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Full text of "White nights, and other stories"

ersity of 

)uthern Regio 

ibrary Facilit 




WHITE NIGHTS 
AND OTHER STORIES 



THE NOVELS OF 
FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY 

VOLUME X 



NOVELS BY FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY 

Translated from the Russian by CONSTANCE 
GARNETT. 

THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV 

THE IDIOT 

THE POSSESSED 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 

THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD 

THE INSULTED AND INJURED 

A RAW YOUTH 

THE ETERNAL HUSBAND, etc. 

THE GAMBLER, etc. 

WHITE NIGHTS, etc. 

AN HONEST THIEF, etc. (shortly) 

THE FRIEND OF THE FAMILY (in progrtst) 

NOVELS BY IVAN TURGENEV 

Translated from tlie Russian by CONSTANCE 
GARXKTT. 

RUDIN 

A HOUSE OF GENTLEFOLK 

ON THE EVE 

FATHERS AND CHILDREN 

SMOKE 

VIRGIN SOIL(2vols.) 

A SPORTSMAN'S SKETCHES (2 vols.) 

DREAM TALES AND PROSE POEMS 

THE TORRENTS OF SPRING 

A LEAR OF THE STEPPES, etc. 

THE DIARY OF A SUPERFLUOUS MAN, eto. 

A DESPERATE CHARACTER, etc. 

THE JEW, etc. 



NEW YORK 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 



WHITE NIGHTS 

AND OTHER STORIES BY 
FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY 



FROM THE RUSSIAN BY 
CONSTANCE GARNETT 



NEW YORK 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1918 



Priiited i^' 



CONTENTS 

WHITE NIGHTS ..... 

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 
PART I. UNDERGROUND 
PART II. A PROPOS OF THE WET SNOW 

A FAINT HEART ..... 
A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING . 
POLZUNKOV ...... 

A LITTLE HERO 

MR. PROHARTCHIN 



WHITE NIGHTS 

A SENTIMENTAL STORY FROM THE DIARY OF A DREAMEB 

FIRST NIGHT 

IT was a wonderful night, such a night as is only possible when 
we are young, dear reader. The sky was so starry, so bright 
that, looking at it, one could not help asking oneself whether 
ill-humoured and capricious people could live under such a sky. 
That is a youthful question too, dear reader, very youthful, but 
may the Lord put it more frequently into your heart ! . . . 
Speaking of capricious and ill-humoured people, I cannot help 
recalling my moral condition all that day. From early morning 
I had been oppressed by a strange despondency. It suddenly 
seemed to me that I was lonely, that every one was forsaking me 
and going away from me. Of course, any one is entitled to ask 
who " every oiifi^_jras. For though I had been living almost 
eight years in Petersburg I had hardly an acquaintance . But what 
did I want with acquaintances ? I was acquainted with all Peters- 
burg as it was ; that was why I felt as though they were all 
deserting me when all Petersburg packed up and went to its 
summer villa. I felt afraid of being left alone, and for three whole 
days I wandered about the town in profound dejection, not know- 
ing what to do with myself. Whether I walked in the Nevsky, 
went to the Gardens or sauntered on the embankment, there was 
not one face of those I had been accustomed to meet at the same 
time and place all the year. They, of course, do not know me, 
but I know them. I know them intimately, I have almost made 
a study of their faces, and am delighted when they are gay, and 
downcast when they are under a cloud. I have almost struck 
up a friendship with one old man whom I meet every blessed day, 
at the same hour in Fontanka. Such a grave, pensive coun- 
tenance ; he is alway whispering to himself and brandishing his 

B 



2 WHITE NIGHTS 

left arm, while in his right hand he holds a long gnarled stick with 
a gold knob. He even notices me and takes a warm interest in 
me. If I happen not to be at a certain time in the same spot in 
Fontanka, I am certain he feels disappointed. That is how it is 
that we almost bow to each other, especially when \ve are both in 
good humour. The other day, when we had not seen each other 
for two days and met on the third, we were actually touching our 
hats, but, realizing in time, dropped our hands and passed each 
other with a look of interest. 

I know the houses too. As I walk along they seem to run for- 
ward in the streets to look out at me from every window, and 
almost to say : " Good-morning ! How do you do ? I am quite 
well, thank God, and I am to have a new storey in May," or, " How 
are you? I am being redecorated to-morrow"; or, "I was 
almost burnt down and had such a fright," and so on. I have 
my favourites among them, some are dear friends ; one of them 
intends to be treated by the architect this summer. I shall go 
every day on purpose to see that the operation is not a failure. 
God forbid ! But I shall never forget an incident with a very 
pretty little house of a light pink colour. It was such a charming 
little brick house, it looked so hospitably at me, and so proudly at 
its ungainly neighbours, that my heart rejoiced whenever I hap- 
pened to pass it. Suddenly last week I walked along the st i 
and when I looked at my friend. I heard a plaintive, " They are 
painting me yellow ! " The villains ! The barbarians ! They 
had spared nothing, neither columns, nor cornices, and my poor 
little friend was as yellow as a canary. It almost made me 
bilious. And to this day I have not had the courage to visit 
my poor disfigured friend, painted the colour of the Celestial 
Empire. 

So now you understand, reader, in what sense I am acquainted 
with all Petersburg. 

I have mentioned already that I had felt worried for three whole 
days before I guessed the cause of my uneasiness. And I felt ill 
at ease in the street this one had gone and that one had gone, 
and what had become of the other ? and at home I did not feel 
like myself either. For two evenings 1 was puy./ling my brains 
to think what was ;unks in my corner ; why 1 felt so un- 
comfortable in it. And in jH-rplexif y I scanned my grimy green 
walls, my ceiling covered witli a spider's web, the growth of wliich 



WHITE NIGHTS 3 

Matrona has so successfully encouraged. I looked over all my 
furniture, examined every chair, wondering whether the trouble 
lay there (for if one chair is not standing in the same position as 
it stood the day before, I am not myself). I looked at the win- 
dow, but it was all in vain ... I was not a bit the better for it ! 
I even bethought me to send for Matrona, and was giving her 
some fatherly admonitions in regard to the spider's web and 
sluttishness in general; but she simply stared at me in amaze- 
ment and went away without saying a word, so that the spider's 
web is comfortably hanging in its place to this day. I only at 
last this morning realized what was wrong. Aie ! Why, they are 
giving me the slip and making off to their summer villas ! For- 
give the triviality of the expression, but I am in no mood for fine 
language . . . for everything that had been in Petersburg had 
gone or was going away for the holidays ; for every respectable 
gentleman of dignified appearance who took a cab was at once 
transformed, in my eyes, into a respectable head of a house- 
hold who after his daily duties were over, was making his way to 
the bosom of his family, to the summer villa ; for all the passers- 
by had now quite a peculiar air which seemed to say to every one 
they met : " We are only here for the moment, gentlemen, and 
in another two hours we shall be going off to the summer villa." 
If a window opened after delicate fingers, white as snow, had 
tapped upon the pane, and the head of a pretty girl was thrust out, 
calling to a street-seller with pots of flowers at once on the spot 
I fancied that those flowers were being bought not simply in 
order to enjoy the flowers and the spring in stuffy town lodgings, 
but because they would all be very soon moving into the country 
and could take the flowers with them. What is more, I made 
such progress in my new peculiar sort of investigation that I 
could distinguish correctly from the mere air of each in what 
summer villa he was living. The inhabitants of Kamenny and 
Aptekarsky Islands or of the Peterhof Road were marked by 
the studied elegance of their manner, their fashionable summer 
suits, and the fine carriages in which they drove to town. Visitors 
to Pargolovo and places further away impressed one at first sight 
by their reasonable and dignified air ; the tripper to Krestovsky 
Island could be recognized by his look of irrepressible gaiety. If 
I chanced to meet a long procession of waggoners walking lazily 
with the reins in their hands beside waggons loaded with regular 



4 WHITE NIGHTS 

mountains of furniture, tables, chairs, ottomans and sofas and 
domestic utensils of all sorts, frequently with a decrepit cook 
sitting on the top of it all, guarding her master's property as 
though it were the apple of her eye ; or if I saw boats heavily 
loaded with household goods crawling along the Neva or Fon- 
tanka to the Black River or the Islands the waggons and the 
boats were multiplied tenfold, a hundredfold, in my eyes. I 
fancied that everything was astir and moving, everything was 
going in regular caravans to the summer villas. It seemed as 
though Petersburg threatened to become a wilderness, so that at 
last I felt ashamed, mortified and sad that I had nowhere to go 
for the holidays and no reason to go away. I was ready to go 
away with every waggon, to drive off with every gentleman of 
respectable appearance who took a cab; but no one abso- 
lutely no one invited me ; it seemed they had forgotten me, 
as though really I were a stranger to them ! 

I took long walks, succeeding, as I usually did, in quite forgetting 
where I was, when I suddenly found myself at the city gates. 
Instantly I felt lighthearted, and I passed the barrier and walked 
between cultivated fields and meadows, unconscious of fatigue, 
and feeling only all over as though a burden were falling off my 
soul. All the passers-by gave me such friendly looks that they 
seemed almost greeting me, they all seemed so pleased at some- 
thing. They were all smoking cigars, every one of them. And 
I felt pleased as I never had before. It was as though I had 
suddenly found myself in Italy so strong was the effect of 
nature upon a half-sick townsman like me, almost stifling 
between city walls. 

There is something inexpressibly touching in nature round 
Petersburg, when at the approach of spring she puts forth all her 
might, all the powers bestowed on her by Heaven, when she 
breaks into leaf, decks herself out and spangles herself with flowers. 
.... Somehow I cannot help being reminded of a frail, con- 
sumptive girl, at whom one sometimes looks with compassion, 
sometimes with sympathetic love, whom sometimes one simply 
does not notice ; though suddenly in one instant she becomes, 
as though by chance, inexplicably lovely and exquisite, and, 
impressed and intoxicated, one cannot help asking oneself what 
power made those sad, pensive eyes flash with such fire ? 
What summoned the blood to those pale, wan cheeks ? What 



WHITE NIGHTS 5 

bathed with passion those soft features ? What set that bosom 
heaving ? What so suddenly called strength, life and beauty 
into the poor girl's face, making it gleam with such a smile, 
kindle with such bright, sparkling laughter ? You look round, 
you seek for some one, you conjecture. . . . But the moment 
passes, and next day you meet, maybe, the same pensive and pre- 
occupied look as before, the same pale face, the same meek and 
timid movements, and even signs of remorse, traces of a mortal 
anguish and regret for the fleeting distraction. . . . And you 
grieve that the momentary beauty has faded so soon never to 
return, that it flashed upon you so treacherously, so vainly, 
grieve because you had not even time to love her. . . . 

And yet my night was better than my day ! This was how it 
happened. 

I came back to the town very late, and it had struck ten as I 
was going towards my lodgings. My way lay along the canal 
embankment, where at that hour you never meet a soul. It is 
true that I live in a very remote part of the town. I walked 
along singing, for when I am happy I am always humming to 
myself like every happy man who has no friend or acquaintance 
with whom to share his joy. Suddenly I had a most unexpected 
adventure. 

Leaning on the canal railing stood a woman with her elbows 
on the rail, she was apparently looking with great attention at 
the muddy water of the canal. She was wearing a very charming 
yellow hat and a jaunty little black mantle. " She's a girl, and 
I am sure she is dark," 1 thought. She did not seem to hear my 
footsteps, and did not even stir when I passed by with bated 
breath and loudly throbbing heart. 

" Strange," I thought ; " she must be deeply absorbed in some- 
thing," and all at once I stopped as though petrified. I heard a 
muffled sob. Yes ! I was not mistaken, the girl was crying, 
and a minute later I heard sob after sob. Good Heavens ! 
My heart sank. And timid as I was with women, yet this was 
such a moment ! . . . I turned, took a step towards her, and should 
certainly have pronounced the word " Madam ! " if I had not 
known that that exclamation has been uttered a thousand times 
in every Russian society novel. It was only that reflection 
stopped me. But while I was seeking for a word, the girl came to 
herself, looked round, started, cast down her eyes and slipped 



6 WHITE NIGHTS 

by me along the embankment. I at once followed her ; but she, 
divining this, left the embankment, crossed the road and walked 
along the pavement. I dared not cross the street after her. My 
heart was fluttering like a captured bird. All at once a chance 
came to my aid. 

Along the same side of the pavement there suddenly came into 
sight, not far from the girl, a gentleman in evening dress, of 
dignified years, though by no means of dignified carriage ; he 
was staggering and cautiously leaning against the wall. The girl 
flew straight as an arrow, with the timid haste one sees in all girls 
who do not want any one to volunteer to accompany them 
home at night, and no doubt the staggering gentleman would 
not have pursued her, if my good luck had not prompted him. 

Suddenly, without a word to any one, the gentleman set off 
and flew full speed in pursuit of my unknown lady. She was 
racing like the wind, but the staggering gentleman was over- 
taking overtook her. The girl uttered a shriek, and ... I 
bless my luck for the excellent knotted stick, which happened on 
that occasion to be in my right hand. In a flash I was on the 
other side of the street ; in a flash the obtrusive gentleman had 
taken in the position, had grasped the irresistible argument, 
fallen back without a word, and only when we were very far 
away protested against my action in rather vigorous language. 
But his words hardly reached us. 

" .Give me your arm," I said to the girl. " And he won't dare 
to annoy us further." 

She took my arm without a word, still trembling with excite- 
ment and terror. Oh, pbtrusive gentleman ! How I blessed you 
at that moment ! I stole a glance at her, she was very charming 
and dark I had guessed right. 

On her black eyelashes there still glistened a tear from her 
recent terror or her former grief I don't know. But there was 
already a gleam of a smile on her lips. She too stole a glance at 
me, faintly blushed and looked down. 

" There, you see ; why did you drive me away ? If I had been 
here, nothing would have happened . . ." 

" But I did not know you ; I thought that you too . . ' 

" Why, do you know me now ? " 

" A little ! Here, for instance, why are you trembling ? " 

" Oh, you are right at the first guess ! " I answered, delighted 



WHITE NIGHTS 

that my girl had intelligence ; that is never out of place in com- 
pany with beauty. " Yes, from the first glance you have guessed 
the sort of man you have to do with. Precisely; I am shy with 
women, I am agitated, I don't deny it, as much so as you were 
a minute ago when that gentleman alarmed you. I am in some 
alarm now. It's like a dream, and I never guessed even in my 
sleep that I should ever talk with any woman." 

"What? Really? . . ." 

" Yes ; if my arm trembles, it is because it hag nevgj JbefinJield 
by a pretty" littIe~^rarnl"liTEe JJ^ours. I am a complete stranger 
to "women; that Ts^T" Have nftvftr J^ftnjigpd1o~t.TiRTn . _Yau see, 
I am-atee-r-r-r-i~doTi'*t evelTEnovFEow to talk to them. Here, 
I don't know now whether I have not said something silly to you ! 
Tell me frankly; I assure you beforehand that I am not quick 
to take offence ? . . ." 

" No, nothing, nothing, quite the contrary. And if you insist 
on my speaking frankly, I will tell you that women like such 
timidity; and if you want to know more, I like it too, and I 
won't drive you away till I get home." 

" You will make me," I said, breathless with delight, " lose my 
timidity, and then farewell to all my chances. . . ." 

"Chances! What chances of what? That's not so 
nice." 

" I beg your pardon, I am sorry, it was a slip of the tongue ; 
but how can you expect one at such -a moment to have no 
desire. ..." 

" To be liked, eh ? " 

" Well, yes ; but do, for goodness' sake, be kind. Think what I 
am ! Here, I am twenty-six and I have never seen any one. 
How can I speak well, tactfully, and to the point ? It will seem 
better to you when I have told you everything openly. ... I 
don't know how to be silent when my heart is speaking. Well, 
never mind. . . . Belie_ve__me, not-jone, woman, never, never ! 
No acquaintance of ariy sort ! And I do nothingbut dreanfevery 
day that at last I shall meet some one. Oh, if only you knew 
how often I have been in love in that way . . ." 

" How ? With whom ?.*. . ." 

" Why, with no one, with an ideal, with the one I dream of 
in my sleep. I make up regular romances in my dreams. Ah, 
you don't know me ! It's true, of course, I have met two or three 



8 

women, but what sort of women were they ? They were all land- 
ladies, that . . . But I shall make you laugh if I tell you that 
I have several times thought of speaking, just simply speaking, to 
some aristocratic lady in the street, when she is alone,! need hardly 
say ; speaking to her, of course, timidly, respectfully, passionately ; 
telling her that I am perishing in solitude, begging her not to send 
me away ; saying that I have no chance of making the acquaint- 
ance of any woman ; impressing upon her that it is a positive 
duty for a woman not to repulse so timid a prayer from such 
a luckless man as me. That, in fact, all I ask is, that she should 
say two or three sisterly words with sympathy, should not 
repulse me at first sight ; should take me on trust and listen 
to what I say ; should laugh at me if she likes, encourage me, 
say two words to me, only two words, even though we never 
meet again afterwards ! . . . But you are laughing ; however, 
that is why I am telling you. . . ." 

" Don't be vexed ; I am only laughing at your being your own 
enemy, and if you had tried you would have succeeded, perhaps, 
even though it had been in the street ; the simpler the better. . . . 
No kind-hearted woman, unless she were stupid or, still more, 
vexed about something at the moment, could bring herself to send 
you away without those two words which you ask for so timidly. 
. . . But what am I saying ? Of course she would take you for 
a madman. I was judging by myself ; I know a good deal about 
other people's lives." 

" Oh, thank you," I cried; " you don't know what you have 
done for me now ! " 

" I am glad ! I am glad ! But tell me how did you find out that 
I was the sort of woman with whom . . . well, whom you think 
worthy ... of attention and friendship ... in fact, not a 
landlady as you say ? What made you decide to come up to 
me ? " 

" What made me ? . . . But you were alone ; that gentle 
man was too insolent ; it's night. You must admit that it was a 
duty. . . ." 

" No, no ; I mean before, on the other side you know you 
meant to come up to me." 

%i On the other side ? Really I don't know how to answer; I 
am afraid to. . . . Do you know I have been happy to-day? I 
walked along singing ; I went out into the country ; I have never 



WHITE NIGHTS 9 

had such happy moments. You . . . perhaps it was my fancy. 
. . . Forgive me for referring to it ; I fancied you were crying, 
and I ... could not bear to hear it ... it made my heart 
ache. . . . Oh, my goodness ! Surely I might be troubled about 
you ? Surely there was no harm in feeling brotherly compassion 
for you .~TTT^t)e|r youF pardon r X-eftid-troinpassioTrr . T ". Well, 
in short, surely you would not be offended at my involuntary 
impulse to go up to you ? . . ." 

" Stop, that's enough, don't talk of it," said the girl, look- 
ing down, and pressing my hand. " It's my fault for having 
spoken of it; but I am glad I was not mistaken in you. . . . But 
here I am home ; I must go down this turning, it's two steps from 
here. . . . Good-bye, thank you ! . . . ' 

" Surely . . . surely you don't mean . . . that we shall never 
see each other again ? . . . Surely this is not to be the end ? " 

" You see," said the girl, laughing, " at first you only wanted 
two words, and now . . . However, I won't say anything . . . 
perhaps we shall meet. ..." 

"I shall come here to-morrow," I said. " Oh, forgive me, I 
am already making demands. . . ." 

" Yes, you are not very patient . . . you are almost insisting." 

" Listen, listen ! " I interrupted her. " Forgive me if I tell you 
something else. ... I tell you what, I can't help coming here 
to-morrow, I am a dreamer ; I have so little real life that I look 
upon such moments as this now, _as_sp_raTe^that_I_cannot help 
going oveFsuch m6Tn^rrt5"again L m L niy__dreams. I shaJTl^e dream- 
ing of you all night7 a~whole week, a~whole year. I shall cer- 
tainly come here to-morrow, just here to this place, just at the 
same hour, and I shall be happy remembering to-day. This 
place is dear to me already. I -h J a L e_aIiady--two &r three- such 
places in Petersburg. I once shed tears over memories . . . like 
you. . . . Who knows, perhaps you were weeping ten minutes 
ago over some memory. . . . But, forgive me, I have forgotten 
myself again ; perhaps you have once been particular!} 7 happy 
here. . . ." 

" Very good," said the girl, " perhaps I will come here to- 
morrow, too, at ten o'clock. I see that I can't forbid you. . . . 
The fact is, I have to be here ; don't imagine that I am making 
an appointment with you ; I tell you beforehand that I have to 
be here on my own account. But . . well, I tell you straight 



10 WHITE NIGHTS 

out, I don't mind if you do come. To begin with, something 
unpleasant might happen as it did to-day, but never mind that. 
. In short, I should simply like to see you ... to say two 
words to you. Only, mind, you must not think the worse of me 
now ! Don't think I make appointments so lightly. ... I 
shouldn't make it except that . . . But let that be my secret ! 
Only a compact beforehand ..." 

" A compact ! Speak, tell me, tell me all beforehand ; I agree 
to anything, I am ready for anything," I cried delighted. " I 
answer for myself, I will be obedient, respectful . . . you know 
me. . . ." 

" It's just because I do know you that I ask you to come to- 
morrow," said the girl, laughing. " I know you perfectly. But 
mind you will come on the condition, in the first place (only be 
good, do what I ask you see, I speak frankly), you won't fall in 
love with me. . . . That's impossible, I assure you. I am ready 
for friendship; here's my hand. . . . J|ut you mustn't fall in 
love with me, I beg you ! " 

T Tr?w^aT7 A ^~CTfed", gripping her hand. . . . 

" Hush, don't swear, I know you are ready to flare up like 
gunpowder. Don't think ill of me for saying so. If only you 
knew. ... I, too, have no one to whom I can say a word, whose 
advice I can ask. Of course, one does not look for an adviser in 
the street ; but you are an exception. I know you as though we 
had been friends for twenty years. . . . You won't deceive me, 
will you I .-..-." 

" You will see . . . the only thing is, I don't know how I am 
going to survive the next twenty-four hours." 

" Sleep soundly. Good-night, and remember that I have 
trusted you already. But you exclaimed so nicely just now, 
' Surely one can't be held responsible for every feeling, even for 
brotherly sympathy ! ' Do you know, that was so nicely said, 
that the idea struck me at once, that I might confide in you ? " 

" For God's sake do ; but about what ? What is it ? " 

" Wait till to-morrow. Meanwhile, let that be a secret. So 
much the better for you ; it will give it a faint flavour of romance. 
Perhaps I will tell you to-morrow, and perhaps not. ... I will 
talk to you a little more beforehand; we will get to know each 
other better. ..." 

" Oh yes, I will tell you all about myself to-morrow ! But what 



WHITE NIGHTS 11 

has happened ? It is as though a miracle had befallen me. . . . 
My God, where am I ? Come, tell me aren't you glad that you 
were not angry and did not drive me away at the first moment, 
as any other woman would have done ? In two minutes you have 
made me happy for ever. Yes, happy; who knows, perhaps, 
you have reconciled me with myself, solved my doubts ! . . . 
Perhaps such moments come upon me. . . . But there I will 
tell you all about it to-morrow, you shall know everything, 
everything. . . ." 

" Very well, I consent ; you shall begin . . ." 

" Agreed." 

" Good-bye till to-morrow ! " 

" Till to-morrow ! " 

And we parted. I walked about all night ; I could not make 
up my mind to go home. I was so happy. . . . To-morrow ! 



SECOND NIGHT 

" WELL, so you have survived ! " she said, pressing both my 
hands. 

" I've been here for the last two hours ; you don't know what 
a state I have been in all day." 

" I know, I know. But to business. Do you know why I have 
come ? Not to talk nonsense, as I did yesterday. I tell you what, 
we must behave more sensibly in future. I thought a great deal 
about it last night." 

" In what way in what must we be more sensible ? I am ready 
for my part ; but, really, nothing more sensible has happened to 
me in my life than this, now." 

" Really ? In the first place, I beg you not to squeeze my 
hands so ; secondly, I must tell you that I spent a long time think- 
ing about you and feeling doubtful to-day." 

" And how did it end ? " 

" How did it end ? The upshot of it is that we must begin all 
over again, because the conclusion I reached to-day was that I 
don't know you at" all; that I behaved like a baby last night, 
like a little girl ; and, of course, the fact of it is, that it's my soft 
heart that is to blame that is, I sang my own praises, as one 
always does in the end when one analyses one's conduct. And 



12 WHITE NIGHTS 

therefore to correct my mistake, I've made up my mind to find 
out all about you minutely. But as I have no one from whom I 
can find out anything, you must tell me everything fully your- 
self. Well, what sort of man are you ? Come, make haste 
begin tell me your whole history." 

" My history ! " I cried in alarm. " My history ! But who has 
told you I have a history ? I have no history. . . ." 

" Then how have you lived, if you have no history ? " she 
interrupted, laughing. 

" Absolutely without any history ! I have lived, as they say, 
keeping myself to myself, that is, utterly alone alone, entirely 
alone. Do you know what it means to be alone ? " 

" But how alone ? Do you mean you never saw any one ? " 

" Oh no, I see people, of course ; but still I am alone." 

" Why, do you never talk to any one ? " 

" Strictly speaking, withno one." 

" Who are you then ? Explain yourself ! Stay, I guess : 
most likely, like me you have a grandmother. She is blind and 
will never let me go anywhere, so that I have almost forgotten 
how to talk ; and when I played some pranks two years ago, and 
she saw there was no holding me in, she called me up and pinned 
my dress to hers, and ever since we sit like that for days together ; 
she knits a stocking, though she's blind, and I sit beside her, sew 
or read aloud to her it's such a queer habit, here for two years 
I've been pinned to her. ..." 

" Good Heavens ! what misery ! But no, I haven't a grand- 
mother like that." 

" Well, if you haven't why do you sit at home ? . . ." 

" Listen, do you want to know the sort of man I am ? " 

; ' Yes, yes ! " 

" In the strict sense of the word ? " 

" In the very strictest sense of the word." 

" Very well, I am a type ! " 

" Type, type ! What sort of type ? " cried the girl, laughing, 
as though she had not had a chance of laughing for a whole year. 
" Yes, it's very amusing talking to you. Look, here's a seat, 
let us sit down. No one is passing here, no one will hear us, and 
begin your history. For it's no good your telling me, I know 
you have a history; only you are concealing it. To begin with, 
what is a type ? " 



WHITE NIGHTS 13 

A typ&-#^A type is an original, it's an absurd person ! " 
I said, infecte<^ by her childish laughter. "It's a character. 
Listen ; ao~~y6u know what is meant by a dreamer ? " 

" A dreamer ! Indeed I should think I do know. I am a 
dreamer myself. Sometimes, as I sit by grandmother, all sorts 
of things come into my head. Why, when one begins dreaming 
one lets one's fancy run away with one why, I marry a Chinese 
Prince ! . . . Though sometimes it is a good thing to dream ! 
But, goodness knows ! Especially when one has something to 
think of apart from dreams," added the girl, this time rather 
seriously. 

" Excellent ! If you have been married to a Chinese Emperor, 
you will quite understand me. Come, listen. . . . But one 
minute, I don't know your name yet." 

" At last ! You have been in no hurry to think of it ! " 

" Qh, my goodness J_ It never entered my head, I felt quite i 
happy as it was. . . ." 

" My name is Nastenka." 

" Nastenka ! And nothing else ? " 

" Nothing else ! Why, is not that enough for you, you in- 
satiable person ? " 

" Not enough ? On the contrary, it's a great deal, a very great 
deal, Nastenka ; you kind girl, if you are Nastenka for me from 
the first." 

" Quite so ! WeU ? " 

" Well, listen, Nastenka, now for this absurd history." 

I sat down beside her, assumed a pedantically serious atti- 
tude, and began as though reading from a manuscript : 

" There are, Nastenka, though you may not know it, strange 
nooks in Petersburg. It seems as though the same sun as shines 
for all Petersburg people does not peep into those spots, but some 
other different new one, bespoken expressly for those nooks, and 
it throws a different light on everything. In these corners, dear 
Nastenka, quite a different life is lived, quite unlike the life that 
is surging round us, but such as perhaps exists in some unknown 
realm, not among us in our serious, over-serious, time. Well, that 
life is a mixture of something purely fantastic, fervently ideal, 
with something (alas ! Nastenka) dingily prosaic and ordinary, 
not to say incredibly vulgar." 

" Foo ! Good Heavens ! What a preface ! What do I hear ? " 



U WHITE NIGHTS 

" Listen, Nastenka. (It seems to me I shall never be tired of 
calling you Nastenka.) Let me tell you that in these corners 
live strange people dreamers. Thedreamtr-if you want an 
exact definition is not a human T>emg7but a creature of an 
intermediate sort. For the mna^jiart h fiUl fiH in "mft in- 
accessible corner, as thoTlgtrtltftTng^frmh the light of day ; once 
he slips into his corner, he grows to it like a snail, or, anyway, 
he is in that respect very much like that remarkable creature,' 
which is an animal and a house both at once, and is called a 
tortoise. Why do you suppose he is so fond of his four walls, 
which are invariably painted green, grimy, dismal and reeking 
unpardonably of tobacco smoke ? Why is it that when this 
absurd gentleman is visited by one of his few acquaintances 
(and he ends by getting rid of all his friends), why does this absurd 
person meet him with such embarrassment, changing countenance 
and overcome with confusion, as though he had only just com- 
mitted some crime within his four walls ; as though he had been 
forging counterfeit notes, or as though he were writing verses to 
be sent to a journal with an anonymous letter, in which he states 
that the real poet is dead, and that his friend thinks it his sacred 
duty to publish his things ? Why, tell me, Nastenka, why is it 
conversation is not easy between the two friends ? Why is there 
no laughter ? Why does no lively word fly from the tongue of 
the perplexed newcomer, who at other times may be very fond of 
laughter, lively words, conversation about the fair sex, and other 
cheerful subjects ? And why does this friend, probably a new 
friend and on his first visit for there will hardly be a second, 
and the friend will never come again why is the fnend himself 
so confused, so tongue-tied, in spite of his wit (if he has any), 
as he looks at the downcast face of his host, who in his turn 
becomes utterly helpless and at his wits' end after gigantic but 
fruitless efforts to smooth things over and enliven the conversa- 
tion, to show his knowledge of polite society, to talk, too, of 

fair sex. and by such humble endeavour, to please the poor 
man, wh<. hk. ;i \\^h out of water has mistakenly come to visit 
him < Why does the gentleman, all at onee remembering some 

. m-eessnry business which never existed, suddenly seize his 
hat and hurriedly make off, snatching away his hand from 
the warm ^rifi of hi.-, ho.st. who was trying his utmost to 
show hia regret and retrieve the lost position? Why does the 



WHITE NIGHTS 15 

friend chuckle as he goes out of the door, and swear never to 
come and see this queer creature again, though the queer creature 
is really a very good fellow, and at the same time he cannot refuse 
his imagination the little diversion of comparing the queer fellow's 
countenance during their conversation with the expression of an 
unhappy kitten treacherously captured, roughly handled, fright- 
ened and subjected to all sorts of indignities by children, till, 
utterly crestfallen, it hides away from them under a chair in the 
dark, and there must needs at its leisure bristle up, spit, and wash 
its insulted face with both paws, and long afterwards look 
angrily at life and nature, and even at the bits saved from the 
master's dinner for it by the sympathetic housekeeper ? " 

" Listen," interrupted Nastenka, who had listened to me all the 
time in amazement, opening her eyes and her little mouth. 
" Listen ; I don't know in the least why it happened and why 
you ask me such absurd questions ; all I know is, that this 
adventure must have happened word for word to you." 

" Doubtless," I answered, with the gravest face. 

" Well, since there is no doubt about it, go on," said Nastenka, 
" because I want very much to know how it will end." 

" You want to know, Nastenka, what our hero, that is I 
for the hero of the whole business was my humble self did in 
his corner ? You want to know why I lost my head and was upset 
for the whole day by the unexpected visit of a friend? You 
want to know why I was so startled, why I blushed when the 
door of my room was opened, why I was not able to entertain 
my visitor, and why I was crushed under the Aveight of my own 
hospitality ? " 

" Why, yes, yes," answered Nastenka, " that's the point. 
Listen. You describe it all splendidly, but couldn't you perhaps 
describe it a little less splendidly ? You talk as though you were 
reading it out of a book." 

" Nastenka," I answered in a stern and dignified voice, hardly 
able to keep from laughing, " dear Nastenka, Ikiiow I describe , 
splendidly, but, excuse me, I don't know-how eLsu to du it. At 
this -ifTOrnent, dear Nastenka, at this moment I am like the spirit 
of King Solomon when, after lying a thousand years under seven 
seals in his urn, those seven seals were at last taken off. At this 
moment, Nastenka, when we have met at last after such a long 
separation for I have known you for ages, Nastenka, because 



16 WHITE NIGHTS 

I have been looking for some one for ages, and that is a sign that 
it was you I was looking for, and it was ordained that we should 
meet now at this moment a thousand valves have opened in 
my head, and I must let myself flow in a river of words, or I shall 
choke. And so I beg you not to interrupt me, Nastenka, but 
listen humbly and obediently, or I will be silent." 

" No, no, no ! Not at all. Go on ! I won't say a word ! " 
" I will continue. There is, my friend Nastenka, one hour in 
my day which I like extremely. That is the hour when almost 
all business, work and duties are over, and every one is hurrying 
home to dinner, to lie down, to rest, and on the way all are cogitat- 
ing on other more cheerful subjects relating to their evenings, their 
nights, and all the rest of their free time. At that hour our hero 
for allow me, Nastenka, to^te-U- my story in the third person, 
for one feels awfully ashamed to tell it in the first person and 
so at that hour our hero, who had his work too, was pacing along 
after the others. But a strange feeling of pleasure set his pale, 
rather crumpled-looking face working. He looked not with 
indifference on the evening glow which was slowly fading on the 
cold Petersburg sky. When I say he looked, I am lying : he 
did not look at it, but saw it as it were without realizing, as 
though tired or preoccupied with some other more interesting 
subject, so that he could scarcely spare a glance for anything 
about him. He was pleased because till next day he was released 
from business irksome to him, and happy as a schoolboy let out 
from the class-room to his games and mischief. Take a look at 
him, Nastenka ; you will see at once that joyful emotion has 
already had an effect on his weak nerves and morbidly excited 
fancy. You see he is thinking of something. ... Of dinner, 
do you imagine ? Of the evening ? What is he looking at like 
that ? Is it at that gentleman of dignified appearance who is 
bowing so picturesquely to the lady who rolls by in a carriage 
drawn by prancing horses ? No, Nastenka ; what are all those 
trivialities to him now ! He is rich now with his own individual 
life ; he has suddenly become rich, and it is not for nothing that 
the fading sunset sheds its farewell gleams so gaily before him, 
and calls forth a swarm of impressions from his warmed heart. 
Now he hardly notices the road, on which the tiniest details at 
other times would strike him. Now ' the Goddess of Fancy ' 
(if you have read Zhukovsky, dear Nastenka) has already with 



WHITE NIGHTS 17 

fantastic hand spun her golden warp and begun weaving upon 
it patterns of marvellous magic life and who knows, maybe, 
her fantastic hand has borne him to the seventh crystal heaven 
far from the excellent granite pavement on which he was walk- 
ing his way ? Try stopping him now, ask him suddenly where 
he is standing now, through what streets he is going he will, 
probably remember nothing, neither where he is going nor where 
he is standing now, and flushing with vexation he will certainly 
tell some lie to save appearances. That is why he starts, almost 
cries out, and looks round with horror when a respectable 
old lady stops him politely in the middle of the pavement and 
asks her way. Frowning with vexation he strides on, scarcely 
noticing that more than one passer-by smiles and turns round 
to look after him, and that a little girl, moving out of his way in 
alarm, laughs aloud, gazing open-eyed at his broad meditative 
smile and gesticulations. But fancy catches up in its playful flight 
the old woman, the curious passers-by, and the laughing child, and 
the peasants spending their nights in their barges on Fontanka 
(our hero, let us suppose, is walking along the canal-side at that 
moment), and capriciously weaves every one and everything 
into the canvas like a fly in a spider's web. And it is only after 
the queer fellow has returned to his comfortable den with fresh 
stores for his mind to work on, has sat down and finished his 
dinner, that he comes to himself, when Matrona who waits upon 
him always thoughtful and depressed clears the table and gives 
him his pipe ; he comes to himself then and recalls with surprise 
that he has dined, though he has absolutely no notion how it has 
happened. It has grown dark in the room ; his soul is sad and 
empty; the whole kingdom of fancies drops to pieces about 
him, drops to pieces without a trace, without a sound, floats 
away like a dream, and he cannot himself remember what he was 
dreaming. But a vague sensation faintly stirs his heart and sets 
it aching, some new desire temptingly tickles and excites his 
fancy, and imperceptibly evokes a swarm of fresh phantoms. 
Stillness reigns in the little room; imagination is fostered by 
solitude and idleness ; it is faintly smouldering, faintly simmer- 
ing, like the water -with which old Matrona is making her coffee 
as she moves quietly about in the kitchen close by. Now it 
breaks out spa&rnodically ; and the book, picked up aimlessly and 
at random, drops from my dreamer's hand before he has reached 



18 WHITE NIGHTS 

the third page. His imagination is again stirred and at work, 
and again a new world, a new fascinating life opens vistas before 
him. A fresh dream fresh happiness ! A fresh rush of delie 
voluptuous poison ! What is real life to him ! To his corrupted 

s we li ve, you and I, Nastenka, so torpidly, slowly, insipidly ; 
in his eyes we are all so dissatisfied with our fate, so exhausted 
life"! And, Wuly, see how^at first sight everything is 
cold, morose, as though ill-humoured among us. . . . Poor things ! 
thinks our dreamer. And it is no wonder that he thinks it ! Look 
at these magic phantasms, which so enchantingly, so whimsically, 
so carelessly and freely group before him in such a magic, animated 
picture, in which the most prominent figure in the foreground 
is of course himself, our dreamer, in his precious person. See 
what varied adventures, what an endless swarm of ecstatic 
dreams. You ask, perhaps, what he is dreaming of. Why ask 
that ? why, of everything ... of the lot of the poet, first un- 
recognized, then crowned with laurels; of friendship with 
Hoffmann, St. Bartholomew's Night, of Diana Vernon, of play- 
ing the hero at the taking of Kazan by Ivan Vassil yeviteh, of 
Clara Mowbray, of Effie Deans, of the council of the prelates 
and Huss before them, of the rising of the dead in ' Robert the 
Devil ' (do you remember the music, it smells of the church- 
yard !), of Minna and Brenda, of the battle of Berezina, of the 
reading of a poem at Countess V. D.'s, of Danton, of Cleopatra 
ei suoi amanti, of a little house in Kolomna, of a little home of 
one's own and beside one a dear creature who listens to one 
on a winter's evening, opening her little mouth and eyes as you 
are listening to me now, my angel. . . . No, Nastenka, what is 
there, what is there for him, voluptuous sluggard, in this life, 
for whieh you and I have such a longing? He thinks that this 
is a jxx.r pitiful lite, not foreseeing that for him tou, maybe, 
sometime tin- mournful hour may strike, when for one day of 
that pitiful life lie \\ould ^ive all his years of phantasy, and 
\\oujclgi\r them iiut only for joy ami for happiness, hut uith- 
' make distinctions in that hour of .sadness, remorse 
rief. Hut so far that threatening time has not 
:il 'ri can.-,.- he is superior to all desire, 

use lie has every tiling, because he is satiated, U-cause he is 

t of hia own life, and creates it for himself every hour 

to suit hia latest whim. And you know this fantastic world of 



WHITE NIGHTS 19 

fairyland is so easily, so naturally created ! As though it were 
not a delusion ! Indeed, he is ready to believe at some moments 
that all this life is not suggested by feeling, is not mirage, not a 
delusion of the imagination, but that it is concrete, real, sub- 
stantial ! Why is it, Nastenka, why is it at such moments one 
holds one's breath ? Why, by what sorcery, through what 
incomprehensible caprice, is the pulse quickened, does a tear 
start from the dreamer's eye, while his pale moist cheeks glow, 
while his whole being is suffused with an inexpressible sense of 
consolation ? Why is it that whole sleepless nights pass like a 
flash in inexhaustible gladness and happiness, and when the 
dawn gleams rosy at the window and daybreak floods the gloomy 
room with uncertain, fantastic light, as in Petersburg, our dreamer, 
worn out and exhausted, flings himself on his bed and drops asleep 
with thrills of delight in his morbidly overwrought spirit, and with 
a weary sweet ache in his heart ? Yes, Nastenka, one deceives 
oneself and unconsciously believes that real true passion is 
stirring one's soul ; one unconsciously believes that there is 
something living, tangible in one's immaterial dreams ! And is it 
delusion ? Here love, for instance, is bound up with all its 
fathomless joy, all its torturing agonies in his bosom. . . . Only 
look at him, and you will be convinced ! Would you believe, look- 
ing at him, dear Nastenka, that he has never known her whom he 
loves in his ecstatic dreams ? Can it be that he has only seen her 
in seductive visions, and that this passion has been nothing but 
a dream ? Surely they must have spent years hand in hand 
together alone the two of them, casting off all the world and 
each uniting his or her life with the other's ? Surely when the 
hour of parting came she must have lain sobbing and grieving 
on his bosom, heedless of the tempest raging under the sullen 
sky, heedless of the wind which snatches and bears away the 
tears from her black eyelashes ? Can all of that have been a 
dream and that garden, dejected, forsaken, run wild, with its 
little moss-grown paths, solitary, gloomy, where they used to walk 
so happily together, where they hoped, grieved, loved, loved each 
other so long, " so long and so fondly ? " And that queer ances- 
tral house where she spent so many years lonely and sad with her 
morose old husband, always silent and splenetic, who frightened 
them, while timid as children they hid their love from each other ? 
What torments they suffered, what agonies of terror, how 



20 WHITE NIGHTS 

innocent, how pure was their love, and how (I need hardly say, 
Nastenka) maUcious~peopTe~were ! 5n37gbod Heavens ! surely 
he met her afterwards, far from their native shores, under alien 
skies, in the hot south in the divinely eternal city, in the dazzling 
splendour of the ball to the crash of music, in a palazzo (it must 
be in a palazzo}, drowned in a sea of lights, on the balcony, 
wreathed in myrtle and roses, where, recognizing him, she 
hurriedly removes her mask and whispering, ' I am free,' flings 
herself trembling into his arms, and with a cry of rapture, clinging 
to one another, in one instant they forget their sorrow and 
their parting and all their agonies, and the gloomy house and 
the old man and the dismal garden in that distant land, and 
the seat on which with a last passionate kiss she tore herself 
away from his arms numb with anguish and despair. . . . Oh, 
Nastenka, you must admit that one would start, betray confusion, 
and blush like a schoolboy who has just stuffed in his pocket an 
apple stolen from a neighbour's garden, when your uninvited 
visitor, some stalwart, lanky fellow, a festive soul fond of a joke, 
opens your door and shouts out as though nothing were hap- 
pening ; ' My dear boy, I have this minute come from Pavlovsk.' 
My goodness ! the old count is dead, unutterable happiness is 
close at hand and people arrive from Pavlovsk ! " 

Finishing my pathetic appeal, I paused pathetically. I remem- 
bered that I had an intense desire to force myself to laugh, for I 
was already feeling that a malignant demon was stirring within me, 
that there was a lump in my throat, that my chin was beginning to 
twitch, and that my eyes were growing more and more moist. 

I expected Nastenka, who listened to me opening her clever 
eyes, would break into her childish, irrepressible laugh ; and 
I was already regretting that I had gone so far, that I had un- 
necessarily described what had long been simmering in my 
heart, about which I could speak as though from a written 
account of it, because I had long ago passed judgment on myself 
and now could not resist reading it, making my confession, with- 
out expecting to be understood; but to my surprise she was 
silent, waiting a little, then she faintly pressed my hand and with 
timid sympathy asked 

" Surely you haven't lived like that all your life ? " 

"All my life, Nastenka," I answered; "all my life, and it 
seems to me I shall go on so to the end." 



WHITE NIGHTS 21 

" No, that won't do," she said uneasily, " that must not be; 
and so, maybe, I shall spend all my life beside grandmother 
Do you know, it is not at all good to live like that ? " 

" I know, Nastenka, I know ! " I cried, unable to restrain 
my feelings longer. " And I realize now, more than ever, that 
I have lost all my best years ! And now I know it and feel it 
more painfully from recognizing that God has sent me you, 
my good angel, to tell me that and show it. Now that I sit 
beside you and talk to you it is strange for me to think of the 
future, for in the future there is loneliness again, again this 
musty, useless life ; and what shall I have to dream of when I 
have been so happy in reality beside you ! Oh, may you be 
blessed, dear girl, for not having repulsed me at first, for enabling 
me to say that for two evenings, at least, I have lived." 

" Oh, no, no ! " cried Nastenka and tears glistened in her eyes. 
" No, it mustn't be so any more ; we must not part like that ! 
what are two evenings ? " 

"Oh, Nastenka, Nastenka ! Do you know how far you have 
reconciled me to myself ? Do you know now that I shall not 
think so ill of myself, as I have at some moments ? Do you know 
that, maybe, I shall leave off grieving over the crime and sin of 
my life ? for such a life is a crime and a sin. And do not imagine 
that I have been -exaggerating anything for goodness' sake 
don't think that, Nastenka : for at times such misery comes over 
me, such misery. . . . Because it begins to seem to me at such 
times that I am incapable of beginning a life in real life, because 
it has seemed to me that I Jia_yjsJfistj^tojich i all instinct for 
the_actual, the real ; because at last I have cursed myselff be- 
cause after ^y~fantastie- nights- 1 have moments of returning 
sobriety, which are awful ! Meanwhile, you hear the whirl and 
roar of the crowd in the vortex of life around you; you hear, 
you see, men living in reality; you see that life for them is 
not forbidden, that their life does not float away like a dream, 
like a vision ; that their life is being eternally renewed, eternally 
youthful, and not one hour of it is the same as another ; while 
fancy is so spiritless, monotonous to vulgarity and easily scared, 
the slave of shadows, of the idea, the slave of the first cloud 
that shrouds the sun, and overcasts with depression the true 
Petersburg heart so devoted to the sun and what is fancy 
in depression ! One feels that this inexJiaustible fancy is weary 



22 WHITE NIGHTS 

at last and worn out with continual exercise, because one is 
growing into manhood, outgrowing one's old ideals : they are 
being shattered into fragments, into dust; if there is no other 
life one must build one up from the fragments. And meanwhile 
the soul longs and craves for something else ! And in vain the 
dreamer rakes over his old dreams, as though seeking a spark 
among the embers, to fan them into flame, to warm his chilled 
heart by the rekindled fire, and to rouse up in it again all that 
was so sweet, that touched his heart, that set his blood boiling, 
drew tears from his eyes, and so luxuriously deceived him ! 
Do you know, Nastenka, the point I have reached ? Do you 
know that I am forced now to celebrate the anniversary of my 
own sensations, the anniversary of that which was once so sweet, 
which never existed in reality for this anniversary is kept in 
memory of those same foolish, shadowy dreams and to do this 
because those foolish dreams are no more, because I have nothing 
to earn them with ; you know even dreams do not come for 
nothing ! Do you know that I love now to recall and visit 
at certain dates the places where I was once happy in my 
own way? I love to build up my present in harmony with 
the irrevocable past, and I often wander like a shadow, aim- 
less, sad and dejected, about the streets and crooked lanes of 
Petersburg. What memories they are ! To remember, for 
instance, that here just a year ago, just at this time, at this 
hour, on this pavement, I wandered just as lonely, just as dejected 
as to-day. And one remembers that then one's dreams were 
sad, and though the past was no better one feels as though it had 
somehow been better, and that life was more peaceful, that one 
was free from the black thoughts that haunt one now ; that one 
was free from the gnawing of conscience the gloomy, sullen 
gnawing which now gives me no rest by day or by night. And 
one asks oneself where are one's dreams. And one shakes one's 
head and says how rapidly the years fly by ! And again one 
oneself what has one done with one's years. Where have you 
buried your best days ? Have you lived or not ? Look, one 
to oneself, look how cold the world is growing. Some more years 
will pass, ami after them will come gloomy solitude; then will 
come old age trembling on its crutch, and after it misery and 
desolation. Your fantastie \vorM will grow pale, your dreams 
will fade and die and will fall like the yellow leaves from the 
trees. . . . Oh, Nastenka ! you know it will be sad to be left 



WHITE NIGHTS 23 

alone, utterly alone, and to have not even anything to regret 
nothing, absolutely nothing . . . for all that you have lost, 
all that, all was nothing, stupid, simple nullity, there has been 
nothing but dreams ! " 

" Come, don't work on my feelings any more," said Nastenka, , 
wiping away a tear which was trickling down her cheek. " Now 
it's over ! N^ojwjvejshalLbe two together. Now^whatever happens 
to mo, wo will never part. Listen; I am a simple gifl^ I have 
not had much education, though grandmother did get a teacher v 
for me, but truly I understand you, for all that you have described 
I have been through myself, when grandmother pinned me to 
her dress. Of course, I should not have described it so well as 
you have ; I am not educated," she added timidly, for she was 
still feeling a sort of respect for my pathetic eloquence and lofty \ \-\ 
style";"'"' but 1 aM very gted that you have T>een quite open with 
me. Now I know you thoroughly, all of you. And do you know 
what ? I want to tell you my history too, all without conceal- 
ment, and after that you must give me advice. You are a very 
clever man ; will you promise to give me advice ? " 

" Ah, Nastenka," I cried, " though I have never given advice, 
still less sensible advice, yet I see now that if we always go on 
like this that it will be very sensible, and that each of us will 
give the other a great deal of sensible advice ! Well, my pretty 
Nastenka, what sort of advice do you want ? Tell me frankly ; 
at this moment I am so gay and happy, so bold and sensible, 
that it won't be difficult for me to find words." 

"No, no ! " Nastenka interrupted, laughing. "I don't only 
want sensible advice, I want_warm brotherly advice, as though ,.^', 
you had been fond of me all your life ! " ~" Xctkj 

"^Agreed, Nastenl:a,~agreedT'""T~cried delighted; "and if I 
had been fond of you for twenty years, I couldn't have been 
fonder of you than I am now." 

" Your hand," said Nastenka. 

" Here it is," said I, giving her my hand. 

" And so let us begin my history ! " 



NASTENKA'S HISTORY 

" Half my story you know already that is, you know that 
I have an old grandmother. ..." 



24 WHITE NIGHTS 

" If the other half is as brief as that ..." I interrupted, 
laughing. 

" Be quiet and listen. First of all you must agree not to 
interrupt me, or else, perhaps I shall get in a muddle ! Come, 
listen quietly. 

" I have an old grandmother. I came into her hands when 
I was quite a little girl, for mv^father and jnother are dead. It 
must be supposed that grandmother was once richer, for now 
she recalls better days. She taught me French j^and. then got a 
teacher._iof-me. When I was fifteen (and now I am seventeen) 
we gave up having lessons. It was at that time that I got into 
mischief ; what I did I won't tell you ; it's enough to say that it 
wasn't very important. But grandmother called me to her one 
morning and said that as she was blind she could not look after 
me ; she took a pin and pinned my dress to hers, and said that 
we should sit like that for the rest of our lives if, of course, I did 
not become a better girl. In fact, at first it was impossible to get 
away from her : I had to work, to read and to study all beside 
grandmother. I tried to deceive her once, and persuaded Fekla 
to sit in my place. Fekla is our charwoman, she is deaf. Fekla 
sat there instead of me ; grandmother was asleep in her arm- 
chair at the time, and I went off to see a friend close by. Well, 
it ended in trouble. Grandmother woke up while I was out, and 
asked some questions ; she thought I was still sitting quietly in 
my place. Fekla saw that grandmother was asking her some- 
thing, but could not tell what it was ; she wondered what to do, 
undid the pin and ran away. ..." 

At this point Nastenka stopped and began laughing. I laughed 
with her. She left off at once. 

" I tell you what, don't you laugh at grandmother. I laugh 
because it's funny. . . . What can I do, since grandmother is 
like that ; but yet I am fond of her in a way. Oh, well, I did 
catch it that time. I had to sit down in my place at once, and 
after that I was not allowed to stir. 

" Oh, I forgot to tell you that our house belongs to us, that is 
to grandmother ; it is a little wooden house with three windows 
as old as grandmother herself, with a little upper storey ; well, 

there mov^iftt^-muuippeijiprcxJ 1 Ilrw lodger." 
" Then you had an old lodger," I observed casually. 
" Yes, of course," answered Nastenka, " and one who knew 



WHITE NIGHTS 25 

how to hold his tongue better than you do. In fact, he hardly 
ever used his tongue at all. He was a dumb, blind, lame, dried- 
up little old man, so that at last he could not go on living, he 
died ; so then we had to find a new lodger, for we could not live 
without a lodger the rent, together with grandmother's pension, 
is almost all we have. But the new lodger, as luck would have 
it, was a young man, a stranger not of these parts. As he did 
not haggle over the rent, grandmother accepted him, and only 
afterwards she asked me : ' Tell me, Nastenka, what is our 
lodger like is he young or old ? ' I did not want to lie, so I 
told grandmother that he wasn't exactly young and that he 
w y asn't old. 

" ' And is he pleasant looking? ' asked grandmother. 

" Again I did not want to tell a lie : ' Yes, he is pleasant 
looking, grandmother,' I said. And grandmother said : ' Oh, 
what a nuisance, what a nuisance ! I tell you this, grand- 
chlid, that you may not be looking after him. What times 
these are ! Why a paltry lodger like this, and he must be 
pleasant looking too ; it was very different in the old days ! ' 

" Grandmother was always regretting the old days she 
was younger in old days, and the sun was warmer in old 
days, and cream did not turn so sour in old days it was 
always the old days ! I would sit still and hold my tongue 
and think to myself : why did grandmother suggest it to me ? 
Why did she ask whether the lodger was young and good- 
looking ? But that was all, I just thought it, began counting 
my stitches again, went on knitting my stocking, and forgot all 
about it. 

" Well, one morning the lodger came in to see us; he asked 
about a promise to paper his rooms. One thing led to another. 
Grandmother was talkative, and she said : ' Go, Nastenka, into 
my bedroom and bring me my reckoner.' I jumped up at once ; 
I blushed all over, I don't know why, and forgot I was sitting 
pinned to grandmother; instead of quietly undoing the pin, 
so that the lodger should not see I jumped so that grandmother's 
chair moved. When I saw that the lodger knew all about me 
now, I blushed, stood still as though I had been shot, and suddenly 
began to cry I felt so ashamed and miserable at that minute, 
that I didn't know where to look ! Grandmother called out, 
* What are you waiting for ? ' and I went on worse than ever. 



26 WHITE NIGHTS 

When the lodger saw, saw that I was ashamed on his account, 
he bowed and went away at once ! 

" After that I felt ready to die at the least sound in the passage. 
' It's the lodger,' I kept thinking; I stealthily undid the pin in 
case. But it always turned out not to be, he never came. 
A fortnight passed; the lodger sent word through F^ojdajyhat 
he had a greatnumber of IVejicJb^.boiLka_ai)^iJjiatJbh^: \\viv all 
g(5bd~txK)KS tha't'Tmight_read J _JQ_won1d not, grandmnt.hpr like 
me tojgftdjfoCTrthajTJji^^ ? Grandmother agreed 

with gratitude~~but kept asking if they were moral books, for if 
the books were immoral it would be out of the question, one 
would learn evil from them." 

: ' And what should I learn, grandmother ? What is there 
written in them ? ' 

" ' Ah,' she said, ' what's described in them, is how young men 
seduce virtuous girls ; how, on the excuse that they want to marry 
them, they carry them off from their parents' houses ; how after- 
wards they leave these unhappy girls to their fate, and they 
perish in the most pitiful way. I read a great many books,' 
said grandmother, ' and it is all so well described that one sits 
up all night and reads them on the sly. So mind you don't read 
them, Nastenka,' said she. ' What books has he sent ? ' 

" ' They are all Walter Scott's novels, grandmother.' 

" ' Walter Scott's novels ! But stay, isn't there some trick 
about it ? Look, hasn't he stuck a love-letter among them ? ' 
' No, grandmother,' I said, ' there isn't a love-letter.' 
' But look under the binding ; they sometimes stuff it under 
the bindings, the rascals ! ' 

" ' No, grandmother, there is nothing under the binding.' 

" ' Well, that's all right,' 

" So we began reading Walter Scott, and in a month or so we 
had read almost half. Then he sent us more and more. He 

us Pushkin, too^so that at last I couIcHlo! gl l t uirwitlffiut 
a book, and left off dreaming of how fine it would be to marry a 
Chinese Prince. 

" That's how things were when I chanced one day to meet 
our lodger on the stairs. Grandmother had sent me to fetch 
something. He stopped, I blushed and he blushed; he laughed, 
though, said good-morning to me, asked after grandmother, 
and said, ' Well, have you read the books ? ' I answered that 



WHITE NIGHTS 27 

I had. 'Which did you like best?' he asked. I said, 
' Ivanhoe, and Pushkin best of all,' and so our talk ended for that 
time. 

" A week later I met him again on the stairs. That time 
grandmother had not sent me, I wanted to get 'something for 
myself. It was past two, and the lodger used to come home at 
that time. ' Good-afternoon,' said he. I said good -afternoon, too. 
" ' Aren't you dull,' he said, ' sitting all day with your grand- 
mother ? ' 

" When he asked that, I blushed, I don't know why; I felt 
ashamed, and again I felt offended I suppose because other 
people had begun to ask me about that. I wanted to go away 
without answering, but I hadn't the strength. 

' ' Listen,' he said, ' you are a good girl. Excuse my speaking 
to you like that, but I assure you that I wish for your welfare 
quite as much as your grandmother. Have you no friends that 
you could go and visit ? ' 

" I told him I hadn't any, that I had had no friend but 
Mashenka, and she had gone away to Pskov. 

' Listen,' he said, ' would you like to go to the theatre with 
me?' 

' To the theatre. What about grandmother ? ' 
' But you must go without your grandmother's knowing 
it,' he said. 

" ' No,' I said, ' I don't want to deceive grandmother. Good- 
bye.' 

" ' Well, good-bye,' he answered, and said nothing more. 
" Only after dinner he came to see us ; sat a long time talking 
to grandmother ; asked her whether she ever went out anywhere, 
whether she had acquaintances, and suddenly said : ' I have 
taken a box at the opera for this evening ; they are giving The 
Barber of Seville. My friends meant to go, but afterwards 
refused, so the ticket is left on my hands.' ' The Barber of 
Seville,' cried grandmother; 'why, the same they used to act 
in old days ? ' 

' Yes, it's the same barber,' he said, and glanced at me. I 
saw what it meant and turned crimson, and my heart began 
throbbing with suspense. 

'To be sure, I know it,' said grandmother; 'why, I took 
the part of Rosina myself in old days, at a private performance ! ' 



28 WHITE NIGHTS 

" ' So wouldn't you like to go to-day ? ' said the lodger. ' Or 
my ticket will be wasted.' 

" ' By all means let us go,' said grandmother ; why shouldn't 
we ? And my Nastenka here has never been to the theatre.' 

" My goodness, what joy ! We got ready at once, put on our 
best clothes, and set off. Though grandmother was blind, still 
she wanted to hear the music ; besides, she is a kind old soul, 
what she cared most for was to amuse me, we should never have 
gone of ourselves. 

" What my impressions of The Barber of Seville were I won't 
tell you ; but all that evening our lodger looked at me so nicely, 
talked so nicely, that I saw at once that he had meant to test 
me in the morning when he proposed that I should go with him 
alone. Well, it was joy ! I went to bed so proud, so gay, my 
heart beat so that I was a little feverish, and all night I was 
raving about The Barber of Seville. 

" I expected that he would come and see us more and more often 
after that, but it wasn't so at all., He almost entirely gave up 
coming. He would just come in about once a month, and then 
only to invite us to the theatre. We went twice again. Only 
I wasn't at all pleased with that ; I saw that he was simply sorry 
for me because I was so hardly treated by grandmother, and that 
was all. As time went on, I grew more and more restless, I 
couldn't sit still, I couldn't read, I couldn't work; sometimes 
I laughed and did something to annoy grandmother, at another 
time I would cry. At last I grew thin and was very nearly ill. 
The opera season was over, and our lodger had quite given up 
coming to see us ; whenever we met always on the same stair- 
case, of course he would bow so silently, so gravely, as though 
he did not want to speak, and go down to the front door, 
while I went on standing in the middle of the stairs, as red as a 
cherry, for all the blood rushed to my head at the sight of him. 

" Now the end is near. Just a year ago, in May, the lodger 
came to us and said to grandmother that he had finished his 
business here, and that he must go back to Moscow for a year. 
When I heard that, I sank into a chair half dead ; grandmother 
did not notice anything ; and having informed us that he should 
be leaving us, he bowed and went away. 

" What was I to do ? Tjthjnnghtr nnd_thoughl and fretted and 
fretted, and at last I made up my mind. Next day he was to go 



WHITE NIGHTS 29 

away, and I made up my mind to end it all that evening when 
grandmother went to bed. And so it happened. I made up 
all my clothes in a parcel all the linen I needed and with the 
parcel in my hand, more dead than alive, went upstairs to our 
lodger. I believe I must have stayed an hour on the staircase. 
When I opened his door he cried out as he looked at me. He 
thought I was a ghost, and rushed to give me some water, for I 
could hardly stand up. My heart beat so violently that my 
head ached, and I did not know what I was doing. When I 
recovered I began by laying my parcel on his bed, sat down beside 
it, hid my face in my hands and went into floods of tears. I 
think he understood it all at once, and looked at me so sadly that 
my heart was torn. 

" ' Listen,' he began, ' listen, Nastenka, I can't do anything; 
I am a poor man, for I have nothing, not even a decent berth. 
How could we live^ if I were to marry you ? ' 

"* We talked a long time ; but at last I got quite frantic, I said 
I could not go on living with grandmother, that I should run 
away from her, that I did not want to be pinned to her, and that 
I would go to Moscow if he liked, because I coukLooiJive. without 
him. Shame_and_jgride and love were all clamouring in me at 
dnce7 and'TleU onJbbTe Bed, almost in convulsions, I was so afraid 
of a refusal^ 

" He sat for some minutes in silence, then got up, came up to 
me and took me by the hand. 

" ' Listen, my dear good Nastenka, listen ; I swear to you 
that if I am ever in a position to marry, you shall make my happi- 
ness. I assure you that now you are the only one who could 
make me happy. Listen, I am going to Moscow and shall be 
there juslr a year; I hope to establish my position. When I 
come back, if you still love me, I swear that we will be happy. 
Now it is impossible, I am not able, I have not the right to promise 
anything. Well, I repeat, if it is not within a year it will certainly 
be some time ; that is, of course, if you do not prefer any one 
else, for I cannot and dare not bind you by any sort of promise.' 

" That was what he said to me, and next day he went away. 
We agreed together not to say a word to grandmother : that 
was his wish. Well, my history is nearly finished now. Just 
a year has past. He has arrived; he has been her? three days, 
and, and 



30 WHITE NIGHTS 

" And what ? ' I cried, impatient to hear the end. 

" And up to now has not shown himself ! " answered Nastenka, 
as though screwing up all her courage. " There's no sign or 
sound of him." 

Here she stopped, paused for a minute, bent her head, and 
covering her face with her hands broke into such sobs that it 
sent a pang to my heart to hear them. I had not in the least 
expected such a denouement. 

" Nastenka," I began timidly in an ingratiating voice, " Nas- 
tenka ! For goodness' sake don't cry ! How do you know ? 
Perhaps he is not here yet. . . ." 

" He is, he is," Nastenka repeated. " He is here, and I know 
it. We made an agreement at the time, that evening, before he 
went away : when we said all that I have told you, and had come 
to an understanding, then we came out here for a walk on this 
embankment. It was ten o'clock; we sat on this seat. I was 
not crying then ; it was sweet to me to hear what he said. . . . 
And he said that he would come to us directly he arrived, and 
if I did not refuse him, then we would tell grandmother about 
it all. Now he is here, I know it, and yet he does not come 1 " 

And again she burst into tears. 

" Good God, can I do nothing to help you in your sorrow ? " 
I cried jumping up from the seat in utter despair. " Tell me, 
Nastenka, wouldn't it be possible for me to go to him ? " 

" Would that be possible ? " she asked suddenly, raising her 
head. 

" No, of course not/' I said pulling myself up; " but I tell 
you what, write a letter." 

" No, that's impossible, I can't do that," she answered with 
decision, bending her head and not looking at me. 

" How impossible why is it impossible ? " I went on, clinging 
to my idea. " But, Nastenka, it depends what sort of letter; 
there are letters and letters and. . . . All, Nastenka, I am right ; 
trust to me, trust to me, I will not give you bad advice. It can 
all be arranged ! You took the first step why not now ? " 

" I can't. I can't ! It would seem as though I were forcing 
myself on him. ..." 

" Ah, my good little Nastenka," I said, hardly able to conceal 
a smile ; " no, no, you have a right to, in fact, because he made 
you a promise. Besides, I can see from everything that he is 



WHITE NIGHTS 31 

a man of delicate feeling ; that he behaved very well," I went 
on, more and more carried away by the logic of my own arguments 
and convictions. " How did he behave ? He bound himself 
by a promise : he said that if he married at all he would marry 
no one but you; he gave you full liberty to refuse him at once. . . . 
Under such circumstances you may take the first step ; you have 
the right ; you are in the privileged position if, for instance, 
you wanted to free him from his promise. ..." 

" Listen ; how would you write ? " 

" Write what ? " 

" This letter." 

" I tell you how I would write : ' Dear Sir.' ..." 

" Must I really begin like that, ' Dear Sir ' ? " 

" You certainly must ! Though, after all, I don't know, I 
imagine. ..." 

" Well, well, what next ? " 

" ' Dear Sir, I must apologize for ' But, no, there's 

no need to apologize ; the fact itself justifies everything. Write 
simply : 

" ' I am writing to you. Forgive me my impatience; but I 
have been happy for a whole year in hope ; am I to blame for 
being unable to enduie a day of doubt now ? Now that you 
have come, perhaps you have changed your mind. If so, this 
letter is to tell you that I do not repine, nor blame you. I do 
not blame you because I have no power over your heart, such is 
my fate ! 

' You are an honourable man. You will not smile or be 
vexed at these impatient lines. Remember they are written 
by a poor girl ; that she is alone ; that she has no one to direct 
her, no one to advise her, and that she herself could never 
-control her heart. But forgive me that a doubt has stolen 
if only for one instant into my heart. You are not capable 
of insulting, even in thought, her who so loved and so loves 
you.' ' 

"Yes, yes; that's exactly what I was thinking!" cried 
Nastenka, and her eyes beamed with delight. " Oh, you have 
solved my difficulties: God has sent you to" me ! Thank you, 
thank you I "* - 



32 WHITE NIGHTS 

" What for ? What for ? For God's sending me ? " I answered, 
looking delighted at her joyful little face. 

" Why, yes ; for that too." 

" Ah, Nastenka ! Why, one thanks some people for being 
alive at the same time with one ; I thank you for having met me, 
for my being able to remember you all my life ! " 

" Well, enough, enough ! But now I tell you what, listen : 
we made an agreement then that as soon as he arrived he would 
let me know, by leaving a letter with some good simple people 
of my acquaintance who know nothing about it ; or, if it were 
impossible to write a letter to me, for a letter does not always 
tell everything, he would be here at ten o'clock on the day he 
arrived, where we had arranged to meet. I know he has arrived 
already; but now it's the third day, and there's no sign of him 
v and no letter. It's impossible for me to get away from grand- 
mother in the morning. Give my letter to-morrow to those kind 
people I spoke to you about : thgyjwjll send it on to him, and 
if there is an answer you bring it to-morrow at ten o'clock." 

" But the letter, the letter ! You see, you must write the letter 
first ! So perhaps it must all be the day after to-morrow." 

" The letter ..." said Nastenka, a little confused, " the 
letter . . . but. . . ." 

But she did not finish. At first she turned her little face away 
from me, flushed like a rose, and suddenly I felt in my hand a 
letter which had evidently been written long before, all ready and 
sealed up. A familiar sweet and charming reminiscence floated 
through my mind. 

" R, o Ro; s, i si; n, a na," I began. 

" Rosina ! " we both hummed together; I almost embracing 
her with delight, while she blushed as only she could blush, and 
laughed through the tears which gleamed like pearls on her 
black eyelashes. 

" Come, enough, enough ! Good-bye now," she said speaking 
rapidly. " Here is the letter, here is the address to which you 
are to take it. Good-bye, till we meet again ! Till to-morrow ! " 

She pressed both my hands warmly, nodded her head, and flew 
like an arrow down her side street. I stood still for a long time 
following her with my eyes. 

" Till to-morrow ! till to-morrow ! " was ringing in my ears as 
she vanished from my sight. 



WHITE NIGHTS 33 



THIRD NIGHT 

TO-DAY was a gloomy, rainy day without a glimmer of sunlight, 
like the old age before me. I am oppressed by such strange 
thoughts, such gloomy sensations ; questions still so obscure to me 
are crowding into my brain and I seem to have neither power 
nor will to settle them. It's not for me to settle all this ! 

To-day we shall not meet. Yesterday, when we said good-bye, 
the clouds began gathering over the ^ky and a mist rose. I said 
that to-morrow it would be a bad day ; she made no answer, she 
did not want to speak against her wishes ; for her that day was 
bright and clear, not one cloud should obscure her happiness. 

"If it rains we shall not see each other," she said, " I shall 
not come." 

I thought that she would not notice to-day's rain, and yet she 
has not come. ^ . 

Yesterday was our third interview, our third white night. . .**. ^ 

But how fine joy and happiness makes any one ! How brim- 
ming over with love the heart is ! One seems longing to pour 
out one's whole heart ; one wants everything to be gay, every- 
thing to be laughing. And how infectious that joy is ! There 
was such a softness in her words, such a kindly feeling in her 
heart towards me yesterday. . . . How solicitous and. friendly 
she was; how tenderly she tried to give me couragej __ Oh, 
the coquetry ~of kappine'ssT While I . TT I tookTt all for 
the genuine thing, I thought that she. 

But, my God, how could I have thought it ? How could I have 
beensp blind, when everything had been taken by another already, 
wherTnothTng was^mine ; wnen7]m^etrher very tenderness to 

' 



else hut joj^tj,h^tliought_of_seeing another man so soon, desire 
to include me, too, m her happiness ? . . . When he did not 
conie,^^en~w^^aiteTi"irrvain, she frowned, she grew timid and 
discouraged. Her movements, her words, were no longer so 
light, so playful, so gay; and, strange to say, she redoubled her 
attentiveness to me,- as though instinctively desiring to lavish on 
me what she desired for herself so anxiously, if her wishes were 
not accomplished. My Nastenka.was so downcast, so dismayed, 
that I think she realized at last that I loved her, and was sorry 
D < 



34 WHITE NIGHTS 

for my poor love. So when we are unhappy we feel the unhappi- 
ness of others more ; feeling is not destroyed but concentrated. . . 

I went to meet her with a full heart, and was all impatience. 
I had no presentiment that I should feel as I do now, that it 
would not all end happily. She was beaming with pleasure; 
she was expecting an answer. The answer was himself. He 
was to come, to run at her call. She arrived a whole hour before 
I did. At first she giggled at everything, laughed at every word 
I said. I began talking, but relapsed into silence. 

" Do you know why I am so glad," she said, " so glad to look 
at you ? why I like you so much to-day ? " 

" Well ? " I asked, and my heart began throbbing. 

" Irlikc-yoji, because you have not fallen in love with me. You 
know that some~"meirtn your place would nave been pestering 
and worrying me, would have been sighing and miserable, while 
you are so nice ! " 

Then she wrung my hand so hard that I almost cried out. 
She laughed. 

" Ciuodncss, what a friend you are ! " she began gravely a 
minute later. " God sent you to me. What would have hap- 
pened to me if you had not been with me now ? How disin- 
terested you are ! How truly you care for me ! When I am 
married we will be great friends, more_jjian brother and sister; 
I sKalTcare almost as I do for him. ..." 

I felt horribly sad at that moment, yet something like laughter 
was stirring in my soul. 

"You are very much upset," I said; "you are frightened; 
you think he won't come." 

" Oh dear ! " she answered; " if I were less happy, I believe 
I should cry at your lack of faith, at your reproaches. However, 
you have made me think and have given me a lot to think about ; 
but I shall think later, and now I will own that you are right. 
Yes, I am somehow not myself; I am all suspense, and feel 
everything as it were too lightly. But hush ! that's enough 
about feelings. ..." 

At that moment we heard footsteps, and in the darkness we 
saw a figure coming towards us. We both started ; she almost 
cried out ; I dropped her hand and made a movement as though 
to walk away. But we were mistaken, it was not he. 

