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Shorter Works, Fables, Tales and Sketches

Leo Tolstoy's signature

Leo Tolstoy


This is the Bookwise complete ebook of Shorter Works, Fables, Tales and Sketches by Leo Tolstoy, available to read online as an alternative to epub, mobi, kindle, pdf or text only versions. For information about the status of this work, see Copyright Notice.


The Porcelain Doll209

21st March 1863.

Why, Tánya, have you dried up?⁠ ⁠… You don’t write to me at all and I so love receiving letters from you, and you have not yet replied to Lëvochka’s210 crazy epistle, of which I did not understand a word.

23rd March.

There, she began to write and suddenly stopped, because she could not continue. And do you know why, Tánya dear? A strange thing has befallen her and a still stranger thing has befallen me. As you know, like the rest of us she has always been made of flesh and blood, with all the advantages and disadvantages of that condition: she breathed, was warm and sometimes hot, blew her nose (and how loud!) and so on, and above all she had control of her limbs, which⁠—both arms and legs⁠—could assume different positions: in a word she was corporeal like all of us. Suddenly on March 21st 1863, at ten o’clock in the evening, this extraordinary thing befell her and me. Tánya! I know you always loved her (I do not know what feeling she will arouse in you now); I know you felt a sympathetic interest in me, and I know your reasonableness, your sane view of the important affairs of life, and your love of your parents (please prepare them and inform them of this event), and so I write to tell you just how it happened.

I got up early that day and walked and rode a great deal. We lunched and dined together and had been reading (she was still able to read) and I felt tranquil and happy. At ten o’clock I said goodnight to Auntie211 (Sónya was then still as usual and said she would follow me) and I went off to bed. Through my sleep I heard her open the door and heard her breathe as she undressed.⁠ ⁠… I heard how she came out from behind the screen and approached the bed. I opened my eyes⁠ ⁠… and saw⁠—not the Sónya you and I have known⁠—but a porcelain Sónya! Made of that very porcelain about which your parents had a dispute. You know those porcelain dolls with bare cold shoulders, and necks and arms bent forward, but made of the same lump of porcelain as the body. They have black painted hair arranged in large waves, the paint of which gets rubbed off at the top, and protruding porcelain eyes that are too wide and are also painted black at the corners, and the stiff porcelain folds of their skirts are made of the same one piece of porcelain as the rest. And Sónya was like that! I touched her arm⁠—she was smooth, pleasant to feel, and cold porcelain. I thought I was asleep and gave myself a shake, but she remained like that and stood before me immovable. I said: Are you porcelain? And without opening her mouth (which remained as it was, with curved lips painted bright red) she replied: Yes, I am porcelain. A shiver ran down my back. I looked at her legs: they also were porcelain and (you can imagine my horror) fixed on a porcelain stand, made of one piece with herself, representing the ground and painted green to depict grass. By her left leg, a little above and at the back of the knee, there was a porcelain column, coloured brown and probably representing the stump of a tree. This too was in one piece with her. I understood that without this stump she could not remain erect, and I became very sad, as you who loved her can imagine. I still did not believe my senses and began to call her. She could not move without that stump and its base, and only rocked a little⁠—together with the base⁠—to fall in my direction. I heard how the porcelain base knocked against the floor. I touched her again, and she was all smooth, pleasant, and cold porcelain. I tried to lift her hand, but could not. I tried to pass a finger, or even a nail, between her elbow and her side⁠—but it was impossible. The obstacle was the same porcelain mass, such as is made at Auerbach’s, and of which sauce-boats are made. She was planned for external appearance only. I began to examine her chemise, it was all of one piece with the body, above and below. I looked more closely, and noticed that at the bottom a bit of the fold of her chemise was broken off and it showed brown. At the top of her head it showed white where the paint had come off a little. The paint had also come off a lip in one place, and a bit was chipped off one shoulder. But it was all so well made and so natural that it was still our same Sónya. And the chemise was one I knew, with lace, and there was a knot of black hair behind, but of porcelain, and the fine slender hands, and large eyes, and the lips⁠—all were the same, but of porcelain. And the dimple in her chin and the small bones in front of her shoulders, were there too, but of porcelain. I was in a terrible state and did not know what to say or do or think. She would have been glad to help me, but what could a porcelain creature do? The half-closed eyes, the eyelashes and eyebrows, were all like her living self when looked at from a distance. She did not look at me, but past me at her bed. She evidently wanted to lie down, and rocked on her pedestal all the time. I quite lost control of myself, seized her, and tried to take her to her bed. My fingers made no impression on her cold porcelain body, and what surprised me yet more was that she had become as light as an empty flask. And suddenly she seemed to shrink, and became quite small, smaller than the palm of my hand, although she still looked just the same. I seized a pillow, put her in a corner of it, pressed down another corner with my fist, and placed her there, then I took her nightcap, folded it in four, and covered her up to the head with it. She lay there still just the same. Then I extinguished the candle and placed her under my beard. Suddenly I heard her voice from the comer of the pillow: “Lëva, why have I become porcelain?” I did not know what to reply. She said again: “Does it make any difference that I am porcelain?” I did not want to grieve her, and said that it did not matter. I felt her again in the dark⁠—she was still as before, cold and porcelain. And her stomach was the same as when she was alive, protruding upwards⁠—rather unnatural for a porcelain doll. Then I experienced a strange feeling. I suddenly felt it pleasant that she should be as she was, and ceased to feel surprised⁠—it all seemed natural. I took her out, passed her from one hand to the other, and tucked her under my head. She liked it all. We fell asleep. In the morning I got up and went out without looking at her. All that had happened the day before seemed so terrible. When I returned for lunch she had again become such as she always was. I did not remind her of what had happened the day before, fearing to grieve her and Auntie. I have not yet told anyone but you about it. I thought it had all passed off, but all these days, every time we are alone together, the same thing happens. She suddenly becomes small and porcelain. In the presence of others she is just as she used to be. She is not oppressed by this, nor am I. Strange as it may seem, I frankly confess that I am glad of it, and though she is porcelain we are very happy.

I write to you of all this, dear Tánya, only that you should prepare her parents for the news, and through papa should find out from the doctors what this occurrence means, and whether it will not be bad for our expected child. Now we are alone, and she is sitting under my necktie and I feel how her sharp little nose cuts into my neck. Yesterday she had been left in a room by herself. I went in and saw that Dora (our little dog) had dragged her into a corner, was playing with her, and nearly broke her. I whipped Dora, put Sónya in my waistcoat pocket and took her to my study. Today however I am expecting from Túla a small wooden box I have ordered, covered outside with morocco and lined inside with raspberry-coloured velvet, with a place arranged in it for her so that she can be laid in it with her elbows, head, and back all supported evenly so that she cannot break. I shall also cover it completely with chamois leather.

I had written this letter when suddenly a terrible misfortune occurred. She was standing on the table, when N. P.212 pushed against her in passing, and she fell and broke off a leg above the knee with the stump. Alexéy213 says that it can be mended with a cement made of the white of eggs. If such a recipe is known in Moscow please send it me.

Adaptations and Imitations of Hindu Fables

The Snake’s Head and Tail

The Snake’s Tail had a quarrel with the Snake’s Head about who was to walk in front. The Head said:

“You cannot walk in front, because you have no eyes and no ears.”

The Tail said:

“Yes, but I have strength, I move you; if I want to, I can wind myself around a tree, and you cannot get off the spot.”

The Head said:

“Let us separate!”

And the Tail tore himself loose from the Head, and crept on; but the moment he got away from the Head, he fell into a hole and was lost.

Fine Thread

A Man ordered some fine thread from a Spinner. The Spinner spun it for him, but the Man said that the thread was not good, and that he wanted the finest thread he could get. The Spinner said:

“If this is not fine enough, take this!” and she pointed to an empty space.

He said that he did not see any. The Spinner said:

“You do not see it, because it is so fine. I do not see it myself.”

The Fool was glad, and ordered some more thread of this kind, and paid her for what he got.

The Partition of the Inheritance

A Father had two Sons. He said to them: “When I die, divide everything into two equal parts.”

When the Father died, the Sons could not divide without quarrelling. They went to a Neighbour to have him settle the matter. The Neighbour asked them how their Father had told them to divide. They said:

“He ordered us to divide everything into two equal parts.”

The Neighbour said:

“If so, tear all your garments into two halves, break your dishes into two halves, and cut all your cattle into two halves!”

The Brothers obeyed their Neighbour, and lost everything.

The Monkey

A Man went into the woods, cut down a tree, and began to saw it. He raised the end of the tree on a stump, sat astride over it, and began to saw. Then he drove a wedge into the split that he had sawed, and went on sawing; then he took out the wedge and drove it in farther down.

A Monkey was sitting on a tree and watching him. When the Man lay down to sleep, the Monkey seated herself astride the tree, and wanted to do the same; but when she took out the wedge, the tree sprang back and caught her tail. She began to tug and to cry. The Man woke up, beat the Monkey, and tied a rope to her.

The Monkey and the Peas

A Monkey was carrying both her hands full of peas. A pea dropped on the ground; the Monkey wanted to pick it up, and dropped twenty peas. She rushed to pick them up and lost all the rest. Then she flew into a rage, swept away all the peas and ran off.

