which have led 
you to take it upon yourself to answer for my conduct." 

So struck was he with my words that, spreading out 
his hands, he turned to the Frenchman, and interpreted 
to him that I had challenged himself (the General) to 
a duel. The Frenchman laughed aloud. 



1 86 The Gambler 

" Nor do I intend to let the Baron off," I continued 
calmly, but with not a little discomfiture at De Griers' 
merriment. " And since you, General, have to-day 
been so good as to listen to the Baron's complaints, 
and to enter into his concerns — since you have made 
yourself a participator in the affair — I have the honour 
to inform you that, to-morrow morning at the latest, I 
shall, in my own name, demand of the said Baron a 
formal explanation as to the reasons which have led 
him to disregard the fact that the matter lies between 
him and myself alone, and to put a slight upon me by 
referring it to another person, as though I were unworthy 
to answer for my own conduct." 

Then there happened what I had foreseen. The 
General, on hearing of this further intended outrage, 
showed the white feather. 

" What? " he cried. " Do you intend to go on with 
this damned nonsense? Do you not realise the harm 
that it is doing me? I beg of you not to laugh at me, 
sir — not to laugh at me, for we have police authorities 
here who, out of respect for my rank, and for that of 

the Baron In short, sir, I swear to you that I will 

have you arrested, and marched out of the place, to 
prevent any further brawling on your part. Do you 
understand what I say? " He was almost breathless 
with anger, as well as in a terrible fright. 

" General," I replied with that calmness which he 
never could abide, " one cannot arrest a man for brawl- 
ing until he has brawled. I have not so much as begun 
my explanations to the Baron, and you are altogether 
ignorant as to the form and time which my intended 
procedure is likely to assume. I wish but to disabuse 
the Baron of what is, to me, a shameful supposition — 
namely, that I am under the guardianship of a person 
who is qualified to exercise control over my freewill. 
It is vain for you to disturb and alarm yourself." 

" For God's sake, Alexis Ivanovitch, do put an end 
to this senseless scheme of yours! " he muttered, but 
with a sudden change from a truculent tone to one of 
entreaty as he caught me by the hand. " Do you 
know what is likely to come of it? Merely further 



The Gambler 187 

unpleasantness. You will agree with me, I am sure, 
that at present I ought to move with especial care — 
yes, with very especial care. You cannot be fully aware 
of how I am situated. When we leave this place I 
shall be ready to receive you back into my household; 

but for the time being I Well, I cannot tell you all 

my reasons." With that he wound up in a despairing 
voice: " О Alexis Ivanovitch, Alexis Ivanovitch! " 

I moved towards the door — begging him to be calm, 
and promising that everything should be done decently 
and in order ; whereafter I departed. 

Russians, when abroad, are over-apt to play the 
poltroon, and to watch all their words, and to wonder 
what people are thinking of their conduct, or whether 
such and such a thing is comme il faut. In short, they 
are over-apt to cosset themselves, and to lay claim to 
great importance. Always they prefer the form of 
behaviour which has once and for all become accepted 
and established. This they will follow slavishly — 
whether in hotels, on promenades, at meetings, or when 
on a journey. But the General had avowed to me that, 
over and above such considerations as these, there were 
circumstances which compelled him to " move with 
especial care at present " : and the fact had actually 
made him poor-spirited and a coward — had made him 
altogether change his tone towards me. This fact I 
took into my calculations, and duly noted it, for, of course, 
he might apply to the authorities to-morrow, and it 
behoved me to go carefully. 

Yet it was not the General but Polina that I wanted 
to anger. She had treated me with such cruelty, and 
had got me into such a hole, that I felt a longing to force 
her to beseech me to stop. Of course, my tomfoolery 
might compromise her; yet certain other feelings and 
desires had begun to form themselves in my brain. If 
I was never to rank in her eyes as anything but a 
nonentity, it would not greatly matter if I figured as a 
draggle-tailed cockerel, and the Baron were to give me a 
good thrashing ; but the fact was that I desired to have 
the laugh of them all, and to come out myself unscathed. 
Let people see what they would see. Let Polina, for 



i88 



The Gambler 



once, have a good fright, and be forced to whistle me to 
heel again. But, however much she might whistle, she 
should see that I was at least no draggle-tailed cockerel ! 

I have just received a surprising piece of news. I 
have just met our chambermaid on the stairs, and been 
informed by her that Maria Philipovna departed to-day, 
by the night train, to stay with a cousin at Carlsbad. 
What can that mean ? The maid declares that Madame 
packed her trunks early in the day. Yet how is it that 
no one else seems to have been aware of the circum- 
stance ? Or is it that / have been the only person to be 
unaware of it? Also, the maid has just told me that, 
three days ago, Maria Philipovna had some high words 
with the General. I understand, then! Probably the 
words were concerning Mile. Blanche. Certainly some- 
thing decisive is approaching. 



VII 

In the morning I sent for the maitre d'hotel, and 
explained to him that, in future, my bill was to be 
rendered to me personally. As a matter of fact, my 
expenses had never been so large as to alarm me, nor 
to lead me to quit the hotel; while, moreover, I still 
had 160 gulden left to me, and — in them — yes, in them, 
perhaps, riches awaited me. It was a curious fact, that, 
though I had not yet won anything at play, I neverthe- 
less acted, thought, and felt as though I were sure, before 
long, to become wealthy, since I could not imagine myself 
otherwise. 

Next I bethought me, despite the earliness of the hour, 
of going to see Mr. Astley, who was staying at the Hotel 
de l'Angleterre (a hostelry at no great distance from our 
own). But suddenly De Griers entered my room. 
This had never before happened, for of late that gentle- 
man and I had stood on the most strained and distant of 
terms — he attempting no concealment of his contempt 
for me (he even made an express point of showing it), 
and I having no reason to desire his company. In short, 



The Gambler 189 

I detested him. Consequently his entry at the present 
moment the more astounded me. At once I divined 
that something out of the way was on the carpet. 

He entered with marked affability, and began by 
complimenting me on my room. Then, perceiving that 
I had my hat in my hands, he inquired whither I was 
going so early; and no sooner did he hear that I was 
bound for Mr. Astley's than he stopped, looked grave, 
and seemed plunged in thought. 

He was a true Frenchman in so far as that, though 
he could be lively and engaging when it suited him, he 
became insufferably dull and wearisome as soon as ever 
the need for being lively and engaging had passed. 
Seldom is a Frenchman naturally civil: he is civil only 
as though to order and of set purpose. Also, if he thinks 
it incumbent upon him to be fanciful, original, and out 
of the way, his fancy always assumes a foolish, un- 
natural vein, for the reason that it is compounded of 
trite, hackneyed forms. In short, the natural French- 
man is a conglomeration of commonplace, petty, every- 
day positiveness, so that he is the most tedious person 
in the world. Indeed, I believe that none but green- 
horns and excessively Russian people feel an attraction 
towards the French; for, to any man of sensibility, 
such a compendium of outworn forms — a compendium 
which is built up of drawing-room manners, expansive- 
ness, and gaiety — becomes at once over noticeable and 
unbearable. 

" I have come to see you on business," De Griers 
began in a very off-hand, yet polite, tone ; " nor will I seek 
to conceal from you the fact that I have come in the 
capacity of an emissary, of an intermediary, from the 
General. Having small knowledge of the Russian 
tongue, I lost most of what was said last night ; but the 
General has now explained matters, and I must confess 
that " 

" See here, Monsieur de Griers," I interrupted. " I 
understand that you have undertaken to act in this 
affair as an intermediary. Of course I am only ' un 
utchitel,' a tutor, and have never claimed to be an 
intimate of this household, nor to stand on at all familiar 

* G 711 



i 90 The Gambler 

terms with it. Consequently I do not know the whole 
of its circumstances. Yet pray explain to me this: 
have you yourself become one of its members, seeing that 
you are beginning to take such a part in everything, and 
are now present as an intermediary? " 

The Frenchman seemed not over-pleased at my 
question. It was one which was too outspoken for his 
taste — and he had no mind to be frank with me. 

" I am connected with the General," he said drily, 
" partly through business affairs, and partly through 
special circumstances. My principal has sent me merely 
to ask you to forego your intentions of last evening. 
What you contemplate is, I have no doubt, very clever; 
yet he has charged me to represent to you that you have 
not the slightest chance of succeeding in your end, since 
not only will the Baron refuse to receive you, but also 
he (the Baron) has at his disposal every possible means 
for obviating further unpleasantness from you. Surely 
you can see that yourself? What, then, would be the 
good of going on with it all? On the other hand, the 
General promises that at the first favourable opportunity 
he will receive you back into his household, and, in the 
meantime, will credit you with your salary — with ' vos 
appointements.' Surely that will suit you, will it not ? " 

Very quietly I replied that he (the Frenchman) was 
labouring under a delusion; that perhaps, after all, I 
should not be expelled from the Baron's presence, but, 
on the contrary, be listened to; finally, that I should 
be glad if Monsieur de Griers would confess that he was 
now visiting me merely in order to see how far I intended 
to go in the affair. 

" Good heavens! " cried de Griers. " Seeing that 
the General takes such an interest in the matter, is 
there anything very unnatural in his desiring also to 
know your plans? ' 

Again I began my explanations, but the Frenchman 
only fidgeted and rolled his head about as he listened 
with an expression of manifest and unconcealed irony 
on his face. In short, he adopted a supercilious atti- 
tude. For my own part, I endeavoured to pretend 
that I took the affair very seriously. I declared that, 



The Gambler 191 

since the Baron had gone and complained of me to the 
General, as though I were a mere servant of the General's, 
he had, in the first place, lost me my post, and, in the 
second place, treated me like a person to whom, as to 
one not qualified to answer for himself, it was not even 
worth while to speak. Naturally, I said, I felt insulted 
at this. Yet, comprehending, as I did, differences of 
years, of social status, and so forth (here I could scarcely 
help smiling), I was not anxious to bring about further 
scenes by going personally to demand or to request 
satisfaction of the Baron. All that I felt was that I 
had a right to go in person and beg the Baron's and 
the Baroness's pardon — the more so since, of late, I had 
been feeling unwell and unstrung, and had been in a 
fanciful condition. And so forth, and so forth. Yet 
(I continued) the Baron's offensive behaviour to me of 
yesterday (that is to say, the fact of his referring the 
matter to the General) as well as his insistence that the 
General should deprive me of my post, had placed me 
in such a position that I could not well express my 
regret to him (the Baron) and to his good lady, for the 
reason that in all probability both he and the Baroness, 
with the world at large, would imagine that I was doing 
so merely because I hoped, by my action, to recover 
my post. Hence I found myself forced to request the 
Baron to express to me his own regrets, as well as to 
express them in the most unqualified manner — to say, 
in fact, that he had never had any wish to insult me. 
After the Baron had done that, I should, for my part, 
at once feel free to express to him, whole-heartedly and 
without reserve, my own regrets. " In short," I de- 
clared in conclusion, ■' my one desire is that the Baron 
may make it possible for me to adopt the latter course." 

"Oh fie! What refinements and subtleties! " ex- 
claimed De Griers. " Besides, what have you to express 
regret for? Confess, Monsieur, Monsieur — pardon me, 
but I have forgotten your name — confess, I say, that 
all this is merely a plan to annoy the General ? Or perhaps 
you have some other and special end in view? Eh? " 

" In return you must pardon me, mon cher Marquis, 
and tell me what you have to do with it." 



192 The Gambler 



The General- 



" But what of the General? Last night he said that, 
for some reason or another, it behoved him to 'move 
with especial care at present ; ' wherefore he was feeling 
nervous. But I did not understand the reference." 

" Yes, there do exist special reasons for his doing so," 
assented De Griers in a conciliatory tone, yet with rising 
anger. " You are acquainted with Mile, de Cominges, 
are you not? " 

" Mile. Blanche, you mean? " 

" Yes, Mile. Blanche de Cominges. Doubtless you 
know also that the General is in love with this young 
lady, and may even be about to marry her before he 
leaves here? Imagine, therefore, what any scene or 
scandal would entail upon him! " 

" I cannot see that the marriage scheme need be 
affected by scenes or scandals." 

" Mais le Baron est si irascible — un caractere prussien, 
vous savez! Enfin il fera une querelle d'Allemand." 

" I do not care," I replied, " seeing that I no longer 
belong to his household " (of set purpose I was trying 
to talk as senselessly as possible). " But is it quite 
settled that Mile, is to marry the General? What are 
they waiting for? Why should they conceal such a 
matter — at all events from ourselves, the General's 
own party? " 

" I cannot tell you. The marriage is not yet a 
settled affair, for they are awaiting news from Russia. 
The General has business transactions to arrange." 

" Ah! Connected, doubtless, with madame his mother?" 

De Griers shot at me a glance of hatred. 

" To cut things short," he interrupted, " I have 
complete confidence in your native politeness, as well 
as in your tact and good sense. I feel sure that you will 
do what I suggest, even if it is only for the sake of this 
family which has received you as a kinsman into its 
bosom and has always loved and respected you." 

" Be so good as to observe," I remarked, " that the 
same family has just expelled me from its bosom. All 
that you are saying you are saying but for show; but 
when people have just said to you, ' Of course we do 



The Gambler 193 

not wish to turn you out, yet, for the sake of appear- 
ances, you must permit yourself to be turned out,' 
nothing can matter very much." 

' Very well, then," he said, in a sterner and more 
arrogant tone. " Seeing that my solicitations have 
had no effect upon you, it is my duty to mention that 
other measures will be taken. There exist here police, 
you must remember, and this very day they shall send 
you packing. Que diable! To think of a blanc bee like 
yourself challenging a person like the Baron to a duel! 
Do you suppose that you will be allowed to do such things ? 
Just try doing them, and see if any one will be afraid 
of you! The reason why I have asked you to desist is 
that I can see that your conduct is causing the General 
annoyance. Do you believe that the Baron could not 
tell his lacquey simply to put you out of doors? " 

" Nevertheless I should not go out of doors," I re- 
torted with absolute calm. " You are labouring under 
a delusion, Monsieur de Griers. The thing will be done 
in far better trim than you imagine. I was just about 
to start for Mr. Astley's, to ask him to be my inter- 
mediary — in other words, my second. He has a strong 
liking for me, and I do not think that he will refuse. 
He will go and see the Baron on my behalf, and the Baron 
will certainly not decline to receive him. Although I 
am only a tutor — a kind of subaltern, Mr. Astley is 
known to all men as the nephew of a real English lord, 
the Lord Piebroch, as well as a lord in his own right. 
Yes, you may be pretty sure that the Baron will be 
civil to Mr. Astley, and listen to him. Or, should he de- 
cline to do so, Mr. Astley will take the refusal as a per- 
sonal affront to himself (for you know how persistent 
the English are?) and thereupon introduce to the 
Baron a friend of his own (and he has many friends 
in a good position). That being so, picture to yourself 
the issue of the affair — an affair which will not quite 
end as you think it will." 

This caused the Frenchman to bethink him of playing 
the coward. " Really things may be as this fellow says," 
he evidently thought. " Really he might be able to 
engineer another scene." 



194 The Gambler 

" Once more I beg of you to let the matter drop," 
he continued in a tone that was now entirely concilia- 
tory. " One would think that it actually pleased you 
to have scenes! Indeed, it is a brawl rather than 
genuine satisfaction that you are seeking. I have said 
that the affair may prove to be diverting, and even 
clever, and that possibly you may attain something 
by it; yet none the less I tell you " (he said this only 
because he saw me rise and reach for my hat) " that I 
have come hither also to hand you these few words 
from a certain person. Read them, please, for I must 
take her back an answer." 

So saying, he took from his pocket a small, compact, 
wafer-sealed note, and handed it to me. In Polina's 
handwriting I read: 

" I hear that you are thinking of going on with this 
affair. You have lost your temper now, and are begin- 
ning to play the fool ! Certain circumstances, however, 
I may explain to you later. Pray cease from your folly, 
and put a check upon yourself. For folly it all is. I 
have need of you, and, moreover, you have promised to 
obey me. Remember the Schlangenberg. I ask you 
to be obedient. If necessary, I shall even bid you be 
obedient. — Your own Polina. 

" P.S. — If so be that you still bear a grudge against 
me for what happened last night, pray forgive me." 

Everything, to my eyes, seemed to change as I read 
these words. My lips grew pale, and I began to tremble. 
Meanwhile the cursed Frenchman was eyeing me dis- 
creetly and askance, as though he wished to avoid 
witnessing my confusion. It would have been better if 
he had laughed outright. 

" Very well," I said, " you can tell Mile, not to disturb 
herself. But," I added sharply, " I would also ask you 
why you have been so long in handing me this note? 
Instead of chattering about trifles, you ought to have 
delivered me the missive at once — if you have realty 
come commissioned as you say." 



The Gambler 



195 



" Well, pardon some natural haste on my part, for the 
situation is so strange. I wished first to gain some 
personal knowledge of your intentions; and, moreover, 
I did not know the contents of the note, and thought that 
it could be given you at any time." 

' I understand," I replied. " So you were ordered 
to hand me the note only in the last resort, and if you 
could not otherwise appease me? Is it not so? Speak 
out, Monsieur de Griers." 

' Perhaps," said he, assuming a look of great forbear- 
ance, but gazing at me in a meaning way. 

I reached for my hat; whereupon he nodded, and 
went out. Yet on his lips I fancied that I could see a 
mocking smile. How could it have been otherwise ? 

" You and I are to have a reckoning later, Master 
Frenchman," I muttered as I descended the stairs. 
" Yes, we will measure our strength together." Yet 
my thoughts were all in confusion, for again something 
seemed to have struck me dizzy. Presently the air 
revived me a little, and, a couple of minutes later, my 
brain had sufficiently cleared to enable two ideas in 
particular to stand out in it. Firstly, I asked myself, 
which of the absurd, boyish, and extravagant threats 
which I had uttered at random last night had made 
everybody so alarmed? Secondly, what was the influ- 
ence which this Frenchman appeared to exercise over 
Polina? He had but to give the word, and at once she 
did as he desired — at once she wrote me a note to beg 
of me to forbear ! Of course, the relations between the 
pair had, from the first, been a riddle to me — they had 
been so ever since I had first made their acquaintance, 
but of late I had remarked in her a strong aversion for — 
even a contempt for — him, while, for his part, he had 
scarcely even looked at her, but had behaved towards her 
always in the most churlish fashion. Yes, I had noted 
that. Also, Polina herself had mentioned to me her 
dislike for him, and delivered herself of some remarkable 
confessions on the subject. Hence he must have got 
her into his power somehow — somehow he must be 
holding her as in a vice. 



196 



The Gambler 



VIII 

All at once, on the Promenade, as it was called — that is 
to say, in the Chestnut Avenue — I came face to face with 
my Englishman. 

" I was just coming to see you," he said; " and you 
appear to be out on a similar errand. So you have 
parted with your employers? " 

" How do you know that? " I asked in astonishment. 
" Is every one aware of the fact? " 

" By no means. Not every one would consider such 
a fact to be of moment. Indeed, I have never heard any 
one speak of it." 

" Then how come you to know it? " 

" Because I have had occasion to do so. Whither are 
you bound? I like you, and was therefore coming to 
pay you a visit." 

"What a splendid fellow you are, Mr. Astley!' I 
cried, though still wondering how he had come by his 
knowledge. " And since I have not yet had my coffee, 
and you have, in all probability, scarcely tasted yours, 
let us adjourn to the Casino Cafe, where we can sit and 
smoke and have a talk." 

The cafe in question was only a hundred paces away ; 
so when coffee had been brought we seated ourselves, 
and I lit a cigarette. Astley was no smoker, but, taking 
a seat by my side, he prepared himself to listen. 

" I do not intend to go away," was my first remark. 
" I intend, on the contrary, to remain here." 

" That I never doubted," he answered good- 
humouredly. 

It is a curious fact that, on my way to see him, I had 
never even thought of telling him of my love for Polina. 
In fact, I had purposely meant to avoid any mention of 
the subject. Nor, during our stay in the place, had I 
ever made aught but the scantiest reference to it. You 
see, not only was Astley a man of great reserve, but also 
from the first I had perceived that Polina had made a 
great impression upon him, although he never spoke of 



The Gambler 197 

her. But now, strangely enough, he had no sooner seated 
himself and bent his steely gaze upon me, than, for 
some reason or another, I felt moved to tell him every- 
thing — to speak to him of my love in all its phases. For 
an hour and a half did I discourse on the subject, and 
found it a pleasure to do so, even though this was the 
first occasion on which I had referred to the matter. 
Indeed, when, at certain moments, I perceived that 
my more ardent passages confused him, I purposely 
increased my ardour of narration. Yet one thing I 
regret : and that is that I made references to the French- 
man which were a little over-personal. 

Mr. Astley sat without moving as he listened to me. 
Not a word nor a sound of any kind did he utter as 
he stared into my eyes. Suddenly, however, on my 
mentioning the Frenchman, he interrupted me, and 
inquired sternly whether I did right to speak of an 
extraneous matter (he had always been a strange man in 
his mode of propounding questions). 

" No, I fear not," I replied. 

" And concerning this Marquis and Mile. Polina you 
know nothing beyond surmise? " 

Again I was surprised that such a categorical question 
should come from such a reserved individual. 

" No, I know nothing for certain about them," was my 
reply. " No — nothing." 

" Then you have done very wrong to speak of them 
to me, or even to imagine things about them." 

" Quite so, quite so," I interrupted in some astonish- 
ment. " I admit that. Yet that is not the question." 
Whereupon I related to him in detail the incident of two 
days ago. I spoke of Polina's outburst, of my encounter 
with the Baron, of my dismissal, of the General's extra- 
ordinary pusillanimity, and of the call which De Griers 
had that morning paid me. In conclusion, I showed 
Astley the note which I had lately received. 

"What do you make of it?" I asked. "When I 
met you I was just coming to ask you your opinion. For 
myself, I could have killed this Frenchman, and am 
not sure that I shall not do so even yet." 

" I feel the same about it," said Mr. Astley. " As 



198 The Gambler 

for Mile. Polina — well, you yourself know that, if neces- 
sity drives, one enters into relation with people whom 
one simply detests. Even between this couple there 
may be something which, though unknown to you, 
depends upon extraneous circumstances. For my 
own part, I think that you may reassure yourself — or 
at all events partially. And as for Mile. Polina's pro- 
ceedings of two days ago, they were, of course, strange; 
not because she can have meant to get rid of you, or 
to earn for you a thrashing from the Baron's cudgel 
(which, for some curious reason, he did not use, although 
he had it ready in his hands), but because such proceed- 
ings on the part of such — well, of such a refined lady as 
Mile. Polina are, to say the least of it, unbecoming. 
But she cannot have guessed that you would carry out 
her absurd wish to the letter? " 

" Do you know what? " suddenly I cried as I fixed 
Mr. Astley with my gaze. " I believe that you have 
already heard the story from some one — very possibly 
from Mile. Polina herself? " 

In return he gave me an astonished stare. 

" Your eyes look very fiery," he said with a return of 
his former calm, " and in them I can read suspicion. 
Now, you have no right whatever to be suspicious. It 
is not a right which I can for a moment recognise, and I 
absolutely refuse to answer your questions." 

"Enough! You need say no more," I cried with 
a strange emotion at my heart, yet not altogether 
understanding what had aroused that emotion in 
my breast. Indeed, when, where, and how could 
Polina have chosen Astley to be one of her confi- 
dants? Of late I had come rather to overlook him in 
this connection, even though Polina had always been a 
riddle to me — so much so that now, when I had just 
permitted myself to tell my friend of my infatuation 
in all its aspects, I had found myself struck, during 
the very telling, with the fact that in my relations with 
her I could specify nothing that was explicit, nothing 
that was positive. On the contrary, my relations had 
been purely fantastic, strange, and unreal; they had 
been unlike anything else that I could think of. 



The Gambler 199 

' Very well, very well," I replied with a warmth equal 
to Astley's own. " Then I stand confounded, and have 
no further opinions to offer. But you are a good fellow, 
and I am glad to know what you think about it all, even 
though I do not need your advice." 

Then, after a pause, I resumed: 

" For instance, what reason should you assign for 
the General taking fright in this way? Why should 
my stupid clowning have led the world to elevate it into 
a serious incident ? Even De Griers has found it neces- 
sary to put in his oar (and he only interferes on the most 
important occasions), and to visit me, and to address to 
me the most earnest supplications. Yes, he, De Griers, 
has actually been playing the suppliant to me! And, 
mark you, although he came to me as early as nine 
o'clock, he had ready-prepared in his hand Mile. Polina's 
note. When, I would ask, was that note written? 
Mile. Polina must have been aroused from sleep for 
the express purpose of writing it. At all events the 
circumstance shows that she is an absolute slave to 
the Frenchman, since she actually begs my pardon in 
the note — actually begs my pardon! Yet what is her 
personal concern in the matter ? Why is she interested 
in it at all? Why, too, is the whole party so afraid of 
this precious Baron? And what sort of a business do 
you call it for the General to be going to marry Mile. 
Blanche de Cominges? He told me last night that, 
because of the circumstance, he must ' move with 
especial care at present.' What is your opinion of it 
all? Your look convinces me that you know more 
about it than I do." 

Mr. Astley smiled and nodded. 

" Yes, I think I do know more about it than you do," 
he assented. " The affair centres around this Mile. 
Blanche. Of that I feel certain." 

" And what of Mile. Blanche? " I cried impatiently 
(for in me there had dawned a sudden hope that this 
would enable me to discover something about Polina). 

" Well, my belief is that at the present moment Mile. 
Blanche has, in very truth, a special reason for wishing 
to avoid any trouble with the Baron and the Baroness. 



200 The Gambler 

It might lead not only to some unpleasantness, but even 
to a scandal." 

"Oh, oh!" 

" Also I may tell you tnat Mile. Blanche has been 
in Roulettenberg before, for she was staying here three 
seasons ago. I myself was in the place at the time, 
and in those days Mile. Blanche was not known as 
Mile, de Cominges, nor was her mother, the Widow de 
Cominges, even in existence. In any case no one ever 
mentioned the latter. De Griers, too, had not materialised, 
and I am convinced that not only do the parties stand 
in no relation to one another, but also they have not 
long enjoyed one another's acquaintance. Likewise the 
Marqitisate de Griers is of recent creation. Of that I 
have reason to be sure, owing to a certain circumstance. 
Even the name De Griers itself may be taken to be a 
new invention, seeing that I have a friend who once met 
the said ' Marquis ' under a different name altogether." 

" Yet he possesses a good circle of friends? " 

" Possibly. Mile. Blanche also may possess that. 
Yet it is not three years since she received from the 
local police, at the instance of the Baroness, an invita- 
tion to leave the town. And she left it." 

"But why?" 

" Well, I must tell you that she first appeared here 
in company with an Italian — a prince of some sort, 
a man who bore an historic name (Barberini or some- 
thing of the kind). The fellow was simply a mass of 
rings and diamonds — real diamonds, too — and the 
couple used to drive out in a marvellous carriage. At 
first Mile. Blanche played trente et quarante with fair 
success, but, later, her luck took a marked change for 
the worse. I distinctly remember that in a single even- 
ing she lost an enormous sum. But worse was to ensue, 
for one fine morning her prince disappeared — horses, 
carriage, and all. Also, the hotel bill which he left 
unpaid was enormous. Upon this Mile. Zelma (the 
name which she assumed after figuring as Madame 
Barberini) was in despair. She shrieked and howled all 
over the hotel, and even tore her clothes in her frenzy. 
In the hotel there was staying also a Polish count (you 



The Gambler 201 

must know that all travelling Poles are counts!), and 
the spectacle of Mile. Zelma tearing her clothes and, 
catlike, scratching her face with her beautiful, scented 
nails produced upon him a strong impression. So the 
pair had a talk together, and by luncheon time she was 
consoled. Indeed, that evening the couple entered the 
Casino arm in arm — Mile. Zelma laughing loudly, 
according to her custom, and showing even more 
expansiveness in her manners than she had before shown. 
For instance, she thrust her way into the file of women 
roulette-players in the exact fashion of those ladies 
who, to clear a space for themselves at the tables, push 
their fellow-players roughly aside. Doubtless you have 
noticed them? " 
" Yes, certainly." 