" What are you afraid of ? Why did you let go of my hand ? " 



WHITE NIGHTS 35 

she said, giving it to me again. " Come, what is it ? We will 
meet him together ; I want him to see how fond we are of each 
other." 

" How fond we are of each other ! " I cried. (" Oh, Nastenka, 
Nastenka," I thought, " how much you have told me in that 
saying ! Such fondness at certain moments makes the heart cold 
and the soul heavy. Ynur_hai\d is cold, mine burns like fire. 
How blind you are, Nastenka ! . . . Oh, how unbearable a happy 
person is sometimes ! But I could not be angry with you ! ") 

At last my heart was too full. 

" Listen, Nastenka ! " I cried. " Do you know how it has 
been with me all day." 

" Why, how, how ? Tell me quickly ! Why have you said 
nothing all this time ? " 

" To begin with, Nastenka, when I had carried out all your 
commissions, given the letter, gone to see your good friends, 
then . . . then I went home and went to bed." 

" Is that all ? " she interrupted, laughing. 

" yes, almost all," I answered restraining myself, for foolish 
tears were already starting into my eyes. " I woke an hour 
before our appointment, and yet, as it were, I had not been 
asleep. I don't know what happened to me. I came to tell 
you all about it, feeling as though time were standing still, feeling 
as though one sensation, one feeling must remain with me from 
that time for ever ; feeling as though one minute must go on for 
all eternity, and as though all life had come to a standstill for 
me. . . . When I woke up it seemed as though some musical 
motive long familiar, heard somewhere in the past, forgotten 
and voluptuously sweet, had come back to me now. It seemed 
to me that it had been clamouring at my heart all my life, and 
only now. . . ." 

" Oh my goodness, my goodness," Nastenka interrupted, 
" what does all that mean ? I don't understand a word." 

" All, Nastenka, I wanted somehow to convey to you that 
strange impression. ..." I began in a plaintive voice, in which 
there still lay hid a hope, though a very faint one. 

" Leave off. Hush ! " she said, and in one instant the sly 
puss had guessed. 

Suddenly she became extraordinarily talkative, gay, mis- 
chievous; she took my arm, laughed, wanted me to laugh too, 



36 WHITE NIGHTS 

and every confused word I uttered evoked from her prolonged 
ringing laughter. ... I began to feel angry, she had suddenly 
begun flirting. 

" Do you know," she began, " I feel a little vexed that you 
are not in love with me ? There's no understanding human 
nature ! But all the same, Mr. Unapproachable, you cannot 
blame me for being so simple ; I tell you everything, everything, 
whatever foolish thought comes into my head." 

" Listen ! That's eleven, I believe," I said as the slow chime 
of a bell rang out from a distant tower. She suddenly stopped, 
left off laughing and began to count. 

" Yes, it's eleven," she said at last in a timid, uncertain voice. 

I regretted at once that I had frightened her, making her 
count the strokes, and I cursed myself for my spiteful impulse ; 
I felt sorry for her, and did not know how to atone for what I 
had done. 

I began comforting her, seeking for reasons for his not coming, 
advancing various arguments, proofs. No one could have been 
easier to deceive than she was at that moment ; and, indeed, any 
one at such a moment listens gladly to any consolation, whatever 
it may be, and is overjoyed if a shadow of excuse can be found. 

" And indeed it's an absurd thing," I began, warming to my 
task and admiring the extraordinary clearness of my argument, 
" why, he could not have come ; you have muddled and confused 
me, Nastenka, so that I too, have lost count of the time. . . . 
Only think : he can scarcely have received the letter ; suppose 
he is not able to come, suppose he is going to answer the letter, 
could not come before to-morrow. I will go for it as soon as it's 
light to-morrow and let you know at once. Consider, there are 
thousands of possibilities ; perhaps he was not at home when the 
letter came, and may not have read it even now ! Anything 
may happen, you know." 

" Yes, yes ! " said Nastenka. " I did not think of that. Of 
course anything may happen ? " she went on in a tone that 
offered no opposition, though some other far-away thought could 
be heard like a vexatious discord in it. " I tell you what you 
must do," she said, "you go as early as possible to-morrow 
morning, and if you get anything let me know at once. You 
know where I live, don't you ? " 

And she began repeating her address to me. 



WHITE NIGHTS 37 

Then she suddenly became so tender, so solicitous with me. 
She seemed to listen attentively to what I told her ; but when I 
asked her some question she was silent, was confused, and turned 
her head away. I looked into her eyes yes, she was crying. 

" How can you ? How can you ? Oh, what a baby you are ! 
what childishness ! . . . Come, come ! " 

She tried to smile, to calm herself, but her chin was quivering 
and her bosom was still heaving. 

" I was thinking about you," she said after a minute's silence. 
" You are so kind that I should be a stone if I did not feel it. Do 
you know what has occurred to me now ? I was comparing you 
two. Why isn't he you ? 



_ 
good as you, though I love him more than you." 

I made no answer. Sli^e^m?3!^^e^pe^rT3erfo say something. 

" Of course, it may be that I don't understand him fully yet. 
You know I was always as it were afraid of him ; he was always 
so grave, as it were so proud. Of course I know it's only that he 
seems like that, I know there is more tenderness in his heart than 
in mine ... I remember how he looked at me when I went in to 
him do you remember ? with my bundle ; but yet I respect 
him too much, and doesn't that show that we are not equals ? " 

" No, Nastenka, no," I answered, " it shows that you love him 
more than anything in the world, and far more than yourself." 

:< Yes, supposing that is so," answered Nastenka naively. 
" But do you know what strikes me now ? Only I am not talking 
about him now, but speaking generally; all this came into my 
mind some time ago. Tell me, how is it that we can't all be 
like brothers together ? Why is it that even the best of men always 
seem to hide something from other people and to keep something 
back ? Why not say straight out what is in one's heart, when one 
knows that one is not speaking idly ? As it is every one seems 
harsher than he really is, as though all were afraid of doing 
injustice to their feelings, by being too quick to express them." 

" Oh, Nastenka, what you say is true ; but there are many 
reasons for that," I broke in suppressing my own feelings at that 
moment more than ever. 

" No, no ! " she answered with deep feeling. " Here you, for 
instance, are not like other people ! I really don't know how to 
tell you what I feel ; but it seems to me that you, for instance . . . 
at the present moment ... it seems to me that you are sacrificing 



38 WHITE NIGHTS 

something for me," she added timidly, with a fleeting glance 
at me. " Forgive me for saying so, I am a simple girl you know. 
I have seen very little of life, and I really sometimes don't know 
how to say things," she added in a voice that quivered with some 
hidden feeling, while she tried to smile ; " but I only wanted to 
tell you that I am grateful, that I feel it all too . . . Oh, may God 
give you happiness for it ! What you told me about your dreamer 
is quite untrue now that is, I mean, it's not true of you. You 
are recovering, you are quite a different man from what you de- 
scribed. If you ever fall in love with some one, God give you 
happiness with her ! I won't wish anything for her, for she will be 
happy with you. I know, I am a woman myself, so you must 
believe me when I tell you so.'" 

She ceased speaking, and pressed my hand warmly. I too 
could not speak without emotion. Some minutes passed. 

" Yes, it's clear he won't come to-night," she said at last 
raising her head. " It's late." 

" He will come to-morrow," I said in the most firm and con- 
vincing tone. 

" Yes," she added with no sign of her former depression. 
" I see for myself now that he could not come till to-morrow. 
Well, good-bye, till to-morrow. ' If it rains perhaps I shall not 
come. But the day after to-morrow, I shall come. I shall come 
for certain, whatever happens; be sure to be here, I want to 
see you, I will tell you everything." 

And then when we parted she gave me her hand and said, 
looking at me candidly : " We shall always be together, shan't 
we?" 

Oh, Nastenka, Nastenka ! If only you knew how lonely I 
am now ! 

As soon as it struck nine o'clock I could not stay indoors, but 
put on my things, and went out in spite of the weather. I was 
then-, silt in<: on our seat. I went to her street, but I felt ashamed, 
and turned back without looking at their windows, when I was 
two steps from her door. I went home more depressed than I had 
ever been before. What a damp, dreary day ! If it had been fine 
I should have walked about all niirht. . . . 

But to-morrow, to-morrow ! To-im>rrmv she will tell me < 
thing. The letter has not come to-day, however. But that waa 
to be expected. They are together by now. . . 



WHITE NIGHTS 39 



FOURTH NIGHT 

MY God, how it has all ended ! What it has all ended in ! 
I arrived at nine o'clock. She was already there. I noticed 
her a good way off; she was standing as she had been that 
first time, with her elbows on the railing, and she did not hear me 
coming up to her. 

" Nastenka ! " I called to her, suppressing my agitation with 
an effort. 

She turned to me quickly. 

" Well ? " she said. " Well ? Make haste ! " 

I looked at her in perplexity. 

" Well, where is the letter ? Have you brought the letter," 
she repeated clutching at the railing. 

" No, there is no letter," I said at last. " Hasn't he been to 
you yet ? " She turned fearfully pale and looked at me for a 
long time without moving. I had shattered her last hope. 

" Well, God be with him," she said at last in a breaking voice ; 
" God be with him if he leaves me like that." 

She dropped her eyes, then tried to look at me and could not. 
For several minutes she was struggling with her emotion. All at 
once she turned away, leaning her elbows against the railing and 
burst into tears. 

" Oh don't, don't ! " I began ; but looking at her I had not 
the heart to go on, and what was I to say to her ? 

" Don't try and comfort me," she said ; " don't talk about him ; 
don't tell me that he will come, that he has not cast me off so 
cruelly and so inhumanly as he has. What for what for ? 
Can there have been something in my letter, that unlucky letter ? " 

At that point sobs stifled her voice ; my heart was torn as 
I looked at her. 

" Oh, how inhumanly cruel it is ! " she began again. " And 
not a line, not a line ! He might at least have written that he 
does not want me, that he rejects me -but-net a- -line- for. -three 
days ! How~easy il1s"lof.him towound r to insult a poor, defence- 
less.. girl, whose only fault is that she loves him ! Oh, what I've 
suffered during" these" three "days ! Oh, dear ! When I think 
that I was the first to go to him, that I humbled myself before 



40 WHITE NIGHTS 

him, cried, that I begged of him a little love ! . . . and after that ! 
Listen/' she said, turning to me, and her black eyes flashed, " it 
isn't so ! It can't be so ; it isn't natural. Either you are mistaken 
or I; perhaps he has not received the letter? Perhaps he still 
knows nothing about it ? How could any one judge for yourself, 
tell me, for goodness' sake explain it to me, I can't understand 
it how could any one behave with such barbarous coarseness 
as he has behaved to me ? Not one word ! Why, the lowest 
creature on earth is treated more compassionately. Perhaps 
he has heard something, perhaps some one has told him something 
about me," she cried, turning to me inquiringly : " What do you 
think? " 

" Listen, Nastenka, I shall go to him to-morrow in your 
name." 
" Yes ? " 

" I will question him about everything; I will tell him every- 
thing." 

" Yes, yes ? " 

" You write a letter. Don't say no, Nastenka, don't say no ! 
I will make him respect your action, he shall hear all about 

it, and if " 

" No, my friend, no," she interrupted, " Enough ! Not 
another word, not another line from me enough ! I don't know 
him ; I don't love him any more. I will . . . forget him." 
She could not go on. 

" Calm yourself, calm yourself ! Sit here, Nastenka," I said, 
making her sit down on the seat. 

" I am calm. Don't trouble. It's nothing ! It's only tears, 
they will soon dry. Why, do you imagine I shall do away with 
myself, that I shall throw myself into the river ? " 
My heart was full : I tried to speak, but I could not. 
" Listen," she said taking my hand. " Tell me : you wouldn't 
have behaved like this, would you ? You would not have aban- 
doned a girl who had come to you of herself, you would not have 
thrown into her face a shameless taunt at her \\cak foolish 
heart ? You would have taken care of her ? You would have 
realized that she was alone, that she did not know how to look after 
If, that she could not guard herself from loving you, that it 
was not her fault, not her fault that she had done nothing. . . . 
Oh dear, oh^dear ! " 



WHITE NIGHTS 41 

" Nastenka ! " I cried at last unable, to control my emotion. 
" Nastenka, you torture me ! You wound my heart, you are 
killing me, Nastenka ! I cannot be silent ! I must speak at 
last, give utterance to what is surging in my heart ! " 

As I said this I got up from the seat. She took my hand and 
looked at me in surprise. 

" What is the matter with you ? " she said at last. 

" Listen," I said resolutely. " Listen to me, Nastenka ! What- 
I am going to say to you now is all nonsense, all impossible, all 
stupid ! I know that this can never be, but I cannot be silent. 
For the sake of what you are suffering now, I beg you beforehand 
to forgive me ! " 

" What is it ? What is it ? " she said drying her tears and 
looking at me intently, while a strange curiosity gleamed in her 
astonished eyes. " What is the matter ? " 

" It's impossible, but I love you, Nastenka ! There it is ! 
Now everything is told," I said with a wave of my hand. 
" Now you will see whether you can go on talking to me as you 
did just now, whether you can listen to what I am going to say 
to you." . . . 

" Well, what then? " Nastenka interrupted me. " What of 
it ? I knew you loved me long ago, only I always thought that 
you simply liked me very much. . . . Oh dear, oh dear ! " 

" At first it was simply liking, Nastenka, but now, now ! 
I am just in the same position as you were when you went to 
him with your bundle. In a worse position than you, Nastenka, 
because he cared for no one else as you do." 

" What are you saying to me ! I don't understand you in the 
least. But tell me, what's this for ; I don't mean what for, but 
why are you ... so suddenly. . . . Oh dear, I am talking 
nonsense ! But you. . . . 

And Nastenka broke off in confusion. Her cheeks flamed; 
she dropped her eyes. 

" What's to be done, Nastenka, what am I to do ? I am to 
blame. I have abused your. . . . But no, no, I am not to blame, 
Nastenka; I feel that, I know that, because my heart tells me I 
am right, for I cannot hurt you in any way, I cannot wound you ! 
I was your friend, but I am still your friend, I have betrayed no 
trust. Here my tears are falling, Nastenka. Let them flow, let 
them flow they don't hurt anybody. They will dry, Nastenka." 



42 WHITE NIGHTS 

" Sit down, sit down," she said, making me sit down on the 
seat. " Oh, my God ! " 

" No, Nastenka, I won't sit down ; I cannot stay here any 
longer, you cannot see me again ; I will tell you everything and 
go away. I only want to say that you would never have found 
out that I loved you. I should have kept my secret. I would not 
have worried you at such a moment with my egoism. No ! 
But I could not resist it now ; you spoke of it yourself, it is your 
fault, your fault and not mine. You cannot drive me away from 
you.''. . . 

" No, no, I don't drive you away, no ! " said Nastenka, con- 
cealing her confusion as best she could, poor child. 

" You don't drive me away ? No ! But I meant to run from 
you myself. I will go away, but first I will tell you all, for when 
you were crying here I could not sit unmoved, when you wept, 
when you were in torture at being at being I will speak of it, 
Nastenka at being forsaken, at your love being repulsed, I felt 
that in my heart there was so much love for you, Nastenka, so 
much love ! And it seemed so bitter that I could not help you 
with my love, that my heart was breaking and I ... I could 
not be silent, I had to speak, Nastenka, I had to speak ! " 

Y-s, yes ! tell me, talk to me," said Nastenka with an inde- 
scribable gesture. " Perhaps you think it strange that I talk to 
you like this, but . . . speak ! I will tell you afterwards ! I will 
tell you everything." 

' You are sorry for me, Nastenka, you are simply sorry for me, 
my dear little friend ! What's done can't be mended. What is 
said cannot be taken back. Isn't that so ? Well, now you 
know. That's the starting-point. Very well. Now it's all 
riirht, only listen. When you were sitting crying I thought to 
myself (oh, let me tell you what I was thinking !), I thought, that 
(of course it cannot be, Nastenka), I thought that you ... I 
thought that you somehow . . . quite apart from me, had ceased 
t o 1 o v e h i m . Then I thought that yesterday and the day before 
p lay, Xastenka then I would I certainly would have 
Mirr.-.-.l,.,! in making you love me; you know, you said your- 
self. Xastenka, that you almost loved me. Well, what next? 
Well, that's nearly all I wanted to tell you; all that is left 
to say is how it \vmill IKJ if you loved me, only that, nothing 
morel Listi-n, my friend for anyway you are my friend 



WHITE NIGHTS 43 

I am, of course, a poor, humble man, of no great consequence ; 
but that's not the point (I don't seem to be able to say what 
I mean, Nastenka, I am so confused), only I would love you, 
I would love you so, that even if you still loved him, even if 
you went on loving the man I don't know, you would never feel 
that my love was a burden to you. You would only feel every 
minute that at your side was beating a grateful, grateful heart, a 
warm heart ready for your sake. . . . Oh Nastenka, Nastenka ! 
What have you done to me ? " 

" Don't cry; I don't want you to cry," said Nastenka getting 
up quickly from the seat. " Come along, get up, come with me, 
don't cry, don't cry," she said, drying her tears wth her handker- 
chief ; "let us go now ; maybe I will tell you something. ... If 
he has forsaken me now, if he has forgotten me, though I still 
love him (I do not want to deceive you) . . . but listen, answer 
me. If I were to love you, for instance, that is, if I only. . . . 
Oh my friend, my friend ! To think, to think how I wounded 
you, when I laughed at your love, when I praised you for not 
falling in love with me. Oh dear ! How was it I did not 
foresee this, how was it I did not foresee this, how could I have 
been so stupid ? But . . . Well, I have,- made up my mind, I 
will tell you." 

" Look here, Nastenka, do you know what ? I'll go away, 
that's what I'll do. I am simply tormenting you. Here you 
are remorseful for having laughed at me, and I won't have 
you ... in addition to your sorrow. ... Of course it is my 
fault, Nastenka, but good-bye ! " 

" Stay, listen to me : can you wait ? " 

" What for ? How 1 " 

" I love him; but I shall get over it, I must get over it, I 
cannot fail to get over it ; I am getting over it, I feel that. . . . 
Who knows ? Perhaps it will all end to-day, for I hate him, for he 
has been laughing at me, while you have been weeping here with 
me, for you have not repulsed me as he has, for you love me while 
he has never loved me, for in fact, I love you myself. . . . Yes, I 
love you ! I love you as you love me ; I have told you so before, 
you heard it yourself I love you because you are better than he 
is, because you are nobler than he is, because, because he 

The poor girl's. emotion was so violent that she could not say 
more; she laid her head upon my shoulder, then upon my 



44 WHITE NIGHTS 

bosom, and wept bitterly. I comforted her, I persuaded her, but 
she could not stop crying; she kept pressing my hand, and 
saying between her sobs : " Wait, wait, it will be over in a 
minute ! I want to tell you . . . you mustn't think that these 
tears it's nothing, it's weakness, wait till it's over." ... At 
last she left off crying, dried her eyes and we walked on again. I 
wanted to speak, but she still begged me to wait. We were silent. 
... At last she plucked up courage and began to speak. 

" It's like this," she began in a weak and quivering voice, in 
which, however, there was a note that pierced my heart with a 
sweet pang; "don't think that I am so light and inconstant, 
don't think that I can forget and change so quickly. I have loved 
him for a whole year, and I swear by God that I have never, never, 
even in thought, been unfaithful to him. . . . He has despised 
me, he has been laughing at me God forgive him ! But he has 
insulted me and wounded my heart. I ... I do not love him, 
for I can only love what is magnanimous, what understands me, 
what is generous ; for I am like that myself and he is not worthy 
of me well, that's enough of him. He has done better than if he 
had deceived my expectations later, and shown me later what 
he was. . . . Well, it's over ! But who knows, my dear friend," 
she went on pressing my hand, " who knows, perhaps my whole 
love was a mistaken feeling, a delusion perhaps it began in mis- 
chief, in nonsense, because I was kept so strictly by grandmother ? 
Perhaps I ought to love another man, not him, a different man, 
who would have pity on me and . . . and . . . But don't let 
us say any more about that," Nastenka broke off, breathless 
with emotion, " I only wanted to tell you ... I wanted to tell 
you that if, although I love him (no, did love him), if, in spite of 
this you still say. ... If you feel that your love is so great that 
it may at last drive from my heart my old feeling if you M ill 
have pity on me if you do not want to leave me alone to my 
fate, without hope, without consolation if you are ready to love 
UK' always as you do now I swear to you that gratitude . . . 
that my love will be at last worthy of your love. . . . Will you 
take my hand? " 

" Nastenka ! " I cried breathless with sobs. " Nastenka, oh 
Nastenka ! " 

Knough, enough ! Well, now it's quite enough," she said, 
hardly able to control herself. " Well, now all has been said, 



WHITE NIGHTS \ 45 



hasn't it ? Hasn't it ? You are happy I am happy too. Not 
another word about it, wait ; spare me. . . . talk of something 
else, for God's sake." 

" Yes, Nastenka, yes ! Enough about that, now I am happy. 
I -- Yes, Nastenka, yes, let us talk of other things, let us make 
haste and talk. Yes ! I am ready." 

And we did not know what to say : we laughed, we wept, we 
said thousands of things meaningless and incoherent; at one 
moment we walked along the pavement, then suddenly turned 
back and crossed the road ; then we stopped and went back again 
to the embankment ; we were like children. 

" I am living alone now, Nastenka," I began, " but to-morrow ! 
Of course you know, Nastenka, I am poor, I have only got twelve 
hundred roubles, but that doesn't matter." 

" Of course not, and granny has her pension, so she will be no 
burden. We must take granny." 

" Of course we must take granny. But there's Matrona." 

" Yes, and we've got Fyokla too ! " 

" Matrona is a good woman, but she has one fault : she has no 
imagination, Nastenka, absolutely none ; but that doesn't matter." 

" That's all right they can live together ; only you must move 
to us to-morrow." 

' ' To you ? How so ? All right, I am ready. ' ' 

" Yes, hire a room from us. We have a top floor, it's empty. 
We had an old lady lodging there, but she has gone away ; and I 
know granny would like to have a young man. I said to her, ' Why 
a young man ? ' And she said, ' Oh, because I am old ; only don't 
you fancy, Nastenka, that I want him as a husband for you.' 
So I guessed it was with that idea." 

" Oh, Nastenka ! " 

And we both laughed. 

" Come, that's enough, that's enough. But where do you 
live? I've forgotten." 

" Over that way, near X bridge, Barannikov's Buildings." 

" It's that big house ? " 

" Yes, that big house." 

" Oh, I know, a nice house ; only you know you had better give 
it up and come to us as soon as possible." 

" To-morrow, Nastenka, to-morrow ; I owe a little for my rent 
there but that doesn't matter. I shall soon get my salary." 



46 WHITE NIGHTS 

" And do you know I will perhaps give lessons ; I will learn 
something myself and then give lessons." 

" Capital ! And I shall soon get a bonus." 

" So by to-morrow you will be my lodger." 

" And we will go to The Barber of Seville, for they are soon 
going to give it again." 

" Yes, we'll go," said Nastenka, " but better see something 
else and not The Barber of Seville." 

" Very well, something else. Of course that will be better, I 
did not think- 
As we talked like this we walked along in a sort of delirium, a 
sort of intoxication, as though we did not know what was happen- 
ing to us. At one moment we stopped and talked for a long time at 
the same place ; then we went on again, and goodness knows where 
we went ; and again tears and again laughter. All of a sudden 
Nastenka would want to go home, and I would not dare to detain 
her but would want to see her to the house ; we set off, and in a 
quarter of an hour found ourselves at the embankment by our 
seat. Then she would sigh, and tears would come into her eyes 
again ; I would turn chill with dismay. . . . But she would press 
my hand and force me to walk, to talk, to chatter as before. 

" It's time I was home at last ; I think it must be very late," 
Nastenka said at last. " We must give over being childish." 

" Yes, Nastenka, only I shan't sleep to-night ; I am not going 
home." 

" I don't think I shall sleep either ; only see me home." 

" I should think so ! " 

" Only tliis time we really must get to the house." 

" We must, we must." 

" Honour bright ? For you know one must go home some time ! " 
Honour bright," I answered laughing. 

" W.-ll. come along! " 

" Come along ! Look at the sky, Nastenka. Look ! To- 
morrow it will be a lovely day; what a blue sky, what a moon ! 
Look ; that yellow cloud is covering it now, look, look ! No, it 
has passed by. Look, look ! " 

But Nastenka did not look at the cloud; she stood mute as 
though turned to stone; a minute later she huddled timidly close 
up to me. Her hand trembled in my hand ; I looked at her. She 
pressed still more closely to me. 



WHITE NIGHTS 47 

At that moment a young man passed by us. He suddenly 
stopped, looked at us intently, and then again took a few steps 
on. My heart began throbbing. 

" Who is it. Nastenka ? " I said in an undertone. 

" It's he," she answered in a whisper, huddling up to me, still 
more closely, still more tremulously. ... I could hardly stand 
on my feet. 

" Nastenka, Nastenka ! It's you ! " I heard a voice behind 
us and at the same moment the young man took several steps 
towards us. 

My God, how she cried out ! How she started ! How she 
tore herself out^f^myjarmajind. rushed to meet him ! I stor>d and 
looEeoTattliem^ utterly crushed. But she had hardly given him her 
hand, had hardly flung herself into his arms, when she turned 
to me again, was beside me again in a flash, and before I knew 
where I was she threw both arms round my neck and gave me a 
warm, tender kiss. Then, without saying a word to me, she rushed 
back to him again, took his hand, and drew him after her. 

I stood a long time looking after them. At last the two 
vanished from my sight. 



MORNING 

MY night ended with the morning. It was a wet day. The rain 
was falling and beating disconsolately upon my window pane; 
it was dark in the room and grey outside. My head ached and 
I was giddy ; fever was stealing over my limbs. 

" There's a letter for you, sir ; the postman brought it," 
Matrona said stooping over me. 

" A letter ? From whom ? " I cried jumping up from my 
chair. 

" I don't know, sir, better look maybe it is written there 
whom it is from. " 

I broke the seal. It was from her ! 

" Oh, forgive me, forgive me ! I beg you on my knees to 
forgive me ! I deceived you and myself. It was a dream, 
a mirage. . . . My heart aches for you to-day; forgive me, 
forgive me ! 



48 WHITE NIGHTS 

" Don't blame me, for I have not changed to you in the least. 
I told you that I would love you, I love you now, I more than love 
you. Oh, my God ! If only I could love you both at once ! 
Oh, if only you were he ! " 

[" Oh, if only he were you," echoed in my mind. I remembered 
your words, Nastenka !] 

" God knows what I would do for you now ! I know that you 
are sad and dreary. I have wounded you, but you know when one 
loves a wrong is soon forgotten. And you love me. 

" Thank you, yes, thank you for that love ! For it will live 
in my memory like a sweet dream which lingers long after awaken- 
ing ; for I shall remember for ever that instant when you opened 
your heart to me like a brother and so generously accepted the 
gift of my shattered heart to care for it, nurse it. and heal it ... 
If you forgive me, the memory of you will be exalted by a feeling 
of everlasting gratitude which will never be effaced from my 
soul. ... I will treasure that memory : I will be true to it, I 
will not betray it, I will not betray my heart : it is too constant. 
It returned so quickly yesterday to him to whom it has always 
belonged. 

" We shall meet, you will come to us, you will not leave us, you 
will be for ever a friend, a brother to me. And when you see me 
you will give me your hand. . . . yes ? You will give it to me, 
you have forgiven me, haven't you ? You love me as before ? 

" Oh, love me, do not forsake me, because I love you so at this 
moment, because I am worthy of your love, because I will deserve 
it ... my dear ! Next week I am to be married to him. Ho 
has come back in love, he has never forgotten me. You will not 
be angry at my writing about him. But I want to come and see 
you with him ; you will like him, won't you ? 

" Forgive me, remember and love your 

" NASTENKA." 

I read that letter over and over again for a long time; tears 
gushed to my eyes. At last it fell from my hands and I hid my 
face. 

arie ! I say, dearie " Matrona began. 

" What is it, Matrona?" 

I li ivc taken all the cobwebs off the ceiling; you can have a 
wedding or give a party." 



WHITE NIGHTS 49 

I looked at Matrona. She was still a hearty , ..youngish, old . 
woman, but I^djori't-kaow why all at once I suddenly pictured 
her with lustreless pyea-, a. wrinkled face, bent, decrepit. . . . 
I don't know why I suddenly pictured my room grown old 
like Matrona. The walls and the floors looked discoloured, 
everything seemed dingy_^thLe_sgiders' webs were thicker than ever. 
I don't know why, but when I looked out of the window it seemed 
to me that the house opposite had grown old and dingy too, that 
the stucco on the columns was peeling off and crumbling, that the 
cornices were cracked and blackened, and that the walls, of a vivid 
deep yellow, were patchy. 

Either the sunbeams suddenly peeping out from the clouds for 
a moment were hidden again behind a veil of rain, and everything 
had grown dingy again before my eyes; or perhaps the whole 
vista of my future flashed before me so sad and forbidding, and 
I saw myself just as I was now, fifteen years hence, older, in the . 
same room, just as solitary, with the same Matrona grown no 
cleverer for those fifteen years. 

But to imagine that I should bear you a grudge, Nastenka ! 
That I should cast a dark cloud over your serene, untroubled 
happiness ; that by my bitter reproaches I should cause distress 
to your heart, should poison it with secret remorse and should 
force it to throb with anguish at the moment of bliss ; that I 
should crush a single one of those tender blossoms which you have 
twined in your dark tresses when you go with him to the altar. . . 
Oh never, never ! May your sky be clear, may your sweet smile 
be bright and untroubled, and may you be blessed for that 
moment of blissful happiness which you gave to another, lonely 
and grateful heart ! 

My God, a whole moment of happiness ! Is that too little 
for the whole of a man's life ? 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

A NOVEL 
PART I 

UNDERGROUND 



I AM a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an 
unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, 
I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know 
for certain what ails me. I don't consult a doctor for it, 
and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and 
doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently 
so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough 
not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse 
to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not 
understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of, course I can't 
explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by 
my spite : I am perfectly well aware that I cannot " pay out " 
the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than any 
one that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. 
But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver 
is bad, well 'let it get worse ! 

I have been going on like that for a long time twenty years. 

1 The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. 
Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only 
may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circum- 
stances in the midst of which our society is formed. I have tried to expose 
to the view of the public more distinctly than is commonly done, one of the 
characters of the recent past. He is one of the representatives of a generation 
still living. In this fragment, entitled " Underground," this person introduces 
linn -i -If and his views, and, as it were, tries to explain the causes owin^ to 
which he has made his appearance and was bound to make his appearance in 
our midst. In the second fragment there are added the actual notes of thia 
person concerning certain events in his life. AUTHOR'S NOTE. 

50 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 61 

Now I am forty. I used to be in the government service, but 
am no longer. I was a spiteful official. I was rude and took 
pleasure in being so. I did not take bribes, you see, so I was 
bound to find a recompense in that, at least. (A poor jest, 
but I will not scratch it out. I wrote it thinking it would sound 
very witty ; but now that I have seen myself that I only wanted 
to show off in a despicable way, I will not scratch it out on 
purpose !) 

When petitioners used to come for information to the table 
at which I sat, I used to grind my teeth at them, and felt intense 
enjoyment when I succeeded in making anybody unhappy. 
I almost always did succeed. For the most part they were all 
timid people of course, they w r ere petitioners. But of the uppish 
ones there was one officer in particular I could not endure. He 
simply would not be humble, and clanked his sword in a dis- 
gusting way. I carried on a feud with him for eighteen months 
over that sword. At last I got the better of him. He left off 
clanking it. That happened in my youth, though. 

But do you know, gentlemen, what was the chief point 
about my spite ? Why, the whole point, the real sting of it 
lay in the fact that continually, even in the moment of the 
acutest spleen, I was inwardly conscious with shame that I 
was not only not a spiteful but not even an embittered man, 
that I was simply scaring sparrows at random and amusing 
myself by it. I might foam at the mouth, but bring me a doll 
to play with, give me a cup of tea with sugar in it, and maybe 
I should be appeased. I might even be genuinely touched, 
though probably I should grind my teeth at myself afterwards 
and lie awake at night with shame for months after. That 
was my way. 

I was lying when I said just now that I was a spiteful official. 
I was lying from spite. I was simply amusing myself with the 
petitioners and with the officer, and in reality I never could 
become spiteful. I was conscious every moment in myself of 
many, very many elements absolutely opposite to that. I felt 
them positively swarming in me, these opposite elements. I 
knew that they had been swarming in me all my life and craving 
some outlet from me, but I would not let them, would not let 
them, purposely would not let them come out. They tormented 
me till I was ashamed : they drove me to convulsions and 



52 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

sickened me, at last, how they sickened me ! Now, are not you 
fancying, gentlemen, that I am expressing remorse for some- 
thing now, that I am asking your forgiveness for something 1 
I am sure you are fancying that . . . However, I assure you I 
do not care if you are. . . i 

It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not 
know how to become anything : neither spiteful nor kind, neither 
a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I 
am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spite- 
ful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become 
anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything. 
Yes, a man in the nineteenth century must and morally ought 
to be pre-eminently a characterless creature ; a man of character, 
an active man is pre-eminently a limited creature. That is my 
conviction of forty years. I am forty years old now, and you 
know forty years is a whole life -time; you know it is extreme 
old age. To live longer than forty years is bad manners, is 
vulgar, immoral. Who does live beyond forty? Answer that, 
sincerely and honestly. I will tell you who do : fools and 
worthless fellows. I tell all old men that to their face, all 
these venerable old men, all these silver-haired and reverend 
seniors ! I tell the whole world that to its face ! I have a right 
to say so, for I shall go on living to sixty myself. To seventy ! 
To eighty ! . . . Stay, let me take breath. . . . 

You imagine no doubt, gentlemen, that I want to amuse you. 
You are mistaken in that, too. I am by no means such a mirthful 
person as you imagine, or as you may imagine ; however, irritated 
by all this babble (and I feel that you are irritated) you think fit 
to ask me who am I then my answer is, I am a collegiate 
assessor. I was in the service that I might have something to eat 
(and solely for that reason), and when last year a distant relation 
left me six thousand roubles in his will I immediately retired from 
the service and settled down in my corner. I used to live in 
tliis corner before, but now I have settled down in it. My room 
is a wretched, horrid one in the outskirts of the town. My 
servant is an old country-woman, ill-natured from stupidity, 
and, moreover, there is always a nasty smell about her. I am 
told that the Petersburg climate is bad for me, and that with 
my small means it is very expensive to live in Petersburg. I 
know all that better than all these sage and experienced 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 53 

counsellors and monitors. . . . But I am remaining in Peters- 
burg ; I am not going away from Petersburg ! I am not going 
away because . . . ech ! Why, it is absolutely no matter whether 
I am going away or not going away. g 

But what can a decent man speak of with most pleasure ? 

Answer : Of himself. 

Well, so I will talk about myself. 

n 

I want now to tell you, gentlemen, whether you care to 
hear it or not, why I could not even become an insect. I 
tell you solemnly, that I have many times tried to become an 
insect. But I was not equal even to that. I swear, gentle- 
men, that to be too conscious is an illness a real thorough- 
going illness. For man's everyday needs, it would have been 
quite enough to have the ordinary human consciousness, that 
is, half or a quarter of the amount which falls to the lot of a 
cultivated man of our unhappy nineteenth century, especially 
one who has the fatal ill-luck to inhabit Petersburg, the most 
theoretical and intentional town on the whole terrestial globe. 
(There are intentional and unintentional towns.) It would have 
been quite enough, for instance, to have the consciousness by 
which all so-called direct persons and men of action live. I bet 
you think I am writing all this from affectation, to be witty at 
the expense of men of action; and what is more, that from 
ill-bred affectation, I am clanking a sword like my officer. But, 
gentlemen, whoever can pride himself on his diseases and even 
swagger over them ? 

Though, after all, every one does do that; people do pride 
themselves on their diseases, and I do, may be, more than any 
one. We will not dispute it; my contention was absurd. But 
yet I am firmly persuaded that a great deal of consciousness, 
every sort of consciousness, in fact, is a disease. I stick to that. 
Let us leave that, too, for a minute. Tell me this : why does it 
happen that at the very, yes, at the very moments when I am 
most capable of feeling every refinement of all that is " good and 
beautiful," as they used to say at one time, it would, as though of 
design, happen to me not only to feel but to do such ugly things, 
such that. . . . Well, in short, actions that all, perhaps, commit; 



54 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

but which, as though purposely, occurred to me at the very time 
when I was most conscious that they ought not to be committed, 
The more conscious I was of goodness and of all that was " good 
and beautiful," the more deeply I sank into my mire and the more 
ready I was to sink in it altogether. But the chief point was 
that all tliis was, as it were, not accidental in me, but as though 
it were bound to be so. It was as though it were my most normal 
condition, and not in the least disease or depravity, so that at 
last all desire in me to struggle against this depravity passed. 
It ended by my almost believing (perhaps actually believing) 
that tliis was perhaps my normal condition. But at first, in 
the beginning, what agonies I endured in that struggle ! I did 
not believe it was the same with other people, and all my life I 
hid this fact about myself as a secret. I was ashamed (even 
now, perhaps, I am ashamed) : I got to the point of feeling a 
sort of secret abnormal, despicable enjoyment in returning 
home to my corner on some disgusting Petersburg night, acutely 
conscious that that day I had committed a loathsome action 
again, that what was done could never be undone, and secretly, 
inwardly gnawing, gnawing at myself for it, tearing and con- 
suming myself till at last the bitterness turned into a sort of 
shameful accursed sweetness, and at last into positive real 
enjoyment ! Yes, into enjoyment, into enjoyment ! I insist 
upon that. I have spoken of this because I keep wanting to 
know for a fact whether other people feel such enjoyment ? I 
will explain; the enjoyment was just from the too intense 
consciousness of one's own degradation; it was from feeling 
oneself that one had reached the last barrier, that it was horrible, 
but that it could not be otherwise; that there was no escape 
for you; that you never could become a different man; that 
even if time and faith were still left you to change into some- 
thing different you would most likely not wish to change ; or 
if you did wish to, even then you would do nothing; because 
perhaps in reality there was nothing for you to change into. 

And the worst of it was, and the root of it all, that it was all 
in accord with the normal fundamental laws of over-acute 
consciousness, and with the inertia that was the direct result 
of those laws, and that consequently one w r as not only unable 
to change but could do absolutely nothing. Thus it would 
follow, as the result of acute consciousness, that one is not to 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 55 

blame in being a scoundrel ; as though that were any consolation 
to the scoundrel once he has come to realize that he actually is a 
scoundrel. But enough. . . . Ech, I have talked a lot of 
nonsense, but what have I explained ? How is enjoyment in 
this to be explained ? But I will explain it. I will get to the 
bottom of it ! That is why I have taken up my pen. . . . 

I, for instance, have a great deal of amour propre. I am as 
suspicious and prone to take offence as a humpback or a dwarf. 
But upon my word I sometimes have had moments when if I had 
happened to be slapped in the face I should, perhaps, have been 
positively glad of it. I say, in earnest, that I should probably have 
been able to discover even in that a peculiar sort of enjoyment 
the enjoyment, of course, of despair; but in despair there are 
the most intense enjoyments, especially when one is very acutely 
conscious of the hopelessness of one's position. And when one is 
slapped in the face why then the consciousness of being rubbed 
into a pulp would positively overwhelm one. The worst of it 
is, look at it which way one will, it still turns out that I Avas 
always the most to blame in everything. And what is most 
humiliating of all, to blame for no fault of my own but, so to 
say, through the laws of nature. In the first place, to blame 
because I am cleverer than any of the people surrounding me. 
(I have always considered myself cleverer than any of the people 
surrounding me, and sometimes, would you believe it, have been 
positively ashamed of it. At any rate, I have all my life, as 
it were, turned my eyes away and never could look people straight 
in the face.) To blame, finally, because even if I had had mag 
nanimity, I should only have had more suffering from the 
sense of its uselessness. I should certainly have never been able 
to do anything from being magnanimous neither to forgive, for 
my assailant would perhaps have slapped me from the laws of 
nature, and one cannot forgive the laws of nature ; nor to 
forget, for even if it were owing to the laws of nature, it is insult- 
ing all the same. Finally, even if I had wanted to be anything 
but magnanimous, had desired on the contrary to revenge myself 
on my assailant, I could not have revenged myself on any one 
for anything because I should certainly never have made up my 
mind to do anything, even if I had been able to. Why should 
I not have made up my mind ? About that in particular I want 
to say a few words. 



56 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 



m 

With people who know how to revenge themselves and to stand 
up for themselves in general, how is it done ? Why, when they 
are possessed, let us suppose, by the feeling of revenge, then for 
the time there is nothing else but that feeling left in their whole 
being. Such a gentleman simply dashes straight for his object 
like an infuriated bull with its horns down, and nothing but a 
wall will stop him. (By the way : facing the wall, such gentle- 
men that is, the " direct " persons and men of action are 
genuinely nonplussed. For them a wall is not an evasion, as 
for us people who think and consequently do nothing ; it is not 
an excuse for turning aside, an excuse for which we are always 
very glad, though we scarcely believe in it ourselves, as a rule, 
they are nonplussed in all sincerity. The wall has for them 
something tranquillizing, morally soothing, final maybe even 
something mysterious . . . but of the wall later.) 

Well, such a direct person I regard as the real normal man, 
as his tender mother nature wished to see him when she 
graciously brought him into being on the earth. I envy such a 
man till lam green in the face. He is stupid. I am not disputing 
that, but perhaps the normal man should be stupid, how do you 
know ? Perhaps it is very beautiful, in fact. And I am the 
more persuaded of that suspicion, if one can call it so. by the fact 
that if you take, for instance, the antithesis of the normal man, 
that is, the man of acute consciousness, who has come, of course, 
not out of the lap of nature but out of a retort (this is almost 
mysticism, gentlemen, but I-'suspect this, too), this retort -made 
man is sometimes so nonplussed in the presence of his antithesis 
with all his exaggerated consciousness he genuinely thinks 
of himself as a mouse and not a man. It may be an acutely 
conscious mouse, yet it is a mouse, while the other is a man, and 
therefore, et caetera, et csetera. And the worst of it is. he himself, 
his very own self, looks on himself as a mouse ; no one asks him 
to do so; and that is an important point. Now let us look at 
this mouse in action. Let us suppose, for instance, that it feels 
insulted, too (and it almost always does feel insulted), and wants 
to revenge itself, too. There may even be a greater accumulation 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 67 

of spite in it than in Vhomme de la nature et de la veriU. The 
base and nasty desire to vent that spite on its assailant rankles 
perhaps even more nastily in it than in VJiomme de la nature et de 
la verite. For through his innate stupidity the latter looks upon 
his revenge as justice pure and simple; while in consequence 
of his acute consciousness the mouse does not believe in the 
justice of it. To come at last to the deed itself, to the very 
act of revenge. Apart from the one fundamental nastiness the 
luckless mouse succeeds in creating around it so many other 
nastinesses in the form of doubts and questions, adds to the 
one question so many unsettled questions that there inevitably 
works up around it a sort of fatal brew, a stinking mess, made up 
of its doubts, emotions, and of the contempt spat upon it by the 
direct men of action who stand solemnly about it as judges and 
arbitrators, laughing at it till their healthy sides ache. Of course 
the only thing left for it is to dismiss all that with a wave of its 
paw, and, with a smile of assumed contempt in which it does not 
even itself believe, creep ignominiously into its mouse-hole. There 
in its nasty, stinking, underground home our insulted, crushed and 
ridiculed mouse promptly becomes absorbed in cold, malignant 
and, above all, everlasting spite. For forty years together it 
will remember its injury down to the smallest, most ignominious 
details, and every time will add, of itself, details still more 
ignominious, spitefully teasing and tormenting itself with its 
own imagination. It will itself be ashamed of its imaginings, but 
yet it will recall it all, it will go over and over every detail, it 
will invent unheard of things against itself, pretending that those 
things might happen, and will forgive nothing. Maybe it will 
begin to revenge itself, too, but, as it were, piecemeal, in trivial 
ways, from behind the stove, incognito, without believing either 
in its own right to vengeance, or in the success of its revenge, 
knowing that from all its efforts at revenge it will suffer a 
hundred times more than he on whom it revenges itself, while 
he, I daresay, will not even scratch himself. On its deathbed 
it will recall it all over again, with interest accumulated over all 
the years and. . . . 

But it is just in that cold, abominable half despair, half belief, 
in that conscious burying oneself alive for grief in the under- 
world for forty years, in that acutely recognized and yet partly 
doubtful hopelessness of one's'position, in that hell of unsatisfied 



5S IBS FROM UNDERGROUND 

desires luiikinl inward, in that fever of oscillations, of resolutions 
determined lor ever and repented of again a minute later that 
tike savour of that strange enjoyment of which I have spoken 
fie*. It is ao subtle, so difficult of analysis, that persons who are 
even simply p*?*""* of strong nerves, will not 
of h. " Possibly/- you will add on 
with a grin, " people win not understand it 
who have never received a slap in the face," and in that 
way yon wifl politely hint to me that I, too, perhaps, have had 
the f*jMiMMii> of a dap in the face in my hie, and so I speak 
as one who knows. I bet that yon are thinking that. But 
set your minds at rest, gentlemen, I have not received a slap 
in tike face, though it is absolutely a matter of indifference to 
me what JOB may think about it. Possibly, I even regret, 
myself, that I have given so lew slaps in the face during my 
file. Bat ciuiugh . . . not another word on that subject of 

to you. 
- "__ ::.:.:/:- :._:-. . :r:_ j 




ffiartum M beflow their 
tins, let us suppose, does them the 
I have said already, confronted with the 
at once. The impossible means the 
? Why, of course, the laws of 

\~ '_- 7T~-r " ' . : r .:.-",:".' -' ~ :.:-.' ~~'~. ",:- .- - - r. .-: - 
a monkey, then it is no use scowling, accept it for a fact. 
When they prove to you that in reality one drop of your own 
fat luust be dcaiu to you than a hundred thousand of your 
fesW creatures, and that this conclusion is the final solution 
of afl so-called virtues and duties and afl such prejudices and 
ffsui ', then you have just to accept it, there is no help for it, 
for twice two is a law of mathematics. Just try refuting it. 
"* Upon my word, they wiD shout at you, it is no use protesting : 
it is a case of twice two makes four ! Nature does not ask your 
pnm'iMMBi, she hag nothing to do with your wishes, and whether 
you Eke her laws or dislike them, you are bound to accept 
her as she is, and consequently afl her conclusions. A wafl, 
you see, is a wafl . . . and so on, and so on." 

HVjuful Heavens ! but what do I care lor the laws of nature 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 59 

and arithmetic, when, for some reason I dislike those laws and 
the fact that twice two makes four ? Of course I cannot break 
through the wall by battering my head against it if I reaDy hare 
not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going to be 
reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not 
the strength. 

As though such a stone wall really were a consolation, and 
really did contain some word of conciliation, simply became 
it is as true as twice two makes four. Oh, absurdity of absurd- 
ities ! How much better it is to understand it all, to recognize it 
all, all the impossibilities and the stone wall; not to be recon- 
ciled to one of those impossibilities and stone walls if it disgusts 
you to be reconciled to it ; by the way of the most inevitable^ 
logical combinations to reach the most revolting conclusions 
on the everlasting theme, that even for the stone wall you axe 
yourself somehow to blame, though again it is as clear as day 
you are not to blame in the least, and therefore grinding your 
teeth in silent impotence to sink into luxurious inertia, brooding 
on the fact that there is no one even for yon to feel vindictive 
against, that you have not, and perhaps never will have, an 
object for your spite, that it is a sleight of hand, a bit of juggling, 
a card-sharper's trick, that it is simply a mess, no knowing what 
and no knowing who, but in spite of all these uncertainties and 
jugglings, still there is an ache in you. and the more you do not 
know, the worse the ache. 

IV 

" Ha, ha, ha ! You will be finding enjoyment in toothache 
next," you cry, with a laugh. 

" Well ? Even in toothache there is enjoyment," I answer. 
I had toothache for a whole month and I know there is. In 
that case, of course, people are not spiteful in silence, but moan ; 
but they are not candid moans, they are malignant moans, and 
the malignancy is the whole point. The enjoyment of the 
sufferer finds expression in those moans ; if he did not feel enjoy- 
ment in them he would not moan. It is a good example, gentle- 
men, and I will develop it. Those moans express in the first 
place all the aimlessness of your pain, wjiich is so humiliating 
to your consciouness ; the whole legal system of nature on which 



60 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

you spit disdainfully, of course, but from which you suffer all 
the same while she does not. They express the consciousness 
that you have no enemy to punish, but that you have pain ; the 
consciousness that in spite of all possible Vagenheims you are in 
complete slavery to your teeth ; that if some one wishes it, your 
teeth will leave off aching, and if he does not, they will go on 
aching another three months; and that finally if you are still 
contumacious and still protest, all that is left you for your 
own gratification is to thrash yourself or beat your wall with 
your fist as hard as you can, and absolutely nothing more. Well, 
these mortal insults, these jeers on the part of some one unknown, 
end at last in an enjoyment which sometimes reaches the 
highest degree of voluptuousness. I ask you, gentlemen, listen 
sometimes to the moans of an educated man of the nine- 
teenth century suffering from toothache, on the second or third 
day of the attack, when he is beginning to moan, not as he 
moaned on the first day, that is, not simply because he has 
toothache, not just as any coarse peasant, but as a man 
affected by progress and European civilization, a man who 
is " divorced from the soil and the national elements," as they 
express it now-a-days. His moans become nasty, disgustingly 
malignant, and go on for whole days and nights. And of course 
he knows himself that he is doing himself no sort of good with 
his moans; he knows better than any one that he is only 
lacerating and harassing himself and others for nothing; he 
knows that even the audience before whom he is making his 
efforts, and his whole family, listen to him with loathing, do 
not put a ha'porth of faith in him, and inwardly understand 
that he might moan differently, more simply, without trills and 
flourishes, and that he is only amusing himself like that from 
ill-humour, from malignancy. Well, in all these recognitions and 
1 i>_ r races it is that there lies a voluptuous pleasure. As though he 
would say : " I am worrying you, I am lacerating your hearts, 
I am keeping every one in the house awake. Well, stay awake 
then, you, too, feel every minute that I have toothache. I am 
not a hero to you now, as I tried to seem before, but simply 
a nasty person, an impostor. Well, so be it, then ! I am very 
glad that you see through me. It is nasty for you to hear my 
<lfspic;il,le moans : well, let it be nasty; here I will let you have 
a nastier flourish in a minute. , , ." You do not understand 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 61 

even now, gentlemen ? No, it seems our development and our 
consciousness must go further to understand all the intricacies 
of this pleasure. You laugh ? Delighted. My jests, gentlemen, 
are of course in bad taste, jerky, involved, lacking self-confidence. 
But of course that is because I do not respect myself. Can a 
man of perception respect himself at all ? 



Come, can a man who attempts to find enjoyment in the very 
feeling of his own degradation possibly have a spark of respect 
for himself ? I am not saying this now from any mawkish kind 
of remorse. And, indeed, I could never endure saying, " Forgive 
me, Papa, I won't do it again," not because I am incapable of 
saying that on the contrary, perhaps just because I have 
been too capable of it, and in what a way, too ! As though of 
design I used to get into trouble in cases when I was not to blame 
in any way. That was the nastiest part of it. At the same 
time I was genuinely touched and penitent, I used to shed tears 
and, of course, deceived myself, though I was not acting in the 
least and there was a sick feeling in my heart at the time. . . . 
For that one could not blame even the laws of nature, though 
the laws of nature have continually all my life offended me more 
than anything. It is loathsome to remember it all, but it was 
loathsome even then. Of course, a minute or so later I would 
realize wrathfully that it was all a lie, a revolting he, an affected 
lie, that is, all this penitence, this emotion, these vows of 
reform. You will ask why did I worry myself with such antics : 
answer, because it was very dull to sit with one's hands folded, 
and so one began cutting capers. That is really it. Observe 
yourselves more carefully, gentlemen, then you will understand 
that it is so. I invented adventures for myself and made up a 
life, so as at least to live in some way. How many times it has 
happened to me well, for instance, to take offence simply on 
purpose, for nothing; and one knows oneself, of course, that 
one is offended at nothing, that one is putting it on, but yet 
one brings oneself, at last to the point of being really offended. 
All my life I have had an impulse to play such pranks, so that 
in the end I could not control it in myself. Another time, twice, 



62 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

in fact, I tried hard to be in love. I suffered, too, gentlemen, 
I assure you. In the depth of my heart there was no faith in 
my suffering, only a faint stir of mockery, but yet I did suffer, 
and in the real, orthodox way; I was jealous, beside myself . . . 
and it v/as all from ennui, gentlemen, all from ennui ; inertia 
overcame me. You know the direct, legitimate fruit of conscious- 
ness is inertia, that is, conscious sitting-with-the-hands-folded. 
I have referred to this already. I repeat, I repeat with emphasis : 
all " direct " persons and men of action are active just because 
they are stupid and limited. How explain that ? I will tell 
you : in consequence of their limitation they take immediate and 
secondary causes for primary ones, and in that way persuade 
themselves more quickly and easily than other people do that 
they have found an infallible foundation for their activity, and 
their minds are at ease and you know that is the chief thing. To 
begin to act, you know, you must first have your mind completely 
at ease and no trace of doubt left in it. Why, how am I, for 
example to set my mind at rest ? Where are the primary causes 
on which I am to build ? Where are my foundations ? Where 
am I to get them from ? I exercise myself in reflection, and 
consequently with me every primary cause at once draws after 
itself another still more primary, and so on to infinity. That is 
just the essence of every sort of consciousness and reflection. It 
must be a case of the laws of nature again. What is the result 
of it in the end ? Why, just the same. Remember I spoke just 
now of vengeance. (I am sure you did not take it in.) I said 
that a man revenges himself because he sees justice in it. There- 
fore he has found a primary cause, that is, justice. And so he is at 
rest on all sides, and consequently he carries out his revenge calmly 
and successfully, being persuaded that he is doing a just and honest 
thing. But I see no justice in it, I find no sort of virtue in it 
either, and consequently if I attempt to revenge myself, it is only 
out of spite. Spite, of course, might overcome everything, all my 
doubts, arid so might serve quite successfully in place of a primary 
cause, precisely because it is not a cause. But what is to be 
done if I have not even spite (I began with that just now, you 
know). In consequence again of those accursed laws of con- 
sciousness, anger in me is subject to chemical disintegration. 
You look into it, the object flies off into air, your reasons 
evaporate, the criminal is not to be found, the wrong becomes 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 63 

not a wrong but a phantom, something like the toothache, for 
which no one is to blame, and consequently there is only the 
same outlet left again that is, to beat the wall as hard as 
you can. So you give it up with a wave of the hand because 
you have not found a fundamental cause. And try letting 
yourself be carried away by your feelings, blindly, without 
reflection, without a primary cause, repelling consciousness 
at least for a time; hate or love, if only not to sit with your 
hands folded. The day after to-morrow, at the latest, you will 
begin despising yourself for having knowingly deceived yourself. 
Result : a soap-bubble and inertia. Oh, gentlemen, do you know, 
perhaps I consider myself an intelligent man, only because all 
my life I have been able neither to begin nor to finish anything. 
Granted I am a babbler, a harmless vexatious babbler, like all 
of us. But what is to be done if the direct and sole vocation of 
every intelligent man is babble, that is, the intentional pouring 
of water through a sieve ? 



VI 

Oh, if I had done nothing simply from laziness ! Heavens, 
how I should have respected myself, then. I should have 
respected myself because I should at least have been capable 
of being lazy; there would at least have been one quality, as it 
were, positive in me, in which I could have believed myself. 
Question : What is he ? Answer : A sluggard ; how very 
pleasant it would have been to hear that of oneself ! It would 
mean that I was positively defined, it would mean that there 
was something to say about me. " Sluggard " why, it is a 
calling and vocation, it is a career. Do not jest, it is so. I 
should then be a member of the best club by right, and should 
find my occupation in continually respecting myself. I knew 
a gentlemen who prided himself all his life on being a con- 
noisseur of Lafitte. He considered this as his positive virtue, 
and never doubted himself. He died, not simply with a tranquil, 
but with a triumphant, conscience, and he was quite right, too. 
Then I should have chosen a career for myself, I should have 
been a sluggard and a glutton, not a simple one, but, for instance, 
one with sympathies for everything good and beautiful. How do 



64 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

you like that ? I have long had visions of it. That " good and 
beautiful " weighs heavily on my mind at forty. But that is at 
forty ; then oh, then it would have been different ! I should have 
found for myself a form of activity in keeping with it, to be pre- 
cise, drinking to the health of everything " good and beautiful." 
I should have snatched at every opportunity to drop a tear into 
my glass and then to drain it to all that is " good and beautiful." 
I should then have turned everything into the good and the 
beautiful; in the nastiest, unquestionable trash, I should have 
sought out the good and the beautiful. I should have exuded 
tears like a wet sponge. An artist, for instance, paints a picture 
worthy of Gay. At once I drink to the health of the artist who 
painted the picture worthy of Gay, because I love all that is " good 
and beautiful." An author has written As you will : at once I 
drink to the health of " any one you will " because I love all 
that is " good and beautiful." 

I should claim respect for doing so. I should persecute any 
one who would not show me respect. I should live at ease, I 
should die with dignity, why, it is charming, perfectly charming ! 
And what a good round belly I should have grown, what a treble 
chin I should have established, what a ruby nose I should have 
coloured for myself, so that every one would have said, looking 
at me : " Here is an asset ! Here is something real and solid ! " 
And, say what you like, it is very agreeable to hear such remarks 
about oneself in this negative age. 



vn 

But these are all golden dreams. Oh, tell me, who was it first 
announced, who was it first proclaimed, that man only does nasty 
tilings because he does not know his own interests ; and that if 
ho were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal 
interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would 
at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and 
understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage 
in the good and nothing else, and we all know that not one man 
can, consciously, act against his own interests, consequently, 
so to say, through necessity, he would begin doing good ? Oh, 
the babe 1 Oh, the pure, innocent child ! Why, in the first 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 66 

place, when in all these thousands of years has there been a 
time when man has acted only from his own interest ? What 
is to be done with the millions of facts that bear witness that 
men, consciously, that is fully understanding their real interests, 
have left them in the background and have rushed headlong 
on another path, to meet peril and danger, compelled to this 
course by nobody and by nothing, but, as it were, simply disliking 
the beaten track, and have obstinately, wilfully, struck out another 
difficult, absurd way, seeking it almost in the darkness. So, I 
suppose, this obstinacy and perversity were pleasanter to them 
than any advantage. . . . Advantage ! What is advantage ? 
And will you take it upon yourself to define with perfect accuracy 
in what the advantage of man consists 1 And what if it so 
happens that a man's advantage, sometimes, not only may, but 
even must, consist in his desiring in certain cases what is harmful 
to himself and not advantageous. And if so, if there can be 
such a case, the whole principle falls into dust. What do you 
think are there such cases ? You laugh ; laugh away, gen- 
tlemen, but only answer me : have man's advantages been 
reckoned up with perfect certainty ? Are there not some which 
not only have not been included but cannot possibly be included 
under any classification ? You see, you gentlemen have, to the 
best of my knowledge, taken your whole register of human 
advantages from the averages of statistical figures and politico - 
economical formulas. Your advantages are prosperity, wealth, 
freedom, peace and so on, and so on. So that the man who 
should, for instance, go openly and knowingly in opposition to 
all that list would, to your thinking, and indeed mine, too, of 
course, be an obscurantist or an absolute madman : would not 
he ? But, you know, this is what is surprising : why does it 
so happen that all these statisticians, sages and lovers of 
humanity, when they reckon up human advantages invariably 
leave out one ? They don't even take it into their reckoning 
in the form in which it should be taken^and the whole reckoning 
depends upon that. It would be no great matter, they would 
simply have to take it, this advantage, and add it to the list. 
But the trouble is, that this strange advantage does not fall under 
any classification and is not in place in any list. I have a friend 
for instance . . .-Ech ! gentlemen, but of course he is your 
friend, too ; and indeed there is no one, no one, to whom he is 
F 



66 

not a friend ! When he prepares for any undertaking this gentle- 
man immediately explains to you, elegantly and clearly, exactly 
how he must act in accordance with the laws of reason and truth. 
What is more, he will talk to you with excitement and passion 
of the true normal interests of man ; with irony he will upbraid 
the shortsighted fools who do not understand their own interests, 
nor the true significance of virtue; and, within a quarter of an 
hour, without any sudden outside provocation, but simply through 
something inside him which is stronger than all his interests, 
he will go off on quite a different tack that is, act in direct 
opposition to what he has just been saying about himself, 
in opposition to the laws of reason, in opposition to Ms own 
advantage, in fact in opposition to everything ... I warn 
you that my friend is a compound personality, and therefore 
it is difficult to blame him as an individual. The fact is, gentle- 
men, it seems there must really exist something that is dearer 
to almost every man than his greatest advantages, or (not to 
be illogical) there is a most advantageous advantage (the very 
one omitted of which we spoke just now) which is more important 
and more advantageous than all other advantages, for the sake 
of which a man if necessary is ready to act in opposition to 
all laws; that is, in opposition to reason, honour, peace, pros- 
perity in fact, in opposition to all those excellent and useful 
things if only he can attain that fundamental, most advantageous 
advantage which is dearer to him than all. " Yes, but it's 
advantage all the same " you will retort. But excuse me, I'll 
make the point clear, and it is not a case of playing upon words. 
What matters is, that this advantage is remarkable from the 
very fact that it breaks down all our classifications, and con- 
tinually shatters every system constructed by lovers of mankind 
for the benefit of mankind. In fact, it upsets everything. But 
before I mention this advantage to you, I want to compromise 
myself personally, and therefore I boldly declare that all these 
fine systems, all these theories for explaining to mankind their 
real normal interests, in order that inevitably striving to pursue 
these interests they may at once become good and noble are, 
in my opinion, so far, mere logical exercises ! Yes, logical 
exercises. Why, to maintain this theory of the regeneration 
of mankind by means of the pursuit of liis own advantage 
IB to my mind almost the same thing as ... as to affirm, for 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 67 

instance, following Buckle, that through civilization mankind 
becomes softer, and consequently less bloodthirsty and less 
fitted for warfare. Logically it does seem to follow from his 
arguments. But man has such a predilection for systems and 
abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth inten- 
'tioiially, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to 
justify his logic. I take this example because it is the most 
glaring instance of it. Only look about you : blood is being 
spilt in streams, and in the merriest way, as though it were 
champagne. Take the whole of the nineteenth century in which 
Buckle lived. Take Napoleon the Great and also the present 
one. Take North America the eternal union. Take the farce 
of Schleswig-Holstein. . . . And what is it that civilization 
softens in us ? The only gain of civilization for mankind is the 
greater capacity for variety of sensations and absolutely 
nothing more. And through the development of this many- 
sidedness man may come to finding enjoyment in bloodshed. 
In fact, this has already happened to him. Have you noticed 
that it is the most civilized gentlemen who have been the 
subtlest slaughterers, to whom the Attilas and Stenka Razins 
could not hold a candle, and if they are not so conspicuous 
as the Attilas and Stenka Razins it is simply because they 
are so often met with, are so ordinary and have become so 
familiar to us. In any case civilization has made mankind 
if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loath- 
somely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in blood- 
shed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he 
thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and 
yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than 
ever. Which is worse ? Decide that for yourselves. They 
say that Cleopatra (excuse an instance from Roman history) 
was fond of sticking gold pins into her slave-girls' breasts and 
derived gratification from their screams and writhings. You 
will say that that was in the comparatively barbarous times; 
that these are barbarous times too, because also, comparatively 
speaking, pins are stuck in even now; that though man has 
now learned to see more clearly than in barbarous ages, he is 
still far from having learnt to act as reason and science would 
dictate. But yet you are fully convinced that he will be sure 
to learn when he gets rid of certain old bad habits, and when 



68 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

common sense and science have completely re-educated human 
nature and turned it in a normal direction. You are confident 
that then man will cease from intentional error and will, so to 
Bay, be compelled not to want to set his will against his normal 
interests. That is not all ; then, you say, science itself will teach 
man (though to my mind it's a superfluous luxury) that he never 
has really had any caprice or will of his own, and that he himself 
is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ, 
and that there are, besides, things called the laws of nature ; 
so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is 
done of itself, by the laws of nature. Consequently we have 
only to discover these laws of nature, and man will no longer 
have to answer for his actions and life will become exceedingly 
easy for him. All human actions will then, of course, be tabu- 
lated according to these laws, mathematically, like tables of 
logarithms up to 108,000, and entered in an index; or, better 
still, there would be published certain edifying works of the 
nature of encyclopaedic lexicons, in which everything will be 
BO clearly calculated and explained that there will be no more 
incidents or adventures in the world. 

Then this is all what you say new economic relations will 

be established, all ready-made and worked out with mathematical 

exactitude, so that every possible question will vanish in the 

twinkling of an eye, simply because every possible answer to it 

will be provided. Then the " Palace of Crystal" will be built. 

Then .... In fact, those will be halcyon days. Of course there 

Is no guaranteeing (this is my comment) that it will not be, for 

instance, frightfully dull then (for what will one have to do 

when everything will be calculated and tabulated), but on the 

other hand everything will be extraordinary rational. Of course 

boredom may lead you to anything. It is boredom sets one 

st irking golden pins into people, but all that would not matter. 

What is bad (this is my comment again) is that I dare say 

people will be thankful for the gold pins then. Man is stupid, 

you know, phenomenally stupid ; or rather he is not at all stupid, 

but he is so ungrateful that you could not find another like him 

in all creation. I, for instance, would not l>e in the least 

surprised if all of a sudden, a propos of notlu'ng, in the midst of 

general prosperity a gentleman with an ignoble, or rather with 

a reactionary and ironical, countenance were to arise and, 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 69 

putting his arms akimbo, say to us all : "I say, gentlemen, 
hadn't we better kick over the whole show and scatter rational- 
ism to the winds, simply to send these logarithms to the devil, 
and to enable us to live once more at our own sweet foolish 
will ! " That again would not matter; but what is annoying 
is that he would be sure to find followers such is the nature 
of man. And all that for the most foolish reason, which, one 
would think, was hardly worth mentioning : that is, that man 
everywhere and at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred 
to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and advantage 
dictated. And one may choose what is contrary to one's own 
interests, and sometimes one positively ought (that is my idea). 
One's own free unfettered choice, one's own caprice, however 
wild it may be, one's own fancy worked up at times to frenzy 
is that very " most advantageous advantage " which we have 
overlooked, which comes under no classification and against 
which all systems and theories are continually being shattered 
to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants 
a normal, a virtuous choice ? What has made them conceive 
that man must want a rationally advantageous choice ? What 
man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that inde- 
pendence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of 
course, the devil only knows what choice. . . . 



VIII 

"Ha! ha! ha! But you know there is no such thing as choice 
in reality, say what you like," you will interpose with a chuckle 
" Science has succeeded in so far analysing man that we know 
already that choice and what is called freedom of will is nothing 
else than " 

Stay, gentlemen, I meant to begin with that myself. I 
confess, I was rather frightened. I was just going to say that 
the devil only knows what choice depends on, and that perhaps 
that was a very good thing, but I remembered the teaching 
of science . . . and pulled myself up. And here you have 
begun upon it. Indeed, if there really is some day discovered 
a formula for all our desires and caprices that is, an explanation 
of what they depend upon, by what laws they arise, how they 



70 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

develop, what they are aiming at in one case and in another 
and so -on, that is a real mathematical formula then, most likely, 
man will at once cease to feel desire, indeed, he will be certain 
to. For who would want to choose by rule ? Besides, he will 
at once be transformed from a human being into an organ- stop 
or something of the sort ; for what is a man without desires, with- 
out freewill and without choice, if not a stop in an organ ? What 
do you think ? Let us reckon the chances can such a thing 
happen or not ? 

" H'm ! " you decide. " Our choice is usually mistaken from 
a false view of our advantage. We sometimes choose absolute 
nonsense because in our foolishness we see in that nonsense 
the easiest means for attaining a supposed advantage. But when 
all that is explained and worked out 011 paper (which is perfectly 
possible, for it is contemptible and senseless to suppose that 
some laws of nature man will never understand), then certainly 
so-called desires will no longer exist. For if a desire should come 
into conflict with reason we shall then reason and not desire, 
because it will be impossible retaining our reason to be senseless 
in our desires, and in that way knowingly act against reason 
and desire to injure ourselves. And as all choice and reasoning 
can be really calculated because there will some day be dis- 
covered the laws of our so-called freewill so, joking apart, 
there may one day be something like a table constructed of 
them, so that we really shall choose in accordance with it. If, 
for instance, some day they calculate and prove to me that I 
made a long nose at some one because I could not help making 
a long nose at him and that I had to do it in that particular way, 
what freedom is left me, especially if I am a learned man and have 
taken my degree somewhere ? Then I should be able to 
calculate my whole life for thirty years beforehand. In short, 
if t his could be arranged there would be nothing left for us to do ; 
anyuay, we should have to understand that. And, in fact, \\e 
ought unwearyingly to repeat to ourselves that at such and such a 
time and in such and such circumstances nature docs not ask our 
< i ; that we have got to take her as she is and not fashion 
her to suit our fancy, and if we really aspire to formulas and 
tables of rules, and well, even ... to the chemical retort, 
tin re's no help for it, we must accept the retort too, or else it 
will be accepted without our consent. . . ." 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 71 

Yes, but here I come to a stop ! Gentlemen, you must 
excuse me for being over-philosophical ; il's tlae result of forty 
years underground ! Allow me to ijidulge my fancy. You see, 
gentlemen, reason is an excellent thing, there's no disputing 
that, but reason is nothing but reason and satisfies only the 
rational side of man's nature, while will is a manifestation of the 
whole life, that is, of the whole human I'L- including reason and 
all the impulses. And although our life, in this manifestation 
of it, is often worthless, yet it is life and not simpty extracting 
square roots. Here I, for instance, quite naturally want to live, 
in order to satisfy all my capacities for life, and not simply my 
capacity for reasoning, that is. not simply one twentieth of my 
capacity for life. What does reason know ? Reason only knows 
what it has succeeded in learning (some things, perhaps, it 
will never learn; this is a poor comfort, but why not say so 
frankly?) and human nature acts as a whole, with everything 
that is in it, consciously or unconsciously, and, even if it goes 
wrong, it lives. I suspect, gentlemen, that you are looking at 
me with compassion; you tell me again that an enlightened 
and developed man, such, in short, as the future man will be, 
cannot consciously desire anything disadvantageous to himself, 
that that can be proved mathematically. I thoroughly agree, 
it can by mathematics. But I repeat for the hundredth time, 
there is one case, one only, when man may consciously, purposely, 
desire what is injurious to himself, what is stupid, very stupid 
simply In order to have the right to desire for himself even what 
is very stupid and not to be bound by an obligation to desire 
only what is sensible. Of course, this very stupid thing, this 
caprice of ours, may be in reality, gentlemen, more advantageous 
for us than anything else on earth, especially in certain cases. 
And in particular it may be more advantageous than any 
advantage even when it does us obvious harm, and contradicts 
the soundest conclusions of our reason concerning our advantage 
for in any circumstances it preserves for us what is most precious 
and most important that is, our personality, our individuality. 
Some, you see, maintain that this really is the most precious thing 
for mankind ; choice can, of course, if it chooses, be in agreement 
with reason; and especially if this be not abused but kept 
within bounds. It is profitable and sometimes even praiseworthy. 
But very often, and even most often, choice is utterly and 



72 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

stubbornly opposed to reason . . . and . . . and ... do you 
know that that, too, is profitable, sometimes even praise- 
worthy? Gentlemen, let us suppose that man is not stupid. 
(Indeed one cannot refuse to suppose that, if only from the one 
consideration, that, if man is stupid, then who is wise ?) But 
if he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful ! Phenomenally 
ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is 
the ungrateful biped. But that is not all, that is not his worst 
defect ; his worst defect is his perpetual moral obliquity, per- 
petual from the days of the Flood to the Schleswig-Holstein 
period. Moral obliquity and consequently lack of good sense; 
for it has long been accepted that lack of good sense is due to 
no other cause than moral obliquity. Put it to the test and cast 
your eyes upon the history of mankind. What will you see ? 
Is it a grand spectacle ? Grand, if you like. Take the Colossus 
of Rhodes, for instance, that's worth something. With good 
reason Mr. Anaevsky testifies of it that some say that it is the 
work of man's hands, while others maintain that it has been 
created by nature herself. Is it many-coloured ? May be it 
is many-coloured, too : if one takes the dress uniforms, military 
and civilian, of all peoples in all ages that alone is worth some- 
thing, and if you take the undress uniforms you will never get 
to the end of it ; no historian would be equal to the job. Is 
it monotonous ? May be it's monotonous too : it's fighting 
and fighting; they are fighting now, they fought first and they 
fought last you will admit, that it is almost too monotonous. 
In short, one may say anything about the history of the world 
anything that might enter the most disordered imagination. 
The only thing one can't say is that it's rational. The very 
word sticks in one's throat. And, indeed, this is the odd thing 
that is continually happening : there are continually turning up 
in life moral and rational persons, sages and lovers of humanity 
\\lio make it their object to live all their lives as morally and 
rationally as possible, to be, so to speak, a light to their neigh- 
bours simply in order to show them that it is possible to live 
iimrally and rationally in this world. And yet we all know 
that those very people sooner or later have been false to them- 
. 'laying some queer trick, often a most unseemly one. 
Now I ask you : what can be expected of man since he is a being 
with such strange qualities? Shower upon him every 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 73 

earthly blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, so that nothing 
but bubbles of bliss can be seen on the surface; give him 
economic prosperity, such that he should have nothing else to do 
but sleep, eat cakes and busy himself with the continuation 
of his species, and even then out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, 
man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his 
cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, 
the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all 
this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. It is just 
his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he will desire to 
retain, simply in order to prove to himself as though that were 
so necessary that men still are men and not the keys of a piano, 
which the laws of nature threaten to control so completely that 
soon one will be able to desire nothing but by the calendar. And 
that is not all : even if man really were nothing but a piano-key, 
even if this were proved to him by natural science and mathe- 
matics, even then he would not become reasonable, but would 
purposely do something perverse out of simple ingratitude, 
simply to gain his point. And if he does not find .means he will 
contrive destruction and chaos, will contrive sufferings of all 
sorts, only to gain his point ! He will launch a curse upon the 
world, and as only man can curse (it is his privilege, the primary 
distinction between him and other animals), may be by his curse 
alone he will attain his object that is, convince himself that he 
is a man and not a piano-key ! If you say that all this, too, 
can be calculated and tabulated chaos and darkness and curses, 
so that the mere possibility of calculating it all beforehand 
would stop it all, and reason would reassert itself, then man 
would purposely go mad in order to be rid of reason and gain 
his point ! I believe in it, I answer for it, for the whole work 
of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself 
every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key ! It may 
be at the cost of his skin, it may be by cannibalism ! And this 
being so, can one help being tempted to rejoice that it has not yet 
come off, and that desire still depends on something we don't know ? 