The Milch Cow

A Man had a Cow; she gave each day a pot full of milk. The Man invited a number of guests. To have as much milk as possible, he did not milk the Cow for ten days. He thought that on the tenth day the Cow would give him ten pitchers of milk.

But the Cow’s milk went back, and she gave less milk than before.

The Duck and the Moon

A Duck was swimming in the pond, trying to find some fish, but she did not find one in a whole day. When night came, she saw the Moon in the water; she thought that it was a fish, and plunged in to catch the Moon. The other ducks saw her do it and laughed at her.

That made the Duck feel so ashamed and bashful that when she saw a fish under the Water, she did not try to catch it, and so died of hunger.

The Wolf in the Dust

A Wolf wanted to pick a sheep out of a flock, and stepped into the wind, so that the dust of the flock might blow on him.

The Sheep Dog saw him, and said:

“There is no sense, Wolf, in your walking in the dust: it will make your eyes ache.”

But the Wolf said:

“The trouble is, Doggy, that my eyes have been aching for quite awhile, and I have been told that the dust from a flock of sheep will cure the eyes.”

The Mouse Under the Granary

A Mouse was living under the granary. In the floor of the granary there was a little hole, and the grain fell down through it. The Mouse had an easy life of it, but she wanted to brag of her ease: she gnawed a larger hole in the floor, and invited other mice.

“Come to a feast with me,” said she; “there will be plenty to eat for everybody.”

When she brought the mice, she saw there was no hole. The peasant had noticed the big hole in the floor, and had stopped it up.

The Best Pears

A master sent his Servant to buy the best-tasting pears. The Servant came to the shop and asked for pears. The dealer gave him some; but the Servant said:

“No, give me the best!”

The dealer said:

“Try one; you will see that they taste good.”

“How shall I know,” said the Servant, “that they all taste good, if I try one only?”

He bit off a piece from each pear, and brought them to his master. Then his master sent him away.

The Falcon and the Cock

The Falcon was used to the master, and came to his hand when he was called; the Cock ran away from his master and cried when people went up to him. So the Falcon said to the Cock:

“In you Cocks there is no gratitude; one can see that you are of a common breed. You go to your masters only when you are hungry. It is different with us wild birds. We have much strength, and we can fly faster than anybody; still we do not fly away from people, but of our own accord go to their hands when we are called. We remember that they feed us.”

Then the Cock said:

“You do not run away from people because you have never seen a roast Falcon, but we, you know, see roast Cocks.”

The Jackals and the Elephant

The Jackals had eaten up all the carrion in the woods, and had nothing to eat. So an old Jackal was thinking how to find something to feed on. He went to an Elephant, and said:

“We had a king, but he became overweening: he told us to do things that nobody could do; we want to choose another king, and my people have sent me to ask you to be our king. You will have an easy life with us. Whatever you will order us to do, we will do, and we will honour you in everything. Come to our kingdom!”

The Elephant consented, and followed the Jackal. The Jackal brought him to a swamp. When the Elephant stuck fast in it, the Jackal said:

“Now command! Whatever you command, we will do.”

The Elephant said:

“I command you to pull me out from here.”

The Jackal began to laugh, and said:

“Take hold of my tail with your trunk, and I will pull you out at once.”

The Elephant said:

“Can I be pulled out by a tail?”

But the Jackal said to him:

“Why, then, do you command us to do what is impossible? Did we not drive away our first king for telling us to do what could not be done?”

When the Elephant died in the swamp the Jackals came and ate him up.

The Heron, the Fishes, and the Crab

A Heron was living near a pond. She grew old, and had no strength left with which to catch the fish. She began to contrive how to live by cunning. So she said to the Fishes:

“You Fishes do not know that a calamity is in store for you: I have heard the people say that they are going to let off the pond, and catch every one of you. I know of a nice little pond back of the mountain. I should like to help you, but I am old, and it is hard for me to fly.”

The Fishes begged the Heron to help them. So the Heron said:

“All right, I will do what I can for you, and will carry you over: only I cannot do it at once⁠—I will take you there one after another.”

And the Fishes were happy; they kept begging her: “Carry me over! Carry me over!”

And the Heron started carrying them. She would take one up, would carry her into the field, and would eat her up. And thus she ate a large number of Fishes.

In the pond there lived an old Crab. When the Heron began to take out the Fishes, he saw what was up, and said:

“Now, Heron, take me to the new abode!”

The Heron took the Crab and carried him off. When she flew out on the field, she wanted to throw the Crab down. But the Crab saw the fish-bones on the ground, and so squeezed the Heron’s neck with his claws, and choked her to death. Then he crawled back to the pond, and told the Fishes.

The Water-Sprite and the Pearl

A Man was rowing in a boat, and dropped a costly pearl into the sea. The Man returned to the shore, took a pail, and began to draw up the water and to pour it out on the land. He drew the water and poured it out for three days without stopping.

On the fourth day the Water-sprite came out of the sea, and asked:

“Why are you drawing the water?”

The Man said:

“I am drawing it because I have dropped a pearl into it.”

The Water-sprite asked him:

“Will you stop soon?”

The Man said:

“I will stop when I dry up the sea.”

Then the Water-sprite returned to the sea, brought back that pearl, and gave it to the Man.

The Blind Man and the Milk

A Man born blind asked a Seeing Man:

“Of what colour is milk?”

The Seeing Man said: “The colour of milk is the same as that of white paper.”

The Blind Man asked: “Well, does that colour rustle in your hands like paper?”

The Seeing Man said: “No, it is as white as white flour.”

The Blind Man asked: “Well, is it as soft and as powdery as flour?”

The Seeing Man said: “No, it is simply as white as a white hare.”

The Blind Man asked: “Well, is it as fluffy and soft as a hare?”

The Seeing Man said: “No, it is as white as snow.”

The Blind Man asked: “Well, is it as cold as snow?”

And no matter how many examples the Seeing Man gave, the Blind Man was unable to understand what the white colour of milk was like.

The Wolf and the Bow

A hunter went out to hunt with bow and arrows. He killed a goat. He threw her on his shoulders and carried her along. On his way he saw a boar. He threw down the goat, and shot at the boar and wounded him. The boar rushed against the hunter and butted him to death, and himself died on the spot. A Wolf scented the blood, and came to the place where lay the goat, the boar, the man, and his bow. The Wolf was glad, and said:

“Now I shall have enough to eat for a long time; only I will not eat everything at once, but little by little, so that nothing may be lost: first I will eat the tougher things, and then I will lunch on what is soft and sweet.”

The Wolf sniffed at the goat, the boar, and the man, and said:

“This is all soft food, so I will eat it later; let me first start on these sinews of the bow.”

And he began to gnaw the sinews of the bow. When he bit through the string, the bow sprang back and hit him on his belly. He died on the spot, and other wolves ate up the man, the goat, the boar, and the Wolf.

The Birds in the Net

A Hunter set out a net near a lake and caught a number of birds. The birds were large, and they raised the net and flew away with it. The Hunter ran after them. A Peasant saw the Hunter running, and said:

“Where are you running? How can you catch up with the birds, while you are on foot?”

The Hunter said:

“If it were one bird, I should not catch it, but now I shall.”

And so it happened. When evening came, the birds began to pull for the night each in a different direction: one to the woods, another to the swamp, a third to the field; and all fell with the net to the ground, and the Hunter caught them.

The King and the Falcon

A certain King let his favourite Falcon loose on a hare, and galloped after him.

The Falcon caught the hare. The King took him away, and began to look for some water to drink. The King found it on a knoll, but it came only drop by drop. The King fetched his cup from the saddle, and placed it under the water. The Water flowed in drops, and when the cup was filled, the King raised it to his mouth and wanted to drink it. Suddenly the Falcon fluttered on the King’s arm and spilled the water. The King placed the cup once more under the drops. He waited for a long time for the cup to be filled even with the brim, and again, as he carried it to his mouth, the Falcon flapped his wings and spilled the water.

When the King filled his cup for the third time and began to carry it to his mouth, the Falcon again spilled it. The King flew into a rage and killed him by flinging him against a stone with all his force. Just then the King’s servants rode up, and one of them ran uphill to the spring, to find as much water as possible, and to fill the cup. But the servant did not bring the water; he returned with the empty cup, and said:

“You cannot drink that water; there is a snake in the spring, and she has let her venom into the water. It is fortunate that the Falcon has spilled the water. If you had drunk it, you would have died.”

The King said:

“How badly I have repaid the Falcon! He has saved my life, and I killed him.”

The King and the Elephants

An Indian King ordered all the Blind People to be assembled, and when they came, he ordered that all the Elephants be shown to them. The Blind Men went to the stable and began to feel the Elephants. One felt a leg, another a tail, a third the stump of a tail, a fourth a belly, a fifth a back, a sixth the ears, a seventh the tusks, and an eighth a trunk.

Then the King called the Blind Men, and asked them: “What are my Elephants like?”

One Blind Man said: “Your Elephants are like posts.” He had felt the legs.

Another Blind Man said: “They are like bath brooms.” He had felt the end of the tail.

A third said: “They are like branches.” He had felt the tail stump.

The one who had touched a belly said: “The Elephants are like a clod of earth.”