' Well, they are not worth noticing. To the annoy- 
ance of the decent public they are allowed to remain 
here — at all events such of them as daily change 4000 
franc notes at the tables (though, as soon as ever these 
women cease to do so, they receive an invitation to 
depart). However, Mile. Zelma continued to change 
notes of this kind, but her play grew more and more 
unsuccessful, despite the fact that such ladies' luck 
is frequently good, for they have a surprising amount 
of cash at their disposal. Suddenly the Count too 
disappeared, even as the Prince had done, and that 
same evening Mile. Zelma was forced to appear in the 
Casino alone. On this occasion no one offered her a 
greeting. Two days later she had come to the end of 
her resources; whereupon, after staking and losing 
her last louis d'or, she chanced to look around hei, 
and saw standing by her side the Baron Burmergelm, 
who had been eyeing her with fixed disapproval. To 
his distaste, however, Mile, paid no attention, but, 
turning to him with her well-known smile, requested 
him to stake, on her behalf, ten louis on the red. Later 
that evening a complaint from the Baroness led the 
authorities to request Mile, not to re-enter the Casino. 
If you feel in any way surprised that I should know 
these petty and unedifying details, the reason is that I 
had them from a relative of mine who, later that evening, 



202 The Gambler 

drove Mile. Zelma in his carriage from Roulettenberg 
to Spa. Now, mark you, Mile, wants to become Madame 
General, in order that, in future, she may be spared the 
receipt of such invitations from Casino authorities as 
she received three years ago. At present she is not 
playing; but that is only because, according to the 
signs, she is lending money to other players. Yes, that 
is a much more paying game. I even suspect that the 
unfortunate General is himself in her debt, as well as, 
perhaps, also De Griers. Or it may be that the latter 
has entered into a partnership with her. Consequently 
you yourself will see that, until the marriage shall 
have been consummated, Mile, would scarcely like to 
have the attention of the Baron and the Baroness drawn 
to herself. In short, to any one in her position, a 
scandal would be most detrimental. You form a member 
of the menage of these people; wherefore any act of 
yours might cause such a scandal — and the more so 
since daily she appears in public arm in arm with the 
General or with Mile. Polina. Now do you understand ? " 

" No, I do not! " I shouted as I banged my fist down 
upon the table — banged it with such violence that a 
frightened waiter came running towards us. " Tell me, 
Mr. Astley, why, if you knew this history all along, and, 
consequently, always knew who this Mile. Blanche is, 
you never warned either myself or the General, nor, 
most of all, Mile. Polina (who is accustomed to appear 
in the Casino — in public everywhere — with Mile. 
Blanche) ? How could you do it ? " 

" It would have done no good to warn you," he replied 
quietly, " for the reason that you could have effected 
nothing. Against what was I to warn you? As likely 
as not, the General knows more about Mile. Blanche 
even than I do ; yet the unhappy man still walks about 
with her and Mile. Polina. Only yesterday I saw this 
Frenchwoman riding, splendidly mounted, with De 
Griers, while the General was careering in their wake 
on a roan horse. He had said, that morning, that his 
legs were hurting him, yet his riding-seat was easy 
enough. As he passed I looked at him, and the thought 
occurred to me that he was a man lost for ever. 



The Gambler 203 

However, it is no affair of mine, for I have only recently 
had the happiness to make Mile. Polina's acquaintance. 
Also " — he added this as an afterthought — " I have 
already told you that I do not recognise your right to 
ask me certain questions, however sincere be my liking 
for you." 

" Enough," I said, rising. " To me it is as clear as 
day that Mile. Polina knows all about this Mile. Blanche, 
but cannot bring herself to part with her Frenchman; 
wherefore she consents also to be seen in public with Mile. 
Blanche. You may be sure that nothing else would ever 
have induced her either to walk about with this French- 
woman or to send me a note not to touch the Baron. 
Yes, it is there that the influence lies before which every- 
thing in the world must bow! Yet she herself it was 
who launched me at the Baron ! The devil take it, but 
I was left no choice in the matter." 

" You forget, in the first place, that this Mile, de 
Cominges is the General's inamorata, and, in the second 
place, that Mile. Polina, the General's step-daughter, 
has a younger brother and sister who, though they are 
the General's own children, are completely neglected 
by this madman, and robbed as well." 

" Yes, yes; that is so. For me to go and desert the 
children now would mean their total abandonment; 
whereas, if 1 remain, I should be able to defend their 
interests, and, perhaps, to save a moiety of their property. 
Yes, yes; that is quite true. And yet, and yet — Oh, 
I can well understand why they are all so interested in 
the General's mother! " 

" In whom? " asked Mr. Astley. 

" In the old woman of Moscow who declines to die, 
yet concerning whom they are for ever expecting tele- 
grams to notify the fact of her death." 

" Ah, then of course their interests centre around her. 
It is a question of succession. Let that but be settled, 
and the General will marry, Mile. Polina will be set 
free, and De Griers " 

"Yes, and De Griers? " 

" Will be repaid his money, which is what he is now 
waiting for." 



204 The Gambler 

" What? You think that he is waiting for that ? " 

" I know of nothing else," asserted Mr. Astley doggedly. 

" But, I do, I do! " I shouted in my fury. " He is 
waiting also for the old woman's will, for the reason 
that it awards Mile. Polina a dowry. As soon as ever 
the money is received, she will throw herself upon the 
Frenchman's neck. All women are like that. Even 
the proudest of them become abject slaves where 
marriage is concerned. What Polina is good for is to 
fall head over ears in love. That is my opinion. Look 
at her — especially when she is sitting alone, and plunged 
in thought. All this was pre-ordained and foretold, 
and is accursed. Polina could perpetrate any mad 
act. She — she — But who called me by name? " I 
broke off. " Who is shouting for me? I heard some 
one calling in Russian, ' Alexis Ivanovitch! ' It was a 
woman's voice. Listen! " 

At the moment we were approaching my hotel. We 
had left the cafe long ago, without even noticing that 
we had done so. 

" Yes, I did hear a woman's voice calling, but whose 
I do not know. The some one was calling you in 
Russian. Ah! Now I can see whence the cries come. 
They come from that lady there — the one who is sitting 
on the settee, the one who has just been escorted to the 
verandah by a crowd of lacqueys. Behind her see that 
pile of luggage! She must have arrived by train." 

" But why should she be calling me? Hear her calling 
again! See! She is beckoning to us! " 

" Yes, so she is," assented Mr. Astley. 

"Alexis Ivanovitch, Alexis Ivanovitch! Good 
heavens, what a stupid fellow! " came in a despairing 
wail from the verandah. 

We had almost reached the portico, and I was just 
setting foot upon the space before it, when my hands 
fell to my sides in limp astonishment, and my feet glued 
themselves to the pavement 1 



The Gambler 205 



IX 

For on the topmost tier of the hotel verandah, after 
being carried up the steps in an armchair amid a bevy 
of footmen, maid-servants, and other menials of the 
hotel, headed by the landlord (that functionary had 
actually run out to meet a visitor who arrived with so 
much stir and din, attended by her own retinue, and 
accompanied by so great a pile of trunks and port- 
manteaux) — on the topmost tier of the verandah, I 
say, there was sitting — the Grandmother ! Yes, it was 
she — rich, and imposing, and seventy-five years of age — 
Antonida Vassilievna Tarassevitcha, landowner and 
grande dame of Moscow — the " La Baboulenka " who 
had caused so many telegrams to be sent off and received 
— who had been dying, yet not dying — who had, 
in her own person, descended upon us even as snow 
might fall from the clouds! Though unable to walk, 
she had arrived borne aloft in an armchair (her mode of 
conveyance for the last five years), yet as brisk, aggres- 
sive, self-satisfied, bolt-upright, loudly imperious, and 
generally abusive as ever. In fact, she looked exactly 
as she had done on the only two occasions when I had 
seen her since my appointment to the General's house- 
hold. Naturally enough, I stood petrified with astonish- 
ment. She had sighted me a hundred paces off! Even 
while she was being carried along in her chair she had 
recognised me, and called me by name and surname 
(which, as usual, after hearing once, she had remembered 
ever afterwards). 

" And this is the woman whom they had thought to 
see in her grave after making her will! " I thought to 
myself. " Yet she will outlive us, and every one else 
in the hotel. Good Lord ! what is going to become of us 
now? What on earth is to happen to the General? 
She will turn the place upside down! " 

" My good sir," the old woman continued in a sten- 
torian voice, " what are you standing there for, with 
your eyes almost falling out of your head? Cannot 



2o6 The Gambler 

you come and say how-do-you-do ? Are you too proud 
to shake hands? Or do you not recognise me? Here, 
Potapitch! " she cried to an old servant who, dressed 
in a frock coat and white waistcoat, had a bald, red head 
(he was the chamberlain who always accompanied her 
on her journeys). " Just think! Alexis Ivanovitch 
does not recognise me ! They have buried me for good 
and all! Yes, and after sending hosts of telegrams to 
know if I were dead or not ! Yes, yes, I have heard the 
whole story. I am very much alive, though, as you 
may see." 

" Pardon me, Antonida Vassilievna," I replied good 
humouredly as I recovered my presence of mind. " / 
have no reason to wish you ill. I am merely rather 
astonished to see you. Why should I not be so, seeing 
how unexpected " 

" Why should you be astonished? I just got into 
my chair, and came. Things are quiet enough in the 
train, for there is no one there to chatter. Have you 
been out for a walk? " 

" Yes. I have just been to the Casino." 

" Oh? Well, it is quite nice here," she went on as 
she looked about her. " The place seems comfortable, 
and all the trees are out. I like it very well. Are your 
people at home ? Is the General, for instance, indoors ? " 

" Yes; and probably all of them." 

" Do they observe the convenances, and keep 
up appearances? Such things always give one tone. 
I have heard that they are keeping a carriage, even as 
Russian gentlefolks ought to do. When abroad, our 
Russian people always cut a dash. Is Prascovia here 
too? " 

" Yes. Polina Alexandrovna is here." 

"And the Frenchwoman? However, I will go and 
look for them myself. Tell me the nearest way to their 
rooms. Do you like being here? " 

" Yes, I thank you, Antonida Vassilievna." 

" And you, Potapitch, go you and tell that fool of a 
landlord to reserve me a suitable suite of rooms. They 
must be handsomely decorated, and not too high up. 
Have my luggage taken up to them. But what are you 



The Gambler 207 

tumbling over yourselves for ? Why are you all tearing 
about ? What scullions these fellows are ! — Who is that 
with you? " she added to myself. 

" A Mr. Astley," I replied. 

"And who is Mr. Astley? " 

" A fellow-traveller, and my very good friend, as well 
as an acquaintance of the General's." 

" Oh, an Englishman? Then that is why he stared 
at me without even opening his lips. However, I like 
Englishmen. Now, take me upstairs, direct to their 
rooms. Where are they lodging? " 

Madame was lifted up in her chair by the lacqueys, and 
I preceded her up the grand staircase. Our progress was 
exceedingly effective, for everyone whom we met stopped 
to stare at the cortege. It happened that the hotel had 
the reputation of being the best, the most expensive, and 
the most aristocratic in all the spa, and at every turn 
on the staircase or in the corridors we encountered fine 
ladies and important-looking Englishmen — more than 
one of whom hastened downstairs to inquire of the 
awestruck landlord who the newcomer was. To all such 
questions he returned the same answer — namely, that 
the old lady was an influential foreigner, a Russian, a 
Countess, and a grande dame, and that she had taken 
the suite which, during the previous week, had been 
tenanted by the Grande Duchesse de N. Meanwhile 
the cause of the sensation — the Grandmother — was 
being borne aloft in her armchair. Every person whom 
she met she scanned with an inquisitive eye, after first 
of all interrogating me about him or her at the top of her 
voice. She was stout of figure, and, though she could not 
leave her chair, one felt, the moment that one first looked 
at her, that she was also tall of stature. Yet her back 
was as straight as a board, and never did she lean back 
in her seat. Also, her large grey head, with its keen, 
rugged features, remained always erect as she glanced 
about her in an imperious, challenging sort of way, with 
looks and gestures that clearly were unstudied. Though 
she had reached her seventy-sixth year, her face was still 
fresh, and her teeth had not decayed. Lastly, she was 
dressed, in a black silk gown and white mobcap. 



2o8 The Gambler 

" She interests me tremendously," whispered ft 
Astley as, still smoking, he walked by my side. Mea 
while I was reflecting that probably the old lady knew 
about the telegrams, and even about De Griers, thou 
little or nothing about Mile. Blanche. I said as much 
Mr. Astley. 

But what a frail creature is man ! No sooner was r 
first surprise abated than I found myself rejoicing in t 
shock which we were about to administer to the Gener 
So much did the thought inspire me that I march 
ahead in the gayest of fashions. 

Our party was lodging on the third floor. Witho 
knocking at the door, or in any way announcing о 
presence, I threw open the portals, and the Grandmotr 
was borne through them in triumph. As though of j 
purpose, the whole party chanced at that moment 
be assembled in the General's study. The time w 
eleven o'clock, and it seemed that an outing of soi 
sort (at which a portion of the party were to drive 
carriages, and others to ride on horseback, accompani 
by one or two extraneous acquaintances) was bei 
planned. The General was present, and also Polir 
the children, the latter's nurses, De Griers, Mile. Blanc 
(attired in a riding-habit), her mother, the young Prim 
and a learned German whom I beheld for the first tin 
Into the midst of this assembly the lacqueys convey 
Madame in her chair, and set her down within thi 
paces of the General! Good heavens! Never shall 
forget the spectacle which ensued! Just before о 
entry the General had been holding forth to the coi 
pany, with De Griers in support of him. I may al 
mention that, for the last two or three days, Ml 
Blanche and De Griers had been making a great d( 
of the young Prince, under the very nose of the pc 
General. In short, the company, though decorous a; 
conventional, was in a gay, familiar mood. But 
sooner did the Grandmother appear than the Genei 
stopped dead in the middle of a word, and, with jc 
dropping, stared hard at the old lady — his eyes almc 
starting out of his head, and his expression as spellboui 
as though he had just seen a basilisk. In return t 



The Gambler 209 

Grandmother stared at him silently and without mov- 
ing — though with a look of mingled challenge, triumph, 
and ridicule in her eyes. For ten seconds did the pair 
remain thus eyeing one another, amid the profound 
silence of the company ; and even De Griers sat petrified 
— an extraordinary look of uneasiness dawning on his 
face. As for Mile. Blanche, she too stared wildly at 
the Grandmother, with eyebrows raised and her lips 
parted; while the Prince and the German savant 
contemplated the tableau in profound amazement. 
Only Polina looked anything but perplexed or sur- 
prised. Presently, however, she too turned as white as 
a sheet, and then reddened to her temples. Truly the 
Grandmother's arrival seemed to be a catastrophe for 
everybody! For my own part, I stood looking from 
the Grandmother to the company, and back again, 
while Mr. Astley, as usual, remained in the background, 
and gazed calmly and decorously at the scene. 

" Well, here I am — and instead of a telegram, too! " 
the Grandmother at last ejaculated, to dissipate the 
silence. " What? You were not expecting me? " 

" Antonida Vassilievna! О my dearest mother! 

But how on earth did you, did you ?" The mutter- 

ings of the unhappy General died away. 

I verily believe that if the Grandmother had held her 
tongue a few seconds longer she would have had a 
stroke. 

" How on earth did I what? " she exclaimed. " Why, 
I just got into the train and came here. What else is 
the railway meant for? But you thought that I had 
turned up my toes and left my property to the lot of 
you. Oh, I know all about the telegrams which you 
have been dispatching. They must have cost you a 
pretty sum, I should think, for telegrams are not sent 
from abroad for nothing. Well, I picked up my heels, 
and came here. Who is this Frenchman? Monsieur 
de Griers, I suppose? " 

" Oui, madame," assented De Griers. " Et, croyez, 
je suis si enchante! Votre sante — c'est un miracle de 
vous voir ici. Une surprise charmante! " 

"Just so. 'Charmante!' I happen to know you 



2 i о The Gambler 

as a mountebank, and therefore trust you no more than 
this." She indicated her little finger. " And who is 
that? " she went on, turning towards Mile. Blanche. 
Evidently the Frenchwoman looked so becoming in 
her riding-habit, with her whip in her hand, that she 
had made an impression upon the old lady. " Who 
is that woman there? " 

" Mile, de Cominges," I said. " And this is her 
mother, Madame de Cominges. They also are staying in 
the hotel. 

" Is the daughter married? " asked the old lady, 
without the least semblance of ceremony. 

" No," I replied as respectfully as possible, but under 
my breath. 

" Is she good company? " 

I failed to understand the question. 

" I mean, is she or is she not a bore? Can she speak 
Russian ? When this De Griers was in Moscow he soon 
learnt to make himself understood." 

I explained to the old lady that Mile. Blanche had 
never visited Russia. 

" Bonjour, then," said Madame, with sudden 
brusquerie. 

" Bonjour, madame," replied Mile. Blanche with an 
elegant, ceremonious bow as, under cover of an un- 
wonted modesty, she endeavoured to express, both in 
face and figure, her extreme surprise at such strange 
behaviour on the part of the Grandmother. 

" How the woman sticks out her eyes at me! How 
she mows and minces! " was the Grandmother's com- 
ment. Then she turned suddenly to the General, and 
continued: "I have taken up my abode here, so am 
going to be your next-door neighbour. Are you glad 
to hear that, or are you not? " 

" My dear mother, believe me when I say that I am 
sincerely delighted," returned the General, who had 
now, to a certain extent, recovered his senses; and 
inasmuch as, when occasion arose, he could speak with 
fluency, gravity, and a certain effect, he set himself to 
be expansive in his remarks, and went on: " We have 
been so dismayed and upset by the news of your indis- 



The Gambler 2 i I 

position! We had received such hopeless telegrams 
about you! Then suddenly " 

" Fibs, fibs! " interrupted the Grandmother. 

" How on earth, too, did you come to decide upon 
the journey? " continued the General, with raised voice 
as he hurried to overlook the old lady's last remark. 
" Surely, at your age, and in your present state of 
health, the thing is so unexpected that our surprise is at 
least intelligible. However, I am glad to see you (as 
indeed, are we all " — he said this with a dignified, yet 
conciliatory, smile), " and will use my best endeavours 
to render your stay here as pleasant as possible/' 

" Enough! All this is empty chatter. You are 
talking the usual nonsense. I shall know quite well 
how to spend my time. How did I come to undertake 
the journey, you ask? Well, is there anything so very 
surprising about it? It was done quite simply. What 
is every one going into ecstasies about? — How do 
you do, Prascovia? What are you doing here? " 

" And how are you, Grandmother? " replied Polina, 
a.s she approached the old lady. " Were you long on 
the journey? " 

" The most sensible question that I have yet been 
asked! Well, you shall hear for yourself how it all 
happened. I lay and lay, and was doctored and doc- 
tored ; until at last I drove the physicians from me, and 
called in an apothecary from Nicolai who had cured 
an old woman of a malady similar to my own — cured 
her merely with a little hayseed. Well, he did me a 
great deal of good, for on the third day I broke into a 
sweat, and was able to leave my bed. Then my Ger- 
man doctors held another consultation, put on their 
spectacles, and told me that if I would go abroad, and 
take a course of the waters, the indisposition would 
finally pass away. ' Why should it not ? ' I thought 
to myself. So I had things got ready, and on the 
following day — a Friday — set out for here. I occu- 
pied a special compartment in the train, and where- 
ever I had to change I found at the station bearers 
who were ready to carry me for a few coppers. You 
have nice quarters here," she went on as she glanced 



2 12 The Gambler 

around the room. " But where on earth did you 
get the money for them, my good sir? I thought 
that everything of yours had been mortgaged? This 
Frenchman alone must be your creditor for a good deal. 
Oh, I know all about it, all about it." 

" I — I am surprised at you, my dearest mother," said 
the General in some confusion. "I — I am greatly 
surprised. But I do not need any extraneous control 
of my finances. Moreover, my expenses do not exceed 
my income, and we " 

"They do not exceed it? Fie! Why, you are 
robbing your children of their last kopeck — you, their 
guardian! " 

" After this," said the General, completely taken 
aback, " — after what you have just said, I do not know 
whether " 

" You do not know what ? By heavens, are you never 
going to drop that roulette of yours ? Are you going to 
whistle all your property away? " 

This made such an impression upon the General that 
he almost choked with fury. 

" Roulette, indeed? / play roulette? Really, in 

view of my position Recollect what you are saying, 

my dearest mother. You must still be unwell." 

" Rubbish, rubbish! " she retorted. " The truth is 
that you cannot be got away from that roulette. You 
are simply telling lies. This very day I mean to go and 
see for myself what roulette is like. Prascovia, tell me 
what there is to be seen here ; and do you, Alexis Ivano- 
vitch, show me everything; and do you, Potapitch, 
make me a list of excursions. What is there to be seen ? " 
again she inquired of Polina. 

" There is a ruined castle, and the Schlangenberg." 

" The Schlangenberg? What is it? A forest? " 

" No, a mountain on the summit of which there is a 
place fenced off. From it you can get a most beautiful 
view." 

" Could a chair be carried up that mountain of 
yours?" 

" Doubtless we could find bearers for the purpose," 
I interposed. 



The Gambler 213 

At this moment Theodosia, the nursemaid, approached 
the old lady with the General's children. 

" No, I dorit want to see them," said the Grandmother. 
' I hate kissing children, for their noses are always wet. 
How are you getting on, Theodosia? " 

' I am very well, thank you, Madame," replied the 
nursemaid. "And how is your ladyship? We have 
been feeling so anxious about you! " 

" Yes, I know, you simple soul. — But who are those 
other guests? " the old lady continued, turning again to 
Polina. " For instance, who is that old rascal in the 
spectacles? " 

" Prince Nilski, Grandmamma," whispered Polina. 

" Oh, a Russian? Why, I had no idea that he could 
understand me! Surely he did not hear what I said? 
As for Mr. Astley, I have seen him already, and I see 
that he is here again. How do you do? " she added to 
the gentleman in question. 

Mr. Astley bowed in silence 

" Have you nothing to say to me? " the old lady went 
on. " Say something, for goodness' sake! Translate 
to him, Polina." 

Polina did so. 

" I have only to say," replied Mr. Astley gravely, but 
also with alacrity, " that I am indeed glad to see you in 
such good health." This was interpreted to the Grand- 
mother, and she seemed much gratified. 

" How well English people know how to answer one! " 
she remarked. ' That is why I like them so much better 
than French. Come here," she added to Mr. Astley. 
" I will try not to bore you too much. Polina, translate 
to him that I am staying in rooms on a lower floor. Yes, 
on a lower floor," she repeated to Astley, pointing down- 
wards with her finger. 

Astley looked pleased at receiving the invitation. 

Next the old lady scanned Polina from head to foot 
with minute attention. 

" I could almost have liked you, Prascovia," suddenly 
she remarked, " for you are a nice girl — the best of the 
lot. You have some character about you. I too have 
character. Turn round. Surely that is not false hair 
that you are wearing? " 

H 7U 



214 The Gambler 

" No, Grandmamma. It is my own." 

" Well, well. I do not like the stupid fashions of 
to-day. You are very good looking. I should have 
fallen in love with you if I had been a man. Why do 
you not get married? It is time now that I was going. 
I want to walk, yet I always have to ride. Are you still 
in a bad temper? " she added to the General. 

" No, indeed," rejoined the now mollified General. 
" I quite understand that at your time of life " 

" Cette vieille est tombee en enfance," De Griers 
whispered to me. 

" But I want to look round a little," the old lady added 
to the General. " Will you lend me Alexis Ivanovitch 
for the purpose? " 

" As much as you like. But I myself — yes, and Polina 
and Monsieur de Griers too — we all of us hope to have 
the pleasure of escorting you." 

" Mais, madame, cela sera un plaisir," De Griers 
commented with a bewitching smile. 

' Plaisir ' indeed ! Why, I look upon you as a 
perfect fool, monsieur." Then she remarked to the 
General: " I am not going to let you have any of my 
money. I must be off to my rooms now, to see what 
they are like. Afterwards we will look round a little. 
Lift me up." 

Again the Grandmother was borne aloft, and carried 
down the staircase amid a perfect bevy of followers — the 
General walking as though he had been hit over the head 
with a cudgel, and De Griers seeming to be plunged 
in thought. Endeavouring to be left behind, Mile. 
Blanche next thought better of it, and followed the rest, 
with, in her wake, the Prince. Only the German savant 
and Madame de Cominges did not leave the General's 
apartments. 

X 

At spas — and, probably, all over Europe — hotel land- 
lords and managers are guided in their allotment of 
rooms to visitors, not so much by the wishes and 
requirements of those visitors, as by their personal 



The Gambler 21 5 

estimate of the same. It may also be said that these 
landlords and managers seldom make a mistake. To the 
Grandmother, however, our landlord, for some reason 
or another, allotted such a sumptuous suite that he 
fairly overreached himself; for he assigned her a suite 
consisting of four magnificently appointed rooms, with 
bathroom, servants' quarters, a separate room for hei 
maid, and so on. In fact, during the previous week the 
suite had been occupied by no less a personage than a 
Grand Duchess : which circumstance was duly explained 
to the new occupant, as an excuse for raising the price ol 
these apartments. The Grandmother had herself carried 
— or, rather, wheeled — through each room in turn, in 
order that she might subject the whole to a close and 
attentive scrutiny, while the landlord — an elderly, bald- 
headed man — walked respectfully by her side. 

What every one took the Grandmother to be I do not 
know, but it appeared, at least, that she was accounted 
a person not only of great importance, but also, and still 
more, of great wealth ; and without delay they entered 
her in the hotel register as " Madame la generale, 
princesse de Tarassevitcheva," although she had never 
been a princess in her life. Her retinue, her reserved 
compartment in the train, her pile of unnecessary trunks, 
portmanteaux, and strong-boxes, all helped to increase 
her prestige; while her wheeled chair, her sharp tone 
and voice, her eccentric questions (put with an air of 
the most overbearing and unbridled imperiousness), 
her whole figure — upright, rugged, and commanding as 
it was — completed the general awe in which she was 
held. As she inspected her new abode she ordered her 
chair to be stopped at intervals in order that, with 
finger extended towards some article of furniture, she 
might ply the respectfully smiling, yet secretly appre- 
hensive, landlord with unexpected questions. She 
addressed them to him in French, although her pronun- 
ciation of the language was so bad that sometimes I had 
to translate them. For the most part, the landlord's 
answers were unsatisfactory, and failed to please her; 
nor were the questions themselves of a practical nature, 
but related, generally, to God knows what. 



21 6 The Gambler 

For instance, on one occasion she halted before a 
picture which, a poor copy of a well-known original, had 
a mythological subject. 

" Of whom is this a portrait ? " she inquired. 

The landlord explained that it was probably that of a 
countess. 

" But how know you that ? " the old lady retorted. 
" You live here, yet you cannot say for certain! And 
why is the picture there at all ? And why do its eyes look 
so crooked? " 

To all these questions the landlord could return no 
satisfactory reply, despite his floundering endeavours. 

"The blockhead!" exclaimed the Grandmother in 
Russian. 

Then she proceeded on her way — only to repeat the 
same story in front of a Saxon statuette which she had 
sighted from afar, and had commanded, for some reason 
or another, to be brought to her. Finally she inquired 
of the landlord what was the value of the carpet in her 
bedroom, as well as where the said carpet had been manu- 
factured; but the landlord could do no more than 
promise to make inquiries. 