You will scream at me (that is, if you condescend to do so) 
that no one is touching my free will, that all they are concerned 
with is that my will should of itself, of its own free will, coincide with 
my own normal interests, with the laws of nature and arithmetic. 

Good Heavens, gentlemen, what sort of free will is left when 



74 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

we come to tabulation and arithmetic, when it will all be a case 
of twice two make four. Twice two makes four without my will. 
As if free will meant that ! 

IX 

Gentlemen, I am joking, and I know myself that my jokes are 
not brilliant, but you know one can't take everything as a joke. 
I am, perhaps, jesting against the grain. Gentlemen, I am 
tormented by questions ; answer them for me. You, for instance, 
want to cure men of their old habits and reform their will in 
accordance with science and good sense. But how do you 
know, not only that it is possible, but also that it is desirable, 
to reform man in that way ? And what leads you to the con- 
clusion that man's inclinations need reforming ? In short, 
how do you know that such a reformation will be a benefit to 
man ? And to go to the root of the matter, why are you so 
positively convinced that not to act against his real normal 
interests guaranteed by the conclusions of reason and arith- 
metic is certainly always advantageous for man and must always 
be a law for mankind ? So far, you know, this is only your 
supposition. It may be the law of logic, but not the law of 
humanity. You think, gentlemen, perhaps that I am mad ? 
Allow me to defend myself. I agree that man is pre-eminently 
a creative animal, predestined to strive consciously for an object 
and to engage in engineering that is, incessantly and eternally 
to make new roads, wherever they may lead. But the reason why 
he wants sometimes to go off at a tangent may just be that he is 
predestined to make the road, and perhaps, too, that however 
stupid the " direct " practical man may be, the thought some- 
times will occur to him that the road almost always does lead 
somewhere, and that the destination it leads to is less important 
than the process of making it, and that the chief thing is to save 
the well-conducted child from despising engineering, and so giving 
way to the fatal idleness, which, as we all know, is the mother of 
all the vices. Man likes to make roads and to create, that is a 
fact beyond dispute. But why has he such a passionate love for 
destruction and chaos also ? Tell me that ! But on that point 
I want to say a couple of words myself. May it not be that he 
loves chaos and destruction (there au be no disputing that he 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 75 

does sometimes love it) because he is instinctively afraid of 
attaining his object and completing the edifice he is constructing ? 
Who knows, perhaps he only loves that edifice from a distance, 
and is by no means in love with it at close quarters ; perhaps he 
only loves building it and does not want to live in it, but will 
leave it, when completed, for the use of les animaux domestiques 
such as the ants, the sheep, and so on. Now the ants have quite 
a different taste. They have a marvellous edifice of that pattern 
which endures for ever the ant-heap. 

With the ant-heap the respectable race of ants began and 
with the ant-heap they will probably end, which does the greatest 
credit to their perseverance and good sense. But man is a 
frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like a chess 
player, loves the process of the game, not the end of it. And 
who knows (there is no saying with certainty), perhaps the only 
goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this inces- 
sant process of attaining, in other words, in life itself, and not 
in the thing to be attained, which must always be expressed as 
a formula, as positive as twice two makes four, and such positive- 
ness is not life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death. Any- 
way, man has always been afraid of this mathematical certainty, 
.and I am afraid of it now. Granted that man does nothing but 
seek that mathematical certainty, he traverses oceans, sacrifices 
his life in the quest, but to succeed, really to find it, he dreads, 
I assure you. He feels that when he has found it there will be 
nothing for him to look for. When workmen have finished 
their work they do at least receive their pay, they go to the 
tavern, then they are taken to the police-station and there 
is occupation for a week. But where can man go ? Anyway, 
one can observe a certain awkwardness about him when he 
has attained such objects. He loves the process of attaining, 
but does not quite like to have attained, and that, of course, 
is very absurd.- In fact, man is a comical creature ; there seems 
to be a kind of jest in it all. But yet mathematical certainty 
is, after all, something insufferable. Twice two makes four 
seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is 
a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path 
and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent 
thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes 
five is sometimes a very charming thing too. 



76 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly, convinced that 
only the normal and the positive in other words, only what 
is conducive to welfare is for the advantage of man ? Is 
not reason in error as regards advantage ? Does not man, 
perhaps, love something besides well-being ? Perhaps he is 
just as fond of suffering ? Perhaps suffering is just as great 
a benefit to him as well-being ? Man is sometimes extra- 
ordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a 
fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove 
that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. 
As far as my personal opinion is concerned, to care only for 
well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it's good or 
bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things. I hold 
no brief for suffering nor for well-being either. I am standing 
for . . . my caprice, and for its being guaranteed to me when 
necessary. Suffering would be out of place in vaudevilles, for 
instance; I know that. In the "Palace of Crystal " it is un- 
thinkable; suffering means doubt, negation, and what would 
be the good of a " palace of crystal " if there could be any doubt 
about it ? And yet I think man will never renounce real suffer- 
ing, that is, destruction and chaos. Why, suffering is the sole 
origin of consciousness. Though I did lay it down at the be- 
ginning that consciousness is the greatest misfortune for man, 
yet I know man prizes it and would not give it up for any satis- 
faction. Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to 
twice two makes four? Once you have mathematical certainty 
there is nothing left to do or to understand There will be nothing 
left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contempla- 
tion. While if you stick to consciousness, even though the same 
result is attained, you can at least flog j'ourself at times, and that 
will, at any rate, liven you up. Reactionary as it is, corporal 
punishment is better than nothing. 



Y'>ii lirlieve in a palace of crystal that can never be destroyed 
a i which one will not be able to put out one's tongue 

or make a long nose on the sly. And perhaps that is just why I 
am afraid of this edifice, that it is of crystal and^can never be 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 77 

destroyed and that one cannot put one's tongue out at it even 
on the sly. 

You see, if it were not a palace, but a hen-house, I might creep 
into it to avoid getting wet, and yet I would not call the hen- 
house a palace out of gratitude to it for keeping me dry. You 
laugh and say that in such circumstances a hen-house is as good 
as a mansion. Yes, I answer, if one had to live simply to keep 
out of the rain. 

But what is to be done if I have taken it into my head that 
that is not the only object in life, and that if one must live one 
had better live in a mansion. That is my choice, my desire. 
You will only eradicate it when you have changed my preference . 
Well, do change it, allure me with something else, give me an- 
other ideal. But meanwhile I will not take a hen-house for a 
mansion. The palace of crystal may be an idle dream, it may be 
that it is inconsistent with the laws of nature and that I have 
invented it only through my own stupidity, through the old- 
fashioned irrational habits of my generation. But what does it 
matter to me that it is inconsistent ? That makes no difference 
since it exists in my desires, or rather exists as long as my desires 
exist. Perhaps you are laughing again ? Laugh away ; I will put 
up with any mockery rather than pretend that I am satisfied when 
I am hungry. I know, anyway, that I will not be put off with 
a compromise, with a recurring zero, simply because it is con- 
sistent with the laws of nature and actually exists. I will not 
accept as the crown of my desires a block of buildings with tene- 
ments for the poor on a lease of a thousand years, and perhaps 
with a sign-board of a dentist hanging out. Destroy my desires, 
eradicate my ideals, show me something better, and I will follow 
you. You will say, perhaps, that it is not worth your trouble ; 
but in that case I can give you the same answer. We are dis- 
cussing things seriously ; but if you won't deign to give me your 
attention, I will drop your acquaintance. I can retreat into my 
underground hole. 

But while I am alive and have desires I would rather my 
hand were withered off than bring one brick to such a building ! 
Don't remind me that I have just rejected the palace of crystal 
for the sole reason that one cannot put out one's tongue at it. I 
did not say because I am so fond of putting my tongue out. 
Perhaps the thing I resented was, that of all your edifices 



78 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

there has not been one at which one could not put out one's 
tongue. On the contrary, I would let my tongue be cut off out 
of gratitude if things could be so arranged that I should lose all 
desire to put it out. It is not my fault that things cannot be so 
arranged, and that one must be satisfied with model flats. Then 
why am I made with such desires ? Can I have been constructed 
simply in order to come to the conclusion that all my construction 
is a cheat ? Can this be my whole purpose ? I do not believe it. 
But do you know what : I am convinced that we underground 
folk ought to be kept on a curb. Though we may sit forty years 
underground without speaking, when we do come out into the 
light of day and break out we talk and talk and talk. . . . 



XI 

The long and the short of it is, gentlemen, that it is better to 
do nothing ! Better conscious inertia ! And so hurrah for 
underground ! Though I have said that I envy the normal 
man to the last drop of my bile, yet I should not care to be in 
his place such as he is now (though I shall not cease envying him). 
No, no ; anyway the underground life is more advantageous. 
There, at any rate, one can. . . . Oh, but even now I am lying I 
I am lying because I know myself that it is not underground 
that is better, but something different, qiute different, for which 
I am thirsting, but which I cannot find ! Damn underground ! 

I will tell you another thing that would be better, and that is, 
if I myself believed in anything of what I have just written. 
I swear to you, gentlemen, there is not one thing, not one word 
of what I have written that I really believe. That is, I believe 
it, perhaps, but at the same time I feel and suspect that I am 
lying like a cobbler. 

" Then why have you written all this ? " you will say to me. 

" I ought to put you underground for forty years without 
anything to do and then come to you in your cellar, to find out 
what stage you have reached 1 How can a man be left with 
nothing to do for forty years ? " 

" Isn't that shameful, isn't that humiliating ? " you will say, 
perhaps, wagging your heads contemptuously. " You thirst 
for life and try to settle the problems of life by a logical tangle. 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 79 

And how persistent, how insolent are your sallies, and at the 
same time what a scare you are in ! You talk nonsense and are 
pleased with it; you say impudent things and are in continual 
alarm and apologizing for them. You declare that you are 
afraid of nothing and at the same time try to ingratiate yourself 
in our good opinion. You declare that you are gnashing your 
teeth and at the same time you try to be witty so as to amuse 
us. You know that your witticisms are not witty, but you are 
evidently well satisfied with their literary value. You may, 
perhaps, have really suffered, but you have no respect for your 
own suffering. You may have sincerity, but you have no 
modesty ; out of the pettiest vanity you expose your sincerity to 
publicity and ignominy. You doubtlessly mean to say some- 
thing, but hide your last word through fear, because you have not 
the resolution to utter it, and only have a cowardly impudence. 
You boast of consciousness, but you are not sure of your ground, 
for though your mind works, yet your heart is darkened and 
orrupt, and you cannot have a full, genuine consciousness 
without a pure heart. And how intrusive you are, how you 
insist and grimace ! Lies, lies, lies ! " 

Of course I have myself made up all the things you say. That, 
too, is from underground. I have been for forty years listening 
to you through a crack under the floor. I have invented them 
myself, there was nothing else I could invent. It is no wonder 
that I have learned it by heart and it has taken a literary 
form. . . . 

But can you really be so credulous as to think that I will 
print all this and give it to you to read too ? And another 
problem : why do I call you " gentlemen," why do I address 
you as .though you really were my readers ? Such confessions 
as I intend to make are never printed nor given to other people 
to read. Anyway, I am not strong-minded enough for that, 
and I don't see why I should be. But you see a fancy has occurred 
to me and I want to realize it at all costs. Let me explain. 

Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to every 
one, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind 
which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to him- 
self, and that in secret. But there are other things which a 
man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has 
a number of such things stored away in bis mind. The more 



80 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

decent he is, the greater the number of such things in his mind. 
Anyway, I have only lately determined to remember some of 
my early adventures. Till now I have always avoided them, 
even with a certain uneasiness. Now, when I am not only 
recalling them, but have actually decided to write an account of 
them, I want to try the experiment whether one can, even with 
oneself, be perfectly open and not take fright at the whole truth. 
I will observe, in parenthesis, that Heine says that a true auto- 
biography is almost an impossibility, and that man is bound to 
lie about himself. He considers that Rousseau certainly told 
lies about himself in his confessions, and even intentionally lied, 
out of vanity. I am convinced that Heine is right; I quite 
understand how sometimes one may, out of sheer vanity, attribute 
regular crimes to oneself, and indeed I can very well conceive 
that kind of vanity. But Heine judged of people who made their 
confessions to the public. I write only for myself, and I wish 
to declare once and for all that if I write as though I were address- 
ing readers, that is simply because it is easier for me to w r rite 
in that form. It is a form, an empty form I shall never have 
readers. I have made this plain already. . . . 

I don't wish to be hampered by any restrictions in the com- 
pilation of my notes. I shall not attempt any system or method. 
I will jot things down as I remember them. 

But here, perhaps, some one will catch at the word and ask 
me : if you really don't reckon on readers, why do you make 
such compacts with yourself and on paper too that is, that 
you won't attempt any system or method, that you jot things 
down as you remember them, and so on, and so on ? Why are 
you explaining ? Why do you apologize ? 

Well, there it is, I answer. 

There is a whole psychology in all this, though. Perhaps it 
is simply that I am a coward. And perhaps that I purposely 
imagine an audience before me in order that I. may be more 
dignified while I write. There are perhaps thousands of reasons. 
Again, what is my object precisely in writing ? If it is not for 
the benefit of the public why should I not simply recall these 
incidents in my own mind without putting them on paper ? 

Quite so; but yet it is more imposing on paper. There is 
something more impressive in it ; I shall be better able to criticize 
myself and improve my style. Besides, I shall perhaps obtain 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 81 

actual relief from writing. To-day, for instance, I am particularly 
oppressed by one memory of a distant past. It came back vividly 
to my mind a few days ago, and has remained haunting me like 
an annoying tune that one cannot get rid of. And yet I must 
get rid of it somehow. I have hundreds of such reminiscences ; 
but at times some one stands out from the hundred and oppresses 
me. For some reason I believe that if I write it down I should 
get rid of it. Why not try ? 

Besides, I am bored, and I never have anything to do. Writing 
will be a sort of work. They say work makes man kind-hearted 
and honest. Well, here is a chance for me, anyway. 

Snow is falling to-day, yellow and dingy. It fell yesterday, 
too, and a few days ago. I fancy it is the wet snow that has 
reminded me of that incident which I cannot shake off now. 
And so let it be a story a propos of the falling snow. 



PART II 

X PROPOS OF THE WET SNOW 

When from dark error's subjugation 
My words of passionate exhortation 

Had wrenched thy fainting spirit free ; 
And writhing prone in thine affliction 
Thou didst recall with malediction 

The vice that had encompassed thee : 
And when thy slumbering conscience, fretting 

By recollection's torturing flame, 
Thou didst reveal the hideous setting 

Of thy life's current ere I came : 
When suddenly I saw thee sicken, 

And weeping, hide thine anguished face, 
Revolted, maddened, horror-stricken, 

At memories of foul disgrace. 

NEKRASSOV (trantlated by Juliet Soskice). 

I 

AT that time I was only twenty-four. My life was even then 
gloomy, ill-regulated, and as solitary as that of a savage. I 
made friends with no one and positively avoided talking, and 
G 



^2 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

buried myself more and more in my hole. At work in. the office I 
never looked at any one, and I was perfectly well aware that my 
companions looked upon me, not only as a queer fellow, but even 
looked upon me I always fancied this with a sort of loathing. 
I sometimes wondered why it was that nobody except me fancied, 
that he was looked upon with aversion ? One of the clerks had 
a most repulsive, pock-marked face, which looked positively 
villainous. I believe I should not have dared to look at any 
one with such an unsightly countenance. Another had such a 
very dirty old uniform that there was an unpleasant odour in his 
proximity. Yet not one of these gentlemen showed the slightest 
self -consciousness either about their clothes or their countenance 
or their character in any way. Neither of them ever imagined 
that they were looked at with repulsion; if they had imagined 
it they would not have minded so long as their superiors did 
not look at them in that way. It is clear to me now that, owing 
to my unbounded vanity and to the high standard I set for myself, 
I often looked at myself with furious discontent, which verged 
on loathing, and so I inwardly attributed the same feeling to 
every one. I hated my face, for instance : I thought it disgusting, 
and even suspected that there was something base in my expres- 
sion, and so every day when I turned up at the office I tried to 
behave as independently as possible, and to assume a lofty expres- 
sion, so that I might not be suspected of being abject. " My face 
may be ugly," I thought, " but let it be lofty, expressive, and, 
above all, extremely intelligent ." But I was positively and pain- 
fully certain that it was impossible for my countenance ever to 
express those qualities. And what was worst of all, I thought it 
actually stupid looking, and I would have been quite satisfied if 
I could have looked intelligent. In fact, I would even have put 
up with looking base if, at the same time, my face could have 
been thought strikingly intelligent. 

Of course, I hated my fellow clerks one and all, and I des] 
them all. yet at the same time I was, as it were, afraid of them. 
In fact, it happened at times that I thought more highly of them 
than of myself. It somehow happened quite suddenly that 
I alternated between despising them and thinking them superior 
to myself. A cultivated and decent man cannot be vain without 
setting a fearfully high standard for himself, and without despising 
and almost hating himself at certain moments. But whether 



83 

I despised them or thought them superior I dropped my eyes 
almost every time I met any one. I even made experiments 
whether I could face so and so's looking at me, and I was always 
the first to drop my eyes. This worried me to distraction. 
I had a sickly dread, too, of being ridiculous, and so had a slavish 
passion for the conventional in everything external. I loved to 
fall into the common rut, and had a whole-hearted terror of any 
kind of eccentricity in myself. But how could I live up to it ? 
I was morbidly sensitive, as a man of our age should be. They 
were all stupid, and as like one another as so many sheep. Per- 
haps I was the only one in the office who fancied that I was a 
coward and a slave, and I fancied it just because I was more 
highly developed. But it was not only that I fancied it, it really 
was so. I was a coward and a slave. I say this without the 
slightest embarrassment. Every decent man of our age must 
be a coward and a slave. That is his normal condition. Of 
that I am firmly persuaded. He is made and constructed to 
that very end. And not only at the present time owing to some 
casual circumstances, but always, at all times, a decent man is 
bound to be a coward and a slave. It is the law of nature for 
all decent people all over the earth. If any one of them happens 
to be valiant about something, he need not be comforted nor 
carried away by that ; he would show the white feather just the 
same before something else. That is how it invariably and 
inevitably ends. Only donkeys and mules are valiant, and 
they only till they are pushed up to the wall. It is not worth 
while to pay attention to them for they really are of no 
consequence. 

Another circumstance, too, worried me in those days : that 
there was no one like me and I was unlike any one else. ''I am 
alone and they are every one," I thought and pondered. 

From that it is evident that I was still a youngster. 

The very opposite sometimes happened. It was loathsome 
sometimes to go to the office ; things reached such a point that 
I often came home ill. But all at once, a propos of nothing, 
there would come a phase of scepticism and indifference (every- 
thing happened in phases to me), and I w r ould laugh myself at 
my intolerance and fastidiousness, I would reproach myself 
with being romaitfic' At one time I was- unwilling to speak to 
any one, while at other time* I would not only talk, but go to 



84 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

the length of contemplating making friends with them. All my 
fastidiousness would suddenly, for no rhyme or reason, vanish. 
Who knows, perhaps I never had really had it, and it had simply 
been affected, and got out of books. I have not decided that 
question even now. Once I quite made friends with them, 
visited their homes, played preference, drank vodka, talked of 
promotions. . . . But here let me make a digression. 

We Russians, speaking generally, have never had those foolish 
transcendental " romantics " German, and still more French 
on whom nothing produces any effect ; if there were an earth- 
quake, if all France perished at the barricades, they would still 
be the same, they would not even have the decency to affect 
a change, but would still go on singing their transcendental songs 
to the hour of their death, because they are fools We, in Russia, 
have no fools; that is well known. That is what distinguishes 
us from foreign lands. Consequently these transcendental natures 
are not found amongst us in their pure form. The idea that 
they are is due to our " realistic " journalists and critics of that 
day. always on the look out for Kostanzhoglos and Uncle 
Pyotr Ivanitchs and foolishly accepting them as our ideal ; they 
have slandered our romantics, taking them for the same tran- 
scendental sort as in Germany or France. On the contrary, the 
characteristics of our " romantics " are absolutely and directly 
opposed to the transcendental European type, and no European 
standard can be applied to them. (Allow me to make use of 
this word " romantic " an old-fashioned and much respected 
word which has done good service and is familiar to all). The 
characteristics of our romantic are to understand everything, 
lo see everything and to see it often incomparably more dearly 
than our most realistic minds see. it ; to refuse to accept anyone 
or anything, but at the same time not to despise anything; to 
give way, to yield, from policy; never to lose sight of a useful 
practical object (such as rent-free quarters at the government 
expense, pensions, decorations), to keep their eye on that object 
through all the enthusiasms and volumes of lyrical poems, and 
at the same time to preserve " the good and the beautitul " 
inviolate within them to the hour of their death, and to preserve 
themselves also, incidentally, like some precious jewel wrapped 
in cotton wool if only for the benefit of " the good and the 
beautiful." Our " romantic " is a man of great breadth and the 



85 

greatest rogue of all our rogues, I assure you. ... I can assure 
you from experience, indeed. Of course, that is, if he is in 
telligent. But what am I saying ! The romantic is always 
intelligent, and I only meant to observe that although we have 
had foolish romantics they don't count, and they were only so 
because in the flower of their youth they degenerated into 
Germans, and to preserve their precious jewel more comfortably, 
settled somewhere out there by preference in Weimar or the 
Black Forest. 

I, for instance, genuinely despised my official work and did not 
openly abuse it simply because I was in it myself and got a 
salary for it. Anyway, take note, I did not openly abuse it. 
Our romantic would rather go out of his mind a thing, however, 
which very rarely happens than take to open abuse, unless he 
had some other career in view ; and he is never kicked out. At 
most, they would take him to the lunatic asylum as " the King of 
Spain " if he should go very mad. But it is only the thin, fair 
people who go out of their minds in Russia. Innumerable 
" romantics " attain later in life to considerable rank in the 
service. Their many-sidedness is remarkable ! And what a 
faculty they have for the most contradictory sensations ! I was 
comforted by this thought even in those days, and I am of the same 
opinion now. That is why there are so many " broad natures " 
among us who never lose their ideal even in the depths of degrada- 
tion ; and though they never stir a finger for their ideal, though 
they are arrant thieves and knaves, yet they tearfully cherish 
their first ideal and are extraordinarily honest at heart. Yes, 
it is only among us that the most incorrigible rogue can be 
absolutely and loftily honest at heart without in the least ceasing 
to be a rogue. I repeat, our romantics, frequently, become such 
accomplished rascals (I use the term " rascals " affectionately), 
suddenly display such a sense of reality and practical knowledge 
that their bewildered superiors and the public generally can only 
ejaculate in amazement. 

Their many-sidedness is really amazing, and goodness knows 
what it may develop into later on, and what the future has in 
store for us. It is not a poor material ! I do not say this 
from any foolish or boastful patriotism. But I feel sure that you 
are again imagining that I am joking. Or perhaps it's just 
the contrary, and you are convinced that I really think so. 



86 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

Anyway, gentlemen, I shall welcome both views as an honour 
and a special favour. And do forgive my digression. 

I did not, of course, maintain friendly relations with my 
comrades and soon was at loggerheads with them, and in my 
youth and inexperience I even gave up bowing to them, as 
though I had cut off all relations. That, however, only happened 
to me once. As a rule, I was always alone. 

In the first place I spent most of my time at home, reading. 
I tried to stifle all that was continually seething within me by 
means of external impressions. And the only external means 
I had was reading. Reading, of course, was a great help 
exciting me, giving me pleasure and pain. But at times it bored 
me fearfully. One longed for movement in spite of everything, 
and I plunged all at once into dark, underground, loathsome 
vice of the pettiest kind. My wretched passions were acute, 
smarting, from my continual, sickly irritability. I had hysterical 
impulses, with tears and convulsions. I had no resource except 
reading, that is, there was nothing in my surroundings which I 
could respect and which attracted me. I was overwhelmed with 
depression, too ; I had an hysterical craving for incongruity and 
for contrast, and so I took to vice. I have not said all this to 
justify myself. . . . But, no ! I am lying. I did want to justify 
myself, i make that little observation for my own benefit, 
gentlemen. I don't want to lie. I vowed to myself I would not. 

And so, furtively, timidly, in solitude, at night, I indulged in 
filthy vice, with a feeling of shame which never deserted me, 
even at the most loathsome moments, and which at such moments 
nearly made me curse. Already even then I had my under- 
ground world in my soul. I was fearfully afraid of being seen, 
of being met, of being recognized. I visited various obscure haunts. 

One night as I was passing a tavern I saw through a lighted 
window some gentlemen fighting with billiard cues, and saw one 
of them thrown out of window. At other times I should have 
felt very much disgusted, but I was in such a mood at the time, 
that I actually envied the gentleman thrown out of window 
and I envied him so much that I even went into the tavern and 
into the billiard-room. " Perhaps," I thought, " I'll have a 
fight, too, and they'll throw me out of window." 

I was not drunk but what is one to do depression will 
drive a man to such a pitch of hysteria ? But nothing happened 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 87 

It seemed that I was not even equal to being thrown out of 
window and I went away without having my fight. 

An officer put me in my place from the first moment. 

I was standing by the billiard-table and in my ignorance 
blocking up the way, and he wanted to pass ; he took me by the 
shoulders and without a word without a warning or explana- 
tion moved me from where I was standing to another spot and 
passed by as though he had not noticed me. I could have for- 
given blows, but I could not forgive his having moved me without 
noticing me. 

Devil knows what I would have given for a real regular quarrel 
a more decent, a more literary one, so to speak. I had been 
treated like a fly. This officer was over six foot, while I was a 
spindly little fellow. But the quarrel was in my hands. I 
had only to protest and I certainly would have been thrown out 
of the window. But I changed my mind and preferred to beat a 
resentful retreat. 

I went out of the tavern straight home, confused and troubled, 
and the next night I went out again with the same lewd inten- 
tions, still more furtively, abjectly and miserably than before, 
as it were, with tears in my eyes but still I did go out again. 
Don't imagine, though, it was cowardice made me slink away 
from the officer : I never have been a coward at heart, though 
I have always been a coward in action. Don't be in a hurry to 
laugh I assure you I can explain it all. 

Oh, if only that officer had been one of the sort who would 
consent to fight a duel ! But no, he was one of those gentlemen 
(alas, long extinct !) who preferred fighting with cues or, like 
Gogol's Lieutenant Pirogov, appealing to the police. They 
did not fight duels and would have thought a duel with a civilian 
like me an utterly unseemly procedure in any case and they 
looked upon the duel altogether as something impossible, some- 
thing free -thinking and French. But they were quite ready to 
bully, especially when they were over six foot. 

I did not slink away through cowardice, but through an 
unbounded vanity. I was afraid not of his six foot, not of 
getting a sound thrashing and being thrown out of the window ; 
I should have had physical courage enough, I assure you; but 
I had not the moral courage. What I was afraid of was that 
every one present, from the insolent marker down to the lowest 



88 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUOT 

little stinking, pimply clerk in a greasy collar, would jeer at me 
and fail to understand when I began to protest and to address 
them in literary language. For of the point of honour not of 
honour, but of the point of honour (point d'tionneur) one cannot 
speak among us except in literary language. You can't allude 
to the " point of honour " in ordinary language. I was fully 
convinced (the sense of reality, in spite of all my romanticism !) 
that they would all simply split their sides with laughter, and 
that the officer would not simply beat me, that is, without 
insulting me, but would certainly prod me in the back with his 
knee, kick me round the billiard table, and only then perhaps 
have pity and drop me out of the window. 

Of course, this trivial incident could not with me end in that. 
I often met that officer afterwards in the street and noticed him 
very carefully. I am not quite sure whether he recognized me, 
I imagine not; I judge from certain signs. But I I stared at 
him with spite and hatred and so it went on ... for several 
years ! My resentment grew even deeper with years. At first 
I began making stealthy inquiries about this officer. It was 
difficult for me to do so, for I knew no one. But one day I heard 
some one shout his surname in the street as I was following 
him at a distance, as though I were tied to him and so I learnt 
his surname. Another time I followed him to his flat, and for 
ten kopecks learned from the porter where he lived, on which 
storey, whether he b'ved alone or with others, and so on in fact, 
everything one could learn from a porter. One morning, though 
I had never tried my hand with the pen, it suddenly occurred 
to me to write a satire on this officer in the form of a novel which 
would unmask his villainy. I wrote the novel with relish. I 
did unmask his villainy, I even exaggerated it; at first I so 
altered his surname that it could easily be recognized, but on 
second thoughts I changed it, and sent the story to the Otetchest- 
venniya Zapiski. But at that time such attacks were not the 
fashion and my story was not printed. That was a great 
vexation to me. 

Sometimes I was positively choked with resentment. At last 
I d'-tcniiincd to challenge my enemy to a duel. I composed a 
splendid, charming letter to him, imploring him to apologize 
to me, and hinting rather plainly at a duel in case of refusal. 
The letter was so composed that if the officer had had the least 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 89 

understanding of the good and the beautiful he would certainly 
haye flung himself on my neck and have offered me his friendship. 
And how fine that would have been ! How we should have got 
on together ! " He could have shielded me with his higher rank, 
while I could have improved his mind with my culture, and, 
well . . . my ideas, and all sorts of things might have happened." 
Only fancy, this was two years after his insult to me, and my 
challenge would have been a ridiculous anachronism, in spite 
of all the ingenuity of my letter in disguising and explaining 
away the anachronism. But, thank God (to this day I thank 
the Almighty with tears in my eyes) I did not send the letter to 
him. Cold shivers run down my back when I think of what 
might have happened if I had sent it. 

And all at once I revenged myself in the simplest way, by a 
stroke of genius ! A brilliant thought suddenly dawned upon 
me. Sometimes on holidays I used to stroll along the sunny 
side of the Nevsky about four o'clock in the afternoon. Though 
it was hardly a stroll so much as a series of innumerable miseries, 
humiliations and resentments ; but no doubt that was just 
what I wanted. I used to wriggle along in a most unseemly 
fashion, like an eel, continually moving aside to make way for 
generals, for officers of the guards and the hussars, or for ladies. 
At such minutes there used to be a convulsive twinge at my 
heart, and I used to feel hot all down my back at the mere thought 
of the wretchedness of my attire, of the wretchedness and abject- 
ness of my little scurrying figure. This was a regular martyr- 
dom, a continual, intolerable humiliation at the thought, which 
passed into an incessant and direct sensation, that I was a mere 
fly in the eyes of all this world, a nasty, disgusting fly more 
intelligent, more highly developed, more refined in feeling than 
any of them, of course but a fly that was continually making 
way for every one, insulted and injured by every one. Why 
I inflicted this torture upon myself, why I went to the Nevsky, 
I don't know. I felt simply drawn there at every possible 
opportunity. 

Already then I began to experience a rush of the enjoyment 
of which I spoke in the first chapter. After my affair with the 
officer I felt even more drawn there than before : it was on the 
Nevsky that I met him most frequently, there I could admire 
him. He, too, went there chiefly on holidays. He, too, turned 



90 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

out of his path for generals and persons of high rank, and he, too, 
wriggled between them like an eel ; but people, like me, or even 
better dressed like me, he simply walked over ; he made straight 
for them as though there was nothing but empty space before 
him, and never, under any circumstances, turned aside. I gloated 
over my resentment watching him and . . . always resentfully 
made way for him. It exasperated me that even in the street 
I could not be on an even footing with him. 

" Why must you invariably be the first to move aside ? " I 
kept asking myself in hysterical rage, waking up sometimes at 
three o'clock in the morning. " Why is it you and not he ? 
There's no regulation about it; there's no written law. Let 
the making way be equal as it usually is when refined people 
meet : he moves half-way and you move half-way ; you pass 
with mutual respect." 

But that never happened, and I always moved aside, while 
he did not even notice my making way for him. And lo and 
behold a bright idea dawned upon me ! " What," I thought, 
" if I meet him and don't move on one side ? What if I don't 
move aside on purpose, even if I knock up against him ? How 
would that be ? " This audacious idea took such a hold on me 
that it gave me no peace. I was dreaming of it continually, 
horribly, and I purposely went more frequently to the Nevsky 
in order to picture more vividly how I should do it when I did 
do it. I was delighted. This intention seemed to me more 
and more practical and possible. 

" Of course I shall not really push him," I thought, already 
more good-natured in my joy. " I will simply not turn aside, 
will run up against him, not very violently, but just shouldering 
each other just as much as decency permits. I will push 
against him just as much as he pushes against me." At last 
I made up my mind completely. But my preparations took a 
great deal of time. To begin with, when I carried out my plan 
I should need to be looking rather more decent, and so I had to 
think of my get-up. " In case of emergency, if, for instance, 
there were any sort of public scandal (and the public there is of 
the most recherchd : the Counteas walks there ; Prince D. walks 
there; all the literary world is then-), I must be well dressed; 
that inspin-s respect and of itself puts us on an equal footing in 
the eyes of society " 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 91 

With this object I asked for some of my salary in advance, 
and bought at Tchurkin's a pair of black gloves and a decent 
hat. Black gloves seemed to me both more dignified and bon 
ton than the lemon -coloured ones which I had contemplated 
at first. " The colour is too gaudy, it looks as though one were 
trying to be conspicuous," and I did not take the lemon -coloured 
ones. I had got ready long beforehand a good shirt, with white 
bone studs ; my overcoat was the only thing that held me back. 
The coat in itself was a very good one, it kept me warm ; but it 
was wadded and it had a raccoon collar which was the height of 
vulgarity. I had to change the collar at any sacrifice, and to 
have a beaver one like an officer's. For this purpose I began 
visiting the Gostiny Dvor and after several attempts I pitched 
upon a piece of cheap German beaver. Though these German 
beavers soon grow shabby and look wretched, yet at first they 
look exceedingly well, and I only needed it for one occasion. 
I asked the price ; even so, it was too expensive. After thinking 
it over thoroughly I decided to sell my raccoon collar. The rest 
of the money a considerable sum for me, I decided to borrow 
from Anton Antonitch Syetotchkin, my immediate superior, 
an unassuming person, though grave and judicious. He never 
lent money to any one, but I had, on entering the service, been 
specially recommended to him by an important personage who 
had got me my berth. I was horribly worried. To borrow from 
Anton Antonitch seemed to me monstrous and shameful. I did 
not sleep for two or three nights. Indeed, I did not sleep well 
at that time, I was in a fever ; I had a vague sinking at my heart 
or else a sudden throbbing, throbbing, throbbing ! Anton 
Antonitch was surprised at first, then he frowned, then he re- 
flected, and did after all lend me the money, receiving from me 
a written authorization to take from my salary a fortnight later 
the sum that he had lent me. 

In this way everything was at last ready. The handsome 
beaver replaced the mean-looking raccoon, and I began by degrees 
to get to work. It would never have done to act off-hand, at 
random ; the plan had to be carried out skilfully, by degrees. 
But I must confess that after many efforts I began to despair : 
we simply could not run into each other. I made every pre- 
paration, I was quite determined it seemed as though we 
should run into one another directly and before I knew what 



92 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

I was doing I had stepped aside for him again and he had passed 
Avithout noticing me. I even prayed as I approached him that 
God would grant me determination. One time I had made up 
my mind thoroughly, but it ended in my stumbling and falling 
at his feet because at the very last instant when I was six inches 
from him my courage failed me. He very calmly stepped over 
me, while I flew on one side like a ball. That night I was ill 
again, feverish and delirious. 

And suddenly it ended most happily. The night before I 
had made up my mind not to carry out my fatal plan and to 
abandon it all, and with that object I went to the Nevsky for 
the last time, just to see how I would abandon it all. Suddenly, 
three paces from my enemy, I unexpectedly made up my mind 
I closed my eyes, and we ran full tilt, shoulder to shoulder, 
against one another ! I did not budge an inch and passed him 
on a perfectly equal footing ! He did not even look round and 
pretended not to notice it; but he was only pretending, I am 
convinced of that. I am convinced of that to this day ! Of 
course, I got the worst of it he was stronger, but that was not 
the point. The point was that I had attained my object, I 
had kept up my dignity, I had not yielded a step, and had put 
myself publicly on an equal social footing with him. I returned 
home feeling that I was fully avenged for everything. I was 
delighted. I was triumphant and sang Italian arias. Of course, 
I will not describe to you what happened to me three days later; 
if you have read my first chapter you can guess that for yourself. 
The officer was afterwards transferred; I have not seen him 
now for fourteen years. What is the dear fellow doing now ? 
Whom is he walking over ? 



n 

But the period of my dissipation would end and I always ft h 
very sick afterwards. It was followed by remorse I tried to 
drive it away : I felt too sick. By degrees, however, I grew used 
to that too. I grew used to everything, or rather I voluntarily 
resigned myself to enduring it. But I had a means of escape 
that reconciled everything that was to find refuge in " the 
good and the beautiful," in dreams, of course. I was a terrible 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 93 

dreamer, I would dream for three months on end, tucked away 
in my corner, and you may believe me that at those moments 
I had no resemblance to the gentleman who, in the perturbation 
of his chicken heart, put a collar of German beaver on his great 
coat. I suddenly became a hero. I would not have admitted 
my six-foot lieutenant even if he had called on me. I could not 
even picture him before me then. What were my dreams and 
how I could satisfy myself with them it is hard to say now, 
but at the time I was satisfied with them. Though, indeed, 
even now, I am to some extent satisfied with them. Dreams 
were particularly sweet and vivid after a spell of dissipation ; 
they came with remorse and with tears, with curses and trans- 
ports. There were moments of such positive intoxication, of 
such happiness, that there was not the faintest trace of irony 
within me, on my honour. I had faith, hope, love. I believed 
blindly at such times that by some miracle, by some external 
circumstance, all this would suddenly open out, expand; that 
suddenly a vista of suitable activity beneficent, good, and, 
above all, ready made (what sort of activity I had no idea, but the 
great thing was that it should be all ready for me) would rise 
up before me and I should come out into the light of day, 
almost riding a white horse and crowned with laurel. Anything 
but the foremost place I could not conceive for myself, and for 
that very reason I quite contentedly occupied the lowest in 
reality. Either to be a hero or to grovel in the mud there was 
nothing between. That was my ruin, for when I was in the mud 
I comforted myself with the thought that at other times I was 
a hero, and the hero was a cloak for the mud : for an ordinary 
man it was shameful to defile himself, but a hero was too lofty 
to be utterly defiled, and so he might defile himself. It is worth 
noting that these attacks of the " good and the beautiful " 
visited me even during the period of dissipation and just at the 
times when I was touching the bottom. They came in separate 
spurts, as though reminding me of themselves, but did not banish 
the dissipation by their appearance. On the contrary, they 
seemed to add a zest to it by contrast, and were only sufficiently 
present to serve as an appetizing sauce. That sauce was made 
up of contradictions and sufferings, of agonizing inward analysis 
and all these pangs and pin-pricks gave a certain piquancy, 
even a significance to my dissipation in fact, completely 



94 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

answered the purpose of an appetizing sauce. There was a certain 
depth of meaning in it. And I could hardly have resigned myself 
to the simple, vulgar, direct debauchery of a clerk and have 
endured all the filthiness of it. What could have allured me 
about it then and have drawn me at night into the street ? No, 
I had a lofty way of getting out of it all. 

And what loving-kindness, oh Lord, what loving-kindness 
I felt at times in those dreams of mine ! in those " flights into 
the good and the beautiful;" though it was fantastic love, 
though it was never applied to anything human in reality, yet 
there was so much of this love that one did not feel afterwards 
even the impulse to apply it in reality; that would have been 
superfluous. Everything, however, passed satisfactorily by a 
lazy and fascinating transition into the sphere of art, that is, into 
the beautiful forms of life, lying ready, largely stolen from the 
poets and novelists and adapted to all sorts of needs and 
uses. I, for instance, was triumphant over every one ; every 
one, of course, was in dust and ashes, and was forced spon- 
taneously to recognize my superiority, and I forgave them all. 
I was a poet and a grand gentleman, I fell in love ; I came in 
for countless millions and immediately devoted them to humanity, 
and at the same time I confessed before all the people my shameful 
deeds, which, of course, were not merely shameful, but had in 
them much that was " good and beautiful," something in the 
Manfred style. Every one would kiss me and weep (what 
idiots they would be if they did not), while I should go bare- 
foot and hungry preaching new ideas and fighting a victorious 
Austerlitz against the obscurantists. Then the band would 
play a march, an amnesty would be declared, the Pope would 
agree to retire from Rome to Brazil; then th<>r<> would be a 
ball for the whole of Italy at the Villa Borghese on the shores 
of the Lake of Como, the Lake of Como being for that purpose 
transferred to the neighbourhood of Rome ; then would come a 
scene in the bushes, and so on, and so on as though you did not 
know all about it ? You will say that it is vulgar and con- 
temptible to drag all this into public after all the tears and 
transports which I have myself confessed. But why is it con- 
temptible ? Can you imagine that I am ashunu-d of it all, and 
that it was stupider than anything in your life, gentlemen ? And 
I can assure you that some of these fancies were by no meang 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 95 

badly composed. ... It did not all happen on the shores of 
Lake Como. And yet you are right it really is vulgar and con- 
temptible. And most contemptible of all it is that now I am 
attempting to justify myself to you. And even more con- 
temptible than that is my making this remark now. But that's 
enough, or there will be no end to it : each step will be more 
contemptible than the last. . . . 

I could never stand more than three months of dreaming at a 
time without feeling an irresistible desire to plunge into society. 
To plunge into society meant to visit my superior at the office, 
Anton Antonitch Syetotchkin. He was the only permanent 
acquaintance I have had in my life, and wonder at the fact myself 
now. But I only went to see him when that phase came over 
me, and when my dreams had reached such a point of bliss that 
it became essential at once to embrace my fellows and all man- 
kind ; and for that purpose I needed, at least, one human being, 
actually existing. I had to call on Anton Antonitch, however, 
on Tuesday his at-home day; so I had always to time my 
passionate desire to embrace humanity so that it might fall on 
a Tuesday. 

This Anton Antonitch lived on the fourth storey in a house 
in Five Corners, in four low-pitched rooms, one smaller than 
the other, of a particularly frugal and sallow appearance. He 
had two daughters and their aunt, who used to pour out the tea. 
Of the daughters one was thirteen and another fourteen, they 
both had snub noses, and I was awfully shy of them because 
they were always whispering and giggling together. The master 
of the house usually sat in his study on a leather couch in front 
of the table with some grey-headed gentleman, usually a colleague 
from our office or some other department. I never saw more 
than two or three visitors there, always the same. They talked 
about the excise duty; about business in the senate, about 
salaries, about promotions, about His Excellency, and the best 
means of pleasing him, and so on. I had the patience to sit 
like a fool beside these people for four hours at a stretch, listening 
to them without knowing what to say to them or venturing to 
say a word. I became stupified, several times I felt myself 
perspiring, I was overcome by a sort of paralysis ; but this was 
pleasant and good -for me. On returning home I deferred for 
a time my desire to embrace all mankind. 



96 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

I had however one other acquaintance of a sort, Simonov, 
who was an old schoolfellow. I had a number of schoolfellows 
indeed in Petersburg, but I did not associate with them and had 
even given up nodding to them in the street. I believe I had 
transferred into the department I was in simply to avoid their 
company and to cut off all connection with my hateful child- 
hood. Curses on that school and all those terrible years of penal 
servitude ! In short, I parted from my schoolfellows as soon 
as I got out into the world. There were two or three left 
to whom I nodded in the street. One of them was Simonov, 
who had been in no way distinguished at school, was of a quiet 
and equable disposition; but I discovered in him a certain 
independence of character and even honesty. I don't even 
suppose that he was particularly stupid. I had at one time 
spent some rather soulful moments with him, but these had not 
lasted long and had somehow been suddenly clouded over. He 
was evidently uncomfortable at these reminiscences, and was, I 
fancy, always afraid that I might take up the same tone again. 
I suspected that he had an aversion for me, but still I went on 
going to see him, not being quite certain of it. 

And so on one occasion, unable to endure my solitude and 
knowing that as it was Thursday Anton Antonitch's door would 
be closed, I thought- of Simonov. Climbing up to his fourth 
storey I was thinking that the man disliked me and that it 
was a mistake to go and see him. But as it always happened 
that such reflections impelled me, as though purposely, to put 
myself into a false position, I went in. It was almost a year 
since I had last seen Simonov 



III 

I found two of my old schoolfellows with him. They srrinrd 
to be discussing an important matter. All of them took scarcely 
any notice of my entrance, which was strange, for I had not met 
them for years. Evidently they looked upon me as something 
on the level of a common fly. I had not been treated like that 
even at school, though they all hated me. I knew, of course, 
that they must despise me now for my lack of success in the 
ice, and for my having let myself sink so low, going about 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 97 

badly dressed and so on which seemed to them a sign of my 
incapacity and insignificance. But I had not expected such 
contempt. Simonov was positively surprised at my turning up. 
Even in old days he had always seemed surprised at my coming. 
All this disconcerted me : I sat down, feeling rather miserable, 
and began listening to what they were saying. 

They were engaged in warm and earnest conversation about 
a farewell dinner which they wanted to arrange for the next day 
to a comrade of theirs called Zverkov, an officer in the army, 
who was going away to a distant province. This Zverkov had 
been all the time at school with me too. I had begun to hate 
him particularly in the upper forms. In the lower forms he had 
simply been a pretty, playful boy whom everybody liked. I had 
hated him, however, even in the lower forms, just because he 
was a pretty and playful boy. He was always bad at his lessons 
and got worse and worse as he went on ; however, he left with a 
good certificate, as he had powerful interest. During his last 
year at school. he came in for an estate of tw r o hundred serfs, 
and as almost all of us were poor he took up a swaggering tone 
among us. He was vulgar in the extreme, but at the same time 
he was a good-natured fellow, even in his swaggering. In spite 
of superficial, fantastic and sham notions of honour and dignity, 
all but very few of us positively grovelled before Zverkov, and 
the more so the more he swaggered. And it was not from any 
interested motive that they grovelled, but simply because he 
had been favoured by the gifts of nature. Moreover, it was, as 
it were, an accepted idea among us that Zverkov was a specialist 
in regard to tact and the social graces. This last fact par- 
ticularly infuriated me. I hated the abrupt self-confident tone 
of his voice, his admiration of his own witticisms, which were 
often frightfully stupid, though he was bold in his language; 
I hated his handsome, but stupid face (for which I would, however, 
have gladly exchanged my intelligent one), and the free-and-easy 
military manners in fashion in the " 'forties." I hated the way 
in which he used to talk of his future conquests of women (he 
did not venture to begin his attack upon women until he had the 
epaulettes of an officer, and was looking forward to them with 
impatience), and boasted of the duels he would constantly be 
fighting. I remember how I. invariably so taciturn, suddenly 
fastened upon Zverkov, when one day talking at a leisure moment 



98 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

with his schoolfellows of his future relations with the fair sex, and 
growing as sportive as a puppy in the sun, he all at once declared 
that he would not leave a single village girl on his estate unnoticed, 
that that was his droit de seigneur, and that if the peasants dared 
to protest he would have them all flogged and double the tax 
on them, the bearded rascals. Our servile rabble applauded, 
but I attacked him, not from compassion for the girls and their 
fathers, but simply because they were applauding such an insect . 
I got the better of him on that occasion, but though Zverkov 
was stupid he was lively and impudent, and so laughed it off, 
and in such a way that my victory was not really complete : 
the laugh was on his side. He got the better of me on several 
occasions afterwards, but without malice, jestingly, casually. 
I remained angrily and contemptuously silent and would not 
answer him. When we left school he made advances to me; 
I did not rebuff them, for I was flattered, but we soon parted 
and quite naturally. Afterwards I heard of his barrack-room 
success as a lieutenant, and of the fast life he was leading. Then 
there came other rumours of his successes in the service. By 
then he had taken to cutting me in the street, and I suspected 
that he was afraid of compromising himself by greeting a per- 
sonage as insignificant as me. I saw him once in the theatre, in 
the third tier of boxes. By then he was wearing shoulder-straps. 
He was twisting and twirling about, ingratiating himself with the 
daughters of an ancient General. In three years he had gone off 
considerably, though he was still rather handsome and adroit. 
One could see that by the time he was thirty he would be corpulent. 
So it was to this Zverkov that my schoolfellows were going to 
give a dinner on his departure. They had kept up with him for 
those three years, though privately they did not consider them- 
selves on an equal footing with him, I am convinced of that. 

Of Simonov's two visitors, one was Ferfitchkin, a Russianized 
German a little fellow with the face of a monkey, a blockhead 
who was always deriding every one, a very bitter enemy of mine 
from our days in the lower forms a vulgar, impudent, swaggering 
fellow, who affected a most sensitive feeling of personal honour, 
though, of course, he was a wretched little coward at heart. He 
was one of those worshippers of Zverkov who made up to the latter 
from interested motives, and often borrowed money from him. 
Simonov's other visitor, Trudolyubov, was a person in no way 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 99 

remarkable a tall young fellow, in the army, with a cold face, 
fairly honest, though he worshipped success of every sort, and 
was only capable of thinking of promotion. He was some sort 
of distant relation of Zverkov^s, and this, foolish as it seems, 
gave him a certain importance among us. He always thought 
me of no consequence whatever; his behaviour to me, though 
not quite courteous, was tolerable. 

" Well, with seven roubles each." said Trudolyubov, " twenty- 
one roubles between the three of us, we ought to be able to get 
a good dinner. Zverkov, of course, won't pay." 

" Of course not, since we are inviting him," Simonov decided. 

" Can you imagine," Ferfitchkin interrupted hotly and con- 
ceitedly, like some insolent flunkey boasting of his master the 
General's decorations, " can you imagine that Zverkov will let 
us pay alone ? He will accept from delicacy, but he will order 
half a dozen bottles of champagne." 

" Do we want half a dozen for the four of us ? " observed 
Trudolyubov, taking notice only of the half dozen. 

" So the three of us. with Zverkov for the fourth, twenty-one 
roubles, at the Hotel de Paris at five o'clock to-morrow," 
Simonov, who had been asked to make the arrangements, con- 
cluded finally. 

" How twenty-one roubles ? " I asked in some agitation, 
with a show of being offended; " if you count me it will not be 
twenty-one, but twenty-eight roubles." 

It seemed to me that to invite myself so suddenly and un- 
expectedly would be positively graceful, and that they would 
all be conquered at once and would look at me with respect. 

' Do you want to join, too ? " Simonov observed, with no 
appearance of pleasure, seeming to avoid looking at me. He 
knew me through and through. 

It infuriated me that he knew me so thoroughly. 

" Why not ? I am an old schoolfellow of his. too, I believe, 
and I must own I feel hurt that you have left me out," I said, 
boiling over again. 

" And where were we to find you ? " Ferfitchkin put in roughly. 

" You never were on good terms with Zverkov," Trudolyubov 
added, frowning. 

But I had already clutched at the idea and would not give it up. 

" It seems to me that no one has a right to form an opinion 



100 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

upon that," I retorted in a shaking voice, as though something 
tremendous had happened. " Perhaps that is just my reason 
for wishing it now, that I have not always been on good terms 
with him." 

" Oh, there's no making you out . . . with these refinements," 
Trudolyubov jeered. 

" We'll put your name down," Simonov decided, addressing 
me. " To-morrow at five o'clock at the Hotel de Paris." 

" What about the money? " Fetfitchkin began in an under- 
tone, indicating me to Simonov, but he broke off, for even 
Simonov was embarrassed. 

" That will do," said Trudolyubov, getting up. " If he wants 
to come so much, let him." 

" But it's a private thing, between us friends," Ferfitchkin 
said crossly, as he, too, picked up his hat. " It's not an official 
gathering." 

" We do not want at all, perhaps . . ." 

They went away. Ferfitchkin did not greet me in any way 
as he went out, Trudolyubov barely nodded. Simonov, with whom 
I was left tete-d-tSte, was in a state of vexation and perplexity, 
and looked at me queerly. He did not sit down and did not ask 
me to. 

" H'm . . . yes . . . to-morrow, then. Will you pay your 
subscription now ? I just ask so as to know," he muttered in 
embarrassment. 

I flushed crimson, and as I did so I remembered that I had 
owed Simonov fifteen roubles for ages which I had, indeed, 
never forgotten, though I had not paid it. 

" You will understand, Simonov, that I could have no idea 
when I came here. ... I am very much vexed that I have 
forgotten. ..." 

" All right, all right, that doesn't matter. You can pay to- 
morrow after the dinner. I simply wanted to know. . . . 
Please don't . . ." 

He broke off and began pacing the room still more vexed. As 
he walked he began to stamp with his heels. 

" Am I keeping you ? " I asked, after two minutes of eilence. 

" Oh ! " he said, starting, " that i" to be truthful yes. I 
have to go and see some one . . . not far from here," he added 
in an apologetic voice, somewhat abashed 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 101 

" My goodness, why didn't you say so ? " I cried, seizing my 
cap, with an astonishingly free-and-easy air, which was the last 
thing I should have expected of myself. 

" It's close by ... not two paces away," Simonov repeated, 
accompanying me to the front door with a fussy air which did 
not suit him at all. " So five o'clock, punctually, to-morrow," 
he called down the stairs after me. He was very glad to get rid 
of me. I was in a fury. 

" What possessed me, what possessed me to force myself upon 
them ? " I wondered, grinding my teeth as I strode along the 
street, " for a scoundrel, a pig like that Zverkov ! Of course, 
I had better not go ; of course, I must just snap my fingers at 
them. I am not bound in any way. I'll send Simonov a note 
by to-morrow's post. . . ." 

But what made me furious was that I knew for certain that 
I should go, that I should make a point of going ; and the more 
tactless, the more unseemly my going would be, the more certainly 
I would go. 

And there was a positive obstacle to my going : I had no 
money. All I had was nine roubles, I had to give seven of that 
to my servant, Apollon, for his monthly wages. That was all 
I paid him he had to keep himself. 

Not to pay him was impossible, considering his character. 
But I will talk about that fellow, about that plague of mine, 
another time. 

However, I knew I should go and should not pay him his 
wages. 

That night I had the most hideous dreams. No wonder; 
all the evening I had been oppressed by memories of my miserable 
days at school, and I could not shake them off. I was sent to 
the school by distant relations, upon whom I was dependent 
and of whom I have heard nothing since they sent me there a 
forlorn, silent boy, already crushed by their reproaches, already 
troubled by doubt, and looking with savage distrust at every 
one. My schoolfellows met me with spiteful and merciless jibea 
because I was not like any of them. But I could not endure 
their taunts ; I could not give in to them with the ignoble readi- 
ness with which they gave in to one another. I hated them 
from the first, and shut myself away from every one in timid, 
wounded and disproportionate pride. Their coarseness revolted 



102 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

me. They laughed cynically at my face, at my clumsy figure ; 
and yet what stupid faces they had themselves. In our school 
the boys' faces seemed in a special way to degenerate and grow 
stupider. How many fine-looking boys came to us ! In a few 
years they became repulsive. Even at sixteen I wondered at 
them morosely ; even then I was struck by the pettiness of their 
thoughts, the stupidity of their pursuits, their games, their 
conversations. They had no understanding of such essential 
things, they took no interest in such striking, impressive sub- 
jects, that I could not help considering them inferior to myself. 
It was not wounded vanity that drove me to it, and for God's 
sake do not thrust upon me your hackneyed remarks, repeated 
to nausea, that " I was only a dreamer," while they even then 
had an understanding of life. They understood nothing, they 
had no idea of real life, and I swear that that was what made 
me most indignant with them. On the contrary, the most 
obvious, striking reality they accepted with fantastic stupidity and 
even at that time were accustomed to respect success. Every- 
thing that was just, but oppressed and looked down upon, they 
laughed at heartlessly and shamefully. They took rank for 
intelligence; even at sixteen they were already talking about 
a snug berth. Of course, a great deal of it was due to their 
stupidity, to the bad examples with which they had always been 
surrounded in their childhood and boyhood. They were mon- 
strously depraved. Of course a great deal of that, too, was 
superficial and an assumption of cynicism ; of course there were 
glimpses of youth and freshness even in their depravity; but 
even that freshness was not attractive, and showed itself in a 
certain rakishness. I hated them horribly, though perhaps I 
was worse than any of them. They repaid me in the same way, 
and did not conceal their aversion for me. But by then I did 
not desire their affection : on the contrary I continually longed 
for their humiliation. To escape from their derision I purposely 
began to make all the progress I could with my studies and 
forced my way to the very top. This impressed them. More- 
over, they all began by degrees to grasp that I had already read 
books none of them could read, and understood things (not 
forming part of our school curriculum) of which they had not evrii 
heard. They took a savage and sarcastic view of it, but were 
morally impressed, especially as the teachers began to notice me 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 103 

on those grounds. The mockery ceased, but the hostility re- 
mained, and cold and strained relations became permanent 
between us. In the end I could not put up with it : with years 
a craving for society, for friends, developed in me. I attempted 
to get on friendly terms with some of my schoolfellows ; but 
somehow or other my intimacy with them was always strained 
and soon ended of itself. Once, indeed, I did have a friend. 
But I was already a tyrant at heart ; I wanted to exercise un- 
bounded sway over him; I tried to instil into him a contempt 
for his surroundings ; I required of him a disdainful and complete 
break with those surroundings. I frightened him with my 
passionate affection; I reduced him to tears, to hysterics. He 
was a simple and devoted soul ; but when he devoted himself 
to me entirely I began to hate him immediately and repulsed 
him as though all I needed him for was to win a victory over 
him, to subjugate him and nothing else. But I could not 
subjugate all of them ; my friend was not at all like them either, 
he was, in fact, a rare exception. The first tiling I did on leaving 
school was to give up the special job for which I had been 
destined so as to break all ties, to curse my past and shake the 
dust from off my feet. . . , And goodness knows why, after all 
that, I should go trudging off to Simonov's ! 

Early next morning I roused myself and jumped out of bed 
with excitement, as though it were all about to happen at once. 
But I believed that some radical change in my life was coming, 
and would inevitably come that day. Owing to its rarity, per- 
haps, any external event, however trivial, always made me feel as 
though some radical change in my life were at hand. I went to 
the office, however, as usual, but sneaked away home two hours 
earlier to get ready. The great thing, I thought, is not to be 
the first to arrive, or they will think I am overjoyed at coming. 
But there were thousands of such great points to consider, and 
they all agitated and overwhelmed me. I polished my boots 
a second time with my own hands ; nothing in the world would 
have induced Apollon to clean them twice a day, as he considered 
that it was more than his duties required of him. I stole the 
brushes to clean them from the passage, being careful he should 
not detect it, for fear of his contempt. Then I minutely examined 
my clothes and .thought that everything looked old, worn and 
threadbare. I had let myself get too slovenly. My uniform, 



104 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

perhaps, was tidy, but I could not go out to dinner in my uniform. 
The worst of it was that on the knee of my trousers was a big 
yellow stain. I had a foreboding that that stain would deprive 
me of nine-tenths of my personal dignity. I knew, too, that it 
was very poor to think so. " But this is no time for thinking : 
now I am in for the real thing," I thought, and my heart sank. 
I knew, too, perfectly well even then, that I was monstrously 
exaggerating the facts. But how could I help it ? I could not 
control myself and was already shaking with fever. With 
despair I pictured to myself how coldly and disdainfully that 
" scoundrel " Zverkov would meet me ; with what dull-witted, 
invincible contempt the blockhead Trudolyubov would look at 
me ; with what impudent rudeness the insect Ferfitchkin would 
snigger at me in order, to curry favour with Zverkov; how 
completely Simonov would take it all in, and how he would 
despise me for the abjectness of my vanity and lack of spirit 
and, worst of all, how paltry, unliterary, commonplace it would 
all be. Of course, the best thing would be not to go at all. But 
that was most impossible of all : if I feel impelled to do anything, 
I seem to be pitchforked into it. I should have jeered at myself 
ever afterwards : " So you funked it, you funked it, you funked 
the real thing .' " On the contrary, I passionately longed to show 
all that " rabble " that I was by no means such a spiritless 
creature as I seemed to myself. What is more, even in the 
acutest paroxysm of this cowardly fever, I dreamed of getting 
the upper hand, of dominating them, carrying them away, 
making them like me if only for my " elevation of thought and 
unmistakable wit." They would abandon Zverkov, he would 
sit on one side, silent and ashamed, while I should crush him. 
Then, perhaps, we would be reconciled and drink to our ever- 
lasting friendship; but what .was most bitter and most humiliat- 
ing for me was that I knew even then, knew fully and for certain, 
that I needed nothing of all this really, that I did not really want 
to crush, to subdue, to attract them, and that I did not care a 
straw really for the result, even if I did achieve it. Oh, how I 
prayed for the day to pass quickly ! In unutterable anguish 
1 went to the window, opened the movable pane and looked out 
into the troubled darkness of the thickly falling wel SHOW. At 
last my wretched little clock hissed out five. I seized my hat 
urn I trying not to look at Apollon, who had been all day expecting 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 105 

his month's wages, but in his foolishness was unwilling to be 
the first to speak about it, I slipt between him and the door and 
jumping into a high-class sledge, on which I spent my last half 
rouble, I drove up in grand style to the Hotel de Paris. 



IV 

I had been certain the day before that I should be the first to 
arrive. But it was not a question of being the first to arrive. 
Not only were they not there, but I had difficulty in finding our 
room. The table was not laid even. What did it mean ? After 
a good many questions I elicited from the waiters that the dinner 
had been ordered not for five, but for six o'clock. This was 
confirmed at the buffet too. I felt really ashamed to go on 
questioning them. It was only twenty-five minutes past five. 
If they changed the dinner hour they ought at least to have let 
me know that is what the post is for, and not to have put me 
in an absurd position in my own eyes and . . . and even before 
the waiters. I sat down ; the servant began laying the table ; 
I felt even more humiliated when be was present. Towards six 
o'clock they brought in candles, though there were lamps burning 
in the room. It had not occurred to the waiter, however, to 
bring them in at once when I arrived. In the next room two 
gloomy, angry -looking persons were eating their dinners in silence 
at two different tables. There was a great deal of noise, even 
shouting, in a room further away; one could hear the laughter 
of a crowd of people, and nasty little shrieks in French : there 
were ladies at the dinner. It was sickening, in fact. I rarely 
passed more unpleasant moments, so much so that when they 
did arrive all together punctually at six I was overjoyed to see 
them, as though they were my deliverers, and even forgot that 
it was incumbent upon me to show resentment. 

Zverkov walked in at the head of them ; evidently he was the 
leading spirit. He and all of them were laughing; but, seeing 
me, Zverkov drew himself up a little, walked up to me deliberately 
with a slight, rather jaunty bend from the waist. He shook hands 
with me in a friendly, but not over-friendly, fashion, with a sort 
of circumspect courtesy like that of a General, as though in giving 
me his hand he were warding off something. I had imagined, 



106 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

on the contrary, that on coming in he would at once break into 
his habitual thin, shrill laugh and fall to making his insipid jokes 
and witticisms. I had been preparing for them ever since the 
previous day, but I had not expected such condescension, such 
high-official courtesy. So, then, he felt himself ineffably superior 
to me in every respect ! If he only meant to insult me by that 
high-official tone, it would not matter, I thought I could pay 
him back for it one way or another. But what if, in reality, 
without the least desire to be offensive, that sheepshead had a 
notion in earnest that he was superior to me and could only look at 
me in a patronizing way ? The very supposition made me gasp. 

" I was surprised to hear of your desire to join us," he began, 
lisping and drawling, which was something new. ' You and I 
seem to have seen nothing of one another. You fight shy of us. 
You shouldn't. We are not such terrible people as you think. 
Well, anyway, I am glad to renew our acquaintance." 

And he turned carelessly to put down his hat on the window. 

" Have you been waiting long? " Trudolyubov inquired. 

" I arrived at five o'clock as you told me yesterday," I answered 
aloud, with an irritability that threatened an explosion. 

" Didn't you let him know that we had changed the hour? " 
said Trudolyubov to Simonov. 

" No, I didn't. I forgot," the latter replied, with no sign of 
regret, and without even apologizing to me he went off to order 
the Jiors cTaeuvres. 

"So you've been here a whole hour? Oh, poor fellow!" 
Zverkov cried ironically, for to his notions this was bound to be 
extremely funny. That rascal Ferfitchkin followed with his 
nasty little snigger like a puppy yapping. My position struck 
him, too, as exquisitely ludicrous and embarrassing. 

" It isn't funny at all ! " I cried to Ferfitchkin, more and more 
irritated. " It wasn't my fault, but other people's. They 
neglected to let me know. It was . . it was ... it was 
simply absurd." 

" It's not only absurd, but something else as well," muttered 
Trudolyubov, naively taking my part. " You are not hard 
enough upon it. It was simply rudeness unintentional, of 
course. And how could Simonov . . . h'm ! " 

" If a trick like that had been played on me," observed 
Ferfitchkin, " I should ..." 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 107 

"But you should have ordered something for yourself," 
Zverkov interrupted, " or simply asked for dinner without 
waiting for us." 

" You will allow that I might have done that without your 
permission," I rapped out. " If I waited, it was . . ." 

" Let us sit down, gentlemen," cried Simonov, coming in. 
" Everything is ready ; I can answer for the champagne ; it 
is capitally frozen. . . . You see, I did not know your address, 
where was I to look for you ? " he suddenly turned to me, but 
again he seemed to avoid looking at me Evidently he had 
something against me. It must have been what happened 
yesterday. 

All sat down ; I did the same. It was a round table. Trudo- 
lyubov was on my left, Simonov on my right. Zverkov was sitting 
opposite, Ferfitchkin next to him, between him and Trudolyubov. 

" Tell me, are you ... in a government office ? " Zverkov 
went on attending to me. Seeing that I was embarrassed he 
seriously thought that he ought to be friendly to me, and, so 
to speak, cheer me up. 

" Does he want me to throw a bottle at his head ? " I thought, 
in a fury. In my novel surroundings I was unnaturally ready 
to be irritated. 

" In the N office," I answered jerkily, with my eyes on 

my plate. 

"And ha-ave you a go-od berth? I say, what ma-a-de you 
leave your original job ? " 

" What ma-a-de me was that I wanted to leave my original 
job," I drawled more than he, hardly able to control myself. 
Ferfitchkin went off into a guffaw. Simonov looked at me 
ironically. Trudolyubov left off eating and began looking at 
me with curiosity. 

Zverkov winced, but he tried not to notice it. 

" And the remuneration ? " 

" What remuneration ? " 

"I mean, your sa-a-lary ? " 

" Why are you cross-examining me ? " However, I told him 
at once what my salary was. I turned horribly red. 

" It is not very handsome," Zverkov observed majestically. 

" Yes, you can't afford to dine at cafes on that," Ferfitchkin 
added insolently. 



108 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

"To my thinking it's very poor," Trudolyiibov observed gravely. 

" And how thin you have grown ! How you have changed ! " 
added Zverkov, with a shade of venom in his voice, scanning 
me and my attire with a sort of insolent compassion. 

" Oh, spare his blushes," cried Ferfitchkin, sniggering. 

" My dear sir, allow me to tell you I am not blushing," I broke 
out at last; "do you hear? I am dining here, at this cafe, 
at my own expense, not at other people's note that, Mr. 
Ferfitchkin." 

" Wha-at ? Isn't every one here dining at his own expense ? 
You would seem to be . . ." Ferfitchkin flew out at me, turning 
as red as a lobster, and looking me in the face with fury. 

" Tha-at," I answered, feeling I had gone too far, " and I 
imagine it would be better to talk of something more intelligent." 

; ' You intend to show off your intelligence, I suppose ? " 

" Don't disturb yourself, that would be quite out of place 
here." 

" Why are you clacking away b'ke that, my good sir, eh ? 
Have you gone out of your wits in your office ? " 

" Enough, gentlemen, enough ! " Zverkov cried, authoritatively. 

" How stupid it is 1 " muttered. Simonov. 

" It really is stupid. We have met here, a company of friends, 
for a farewell dinner to a comrade and you carry on an alter- 
cation," said Trudolyubov, rudely addressing himself to me alone. 
" You invited yourself to join us, so don't disturb the general 
harmony." 

" Enough, enough ! " cried Zverkov. " Give over, gentlemen, 
it's out of place. Better let me tell you how I nearly got married 
the day before yesterday. ..." 

And then followed a burlesque narrative of how this gentle- 
man had almost been married two days before. There was not 
a word about the marriage, however, but the story was adorned 
with generals, colonels and kammer-junkers, while Zverkov almost 
took the lead among them. It was greeted with .approving 
laughter; Ferfitchkin positively squealed. 

No one paid any attention to me, and I sat crushed and 
humiliated. 

" Good Heavens, these are not the people for me !" I thought. 
" And what a fool I have made of myself before them ! I let 
1 '< rfitchkin go too far, though. The brutes imagine they are 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 109 

doing me an honour in letting me sit down with them. They 
don't understand that it's an honour to them and not to me ! 
I've grown thinner ! My clothes ! Oh, damn my trousers ! 
Zverkov noticed the yellow stain on the knee as soon as he came 
in. ... But what's the use ! I must get up at once, this very 
minute, take my hat and simply go without a word . . . with 
contempt ! And to-morrow I can send a challenge. The 
scoundrels ! As though I cared about the seven roubles. They 
may think. . . . Damn it ! I don't care about the seven roubles. 
I'll go this minute ! " 

Of course I remained. I drank sherry and Lafitte by the 
glassful in my discomfiture. Being unaccustomed to it, I was 
quickly affected. My annoyance increased as the wine went to 
my head. I longed all at once to insult them all in a most 
flagrant manner and then go away. To seize the moment and 
show what I could do, so that they would say, " He's clever, 
though he is absurd," and . . . and ... in fact, damn them 
all! 

I scanned them all insolently with my drowsy eyes. But they 
seemed to have torgotten me altogether. They were noisy, 
vociferous, cheerful. Zverkov was talking all the time. I began 
listening. Zverkov was talking of some exuberant lady whom he 
had at last led on to declaring her love (of course, he was lying like 
a horse), and how he had been helped in this affair by an intimate 
friend of his, a Prince Kolya, an officer in the hussars, who had 
three thousand serfs. 

" And yet this Kolya, who has three thousand serfs, has not 
put in an appearance here to-night to see you off," I cut in 
suddenly. 