The one who had touched the sides said: “They are like a wall.”

The one who had touched a back said: “They are like a mound.”

The one who had touched the ears said: “They are like a mortar.”

The one who had touched the tusks said: “They are like horns.”

The one who had touched the trunk said that they were like a stout rope.

And all the Blind Men began to dispute and to quarrel.

Why There Is Evil in the World

A Hermit was living in the forest, and the animals were not afraid of him. He and the animals talked together and understood each other.

Once the Hermit lay down under a tree, and a Raven, a Dove, a Stag, and a Snake gathered in the same place, to pass the night. The animals began to discuss why there was evil in the world.

The Raven said:

“All the evil in the world comes from hunger. When I eat my fill, I sit down on a branch and croak a little, and it is all jolly and good, and everything gives me pleasure; but let me just go without eating a day or two, and everything palls on me so that I do not feel like looking at God’s world. And something draws me on, and I fly from place to place, and have no rest. When I catch a glimpse of some meat, it makes me only feel sicker than ever, and I make for it without much thinking. At times they throw sticks and stones at me, and the wolves and dogs grab me, but I do not give in. Oh, how many of my brothers are perishing through hunger! All evil comes from hunger.”

The Dove said:

“According to my opinion, the evil does not come from hunger, but from love. If we lived singly, the trouble would not be so bad. One head is not poor, and if it is, it is only one. But here we live in pairs. And you come to like your mate so much that you have no rest: you keep thinking of her all the time, wondering whether she has had enough to eat, and whether she is warm. And when your mate flies away from you, you feel entirely lost, and you keep thinking that a hawk may have carried her off, or men may have caught her; and you start out to find her, and fly to your ruin⁠—either into the hawk’s claws, or into a snare. And when your mate is lost, nothing gives you any joy. You do not eat or drink, and all the time search and weep. Oh, so many of us perish in this way! All the evil is not from hunger, but from love.”

The Snake said:

“No, the evil is not from hunger, nor from love, but from rage. If we lived peacefully, without getting into a rage, everything would be nice for us. But, as it is, whenever a thing does not go exactly right, we get angry, and then nothing pleases us. All we think about is how to revenge ourselves on someone. Then we forget ourselves, and only hiss, and creep, and try to find someone to bite. And we do not spare a soul⁠—we even bite our own father and mother. We feel as though we could eat ourselves up. And we rage until we perish. All the evil in the World comes from rage.”

The Stag said:

“No, not from rage, or from love, or from hunger does all the evil in the world come, but from terror. If it were possible not to be afraid, everything would be well. We have swift feet and much strength: against a small animal we defend ourselves with our horns, and from a large one we flee. But how can I help becoming frightened? Let a branch crackle in the forest, or a leaf rustle, and I am all atremble with fear, and my heart flutters as though it wanted to jump out, and I fly as fast as I can. Again, let a hare run by, or a bird flap its wings, or a dry twig break off, and you think that it is a beast, and you run straight up against him. Or you run away from a dog and run into the hands of a man. Frequently you get frightened and run, not knowing whither, and at full speed rush down a steep hill, and get killed. We have no rest. All the evil comes from terror.”

Then the Hermit said:

“Not from hunger, not from love, not from rage, not from terror are all our sufferings, but from our bodies comes all the evil in the world. From them come hunger, and love, and rage, and terror.”

The Wolf and the Hunters

A Wolf devoured a sheep. The Hunters caught the Wolf and began to beat him. The Wolf said:

“In vain do you beat me: it is not my fault that I am gray⁠—God has made me so.”

But the Hunters said:

“We do not beat the Wolf for being gray, but for eating the sheep.”

The Two Peasants

Once upon a time two Peasants drove toward each other and caught in each other’s sleighs. One cried:

“Get out of my way⁠—I am hurrying to town.”

But the other said:

“Get out of my way, I am hurrying home.”

They quarrelled for some time. A third Peasant saw them and said:

“If you are in a hurry, back up!”

The Peasant and the Horse

A Peasant went to town to fetch some oats for his Horse. He had barely left the village, when the Horse began to turn around, toward the house. The Peasant struck the Horse with his whip. She went on, and kept thinking about the Peasant:

“Whither is that fool driving me? He had better go home.”

Before reaching town, the Peasant saw that the Horse trudged along through the mud with difficulty, so he turned her on the pavement; but the Horse began to turn back from the street. The Peasant gave the Horse the whip, and jerked at the reins; she went on the pavement, and thought:

“Why has he turned me on the pavement? It will only break my hoofs. It is rough underfoot.”

The Peasant went to the shop, bought the oats, and drove home. When he came home, he gave the Horse some oats. The Horse ate them and thought:

“How stupid men are! They are fond of exercising their wits on us, but they have less sense than we. What did he trouble himself about? He drove me somewhere. No matter how far we went, we came home in the end. So it would have been better if we had remained at home from the start: he could have been sitting on the oven, and I eating oats.”

The Two Horses

Two Horses were drawing their carts. The Front Horse pulled well, but the Hind Horse kept stopping all the time. The load of the Hind Horse was transferred to the front cart; when all was transferred, the Hind Horse went along with ease, and said to the Front Horse:

“Work hard and sweat! The more you try, the harder they will make you work.”

When they arrived at the tavern, their master said:

“Why should I feed two Horses, and haul with one only? I shall do better to give one plenty to eat, and to kill the other: I shall at least have her hide.”

So he did.

The Axe and the Saw

Two Peasants went to the forest to cut wood. One of them had an axe, and the other a saw. They picked out a tree, and began to dispute. One said that the tree had to be chopped, while the other said that it had to be sawed down.

A third Peasant said:

“I will easily make peace between you: if the axe is sharp, you had better chop it; but if the saw is sharp you had better saw it.”

He took the axe, and began to chop it; but the axe was so dull that it was not possible to cut with it. Then he took the saw; the saw was worthless, and did not saw. So he said:

“Stop quarrelling awhile; the axe does not chop, and the saw does not saw. First grind your axe and file your saw, and then quarrel.”

But the Peasants grew angrier still at one another, because one had a dull axe, and the other a dull saw. And they came to blows.

The Dogs and the Cook

A Cook was preparing a dinner. The Dogs were lying at the kitchen door. The Cook killed a calf and threw the guts out into the yard. The Dogs picked them up and ate them, and said:

“He is a good Cook: he cooks well.”

After awhile the Cook began to clean peas, turnips, and onions, and threw out the refuse. The Dogs made for it; but they turned their noses up, and said:

“Our Cook has grown worse: he used to cook well, but now he is no longer any good.”

But the Cook paid no attention to the Dogs, and continued to fix the dinner in his own way. The family, and not the Dogs, ate the dinner, and praised it.

The Hare and the Harrier

A Hare once said to a Harrier:

“Why do you bark when you run after us? You would catch us easier, if you ran after us in silence. With your bark you only drive us against the hunter: he hears where we are running; and he rushes out with his gun and kills us, and does not give you anything.”

The Harrier said:

“That is not the reason why I bark. I bark because, when I scent your odour, I am angry, and happy because I am about to catch you; I do not know why, but I cannot keep from barking.”

The Oak and the Hazelbush

An old Oak dropped an acorn under a Hazelbush. The Hazelbush said to the Oak:

“Have you not enough space under your own branches? Drop your acorns in an open space. Here I am myself crowded by my shoots, and I do not drop my nuts to the ground, but give them to men.”

“I have lived for two hundred years,” said the Oak, “and the Oakling which will sprout from that acorn will live just as long.”

Then the Hazelbush flew into a rage, and said:

“If so, I will choke your Oakling, and he will not live for three days.”

The Oak made no reply, but told his son to sprout out of that acorn. The acorn got wet and burst, and clung to the ground with his crooked rootlet, and sent up a sprout.

The Hazelbush tried to choke him, and gave him no sun. But the Oakling spread upwards and grew stronger in the shade of the Hazelbush. A hundred years passed. The Hazelbush had long ago dried up, but the Oak from that acorn towered to the sky and spread his tent in all directions.

The Hen and the Chicks

A Hen hatched some Chicks, but did not know how to take care of them. So she said to them:

“Creep back into your shells! When you are inside your shells, I will sit on you as before, and will take care of you.”

The Chicks did as they were ordered and tried to creep into their shells, but were unable to do so, and only crushed their wings. Then one of the Chicks said to his mother:

“If we are to stay all the time in our shells, you ought never to have hatched us.”

The Corncrake and His Mate

A Corncrake had made a nest in the meadow late in the year, and at mowing time his Mate was still sitting on her eggs. Early in the morning the peasants came to the meadow, took off the coats, whetted their scythes, and started one after another to mow down the grass and to put it down in rows. The Corncrake flew up to see what the mowers were doing. When he saw a peasant swing his scythe and cut a snake in two, he rejoiced and flew back to his Mate and said:

“Don’t fear the peasants! They have come to cut the snakes to pieces; they have given us no rest for quite awhile.”

But his Mate said:

“The peasants are cutting the grass, and with the grass they are cutting everything which is in their way⁠—the snakes, and the Corncrake’s nest, and the Corncrake’s head. My heart forebodes nothing good: but I cannot carry away the eggs, nor fly from the nest, for fear of chilling them.”