"What donkeys these people are! " she commented. 
Next, she turned her attention to the bed. 

" What a huge counterpane ! " she exclaimed. " Turn 
it back, please." The lacqueys did so. 

" Further yet, further yet," the old lady cried. " Turn 
it right back. Also, take off those pillows and bolsters, 
and lift up the feather bed." 

The bed was opened for her inspection. 

" Mercifully it contains no bugs," she remarked. 
" Pull off the whole thing, and then put on my own 
pillows and sheets. The place is too luxurious for an 
old woman like myself. It is too large for any one 
person. Alexis Ivanovitch, come and see me whenever 
you are not teaching your pupils." 

" After to-morrow I shall no longer be in the General's 
service," I replied, " but merely living in the hotel on 
my own account." 

"Why so?" 

" Because, the other day, there arrived from Berlin 



The Gambler 217 

a German and his wife — persons of some importance; 
and it chanced that, when taking a walk, I spoke to 
them in German without having properly compassed 
the Berlin accent." 

"Indeed? " 

' Yes: and this action on my part the Baron held to 
be an insult, and complained about it to the General, 
who yesterday dismissed me from his employ." 

" But I suppose you must have threatened that 
precious Baron, or something of the kind? However, 
even if you did so, it was a matter of no moment." 

" No, I did not. The Baron was the aggressor by 
raising his stick at me." 

Upon that the Grandmother turned sharply to the 
General. 

' What ? You permitted yourself to treat your tutor 
thus, you nincompop, and to dismiss him from his post ? 
You are a blockhead — an utter blockhead! I can see 
that clearly." 

" Do not alarm yourself, my dear mother," the 
General replied with a lofty air — an air in which there 
was also a tinge of familiarity. " I am quite capable 
of managing my own affairs. Moreover, Alexis Ivano- 
vitch has not given you a true account of the matter." 

" What did you do next? " The old lady inquired 
of me. 

" I wanted to challenge the Baron to a duel," I 
replied as modestly as possible; " but the General pro- 
tested against my doing so." 

" And why did you so protest? " she inquired of the 
General. Then she turned to the landlord, and ques- 
tioned him as to whether he would not have fought a 
duel, if challenged. " For," she added, " I can see no 
difference between you and the Baron; nor can I bear 
that German visage of yours." Upon this the landlord 
bowed and departed, though he could not have under- 
stood the Grandmother's compliment. 

" Pardon me, Madame," the General continued with 
a sneer; " but are duels really feasible? " 

" Why not? All men are crowing cocks, and that 
is why they quarrel. You, though, I perceive, are a 



2 1 8 The Gambler 

blockhead — a man who does not even know how to 
carry his breeding. Lift me up. Potapitch, see to it 
that you always have two bearers ready. Go and 
arrange for their hire. But we shall not require more 
than two, for I shall need only to be carried upstairs. 
On the level or in the street I can be wheeled along. Go 
and tell them that, and pay them in advance, so that 
they may show me some respect. You too, Potapitch, 
are always to come with me, and vow, Alexis Ivanovitch, 
are to point out to me this Baron as we go along, in 
order that I may get a squint at the precious ' Von.' 
And where is that roulette played? " 

I explained to her that the game was carried on in the 
salons of the Casino; whereupon there ensued a string 
of questions as to whether there were many such salons, 
whether many people played in them, whether those 
people played a whole day at a time, and whether the 
game was managed according to fixed rules. At length 
I thought it best to say that the most advisable course 
would be for her to go and see it for herself, since a mere 
description of it would be a difficult matter. 

" Then take me straight there," she said; " and do 
you walk on in front of me, Alexis Ivanovitch." 

"What, mother? Before you have so much as 
rested from your journey? " the General inquired with 
some solicitude. Also, for some reason which I could 
not divine, he seemed to be growing nervous; and, 
indeed, the whole party was evincing signs of confusion, 
and exchanging glances with one another. Probably 
they were thinking that it would be a ticklish — even 
an embarrassing — business to accompany the Grand- 
mother to the Casino, where, very likely, she would 
perpetrate further eccentricities, and in public too! 
Yet on their own initiative they had offered to escort 
her! 

"Why should I rest?" she retorted. "I am not 
tired, for I have been sitting still these past five days. 
Let us see what your medicinal springs and waters are 
like, and where they are situated. What, too, about 
that, that — what did you call it, Prascovia? — oh, about 
that mountain top? " 



The Gambler 219 

" Yes, we are going to see it, Grandmamma." 

' Very well. Is there anything else for me to see 
here?" 

" Yes; quite a number of things," Polina forced 
herself to say. 

" Martha, you must come with me as well," went on 
the old lady to her maid. 

" No, no, mother! " ejaculated the General. " Really 
she cannot come. They would not admit even Pota- 
pitch to the Casino." 

" Rubbish! Because she is my servant, is that a 
reason for turning her out ? Why, she is only a human 
being like the rest of us ; and as she has been travelling 
for a week she might like to look about her. With 
whom else could she go out but myself? She would 
never dare to show her nose in the street alone." 

" But, mother " 

"Are you ashamed to be seen with me? Stop at 
home, then, and you will be asked no questions. A 
pretty General you are, to be sure! I am a general's 
widow myself. But, after all, why should I drag the 
whole party with me ? I will go and see the sights with 
only Alexis Ivanovitch as my escort." 

De Griers strongly insisted that every one ought to 
accompany her. Indeed, he launched out into a perfect 
shower of charming phrases concerning the pleasure of 
acting as her cicerone, and so forth. Every one was 
touched with his words. 

" Mais elle est tombee en enfance," he added aside 
to the General. " Seule, elle fera des betises." More 
than this I could not overhear, but he seemed to have 
got some plan in his mind, or even to be feeling a slight 
return of his hopes. 

The distance to the Casino was about half a verst, 
and our route led us through the Chestnut Avenue 
until we reached the square directly fronting the build- 
ing. The General, I could see, was a trifle reassured 
by the fact that, though our progress was distinctly 
eccentric in its nature, it was, at least, correct and 
orderly. As a matter of fact, the spectacle of a person 
who is unable to walk is not anything to excite surprise 



2 2c The Gambler 

at a spa. Yet it was clear that the General had a great 
fear of the Casino itself: for why should a person who 
had lost the use of her limbs — more especially an old 
woman — be going to rooms which were set apart only 
for roulette? On either side of the wheeled chair 
walked Polina and Mile. Blanche — the latter smiling, 
modestly jesting, and, in short, making herself so agree- 
able to the Grandmother that in the end the old lady 
relented towards her. On the other side of the chair 
Polina had to answer an endless flow of petty questions 
— such as " Who was it passed just now? " Who is 
that coming along? " " Is the town a large one? " 
" Are the public gardens extensive? " " What sort of 
trees are those? " " What is the name of those hills? " 
"Do I see eagles flying yonder?" "What is that 
absurd-looking building? " and so forth. Meanwhile 
Astley whispered to me, as he walked by my side, that 
he looked for much to happen that morning. Behind 
the old lady's chair marched Potapitch and Martha — 
Potapitch in his frockcoat and white waistcoat, with a 
cloak over all, and the forty-year-old and rosy, but 
slightly grey - headed, Martha in a mobcap, cotton 
dress, and squeaking shoes. Frequently the old lady 
would twist herself round to converse with these ser- 
vants. As for De Griers, he spoke as though he had 
made up his mind to do something (though it is also 
possible that he spoke in this manner merely in order to 
hearten the General, with whom he appeared to have 
held a conference). But, alas, the Grandmother had 
uttered the fatal words, " I am not going to give you 
any of my money; " and though De Griers might regard 
these words lightly, the General knew his mother better. 
Also, I noticed that De Griers and Mile. Blanche were 
still exchanging looks; while of the Prince and the 
German savant I lost sight at the end of the Avenue, 
where they had turned back and left us. 

Into the Casino we marched in triumph. At once, 
both in the person of the commissionaire and in the 
persons of the footmen, there sprang to life the same 
reverence as had arisen in the lacqueys of the hotel. 
Yet it was not without some curiosity that they eyed us. 



The Gambler 22 1 

Without loss of time the Grandmother gave orders that 
she should be wheeled through every room in the estab- 
lishment ; of which apartments she praised a few, while 
to others she remained indifferent. Concerning every- 
thing, however, she asked questions. Finally we 
reached the gaming-salons, where a lacquey who was 
acting as guard over the doors flung them open as 
though he were a man possessed. 

The Grandmother's entry into the roulette-salon 
produced a profound impression upon the public. 
Around the tables, and at the further end of the room, 
where the trente-et-quarante table was set out, there 
may have been gathered from 150 to 200 gamblers, 
ranged in several rows. Those who had succeeded in 
pushing their way to the tables were standing with their 
feet firmly planted, in order to avoid having to give up 
their places until they should have finished their game 
(since merely to stand looking on — thus occupying a 
gambler's place for nothing — was not permitted). True, 
chairs were provided around the tables, but few players 
made use of them — more especially if there was a large 
attendance of the general public ; since to stand allowed 
of a closer approach, and therefore of greater facilities 
for calculation and staking. Behind the foremost row 
were herded a second and a third row of people awaiting 
their turn; but sometimes their impatience led these 
people to stretch a hand through the first row, in order 
to deposit their stakes. Even third-row individuals 
would dart forward to stake; whence seldom did more 
than five or ten minutes pass without a scene over 
disputed money arising at one or another end of the 
table. On the other hand, the police of the Casino 
were an able body of men; and though to escape the 
crush was an impossibility, however much one might 
wish it, the eight croupiers apportioned to each table 
kept an eye upon the stakes, performed the necessary 
reckoning, and decided disputes as they arose. In the 
last resort they always called in the Casino police, and 
the disputes would immediately come to an end. Police- 
men were stationed about the Casino in ordinary cos- 
tume, and mingled with the spectators so as to make 

* H 711 



222 The Gambler 

it impossible to recognise them. In particular they 
kept a look-out for pickpockets and swindlers, who 
simply swarmed in the roulette salons, and reaped a 
rich harvest. Indeed, in every direction money was 
being filched from pockets or purses — though, of course, 
if the attempt miscarried, a great uproar ensued. One 
had only to approach a roulette table, and begin to play, 
and then openly grab some one else's winnings, for a 
din to be raised, and the thief to start vociferating 
that the stake was his ; and if the coup had been 
carried out with sufficient skill, and the witnesses 
wavered at all in their testimony, the thief would as 
likely as not succeed in getting away with the money, 
provided that the sum was not a large one — not 
large enough to have attracted the attention of 
the croupiers or some fellow-player. Moreover, if 
it were a stake of insignificant size, its true owner 
would sometimes decline to continue the dispute, rather 
than become involved in a scandal. Conversely, if the 
thief was detected he was ignominiously expelled the 
building. 

Upon all this the Grandmother gazed with open- 
eyed curiosity; and, on some thieves happening to be 
turned out of the place, she was delighted. Trente- 
et-quarante interested her but little; she preferred 
roulette, with its ever-revolving wheel. At length 
she expressed a wish to view the game closer; where- 
upon in some mysterious manner the lacqueys and 
other officious agents (especially one or two ruined 
Poles of the kind who keep offering their services to 
successful gamblers and foreigners in general) at once 
found and cleared a space for the old lady among the 
crush, at the very centre of one of the tables, and next 
to the chief croupier; after which they wheeled her 
chair thither. Upon this a number of visitors who 
were not playing, but only looking on (particularly some 
Englishmen with their families), pressed closer forward 
towards the table, in order to watch the old lady from 
among the ranks of the gamblers. Many a lorgnette I 
saw turned in her direction, and the croupiers' hopes rose 
high that such an eccentric player was about to provide 



The Gambler 223 

them with something out of the common. An old lady 
of seventy-five years who, though unable to walk, 
desired to play was not an everyday phenomenon. I 
too pressed forward towards the table, and ranged 
myself by the Grandmother's side; while Martha and 
Potapitch remained somewhere in the background 
among the crowd, and the General, Polina, and De 
Griers, with Mile. Blanche, also remained hidden among 
the spectators. 

At first the old lady did no more than watch the 
gamblers, and ply me, in a half-whisper, with sharp- 
spoken questions as to who was so-and-so. Especially 
did her favour light upon a very young man who was 
plunging heavily, and had won (so it was whispered) 
as much as 40,000 francs, which were lying before him 
on the table in a heap of gold and bank-notes. His 
eyes kept flashing, and his hands shaking; yet all the 
while he staked without any sort of calculation — just 
what came to his hand, as he kept winning and winning, 
and raking and raking in his gains. Around him 
lacqueys fussed — placing chairs just behind where he 
was standing, and clearing the spectators from his 
vicinity, so that he should have more room, and not be 
crowded — the whole done, of course, in expectation of 
a generous largesse. From time to time other gamblers 
would hand him part of their winnings — being glad to 
let him stake for them as much as his hand could grasp; 
while beside him stood a Pole in a state of violent, but re- 
spectful, agitation, who, also in expectation of a generous 
largesse, kept whispering to him at intervals (probably 
telling him what to stake, and advising and directing 
his play). Yet never once did the player throw him a 
glance as he staked and staked, and raked in his win- 
nings. Evidently the player in question was dead to 
all besides. 

For a few minutes the Grandmother watched him. 

" Go and tell him," suddenly she exclaimed with a 
nudge at my elbow, " — go and tell him to stop, and to 
take his money with him, and go home. Presently he 
will be losing — yes, losing everything that he has now 
won." She seemed almost breathless with excitement. 



224 The Gambler 

" Where is Potapitch? " she continued. " Send Pota- 
pitch to speak to him. No; you must tell him, you 
must tell him," — here she nudged me again — " for I 
have not the least notion where Potapitch is. Sortez, 
sortez," she shouted to the young man, until I leant over 
in her direction and whispered in her ear that no shout- 
ing was allowed, nor even loud speaking, since to do so 
disturbed the calculations of the players, and might 
lead to our being ejected. 

" How provoking! " she retorted. " Then the young 
man is done for! I suppose he wishes to be ruined. 
Yet I could not bear to see him have to return it all. 
What a fool the fellow is! " — and the old lady turned 
sharply away. 

On the left, among the players at the other half of 
the table, a young lady was playing, with, beside her, 
a dwarf. Who the dwarf may have been — whether a 
relative or a person whom she took with her to act as 
a foil — I do not know; but I had noticed her there on 
previous occasions, since, every day, she entered the 
Casino at one o'clock precisely, and departed at two — 
thus playing for exactly one hour. Being well-known 
to the attendants, she always had a seat provided for 
her; and, taking some gold and a few thousand-franc 
notes out of her pocket — would begin quietly, coldly, 
and after much calculation, to stake, and mark down 
the figures in pencil on a paper, as though striving to work 
out a system according to which, at given moments, the 
odds might group themselves. Always she staked large 
coins, and either lost or won one, two, or three thousand 
francs a day, but not more ; after which she would depart. 
The Grandmother took a long look at her. 

" That woman is not losing," she said. " To whom 
does she belong? Do you know her? Who is she? " 

" She is, I believe, a Frenchwoman," I replied. 

" Ah! A bird of passage, evidently. Besides, I can 
see that she has her shoes polished. Now, explain to 
me the meaning of each round in the game, and the 
way in which one ought to stake." 

Upon this I set myself to explain the meaning of all 
the combinations — of " rouge et noir," of " pair et 






The Gambler 225 

impair," of " manque et passe," with, lastly, the different 
values in the system of numbers. The Grandmother 
listened attentively, took notes, put questions in various 
forms, and laid the whole thing to heart. Indeed, since 
an example of each system of stakes kept constantly 
occurring, a great deal of information could be assimi- 
lated with ease and celerity. The Grandmother was 
vastly pleased. 

" But what is zero? " she inquired. " Just now I 
heard the flaxen-haired croupier call out ' zero ! ' And 
why does he keep raking in all the money that is on the 
table ? To think that he should grab the whole pile for 
himself! What does zero mean? " 

" Zero is what the bank takes for itself. If the 
wheel stops at that figure, everything lying on the table 
becomes the absolute property of the bank. Also, 
whenever the wheel has begun to turn, the bank ceases 
to pay out anything." 

' Then I should receive nothing if I were staking? " 

" No; unless by any chance you had purposely staked 
on zero; in which case you would receive thirty-five 
times the value of your stake." 

" Why thirty-five times, when zero so often turns up? 
And if so, why do not more of these fools stake upon 
it?" 

" Because the number of chances against its occur- 
rence is thirty-six." 

" Rubbish! Potapitch, Potapitch! Come here, and 
I will give you some money." The old lady took out 
of her pocket a tightly-clasped purse, and extracted 
from its depths a ten-gulden piece. "Go at once, and 
stake that upon zero." 

" But, Madame, zero has only this moment turned 
up," I remonstrated; " wherefore it may not do so 
again for ever so long. Wait a little, and you may then 
have a better chance." 

" Rubbish! Stake, please." 

" Pardon me, but zero might not turn up again until, 
say, to-night, even though you had staked thousands 
upon it. It often happens so." 

" Rubbish, rubbish! Who fears the wolf should 



226 The Gambler 

never enter the forest. What? We have lost? Then 
stake again." 

A second ten-gulden piece did we lose, and then I 
put down a third. The Grandmother could scarcely 
remain seated in her chair, so intent was she upon the 
little ball as it leapt through the notches of the ever- 
revolving wheel. However, the third ten-gulden piece 
followed the first two. Upon this the Grandmother 
went perfectly crazy. She could no longer sit still, and 
actually struck the table with her fist when the croupier 
cried out, " Trente-six," instead of the desiderated zero. 

" To listen to him! " fumed the old lady. " W'hen 
will that accursed zero ever turn up ? I cannot breathe 
until I see it. I believe that that infernal croupier is 
purposely keeping it from turning up. Alexis Ivano- 
vitch, stake two golden pieces this time. The moment 
we cease to stake, that cursed zero will come turning up, 
and we shall get nothing." 

" My good Madame " 

" Stake, stake! It is not your money." 

Accordingly I staked two ten-gulden pieces. The 
ball went hopping round the wheel until it began to 
settle through the notches. Meanwhile the Grand- 
mother sat as though petrified, with my hand convul- 
sively clutched in hers. 

" Zero! " called the croupier. 

" There! You see, you see! " cried the old lady, as 
she turned and faced me, wreathed in smiles. " I told 
you so! It was the Lord God himself who suggested 
to me to stake those two coins. Now, how much ought 
I to receive? Why do they not pay it out to me? 
Potapitch! Martha! Where are they? What has 
become of our party? Potapitch, Potapitch! ' 

" Presently, Madame," I whispered. " Potapitch 
is outside, and they would decline to admit him to these 
rooms. See ! You are being paid out your money. Pray 
take it." The croupiers were making up a heavy packet 
of coins, sealed in blue paper, and containing fifty ten- 
gulden pieces, together with an unsealed packet con- 
taining another twenty. I handed the whole to the old 
lady in a money-shovel. 



The Gambler 227 

" Faites le jeu, messieurs! Faites le jeu, messieurs! 
Rien ne va plus," proclaimed the croupier as once more 
he invited the company to stake, and prepared to turn 
the wheel. 

' We shall be too late ! He is going to spin again ! 
Stake, stake! " The Grandmother was in a perfect 
fever. " Do not hang back! Be quick! " She seemed 
almost beside herself, and nudged me as hard as she 
could. 

" Upon what shall I stake, Madame? " 

"Upon zero, upon zero! Again upon zero! Stake 
as much as ever you can. How much have we got? 
Seventy ten-gulden pieces? We shall not miss them, 
so stake twenty pieces at a time." 

' Think a moment, Madame. Sometimes zero does 
not turn up for two hundred rounds in succession. I 
assure you that you may lose all your capital." 

" You are wrong — utterly wrong. Stake, I tell you! 
What a chattering tongue you have! I know perfectly 
well what I am doing." The old lady was shaking with 
excitement. 

" But the rules do not allow of more than 120 gulden 
being staked upon zero at a time." 

"How 'do not allow'? Surely you are wrong? 

Monsieur, monsieur " here she nudged the croupier 

who was sitting on her left, and preparing to spin — 
" combien zero? Douze? Douze? " 

I hastened to translate. 

" Oui, Madame," was the croupier's polite reply. 
" No single stake must exceed four thousand florins. 
That is the regulation." 

" Then there is nothing else for it. We must risk 120 
gulden." 

" Le jeu est fait! " the croupier called. The wheel 
revolved, and stopped at thirty. We had lost ! 

" Again, again, again! Stake again! " shouted the old 
lady. Without attempting to oppose her further, but 
merely shrugging my shoulders, I placed twelve more 
ten-gulden pieces upon the table. The wheel whirled 
around and around, with the Grandmother simply 
quaking as she watched its revolutions. 



228 The Gambler 

" Does she again think that zero is going to be the 
winning coup? " thought I as I stared at her in astonish- 
ment. Yet an absolute assurance of winning was 
shining on her face; she looked perfectly convinced that 
zero was about to be called again. At length the ball 
dropped off into one of the notches. 

" Zero! " cried the croupier. 

" Ah! ! ! " screamed the old lady as she turned to me 
in a whirl of triumph. 

I myself was at heart a gambler. At that moment I 
became acutely conscious both of that fact and of the 
fact that my hands and knees were shaking, and that 
the blood was beating in my brain. Of course this was 
a rare occasion — an occasion on which zero had turned 
up no less than three times within a dozen rounds; yet 
in such an event there was nothing so very surprising, 
seeing that, only three days ago, I myself had been a 
witness to zero turning up three times in succession, so 
that one of the players who was recording the coups on 
paper was moved to remark that for several days past 
zero had never turned up at all ! 

With the Grandmother, as with any one who has won 
a very large sum, the management settled up with great 
attention and respect, since she was fortunate to have 
to receive no less than 4200 gulden. Of these gulden 
the odd 200 were paid her in gold, and the remainder in 
bank notes. 

This time the old lady did not call for Potapitch; for 
that she was too preoccupied. Though not outwardly 
shaken by the event (indeed, she seemed perfectly calm), 
she was trembling inwardly from head to foot. At 
length, completely absorbed in the game, she burst 
out: 

" Alexis Ivanovitch, did not the croupier just say that 
4000 florins were the most that could be staked at any 
one time ? Well, take these 4000, and stake them upon 
the red." 

To oppose her was useless. Once more the wheel 
revolved. 

" Rouge! " proclaimed the croupier. 

Again 4000 florins — in all 8000! 



The Gambler 229 

" Give me them," commanded the Grandmother, 
" and stake the other 4000 upon the red again." 

I did so. 

" Rouge! " proclaimed the croupier. 

" Twelve thousand! " cried the old lady. " Hand me 
the whole lot. Put the gold into this purse here, and count 
the bank notes. Enough! Let us go home. Wheel 
my chair away." 



XI 

The chair, with the old lady beaming in it, was wheeled 
away towards the doors at the further end of the salon, 
while our party hastened to crowd around her, and to 
offer her their congratulations. In fact, eccentric as 
was her conduct, it was also overshadowed by her 
triumph; with the result that the General no longer 
feared to be publicly compromised by being seen 
with such a strange woman, but, smiling in a con- 
descending, cheerfully familiar way, as though he were 
soothing a child, he offered his greetings to the old lady. 
At the same time, both he and the rest of the spectators 
were visibly impressed. Everywhere people kept point- 
ing to the Grandmother, and talking about her. Many 
people even walked beside her chair, in order to view her 
the better, while, at a little distance, Astley was carrying 
on a conversation on the subject with two English 
acquaintances of his. De Griers was simply overflowing 
with smiles and compliments, and a number of fine 
ladies were staring at the Grandmother as though she 
had been something curious. 

" Quelle victoire! " exclaimed De Griers. 

" Mais, Madame, c'etait du feu! " added Mile. Blanche 
with an elusive smile. 

" Yes, I have won twelve thousand florins," replied the 
old lady. " And then there is all this gold. With it the 
total ought to come to nearly thirteen thousand. How 
much is that in Russian money? Six thousand roubles, 
I think? " 

However, I calculated that the sum would exceed 



230 The Gambler 

seven thousand roubles — or, at the present rate of 
exchange, even eight thousand. 

"Eight thousand roubles! What a splendid thing! 
And to think of you simpletons sitting there and doing 
nothing ! Potapitch ! Martha ! See what I have won ! " 

" How did you do it, Madame? " Martha exclaimed 
ecstatically. " Eight thousand roubles! " 

" And I am going to give you fifty gulden apiece. 
There they are." 

Potapitch and Martha rushed towards her to kiss her 
hand. 

" And to each bearer also I will give a ten-gulden piece. 
Let them have it out of the gold, Alexis Ivanovitch. 
But why is this footman bowing to me, and that other 
man as well ? Are they congratulating me ? Well, let 
them have ten gulden apiece." 

" Madame la princesse — Un pauvre expatrie — Mal- 
heur continuel — Les princes russes sont si genereux!" 
said a man who for some time past had been hanging 
around the old lady's chair — a personage who, dressed 
in a shabby frockcoat and coloured waistcoat, kept 
taking off his cap, and smiling pathetically. 

" Give him ten gulden," said the Grandmother. " No, 
give him twenty. Now, enough of that, or I shall never 
get done with you all. Take a moment's rest, and then 
carry me away. Prascovia, I mean to buy a new dress 
for you to-morrow. Yes, and for you too, Mile. Blanche. 
Please translate, Prascovia." 

" Merci, Madame," replied Mile. Blanche gratefully 
as she twisted her face into the mocking smile which 
usually she kept only for the benefit of De Griers and 
the General. The latter looked confused, and seemed 
greatly relieved when we reached the Avenue. 

" How surprised Theodosia too will be! " went on 
the Grandmother (thinking of the General's nursemaid). 
" She, like yourselves, shall have the price of a new 
gown. Here, Alexis Ivanovitch! Give that beggar 
something" (a crooked - backed ragamuffin had ap- 
proached to stare at us). 

" But perhaps he is not a beggar — only a rascal," I 
replied. 



The Gambler 



231 



" Never mind, never mind. Give him a gulden." 

I approached the beggar in question, and handed him 
the coin. Looking at me in great astonishment, he 
silently accepted the gulden, while from his person there 
proceeded a strong smell of liquor. 

" Have you never tried your luck, Alexis Ivanovitch ? " 

" No, Madame." 

" Yet just now I could see that you were burning to 
do so? " 

" I do mean to try my luck presently." 

" Then stake everything upon zero. You have seen 
how it ought to be done? How much capital do you 
possess? " 

" Two hundred gulden, Madame." 

"Not very much. See here; I will lend you five 
hundred if you wish. Take this purse of mine." With 
that she added sharply to the General: " But you need 
not expect to receive any." 

This seemed to upset him, but he said nothing, and 
De Griers contented himself by scowling. 

" Que diable! " he whispered to the General. " C'est 
une terrible vieille." 

" Look ! Another beggar, another beggar ! " exclaimed 
the grandmother. " Alexis Ivanovitch, go and give 
him a gulden." 

As she spoke I saw approaching us a greyheaded old 
man with a wooden leg — a man who was dressed in a 
blue frockcoat and carrying a staff. He looked like 
an old soldier. As soon as I tendered him the coin he 
fell back a step or two, and eyed me threateningly. 

" Was ist der Teufel! " he cried, and appended thereto 
a round dozen of oaths. 

" The man is a perfect fool! " exclaimed the Grand- 
mother, waving her hand. " Move on now, for I am 
simply famished. W r hen we have lunched we will return 
to that place." 

" What? " cried I. " You are going to play again? " 
" What else do you suppose? " she retorted. " Are 
you going only to sit here, and grow sour, and let me 
look at you? " 

" Madame," said De Griers confidentially, " les 



232 The Gambler 

chances peuvent tourner. Une seule mauvaise chance, 
et vous perdrez tout — surtout avec votre jeu. C'etait 
terrible! " 

" Oui ; vous perdrez absolument," put in Mile. Blanche. 