For a minute every one was silent. " You are drunk already." 
Trudolyubov deigned to notice me at last, glancing contemptu- 
ously in my direction. Zverkov, without a word, examined me 
as though I were an insect. I dropped my eyes. Simonov 
made haste to fill up the glasses with champagne. 

Trudolyubov raised his glass, as did every one else but me. 

" Your health and good luck on the journey ! " he cried to 
Zverkov. "JTo old times, to our future, hurrah ! " 

They all tossed off their glasses, and crowded round Zverkov 
to kiss him. I did not move; my full glass stood untouched 
before me. 



110 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

" Why, aren't you going to drink it ? " roared Trudolyubov, 
losing patience and turning menacingly to me. 

" I want to make a speech separately, on my own account . . . 
and then I'D drink it, Mr. Trudolyubov." 

" Spiteful brute ! " muttered Simonov. I drew myself up in 
my chair and feverislily seized my glass, prepared for something 
extraordinary, though I did not know myself precisely wh. I 
was going to say. 

lence ! " cried Ferfitchkin. " Now for a display of wit ! " 

Zverkov waited very gravely, knowing what was coming. 

" Mr. Lieutenant Zverkov," I began, " let me tell you that I 
hate phrases, phrasemongers and men in corsets . . . t: 
the first point, and there is a second one to follow it." 

There was a general stir. 

" The second point is : I hate ribaldry and ribald talkers. 
Especially ribald talkers ! The third point : I love justice, truth 
and honesty." I went on almost mechanically, for I was begin- 
ning to shiver with horror myself and had no idea how I came 
to be talking like this. "I love thought, Monsieur Zverkov; 
I love true comradeship, on an equal footing and not . . . H ? m 
... I love. . . . But, however, why not ? I will drink your 
health, too, Mr. Zverkov. Seduce the Circassian girls, shoot the 
enemies of the fatherland and . . . and ... to your health, 
Monsieur Zverkov 

Zverkov got up from his seat, bowed to me and said : 

" I am very much obliged to you." He was frightfully offended 
and turned pale. 

" Damn the fellow ! " roared Trudolyubov, bringing h: 
down on the table. 

" Well, he wants a punch in the face for that," squealed 
Ferfitchkin. 

" We ought to turn him out," muttered Simonov. 

" Not a word, gentlemen, not a movement ! " cried Zverkov 
solemnly, checking the general indignation. " I thank you all, 
but I can show him for myself how much value I attach to his 
words." 

" Mr. Ferfitchkin, you will give me satisfaction to-morrow 
our words just now ! " I said aloud, turning with dignity to 
:chkin. 

" A duel, you mean ? Certainly/' he answered. But probably 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 111 

I was so ridiculous as I challenged him and it was so out of keeping 
with my appearance that everyone, including Ferfitchkin, was 
prostrate with laughter. 

" Yes, let him alone, of course ! He is quite drunk," Trudolyu- 
bov said with disgust. 

" I shall never forgive myself for letting him join us," Simonov 
muttered again. 

" Now is the time to throw a bottle at their heads," I thought 
to myself. I picked up the bottle . . . and filled my glass. . . . 
" No, I'd better sit on to the end," I went on thinking; " you 
would be pleased, my friends if I went away. Nothing will 
induce me to go. I'll go on sitting here and drinking to the end, 
on purpose, as a sign that I don't think you of the slightest 
consequence. I will go on sitting and drinking, because this is a 
public-house and I paid my entrance money. I'll sit here and 
drink, for I look upon you as so many pawns, as inanimate 
pawns. I'll sit here and drink . . . and sing if I want to, yes, 
sing, for I have the right to ... to sing . . . H'm ! " 

But I did not sing. I simply tried not to look at any of them. 
I assumed most unconcerned attitudes and waited with impatience 
for them to speak first. But alas, they did not address me ! And 
oh, how I wished, how I wished at that moment to be reconciled 
to them ! It struck eight, at last nine. They moved from the 
table to the sofa. Zverkov stretched himself on a lounge and 
put one foot on a round table. Wine was brought there. He did, 
as a fact, order three bottles on his own account. I, of course, was 
not invited to join them. They all sat round him on the sofa. 
They listened to him, almost with reverence. It was evident 
that they were fond of him. "What for? What for?" I 
wondered. From time to time they were moved to drunken 
enthusiasm and kissed each other. They talked of the Caucasus, 
of the nature of true passion, of snug berths in the service, of 
the income of an hussar called Podharzhevsky, whom none of 
them knew personally, and rejoiced in the largeness of it, of the 
extraordinary grace and beauty of a Princess D., whom none 
of them had ever seen; then it came to Shakespeare's being 
immortal. 

I smiled contemptuously and walked up and down the other 
side of the room, opposite the sofa, from the table to the stove 
and back again. I "tried my very utmost to show them that I 



112 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

could do without them, and yet I purposely made a noise with my 
boots, thumping with my heels. But it was all in vain. They 
paid no attention. I had the patience to walk up and down in 
front of them from eight o'clock till eleven, in the same place, 
from the table to the stove and back again. " I walk up and 
down to please myself and no one can prevent me." The waiter 
who came into the room stopped, from time to time, to look at 
me. I was somewhat giddy from turning round so often; at 
moments it seemed to me that I was in delirium. During those 
three hours I was three times soaked with sweat and dry again. 
At times, with an intense, acute pang I was stabbed to the heart 
by the thought that ten years, twenty years, forty years would 
pass, and that even in forty years I would remember with loathing 
and humiliation those filthiest, most ludicrous, and most awful 
moments of my life. No one could have gone out of his way to 
degrade himself more shamelessly, and I fully realized it, fully, 
and yet I went on pacing up and down from the table to the 
stove. " Oh, if you only knew what thoughts and feelings I 
am capable of, how cultured I am ! " I thought at moments, 
mentally addressing the sofa on which my enemies were sitting. 
But my enemies behaved as though I were not in the room. Once 
only once they turned towards me, just when Zverkov was 
talking about Shakespeare, and I suddenly gave a contemptuous 
laugh. I laughed in such an affected and disgusting way that 
they all at once broke off their conversation, and silently and 
gravely for two minutes watched me walking up and down from 
the table to the stove, taking no notice of them. But nothing came 
of it : they said nothing, and two minutes later they ceased to 
notice me again. It struck eleven. 

" Friends," cried Zverkov getting up from the sofa, " let us 
all be off now, there I " 

" Of course, of course," the others assented. I turned sharply 
to Zverkov. I was so harassed, so exhausted, that I would have 
cut my throat to put an end to it. I was in a fever; my huir, 
soaked with perspiration, stuck to my forehead and temples. 

" Zverkov, I beg your pardon," I said abruptly and resolutely. 
" Ferfitchkin, yours too, and every one's, every one's : I have 
insulted you all ! " 

" Aha ! A duel is not in your line, old man," Ferfitchkin 
hissed venomously. 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 113 

It sent a sharp pang to my heart. 

" No, it's not the duel I am afraid of, Ferfitchknr! I am ready 
to fight you to-morrow, after we are reconciled. I insist upon it, 
in fact, and you cannot refuse. I want to show you that I am 
not afraid of a duel. You shall fire first and I shall fire into the 
air.'' 

"He is comforting himself," said Simonov. 

" He's simply raving," said Trudolyubov. 

" But let us pass. Why are you barring our way ? What do 
you want ? " Zverkov answered disdainfully. 

They were all flushed ; their eyes were bright : they had been 
drinking heavily. 

" I ask for your friendship, Zverkov ; I insulted you, but. . . ." 

" Insulted ? You insulted me ? Understand, sir, that you 
never, under any circumstances, could possibly insult me" 

" And that's enough for you. Out of the way ! " concluded 
Trudolyubov. 

" Olympia is mine, friends, that's agreed ! " cried Zverkov. 

" We won't dispute your right, we won't dispute your right," 
the others answered, laughing. 

I stood as though spat upon. The party went noisily out of 
the room. Trudolyubov struck up some stupid song. Simonov 
remained behind for a moment to tip the waiters. I suddenly 
went up to him. 

" Simonov ! give me six roubles ! " I said, with desperate 
resolution. 

He looked at me in extreme amazement, with vacant eyes. 
He, too, was drunk. 

" You don't mean you are coming with us ? " 

" Yes." 

"I've no money," he snapped out, and with a scornful laugh 
he went out of the room. 

I clutched at his overcoat. It was a nightmare. 

" Simonov, I saw you had money. Why do you refuse me ? 
And I a scoundrel ? Beware of refusing me : if you knew, if 
you knew why I am asking ! My whole future, my whole plans 
depend upon it ! " 

Simonov pulled out the money and almost flung it at me. 

" Take it, if you- have no sense of shame ! " he pronounced 
pitil- >?ly, and ran to overtake them. 
i 



114 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

I was left for a moment alone. Disorder, the remains of dinner, 
a broken wine-glass on the floor, spilt wine, cigarette ends, fumes 
of drink and delirium in my brain, an agonizing misery in my 
heart and finally the waiter, who had seen and heard all and was 
looking inquisitively into my face. 

" I am going there ! " I cried. " Either they shall all go down 
on their knees to beg for my friendship, or I will give Zverkov a 
slap in the face ! " 



V 

" So this is it, this is it at last contact with real life." I muttered 
as I ran headlong downstairs. " This is very different from the 
Pope's leaving Rome and going to Brazil, very different from the 
ball on Lake Como ! " 

" You are a scoundrel," a thought flashed through my mind, 
" if you laugh at this now." 

" No matter ! " I cried, answering mj^self. " Now everything 
is lost ! " 

There was no trace to be seen of them, but that made no 
difference I knew where they had gone. 

At the steps was standing a solitary night sledge-driver in 
a rough peasant coat, powdered over with the still falling, wet, 
and as it were warm, snow. It was hot and steamy. The little 
shaggy piebald horse was also covered with snow and coughing, 
I remember that very well. I made a rush for the roughly made 
sledge ; but as soon as I raised my foot to get into it, the recol- 
lection of how Simonov had just given me six roubles seemed to 
double me up and I tumbled into the sledge like a sack. 

" No, I must do a great deal to make up for all that," I cried. 
" But I will make up for it or perish on the spot this very night. 
Start ! " 

We set off. There was a perfect whirl in my head. 

" They won't go down on their knees to beg for my friendship. 
That is a mirage, cheap mirage, revolting, romantic and fan- 
tastical that's another ball on Lake Como. And so I am bound 
to slap Zverkov's face ! It is my duty to. And so it is settled ; 
I am flying to give him a slap in the face. Hurry up ! " 

The driver tugged at the reins. 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 116 

" As soon as I go in I'll give it him. Ought I before giving him 
the slap to say a few words by way of preface ? No. I'll simply 
go in and give it him . They will all be sitting in the drawing-room, 
and he with Olympia on the sofa. That damned Olympia ! 
She laughed at my looks on one occasion and refused me. I'll 
pull Olympia's hair, pull Zverkov's ears ! No, better one 
ear, and pull him by it round the room. Maybe they will all 
begin beating me and will kick me out. That's most likely, 
indeed. No matter! Anyway, I shall first slap him; the 
initiative will be mine ; and by the laws of honour that is every- 
thing : he will be branded and cannot wipe off the slap by any 
blows, by nothing but a duel. He will be forced to fight. And let 
them beat me now. Let them, the ungrateful wretches ! Trudo- 
lyubov will beat me hardest, he is so strong ; Ferfitchkin will be 
sure to catch hold sideways and tug at my hair. But no matter, 
no matter ! That's what I am going for. The blockheads will 
be forced at last to see the tragedy of it all ! When they drag me 
to the door I shall call out to them that in reality they are not 
worth my little finger. Get on, driver, get on ! " I cried to the 
driver. He started and flicked his whip, I shouted so savagely. 

" We shall fight at daybreak, that's a settled thing. I've done 
with the office. Ferfitchkin made a joke about it just now. But 
where can I get pistols ? Nonsense ! I'll get my salary in ad- 
vance and buy them. And powder, and bullets ? That's the 
second's business. And how can it all be done by daybreak? 
And where am I to get a second ? I have no friends. Non- 
sense ! " I cried, lashing myself lip more and more. "It's of 
no consequence ! the first person I meet in the street is bound to 
be my second, just as he would be bound to pull a drowning 
man out of water. The most eccentric things may happen. 
Even if I were to ask the director himself to be my second to- 
morrow, he would be bound to consent, if only from a feeling of 
chivalry, and to keep the secret ! Anton Antonitch. ..." 

The fact is, that at that very minute the disgusting absurdity 
of my plan and the other side of the question was clearer and more 
vivid to my imagination than it could be to any one on earth. 
But. . . . 

" Get on, driver, get on, you rascal, get on ! " 

" Ugh, sir ! " said the son of toil. 

Cold shivers suddenly ran down me Wouldn't it be better 



116 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

... to go straight home ? My God, my God ! Why did I 
invite myself to this dinner yesterday ? But no, it's impossible. 
And my walking up and down for three hours from the table to 
the stove ? No, they, they and no one else must pay for my 
walking up and down ! They must wipe out this dishonour 1 
Drive on ! 

And what if they give me into custody ? They won't dare ! 
They'll be afraid of the scandal. And what if Zverkov is so 
contemptuous that he refuses to fight a duel ? He is sure to ; 
but in that case I'll show them ... I will turn up at the posting 
station when he is setting off to-morrow, I'll catch him by the 
leg, I'll pull off his coat when he gets into the carriage. I'll get 
my teeth into his hand, I'll bite him. " See what lengths you can 
drive a desperate man to ! " He may hit me on the head and 
they may belabour me from behind. I will shout to the assembled 
multitude : " Look at this young puppy who is driving off to capti- 
vate the Circassian girls after letting me spit in his face ! " 

Of course, after that everything will be over ! The office will 
have vanished off the face of the earth. I shall be arrested, I 
shall be tried, I shall be dismissed from the service, 'thrown in 
prison, sent to Siberia. Never mind ! In fifteen years when 
they let me out of prison I will trudge off to him, a beggar, in 
rags. I shall find him in some provincial town. He will be 
married and happy. He will have a grown-up daughter. ... I 
shall say to him : " Look, monster, at my hollow cheeks and my 
rags ! I've lost everything my career, my happiness, art, 
science, the woman I loved, and all through you. Here are pistols. 
I have come to discharge my pistol and . . . and I ... for- 
give you. Then I shall fire into the air and he will hear nothing 
more of me. . . ." 

I was actually on the point of tears, though I knew perfectly 
well at that moment that all this was out of Pushkin's Silrio 
and Lermontov's Masquerade. And all at once I felt horribly 
ashamed, so ashamed that I stopped the horse, got out of the 
sledge, and stood still in the snow in the middle of the street. The 
driver gazed at me, sighing and astonished. 

What was I to do ? I could not go on there it was evidently 
stupid, and I could not leave things as they were, because that 
would seem as though . . . Heavens, how could I leave things ! 
And after such insults ! " No ! " I cried, throwing myself into 



117 

the sledge again. " It is ordained ! It is fate ! Drive on, 
drive on ! " 

And in my impatience I punched the sledge-driver on the 
back of the neck. 

" What are you up to ? What are you hitting me for ? " the 
peasant shouted, but he whipped up his nag so that it began 
kicking. 

The wet snow was falling in big flakes ; I unbuttoned myself, 
regardless of it. I forgot everything else, for I had finally 
decided on the slap, and felt with horror that it was going to 
happen now, at once, and that no force could stop it. The deserted 
street lamps gleamed sullenly in the snowy darkness like torches 
at a funeral. The snow drifted under my great-coat, under my 
coat, under my cravat, and melted there. I did not wrap myself 
up all was lost, anyway. 

At last we arrived. I jumped out, almost unconscious, ran 
up the steps and began knocking and kicking at the door. I felt 
fearfully weak, particularly in my legs and my knees. The door 
was opened quickly as though they knew I was coming. As a 
fact, Simonov had warned them that perhaps another gentleman 
would arrive, and this was a place in which one had to give notice 
and to observe certain precautions. It was one of those " milli- 
nery establishments " which were abolished by the police a good 
time ago. By day it really was a shop ; but at night, if one had 
an introduction, one might visit it for other purposes. 

I walked rapidly through the dark shop into the familiar 
drawing-room, where there was only one candle burning, and stood 
still in amazement : there was no one there. " Where are they ? " 
I asked somebody. But by now, of course, they had separated. 
Before me was standing a person with a stupid smile, the 
" madam " herself, who had seen me before. A minute later a 
door opened and another person came in. 

Taking no notice of anything I strode about the room, and, I 
believe, I talked to myself. I felt as though I had been saved 
from death and was conscious of this, joyfully, all over : I should 
have given that slap, I should certainly, certainly have given it ! 
But now they were rot here and . . . everything had vanished 
and changed ! I looked round. I could not realize my condition 
yet. I looked mechanically at the girl who had come in : and had 
a glimpse of a fresh, young, rather pale face, with straight, dark 



118 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

eyebrows, and with grave, as it were wondering, eyes that attracted 
me at once ; I should have hated her if she had been smiling. I 
began looking at her more intently and, as it were, with effort. I 
had not fully collected my thoughts. There was something simple 
and good-natured in her face, but something strangely grave. I 
am sure that this stood in her way here, and no one of those fools 
had noticed her. She could not, however, have been called a 
beauty, though she was tall, strong-looking, and well built. She 
was very simply dressed. Something loathsome stirred within 
me. I went straight up to her. 

I chanced to look into the glass. My harassed face struck me 
as revolting in the extreme, pale, angry, abject, with dishevelled 
hair. " No matter, I am glad of it, " I thought ; " I am glad that 
I shall seem repulsive to her; I like that." 



VI 

. . . Somewhere behind a screen a clock began wheezing, as 
though oppressed by something, as though some one were stran- 
gling it. After an unnaturally prolonged wheezing there 
followed a shrill, nasty, and as it were unexpectedly rapid, chime 
as though some one were suddenly jumping forward. It 
struck two. I woke up, though I had indeed not been asleep 
but lying half conscious. 

It was almost completely dark in the narrow, cramped, low- 
pitched room, cumbered up with an enormous wardrobe and piles 
of cardboard boxes and all sorts of frippery and litter. The candle 
end that had been burning on the table was going out and gave a 
faint flicker from time to time. In a few minutes there would be 
complete darkness. 

I was not long in coming to myself ; everything came back to 
my mind at once, without an effort, as though it had been in 
ambush to pounce upon me again. And, indeed, even wliile 
I was unconscious a point seemed continually to remain in my 
memory unforgotten, and round it my dreams moved drearily. 
But strange to say, everything that had happened to me in that 
day seemed to me now, on waking, to be in the far, far away 
past, as though I had long, long ago lived all that down. 

My head was full of fumes. Something seemed to be hovering 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 119 

over me, rousing me, exciting me, and making me restless. 
Misery and spite seemed surging up in me again and seeking an 
outlet. Suddenly I saw beside me two wide open eyes scrutinizing 
me curiously and persistently. The look in those eyes was coldly 
detached, sullen, as it were utterly remote ; it weighed upon me. 

A grim idea came into my brain and passed all over my body, 
as a horrible sensation, such as one feels when one goes into a damp 
and mouldy cellar. There was something unnatural in those 
two eyes, beginning to look at me only now. I recalled, too, 
that during those two hours I had not said a single word to this 
creature, and had, in fact, considered it utterly superfluous ; in 
fact, the silence had for some reason gratified me. Now I sud- 
denly realized vividly the hideous idea revolting as a spider of 
vice, which, without love, grossly and shamelessly begins with 
that in which true love finds its consummation. For a long time 
we gazed at each other like that, but she did not drop her eyes 
before mine and her expression did not change, so that at last 
I felt uncomfortable. 

' ; What is 3 7 our name ? " I asked abruptly, to put an end to it. 

" Liza," she answered almost in a whisper, but somehow far 
from graciously, and she turned her eyes away. 

I was silent. 

" What weather ! The snow . . . it's disgusting ! " I said, 
almost to myself, putting my arm under my head despondently, 
and gazing at the ceiling. 

She made no answer. This was horrible. 

" Have you always lived in Petersburg? " I asked a minute 
later, almost angrily, turning my head slightly towards her. 

" No." 

" Where do you come from ? " 

" From Riga," she answered reluctantly. 

" Are you a German ? " 

" No, Russian." 

" Have you been here long ? " 

" Where ? " 

" In this house ? " 

" A fortnight." 

She spoke more and more jerkily. The candle went out ; I 
could no longer distinguish her face. 

" Have you a" father and mother ? " 



120 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

" Yes ... no ... I have." 

" Where are they ? " 

" There ... in Riga." 

" What are they ? " 

" Oh, nothing." 

" Nothing ? Why, what class are they ? " 

"Tradespeople."' 

" Have you always lived with them ? " 

" Yes." 

" How old are you ? " 

" Twenty." 

" Why did you leave them ? " 

" Oh, for no reason." 

That answer meant " Let me alone; I feel sick, sad." 

We were silent. 

God knows why I did not go away. I felt myself more and 
more sick and dreary. The images of the previous day began of 
themselves, apart from my will, flitting through my memory in con- 
fusion. I suddenly recalled something I had seen that morning 
when, full of anxious thoughts, I was hurrying to the office. 

" I saw them carrying a coffin out yesterday and they nearly 
dropped it," I suddenly said aloud, not that I desired to open the 
conversation, but as it were by accident. 

" A coffin ? " 

" Yes, in the Haymarket ; they were bringing it up out of a 
cellar." 

" From a cellar? " 

" Not from a cellar, but from a basement. Oh, you know . . 
down below . . . from a house of ill-fame. It was filthy all 
round . . . Egg-shells, litter . . . a stench. It was loathsome." 

Silence. 

" A nasty day to be buried," I began, simply to avoid being 
silent. 

" Nasty, in what way ? " 

' The snow, the wet." (I yawned.) 

" It makes no difference," she said suddenly, after a brief 
silence. 

' No, it's horrid." (I yawned again.) " The gravediggers must 
have sworn at getting drenched by the snow. And there must 
have been water in the grave." 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 121 

" Why water in the grave ? " she asked, with a sort of curiosity, 
but speaking even more harshly and abruptly than before. 
I suddenly began to feel provoked. 

" Why, there must have been water at the bottom a foot deep. 
You can't dig a dry grave in Volkovo Cemetery." 
"Why?" 

" Why ? Why, the place is waterlogged. It's a regular marsh 
So they bury them in water. I've seen it myself . . . many 
times." 

(I had never seen it once, indeed I had never been in Volkovo, 
and had only heard stories of it.) 

" Do you mean to say, you don't mind how you die ? " 
" But why should I die ? " she answered, as though defending 
herself. 

" Why, some day you will die, and you will die just the same 
as that dead woman. She was ... a girl like you. She died of 
consumption." 

" A wench would have died in hospital ..." (She knows all 
about it already : she said " wench," not " girl.") 

" She was in debt to her madam," I retorted, more and more 
provoked by the discussion ; " and went on earning money for her 
up to the end, though she was in consumption. Some sledge- 
drivers standing by were talking about her to some soldiers and 
telling them so. No doubt they knew her. They were laughing. 
They were going to meet in a pot-house to drink to her memory." 
A great deal of this was my invention. Silence followed, 
profound silence. She did not stir. 

" And is it better to die in a hospital ? " 

" Isn't it just the same ? Besides, why should I die ? " she 
added irritably. 

" If not now, a little later." 
" Why a little later ? " 

" Why, indeed ? Now you are young, pretty, fresh, you fetch 
a high price. But after another year of this life you will be very 
different you will go off." 
"In a year? " 

" Anyway, in a year you will be worth less," I continued 
malignantly. " You will go from here to something lower, an- 
other house ; a year later to a third, lower and lower, and in 
seven years you will come to a basement in the Haymarket. 



122 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

That will be if you were lucky. But it would be much worse if 
you got some disease, consumption, say . . . and caught a chill, 
or something or other. It's not easy to get over an illness in your 
way of life. If you catch anything you may not get rid of it. 
And so you would die/' 

" Oh, well, then I shall die," she answered, quite vindictively, 
and she made a quick movement 

" But one is sorry." 

" Sorry for whom ? " 

" Sorry for life." 

Silence 

" Have you been engaged to be married ? Eh ? " 

" What's that to you ? " 

" Oh, I am not cross-examining you. It's nothing to me. 
Why are you so cross ? Of course you may have had your 
own troubles. What is it to me ? It's simply that I felt 
sorry." 

" Sorry for whom ? " 

" Sorry for you." 

" No need," she whispered hardly audibly, and again made a 
faint movement. 

That incensed me at once. What ! I was so gentle with her, 
and she. . . . 

" Why, do you think that you are on the right path ? " 

" I don't think anything." 

'' That's what's wrong, that you don't think. Realize it while 
there is still time. There still is time. You are still young, good- 
looking; you might love, be married, be happy. . . ." 

" Not all married women are happy," she snapped out in the 
rude abrupt tone she had used at first. 

" Not all, of course, but anyway it is much better than the life 
here. Infinitely better. Besides, with love one can live even 
without happiness. Even in sorrow life is sweet; life is sweet, 
however one lives. But here what is there but . . . foulness. 
Phew ! " 

I turned away with disgust ; I was no longer reasoning coldly. 
I began to feel myself what I was saying and wanned to the 
subject. I was already longing to expound the cherished ideas 
I had brooded over in my corner. Something suddenly flared 
up in me. An object had appeared before me. 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 123 

" Never mind my being here, I am not an example for you. I 
am, perhaps, worse than you are. I was drunk when I came here, 
though," I hastened, however, to say in self-defence. " Besides, 
a man is no example for a woman. It's a different thing. I may 
degrade and defile myself, but I am not any one's slave. I come 
and go, and that's an end of it. I shake it off, and I am a different 
man. But you are a slave from the start. Yes, a slave ! You 
give up everything, your whole freedom. If you want to break 
your chains afterwards, you won't be able to : you will be more 
and more fast in the snares. It is an accursed bondage. I 
know it. I won't speak of anything else, maybe you won't 
understand, but tell me : no doubt you are in debt to your 
madam ? There, you see," I added, though she made no answer, 
but only listened in silence, entirely absorbed, " that's a bondage 
for you ! You will never buy your freedom. They will see to 
that. It's like selling your soul to the devil. . . . And besides 
. . . perhaps I, too, am just as unlucky how do you know 
and wallow in the mud on purpose, out of misery ? You 
know, men take to drink from grief; well, maybe I am here 
from grief. Come, tell me, what is there good here ? Here you 
and I ... came together . . . just now and did not say one 
word to one another all the time, and it was only afterwards you 
began staring at me like a wild creature, and I at you. Is that 
loving ? Is that how one human being should meet another ? 
It's hideous, that's what it is ! " 

" Yes ! " she assented sharply and hurriedly. 

I was positively astounded by the promptitude of this " Yes." 
So the same thought may have been straying through her mind 
when she was staring at me just before. So she, too, was capable of 
certain thoughts ? " Damn it all, this was interesting, this was a 
point of likeness ! " I thought, almost rubbing my hands. And 
indeed it's easy to turn a young soul like that ! 

It was the exercise of my power that attracted me most. 

She turned her head nearer to me, and it seemed to me in the 
darkness that she propped herself on her arm. Perhaps she was 
scrutinizing me. How I regretted that I could not see her eyes. 
I heard her deep breathing. 

" Why have you come here ? " I asked her, with a note of 
authority already -in my voice. 

" Oh, I don't know." 



124 

" But how nice it would be to be living in your father's house ! 
It's warm and free ; you have a home of your own." 
" But what if it's worse than this ? " 

" I must take the right tone," flashed through my mind. 
" I may not get far with sentimentality." But it was only a 
momentary thought. I swear she really did interest me. Be- 
sides, I was exhausted and moody. And cunning so easily goes 
hand -in-hand with feeling. 

" Who denies it ! " I hastened to answer. " Anything may 
happen. I am convinced that some one has wronged you, and 
that you are more sinned against than sinning. Of course, I 
know nothing of your story, but it's not likely a girl like you 
has come here of her own inclination. ..." 

"A girl like me?" she whispered, hardly audibly; but I 
heard it. 

Damn it all, I was flattering her. That was horrid. But 
perhaps it was a good thing. . . . She was silent. 

" See, Liza, I will tell you about myself. If I had had a home 
from childhood, I shouldn't be what I am now. I often think 
that. However bad it may be at home, anyway they are your 
father and mother, and not enemies, strangers. Once a year 
at least, they'll show their love of you. Anyway, you know 
you are at home. I grew up without a home; and perhaps 
that's why I've turned so ... unfeeling." 

I waited again. " Perhaps she doesn't understand," I thought, 
" and, indeed, it is absurd it's moralizing." 

" If I were a father and had a daughter, I believe I should love 
my daughter more than my sons, really," I began indirectly, 
as though talking of something else, to distract her attention. 
I must confess I blushed. 
" Why so? " she asked. 
Ah ! so she was listening ! 

" I don't know, Liza. I knew a father who was a stern, austere 
man, but used to go down on his knees to his daughter, used to 
kiss her hands, her feet, he couldn't make enough of her, really. 
When she danced at parties he used to stand for five hours at 
a stretch, gazing at her. He was mad over her : I understand 
that ! She would fall asleep tired at night, and he would wake 
to kiss li< r in her sleep and make the siirn of the cross over her. 
He would go about in a dirty old coat, he was stingy to every 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 126 

one else, but would spend his last penny for her, giving her 
expensive presents, and it was his greatest delight when she was 
pleased with what he gave her. Fathers always love their 
daughters more than the mothers do. Some girls live happily 
at home ! And I believe I should never let my daughters 
marry." 

" What next ? " she said, with a faint smile. 

" I should be jealous, I really should. To think that she should 
kiss any one else ! That she should love a stranger more than 
her father ! It's painful to imagine it. Of course, that's all 
nonsense, of course every father would be reasonable at last. 
But I believe before I should let her marry, I should worry myself 
to death ; I should find fault with all her suitors. But I should 
end by letting her marry whom she herself loved. The one whom 
the daughter loves always seems the worst to the father, you 
know. That is always so. So many family troubles come 
from that." 

" Some are glad to sell their daughters, rather than marrying 
them honourably." 

Ah, so that was it ! 

" Such a thing, Liza, happens in those accursed families in 
which there is neither love nor God," I retorted warmly, " and 
where there is no love, there is no sense either. There are such 
families, it's true, but I am not speaking of them. You must 
have seen wickedness in your own family, if you talk like that. 
Truly, you must have been unlucky. H'm ! . . . that sort of 
thing mostly comes about through poverty." 

" And is it any better with the gentry ? Even among the 
poor, honest people live happily." 

" H'm . . . yes. Perhaps. Another thing, Liza, man is 
fond of reckoning up his troubles, but does not count his joys. 
If he counted them up as he ought, he would see that every lot 
has enough happiness provided for it. And what if all goes well 
with the family, if the blessing of God is upon it, if the husband 
is a good one, loves you, cherishes you, never leaves you ! There 
is happiness in such a family ! Even sometimes there is happiness 
in the midst of sorrow ; and indeed sorrow is everywhere. If 
you marry you will find out for yourself. But think of the first 
years of married life with one you love : what happiness, what 
happiness there sometimes is in it t And indeed it's the ordinary 



126 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

thing. In those early days even quarrels with one's husband 
end happily. Some women get up quarrels with their husbands 
just because they love them. Indeed, I knew a woman like that : 
she seemed to say that because she loved him, she would torment 
him and make him feel it. You know that you may torment 
a man on purpose through love. Women are particularly given 
to that, thinking to themselves ' I will love him so, I will make 
so much of him afterwards, that it's no sin to torment him a little 
now.' And all in the house rejoice in the sight of you, and you 
are happy and gay and peaceful and honourable. . . . Then 
there are some women who are jealous. If he went off anywhere 
I knew one such woman, she couldn't restrain herself, but would 
jump up at night and run off on the sly to find out where he was, 
whether he was with some other woman. That's a pity. And 
the woman knows herself it's wrong, and her heart fails her and 
she suffers, but she loves it's all through love. And how sweet 
it is to make it up after quarrels, to own herself in the wrong or 
to forgive him ! And they are both so happy all at once as 
though they had met anew, been married over again ; as though 
their love had begun afresh. And no one, no one should know 
what passes between husband and wife if they love one another. 
And whatever quarrels there may be between them they ought 
not to call in their own mother to judge between them and 
tell tales of one another. They are their own judges. Love 
is a holy mystery and ought to be hidden from all other eyes, 
whatever happens. That makes it holier and better. They 
respect one another more, and much is built on respect. And if 
once there has been love, if they have been married for love, 
why should love pass away ? Surely one can keep it ! It is 
rare that one cannot keep it. And if the husband is kind and 
straightforward, why should not love last ? The first phase of 
married love will pass, it is true, but then there will come a love 
that is better still. Then there will be the union of souls, they 
will have everything in common, there will be no secrets between 
them. And once they have children, the most difficult times 
will seem to them happy, so long as there is love and courage. 
Even toil will be a joy, you may deny yourself bread for your 
children and even that will be a joy. They will lovs you for it 
afterwards ; so you are laying by for your future. As the 
children grow up you feel that you are an example, a support 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 127 

for them ; that even after you die your children will always keep 
your thoughts and feelings, because they have received them 
from you, they will take on your semblance and likeness. So 
you see this is a great duty. How can it fail to draw the father 
and mother nearer ? People say it's a trial to have children. 
Who says that ? It is heavenly happiness ! Are you fond of 
little children, Liza ? I am awfully fond of them. You know 
a little rosy baby boy at your bosom, and what husband's heart is 
not touched, seeing his wife nursing his child ! A plump little 
rosy baby, sprawling and snuggling, chubby little hands and 
feet, clean tiny little nails, so tiny that it makes one laugh to 
look at them ; eyes that look as if they understand everything. 
And while it sucks it clutches at your bosom with its little 
hand, plays. When its father comes up, the child tears itself 
away from the bosom, flings itself back, looks at its father, 
laughs, as though it were fearfully funny and falls to sucking 
again. Or it will bite its mother's breast when its little teeth 
are coming, while it looks sideways at her with its little eyes 
as though to say, ' Look, I am biting ! ' Is not all that happiness 
when they are the three together, husband, wife and child ? 
One can forgive a great deal for the sake of such moments. Yes, 
Liza, one must first learn to live oneself before one blames 
others ! " 

" It's by pictures, pictures like that one must get at you," 
I thought to myself, though I did speak with real feeling, and 
all at once I flushed crimson. "What if she were suddenly to 
burst out laughing, what should I do then ? " That idea drove 
me to fury. Towards the end of my speech I really was excited, 
and now my vanity was somehow wounded. The silence 
continued. I almost nudged her. 

" Why are you " she began and stopped. But I under- 
stood : there was a quiver of something different in her voice, 
not abrupt, harsh and unyielding as before, but something soft 
and shamefaced, so shamefaced that I suddenly felt ashamed 
and guilty. 

" What ? " I asked, with tender curiosity. 

" Why, you . . ;" 

" What ? " 

" Why, you . . . speak somehow like a book," she said, and 
again there was a note of irony in her voice. 



128 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

That remark sent a pang to my heart. It was not what I was 
expecting. 

I did not understand that she was hiding her feelings under 
irony, that this is usually the last refuge of modest and chaste- 
souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and 
intrusively invaded, and that their pride makes them refuse to 
surrender till the last moment and shrink from giving expression 
to their feelings before you. I ought to have guessed the truth 
from the timidity with which she had repeatedly approached her 
sarcasm, only bringing herself to utter it at last with an effort. 
But I did not guess, and an evil feeling took possession of me. 

" Wait a bit ! " I thought. 



VII 

" Oh, hush, Liza ! How can you talk about being like a book, 
when it makes even me, an outsider, feel sick ? Though I don't 
look at it as an outsider, for, indeed, it touches me to the heart. 
... Is it possible, is it possible that you do not feel sick at being 
here yourself ? Evidently habit does wonders ! God knows 
what habit can do with any one. Can you seriously think that 
you will never grow old, that you will always be good-looking, 
and that they will keep you here for ever and ever ? I say 
nothing of the loathsomeness of the life here. . . . Though let 
me tell you this about it about your present life, I mean ; here 
though you are young now, attractive, nice, with soul and 
feeling, yet you know as soon as I came to myself just now 
I felt at once sick at being here with you ! One can only come 
here when one is drunk. But if you were anywhere else, living 
as good people live, I should perhaps be more than attracted by 
you, should fall in love with you, should be glad of a look from 
you, let alone a word; I should hang about your door, should 
go down on my knees to you, should look upon you as my be- 
trothed and think it an honour to be allowed to. I should not 
dan- to have an impure thought about you. But here, you 
I know that I have only to whistle and you have to come with me 
whether you like it or not. I don't consult your wishes, but 
you mine. The lowest labourer hires himself as a workman 
but he doesn't make a slave of himself altogether; besides, he 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 129 

knows that he will be free again presently. But when are you 
free ? Only think what you are giving up here ? What is it you 
are making a slave of ? It is your soul, together with your body ; 
you are selling your soul which you have no right to dispose 
of ! You give your love to be outraged by every drunkard ! 
Love ! But that's everything, you know, it's a priceless diamond, 
it's a maiden's treasure, love why, a man would be ready to 
give his soul, to face death to gain that love. But how much is 
your love worth now ? You are sold, all of you, body and soul, 
and there is no need to strive for love when you can have every- 
thing without love. And you know there is no greater insult 
to a girl than that, do you understand ? To be sure, I have heard 
that they comfort you, poor fools, they let you have lovers of 
your own here. But you know that's simply a farce, that's 
simply a sham, it's just laughing at you, and you are taken 
in by it ! Why, do you suppose he really loves you, that lover 
of yours ? I don't believe it. How can he love you when 
he knows you may be called away from him any minute ? He 
would be a low fellow if he did ! Will he have a grain of respect 
for you ? What have you in common with him ? He laughs 
at you and robs you that is all his love amounts to ! You 
.are lucky if he does not beat you. Very likely he does beat 
you, too. Ask him, if you have got one, whether he will marry 
you. He will laugh in your face, if he doesn't spit in it or give 
you a blow though maybe he is not worth a bad halfpenny 
himself. And for what have you ruined your life, if you come 
to think of it ? For the coffee they give you to drink and the 
plentiful meals ? But with what object are they feeding you up ? 
An honest girl couldn't swallow the food, for she would know 
what she was being fed for. You are in debt here, and, of course, 
you will always be in debt, and you will go on in debt to the end, 
till the visitors here begin to scorn you. And that will soon 
happen, don't rely upon your youth all that flies by express 
train here, you know. You will be kicked out. And not simply 
kicked out ; long before that she'll begin nagging at you, scolding 
you, abusing you, as though you had not sacrificed your health 
for her, had not thrown away your youth and your soul for her 
benefit, but as though you had ruined her, beggared her, robbed 
her. And don't expect any one to take your part : the others, 
your companions, will attack you, too, to win her favour, for all 



130 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

are in slavery here, and have lost all conscience and pity here 
long ago. They have become utterly vile, and nothing on earth 
is viler, more loathsome, and more insulting than their abuse. 
And you are laying down everything here, unconditionally, 
youth and health and beauty and hope, and at twenty-two you 
will look like a woman of five-and-thirty, and you will be lucky 
if you are not diseased, pray to God for that ! No doubt you 
are thinking now that you have a gay time and no work to do ! 
Yet there is no work harder or more dreadful in the world or 
ever has been. One would think that the heart alone would be 
worn out with tears. And you won't dare to say a word, not half 
a word when they drive you away from here ; you will go away 
as though j'ou were to blame. You will change to another house, 
then to a third, then somewhere else, till you come down at last 
to the Haymarket. There you will be beaten at every turn; 
that is good manners there, the visitors don't know how to be 
friendly without beating you. You don't believe that it is so 
hateful there ? Go and look for yourself some time, you can 
see with your own eyes. Once, one New Year's Day, I saw a 
woman at a door. They had turned her out as a joke, to give 
her a taste of the frost because she had been crying so much, and 
they shut the door behind her. At nine o'clock in the morning 
she was already quite drunk, dishevelled, half -naked, covered 
with bruises, her face was powdered, but she had a black eye, blood 
was trickling from her nose and her teeth; some cabman had 
just given her a drubbing. She was sitting on the stone steps, 
a salt fish of some sort was in her hand ; she was crying, wailing 
something about her luck and beating with the fish on the steps, 
and cabmen and drunken soldiers were crowding in the doorway 
taunting her. You don't believe that you will over be like that ? 
I should be sorry to believe it, too, but how do you know; 
maybe ten years, eight years ago that very woman with the salt 
fish came here fresh as a cherub, innocent, pure, knowing no evil, 
blushing at every word. Perhaps she was like you, proud, ready to 
take offence, not like the others ; perhaps she looked like a queen, 
and knew what happiness was in store for the man who should 
love her and whom she should love. Do you see how it ended ? 
And what if at that very minute when she was beating on the 
iilthy steps with that fish, drunken and dishevelled what if at 
that very minute she recalled the pure early days in her father's 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 131 

house, when she used to go to school and the neighbour's son 
watched for her on the way, declaring that he would love her 
as long as he lived, that he would devote his life to her, and 
when they vowed to love one another for ever and be married 
as soon as they were grown up ! No, Liza, it would be happy 
for you if you were to die soon of consumption in some corner, 
in some cellar like that woman just now. In the hospital, do 
you say ? You will be lucky if they take you, but what if you 
are still of use to the madam here ? Consumption is a queer 
disease, it is not like fever. The patient goes on hoping till the 
last minute and says he is all right. He deludes himself. And 
that just suits your madam. Don't doubt it, that's how it is; 
you have sold your soul, and what is more you owe money, so 
you daren't say a word. But when you are dying, all will 
abandon you, all will turn away from you, for then there will 
be nothing to get from you. What's more, they will reproach 
you for cumbering the place, for being so long over dying. How- 
ever you beg you won't get a drink of water without abuse : 
' Whenever are you going off, you nasty hussy, you won't let 
us sleep with your moaning, you make the gentlemen sick.' 
That's true, I have heard such things said myself. They will 
thrust you dying into the filthiest corner in the cellar in the 
damp and darkness; what will your thoughts be, lying there 
alone ? When you die, strange hands will lay you out, with 
grumbling and impatience; no one will bless you, no one will 
sigh for you, they only want to get rid of you as soon as may be ; 
they will buy a coffin, take you to the grave as they did that 
poor woman to-day, and celebrate your memory at the tavern. 
In the grave sleet, filth, wet snow no need to put themselves 
out for you ' Let her down, Vanuha ; it's just like her luck 
even here, she is head -foremost, the hussy. Shorten the cord, 
you rascal.' ' It's all right as it is.' ' All right, is it ? Why, 
she's on her side ! She was a fellow - creature, after all ! 
But, never mind, throw the earth on her.' And they won't 
care to waste much time quarrelling over you. They will scatter 
the wet blue clay as quick as they can and go off to the tavern . . . 
and there your memory on earth will end; other women have 
children to go to their graves, fathers, husbands. While for you 
neither tear, nor sigh, nor remembrance ; no one in the whole 
world will ever come to you, your name will vanish from the 



132 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

face of the earth as though you had never existed, never been 
born at all ! Nothing but filth and mud, however you knock 
at your coffin lid at night, when the dead arise, however you cry : 
' Let me out, kind people, to live in the light of day ! My life 
was no life at all ; my life has been thrown away like a dish- 
clout; it was drunk away in the tavern at the Haymarket; 
let me out, kind people, to live in the world again.' ' 

And I worked myself up to such a pitch that I began to have 
a lump in my throat myself, and . . . and all at once I stopped, 
sat up in dismay, and bending over apprehensively, began to 
listen with a beating heart. I had reason to be troubled. 

I had felt for some time that I was turning her soul upside 
down and rending her heart, and and the more I was convinced 
of it, the more eagerly I desired to gain my object as quickly 
and as effectually as possible. It was the exercise of my skill 
that carried me away; yet it was not merely sport. . . . 

I knew I was speaking stiffly, artificially, even bookishly, in 
fact, I could not speak except " like a book." But that did 
not trouble me : I knew, I felt that I should be under- 
stood and that this very bookishness might be an assistance. 
But now, having attained my effect, I was suddenly panic- 
stricken. Never before had I witnessed such despair ! She was 
lying on her face, thrusting her face into the pillow and clutching 
it in both hands. Her heart was being torn. Her youthful 
body was shuddering all over as though in convulsions. Sup- 
pressed sobs rent her bosom and suddenly burst out in weeping 
and wailing, then she pressed closer into the pillow : she did not 
want any one here, not a living soul, to know of her anguish and 
her tears. She bit the pillow, bit her hand till it bled (I saw that 
afterwards), or, thrusting her fingers into her dishevelled hair 
seemed rigid with the effort of restraint, holding her breath 
and clenching her teeth. I began saying something, begging her 
to calm herself, but felt that I did not dare ; and all at once, 
in a sort of cold shiver, almost in terror, began fumbling in 
the dark, trying hurriedly to get dressed to go. It was dark : 
though I tried my best I could not finish dressing quickly. 
Suddenly I felt a box of matches and a candlestick with a whole 
candle in it. As soon as the room was lighted up, Liza sprang 
up, sat up in bed, and with a contorted face, with a half insane 
smile, looked at me almost senselessly. I sat down beside her and 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 133 

took her hands ; she came to herself, made an impulsive move- 
ment towards me, would have caught hold of me, but did not 
dare, and slowly bowed her head before me. 

" Liza, my dear, I was wrong . . . forgive me, my dear," 
I began, but she squeezed my hand in her ringers so tightly that 
I felt I was saying the wrong thing and stopped. 

" This is my address, Liza, come to me." 

" I will come," she answered resolutely, her head still bowed. 

" But now I am going, good-bye . . . till we meet again." 

I got up; she, too, stood up and suddenly flushed all over, 
gave a shudder, snatched up a shawl that was lying on a chair 
and muffled herself in it to her chin. As she did this she gave 
another sickly smile, blushed and looked at me strangely. I 
felt wretched; I was in haste to get away to disappear. 

" Wait a minute," she said suddenly, in the passage just at 
the doorway, stopping me with her hand on my overcoat. She 
put down the candle in hot haste and ran off; evidently she 
had thought of something or wanted to show me something. As 
she ran away she flushed, her eyes shone, and there was a smile 
on her lips what was the meaning of it ? Against my will I 
waited : she came back a minute later with an expression that 
seemed to ask forgiveness for something. In fact, it was not the 
same face, not the same look as the evening before : sullen, 
mistrustful and obstinate. Her eyes now were imploring, soft, 
and at the same time trustful, caressing, timid. The expression 
with which children look at people they are very fond of, of whom 
they are asking a favour. Her eyes were a light hazel, they 
were lovely eyes, full of life, and capable of expressing love as 
well as sullen hatred. 

Making no explanation, as though I, as a sort of higher being, 
mtist understand everything without explanations, she held 
out a piece of paper to me. Her whole face was positively 
beaming at that instant with naive, almost childish, triumph. 
I unfolded it. It was a letter to her from a medical student 
or some one of that sort a very high-flown and flowery, but 
extremely respectful, love-letter. I don't recall the words 
now, but I remember well that through the high-flown phrases 
there was apparent a genuine feeling, which cannot be feigned. 
When I had finished reading it I met her glowing, questioning, 
and childishly impatient eyes fixed upon me. She fastened her 



134 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

eyes upon my face and waited impatiently for what I should 
say. In a few words, hurriedly, but with a sort of joy and pride, 
she explained to me that she had been to a dance somewhere 
in a private house, a family of " very nice people, wlio knew 
nothing, absolutely nothing, for she had only come here so lately 
and it had all happened . . . and she hadn't made up her mind 
to stay and was certainly going away as soon as she had paid 
her debt ..." and at that party there had been the student 
who had danced with her all the evening. He had talked to her, 
and it turned out that he had known her in old days at Riga 
when he was a child, they had played together, but a very long 
time ago and he knew her parents, but about this he knew 
nothing, nothing whatever, and had no suspicion ! And the 
day after the dance (three days ago) he had sent her that letter 
through the friend with whom she had gone to the party . . . 
and . . . well, that was all." 

She dropped her shining eyes with a sort of bashfulness as she 
finished. 

The poor girl was keeping that student's letter as a precious 
treasure, and had run to fetch it, her only treasure, because 
she did not want me to go away without knowing that she, 
too, was honestly and genuinely loved; that she, too, was 
addressed respectfully. No doubt that letter was destined to 
lie in her box and lead to nothing. But none the less, I am 
certain that she would keep it all her life as a precious treasure, 
as her pride and justification, and now at such a minute she 
had thought of that letter and brought it with naive pride to 
raise herself in my eyes that I might see, that I, too, might 
think well of her. I said nothing, pressed her hand and went 
out. I so longed to get away. ... I walked all the way home, 
in spite of the fact that the melting snow was still falling in 
heavy flakes. I was exhausted, shattered, in bewilderment. 
But behind the bewilderment the truth was already gleaming. 
The loathsome truth. 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 135 



VIII 

It was some time, however, before I consented to recognize 
that truth. Waking up in the morning after some hours of heavy, 
leaden sleep, and immediately realizing all that had happened on 
the previous day, I was positively amazed at my last night's 
sentimentality with Liza, at all those " outcries of horror and 
pity." " To think of having such an attack of womanish hysteria, 
pah ! " I concluded. And what did I thrust my address upon 
her for ? What if she comes ? Let her come, though ; it 
doesn't matter. ... But obviously, that was not now the chief 
and the most important matter : I had to make haste and at all 
costs save my reputation in the eyes of Zverkov and Simonov as 
quickly as possible ; that was the chief business. And I was so 
taken up that morning that I actually forgot all about Liza. 

First of all I had at once to repay what I had borrowed the 
day before from Simonov. I resolved on a desperate measure : 
to borrow fifteen roubles straight off from Anton Antonitch. 
As luck would have it he was in the best of humours that morning, 
and gave it to me at once, on the first asking. I was so de- 
lighted at this that, as I signed the I U with a swaggering air, 
I told him casually that the night before " I had been keeping it 
up with some friends at the Hotel de Paris; we were giving a 
farewell party to a comrade, in fact, I might say a friend of 
my childhood, and you know a desperate rake, fearfully spoilt 
of course, he belongs to a good family, and has considerable means, 
a brilliant career; he is witty, charming, a regular Lovelace, 
you understand; we drank an extra ' half-dozen ' and ..." 

And it went off all right; all this was uttered very easily, 
unconstrained ly and complacently. 

On reaching home I promptly wrote to Simonov. 

To this hour I am lost in admiration when I recall the truly 
gentlemanly, good-humoured, candid tone of my letter. With 
tact and good-breeding, and, above all, entirely without super- 
fluous words, I blamed myself for all that had happened. I 
defended myself, " if I really may be allowed to defend myself," 
by alleging that being utterly unaccustomed to wine, I had been 
intoxicated with the first glass, which I said, I had drunk before 
they arrived, while I was waiting for them at the Hotel de Paris 



136 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

between five and six o'clock. I begged Simonov's pardon 
especially; I asked him to convey my explanations to all the 
others, especially to Zverkov, whom " I seemed to remember as 
though in a dream " I had insulted. I added that I would have 
called upon all of them myself, but my head ached, and besides 
I had not the face to. I was particularly pleased with a certain 
lightness, almost carelessness (strictly within the bounds of polite- 
ness, however), which was apparent in my style, and better than 
any possible arguments, gave them at once to understand that 
I took rather an independent view of "all that unpleasantness 
last night ; " that I was by no means so utterly crushed as you, 
my friends, probably imagine ; but on the contrary, looked upon 
it as a gentleman serenely respecting himself should look upon 
it. " On a young hero's past no censure is cast ! " 

" There is actually an aristocratic playfulness about it ! " 
I thought admiringly, as I read over the letter. And it's all 
because I am an intellectual and cultivated man ! Another 
man in my place would not have known how to extricate him- 
self, but here I have got out of it and am as jolly as ever again, 
and all because I am " a cultivated and educated man of our 
day." And, indeed, perhaps, everything was due to the wine 
yesterday. H'm ! . . . no, it was not the wine. I did not 
drink anything at all between five and six when I was waiting 
for them. I had lied to Simonov; I had lied shamelessly; and 
indeed I wasn't ashamed now. . . . Hang it all though, the great 
thing was that I was rid of it. 

I put six roubles in the letter, sealed it up, and asked Apollon 
to take it to Simonov. When he learned that there was money 
in the letter, Apollon became more respectful and agreed to take 
it. Towards evening I went out for a walk. My head was still 
aching and giddy after yesterday. But as evening came on and 
the twilight grew denser, my impressions and, following them, 
my thoughts, grew more and more different and confused. Some- 
thing was not dead within me, in the depths of my heart and 
conscience it would not die, and it showed itself in acute depres- 
sion. For the most part I jostled my way through the most 
crowded business streets, along Myeshtehansky Street, along 
Su'lovy Street and in Yusupov Garden. I always liked par- 
ticularly sauntering along these streets in the dusk, just 
when there were crowds of working people of all sorts going 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 137 

home from their daily work, with faces looking cross with 
anxiety. What I liked was just that cheap bustle, that bare 
prose. On this occasion the jostling of the streets irritated me 
more than ever. I could not make out what was wrong with 
me, I could not find the clue, something seemed rising up 
continually in my soul, painfully, and refusing to be appeased. 
I returned home completely upset, it was just as though some 
crime were lying on my conscience. 

The thought that Liza was coming worried me continually. 
It seemed queer to me that of all my recollections of yesterday 
this tormented me, as it were, especially, as it were, quite 
separately. Everything else I had quite succeeded in forgetting 
by the evening ; I dismissed it all and was still perfectly satisfied 
with my letter to Simonov. But on this point I was not satis- 
fied at all. It was as though I were worried only by Liza. 
" What if she comes," I thought incessantly, " well, it doesn't 
matter, let her come ! H'm ! it's horrid that she should see, 
for instance, how I live. Yesterday I seemed such a hero to her, 
while now, h'm ! It's horrid, though, that I have let myself 
go so, the room looks like a beggar's. And I brought myself 
to go out to dinner in such a suit ! And my American leather sofa 
with the stuffing sticking out. And my dressing-gown, which 
will not cover me, such tatters, and she will see all this and she 
will see Apollon. That beast is certain to insult her. He will 
fasten upon her in order to be rude to me. And I, of course, 
shall be panic-stricken as usual, I shall begin bowing and scraping 
before her and pulling my dressing-gown round me, I shall 
begin smiling, telling lies. Oh, the beastliness ! And it isn't 
the beastliness of it that matters most ! There is something 
more important, more loathsome, viler ! Yes, viler ! And to 
put on that dishonest lying mask again ! " . . . 

When I reached that thought I fired up all at once. 

" Why dishonest ? How dishonest ? I was speaking sin- 
cerely last night. I remember there was real feeling in me, too. 
What I wanted was to excite an honourable feeling in her. . . . 
Her crying was a good thing, it will have a good effect." 

Yet I could not feel at ease. All that evening, even when I 
had come back home, even after nine o'clock, when I calculated 
that Liza could not possibly come, she still haunted me, and what 
was worse, she came back to my mind always in the same position 



138 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

One moment out of all that had happened last night stood 
vividly before my imagination ; the moment when I struck a 
match and saw her pale, distorted face, with its look of torture. 
And what a pitiful, what an unnatural, what a distorted smile 
she had at that moment ! But I did not know then, that fifteen 
years later I should still in my imagination see Liza, always with 
the pitiful, distorted, inappropriate smile which was on her face 
at that minute. 

Next day I was ready again to look upon it all as nonsense, 
due to over-excited nerves, and, aBove all, as exaggerated. I was 
always conscious of that weak point of mine, and sometimes 
very much afraid of it. "I exaggerate everything, that is where 
I go wrong," I repeated to myself every hour. But, however, 
" Liza will very likely come all the same," was the refrain with 
which all my reflections ended. I was so uneasy that I some- 
times flew into a fury : " She'll come, she is certain to come ! " 
I cried, running about the room, " if not-day, she will come 
to-morrow ; she'll find me out ! The damnable romanticism 
of these pure hearts ! Oh, the vileness oh, the silliness oh, 
the stupidity of these ' wretched sentimental souls ! ' Why, 
how fail to understand? How could one fail to under- 
stand? ..." 

But at this point I stopped short, and in great confusion, 
indeed. 

And how few, how few words, I thought, in passing, were 
needed; how little of the idyllic (and affectedly, bookishly, 
artificially idyllic too) had sufficed to turn a whole human 
life at once according to my will. That's virginity, to be sure ! 
Freshness of soil ! 

At times a thought occurred to me, to go to her, " to tell her 
all," and beg her not to come to me. But this thought stirred 
such wrath in me that I believed I should have crushed that 
" damned " Liza if she had chanced to be near me at the time. 
I should have insulted her, have spat at her, have turned her 
out, have struck her ! 

One day passed, however, another and another; she did not 
come and I began to grow calmer. I felt particularly bold and 
cheerful after nine o'clock, I even sometimes began dreaming, 
and rather sweetly : I, for instance, became the salvation of Liza, 
simply through her coming to me and my talking to her. . . . 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 139 

I develop her, educate her. Finally, I notice that she loves me, 
loves me passionately. I pretend not to understand (I don't 
know, however, why I pretend, just for effect, perhaps). At 
last all confusion, transfigured, trembling and sobbing, she 
flings herself at my feet and says that I am her saviour, 
and that she loves me better than anything in the world. 
I am amazed, but. ..." Liza," I say, " can you imagine that 
I have not noticed your love, I saw it all, I divined it, but I did 
not dare to approach you first, because I had an influence over 
you and was afraid that you would force yourself, from gratitude, 
to respond to my love, would try to rouse in your heart a feeling 
which was perhaps absent, and I did not wish that . . . because 
it would be tyranny ... it would be indelicate (in short, I 
launch off at that point into European, inexplicably lofty sub- 
tleties a la George Sand), but now, now you are mine, you are 
my creation, you are pure, you are good, you are my noble wife. 

' Into my house come bold and free, 
Its rightful mistress there to be.' " 

Then we begin living together, go abroad and so on, and so 
on. In fact, in the end it seemed vulgar to me myself, and I 
began putting out my tongue at myself. 

Besides, they won't let her out, " the hussy ! " I thought. 
They don't let them go out very readily, especially hi the evening 
(for some reason I fancied she would come in the evening, and 
at seven o'clock precisely). Though she did say she was not 
altogether a slave there yet, and had certain rights ; so, h'm ! 
Damn it all, she will come, she is sure to come ! 

It was a good thing, in fact, that Apollon distracted my atten- 
tion at that time by his rudeness. He drove me beyond all 
patience ! He was the bane of my life, the curse laid upon me 
by Providence. We had been squabbling continually for years, 
and I hated him. My God, how I hated him ! I believe I had 
never hated any one in my life as I hated him, especially at 
some moments. He was an elderly, dignified man, who worked 
part of his time as a tailor. But for some unknown reason he 
despised me beyond all measure, and looked down upon me 
insufferably. Though, indeed, he looked down upon every one. 
Simply to glancfe at that flaxen, smoothly brushed head, at 
the tuft of hair he combed up on his forehead and oiled with 



140 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

sunflower oil, at that dignified mouth, compressed into the 
shape of the letter V, made one feel one was confronting a 
man who never doubted of himself. He was a pedant, to 
the most extreme point, the greatest pedant I had met on 
earth, and with that had a vanity only befitting Alexander of 
Macedon. He was in love with every button on his coat, 
every nail on his fingers absolutely in love with them, and 
he looked it ! In his behaviour to me he was a perfect 
tyrant, he spoke very little to me, and if he chanced to glance 
at me he gave me a firm, majestically self-confident and in- 
variably ironical look that drove me sometimes to fury. He 
did his work with the air of doing me the greatest favour. 
Though he did scarcely anything for me, and did not, indeed, 
consider himself bound to do anything. There could be no 
doubt that he looked upon me as the greatest fool on earth, 
and that " he did not get rid of me " was simply that he could 
get wages from me every month. He consented to do nothing 
for me for seven roubles a month. Many sins should be forgiven 
me for what I suffered from him. My hatred reached such a point 
that sometimes his very step almost threw me into convulsions. 
What I loathed particularly was his lisp. His tongue must 
have been a little too long or something of that sort, for ho 
continually lisped, and seemed to be very proud of it, imagining 
that it greatly added to his dignity. He spoke in a slow, measured 
tone, with his hands behind his back and his eyes fixed on the 
ground. He maddened me particularly when he read aloud the 
psalms to himself behind his partition. Many a battle I waged 
over that reading ! But he was awfully fond of reading aloud 
in the evenings, in a slow, even, sing-song voice, as though over 
the dead. It is interesting that that is how he has ended : ho 
hires himself out to read the psalms over the dead, and at the 
same time he kills rats and makes blacking. But at that time 
I could not get rid of him, it was as though he were chemically 
combined with my existence. Besides, nothing would have 
induced him to consent to leave me. I could not live in furnished 
lodgings : my lodging was my private solitude, my shell, my 
CHVC, in which I concealed myself from all mankind, and Apollon 
seemed to me, for some reason, an integral part of that flat, 
and for seven years I could not turn him away. 

To be two or three days behind with his wages, for instance, 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 141 

was impossible. He would have made such a fuss, I should not 
have known where to hide my head. But I was so exasperated 
with every one during those days, that I made up my mind 
for some reason and with some object to punish Apollon and not 
to pay him for a fortnight the wages that were owing him. I had 
for a long time for the last two years been intending to do this, 
simply in order to teach him not to give himself airs with me, 
and to show him that if I liked I could withhold his wages. I 
purposed to say nothing to him about it, and was purposely silent 
indeed, in order to score off his pride and force him to be the 
first to speak of his wages. Then I would take the seven roubles 
out of a drawer, show him I have the money put aside on purpose, 
but that I won't, I won't, I simply won't pay him his wages, 
I won't just because that is " what I wish," because " I am 
master, and it is for me to decide," because he has been dis- 
respectful, because he has been rude ; but if he were to ask 
respectfully I might be softened and give it to him, otherwise 
he might wait another fortnight, another three weeks, a w r hole 
month. . . . 

But angry as I was, yet he got the better of me. I could not 
hold out for four days. He began as he always did begin in 
such cases, for there had been such cases already, there had 
been attempts (and it may be observed I knew all this before- 
hand, I knew his nasty tactics by heart). He would begin by 
fixing upon me an exceedingly severe stare, keeping it up for 
several minutes at a time, particularly on meeting me or seeing 
me out of the house. If I held out and pretended not to notice 
these stares, he would, still in silence, proceed to further tortures. 
All at once, a propos of nothing, he would walk softly and smoothly 
into my room, when I was pacing up and down or reading, stand 
at the door, one hand behind his back and one foot behind the 
other, and fix upon me a stare more than severe, utterly con- 
temptuous. If I suddenly asked him what he wanted, he would 
make me no answer, but continue staring at me persistently 
for some seconds, then, with a peculiar compression of his lips 
and a most significant air, deliberately turn round and deliber- 
ately go back to his room. Two hours later he would come out 
again and again present himself before me in the same way. 
It had happened that in my fury I did not even ask him what he 
wanted, but simply raised my head sharply and imperiously 



142 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

and began staring back at him. So we stared at one another 
for two minutes ; at last he turned with deliberation and dignity 
and went back again for two hours. 

If I were still not brought to reason by all this, but persisted 
in my revolt, he would suddenly begin sighing while he looked at 
me, long, deep sighs as though measuring by them the depths of 
my moral degradation, and, of course, it ended at last by his 
triumphing completely : I raged and shouted, but still was forced 
to do what he wanted. 

This time the usual staring mano3uvres had scarcely begun 
when I lost my temper and flew at him in a fury. I was irritated 
beyond endurance apart from him. 

"Stay," I cried, in a frenzy, as he was slowly and silently 
turning, with one hand behind his back, to go to his room, " stay ! 
Come back, come back, I tell you I " and I must have bawled 
so unnaturally, that he turned round and even looked at me 
with some wonder. However, he persisted in saying nothing, 
and that infuriated me. 

" How dare you come and look at me like that without being 
sent for 1 Answer ! " 

After looking at me calmly for half a minute, he began turning 
round again. 

" Stay ! " I roared, running up to him, " don't stir ! There. 
Answer, now : what did you come in to look at ? " 

" If you have any order to give me it's my duty to carry it 
out," he answered, after another silent pause, with a slow, 
measured lisp, raising his eyebrows and calmly twisting his head 
from one side to another, all this with exasperating composure. 

" That's not what I am asking you about, you torturer I " 
I shouted, turning crimson with anger. " I'll tell you why you 
came here myself : you see, I don't give you your wages, you 
are so proud you don't want to bow down and ask for it, and so 
you come to punish me with your stupid stares, to worry me and 
you have no BUS . . . pic . . . ion how stupid it is stupid, 
stupid, stupid, stupid 1 "... 

He would have turned round again without a word, but I 
seized him. 

" Listen," I shouted to him. " Here's the money, do you see, 
here it is " (I took it out of the table drawer) ; " here's the seven 
roubles complete, but you are not going to have it, you . . . 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 143 

are . . . not . . going ... to ... have it until you come 
respectfully with bowed head to beg my pardon. Do you 
hear ? " 

" That cannot be," he answered, with the most unnatural 
self-confidence. 

" It shall be so," I said, " I give you my word of honour, it 
shaU be ! " 

" And there's nothing for me to beg your pardon for," he 
went on, as though he had not noticed my exclamations at 
all. "Why, besides, you called me a 'torturer,' for which I 
can summon you at the police -station at any time for insulting 
behaviour." 

" Go, summon me," I roared, "go at once, this very minute, 
this very second ! You are a torturer all the same ! a torturer ! " 

But he merely looked at me, then turned, and regardless of 
my loud calls to him, he walked to his room with an even step 
and without looking round. 

"If it had not been for Liza nothing of this would have 
happened," I decided inwardly. Then, after waiting a minute, 
I went myself behind his screen with a dignified and solemn air, 
though my heart was beating slowly and violently. 

" Apollon," I said quietly and emphatically, though I was 
breathless, "go at once without a minute's delay and fetch the 
police-officer." 

He had meanwhile settled himself at his table, put on his 
spectacles and taken up some sewing. But, hearing my order, 
he burst into a guffaw. 

" At once, go this minute ! Go on, or else you can't imagine 
what will happen." 

" You are certainly out of your mind," he observed, without 
even raising his head, lisping as deliberately as ever and threading 
his needle. " Whoever heard of a man sending for the police 
against himself ? And as for being frightened } r ou are upsetting 
yourself about nothing, for nothing will come of it." 

" Go ! " I shrieked, clutching him by the shoulder. I felt I 
should strike him in a minute. 

But I did not notice the door from the passage softly and 
slowly open at that instant and a figure come in, stop short, 
and begin staring at us in perplexity. I glanced, nearly swooned 
with shame, and rushed back to my room. There, clutching at my 



144 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

hair with both hands, I leaned my head against the wall and 
stood motionless in that position. 

Two minutes later I heard Apollon's deliberate footsteps. 
" There is some woman asking for you," he said, looking at me 
with peculiar severity. Then he stood aside and let in Liza. 
He would not go away, but stared at us sarcastically. 

" Go away, go away," I commanded in desperation. At that 
moment my clock began whirring and wheezing and struck 
seven. 



IX 

" Into my house come bold and free, 
Its rightful mistress there to be." 

I stood before her crushed, crestfallen, revoltingly confused, 
and I believe I smiled as I did my utmost to wrap myself in the 
skirts of my ragged wadded dressing-gown exactly as I had 
imagined the scene not long before in a fit of depression. After 
standing over us for a couple of minutes Apollon went away, 
but that did not make me more at ease. What made it worse 
was that she, too, was overwhelmed with confusion, more so, in 
fact, than I should have expected. At the sight of me, of course. 

" Sit down," I said mechanically, moving a chair up to the 
table, and I sat down on the sofa. She obediently sat down at 
once and gazed at me open-eyed, evidently expecting some- 
thing from me at once. This naivet6 of expectation drove me 
to fury, but I restrained myself. 

She ought to have tried not to notice, as though everything 
had been as usual, while instead of that, she . . . and I dimly 
felt that I should make her pay dearly for all this. 

" You have found me in a strange position, Liza," I began, 
stammering and knowing that this was the wrong way to begin. 
" No, no, don't imagine anything," I cried, seeing that she had 
suddenly flushed. " I am not ashamed of my poverty. . . . 
On the contrary I look with pride on my poverty. I am poor 
but honourable. . . . One can be poor and honourable," I 
muttered. " However . . . would you like tea? "... 

" No," she was beginning. 

" Wait a minute." 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 145 

I leapt up and ran to Apollon. I had to get out of the room 
somehow. 

" Apollon," I whispered in feverish haste, flinging down before 
him the seven roubles which had remained all the time in my 
clenched fist, " here are your wages, you see I give them to you ; 
but for that you must come to my rescue : bring me tea and a 
dozen rusks from the restaurant. If you won't go, you'll make 
me a miserable man ! You don't know what this woman is. ... 
This is everything ! You may be imagining something. . . . 
But you don't know what that woman is ! " . . . 

Apollon, who had already sat down to his work and put on his 
spectacles again, at first glanced askance at the money without 
speaking or putting down his needle ; then, without paying the 
slightest attention to me or making any answer he went on 
busying himself with his needle, which he had not yet threaded. 
I waited before him for three minutes with my arms crossed a la 
Napoldon. My temples were moist with sweat. I was pale, I 
felt it. But, thank God, he must have been moved to pity, 
looking at me. Having threaded his needle he deliberately 
got up from his seat, deliberately moved back his chair, deliber- 
ately took off his spectacles, deliberately counted the money, 
and finally asking me over his shoulder : " Shall I get a whole 
portion?" deliberately walked out of the room. As I was 
going back to Liza, the thought occurred to me on the way : 
shouldn't I run away just as I was in my dressing-gown, no 
matter where, and then let happen what would. 

I sat down again. She looked at me uneasily. For some 
minutes we were silent. 

" I will kill him," I shouted suddenly, striking the table with 
my fist so that the ink spurted out of the inkstand. 

" What are you saying ! " she cried, starting. 

" I will kill him ! kill him ! " I shrieked, suddenly striking the 
table in absolute frenzy, and at the same time fully understanding 
how stupid it was to be in such a frenzy. " You don't know, 
Liza, what that torturer is to me. He is my torturer. . . . He 
has gone now to fetch some rusks; he . . ." 

And suddenly I burst into tears. It was an hysterical attack. 
How ashamed I felt in the midst of my sobs; but still I could 
not restrain them.- 

She was frightened. 
L 



146 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

" What is the matter ? What is wrong ? " she cried, fussing 
about me. 

" Water, give me water, over there I " I muttered in a faint, 
voice, though I was inwardly conscious that I could have got on 
very well without water and without muttering in a faint voice, 
But I was, what is called, putting it on, to save appearances, 
though the attack was a genuine one. 

She gave me water, looking at me in bewilderment. At 
that moment Apollon brought in the tea. It suddenly seemed 
to me that this commonplace, prosaic tea was horribly undignified 
and paltry after all that had happened, and I blushed crimson. 
Liza looked at Apollon with positive alarm. He went out 
without a glance at either of us. 

" Liza, do you despise me ? " I asked, looking at her fixedly, 
trembling with impatience to know what she was thinking. 

She was confused, and did not know what to answer. 

" Drink your tea," I said to her angrily. I was angry with 
myself, but, of course, it was she who would have to pay for it. 
A horrible spite against her suddenly surged up in my heart; 
I believe I could have killed her. To revenge myself on her I 
swore inwardly not to say a word to her all the time. " She is 
the cause of it all," I thought. 

Our silence lasted for five minutes. The tea stood on the 
table ; we did not touch it. I had got to the point of purposely 
refraining from beginning in order to embarrass her further; 
it was awkward for her to begin alone. Several times she glanced 
at me with mournful perplexity. I was obstinately silent. I 
was, of course, myself the chief sufferer, because I was fully 
conscious of the disgusting meanness of my spiteful stupidity, 
and yet at the same time I could not restrain myself. 

" I want to ... get away . . . from there altogether," she 
began, to break the silence in some way, but, poor girl, that Avaa 
just what she ought not to have spoken about at such a stupid 
moment to a man so stupid as I was. My heart positively ached 
with pity for her tactless and unnecessary straightforwardness. 
But something hideous at once stifled all compassion in me ; it 
even provoked me to greater venom. I did not care what 
happened. Another five minutes passed. 

" Perhaps I am in your way," she began timidly, hardly 
audibly, and was getting up. 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 147 

But as soon as I saw this first impulse of wounded dignity 
I positively trembled with spite, and at once burst out. 