When the mowers came to the nest of the Corncrake, one of the peasants swung his scythe and cut off the head of the Corncrake’s Mate, and put the eggs in his bosom and gave them to his children to play with.

The Cow and the Billy Goat

An old woman had a Cow and a Billy Goat. The two pastured together. At milking the Cow was restless. The old woman brought out some bread and salt, and gave it to the Cow, and said:

“Stand still, motherkin; take it, take it! I will bring you some more, only stand still.”

On the next evening the Goat came home from the field before the Cow, and spread his legs, and stood in front of the old woman. The old woman wanted to strike him with the towel, but he stood still, and did not stir. He remembered that the woman had promised the Cow some bread if she would stand still. When the woman saw that he would not budge, she picked up a stick, and beat him with it.

When the Goat went away, the woman began once more to feed the Cow with bread, and to talk to her.

“There is no honesty in men,” thought the Goat. “I stood still better than the Cow, and was beaten for it.”

He stepped aside, took a run, hit against the milk-pail, spilled the milk, and hurt the old woman.

The Fox’s Tail

A Man caught a Fox, and asked her:

“Who has taught you Foxes to cheat the dogs with your tails?”

The Fox asked: “How do you mean, to cheat? We do not cheat the dogs, but simply run from them as fast as we can.”

The Man said:

“Yes, you do cheat them with your tails. When the dogs catch up with you and are about to clutch you, you turn your tails to one side; the dogs turn sharply after the tail, and then you run in the opposite direction.”

The Fox laughed, and said:

“We do not do so in order to cheat the dogs, but in order to turn around; when a dog is after us, and we see that we cannot get away straight ahead, we turn to one side, and in order to do that suddenly, we have to swing the tail to the other side, just as you do with your arms, when you have to turn around. That is not our invention; God himself invented it when He created us, so that the dogs might not be able to catch all the Foxes.”

From the New Speller214

The Wolf and the Kids

A Goat was going to the field after provender, and she shut up her Kids in the barn, with injunctions not to let anyone in. Said she:⁠—

“But when you hear my voice then open the door.”

A Wolf overheard, crept up to the barn, and sang after the manner of the Goat:⁠—

“Little children, open the door; your mother has come with some food for you.”

The Kids peered out of the window, and said:⁠—

“The voice is our mamma’s, but the legs are those of a wolf. We cannot let you in.”

The Farmer’s Wife and the Cat

A farmer’s wife was annoyed by mice eating up the tallow in her cellar. She shut the cat into the cellar, so that the cat might catch the mice.

But the cat ate up, not only the tallow, but the milk and the meat also.

The Crow and the Eagle

The sheep went out to pasture.

Suddenly an Eagle appeared, swooped down from the sky, caught a little lamb with its claws, and bore him away.

A Crow saw it, and felt also an inclination to dine on meat. She said:⁠—

“That was not a very bright performance. Now I am going to do it, but in better style. The Eagle was stupid; he carried off a little lamb, but I am going to take that fat ram yonder.”

The Crow buried her claws deep in the ram’s fleece, and tried to fly off with him; but all in vain. And she was not able to extricate her claws from the wool.

The shepherd came along, freed the ram from the Crow’s claws, and killed the Crow, and flung it away.

The Mouse and the Frog

A Mouse went to visit a Frog. The Frog met the Mouse on the bank, and urged him to visit his chamber under the water.

The Mouse climbed down to the water’s edge, took a taste of it, and then climbed back again.

“Never,” said he, “will I make visits to people of alien race.”

The Vainglorious Cockerel

Two Cockerels fought on a dungheap.

One Cockerel was the stronger: he vanquished the other and drove him from the dungheap.

All the Hens gathered around the Cockerel, and began to laud him. The Cockerel wanted his strength and glory to be known in the next yard. He flew on top of the barn, flapped his wings, and crowed in a loud voice:⁠—

“Look at me, all of you. I am a victorious Cockerel. No other Cockerel in the world has such strength as I.”

The Cockerel had not finished his paean, when an Eagle killed him, seized him in his claws, and carried him to his nest.

The Ass and the Lion

Once upon a time a Lion went out to hunt, and he took with him an Ass. And he said to him:⁠—

“Ass, now you go into the woods, and roar as loud as you can; you have a capacious throat. The prey that run away from your roaring will fall into my clutches.”

And so he did. The Ass brayed, and the timid creatures of the wood fled in all directions, and the Lion caught them.

After the hunting was over, the Lion said to the Ass:⁠—

“Now I will praise you. You roared splendidly.”

And since that time the Ass is always braying, and always expects to be praised.

The Fool and His Knife

A fool had an excellent knife.

With this knife the fool tried to cut a nail. The knife would not cut the nail. Then the fool said:⁠—

“My knife is mean,” and he tried to cut some soft kisel jelly with his knife. Wherever the knife went through the jelly the liquid closed together again.

The fool said, “Miserable knife! it won’t cut kisel, either,” and he threw away his good knife.

The Boy Driver

A peasant was returning from market with his son Vanka.215 The peasant went to sleep in his cart, and Vanka held the reins and cracked the whip. They happened to meet another team. Vanka shouted:⁠—

“Turn out to the right! I shall run over you!”

And the peasant with the team said:⁠—

“It is not a big cricket, but it chirps so as to be heard!”

Life Dull Without Song

In the upper part of a house lived a rich barin, and on the floor below lived a poor tailor. The tailor was always singing songs at his work, and prevented the barin from sleeping.

The barin gave the tailor a purse full of money not to sing. The tailor became rich, and took good care of his money, and refrained from singing.

But it grew tiresome to him; he took the money and returned it to the barin, saying:⁠—

“Take back your money and let me sing my songs again, or I shall die of melancholy.”

The Squirrel and the Wolf

A Squirrel was leaping from limb to limb, and fell directly upon a sleeping Wolf. The Wolf jumped up, and was going to devour him. But the Squirrel begged the Wolf to let him go.

The Wolf said:⁠—

“All right; I will let you go on condition that you tell me why it is that you squirrels are always so happy. I am always melancholy; but I see you playing and leaping all the time in the trees.”

The Squirrel said:⁠—

“Let me go first, and then I will tell you; but now I am afraid of you.”

The Wolf let him go, and the Squirrel leaped up into a tree, and from there it said:⁠—

“You are melancholy because you are bad. Wickedness consumes your heart. But we are happy because we are good, and do no one any harm.”

Uncle Mitya’s Horse

Uncle Mitya had a very fine bay horse.

Some thieves heard about the bay horse, and laid their plans to steal it. They came after it was dark, and crept into the yard.

Now it happened that a peasant who had a bear with him came to spend the night at Uncle Mitya’s. Uncle Mitya took the peasant into the cottage, let out the bay horse into the yard, and put the bear into the inclosure where the bay horse was.

The thieves came in the dark into the inclosure, and began to grope around. The bear got on his hind legs, and seized one of the thieves, who was so frightened that he bawled with all his might.

Uncle Mitya came out and caught the thieves.

The Book

Two men together found a book in the street, and began to dispute as to the ownership of it.

A third happened along, and asked:⁠—

“Which of you can read?”

“Neither of us.”

“Then why do you want the book? Your quarrel reminds me of two bald men who fought for possession of a comb, when neither had any hair on his head.”

The Wolf and the Fox

A Wolf was running from the dogs, and wanted to hide in a cleft. But a Fox was lying in the cleft; she showed her teeth at the Wolf, and said:⁠—

“You cannot come in here; this is my place.”

The Wolf did not stop to dispute the matter, but merely said:⁠—

“If the dogs were not so near, I would teach you whose place it is; but now the right is on your side.”

The Peasant and His Horse

Some soldiers made a foray into hostile territory. A peasant ran out into the field where his horse was, and tried to catch it. But the horse would not come to the peasant.

And the peasant said to him:⁠—

“Stupid, if you don’t let me catch you, the enemy will carry you off.”

The Horse asked:⁠—

“What would the enemy do with me?”

The peasant replied:⁠—

“Of course they would make you carry burdens.”

And the Horse rejoined:⁠—

“Well, don’t I carry burdens for you? So then it is all the same to me whether I work for you or your enemies.”

The Eagle and the Sow

An Eagle built a nest on a tree, and hatched out some eaglets. And a wild Sow brought her litter under the tree.

The Eagle used to fly off after her prey, and bring it back to her young. And the Sow rooted around the tree and hunted in the woods, and when night came she would bring her young something to eat.

And the Eagle and the Sow lived in neighborly fashion.

And a Grimalkin laid his plans to destroy the eaglets and the little sucking pigs. He went to the Eagle, and said:⁠—

“Eagle, you had better not fly very far away. Beware of the Sow; she is planning an evil design. She is going to undermine the roots of the tree. You see she is rooting all the time.”

Then the Grimalkin went to the Sow and said:⁠—

“Sow, you have not a good neighbor. Last evening I heard the Eagle saying to her eaglets: ‘My dear little eaglets, I am going to treat you to a nice little pig. Just as soon as the Sow is gone, I will bring you a little young sucking pig.’ ”

From that time the Eagle ceased to fly out after prey, and the Sow did not go any more into the forest. The eaglets and the young pigs perished of starvation, and Grimalkin feasted on them.