" What has that got to do with you P " retorted the 
old lady. " It is not your money that I am going to 
lose; it is my own. And where is that Mr. Astley of 
yours ? " she added to myself. 

" He stayed behind in the Casino." 

" What a pity ! He is such a nice sort of man ! " 

Arriving home, and meeting the landlord on the stair- 
case, the Grandmother called him to her side, and boasted 
to him of her winnings — thereafter doing the same to 
Theodosia, and conferring upon her thirty gulden ; after 
which she bid her serve luncheon. The meal over, 
Theodosia and Martha broke into a joint flood of ecstasy. 

" I was watching you all the time, Madame," quavered 
Martha, " and I asked Potapitch what mistress was 
trying to do. And, my word! the heaps and heaps of 
money that were lying upon the table! Never in my 
life have I seen so much money. And there were gentle- 
folk around it, and other gentlefolk sitting down. So I 
asked Potapitch where all these gentry had come from; 
for, thought I, maybe the Holy Mother of God will help 
our mistress among them. Yes, I prayed for you, 
Madame, and my heart died within me, so that I kept 
trembling and trembling. The Lord be with her, I 
thought to myself; and in answer to my prayer He has 
now sent you what He has done ! Even yet I tremble — 
I tremble to think of it all." 

"Alexis I vanovitch," said the old lady, "after luncheon, 
— that is to say, about four o'clock — get ready to go 
out with me again. But in the meanwhile, good-bye. 
Do not forget to call a doctor, for I must take the waters. 
Now go and get rested a little." 

I left the Grandmother's presence in a state of be- 
wilderment. Vainly I endeavoured to imagine what 
would become of our party, or what turn the affair would 
next take. I could perceive that none of the party had 
yet recovered their presence of mind — least of all the 
General. The factor of the Grandmother's appearance 



The Gambler 233 

in place of the hourly expected telegram to announce her 
death (with, of course, resultant legacies) had so upset 
the whole scheme of intentions and projects that it was 
with a decided feeling of apprehension and growing 
paralysis that the conspirators viewed any future per- 
formances of the old lady at roulette. Yet this second 
factor was not quite so important as the first, since, 
though the Grandmother had twice declared that she 
did not intend to give the General any money, that 
declaration was not a complete ground for the abandon- 
ment of hope. Certainly De Griers, who, with the 
General, was up to the neck in the affair, had not wholly 
lost courage; and I felt sure that Mile. Blanche also — 
Mile. Blanche who was not only as deeply involved as 
the other two, but also expectant of becoming Madame 
General and an important legatee — would not lightly 
surrender the position, but would use her every resource 
of coquetry upon the old lady, in order to afford a con- 
trast to the impetuous Polina, who was difficult to under- 
stand, and lacked the art of pleasing. Yet now, when 
the Grandmother had just performed an astonishing feat 
at roulette; now, when the old lady's personality had 
been so clearly and typically revealed as that of a rugged, 
arrogant woman who was " tombee en enfance "; now, 
when everything appeared to be lost, — why, now the 
Grandmother was as merry as a child which plays with 
thistle-down. " Good Lord! " I thought with, may God 
forgive me, a most malicious smile, " every ten-gulden 
piece which the Grandmother staked must have raised 
a blister on the General's heart, and maddened De Griers, 
and driven Mile, de Cominges almost to frenzy with the 
sight of this spoon dangling before her lips." Another 
factor is the circumstance that even when, overjoyed at 
winning, the Grandmother was distributing alms right 
and left, and taking every one to be a beggar, she again 
snapped out to the General that he was not going to be 
allowed any of her money: which meant that the old 
lady had quite made up her mind on the point, and was 
sure of it. Yes, danger loomed ahead. 

All these thoughts passed through my mind during 
the few moments that, having left the old lady's rooms, 



234 The Gambler 

I was ascending to my own room on the top storey. 
What most struck me was the fact that, though I had 
divined the chief, the stoutest, threads which united the 
various actors in the drama, I had, until now, been 
ignorant of the methods and secrets of the game. For 
Polina had never been completely open with me. 
Although, on occasions, it had happened that involun- 
tarily, as it were, she had revealed to me something of 
her heart, I had noticed that in most cases — in fact, 
nearly always — she had either laughed away these 
revelations, or grown confused, or purposely imparted 
to them a false guise. Yes, she must have concealed a 
great deal from me. But I had a presentiment that now 
the end of this strained and mysterious situation was 
approaching. Another stroke, and all would be finished 
and exposed. Of my own fortunes, interested though 
I was in the affair, I took no account. I was in the 
strange position of possessing but two hundred gulden, 
of being at a loose end, of lacking both a post, the means 
of subsistence, a shred of hope, and any plans for the 
future, yet of caring nothing for these things. Had 
not my mind been so full of Polina, I should have given 
myself up to the comical piquancy of the impending 
denouement, and laughed my fill at it. But the thought 
of Polina was torture to me. That her fate was settled 
I already had an inkling; yet that was not the thought 
which was giving me so much uneasiness. What I 
really wished for was to penetrate her secrets. I 
wanted her to come to me and say, " I love you; " and 
if she would not so come, or if to hope that she would 
ever do so was an unthinkable absurdity — why, then 
there was nothing else for me to want. Even now I 
do not know what I am wanting. I feel like a man who 
has lost his way. I yearn but to be in her presence, and 
within the circle of her light and splendour — to be there 
now, and for ever, and for the whole of my life. More I 
do not know. How can I ever bring myself to leave her? 
On reaching the third storey of the hotel I experienced 
a shock. I was just passing the General's suite when 
something caused me to look round. Out of a door 
about twenty paces away there was coming Polina! 



The Gambler 235 

She hesitated for a moment on seeing me, and then 
beckoned me to her. 

" Polina Alexandrovna! " 

"Hush! Not so loud." 

' Something startled me just now," I whispered, 
" and I looked round, and saw you. Some electrical 
influence seems to emanate from your form." 

" Take this letter," she went on with a frown (prob- 
ably she had not even heard my words, she was so 
preoccupied), " and hand it personally to Mr. Astley. 
Go as quickly as ever you can, please. No answer will 

be required. He himself " She did not finish her 

sentence. 

" To Mr. Astley? " I asked, in some astonishment. 

But she had vanished again. 

Aha ! So the two were carrying on a correspondence ! 
However, I set off to search for Astley — first at his 
hotel, and then at the Casino, where I went the round 
of the salons in vain. At length, vexed, and almost in 
despair, I was on my way home when I ran across him 
among a troop of English ladies and gentlemen who 
had been out for a ride. Beckoning to him to stop, I 
handed him the letter. We had barely time even to 
look at one another, but I suspected that it was of set 
purpose that he restarted his horse so quickly. 

Was jealousy, then, gnawing at me? At all events, 
I felt exceedingly depressed, despite the fact that I had 
no desire to ascertain what the correspondence was 
about. To think that he should be her confidant! 
" My friend, mine own familiar friend! " passed through 
my mind. Yet was there any love in the matter ? "Of 
course not," reason whispered to me. But reason goes 
for little on such occasions. I felt that the matter must 
be cleared up, for it was becoming unpleasantly complex. 

I had scarcely set foot in the hotel when the commis- 
sionaire and the landlord (the latter issuing from his 
room for the purpose) alike informed me that I was 
being searched for high and low — that three separate 
messages to ascertain my whereabouts had come down 
from the General. When I entered his study I was 
feeling anything but kindly disposed. I found there 



236 The Gambler 

the General himself, De Griers, and Mile. Blanche, but 
not Mlle.'s mother, who was a person whom her reputed 
daughter used only for show purposes, since in all mat- 
ters of business the daughter fended for herself, and it 
is unlikely that the mother knew anything about them. 

Some very heated discussion was in progress, and 
meanwhile the door of the study was open — an unpre- 
cedented circumstance. As I approached the portals 
I could hear loud voices raised, for mingled with the 
pert, venomous accents of De Griers were Mile. Blanche's 
excited, impudently abusive tongue and the General's 
plaintive wail as, apparently, he sought to justify him- 
self in something. But on my appearance every one 
stopped speaking, and tried to put a better face upon 
matters. De Griers smoothed his hair, and twisted his 
angry face into a smile — into the mean, studiedly polite 
French smile which I so detested; while the downcast, 
perplexed General assumed an air of dignity — though 
only in a mechanical way. On the other hand, Mile. 
Blanche did not trouble to conceal the wrath that was 
sparkling in her countenance, but bent her gaze upon 
me with an air of impatient expectancy. I may remark 
that hitherto she had treated me with absolute super- 
ciliousness, and, so far from answering my salutations, 
had always ignored them. 

" Alexis Ivanovitch," began the General in a tone of 
affectionate upbraiding, " may I say to you that I find 

it strange, exceedingly strange, that In short, youi 

conduct towards myself and my family — ■ — In a word, 
your — er — extremely ' ' 

" Eh! Ce n'est pas 9a," interrupted De Griers in a 
tone of impatience and contempt (evidently he was the 
ruling spirit of the conclave). " Mon cher monsieur, 
notre general se trompe. What he means to say is that 
he warns you — he begs of you most earnestly — not to 
ruin him. I use the expression because " 

"Why? Why?" I interjected. 

" Because you have taken upon yourself to act as 
guide to this, to this — how shall I express it? — to this 
old lady, a cette pauvre terrible vieille. But she will 
only gamble away all that she has — gamble it away like 



The Gambler 



2 37 



thistledown. You yourself have seen her play. Once 
she has acquired the taste for gambling, she will never 
leave the roulette-table, but, of sheer perversity and 
temper, will stake her all, and lose it. In cases such as 
hers a gambler can never be torn away from the game ; 
and then — and then " 

" And then," asseverated the General, " you will have 
ruined my whole family. I and my family are her 
heirs, for she has no nearer relatives than ourselves. 
I tell you frankly that my affairs are in great — very 
great disorder; how much they are so you yourself 
are partially aware. If she should lose a large sum, 
or, may be, her whole fortune, what will become of us 
— of my children " (here the General exchanged a 
glance with De Griers) "or of me? " (here he looked 
at Mile. Blanche, who turned her head contemptuously 
away). " Alexis Ivanovitch, I beg of you to save us." 

" Tell me, General, how am I to do so ? On what 
footing do I stand here? " 

" Refuse to take her about. Simply leave her alone." 

" But she would soon find some one else to take my 
place?" 

" Ce n'est pas 9a, ce n'est pas 9a," again interrupted 
De Griers. " Que diable! Do not leave her alone 
so much as advise her, persuade her, draw her away. 
In any case do not let her gamble; find her some 
counter-attraction. ' ' 

"And how am I to do that? If only you would 
undertake the task, Monsieur de Griers! " I said 
this last as innocently as possible, but at once saw a 
rapid glance of excited interrogation pass from Mile. 
Blanche to De Griers, while in the face of the latter 
also there gleamed something which he could not repress. 

" Well, at the present moment she would refuse to 
accept my services," said he with a gesture. " But 
if, later " 

Here he gave Mile. Blanche another glance which 
was full of meaning; whereupon she advanced towards 
me with a bewitching smile, and seized and pressed 
my hands. Devil take it, but how that devilish visage 
of hers could change! At the present moment it was 



238 The Gambler 

a visage full of supplication, and as gentle in its expres- 
sion as that of a smiling, roguish infant. Stealthily 
she drew me apart from the rest, as though the more 
completely to separate me from them; and though no 
harm came of her doing so — for it was merely a stupid 
manoeuvre, and no more — I found the situation very 
unpleasant. 

The General hastened to lend her his support. 

" Alexis Ivanovitch," he began, " pray pardon me 
for having said what I did just now — for having said 
more than I meant to do. I beg and beseech you, I 
kiss the hem of your garment, as our Russian saying 
has it, for you, and only you, can save us. I and Mile. 
de Cominges, we all of us beg of you But you under- 
stand, do you not? Surely you understand? " and 
with his eyes he indicated Mile. Blanche. Truly he 
was cutting a pitiful figure! 

At this moment three low, respectful knocks sounded 
at the door; which, on being opened, revealed a chamber- 
maid, with Potapitch behind her — come from the Grand- 
mother to request that I should attend her in her 
rooms. " She is in a bad humour," added Potapitch. 

The time was half-past three. 

" My mistress was unable to sleep," explained Pota- 
pitch; " so, after tossing about for a while, she suddenly 
rose, called for her chair, and sent me to look for vou. 
She is now in the verandah." 

" Quelle megere! " exclaimed De Griers. 

True enough, I found Madame in the hotel verandah 
— much put about at my delay, for she had been unable 
to contain herself until four o'clock. 

" Lift me up," she cried to the bearers, and once 
more we set out for the roulette-salons. 

XII 

The Grandmother was in an impatient, irritable frame 
of mind. Without doubt the roulette had turned her 
head, for she appeared to be indifferent to everything 
else, and, in general, seemed much distraught. For in- 
stance, she asked me no questions about objects en route, 



The Gambler 239 

except that, when a sumptuous barouche passed us and 
raised a cloud of dust, she lifted her hand for a moment, 
and inquired, " What was that? " Yet even then she 
did not appear to hear my reply, although at times her 
abstraction was interrupted by sallies and fits of sharp, 
impatient fidgeting. Again, when I pointed out to 
her the Baron and Baroness Burmergelm walking to the 
Casino, she merely looked at them in an absent-minded 
sort of way, and said with complete indifference, " Ah! " 
Then, turning sharply to Potapitch and Martha, who 
were walking behind us, she rapped out : 

"Why have you attached yourselves to the party? 
We are not going to take you with us every time. Go 
home at once." Then, when the servants had pulled 
hasty bows and departed, she added to me: " You are 
all the escort I need." 

At the Casino the Grandmother seemed to be expected, 
for no time was lost in procuring her her former place 
beside the croupier. It is my opinion that though 
croupiers seem such ordinary, humdrum officials — 
men who care nothing whether the bank wins or loses — 
they are, in reality, anything but indifferent to the 
bank's losing, and are given instructions to attract 
players, and to keep a watch over the bank's interests; 
as also that for such services these officials are awarded 
prizes and premiums. At all events, the croupiers of 
Roulettenberg seemed to look upon the Grandmother 
as their lawful prey: whereafter there befell what 
our party had foretold. 

It happened thus. 

As soon as ever we arrived the Grandmother ordered 
me to stake twelve ten-gulden pieces in succession upon 
zero. Once, twice, and thrice I did so, yet zero never 
turned up. 

" Stake again," said the old lady with an impatient 
nudge of my elbow, and I obeyed. 

' How many times have we lost? " she inquired — - 
actually grinding her teeth in her excitement. 

" We have lost 144 ten-gulden pieces," I replied. 
" I tell you, Madame, that zero may not turn up until 
nightfall." 



240 The Gambler 

" Never mind," she interrupted. " Keep on staking 
upon zero, and also stake a thousand gulden upon rouge. 
Here is a bank-note with which to do so. 

The red turned up, but zero missed again, and we 
only got our thousand gulden back. 

" But you see, you see! " whispered the old lady. 
" We have now recovered almost all that we staked. 
Try zero again. Let us do so another ten times, and 
then leave off." 

By the fifth round, however, the Grandmother was 
weary of the scheme. 

"To the devil with that zero!" she exclaimed. 
" Stake four thousand gulden upon the red." 

" But, Madame, that will be so much to venture! ' 
I remonstrated. " Suppose the red should not turn up ?" 
The Grandmother almost struck me in her excitement. 
Her agitation was rapidly making her quarrelsome. 
Consequently, there was nothing for it but to 
stake the whole four thousand gulden as she had 
directed. 

The wheel revolved while the Grandmother sat as 
bolt upright, and with as proud and quiet a mien, as 
though she had not the least doubt of winning. 

" Zero! " cried the croupier. 

At first the old lady failed to understand the situation ; 
but as soon as she saw the croupier raking in her four 
thousand gulden, together with everything else that 
happened to be lying on the table, and recognised that 
the zero which had been so long turning up, and on 
which we had lost nearly two hundred ten-gulden pieces, 
had at length, as though of set purpose, made a sudden 
reappearance — why, the poor old lady fell to cursing it, 
and to throwing herself about, and wailing and gesticu- 
lating at the company at large. Indeed, some people in 
our vicinity actually burst out laughing. 

" To think that that accursed zero should have turned 
up now ! " she sobbed. " The accursed, accursed thing! 
And it is all your fault," she added, rounding upon me 
in a frenzy. " It was you who persuaded me to cease 
staking upon it." 

" But, Madame, I only explained the game to you. 



The Gambler 



241 



How am I to answer for every mischance which may 
occur in it? " 

' You and your mischances! " she whispered threaten- 
ingly. "Go! Away at once!" 

" Farewell, then, Madame." And I turned to depart. 

" No; stay," she put in hastily. " Where are you 
going to? Why should you leave me? You fool! 
No, no; stay here. It is / who was the fool. Tell me 
what I ought to do." 

" I cannot take it upon myself to advise you, for you 
will only blame me if I do so. Play at your own discretion. 
Say exactly what you wish staked, and I will stake it." 

" Very well. Stake another four thousand gulden 
upon the red. Take this banknote to do it with. I 
have still got twenty thousand roubles in actual cash." 

" But," I whispered, " such a quantity of money " 

" Never mind. I cannot rest until I have won back 
my losses. Stake! " 

I staked, and we lost. 

" Stake again, stake again — eight thousand at a 
stroke! " 

" I cannot, Madame. The largest stake allowed is 
four thousand gulden." 

" Well, then; stake four thousand." 

This time we won, and the Grandmother recovered 
herself a little. 

" You see, you see! " she exclaimed as she nudged 
me. " Stake another four thousand." 

I did so, and lost. Again, and yet again, we lost. 

" Madame, your twelve thousand gulden are now 
gone," at length I reported. 

" I see they are," she replied with, as it were, the calm- 
ness of despair. "I see they are," she muttered again 
as she gazed straight in front of her, like a person lost in 
thought. " Ah well, I do not mean to rest until I have 
staked another four thousand." 

" But you have no money with which to do it, Madame. 
In this satchel I can see only a few five per cent, bonds 
and some transfers — no actual cash." 

" And in the purse? " 

" A mere trifle." 



242 The Gambler 

" But there is a money-changer's office here, is there 
not? They told me I should be able to get any sort of 
paper security changed? " 

" Quite so; to any amount you please. But you will 
lose on the transaction what would frighten even a Jew." 

" Rubbish! I am determined to retrieve my losses. 
Take me away, and call those fools of bearers." 

I wheeled the chair out of the throng, and, the bearers 
making their appearance, we left the Casino. 

" Hurry, hurry! " commanded the Grandmother. 
" Show me the nearest way to the money-changer's. 
Is it far? " 

" A couple of steps, Madame." 

At the turning from the square into the Avenue we 
came face to face with the whole of our party — the 
General, De Griers, Mile. Blanche, and her mother. 
Only Polina and Mr. Astley were absent. 

"Well, well, well!' exclaimed the Grandmother. 
" But we have no time to stop. What do you want ? 
I can't talk to you here." 

I dropped behind a little, and immediately was pounced 
upon by De Griers. 

" She has lost this morning's winnings," I whispered, 
" and also twelve thousand gulden of her original money. 
At the present moment we are going to get some bonds 
changed." 

De Griers stamped his foot with vexation, and hastened 
to communicate the tidings to the General. Meanwhile 
we continued to wheel the old lady along. 

" Stop her, stop her," whispered the General in 
consternation. 

" You had better try and stop her yourself," I 
returned — also in a whisper. 

" My good mother," he said as he approached her, 
" — my good mother, pray let, let — "(his voice was begin- 
ning to tremble and sink) " — let us hire a carriage, and 
go for a drive. Near here there is an enchanting view 
to be obtained. We — we — we were just coming to 
invite you to go and see it." 

" Begone with you and your views! " said the Grand- 
mother angrily as she waved him away. 



The Gambler 



243 



" And there are trees there, and we could have tea 
under them," continued the General — now in utter 
despair. 

Nous boirons du lait, sur l'herbe fraiche," added De 
Griers with the snarl almost of a wild beast. 

" Du lait, de l'herbe fraiche " — the idyll, the ideal of 
the Parisian bourgeois — his whole outlook upon " la 
nature et la verite "! 

" Have done with you and your milk! " cried the old 
lady. " Go and stuff yourself as much as you like, but 
my stomach simply recoils from the idea. What are you 
stopping for? I have nothing to say to you." 

" Here we are, Madame," I announced. " Here is the 
money-changer's office." 

I entered to get the securities changed, while the 
Grandmother remained outside in the porch, and the rest 
waited at a little distance, in doubt as to their best 
course of action. At length the old lady turned such 
an angry stare upon them that they departed along the 
road towards the Casino. 

The process of changing involved complicated cal- 
culations which soon necessitated my return to the 
Grandmother for instructions. 

" The thieves! " she exclaimed as she clapped her 
hands together. " Never mind, though. Get the 
documents cashed. — No; send the banker out to me," 
she added as an afterthought. 

" Would one of the clerks do, Madame? " 

" Yes, one of the clerks. The thieves! " 

The clerk consented to come out when he perceived 
that he was being asked for by an old lady who was too 
infirm to walk; after which the Grandmother began to 
upbraid him at length, and with great vehemence, for 
his alleged usuriousness, and to bargain with him in a 
mixture of Russian, French, and German — I acting as 
interpreter. Meanwhile the grave-faced official eyed us 
both, and silently nodded his head. At the Grand- 
mother, in particular, he gazed with a curiosity which 
almost bordered upon rudeness. At length, too, he 
smiled. 

" Pray recollect yourself! " cried the old lady. " And 



244 The Gambler 

may my money choke you! Alexis Ivanovitch, tell 
him that we can easily repair to some one else." 

" The clerk says that others will give you even less 
than he." 

Of what the ultimate calculations consisted I do not 
exactly remember, but at all events they were alarming. 
Receiving twelve thousand florins in gold, I took also the 
statement of accounts, and carried it out to the Grand- 
mother. 

" Well, well," she said, " I am no accountant. Let us 
hurry away, hurry away." And she waved the paper 
aside. 

" Neither upon that accursed zero, however, nor upon 
that equally accursed red do I mean to stake a cent," 
I muttered to myself as I entered the Casino. 

This time I did all I could to persuade the old lady to 
stake as little as possible — saying that a turn would 
come in the chances when she would be at liberty to 
stake more. But she was so impatient that, though at 
first she agreed to do as I suggested, nothing could stop 
her when once she had begun. By way of prelude she won 
stakes of a hundred and two hundred gulden. 

" There you are! " she said as she nudged me. " See 
what we have won ! Surely it would be worth our while 
to stake four thousand instead of a hundred, for we 

might win another four thousand, and then ! Oh, it 

was your fault before — all your fault." 

I felt greatly put out as I watched her play, but I 
decided to hold my tongue, and to give her no more 
advice. 

Suddenly De Griers appeared on the scene. It 
seemed that all this while he and his companions had 
been standing beside us — though I noticed that Mile. 
Blanche had withdrawn a little from the rest, and was 
engaged in flirting with the Prince. Clearly the General 
was greatly put out at this. Indeed, he was in a perfect 
agony of vexation. But Mile, was careful never to look 
his way, though he did his best to attract her notice. 
Poor General ! By turns his face blanched and reddened, 
and he was trembling to such an extent that he could 
scarcely follow the old lady's play. At length Mile, and 



The Gambler 



245 



the Prince took their departure, and the General followed 
them. 

" Madame, Madame," sounded the honeyed accents 
of De Griers as he leant over to whisper in the Grand- 
mother's ear. " That stake will never win. No, no, 
it is impossible," he added in Russian with a writhe. 
"No, no!" 

"But why not? " asked the Grandmother, turning 
round. " Show me what I ought to do." 

Instantly De Griers burst into a babble of French as 
he advised, jumped about, declared that such and such 
chances ought to be waited for, and started to make 
calculations of figures. All this he addressed to me in 
my capacity as translator — tapping the table the while 
with his finger, and pointing hither and thither. At 
length he seized a pencil, and began to reckon sums on 
paper until he had exhausted the Grandmother's patience. 

"Away with you!" she interrupted. "You talk 
sheer nonsense, for, though you keep on saying ' Madame, 
Madame/ you haven't the least notion what ought to 
be done. Away with you, I say! " 

" Mais, Madame," cooed De Griers — and straightway 
started afresh with his fussy instructions. 

" Stake just once as he advises," the Grandmother 
said to me, " and then we shall see what we shall see. 
Of course, his stake might win." 

As a matter of fact, De Grier's one object was to dis- 
tract the old lady from staking large sums; wherefore 
he now suggested to her that she should stake upon 
certain numbers, singly and in groups. Consequently, 
in accordance with his instructions I staked a ten-gulden 
piece upon several odd numbers in the first twenty, and 
five ten-gulden pieces upon certain groups of numbers — 
groups of from twelve to eighteen, and from eighteen to 
twenty-four. The total staked amounted to 160 gulden. 

The wheel revolved. " Zero! " cried the croupier. 

We had lost it all! 

' The fool! " cried the old lady as she turned upon De 
Griers. " You infernal Frenchman, to think that you 
should advise ! Away with you ! Though you fuss and 
fuss, you don't even know what you're talking about." 

ITU 



246 The Gambler 

Deeply offended, De Griers shrugged his shoulders, 
favoured the Grandmother with a look of contempt, and 
departed. For some time past he had been feeling 
ashamed of being seen in such company, and this had 
proved the last straw. 

An hour later we had lost everything in hand. 

" Home! " cried the Grandmother. 

Not until we had turned into the Avenue did she utter 
a word ; but from that point onwards, until we arrived 
at the hotel, she kept venting exclamations of " What 
a fool I am ! What a silly old fool I am, to be sure ! " 

Arrived at the hotel, she called for tea, and then gave 
orders for her luggage to be packed. 

" We are off again," she announced. 

" But whither, Madame? " inquired Martha. 

" What business is that of yours ? Let the cricket 
stick to its hearth. 1 Potapitch, have everything 
packed, for we are returning to Moscow at once. I 
have fooled away fifteen thousand roubles." 

" Fifteen thousand roubles, good mistress? My 
God! " And Potapitch spat upon his hands — probably 
to show that he was ready to serve her in any way he 
could. 

" Now then, you fool! At once you begin with your 
weeping and wailing! Be quiet, and pack. Also, run 
downstairs, and get my hotel bill." 

" The next train leaves at 9.30, Madame," I inter- 
posed, with a view to checking her agitation. 

" And what is the time now? " 

" Half-past eight." 

" How vexing! But never mind. Alexis Ivano- 
vitch, I have not a kopeck left ; I have but these two bank 
notes. Please run to the office and get them changed. 
Otherwise I shall have nothing to travel with." 

Departing on her errand, I returned half an hour later 
to find the whole party gathered in her rooms. It 
appeared that the news of her impending departure for 
Moscow had thrown the conspirators into consternation 
even greater than her losses had done. For, said they, 
even if her departure should save her fortune, what will 

1 The Russian form of " Mind your own business." 



The Gambler 247 

become of the General later? And who is to repay De 
Griers? Clearly Mile. Blanche would never consent to 
wait until the Grandmother was dead, but would at 
once elope with the Prince or some one else. So they 
had all gathered together — endeavouring to calm and 
dissuade the Grandmother. Only Polina was absent. 
For her part the Grandmother had nothing for the party 
but abuse. 