" Why have you come to me, tell me that, please 1 " I began, 
gasping for breath and regardless of logical connection in my 
words. I longed to have it all out at once, at one burst ; I did 
not even trouble how to begin. " Why have you come ? Answer, 
answer," I cried, hardly knowing what I was doing. "I'll tell 
you, my good girl, why you have come. You've come because 
I talked sentimental stuff to you then. So now you are soft as 
butter and longing for fine sentiments again. So you may as well 
know that I was laughing at you then. And I am laughing at you 
now. Why are you shuddering ? Yes, I was laughing at you ! 
I had been insulted just before, at dinner, by the fellows who 
came that evening before me. I came to you, meaning to 
thrash one of them, an officer; but I didn't succeed, I didn't 
find him; I had to avenge the insult on some one to get back 
my own again ; you turned up, I vented my spleen on you and 
laughed at you. I had been humiliated, so I wanted to humiliate ; 
I had been treated like a rag, so I wanted to show my power. . . . 
That's what it was, and you imagined I had come there on purpose 
to save you. Yes 1 You imagined that ? You imagined that ? " 

I knew that she would perhaps be muddled and not take it 
all in exactly, but I knew, too, that she would grasp the gist of 
it, very well indeed. And so, indeed, she did. She turned white 
as a handkerchief, tried to say something, and her lips worked 
painfully ; but she sank on a chair as though she had been felled 
by an axe. And all the time afterwards she listened to me 
with her lips parted and her eyes wide open, shuddering with 
awful terror. The cynicism, the cynicism of my words over- 
whelmed her. . . . 

" Save you ! " I went on, jumping up from my chair and 
running up and down the room before her. " Save you from what ? 
But perhaps I am worse than you myself. Why didn't you 
throw it in my teeth when I was giving you that sermon : ' But 
what did yon come here yourself for? was it to read us a 
sermon ? ' Power, power was what I wanted then, sport was what 
I wanted, I wanted to wring out your tears, your humiliation, 
your hysteria that was what I wanted then ! Of course, I 
couldn't keep it- up then, because I am a wretched creature, I 
was frightened, and, the devil knows why, gave you my address 



148 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

in my folly. Afterwards, before I got home, I was cursing and 
swearing at you because of that address, I hated you already 
because of the lies I had told you. Because I only like playing 
with words, only dreaming, but, do you know, what I really want 
is that you should all go to hell. That is what I want. I want 
peace ; yes, I'd sell the whole world for a farthing, straight off, 
so long as I was left in peace. Is the world to go to pot, or am 
I to go without my tea ? I say that the world may go to pot 
for me so long as I always get my tea. Did you know that, or 
not 1 Well, anyway, I know that I am a blackguard, a scoundrel, 
an egoist, a sluggard. Here I have been shuddering for the last 
three days at the thought of your coming. And do you know 
what has worried me particularly for these three days ? That I 
posed as such a hero to you, and now you would see me in a 
wretched torn dressing-gown, beggarly, loathsome. I told you 
just now that I was not ashamed of my poverty ; so you may as 
well know that I am ashamed of it ; I am more ashamed of it 
than of anything, more afraid of it than of being found out if I 
were a thief, because I am as vain as though I had been skinned 
and the very air blowing on me hurt. Surely by now you must 
realize that I shall never forgive you for having found me in 
this wretched dressing-gown, just as I was flying at Apollon 
like a spiteful cur. The saviour, the former hero, was flying like 
a mangy, unkempt sheep-dog at his lackey, and the lackey was 
jeering at him ! And I shall never forgive you for the tears I 
could not help shedding before you just now, like some silly 
woman put to shame ! And for what I am confessing to you 
now, I shall never forgive you either ! Yes you must answer 
for it all because you turned up like this, because I am a black- 
guard, because I am the nastiest, stupidest, absurdest and most 
envious of all the worms on earth, who are not a bit better than 
I am, but, the devil knows why, are never put to confusion; 
while I shall always be insulted by every louse, that is my 
doom ! And what is it to me that you don't understand a 
word of this ! And what do I care, what do I care about 
you, and whether you go to ruin there or not ? Do you under- 
stand ? How I shall hate you now after saying this, for having 
been here and listening. Why, it's not once in a lifetime 
a man speaks out like this, and then it is in hysterics ! . . . 
What more do you want ? Why do you still stand confronting 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 149 

me, after all this ? Why are you worrying me ? Why don't 
you go ? " 

But at this point a strange thing happened. I was so accus- 
tomed to think and imagine everything from books, and to picture 
everything in the world to myself just as I had made it up in 
my dreams beforehand, that I could not all at once take in this 
strange circumstance. What happened was this : Liza, insulted 
and crushed by me, understood a great deal more than I imagined. 
She understood from all this what a woman understands first 
of all, if she feels genuine love, that is, that I was myself unhappy. 

The frightened and wounded expression on her face was 
followed first by a look of sorrowful perplexity. When I began 
calling myself a scoundrel and a blackguard and my tears flowed 
(the tirade was accompanied throughout by tears) her whole face 
worked convulsively. She was on the point of getting up and 
stopping me ; when I finished she took no notice of my shouting : 
" Why are you here, why don't you go away ? " but realized only 
that it must have been very bitter to me to say all this. Besides, 
she was so crushed, poor girl; she considered herself infinitely 
beneath me ; how could she feel anger or resentment ? She 
suddenly leapt up from her chair with an irresistible impulse 
and held out her hands, yearning towards me, though still timid 
and not daring to stir. ... At this point there was a revulsion 
in my heart, too. Then she suddenly rushed to me, threw her 
arms round me and burst into tears. I, too, could not restrain 
myself, and sobbed as I never had before. 

" They won't let me ... I can't be good ! " I managed to 
articulate ; then I went to the sofa, fell on it face downwards, and 
sobbed on it for a quarter of an hour in genuine hysterics. She 
came close to me, put her arms round me and stayed motionless 
in that position. But the trouble was that the hysterics could 
not go on for ever, and (I am writing the loathsome truth) lying 
face downwards on the sofa with my face thrust into my nasty 
leather pillow, I began by degrees to be aware of a far-away, 
involuntary but irresistible feeling that it would be awkward 
now for me to raise my head and look Liza straight in the face. 
Why was I ashamed ? I don't know, but I was ashamed. The 
thought, too, came into my overwrought brain that our parts 
now were completely changed, tfrat she was now the heroine, 
while I was just such a crushed and humiliated creature as she 



150 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

had been before me that night four days before. . . . And 
all this came into my mind during the minutes I was lying on 
my face on the sofa. 

My God ! surely I was not envious of her then. 

I don't know, to this day I cannot decide, and at the time, 
of course, I was still less able to understand what I was feeling 
than now. I cannot get on without domineering and tyrannizing 
over some one, but . . . there is no explaining anything by 
reasoning and so it is useless to reason. 

I conquered myself, however, and raised my head; I had to 
do so sooner or later . . . and I am convinced to this day that 
it was just because I was ashamed to look at her that another 
feeling was suddenly kindled and flamed up in my heart . . . 
a feeling of mastery and possession. My eyes gleamed with pas- 
sion, and I gripped her hands tightly. How I hated her and how 
I was drawn to her at that minute ! The one feeling intensified 
the other. It was almost like an act of vengeance. At first 
there was a look of amazement, even of terror on her face, but 
only for one instant. She warmly and rapturously embraced me. 



A quarter of an hour later I was rushing up and down the room 
in frenzied impatience, from minute to minute I went up to the 
screen and peeped through the crack at Liza. She was sitting 
on the ground with her head leaning against the bed, and must 
have been crying. But she did not go away, and that irritated 
me. This time she understood it all. I had insulted her finally, 
but . . . there's no need to describe it. She realized that my 
outburst of passion had been simply revenge, a fresh humilia- 
tion, and that to my earlier, almost causeless hatred was added 
now a personal haired, born of envy. . . . Though I do not 
maintain positively that she understood all this distinctly; but 
she certainly did fully understand that I was a despicable man, 
and what was worse, incapable of loving her. 

I know I shall be told that this is incredible but it is incredible 

to be as spiteful and stupid as I was ; it may be added that it 

was strange I should not love her, or at any rate, appreciate her 

Why is it strange ? In the first place, by then I was 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 151 

incapable of love, for I repeat, with me loving meant tyrannizing 
and showing my moral superiority. I have never in my life 
boon able to imagine any other sort of love, and have nowadays 
come to the point of sometimes thinking that love really consists 
in the right freely given by the beloved object to tyrannize 
over her. 

Even in my underground dreams I did not imagine love except 
as a struggle. I began it always with hatred and ended it with 
moral subjugation, and afterwards I never knew what to do with 
the subjugated object. And what is there to wonder at in that, 
since I had succeeded in so corrupting myself, since I was so out of 
touch with " real life," as to have actually thought of reproaching 
her, and putting her to shame for having come to me to hear 
" fine sentiments " ; and did not even guess that she had come 
not to hear fine sentiments, but to love me, because to a woman 
all reformation, all salvation from any sort of ruin, and all 
moral renewal is included in love and can only show itself in 
that form. 

I did not hate her so much, however, when I was running about 
the room and peeping through the crack in the screen. I was 
only insufferably oppressed by her being here. I wanted her 
to disappear. I wanted " peace," to be left alone in my under- 
ground world. Real life oppressed mo with its novelty so much 
that I could hardly breathe. 

But several minutes passed and she still remained, without 
stirring, as though she were unconscious. I had the shameless- 
ness to tap softly at the screen as though to remind her. . . . 
She started, sprang up, and flew to seek her kerchief, her hat, 
her coat, as though making her escape from me. . . . Two 
minutes later she came from behind the screen and looked with 
heavy eyes at me. I gave a spiteful grin, which was forced, 
however, to keep up appearances, and I turned away from her 
eyes. 

" Good-bye," she said, going towards the door. 

I ran up to her, seized her hand, opened it, thrust something 
in it and closed it again. Then I turned at once and dashed 
away in haste to the other corner of the room to avoid seeing, 
anyway. . . . 

I did mean a moment since to tell a lie to write that I did this 
accidentally, not knowing what I was doing through foolishness, 



152 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

through losing my head. But I don't want to lie, and so I will 
say straight out that I opened her hand and put the money in 
it ... from spite. It came into my head to do this while I 
was running up and down the room and she was sitting behind 
the screen. But this I can say for certain : though I did that 
cruel thing purposely, it was not an impulse from the heart, 
but came from my evil brain. This cruelty was so affected, so 
purposely made up, so completely a product of the brain, of 
books, that I could not even keep it up a minute first I dashed 
away to avoid seeing her, and then in shame and despair 
rushed after Liza. I opened the door in the passage and began 
listening. 

" Liza ! Liza ! " I cried on the stairs, but in a low voice, 
not boldly. 

There was no answer, but I fancied I heard her footsteps, 
lower down on the stairs. 

" Liza 1 " I cried, more loudly. 

No answer. But at that minute I heard the stiff outer glass 
door open heavily with a creak and slam violently, the sound 
echoed up the stairs. 

She had gone. I went back to my room in hesitation. I felt 
horribly oppressed. 

I stood still at the table, beside the chair on which she had sat 
and looked aimlessly before me. A minute passed, suddenly 
I started ; straight before me on the table I saw. ... In short, 
I saw a crumpled blue five-rouble note, the one I had thrust into 
her hand a minute before. It was the same note; it could be 
no other, there was no other in the flat. So she had managed to 
fling it from her hand on the table at the moment when I had 
dashed into the further corner. 

" Well ! I might have expected that she would do that. Might 
I have expected it ? No, I was such an egoist, I was so lacking 
In respect for my fellow-creatures that I could not even imagine 
she would do so. I could not endure it. A minute later I flew 
like a madman to dress, flinging on what I could at random 
and ran headlong after her. She could not have got two hundred 
paces away when I ran out into the street. 

It was a still night and the snow was coming down in masses 
and falling almost perpendicularly, covering the pavement and 
the empty street as though with a pillow. There was no one in 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 153 

the street, no sound was to be heard. The street lamps gave a 
disconsolate and useless glimmer. I ran two hundred paces to the 
cross-roads and stopped short. 

Where had she gone ? And why was I running after her ? 

Why? To fall down before her, to sob with remorse, to kiss 
her feet, to entreat her forgiveness ! I longed for that, my whole 
breast was being rent to pieces, and never, never shall I recall 
that minute with indifference. But what for? I thought. 
Should I not begin to hate her, perhaps, even to-morrow, just 
because I had kissed her feet to-day ? Should I give her happi- 
ness ? Had I not recognized that day, for the hundredth time, 
what I was worth ? Should I not torture her ? 

I stood in the snow, gazing into the troubled darkness and 
pondered this. 

" And will it not be better ? " I mused fantastically, afterwards 
at home, stifling the living pang of my heart with fantastic dreams. 
" Will it not be better that she should keep the resentment of 
the insult for ever? Resentment why, it is purification; it 
is a most stinging and painful consciousness ! To-morrow I 
should have defiled her soul and have exhausted her heart, while 
now the feeling of insult will never die in her heart, and however 
loathsome the filth awaiting her the feeling of insult will 
elevate and purify her ... by hatred . . . h'm ! . . . perhaps, 
too, by forgiveness. . . . Will all that make things easier for her 
though? . . ." 

And, indeed, I will ask on my own account here, an idle 
question : which is better cheap happiness or exalted suffer- 
ings ? Well, which is better ? 

So I dreamed as I sat at home that evening, almost dead with 
the pain in my soul. Never had I endured such suffering and 
remorse, yet could there have been the faintest doubt when 
I ran out from my lodging that I should turn back half-way ? 
I never met Liza again and I have heard nothing of her. I will 
add, too, that I remained for a long time afterwards pleased with 
the phrase about the benefit from resentment and hatred in spite 
of the fact that I almost fell ill from misery. 

Even now, so many years later, all this is somehow a very evil 
memory. I have, many evil memories now, but . . . hadn't 
I better end my " Notes " here ? I believe I made a mistake 



154 NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 

in beginning to write them, anyway I have felt ashamed all the 
time I've been writing this story; so it's hardly literature so 
much as a corrective punishment. Why, to tell 'long stories, 
showing how I have spoiled my life through morally rotting in 
my corner, through lack of fitting environment, through divorce 
from real life, and rankling spite in my underground world, would 
certainly not be interesting; a novel needs a hero, and all the 
traits for an anti-hero are expressly gathered together here, and 
what matters most, it all produces an unpleasant impression, 
for we are all divorced from life, we are all cripples, every one of 
us, more or less. We are so divorced from it that we feel at once 
>a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded 
of it. Why, we have come almost to looking upon real life as 
an effort, almost as har^d work, and we are all privately agreed 
that it is better in books. And why do we fuss and fume some- 
times ? Why are we perverse and ask for something else ? 
We don't know what ourselves. It would be the worse for 
us if our petulant prayers were answered. Come, try, give 
any one of us, for instance, a little more independence, untie 
our hands, widen the spheres of our activity, relax the control 
and we ... yes, I assure you ... we should be begging to be 
under control again at once. I know that you will very likely 
be angry with me for that, and will begin shouting and stamping. 
Speak for yourself, you will say, and for your miseries in your 
underground holes, and don't dare to say all of us excuse me, 
gentlemen, I am not justifying myself with that " all of us." 
As for what concerns me in particular I have only in my life 
carried to an extreme what you have not dared to carry half- 
way, and what's more, you have taken your cowardice for good 
sense, and have found comfort in deceiving yourselves. So that 
perhaps, after all, there is more life in me than in you. Look 
into it more carefully ! Why, we don't even know what living 
means now, what it is, and what it is called ? Leave us alone 
without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. 
We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what 
to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. 
We are oppressed at being men men with a real individual 
body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace 
and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalized man. 
We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, 



NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND 155 

not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We 
are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born 
somehow from an idea. But enough ; I don't want to write 
more from " Underground." 

[The notes of this paradoxalist do not end here, Jwwever. He 
could not refrain from going on with them, but it seems to us that 
we may stop here.] 



A FAINT HEART 
A STORY 

UNDER the same roof in the same flat on the same fourth storey 
lived two young men, colleagues in the service, Arkady Ivanovitch 
Nefedevitch and Vasya Shumkov. . . . The author of course, 
feels the necessity of explaining to the reader why one is given 
his full title, while the other's name is abbreviated, if only that 
such a mode of expression may not be regarded as unseemly 
and rather familiar. But, to do so, it would first be necessary 
to explain and describe the rank and years and calling and duty 
in the service, and even, indeed, the characters of the persons 
concerned ; and since there are so many writers who begin in 
that way the author of the proposed story, solely in order to be 
unlike them (that is, some people will perhaps say, entirely on 
account of his boundless vanity), decides to begin straightaway 
with action. Having completed this introduction, he begins. 

Towards six o'clock on New Year's Eve Shumkov returned 
home. Arkady Ivanovitch, who was lying on the bed, woke up 
and looked at his friend with half-closed eyes. He saw that Vasya 
had on his very best trousers and a very clean shirt front. That, 
of course, struck him. " Where had Vasya to go like that ? 
And he had not dined at home either ! " Meanwhile, Shumkov 
had lighted a candle, and Arkady Ivanovitch guessed immediately 
that his friend was intending to wake him accidentally. Vasya 
did, in fact, clear his throat twice, walked twice up and down 
the room, and at last, quite accidentally, let the pipe, wlu'ch he 
had begun filling in the corner by the stove, slip out of his hands. 
Arkady Ivanovitch laughed to himself. 

" Vasya, give over pretending ! " he said. 

" Arkasha, you are not asleep? " 

" I really cannot say for certain ; it seems to me I am not." 

" Oh, Arkasha I How are you, dear boy ? Well, brother I 

156 



A FAINT HEART 167 

Well, brother ! . . . You don't know what I have to tell 
you ! " 

" I certainly don't know; come here." 

As though expecting this, Vasya went up to him at once, 
not at all anticipating, however, treachery from Arkady Ivano- 
vitch. The other seized him very adroitly by the arms, turned 
him over, held him down, and began, as it is called, " strangling " 
his victim, and apparently this proceeding afforded the light- 
hearted Arkady Ivanovitch great satisfaction. 

" Caught ! " he cried. " Caught ! " 

" Arkasha, Arkasha, what are you about ? Let me go. For 
goodness sake, let me go, I shall crumple my dress coat ! " 

" As though that mattered ! What do you want with a 
dress coat ? Why were you so confiding as to put yourself in 
my hands ? Tell me, where have you been ? Where have you 
dined ? " 

" Arkasha, for goodness sake, let me go ! " 

" Where have you dined ? " 

" Why, it's about that I want to tell you." 

" TeU away, then." 

" But first let me go." 

" Not a bit of it, I won't let you go till you tell me ! " 

" Arkasha ! Arkasha ! But do you understand, I can't 
it is utterly impossible ! " cried Vasya, helplessly wriggling out of 
his friend's powerful clutches, " you know there are subjects ! " 

" How subjects ? " . . . 

" Why, subjects that you can't talk about in such a position 
without losing your dignity; it's utterly impossible; it would 
make it ridiculous, and this is not a ridiculous matter, it is 
important." 

" Here, he's going in for being important ! That's a new idea ! 
You tell me so as to make me laugh, that's how you must tell 
me ; I don't want anything important ; or else you are no true 
friend of mine. Do you call yourself a friend ? Eh ? " 

" Arkasha, I really can't ! " 

" Well, I don't want to hear. . . ." 

" Well, Arkasha ! " began Vasya, lying across the bed and doing 
his utmost to put all the dignity possible into his words. " Ar- 
kasha ! If you like, I will tell you ; only . . ." 

" WeU, what ? . . ." 



158 A FAINT HEART 

" Well, I am engaged to be married ! " 

Without uttering another word Arkady Ivanovitch took Vasya 
up in his arms like a baby, though the latter was by no means 
short, but rather long and thin, and began dexterously carrying 
him up and down the room, pretending that he was hushing him 
to sleep. 

" I'll put you in your swaddling clothes, Master Bridegroom," 
he kept saying. But seeing that Vasya lay in his arms, not 
stirring or uttering a word, he thought better of it at once, and 
reflecting that the joke had gone too far, set him down in the 
middle of the room and kissed him on the cheek in the most 
genuine and friendly way. 

" Vasya, you are not angry ? " 

" Arkasha, listen. ..." 

" Come, it's New Year's Eve." 

" Oh, I'm all right ; but why are you such a madman, such a 
scatterbrain ? How many times I have told you : Arkasha, it's 
really not funny, not funny at all ! " 

" Oh, well, you are not angry ? " 

" Oh, I'm all right ; am I ever angry with any one ! But you 
have wounded me, do you understand ? " 

" But how have I wounded you ? In what way ? " 

" I come to you as to a friend, with a full heart, to pour out 
my soul to you, to tell you of my happiness . . ." 

" What happiness ? Why don't you speak ? . . ." 

" Oh, well, I am going to get married ! " Vasya answered with 
vexation, for he really was a little exasperated. 

" You ! You are going to get married ! So you really mean 
it ? " Arkasha cried at the top of his voice. " No, no ... but 
what's this ? He talks like this and his tears are flowing. . . . 
Vasya, my little Vasya, don't, my little son ! Is it true, really ? " 
And Arkady Ivanovitch flew to hug him again. 

" Well, do you see, how it is now ? " said Vasya. " You are 
kind, of course, you are a friend, I know that. I come to you 
with such joy, such rapture, and all of a sudden I have to disclose 
all the joy of my heart, all my rapture struggling across the bed, 
in an undignified way. . . . You understand, Arkasha," Vasya 
went on, half laughing. " You see, it made it seem comic : 
and in a sense I did not belong to myself at that minute. I 
could not let this be slighted. . . What's more, if you had 



A FAINT HEART 169 

asked me her name, I swear, I would sooner you killed me than 
have answered you." 

" But, Vasya, why did you not speak ! You should have 
told me all about it sooner and I would not have played the 
fool ! " cried Arkady Ivanovitch in genuine despair. 

" Come, that's enough, that's enough ! Of course, that's how 
it is. . . . You know what it all comes from from my having 
a good heart. What vezes me is, that I could not tell you as 
I wanted to, making you glad and happy, telling you nicely and 
Initiating you into my secret properly. . . . Really, Arkasha, 
I love you so much that I believe if it were not for you I shouldn't 
be getting married, and, in fact, I shouldn't be living in this 
world at all ! " 

Arkady Ivanovitch, who was excessively sentimental, cried 
and laughed at once as he listened to Vasya. Vasya did the 
same. Both flew to embrace one another again and forgot the 
past. 

" How is it how is it ? Tell me all about it, Vasya ! I am 
astonished, excuse me, brother, but I am utterly astonished; 
it's a perfect thunderbolt, by Jove ! Nonsense, nonsense, 
brother, you have made it up, you've really made it up, you are 
telling fibs 1 " cried Arkady Ivanovitch, and he actually looked 
into Vasya's face with genuine uncertainty, but seeing in it the 
radiant confirmation of a positive intention of being married as 
soon as possible, threw himself on the bed and began rolling 
from side to side in ecstasy till the walls shook. 

" Vasya, sit here," he said at last, sitting down on the bed. 

" I really don't know, brother, where to begin ! " 

They looked at one another in joyful excitement. 

" Who is she, Vasya ? " 

" The Artemyevs ! . . ." Vasya pronounced, in a voice weak 
with emotion. 

" No ? " 

" Well, I did buzz into your ears about them at first, and then 
I shut up, and you noticed nothing. Ah, Arkasha, if you knew 
how hard it was to keep it from you ; but I was afraid, afraid to 
speak ! I thought it would all go wrong, and you know I was 
in love, Arkasha ! My God ! my God ! You see this was the 
trouble," he began, pausing continually from agitation, " she 
had a suitor a year ago, but he was suddenly ordered somewhere ; 



160 A FAINT HEART 

I knew him he was a fellow, bless him 1 Well, he did not 
write at all, he simply vanished. They waited and waited, 
wondering what it meant. . . . Four months ago he suddenly 
came back married, and has never set foot within their doors I 
It was coarse shabby ! And they had no one to stand up for 
them. She cried and cried, poor girl, and I fell in love with her 
. . . indeed, I had been in love with her long before, all the time ! 
I began comforting her, and was always going there. . . . Well, 
and I really don't know how it has all come about, only she came 
to love me ; a week ago I could not restrain myself, I cried, I 
sobbed, and told her everything well, that I love her every- 
thing, in fact !...'! am ready to love you, too, Vassily Petro- 
vitch, only I am a poor girl, don't make a mock of me ; I don't 
dare to love any one.' Well, brother, you understand ! You 
understand ? . . . On that we got engaged on the spot . I kept 
thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, I said to her, 
' How are we to tell your mother ? ' She said, ' It will be hard, 
wait a little ; she's afraid, and now maybe she would not let you 
have me; she keeps crying, too.' Without telling her I blurted 
it out to her mother to-day. Lizanka fell on her knees before 
her, I did the same . . . well, she gave us her blessing. Arkasha, 
Arkasha ! My dear fellow ! We will live together. No, I 
won't part from you for anything." 

" Vasya, look at you as I may, I can't believe it. I don't 
believe it, I swear. I keep feeling as though. . . . Listen, how 
can you be engaged to be married ? . . . How is it I didn't know, 
eh ? Do you know, Vasya, I will confess it to you now. I 
was thinking of getting married myself; but now since you 
are going to be married, it is just as good ! Be happy, be 
happy ! . . ." 

" Brother, I feel so lighthearted now, there is such sweetness 
in my soul ..." said Vasya, getting up and pacing about the 
room excitedly. " Don't you feel the same ? We shall be 
poor, of course, but we shall be happy ; and you know it is not 
a wild fancy; our happiness is not a fairy tale; we shall be 
happy in reality ! . . ." 

" Vasya, Vasya, listen ! " 

" What ? " said Vasya, standing before Arkady Ivanovitch. 

" The idea occurs to me ; I am really afraid to say it to you. 
. . . Forgive me, and settle my doubts. What are you going 



A FAINT HEART 161 

to live on ? You know I am delighted that you are going to be 
married, of course, I am delighted, and I don't know what to do 
with myself, but what are you going to live on ? Eh ? " 

" Oh, good Heavens ! What a fellow you are, Arkasha ! " 
said Vasya, looking' at Nefedevitch in profound astonishment. 
" What do you mean ? Even her old mother, even she did not 
think of that for two minutes when I put it all clearly before 
her. You had better ask what they are living on ! They have 
five hundred roubles a year between the three of them : the 
pension, which is all they have, since the father died. She and 
her old mother and her little brother, whose schooling is paid 
for out of that income too that is how they live ! It's you 
and I are the capitalists ! Some good years it works out to as 
much as seven hundred for me." 

" I say, Vasya, excuse me; I really . . . you know I ... I 
am only thinking how to prevent things going wrong. How do 
you mean, seven hundred ? It's only three hundred . . ." 

" Three hundred ! . . . And Yulian Mastakovitch ? Have you 
forgotten him ? " 

" Yulian Mastakovitch ? But you know that's uncertain, 
brother; that's not the same thing as three hundred roubles 
of secure salary, where every rouble is a friend you can trust. 
Yulian Mastakovitch, of course, he's a great man, in fact, I 
respect him, I understand him, though he is so far above us ; 
and, by Jove, I love him, because he likes you and gives you 
something for your work, though he might not pay you, but 
simply order a clerk to work for him but you will agree, Vasya. 
. . . Let me tell you, too, I am not talking nonsense. I admit 
in all Petersburg you won't find a handwriting like your hand- 
writing, I am ready to allow that to you," Nefedevitch concluded, 
not without enthusiasm. " But, God forbid ! you may displease 
him all at once, you may not satisfy him, your work with him 
may stop, he may take another clerk all sorts of things may 
happen, in fact ! You know, Yulian Mastakovitch may be here 
to-day and gone to-morrow . . ." 

" Well, Arkasha, the ceiling might fall on our heads this 
minute." 

" Oh, of course, of course, I mean nothing." 

" But listen, hear what I have got to say you know, I don't 
see how he can part with me. . . . No, hear what I have to say ! 

M 



162 A FAINT HEART 

hear what I have to say ! You see, I perform all my duties 
punctually; you know how kind he is, you know, Arkasha, he 
gave me fifty roubles in silver to-day 1 " 

" Did he really, Vasya ? A bonus for you ? " 

" Bonus, indeed, it was out of his own pocket. He said : 
' Why, you have had no money for five months, brother, take 
some if you want it ; thank you, I am satisfied with you.' . . . 
Yes, really ! ' Yes, you don't work for me for nothing,' said he. 
He did, indeed, that's what he said. It brought tears into my 
eyes, Arkasha. Good Heavens, yes ! " 

" I say, Vasya, have you finished copying those papers ? . . ." 

" No. ... I haven't finished them yet." 

" Vas . . . ya ! My angel ! What have you been doing ? " 

" Listen, Arkasha, it doesn't matter, they are not wanted for 
another two days, I have time enough. ..." 

" How is it you have not done them ? " 

'' That's all right, that's all right. You look so horror-stricken 
that you turn me inside out and make my heart ache 1 You 
are always going on at me like this ! He's for ever crying out : 
Oh, oh, oh ! ! ! Only consider, what does it matter ? Why, I 
shall finish it, of course I shall finish it. . . ." 

" What if you don't finish it ? " cried Arkady, jumping up, 
" and he has made you a present to-day ! And you going to be 
married. . . . Tut, tut, tut ! . . ." 

" It's all right, it's all right," cried Shumkov, " I shall sit 
down directly, I shall sit down this minute." 

" How did you come to leave it, Vasya ? " 

"Oh, Arkasha 1 How could I sit down to work ! Have I 
been in a fit state ? Why, even at the office I could scarcely 
sit still, I could scarcely bear the beating of my heart. . . . Oh ! 
oh ! Now I shall work all night, and I shall work all to-morrow 
night, and the night after, too and I shall finish it." 

" Is there a great deal left ? " 

" Don't hinder me, for goodness' sake, don't hinder me; hold 
your tongue." 

Arkady Ivanovitch went on tip-toe to the bed and sat down, 
then suddenly wanted to get up, but was obliged to sit down 
again, remembering that he might interrupt him, though he 
could not sit still for excitement : it was evident that the news 
had thoroughly upset him, and the first thrill of delight had not 



A FAINT HEART 163 

yet passed off. He glanced at Shumkov; the latter glanced at 
him, smiled, and shook his finger at him, then, frowning severely 
(as though all his energy and the success of his work depended 
upon it), fixed his eyes on the papers. 

It seemed that he, too, could not yet master his emotion; 
he kept changing his pen, fidgeting in his chair, re-arranging 
things, and setting to work again, but his hand trembled and 
refused to move. 

" Arkasha, I've talked to them about you," he cried suddenly, 
as though he had just remembered it. 

" Yes," cried Arkasha, " I was just wanting to ask you that. 
Well?" 

" Well, I'll tell you everything afterwards. Of course, it is 
my own fault, but it quite went out of my head that I didn't mean 
to say anything till I had written four pages, but I thought of 
you and of them. I really can't write, brother, I keep thinking 
about you. ..." 

Vasya smiled. 

A silence followed. 

" Phew ! What a horrid pen," cried Shumkov, flinging it on 
the table in vexation. He took another. 

" Vasya ! listen ! one word ..." 

" Well, make haste, and for the last time." 

" Have you a great deal left to do ? " 

" Ah, brother ! " Vasya frowned, as though there could be 
nothing more terrible and murderous in the whole world than 
such a question. " A lot, a fearful lot." 

" Do you know, I have an idea " 

" What ? " 

" Oh, never mind, never mind ; go on writing." 

" Why, what ? what 1 " 

" It's past six, Vasya." 

Here Nefedevitch smiled and winked slyly at Vasya, 
though with a certain timidity, not knowing how Vasya 
would take it. 

" Well, what is it ? " said Vasya, throwing down his pen, 
looking him straight in the face and actually turning pale with 
excitement. 

" Do you know what ? " 

" For goodness sake, what is it ? " 



164 A FAINT HEART 

" I tell you what, you are excited, you won't get much done. 
. . . Stop, stop, stop ! I have it, I have it listen," said 
Nefedevitch, jumping up from the bed in delight, preventing 
Vasya from speaking and doing his utmost to ward off all objec- 
tions ; " first of all you must get calm, you must pull yourself 
together, mustn't you ? " 

" Arkasha, Arkasha ! " cried Vasya, jumping up from bis 
chair, " I will work all night, I will, really." 

" Of course, of course, you won't go to bed till morning." 

" I won't go to bed, I won't go to bed at all." 

" No, that won't do, that won't do : you must sleep, go to bed 
at five. I will call you at eight. To-morrow is a holiday; you 
can sit and scribble away all day long. . . . Then the night and 
but have you a great deal left to do ? " 

" Yes, look, look ! " 

Vasya, quivering with excitement and suspense, showed the 
manuscript : " Look ! " 

" I say, brother, that's not much." 

" My dear fellow, there's some more of it," said Vasya, looking 
very timidly at Nefedevitch, as though the decision whether 
he was to go or not depended upon the latter. 

" How much ? " 

" Two signatures." 

" Well, what's that ? Come, I tell you what. We shall have 
time to finish it, by Jove, we shall ! " 

" Arkasha ! " 

" Vasya, listen ! To-night, on New Year's Eve, every one is 
at home with his family. You and I are the only ones without 
a home or relations. . . . Oh, Vasya ! " 

Nefedevitch clutched Vasya and hugged him in his leonine 
arms. 

" Arkasha, it's settled." 

" Vasya, boy, I only wanted to say this. You see, Vasya 
listen, bandy-legs, listen ! . . ." 

Arkady stopped, with his mouth open, because he could not 
speak for delight. Vasya held him by the shoulders, gu/.ed 
into his face and moved his lips, as though he wanted to speak 
for him. 

" Well," he brought out at last. 

" Introduce me to them to-day." 



A FAINT HEART 166 

" Arkady, let us go to tea there. I tell you what, I tell you 
what. We won't even stay to see in the New Year, we'll come 
away earlier," cried Vasya, with genuine inspiration. 

" That is, we'll go for two hours, neither more nor less . . . ." 

" And then separation till I have finished. ..." 

" Vasya, boy 1 " 

" Arkady ! " 

Three minutes later Arkady was dressed In his best. Vasya 
did nothing but brush himself, because he had been in such haste 
to work that he had not changed his trousers. 

They hurried out into the street, each more pleased than the 
other. Their way lay from the Petersburg Side to Kolomna. 
Arkady Ivanovitch stepped out boldly and vigorously, so that 
from his walk alone one could see how glad he was at the good 
fortune of his friend, who was more and more radiant with 
happiness. Vasya trotted along with shorter steps, though 
his deportment was none the less dignified. Arkady Ivanovitch, 
in fact, had never seen him before to such advantage. At that 
moment he actually felt more respect for him, and Vasya's 
physical defect, of which the reader is not yet aware (Vasya was 
slightly deformed), which always called forth a feeling of loving 
sympathy in Arkady Ivanovitch's kind heart, contributed to 
the deep tenderness the latter felt for him at this moment, a 
tenderness of which Vasya was in every way worthy. Arkady 
Ivanovitch felt ready to weep with happiness, but he restrained 
himself. 

" Where are you going, where are you going, Vasya ? It is 
nearer this way," he cried, seeing that Vasya was making in the 
direction of Voznesenky. 

" Hold your tongue, Ar kasha." 

" It really is nearer, Vasya." 

" Do you know what, Arkasha ? " Vasya began mysteriously, 
in a voice quivering with joy, " I tell you what, I want to take 
Lizanka a little present." 

" What sort of present ? " 

" At the corner here, brother, is Madame Leroux's, a wonderful 
shop." 

" Well." 

"A cap, my dear, a cap; I saw such a charming little cap 
to-day. I inquired, I was told it was the fa$on Manon Lescaut 



166 A FAINT HEART 

a delightful thing. Cherry-coloured ribbons, and if it is not 
dear . . . Arkasha, even if it is dear. . . ." 

" I think you are superior to any of the poets. Vasya. Come 
along." 

They ran along, and two minutes later went into the shop. 
They were met by a black-eyed Frenchwoman with curls, who, 
from the first glance at her customers, became as joyous and 
happy as they, even happier, if one may say so. Vasya was 
ready to kiss Madame Leroux in his delight. . . . 

" Arkasha," he said in an undertone, casting a casual glance 
at all the grand and beautiful things on little wooden stands on 
the huge table, " lovely things ! What's that ? What's this ? 
Tliis one, for instance, this little sweet, do you see ? " Vasya 
whispered, pointing to a charming cap further away, which 
was not the one he meant to buy, because he had already from 
afar descried and fixed his eyes upon the real, famous one, stand- 
ing at the other end. He looked at it in such a way that one 
might have supposed some one was going to steal it, or as though 
the cap itself might take wings and fly into the air just to prevent 
Vasya from obtaining it. 

" Look," said Arkady Ivanovitch, pointing to one, " I think 
that's better." 

" Well, Arkasha, that does you credit ; I begin to respect you 
for your taste," said Vasya, resorting to cunning with Arkasha 
in the tenderness of his heart, " your cap is charming, but come 
this way." 

" Where is there a better one, brother ? " 

" Look; this way." 

" That," said Arkady, doubtfully. 

But when Vasya, incapable of restraining himself any longer, 
took it from the stand from which it seemed to fly spontaneously, 
as though delighted at falling at last into the hands of so good 
a customer, and they heard the rustle of its ribbons, ruches and 
lace, an unexpected cry of delight broke from the powerful chest 
of Arkady Ivanovitch. Even Madame Leroux, while maintaining 
her incontestable dignity and pre-eminence in matters of taste, 
and remaining mute from condescension, rewarded Vasya with 
a smile of complete approbation, everytlung in her glance, 
gesture and smile saying at once : " Yes, you have chosen rightly, 
and are worthy of the happiness which awaits you." 



A FAINT HEART 167 

" It has been dangling its charms in coy seclusion," cried 
Vasya, transferring his tender feelings to the charming cap. 
" You have been hiding on purpose, you sly little pet ! " And 
he kissed it, that is the air surrounding it, for he was afraid to 
touch his treasure. 

" Retiring as true worth and virtue," Arkady added enthusi- 
astically, quoting humorously from a comic paper he had read 
that morning. " Well, Vasya? " 

" Hurrah, Arkasha ! You are witty to-day. I predict you 
will make a sensation, as women say. Madame Leroux, Madame 
Leroux ! " 

" What is your pleasure ? " 

" Dear Madame Leroux." 

Madame Leroux looked at Arkady Ivanovitch and smiled 
condescendingly . 

" You wouldn't believe how I adore you at this moment. . . . 
Allow me to give you a kiss. ..." And Vasya kissed the 
shopkeeper. 

She certainly at that moment needed all her dignity to main- 
tain her position with such a madcap. But I contend that the 
Innate, spontaneous courtesy and grace with which Madame Leroux 
received Vasya's enthusiasm, was equally befitting. She forgave 
him, and how tactfully, how graciously, she knew how to behave in 
the circumstances. How could she have been angry with Vasya ? 

" Madame Leroux, how much ? " 

" Five roubles in silver," she answered, straightening herself 
with a new smile. 

" And this one, Madame Leroux ? " said Arkady Ivanovitch, 
pointing to his choice. 

" That one is eight roubles." 

" There, you see there, you see I Come, Madame Leroux, 
tell me which is nicer, more graceful, more charming, which of 
them suits you best ? " 

" The second is richer, but your choice c'est plus coquet." 

" Then we will take it." 

Madame Leroux took a sheet of very delicate paper, pinned 
it up, and the paper with the cap wrapped in it seemed even 
lighter than the paper alone. Vasya took it carefully, almost 
holding his breath, bowed to Madame Leroux, said something 
else very polite to her and left the shop. 



168 A FAINT HEART 

" I am a lady's man, I was born to be a lady's man," said 
Vasya, laughing a little noiseless, nervous laugh and dodging the 
">y, whom he suspected of designs for crushing his 
precious cap. 

" Listen, Arkady, brother," he began a minute later, and there 
was a note of triumph, of infinite affection in his voice. " Arkady, 
I am so happy, I am so happy! " 

" Vasya ! how glad I am, dear boy ! " 

" No, Arkasha, no. I know that there is no limit to your 
affection for me ; but you cannot be feeling one-hundredth part 
of what I am feeling at this moment. My heart is so full, so 
full ! Arkasha, I am not worthy of such happiness. I feel that, 
I am conscious of it. Why has it come to me ? " he said, his 
voice full of stifled sobs. " What have I done to deserve it ? 
Tell me. Look what lots of people, what lots of tears, what 
sorrow, what work-a-day life without a holiday, while I, I am 
loved by a girl like that, I. ... But you will see her yourself 
immediately, you will appreciate her noble heart. I was born 
in a humble station, now I have a grade in the service and an 
independent income my salary. I was born with a physical 
defect, I am a little deformed. See, she loves me as I am. Yulian 
Mastakovitch was so kind, so attentive, so gracious to-day; 
he does not often talk to me ; he came up to me : ' Well, how 
goes it, Vasya ' (yes, really, he called me Vasya), ' are you going 
to have a good time for the holiday, eh ? ' he laughed. 

" ' Well, the fact is, Your Excellency, I have work to do,' 
but then I plucked up courage and said : ' and maybe I shall 
have a good time, too, Your Excellency.' I really said it. He 
gave me the money, on the spot, then he said a couple of words 
more to me. Tears came into my eyes, brother, I actually cried, 
and he, too, seemed touched, he patted me on the shoulder, and 
said : ' Feel always, Vasya, as you feel this now.' ' 

Vasya paused for an instant. Arkady Ivanovitch turned away, 
and he, too, wiped away a tear with his fist. 

" And, and . . ." Vasya went on, " I have never spoken to 
you of this, Arkady. . . Arkady, you make me so happy \\itli 
your affection, without you I could not live, no, no, don't 
say anything, Arkady, let me squeeze your hand, let me . . 
tha . . . ank . . . you ..." Again Vasya could not finish. 

Arkady Ivanovitch longed to throw himself on Vasya's neck. 



A FAINT HEART 169 

but as they were crossing the road and heard almost in their ears 
a shrill : " Hi ! there I " they ran frightened and excited to the 
pavement. 

Arkady Ivanovitch was positively relieved. He set down 
Vasya's outburst of gratitude to the exceptional circumstances 
of the moment. He was vexed. He felt that he had done so 
little for Vasya hitherto. He felt actually ashamed of himself 
when Vasya began thanking him for so little. But they had all 
their lives before them, and Arkady Ivanovitch breathed more 
freely. 

The Artemyevs had quite given up expecting them. The proof 
of it was that they had already sat down to tea ! And the old, 
it seems, are sometimes more clear-sighted than the young, even 
when the young are so exceptional. Lizanka had very earnestly 
maintained, " He isn't coming, he isn't coming, Mamma; I feel 
in my heart he is not coming ; " while her mother on the contrary 
declared " that she had a feeling that he would certainly come, 
that he would not stay away, that he would run round, that he 
could have no office work now, on New Year's Eve. Even as 
Lizanka opened the door she did not in the least expect to see 
them, and greeted them breathlessly, with her heart throbbing 
like a captured bird's, flushing and turning as red as a cherry, 
a fruit which she wonderfully resembled. Good Heavens, what 
a surprise it was ! What a joyful " Oh ! " broke from her lips. 
" Deceiver! My darling! " she cried, throwing her arms round 
Vasya's neck. But imagine her amazement, her sudden con- 
fusion : just behind Vasya, as though trying to hide behind his 
back, stood Arkady Ivanovitch, a trifle out of countenance. It 
must be admitted that he was awkward in the company of women, 
very awkward indeed, in fact on one occasion something occurred 
. . . but of that later. You must put yourself in his place, 
however. There was nothing to laugh at ; he was standing in 
the entry, in his goloshes and overcoat, and in a cap with flaps 
over the ears, which he would have hastened to pull off, but he 
had, all twisted round in a hideous way, a yellow knitted scarf, 
which, to make things worse, was knotted at the back. He had to 
disentangle all this, to take it off as quickly as possible, to show 
himself to more advantage, for there is no one who does not 
prefer to show himself to advantage. And then Vasya, vexa- 
tious insufferable Vasya, of course always the same dear kind 



170 A FAINT HEART 

Vasya, but now insufferable, ruthless Vasya. " Here," he 
shouted, " Lizanka, I have brought you my Arkady ? What do 
you think of him ? He is my best friend, embrace him, kiss him, 
Lizanka, give him a kiss in advance ; afterwards you will know 
him better you can take it back again." 

Well, what, I ask you, was Arkady Ivanovitch to do ? And 
he had only untwisted half of the scarf so far. I really am some- 
times ashamed of Vasya's excess of enthusiasm ; it is, of course, 
the sign of a good heart, but . . . it's awkward, not nice ! 

At last both went in. ... The mother was unutterably 
delighted to make Arkady Ivanovitch's acquaintance, " she had 
heard so much about him, she had ..." But she did not finish. 
A joyful " Oh ! " ringing musically through the room interrupted 
her in the middle of a sentence. Good Heavens ! Lizanka was 
standing before the cap which had suddenly been unfolded before 
her gaze; she clasped her hands with the utmost simplicity, 
smiling such a smile. ... Oh, Heavens ! why had not Madame 
Leroux an even lovelier cap ? 

Oh, Heavens ! but where could you find a lovelier cap ? It was 
quite first-rate. Where could you get a better one ? I mean it 
seriously. This ingratitude on the part of lovers moves me, in 
fact, to indignation and even wounds me a little. Why, look at 
it for yourself, reader, look, what could be more beautiful than 
this little love of a cap ? Come, look at it. ... But, no, no, my 
strictures are uncalled for ; they had by now all agreed with me ; 
it had been a momentary aberration ; the blindness, the delirium 
of feeling; I am ready to forgive them. . . . But then you must 
look . . . You must excuse me, kind reader, I am still talking 
about the cap : made of tulle, light as a feather, a broad cherry- 
coloured ribbon covered with lace passing between the tulle and 
the ruche, and at the back two wide long ribbons they would 
fall down a little below the nape of the neck. . . . All that the 
cap needed was to be tilted a little to the back of the head ; come, 
look at it ; I ask you, after that . . . but I see you are not looking 

. . you think it does not matter. You are looking in a different 
direction. . . . You are looking at two big tears, big as pearls, 
that rose in two jet black eyes, quivered for one instant on the 
cyr lashes, and then dropped on the ethereal tulle of which 
Madame Leroux's artistic masterpiece was composed. . . . And 
again I feel vexed, those two tears were scarcely a tribute to the 



A FAINT HEART 171 

cap. . . . No, to my mind, such a gift should be given in cool 
blood, as only then can its full worth be appreciated. I am, 
I confess, dear reader, entirely on the side of the cap. 

They sat down Vasya with Lizanka and the old mother with 
Arkady Ivanovitch ; they began to talk, and Arkady Ivanovitch. 
did himself credit, I am glad to say that for him. One would 
hardly, indeed, have expected it of him. After a couple of words 
about Vasya he most successfully turned the conversation to 
Yulian Mastakovitch, his patron. And he talked so cleverly, 
so cleverly that the subject was not exhausted for an hour. You 
ought to have seen with what dexterity, what tact, Arkady Ivano- 
vitch touched upon certain peculiarities of Yulian Mastakovitch 
which directly or indirectly affected Vasya. The mother was 
fascinated, genuinely fascinated; she admitted it herself; she 
purposely called Vasya aside, and said to him that his friend was 
a most excellent and charming young man, and, what was of 
most account, such a serious, steady young man. Vasya almost 
laughed aloud with delight. He remembered how the serious 
Arkady had tumbled him on his bed for a quarter of an hour. 
Then the mother signed to Vasya to follow her quietly and 
cautiously into the next room. It must be admitted that she 
treated Lizanka rather unfairly : she behaved treacherously to 
her daughter, in the fullness of her heart, of course, and showed 
Vasya on the sly the present Lizanka was preparing to give 
him for the New Year. It was a paper-case, embroidered in 
beads and gold in a very choice design : on one side was depicted 
a stag, absolutely lifelike, running swiftly, and so well done ! 
On the other side was the portrait of a celebrated General, also an 
excellent likeness. I cannot describe Vasya's raptures. Mean- 
while, time was not being wasted in the parlour. Lizanka went 
straight up to Arkady Ivanovitch. She took his hand, she 
thanked him for something, and Arkady Ivanovitch gathered 
that she was referring to her precious Vasya. Lizanka was, 
indeed, deeply touched: she had heard that Arkady Ivanovitch 
was such a true friend of her betrothed, so loved him, so watched 
over him, guiding him at every step with helpful advice, that she, 
Lizanka, could hardly help thanking him, could not refrain from 
feeling grateful, and hoping that Arkady Ivanovitch might like 
her, if only half as well as Vasya. Then she began questioning 
him as to whether Vasya was careful of his health, expressed some 



172 A FAINT HEART 

apprehensions in regard to his marked impulsiveness of character, 
and his lack of knowledge of men and practical life ; she said that 
she would in time watch over him religiously, that she would take 
care of and cherish his lot, and finally, she hoped that Arkady 
Ivanovitch would not leave them, but would live with them. 

" We three shall live like one," she cried, with extremely 
naive enthusiasm. 

But it was time to go. They tried, of course, to keep them, 
but Vasya answered point blank that it was impossible. Arkady 
Ivanovitch said the same The reason was, of course, inquired into, 
and it came out at once that there was work to be done entrusted 
to Vasya by Yulian Mastakovitch, urgent, necessary, dreadful 
work, which must be handed in on the morning of the next day 
but one, and that it was not only unfinished, but had been com- 
pletely laid aside. The mamma sighed when she heard of this, 
while Lizanka was positively scared, and hurried Vasya off in 
alarm. The last kiss lost nothing from this haste; though brief 
and hurried it was only the more warm and ardent. At last they 
parted and the two friends set off home. 

Both began at once confiding to each other their impressions 
as soon as they found themselves in the street. And could they 
help it ? Indeed, Arkady Ivanovitch was in love, desperately 
in love, with Lizanka. And to whom could he better confide his 
feelings than to Vasya, the happy man himself. And so he did; 
he was not bashful, but confessed everything at once to Vasya. 
Vasya laughed heartily and was immensely delighted, and even 
observed that this was all that was needed to make them greater 
friends than ever. " You have guessed my feelings, Vasya," 
said Arkady Ivanovitch. " Yes, I love her as I love you ; she 
will be my good angel as well as yours, for the radiance of your 
happiness will be shed on me, too, and I can bask in its warmth. 
She will keep house for me too, Vasya; my happiness will be 
in her hands. Let her keep house for me as she will for you. Yes, 
friendship for you is friendship for her ; you are not separable 
for me now, only I shall have two beings like you instead of 
one. ..." Arkady paused in the fullness of his feelings, while 
Vasya was shaken to the depths of his being by his friend's words. 
Tim fact is, he had never expected anything of the sort from 
Arkady. Arkady Ivanovitch was not very great at talking as a 
rule, he was not fond of dreaming, either ; now he gave way to 



A FAINT HEART 173 

the liveliest, freshest, rainbow-tinted day-dreams. " How I will 
protect and cherish you both," he began again. " To begin with, 
Vasya, I will be godfather to all your children, every one of them ; 
and secondly, Vasya, we must bestir ourselves about the future. 
We must buy furniture, and take a lodging so that you and she 
and I can each have a little room to ourselves. Do you know, 
Vasya, I'll run about to-morrow and look at the notices, on the 
gates ! Three . . . no, two rooms, we should not need more. I 
really believe, Vasya, I talked nonsense this morning, there will 
be money enough; why, as soon as I glanced into her eyes I 
calculated at once that there would be enough to live on. It will 
all be for her. Oh, how we will work ! Now, Vasya, we might 
venture up to twenty- five roubles for rent. A lodging is every- 
thing, brother. Nice rooms . . . and at once a man is cheerful, 
and his dreams are of the brightest hues. And, besides, Lizanka 
will keep the purse for both of us : not a farthing will be wasted. 
Do you suppose I would go to a restaurant ? What do you take 
me for ? Not on any account. And then we shall get a bonus and 
reward, for we shall be zealous in the service oh ! how we shall 
work, like oxen toiling in the fields. . . . Only fancy," and 
Arkady Ivanovitch's voice was faint with pleasure, "all at once 
and quite unexpected, twenty-five or thirty roubles. . . . When- 
ever there's an extra, there'll be a cap or a scarf or a pair of little 
stockings. She must knit me a scarf ; look what a horrid one I've 
got, the nasty yellow thing, it did me a bad turn to-day ! And 
you wore a nice one, Vasya, to introduce me while I had my head 
in a halter. . . . Though never mind that now. And look here, 
I undertake all the silver. I am bound to give you some little 
present, that will be an honour, that will flatter my vanity. . . . 
My bonuses won't fail me, surely ; you don't suppose they would 
give them to Skorohodov ? No fear, they won't be landed in that 
person's pocket. I'll buy you silver spoons, brother, good knives 
not silver knives, but thoroughly good ones ; and a waistcoat, 
that is a waistcoat for myself. I shall be best man, of course, 
Only now, brother, you must keep at it, you must keep at it. I 
shall stand over you with a stick, brother, to-day and to-morrow 
and all night ; I shall worry you to work. Finish, make haste and 
finish, brother. And then again to spend the evening, and then 
again both of us happy; we will go in for loto. We will spend 
the evening there oh, it's jolly ! Oh, the devil ! How, vexing it 



174 A FAINT HEART 

Is I can't help you. I should like to take It and write it all for 
you. . . . Why is it our handwriting is not alike ? " 

" Yes," answered Vasya. " Yes, I must make haste. I think 
it must be eleven o'clock ; we must make haste. ... To work ! " 
And saying this, Vasya, who had been all the time alternately 
smiling and trying to interrupt with some enthusiastic rejoinder 
the flow of his friend's feelings, and had, in short, been showing 
the most cordial response, suddenly subsided, sank into silence, 
and almost ran along the street. It seemed as though some 
burdensome idea had suddenly chilled his feverish head; he 
seemed all at once dispirited. 

Arkady Ivanovitch felt quite uneasy; he scarcely got an 
answer to his hurried questions from Vasya, who confined 
himself to a word or two, sometimes an irrelevant exclamation. 

"Why, what is the matter with you, Vasya] " he cried at 
last, hardly able to keep up with him. " Can you really be so 
uneasy ? " 

" Oh, brother, that's enough chatter ! " Vasya answered, with 
vexation. 

" Don't be depressed, Vasya come, come," Arkady interposed. 
" Why, I have known you write much more in a shorter time ! 
What's the matter ? You've simply a talent for it ! You can 
write quickly in an emergency ; they are not going to lithograph 
your copy. You've plenty of time ! . . . The only thing is that 
you are excited now, and preoccupied, and the work won't go so 
easily." 

Vasya made no reply, or muttered something to himself, and 
they both ran home in genuine anxiety. 

Vasya sat down to the papers at once. Arkady Ivanovitch 
was quiet and silent ; he noiselessly undressed and went to bed, 
keeping his eyes fixed on Vasya. ... A sort of panic came over 
him. . . . " What is the matter with him ?" he thought to himself , 
looking at Vasya's face that grew whiter and whiter, at his 
feverish eyes, at the anxiety that was betrayed in every movement 
he made, " why, his hand is shaking . . . what a stupid ! Why 
did I not advise him to sleep for a couple of hours, till he had slept 
off his nervous excitement, any way." Vasya had just finished a 
page, he raised his eyes, glanced casually at Arkady and at once, 
looking down, took up his pen again. 

" Listen, <asya," Arkady Ivanovitch began suddenly, 



A FAINT HEART 175 

" wouldn't it be best to sleep a little now 1 Look, you are In a 
regular fever." 

Vasya glanced at Arkady with vexation, almost with anger, and 
made no answer. 

" Listen, Vasya, you'll make yourself ill." 

Vasya at once changed his mind. " How would it be to 
have tea, Arkady ? " he said. 

" How so ? Why ? " 

" It will do me good. I am not sleepy, I'm not going to bed ! 
I am going on writing. But now I should like to rest and have a 
cup of tea, and the worst moment will be over." 

" First-rate, brother Vasya, delightful ! Just so. I was want- 
ing to propose it myself. And I can't think why it did not occur 
to me to do so. But I say, Mavra won't get up, she won't wake 
for anything. ..." 

" True." 

" That's no matter, though," cried Arkady Ivanovitch, leaping 
out of bed. " I will set the samovar myself. It won't be the first 
time " 

Arkady Ivanovitch ran to the kitchen and set to work to get 
the samovar; Vasya meanwhile went on writing. Arkady 
Ivanovitch, moreover, dressed and ran out to the baker's, so that 
Vasya might have something to sustain him for the night. A 
quarter of an hour later the samovar was on the table. They 
began drinking tea, but conversation flagged. Vasya still seemed 
preoccupied. 

" To-morrow," he said at last, as though he had just thought of 
it, "I shall have to take my congratulations for the New 
Year . . ." 

" You need not go at all." 

" Oh yes, brother, I must," said Vasya. 

" Why, I will sign the visitors' book for you everywhere. . . . 
How can you ? You work to-rnorrow. You must work to- 
night, till five o'clock in the morning, as I said, and then get to 
bed. Or else you will be good for nothing to-morrow. I'll 
wake you at eight o'clock, punctually." 

" But will it be all right, your signing for me ? " said Vasya, 
half assenting. 

" Why, what could be better ? Everyone does it." 

" I am really afraid." 



176 A FAINT HEART 

" Why, why ? " 

" It's all right, you know, with other people, but Yulian 
Mastakovitch ... he has been so kind to me, you know, Ar kasha, 
and when he notices it's not my own signature 

" Notices ! why, what a fellow you are, really, Vasya ! How 
could he notice ? . . . Come, you know I can imitate your 
signature awfully well, and make just the same flourish to it, 
upon my word I can. What nonsense ! Who would notice ? " 

Vasya, made no reply, but emptied lus glass hurriedly. 
Then he shook his head doubtfully. 

" Vasya, dear boy ! Ah, if only we succeed ! Vasya, what's 
the matter with you, you quite frighten me ! Do you know, 
Vasya, I am not going to bed now, I am not going to sleep ! 
Show me, have you a great deal left ? " 

Vasya gave Arkady such a look that his heart sank, and his 
tongue failed him. 

" Vasya, what is the matter ? What are you thinking ? Why 
do you look like that ? " 

" Arkady, I really must go to-morrow to wish Yulian Mastako- 
vitch a happy New Year." 

" Well, go then ! " said Arkady, gazing at him open-eyed, in 
uneasy expectation. " I say, Vasya, do write faster ; I am advis- 
ing you for your good, I really am ! How often Yulian Mastako- 
vitch himself has said that what he likes particularly about j'our 
writing is its legibility. Why, it is all that Skoroplehin cares for, 
that writing should bo good and distinct like a copy, so as after- 
wards to pocket the paper and take it home for his children to 
copy ; he can't buy copybooks, the blockhead ! Yulian Mastako- 
vitch is always saying, always insisting : ' Legible, legible, legible ! ' 
. . . What is the matter? Vasya, I really don't know how to 
talk to you ... it quite frightens me . . . you crush me with 
your depression." 

" It's all right, it's all right," said Vasya, and he fell back in 
his chair as though fainting. Arkady was alarnml. 

" Will you have some water ? Vasya ! Vasya 1 " 

" Don't, don't," said Vasya, pressing his hand. "I am all 
right, I only feel sad, I can't tell why. Better talk of something 
else ; let me forget it." 

" Calm yourself, for goodness' sake, calm yourself, Vasya. 
You will finish it all right, on my honour, you will. And even 



A FAINT HEART 177 

if you don't finish, what will it matter ? You talk as though it 
were a crime ! " 

" Arkady," said Vasya, looking at his friend with such meaning 
that Arkady was quite frightened, for Vasya had never been so 
agitated before. . . . " If I were alone, as I used to be. . . . No! 
I don't mean that. I keep wanting to tell you as a friend, to 
confide in you. . . . But why worry you, though ? . . . You see, 
Arkady, to some much is given, others do a little thing as I do. 
Well, if gratitude, appreciation, is expected of you, . . . and you 
can't give it ? " 

" Vasya, I don't understand you in the least." 

" I have never been ungrateful," Vasya went on softly, as 
though speaking to himself, " but if I am incapable of expressing 
all I feel, it seems as though ... it seems, Arkady, as though I 
am really ungrateful, and that's killing me." 

" What next, what next ! As though gratitude meant nothing 
more than your finishing that copy in time ? Just think what you 
are saying, Vasya ? Is that the whole expression of gratitude ? " 

Vasya sank into silence at once, and looked open-eyed at 
Arkady, as though his unexpected argument had settled all his 
doubts. He even smiled, but the same melancholy expression came 
back to his face at once. Arkady, taking this smile as a sign that 
all his uneasiness was over, and the look that succeeded it as an in- 
dication that he was determined to do better, was greatly relieved. 

" Well, brother Arkasha, you will wake up," said Vasya, 
" keep an eye on me ; if I fall asleep it will be dreadful. I'll 
set to work now. . . . Arkasha ? " 

" What ? " 

" Oh, it's nothing, I only ... I meant. . . ." 

Vasya settled himself, and said no more, Arkady got into bed. 
Neither of them said one word about their friends, the Artemyevs. 
Perhaps both of them felt that they had been a little to blame, 
and that they ought not to have gone for their jaunt when they 
did. Arkady soon fell asleep, still worried about Vasya. To 
his own surprise he woke up exactly at eight o'clock in the 
morning. Vasya was asleep in his chair with the pen in his hand, 
pale and exhausted ; the candle had burnt out. Ma vra was busy 
getting the samovar ready in the kitchen. 

" Vasya, Vasya ! " Arkady cried in alarm, " when did you fall 
asleep ? " 

N 



178 A FAINT HEART 

Vasya opened his eyes and jumped up from his chair. 

" Oh ! " he cried, " I must have fallen asleep. . . ." 

He flew to the papers everything was right ; all were in order ; 
there was not a blot of ink, nor spot of grease from the candle on 
them. 

" I think I must have fallen asleep about six o'clock," said 
Vasya. " How cold it is in the night ! Let us have tea, and I 
will go on again. ..." 

" Do you feel better ? " 

" Yes, yes, I'm all right, I'm all right now." 

" A happy New Year to you, brother Vasya." 

" And to you too, brother, the same to you, dear boy." 

They embraced each other. Vasya's chin was quivering and 
his eyes were moist. Arkady Ivanovitch was silent, he felt sad. 
They drank their tea hastily. 

" Arkady, I've made up my mind, I am going myself to Yulian 
Mastakovitch." 

" Why, he wouldn't notice " 

" But my conscience feels ill at ease, brother." 

" But you know it's for his sake you are sitting here; it's for 
his sake you are wearing yourself out." 

" Enough ! " 

" Do you know what, brother, I'll go round and see. . . ." 

" Whom ? " asked Vasya. 

" The Artemyevs. I'll take them your good wishes for the 
New Year as well as mine." 

" My dear fellow ! Well, I'll stay here ; and I see it's a good 
idea of yours ; I shall be working here, I shan't waste my time. 
Wait one minute, I'll write a note." 

" Yes, do brother, do, there's plenty of time. I've still to 
wash and shave and to brush my best coat. Well, Vasya, wo 
are going to be contented and happy. Embrace me, Vasya." 

" Ah, if only we may, brother. ..." 

" Does Mr. Shumkov live here ? " they heard a child's voice on 
the stairs. 

STes, my dear, yes," said Mavra, showing the visitor in. 

" What's that ? What is it ? " cried Vasya, leaping up from 
the table and rushing to the entry, " Petinka, you ? " 

" Good morning, I have the honour to wish you a happy New 
Year, Vassily Petrovitch," said a pretty boy of ten years old with 



A FAINT HEART 179 

curly black hair. " Sister sends you her love, and so does Mamma, 
and Sister told me to give you a kiss for her." 

Vasya caught the messenger up in the air and printed a 
long, enthusiastic kiss on his lips, which were very much like 
Lizanka's. 

" Kiss him, Arkady," he said handing Petya to him, and with- 
out touching the ground the boy was transferred to Arkady 
Ivanovitch's powerful and eager arms. 

" Will you have some breakfast, dear ? " 

" Thank-you, very much. We have had it already, we got 
up early to-day, the others have gone to church. Sister was two 
hours curling my hair, and pomading it, washing me and mending 
my trousers, for I tore them yesterday, playing with Sashka in 
the street, we were snowballing." 

" Well, well, well ! " 

" So she dressed me up to come and see you, and then pomaded 
my head and then gave me a regular kissing. She said : ' Go 
to Vasya, wish him a happy New Year, and ask whether they are 
happy, whether they had a good night, and . . .' to ask something 
else, oh yes ! whether you had finished the work you spoke of 
yesterday . . . when you were there. Oh, I've got it all written 
down," said the boy, reading from a slip of paper which he took 
out of his pocket. " Yes, they were uneasy." 

" It will be finished ! It will be ! Tell her that it will be. I 
shall finish it, on my word of honour ! " 

" And something else. . . . Oh yes, I forgot. Sister sent a little 
note and a present, and I was forgetting it ! . . ." 

" My goodness ! Oh, you little darling ! Where is it ? 
where is it ? That's it, oh ! Look, brother, see what she writes. 
The dar ling, the precious ! You know T saw there yesterday a 
paper-case for me ; it's not finished, so she says, ' I am sending you 
a lock of my hair, and the other will come later.' Look, brother, 
look ! " 

And overwhelmed with rapture he showed Arkady Ivanovitch 
a curl of luxuriant, jet-black hair ; then he kissed it fervently and 
put it in his breast pocket, nearest his heart. 

" Vasya, I shall get you a locket for that curl," Arkady Ivano- 
vitch said resolutely at last. 

" And we are going to have hot veal, and to-morrow brains. 
Mamma wants to make cakes . . . but we are not going to have 



180 A FAINT HEART 

millet porridge," said the boy, after a moment's thought, to 
wind up his budget of interesting items. 

" Oh ! what a pretty boy," cried Arkady Ivanovitch. " Vasya, 
you are the happiest of mortals." 

The boy finished his tea, took from Vasya a note, a thousand 
kisses, and went out happy and frolicsome as before. 

" Well, brother," began Arkady Ivanovitch, highly delighted, 
' ' you see how splendid it all is ; you see. Everything is going well, 
don't be downcast, don't be uneasy. Go ahead 1 Get it done, 
Vasya, get it done. I'll be home at two o'clock. I'll go round 
to them, and then to Yulian Mastakovitch." 

"Well, good-bye, brother; good-bye ... Oh 1 if only. . . . 
Very good, you go, very good," said Vasya, " then I really won't 
go to Yulian Mastakovitch." 

" Good-bye." 

" Stay, brother, stay, tell them . . . well, whatever you think 
fit. Kiss her. . . and give me a full account of everything 
afterwards." 

" Come, come of course, I know all about it. This happiness 
has upset you. The suddenness of it all ; you've not been yourself 
since yesterday. You have not got over the excitement of yester- 
day. Well, it's settled. Now try and get over it, Vasya. Good- 
bye, good-bye 1 " 

At last the friends parted. All the morning Arkady Ivanovitch 
was preoccupied, and could think of nothing but Vasya. He knew 
his weak, highly nervous character. " Yes, this happiness has 
upset him, I was right there," he said to himself. *' Upon my 
word, he has made me quite depressed, too, that man will make 
a tragedy of anything ! What a feverish creature ! Oh, I must 
save him ! I must save him ! " said Arkady, not noticing that he 
himself was exaggerating into something serious a slight trouble, in 
reality quite trivial. Only at eleven o'clock he reached the porter's 
lodge of Yulian Mastakovitch's house, to add his modest name to 
the long list of illustrious persons who had written their names 
on a sheet of blotted and scribbled paper in the porter's lodge. 
What was his surprise when he saw just above his own the signa- 
ture of Vasya Shumkov 1 It amazed him. " What's the matter 
with him ? " he thought. Arkady Ivanovitch, who had just been 
so buoyant with hope, came out feeling upset. There was cer- 
tainly going to be trouble, but how ? And in what form ? 



A FAINT HEART 181 

He reached the Artemyevs with gloomy forebodings ; he seemed 
absent-minded from the first, and after talking a little v-ith 
Lizanka went away with tears in his eyes ; he was really anxious 
about Vasya. He went home running, and on the Neva came full 
tilt upon Vasya himself. The latter, too, was uneasy. 

" Where are you going 1 " cried Arkady Ivanovitch. 

Vasya stopped as though he had been caught in a crime. 

" Oh, it's nothing, brother, I wanted to go for a walk." 

" You could not stand it, and have been to the Artemyevs ? 
Oh, Vasya, Vasya ! Why did you go to Yulian Mastakovitch ? " 

Vasya did not answer, but then with a wave of his hand, he 
said : " Arkady, I don't know what is Fthe matter with me. 
I. . . ." 

" Come, come, Vasya. 1 know what it is. Calm yourself. 
You've been excited, and overwrought ever since yesterday. 
Only think, it's not much to bear. Everybody's fond of you, 
everybody's ready to do anything for you ; your work is getting 
on all right ; you will get it done, you will certainly get it done. 
I know that you have been imagining something, you have had 
apprehensions about something. ..." 

" No, it's all right, it's all right. . . ." 

" Do you remember, Vasya, do you remember it was the same 
with you once before; do you remember, when you got your 
promotion, in your joy and thankfulness you were so zealous that 
you spoilt all your work for a week? It is just the same with 
you now." 

" Yes, yes, Arkady ; but now it is different, it is not that at all." 

" How is it different ? And very likely the work is not urgent 
at all, while you are killing yourself. . . ." 

" It's nothing, it's nothing. I am all right, it's nothing. Well, 
come along ! " 

" Why, are you going home, and not to them ? " 

" Yes, brother, how could I have the face to turn up there ? . . . 
I have changed my mind. It was only that I could not stay on 
alone without you ; now you are coming back with me I'll sit 
down to write again. Let us go ! " 

They walked along and for some time were silent. Vasya was 
in haste. 

" Why don't you ask me about them ? " said Arkady 
Ivanovitch. 



182 A FAINT HEART 

" Oh, yes ! Well, Arkasha, what about them ? " 

" Vasya, you are not like yourself." 

" Oh, I am all right, I am all right. Tell me everything, 
Arkasha," said Vasya, in an imploring voice, as though to avoid 
further explanations. Arkady Ivanovitch sighed. He felt 
utterly at a loss, looking at Vasya. 

His account of their friends roused Vasya. He even grew 
talkative. They had dinner together. Lizanka's mother had 
filled Arkady Ivanovitch's pockets with little cakes, and eating 
them the friends grew more cheerful. After dinner Vasya 
promised to take a nap, so as to sit up all night. He did, in fact. 
lie down. In the morning, some one whom it was impossible to 
refuse had invited Arkady Ivanovitch to tea. The friends parted. 
Arkady promised to come back as soon as he could, by eight 
o'clock if possible. The three hours of separation seemed to him 
like three years. At last he got away and rushed back to Vasya. 
When he went into the room, he found it in darkness. Vasya 
was not at home. He asked Mavra. Mavra said that he had been 
writing all the time, and had not slept at all, then he had paced up 
and down the room, and after that, an hour before, he had run 
out, saying he would be back in half -an -hour ; " and when, says 
he, Arkady Ivanovitch comes in, tell him, old woman, says 
he," Mavra told him in conclusion, " that I have gone out for a 
walk," and he repeated the order three or four times. 

" He is at the Artemyevs," thought Arkady Ivanovitch, and 
he shook his head. 

A minute later he jumped up with renewed hope. 

" He has simply finished," he thought, " that's all it is ; he 
couldn't wait, but ran off there. But, no ! he would have waited 
for me. . . . Let's have a peep what he has there." 

He lighted a candle, and ran to Vasya's writing-table : the 
work had made progress and it looked as though there were not 
much left to do. Arkady Ivanovitch was about to investigate 
further, when Vasya himself walked in. . . . 

"Oh, you are here ? " he cried, with a start of dismay. 

Arkady Ivanovitch was silent. He was afraid to question 
Vasya. The latter dropped his eyes and remained silent too, as 
he began sorting the papers. At last their eyes met. The look 
in Vasya's was so beseeching, imploring, and broken, that Arkady 
shuddered when he saw it. His heart quivered and was full. 



- A FAINT HEART 183 

" Vasya, my dear boy, what is it ? What's wrong ? " he cried, 
rushing to him and squeezing him in his arms. " Explain to me, 
I don't understand you, and your depression. What is the matter 
with you, my poor, tormented boy ? What is it ? Tell me all 
about it, without hiding anything. It can't be only this ." 

Vasya held him tight and could say nothing. He could 
scarcely breathe. 

" Don't, Vasya, don't ! Well, if you don't finish it, what then ? 
I don't understand you ; tell me your trouble. You see it is for 
your sake I. ... Oh dear ! oh dear ! " he said, walking up and 
down the room and clutching at everything he came across, as 
though seeking at once some remedy for Vasya. " I will go to 
Yulian Mastakovitch instead of you to-morrow. I will ask him 
entreat him to let you have another day. I will explain it all to 
him, anything, if it worries you so. . . ." 