The Load

After the French had left Moscow, two peasants went out to search for treasures. One was wise, the other stupid.

They went together to the burnt part of the city, and found some scorched wool. They said, “That will be useful at home.”

They gathered up as much as they could carry, and started home with it.

On the way they saw lying in the street a lot of cloth. The wise peasant threw down the wool, seized as much of the cloth as he could carry, and put it on his shoulders. The stupid one said:⁠—

“Why throw away the wool? It is nicely tied up, and nicely fastened on.” And so he did not take any of the cloth.

They went farther, and saw lying in the street some ready-made clothes that had been thrown away. The wise peasant unloaded the cloth, picked up the clothes, and put them on his shoulders. The stupid one said:⁠—

“Why should I throw away the wool? It is nicely tied up and securely fastened on my back.”

They went on their way, and saw silver plate scattered about. The wise peasant threw down the clothes, and gathered up as much of the silver as he could, and started off with it; but the stupid one did not give up his wool, because it was nicely tied up and securely tied on.

Going still farther, they saw gold lying on the road. The wise peasant threw down his silver and picked up the gold; but the stupid one said:⁠—

“What is the good of taking off the wool? It is nicely tied up and securely fastened to my back.”

And they went home. On the way a rain set in, and the wool became water-soaked, so that the stupid man had to throw it away, and thus reached home empty-handed; but the wise peasant kept his gold and became rich.

The Big Oven

Once upon a time a man had a big house, and in the house there was a big oven; but this man’s family was small⁠—only himself and his wife.

When winter came, the man tried to keep his oven going; and in one month he burnt up all his firewood. He had nothing to feed the fire, and it was cold.

Then the man began to break up his fences, and use the boards for fuel. When he had burnt up all of his fences, the house, now without any protection against the wind, was colder than ever, and still they had no firewood.

Then the man began to tear down the ceiling of his house, and burn that in the oven.

A neighbor noticed that he was tearing down his ceiling, and said to him:⁠—

“Why, neighbor, have you lost your mind?⁠—pulling down your ceiling in winter. You and your wife will freeze to death!”

But the man said:⁠—

“No, brother; you see I am pulling down my ceiling so as to have something to heat my oven with. We have such a curious one; the more I heat it up, the colder we are!”

The neighbor laughed, and said:⁠—

“Well, then, after you have burnt up your ceiling, then you will be tearing down your house. You won’t have anywhere to live; only the oven will be left, and even that will be cold!”

“Well, that is my misfortune,” said the man. “All my neighbors have firewood enough for all winter; but I have already burnt up my fences and the ceiling of my house, and have nothing left.”

The neighbor replied:⁠—

“All you need is to have your oven rebuilt.”

But the man said:⁠—

“I know well that you are jealous of my house and my oven because they are larger than yours, and so you advise me to rebuild it.”

And he turned a deaf ear to his neighbor’s advice, and burnt up his ceiling, and burnt up his whole house, and had to go and live with strangers.

The Great Bear

A long, long time ago there was a big drought on the earth. All the rivers dried up and the streams and wells, and the trees withered and the bushes and grass, and men and beasts died of thirst.

One night a little girl went out with a pitcher to find some water for her sick mother. She wandered and wandered everywhere, but could find no water, and she grew so tired that she lay down on the grass and fell asleep. When she awoke and took up the pitcher she nearly upset the water it contained. The pitcher was full of clear, fresh water. The little girl was glad and was about to put it to her lips, but she remembered her mother and ran home with the pitcher as fast as she could. She hurried so much that she did not notice a little dog in her path; she stumbled over it and dropped the pitcher. The dog whined pitifully; the little girl seized the pitcher.

She thought the water would have been upset, but the pitcher stood upright and the water was there as before. She poured a little into the palm of her hand and the dog lapped it and was comforted. When the little girl again took up the pitcher, it had turned from common wood to silver. She took the pitcher home and gave it to her mother.

The mother said, “I shall die just the same; you had better drink it,” and she handed the pitcher to the child. In that moment the pitcher turned from silver to gold. The little girl could no longer contain herself and was about to put the pitcher to her lips, when the door opened and a stranger entered who begged for a drink. The little girl swallowed her saliva and gave the pitcher to him. And suddenly seven large diamonds sprang out of the pitcher and a stream of clear, fresh water flowed from it. And the seven diamonds began to rise, and they rose higher and higher till they reached the sky and became the Great Bear.

The Foundling

A poor woman had a daughter by the name of Másha. Másha went in the morning to fetch water, and saw at the door something wrapped in rags. When she touched the rags, there came from it the sound of “Ooah, ooah, ooah!” Másha bent down and saw that it was a tiny, red-skinned baby. It was crying aloud: “Ooah, ooah!”

Másha took it into her arms and carried it into the house, and gave it milk with a spoon. Her mother said:

“What have you brought?”

“A baby. I found it at our door.”

The mother said:

“We are poor as it is; we have nothing to feed the baby with; I will go to the chief and tell him to take the baby.”

Másha began to cry, and said:

“Mother, the child will not eat much; leave it here! See what red, wrinkled little hands and fingers it has!”

Her mother looked at them, and she felt pity for the child. She did not take the baby away. Másha fed and swathed the child, and sang songs to it, when it went to sleep.

The Peasant and the Cucumbers

A peasant once went to the gardener’s, to steal cucumbers. He crept up to the cucumbers, and thought:

“I will carry off a bag of cucumbers, which I will sell; with the money I will buy a hen. The hen will lay eggs, hatch them, and raise a lot of chicks. I will feed the chicks and sell them; then I will buy me a young sow, and she will bear a lot of pigs. I will sell the pigs, and buy me a mare; the mare will foal me some colts. I will raise the colts, and sell them. I will buy me a house, and start a garden. In the garden I will sow cucumbers, and will not let them be stolen, but will keep a sharp watch on them. I will hire watchmen, and put them in the cucumber patch, while I myself will come on them, unawares, and shout: ‘Oh, there, keep a sharp lookout!’ ”

And this he shouted as loud as he could. The watchmen heard it, and they rushed out and beat the peasant.

The Fire

During harvest-time the men and women went out to work. In the village were left only the old and the very young. In one hut there remained a grandmother with her three grandchildren.

The grandmother made a fire in the oven, and lay down to rest herself. Flies kept alighting on her and biting her. She covered her head with a towel and fell asleep. One of the grandchildren, Másha (she was three years old), opened the oven, scraped some coals into a potsherd, and went into the vestibule. In the vestibule lay sheaves: the women were getting them bound.

Másha brought the coals, put them under the sheaves, and began to blow. When the straw caught fire, she was glad; she went into the hut and took her brother Kiryúsha by the arm (he was a year and a half old, and had just learned to walk), and brought him out, and said to him:

“See, Kiryúsha, what a fire I have kindled.”

The sheaves were already burning and crackling. When the vestibule was filled with smoke, Másha became frightened and ran back into the house. Kiryúsha fell over the threshold, hurt his nose, and began to cry; Másha pulled him into the house, and both hid under a bench.

The grandmother heard nothing, and did not wake. The elder boy, Ványa (he was eight years old), was in the street. When he saw the smoke rolling out of the vestibule, he ran to the door, made his way through the smoke into the house, and began to waken his grandmother; but she was dazed from her sleep, and, forgetting the children, rushed out and ran to the farmyards to call the people.

In the meantime Másha was sitting under the bench and keeping quiet; but the little boy cried, because he had hurt his nose badly. Ványa heard his cry, looked under the bench, and called out to Másha:

“Run, you will burn!”

Másha ran to the vestibule, but could not pass for the smoke and fire. She turned back. Then Ványa raised a window and told her to climb through it. When she got through, Ványa picked up his brother and dragged him along. But the child was heavy and did not let his brother take him. He cried and pushed Ványa. Ványa fell down twice, and when he dragged him up to the window, the door of the hut was already burning. Ványa thrust the child’s head through the window and wanted to push him through; but the child took hold of him with both his hands (he was very much frightened) and would not let them take him out. Then Ványa cried to Másha:

“Pull him by the head!” while he himself pushed him behind.

And thus they pulled him through the window and into the street.

The Old Horse

In our village there was an old, old man, Pímen Timoféich. He was ninety years old. He was living at the house of his grandson, doing no work. His back was bent: he walked with a cane and moved his feet slowly.

He had no teeth at all, and his face was wrinkled. His nether lip trembled; when he walked and when he talked, his lips smacked, and one could not understand what he was saying.

We were four brothers, and we were fond of riding. But we had no gentle riding-horses. We were allowed to ride only on one horse⁠—the name of that horse was Raven.

One day mamma allowed us to ride, and all of us went with the valet to the stable. The coachman saddled Raven for us, and my eldest brother was the first to take a ride. He rode for a long time; he rode to the threshing-floor and around the garden, and when he came back, we shouted:

“Now gallop past us!”

My elder brother began to strike Raven with his feet and with the whip, and Raven galloped past us.

After him, my second brother mounted the horse. He, too, rode for quite awhile, and he, too, urged Raven on with the whip and galloped up the hill. He wanted to ride longer, but my third brother begged him to let him ride at once.