"Away with you, you rascals! " she was shouting. 
"What have my affairs to do with you? Why, in 
particular, do you " — here she indicated De Griers — 
" come sneaking here with your goat's beard? And 
what do you " — here she turned to Mile. Blanche — 
" want of me? What are vow finicking for? " 

" Diantre! " muttered Mile, under her breath, but her 
eyes were flashing. Then all at once she burst into 
a laugh, and left the room — crying to the General as 
she did so: " Elle vivra cent ans! " 

" So you have been counting upon my death, have 
you? " fumed the old lady. " Away with you! Clear 
them out of the room, Alexis Ivanovitch. What 
business is it of theirs? It is not their money that I 
have been squandering, but my own." 

The General shrugged his shoulders, bowed, and with- 
drew, with De Griers behind him. 

" Call Prascovia," commanded the Grandmother, and 
in five minutes Martha reappeared with Polina, who had 
been sitting with the children in her own room (having 
purposely determined not to leave it that day). Her 
face looked grave and careworn. 

" Prascovia," began the Grandmother, " is what I 
have just heard through a side wind true — namely, that 
this fool of a stepfather of yours is going to marry that 
silly whirligig of a Frenchwoman — that actress, or 
something worse? Tell me, is it true? " 

" I do not know for certain, Grandmamma," replied 
Polina; " but from Mile. Blanche's account (for she 
does not appear to think it necessary to conceal anything) 
I conclude that " 

" You need not say any more," interrupted the Grand- 
mother energetically. " I understand the situation. I 



2 + 8 



The Gambler 



always thought we should get something like this from 
him, for I always looked upon him as a futile, frivolous 
fellow who gave himself unconscionable airs on 
the fact of his being a general (though he only became 
one because he retired as a colonel). Yes, I know all 
about the sending of the telegrams to inquire whether 
' the old woman is likely to turn up her toes soon.' Ah, 
they were looking for the legacies ! Without money that 
wretched woman (what is her name? — Oh, De Cominges) 
would never dream of accepting the General and his 
false teeth — no, not even for him to be her lacquey — 
since she herself, they say, possesses a pile of money, and 
lends it on interest, and makes a good thing out of it. 
However, it is not you, Prascovia, that I am blaming : 
it was not you who sent those telegrams. Nor, for 
that matter, do I wish to recall old scores. True, I 
know that you are a vixen by nature — that you are a 
wasp which will sting one if one touches it; yet my 
heart is sore for you, for I loved your mother, Katerina. 
Now, will you leave everything here, and come away 
with me ? Otherwise I do not know what is to become 
of you, and it is not right that you should continue 
living with these people. Nay," she interposed, the 
moment that Polina attempted to speak, " I have not 
yet finished. I ask of you nothing in return. My house 
in Moscow is, as you know, large enough for a palace, 
and you could occupy a whole floor of it if you liked, 
and keep away from me for weeks together. Will you 
come with me, or w T ill you not? " 

" First of all, let me ask of you," replied Polina, 
" whether you are intending to depart at once? " 

"What? You suppose me to be jesting? I have 
said that I am going, and I am going. To-day I have 
squandered fifteen thousand roubles at that accursed 
roulette of yours, and though, five years ago, I promised 
the people of a certain suburb of Moscow to build them a 
stone church in place of a wooden one, I have been 
fooling away my money here! However, I am going 
back now to build my church." 

11 But what about the waters, Grandmamma? Surely 
you came here to take the waters? " 



The Gambler 249 

" You and your waters ! Do not anger me, Prascovia. 
Surely you are trying to ? Say, then : will you, or will 
you not, come with me? " 

" Grandmamma," Polina replied with deep feeling, 
' I am very, very grateful to you for the shelter which 
you have so kindly offered me. Also, to a certain 
extent you have guessed my position aright, and I am 
beholden to you to such an extent that it may be that 
I will come and live with you, and that very soon; yet 
there are important reasons why — why I cannot make 
up my mind just yet. If you would let me have, say, 
a couple of weeks to decide in ? " 

" You mean that you are not coming? " 

" I mean only that I cannot come just yet. At all 
events, I could not well leave my little brother and 
sister here, since — since — if I were to leave them, they 
would be abandoned altogether. But if, Grandmamma, 
you would take the little ones and myself, then, of course, 
I could come with you, and would do all I could to serve 
you " (this she said with great earnestness). " Only, 
without the little ones I cannot come." 

" Do not make a fuss " (as a matter of fact, Polina 
never at any time either fussed or wept). " The Great 
Foster-Father * can find for all his chicks a place. You 
are not coming without the children? But see here, 
Prascovia. I wish you well, and nothing but well: 
yet I have divined the reason why you will not come. 
Yes, I know all, Prascovia. That Frenchman will never 
bring you good of any sort." 

Polina coloured hotly, and even I started. " For," 
thought I to myself, " every one seems to know about 
that affair. Or perhaps I am the only one who does 
not know about it? 

" Now, now! Do not frown," continued the Grand- 
mother. " But I do not intend to slur things over. 
You will take care that no harm befalls you, will you 
not? For you are a girl of sense, and I am sorry for 
you — I regard you in a different light to the rest of 
them. And now, please, leave me. Good-bye." 

1 Translated literally — The Great Poulterer. 



250 The Gambler 

" But let me stay with you a little longer," said 
Polina. 

" No," replied the other; " you need not. Do not 
bother me, for you and all of them have tired me out." 

Yet when Polina tried to kiss the Grandmother's 
hand, the old lady withdrew it, and herself kissed the 
girl on the cheek. As she passed me, Polina gave me 
a momentary glance, and then as swiftly averted her 
eyes. 

" And good-bye to you, also, Alexis Ivanovitch. The 
train starts in an hour's time, and I think that you must 
be weary of me. Take these five hundred gulden for 
yourself." 

" I thank you humbly, Madame, but I am ashamed 
to " 

"Come, come!" cried the Grandmother so energeti- 
cally, and with such an air of menace, that I did not dare 
refuse the money further. 

" If, when in Moscow, you have no place where you 
can lay your head," she added, " come and see me, and 
I will give you a recommendation. Now, Potapitch, 
get things ready." 

I ascended to my room, and lay down upon the bed. 
A whole hour I must have lain thus, with my head 
resting upon my hand. So the crisis had come! I 
needed time for its consideration. To-morrow I would 
have a talk with Polina. Ah! The Frenchman! So 
it was true? But how could it be so? Polina and De 
Griers ! What a combination ! 

No, it was too improbable. Suddenly I leapt up 
with the idea of seeking Astley and forcing him to speak. 
There could be no doubt that he knew more than 
I did. Astley? Well, he was another problem for me 
to solve. 

Suddenly there came a knock at the door, and I 
opened it to find Potapitch awaiting me. 

" Sir," he said, " my mistress is asking for you." 

" Indeed? But she is just departing, is she not? The 
train leaves in ten minutes' time." 

" She is uneasy, sir; she cannot rest. Come quickly, 
sir; do not delay." 



The Gambler 251 

I ran downstairs at once. The Grandmother was 
just being carried out of her rooms into the corridor. 
In her hands she held a roll of bank-notes. 

" Alexis Ivanovitch," she cried, " walk on ahead, and 
we will set out again." 

" But whither, Madame? " 

' I cannot rest until I have retrieved my losses. 
March on ahead, and ask me no questions. Play con- 
tinues until midnight, does it not? " 

For a moment I stood stupefied — stood deep in 
thought ; but it was not long before I had made up my 
mind. 

' With your leave, Madame," I said, " I will not go 
with you." 

"And why not? What do you mean? Is every 
one here a stupid-good-for-nothing? " 

" Pardon me, but I have nothing to reproach myself 
with. I merely will not go. I merely intend neither 
to witness nor to join in your play. I also beg to return 
you your five hundred gulden. Farewell." 

Laying the money upon a little table which the 
Grandmother's chair happened to be passing, I bowed 
and withdrew. 

" What folly! " the Grandmother shouted after me. 
" Very well, then. Do not come, and I will find my 
way alone. Potapitch, you must come with me. Lift 
up the chair, and carry me along." 

I failed to find Mr. Astley, and returned home. It 
was now growing late — it was past midnight, but I sub- 
sequently learnt from Potapitch how the Grandmother's 
day had ended. She had lost all the money which, 
earlier in the day, I had got for her paper securities — 
a sum amounting to about ten thousand roubles. This 
she did under the direction of the Pole whom, that 
afternoon, she had dowered with two ten-gulden pieces. 
But before his arrival on the scene she had commanded 
Potapitch to stake for her; until at length she had told 
him also to go about his business. Upon that the 
Pole had leapt into the breach. Not only did it happen 
that he knew the Russian language, but also he could 
speak a mixture of three different dialects, so that the 



252 The Gambler 

pair were able to understand one another. Yet the 
old lady never ceased to abuse him, despite his deferen- 
tial manner, and to compare him unfavourably with 
myself (so, at all events, Potapitch declared). " You," 
the old chamberlain said to me, " treated her as a gentle- 
man should, but he — he robbed her right and left, as I 
could see with my own eyes. Twice she caught him 
at it, and rated him soundly. On one occasion she 
even pulled his hair, so that the bystanders burst out 
laughing. Yet she lost everything, sir — that is to say, 
she lost all that you had changed for her. Then we 
brought her home, and, after asking for some water and 
saying her prayers, she went to bed. So worn out was 
she that she fell asleep at once. May God send her 
dreams of angels! And this is all that foreign travel 
has done for us! Oh, my own Moscow! For what 
have we not at home there, in Moscow? Such a garden 
and flowers as you could never see here, and fresh air 
and apple-trees coming into blossom, and a beautiful 
view to look upon. Ah, but what must she do but go 
travelling abroad? Alack, alack!" 



XIII 

Almost a month has passed since I last touched these 
notes — notes which I began under the influence of im- 
pressions at once poignant and disordered. The crisis 
which I then felt to be approaching has now arrived, 
but in a form a hundred times more extensive and 
unexpected than I had looked for. To me it all seems 
strange, uncouth, and tragic. Certain occurrences have 
befallen me which border upon the marvellous. At all 
events, that is how I view them. I view them so in one 
regard at least. I refer to the whirlpool of events in 
which, at the time, I was revolving. But the most 
curious feature of all is my relation to those events, for 
hitherto I had never clearly understood myself. Yet 
now the actual crisis has passed away like a dream. 
Even my passion for Polina is dead. Was it ever so 
strong and genuine as I thought? If so, what has 



The Gambler 253 

become of it now? At times I fancy that I must be 
mad; that somewhere I am sitting in a madhouse; 
that these events have merely seemed to happen; that 
still they merely seem to be happening. 

I have been arranging and re-perusing my notes 
(perhaps for the purpose of convincing myself that I am 
not in a madhouse). At present I am lonely and alone. 
Autumn is coming — already it is mellowing the leaves; 
and as I sit brooding in this melancholy little town (and 
how melancholy the little towns of Germany can be!), 
I find myself taking no thought for the future, but living 
under the influence of passing moods, and of my recol- 
lections of the tempest which recently drew me into its 
vortex, and then cast me out again. At times I seem 
.still to be caught within that vortex. At times the 
tempest seems once more to be gathering, and, as it 
passes overhead, to be wrapping me in its folds, until I 
have lost my sense of order and reality, and continue 
whirling and whirling and whirling around. 

Yet it may be that I shall be able to stop myself 
from revolving if once I can succeed in rendering myself 
an exact account of what has happened within the month 
just past. Somehow I feel drawn towards the pen; 
on many and many an evening I have had nothing else 
in the world to do. But, curiously enough, of late I 
have taken to amusing myself with the works of M. Paul 
de Kock, which I read in German translations obtained 
from a wretched local library. These works I cannot 
abide, yet I read them, and find myself marvelling that 
I should be doing so. Somehow I seem to be afraid of 
any serious book — afraid of permitting any serious pre- 
occupation to break the spell of the passing moment. 
So dear to me is the formless dream of which I have 
spoken, so dear to me are the impressions which it has 
left behind it, that I fear to touch the vision with any- 
thing new, lest it should dissolve in smoke. But is it 
so dear to me? Yes, it is dear to me, and will ever be 
fresh in my recollections — even forty years hence. . . . 

So let me write of it, but only partially, and in a 
more abridged form than my full impressions might 
warrant. 

*t '11 



254 The Gambler 

First of all, let me conclude the history of the Grand- 
mother. Next day she lost every gulden that she 
possessed. Things were bound to happen so, for persons 
of her type who have once entered upon that road 
descend it with ever-increasing rapidity, even as a sledge 
descends a toboggan-slide. All day until eight o'clock 
that evening did she play; and though I personally did 
not witness her exploits, I learnt of them later through 
report. 

All that day Potapitch remained in attendance upon 
her; but the Poles who directed her play she changed 
more than once. As a beginning she dismissed her Pole 
of the previous day — the Pole whose hair she had pulled 
— and took to herself another one ; but the latter proved 
worse even than the former, and incurred dismissal in 
favour of the first Pole, who, during the time of his 
unemployment, had nevertheless hovered around the 
Grandmother's chair, and from time to time obtruded 
his head over her shoulder. At length the old lady 
became desperate, for the second Pole, when dismissed, 
imitated his predecessor by declining to go away; with 
the result that one Pole remained standing on the right 
of the victim, and the other on her left; from which 
vantage points the pair quarrelled, abused each other 
concerning the stakes and rounds, and exchanged the 
epithet " laidak " * and other Polish terms of endear- 
ment. Finally they effected a mutual reconciliation, 
and, tossing the money about anyhow, played simply 
at random. Once more quarrelling, each of them staked 
money on his own side of the Grandmother's chair (for 
instance, the one Pole staked upon the red, and the other 
one upon the black), until they had so confused and 
browbeaten the old lady that, nearly weeping, she was 
forced to appeal to the head croupier for protection, and 
to have the two Poles expelled. No time was lost in 
this being done, despite the rascals' cries and protesta- 
tions that the old lady was in their debt, that she had 
cheated them, and that her general behaviour had been 
mean and dishonourable. The same evening the un- 
fortunate Potapitch related the story to me with tears — 

1 Rascal. 



The Gambler 255 

complaining that the two men had filled their pockets 
with money (he himself had seen them do it) which had 
been shamelessly pilfered from his mistress. For instance 
one Pole demanded of the Grandmother fifty gulden for 
his trouble, and then staked the money by the side of 
her stake. She happened to win; whereupon he cried 
out that the winning stake was his, and hers the 
loser. As soon as the two Poles had been expelled, 
Potapitch left the room, and reported to the authorities 
that the men's pockets were full of gold; and, on the 
Grandmother also requesting the head croupier to look 
into the affair, the police made their appearance, and, 
despite the protests of the Poles (who, indeed, had been 
caught redhanded), their pockets were turned inside out, 
and the contents handed over to the Grandmother. In 
fact, in view of the circumstance that she lost all day, 
the croupiers and other authorities of the Casino showed 
her every attention ; and on her fame spreading through 
the town, visitors of every nationality — even the most 
knowing of them, the most distinguished — crowded to 
get a glimpse of " la vieille comtesse russe, tombee en 
enfance," who had lost " so many millions." 

Yet with the money which the authorities restored to 
her from the pockets of the Poles the Grandmother 
effected very, very little, for there soon arrived to take 
his countrymen's place a third Pole — a man who could 
speak Russian fluently, was dressed like a gentleman 
(albeit in lacqueyish fashion), and sported a huge 
moustache. Though polite enough to the old lady, he 
took a high hand with the bystanders. In short, he 
offered himself less as a servant than as an entertainer. 
After each round he would turn to the old lady, and 
swear terrible oaths to the effect that he was a " Polish 
gentleman of honour " who would scorn to take a 
kopeck of her money; and though he repeated these 
oaths so often that at length she grew alarmed, he had 
her play in hand, and began to win on her behalf ; where- 
fore she felt that she could not well get rid of him. An 
hour later the two Poles who, earlier in the day, had 
been expelled from the Casino made a reappearance 
behind the old lady's chair, and renewed their offers of 



256 The Gambler 

service — even if it were only to be sent on messages; 
but from Potapitch I subsequently had it that between 
these rascals and the said " gentleman of honour " there 
passed a wink, as well as that the latter put something 
into their hands. Next, since the Grandmother had not 
yet lunched — she had scarcely for a moment left her 
chair — one of the two Poles ran to the restaurant of the 
Casino, and brought her thence a cup of soup, and after- 
wards some tea. In fact, both the Poles hastened to 
perform this office. Finally, towards the close of the 
day, when it was clear that the Grandmother was about 
to play her last bank-note, there could be seen standing 
behind her chair no fewer than six natives of Poland — 
persons who, as yet, had been neither audible nor visible ; 
and as soon as ever the old lady played the note in 
question, they took no further notice of her, but pushed 
their way past her chair to the table, seized the money, 
and staked it — shouting and disputing the while, and 
arguing with the " gentleman of honour " (who also had 
forgotten the Grandmother's existence), as though he 
were their equal. Even when the Grandmother had 
lost her all, and was returning (about eight o'clock) to 
the hotel, some three or four Poles could not bring them- 
selves to leave her, but w r ent on running beside her chair 
and volubly protesting that the Grandmother had 
cheated them, and that she ought to be made to sur- 
render what was not her own. Thus the party arrived 
at the hotel ; whence, presently, the gang of rascals was 
ejected neck and crop. 

According to Potapitch's calculations, the Grand- 
mother lost, that day, a total of ninety thousand roubles, 
in addition to the money which she had lost the day 
before. Every paper security which she had brought 
with her — five per cent, bonds, internal loan scrip, and 
what not — she had changed into cash. Also, I could not 
but marvel at the way in which, for seven or eight hours 
at a stretch, she sat in that chair of hers, almost never 
leaving the table. Again, Potapitch told me that there 
were three occasions on which she really began to win ; 
but that, led on by false hopes, she was unable to tear 
herself away at the right moment. Every gambler 



The Gambler 1$J 

knows how a person may sit a day and a night at cards 
without ever casting a glance to right or to left. 

Meanwhile, that day, some other very important 
events were passing in our hotel. As early as eleven 
o'clock — that is to say, before the Grandmother had 
quitted her rooms — the General and De Griers decided 
upon their last stroke. In other words, on learning that 
the old lady had changed her mind about departing, and 
was bent on setting out for the Casino again, the whole 
of our gang (Polina only excepted) proceeded en masse 
to her rooms, for the purpose of finally and frankly treat- 
ing with her. But the General, quaking and greatly 
apprehensive as to his possible future, overdid things. 
After half an hour's prayers and entreaties, coupled with 
a full confession of his debts, and even of his passion for 
Mile. Blanche (yes, he had quite lost his head), he 
suddenly adopted a tone of menace, and started to rage 
at the old lady — exclaiming that she was sullying the 
family honour, that she was making a public scandal of 
herself, and that she was smirching the fair name of 
Russia. The upshot was that the Grandmother turned 
him out of the room with her stick (it was a real stick, 
too !) . Later in the morning he held several consultations 
with De Griers — the question which occupied him being : 
Is it in any way possible to make use of the police — to 
tell them that " this respected, but unfortunate, old lady 
has gone out of her mind, and is squandering her last 
kopeck," or something of the kind? In short, is it in 
any way possible to engineer a species of supervision 
over, or of restraint upon, the old lady? De Griers, 
however, shrugged his shoulders at this, and laughed in 
the General's face, while the old warrior went on chatter- 
ing volubly, and running up and down his study. 
Finally De Griers waved his hand, and disappeared from 
view; and by evening it became known that he had left 
the hotel, after holding a very secret and important con- 
ference with Mile. Blanche. As for the latter, from 
early morning she had taken decisive measures, by com- 
pletely excluding the General from her presence, and 
bestowing upon him not a glance. Indeed, even when 
the General pursued her to the Casino, and met her 



258 The Gambler 

walking arm in arm with the Prince, he (the General) 
received from her and her mother not the slightest 
recognition. Nor did the Prince himself bow. The rest 
of the day Mile, spent in probing the Prince, and trying to 
make him declare himself ; but in this she made a woeful 
mistake. The little incident occurred in the evening. 
Suddenly Mile. Blanche realised that the Prince had not 
even a copper to his name, but, on the contrary, was 
minded to borrow of her money wherewith to play at 
roulette. In high displeasure she drove him from her 
presence, and shut herself up in her room. 

The same morning I went to see — or, rather, to look 
for — Mr. Astley, but was unsuccessful in my quest. 
Neither in his rooms nor in the Casino nor in the Park 
was he to be found; nor did he, that day, lunch at his 
hotel as usual. However, at about five o'clock I caught 
sight of him walking from the railway station to the 
Hotel d'Angleterre. He seemed to be in a great hurry 
and much preoccupied, though in his face I could 
discern no actual traces of worry or perturbation. He 
held out to me a friendly hand, with his usual ejacula- 
tion of " Ah! " but did not check his stride. I turned 
and walked beside him, but found, somehow, that his 
answers forbade any putting of definite questions. 
Moreover, I felt reluctant to speak to him of Polina; 
nor, for his part, did he ask me any questions concerning 
her, although, on my telling him of the Grandmother's 
exploits, he listened attentively and gravely, and then 
shrugged his shoulders. 

" She is gambling away everything that she has," I 
remarked. 

" Indeed? She arrived at the Casino even before I 
had taken my departure by train, so I knew she had 
been playing. If I should have time I will go to the 
Casino to-night, and take a look at her. The thing 
interests me." 

" Where have you been to-day? " I asked — surprised 
at myself for having, as yet, omitted to put to him 
that question. 

" To Frankfort." 

" On business? " 



The Gambler 259 

" On business." 

What more was there to be asked after that? I 
accompanied him until, as we drew level with the Hotel 
des Quatre Saisons, he suddenly nodded to me and dis- 
appeared. For myself, I returned home, and came to 
the conclusion that, even had I met him at two o'clock in 
the afternoon, I should have learnt no more from him 
than I had done at five o'clock, for the reason that I had 
no definite question to ask. It was bound to have been 
so. For me to formulate the query which I really wished 
to put was a simple impossibility. 

Polina spent the whole of that day either in walking 
about the park with the nurse and children or in sitting 
in her own room. For a long while past she had avoided 
the General and had scarcely had a word to say to him 
(scarcely a word, I mean, on any serious topic). Yes, 
that I had noticed. Still, even though I was aware of 
the position in which the General was placed, it had 
never occurred to me that he would have any reason to 
avoid her, or to trouble her with family explanations. 
Indeed, when I was returning to the hotel after my con- 
versation with Astley, and chanced to meet Polina and 
the children, I could see that her face was as calm as 
though the family disturbances had never touched her. 
To my salute she responded with a slight bow, and I 
retired to my room in a very bad humour. 

Of course, since the affair with the Burmergelms I had 
exchanged not a word with Polina, nor had with her any 
kind of intercourse. Yet I had been at my wits' end, for, 
as time went on, there was arising in me an ever-seething 
dissatisfaction. Even if she did not love me she ought 
not to have trampled upon my feelings, nor to have 
accepted my confessions with such contempt, seeing 
that she must have been aware that I loved her (of her 
own accord she had allowed me to tell her as much). 
Of course the situation between us had arisen in a curious 
manner. About two months ago I had noticed that she 
had a desire to make me her friend, her confidant — that 
she was making trial of me for the purpose ; but for some 
reason or another the desired result had never come 
about, and we had fallen into the present strange 



260 The Gambler 

relations, which had led me to address her as I had done. 
At the same time, if my love was distasteful to her, why 
had she not forbidden me to speak of it to her? 

But she had not so forbidden me. On the contrary, 
there had been occasions when she had even invited me 
to speak. Of course, this might have been done out of 
sheer wantonness, for I well knew — I had remarked it 
only too often! — that, after listening to what I had to 
say, and angering me almost beyond endurance, she 
loved suddenly to torture me with some fresh outburst 
of contempt and aloofness. Yet she must have known 
that I could not live without her. Three days had 
elapsed since the affair with the Baron, and I could bear 
the severance no longer. When, that afternoon, I met 
her near the Casino, my heart almost made me faint, 
it beat so violently. She too could not live without me, 
for had she not said that 'she had need of me? Or had 
that too been spoken in jest? 

That she had a secret of some kind there could be no 
doubt. What she had said to the Grandmother had 
stabbed me to the heart. On a thousand occasions I 
had challenged her to be open with me, nor could she 
have been ignorant that I was ready to give my very 
life for her. Yet always she had kept me at a distance 
with that contemptuous air of hers; or else she had 
demanded of me, in lieu of the life which I offered to 
lay at her feet, such escapades as I had perpetrated 
with the Baron. Ah, was it not torture to me, all this ? 
For could it be that her whole world was bound up with 
the Frenchman? What, too, about Mr. Astley? The 
affair was inexplicable throughout. My God, what 
distress it caused me! 

Arrived home, I, in a fit of frenzy, indited the 
following : 

" Polina Alexandra vna, I can see that there is ap- 
proaching us an exposure which will involve you too. 
For the last time I ask of you — have you, or have you 
not, any need of my life ? If you have, then make such 
dispositions as you wish, and I shall always be discover- 
able in my room if required. If you have need of my 
life, write or send for me." 



The Gambler 261 

I sealed the letter, and dispatched it by the hand 
of a corridor lacquey, with orders to hand it to the 
addressee in person. Though I expected no answer, 
scarcely three minutes had elapsed before the lacquey 
returned with " the compliments of a certain person." 

Next, about seven o'clock, I was sent for by the 
General. I found him in his study, apparently prepar- 
ing to go out again, for his hat and stick were lying on 
the sofa. When I entered he was standing in the middle 
of the room — his feet wide apart, and his head bent 
down. Also, he appeared to be talking to himself. 
But as soon as ever he saw me at the door he came 
towards me in such a curious manner that involuntarily 
I retreated a step, and was for leaving the room; 
whereupon he seized me by both hands, and, drawing 
me towards the sofa, and seating himself thereon, he 
forced me to sit down on a chair opposite him. Then, 
without letting go of my hands, he exclaimed with 
quivering lips and a sparkle of tears on his eyelashes: 

" Oh, Alexis Ivanovitch! Save me, save me! Have 
some mercy upon me! " 

For a long time I could not make out what he meant, 
although he kept talking and talking, and constantly 
repeating to himself, " Have mercy, mercy! " At 
length, however, I divined that he was expecting me 
to give him something in the nature of advice — or, 
rather, that, deserted by every one, and overwhelmed 
with grief and apprehension, he had bethought himself 
of my existence, and sent for me to relieve his feelings 
by talking and talking and talking. 

In fact, he was in such a confused and despondent 
state of mind that, clasping his hands together, he 
actually went down upon his knees and begged me to 
go to Mile. Blanche, and beseech and advise her to return 
to him, and to accept him in marriage." 

" But, General," I exclaimed, " possibly Mile. Blanche 
has scarcely even remarked my existence? What 
could / do with her? " 

It was in vain that I protested, for he could under- 
stand nothing that was said to him. Next he started 
talking about the Grandmother, but always in a dis- 



262 The Gambler 

connected sort of fashion — his one thought being to 
send for the police. 

" In Russia," said he, suddenly boiling over with 
indignation, " or in any well-ordered State where there 
exists a government, old women like my mother are 
placed under proper guardianship. Yes, my good sir," 
he went on, relapsing into a scolding tone as he leapt 
to his feet and started to pace the room, " do you not 
know this " (he seemed to be addressing some imaginary 
auditor in the corner) " — do you not know this, that 
in Russia old women like her are subjected to restraint, 
the devil take them? " Again he threw himself down 
upon the sofa. 

A minute later, though sobbing and almost breathless, 
he managed to gasp out that Mile. Blanche had refused 
to marry him, for the reason that the Grandmother 
had turned up in place of a telegram, and it was there- 
fore clear that he had no inheritance to look for. Evi- 
dently he supposed that I had hitherto been in entire 
ignorance of all this. Again, when I referred to De 
Griers, the General made a gesture of despair. " He 
has gone away," he said, ' and everything which I 
possess is mortgaged to him. I stand stripped to my 
skin. Even of the money which you brought me from 
Paris I know not if seven hundred francs be left. Of 
course that sum will do to go on with, but, as regards 
the future, I know nothing, I know nothing." 