" God forbid ! " cried Vasya, and turned as white as the wall. 
He could scarcely stand on his feet. 

" Vasya ! Vasya ! " 

Vasya pulled himself together. His lips were quivering; he 
tried to say something, but could only convulsively squeeze 
Arkady's hand in silence. His hand was cold. Arkady stood 
facing him, full of anxious and miserable suspense. Vasya 
raised his eyes again. 

" Vasya, God bless you, Vasya ! You wring my heart, my dear 
boy, my friend." 

Tears gushed from Vasya's eyes ; he flung himself on Arkady's 
bosom. 

" I have deceived you, Arkady," he said. " I have deceived 
you. Forgive me, forgive me ! I have been faithless to your 
friendship ..." 

" What is it, Vasya ? What is the matter ? " asked Arkady, 
in real alarm. 

" Look ! " 

And with a gesture of despair Vasya tossed out of the drawer 
on to the table six thick manuscripts, similar to the one he had 
copied. 

" What's this ? " 

" What I have to get through by the day after to-morrow. 
I haven't done a quarter ! Don't ask me, don't ask me how it 
has happened," Vasya went on, speaking at once of what was 



184 A FAINT HEART 

distressing him BO terribly. " Arkady, dear friend, I don't 
know myself what came over me. I feel as though I were coming 
out of a dream. I have wasted three weeks doing nothing. I 
kept ... I ... kept going to see her. . . . My heart was 
aching, I was tormented by ... the uncertainty ... I could 
not write. I did not even think about it. Only now, when 
happiness is at hand for me, I have come to my senses." 

" Vasya," began Arkady Ivanovitch resolutely, " Vasya, I 
will save you. I understand it all. It's a serious matter; I will 
save you. Listen ! listen to me : I will go to Yulian Mastako- 
vitch to-morrow. . . . Don't shake your head ; no, listen ! 
I will tell him exactly how it has all been ; let me do that . . . 
I will explain to him. ... I will go into everything. I will 
tell him how crushed you are, how you are worrying yourself." 

" Do you know that you are killing me now ? " Vasya brought 
out, turning cold with horror. 

Arkady Ivanovitch turned pale, but at once controlling himself, 
laughed. 

" Is that all ? Is that all ? " he said. " Upon my word, 
Vasya, upon my word ! Aren't you ashamed ? Come, listen ! 
I see that I am grieving you. You see I understand you ; I 
know what is passing in your heart. Why, we have been living 
together for five years, thank God 1 You are such a kind, .soft- 
hearted fellow, but weak, unpardonably weak. Why, even 
Lizaveta Mikalovna has noticed it. And you are a dreamer, 
and that's a bad thing, too ; you may go from bad to worse, 
brother. I tell you, I know what you want ! You would like 
Yulian Mastakovitch, for instance, to be beside himself and, 
maybe, to give a ball, too, from joy, because you are going to get 
married. . . . Stop, stop ! you are frowning. You see that at 
one word from me you are offended on Yulian Mastakovitch's 
account.*^ I '11 let him alone. You know I respect him just as 
much as you do. But argue as you may, you can't prevent my 
thinking that you would like there to be no one unhappy in the 
whole world when you are getting married. . . . Yes, brother, 
you must admit that you would like me, for instance, your best 
friend, to come in for a fortune of a hundred thousand all of a 
sudden, you would like all the enemies in the world to be sud- 
denly, for no rhyme or reason, reconciled, so that in their joy they 
might all embrace one another in the middle of the street, and 



A FAINT HEART 185 

then, perhaps, come here to call on you. Vasya, my dear boy, 
I am not laughing ; it is true ; you've said as much to me long ago, 
in different ways. Because you are happy, you want every one, 
absolutely every one, to become happy at once. It hurts you 
and troubles you to be happy alone. And so you want at once 
to do your utmost to be worthy of that happiness, and maybe 
to do some great deed to satisfy your conscience. Oh ! I under- 
stand how ready you are to distress yourself for having suddenly 
been remiss just where you ought to have shown your zeal, your 
capacity . . . well, maybe your gratitude, as you say. It is 
very bitter for you to think that Yulian Mastakovitch may frown 
and even be angry when he sees that you have not justified the 
expectations he had of you. It hurts you to think that you 
may hear reproaches from the man you look upon as your 
benefactor and at such a moment ! when your heart is full of 
joy and you don't know on whom to lavish your gratitude. . . . 
Isn't that true ? It is, isn't it ? " 

Arkady Ivanovitch, whose voice was trembling, paused, and 
drew a deep breath. 

Vasya looked affectionately at his friend. A smile passed over 
his lips. His face even lighted up, as though with a gleam of 
hope. 

" Well, listen, then," Arkady Ivanovitch began again, growing 
more hopeful, " there's no necessity that you should forfeit 
Yulian Mastakovitch 's favour. ,'|. . Is there, dear boy ? Is there 
any question of it ? And since it is so," said Arkady, jumping 
up, " I shall sacrifice myself forlfyou. I am going to-morrow to 
Yulian Mastakovitch, and don't oppose me. You|magnify your 
failure to a crime, Vasya. Yulian Mastakovitch is a magnanimous 
and merciful, and, what is more, he is not like you. He will 
listen to you and me, and get us out of our trouble, brother 
Vasya. Well, are you calmer ? " 

Vasya pressed his friend's hands with tears in his eyes. 

" Hush, hush, Arkady," he said, " the thing is settled. I 
haven't finished, so very well; if I haven't finished, I haven't 
finished, and there's no need for you to go. I will tell him all 
about it, I will go myself. I am calmer now, I am perfectly calm ; 
only you mustn't go. ... But listen ..." 

" Vasya, my dear boy," Arkady Ivanovitch cried joyfully, 
" I judged from what you said. I am glad that you have thought 



186 A FAINT HEART 

better of things and have recovered yourself. But whatever 
may befall you, whatever happens, I am with you, remember 
that. I see that it worries you to think of my speaking toYulian 
Mastakovitch and I won't say a word, not a word, you shall 
tell him yourself. You see, you shall go to-morrow. . . . Oh 
no, you had better not go, you'll go on writing here, you see, and 
I'll find out about this work, whether it is very urgent or not, 
whether it must be done by the time or not, and if you don't 
finish it in time what will come of it. Then I will run back to 
you. Do you see, do you see ! There is still hope ; suppose the 
work is not urgent it may be all right. Yulian Mastakovitch 
may not remember, then all is saved." 

Vasya shook his head doubtfully. But his grateful eyes never 
left his friend's face. 

" Come, that's enough, I am so weak, so tired," he said, sighing. 
" I don't want to think about it. Let us talk of something else. 
I won't write either now ; do you know I'll only finish two short 
pages just to get to the end of a passage. Listen ... I have 
long wanted to ask you, how is it you know me so well ? " 

Tears dropped from Vasya's eyes on Arkady's hand. 

" If you knew, Vasya, how fond I am of you, you would not 
ask that yes ! " 

" Yes, yes, Arkady, I don't know that, because I don't know 
why you are so fond of me. Yes, Arkady, do you know, even 
your love has been killing me ? Do you know, ever so many times, 
particularly when I am thinking of you in bed (for I always think 
of you when I am falling asleep), I shed tears, and my heart 
throbs at -the thought ... at the thought. . . . Well, at the 
thought that you are so fond of me, while I can do nothing to 
relieve my heart, can do nothing to repay you." 

" You see, Vasya, you see what a fellow you are ! Why, how 
upset you are now," said Arkady, whose heart ached at that 
moment and who remembered the scene in the street the day 
before. 

" Nonsense, you want me to be calm, but I never have been 
BO calm and happy ! Do you know. . . . Listen, I want to tell 
you all about it, but I am afraid of wounding you. . . . You 
keep scolding me and being vexed; and I am afraid. . . . See 
how I am trembling now, I don't know why. You see, this is what 
I want to say. I feel as though I had never known myself 



A FAINT HEART 187 

before yes ! Yes, I only began to understand other people 
too, yesterday. I did not feel or appreciate things fully, brother. 
My heart . . . was hard. . . . Listen how has it happened, 
that I have never done good to any one, any one in the world, 
because I couldn't I am not even pleasant to look at. ... But 
everybody does me good ! You, to begin with : do you suppose 
I don't see that ? Onlv I said nothing; only I said nothing." 

" Hush, Vasya ! " 

" Oh, Arkasha ! . . . it's all right," Vasya interrupted, hardly 
able to articulate for tears. " I talked to you yesterday about 
Yulian Mastakovitch. And you know yourself how stern and 
severe he is, even you have come in for a reprimand from him ; 
yet he deigned to jest with me yesterday, to show his affection, 
and kind-heartedness, which he prudently conceals from every 
one. . . ." 

" Come, Vasya, that only shows you deserve your good fortune." 

" Oh, Arkasha ! How I longed to finish all this. . . . No, I 
shall ruin my good luck ! I feel that ! Oh no, not through that," 
Vasya added, seeing that Arkady glanced at the heap of urgent 
work lying on the table, " that's nothing, that's only paper 
covered with writing . . . it's nonsense ! That matter's settled. 
... I went to see them to-day, Arkasha; I did not go in. I 
felt depressed and sad. I simply stood at the door. She was 
playing the piano, I listened. You see, Arkady," he went on, 
dropping his voice, " I did not dare to go in." 

" I say, Vasya what is the matter with you ? You look at one 
so strangely." 

" Oh, it's nothing, I feel a little sick; my legs are trembling; 
it's because I sat up last night. Yes ! Everything looks green 
before my eyes. It's here, here " 

He pointed to his heart. He fainted. When he came to 
himself Arkady tried to take forcible measures. He tried to 
compel him to go to bed. Nothing would induce Vasya to con- 
sent. He shed tears, wrung his hands, wanted to write, was 
absolutely set on finishing his two pages. To avoid exciting him 
Arkady let him sit down to the work. 

" Do you know," said Vasya, as he settled himself in his place, 
" an idea has occurred to me ? There is hope." 

He smiled to Arkady, and his pale face lighted up with a 
gleam of hope. 



188 A FAINT HEART 

" I will take him what is done the day after to-morrow. About 
the rest I will tell a lie. I will say it has been burnt, that it has 
been sopped in water, that I have lost it. ... That, in fact, I 
have not finished it ; I cannot lie. I will explain, do you know, 
what ? I'll explain to him all about it. I will tell him how it was 
that I could not. I'll tell him about my love; he has got 
married himself just lately, he'll understand me. I will do it 
-all, of course, respectfully, quietly ; he will see my tears and be 
touched by them. ..." 

" Yes, of course, you must go, you must go and explain to 
him. . . . But there's no need of tears ! Tears for what ? 
Really, Vasya, you quite scare me." 

"Yes, I'll go, I'll go. But now let me write, let me write, 
AT kasha. I am not interfering with any one, let me write ! " 

Arkady flung himself on the bed. He had no confidence in 
Vasya, no confidence at all. Vasya was capable of anything, but 
to ask forgiveness for what ? how ? That was not the point. 
The point was, that Vasya had not carried out his obligations, 
that Vasya felt guilty in his own eyes, felt that he was ungrateful 
to destiny, that Vasya was crushed, overwhelmed by happiness 
and thought himself unworthy of it ; that, in fact, he was simply 
trying to find an excuse to go off his head on that point, and that 
he had not recovered from the unexpectedness of what had 
happened the day before ; that's what it is," thought Arkady 
Ivanovitch. " I must save him. I must reconcile him to 
himself. He will be his own ruin." He thought and thought, 
and resolved to go at once next day to Yulian Mastakovitch, 
and to tell him all about it. 

Vasya was sitting writing. Arkady Ivanovitch, worn out, lay 
down to think things over again, and only woke at daybreak. 

"Damnation! Again!" he cried, looking at Vasya; the 
latter was still sitting writing. 

Arkady rushed up to him, seized him and forcibly put him to 
bed. Vasya was smiling : his eyes were closing with sleep. He 
could hardly speak. 

" I wanted to go to bed," he said. " Do you know, Arkady, 
I have an idea; I shall finish. I made my pen go faster ! I 
could not have sat at it any longer; wake me at eight o'clock." 

Without finishing his sentence, he dropped asleep and slept like 
the dead. 



A FAINT HEART 189 

" Mavra," said Arkady Ivanovitch to Mavra, who came in 
with the tea, " he asked to be waked in an hour. Don't wake 
him on any account ! Let him sleep ten hours, if he can. Do 
you understand ? " 

" I understand, sir." 

" Don't get the dinner, don't bring in the wood, don't make 
a noise or it will be the worse for you. If he asks for me, tell him 
I have gone to the office do you understand ? " 

" I understand, bless you, sir; let him sleep and welcome ! 
I am glad my gentlemen should sleep well, and I take good care 
of their things. And about that cup that was broken, and you 
blamed me, your honour, it wasn't me, it was poor pussy 
broke it, I ought to have kept an eye on her. ' S-sh, you 
confounded thing,' I said." 

" Hush, be quiet, be quiet 1 " 

Arkady Ivanovitch followed Mavra out into the kitchen, asked 
for the key and locked her up there. Then he went to the office. 
On the way he considered how he could present himself before 
Yulian Mastakovitch, and whether it would be appropriate and 
not impertinent. He went into the office timidly, and timidly 
inquired whether His Excellency were there ; receiving the answer 
that he was not and would not be, Arkady Ivanovitch instantly 
thought of going to his flat, but reflected very prudently that if 
Yulian Mastakovitch had not come to the office he would certainly 
be busy at home. He remained. The hours seemed to him 
endless. Indirectly he inquired about the work entrusted to 
Shumkov, but no one knew anything about this. All that was 
known was that Yulian Mastakovitch did employ him on special 
jobs, but what they were no one could say. At last it struck 
three o'clock, and Arkady Ivanovitch rushed out, eager to get 
home. In the vestibule he was met by a clerk, who told him 
that Vassily Petrovitch Shumkov had come about one o'clock 
and asked, the clerk added, " whether you were here, and whether 
Yulian Mastakovitch had been here." Hearing this Arkady 
Ivanovitch took a sledge and hastened home beside himself with 
alarm. 

Shumkov was at home. He was walking about the room in 
violent excitement. Glancing at Arkady Ivanovitch, he imme- 
diately controlled himself, reflected, and hastened to conceal 
his emotion. He sat down to his papers without a word He 



190 A FAINT HEART 

seemed to avoid his friend's questions, seemed to be bothered 
by them, to be pondering to himself on some plan, and deciding 
to conceal his decision, because he could not reckon further on 
his friend's affection. This struck Arkady, and his heart ached 
with a poignant and oppressive pain. He sat on the bed and 
began turning over the leaves of some book, the only one he 
had in his possession, keeping his eye on poor Vasya. But Vasya 
remained obstinately silent, writing, and not raising his head. 
So passed several hours, and Arkady's misery reached an extreme 
point. At last, at eleven o'clock, Vasya lifted his head and 
looked with a fixed, vacant stare at Arkady. Arkady waited. 
Two or three minutes passed ; Vasya did not speak. 

" Vasya 1 " cried Arkady. 

Vasya made no answer. 

" Vasya ! " he repeated, jumping up from the bed, " Vasya, 
what is the matter with you ? What is it ? " he cried, running up 
to him. 

Vasya raised his eyes and again looked at him with the same 
vacant, fixed stare. 

" He's in a trance ! " thought Arkady, trembling all over with 
fear. He seized a bottle of water, raised Vasya, poured some 
water on his head, moistened his temples, rubbed his hands in 
his own and Vasya came to himself. " Vasya, Vasya ! " cried 
Arkady, unable to restrain his tears. " Vasya, save yourself, 
rouse yourself, rouse yourself ! . . ." He could say no more, 
but held him tight in his arms. A look as of some oppressive 
sensation passed over Vasya's face ; he rubbed his forehead and 
clutched at his head, as though he were afraid it would burst. 

" I don't know what is the matter with me," he added, at last. 
" I feel torn to pieces. Come, it's all right, it's all right ! Give 
over, Arkady; don't grieve," he repeated, looking at him with 
sad, exhausted eyes. " Why be so anxious ? Come ! " 

" You, you comforting me ! " cried Arkady, whose heart was 
torn. " Vasya," he said at last, " lie down and have a little 
nap, won't you ? Don't wear yourself out for nothing I You'll 
set to work better afterwards." 

" Yes, yes," said Vasya, " by all means, I'll lie down, very 
good. Yes ! you see I meant to finish, but now I've changed 
my mind, yes. . . ." 

And Arkady led him to the bed. 



A FAINT HEART 191 

" Listen, Vasya," he said firmly, " we must settle this matter 
finally. Tell me what were you thinking about ? " 

" Oh ! " said Vasya, with a flourish of his weak hand turning 
over on the other side. 

" Come, Vasya, come, make up your mind. I don't want to 
hurt you. I can't be silent any longer. You won't sleep till 
you've made up your mind, I know." 

" As you like, as you like," Vasya repeated enigmatically. 

" He will give in," thought Arkady Ivanovitch. 

" Attend to me, Vasya," he said, " remember what I say, and 
I will save you to-morrow ; to-morrow I will decide your fate ! 
What am I saying, your fate ? You have so frightened me, 
Vasya, that I am using your own words. Fate, indeed ! It's 
simply nonsense, rubbish ! You don't want to lose Yulian Masta- 
kovitch's favour affection, if you like. No ! And you won't 
lose it, you will see. I " 

Arkady Ivanovitch would have said more, but Vasya inter- 
rupted him. He sat up in bed, put both arms round Arkady 
Ivanovitch's neck and kissed him. 

" Enough," he said in a weak voice, " enough ! Say no more 
about that ! " 

And again he turned his face to the wall. 

" My goodness ! " thought Arkady, " my goodness ! What is 
the matter with him ? He is utterly lost. What has he in his 
mind ! He will be his own undoing." 

Arkady looked at him in despair. 

" If he were to fall ill," thought Arkady, " perhaps it would be 
better. His trouble would pass off with illness, and that might 
be the best way of settling the whole business. But what non- 
sense I am talking. Oh, my God 1 " 

Meanwhile Vasya seemed to be asleep. Arkady Ivanovitch 
was relieved. " A good sign," he thought. He made up his mind 
to sit beside him all night. But Vasya was restless; he kept 
twitching and tossing about on the bed, and opening his eyes for 
an instant. At last exhaustion got the upper hand, he slept like 
the dead. It was about two o'clock in the morning, Arkady 
Ivanovitch began to doze in the chair with his elbow on the table ! 

He had a strange and agitated dream. He kept fancying 
that he was not asleep, and that Vasya was still lying on the 
bed. But strange to say, he fancied that Vasya was pretending, 



192 A FAINT HEART 

that he was deceiving him, that he was getting up, stealthily 
watching him out of the corner of his eye, and was stealing up to 
the writing table. Arkady felt a scalding pain at his heart; 
he felt vexed and sad and oppressed to see Vasya not trusting 
him, hiding and concealing himself from him. He tried to 
catch hold of him, to call out, to carry lu'm to the bed. Then 
Vasya kept shrieking in his arms, and he laid on the bed a 
lifeless corpse. He opened his eyes and woke up; Vasya was 
sitting before him at the table, writing. 

Hardly able to believe his senses, Arkady glanced at the bed ; 
Vasya was not there. Arkady jumped up in a panic, still under 
the influence of his dream. Vasya did not stir; he went on 
writing. All at once Arkady noticed with horror that Vasya 
was moving a dry pen over the paper, was turning over per- 
fectly blank pages, and hurrying, hurrying to fill up the paper 
as though he were doing his work in a most thorough and 
efficient way. " No, this is not a trance," thought Arkady 
Ivanovitch, and he trembled all over. 

" Vasya, Vasya, speak to me," he cried, clutching him by the 
shoulder. But Vasya did not speak; he went on as before, 
scribbling with a dry pen over the paper. 

" At last I have made the pen go faster," he said, without 
looking up at Arkady. 

Arkady seized his hand and snatched away the pen. 

A moan broke from Vasya. He dropped his hand and raised 
his eyes to Arkady; then with an air of misery and exhaustion 
he passed his hand over his forehead as though he wanted to 
shake off some leaden weight that was pressing upon his whole 
being, and slowly, as though lost in thought, he let his head sink 
on his breast. 

" Vasya, Vasya 1 " cried Arkady in despair. " Vasya ! " 

A minute later Vasya looked at him, tears stood in his large 
blue eyes, and his pale, mild face wore a look of infinite suffering. 
He whispered something. 

" What, what is it ? " cried Arkady, bending down to him. 

" What for, why are they doing it to me ?" whispered Vasya. 
" What for ? What have I done ? " 

" Vasya, what is it ? What are you afraid of ? What is it ? " 
cried Arkady, wringing his hands in despair. 

" Why are they sending me for a soldier ? " said Vasya, looking 



A FAINT HEART 193 

his friend straight in the face. " Why is it ? What have I 
done ? " 

Arkady's hair stood on end with horror ; he refused to believe 
his ears. He stood over him, half dead. 

A minute later he pulled himself together. " It's nothing, 
it's only for the minute," he said to himself, with pale face and 
blue, quivering lips, and he hastened to put on his outdoor things. 
He meant to run straight for a doctor. All at once Vasya called 
to him. Arkady rushed to him and clasped him in his arms like 
a mother whose child is being torn from her. 

" Arkady, Arkady, don't tell any one ! Don't tell any one, 
do you hear ? It is my trouble, I must bear it alone." 

" What is it what is it ? Rouse yourself, Vasya, rouse 
yourself ! " 

Vasya sighed, and slow tears trickled down his cheeks. 

" Why kill her ? How is she to blame ? " he muttered in an 
agonized, heartrending voice. " The sin is mines the sin is 
mine ! " 

He was silent for a moment. 

" Farewell, my love ! Farewell, my love ! " he whispered, 
shaking his luckless head. Arkady started, pulled himself to- 
gether and would have rushed for the doctor. " Let us go, it 
is time," cried Vasya. carried away by Arkady's last movement. 
" Let us go, brother, let us go ; I am ready. You lead the way/' 
He paused and looked at Arkady with a downcast and mistrustful 
face. 

" Vasya, for goodness' sake, don't follow me ! Wait for me 
here. I will come back to you directly, directly," said Arkady 
Ivanovitch, losing his head and snatching up his cap to run for 
a doctor. Vasya sat down at once, he was quiet and docile ; 
but there was a gleam of some desperate resolution in his eye. 
Arkady turned back, snatched up from the table an open pen- 
knife, looked at the poor fellow for the last time, and ran out of 
the flat. 

It was eight o'clock. It had been broad daylight for some time 
in the room. 

He found no one. He was running about for a full hour. 

All the doctors whose addresses he had got from the house 

porter when he inquired of the latter whether there were no 

doctor living in the building, had gone out, either to their work 

o 



194 A FAINT HEART 

or on their private affairs. There was one who saw patients. 
This one questioned at length and in detail the servant who 
announced that Nefedevitch had called, asking him who it was, 
from whom he came, what was the matter, and concluded by 
saying that he could not go, that he had a great deal to do, 
and that patients of that kind ought to be taken to a hospital. 

Then Arkady, exhausted, agitated, and utterly taken aback 
by this turn of affairs, cursed all the doctors on earth, and rushed 
home in the utmost alarm about Vasya. He ran into the flat. 
Mavra, as though there were nothing the matter, went on scrub- 
bing the floor, breaking up wood and preparing to light the 
stove. He went into the room ; there was no trace of Vasya, he 
had gone out. 

" Which way ? Where ? Where will the poor fellow be off 
too ? " thought Arkady, frozen with terror. He began questioning 
Mavra. She knew nothing, had neither seen nor heard him go 
out, God bless him ! Nefedevitch rushed off to the Artemyevs'. 

It occurred to him for some reason that he must be there. 

It was ten o'clock by the time he arrived. They did not 
expect him, knew nothing and had heard nothing. He stood 
before them frightened, distressed, and asked where was Vasya ? 
The mother's legs gave way under her; she sank back on the 
sofa. Lizanka, trembling with alarm, began asking what had 
happened. What could he say ? Arkady Ivanovitch got out of 
it as best he could, invented some tale which of course was not 
believed, and fled, leaving them distressed and anxious. He 
flew to his department that he might not be too late there, and 
he let them know that steps might be taken at once. On the 
way it occurred to him that Vasya would be at Yulian Mastako- 
vitch's. That was more likely than anything : Arkady had 
thought of that first of all, even before the Artemyevs'. As he 
drove by His Excellency's door, he thought of stopping, but at 
once told the driver to go straight on. He made up his mind 
to try and find out whether anything had happened at the office, 
and if he were not there to go to His Excellency, ostensibly to 
report on Vasya. Some one must be informed of it. 

As soon as he got into the waiting-room he was surrounded 
by fellow-clerks, for the most part young men of his own standing 
in the service. With one voice they began asking him what had 
happened to Vasya ? At the same time they all told him that 



A FAINT HEART 196 

Vasya had gone out of his mind, and thought that he was to be 
sent for a soldier as a punishment for having neglected his work. 
Arkady Ivanovitch, answering them in all directions, or rather 
avoiding giving a direct answer to any one, rushed into the inner 
room. On the way he learned that Vasya was in Yulian 
Mastakovitch's private room, that every one had been there and 
that Esper Ivanovitch had gone in there too. He was stopped 
on the way. One of the senior clerks asked him who he was and 
what he wanted ? Without distinguishing the person he said 
something about Vasya and went straight into the room. He 
heard Yulian Mastakovitch's voice from within. " Where are 
you going ? " some one asked him at the very door. Arkady 
Ivanovitch was almost in despair ; he was on the point of turning 
back, but through the open door he saw his poor Vasya. He 
pushed the door and squeezed his way into the room. Every one 
seemed to be in confusion and perplexity, because Yulian Mastako- 
vitch was apparently much chagrined. All the more important 
personages were standing about him talking, and coming to no 
decision. At a little distance stood Vasya. Arkady's heart sank 
when he looked at him. Vasya was standing, pale, with his 
head up, stiffly erect, like a recruit before a new officer, with his 
feet together and his hands held rigidly at his sides. He was 
looking Yulian Mastakovitch straight in the face. Arkady was 
noticed at once, and some one who knew that they lodged to- 
gether mentioned the fact to His Excellency. Arkady was led 
up to him. He tried to make some answer to the questions put 
to him, glanced at Yulian Mastakovitch and seeing on his face a 
look of genuine compassion, began trembling and sobbing like a 
child. He even did more, he snatched His Excellency's hand 
and held it to his eyes, wetting it with his tears, so that Yulian 
Mastakovitch was obliged to draw it hastily aw r ay, and waving 
it in the air, said, " Come, my dear fellow, come ! I see you have 
a good heart." Arkady sobbed and turned an imploring look on 
every one. It seemed to him that they were all brothers of his 
dear Vasya, that they were all worried and weeping about him. 
" How, how has it happened ? how has it happened ? " asked 
Yulian Mastakovitch. " What has sent him out of his mind ? " 

" Gra gra gratitude ! " was all Arkady Ivanovitch could 
articulate. 

Every one heard his answer with amazement, and it seemed 



196 A FAINT HEART 

strange and incredible to every one that a man could go out of 
his mind from gratitude. Arkady explained as best he could. 

" Good Heavens ! what a pity ! " said Yulian Mastakovitch 
at last. " And the work entrusted to him was not important, 
and not urgent in the least. It was not worth while for a man 
to kill himself over it ! Well, take him away ! " . . .At this 
point Yulian Mastakovitch turned to Arkady Ivanovitch again, 
and began questioning him once more. " He begs," he said, 
pointing to Vasya, "that some girl should not be told of this. 
Who is she his betrothed, I suppose ? " 

Arkady began to explain. Meanwhile Vas} 7 a seemed to be 
thinking of something, as though he were straining his memory 
to the utmost to recall some important, necessary matter, which 
was particularly wanted at this moment. From time to time he 
looked round with a distressed face, as though hoping some one 
would remind him of what he had forgotten. He fastened his 
eyes on Arkady. All of a sudden there was a gleam of hope in 
his eyes ; he moved with the left leg forward, took three steps 
as smartly as he could, clicking with his right boot as soldiers do 
when they move forward at the call from their officer. Every one 
was waiting to see what would happen. 

"I have a physical defect and am small and weak, and I am 
not fit for military service, Your Excellency," he said abruptly. 

At that every one in the room felt a pang at his heart, and 
firm as was Yulian Mastakovitch 's character, tears trickled from 
his eyes. 

" Take him away," he said, with a wave of his hands. 

" Present ! " said Vasya in an undertone ; he wheeled 
round to the left and marched out of the room. All who were 
interested in his fate followed him out. Arkady pushed his way 
out behind the others. They made Vasya sit down in the waiting- 
room till the carriage came which had been ordered to take him 
to the hospital. He sat down in silence and seemed in great 
anxiety. He nodded to any one he recognized as though saying 
good-bye. He looked round towards the door every minute, 
and prepared himself to set off when he should be told it was time. 
People crowded in a close circle round him ; they were all shaking 
their heads and lamenting. Many of them were much impressed 
by his story, which had suddenly become known. Some dis- 
cussed his illness, while others expressed their pity and high 



A FAINT HEART 197 

opinion of Vasya, saying that he was such a quiet, modest young 
man, that he had been so promising; people described what 
efforts he had made to learn, how eager he was for knowledge, 
how he had worked to educate himself. " He had risen by his 
own efforts from a humble position," some one observed. They 
spoke with emotion of His Excellency's affection for him. Some 
of them fell to explaining why Vasya was possessed by the idea 
that he was being sent for a soldier, because he had not finished 
his work. They said that the poor fellow had so lately belonged 
to the class liable for military service and had only received his 
first grade through the good offices of Yulian Mastakovitch, 
who had had the cleverness to discover his talent, his docility, 
and the rare mildness of his disposition. In fact, there was a 
great number of views and theories. 

A very short fellow-clerk of Vasya's was conspicuous as being 
particularly distressed. He was not very young, probably about 
thirty. He was pale as a sheet, trembling all over and smiling 
queerly, perhaps because any scandalous affair or terrible scene 
both frightens, and at the same time somewhat rejoices the out- 
side spectator. He kept running round the circle that surrounded 
Vasya, and as he was so short, stood on tiptoe and caught at the 
button of every one that is, of those with whom he felt entitled 
to take such a liberty and kept saying that he knew how it had 
all happened, that it was not so simple, but a very important 
matter, that it couldn't be left without further inquiry; then 
stood on tiptoe again, whispered in some one's ear, nodded his 
head again two or three times, and ran round again. At last 
everything was over. The porter made his appearance, and an 
attendant from the hospital went up to Vasya and told him it 
was time to start. Vasya jumped up in a flutter and went with 
them, looking about him. He was looking about for some one. 

" Vasya, Vasya ! " cried Arkady Ivanovitch, sobbing. Vasya 
stopped, and Arkady squeezed his way up to him. They flung 
themselves into each other's arms in a last bitter embrace. It 
was sad to see them. What monstrous calamity was wringing 
the tears from their eyes ! What were they weeping for ? What 
was their trouble ? Why did they not understand one another ? 

" Here, here, take it ! Take care of it," said Shumkov. thrust- 
ing a paper of some kind into Arkady's hand. " They will take 
it away from me. Bring it me later on ; bring it ... take care 



198 A FAINT HEART 

of it. . . ." Vasya could not finish, they called to him. He ran 
hurriedly downstairs, nodding to every one, saying good-bye to 
every one. There was despair in his face. At last he was put in 
the carriage and taken away. Arkady made haste to open the 
paper : it was Liza's curl of black hair, from which Vasya had 
never parted. Hot tears gushed from Arkady's eyes : oh, poor 
Liza ! 

When office hours were over, he went to the Artemyevs'. 
There is no need to describe what happened there ! Even Petya, 
little Petya, though he could not quite understand what had hap- 
pened to dear Vasya, went into a corner, hid his face in his little 
hands, and sobbed in the fullness of his childish heart. It was 
quite dusk when Arkady returned home. When he reached the 
Neva he stood still for a minute and turned a keen glance up the 
river into the smoky frozen thickness of the distance, which was 
suddenly flushed crimson with the last purple and blood -red glow 
of sunset, still smouldering on the misty horizon. . . . Night lay 
over the city, and the wide plain of the Neva, swollen with frozen 
snow, was shining in the last gleams of the sun with myriads 
of sparks of gleaming hoar frost. There was a frost of twenty 
degrees. A cloud of frozen steam hung about the overdriven 
horses and the hurrying people. The condensed atmosphere 
quivered at the slightest sound, and from all the roofs on both 
sides of the river, columns of smoke rose up like giants and 
floated across the cold sky, intertwining and untwining as they 
went, so that it seemed new buildings were rising up above the 
old, a new town was taking shape in the air. ... It seemed as 
if all that world, with all its inhabitants, strong and weak, with 
all their habitations, the refuges of the poor, or the gilded palaces 
for the comfort of the powerful of this world was at that twilight 
hour like a fantastic vision of fairy-land, like a dream which in 
its turn would vanish and pass away like vapour into the dark 
blue sky. A strange thought came to poor Vasya's forlorn friend. 
He started, and his heart seemed at that instant flooded with a 
hot rush of blood kindled by a powerful, overwhelming sensation 
he had never known before. He seemed only now to under- 
stand all the trouble, and to know why his poor Vasya had gone 
out of his mind, unable to bear his happiness. His lips twitched, 
his eyes lighted up, he turned pale, and as it were had a clear 
vision into something new. 



A FAINT HEART 199 

He became gloomy and depressed, and lost all his gaiety. 
His old lodging grew hateful to him he took a new room. He 
did not care to visit the Artemyevs, and indeed he could not. 
Two years later he met Lizanka in church. She was by then 
married ; beside her walked a wet nurse with a tiny baby. They 
greeted each other, and for a long time avoided all mention of 
the past. Liza said that, thank God, she was happy, that she 
was not badly off, that her husband was a kind man and that she 
was fond of him. . . . But suddenly in the middle of a sentence 
her eyes filled with tears, her voice failed, she turned away, and 
bowed down to the church pavement to hide her grief. 



A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 

A STORY 

THE other day I saw a wedding . . . but no, I had better tell 
you about the Christmas tree. The wedding was nice, I liked 
it very much ; but the other incident was better. I don't know 
how it was that, looking at that wedding, I thought of that 
Christmas tree. This was what happened. Just five years ago, 
on New Year's Eve, I was invited to a children's party. The 
giver of the party was a well-known and business-like personage, 
with connections, with a large circle of acquaintances, and a 
good many schemes on hand, so that it may be supposed that 
this party was an excuse for getting the parents together and 
discussing various interesting matters in an innocent, casual way. 
I was an outsider; I had no interesting matter to contribute, 
and so I spent the evening rather independently. There was 
another gentleman present who was, I fancied, of no special 
rank or family, and who, like me, had simply turned up at this 
family festivity. He was the first to catch my eye. He was a 
tall, lanky man, very grave and very correctly dressed. But 
one could see that he was in no mood for merrymaking and 
family festivity; whenever he withdrew into a corner he left 
off smiling and knitted his bushy black brows. He had not a 
single acquaintance in the party except his host. One could 
see that he was fearfully bored, but that he was valiantly keep- 
ing up the part of a man perfectly happy and enjoying himself. 
I learned afterwards that this was a gentleman from the pro- 
vinces, who had a critical and perplexing piece of business in 
Petersburg, who had brought a letter of introduction to our 
host, for whom our host was, by no means con amore, using his 
intcn-st, and whom he had invited, out of civility, to his children's 
party. He did not play cards, cigars were not oll'eivd him. every 
one avoided entering into conversation \\ilh him, most likely 
the bird from its feathers; and so my gentleman 
200 



A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 201 

was forced to sit the whole evening stroking his whiskers 
simply to have something to do with his hands. His whiskers 
were certainly very fine. But he stroked them so zealously 
that, looking at him, one might have supposed that the whiskers 
were created first and the gentleman only attached to them in 
order to stroke them. 

In addition to this individual who assisted in this way at 
our host's family festivity (he had five fat, well-fed boys), I 
was attracted, too, by another gentleman. But he was quite 
of a different sort. He was a personage. He was called Yulian 
Mastakovitch. From the first glance one could see that he was 
an honoured guest, and stood in the same relation to our host 
as our host stood in relation to the gentleman who was stroking 
his whiskers. Our host and hostess said no end of polite things 
to him, waited on him hand and foot, pressed him to drink, 
flattered him, brought their visitors up to be introduced to 
him, but did not take him to be introduced to any one else. 
I noticed that tears glistened in our host's eyes when he remarked 
about the party that he had rarely spent an evening so agree- 
ably. I felt as it were frightened in the presence of such a 
personage, and so, after admiring the children, I went away 
into a little parlour, which was quite empty, and sat down in 
an arbour of flowers which filled up almost half the room. 

The children were all incredibly sweet, and resolutely refused 
to model themselves on the " grown-ups," regardless of all the 
admonitions of their governesses and mammas. They stripped 
the Christmas tree to the last sweetmeat in the twinkling of an 
eye, and had succeeded in breaking half the playthings before 
they knew what was destined for which. Particularly charming 
was a black-eyed, curly-headed boy, who kept trying to shoot 
me with his wooden gun. But my attention was still more 
attracted by his sister, a girl of eleven, quiet, dreamy, pale, 
with big, prominent, dreamy eyes, exquisite as a little Cupid. 
The children hurt her feelings in some way, and so she came 
away from them to the same empty parlour in which I was 
sitting, and played with her doll in the corner. The visitors 
respectfully pointed out her father, a wealthy contractor, and 
some one whispered that three hundred thousand roubles were 
alread} r set aside for her dowrj^. I turned round to glance at 
the group who were interested in such a circumstance, and my 



202 A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 

eye fell on Yulian Mastakovitch, who, with his hands behind 
his back and his head on one side, was listening with the greatest 
attention to these gentlemen's idle gossip. Afterwards I could 
not help admiring the discrimination of the host and hostess 
in the distribution of the children's presents. The little girl, 
who had already a portion of three hundred thousand 
roubles, received the costliest doll. Then followed presents 
diminishing in value in accordance with the rank of the parents 
of these happy children; finally, the child of lowest degree, a 
thin, freckled, red-haired little boy of ten, got nothing but a 
book of stories about the marvels of nature and tears of devo- 
tion, etc., without pictures or even woodcuts. He was the son 
of a poor widow, the governess of the children of the house, 
an oppressed and scared little boy. He was dressed in a short 
jacket of inferior nankin. After receiving his book he walked 
round the other toys for a long time; he longed to play with 
the other children, but did not dare ; it was evident that he 
already felt and understood his position. I love watching 
children. Their first independent approaches to life are ex- 
tremely interesting. I noticed that the red-haired boy was so 
fascinated by the costly toys of the other children, especially 
by a theatre in which he certainly longed to take some part, 
that he made up his mind to sacrifice his dignity. He smiled 
and began playing with the other children, he gave away his 
apple to a fat-faced little boy who had a mass of goodies tied 
up in a pocket-handkerchief already, and even brought himself 
to carry another boy on his back, simply not to be turned away 
from the theatre, but an insolent youth gave him a heavy thump 
a minute later. The child did not dare to cry. Then the 
governess, his mother, made her appearance, and told him not 
to interfere with the other children's playing. The boy went 
away to the same room in which was the little girl. She let 
him join her, and the two set to work very eagerly dressing the 
expensive doll. 

I had been sitting more than half an hour in the ivy arbour, 
listening to the little prattle of the red-haired boy and the 
beauty with the dowry of three hundred thousand, who was 
Miirsinjf her doll, when Yulian Mastakovitch suddenly walked 
into the room. He had taken advantage of the general com- 
motion following a quarrel among the children to step out of 



A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 203 

the drawing-room. I had noticed him a moment before talking 
very cordially to the future heiress's papa, whose acquaintance 
he had just made, of the superiority of one branch of the service 
over another. Now he stood in hesitation and seemed to be 
reckoning something on his fingers. 

" Three hundred . . . three hundred," he was whispering. 
" Eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen," and so on. " Sixteen five 
years ! Supposing it is at four per cent. five times twelve is 
sixty ; yes, to that sixty . . . well, in five years we may assume 
it will be four hundred. Yes ! . . . But he won't stick to four 
per cent., the rascal. He can get eight or ten. Well, five 
hundred, let us say, five hundred at least . . . that's certain; 
well, say a little more for frills. H'm ! . . ." 

His hesitation was at an end, he blew his nose and was on 
the point of going out of the room when he suddenly glanced 
at the little girl and stopped short. He did not see me behind 
the pots of greenery. It seemed to me that he was greatly 
excited. Either his calculations had affected his imagination or 
something else, for he rubbed his hands and could hardly stand 
still. This excitement reached its utmost limit when he stopped 
and bent another resolute glance at the future heiress. He 
was about to move forward, but first looked round, then 
moving on tiptoe, as though he felt guilty, he advanced towards 
the children. He approached with a little smile, bent down 
and kissed her on the head. The child, not expecting this 
attack, uttered a cry of alarm. 

" What are you doing here, sweet child ? " he asked in a 
whisper, looking round and patting the girl's cheek. 

" We are playing." 

" Ah ! With him ? " Yulian Mastakovitch looked askance 
at the boy. " You had better go into the drawing-room, my 
dear," he said to him. 

The boy looked at him open-eyed and did not utter a word. 
Yulian Mastakovitch looked round him again, and again bent 
down to the little girl. 

" And what is this you've got a dolly, dear child ? " he 
asked. 

" Yes, a dolly," answered the child, frowning, and a little shy. 

" A dolly . . . and do you know, dear child, what your dolly 
is made of ? " 



" I don't know ..." the child answered in a whisper, hanging 
her head. 

" It's made of rags, darling. You had better go into the 
drawing-room to your playmates, boy," said Yulian Mastako- 
vitch, looking sternly at the boy. The boy and girl frowned 
and clutched at each other. They did not want to be separated. 

" And do you know why they gave you that doll ? " asked 
Yulian Mastakovitch, dropping his voice to a softer and softer 
tone. 

" I don't know." 

" Because you have been a sweet and well-behaved child all 
the week." 

At this point Yulian Mastakovitch, more excited than ever, 
speaking in most dulcet tones, asked at last, in a hardly audible 
voice choked with emotion and impatience 

" And will you love me, dear little girl, when I come and see 
your papa and mamma ? " 

Saying this, Yulian Mastakovitch tried once more to kiss 
" the dear little girl," but the red-haired boy, seeing that the 
little girl was on the point of tears, clutched her hand and 
began whimpering from sympathy for her. Yulian Mastakovitch 
was angry in earnest. 

" Go away, go away from here, go away ! " he said to the 
boy. " Go into the drawing-room ! Go in there to your play- 
mates ! " 

" No, he needn't, he needn't ! You go away," said the little 
girl. " Leave him alone, leave him alone," she said, almost 
crying. 

Some one made a sound at the door. Yulian Mastakovitch 
instantly raised his majestic person and took alarm. But t lu- 
red -haired boy was even more alarmed than Yulian Masta- 
kovitch ; he abandoned the little girl and, slinking along by the 
wall, stole out of the parlour into the dining-room. To avoid 
arousing suspicion, Yulian Mastakovitch, too, went into the 
dining-room. He was as red as a lobster, and, glancing into 
the looking-glass, seemed to be ashamed at himself. He was 
perhaps vexed with himself for his impetuosity and hastiness. 
Possibly, he was at first so much impressed by his calculations, 
BO inspired and fascinated by them, that in spite of his sorious- 
and dignity he made up his rabid to behave like a boy, 



A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 205 

and directly approach the object of his attentions, even though 
she could not be really the object of his attentions for another 
five years at least. I followed the estimable gentleman into the 
dining-room and there beheld a strange spectacle. Yulian 
Mastakovitch, flushed with vexation and anger, was frightening 
the red-haired boy, who, retreating from him, did not know 
where to run in his terror. 

" Go away; what are you doing here ? Go away, you scamp; 
are you after the fruit here, eh ? Get along, you naughty boy ! 
Get along, you sniveller, to your playmates ! " 

The panic-stricken boy in his desperation tried creeping under 
the table. Then his persecutor, in a fury, took out his large 
batiste handkerchief and began flicking it under the table at 
the child, who kept perfectly quiet. It must be observed that 
Yulian Mastakovitch was a little inclined to be fat. He was a 
sleek, red-faced, solidly built man, paunchy, with thick legs; 
what is called a fine figure of a man, round as a nut. He was 
perspiring, breathless, and fearfully flushed. At last he was 
almost rigid, so great was his indignation and perhaps who 
knows ? his jealousy. I burst into loud laughter. Yulian 
Mastakovitch turned round and, in spite of all his consequence, 
was overcome with confusion. At that moment from the 
opposite door our host came in. The boy crept out from under 
the table and wiped his elbows and his knees. Yulian Masta- 
kovitch hastened to put to his nose the handkerchief which he 
was holding in his hand by one end. 

Our host looked at the three of us in some perplexity; but 
as a man who knew something of life, and looked at it from a 
serious point of view, he at once availed himself of the chance 
of catching his visitor by himself. 

" Here, this is the boy," he said, pointing to the red-haired 
boy, " for whom I had the honour to solicit your influence." 

" Ah ! " said Yulian Mastakovitch, who had hardly quite 
recovered himself. 

" The son of my children's governess," said our host, in a 
tone of a petitioner, " a poor woman, the widow of an honest 
civil servant ; and therefore . . . and therefore, Yulian Masta- 
kovitch, if it were possible ..." 

" Oh, no, no ! " Yulian Mastakovitch made haste to answer; 
" no, excuse me, Filip Alexyevitch, it's quite impossible. I've 



206 A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 

made inquiries; there's no vacancy, and if there were, there 
are twenty applicants who have far more claim than he. ... 
I am very sorry, very sorry. . . ." 

" What a pity," said our host. " He is a quiet, well-behaved 
boy." 

" A great rascal, as I notice," answered Yulian Mastakovitch, 
with a nervous twist of his lip. " Get along, boy; why are you 
standing there ? Go to your playmates," he said, addressing 
the child. 

At that point he could not contain himself, and glanced at 
me out of one eye. I, too, could not contain myself, and 
laughed straight in his face. Yulian Mastakovitch turned away 
at once, and in a voice calculated to reach my ear, asked who 
was that strange young man ? They whispered together and 
walked out of the room. I saw Yulian Mastakovitch afterwards 
shaking his head incredulously as our host talked to him. 

After laughing to my heart's content I returned to the 
drawing-room. There the great man, surrounded by fathers 
and mothers of families, including the host and hoste-s, \\us 
saying sometliiiig very warmly to a lady to whom he had just 
been introduced. The lady was holding by the hand the little 
girl with whom Yulian Mastakovitch had had the scene in the 
parlour a little while before. Now he was launching into praises 
and raptures over the beauty, the talents, the grace and the 
charming manners of the charming child. He was unmistakably 
making up to the mamma. The mother listened to him almost 
with tears of delight. The father's lips AM- re smiling. Our 
host was delighted at the general satisfaction. All the guests, 
in fact, were sympathetically gratified; even the children's 
games were checked that they might not hinder the conversa- 
tion : the whole atmosphere was saturated with reverence. I 
heard afterwards the mamma of the interesting child, deeply 
touched, beg Yulian Mastakovitch, in carefully chosen phrases, 
to do her the special honour of bestowing upon them the precious 
gift of his acquaintance, and heard with what unaffected delight 
Yulian Mastakovitch accepted the invitation, and how after- 
wards the guests, dispersing in different directions, moving away 
with the greatest propriety, poured out to one another the most 
touchingly flattering comments upon the contractor, his wife, 
his little girl, and, above all, upon Yulian Mastakovitch. 



A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING 207 

" Is that gentleman married ? " I asked, almost aloud, of one 
of my acquaintances, who was standing nearest to Yulian 
Mastakovitch. Yulian Mastakovitch flung a searching and 
vindictive glance at me. 

" No ! " answered my acquaintance, chagrined to the bottom 
of his heart by the awkwardness of which I had intentionally 
been guilty. . . . 

I passed lately by a certain church ; I was struck by the 
crowd of people in carriages. I heard people talking of the 
wedding. It was a cloudy day, it was beginning to sleet. I 
made my way through the crowd at the door and saw the 
bridegroom. He was a sleek, well-fed, round, paunchy man, 
very gorgeously dressed up. He was running fussily about, 
giving orders. At last the news passed through the crowd 
that the bride was coming. I squeezed my way through the 
crowd and saw a marvellous beauty, who could scarcely have 
reached her first season. But the beauty was pale and melan- 
choly. She looked preoccupied; I even fancied that her eyes 
were red with recent weeping. The classic severity of every 
feature of her face gave a certain dignity and seriousness to 
her beauty. But through that sternness and dignity, through 
that melancholy, could be seen the look of childish innocence; 
something indescribably nai've, fluid, youthful, which seemed 
mutely begging for mercy. 

People w T ere saying that she was only just sixteen. Glancing 
attentively at the bridegroom, I suddenly recognized him as 
Yulian Mastakovitch, whom I had not seen for five years. I 
looked at her. My God ! I began to squeeze my way as quickly 
as I could out of the church. I heard people saying in the 
crowd that the bride was an heiress, that she had a dowry of 
five hundred thousand . . . and a trousseau worth ever so 
much. 

" It was a good stroke of business, though ! " I thought as I 
made my way into the street. 



POLZUNKOV 

A STORY 

I BEGAN to scrutinize the man closely. Even in his exterior 
there was something so peculiar that it compelled one, however 
far away one's thoughts might be, to fix one's eyes upon him 
and go off into the most irrepressible roar of laughter. That is 
what happened to me. I must observe that the little man's 
eyes were so mobile, or perhaps he was so sensitive to the mag- 
netism of every eye fixed upon him, that he almost by instinct 
guessed that he was being observed, turned at once to the 
observer and anxiously analysed his expression. His continual 
mobility, his turning and twisting, made him look strikingly 
like a dancing doll. It was strange ! He seemed afraid of jeers, 
in spite of the fact that he was almost getting his living by 
being a buffoon for all the world, and exposed himself to every 
buffet in a moral sense and even in a physical one, judging 
from the company he was in. Voluntary buffoons are not even 
to be pitied. But I noticed at once that this strange creature, 
this ridiculous man, was by no means a buffoon by profession. 
There was still something gentlemanly in him. His very uneasi- 
ness, his continual apprehensive ness about himself, were actually 
a testimony in his favour. It seemed to me that his desire to 
be obliging was due more to kindness of heart than to mer- 
cenary considerations. He readily allowed them to laugh their 
loudest at him and in the most unseemly way, to liis face, but 
at the same time and I am ready to take my oath on it his 
heart ached and was sore at the thought that his listeners AM rv 
so caddishly brutal as to be capable of laughing, not at anything 
said or done, but at him, at his whole being, at his heart, at 
his head, at his appearance, at his whole body, flesh and blood. 
I am convinced that he felt at that moment all the foolish: 
of his position ; but the protest died away in his heart at once, 
though it invariably sprang up again in the most heroic way. 

208 



POLZUNKOV 209 

I am convinced that all this was due to nothing else but a kind 
heart, and not to fear of the inconvenience of being kicked 
out and being unable to borrow money from some one. This 
gentleman was for ever borrowing money, that is. he asked for 
alms in that form, when after playing the fool and entertaining 
them at his expense he felt in a certain sense entitled to borrow 
money from them. But, good heavens ! what a business the 
borrowing was ! And with what a countenance he asked for 
the loan ! I could not have imagined that on such a small 
space as the wrinkled, angular face of that little man room 
could be found, at one and the same time, for so many 
different grimaces, for such strange, variously characteristic 
shades of feeling, such absolutely killing expressions. Every- 
thing was there shame and an assumption of insolence, and 
vexation at the sudden flushing of his face, and anger and fear 
of failure, and entreaty to be forgiven for having dared to pester, 
and a sense of his own dignity, and a still greater sense of his 
own abjectness all this passed over his face like lightning. 
For six whole years he had struggled along in God's world in 
this way, and so far had been unable to take up a fitting attitude 
at the interesting moment of borrowing money ! I need not 
say that he never could grow callous and completely abject. 
His heart was too sensitive, too passionate ! I will say more, 
indeed : in my opinion, he was one of the most honest and 
honourable men in the world, but with a little weakness : of 
being ready to do anything abject at any one's bidding, good- 
naturedly and disinterestedly, simply to oblige a fellow-creature. 
In short, he was what is called " a rag " in the fullest sense of 
the word. The most absurd thing was, that he was dressed 
like any one else, neither worse nor better, tidily, even with a 
certain elaborateness, and actually had pretentions to respect- 
ability and personal dignity. This external equality and internal 
inequality, his uneasiness about himself and at the same time 
his continual self-depreciation all this was strikingly incon- 
gruous and provocative of laughter and pity. If he had been 
convinced in his heart (and in spite of his experience it did 
happen to him at moments to believe this) that his audience 
were the most good-natured people in the world, who were 
simply laughing at something amusing, and not at the sacrifice 
of his personal dignity, he would most readily have taken off 



210 POLZUNKOV 

his coat, put it on wrong side outwards, and have walked about 
the streets in that attire for the diversion of others and his 
own gratification. But equality he could never anyhow attain. 
Another trait : the queer fellow was proud, and even, by fits 
and starts, when it was not too risky, generous. It was worth 
seeing and hearing how he could sometimes, not sparing himself, 
consequently with pluck, almost with heroism, dispose of one 
of his patrons who had infuriated him to madness. But that 
was at moments ... In short, he was a martyr in the fullest 
sense of the word, but the most useless and consequently the 
most comic martyr. 

There was a general discussion going on among the guests 
All at once I saw our queer friend jump upon his chair, and call 
out at the top of his voice, anxious for the exclusive attention 
of the company. 

" Listen," the master of the house whispered to me. " He 
sometimes tells the most curious stories. . . . Does he interest 
you ? " 

I nodded and squeezed myself into the group. The sight of 
a well-dressed gentleman jumping upon his chair and shouting 
at the top of his voice did, in fact, draw the attention of all. 
Many who did not know the queer fellow looked at one another 
in perplexity, the others roared with laughter. 

" I knew Fedosey Nikolaitch. I ought to know Fedosey 
Nikolai tch better than any one ! " cried the queer fellow from 
his elevation. " Gentlemen, allow me to tell you something. 
I can tell you a good story about Fedosey Nikolaitch ! I know 
a story exquisite ! " 

" Tell it, Osip Mihalitch, tell it." 

" Tell it." 

" Listen." 

" Listen, listen." 

" I begin; but, gentlemen, this is a peculiar story. . . ." 

" Very good, very good." 

" It's a comic story." 

" Very good, excellent, splendid. Get on ! " 

" It is an episode in the private life of your humble . . ." 

" But why do you trouble yourself to announce that it's 
comic ? " 

'And oven somewhat tragic ! " 



POLZUNKOV 211 

"Eh??? 1" 

" In short, the story which it will afford you all pleasure to hear 
me now relate, gentlemen the story, in consequence of which I 
have come into company so interesting and profitable ..." 

" No puns ! " 

" This story." 

" In short the story make haste and finish the introduc- 
tion. The story, which has its value," a fair-haired young man 
with moustaches pronounced in a husky voice, dropping his hand 
into his coat pocket and, as though by chance, pulling out a purse 
instead of his handkerchief. 

" The story, my dear sirs, after which I should like to see 
many of you in my place. And, finally, the story, in consequence 
of which I have not married." 

" Married ! A wife ! Polzunkov tried to get married ! ! " 

" I confess I should like to see Madame Polzunkov." 

" Allow me to inquire the name of the would-be Madame 
Polzunkov," piped a youth, making his way up to the storyteller. 

" And so for the first chapter, gentlemen. It was just six 
years ago, in spring, the thirty-first of March note the date, 
gentlemen on the eve ..." 

" Of the first of April ! " cried a young man with ringlets. 

" You are extraordinarily quick at guessing. It was evening. 
Twilight was gathering over the district town of N., the moon 
was about to float out . . . everything in proper style, in fact. 
And so in the very late twilight I, too, floated out of my poor 
lodging on the sly after taking leave of my restricted granny, 
now dead. Excuse me, gentlemen, for making use of such a 
fashionable expression, which I heard for the last time from 
Nikolay Nikolaitch. But my granny was indeed restricted : 
she was blind, dumb, deaf, stupid everything you please. . . . 
I confess I was in a tremor, I was prepared for great deeds ; 
my heart was beating like a kitten's when some bony hand 
clutches it by the scruff of the neck." 

" Excuse me, Monsieur Polzunkov." 

" What do you want ? " 

" Tell it more simply; don't over-exert yourself, please ! " 

" All right," said Osip Mihalitch, a little taken aback. " I 
went into the house of Fedosey Nikolaitch (the house that he 
had bought). Fedosey Nikolaitch, as you know, is not a mere 



212 POLZUNKOV 

colleague, but the full-blown head of a department. I was 
announced, and was at once shown into the study. I can see 
it now; the room was dark, almost dark, but candles were not 
brought. Behold, Fedosey Nikolaitch walks in. There he and 
I were left in the darkness. ..." 

" Whatever happened to you 1 " asked an officer. 

" What do you suppose ? " asked Polzunkov, turning promptly, 
with a convulsively working face, to the young man with ringlets. 
" Well, gentlemen, a strange circumstance occurred, though 
indeed there was nothing strange in it : it was what is called 
an everyday affair I simply took out of my pocket a roll of 
paper . . . and he a roll of paper." 

" Paper notes ? " 

" Paper notes; and we exchanged." 

" I don't mind betting that there's a flavour of bribery about 
it," observed a respectably dressed, closely cropped young 
gentleman. 

" Bribery ! " Polzunkov caught him up. 

' ' Oh, may I be a Liberal, 
Such as many I have seen ! ' 

If you, too, when it is your lot to serve in the provinces, do 
not warm your hands at your country's hearth . . . For as an 
author said : ' Even the smoke of our native land is sweet to 
us.' She is our Mother, gentlemen, our Mother Russia; we are 
her babes, and so we suck her ! " 

There was a roar of laughter. 

" Only would you believe it, gentlemen, I have never taken 
bribes ? " said Polzunkov, looking round at the whole company 
distrustfully. 

A prolonged burst of Homeric laughter drowned Polzunkov's 
words in guffaws. 

41 It really is so, gentlemen. ..." 

But here he stopped, still looking round at every one with a 
strange expression of face; perhaps who knows? at that 
moment the thought came into his mind that he was more 
honest than many of all that honourable company. . . . Any- 
way, the serious expression of his face did not pass away till 
the general merriment was quite ov-r. 

" And so," Polzunkov began again when all was still, " though 



POLZUNKOV 213 

I never did take bribes, yet that time I transgressed; I put in 
my pocket a bribe . . . from a bribe-taker . . . that is, there 
were certain papers in my hands which, if I had cared to send 
to a certain person, it would have gone ill with Fedosey 
Nikolaitch." 

" So then he bought them from you ? " 

" He did." 

" Did he give much ? " 

" He gave as much as many a man nowadays would sell his 
conscience for complete, with all its variations ... if only he 
could get anything for it. But I felt as though I were scalded 
when I put the money in my pocket. I really don't understand 
what always comes over me, gentlemen but I was more dead 
than alive, my lips twitched and my legs trembled ; well, I was 
to blame, to blame, entirely to blame. I was utterly conscience- 
stricken ; I was ready to beg Fedosey Nikolaitch's forgiveness." 

" Well, what did he do did he forgive you ? " 

" But I didn't ask his forgiveness ... I only mean that that 
is how I felt. Then I have a sensitive heart, you know. I saw 
he was looking me straight in the face. ' Have you no fear of 
God, Osip Mihailitch ? ' said he. Well, what could I do ? From 
a feeling of propriety I put my head on one side and I flung up 
my hands. ' In what way,' said I, ' have I no fear of God, 
Fedosey Nikolaitch ? ' But I just said that from a feeling of 
propriety ... I was ready to sink into the earth. ' After 
being so long a friend of our family, after being, I may say, 
like a son and who knows what Heaven had in store for us, 
Osip Mihailitch ? and all of a sudden to inform against me 
to think of that now ! . . . What am I to think of mankind 
after that, Osip Mihailitch ? ' Yes, gentlemen, he did read me 
a lecture ! ' Come,' he said, ' you tell me what I am to think 
of mankind after that, Osip Mihailitch.' ' What is he to think ? ' 
I thought ; and do you know, there was a lump in my throat, 
and my voice was quivering, and knowing my hateful weakness, 
I snatched up my hat. ' Where are you off to, Osip Mihailitch ? 
Surely on the eve of such a day you cannot bear malice against 
me ? What wrong have I done you ? . . .' ' Fedosey Niko- 
laitch,' I said, ' Fedosey Nikolaitch . . .' In fact, I melted, 
gentlemen, I melted like a sugar-stick. And the roll of notes 
that was lying in my pocket, that, too, seemed screaming out : 



214 POLZUNKOV 

4 You ungrateful brigand, you accursed thief ! ' It seemed to 
weigh a hundredweight ... (if only it had weighed a hundred- 
weight !)....'! see,' says Fedosey Nikolaitch, ' I see your 
penitence . . . you know to-morrow. . . .' ' St. Mary of Egypt's 
day. . . .' ' Well, don't weep,' said Fedosey Nikolaitch, ' that's 
enough : you've erred, and you are penitent ! Come along ! 
Maybe I may succeed in bringing you back again into the true 
path,' says he . . . ' maybe, my modest Penates ' (yes, ' Penates,' 
I remember he used that expression, the rascal) ' will warm,' says 
he, ' your harden ... I will not say hardened, but erring 
heart. . . .' He took me by the arm, gentlemen, and led me 
to his family circle. A cold shiver ran down my back; I 
shuddered ! I thought with what eyes shall I present myself 
you must know, gentlemen ... eh, what shall I say ? a delicate 
position had arisen here." 

" Not Madame Polzunkov ? " 

" Marya Fedosyevna, only she was not destined, you know, 
to bear the name you have given her; she did not attain that 
honour. Fedosey Nikolaitch was right, you see, when he said 
that I was almost looked upon as a son in the house; it had 
been so, indeed, six months before, when a certain retired junker 
called Mihailo Maximitch Dvigailov. was still living. But by 
God's will he died, and he put off settling his affairs till death 
settled his business for him." 

" Ough 1 " 

" Well, never mind, gentlemen, forgive me, it was a slip of the 
tongue. It's a bad pun, but it doesn't matter it's being bad 
what happened was far worse, when I was left, so to say, with 
nothing in prospect but a bullet through the brain, for that 
junker, though he would not admit me into his house (he lived 
in grand style, for he had always known how to feather his nest), 
yet perhaps correctly he believed me to bo his son." 

" Aha ! " 

" Yes, that was how it was ! So they began to cold-shoulder 
me at Fedosey Nikolaitch's. I noticed things, I kept q< 
but all at once, unluckily for me (or perhaps luckily !), a cavalry 
officer galloped into our little town like snow on our head. His 
business bavins; horses for the army was light and ;\< 
in cavalry style, but he settled himself solidly at Fedosey 
Nikolaitch's, as though he were laying siege to it ! I approached 



POLZUNKOV 215 

the subject in a roundabout way, as my nasty habit is ; I said 
one thing and another, asking him what I had done to be treated 
so, saying that I was almost like a son to him, and when might 
I expect him to behave more like a father. . . . Well, he began 
answering me. And when he begins to speak you are in for a 
regular epic in twelve cantos, and all you can do is to listen, 
lick your lips and throw up your hands in delight. And not a 
ha'p'orth of sense, at least there's no making out the sense. 
You stand puzzled like a fool he puts you in a fog, he twists 
about like an eel and wriggles away from you. It's a special 
gift, a real gift it's"enough to frighten people even if it is no 
concern of theirs. I tried one thing and another, and went hither 
and thither. I took the lady songs and presented her with 
sweets and thought of witty things to say to her. I tried sighing 
and groaning. ' My heart aches,' I said, ' it aches from love.' 
And I went in for tears and secret explanations. Man is foolish, 
you know. ... I never reminded myself that I was thirty . . . 
not a bit of it ! I tried all my arts. It was no go. It was a 
failure, and I gained nothing but jeers and gibes. I was indig- 
nant, I was choking with anger. I slunk off and would not set 
foot in the house. I thought and thought and made up my mind 
to denounce him. Well, of course, it was a shabby thing I 
meant to give away a friend, I confess. I had heaps of material 
and splendid material a grand case. It brought me fifteen 
hundred roubles when I changed it and my report on it for 
bank notes ! " 

" Ah, so that was the bribe ! " 

" Yes, sir, that was the bribe and it was a bribe-taker who 
had to pay it and I didn't do wrong, I can assure you ! Well, 
now I will go on : he drew me, if you will kindly remember, 
more dead than alive into the room where they were having 
tea. They all met me, seeming as it were offended, that is, not 
exactly offended, but hurt so hurt that it was simply. . . . 
They seemed shattered, absolutely shattered, and at the same 
time there was a look of becoming dignity on their faces, a 
gravity in their expression, something fatherly, parental . . . 
the prodigal son had come back to them that's what it had 
come to ! They made me sit down to tea, but there was no need 
to do that : I felt as though a samovar was toiling in my bosom 
and my feet were like ice. I was humbled, I was cowed. Marya 



216 POLZUNKOV 

Fominishna, his wife, addressed me familiarly from the first 
word. 

" ' How is it you have grown so thin, my boy ? ' 

" ' I've, not been very well, Marya Fominishna,' I said. My 
wretched voice shook. 

" And then quite suddenly she must have been waiting for 
a chance to get a dig at me, the old snake she said 

' I suppose your conscience felt ill at ease, Osip Mihalitch, 
my dear ! Our fatherly hospitality was a reproach to you ! You 
have been punished for the tears I have shed.' 

" Yes, upon my word, she really said that she had the 
conscience to say it. Why, that was nothing to her, she was a 
terror ! She did nothing but sit there and pour out tea. But 
if you were in the market, my darling, I thought you'd shout 
louder than any fishwife there. . . . That's the kind of woman 
she was. And then, to my undoing, the daughter, Marya 
Fedosyevna, came in, in all her innocence, a little pale and her 
eyes red as though she had been weeping. I was bowled over 
on the spot like a fool. But it turned out afterwards that the 
tears were a tribute to the cavalry officer. He had made tracks 
for home and taken his hook for good and all ; for you know it 
was jiigh time for him to be off I may as well mention the fact 
here; not that his leave was up precisely, but you see. ... It 
was only later that the loving parents grasped the position and 
had found out all that had happened. . . . What could they 
do ? They hushed their trouble up an addition to the family ! 

" Well, I could not help it as soon as I looked at her I was 
done for; I stole a glance at my hat, I wanted to get up and 
make off. But there was no chance of that, they took away 
my hat ... I must confess, I did think of getting off with- 
out it. ' Well ! ' I thought but no, they latched the doors. 
There followed friendly jokes, winking, little airs and graces. 
I was overcome with embarrassment, said something stupid, 
talked nonsense, about love. My charmer sat down to the piano 
and with an air of wounded feeling sang the song about the 
hussar who leaned upon the sword that finished me off ! 

" ' Well,' said Fedosey Nikolaitch, ' all is forgotten, come to 
my arms ! ' 

" I fell just as I was, with my face on his waistcoat. 

" ' My benefactor ! You are a father to me ! ' said I. And 
I shed floods of hot tears. Lord, have mercy on us, what a 



POLZUNKOV 217 

to-do there was ! He cried, his good lady cried, Mashenka 
cried . . . there was a flaxen-headed creature there, she cried 
too. . . . That wasn't enough : the younger children crept out 
of all the corners (the Lord had filled their quiver full) and they 
howled too . . . Such tears, such emotion, such joy ! They 
found their prodigal, it was like a soldier's return to his home. 
Then followed refreshments, we played forfeits, and ' I have a 
pain '- -' Where is it ? ' ' In my heart ' ' Who gave it you ? ' 
My charmer blushed. The old man and I had some punch 
they won me over and did for me completely. 

" I returned to my grandmother with my head in a whirl. 
I was laughing all the way home ; for full two hours I paced up 
and down our little room. I waked up my old granny and told 
her of my happiness. 

" ' But did he give you any money, the brigand ? ' 

' He did, granny, he did, my dear luck has come to us all 
of a heap : we've only to open our hand and take it.' 

" I waked up Sofron. 
'Sofron,' I said, ' take off my boots.' 

" Sofron pulled off my boots. 

' Come, Sofron, congratulate me now, give me a kiss ! I 
am going to get married, my lad, I am going to get married. You 
can get jolly drunk to-morrow, you can have a spree, my dear 
soul your master is getting married.' 

" My heart was full of jokes and laughter. I was beginning 
to drop off to sleep, but something made me get up again. I sat 
in thought : to-morrow is the first of April, a bright and playful 
day what should I do ? And I thought of something. Why, 
gentlemen, I got out of bed, lighted a candle, and sat down to 
the writing-table just as I was. I was in a fever of excitement, 
quite carried away you know, gentlemen, what it is when a 
man is quite carried away ? I wallowed jo}^fully in the mud, my 
dear friends. You see what I am like; they take something 
from you, and you give them something else as well and say, 
' Take that, too.' They strike you on the cheek and in your joy 
you offer them your whole back. Then they try to lure you like 
a dog with a bun, and you embrace them with your foolish paws 
and fall to kissing'them with all your heart and soul. Why, see 
what I am doing now, gentlemen ! You are laughing and whisper- 
ing I see it ! After I have told you all my story you will begin 
to turn me into ridicule, you will begin to attack me, but yet 



218 POLZUNKOV 

I go on talking and talking and talking ! And who tells me to ? 
Who drives me to do it ? Who is standing behind my back 
whispering to me, ' Speak, speak and tell them ' ? And yet I 
do talk, I go on telling you, I try to please you as though you 
were my brothers, all my dearest friends. . . . Ech ! " 

The laughter which had sprung up by degrees on all sides 
completely drowned at last the voice of the speaker, who really 
seemed worked up into a sort of ecstasy. He paused, for several 
minutes his eyes strayed about the company, then suddenly, 
as though carried away by a whirlwind, he waved his hand, 
burst out laughing himself, as though he really found his position 
amusing, and fell to telling his story again. 

" I scarcely slept all night, gentlemen. I was scribbling all 
night : you see, I thought of a trick. Ech, gentlemen, the very 
thought of it makes me ashamed. It wouldn't have been so bad 
if it all had been done at night I might have been drunk, blun- 
dered, been silly and talked nonsense but not a bit of it ! I 
woke up in the morning as soon as it was light, I hadn't slept 
more than an hour or two, and was in the same mind. I dressed, 
I washed, I curled and pomaded my hair, put on my new dress 
coat and went straight off to spend the holiday with Fedosey 
Nikolaitch, and I kept the joke I had written in my hat. He 
met me again with open arms, and invited me again to his fatherly 
waistcoat. But I assumed an air of dignity. I had the joke I 
thought of the night before in my mind. I drew a step back. 

' ' No, Fedosey Nikolaitch, but will you please read this letter,' 
and I gave it him together with my daily report. And do you 
know what was in it ? Why, ' for such and such reasons the 
aforesaid ()>ip Mihalitch asks to be discharged,' and under my 
petition I -signed my full rank! Just think what a notion! 
Good Lord, it was the cleverest thing I could think of ! As 
to-day was the first of April, I was pretending, for the sake of 
a joke, that my resentment was not over, that I had changed my 
mind in the night and was grumpy, and more offended than 
ever, as though to say, ' My dear benefactor, I don't want to 
know yon nor your daughter either. I put the money in my 
pocket yesterday, so I am secure so here's my petition for a 
transfer to be discharged. I don't care to serve under such a 
chief as Fedosey Nikolaitch. I want to go into a different office 
and then, maybe, I'll inform.' I pretended to be a regular scoun- 
drel, I wanted to frighten them. And a nice wayof frighten- 



POLZUNKOV 219 

ing them, wasn't it ? A pretty thing, gentlemen, wasn't it ? 
You see, my heart had grown tender towards them since the day 
before, so I thought I would have a little joke at the family 
I would tease the fatherly heart of Fedosey Nikolaitch. 

" As soon as he took my letter and opened it, I saw his whole 
countenance change. 

"?' What's the meaning of this, Osip Mihalitch ? ' 

"And like a little fool I said 

" ' The first of April ! Many happy returns of the day, 
Fedosey Nikolaitch ! ' just like a silly school-boy who hides 
behind his grandmother's arm-chair and then shouts ' oof ' into 
her ear suddenly at the top of his voice, meaning to frighten her. 
Yes . . . yes, I feel quite ashamed to talk about it, gentlemen ! 
No, I won't tell you." 

" Nonsense ! What happened then ? " 

" Nonsense, nonsense ! Tell us ! Yes, do," rose on all sides. 

" There was an outcry and a hullabaloo, my dear friends ! 
Such exclamations of surprise ! And ' you mischievous fellow, 
you naughty man,' and what a fright I had given them and all 
so sweet that I felt ashamed and wondered how such a holy place 
could be profaned by a sinner like me. 