My third brother rode to the threshing-floor, and around the garden, and down the village, and raced uphill to the stable. When he rode up to us Raven was panting, and his neck and shoulders were dark from sweat.

When my turn came, I wanted to surprise my brothers and to show them how well I could ride, so I began to drive Raven with all my might, but he did not want to get away from the stable. And no matter how much I beat him, he would not run, but only shied and turned back. I grew angry at the horse, and struck him as hard as I could with my feet and with the whip. I tried to strike him in places where it would hurt most; I broke the whip and began to strike his head with what was left of the whip. But Raven would not run. Then I turned back, rode up to the valet, and asked him for a stout switch. But the valet said to me:

“Don’t ride any more, sir! Get down! What use is there in torturing the horse?”

I felt offended, and said:

“But I have not had a ride yet. Just watch me gallop! Please, give me a good-sized switch! I will heat him up.”

Then the valet shook his head, and said:

“Oh, sir, you have no pity; why should you heat him up? He is twenty years old. The horse is worn out; he can barely breathe, and is old. He is so very old! Just like Pímen Timoféich. You might just as well sit down on Timoféich’s back and urge him on with a switch. Well, would you not pity him?”

I thought of Pímen, and listened to the valet’s words. I climbed down from the horse and, when I saw how his sweaty sides hung down, how he breathed heavily through his nostrils, and how he switched his bald tail, I understood that it was hard for the horse. Before that I used to think that it was as much fun for him as for me. I felt so sorry for Raven that I began to kiss his sweaty neck and to beg his forgiveness for having beaten him.

Since then I have grown to be a big man, and I always am careful with the horses, and always think of Raven and of Pímen Timoféitch whenever I see anybody torture a horse.

How I Learned to Ride

When I was a little fellow, we used to study every day, and only on Sundays and holidays went out and played with our brothers. Once my father said:

“The children must learn to ride. Send them to the riding-school!”

I was the youngest of the brothers, and I asked:

“May I, too, learn to ride?”

My father said:

“You will fall down.”

I began to beg him to let me learn, and almost cried. My father said:

“All right, you may go, too. Only look out! Don’t cry when you fall off. He who does not once fall down from a horse will not learn to ride.”

When Wednesday came, all three of us were taken to the riding-school. We entered by a large porch, and from the large porch went to a smaller one. Beyond the porch was a very large room: instead of a floor it had sand. And in this room were gentlemen and ladies and just such boys as we. That was the riding-school. The riding-school was not very light, and there was a smell of horses, and you could hear them snap whips and call to the horses, and the horses strike their hoofs against the wooden walls. At first I was frightened and could not see things well. Then our valet called the riding-master, and said:

“Give these boys some horses: they are going to learn how to ride.”

The master said:

“All right!”

Then he looked at me, and said:

“He is very small, yet.”

But the valet said:

“He promised not to cry when he falls down.”

The master laughed and went away.

Then they brought three saddled horses, and we took off our cloaks and walked down a staircase to the riding-school. The master was holding a horse by a cord, and my brothers rode around him. At first they rode at a slow pace, and later at a trot. Then they brought a pony. It was a red horse, and his tail was cut off. He was called Ruddy. The master laughed, and said to me:

“Well, young gentleman, get on your horse!”

I was both happy and afraid, and tried to act in such a manner as not to be noticed by anybody. For a long time I tried to get my foot into the stirrup, but could not do it because I was too small. Then the master raised me up in his hands and put me on the saddle. He said:

“The young master is not heavy⁠—about two pounds in weight, that is all.”

At first he held me by my hand, but I saw that my brothers were not held, and so I begged him to let go of me. He said:

“Are you not afraid?”

I was very much afraid, but I said that I was not. I was so much afraid because Ruddy kept dropping his ears. I thought he was angry at me. The master said:

“Look out, don’t fall down!” and let go of me. At first Ruddy went at a slow pace, and I sat up straight. But the saddle was sleek, and I was afraid I would slip off. The master asked me:

“Well, are you fast in the saddle?”

I said:

“Yes, I am.”

“If so, go at a slow trot!” and the master clicked his tongue.

Ruddy started at a slow trot, and began to jog me. But I kept silent, and tried not to slip to one side. The master praised me:

“Oh, a fine young gentleman, indeed!”

I was very glad to hear it.

Just then the master’s friend went up to him and began to talk with him, and the master stopped looking at me.

Suddenly I felt that I had slipped a little to one side on my saddle. I wanted to straighten myself up, but was unable to do so. I wanted to call out to the master to stop the horse, but I thought it would be a disgrace if I did it, and so kept silence. The master was not looking at me and Ruddy ran at a trot, and I slipped still more to one side. I looked at the master and thought that he would help me, but he was still talking with his friend, and without looking at me kept repeating:

“Well done, young gentleman!”

I was now altogether to one side, and was very much frightened. I thought that I was lost; but I felt ashamed to cry. Ruddy shook me up once more, and I slipped off entirely and fell to the ground. Then Ruddy stopped, and the master looked at the horse and saw that I was not on him. He said:

“I declare, my young gentleman has dropped off!” and walked over to me.

When I told him that I was not hurt, he laughed and said:

“A child’s body is soft.”

I felt like crying. I asked him to put me again on the horse, and I was lifted on the horse. After that I did not fall down again.

Thus we rode twice a week in the riding-school, and I soon learned to ride well, and was not afraid of anything.

The Willow

During Easter week a peasant went out to see whether the ground was all thawed out.

He went into the garden and touched the soil with a stick. The earth was soft. The peasant went into the woods; here the catkins were already swelling on the willows. The peasant thought:

“I will fence my garden with willows; they will grow up and will make a good hedge!”

He took his axe, cut down a dozen willows, sharpened them at the end, and stuck them in the ground.

All the willows sent up sprouts with leaves, and underground let out just such sprouts for roots; and some of them took hold of the ground and grew, and others did not hold well to the ground with their roots, and died and fell down.

In the fall the peasant was glad at the sight of his willows: six of them had taken root. The following spring the sheep killed two willows by gnawing at them, and only two were left. Next spring the sheep nibbled at these also. One of them was completely ruined, and the other came to, took root, and grew to be a tree. In the spring the bees just buzzed in the willow. In swarming time the swarms were often put out on the willow, and the peasants brushed them in. The men and women frequently ate and slept under the willow, and the children climbed on it and broke off rods from it.

The peasant that had set out the willow was long dead, and still it grew. His eldest son twice cut down its branches and used them for firewood. The willow kept growing. They trimmed it all around, and cut it down to a stump, but in the spring it again sent out twigs, thinner ones than before, but twice as many as ever, as is the case with a colt’s forelock.

And the eldest son quit farming, and the village was given up, but the willow grew in the open field. Other peasants came there, and chopped the willow, but still it grew. The lightning struck it; but it sent forth side branches, and it grew and blossomed. A peasant wanted to cut it down for a block, but he gave it up, it was too rotten. It leaned sidewise, and held on with one side only; and still it grew, and every year the bees came there to gather the pollen.

One day, early in the spring, the boys gathered under the willow, to watch the horses. They felt cold, so they started a fire. They gathered stubbles, wormwood, and sticks. One of them climbed on the willow and broke off a lot of twigs. They put it all in the hollow of the willow and set fire to it. The tree began to hiss and its sap to boil, and the smoke rose and the tree burned; its whole inside was smudged. The young shoots dried up, the blossoms withered.

The children drove the horses home. The scorched willow was left all alone in the field. A black raven flew by, and he sat down on it, and cried:

“So you are dead, old smudge! You ought to have died long ago!”


I had a small bulldog. He was called Búlka. He was black; only the tips of his front feet were white. All bulldogs have their lower jaws longer than the upper, and the upper teeth come down behind the nether teeth, but Búlka’s lower jaw protruded so much that I could put my finger between the two rows of teeth. His face was broad, his eyes large, black, and sparkling; and his teeth and incisors stood out prominently. He was as black as a negro. He was gentle and did not bite, but he was strong and stubborn. If he took hold of a thing, he clenched his teeth and clung to it like a rag, and it was not possible to tear him off, any more than as though he were a lobster.

Once he was let loose on a bear, and he got hold of the bear’s ear and stuck to him like a leech. The bear struck him with his paws and squeezed him, and shook him from side to side, but could not tear himself loose from him, and so he fell down on his head, in order to crush Búlka; but Búlka held on to him until they poured cold water over him.

I got him as a puppy, and raised him myself. When I went to the Caucasus, I did not want to take him along, and so went away from him quietly, ordering him to be shut up. At the first station I was about to change the relay, when suddenly I saw something black and shining coming down the road. It was Búlka in his brass collar. He was flying at full speed toward the station. He rushed up to me, licked my hand, and stretched himself out in the shade under the cart. His tongue stuck out a whole hand’s length. He now drew it in to swallow the spittle, and now stuck it out again a whole hand’s length. He tried to breathe fast, but could not do so, and his sides just shook. He turned from one side to the other, and struck his tail against the ground.

I learned later that after I had left he had broken a pane, jumped out of the window, and followed my track along the road, and thus raced twenty versts through the greatest heat.

Búlka and the Wild Boar

Once we went into the Caucasus to hunt the wild boar, and Búlka went with me. The moment the hounds started, Búlka rushed after them, following their sound, and disappeared in the forest. That was in the month of November; the boars and sows are then very fat.