" Then how will you pay your hotel bill? " I cried 
in consternation. " And what shall you do after- 
wards? " 

He looked at me vaguely, but it was clear that he had 
not understood — perhaps had not even heard — my 
questions. Then I tried to get him to speak of Polina 
and the children, but he only returned brief answers of 
" Yes, yes," and again started to maunder about the 
Prince, and the likelihood of the latter marrying Mile. 
Blanche. " What on earth am I to do? " he concluded. 
" What on earth am I to do? Is not this ingratitude? 
Is it not sheer ingratitude? " And he burst into tears. 

Nothing could be done with such a man. Yet to 
leave him alone was dangerous, for something might 



The Gambler 263 

happen to him. I withdrew from his rooms for a little 
while, but warned the nursemaid to keep an eye upon 
him, as well as exchanged a word with the corridor 
lacquey (a very talkative fellow), who likewise promised 
to remain on the look-out. 

Hardly had I left the General when Potapitch ap- 
proached me with a summons from the Grandmother. 
It was now eight o'clock, and she had returned from 
the Casino after finally losing all that she possessed. I 
found her sitting in her chair — much distressed and 
evidently fatigued. Presently Martha brought her up 
a cup of tea, and forced her to drink it ; yet even then 
I could detect in the old lady's tone and manner a 
great change. 

" Good evening, Alexis Ivanovitch," she said slowly, 
with her head drooping. " Pardon me for disturbing 
you again. Yes, you must pardon an old, old woman 
like myself, for I have left behind me all that I possess 
— nearly a hundred thousand roubles! You did quite 
right in declining to come with me this evening. Now 
I am without money — without a single groat. But 
I must not delay a moment; I must leave by the 
9.30 train. I have sent for that English friend of yours, 
and am going to beg of him three thousand francs for 
a week. Please try and persuade him to think nothing 
of it, nor yet to refuse me, for I am still a rich woman 
who possesses three villages and a couple of mansions. 
Yes, the money shall be found, for I have not yet 
squandered everything. I tell you this in order that he 

may have no doubts about Ah, but here he is! 

Clearly he is a good fellow." 

True enough, Astley had come hot-foot on receiving 
the Grandmother's appeal. Scarcely stopping even to 
reflect, and with scarcely a word, he counted out the 
three thousand francs under a note of hand which she 
duly signed. Then, his business done, he bowed, and 
lost no time in taking his departure. 

" You too leave me, Alexis Ivanovitch," said the 
Grandmother. " All my bones are aching, and I still 
have an hour in which to rest. Do not be hard upon 
me, old fool that I am. Never again shall I blame young 



264 The Gambler 

people for being frivolous. I should think it wrong 
even to blame that unhappy General of yours. Never- 
theless I do not mean to let him have any of my money 
(which is all that he desires), for the reason that I look 
upon him as a perfect blockhead, and consider myself, 
simpleton though I be, at least wiser than he is. How 
surely does God visit old age, and punish it for its 
presumption! Well, good-bye. Martha, come and lift 
me up." 

However, I had a mind to see the old lady off; and, 
moreover, I was in an expectant frame of mind — some- 
how I kept thinking that something was going to happen ; 
wherefore I could not rest quietly in my room, but 
stepped out into the corridor, and then into the Chestnut 
Avenue for a few minutes' stroll. My letter to Polina had 
been clear and firm, and the present crisis, I felt sure, 
would prove final. I had heard of De Griers' departure, 
and, however much Polina might reject me as a friend, she 
might not reject me altogether as a servant. She would 
need me to fetch and carry for her, and I was ready to 
do so. How could it have been otherwise? 

Towards the hour of the train's departure I hastened 
to the station, and put the Grandmother into her com- 
partment — she and her party occupying a reserved 
family saloon. 

" Thanks for your disinterested assistance," she said 
at parting. " Oh, and please remind Prascovia of what 
I said to her last night. I expect soon to see her." 

Then I returned home. As I was passing the door 
of the General's suite, I met the nursemaid, and in- 
quired after her master. " There is nothing new to 
report, sir," she replied quietly. Nevertheless I decided 
to enter, and was just doing so when I halted thunder- 
struck on the threshold. For before me I beheld the 
General and Mile. Blanche — laughing gaily at one 
another! while beside them, on the sofa, there was 
seated her mother. Clearly the General was almost 
out of his mind with joy, for he was talking all sorts of 
nonsense, and bubbling over with a long-drawn, nervous 
laugh — a laugh which twisted his face into innumerable 
wrinkles, and caused his eyes almost to disappear. 



The Gambler 265 

Afterwards I learnt from Mile. Blanche herself that, 
after dismissing the Prince and hearing of the General's 
tears, she bethought her of going to comfort the old man, 
and had just arrived for the purpose when I entered. 
Fortunately the poor General did not know that his 
fate had been decided — that Mile, had long ago packed 
her trunks in readiness for the first morning train to 
Paris ! 

Hesitating a moment on the threshold I changed 
my mind as to entering, and departed unnoticed. 
Ascending to my own room, and opening the door, I 
perceived in the semi-darkness a figure seated on a 
chair in the corner by the window. The figure did not 
rise when I entered, so I approached it swiftly, peered 
at it closely, and felt my heart almost stop beating. 
The figure was Polina! 



XIV 

The shock made me utter an exclamation. 

" What is the matter? What is the matter.'' " she 
asked in a strange voice. She was looking pale, and 
her eyes were dim. 

"What is the matter?" I re-echoed. "Why, the 
fact that you are here! " 

"HI am here, I have come with all that I have to 
bring," she said. " Such has always been my way, as 
you shall presently see. Please light a candle." 

I did so; whereupon she rose, approached the table, 
and laid upon it an open letter. 

" Read it," she added. 

' It is De Griers' handwriting! " I cried as I seized 
the document. My hands were so tremulous that the 
lines on the pages danced before my eyes. Although, 
at this distance of time, I have forgotten the exact 
phraseology of the missive, I append, if not the precise 
words, at all events the general sense. 

" Mademoiselle," the document ran, " certain un- 
toward circumstances compel me to depart in haste. 
Of course, you have of yourself remarked that hitherto 



266 The Gambler 

I have always refrained from having any final explana- 
tion with you, for the reason that I could not well state 
the whole circumstances ; and now to my difficulties the 
advent of the aged Grandmother, coupled with her 
subsequent proceedings, has put the final touch. Also, 
the involved state of my affairs forbids me to write 
with any finality concerning those hopes of ultimate 
bliss upon which, for a long while past, I have permitted 
myself to feed. I regret the past, but at the same time 
hope that in my conduct you have never been able to 
detect anything that was unworthy of a gentleman and 
a man of honour. Having lost, however, almost the 
whole of my money in debts incurred by your step- 
father, I find myself driven to the necessity of saving 
the remainder; wherefore I have instructed certain 
friends of mine in St. Petersburg to arrange for the sale 
of all the property which has been mortgaged to myself. 
At the same time, knowing that, in addition, your 
frivolous stepfather has squandered money which is 
exclusively yours, I have decided to absolve him from 
a certain moiety of the mortgages on his property, in 
order that you may be in a position to recover of him 
what you have lost, by suing him in legal fashion. I 
trust, therefore, that, as matters now stand, this action 
of mine may bring you some advantage. I trust also 
that this same action leaves me in the position of having 
fulfilled every obligation which is incumbent upon a 
man of honour and refinement. Rest assured that 
your memory will for ever remain graven in my heart." 

" All this is clear enough," I commented. " Surely 
you did not expect aught else from him? " Somehow 
I was feeling annoyed. 

" I expected nothing at all from him," she replied — 
quietly enough, to all outward seeming, yet with a note 
of irritation in her tone. " Long ago I made up my 
mind on the subject, for I could read his thoughts, and 
knew what he was thinking. He thought that possibly 
I should sue him — that one day I might become a 
nuisance." Here Polina halted for a moment, and 
stood biting her lips. "So of set purpose I redoubled 
my contemptuous treatment of him, and waited to see 



The Gambler 



267 



what he would do. If a telegram to say that we had 
become legatees had arrived from St. Petersburg, I 
should have flung at him a quittance for my foolish 
stepfather's debts, and then dismissed him. For a long 
time I have hated him. Even in earlier days he was 

not a man ; and now ! Oh, how gladly I could throw 

those fifty thousand roubles in his face, and spit in it, 
and then rub the spittle in! " 

" But the document returning the fifty-thousand- 
rouble mortgage — has the General got it ? If so, possess 
yourself of it, and send it to De Griers." 

" No, no; the General has not got it." 

"Just as I expected! Well, what is the General 
going to do? " Then an idea suddenly occurred to me. 
" What about the Grandmother? " I asked. 

Polina looked at me with impatience and bewilder* 
ment. 

' What makes you speak of her ? " was her irritable 
inquiry. " I cannot go and live with her. Nor," she 
added hotly, " will I go down upon my knees to any one." 

" Why should you? " I cried. " Yet to think that 
you should have loved De Griers! The villain, the 
villain! But I will kill him in a duel. Where is he 
now? " 

" In Frankfort, where he will be staying for the next 
three days." 

" Well, bid me do so, and I will go to him by the first 
train to-morrow," I exclaimed with enthusiasm. 

She smiled. 

" If you were to do that," she said, " he would merely 
tell you to be so good as first to return him the fifty 
thousand francs. What, then, would be the use of 
having a quarrel with him? You talk sheer nonsense." 

I ground my teeth. 

" The question," I went on, " is how to raise the 
fifty thousand francs. We cannot expect to find them 
lying about on the floor. Listen. What of Mr. Astley ?" 
Even as I spoke a new and strange idea formed itself in 
my brain. 

Her eyes flashed fire. 

" What ? You yourself wish me to leave you for him? " 



268 The Gambler 

she cried with a scornful look and a proud smile. Never 
before had she addressed me thus. 

Then her head must have turned dizzy with emotion, 
for suddenly she seated herself upon the sofa, as though 
she were powerless any longer to stand. 

A flash of lightning seemed to strike me as I stood 
there. I could scarcely believe my eyes or my ears. 
She did love me, then! It was to me, and not to Mr. 
Astley, that she had turned! Although she, an un- 
protected girl, had come to me in my room — in an hotel 
room — and had probably compromised herself thereby, 
I had not understood! 

Then a second mad idea flashed into my brain. 

" Polina," I said, " give me but an hour. Wait here 
just one hour until I return. Yes, you must do so. Do 
you not see what I mean ? Just stay here for that time." 

And I rushed from the room without so much as 
answering her look of inquiry. She called something 
after me, but I did not return. 

Sometimes it happens that the most insane thought, 
the most impossible conception, will become so fixed 
in one's head that at length one believes the thought or 
the conception to be reality. Moreover, if with the 
thought or the conception there is combined a strong, 
a passionate, desire, one will come to look upon the said 
thought or conception as something fated, inevitable, 
and foreordained — something bound to happen. Whether 
by this there is connoted something in the nature of a 
combination of presentiments, or a great effort of will, 
or a self-annulment of one's true expectations, and so 
on, I do not know; but at all events that night saw 
happen to me (a night which I shall never forget) some- 
thing in the nature of the miraculous. Although the 
occurrence can easily be explained by arithmetic, I still 
believe it to have been a miracle. Yet why did this 
conviction take such a hold upon me at the time, and 
remain with me ever since? Previously I had thought 
of the idea, not as an occurrence which was ever likely 
to come about, but as something which never could 
come about. 

The time was a quarter past eleven o'clock when I 



The Gambler 269 

entered the Casino in such a state of hope (though, at 
the same time, of agitation) as I had never before 
experienced. In the gaming-rooms there were still a 
large number of people, but not half as many as had 
been present in the morning. 

At eleven o'clock there usually remained behind only 
the real, the desperate gamblers — persons for whom, 
at spas, there existed nothing beyond roulette, and 
who went thither for that alone. These gamesters 
took little note of what was going on around them, and 
were interested in none of the appurtenances of the 
season, but played from morning till night, and would 
have been ready to play through the night until dawn 
had that been possible. As it was, they used to dis- 
perse unwillingly when, at midnight, roulette came to 
an end. Likewise, as soon as ever roulette was drawing 
to a close and the head croupier had called " Les trois 
derniers coups," most of them were ready to stake on 
the last three rounds all that they had in their pockets — 
and, for the most part, lost it. For my own part I 
proceeded towards the table at which the Grandmothei 
had lately sat; and since the crowd around it was not 
very large, I soon obtained standing room among the 
ring of gamblers, while directly in front of me, on the 
green cloth, I saw marked the word '■ Passe." 

" Passe " was a row of numbers from 19 to 36 inclu- 
sive; while a row of numbers from 1 to 18 inclusive was 
known as " Manque." But what had that to do with 
me ? I had not noticed — I had not so much as heard — 
the numbers upon which the previous coup had fallen, 
and so took no bearings when I began to play, as, in 
my place, any systematic gambler would have done. No, 
I merely extended my stock of twenty ten-gulden pieces, 
and threw them down upon the space " Passe " which 
happened to be confronting me. 

" Vingt-deux! " called the croupier. 

I had won ! I staked upon the same again — both my 
original stake and my winnings. 

" Trente-et-un ! " called the croupier. 

Again I had won, and was now in possession of eighty 
ten-gulden pieces. Next I moved the whole eighty on to 



270 The Gambler 

twelve middle numbers (a stake which, if successful, 
would bring me in a triple profit, but also involved a risk 
of two chances to one). The wheel revolved, and stopped 
at twenty-four. Upon this I was paid out notes and 
gold until I had by my side a total sum of two thousand 
gulden. 

It was as in a fever that I moved the pile, en bloc, on 
to the red. Then suddenly I came to myself (though 
that was the only time during the evening's play when 
fear cast its cold spell over me, and showed itself in a 
trembling of the hands and knees). For with horror I 
had realised that I must win, and that upon that stake 
there depended all my life. 

" Rouge! " called the croupier. I drew a long 
breath, and hot shivers went coursing over my body. 
I was paid out my winnings in bank-notes — amounting, 
of course, to a total of four thousand florins, eight 
hundred gulden (I could still calculate the amounts). 

After that, I remember, I again staked two thousand 
florins upon twelve middle numbers, and lost. Again I 
staked the whole of my gold, with eight hundred gulden 
in notes, and lost. Then madness seemed to come 
upon me, and seizing my last two thousand florins, I 
staked them upon twelve of the first numbers — wholly 
by chance, and at random, and without any sort of 
reckoning. Upon my doing so there followed a moment 
of suspense only comparable to that which Madame 
Blanchard must have experienced when, in Paris, she 
was descending earthwards from a balloon. 

" Quatre! " called the croupier. 

Once more, with the addition of my original stake 
I was in possession of six thousand florins ! Once more 
I looked around me like a conqueror — once more I 
feared nothing as I threw down four thousand of these 
florins upon the black. The croupiers glanced around 
them, and exchanged a few words; the bystanders 
murmured expectantly. 

The black turned up. After that I do not exactly 
remember either my calculations or the order of my 
stakings. I only remember that, as in a dream, I won 
in one round sixteen thousand florins ; that in the three 



The Gambler 271 

following rounds I lost twelve thousand; that I moved 
the remainder (four thousand) on to " Passe " (though 
quite unconscious of what I was doing — I was merely 
waiting, as it were, mechanically, and without reflection, 
for something), and won; and that, finally, four times 
in succession I lost. Yes, I can remember raking in 
money by thousands — but most frequently on the twelve 
middle numbers, to which I constantly adhered, and 
which kept appearing in a sort of regular order — first, 
three or four times running, and then, after an interval 
of a couple of rounds, in another break of three or four 
appearances. Sometimes, this astonishing regularity 
manifested itself in patches; a thing to upset all the 
calculations of note-taking gamblers who play with a 
pencil and a memorandum-book in their hands. Fortune 
perpetrates some terrible jests at roulette! 

Since my entry not more than half an hour could have 
elapsed. Suddenly a croupier informed me that I had 
won thirty thousand florins, as well as that, since the 
latter was the limit for which, at any one time, the bank 
could make itself responsible, roulette at that table must 
close for the night. Accordingly I caught up my pile of 
gold, stuffed it into my pocket, and, grasping my sheaf 
of bank-notes, moved to the table in an adjoining salon, 
where a second game of roulette was in progress. The 
crowd followed me in a body, and cleared a place for 
me at the table; after which I proceeded to stake as 
before — that is to say, at random and without calculat- 
ing. What saved me from ruin I do not know. 

Of course there were times when fragmentary reckon- 
ings did come flashing into my brain. For instance, 
there were times when I attached myself for a while to 
certain figures and coups — though always leaving them 
again before long, without knowing what I was doing. 
In fact, I cannot have been in possession of all my 
faculties, for I can remember the croupiers correcting 
my play more than once, owing to my having made 
mistakes of the gravest order. My brows were damp 
with sweat, and my hands were shaking. Also, Poles 
came around me to proffer their services, but I heeded 
none of them. Nor did my luck fail me now. Suddenly 



272 The Gambler 

there arose around me a loud din of talking and laughter. 
"Bravo, bravo!" was the general shout, and some 
people even clapped their hands. I had raked in thirty 
thousand florins, and again the bank had had to close 
for the night ! 

" Go away now, go away now," a voice whispered 
to me on my right. The person who had spoken to 
me was a certain Jew of Frankfurt — a man who had been 
standing beside me the whole while, and occasionally 
helping me in my play. 

" Yes, for God's sake go," whispered a second voice 
in my left ear. Glancing around, I perceived that the 
second voice had come from a modestly, plainly dressed 
lady of rather less than thirty — a woman whose face, 
though pale and sickly-looking, bore also very evident 
traces of former beauty. At the moment I was stuffing 
the crumpled bank-notes into my pockets, and collecting 
all the gold that was left on the table. Seizing up my 
last note for five hundred gulden, I contrived to insinu- 
ate it, unperceived, into the hand of the pale lady. An 
overpowering impulse had made me do so, and I remem- 
ber how her thin little fingers pressed mine in token of 
her lively gratitude. The whole affair was the work 
of a moment. 

Then, collecting my belongings, I crossed to where 
trente et quarante was being played — a game which 
could boast of a more aristocratic public, and was 
played with cards instead of with a wheel. At this 
diversion the bank made itself responsible for a hundred 
thousand thalers as the limit, but the highest stake 
allowable was, as in roulette, four thousand florins. 
Although I knew nothing of the game — although I 
scarcely knew the stakes, except those on black and 
red — I joined the ring of players, while the rest of the 
crowd massed itself around me. At this distance of 
time I cannot remember whether I ever gave a thought 
to Polina; I seemed only to be conscious of a vague 
pleasure in seizing and raking in the bank-notes which 
kept massing themselves in a pile before me. 

But, as ever, fortune seemed to be at my back. As 
though of set purpose, there came to my aid a circum- 



The Gambler 273 

stance which not infrequently repeats itself in gaming. 
The circumstance is that not infrequently luck attaches 
itself to, say, the red, and does not leave it for a space of, 
say, ten, or even fifteen, rounds in succession. Three 
days ago I had heard that, during the previous week, 
there had been a run of twenty-two coups on the red 
— an occurrence never before known at roulette, so 
that men spoke of it with astonishment. Naturally 
enough, many deserted the red after a dozen rounds, and 
practically no one could now be found to stake upon it. 
Yet upon the black also — the antithesis of the red — 
no experienced gambler would stake anything, for the 
reason that every practised player knows the meaning 
of " capricious fortune." That is to say, after the 
sixteenth (or so) success of the red, one would think that 
the seventeenth coup would inevitably fall upon the 
black; wherefore novices would be apt to back the 
latter in the seventeenth round, and even to double or 
treble their stakes upon it — only, in the end, to lose. 

Yet some whim or other led me, on remarking that 
the red had come up consecutively for seven times, to 
attach myself to that colour. Probably this was mostly 
due to self-conceit, for I wanted to astonish the by- 
standers with the riskiness of my play. Also, I remem- 
ber that — oh, strange sensation! — I suddenly, and 
without any challenge from my own presumption, 
became obsessed with a desire to take risks. If the 
spirit has passed through a great many sensations, 
possibly it can no longer be sated with them, but grows 
more excited, and demands more sensations, and stronger 
and stronger ones, until at length it falls exhausted. 
Certainly, if the rules of the game had permitted even 
of my staking fifty thousand florins at a time, I should 
have staked them. All of a sudden I heard exclama- 
tions arising that the whole thing was a marvel, since 
the red was turning up for the fourteenth time! 

" Monsieur a gagne cent mille florins," a voice ex- 
claimed beside me. 

I aw r oke to my senses. What ? I had won a hundred 
thousand florins ? If so, what more did I need to win ? 
I grasped the bank-notes, stuffed them into my pockets. 



274 The Gambler 

raked in the gold without counting it, and started to 
leave the Casino. As I passed through the salons people 
smiled to see my bulging pockets and unsteady gait, 
for the weight which I was carrying must have amounted 
to half a pood! Several hands I saw stretched out in 
my direction, and as I passed I filled them with all the 
money that I could grasp in my own. At length two 
Jews stopped me near the exit. 

" You are a bold young fellow," one said; '■' but 
mind you depart early to-morrow — as early as you can, 
for if you do not you will lose everything that you have 
won." 

But I did not heed them. The Avenue was so dark 
that it was barely possible to distinguish one's hand 
before one's face, while the distance to the hotel was 
half a verst or so; but I feared neither pickpockets 
nor highwaymen. Indeed, never since my boyhood 
have I done that. Also, I cannot remember what I 
thought about on the way. I only felt a sort of fearful 
pleasure — the pleasure of success, of conquest, of power 
(how can I best express it?). Likewise, before me there 
flitted the image of Polina; and I kept remembering, 
and reminding myself, that it was to her I was going, 
that it was in her presence I should soon be standing, 
that it was she to whom I should soon be able to relate 
and show everything. Scarcely once did I recall what 
she had lately said to me, or the reason why I had left 
her, or all those varied sensations which I had been 
experiencing a bare hour and a half ago. No, those 
sensations seemed to be things of the past, to be things 
which had righted themselves and grown old, to be 
things concerning which we needed to trouble ourselves no 
longer, since, for us, life was about to begin anew. Yet 
I had just reached the end of the Avenue when there 
did come upon me a fear of being robbed or murdered. 
With each step the fear increased until, in my terror, 
I almost started to run. Suddenly, as I issued from 
the Avenue, there burst upon me the lights of the hotel, 
sparkling with a myriad lamps! Yes, thanks be to 
God, I had reached home! 

Running up to my room, I flung open the door of it. 



The Gambler 275 

Polina was still on the sofa, with a lighted candle in front 
of her, and her hands clasped. As I entered she stared 
at me in astonishment (for, at the moment, I must have 
presented a strange spectacle). All I did, however, was 
to halt before her, and fling upon the table my burden 
of wealth. 



XV 

I remember, too, how, without moving from her place, 
or changing her attitude, she gazed into my face. 

" I have won two hundred thousand francs! " cried 
I as I pulled out my last sheaf of bank-notes. The pile 
of paper currency occupied the whole table. I could 
not withdraw my eyes from it. Consequently, for a 
moment or two Polina escaped my mind. Then I set 
myself to arrange the pile in order, and to sort the notes, 
and to mass the gold in a separate heap. That done, I 
left everything where it lay, and proceeded to pace the 
room with rapid strides as I lost myself in thought. 
Then I darted to the table once more, and began to re- 
count the money; until all of a sudden, as though I had 
remembered something, I rushed to the door, and closed 
and double-locked it. Finally I came to a meditative 
halt before my little trunk. 

" Shall I put the money there until to-morrow? " I 
asked, turning sharply round to Polina as the recollection 
of her returned to me. 

She was still in her old place — still making not a 
sound. Yet her eyes had followed every one of my 
movements. Somehow in her face there was a strange 
expression — an expression which I did not like. I think 
that I shall not be wrong if I say that it indicated sheer 
hatred. 

Impulsively I approached her. 

" Polina," I said, " here are twenty-five thousand 
florins — fifty thousand francs, or more. Take them, 
and to-morrow throw them in De Griers' face." 

She returned no answer. 

" Or, if you should prefer," I continued, " let me take 



276 The Gambler 

them to him myself to-morrow — yes, early to-morrow 
morning. Shall I? " 

Then all at once she burst out laughing, and laughed 
for a long while. With astonishment and a feeling of 
offence I gazed at her. Her laughter was too like the 
derisive merriment which she had so often indulged in of 
late — merriment which had broken forth always at the 
time of my most passionate explanations. At length she 
ceased, and frowned at me from under her eyebrows. 

" I am not going to take your money," she said con- 
temptuously. 

" Why not? " I cried. " Why not, Polina? " 

" Because I am not in the habit of receiving money 
for nothing." 

" But I am offering it to you as a. friend. In the same 
way I would offer you my very life." 

Upon this she threw me a long, questioning glance, as 
though she were seeking to probe me to the depths. 

" You are giving too much for me," she remarked with 
a smile. " The beloved of De Griers is not worth fifty 
thousand francs." 

" Oh Polina, how can you speak so? " I exclaimed 
reproachfully. " Am I De Griers? " 

" You? " she cried with her eyes suddenly flashing. 
" Why, I hate you! Yes, yes, I hate you! I love you 
no more than I do De Griers." 

Then she buried her face in her hands, and relapsed 
into hysterics. I darted to her side. Somehow I had 
an intuition of something having happened to her which 
had nothing to do with myself. She was like a person 
temporarily insane. 

" Buy me, would you, would you? W T ould you buy 
me for fifty thousand francs as De Griers did? " she 
gasped between her convulsive sobs. 

I clasped her in my arms, kissed her hands and feet, 
and fell upon my knees before her. 

Presently the hysterical fit passed away, and, laying 
her hands upon my shoulders, she gazed for a while into 
my face, as though trying to read it. Something I said 
to her, but it was clear that she did not hear it. Her 
face looked so dark and despondent that I began to fear 



The Gambler 



277 



for her reason. At length she drew me towards herself — 
a trustful smile playing over her features; and then, as 
suddenly, she pushed me away again as she eyed me 
dimly. 

Finally she threw herself upon me in an embrace. 
' You love me ? " she said. " Do you ? — you who were 
willing even to quarrel with the Baron at my bidding? " 

Then she laughed — laughed as though something dear, 
but laughable, had recurred to her memory. Yes, she 
laughed and wept at the same time. What was I to do ? 
I was like a man in a fever. I remember that she began 
to say something to me — though what I do not know, 
since she spoke with a feverish lisp, as though she were 
trying to tell me something very quickly. At intervals, 
too, she would break off into the smile which I was 
beginning to dread. " No, no! " she kept repeating. 
" You are my dear one; you are the man I trust." 
Again she laid her hands upon my shoulders, and again 
she gazed at me as she reiterated: " You love me, you 
love me ? Will you always love me ? " I could not take 
my eyes off her. Never before had I seen her in this 
mood of humility and affection. True, the mood was 
the outcome of hysteria; but — ! All of a sudden she 
noticed my ardent gaze, and smiled slightly. The next 
moment, for no apparent reason, she began to talk of 
Astley. 

She continued talking and talking about him, but I 
could not make out all she said — more particularly when 
she was endeavouring to tell me of something or other 
which had happened recently. On the whole, she 
appeared to be laughing at Astley, for she kept repeat- 
ing that he was waiting for her, and did I know whether, 
even at that moment, he was not standing beneath the 
window? " Yes, yes, he is there," she said. " Open 
the window, and see if he is not." She pushed me in that 
direction ; yet no sooner did I make a movement to obey 
her behest than she burst into laughter, and I remained 
beside her, and she embraced me. 