" ' Well, my dear boy,' piped the^ mamma, ' you gave me such 
a fright that my legs are all of a tremble still, I can hardly 
stand on my feet ! I ran to Masha as though I were crazy : 
" Mashenka," I said, " what will become of us ! See how your 
friend has turned out ! " and I was unjust to you, my dear boy, 
You must forgive an old woman like me, I was taken in ! Well, 
I thought, when he got home last night, he got home late, he 
began thinking and perhaps he fancied that we sent for him on 
purpose, yesterday, that we wanted to get hold of him. I turned 
cold at the thought ! Give over, Mashenka, don't go on winking 
at me Osip Mihalitch isn't a stranger ! I am your mother, 
I am not likely to say any harm ! Thank God, I am not twenty, 
but turned forty-five.' 

" Well, gentlemen, I almost flopped at her feet on the spot. 
Again there were tears, again there were kisses. Jokes began. 
Fedosey Nikolaitch, too, thought he would make April fools of 
us. He told us the fiery bird had flown up with a letter in her 
diamond beak ! He tried to take us in, too didn't we laugh ? 
weren't we touched ? Foo 1 I feel ashamed to talk about it. 
" Well, my good friends, the end is not far off now. One day 



220 POLZUNKOV 

passed, two, three, a week; I was regularly engaged to her. 
I should think so ! The wedding rings were ordered, the day 
was fixed, only they did not want to make it public for a time 
they wanted to wait for the Inspector's visit to be over. I 
was all impatience for the Inspector's arrival my happiness 
depended upon him. I was in a hurry to get his visit over. And 
in the excitement and rejoicing Fedosey Nikolaitch threw all 
the work upon me : writing up the accounts, making up the 
reports, checking the books, balancing the totals. I found things 
in terrible disorder everything had been neglected, there were 
muddles and irregularities everywhere. Well, I thought, I must 
do my best for my father-in-law ! And he was ailing all the time, 
he was taken ill, it appears ; he seemed to get worse day by day. 
And, indeed, I grew as thin as a rake mj^self, I was afraid I would 
break down. However, I finished the work grandly. I got 
things straight for him in time. 

" Suddenly they sent a messenger for me. I ran headlong 
what could it be ? I saw my Fedosey Nikolaitch, his head ban- 
daged up in a vinegar compress, frowning, sighing, and moaning. 

" ' My dear boy, my son,' he said, ' if I die, to whom shall I 
leave you, my darlings ? ' 

" His wife trailed in with all his children; Mashenka was in 
tears and I blubbered, too. 

" ' Oh no,' he said. ' God will be merciful, He will not visit 
my transgressions on you.' 

" Then he dismissed them all, told me to shut the door after 
them, and we were left alone, tle-a-tfre. 

" ' I have a favour to ask of you.' 

'' ' What favour ? ' 

" ' Well, my dear boy, there is no rest for me even on my dcath- 
})<(!. I am in want.' 

" ' How so ? ' I positively flushed crimson, I could hardly 
speak. 

" ' Why, I had to pay some of my own money into the Treasury. 
I grudge nothing for the public weal, my boy ! I don't grudge 
my life. Don't you imagine any ill. I am sad to think that 
Icrcis have blackened my name to you. . . . You were 
mistaken, my hair has gone white from grief. The Inspector is 
coming down upon us and Matveyev is seven thousand roubles 
short, and I shall have to answer for it. ... Who else ? It will 
be visited upon me, my boy : where were my eyes ? And how 



POLZUNKOV 221 

can we get it from Matveyev ? He has had trouble enough already : 
why should I bring the poor fellow to ruin ? ' 

" ' Holy saints ! ' I thought, ' what a just man 1 What a 
heart ! ' 

" ' And I don't want to take my daughter's money, which has 
been set aside for her dowry : that sum is sacred. I have money 
of my own, it's true, but I have lent it all to friends how is one 
to collect it all in a minute ? ' 

" I simply fell on my knees before him. ' My benefactor ! ' 
I cried, ' I've wronged you, I have injured you ; it was slanderers 
who wrote against you ; don't break my heart, take back your 
money ! ' 

" He looked at me and there were tears in his eyes. ' That 
was just what I expected from you, my son. Get up ! I for- 
gave you at the time for the sake of my daughter's tears now 
my heart forgives you freely ! You have healed my wounds. I 
bless you for all time ! ' 

" Well, when he blessed me, gentlemen, I scurried home as 
soon as I could. I got the money : 

"'Here, father, here's the money. I've only spent fifty 
roubles.' 

" ' Well, that's all right,' he said. ' But now every trifle may 
count ; the time is short, write a report dated some days ago 
that you were short of money and had taken fifty roubles on 
account. I'll tell the authorities you had it in advance.' 

" Well, gentlemen, what do you think ? I did write that report, 
too ! " 

" Well, what then 1 What happened ? How did it end ? " 

" As soon as I had written the report, gentlemen, this is how 
it ended. The next day, in the early morning, an envelope 
with a government seal arrived. I looked at it and what had I 
got ? The sack ! That is, instructions to hand over my work, 
to deliver the accounts and to go about my business ! " 

" How so ? " 

" That's just what I cried at the top of my voice, ' How so ? ' 
Gentlemen, there was a ringing in my ears. I thought there 
was no special reason for it but no, the Inspector had arrived 
in the town. My heart sank. ' It's not for nothing,' I thought. 
And just as I was I rushed off to Fedosey Nikolaitch. 

" ' How is this ? ' I said. 

" ' What do you mean ? ' he said. 



222 POLZUNKOV 

" ' Why, I am dismissed.' 

" ' Dismissed ? how ? ' 

" ' Why, look at this ! ' 

" ' WeU, what of it ? ' 

" ' Why, but I didn't ask for it ! ' 

" ' Yes, you did you sent in your papers on the first of 
April/ (I had never taken that letter back !) 

" ' Fedosey Nikolaitch ! I can't believe my ears, I can't believe 
my eyes ! Is this you ? ' 

" ' It is me, why ? ' 

" ' My God 1 ' 

" ' I am sorry, sir. I am very sorry that you made up your 
mind to retire from the service so early. A young man ought 
to be in the service, and you've begun to be a little light-headed 
of late. And as for your character, set your mind at rest : I'll 
see to that ! Your behaviour has always been so exemplary ! ' 

" ' But that was a little joke, Fedosey Nikolaitch ! I didn't 
mean it, I just gave you the letter for your fatherly . . . that's 
all/ 

" ' That's all? A queer joke, sir ! Does one jest with docu- 
ments like that ? Why, you are sometimes sent to Siberia for 
such jokes. Now, good-bye. I am busy. We have the Inspec- 
tor here the duties of the service before everything; you 
can kick up your heels, but we have to sit here at work. But 

I'll get you a character Oh, another thing : I've just bought 

a house from Matveyev. We are moving in in a day or two. 
So I expect I shall not. have the pleasure of seeing you at our 
new residence. Bon voyage ! ' 

" I ran home. 

" ' We are lost, granny 1 ' 

" She wailed, poor dear, and then I saw the page from Fedosey 
Nikolaitch's running up with a note and a bird-cage, and in the 
cage there was a starling. In the fullness of my heart I had given 
her the starling. And in the note there were the words : ' April 
1st,' and nothing more. What do you think of that, gentle- 
men ? " 

' What happened then? What happened then? " 

" What then ! I met Fedosey Nikolaitch once, I meant to tell 
him to his face he was a scoundrel." 

"Well?" 

" But somehow I couldn't bring myself to it, gentlemen." 



A LITTLE HERO 

A STORY 

AT that time I was nearly eleven, I had been sent in July to 
spend the holiday in a village near Moscow with a relation of 
mine called T., whose house was full of guests, fifty, or perhaps 
more. ... I don't remember, I didn't count. The house was 
full of noise and gaiety. It seemed as though it were a continual 
holiday, which would never end. It seemed as though our host 
had taken a vow to squander all his vast fortune as rapidly as 
possible, and he did indeed succeed, not long ago, in justifying 
this surmise, that is, in making a clean sweep of it all to the 
last stick. 

Fresh visitors used to drive up every minute. Moscow was 
close by, in sight, so that those who drove away only made room 
for others, and the everlasting holiday went on its course. 
Festivities succeeded one another, and there was no end in sight 
to the entertainments. There were riding parties about the 
environs ; excursions to the forest or the river ; picnics, dinners 
in the open air; suppers on the great terrace of the house, 
bordered with three rows of gorgeous flowers that flooded with 
their fragrance the fresh night air, and illuminated the brilliant 
lights which made our ladies, who were almost every one of them 
pretty at all times, seem still more charming, with their faces 
excited by the impressions of the day, with their sparkling eyes, 
with their interchange of spritely conversation, their peals of 
ringing laughter ; dancing, music, singing ; if the sky were over- 
cast tableaux vivants, charades, proverbs were arranged, private 
theatricals were got up. There were good talkers, story-tellers, 
wits. 

Certain persons were prominent in the foreground. Of course 
backbiting and slander ran their course, as without them the 
world could not get on, and millions of persons would perish 
of boredom, like flies. But as I was at that time eleven I was 

223 



224 A LITTLE HERO 

absorbed by very different interests, and either failed to observe 
these people, or if I noticed anything, did not see it all. It was 
only afterwards that some things came back to my mind. My 
childish eyes could only see the brilliant side of the picture, and 
the general animation, splendour, and bustle all that, seen and 
heard for the first time, made such an impression upon me that 
for the first few days, I was completely bewildered and my little 
head was in a whirl. 

I keep speaking of my age, and of course I was a child, nothing 
more than a child. Many of these lovely ladies petted me with- 
out dreaming of considering my age. But strange to say, a sensa- 
tion which I did not myself understand already had possession 
of me ; something was already whispering in my heart, of which 
till then it had had no knowledge, no conception, and for some 
reason it began all at once to burn and throb, and often my face 
glowed with a sudden flush. At times I felt as it were abashed, 
and even resentful of the various privileges of my childish 
years. At other times a sort of wonder overwhelmed me, and I 
would go off into some corner where I could sit unseen, as though 
to take breath and remember something something which it 
seemed to me I had remembered perfectly till then, and now had 
suddenly forgotten, something without which I could not show 
myself anywhere, and could not exist at all. 

At last it seemed to me as though I were hiding something 
from every one. But nothing would have induced me to speak 
of it to any one, because, small boy that I was, I was ready to 
weep with shame. Soon in the midst of the vortex around 
me I was conscious of a certain loneliness. There were other 
children, but all were either much older or younger than I; be- 
sides, I was in no mood for them. Of course nothing would have 
happened to me if I had not been in an exceptional position. 
In the eyes of those charming ladies I was still the little un- 
formed creature whom they at once liked to pet, and with whom 
tlu-y could play as though he were a little doll. One of them 
particularly, a fascinating, fair woman, with very thick luxuriant 
hair, such as I had never seen before and probably shall never 
see again, seemed to have taken a vow never to leave me in peace. 
I was confused, while she was amused by the laughter which she 
continually provoked from all around us by her wild, giddy 
prinks with me, and this apparently gave her immense enjoy- 



A LITTLE HERO 225 

ment. At school among her schoolfellows she was probably 
nicknamed the Tease. She was wonderfully good-looking, and 
there was something in her beauty which drew one's eyes from 
the first moment. And certainly she had nothing in common 
with the ordinary modest little fair girls, white as down and soft 
as white mice, or pastors' daughters. She was not very tall, 
and was rather plump, but had soft, delicate, exquisitely cut 
features. There was something quick as lightning in her face, 
and indeed she was like fire all over, light, swift, alive. Her big 
open eyes seemed to flash sparks ; they glittered like diamonds, 
and I would never exchange such blue sparkling eyes for any 
black ones, were they blacker than any Andalusian orb. And, 
indeed, my blonde was fully a match for the famous brunette 
whose praises were sung by a great and well-known poet, who, 
in a superb poem, vowed by ah 1 Castille that he was ready to 
break his bones to be permitted only to touch the mantle of his 
divinity with the tip of his finger. Add to that, that my charmer 
was the merriest in the world, the wildest giggler, playful as a 
child, although she had been married for the last five years. 
There was a continual laugh upon her lips, fresh as the morning 
rose that, with the first ray of sunshine, opens its fragrant crimson 
bud with the cool dewdrops still hanging heavy upon it. 

I remember that the day after my arrival private theatricals 
were being got up. The drawing-room was, as they say, packed 
to overflowing ; there was not a seat empty, and as I was somehow 
late I had to enjoy the performance standing. But the amusing 
play attracted me to move forwarder and forwarder, and uncon- 
sciously I made my way to the first row, where I stood at last 
leaning my elbows on the back of an armchair, in which a lady was 
sitting. It was my blonde divinity, but we had not yet made 
acquaintance. And I gazed, as it happened, at her marvellous, 
fascinating shoulders, plump and white as milk, though it did not 
matter to me in the least whether I stared at a woman's exquisite 
shoulders or at the cap with flaming ribbons that covered the 
grey locks of a venerable lady in the front row. Near my blonde 
divinity sat a spinster lady not in her first youth, one of those 
who, as I chanced to observe later, always take refuge in the 
immediate neighbourhood of young and pretty women, selecting 
such as are not fond of cold-shouldering young men. But that 
is not the point, only this lady, noting my fixed gaze, bent down 
Q 



226 A LITTLE HERO 

to her neighbour and with a simper whispered something in her 
ear. The blonde lady turned at once, and I remember that her 
glowing eyes so flashed upon me in the half dark, that, not pre- 
pared to meet them, I started as though I were scalded. The 
beauty smiled. 

" Do you like what they are acting ? " she asked, looking into 
my face with a shy and mocking expression. 

" Yes," I answered, still gazing at her with a sort of wonder 
that evidentty pleased her. 

" But why are you standing ? You'll get tired. Can't you 
find a seat ? " 

" That's just it, I can't," I answered, more occupied with my 
grievance than with the beauty's sparkling eyes, and rejoicing 
in earnest at having found a kind heart to whom I could confide 
my troubles. " I have looked everywhere, but all the chairs 
are taken," I added, as though complaining to her that all the 
chairs were taken. 

" Come here," she said briskly, quick to act on every decision, 
and, indeed, on every mad idea that flashed on her giddy brain, 
" come here, and sit on my knee." 

" On your knee," I repeated, taken aback. I have men- 
tioned already that I had begun to resent the privileges of 
childhood and to be ashamed of them in earnest. This lady, as 
though in derision, had gone ever so much further than the others. 
Moreover, I had always been a shy and bashful boy, and of late 
had begun to be particularly shy with women. 

" Why yes, on my knee. Why don't you want to sit on my 
knee ? " she persisted, beginning to laugh more and more, so 
that at last she was simply giggling, goodness knows at what, 
perhaps at her freak, or perhaps at my confusion. But that was 
just what she wanted. 

I flushed, and in my confusion looked round trying to find where 
to escape; but seeing my intention she managed to catch hold 
of my hand to prevent me from going away, and pulling it to- 
wurds her, suddenly, quite unexpectedly, to my intense astonish- 
ment, squeezed it in her mischievous warm fingers, and began 
t<> pinch my fingers till they hurt so much that I had to do my 
\c TV utmost not to cry out, and in my effort to control myself 
made the most absurd grimaces. I was, besides, moved to the 
greatest amazement, perplexity, and even horror, at the discovery 



A LITTLE HERO 227 

that there were ladies so absurd and spiteful as to talk nonsense 
to boys, and even pinch their fingers, for no earthly reason and 
before everybody. Probably my unhappy face reflected my 
bewilderment, for the mischievous creature laughed in my face, 
as though she were crazy, and meantime she was pinching my 
fingers more and more vigorously. She was highly delighted in 
playing such a mischievous prank and completely mystifying and 
embarrassing a poor boy. My position was desperate. In the 
first place I was hot with shame, because almost every one near 
had turned round to look at us, some in wonder, others with 
laughter, grasping at once that the beauty was up to some mis- 
chief. I dreadfully wanted to scream, too, for she was wringing 
my fingers with positive fury just because I didn't scream; 
while I, like a Spartan, made up my mind to endure the agony, 
afraid by crying out of causing a general fuss, which was more 
than I could face. In utter despair I began at last struggling 
with her, trying with all my might to pull away my hand, but 
my persecutor was much stronger than I was. At last I could 
bear it no longer, and uttered a shriek that was all she was 
waiting for ! Instantly she let me go, and turned away as 
though nothing had happened, as though it was not she who 
had played the trick but some one else, exactly like some school- 
boy who, as soon as the master's back is turned, plays some 
trick on some one near him, pinches some small weak boy, gives 
him a flip, a kick, or a nudge with his elbows, and instantly turns 
again, buries himself in his book and begins repeating his lesson, 
and so makes a fool of the infuriated teacher who flies down like 
a hawk at the noise. 

But luckily for me the general attention was distracted at the 
moment by the masterly acting of our host, who was playing 
the chief part in the performance, some comedy of Scribe's. 
Every one began to applaud; under cover of the noise I stole 
away and hurried to the furthest end of the room, from which, 
concealed behind a column, I looked with horror towards the 
place where the treacherous beauty was sitting. She was still 
laughing, holding her handkerchief to her lips. And for a long 
time she was continually turning round, looking for me in every 
direction, probably regretting that our silly tussle was so soon 
over, and hatching some other trick to play on me. 

That -was the beginning of our acquaintance, and from that 



228 A LITTLE HERO 

evening she would never let me alone. She persecuted me without 
consideration or conscience, she became my tyrant and tormentor. 
The whole absurdity of her jokes with me lay in the fact that 
she pretended to be head over ears in love with me, and teased 
me before every one. Of course for a wild creature as I was all 
this was so tiresome and vexatious that it almost reduced me 
to tears, and I was sometimes put in such a difficult position 
that I was on the point of fighting with my treacherous admirer. 
My naive confusion, my desperate distress, seemed to egg her on 
to persecute me more ; she knew no mercy, while I did not know 
how to get away from her. The laughter which always accom- 
panied us, and which she knew so well how to excite, roused her 
to fresh pranks. But at last people began to think that she 
went a little too far in her jests. And, indeed, as I remember 
now, she did take outrageous liberties with a child such as I was. 

But that was her character; she was a spoilt child in every 
respect. I heard afterwards that her husband, a very short, very 
fat, and very red-faced man, very rich and apparently very much 
occupied with business, spoilt her more than any one. Always 
busy and flying round, he could not stay two hours in one place. 
Every day he drove into Moscow, sometimes twice in the day, 
and always, as he declared himself, on business. It would be 
hard to find a livelier and more good-natured face than his 
facetious but always well-bred countenance. He not only loved 
his wife to the point of weakness, softness : he simply worshipped 
her like an idol. 

He did not restrain her in anything. She had masses of friends, 
male and female. In the first place, almost everybody liked her ; 
and secondly, the feather-headed creature was not herself over 
particular in the choice of her friends, though there was a much 
more serious foundation to her character than might be suppled 
from what I have just said about her. But of all her friends she 
liked best of all one young lady, a distant relation, who was also 
of our party now. There existed between them a tender and 
subtle affection, one of those attachments which sometimes 
spring up at the meeting of two dispositions often the very 
opposite of each other, of which one is deeper, purer and more 
austere, while the other, with lofty humility, and generous 
self-criticism, lovingly gives way to the other, conscious of 
the friend's superiority and cherishing the friendship as a 



A LITTLE HERO 229 

happiness. Then begins that tender and noble subtlety in the 
relations of such characters, love and infinite indulgence on the 
one side, on the other love and respect a respect approaching 
awe, approaching anxiety as to the impression made on the 
friend so highly prized, and an eager, jealous desire to get closer 
and closer to that friend's heart in every step in life. 

These two friends were of the same age, but there was an 
immense difference between them in everything in looks, to begin 
with. Madame M. was also very handsome, but there was some- 
thing special in her beauty that strikingly distinguished her 
from the crowd of pretty women; there was something in her 
face that at once drew the affection of all to her, or rather, 
which aroused a generous and lofty feeling of kindliness in every 
one who met her. There are such happy faces. At her side 
everyone grew as it were better, freer, more cordial; and yet 
her big mournful eyes, full of fire and vigour, had a timid and 
anxious look, as though every minute dreading something 
antagonistic and menacing, and this strange timidity at times 
cast so mournful a shade over her mild, gentle features which 
recalled the serene faces of Italian Madonnas, that looking at her 
one soon became oneself sad, as though for some trouble of one's 
own. The pale, thin face, in which, through the irreproachable 
beauty of the pure, regular lines and the mournful severity of 
some mute hidden grief, there often flitted the clear looks of 
early childhood, telling of trustful years and perhaps simple- 
hearted happiness in the recent past, the gentle but diffident, 
hesitating smile, all aroused such unaccountable sympathy for 
her that every heart was unconsciously stirred with a sweet 
and warm anxiety that powerfully interceded on her behalf even 
at a distance, and made even strangers feel akin to her. But 
the lovely creature seemed silent and reserved, though no one 
could have been more attentive and loving if any one needed 
sympathy. There are women who are like sisters of mercy in 
life. Nothing can be hidden from them, nothing, at least, that is 
a sore or wound of the heart. Any one who is suffering may go 
boldly and hopefully to them without fear of being a burden, 
for few men know the infinite patience of love, compassion and 
forgiveness that may be found in some women's hearts. Perfect 
treasures of sympathy, consolation and hope are laid up in these 
pure hearts, so often full of suffering of their own for a heart 



230 A LITTLE HERO 

which loves much grieves much though their wounds are care- 
fully hidden from the curious eye, for deep sadness is most often 
mute and concealed. They are not dismayed by the depth of 
the wound, nor by its foulness and its stench; any one who 
comes to them is deserving of help ; they are, as it were, born 
for heroism. . . . Mme. M. was tall, supple and graceful, but 
rather thin. All her movements seemed somehow irregular, 
at times slow, smooth, and even dignified, at times childishly 
hasty; and yet, at the same time, there was a sort of timid 
humility in her gestures, something tremulous and defenceless, 
though it neither desired nor asked for protection. 

I have mentioned already that the outrageous teasing of the- 
treacherous fair lady abashed me, flabbergasted me, and wounded 
me to the quick. But there was for that another secret, strange 
and foolish reason, which I concealed, at which I shuddered as 
at a skeleton. At the very thought of it, brooding, utterly alone 
and overwhelmed, in some dark mj'sterious corner to which the 
inquisitorial mocking eye of the blue-eyed rogue could not 
penetrate, I almost gasped with confusion, shame and fear 
in short, I was in love ; that perhaps is nonsense, that could 
hardly have been. But why was it, of all the faces surrounding 
me, only her face caught my attention ? Why was it that it 
only she whom I cared to follow with my eyes, though I certainly 
had no inclination in those days to watch ladies and seek their 
acquaintance ? This happened most frequently on the evenings 
when we were all kept indoors by bad weather, and when, lonely, 
hiding in some corner of the big drawing-room, I stared about 
me aimlessly, unable to find anything to do, for except my 
teasing ladies, few people ever addressed me, and I was insuffer- 
ably bored on such evenings. Then I stared at the people round 
me, listened to the conversation, of which I often did not under- 
stand one word, and at that time the mild eyes, the gentle smile 
and lovely face of Mine. M. (for she was the object of my passion) 
for some reason caught my fascinated attention ; and the strange 
vague, but unutterably sweet impression remained with me. 
Often for hours together I could not tear myself away from her ; 
1 si tidied every LOslnrv. ev< ry movement she made, listened to 
every vibration of her rich, silvery, but rather nmflled voice; 
but strange to say, as the result of all my observations, I felt, 
mixed with a sweet and timid impression, a feeling of intense 



A LITTLE HERO 231 

curiosity. It seemed as though I were on the verge of some 
mystery. 

Nothing distressed me so much as being mocked at in the 
presence of Mme. M. This mockery and humorous persecution, 
as I thought, humiliated me. And when there was a general 
burst of laughter at my expense, in which Mme. M. sometimes 
could not help joining, in despair, beside myself with misery, 
I used to tear myself from my tormentor and run away upstairs, 
where I remained in solitude the rest of the day, not daring to 
show my face in the drawing-room. I did not yet, however, 
understand my shame nor my agitation ; the whole process went 
on in me unconsciously. I had hardly said two words to Mme. 
M., and indeed I should not have dared to. But one evening 
after an unbearable day I turned back from an expedition with 
the rest of the company. I was horribly tired and made my way 
home across the garden. On a seat in a secluded avenue I saw 
Mme. M. She was sitting quite alone, as though she had pur- 
posely chosen this solitary spot, her head was drooping and she 
was mechanically twisting her handkerchief. She was so lost 
in thought that she did not hear me till I reached her. 

Noticing me, she got up quickly from her seat, turned round, 
and I saw her hurriedly wipe her eyes with her handkerchief. 
She was crying. Drying her eyes, she smiled to me and walked 
back with me to the house. I don't remember what we talked 
about ; but she frequently sent me off on one pretext or another, 
to pick a flower, or to see who was riding in the next avenue. 
And when I walked away from her, she at once put her hand- 
kerchief to her eyes again and wiped away rebellious tears, 
which would persist in rising again and again from her heart 
and dropping from her poor eyes. I realized that I was very much 
in her way when she sent me off so often, and, indeed, she saw 
herself that I noticed it all, but yet could not control herself, 
and that made my heart ache more and more for her. I raged 
at myself at that moment and was almost in despair ; curst <l 
myself for my awkwardness and lack of resource, and at the same 
time did not know how to leave her tactfully, without betraying 
that I had noticed her distress, but walked beside her in mournful 
bewilderment, almost in alarm, utterly at a loss and unable to 
find a single word to keep up our scanty conversation. 

This meeting made such an impression on me that I stealthily 



232 A LITTLE HERO 

watched Mme. M. the whole evening with eager curiosity, and 
never took my eyes off her. But it happened that she twice 
caught me unawares watching her, and on the second occasion, 
noticing me, she gave me a smile. It was the only time she smiled 
that evening. The look of sadness had not left her face, which 
was now very pale. She spent the whole evening talking to an 
ill-natured and quarrelsome old lady, whom nobody liked owing 
to her spying and backbiting habits, but of whom every one 
was afraid, and consequently every one felt obliged to be polite 
to her. . . . 

At ten o'clock Mme. M.'s husband arrived. Till that moment 
I watched her very attentively, never taking my eyes off her 
mournful face ; now at the unexpected entrance of her husband 
I saw her start, and her pale face turned suddenly as white as 
a handkerchief. It was so noticeable that other people observed 
it. I overheard a fragmentary conversation from which I guessed 
that Mme. M. was not quite happy ; they said her husband was 
as jealous as an Arab, not from love, but from vanity. He was 
before all things a European, a modern man, who sampled the 
newest ideas and prided himself upon them. In appearance 
he was a tall, dark-haired, particularly thick-set man, wit a 
European whiskers, with a self -satisfied, red face, with teeth 
white as sugar, and with an irreproachably gentlemanly de- 
portment. He was called a clever man. Such is the name 
given in certain circles to a peculiar species of mankind which 
grows fat at other people's expense, which does absolutely nothing 
and has no desire to do anything, and whose heart has turned 
into a lump of fat from everlasting slothfulness and idleness. 
You continually hear from such men that there is nothing they can 
do owing to certain very complicated and hostile circumstances, 
which " thwart their genius," and that it was " sad to see the 
waste of their talents." This is a fine phrase of theirs, their 
mot d'ordre, their watchword, a phrase which these well-fed, fat 
friends of ours bring out at every minute, so that it has loag ago 
bored us as an arrant Tartuffism, an empty form of words. Some, 
however, of these amusing creatures, who cannot succeed in 
finding anything to do though, indeed, they never ^ ok it 
try to make every one believe that they have not a lump of 
fat for a heart, but on the contrary, something very deep, though 
what precisely the greatest surgeon would hardly venture to 



A LITTLE HERO 233 

decide from civility, of course. These gentlemen make their 
way in the world through the fact that all their instincts are 
bent in the direction of coarse sneering, short-sighted censure 
and immense conceit. Since they have nothing else to do but 
note and emphasize the mistakes and weaknesses of others, 
and as they have precisely as much good feeling as an oyster, 
it is not difficult for them with such powers of self-preserva- 
tion to get on with people fairly successfully. They pride them- 
selves extremely upon that. They are, for instance, as good 
as persuaded that almost the whole world owes them some- 
thing ; that it is theirs, like an oyster which they keep in reserve ; 
that all are fools except themselves; that every one is like an 
orange or a sponge, which they will squeeze as soon as they 
want the juice ; that they are the masters everywhere, and that 
all this acceptable state of affairs is solely due to the fact that 
they are people of so much intellect and character. In their 
measureless conceit they do not admit any defects in themselves, 
they are like that species of practical rogiies, innate Tartuffes 
and Falstaffs, who are such thorough rogues that at last they 
have come to believe that that is as it should be, that is, that 
they should spend their lives in knavishness ; they have so often 
assured every one that they are honest men, that they have come 
to believe that they are honest men, and that their roguery 
is honesty. They are never capable of inner judgment before 
their conscience, of generous self-criticism ; for some things they 
are too fat. Their own priceless personality, their Baal and 
Moloch, their magnificent ego is always in their foreground 
everywhere. All nature, the whole world for them is no more 
than a splendid mirror created for the little god to admire him- 
self continually in it, and to see no one and nothing behind 
himself ; so it is not strange that he sees everything in the world 
in such a hideous light. He has a phrase in readiness for every- 
thing and the acme of ingenuity on his part the most fashion- 
able phrase. It is just these people, indeed, who help to make 
the fashion, proclaiming at every cross-road an idea in which they 
scent success. A fine nose is just what they have for sniffing 
a fashionable phrase and making it their own before other people 
get hold of it, so that it seems to have originated with them. 
They have a particular store of phrases for proclaiming their 
profound sympathy for humanity, for defining what is the 



234 A LITTLE HERO 

most correct and rational form of philanthropy, and continual!; 
attacking romanticism, in other words, everything fine am 
true, each atom of which is more precious than all their mollus 
tribe. But they are too coarse to recognize the truth in a: 
indirect, roundabout and unfinished form, and they rejec 
everything that is immature, still fermenting and unstable. Th 
well -nourished man has spent all his life in merry-making, witi 
everything provided, has done nothing himself and does no 
know how hard every sort of work is, and so woe betide you i 
you jar upon his fat feelings by any sort of roughness; he'] 
never forgive you for that, he will always remember it and wi] 
gladly avenge it. The long and short of it is, that my hero i 
neither more nor less than a gigantic, incredibly swollen bag, fu] 
of sentences, fashionable phrases, and labels of all sorts and kinds 

M. M., however, had a speciality and was a very remarkabl 
man ; he was a wit, good talker and story-teller, and there wa 
always a circle round him in every drawing-room. That evminj 
he was particularly successful in making an impression. H 
took possession of the conversation; he was in his best form 
gay, pleased at something, and he compelled the attention of all 
but Mme. M. looked all the time as though she were ill ; her fac< 
was so sad that I fancied every minute that tears would begh 
quivering on her long eyelashes. All this, as I have said, im 
pressed me extremely and made me wonder. I went away witl 
a feeling of strange cilriosity, and dreamed all night of M. M. 
though till then I had rarely had dreams. 

Next day, early in the morning, I was summoned to a rehearsa 
of some tableaux vivants in which I had to take part. Th( 
tableaux vivants, theatricals, and afterwards a dance were al 
fixed for the same evening, five days later the birthday of oui 
host's younger daughter. To this entertainment, which vf&t 
almost improvised, another hundred guests were invited froir 
Moscow and from surrounding villas, so that there was a greal 
deal of fuss, bustle and commotion. The rehearsal, or rathei 
review of the costumes, was fixed so early in (lie morning b< -cause 
our manager, a well-known artist, a friend of our host's, whc 
had consented through affection for him to undertake the 
arrangement of the tableaux and the training of us for them, 
was in haste no\v to get to Moscow to purchase projx'rlies and 
to make final preparations for the fete, as there was no time to 



A LITTLE HERO 236 

lose. I took part in one tableau with Mrae. M. It was a scene 
from mediaeval life and was called " The Lady of the Castle and 
Her Page." 

I felt unutterably confused on meeting Mme. M. at the re- 
hearsal. I kept feeling that she would at once read in my eyes 
all the reflections, the doubts, the surmises, that had arisen in 
my mind since the previous day. I fancied, too, that I was, as 
it were, to blame in regard to her, for having come upon her 
tears the day before and hindered her grieving, so that she 
could hardly help looking at me askance, as an unpleasant 
witness and unforgiven sharer of her secret. But, thank good- 
ness, it went off without any great trouble ; I was simply not 
noticed. I think she had no thoughts to spare for me or for the 
rehearsal ; she was absent-minded, sad and gloomily thoughtful ; 
it was evident that she was worried by some great anxiety. 
As soon as my part was over I ran away to change my clothes, 
and ten minutes later came out on the verandah into the garden. 
Almost at the same time Mme. M. came out by another door, 
and immediately afterwards coming towards us appeared her self- 
satisfied husband, who was returning from the garden, after 
juat escorting into it quite a crowd of ladies and there handing 
them over to a competent cavaliere servente. The meeting of 
the husband and wife was evidently unexpected. Mme. M., 
I don't know why, grew suddenly confused, and a faint trace 
of vexation was betrayed in her impatient movement. The 
husband, who had been carelessly whistling an air and with 
an air of profundity stroking his whiskers, now, on meeting his 
wife, frowned and scrutinized her, as I remember now, with a 
markedly inquisitorial stare. 

" You are going into the garden t " he asked, noticing the 
parasol and book in her hand. 

" No, into the copse," she said, with a slight flush. 

" Alone ? " 

" With him," said Mme. M., pointing to me. " I always go 
a walk alone in the morning," she added, speaking in an uncertain, 
hesitating voice, as people do when they tell their first lie. 

" H'm . . . and I have just taken the whole party there. 
They have all met there together in the flower arbour to see N. 
off. He is going away, you know. . . . Something has gone 
wrong in Odessa. Your cousin " (he meant the fair beauty) 



236 A LITTLE HERO 

" is laughing and crying at the same time; there Is no makir 
her out. She says, though, that you are angry with N. aboi 
something and so wouldn't go and see him off. Nonsense, < 
course ? " 

" She's laughing," said Mme. M., coming down the veranda 
steps. 

" So this is your daily cavaliere servente," added M. M., with 
wry smile, turning his lorgnette upon me. 

" Page ! " I cried, angered by the lorgnette and the jeei 
and laughing straight in his face I jumped down the three stej 
of the verandah at one bound. 

" A pleasant walk," muttered M. M., and went on his way. 

Of course, I immediately joined Mme. M. as soon as sh 
indicated me to her husband, and looked as though she ha 
invited me to do so an hour before, and as though I had bee 
accompanying her on her walks every morning for the lag 
month. But I could not make out why she was so confused, s 
embarrassed, and what was in her mind when she brough 
herself to have recourse to her little lie ? Why had she not simpl 
said that she was going alone ? I did not know how to loo 
at her, but overwhelmed with wonder I began by degrees ver 
naively peeping into her face ; but just as an hour before a 
the rehearsal she did not notice either my looks or my mut 
question. The same anxiety, only more intense and more dig 
tinct, was apparent in her face, in her agitation, in her wall 
She was in haste, and walked more and more quickly and kep 
looking uneasily down every avenue, down every path in the woo< 
that led in the direction of the garden. And I, too, was -expcctm] 
something. Sudden!}' there was the sound of horses' ho| 
behind us. It was the whole party of ladies and gentlemen 01 
horseback escorting N., the gentleman who was so Buddenl; 
deserting us. 

Among the ladies was my fair tormentor, of whom M. M. ha< 
told us that she was in tears. But characteristically she wai 
laughing like a child, and was galloping briskly on a splondk 
bay horse. On reaching us N. took off his hat, but did noi 
slop, nor say one word to Mme. M. Soon all the cav\lcad< 
disappeared from our sight. I glanced at Mme. M. and almosl 
cri'-(l out in wonder ; she was standing as white as a handkerchie: 
and big tears were gushing from her eyes. By chance our eyet 



A LITTLE HERO 237 

met : Mme. M. suddenly flushed and turned away for an instant, 
and a distinct look of uneasiness and vexation flitted across her 
face. I was in the way, worse even than last time, that was 
clearer than day, but how was I to get away ? 

And, as though guessing my difficulty, Mme. M. opened the 
book which she had in her hand, and colouring and evidently 
trying not to look at me she said, as Chough she had only suddenly 
realized it 

" All ! It is the second part. I've made a mistake; please 
bring me the first." 

I could not but understand. My part was over, and I could 
not have been more directly dismissed. 

I ran off with her book and did not come back. The first part 
lay undisturbed on the table that morning. . . . 
7} But I was not myself ; in my heart there was a sort of haunting 
terror. I did my utmost not to meet Mme. M. But I looked 
with wild curiosity at the self-satisfied person of M. M., as though 
there must be something special about him now. I don't under- 
stand what was the meaning of my absurd curiosity. I only 
remember that I was strangely perplexed by all that I had 
chanced to see that morning. But the day was only just be- 
ginning and it was fruitful in events for me. 

Dinner was very early that day. An expedition to a neigh- 
bouring hamlet to see a village festival that was taking place 
there had been fixed for the evening, and so it was necessary 
to be in time to get ready. I had been dreaming for the last 
three days of this excursion, anticipating all sorts of delights. 
Almost all the company gathered together on the verandah 
for coffee. I cautiously followed the others and concealed myself 
behind the third row of chairs. I was attracted by curiosity, and 
yet I was very anxious not to be seen by Mme. M. But as luck 
would have it I was not far from my fair tormentor. Something 
miraculous and incredible was happening to her that day; she 
looked twice as handsome. I don't know how and why this 
happens, but such miracles are by no means rare with women. 
There was with us at this moment a new guest, a tall, pale-faced 
young man, the official admirer of our fair beauty, who had 
just arrived from -Moscow as though on purpose to replace 
N., of whom rumour said that he was desperately in love with 
the same lady. As for the newly arrived guest, he had for a 



238 A LITTLE HERO 

long time past been on the same terms as Benedick with 
Beatrice, in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing. In short, 
the fair beauty was in her very best form that day. Her chattel 
and her jests were so full of grace, so trustfully naive, so innocently 
careless, she was persuaded of the general enthusiasm with 
such graceful self-confidence that she really was all the time 
the centre of peculiar adoration. A throng of surprised and 
admiring listeners was continually round her, and she had never 
been so fascinating. Every word she uttered was marvellous 
and seductive, was caught up and handed round in the circle, 
and not one word, one jest, one sally was lost. I fancy no one 
had expected from her such taste, such brilliance, such wit. Her 
best qualities were, as a rule, buried under the most harum- 
scarum wilfulness, the most schoolboyish pranks, almost verging 
on buffoonery; they were rarely noticed, and, when they were, 
were hardly believed in, so that now her extraordinary brilliancy 
was accompanied by an eager whisper of amazement among all. 
There was, however, one peculiar and rather delicate circumstance, 
judging at least by the part in it played by Mme. M.'s husband, 
which contributed to her success. The madcap ventured 
and I must add to the satisfaction of almost every one or, at 
any rate, to the satisfaction of all the young people to make a 
furious attack upon him, owing to -many causes, probably of 
great consequence in her eyes. She carried on with him a regular 
cross-fire of witticisms, of mocking and sarcastic sallies, of thai 
most illusive and treacherous kind that, smoothly wrapped up 
on the surface, hit the mark without giving the victim anything 
to lay hold of, and exhaust him in fruitless efforts to repel the 
attack, reducing him to fury and comic despair. 

I don't know for certain, but I fancy the whole proceeding 
was not improvised but premeditated. This desperate duel 
had begun earlier, at dinner. I call it desperate because M. M. 
was not quick to surrender. He had to call upon all his presence 
of mind, all liis sharp wit and rare resourcefulness not to be com- 
plot'ly eov< red with ignominy. The conflict was accompanied 
by the continual and in-epr. .-,ille laughter of all who witn< 
and took part in it. That day was for him very different from 
tin- day IK We. It was noticeable that Mme. M. several times 
did IMT utmost, to stop her indiscreet friend, who was certainly 
trying to depict the jealous husband in the most grotesque 



A LITTLE HERO 239 

and absurd guise, in the guise of " a blue beard " it must be 
supposed, judging from all probabilities, from what has remained 
in my memory and finally from the part which I myself was 
destined to play in the affair. 

I was drawn into it in a most absurd manner, quite un- 
expectedly. And as ill-luck would have it at that moment I was 
standing where I could be seen, suspecting no evil and actually 
forgetting the precautions I had so long practised. Suddenly I 
was brought into the foreground as a sworn foe and natural 
rival of M. M., as desperately in love with his wife, of which my 
persecutress vowed and swore that she had. proofs, saying that 
only that morning she had seen in the copse. . . . 

But before she had time to finish I broke in at the most desperate 
minute. That minute was so diabolically calculated, was so 
treacherously prepared to lead up to its finale, its ludicrous 
denouement, and was brought out with such killing humour that 
a perfect outburst of irrepressible mirth saluted this last sally. 
And though even at the time I guessed that mine was not the 
most unpleasant part in the performance, yet I was so confused, 
so irritated and alarmed that, full of misery and despair, gasping 
with shame and tears, I dashed through two rows of chairs, 
stepped forward, and addressing my tormentor, cried, in a voice 
broken with tears and indignation : 

" Aren't you ashamed . . . aloud . . . before all the ladies 
... to tell such a wicked ... lie ? ... Like a small child 
. . . before all these men. . . . What will they say? ... A 
big girl like you . . . and married ! . . ." 

But I could not go on, there was a deafening roar of applause. 
My outburst created a perfect furore. My na'ive gesture, my 
tears, and especially the fact that I seemed to be defending 
I M. M., all this provoked such fiendish laughter, that even now 
I cannot help laughing at the mere recollection of it. I was 
overcome with confusion, senseless with horror and, burning with 
shame, hiding my face in my hands rushed away, knocked a tray 
out of the hands of a footman who was coming in at the door, and 
flew upstairs to my own room. I pulled out the key, which was 
on the outside of the door, and locked myself in. I did well, 
for there was a hue and cry after me. Before a minute had 
; passed my door was besieged by a mob of the prettiest ladies. 
I heard their ringing laughter, their incessant chatter, their 



240 A LITTLE HERO 

trilling voices; they were all twittering at once, like swal!. 
All of them, every one of them, begged and besought me to open 
the door, if only for a moment ; swore that no harm should come 
to me, only that they wanted to smother me with kisses. But 
. . . what could be more horrible than this novel threat ? I 
simply burned with shame the other side of the door, hiding my 
face in the pillows and did not open, did not even respond. The 
ladies kept up their knocking for a long time, but I was deaf and 
obdurate as only a boy of eleven could be. 

But what could I do now ? Everything was laid bare, 
everything had been exposed, everything I had so jealously 
guarded and concealed ! . . . Everlasting disgrace and shame 
had fallen on me ! But it is true that I could not myself havo 
said why I was frightened and what I wanted to hide ; yet I was 
frightened of something and had trembled like a leaf at the thought 
of that something's being discovered. Only till that mimi 
had not known what it was : whether it was good or bad, splendid 
or shameful, praiseworthy or reprehensible? Now in my dis- 
tress, in the misery that had been forced upon me, I learned 
that it was absurd and shameful. Instinctively I felt at the same 
time that tin's verdict was false, inhuman, and coarse ; but I was 
crushed, annihilated; consciousness seemed checked in me and 
thrown into confusion ; I could not stand up against that verdict, 
nor criticize it properly. I was befogged; I only felt that my 
heart had been inhumanly and shamelessly wounded, and 
brimming over with impotent tears. I was irritated ; but I 
was boiling with indignation and hate such as I had never felt 
before, for it was the first time in my life that I had known real 
sorrow, insult, and injury and it was truly that, withe it 
exaggeration. The first untried, unformed feeling had Ut 
coarsely handled in me, a child. The first fragrant, vii 
modesty had been so soon exposed and insulted, and the first 
perhaps very real and aesthetic impression had been so outr 
Of course there was much my persecutors did not know and did 
not divine in my sufferings. One circumstance, wlu'ch I had 
succeeded in analysing till then, of which I had been as it v 
afraid, partly ent< ivd into it. I went on lying on my bed in 
despair and misery, hiding my face in my pillow, and I was 
alternately feverish and shivery. I was tormented by t\\o 
questions : first, what had the wretched fair beauty seen, and, in 



A LITTLE HERO 241 

fact, what could she have seen that morning in the copse between 
Mme. M. and me ? And secondly, how could I now look Mme. M. 
in the face without dying on the spot of shame and despair ? 

An extraordinary noise in the yard roused me at last from the 
state of semi-consciousness into which I had fallen. I got up 
and went to the window. The whole yard was packed with 
carriages, saddle-horses, and bustling servants. It seemed that 
they were all setting off; some of the gentlemen had already 
mounted their horses, others were taking their places in the 
carriages. . . . Then I remembered the expedition to the village 
fdte, and little by little an uneasiness came over me; I began 
anxiously looking for my pony in the yard; but there was no 
pony there, so they must have forgotten me. I could not restrain 
myself, and rushed headlong downstairs, thinking no more of 
unpleasant meetings or my recent ignominy. . . . 

Terrible news awaited me. There was neither a horse nor seat 
in any of the carriages to spare for me; everything had been 
arranged, all the seats were taken, and I was forced to give 
place to others. Overwhelmed by this fresh blow, I stood on the 
steps and looked mournfully at the long rows of coaches, carriages, 
and chaises, in which there was not the tiniest corner left for me, 
and at the smartly dressed ladies, whose horses were restlessly 
curvetting. 

One of the gentlemen was late. They were only waiting for his 
arrival to set off. His horse was standing at the door, champing 
the bit, pawing the earth with his hoofs, and at every moment 
starting and rearing. Two stable-boys were carefully holding 
him by the bridle, and every one else apprehensively stood at a 
respectful distance from him. 

A most vexatious circumstance had occurred, which prevented 
my going. In addition to the fact that new visitors had arrived, 
filling up all the seats, two of the horses had fallen ill, one of 
them being my pony. But I was not the only person to suffer : 
it appeared that there was no horse for our new visitor, the pale- 
faced young man of whom I have spoken already. To get over 
this difficulty our host had been obliged to have recourse to the 
extreme step of offering his fiery unbroken stallion, adding, to 
satisfy his conscience, that it was impossible to ride him, and that 
they had long intended to sell the beast for its vicious character, 
if only a purchaser could be found. 



242 A LITTLE HERO 

But, in spite of his warning, the visitor declared that he was a 
good horseman, and in any case ready to mount anything 
rather than not go. Our host said no more, but now I fancied 
that a sly and ambiguous smile was straying on his lips. He 
waited for the gentleman who had spoken so well of his own 
horsemanship, and stood, without mounting his horse, impatiently 
rubbing his hands and continually glancing towards the door; 
some similar feeling seemed shared by the two stable-boys, 
who were holding the stallion, almost breathless with pride at 
seeing themselves before the whole company in charge of a horse 
which might any minute kill a man for no reason whatever. 
Something akin to their master's sly smile gleamed, too, in their 
eyes, which were round with expectation, and fixed upon the 
door from which the bold visitor was to appear. The horse 
himself, too, behaved as though he were in league with our host 
and the stable-boys. He bore himself proudly and haughtily, 
as though he felt that he were being watched by several dozen 
curious eyes and were glorying in his evil reputation exactly as 
some incorrigible rogue might glory in his criminal exploits. 
He seemed to be defying the bold man who would venture to 
curb his independence. 

That bold man did at last make his appearance. Conscience- 
stricken at having kept every one waiting, hurriedly drawing 
on his gloves, ho came forward without looking at anything, 
ran down the steps, and only raised his eyes as he stretched out 
his hand to seize the mane of the waiting horse. But he was at 
once disconcerted by his frantic rearing and a warning scream 
from the frightened spectators. The young man stepped back 
and looked in perplexity at the vicious horse, which was quivering 
all over, snorting with anger, and rolling his bloodshot eyes 
ferociously, continually rearing on his hind legs and flinging up 
his fore legs as though he meant to bolt into the air and carry 
the two stable-boys with him . For a minute the young man stood 
completely nonplussed; then, flushing slightly with some em- 
barrassment, he raised his eyes and looked at the frightened ladies. 

" A very fine horse ! " he said, as though to himself, " and 
to my thinking it ought to be a great pleasure to ride him ; 
but . . . but do you know, I think I won't go? " he concluded, 
turning to our host with the broad, good-natured smile which so 
suited his kind and clever face. 



A LITTLE HERO 243 

' Yet I consider you are au excellent horseman, I assure you," 
answered the owner of the unapproachable horse, delighted, 
and he warmly and even gratefully pressed the young man's 
hand, " just because from the first moment you saw the sort of 
brute you had to deal with," he added with dignity. " Would 
you believe me, though I have served twenty-three years in the 
hussars, yet I've had the pleasure of being laid on the ground 
three times, thanks to that beast, that is, as often as I mounted 
the useless animal. Tancred, my boy, there's no one here fit 
for you ! Your rider, it seems, must be some Ilya Muromets, 
and he must be sitting quiet now in the village of Kapat- 
charovo, waiting for your teeth to fall out. Come, take him away, 
he has frightened people enough. It was waste of time to 
bring him out," he cried, rubbing his hands complacently. 

It must be observed that Tancred was no sort of use to his 
master and simply ate corn for nothing; moreover, the old 
hussar had lost his reputation for a knowledge of horseflesh by 
paying a fabulpus sum for the worthless beast, which he had 
purchased only for his beauty. . . . yet he was delighted now 
that Tancred had kept up his reputation, had disposed of an- 
other rider, and so had drawn closer on himself fresh senseless 
laurels. 

" So you are not going ? " cried the blonde beauty, who was 
particularly anxious that her cavaliere servente should be in 
attendance on this occasion. " Surely you are not frightened ? " 

" Upon my word I am," answered the young man. 

" Are you in earnest ? " 

" Why, do you want me to break my neck ? " 

" Then make haste and get on my horse ; don't|be afraid, it 
is very quiet. We won't delay them, they can change the 
saddles in a minute ! I'll try to take yours. Surely Tancred 
can't always be so unruly." 

No sooner said than done, the madcap leaped out of the saddle 
and was standing before us as she finished the last sentence. 

" You don't know Tancred, if you think he will allow your 
wretched side-saddle to be put on him ! Besides, I would not 
let you break yoiir neck, it would be a pity ! " said our host, at 
that moment of inward gratification affecting, as his habit was, 
a studied brusqueness and even coarseness of speech which he 
thought in keeping with a jolly good fellow and an old soldier, 



244 A LITTLE HERO 

and which he imagined to be particularly attractive to the ladies. 
Tliis was one of his favourite fancies, his favourite whim, with 
which we were all familiar. , 

" Well, cry-baby, wouldn't" you like to have a try ? You 
wanted so much to go ? " said the valiant horsewoman, noticing 
me and pointing tauntingly at Tancred, because I had been so 
imprudent as to catch her eye, and she would not let me go without 
a biting word, that she might not have dismounted from her horse 
absolutely for no tiling. 

" I expect you are not such a We all know you are a 

hero and would be ashamed to be afraid ; especially when you 
will be looked at, you fine page," she added, with a fleeting glance 
at Mine. M., whose carriage was the nearest to the entrance. 

A rush of hatred and vengeance had flooded my heart, when 
the fair Amazon had approached us with the intention of mounting 
Tancred. . . . Bui I cannot describe what I felt at this un- 
expected challenge ficm the madcap. Everything was dark 
before my eyes when 1 saw her glance at Mme. M. For an instant 
an idea flashed through my mind . . . but it was only a moment, 
less than a moment, like a flash of gunpowder; perhaps it was 
the last straw, and I suddenly now was moved to rage as my 
spirit rose, so that I longed to put all my enemies to utter con- 
fusion, and to revenge myself on all of them and before every- 
one, by showing the sort of person I was. Or whether by some 
miracle, some prompting from mediaeval history, of which I 
had known nothing till then, sent whirling through my giddy 
brain, images of tournaments, paladins, heroes, lovely ladies, 
the clash of swords, shouts and the applause of the crowd, 
and amidst those shouts the timid cry of a frightened heart, 
wliich moves the proud soul more sweetly than victory and 
fame I don't know whether all this romantic nonsense was in 
my head at the time, or whether, more likely, only the first 
dawning of the inevitable nonsense that was in store for me in 
the future, anyway, I felt that my hour had come. My heart 
leaped and shuddered, and I don't remember how, at one bound, 
1 \v;is down the steps and beside Tancred. 

" You think I am afraid? " I cried, boldly and proudly, in 
such a fever that I could hardly see, breathless with excitement, 
and flushing till the tears scalded my cheeks. " Well, you shall 
see 1 " And clutching at Tancred's mane I put my foot in the 



A LITTLE HERO 245 

stirrup before they had time to make a movement to stop me; 
but at that instant Tancred reared, jerked his head, and with a 
mighty bound forward wrenched himself out of the hands of the 
petrified stable-boys, and dashed off like a hurricane, while every 
one cried out in horror. 

Goodness knows how I got my other leg over the horse while 
it was in full gallop ; I can't imagine, either, how I did not lose 
hold of the reins. Tancred bore me beyond the trellis gate, 
turned sharply to the right and flew along beside the fence 
regardless of the road. Only at that moment I heard behind me 
a shout from fifty voices, and that shout was echoed in my 
swooning heart with such a feeling of pride and pleasure that 
I shall never forget that mad moment of my boyhood. All the 
blood rushed to my head, bewildering me and overpowering my 
fears. I was beside myself. There certainly was, as I remember 
it now, something of the knight-errant about the exploit. 

My knightly exploits, however, were all over in an instant 
or it would have gone badly with the knight. And, indeed, I 
do not know how I escaped as it was. I did know how to ride, 
I had been taught. But my pony was more like a. sheep than a 
riding horse. No doubt I should have been thrown off Tancred 
if he had had time to throw me, but after galloping fifty paces 
he suddenly took fright at a huge stone which lay across the 
road and bolted back. He turned sharply, galloping at full 
speed, so that it is a puzzle to me even now that I was not 
sent spinning out of the saddle and flying like a ball for 
twenty feet, that I was not dashed to pieces, and that Tancred 
did not dislocate his leg by such a sudden turn. He rushed 
back to the gate, tossing his head furiously, bounding from side 
to side as though drunk with rage, flinging his legs at random 
in the air, and at every leap trying to shake me off his back as 
though a tiger had leaped on him and were thrusting its teeth 
and claws into his back. 

In another instant I should have flown off; I was falling; 
but several gentlemen flew to my rescue. Two of them inter- 
cepted the way into the open country, two others galloped up, 
closing in upon Tancred so that their horses' sides almost crushed 
my legs, and both of them caught him by the bridle. A few 
seconds later we were back at the steps. 

They lifted me down from the horse, pale and scarcely 



246 A LITTLE HERO 

breathing. I was shaking like a blade of grass in the wind ; it was 
the same with Tancred, who was standing, his hoofs as it were 
thrust into the earth and his whole body thrown back, puffing 
his fiery breath from red and streaming nostrils, twitching and 
quivering all over, seeming overwhelmed with wounded pride 
and anger at a child's being so bold with impunity. All around 
me I heard cried of bewilderment, surprise, and alarm. 

At that moment my straying eyes caught those of Mme. M., 
who looked pale and agitated, and I can never forget that 
moment in one instant my face was flooded with colour, glowed 
and burned like fire; I don't know what happened to me, but 
confused and frightened by my own feelings I timidly dropped 
my eyes to the ground. But my glance was noticed, it was 
caught, it was stolen from me. All eyes turned on Mme. M.. 
and finding herself unawares the centre of attention, she, too, 
flushed like a child from some naive and involuntary feeling 
and made an unsuccessful effort to cover her confusion by 
laughing. . . . 

All this, of course, was very absurd-looking from outside, but 
at that moment an extremely naive and unexpected circumstance 
saved me from being laughed at by every one, and gave a special 
colour to the whole adventure. The lovely persecutor who was 
the instigator of the whole escapade, and who till then had In-en 
my irreconcileable foe, suddenly rushed up to embrace and kiss 
me. She had hardly been able to believe her ey< -s when she saw 
me dare to accept her challenge, and pick up the gauntlet she 
had flung at me by glancing at Mme. M. She had almost died 
of terror and self-reproach when I had flown off on Tancred ; 
now, when it was all over, and particularly when she caught iho 
glance at Mme. M., my confusion and my sudden flush of colour, 
when the romantic strain in her frivolous little head had given a 
new secret, unspoken significance to the moment she was moved 
to such enthusiasm over my " knightliness," that touched, 
joyful and proud of me, she rushed up and pressed me to her 
bosom. She lifted the most naive, stern-looking little face, on 
which there quivered and gleamed two little crystal tears, and 
gazing at the crowd that thronged about her said in a grave, 
earnest voice, such as they had never heard her use before, 
pointing to me : " Mais c'est tres serieux, messieurs, ne riez pas ! " 
She did not notice that all were standing, as though fascinated, 



A LITTLE HERO 247 

admiring her bright enthusiasm. Her swift, unexpected action, 
her earnest little face, the simple-hearted naivete, the unexpected 
feeling betrayed by the tears that welled in her invariably laughter- 
loving eyes, were such a surprise that every one stood before her as 
though electrified by her expression, her rapid, fiery words and 
gestures. It seemed as though no one could take his eyes off her 
for fear of missing that rare moment in her enthusiastic face. 
Even our host flushed crimson as a tulip, and people declared 
that they heard him confess afterwards that " to his shame " 
he had been in love for a whole minute with his charming guest. 
Well, of course, after this I was a knight, a hero. 

" De Lorge ! Toggenburg ! " was heard in the crowd. 

There was a sound of applause. 

" Hurrah for the rising generation ! " added the host. 

" But he is coming with us, he certainly must come with us," 
said the beauty ; "we will find him a place, we must find him a 
place. He shall sit beside me, on my knee . . . but no, no ! 
That's a mistake ! . . ." she corrected herself, laughing, unable 
to restrain her mirth at our first encounter. But as she laughed 
she stroked my hand tenderly, doing all she could to soften me, 
that I might not be offended. 

" Of course, of course," several voices chimed in; " he must 
go, he has won his place." 

The matter was settled in a trice. The same old maid who 
had brought about my acquaintance with the blonde beauty was 
at once besieged with entreaties from all the younger people to 
remain at home and let me have her seat. She was forced to 
consent, to her intense vexation, with a smile and a stealthy 
hiss of anger. Her protectress, who was her usual refuge, my 
former foe and new friend, called to her as she galloped off on her 
spirited horse, laughing like a child, that she envied her and 
would have been glad to stay at home herself, for it was just going 
to rain and we should all get soaked. 

And she was right in predicting rain. A regular downpour 
came on within an hour and the expedition was done for. Wo 
had to take shelter for some hours in the huts of the village, and 
had to return home between nine and ten in the evening in the 
damp mist that followed the rain. I began to be a little feverish. 
At the minute when I was starting, Mme. M. came up to me and 
expressed surprise that my neck was uncovered and that I 



24R A LITTLE HERO 

had nothing on over my jacket. I answered that I had not had 
time to get my coat. She took out a pin and pinned up the 
turned down collar of my shirt, took off her own neck a crimson 
gauze kerchief, and put it round my neck that I might not 
get a sore throat. She did this so hurriedly that I had nob time 
even to thank her. 

But when we got home I found her in the little drawing-room 
with the blonde beauty and the pale-faced young man who had 
gained glory for horsemanship that day by refusing to ride 
Tancred. I went up to thank her and give back the scarf. 
But now, after 'all my adventures, I felt somehow ashamed. 
I wanted to make haste and get upstairs, there at my leisure to 
reflect and consider. I was brimming over with impressions. 
As I gave back the kerchief I blushed up to my ears, as usual. 

" I bet he would like to keep the kerchief," said the young 
man laughing. " One can see that he is sorry to part with your 
scarf." 

" That's it, that's it ! " the fair lady put in. " What a boy ! 
Oh ! " she said, shaking her head with obvious vexation, but she 
stopped in time at a grave glance from Mme. M., who did not want 
to carry the jest too far. 

I made haste to get away. 

" Well, you are a boy," said the madcap, overtaking me in 
the next room and affectionately taking me by both hands, " why, 
you should have simply not returned the kerchief if you wanted 
so much to have it. You should have said you put it down 
somewhere, and that would have been the end of it. What a 
simpleton ! Couldn't even do that ! What a funny boy ! " 

And she tapped me on the chin with her finger, laughing at 
my having flushed as red as a poppy. 

" I am your friend now, you know; am I not ? Our enmity is 
over, isn't it ? Yes or no ? " 

I laughed and pressed her fingers without a word. 

" Oh, why are you so. . . why are you so pale and shivering ? 
Have you caught a chill ? " 
X"' Yes, T don't foci well." 

"Ah, poor fellow ! That's the result of over -excitement. 
Do you know what ? You had better go to bed without sitting 
up for supper, and you will be all right in the morning. Come 
along." 



A LITTLE HERO 249 

She took me upstairs, and there was no end to the care she 
lavished on me. Leaving ime to undress she ran 'downstairs, 
got me some tea, and brought it up herself when I was in bed. 
She brought me up a warm quilt as well. I was much impressed 
and touched by all the care and attention lavished on me ; 
or perhaps I was affected by the whole day, the expedition 
and feverishness. As I said good -night to her I hugged her 
warmly, as though she were my dearest and nearest friend, 
and in my exhausted state all the emotions of the day came back 
to me in a rush ; I almost shed tears as I nestled to her bosom. 
She noticed my overwrought condition, and I believe my madcap 
herself was a little touched. 

" You are a very good boy," she said, looking at me with 
gentle eyes, " please don't be angry with me. You won't, will 
you ? " 

In fact, we became the warmest and truest of friends. 

It was rather early when I woke up, but the sun was already 
flooding the whole room with brilliant light. I jumped out of bed 
feeling perfectly well and strong, as though I had had no fever the 
day before ; indeed, I felt now unutterably joyful. I recalled the 
previous day and felt that I would have given any happiness if I 
could at that minute have embraced my new friend, the fair-haired 
beauty, again, as I had the night before ; but it was very early 
and every one was still asleep. Hurriedly dressing I went out 
into the garden and from there into the copse. I made my way 
where the leaves were thickest, where the fragrance of the trees 
was more resinous, and where the sun peeped in most gaily, 
rejoicing that it could penetrate the dense darkness of the foliage. 
It was a lovely morning. 

Going on further and. ^further,' before I was aware of it I had 
reached the further end of the copse and came out on the river 
Moskva. It flowed at the bottom of the hill two hundred paces 
below. On the opposite bank of the river they were mowing. 
I watched whole rows of sharp scythes gleam all together in the 
sunlight at every swing of the mower and then vanish again like 
little fiery snakes going into hiding; I watched the cut grass 
flying on one side in dense rich swathes and being laid in long 
straight lines. I don't know how long I spent in contemplation. 
At last I was roused from my reverie by hearing^a horse snorting 
and impatiently pawing the ground twenty paces from me, in 



2 50 A LITTLE HERO 

the track which ran from the high road to the manor house. I 
don't know whether I heard this horse as soon as the rider rode 
up and stopped there, or whether the sound had long been in my 
ears without rousing me from my dreaming. Moved by curiosity 
I went into the copse, and before I had gone many steps I caught 
the sound of voices speaking rapidly, though in subdued tones. 
T went up closer, carefully parting the branches of the bushes 
that edged the path, and at once sprang back in amazement. 
I caught a glimpse of a familiar white dress and a soft feminine 
voice resounded like music in my heart. It was Mine. M. She 
was standing beside a man on horseback who, stooping down from 
the saddle, was hurriedly talking to her, and to my amazement 
I recognized him as N., the young man who had gone away the 
morning before and over whose departure M. M. had been so 
busy. But people had said at the time that he was going far away 
to somewhere in the South of Russia, and so I was very much 
surprised at seeing him with us again so early, and alone with 
Mme. M. 

She was moved and agitated as I had never seen her before, 
and tears were glistening on her cheeks. The young man was 
holding her hand and stooping down to kiss it. I had come 
upon them at the moment of parting. They seemed to be in 
haste. At last he took out of his pocket a sealed envelope, 
gave it to Mme. M., put one arm round her, still not dismounting, 
and gave her a long, fervent kiss. A minute later he lashed his 
horse and flew past me like an arrow. Mme. M. looked after him 
for some moments, then pensively and disconsolately turned 
homewards. But after going a few steps along the track she 
seemed suddenly to recollect herself, hurriedly parted the bushes 
and walked on through the copse. 

I followed her, surprised and perplexed by all that I had seen. 
My heart was beating violently, as though from terror. I was, 
as it were, benumbed and befogged; my ideas were shattered 
and turned upside down ; but I remember I was, for some n-;i><>n, 
very sad. I got glimpses from time to time through the green 
foliage of her white dress before me : I followed her mechanically, 
never losing sight of her, though I trembled at the thought that 
she might notice me. At last she came out on the little path that 
led to the house. After wait'inir half a minute I, too, emerged 
from th( bushes ; but what was my amazement when I saw lying 



A LITTLE HERO 251 

on the red sand of the path a sealed packet, which I recognized, 
from the first glance, as the one that had been given to Mme. M. 
ten minutes before. 

I picked it up. On both sides the paper was blank, there was 
no address on it. The envelope was not large, but it was fat and 
heavy, as though there were three or more sheets of notepaper 
in it. 

What was the meaning of this envelope ? No doubt it would 
explain the whole mystery. Perhaps in it there was said all 
that N. had scarcely hoped to express in their brief, hurried 
interview. He had not even dismounted. . . . Whether he 
had been in haste or whether he had been afraid of being false 
to himself at the hour of parting God only knows. . . . 

I stopped, without coming out on the path, threw the envelope 
in the most conspicuous place on it, and kept my eyes upon it, 
supposing that Mme. M. would notice the loss and come back and 
look for it. But after waiting four minutes I could stand it no 
longer, I picked up my find again, put it in my pocket, and set 
off to overtake Mme. M. I came upon her in the big avenue in 
the garden. She was walking straight towards the house with a 
swift and hurried step, though she was lost in thought, and her 
eyes were on the ground. I did not know what to do. Go up 
to her, give it her ? That would be as good as saying that I knew 
everything, that I had seen it all. I should betray myself at 
the first word. And how should I look, at her ? How would 
she look at me. I kept expecting that she would discover her 
loss and return on her tracks. Then I could, unnoticed, have 
flung the envelope on the path and she would have found it. 
But no ! We were approaching the house ; she had already been 
noticed. . . . 

As ill-luck would have it every one had got up very early 
that day, because, after the unsuccessful expedition of the 
evening before, they had arranged something new, of which I had 
heard nothing. All were preparing to set off, and were having 
breakfast in the verandah. I waited for ten minutes, that I 
might not be seen with Mme. M., and making a circuit of the 
garden approached the house from the other side a long time after 
her. She was walking up and down the verandah with her arms 
folded, looking pale and agitated, and was obviously trying her 
utmost to suppress the agonizing, despairing misery which could 



252 A LITTLE HERO 

be plainly discerned in her eyes, her walk, her every movement. 
Sometimes she went down the verandah steps and walked a 
few paces among the flower-beds in the direction of the garden ; 
her eyes were impatiently, greedily, even incautiously, seeking 
something on the sand of the path and on the floor of the verandah. 
There could be no doubt she had discovered her loss and imagined 
she had dropped the letter somewhere here, near the house 
yes, that must be so, she was convinced of it. 

'Some one noticed that she was pale and agitated, and others 
made the same remark. She was besieged with questions about 
her health and condolences. She had to laugh, to jest, to appear 
lively. From time to time she looked at her husband, who was 
standing at the end of the terrace talking to two ladies, and the 
poor woman was overcome by the same shudder, the same 
embarrassment, as on the day of his first arrival. Thrusting 
my hand into my pocket and holding the letter tight in it, I 
stood at a little distance from them all, praying to fate that 
Mine. M. should notice me. I longed to cheer her up, to relieve 
her anxiety if only by a glance ; to say a word to her on the sly. 
But when she did chance to look at me I dropped my eyes. 

I saw her distress and I was not mistaken. To this day I don't 
know her secret. I know nothing but what I saw and what I 
have just described. The intrgiue was not such, perhaps, as one 
might suppose at the first glance. Perhaps that kiss was the 
of farewell, perhaps it was the last slight reward for the sacrifice 
made to her peace and honour. N. was going away, he was leav- 
ing her, perhaps for ever. Even that letter I was holding in my 
hand who can tell what it contained ! How can one judge ? 
and who can condemn? And yet there is no doubt thai the 
sudden discovery of her secret would have been terrible would 
have been a fatal blow for her. I still remember her face at that 
minute, it could not have shown more suffering. To feel, to know, 
to l)e convinced, to expect, as though it were one's execution, 
that in a quarter of an hour, in a minute perhaps, all might be 
di-i -ov. -red, the letter might be found by some one, picked up; 
there was no address on it, it might be opened, and then . . . 
What then ? What torture could be worse than what was 
awaiting her ? She moved about among those^who would be 
}H r judges. In another minute their smiling' flattering faces 
would be menacing and merciless. She would read mockery, 



A LITTLE HERO 263 

malice and icy contempt on those faces, and then her life would 
be plunged in everlasting darkness, with no dawn to follow. . . 
Yes, I did not understand it then as I understand it now. I 
could only have vague suspicions and misgivings, and a heart- 
ache at the thought of her danger, which I could not fully 
understand. But whatever lay hidden in her secret, much was 
expiated, if expiation were needed, by those moments of anguish 
of which I was witness and which I shall never forget. 

But then came a cheerful summons to set off; immediately 
every one was bustling about gaily; laughter and lively chatter 
were heard on all sides. Within two minutes the verandah was 
deserted. Mme. M. declined to join the party, acknowledging at 
last that she was not well. But, thank God, all the others set 
off, every one was in haste, and there was no time to worry her 
with commiseration, inquiries, and advice. A few remained at 
home. Her husband said a few words to her; she answered 
that she would be all right directly, that he need not be uneasy, 
that there was no occasion for her to lie down, that she would go 
into the garden, alone . . . with me . . . here she glanced at me. 
Nothing could be more fortunate ! I flushed with pleasure, with 
delight ; a minute later we were on the way. 

She walked along the same avenues and paths by which she 
had returned from the copse, instinctively remembering the way 
she had come, gazing before her with her eyes fixed on the ground, 
looking about intently without answering me, possibly forgetting 
that I was walking beside her. 

But when we had already reached the place where I had picked 
up the letter, and the^path ended, Mme. M. suddenly stopped, 
and in a voice faint and weak with misery said that she felt worse, 
and that she would go home. But when she reached the garden 
fence she stopped again and thought a minute ; a smile of des- 
pair came on her lips, and utterly worn out and exhausted, 
resigned, and making up her mind to the worst, she turned with- 
out a word and retraced her steps, even forgetting to tell me of 
her intention. 

My heart was torn with sympathy, and I did not know what 
to do. 

We went, or rather I led her, to the place from which an hour 
before I had heard the tramp of a horse and their conversation. 
Here, close to a shady elm tree, was a seat hewn out of one huge 



254 A LITTLE HERO 

stone, about which grew ivy, wild jasmine, and dog-rose ; the 
whole wood was dotted with little bridges, arbours, grottoes, 
and similar siarprises. Mine. M. sat down on the bench and 
glanced unconsciously at the marvellous view that lay open before 
us. A minute later she opened her book, and fixed her eyes upon 
it without reading, without turning the pages, almost unconscious 
of what she was doing. It was about half -past nine. The sun 
was already high and was floating gloriously in the deep, dark 
blue sky, as though melting away in its own light. The mowers 
were by now far away ; they were scarcely visible from our side 
of the river ; endless ridges of mown grass crept after them in 
unbroken succession, and from time to time the faintly stirring 
breeze wafted their fragrance to us. The never ceasing concert of 
those who " sow not, neither do they reap " and are free as the 
air they cleave with their sportive wings was all about us. It 
seemed as though at that moment every flower, every blade of 
grass was exhaling the aroma of sacrifice, was saying to its Creator, 
" Father, I am blessed and happy." 

I glanced at the poor woman, who alone was like one dead 
amidst all this joyous life ; two big tears hung motionless on her 
lashes, wrung from her heart by bitter grief. It was in my power 
to relieve and console this poor, fainting heart, only I did not 
know how to approach the subject, how to take the first step. I 
was in agonies. A hundred times I was on the point of going up 
to her, but every time my face glowed like fire. 

Suddenly a bright idea dawned upon me. I had found a 
way of doing it ; I revived. 

" Would you like me to pick you a nosegay ? " I said, in such 
a joyful voice that Mme M. immediately raised her head and 
looked at me intently. 