In the Caucasus there are many edible fruits in the forests where the boars live: wild grapes, cones, apples, pears, blackberries, acorns, wild plums. And when all these fruits get ripe and are touched by the frost, the boars eat them and grow fat.

At that time a boar gets so fat that he cannot run from the dogs. When they chase him for about two hours, he makes for the thicket and there stops. Then the hunters run up to the place where he stands, and shoot him. They can tell by the bark of the hounds whether the boar has stopped, or is running. If he is running, the hounds yelp, as though they were beaten; but when he stops, they bark as though at a man, with a howling sound.

During that chase I ran for a long time through the forest, but not once did I cross a boar track. Finally I heard the long-drawn bark and howl of the hounds, and ran up to that place. I was already near the boar. I could hear the crashing in the thicket. The boar was turning around on the dogs, but I could not tell by the bark that they were not catching him, but only circling around him. Suddenly I heard something rustle behind me, and I saw that it was Búlka. He had evidently strayed from the hounds in the forest and had lost his way, and now was hearing their barking and making for them, like me, as fast as he could. He ran across a clearing through the high grass, and all I could see of him was his black head and his tongue clinched between his white teeth. I called him back, but he did not look around, and ran past me and disappeared in the thicket. I ran after him, but the farther I went, the more and more dense did the forest grow. The branches kept knocking off my cap and struck me in the face, and the thorns caught in my garments. I was near to the barking, but could not see anything.

Suddenly I heard the dogs bark louder, and something crashed loudly, and the boar began to puff and snort. I immediately made up my mind that Búlka had got up to him and was busy with him. I ran with all my might through the thicket to that place. In the densest part of the thicket I saw a dappled hound. She was barking and howling in one spot, and within three steps from her something black could be seen moving around.

When I came nearer, I could make out the boar, and I heard Búlka whining shrilly. The boar grunted and made for the hound; the hound took her tail between her legs and leaped away. I could see the boar’s side and head. I aimed at his side and fired. I saw that I had hit him. The boar grunted and crashed through the thicket away from me. The dogs whimpered and barked in his track; I tried to follow them through the undergrowth. Suddenly I saw and heard something almost under my feet. It was Búlka. He was lying on his side and whining. Under him there was a puddle of blood. I thought the dog was lost; but I had no time to look after him, I continued to make my way through the thicket. Soon I saw the boar. The dogs were trying to catch him from behind, and he kept turning, now to one side, and now to another. When the boar saw me, he moved toward me. I fired a second time, almost resting the barrel against him, so that his bristles caught fire, and the boar groaned and tottered, and with his whole cadaver dropped heavily on the ground.

When I came up, the boar was dead, and only here and there did his body jerk and twitch. Some of the dogs, with bristling hair, were tearing his belly and legs, while the others were lapping the blood from his wound.

Then I thought of Búlka, and went back to find him. He was crawling toward me and groaning. I went up to him and looked at his wound. His belly was ripped open, and a whole piece of his guts was sticking out of his body and dragging on the dry leaves. When my companions came up to me, we put the guts back and sewed up his belly. While we were sewing him up and sticking the needle through his skin, he kept licking my hand.

The boar was tied up to the horse’s tail, to pull him out of the forest, and Búlka was put on the horse, and thus taken home. Búlka was sick for about six weeks, and got well again.


Wild fowls are called pheasants in the Caucasus. There are so many of them that they are cheaper there than tame chickens. Pheasants are hunted with the “hobby,” by scaring up, and from under dogs. This is the way they are hunted with the “hobby.” They take a piece of canvas and stretch it over a frame, and in the middle of the frame they make a cross piece. They cut a hole in the canvas. This frame with the canvas is called a hobby. With this hobby and with the gun they start out at dawn to the forest. The hobby is carried in front, and through the hole they look out for the pheasants. The pheasants feed at daybreak in the clearings. At times it is a whole brood⁠—a hen with all her chicks, and at others a cock with his hen, or several cocks together.

The pheasants do not see the man, and they are not afraid of the canvas and let the hunter come close to them. Then the hunter puts down the hobby, sticks his gun through the rent, and shoots at whichever bird he pleases.

This is the way they hunt by scaring up. They let a watchdog into the forest and follow him. When the dog finds a pheasant, he rushes for it. The pheasant flies on a tree, and then the dog begins to bark at it. The hunter follows up the barking and shoots the pheasant in the tree. This chase would be easy, if the pheasant alighted on a tree in an open place, or if it sat still, so that it might be seen. But they always alight on dense trees, in the thicket, and when they see the hunter they hide themselves in the branches. And it is hard to make one’s way through the thicket to the tree on which a pheasant is sitting, and hard to see it. So long as the dog alone barks at it, it is not afraid: it sits on a branch and preens and flaps its wings at the dog. But the moment it sees a man, it immediately stretches itself out along a bough, so that only an experienced hunter can tell it, while an inexperienced one will stand nearby and see nothing.

When the Cossacks steal up to the pheasants, they pull their caps over their faces and do not look up, because a pheasant is afraid of a man with his gun, but more still of his eyes.

This is the way they hunt from under dogs. They take a setter and follow him to the forest. The dog scents the place where the pheasants have been feeding at daybreak, and begins to make out their tracks. No matter how the pheasants may have mixed them up, a good dog will always find the last track, that takes them out from the spot where they have been feeding. The farther the dog follows the track, the stronger will the scent be, and thus he will reach the place where the pheasant sits or walks about in the grass in the daytime. When he comes near to where the bird is, he thinks that it is right before him, and starts walking more cautiously so as not to frighten it, and will stop now and then, ready to jump and catch it. When the dog comes up very near to the pheasant, it flies up, and the hunter shoots it.

Milton and Búlka

I bought me a setter to hunt pheasants with. The name of the dog was Milton. He was a big, thin, gray, spotted dog, with long lips and ears, and he was very strong and intelligent. He did not fight with Búlka. No dog ever tried to get into a fight with Búlka. He needed only to show his teeth, and the dogs would take their tails between their legs and slink away.

Once I went with Milton to hunt pheasants. Suddenly Búlka ran after me to the forest. I wanted to drive him back, but could not do so; and it was too far for me to take him home. I thought he would not be in my way, and so walked on; but the moment Milton scented a pheasant in the grass and began to search for it, Búlka rushed forward and tossed from side to side. He tried to scare up the pheasant before Milton. He heard something in the grass, and jumped and whirled around; but he had a poor scent and could not find the track himself, but watched Milton, to see where he was running. The moment Milton started on the trail, Búlka ran ahead of him. I called Búlka back and beat him, but could not do a thing with him. The moment Milton began to search, he darted forward and interfered with him.

I was already on the point of going home, because I thought that the chase was spoiled; but Milton found a better way of cheating Búlka. This is what he did: the moment Búlka rushed ahead of him, he gave up the trail and turned in another direction, pretending that he was searching there. Búlka rushed there where Milton was, and Milton looked at me and wagged his tail and went back to the right trail. Búlka again ran up to Milton and rushed past him, and again Milton took some ten steps to one side and cheated Búlka, and again led me straight; and so he cheated Búlka all the way and did not let him spoil the chase.

The Turtle

Once I went with Milton to the chase. Near the forest he began to search. He straightened out his tail, pricked his ears, and began to sniff. I fixed the gun and followed him. I thought that he was looking for a partridge, hare, or pheasant. But Milton did not make for the forest, but for the field. I followed him and looked ahead of me. Suddenly I saw what he was searching for. In front of him was running a small turtle, of the size of a cap. Its bare, dark gray head on a long neck was stretched out like a pestle; the turtle in walking stretched its bare legs far out, and its back was all covered with bark.

When it saw the dog, it hid its legs and head and let itself down on the grass so that only its shell could be seen. Milton grabbed it and began to bite at it, but could not bite through it, because the turtle has just such a shell on its belly as it has on its back, and has only openings in front, at the back, and at the sides, where it puts forth its head, its legs, and its tail.

I took the turtle away from Milton, and tried to see how its back was painted, and what kind of a shell it had, and how it hid itself. When you hold it in your hands and look between the shell, you can see something black and alive inside, as though in a cellar. I threw away the turtle, and walked on, but Milton would not leave it, and carried it in his teeth behind me. Suddenly Milton whimpered and dropped it. The turtle had put forth its foot inside of his mouth, and had scratched it. That made him so angry that he began to bark; he grasped it once more and carried it behind me. I ordered Milton to throw it away, but he paid no attention to me. Then I took the turtle from him and threw it away. But he did not leave it. He hurriedly dug a hole near it; when the hole was dug, he threw the turtle into it and covered it up with dirt.

The turtles live on land and in the water, like snakes and frogs. They breed their young from eggs. These eggs they lay on the ground, and they do not hatch them, but the eggs burst themselves, like fish spawn, and the turtles crawl out of them. There are small turtles, not larger than a saucer, and large ones, seven feet in length and weighing seven hundredweights. The large turtles live in the sea.

One turtle lays in the spring hundreds of eggs. The turtle’s shells are its ribs. Men and other animals have each rib separate, while the turtle’s ribs are all grown together into a shell. But the main thing is that with all the animals the ribs are inside the flesh, while the turtle has the ribs on the outside, and the flesh beneath them.