" Shall we go away to-morrow? " presently she asked, 
as though some disturbing thought had recurred to her 
recollection. " How would it be if we were to try and 

K 711 



278 The Gambler 

overtake Grandmamma? I think we should do so at 
Berlin. And what think you she would have to say to 
us when we caught her up, and her eyes first lit upon us ? 
What, too, about Mr. Astley? He would not leap from 
the Schlangenberg for my sake! No! Of that I am 
very sure! " — and she laughed. " Do you know where 
he is going next year? He says he intends to go to 
the North Pole for scientific investigations, and has 
invited me to go with him ! Ha, ha, ha ! He also says 
that we Russians know nothing, can do nothing, with- 
out European help. But he is a good fellow all the same. 
For instance, he does not blame the General in the 

matter, but declares that Mile. Blanche — that love 

But no; I do not know, I do not know." She stopped 
suddenly, as though she had said her say, and were 
feeling bewildered. " What poor creatures these people 
are. How sorry I am for them, and for Grandmamma! 
But when are you going to kill De Griers? Surely you 
do not intend actually to murder him ? You fool ! Do 
you suppose that I should allow you to fight De Griers ? 
Nor shall you kill the Baron." Here she burst out laugh- 
ing. " How absurd you looked when you were talking 
to the Burmergelms ! I was watching you all the time — 
watching you from where I was sitting. And how un- 
willing you were to go when I sent you! Oh, how 1 
laughed and laughed! " 

Then she kissed and embraced me again; again she 
pressed her face to mine with tender passion. Yet 
I neither saw nor heard her, for my head was in a 
whirl. ... 

It must have been about seven o'clock in the morning 
when I awoke. Daylight had come, and Polina was 
sitting by my side — a strange expression on her face, 
as though she had seen a vision and were unable to 
collect her thoughts. She too had just awoken, and 
was now staring at the money on the table. My head 
ached; it felt heavy. I attempted to take Polina's 
hand, but she pushed me from her, and leapt from the 
sofa. The dawn was full of mist, for rain had fallen, 
yet she moved to the window, opened it, and, leaning her 
elbows upon the window-sill, thrust out her head and 



The Gambler 



279 



shoulders to take the air. In this position did she remain 
for several minutes, without ever looking round at me, 
or listening to what I was saying. Into my head there 
came the uneasy thought: What is to happen now? 
How is it all to end? Suddenly Polina rose from the 
window, approached the table, and, looking at me 
with an expression of infinite aversion, said with lips 
which quivered with anger: 

" Well? Are you going to hand me over my fifty 
thousand francs? " 

" Polina, you say that again, again ? " I exclaimed. 

" You have changed your mind, then? Ha, ha, ha! 
You are sorry you ever promised them? " 

On the table where, the previous night, I had counted 
the money there still was lying the packet of twenty- 
five thousand florins. I handed it to her. 

"The francs are mine, then, are they? They are 
mine?" she inquired viciously as she balanced the 
money in her hands. 

" Yes; they have always been yours," I said. 

"Then take your fifty thousand francs!" and she 
hurled them full in my face. The packet burst as she 
did so, and the floor became strewed with bank-notes. 
The instant that the deed was done she rushed from 
the room. 

At that moment she cannot have been in her right 
mind: yet what was the cause of her temporary aber- 
ration I cannot say. For a month past she had been 
unwell. Yet what had brought about this present 
condition of mind — above all things, this outburst? 
Had it come of wounded pride ? Had it come of despair 
over her decision to come to me? Had it come of the 
fact that, presuming too much on my good fortune, 
I had seemed to be intending to desert her (even as 
De Griers had done) when once I had given her the 
fifty thousand francs ? But, on my honour, I had never 
cherished any such intention. What was at fault, I 
think, was her own pride, which kept urging her not to 
trust me, but, rather, to insult me — even though she 
had not realised the fact. In her eyes I corresponded 
to De Griers, and therefore had been condemned for a 



28o The Gambler 

fault not wholly my own. Her mood, of late, had beei 
a sort of delirium, a sort of lightheadedness — that 
knew full well; yet never had I sufficiently taken i 
into consideration. Perhaps she would not pardon m 
now? Ah, but this was the present. What about th 
future? Her delirium and sickness were not likely Ь 
make her forget what she had done in bringing me D 
Goers' letter. No, she must have known what sh 
was doing when she brought it. 

Somehow I contrived to stuff the pile of notes an< 
gold under the bed, to cover them over, and then t< 
leave the room some ten minutes after Polina. I fel 
sure that she had returned to her own room ; wherefore 
intended quietly to follow her, and to ask the nursemaii 
who opened the door how her mistress was. Judge 
therefore, of my surprise when, meeting the domesti 
on the stairs, she informed me that Polina had not ye 
returned, and that she (the domestic) was at tha 
moment on her way to my room in quest of her ! 

" Mile, left me but ten minutes ago," I said. " Wha 
can have become of her? " 

The nursemaid looked at me reproachfully. 

Already sundry rumours were flying about the notei 
Both in the office of the commissionaire and in that с 
the landlord it was whispered that, at seven o'clock tha 
morning, the Fraiilein had left the hotel, and set of 
despite the rain, in the direction of the Hotel d' Angle 
terre. From words and hints let fall I could see tha 
the fact of Polina having spent the night in my roor 
was now public property. Also, sundry rumours wer 
circulating concerning the General's family affairs. It wa 
known that last night he had gone out of his mind, an 
paraded the hotel in tears; also, that the old lady wh 
had arrived was his mother, and that she had come fror 
Russia on purpose to forbid her son's marriage wit 
Mile, de Cominges, as well as to cut him out of her wr 
if he should disobey her; also that, because he ha 
disobeyed her, she had squandered all her money a 
roulette, in order to have nothing more to leave to hin 
"Oh, these Russians!" exclaimed the landlord, wit 
an angry toss of the head ; while the bystanders lau^hei 



The Gambler 



28l 



and the clerk betook himself to his accounts. Also, 
every one had learnt about my winnings; Karl, the 
corridor lacquey, was the first to congratulate me. 
But with these folk I had nothing to do. My business 
was to set off at full speed to the Hotel d'Angleterre. 

As yet it was early for Mr. Astley to receive visitors; 
but as soon as he learnt that it was I who had arrived, he 
came out into the corridor to meet me, and stood looking 
at me in silence with his steel-grey eyes as he waited 
to hear what I had to say. I inquired after Polina. 

" She is ill," he replied, still looking at me with his 
direct, unwavering glance. 

" And she is in your rooms? " 

" Yes, she is in my rooms." 

" Then you are minded to keep her there? " 

" Yes, I am minded to keep her there." 

" But, Mr. Astley, that will raise a scandal. It ought 
not to be allowed. Besides, she is very ill. Perhaps 
you had not remarked that? " 

" Yes, I have. It was / who told you about it. Had 
she not been ill, she would not have gone and spent the 
night with you." 

" Then you know all about it? " 

" Yes; for last night she was to have accompanied 
me to the house of a relative of mine. Unfortunately, 
being ill, she made a mistake, and went to your rooms 
instead." 

" Indeed? Then I wish you joy, Mr. Astley. Apropos, 
you have reminded me of something. Were you beneath 
my window last night? Every moment Mile. Polina 
kept telling me to open the window and see if you were 
there; after which she always smiled." 

' Indeed? No, I was not there; but I was waiting 
in the corridor, and walking about the hotel." 

' She ought to see a doctor, you know, Mr. Astley." 

" Yes, she ought. I have sent for one, and, if she 
dies, I shall hold you responsible." 

This surprised me. 

" Pardon me," I replied, " but what do you mean? " 

" Never mind. Tell me if it is true that, last night, 
you won two hundred thousand thalers? " 



282 The Gambler 

'No; I won a hundred thousand florins." 

" Good heavens! Then I suppose you will be off to 
Paris this morning? " 

"Why?" 

" Because all Russians who have grown rich go to 
Paris," explained Astley, as though he had read the 
fact in a book. 

" But what could I do in Paris in summer time? — I 
love her, Mr. Astley! Surely you know that? " 

" Indeed? I am sure that you do not. Moreover, 
if you were to stay here, you would lose everything that 
you possess, and have nothing left with which to pay 
your expenses in Paris. Well, good-bye now. I feel 
sure that to-day will see you gone from here." 

" Good-bye. But I am not going to Paris. Likewise 
— pardon me — what is to become of this family? I 
mean that the affair of the General and Mile. Polina will 
soon be all over the town." 

" I daresay; yet I hardly suppose that that will break 
the General's heart. Moreover, Mile. Polina has a 
perfect right to live where she chooses. In short, we 
may say that, as a family, this family has ceased to 
exist." 

I departed, and found myself smiling at the English- 
man's strange assurance that I should soon be leaving 
for Paris, " I suppose he means to shoot me in a duel, 
should Polina die. Yes, that is what he intends to 
do." Now, although I was honestly sorry for Polina, 
it is a fact that, from the moment when, the previous 
night, I had approached the gaming-table, and begun 
to rake in the packets of bank-notes, my love for her 
had entered upon a new plane. Yes, I can say that 
now; although, at the time, I was barely conscious of it. 
Was I, then, at heart a gambler? Did I, after all, love 
Polina not so very much? No, no! As God is my 
witness, I loved her ! Even when I was returning home 
from Mr. Astley 's my suffering was genuine, and my self- 
reproach sincere. But presently I was to go through an 
exceedingly strange and ugly experience. 

I was proceeding to the General's rooms when I heard 
a door near me open, and a voice call me by name. It 



The Gambler 



283 



was Mlle.'s mother, the Widow de Comingcs, who was 
inviting me, in her daughter's name, to enter. 

I did so; whereupon I heard a laugh and a little cry 
proceed from the bedroom (the pair occupied a suite of 
two apartments), where Mile. Blanche was just arising. 

"Ah, e'est lui! Viens, done, bete! Is it true that 
you have won a mountain of gold and silver ? J'aimerais 
mieux l'or." 

" Yes," I replied with a smile. 

" How much? " 

" A hundred thousand florins." 

" Bibi, comme tu es bete! Come in here, for I can't 
hear you where you are now. Nous ferons bombance, 
n'est-ce pas? " 

Entering her room, I found her lolling under a pink 
satin coverlet, and revealing a pair of swarthy, wonder- 
fully healthy shoulders — shoulders such as one sees in 
dreams — shoulders covered over with a white cambric 
nightgown which, trimmed with lace, stood out, in 
striking relief, against the darkness of her skin. 

' Mon fils, as-tu du cceur? " she cried when she saw 
me, and then giggled. Her laugh had always been a 
very cheerful one, and at times it even sounded sincere. 

" Tout autre " I began, paraphrasing Corneille. 

: ' See here," she prattled on. " Please search for my 
stockings, and help me to dress. Aussi, si tu n'es pas 
trop bete, je te prends a Paris. I am just off, let me 
tell you." 

" This moment? " 

" In half an hour." 

True enough, everything stood ready-packed — trunks, 
portmanteaux, and all. Coffee had long been served. 

" Eh bien, tu verras Paris. Dis done, qu'est-ce que 
e'est qu'un ' utchitel ' ? Tu etais bien bete quand tu 
etais 'utchitel.' Where are my stockings? Please 
help me to dress." 

And she lifted up a really ravishing foot — small, 
swarthy, and not misshapen like the majority of feet 
which look dainty only in bottines. I laughed, and 
started to draw on to the foot a silk stocking, while Mile. 
Blanche sat on the edge of the bed, and chattered. 



284 The Gambler 

" Eh bien, que feras-tu si je te prends avec moi ? First 
of all I must have fifty thousand francs, and you shall 
give them to me at Frankfurt. Then we will go on to 
Paris, where we will live together, et je te ferai voir des 
etoiles en plein jour. Yes, you shall see such women as 
your eyes have never lit upon." 

" Stop a moment. If I were to give you those fifty 
thousand francs, what should I have left for myself? ' 

" Another hundred thousand francs, please to re- 
member. Besides, I could live with you in your rooms 
for a month, or even for two, or even for longer. But it 
would not take us more than two months to get through 
fifty thousand francs; for, look you, je suis bonne 
enfante, et tu verras des etoiles, you may be sure." 

" What ? You mean to say that we should spend the 
whole in two months? " 

" Certainly. Does that surprise you very much? 
Ah, vil esclave ! Why, one month of that life would be 
better than all your previous existence. One month — 
et apres, le deluge ! Mais tu ne peux comprendre. Va ! 
Away, away! You are not worth it. — Ah, que 
fais-tu? " 

For, while drawing on the other stocking, I had felt 
constrained to kiss her. Immediately she shrunk back, 
kicked me in the face with her toes, and turned me neck 
and crop out of the room. 

" Eh bien, mon ' utchitel '," she called after me, " je 
t'attends, si tu veux. I start in a quarter of an hour's 
time." 

I returned to my own room with my head in a whirl. 
It was not my fault that Polina had thrown a packet in 
my face, and preferred Mr. Astley to myself. A few 
bank-notes were still fluttering about the floor, and I 
picked them up. At that moment the door opened, and 
the landlord appeared — a person who, until now, had 
never bestowed upon me so much as a glance. He had 
come to know if I would prefer to move to a lower floor — 
to a suite which had just been tenanted by Count V. 

For a moment I reflected. 

" No! " I shouted. " My account, please, for in ten 
minutes I shall be gone." 



The Gambler 285 

' To Paris, to Paris! " I added to myself. " Every 
man of birth must make her acquaintance." 

Within a quarter of an hour all three of us were seated 
in a family compartment — Mile. Blanche, the Widow 
de Cominges, and myself. Mile, kept laughing hysteric- 
ally as she looked at me, and Madame re-echoed her; 
but / did not feel so cheerful. My life had broken in two, 
and yesterday had infected me with a habit of staking 
my all upon a card. Although it might be that I had 
failed to win my stake, that I had lost my senses, that I 
desired nothing better, I felt that the scene was to be 
changed only/or a time. " Within a month from now," 
I kept thinking to myself, " I shall be back again in 
Roulettenberg; and then I mean to have it out with 
you, Mr. Astley! " Yes, as now I look back at things, I 
remember that I felt greatly depressed, despite the 
absurd gigglings of the egregious Blanche. 

' What is the matter with you ? How dull you are ! " 
she cried at length as she interrupted her laughter to take 
me seriously to task. 

" Come, come! We are going to spend your two 
hundred thousand francs for you, et tu seras heureux 
comme un petit roi. I myself will tie your tie for you, 
and introduce you to Hortense. And when we have 
spent your money you shall return here, and break the 
bank again. What did those two Jews tell you? — that 
the thing most needed is daring, and that you possess 
it. Consequently this is not the first time that you will 
be hurrying to Paris with money in your pocket. Quant 
a moi, je veux cinquante mille francs de rente, et 
alors " 

" But what about the General? " I interrupted. 

" The General? You know well enough that at 

about this hour every day he goes to buy me a bouquet. 

On this occasion I took care to tell him that he must 

hunt for the choicest of flowers; and when he returns 

home the poor fellow will find the bird flown ! Possibly 

he may take wing in pursuit — ha, ha, ha! And if so, 

I shall not be sorry, for he could be useful to me in Pari?, 

and Mr. Astley will pay his debts here." 

In this manner did I depart for the Gay City. 
* K 7ii r J 



286 The Gambler 



XVI 



Of Paris what am I to say ? The whole proceeding was 
a delirium, a madness. I spent a little over three weeks 
there, and, during that time, saw my hundred thousand 
francs come to an end. I speak only of the one hundred 
thousand francs, for the other hundred thousand I gave 
to Mile. Blanche in pure cash. That is to say, I handed 
her fifty thousand francs at Frankfurt, and, three days 
later (in Paris), advanced her another fifty thousand 
on note of hand. Nevertheless a week had not elapsed 
before she came to me for more money. " Et les cent 
mille francs qui nous restent," she added, " tu les 
mangeras avec moi, mon utchitel." Yes, she always 
called me her " utchitel." A person more economical, 
grasping, and mean than Mile. Blanche one could not 
imagine. But this was only as regards her own money. 
My hundred thousand francs (as she explained to me 
later) she needed to set up her establishment in Paris, 
11 so that once and for all I may be on a decent footing, and 
proof against any stones which may be thrown at me — 
at all events for a long time to come." Nevertheless I 
saw nothing of those hundred thousand francs, for my 
own purse (which she inspected daily) never managed 
to amass in it more than a hundred francs at a time; 
and generally the sum did not reach even that figure. 

" What do you want with money? " she would say 
to me with air of absolute simplicity; and I never dis- 
puted the point. Nevertheless, though she fitted out 
her flat very badly with the money, the fact did not 
prevent her from saying when, later, she was showing 
me over the rooms of her new abode: " See what care 
and taste can do with the most wretched of means! " 
However, her " wretchedness " had cost fifty thousand 
francs, while with the remaining fifty thousand she 
purchased a carriage and horses. Also, we gave a couple 
of balls — evening parties attended by Hortense and 
Lisette and Cleopatre, who were women remarkable 
both for the number of their liaisons and (though only 
in some cases) for their good looks. At these reunions 



The Gambler 



287 



I had to play the part of host — to meet and entertain 
fat mercantile parvenus who were impossible by reason 
of their rudeness and braggadocio, colonels of various 
kinds, hungry authors, and journalistic hacks: all of 
whom disported themselves in fashionable tailcoats and 
pale yellow gloves, and displayed such an aggregate 
of conceit and gasconade as would be unthinkable even 
in St. Petersburg — which is saying a great deal! They 
used to try to make fun of me, but I would console 
myself by drinking champagne, and then lolling in a 
retiring-room. Nevertheless I found it deadly work. 
" C'est un utchitel," Blanche would say of me, " qui a 
gagne deux cent mille francs, and but for me, would have 
had not a notion how to spend them. Presently he will 
have to return to his tutoring. Does any one know of a 
vacant post? You know, one must do something for 
him." I had the more frequent recourse to champagne 
in that I constantly felt depressed and bored, owing to 
the fact that I was living in the most bourgeois com- 
mercial milieu imaginable — a milieu wherein every sou 
was counted and grudged. Indeed, two weeks had not 
elapsed before I perceived that Blanche had no real 
affection for me, even though she dressed me in elegant 
clothes, and herself tied my tie each day. In short, 
she utterly despised me. But that caused me no con- 
cern. Blase and inert, I spent my evenings generally 
at the Chateau des Fleurs, where I would get fuddled 
and then dance the cancan (which, in that establish- 
ment, was a very indecent performance) with eclat. At 
length the time came when Blanche had drained my 
purse dry. She had conceived an idea that, during the 
term of our residence together, it would be well if I were 
always to walk behind her with a paper and pencil, in 
order to jot down exactly what she spent, and what she 
had saved — what she was paying out, and what she was 
laying by. Well, of course I could not fail to be aware 
that this would entail a battle over every ten francs ; so, 
although for every possible objection that I might make 
she had prepared a suitable answer, she soon saw that 
I made no objections, and therefore had to start 
disputes herself. That is to say, she would burst out 



288 The Gambler 

into tirades which were met only with silence as I lolled on 
a sofa and stared fixedly at the ceiling. This greatly sur- 
prised her. At first she imagined that it was due merely 
to the fact that I was a fool, " un utchitel "; wherefore 
she would break off her harangue in the belief that, being 
too stupid to understand, I was a hopeless case. Then 
she would leave the room, but return, ten minutes later, 
to resume the contest. This continued throughout her 
squandering of my money — a squandering altogether 
out of proportion to our means. An example is the 
way in which she changed her first pair of horses for 
a pair which cost sixteen thousand francs. 

" Bibi," she said on the latter occasion as she 
approached me, " surely you are not angry? " 

" No-o-o: I am merely tired," was my reply as I 
pushed her from me. This seemed to her so curious 
that straightway she seated herself by my side. 

" You see," she went on, " I decided to spend so much 
upon these horses only because I can easily sell them 
again. They would go at any time for twenty thousand 
francs." 

" Yes, yes. They are splendid horses, and you have 
got a splendid turn-out. I am quite content. Let me 
hear no more of the matter." 

" Then you are not angry? " 

" No. Why should I be? You are wise to provide 
yourself with what you need, for it will all come in handy 
in the future. Yes, I quite see the necessity of your 
establishing yourself on a good basis, for without it 
you will never earn your million. My hundred thousand 
francs I look upon merely as a beginning — as a mere 
drop in the bucket." 

Blanche, who had by no means expected such declara- 
tions from me, but, rather, an uproar and protests, was 
rather taken aback. 

" Well, well, what a man you are! " she exclaimed. 
" Mais tu as l'esprit pour comprendre. Sais-tu, mon 
garcon, although you are a tutor, you ought to have 
been born a prince. Are you not sorry that your money 
should be going so quickly? " 

" No. The quicker it goes the better." 



The Gambler 289 

11 Mais — sais-tu — mais dis done, are you really rich? 
Mais sais-tu, you have too much contempt for money. 
Qu'est-ce que tu feras apres, dis done? " 

" Apres, I shall go to Homburg, and win another 
hundred thousand francs." 

" Oui, oui, e'est 9a, e'est magnifique! Ah, I know 
you will win them, and bring them to me when you 
have done so. Dis done — you will end by making me 
love you. Since you are what you are, I mean to love 
you all the time, and never to be unfaithful to you. 
You see, I have not loved you before parce que je 
croyais que tu n'es qu'un utchitel (quelque chose comme 
un lacquais, n'est-ce pas?) Yet all the time I have 
been true to you, parce que je suis bonne fille." 

" You lie! " I interrupted. " Did I not see you, the 
other day, with Albert — with that black-jowled officer? " 

" Oh, oh! Mais tu es " 

' Yes, you are lying right enough. But what makes 
you suppose that I should be angry? Rubbish! II 
faut que jeunesse se passe. Even if that officer were 
here now, I should refrain from putting him out of the 
room if I thought you really cared for him. Only, mind 
you, do not give him any of my money. You hear? " 

" You say, do you, that you would not be angry? 
Mais tu es un vrai philosophe, sais-tu? Oui, un vrai 
philosophe! Eh bien, je t'aimerai, je t'aimerai. Tu 
verras — tu seras content." 

True enough, from that time onward she seemed to 
attach herself only to me, and in this manner we spent 
our last ten days together. The promised " etoiles " 
I did not see, but in other respects she, to a certain 
extent, kept her word. Moreover, she introduced me 
to Hortense, who was a remarkable woman in her way, 
and known among us as Therese Philosophe. 

But I need not enlarge further, for to do so would 
require a story to itself, and entail a colouring which 
I am loth to impart to the present narrative. The point 
is that with all my faculties I desired the episode to 
come to an end as speedily as possible. Unfortunately, 
our hundred thousand francs lasted us, as I have said, 
for very nearly a month — which greatly surprised me. 



290 The Gambler 

At all events Blanche bought herself articles to the tune 
of eighty thousand francs, and the rest sufficed just to 
meet our expenses of living. Towards the close of the 
affair Blanche grew almost frank with me (at least, she 
scarcely lied to me at all) — declaring, amongst other 
things, that none of the debts which she had been obliged 
to incur were going to fall upon my head. " I have 
purposely refrained from making you responsible for 
my bills or borrowings," she said, " for the reason that 
I am sorry for you. Any other woman in my place 
would have done so, and have let you go to prison. 
See, then, how much I love you, and how goodhearted 
I am! Think, too, what this accursed marriage with 
the General is going to cost me! " 

True enough, the marriage took place. It did so 
at the close of her and my month together, and I am 
bound to suppose that it was upon the ceremony that 
the last remnants of my money were spent. With it the 
episode — that is to say, my sojourn with the French- 
woman — came to an end, and I formally retired from 
the scene. 

It happened thus. A week after we had taken up 
our abode in Paris there arrived thither the General. 
He came straight to see us, and thenceforward lived 
with us practically as our guest, though he had a flat 
of his own as well. Blanche met him with merry 
badinage and laughter, and even threw her arms around 
him. In fact, she managed it so that he had to follow 
everywhere in her train — whether when promenading 
on the Boulevards, or when driving, or when going to 
the theatre, or when paying calls; and this use which 
she made of him quite satisfied the General. Still of 
imposing appearance and presence, as well as of fair 
height, he had a dyed moustache and whiskers (he had 
formerly been in the cuirassiers), and a handsome, 
though a somewhat wrinkled, face. Also, his manners 
were excellent, and he could carry a frockcoat well — 
the more so since, in Paris, he took to wearing his orders. 
To promenade the Boulevards with such a man was not 
only a thing possible, but also, so to speak, a thing 
advisable; and with this programme the good, but 



The Gambler 



291 



foolish, General had not a fault to find. The truth is 
that he had never counted upon this programme when 
he came to Paris to seek us out. On that occasion he 
had made his appearance nearly shaking with terror, for 
he had supposed that Blanche would at once raise an 
outcry, and have him put from the door; wherefore he 
was the more enraptured at the turn that things had 
taken, and spent the month in a state of senseless 
ecstasy. Already I had learnt that, after our unexpected 
departure from Roulettenberg, he had had a sort of a 
fit — that he had fallen into a swoon, and spent a week 
in a species of garrulous delirium. Doctors had been 
summoned to him, but he had broken away from them, 
and suddenly taken train to Paris. Of course Blanche's 
reception of him had acted as the best of all possible 
cures, but for long enough he carried the marks of his 
affliction, despite his present condition of rapture and 
delight. To think clearly, or even to engage in any 
serious conversation, had now become impossible for 
him; he could only ejaculate after each word " Hm! " 
and then nod his head in confirmation. Sometimes, 
also, he would laugh, but only in a nervous, hysterical 
sort of a fashion; while at other times he would sit foi 
hours looking as black as night, with his heavy eyebrows 
knitted. Of much that went on he remained wholly 
oblivious, for he grew extremely absent-minded, and 
took to talking to himself. Only Blanche could awake 
him to any semblance of life. His fits of depression and 
moodiness in corners always meant either that he had 
not seen her for some while, or that she had gone out 
without taking him with her, or that she had omitted to 
caress him before departing. When in this condition 
he would refuse to say what he wanted ; nor had he the 
least idea that he was thus sulking and moping. Next, 
after remaining in this condition for an hour or two (this 
I remarked on two occasions when Blanche had gone 
out for the day — probably to see Albert) , he would begin 
to look about him, and to grow uneasy, and to hurry 
about with an air as though he had suddenly remem- 
bered something, and must try and find it; after which, 
not perceiving the object of his search, nor succeeding 



292 The Gambler 

in recalling what that object had been, he would as 
suddenly relapse into oblivion, and continue so until 
the reappearance of Blanche — merry, wanton, half- 
dressed, and laughing her strident laugh as she ap- 
proached to pet him, and even to kiss him (though the 
latter reward he seldom received). Once he was so 
overjoyed at her doing so that he burst into tears. Even 
I myself was surprised. 

From the first moment of his arrival in Paris Blanche 
set herself to plead with me on his behalf; and at such 
times she even rose to heights of eloquence — saying that 
it was for me she had abandoned him, though she had 
almost become his betrothed and promised to become 
so ; that it was for her sake he had deserted his family ; 
that, having been in his service, I ought to remember 
the fact, and to feel ashamed. To all this I would say 
nothing, however much she chattered on ; until at length 
I would burst out laughing, and the incident would come 
to an end (at first, as I have said, she had thought me a 
fool, but since she had come to deem me a man of sense and 
sensibility). In short, I had the happiness of calling her 
better nature into play; for though, at first, I had not 
deemed her so, she was, in reality, a kind-hearted woman 
— after her own fashion. " You are good and clever," 
she said to me towards the finish, " and my one regret 
is that you are also so wrong-headed. You will never 
be a rich man! " " Un vrai Russe — un Kalmuk " she 
usually called me. 