Sea, do," she said at last in a weak voice, with a fault 
smile, at once dropping her eyes on the book again. 

" Or soon they will be mowing the grass here and there will bo 
no flowers," I cried, eagerly setting to work. 

I had soon picked my nosegay, a poor, simple one, I should have 
been ashamed to take it indoors ; but how light my heart was as 
I picked the flowers and tied them up ! The dog-rose and the 
wild jasmine I picked closer to the seat, I knew that not far 
off then- \vjis a field of rye, not. yet ri]M>. I ran there for 
cornflowers; I mixed them with tall ears of rye, picking out the 



A LITTLE HERO 265 

finest and most golden. Close by I came upon a perfect nest of 
forget-me-nots, and my nosegay was almost complete. Farther 
away in the meadow there were dark-blue campanulas and wild 
pinks, and I ran down to the very edge of the river to get yellow 
water-lilies. At last, making my way back, and going for an 
instant into the wood to get some bright green fan-shaped leaves 
of the maple to put round the nosegay, I happened to come across 
a whole family of pansies, close to which, luckily for me, the 
fragrant scent of violets betrayed the little flower hiding in 
the thick lush grass and still glistening with drops of dew. The 
nosegay was complete. I bound it round with fine long grass 
which twisted into- a rope, and I carefully lay the letter in the 
centre, hiding it with the flowers, but in such a way that it could 
be very easily noticed if the slightest attention were bestowed 
upon my nosegay. 

I carried it to Mme. M. 

On the way it seemed to me that the letter was lying too much 
in view : I hid it a little more. As I got nearer I thrust it still 
further in the flowers; and finally, when I was on the spot, I 
suddenly poked it so deeply into the centre of the nosegay 
that it could not be noticed at all from outside. My cheeks 
were positively flaming. I wanted to hide my face in my hands 
and run away at once, but she glanced at my flowers as though 
she had completely forgotten that I had gathered them. Mechani- 
cally, almost without looking, she held out her hand and took 
my present ; but at once laid it on the seat as though I had handed 
it to her for that purpose and dropped her eyes to her book again, 
seeming lost in thought. I was ready to cry at this mischance. 
" If only my nosegay were close to her," I thought ; "if only she 
had not forgotten it ! " I lay down on the grass not far off, put 
my right arm under my head, and closed my eyes as though I were 
overcome by drowsiness. But I waited, keeping my eyes fixed 
on her. 

Ten minutes passed, it seemed to me that she was getting 
paler and paler . . . fortunately a blessed chance came to my aid. 

This was a big, golden bee, brought by a kindly breeze, luckily 
for me. It first buzzed over my head, and then flew up to Mme. M. 
She Avaved it off once or twice, but the bee grew more and more 
persistent. At last Mme. M. snatched up my nosegay and waved 
it before my face. At that instant the letter dropped out from 



256 A LITTLE HERO 

among the flowera and fell straight upon the open book. I 
started. For some time Mme. M., mute with amazement, 
stared first at the letter and then at the flowers which she was 
holding in her hands, and she seemed unable to believe her eyes. 
All at once she flushed, started, and glanced at me. But I caught 
her movement and I shut my eyes tight, pretending to be asleep. 
Nothing would have induced me to look her straight in the face 
at that moment. My heart was throbbing and leaping like a 
bird in the grasp of some village boy. I don't remember how 
long I lay with my eyes shut, two or three minutes. At last I 
ventured to open them. Mme. M. was greedily reading the 
letter, and from her glowing cheeks, her sparkling, tearful < 
her bright face, every feature of which was quivering with joyful 
emotion, I guessed that there was happiness in the letter 
and all her misery was dispersed like smoke. An agonizing, 
sweet feeling gnawed at my heart, it was hard for me to go on 
pretending. . . . 

I shall never forget that minute ! 

Suddenly, a long way off, we heard voices 

" Mme. M. ! Natalie ! Natalie 1 " 

Mme. M. did not answer, but she got up quickly from the seat, 
came up to me and bent over me. I felt that she was looking 
straight into my face. My eyelashes quivered, but I controlled 
myself and did not open my eyes. I tried to breathe more evenly 
and quietly, but my heart smothered me with its violent throb- 
bing. Her burning breath scorched my cheeks; she bent close 
down to my face as though trying to make sure. At last a kiss 
and tears fell on my hand, the one which was lying on my breast. 

" Natalie ! Natalie ! where are you," we heard again, this 
time quite close. 

" Coming," said Mme. M., in her mellow, silvery voice, which 
was so choked and quivering with tears and so subdued that 
no one but I could hear that, " Coming ! " 

But at that instant my heart at last betrayed me and seemed 
to send all my blood rushing to my face. At that instant a swift, 
burning kiss scalded my lips. I uttered a faint cry. I opened my 
eyes, but at once the same gauze kercliief fell upon them, as though 
she meant to screen me from the sun. An instant later she was 
gone. I heard nothing but the sound of rapidly retreating stops. 
I was alone. 



A LITTLE HERO 257 

I pulled off her kerchief and kissed it, . beside myself with 
rapture; for some moments I was almost frantic. . . . Hardly 
able to breathe, leaning on my elbow on the grass, I stared uncon- 
sciously before me at the surrounding slopes, streaked with 
cornfields, at the river that flowed twisting and winding far away, 
as far as the eye could see, between fresh hills and villages that 
gleamed like dots all over the sunlit distance at the dark-blue, 
hardly visible forests, which seemed as though smoking at the 
edge of the burning sky, and a sweet stillness inspired by the 
triumphant peacefulness of the picture gradually brought calm 
to my troubled heart. I felt more at ease and breathed more 
freely, but my whole soul was full of a dumb, sweet yearning, as 
though a veil had been drawn from my eyes as though at a 
foretaste of something. My frightened heart, faintly quivering 
with expectation, was groping timidly and joyfully towards 
some conjecture . . . and all at once my bosom heaved, began 
aching as though something had pierced it, and tears, sweet tears, 
gushed from my eyes. I hid my face in my hands, and quivering 
like a blade of grass, gave myself up to the first consciousness and 
revelation of my heart, the first vague glimpse of my nature. 
My childhood was over from that moment. 

When two hours later I returned home I did not find Mme. M. 
Through some sudden chance she had gone back to Moscow with 
her husband. I never saw her again. 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 
A STORY 

IN the darkest and humblest corner of Ustinya Fyodorovna's 
flat lived Semyon Ivanovitch Prohartchin, a well-meaning elderly 
man, who did not drink. Since Mr. Prohartchin was of a very 
humble grade in the service, and received a salary strictly pro- 
portionate to his official capacity, Ustinya Fyodorovna could not 
get more than five roubles a month from him for his lodging. 
Some people said that she had her own reasons for accepting 
him as a lodger ; but, be that as it may, as though in despite of 
all his detractors, Mr. Prohartchin actually became her favourite, 
in an honourable and virtuous sense, of course. It must be ob- 
served that Ustinya Fj'odorovna, a very respectable woman, 
who had a special partiality for meat and coffee, and found it 
difficult to keep the fasts, let rooms to several other boarders 
who paid twice as much as Semyon Ivanovitch, yet not being quiet 
lodgers, but on the contrary all of them " spiteful scoffers " 
at her feminine ways and her forlorn helplessness, stood very low 
in her good opinion, so that if it had not been for the rent they 
paid, she would not have cared to let them stay, nor indeed to 
see them in her 'flat at all. Semyon Ivanovitch had become her 
favourite from the day when a retired, or, perhaps more correctly 
speaking, discharged clerk, with a weakness for strong drink, was 
carried to his last resting-place in Volkovo. Though this gentle- 
man had only one eye, having had the other knocked out owing, 
in his own words, to his valiant behaviour ; and only one leg, the 
other having been broken in the same way owing to his valour; 
yet he had succeeded in winning all the kindly feeling of which 
Ustinya Fyodorovna was capable, and took the fullest advantage 
of it, and would probably have gone on for years living as her 
devoted satellite and toady if he had not finally drunk himself 
to death in the most pitiable way. All this had happened at 

258 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 259 

Peski, where Ustinya Fyodorovna only had three lodgers, of 
whom, when she moved into a new flat and set up on a larger 
scale, letting to about a dozen new boarders, Mr. Prohartchin 
was the only one who remained. 

Whether Mr. Prohartchin had certain incorrigible defects, or 
whether his companions were, every one of them, to blame, there 
seemed to be misunderstandings on both sides from the first. 
We must observe here that all Ustinya Fyodorovna's new lodgers 
without exception got on together like brothers ; some of them 
were in the same office ; each one of them by turns lost all his 
money to the others at faro, preference and bixe ; they all liked 
in a merry hour to enjoy what they called the fizzing moments 
of life in a crowd together; they were fond, too, at times of 
discussing lofty subjects, and though in the end things rarely 
passed off without a dispute, yet as all prejudices were banished 
from the whole party the general harmony was not in the least 
disturbed thereby. The most remarkable among the lodgers 
were Mark Ivanovitch, an intelligent and well-read man; 
then Oplevaniev; then Prepolovenko, also a nice and modest 
person; then there was a certain Zinovy Prokofyevitch, whose 
object in life was to get into aristocratic society ; then there was 
Okeanov, the copying clerk, who had in his time almost wrested 
the distinction of prime favourite from Semyon Ivanovitch; 
then another copying clerk called Sudbin; the plebeian 
Kantarev; there were others too. But to all these people 
Semyon Ivanovitch was, as it were, not one of themselves. No 
one wished him harm, of course, for all had from the very first 
done Prohartchin justice, and had decided in Mark Ivanovitch's 
words that he, Prohartchin, was a good and harmless fellow, 
though by no means a man of the world, trustworthy, and not a 
flatterer, who had, of course, his failings; but that if he were 
sometimes unhappy it was due to nothing else but lack of imagina- 
tion. What is more, Mr. Prohartchin, though deprived in this 
way of imagination, could never have made a particularly favour- 
able impression from his figure or manners (upon which scoffers 
are fond of fastening), yet his figure did not put people against 
him. Mark Ivanovitch, who was an intelligent person, formally 
undertook Semyon Ivanovitch's defence, and declared in rather 
happy and flowery language that Prohartchin was an elderly 
and respectable man, who had long, long ago passed the age of 



20 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

romance. And so, if Semyon Ivanovitch did not know how to get 
on with people, it must have been entirely his own fault. 

The first thing they noticed was the unmistakable parsimony and 
niggardliness of Semyon Ivanovitch. That was at once observed 
and noted, for Semyon Ivanovitch would never lend any one his 
teapot, even for a moment ; and that was the more unjust as 
he himself hardly ever drank tea, but when he wanted anything 
drank, as a rule, rather a pleasant decoction of wild flowers and 
certain medicinal herbs, of which he always had a considerable 
store. His meals, too, were quite different from the other 
lodgers'. He never, for instance, permitted himself to partake of 
the whole dinner, provided daily by Us tiny a Fyodorovna for the 
other boarders. The dinner cost half a rouble ; Semyon 
Ivanovitch paid only twenty-five kopecks in copper, and never 
exceeded it, and so took either a plate of soup with pie, or a 
plate of beef ; most frequently he ate neither soup nor beef, but 
he partook in moderation of white bread with onion, curd, salted 
cucumber, or something similar, which was a great deal cheaper, 
and he would only go back to his half dinner when he could stand 
it no longer. . . . 

Here the biographer confesses that nothing would have in- 
duced him to allude to such realistic and low details, positively 
shocking and offensive to some lovers of the heroic style, if it 
were not that these details exhibit one peculiarity, one character- 
istic, in the hero of this story ; for Mr. Prohartchin was by no 
means so poor as to be unable to have regular and sufficient meals, 
though he sometimes made out that he was. But he acted as he 
did regardless of obloquy and people's prejudices, simply to satisfy 
his strange whims, and from frugality and excessive carefulness : 
all this, however, will be much clearer later on. But we will 
beware of boring the reader with the description of all Semyon 
Ivanovitch's whims, and will omit, for instance, the curious and 
very amusing description of his attire ; and, in fact, if it were not 
for Ustinya Fyodorovna's own reference to it we should hardly 
have alluded even to the fact that Semyon Ivanovitch never 
could make up his mind to send his linen to the wash, or if he ever 
did so it was so rarely that in the intervals one might have com- 
pletely forgotten the existence of linen on Semyon Ivanovitch. 
From the landlady's evidence it appeared that " Semyon Ivano- 
vitch, bless his soul, poor lamb, for twenty years had been tucked 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 261 

away in his corner, without caring what folks thought, for all the 
days of his life on earth he was a stranger to socks, handkerchiefs, 
and all such things," and what is more, Ustinya Fyodorovna had 
seen with her own eyes, thanks to the decrepitude of the screen, 
that the poor dear man sometimes had had nothing to cover his 
bare skin. 

Such were the rumours in circulation after Semyon Ivanovitch's 
death. But in his lifetime (and this was one of the most frequent 
occasions of dissension) he could not endure it if any one, even 
somebody on friendly terms with him, poked his inquisitive nose 
uninvited into his corner, even through an aperture in the decrepit 
screen. He was a taciturn man difficult to deal with and prone 
to ill health. He did not like people to give him advice, he did not 
care for people who put themselves forward either, and if any one 
jeered at him or gave him advice unasked, he would fall foul of 
him at once, put him to shame, and settle his business. " You 
are a puppy, you are a featherhead, you are not one to give 
advice, so there you mind your own business, sir. You'd 
better count the stitches in your own socks, sir, so there ! " 

Semyon Ivanovitch was a plain man, and never used the formal 
mode of address to any one. He could not bear it either when 
some one who knew his little ways would begin from pure sport 
pestering him with questions, such as what he had in his little 
trunk. . . . Semyon Ivanovitch had one little trunk. It stood 
under his bed, and was guarded like the apple of his eye ; and 
though every one knew that there was nothing in it except old 
rags, two or three pairs of damaged boots and all sorts of rubbish, 
yet Mr. Prohartchin prized his property very highly, and they used 
even to hear him at one time express dissatisfaction with his old, 
but still sound, lock, and talk of getting a new one of a special 
German pattern with a secret spring and various complications. 
When on one occasion Zinovy Prokofyevitch, carried away by 
the thoughtlessness of youth, gave expression to the very coarse 
and unseemly idea, that Semyon Ivanovitch was probably hiding 
and treasuring something in his box to leave to his descendants, 
every one who happened to be by was stupefied at the extra- 
ordinary effects of Zinovy Prokofyevitch's sally. At first Mr. 
Prohartchin could not find suitable terms for such a crude and 
coarse idea. For a long time words dropped from his lips quite 
incoherently, and it was only after a while they made out that 



262 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

Semyon Ivanovitch was reproaching Zinovy Prokofyevitch for 
some shabby action in the remote past ; then they realized that 
Semyon Ivanovitch was predicting that Zinovy Prokofyevitch 
would never get into aristocratic society, and that the tailor to 
whom he owed a bill for his suits would beat him would certainly 
beat him because the puppy had not paid him for so long ; and 
finally, " You puppy, you," Semyon Ivanovitch added, " here 
you want to get into the hussars, but you won't, I tell you, you'll 
make a fool of yourself. And I tell you what, you puppy, when 
your superiors know all about it they will take and make you a 
copying clerk ; so that will be the end of it ! Do you hear, 
puppy ? " Then Semyon Ivanovitch subsided, but after lying 
down for five hours, to the intense astonishment of every one 
he seemed to have reached a decision, and began suddenly re- 
proaching and abusing the young man again, at first to himself 
and afterwards addressing Zinovy Prokofyevitch. But the matter 
did not end there, and in the evening, when Mark Ivanovitch 
and Prepolovenko made tea and asked Okeanov to drink it 
with them, Semyon Ivanovitch got up from his bed, purposely 
joined them, subscribing his fifteen or twenty kopecks, and on the 
pretext of a sudden desire for a cup of tea began at great length 
going into the subject, and explaining that he was a poor man, 
nothing but a poor man, and that a poor man like him had 
nothing to save. Mr. Prohartchin confessed that he was a 
poor man on this occasion, he said, simply because the subject 
had come up; that the day before yesterday he had meant to 
borrow a rouble from that impudent fellow, but now he should not 
borrow it for fear the puppy should brag, that that was the fact 
of the matter, and that his salary was such that one could not 
buy enough to eat, and that finally, a poor man, as you see, he 
sent his sister-in-law in Tver five roubles every month, that 
if he did not send his sister-in-law in Tver five roubles every 
month his sister-in-law would die, and if his sister-in-law, who 
was dependent on him, were dead, he, Semyon Ivanovitch, 
would long ago have bought himself a new suit. . . . And 
Semyon Ivanovitch went on talking in this way at great length 
about being a poor man, about his sister-in-law and about roubles, 
and kept repeating the same thing over and over again to impress 
it on his audience till he got into a regular muddle and relapsed 
into silence. Only three days later, when they had all forgotten 



ME. PROHARTCHIN 263 

about him, and no one was thinking of attacking him, he added 
something in conclusion to the effect that when Zinovy Proko- 
fyevitch went into the hussars the impudent fellow would have 
his leg cut off in the war, and then he would come with a wooden 
leg and say ; " Semyon Ivanovitch, kind friend, give me some- 
thing to eat ! " and then Semyon Ivanovitch would not give him 
something to eat, and would not look at the insolent fellow ; and 
that's how it would be, and he could just make the best of it. 

All this naturally seemed very curious and at the same time 
fearfully amusing. Without much reflection, all the lodgers 
joined together for further investigation, and simply from curio- 
sity determined to make a final onslaught on Semyon Ivanovitch 
en masse. And as Mr. Prohartchin, too, had of late that is, ever 
since he had begun living in the same flat with them been very 
fond of finding out everything about them and asking inquisitive 
questions, probably for private reasons of his own, relations 
sprang up between the opposed parties without any preparation or 
effort on either side, as it were by chance and of itself. To get 
into relations Semyon Ivanovitch always had in reserve his 
peculiar, rather sly, and very ingenuous manoeuvre, of which 
the reader has learned something already. He would get off his 
bed about tea-time, and if he saw the others gathered together in a 
group to make tea he would go up to them like a quiet, sensible, 
and friendly person, hand over his twenty kopecks, as he was 
entitled to do, and announce that he wished to join them. Then 
the young men would wink at one another, and so indicating 
that they were in league together against Semyon Ivanovitch, 
would begin a conversation, at first strictly proper and decorous. 
Then one of the wittier of the party would, a propos of nothing, 
fall to telling them news consisting most usually of entirely false 
and quite incredible details. He would say, for instance, that some 
one had heard His Excellency that day telling Demid Vassilye- 
vitch that in his opinion married clerks were more trustworthy 
than unmarried, and more suitable for promotion ; for they were 
steady, and that their capacities were considerably improved by 
marriage, and that therefore he that is, the speaker in order 
to improve and be better fitted for promotion, was doing his 
utmost to enter the bonds of matrimony as soon as possible with 
a certain Fevronya Prokofyevna. Or he would say that it had 
more than once been remarked about certain of his colleagues 



264 ME. PROHARTCHIN 

that they were entirely devoid of social graces and of well-bred, 
agreeable manners, and consequently unable to please ladies in 
good society, and that, therefore, to eradicate this defect it would 
be suitable to deduct something from their salary, and with 
the sum so obtained, to hire a hall, where they could learn to 
dance, acquire the outward signs of gentlemanliness and good- 
breeding, courtesy, respect for their seniors, strength of will, 
a good and grUteful heart and various agreeable qualities. Or 
he would say that it was being arranged that some of the clerks, 
beginning with the most elderly, were to be put through an ex- 
amination in all sorts of subjects to raise their standard of culture, 
and in that way, the speaker would add, all sorts of things would 
come to light, and certain gentlemen would have to lay their 
cards on the table in short, thousands of similar very absurd 
rumours were discussed. To keep it up, every one believed the 
story at once, showed interest in it, asked questions, applied it to 
themselves ; and some of them, assuming a despondent air, began 
shaking their heads and asking every one's advice, saying what 
were they to do if they were to come under it ? It need hardly 
be said that a man far less credulous and simple-hearted than 
Mr. Prohartchin would have been puzzled and carried away by a 
rumour so unanimously believed. Moreover, from all appear- 
ances, it might be safely concluded that Semyon Ivanovitch was 
exceedingly stupid and slow to grasp any new unusual idea, 
and that when he heard anything new, he had always first, as 
it were, to chew it over and digest it, to find out the meaning, and 
struggling with it in bewilderment, at last perhaps to overcome 
it, though even then in a quite special manner peculiar to himself 
alone. . . . 

In this way curious and hitherto unexpected qualities began to 
show themselves in Semyon Ivanovitch. . . . Talk and tittle- 
tattle followed, and by devious ways it all reached the office 
at last, with additions. What increased the sensation was the 
fact that Mr. Prohartchin, who had looked almost exactly the 
same from time immemorial, suddenly, d propos of nothing, wore 
quite a different countenance. His face was uneasy, his eyes were 
timid and had a scared and rather suspicious expression. He 
took to walking softly, starting and listening, and to put the 
finishing touch to his new characteristics developed a passion for 
investigating the truth. He carried his love of truth at last to 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 265 

such a pitch as to venture, on two occasions, to inquire of Demid 
Vassilyevitch himself concerning the credibility of the strange 
rumours that reached him daily by dozens, and if we say nothing 
here of the consequence of the action of Semyon Ivanovitch, it is 
for no other reason but a sensitive regard for his reputation. It 
was in this way people came to consider him as misanthropic and 
regardless of the proprieties. Then they began to discover that 
there was a great deal that was fantastical about him, and in this 
they were not altogether mistaken, for it was observed on more 
than one occasion that Semyon Ivanovitch completely forgot 
himself, and sitting in his seat with his mouth open and liis 
pen in the air, as though frozen or petrified, looked more like the 
shadow of a rational being than that rational being itself. It 
sometimes happened that some innocently gaping gentleman, on 
suddenly catching his straying, lustreless, questioning eyes, was 
scared and all of a tremor, and at once inserted into some 
important document either a smudge or some quite inappropri- 
ate word. The impropriety of Semyon Ivanovitch's behaviour 
embarrassed and annoyed all really well-bred people. ... At 
last no one could feel any doubt of the eccentricity of Semyon 
Ivanovitch's mind, when one fine morning the rumour was all 
over the office that Mr. Prohartchin had actually frightened 
Demid Vassilyevitch himself, for, meeting him in the corridor, 
Semyon Ivanovitch had been so strange and peculiar that he had 
forced his superior to beat a retreat. . . . The news of Semyon 
Ivanovitch's behaviour reached him himself at last. Hearing of 
it he got up at once, made his way carefully between the chairs 
and tables, reached the entry, took down his overcoat with his 
own hand, put it on, went out, and disappeared for an indefinite 
period. Whether he was led into this by alarm or some other 
impulse we cannot say, but no trace was seen of him for a time 
either at home or at the office. . . . 

We will not attribute Semyon Ivanovitch's fate simply to his 
eccentricity, yet we must observe to the reader that our hero 
was a very retiring man, unaccustomed to society, and had, until 
he made the acquaintance of the new lodgers, lived in complete 
unbroken solitude, and had been marked by his quietness and 
even a certain mysteriousness ; for he had spent all the time that 
he lodged at Peski lying on his bed behind the screen, without 
talking or having any sort of relation! with any one. Both his 



266 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

old fellow- lodgers lived exactly as he did : they, too were, somehow 
mysterious people and spent fifteen years lying behind their 
screens. The happy, drowsy hours and days trailed by, one after 
the other, in patriarchal stagnation, and as everything around them 
went its way in the same happy fashion, neither Semyon Ivano- 
vitch nor Ustinya Fyodorovna could remember exactly when 
fate had brought them together. 

" It may be ten years, it may be twenty, it may be even 
twenty-five altogether," she would say at times to her new 
lodgers, " since he settled with me, poor dear man, bless his 
heart ! " And so it was very natural that the hero of our story, 
being so unaccustomed to society was disagreeably surprised 
when, a year before, he, a respectable and modest man, had found 
himself, suddenly in the midst of a noisy and boisterous crew, 
consisting of a dozen young fellows, his colleagues at the office, 
and his new house-mates. 

The disappearance of Semyon Ivanovitch made no little stir in 
the lodgings. One thing was that he was the favourite ; another, 
that his passport, which had been in the landlady's keeping, 
appeared to have been accidentally mislaid. Ustinya Fyodorovna 
raised a howl, as was her invariable habit on all critical occa- 
sions. She spent two days in abusing and upbraiding the 
lodgers. She wailed that they had chased away her lodger like a 
chicken, and all those spiteful scoffers had been the ruin of him ; 
and on the third day she sent them all out to hunt for the fugitive 
and at all costs to bring him back, dead or alive. Towards even- 
ing Sudbin first came back with the news that traces had been 
discovered, that he had himself seen the runaway in Tolkutchy 
Market and other places, had followed and stood close to him, 
but had not dared to speak to him ; he had been near him in a 
crowd watching a house on fire in Crooked Lane. Half an hour 
later Okeanov and Kantarev came in and confirmed Sudbin's 
story, word for word ; they, too, had stood near, had followed 
him quite close, had stood not more than ten paces from him, 
but they also had not ventured to speak to him, but both ob- 
served that Semyon Ivanovitch was walking with a drunken 
cadger. The other lodgers were all back and together at last, 
and after listening attentively they made up their minds that 
Prohartchin could not be far off and would not be long in return- 
ing ; but they said that they had all known beforehand that he 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 267 

was about with a drunken cadger. This drunken cadger was a 
thoroughly bad lot, insolent and cringing, and it seemed evi- 
dent that he had got round Semyon Ivanovitch in some way. 
He had turned up just a week before Semyon Ivanovitch's dis- 
appearance in company with Remnev, had spent a little time in 
the flat telling them that he had suffered in the cause of justice, 
that he had formerly been in the service in the provinces, that an 
inspector had come down on them, that he and his associates had 
somehow suffered in a good cause, that he had come to Peters- 
burg and fallen at the feet of Porfiry Grigoryevitch, that he had 
been got, by interest, into a department ; but through the cruel 
persecution of fate he had been discharged from there too, and 
that afterwards through reorganization the office itself had 
ceased to exist, and that he had not been included in the new 
revised staff of clerks owing as much to direct incapacity for 
official work as to capacity for something else quite irrelevant 
all this mixed up with his passion for justice and of course the 
trickery of his enemies. After finishing his story, in the course 
of which Mr. Zimoveykin more than once kissed his sullen 
and unshaven friend Remnev, he bowed down to all in 
the room in turn, not forgetting Avdotya the servant, called 
them all his benefactors, and explained that he was an unde- 
serving, troublesome, mean, insolent and stupid man, and that 
good people must not be hard on his pitiful plight and simplicity. 
After begging for their kind protection Mr. Zimoveykin showed 
his livelier side, grew very cheerful, kissed Ustinya Fyodorovna's 
hands, in spite of her modest protests that her hand was coarse 
and not like a lady's ; and towards evening promised to show the 
company his talent in a remarkable character dance. But 
next day his visit ended in a lamentable denouement. Either 
because there had been too much character in the character- 
dance, or because he had, in Ustinya Fyodorovna's own words, 
somehow " insulted her and treated her as no lady, though she 
was on friendly terms with Yaroslav Hyitch himself, and if she 
liked might long ago have been an officer's wife," Zimoveykin 
had to steer for home next day. He went away, came back again, 
was again turned out with ignominy, then wormed his way into 
Semyon Ivanovitch's good graces, robbed him incidentally of his 
new breeches, and now it appeared he had led Semyon Ivanovitch 
astray. 



265 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

As soon as the landlady knew that Semyon Ivanovitch was 
alive and well, and that there was no need to hunt for his passport, 
she promptly left off grieving and was pacified. Meanwhile 
some of the lodgers determined to give the runaway a trium- 
phal reception ; they broke the bolt and moved away the screen 
fom Mr. Prohartchin's bed, rumpled up the bed a little, took the 
famous box, put it at the foot of the bed ; and on the bed laid the 
sister-in-law, that is, a dummy made up of an old kerchief, a 
cap and a mantle of the landlady's, such an exact counterfeit 
of a sister-in-law that it might have been mistaken for one. 
Having finished their work they waited for Semyon Ivanovitch 
to return, meaning to tell him that his sister-in-law had arrived 
from the country and was there behind his screen, poor thing ! 
But they waited and waited. 

Already, while they waited, Mark Ivanovitch had staked and 
lost half a month's salary to Prepolovenko and Kantarev; al- 
ready Okeanov's nose had grown red and swollen playing " flips 
on the nose " and " three cards ; " already Avdotya the servant 
had almost had her sleep out and had twice been on the point of 
getting up to fetch the wood and light the stove, and Zinovy 
Prokofyevitch, who kept running out every minute to see whether 
Semyon Ivanovitch were coming, was wet to the skin ; but there 
was no sign of any one yet neither Semyon Ivanovitch nor the 
drunken cadger. At last every one went to bed, leaving the sister- 
in-law behind the screen in readiness for any emergency ; and it 
was not till four o'clock that a knock was heard at the gate, but 
when it did come it was so loud that it quite made up to the 
expectant lodgers for all the wearisome trouble they had been 
through. It was he he himself Semyon Ivanovitch, Mr. Pro- 
hartchin, but in such a condition that they all cried out in dismay, 
and no one thought about the sister-in-law. The lost man was 
unconscious. He was brought in, or more correctly carried 
in, by a sopping and tattered night-cabman. To the landlady's 
question where the poor dear man had got so groggy, the cabman 
answered : " Why, he is not drunk and has not had a drop, that I 
can tell you, for sure ; but seemingly a faintness has come over him, 
or some sort of a fit, or maybe he's been knocked down b) T a blow." 

They began examining him, propping the culprit against the 
stove to do so more conveniently, and saw that it really was not 
a taae of drunkenness, nor had he had a blow, but that something 



MB. PROHARTCHIN 269 

else was wrong, for Semyon Ivanovitch could not utter a word, 
but seemed twitching in a sort of convulsion, and only blinked, 
fixing his eyes in bewilderment first on one and then on another 
of the spectators, who were all attired in night array. Then 
they began questioning the cabman, asking where he had got 
him from. " Why, from folks out Kolomna way," he answered. 
" Deuce knows what they are, not exactly gentry, but merry, 
rollicking gentlemen ; so he was like this when they gave him to 
me ; whether they had been fighting, or whether he was in some 
sort of a fit, goodness knows what it was ; but they were nice, jolly 
gentlemen ! " 

Semyon Ivanovitch was taken, lifted high on the shoulders 
of two or three sturdy fellows, and carried to his bed. When 
Semyon Ivanovitch on being put in bed felt the sister-in-law, 
and put his feet on his sacred box, he cried out at the top of his 
voice, squatted up almost on his heels, and trembling and shaking 
all over, with his hands and his body he cleared a space as far as 
he could in his bed, while gazing with a tremulous but strangely 
resolute look at those present, he seemed as it were to protest 
that he would sooner die than give up the hundredth part of his 
poor belongings to any one. . . . 

Semyon Ivanovitch lay for two or three days closely barri- 
caded by the screen, and so cut off from all the world and all its 
vain anxieties. Next morning, of course, every one had forgotten 
about him; time, meanwhile, flew by as usual, hour followed 
hour and day followed day. The sick man's heavy, feverish brain 
was plunged in something between sleep and delirium ; but he lay 
quietly and did not moan or complain ; on the contrary he kept 
still and silent and controlled himself, lying low in his bed, just 
as the hare lies close to the earth when it hears the hunter. At 
times a long depressing stillness prevailed in the flat, a sign that 
the lodgers had all gone to the office, and Semyon Ivanovitch, 
waking up, could relieve his depression by listening to the bustle 
in the kitchen, where the landlady was busy close by ; or to the 
regular flop of Avdotya's down-trodden slippers as, sighing and 
moaning, she cleared away, rubbed and polished, tidying all the 
rooms in the flat. Whole hours passed by in that way, drowsy, 
languid, sleepy, wearisome, like the water that dripped with a 
regular sound from the locker into the basin in the kitchen. At 
last the lodgers would arrive, one by one or in groups, and Semyon 



270 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

Ivanovitch could very conveniently hear them abusing the 
weather, saying they were hungry, making a noise, smoking, 
quarrelling, and making friends, playing cards, and clattering the 
cups as they got ready for tea. Semyon Ivanovitch mechanically 
made an effort to get up and join them, as he had a right to do 
at tea; but he at once sank back into drowsiness, and dreamed 
that he had been sitting a long time at the tea-table, having tea 
with them and talking, and that Zinovy Prokofyevitch had 
already seized the opportunity to introduce into the conversation 
some scheme concerning sisters-in-law and the moral relation of 
various worthy people to them. At this point Semyon Ivanovitch 
was in haste to defend himself and reply. But the mighty 
formula that flew from every tongue " It has more than once 
been observed " cut short all his objections, and Semyon Ivano- 
vitch could do nothing better than begin dreaming again that 
to-day was the first of the month and that he was receiving money 
in his office. 

Undoing the paper round it on the stairs, he looked about him 
quickly, and made haste as fast as he could to subtract half of 
the lawful wages he had received and conceal it in his boot. Then 
on the spot, on the stairs, quite regardless of the fact that he was 
in bed and asleep, he made up his mind when he reached home to 
give his landlady what was due for board and lodging ; then to 
buy certain necessities, and to show any one it might concern, 
as it were casually and unintentionally, that some of his salary 
had been deducted, that now he had nothing left to send his 
sister-in-law ; then to speak with commiseration of his sister-in- 
law, to say a great deal about her the next day and the day after, 
and ten days later to say something casually again about her 
poverty, that his companions might not forget. Making this 
determination he observed that Andrey Efimovitch, that ever- 
lastingly silent, bald little man who sat in the office three rooms 
from where Semyon Ivanovitch sat, and hadn't said a word to 
him for twenty years, was standing on the stairs, that he, too, was 
counting his silver roubles, and shaking his head, he said to him : 
" Money ! " "If there's no money there will be no porridge," 
he added grimly as he went down the stairs, and just at the door 
he ended : " And I have seven children, sir." Then the little 
bald man, probably equally unconscious that he was acting as a 
phantom and not as a substantial reality, hold up hi* hand about 



MR PROHARTCHIN 271 

thirty inches from the floor, and waving it vertically, muttered 
that the eldest was going to school, then glancing with indignation 
at Semyon Ivanovitch, as though it were Mr. Prohartchin's fault 
that he was the father of seven, pulled his old hat down over 
his eyes, and with a whisk of his overcoat he turned to the left 
and disappeared. Semyon Ivanovitch was quite frightened, and 
though he was fully convinced of his own innocence in regard to 
the unpleasant accumulation of seven under one roof, yet it seemed 
to appear that in fact no one else was to blame but Semyon 
Ivanovitch. Panic-stricken he set off running, for it seemed to 
him that the bald gentleman had turned back, was running after 
him, and meant to search him and take away all his salary, insist- 
ing upon the indisputable number seven, and resolutely denying 
any possible claim of any sort of sisters-in-law upon Semyon Ivano- 
vitch. Prohartchin ran and ran, gasping for breath. . . . Beside 
him was running, too, an immense number of people, and all of 
them were jingling their money in the tailpockets of their skimpy 
little dress-coats ; at last every one ran up, there was the noise of 
fire engines, and whole masses of people carried him almost on their 
shoulders up to that same house on fire which he had watched last 
time in company with the drunken cadger. The drunken cadger 
alias Mr. Zimoveykin was there now, too, he met Semyon Ivano- 
vitch, made a fearful fuss, took him by the arm, and led himinto the 
thickest part of the crowd. Just as then in reality, all about them 
was the noise and uproar of an immense crowd of people, flooding 
the whole of Fontanka Embankment between the two bridges, as 
well as all the surrounding streets and alleys; just as then, 
Semyon Ivanovitch, in company with the drunken cadger, was 
carried along behind a fence, where they were squeezed as though 
in pincers in a huge timber-yard full of spectators who had 
gathered from the street, from Tolkutchy Market and from all 
the surrounding houses, taverns, and restaurants. Semyon 
Ivanovitch saw all this and felt as he had done at the time ; in 
the whirl of fever and delirium all sorts of strange figures began 
flitting before him. He remembered some of them. One of 
them was a gentleman who had impressed every one extremely, 
a man seven feet high, with whiskers half a yard long, who had 
been standing behind Semyon Ivanovitch's back during the fire, 
and had given him encouragement from behind, when our hero 
had felt something like ecstasy and had stamped as though 



272 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

intending thereby to applaud the gallant work of the firemen, 
from which he had an excellent view from his elevated position. 
Another was the sturdy lad from whom our hero had received 
a shove by way of a lift on to another fence, when he had been 
disposed to climb over it, possibly to save some one. He had a 
glimpse, too, of the figure of the old man with a sickly face, in an 
old wadded dressing-gown, tied round the waist, who had made 
his appearance before the fire in a little shop buying sugar and 
tobacco for his lodger, and who now, with a milk-can and a 
quart pot in his hands, made his way through the crowd to the 
house in which his wife and daughter were burning together with 
thirteen and a half roubles in the corner under the bed. But 
most distinct of all was the poor, sinful woman of whom he had 
dreamed more than once during his illness she stood before him 
now as she had done then, in wretched bark shoes and rags, with 
a crutch and a wicker-basket on her back. She was shouting 
more loudly than the firemen or the crowd, waving her crutch 
and her arms, saying that her own children had turned her out and 
that she had lost two coppers in consequence. The children 
and the coppers, the coppers and the children, were mingled 
together in an utterly incomprehensible muddle, from which 
every one withdrew baffled, after vain efforts to understand. But 
the woman would not desist, she kept wailing, shouting, and 
waving her arms, seeming to pay no attention either to the fire 
up to which she had been carried by the crowd from the street 
or to the people about her, or to the misfortune of strangers, or 
even to the sparks and red-hot embers which were beginning to 
fall in showers on the crowd standing near. At last Mr. Prohart- 
chin felt that a feeling of terror was coming upon him ; for he 
saw clearly that all this was not, so to say, an accident, and that 
he would not get off scot-free. And, indeed, upon the woodstack, 
close to him, was a peasant, in a torn smock that hung loose 
about him, with his hair and beard singed, and he began stirring 
up all the people against Semyon Ivanovitch. The crowd pressed 
closer and closer, the peasant shouted, and foaming at the mouth 
with horror, Mr. Prohartchin suddenly realized that this peasant 
was a cabman whom he had cheated five years before in the most 
inhuman way, slipping away from him without paying through 
a side gate and jerking up his heels as he ran as though he were 
barefoot on hot bricks. In despair Mr. Prohartchin tried to 



MR. PROHARTCHIX 273 

speak, to scream, but his voice failed him. He felt that the 
infuriated crowd was twining round him like a many-coloured 
snake, strangling him, crushing him. He made an incredible 
effort and awoke. Then he saw that he was on fire, that all his 
corner was on fire, that his screen was on fire, that the whole 
flat was on fire, together with Ustinya Fyodorovna and all her 
lodgers, that his bed was burning, his pillow, his quilt, his box, 
and last of all, his precious mattress. Semyon Ivanovitch 
jumped up, clutched at the mattress and ran dragging it after 
him. But in the landlady's room into which, regardless of de- 
corum, our hero ran just as he was, barefoot and in his shirt, he 
was seized, held tight, and triumphantly carried back behind the 
screen, which meanwhile was not on fire it seemed that it was 
rather Semyon Ivanovitch's head that was on fire and was 
put back to bed. It was just as some tattered, unshaven, ill- 
humoured organ-grinder puts away in his travelling box the 
Punch who has been making an upset, drubbing all the other 
puppets, selling his soul to the devil, and who at last ends his 
existence, till the next performance, in the same box with the 
devil, the negroes, the Pierrot, and Mademoiselle Katerina 
with her fortunate lover, the captain. 

Immediately every one, old and young, surrounded Semyon 
Ivanovitch, standing in a row round his bed and fastening eyes 
full of expectation on the invalid. Meantime he had come to him- 
self, but from shame or some other feeling, began pulling up the 
quilt over him, apparently wishing to hide himself under it from 
the attention of his sympathetic friends. At last Mark Ivano- 
vitch was the first to break silence, and as a sensible man he began 
saying in a very friendly way that Semyon Ivanovitch must keep 
calm, that it was too bad and a shame to be ill, that only little 
children behaved like that, that he must get well and go to the 
office. Mark Ivanovitch , ended by a little joke, saying that no 
regular salary had yet been fixed for invalids, and as he knew for 
a fact that their grade would be very low in the service, to his 
thinking anyway, their calling or condition did not promise great 
and substantial advantages. In fact, it was evident that they 
were all taking genuine interest in Semyon Ivanovitch's fate and 
were very sympathetic. But with incomprehensible rudeness, 
Semyon Ivanovitch persisted in lying in bed in silence, and obsti- 
nately pulling the quilt higher and higher over his head. Mark 
T 



274 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

Ivanovitch, however, would not be gainsaid, and restraining his 
feelings, said something very honeyed to Semyon Ivanovitch 
again, knowing that that was how he ought to treat a sick 
man. But Semyon Ivanovitch would not feel this : on the 
contrary he muttered sometliing between his teeth with the 
most distrustful air, and suddenly began glancing askance 
from right to left in a hostile way, as though he would have 
reduced his sjTnpathetic friends to ashes with his eyes. It was 
no use letting it stop there. Mark Ivanovitch lost patience, and 
seeing that the man was offended and completely exasperated, 
and had simply made up his mind to be obstinate, told him straight 
out, without any softening suavity, that it was time to get up, that 
it was no use lying there, that shouting day and night about 
houses on fire, sisters-in-law, drunken cadgers, locks, boxes and 
goodness knows what, was all stupid, improper, and degrading, 
for if Semyon Ivanovitch did not want to sleep himself he should 
not hinder other people, and please would he bear it in mind. 

This speech produced its effects, for Semyon Ivanovitch, 
turning promptly to the orator, articulated firmly, though in 
a hoarse voice, " You hold your tongue, puppy ! You idle 
speaker, you foul-mouthed man ! Do you hear, young dandy ? 
Are you a prince, eh ? Do you understand what I say ? " 

Hearing such insults, Mark Ivanovitch fired up, but realizing 
that he had to deal with a sick man, magnanimously overcame 
his resentment and tried to shame him out of his humour, but 
was cut short in that too ; for Semyon Ivanovitch observed at 
once that he would not allow people to play with him for all 
that Mark Ivanovitch wrote poetry. Then followed a silence 
of two minutes; at last recovering from his amazement Mark 
Ivanovitch, plainly, clearly, in well-chosen language, but with 
firmness, declared that Semyon Ivanovitch ought to understand 
that he was among gentlemen, and " you ought to understand, 
sir, how to behave with gentlemen." 

Mark Ivanovitch could on occasion speak effectively and 
liked to impress his hearers, but, probably from the habit of years 
of silence, Semyon Ivanovitch talked and acted somewhat 
abruptly; and, moreover, when he did on occasion begin a long 
sentence, as he got further into it every word seemed to lead to 
another word, that other word to a third word, that third to & 
fourth and so on, so that his mouth seemed brimming over; 



/ 

" Why, 
"I tell 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 276 

he began stuttering, and the crowding words took to flying out 
in picturesque disorder. That was why Semyon Ivanovitch, 
who was a sensible man, sometimes talked terrible nonsense. 
" You are lying," he said now. " You booby, you loose fellow ! 
You'll come to want you'll go begging, you seditious fellow, you 
you loafer. Take that, you poet ! " 

T, you are still raving, aren't you, Semyon Ivanovitch ? " 
tell you what," answered Semyon Ivanovitch, " fools 
rave, drunkards rave, dogs rave, but a wise man acts sensibly. 
I tell you, you don't know your own business, you loafer, you 
educated gentleman, you learned book ! Here, you'll get on 
fire and not notice your head's burning off. What do you think 
of that ? " 

" Why . . . you mean . . . How do you mean, burn my head 
off, Semyon Ivanovitch ? " 

Mark Ivanovitch said no more, for every one saw clearly that 
Semyon Ivanovitch was not yet in his sober senses, but delirious. 

But the landlady could not resist remarking at this point 
that the house in Crooked Lane had been burnt owing to a bald 
wench ; that there was a bald-headed wench li ving there, that 
she had lighted a candle and set fire to the lumber room; but 
nothing would happen in her place, arid everything would be 
all right in the flats. 

" But look here, Semyon Ivanovitch," cried Zinovy Proko- 
fyevitch, losing patience and interrupting the landlady, " you 
old fogey, you old crock, you silly fellow are they making jokes 
with you now about your sister-in-law or examinations in 
dancing ? Is that it ? Is that what you think ? " 

" Now, I tell you what," answered our hero, sitting up in bed 
and making a last effort in a paroxysm of fury with his sym- 
pathetic friends. " Who's the fool ? You are the fool, a dog is 
a fool, you joking gentleman. But I am not going to make jokes 
to please you, sir ; do you hear, puppy ? I am not your servant, 
sir." 

Semyon Ivanovitch would have said something more, but he 
fell back in bed helpless. His sympathetic friends were left 
gaping in perplexity, for they understood now what was wrong 
with Semyon Ivanovitch and did not know how to begin. Sud- 
denly the kitchen door creaked and opened, and the drunken 
cadger alias Mr. Zimoveykin timidly thrust in his head, 



276 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

cautiously sniffing round the place as his habit was. It seemed 
as though he had been expected, every one waved to him at 
once to come quickly, and Zimoveykin, highly delighted, with the 
utmost readiness and haste jostled his way to Semyon Ivanovitch's 
bedside. 

It was evident that ZLmoveykin had spent the whole night 
in vigil and in great exertions of some sort. The right side 
of his face was plastered up; his swollen eyelids were wet from 
his running eyes, his coat and all his clothes were torn, while 
the whole left side of his attire was bespattered with some- 
thing extremely nasty, possibly mud from a puddle. Under hi.s 
arm was somebody's violin, which he had been taking some- 
where to sell. Apparently they had not made a mistake in 
summoning him to their assistance, for seeing the position of 
affairs, he addressed the delinquent at once, and with the air of 
a man who knows what he is about and feels that he has the upper 
hand, said : " What are you thinking about ? Get up, Senka. 
What are you doing, a clever chap like you ? Be sensible, or 
I shall pull you out of bed if you are obstreperous. Don't be 
obstreperous ! " 

This brief but forcible speech surprised them all; still more 
were they surprised when they noticed that Semyon Ivanovitch, 
hearing all this and seeing this person before him, was so flustered 
and reduced to such confusion and dismay that he could scarcely 
mutter through his teeth in a whisper the inevitable protest . 

" Go away, you wretch," he said. " You are a wretched 
creature you are a thief ! Do you hear ? Do you understand ? 
You are a great swell, my fine gentleman, you regular swell." 

" No, my boy," Zimoveykin answered emphatically, retaining 
all his presence of mind, " you're wrong there, you \\ise fellow, 
you regular Prohartchin," Zimoveykin went on, parodying 
Semyon Ivanovitch and looking round gleefully. " Don't be 
obstreperous ! Behave yourself, Senka, behave yourself, or 
I'll give you away, I'll tell them all about it, my lad, do you 
understand ? " 

Apparently Semyon Ivanovitch did understand, for he stai 
when he heard the conclusion of the speech, and began looking 
rapidly about him with an utterly desperate air. 

Satisfied with the effect, Mr. Zimoveykin would have con- 
tinued, but Mark Ivanovitch checked hi.s zeal, and wailing till 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 277 

Semyon Ivanovitch was still and almost calm again began 
judiciously impressing on the uneasy invalid at great length 
that, " to harbour ideas such as he now had in his head was, first, 
useless, and secondly, not only useless, but harmful; and, in 
fact, not so much harmful as positively immoral ; and the cause of 
it all was that Semyon Ivanovitch was not only a bad example, 
but led them all into temptation." 

Every one expected satisfactory results from this speech. 
Moreover by now Semyon Ivanovitch was quite quiet and 
replied in measured terms. A quiet discussion followed. They 
appealed to him in a friendly way, inquiring what he was so 
frightened of. Semyon Ivanovitch answered, but his answers 
were irrelevant. They answered him, he answered them. There 
were one or two more observations on both sides and then 
every one rushed into discussion, for suddenly such a strange 
and amazing subject cropped up, that they did not know 
how to express themselves. The argument at last led to im- 
patience, impatience led to shouting, and shouting even to 
tears ; and Mark Ivanovitch went away at last foaming at the 
mouth and declaring that he had never known such a block- 
head. Oplevaniev spat in disgust, Okeanov was frightened, 
Zinovy Prokofyevitch became tearful, while Ustinya Fyodorovna 
positively howled, wailing that her lodger was leaving them and 
had gone off his head, that he would die, poor dear man, without 
a passport and without telling any one, while she was a lone, 
lorn woman and that she would be dragged from pillar to post. 
In fact, they all saw clearly at last that the seed they had sown 
had yielded a hundred-fold, that the soil had been too productive, 
and that in their company, Semyon Ivanovitch had succeeded 
in overstraining his wits completely and in the most irrevocable 
manner. Every one subsided into silence, for though they saw 
that Semyon Ivanovitch was frightened, the sympathetic friends 
were frightened too. 

" What ? " cried Mark Ivanovitch; " but what are you afraid 
of ? What have you gone off your head about ? Who's thinking 
about you, my good sir? Have you the right to be afraid? 
Who* are you ? What are you ? Nothing, sir. A round nought, 
sir, that is what you are. What are you making a fuss about ? 
A woman has been run over in the street, so are you going to be 
run over ? Some drunkard did not take care of his pocket, 



278 MR. PROHARTCHIX 

but is that any reason why your coat-tails should be cut off ? 
A house is burnt down, so your head is to be burnt off, is it ? 
Is that it, sir, is that it ? " 

" You . . . you . . . you stupid ! " muttered Semyon Ivano- 
vitch, " if your nose were cut off you would eat it up with a bit 
of bread and not notice it." 

" I may be a dandy," shouted Mark Ivanovitch, not listening; 
" I may be a regular dandy, but I have not to pass an examination 
to get married to learn dancing; the ground is firm under 
me, sir. Why, my good man, haven't you room enough ? Is 
the floor giving way under your feet, or what ? " 

" Well, they won't ask you, will they ? They'll shut one up 
and that will be the end of it ? " 

" The end of it ? That's what's up ? What's your idea now, 
eh?" 

" Why, they kicked out the drunken cadger." 

" Yes ; but you see that was a drunkard, and j-ou are a man, 
and so am I." 

" Yes, I am a man. It's there all right one day and then 
it's gone." 

" Gone ! But what do you mean by it ? " 

" Why, the office ! The off off ice ! " 

" Yes, you blessed man, but of course the office is wanted 
and necessary." 

" It is wanted, I tell you ; it's wanted to-day and it's wanted 
to-m'orrow, but the day after to-morrow it will not be wanted. 
You have heard what happened ? " 

" Why, but they'll pay you your salary for the year, you 
doubting Thomas, you man of little faith. They'll put you into 
another job on account of your age." 

" Salary ? But what if I have spent my salary, if thieves 
come and take my money ? And I have a sister-in-law, do you 
hear? A sister-in-law ! You battering-ram. . . ." 

" A sister-in-law ! You are a man. ..." 

" Yes, I am ; I am a man. But you are a well -read gentleman 
and a fool, do you hear ? you battering-ram you regular 
battering-ram ! That's what you are ! I am not talking about 
your jokes; but there are jobs such that all of a sudden they 
are done away with. And Demid do you hear ? Dernid 
Vassilyevitch says that the post will be done away with. ..." 



MR. PROHARTCHIX 279 

" Ah, bless you, -with your Demid 1 You sinner, vrhy, you 
know. . . ." 

" In a twinkling of an eye you'll be left without a post, then 
you'll just have to make the best of it." 

" Why, you are simply raving, or clean off your head ! Tell 
us plainly, what have you done ? Own up if you have done 
something wrong ! It's no use being ashamed ! Are you off 
your head, my good man, eh ? " 

" He's off his head ! He's gone off his head ! " they all cried, 
and wrung their hands in despair, while the landlady threw both 
her arms round Mark Ivanovitch for fear he should tear Semyon 
Ivanovitch to pieces. 

" You heathen, you heathenish soul, you wise man ! " Zimovey- 
kin besought him. " Senka, you are not a man to take offence, 
you are a polite, prepossessing man. You are simple, you are 
good ... do you hear ? It all comes from your goodness. 
Here I am a ruffian and a fool, I am a beggar ; but good people 
haven't abandoned me, no fear; you see they treat me with 
respect, I thank them and the landlady. Here, you see, I bow 
down to the ground to them ; here, see, see, I am paying what is 
due to you, landlady ! " At this point Zimoveykin swung off 
with pedantic dignity a low bow right down to the ground. 

After that Semyon Ivanovitch would have gone on talking; 
but this time they would not let him, they all intervened, began 
entreating him, assuring him, comforting him, and succeeded 
in making Semyon Ivanovitch thoroughly ashamed of himself, 
and at last, in a faint voice, he asked leave to explain himself. 

" Very well, then," he said, " I am prepossessing, I am quiet, 
I am good, faithful and devoted ; to the last drop of my blood 
you know ... do you hear, you puppy, you swell ? . . . 
granted the job is going on, but you see I am poor. And what if 
they take it ? do you hear, you swell ? Hold your tongue and 
try to understand ! They'll take it and that's all about it ... 
it's going on, brother, and then not going on ... do you under- 
stand ? And I shall go begging my bread, do you hear ? " 

" Senka," Zimoveykin bawled frantically, drowning the 
general hubbub with his voice. " You are seditious ! I'll 
inform against you ! What are you saying ? Who are you ? 
Are you a rebel, you sheep's head ? A rowdy, stupid man they 
would turn off without a character. But what are you ? " 



280 AIR. PROHARTC'HTN 

" WeU, that's just it." 

" What ? " 

" WeU, there it is." 

" How do you mean ? " 

" Why, I am free, he's free, and here one lies and thinks . . ." 

" What 1 " 

" What if they say I'm seditious ? " 

" Se di tious ? Senka, you seditious ! " 

" Stay," cried Mr. Prohartchin, waving his hand and in- 
terrupting the rising uproar, " that's not what I mean. Try to 
understand, only try to understand, you sheep. I am law- 
abiding. I am law-abiding to-day, I am law-abiding to-morrow, 
and then all of a sudden they kick me out and call me seditious." 

" What are you saying ? " Mark Ivanovitch thundered at last, 
jumping up from the chair on which he had sat down to rest, 
running up to the bed and in a frenzy shaking with vexation and 
fury. " What do you mean ? You sheep ! You've nothing to 
call your own. Why, are you the only person in the world ? 
Was the world made for you, do you suppose ? Are you a 
Napoleon ? What are you ? Who are you ? Are you a 
Napoleon, eh ? Tell me, are you a Napoleon ? " 

But Mr. Prohartchin did not answer this question. Not 
because he was overcome with shame at being a Napoleon, and 
was afraid of taking upon himself such a responsibility no, he 
was incapable of disputing further, or saying anything. . . . 
His illness had reached a crisis. Tiny teardrops gushed suddenly 
from his glittering, feverish, grey eyes. He hid his burning head 
in his bony hands that were wasted by illness, sat up in bed, 
and sobbing, began to say that he was quite poor, that he was a 
simple, unlucky man, that he was foolish and unlearned, he 
begged kind folks to forgive him, to take care of him, to protect 
him, to give him food and drink, not to leave him in want, and 
goodness knows what else Semyon Ivanovitch said. As he 
uttered this appeal he looked about him in wild terror, as though 
he were expecting the ceiling to fall or the floor to give way. 
Every one felt his heart soften and move to pity as he looked 
at the poor fellow. The landlady, sobbing and wailing like a 
peasant woman at her forlorn condition, laid the invalid back 
in bed with her own hands. Mark Ivanovitch, seeing the use- 
of touching upon the memory of Napoleon, instantly 



MR. PROHARTCHTN 

relapsed into kindliness and came to her assistance. The others, 
in order to do something, suggested raspberry tea, saying that it 
always did good at once and that the invalid would like it very 
much; but Zimoveykin contradicted them all, saying there was 
nothing better than a good dose of camomile or something of the 
sort. As for Zinovy Prokofyevitch, having a good heart, he 
sobbed and shed tears in his remorse, for having frightened 
Semyon Ivanovitch with all sorts of absurdities, and gathering 
from the invalid's last words that he was quite poor and needing 
assistance, he proceeded to get up a subscription for him, con- 
fining it for a time to the tenants of the flat. Every one was 
sighing and moaning, every one felt sorry and grieved, and yet 
all wondered how it was a man could be so completely panic- 
stricken. And what was he frightened about ? It would have 
been all very well if he had had a good post, had had a wife, 
a lot of children ; it would have been excusable if he were being 
hauled up before the court on some charge or other; but he 
was a man utterly insignificant, with nothing but a trunk and a 
German lock ; he had been lying more than twenty years behind 
his screen, saying nothing, knowing nothing of the world nor of 
trouble, saving his half-pence, and now at a frivolous, idle word 
the man had actually gone off his head, was utterly panic- 
stricken at the thought he might have a hard time of it. . . . 
And it never occurred to him that every one has a hard time of it ! 
"If he would only take that into consideration," Okeanov said 
afterwards, " that we all have a hard time, then the man would 
have kept his head, would have given up his antics and would 
have put up with things, one way or another." 

All day long nothing was talked of but Semyon Ivanovitch. 
They went up to him, inquired after him, tried to comfort him ; 
but by the evening he was beyond that. The poor fellow began 
to be delirious, feverish. He sank into unconsciousness, so that 
they almost thought of sending for a doctor; the lodgers all 
agreed together and undertook to watch over Semyon Ivanovitch 
and soothe him by turns through the night, and if anything 
happened to wake all the rest immediately. With the object 
of keeping awake, they sat down to cards, setting beside 
the invalid his friend, the drunken cadger, who had spent the 
whole day in the flat and had asked leave to stay the night. 
As the game was played on credit and was not at all interesting 



282 MR. PR05ARTCHIK 

they soon got bored. They gave up the game, then got into an 
argument about something, then began to be loud and noisy, 
finally dispersed to their various corners, went on for a long time 
angrily shouting and wrangling, and as all of them felt suddenly 
ill-humoured they no longer cared to sit up, so went to sleep. 
Soon it was as still in the flat as in an empty cellar, and it was the 
more like one because it was horribly cold. The last to fall 
asleep was Okeanov. " And it was between sleeping and waking," 
as he said afterwards, " I fancied just before morning two men 
kept talking close by me." Okeanov said that he recognized 
Zimoveykin, arid that Zimoveykin began waking his old friend 
Remnev just beside him, that they talked for a long time in a 
whisper; then Zimoveykin went away and could be heard 
trying to unlock the door into the kitchen. The key, the land- 
lady declared afterwards, was lying under her pillow and -was 
lost that night. Finally Okeanov testified he had fancied he 
had heard them go behind the screen to the invalid and light a 
candle there, " and I know nothing more," he said, " I fell asleep, 
and woke up," as everybody else did, when every one in the flat 
jumped out of bed at the sound behind the screen of a shriek that 
. would have roused the dead, and it seemed to many of them that 
a candle went out at that moment. A great hubbub arose, every 
one's heart stood still ; they rushed pell-mell at the shriek, but 
at that moment there was a scuffle, with shouting, swearing, and 
fighting. They struck a light and saw that Zimoveykin and 
Remnev were fighting together, that they were swearing and 
abusing one another, and as they turned the b'ght on them, one 
of them shouted : "It's not me, it's this ruffian," and the other 
who was Zimoveykin, was shouting : " Don't touch me, I've 
done nothing ! I'll take my oath any minute ! " Both of them 
looked hardly like human beings ; but for the first minute they 
had no attention to spare for them ; the invalid was not where he 
had been behind the screen. They immediately parted the com- 
batants and dragged them away, and saw that Mr. Prohartchin 
was lying under the bed ; he must, while completely unconscious, 
have dragged the quilt and pillow after him so that there was 
nothing left on the bedstead but the bare mattress, old and 
greasy (he never had sheets). They pulled Semyon Ivanovitch 
out, stretched him on the mattress, but soon realized that there 
was no need to make trouble over him, that he was completely 



MR. PEOHARTCHIN 283 

done for ; his arms were stiff, and he seemed all to pieces. They 
stood over him, he still faintly shuddered and trembled all over, 
made an effort to do something with his arms, could not utter a 
word, but blinked his eyes as they say heads do when still warm 
and bleeding, after being just chopped off by the executioner. 

At last the body grew more and more still; the last faint 
convulsions died aw r ay. Mr. Prohartchin had set off with his 
good deeds and his sins. Whether Semyon Ivanovitch had been 
frightened by something, whether he had had a dream, as Renmev 
maintained afterwards, or there had been some other mischief 
nobody knew ; all that can be said is, that if the head clerk had 
made his appearance at that moment in the flat and had announced 
that Semyon Ivanovitch was dismissed for sedition, insubordina- 
tion, and drunkenness ; if some old draggle-tailed beggar woman 
had come in at the door, calling herself Semyon Ivanovitch's 
sister-in-law; or if Semyon Ivanovitch had just received two 
hundred roubles as a reward ; or if the house had caught fire and 
Semyon Ivanovitch's head had been really burning he would in 
all probability not have deigned to stir a finger in any of these 
eventualities. While the first stupefaction was passing over, 
while all present were regaining their powers of speech, were 
working themselves up into a fever of excitement, shouting and 
flying to conjectures and suppositions; while Ustinya Fyodo- 
rovna was pulling the box from under his bed, was rummaging 
in a fluster under the mattress and even in Semyon Ivanovitch's 
boots ; while they cross-questioned Remnev and Zimoveykin, 
Okeanov, who had hitherto been the quietest, humblest, and 
least original of the lodgers, suddenly plucked up all his presence 
of mind and displayed all his latent talents, by taking up his hat 
and under cover of the general uproar slipping out of the flat. 
And just when the horrors of disorder and anarchy had reached 
their height in the agitated flat, till then so tranquil, the door 
opened and suddenly there descended upon them, like snow upon 
their heads, a personage of gentlemanly appearance, with a 
severe and displeased-looking face, behind him Yaroslav Hyitch, 
behind Yaroslav Hyitch his subordinates and the functionaries 
whose duty it is to be present 011 such occasions, and behind 
them all, much embarrassed, Mr. Okeanov. The severe-looking 
personage of gentlemanly appearance went straight up to Semyon 
Ivanovitch, examined him, made a wry face, shrugged hig 



284 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

shoulders and announced what everybody knew, that is, that 
the dead man was dead, only adding that the same thing had 
happened a day or two ago to a gentleman of consequence, 
highly respected, who had died suddenly in his sleep. Then the 
personage of gentlemanly, but displeased-looking, appearance 
walked away saying that they had troubled him for nothing, 
and took himself off. His place was at once filled (while Remnev 
and Zimoveykin were handed over to the custody of the proper 
functionaries), by Yaroslav Hyitch, who questioned some one, 
adroitly took possession of the box, which the landlady was 
already trying to open, put the boots back in their proper place, 
observing that they were all in holes and no use, asked for the 
pillow to be put back, called up Okeanov, asked for the key of 
the box which was found in the pocket of the drunken cadger, 
and solemnly, in the presence of the proper officials, unlocked 
Semyon Ivanovitch's property. Everything was displayed : 
two rags, a pair of socks, half a handkerchief, an old hat, several 
buttons, some old soles, and the uppers of a pair of boots, that 
is, all sorts of odds and ends, scraps, rubbish, trash, which had a 
stale smell. The only thing of any value was the German lock. 
They called up Okeanov and cross-questioned him sternly; but 
Okeanov was ready to take his oath. They asked for the pillow, 
they examined it ; it was extremely dirty, but in other respects 
it was like all other pillows. They attacked the mattress, they 
were about to lift it up, but stopped for a moment's consideration, 
when suddenly and quite unexpectedly something heavy fell 
with a clink on the floor. They bent down and saw on the 
floor a screw of paper and in the screw some dozen roubles. 
" A-hey ! " said Yaroslav Ilyitch, pointing to a slit in the mattress 
from which hair and stuffing were sticking out. They examined 
the slit and found that it had only just been made with a knife 
and was half a yard in length ; they thrust hands into the gap 
and pulled out a kitchen knife, probably hurriedly thrust in there 
after slitting the mattress. Before Yaroslav Ilyitch had time to 
pull the knife out of the slit and to say " A-hey ! " again, another 
screw of money fell out, and after it, one at a time, two half 
roubles, a quarter rouble, then some small change, and an old- 
fashioned, solid five-kopeck piece all this was seized upon. At 
this point it was realized that it would not be amiss to cut up the 
whole mattress with scissors. They asked for scissors. 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 285 

Meanwhile, the guttering candle lighted up a scene that would 
have been extremely curious to a spectator. About a dozen 
lodgers were grouped round the bed in the most picturesque 
costumes, all unbrushed, unshaven, unwashed, sleepy -loo king, just 
as they had gone to bed. Some were quite pale, while others had 
drops of sweat upon their brows : some were shuddering, while 
others looked feverish. The landlady, utterly stupefied, was stand- 
ing quietly with her hands folded waiting for Yaroslav Ilyitch's 
good pleasure. From the stove above, the heads of Avdotya, 
the servant, and the landlady's favourite cat looked down with 
frightened curiosity. The torn and broken screen lay cast on 
the floor, the open box displayed its uninviting contents, the 
quilt and pillow lay tossed at random, covered with fluff from 
the mattress, and on the three-legged wooden table gleamed the 
steadily growing heap of silver and other coins. Only Semyon 
Ivanovitch preserved his composure, lying calmly on the bed 
and seeming to have no foreboding of his ruin. When the 
scissors had been brought and Yaroslav Ilyitch's assistant, 
wishing to be of service, shook the mattress rather impatiently 
to ease it from under the back of its owner, Semyon Ivanovitch 
with his habitual civility made room a little, rolling on his side 
with his back to the searchers; then at a second shake he 
turned on his face, finally gave waystill further, and as the last slat 
in the bedstead was missing, he suddenly and quite unexpectedly 
plunged head downward, leaving in view only two bony, thin, 
blue legs, which stuck upwards like two branches of a charred 
tree. As this was the second time that morning that Mr. 
Prohartchin had poked his head under his bed it at once aroused 
suspicion, and some of the lodgers, headed by Zinovy Prokofye- 
vitch, crept under it, with the intention of seeing whether there 
were something hidden there too. But they knocked their 
heads together for nothing, and as Yaroslav Ilyitch shouted to 
them, bidding them release Semyon Ivanovitch at once from his 
unpleasant position, two of the more sensible seized each a leg, 
dragged the unsuspected capitalist into the light of day and laid 
him across the bed. Meanwhile the hair and flock were flying 
about, the heap of silver grew and, my goodness, what a lot 
there was ! . . . Noble silver roubles, stout solid rouble and a 
half pieces, pretty half rouble coins, plebeian quarter roubles, 
twenty kopeck pieces, even the unpromising old crone's small 



286 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

fry of ten and five kopeck silver pieces all done up in separate 
bits of paper in the most methodical and systematic way ; there 
were curiosities also, two counters of some sort, one napoleon 
d'or, one very rare coin of some unknown kind . . . Some of the 
roubles were of the greatest antiquity, they were rubbed and 
hacked coins of Elizabeth, German kreutzers, coins of Peter, 
of Catherine ; there were, for instance, old fifteen-kopeck pieces, 
now very rare, pierced for wearing as earrings, all much worn, 
yet with the requisite number of dots . . . there was even copper, 
but all of that was green and tarnished. . . . They found one 
red note, but no more. At last, when the dissection was quite 
over and the mattress case had been shaken more than once 
without a clink, they piled all the money on the table and set to 
work to count it. At the first glance one might well have been 
deceived and have estimated it at a million, it was such an immense 
heap. But it was not a million, though it did turn out to be a 
very considerable sum exactly 2497 roubles and a half so 
that if Zinovy Prokofyevitch's subscription had been raised the 
day before there would perhaps have been just 2500 roubles. 
They took the money, they put a seal on the dead man's box, 
they listened to the landlady's complaints, and informed her 
when and where she ought to lodge information in regard to the 
dead man's little debt to her. A receipt was taken from the 
proper person. At that point hints were dropped in regard to 
the sister-in-law ; but being persuaded that in a certain sense the 
sister-in-law was a myth, that is, a product of the defective 
imagination with which they had more than once reproached 
Semyon Ivanovitch they abandoned the idea as useless, 
mischievous and disadvantageous to the good name of Mr. 
Prohartchin, and so the matter ended. 

When the first shock was over, when the lodgers had recovered 
themselves and realized the sort of person their late companion 
had been, they all subsided, relapsed into silence and began 
looking distrustfully at one another. Some seemed to take 
Semyon Ivanovitch's behaviour very much to heart, and even 
to feel affronted by it. What a fortune ! So the man had saved 
up like this ! Not losing his composure, Mark Ivanovitch pro- 
ceeded to explain why Semyon Ivanovitch had been so suddenly 
panic-stricken; but they did not listen to liim. Zinovy Proko- 
fyevitch was very thoughtful, Okeanov had had a b'ttle to drink, 



MR. PROHARTCHIN 287 

the others seemed rather crestfallen, while a little man called 
Kantarev, with a nose like a sparrow's beak, left the flat that even- 
ing after very carefully packing up and cording all his boxes and 
bags, and coldly explaining to the curious that times were hard 
and that the terms here were beyond his means. The landlady 
wailed without ceasing, lamenting for Semyon Ivanovitch, and 
cursing him for having taken advantage of her lone, lorn state. 
Mark Ivanovitch was asked why the dead man had not taken his 
.money to the bank. " He was too simple, my good soul, he 
hadn't enough imagination," answered Mark Ivanovitch. 

" Yes, and you have been too simple, too, my good woman," 
Okeanov put in. " For twenty years the man kept himself 
close here in your flat, and here he's been knocked down by a 
feather while you went on cooking cabbage-soup and had no 
time to notice it. ... Ah-ah, my good woman ! " 

" Oh, the poor dear," the landlady went on, " what need of a 
bank ! If he'd brought me his pile and said to me : ' Take it, 
Ustinyushka, poor dear, here is all I have, keep and board me 
in my helplessness, so long as I am on earth,' the.n, by the holy 
ikon I would have fed him, I would have given him drink, I 
would have looked after him. Ah, the sinner ! ah, the deceiver ! 
He deceived me, he cheated me, a poor lone woman ! " 

They went up to the bed again. Semyon Ivanovitch was 
lying properly now, dressed in his best, though, indeed, it was his 
only suit, hiding his rigid chin behind a cravat which was tied 
rather awkwardly, washed, brushed, but not quite shaven, 
because there was no razor in the flat ; the only one, which had 
belonged to Zinovy Prokofyevitch, had lost its edge a year ago 
and had been very profitably sold at Tolkutchy Market; the 
others used to go to the barber's. 

They had not yet had time to clear up the disorder. The 
broken screen lay as before, and exposing Semyon Ivanovitch's 
seclusion, seemed like an emblem of the fact that death tears 
away the veil from all our secrets, our shifty dodges and intrigues. 
The stuffing from the mattress lay about in heaps. The whole 
room, suddenly so still, might well have been compared by a 
poet to the ruined nest of a swallow, broken down and torn to 
pieces by the storm, the nestlings and their mother killed, and 
their warm little bed of fluff, feather and flock scattered about 
them. . . . Sernyon Ivanovitch, however, looked more like a 



288 MR. PROHARTCHIN 

conceited, thievish old cock-sparrow. He kept quite quiet now, 
seemed to be lying low, as though he were not guilty, as though 
he had had nothing to do with the shameless, conscienceless, and 
unseemly duping and deception of all these good people. He 
did not heed now the sobs and wailing of his bereaved and 
wounded landlady. On the contrary, like a wary, callous 
capitalist, anxious not to waste a minute in idleness even in the 
coffin, he seemed to be wrapped up in some speculative calcula- 
tion. There was a look of deep reflection in his face, while his 
lips were drawn together with a significant air, of which Semj^on 
Ivanovitch during his lifetime had not been suspected of being 
capable. He seemed, as it were, to have grown shrewder, his 
right eye was, as it were, slyly screwed up. Semyon Ivanovitch 
seemed wanting to say something, to make some very important 
communication and explanation and without loss of time, because 
things were complicated and there was not a minute to lose. . . . 
And it seemed as though they could hear him. 

" What is it ? Give over, do you hear, you stupid woman? 
Don't whine 1 Go to bed and sleep it off, my good woman, do 
you hear ? I am dead; there's no need of a fuss now. What's 
the use of it, really? It's nice to lie here. . . . Though I 
don't mean that, do you hear ? You are a fine lady, you are a 
regular fine lady. Understand that ; here I am dead now, but 
look here, what if that is, perhaps it can't be so but I say 
what if I'm not dead, what if I get up, do you hear? What 
would happen then ? " 



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