Several times she sent me to give the General an 
airing in the streets, even as she might have done with a 
lacquey and her spaniel ; but I preferred to take him to 
the theatre, to the Bal Mabille, and to restaurants. For 
this purpose she usually allowed me some money, 
though the General had a little of his own, and enjoyed 
taking out his purse before strangers. Once I had to 
use actual force to prevent him from buying a phaeton 
at a price of seven hundred francs, after a vehicle had 
caught his fancy in the Palais Royal as seeming to be a 
desirable present for Blanche. What could she have 
done with a seven-hundred-franc phaeton? — and the 
General possessed in the world but a thousand francs I 



The Gambler 



293 



The origin even of those francs I could never determine, 
but imagined them to have emanated from Mr. Astley — 
the more so since the latter had paid the family's hotel 
bill. As for what view the General took of myself, I 
think that he never divined the footing on which I stood 
with Blanche. True, he had heard, in a dim sort of way, 
that I had won a good deal of money; but more prob- 
ably he supposed me to be acting as secretary — or even 
as a kind of servant — to his inamorata. At all events he 
continued to address me in his old haughty style, as my 
superior. At times he even took it upon himself to scold 
me. One morning, in particular, he started to sneer at 
me over our matutinal coffee. Though not a man prone 
to take offence, he suddenly, and for some reason of 
which to this day I am ignorant, fell out with me. Of 
course even he himself did not know the reason. To put 
things shortly, he began a speech which had neither be- 
ginning nor ending, and cried out, a batons rompus, that 
I was a boy whom he would soon put to rights — and so 
forth, and so forth. Yet no one could understand what 
he was saying, and at length Blanche exploded in a burst 
of laughter. Finally something appeased him, and he 
was taken out for his walk. More than once, however, I 
noticed that his depression was growing upon him ; that 
he seemed to be feeling the want of somebody or some- 
thing ; that, despite Blanche's presence, he was missing 
some person in particular. Twice, on these occasions, 
did he plunge into a conversation with me, though he 
could not make himself intelligible, and only went 
on rambling about the service, his late wife, his home, 
and his property. Every now and then, also, some 
particular word would please him ; whereupon he would 
repeat it a hundred times in the day — even though the 
word happened to express neither his thoughts nor his 
feelings. Again, I would try to get him to talk about 
his children, but always he cut me short in his old 
snappish way, and passed to another subject. " Yes, 
yes — my children," was all that I could extract from him. 
' Yes, you are right in what you have said about them." 
Only once did he disclose his real feelings. That was 
when we were taking him to the theatre, and suddenly he 



294 The Gambler 

exclaimed: " My unfortunate children! Yes, sir, they 
are unfortunate children." Once, too, when I chanced 
to mention Polina, he grew quite bitter against her. 
" She is an ungrateful woman! " he exclaimed. " She 
is a bad and ungrateful woman! She has broken up a 
family. If there were laws here, I would have her 
impaled. Yes, I would." As for De Griers, the General 
would not have his name mentioned. " He has ruined 
me," he would say. " He has robbed me, and cut my 
throat. For two years he was a perfect nightmare to 
me. For months at a time he never left me in my 
dreams. Do not speak of him again." 

It was now clear to me that Blanche and he were on 
the point of coming to terms: yet, true to my usual 
custom, I said nothing. At length Blanche took the 
initiative in explaining matters. She did so a week 
before we parted. 

" II a de la chance," she prattled; " for the Grand- 
mother is now really ill, and therefore bound to die. Mr. 
Astley has just sent a telegram to say so, and you will 
agree with me that the General is likely to be her heir. 
Even if he should not be so, he will not come amiss, since, 
in the first place, he has his pension, and, in the second 
place, he will be content to live in a back room ; whereas 
/ shall be Madame General, and get into a good circle of 
society " (she was always thinking of this) " and become 
a Russian chatelaine. Yes, I shall have a mansion of 
my own, and peasants, and a million of money at my 
back." 

" But, suppose he should prove jealous? He might 
demand all sorts of things, you know. Do you follow 
me? " 

" Oh, dear no ! How ridiculous that would be of him ! 
Besides, I have taken measures to prevent it. You 
need not be alarmed. That is to say, I have induced 
him to sign notes of hand in Albert's name. Conse- 
quently, at any time I could get him punished. Isn't 
he ridiculous? " 

" Very well, then. Marry him." 

And, in truth, she did so — though the marriage was 
a family one only, and involved no pomp or ceremony. 



The Gambler 295 

In fact, she invited to the nuptials none but Albert and 
a few other friends. Hortense, Cleopatre, and the rest 
she kept firmly at a distance. As for the bridegroom, he 
took a great interest in his new position. Blanche her- 
self tied his tie, and Blanche herself pomaded him: with 
the result that, in his frockcoat and white waistcoat, he 
looked quite comme il faut. 

' II est, pourtant, tres comme il faut," Blanche 
remarked when she issued from his room, as though the 
idea that he was "tres comme il faut" had impressed even 
her. For myself, I had so little knowledge of the minor 
details of the affair, and took part in it so much as a 
supine spectator, that I have forgotten most of what 
passed on this occasion. I only remember that Blanche 
and the Widow figured at it, not as " de Cominges," but 
as " du Placet." Why they had hitherto been " de 
Cominges " I do not know: I only know that this en- 
tirely satisfied the General — that he liked the name " du 
Placet " even better than he had liked the name " de 
Cominges." On the morning of the wedding he paced 
the salon in his gala attire, and kept repeating to himself 
with an air of great gravity and importance: " Mile. 
Blanche du Placet ! Mile. Blanche du Placet, du Placet ! " 
He beamed with satisfaction as he did so. Both in the 
church and at the wedding breakfast he remained, not 
only pleased and contented, but even proud. She too 
underwent a change, for now she assumed an air of 
added dignity. 

" I must behave altogether differently," she con- 
fided to me with a serious air. " Yet, mark you, 
there is a tiresome circumstance of which I had never 
before thought — which is, how best to pronounce my 
new family name. Zagorianski, Zagozianski, Madame 
la Generale de Sago, Madame la Generale de Fourteen 
Consonants — oh, these infernal Russian names! The 
last of them would be the best to use, don't you think? " 

At length the time had come for us to part, and 
Blanche, the egregious Blanche, shed real tears as she 
took her leave of me. " Tu etais bon enfant," she said 
with a sob. " Je te croyais bete, et tu en avais l'air, 
but it suited you." Then, having given me a final 



296 The Gambler 

handshake, she exclaimed, "Attends!"; whereafter, 
running into her boudoir, she brought me thence two 
thousand-franc notes. I could scarcely believe my 
eyes! "They may come in handy for you," she 
explained; " for, though you are a very learned tutor, 
you are a very stupid man. More than two thousand 
francs, however, I am not going to give you, for the 
reason that, if I did so, you would gamble them all away. 
Now good-bye. Nous serons tou jours bons amis, and 
if you win again, do not fail to come to me, et tu seras 
heureux." 

I myself had still five hundred francs left, as well as 
a watch worth a thousand francs, a few diamond studs, 
and so on. Consequently, I could subsist for quite a 
length of time without particularly bestirring myself. 
Purposely I have taken up my abode where I am now 
— partly to pull myself together, and partly to wait for 
Mr. Astley, who, I have learnt, will soon be here for a 
day or so on business. Yes, I know that, and then — 
and then I shall go to Homburg. But to Rouletten- 
berg I shall not go until next year, for they say it is 
bad to try one's luck twice in succession at a table. 
Moreover, Homburg is where the best play is carried on. 



XVII 

It is a year and eight months since I last looked at tnese 
notes of mine. I do so now only because, being over- 
whelmed with depression, I wish to distract my mind 
by reading them through at random. I left them off 
at the point where I was just going to Homburg. My 
God, with what a light heart (comparatively speaking) 
did I write the concluding lines! — though, it may be, 
not so much with a light heart as with a measure of 
self-confidence and unquenchable hope. At that time 
had I any doubts of myself? Yet behold me now. 
Scarcely a year and a half have passed, yet I am in a 
worse position than the meanest beggar. But what is 
a beggar? A fig for beggary! I have ruined myself 
—that is all. Nor is there anything with which I can 



The Gambler 297 

compare myself; there is no moral which it would be of 
any use for you to read to me. At the present moment 
nothing could well be more incongruous than a moral. 
Oh, you self-satisfied persons who, in your unctuous 
pride, are for ever ready to mouth your maxims — if 
only you knew how fully I myself comprehend the 
sordidness of my present state, you would not trouble 
to wag your tongues at me! What could you say to 
me that I do not already know? Well, wherein lies 
my difficulty ? It lies in the fact that by a single turn 
of a roulette wheel everything, for me, has become 
changed. Yet, had things befallen otherwise, these 
moralists would have been among the first (yes, I feel 
persuaded of it) to approach me with friendly jests and 
congratulations. Yes, they would never have turned 
from me as they are doing now ! A fig for all of them ! 
What am I? I am zero — nothing. What shall I be 
to-morrow? I may be risen from the dead, and have 
begun life anew. For still I may discover the man 
in myself, if only my manhood has not become utterly 
shattered. 

I went, I say, to Homburg, but afterwards went also 
to Roulettenberg, as well as to Spa and Baden; in 
which latter place, for a time, I acted as valet to a 
certain rascal of a Privy Councillor, by name Heintze, 
who until lately was also my master here. Yes, for 
five months I lived my life with lacqueys! That was 
just after I had come out of Roulettenberg prison, 
where I had lain for a small debt which I owed. Out 
of that prison I was bailed by — by whom? By Mr. 
Astley? By Polina? I do not know. At all events 
the debt was paid to the tune of two hundred thalers, 
and I sallied forth a free man. But what was I to do 
with myself? In my dilemma I had recourse to this 
Heintze, who was a young scapegrace, and the sort of 
man who could speak and write three languages. At 
first I acted as his secretary, at a salary of thirty gulden 
a month, but afterwards I became his lacquey, for the 
reason that he could not afford to keep a secretary — 
only an unpaid servant. I had nothing else to turn 
to, so I remained with him, and allowed myself to 



2 9 8 



The Gambler 



become his flunkey. But by stinting myself in meat 
and drink I saved, during my five months of service, 
some seventy gulden; and one evening, when we were 
at Baden, I told him that I wished to resign my post, 
and then hastened to betake myself to roulette. Oh, 
how my heart beat as I did so! No, it was not the 
money that I valued: what I wanted was to make all 
this mob of Heintzes, hotel proprietors, and fine ladies 
of Baden talk about me, recount my story, wonder at 
me, extol my doings, and worship my winnings. True, 
these were childish fancies and aspirations, but who 
knows but that I might meet Polina, and be able to 
tell her everything, and see her look of surprise at the 
fact that I had overcome so many adverse strokes of 
fortune. No, I had no desire for money for its own 
sake, for I was perfectly well aware that I should only 
squander it upon some new Blanche, and spend another 
three weeks in Paris after buying a pair of horses which 
had cost sixteen thousand francs. No, I never believed 
myself to be a hoarder; in fact, I knew only too well 
that I was a spendthrift. And already, with a sort 
of fear, a sort of sinking, in my heart, I could hear the 
cries of the croupiers — " Trente et un, rouge, impair 
et passe," " Quarte, noir, pair et manque"! How 
greedily I gazed upon the gaming-table, with its scat- 
tered louis d'or, ten-gulden pieces, and thalers; upon 
the streams of gold as they issued from the croupier's 
hands, and piled themselves up into heaps of gold 
scintillating as fire; upon the ell-long rolls of silver 
lying around the croupier. Even at a distance of two 
rooms I could hear the chink of that money — so much 
so that I nearly fell into convulsions. 

Ah, the evening when I took those seventy gulden 
to the gaming table was a memorable one for me. I 
began by staking ten gulden upon passe. For passe 
I had always had a sort of predilection, yet I lost my 
stake upon it. This left me with sixty gulden in silver. 
After a moment's thought I selected zero — beginning 
by staking five gulden at a time. Twice I lost, but the 
third round suddenly brought up the desired coup. I 
could almost have died with joy as I received my one 



The Gambler 299 

hundred and seventy-five gulden. Indeed, I have been 
less pleased when, in former times, I have won a hundred 
thousand gulden. Losing no time, I staked another 
hundred gulden upon the red, and won; two hundred 
upon the red, and won; four hundred upon the black, 
and won; eight hundred upon manque, and won. Thus, 
with the addition of the remainder of my original capital, 
I found myself possessed, within five minutes, of seven- 
teen hundred gulden ! Ah, at such moments one forgets 
both oneself and one's former failures! This I had 
gained by risking my very life. I had dared so to risk, 
and, behold, again I was a member of mankind! 

I went and hired a room, I shut myself up in it, and 
sat counting my money until three o'clock in the 
morning. To think that when I awoke on the morrow, 
I was no lacquey ! I decided to leave at once for Hom- 
burg. There I should neither have to serve as a footman 
nor to lie in prison. Half an hour before starting I went 
and ventured a couple of stakes — no more; with the 
result that, in all, I lost fifteen hundred florins. Never- 
theless I proceeded to Homburg, and have now been 
there for a month. 

Of course I am living in constant trepidation — playing 
for the smallest of stakes, and always looking out for 
something — calculating, standing whole days by the 
gaming-tables to watch the play — even seeing that play 
in my dreams — yet seeming, the while, to be in some 
way stiffening, to be growing caked, as it were, in mire. 
But I must conclude my notes, which I finish under the 
impression of a recent encounter with Mr. Astley. I 
had not seen him since we parted at Roulettenberg, and 
now we met quite by accident. At the time I was walk- 
ing in the public gardens, and meditating upon the fact 
that not only had I still some fifty gulden in my posses- 
sion, but also I had fully paid up my hotel bill three days 
ago. Consequently I was in a position to try my luck 
again at roulette ; and if I won anything I should be able 
to continue my play, whereas, if I lost what I now 
possessed, I should once more have to accept a lacquey's 
place, provided that, in the alternative, I failed to dis- 
cover a Russian family which stood in need of a tutor. 



3<эо The Gambler 

Plunged in these reflections, I started on my daily walk 
through the Park and forest towards a neighbouring 
principality. Sometimes, on such occasions, I spent 
four hours on the way, and would return to Homburg 
tired and hungry; but on this particular occasion I had 
scarcely left the gardens for the Park when I caught 
sight of Astley, seated on a bench. As soon as he per- 
ceived me, he called me by name, and I went and sat 
down beside him; but on noticing that he seemed a little 
stiff in his manner, I hastened to moderate the expression 
of joy which the sight of him had called forth. 

" You here? " he said. " Well, I had an idea that I 
should meet you. Do not trouble to tell me anything, 
for I know all — yes, all. In fact, your whole life during 
the past twenty months lies within my knowledge." 

" How closely you watch the doings of your old 
friends!" I replied. "That does you infinite credit. 
But stop a moment. You have reminded me of some- 
thing. Was it you who bailed me out of Roulettenberg 
prison when I was lying there for a debt of two hundred 
gulden? Some one did so." 

" Oh dear no! — though I knew all the time that you 
were lying there." 

" Perhaps you could tell me who did bail me 
out?" 

" No; I am afraid I could not." 

" What a strange thing! For I know no Russians at 
all here, so it cannot have been a Russian who befriended 
me. In Russia we Orthodox folk do go bail for one 
another, but in this case I thought it must have been 
done by some English stranger who was not conversant 
with the ways of the country." 

Mr. Astley seemed to listen to me with a sort of sur- 
prise. Evidently he had expected to see me looking 
more crushed and broken than I was. 

" Well," he said — not very pleasantly, " I am none 
the less glad to find that you retain your old indepen- 
dence of spirit, as well as your buoyancy." 

" Which means that you are vexed at not having found 
me more abased and humiliated than I am? " I retorted 
with a smile. 



The Gambler 



301 



Astley was not quick to understand this, but presently 
did so and laughed. 

" Your remarks please me as they always did," he 
continued. " In those words I see the clever, triumphant, 
and, above all things, cynical friend of former days. 
Only Russians have the faculty of combining within 
themselves so many opposite qualities. Yes, most men 
love to see their best friend in abasement ; for generally 
it is on such abasement that friendship is founded. All 
thinking persons know that ancient truth. Yet, on the 
present occasion, I assure you, I am sincerely glad to see 
that you are not cast down. Tell me, are you never 
going to give up gambling? " 

' Damn the gambling! Yes, I should certainly have 
given it up, were it not that " 

" That you are losing ? I thought so. You need not 
tell me any more. I know how things stand, for you 
have said that last in despair, and therefore truthfully. 
Have you no other employment than gambling? " 

"No; none whatever." 

Astley gave me a searching glance. At that time it 
was ages since I had last looked at a paper or turned 
the pages of a book. 

" You are growing blase," he said. " You have not 
only renounced life, with its interests and social ties — 
the duties of a citizen and a man; you have not only 
renounced the friends whom I know you to have had, 
and every aim in life but that of winning money; but 
you have also renounced your memory. Though I can 
remember you in the strong, ardent period of your life, 
I feel persuaded that you have now forgotten every bettei 
feeling of that period — that your present dreams and 
aspirations of subsistence do not rise above pair, impair, 
rouge, noir, the twelve middle numbers, and so forth." 

" Enough, Mr. Astley! " I cried with some irritation — 
almost in anger. " Kindly do not recall to me any more 
recollections, for I can remember things for myself. 
Only for a time have I put them out of my head. Only 
until I shall have rehabilitated myself am I keeping m) 
memory dulled. When that hour shall come you will 
see me arise from the dead." 



302 The Gambler 

" Then you will have to be here another ten year: 
he replied. " Should I then be alive, I will remind you 
here, on this very bench — of what I have just said, 
fact, I will bet you a wager that I shall do so." 

" Say no more," I interrupted impatiently. " A 
to show you that I have not wholly forgotten the pa 
may I enquire where Mile. Polina is? If it was not у 
who bailed me out of prison, it must have been she. ^ 
never have I heard a word concerning her." 

" No, I do not think it was she. At the prese 
moment she is in Switzerland, and you will do me 
favour by ceasing to ask me these questions about he: 
Astley said this with a firm, and even an angry, air. 

" Which means that she has dealt you a seric 
wound? " I burst out with an involuntary sneer. 

" Mile. Polina," he continued, " is the best of 
possible living beings; but I repeat that I shall tha 
you to cease questioning me about her. You печ 
really knew her, and her name on your lips is an offer 
to my moral feeling." 

" Indeed? On what subject, then, have I a bet' 
right to speak to you than on this? With it are bou 
up all your recollections and mine. However, do r 
be alarmed: I have no wish to probe too far into yc 
private, your secret affairs. My interest in Mile. Poli 
does not extend beyond her outward nrcumstances a 
surroundings. About them you could tell me in t 
words." 

" W T ell, on condition that the matter shall end the 
I will tell you that for a long time Mile. Polina was 
and still is so. My mother and sister entertained r 
for a while at their home in the north of England, a 
thereafter Mile. Polina's grandmother (you remember t 
mad old woman?) died, and left Mile. Polina a persor 
legacy of seven thousand pounds sterling. That w 
about six months ago, and now Mile, is travelling wi 
my sister's family — my sister having since marrk 
Mlle.'s little brother and sister also benefited by t 
Grandmother's will, and are now being educated 
London. As for the General, he died in Paris к 
month, of a stroke. Mile. Blanche did well by him, i 



The Gambler 



3°3 



she succeeded in having transferred to herself all that 
he received from the Grandmother. That, I think, 
concludes all that I have to tell." 

"And De Griers? Is he too travelling in Switzer- 
land?" 

'No; nor do I know where he is. Also I warn you 
once more that you had better avoid such hints and 
ignoble suppositions; otherwise you will assuredly have 
to reckon with me." 

" What? In spite of our old friendship? " 

14 Yes, in spite of our old friendship." 

" Then I beg your pardon a thousand times, Mr. 
Astley. I meant nothing offensive to Mile. Polina, for 
I have nothing of which to accuse her. Moreover, the 
question of there being anything between this French- 
man and this Russian lady is not one which you and I 
need discuss, nor even attempt to understand." 

" If," replied Astley, " you do not care to hear their 
names coupled together, may I ask you what you mean 
by the expressions ' this Frenchman,' ' this Russian 
lady,' and ' there being anything between them ' ? Why 
do you call them so particularly a ' Frenchman ' and a 
1 Russian lady ' ? " 

" Ah, I see you are interested, Mr. Astley. But it is 
a long, long story, and calls for a lengthy preface. At 
the same time, the question is an important one, how- 
ever ridiculous it may seem at the first glance. A 
Frenchman, Mr. Astley, is merely a fine figure of a man. 
With this you, as a Britisher, may not agree. With it 
I also, as a Russian, may not agree — out of envy. Yet 
possibly our good ladies are of another opinion. For 
instance, one may look upon Racine as a broken-down, 
hobbledehoy, perfumed individual — one may even be 
unable to read him; and I too may think him the same, 
as well as, in some respects, a subject for ridicule. Yet 
about him, Mr. Astley, there is a certain charm, and, 
above all things, he is a great poet — though one might 
like to deny it. Yes, the Frenchman, the Parisian, as 
a national figure, was in process of developing into a 
figure of elegance before we Russians had even ceased 
to be bears. The Revolution bequeathed to the French 



304 The Gambler 

nobility its heritage, and now every whipper-sna 
of a Parisian may possess manners, methods of ex] 
sion, and even thoughts that are above reproach in f« 
while all the time he himself may share in that 1 
neither in initiative nor in intellect nor in soul- 
manners, and the rest, having come to him thn 
inheritance. Yes, taken by himself, the Frenchim 
frequently a fool of fools and a villain of villains, 
contra, there is no one in the world more worth 
confidence and respect than this young Russian 1 
De Griers might so mask his face and play a pai 
easily to overcome her heart, for he has an impc 
figure, Mr. Astley, and this young lady might easily 
that figure for his real self — for the natural form о 
heart and soul instead of the mere cloak with w 
heredity has dowered him. And even though it 
offend you, I feel bound to say that the majority 
of English people are uncouth and unrefined, whe 
we Russian folk can recognise beauty wherever we 
it, and are always eager to cultivate the same. Bi 
distinguish beauty of soul and personal originality t 
is needed far more independence and freedom tha 
possessed by our women, especially by our younger la< 
At all events they need more experience. For insta 
this Mile. Polina — pardon me, but the name has pa 
my lips, and I cannot well recall it — is taking a 
long time to make up her mind to prefer you to Mom 
de Griers. She may respect you, she may become ; 
friend, she may open out her heart to you; yet over 
heart there will be reigning that loathsome villain, 
mean and petty usurer, De Griers. This will be dr 
obstinacy and self-love — to the fact that De Griers 1 
appeared to her in the transfigured guise of a man 
of a disenchanted and ruined liberal who was doin^ 
best to help her family and the frivolous old Gen< 
and although these transactions of his have since 
exposed, you will find that the exposure has mad 
impression upon her mind. Only give her the 
Griers of former days, and she will ask of you no n 
The more she may detest the present De Griers, the 1 
will she lament the De Griers of the past — even the 



The Gambler 



3°5 



the latter never existed but in her own imagination. 
You are a sugar refiner, Mr. Astley, are you not? " 

" Yes, I belong to the well-known firm of Lovell 
and Co." 

" Then see here. On the one hand, you are a sugar 
refiner, while, on the other hand, you are an Apollo 
Belvedere. But the two characters do not mix with 
one another. I, again, am not even a sugar refiner; 
I am a mere roulette gambler who has also served as a 
lacquey. Of this fact Mile. Polina is probably well 
aware, since she appears to have an excellent force of 
police at her disposal." 

" You are saying this because you are feeling bitter," 
said Astley with cold indifference. " Yet there is not the 
least originality in your words." 

" I agree. But therein lies the horror of it all — that, 
however mean and farcical my accusations may be, they 
are none the less true. But I am only wasting words." 

" Yes, you are, for you are only talking nonsense! " 
exclaimed my companion — his voice now trembling 
and his eyes flashing fire. " Are you aware," he con- 
tinued, " that, wretched, ignoble, petty, unfortunate 
man though you are, it was at her request I came to 
Homburg, in order to see you, and to have a long, 
serious talk with you, and to report to her your feelings 
and thoughts and hopes — yes, and your recollections 
of her, too? " 

" Indeed? Is that really so? " I cried — the tears 
beginning to well from my eyes. Never before had this 
happened. 

' Yes, poor unfortunate," continued Astley. " She 
did love you : and I may tell you this now for the reason 
that now you are utterly lost. Even if I were also to 
tell you that she still loves you, you would none the less 
have to remain where you are. Yes, you have ruined 
yourself beyond redemption. Once upon a time you 
had a certain amount of talent, and you were of a lively 
disposition, and your good looks were not to be despised. 
You might even have been useful to your country, which 
needs men like you. Yet you remained here, and your 
life is now over. I am not blaming you for this: in my 



306 The Gambler 

view all Russians resemble you, or are inclined to do so. 
If it is not roulette, then it is something else. The 
exceptions are very rare. Nor are you the first to learn 
what a taskmaster is yours. For roulette is not exclu- 
sively a Russian game. Hitherto you have honourably 
preferred to serve as a lacquey rather than to act as a 
thief; but what the future may have in store for you I 
tremble to think. Now good-bye. You are in want of 
money, I suppose? Then take these ten louis d'or. 
More I shall not give you, for you would only gamble it 
away. Take care of these coins, and farewell. Once 
more, take care of them." 

" No, Mr. Astley. After all that has been said I " 

" Take care of them! " repeated my friend. " I am 
certain you are still a gentleman, and therefore I give 
you the money as one gentleman may give money to 
another. Also, if I could be certain that you would 
leave both Homburg and the gaming-tables, and return 
to your own country, I would give you a thousand 
pounds down to start life afresh; but I give you ten 
louis d'or instead of a thousand pounds for the reason 
that at the present time a thousand pounds and ten louis 
d'or will be all the same to you — you will lose the one 
as readily as you will the other. Take the money, there- 
fore, and good-bye." 

" Yes, I will take it if at the same time you will 
embrace me." 

" With pleasure." 

So we parted — on terms of sincere attection. 

But he was wrong. If I was hard and undiscerning 
as regards Polina and De Griers, he was hard and undis- 
cerning as regards Russian people generally. Of myself 
I say nothing. Yet — yet words are only words. I 
need to act. Above all things I need to think of Switzer- 
land. To-morrow, to-morrow Ah, but if only I 

could set things right to-morrow, and be born again, 
and rise again from the dead! But no — I cannot. 
Yet I must show her what I can do. Even if she should 
do no more than learn that I can still play the man, it 
would be worth it. To-dav it is too late, but to-morrow. 



The Gambler 307 

Yet I have a presentiment that things can never be 
otherwise. I have got fifteen louis d'or in my posses- 
sion, although I began with fifteen gulden. If I were 

to play carefully at the start But no, no! Surely 

I am not such a fool as that? Yet why should I not 
rise from the dead? I should require at first but to 
go cautiously and patiently and the rest would follow. 
I should require but to put a check upon my nature for 
one hour, and my fortunes would be changed entirely. 
Yes, my nature is my weak point. I have only to 
remember what happened to me some months ago at 
Roulettenberg, before my final ruin. What a notable 
instance that was of my capacity for resolution! On 
the occasion in question I had lost everything — every- 
thing; yet, just as I was leaving the Casino, I heard 
another gulden give a rattle in my pocket! " Perhaps 
I shall need it for a meal," I thought to myself; but 
a hundred paces further on, I changed my mind, and 
returned. That gulden I staked upon manque — and 
there is something in the feeling that, though one is 
alone, and in a foreign land, and far from one's own 
home and friends, and ignorant of whence one's next 
meal is to come, one is nevertheless staking one's very 
last coin ! Well, I won the stake, and in twenty minutes 
had left the Casino with a hundred and seventy gulden 
in my pocket ! That is a fact, and it shows what a last 
remaining gulden can do. . . . But what if my heart 
had failed me, or I had shrunk from making up my 
mind? . . . 

No; to-morrow all shall be ended! 



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