Búlka and the Wolf

When I left the Caucasus, they were still fighting there, and in the night it was dangerous to travel without a guard.

I wanted to leave as early as possible, and so did not lie down to sleep.

My friend came to see me off, and we sat the whole evening and night in the village street, in front of my cabin.

It was a moonlit night with a mist, and so bright that one could read, though the moon was not to be seen.

In the middle of the night we suddenly heard a pig squealing in the yard across the street. One of us cried: “A wolf is choking the pig!”

I ran into the house, grasped a loaded gun, and ran into the street. They were all standing at the gate of the yard where the pig was squealing, and cried to me: “Here!” Milton rushed after me⁠—no doubt he thought that I was going out to hunt with the gun; but Búlka pricked his short ears, and tossed from side to side, as though to ask me whom he was to clutch. When I ran up to the wicker fence, I saw a beast running straight toward me from the other side of the yard. That was the wolf. He ran up to the fence and jumped on it. I stepped aside and fixed my gun. The moment the wolf jumped down from the fence to my side, I aimed, almost touching him with the gun, and pulled the trigger; but my gun made “Click” and did not go off. The Wolf did not stop, but ran across the street.

Milton and Búlka made for him. Milton was near to the wolf, but was afraid to take hold of him; and no matter how fast Búlka ran on his short legs, he could not keep up with him. We ran as fast as we could after the wolf, but both the wolf and the dogs disappeared from sight. Only at the ditch, at the end of the village, did we hear a low barking and whimpering, and saw the dust rise in the mist of the moon and the dogs busy with the wolf. When we ran up to the ditch, the wolf was no longer there, and both dogs returned to us with raised tails and angry faces. Búlka snarled and pushed me with his head: evidently he wanted to tell me something, but did not know how.

We examined the dogs, and found a small wound on Búlka’s head. He had evidently caught up with the wolf before he got to the ditch, but had not had a chance to get hold of him, while the wolf snapped at him and ran away. It was a small wound, so there was no danger.

We returned to the cabin, and sat down and talked about what had happened. I was angry because the gun had missed fire, and thought of how the wolf would have remained on the spot, if the gun had shot. My friend wondered how the wolf could have crept into the yard. An old Cossack said that there was nothing remarkable about it, because that was not a wolf, but a witch who had charmed my gun. Thus we sat and kept talking. Suddenly the dogs darted off, and we saw the same wolf in the middle of the street; but this time he ran so fast when he heard our shout that the dogs could not catch up with him.

After that the old Cossack was fully convinced that it was not a wolf, but a witch; but I thought that it was a mad wolf, because I had never seen or heard of such a thing as a wolf’s coming back toward the people, after it had been driven away.

In any case I poured some powder on Búlka’s wound, and set it on fire. The powder flashed up and burned out the sore spot.

I burned out the sore with powder, in order to burn away the poisonous saliva, if it had not yet entered the blood. But if the saliva had already entered the blood, I knew that the blood would carry it through the whole body, and then it would not be possible to cure him.

What Happened to Búlka in Pyatigórsk

From the Cossack village I did not travel directly to Russia, but first to Pyatigórsk, where I stayed two months. Milton I gave away to a Cossack hunter, and Búlka I took along with me to Pyatigórsk.

Pyatigórsk216 is called so because it is situated on Mount Besh-tau. And besh means in Tartar “five,” and tau “mountain.” From this mountain flows a hot sulphur stream. It is as hot as boiling water, and over the spot where the water flows from the mountain there is always a steam as from a samovar.

The whole place, on which the city stands, is very cheerful. From the mountain flow the hot springs, and at the foot of the mountain is the river Podkúmok. On the slopes of the mountain are forests; all around the city are fields, and in the distance are seen the mountains of the Caucasus. On these the snow never melts, and they are always as white as sugar. One large mountain, Elbrus, is like a white loaf of sugar; it can be seen from everywhere when the weather is clear. People come to the hot springs to be cured, and over them there are arbours and awnings, and all around them are gardens with walks. In the morning the music plays, and people drink the water, or bathe, or stroll about.

The city itself is on the mountain, but at the foot of it there is a suburb. I lived in that suburb in a small house. The house stood in a yard, and before the windows was a small garden, and in the garden stood the landlord’s beehives, not in hollow stems, as in Russia, but in round, plaited baskets. The bees are there so gentle that in the morning I used to sit with Búlka in that garden, amongst the beehives.

Búlka walked about between the hives, and sniffed, and listened to the bees’ buzzing; he walked so softly among them that he did not interfere with them, and they did not bother him.

One morning I returned home from the waters, and sat down in the garden to drink coffee. Búlka began to scratch himself behind his ears, and made a grating noise with his collar. The noise worried the bees, and so I took the collar off. A little while later I heard a strange and terrible noise coming from the city. The dogs barked, howled, and whimpered, people shouted, and the noise descended lower from the mountain and came nearer and nearer to our suburb.

Búlka stopped scratching himself, put his broad head with its white teeth between his forelegs, stuck out his tongue as he wished, and lay quietly by my side. When he heard the noise he seemed to understand what it was. He pricked his ears, showed his teeth, jumped up, and began to snarl. The noise came nearer. It sounded as though all the dogs of the city were howling, whimpering, and barking. I went to the gate to see what it was, and my landlady came out, too. I asked her:

“What is this?”

She said:

“The prisoners of the jail are coming down to kill the dogs. The dogs have been breeding so much that the city authorities have ordered all the dogs in the city to be killed.”

“So they would kill Búlka, too, if they caught him?”

“No, they are not allowed to kill dogs with collars.”

Just as I was speaking, the prisoners were coming up to our house. In front walked the soldiers, and behind them four prisoners in chains. Two of the prisoners had in their hands long iron hooks, and two had clubs. In front of our house, one of the prisoners caught a watchdog with his hook and pulled it up to the middle of the street, and another began to strike it with the club.

The little dog whined dreadfully, but the prisoners shouted and laughed. The prisoner with the hook turned over the dog, and when he saw that it was dead, he pulled out the hook and looked around for other dogs.

Just then Búlka rushed headlong at that prisoner, as though he were a bear. I happened to think that he was without his collar, so I shouted: “Búlka, back!” and told the prisoners not to strike the dog. But the prisoner laughed when he saw Búlka, and with his hook nimbly struck him and caught him by his thigh. Búlka tried to get away; but the prisoner pulled him up toward him and told the other prisoner to strike him. The other raised his club, and Búlka would have been killed, but he jerked, and broke the skin at the thigh and, taking his tail between his legs, flew, with the red sore on his body, through the gate and into the house, and hid himself under my bed.

He was saved because the skin had broken in the spot where the hook was.

Búlka’s and Milton’s End

Búlka and Milton died at the same time. The old Cossack did not know how to get along with Milton. Instead of taking him out only for birds, he went with him to hunt wild boars. And that same fall a tusky boar ripped him open. Nobody knew how to sew him up, and so he died.

Búlka, too, did not live long after the prisoners had caught him. Soon after his salvation from the prisoners he began to feel unhappy, and started to lick everything that he saw. He licked my hands, but not as formerly when he fawned. He licked for a long time, and pressed his tongue against me, and then began to snap. Evidently he felt like biting my hand, but did not want to do so. I did not give him my hand. Then he licked my boot and the foot of a table, and then he began to snap at these things. That lasted about two days, and on the third he disappeared, and no one saw him or heard of him.

He could not have been stolen or run away from me. This happened six weeks after the wolf had bitten him. Evidently the wolf had been mad. Búlka had gone mad, and so went away. He had what hunters call the rabies. They say that this madness consists in this, that the mad animal gets cramps in its throat. It wants to drink and cannot, because the water makes the cramps worse. And so it gets beside itself from pain and thirst, and begins to bite. Evidently Búlka was beginning to have these cramps when he started to lick and then to bite my hand and the foot of the table.

I went everywhere in the neighbourhood and asked about Búlka, but could not find out what had become of him, or how he had died. If he had been running about and biting, as mad dogs do, I should have heard of him. No doubt he ran somewhere into a thicket and there died by himself.

The hunters say that when an intelligent dog gets the rabies, he runs to the fields and forests, and there tries to find the herb which he needs, and rolls in the dew, and gets cured. Evidently Búlka never got cured. He never came back.

The Gray Hare

A gray hare was living in the winter near the village. When night came, he pricked one ear and listened; then he pricked his second ear, moved his whiskers, sniffed, and sat down on his hind legs. Then he took a leap or two over the deep snow, and again sat down on his hind legs, and looked around him. Nothing could be seen but snow. The snow lay in waves and glistened like sugar. Over the hare’s head hovered a frost vapour, and through this vapour could be seen the large, bright stars.

The hare had to cross the highway, in order to come to a threshing-floor he knew of. On the highway the runners could be heard squeaking, and the horses snorting, and seats creaking in the sleighs.

The hare again stopped near the road. Peasants were walking beside the sleighs, and the collars of their caftans were raised. Their faces were scarcely visible. Their beards, moustaches, and eyelashes were white. Steam rose from their mouths and noses. Their horses were sweaty, and the hoarfrost clung to the sweat. The horses jostled under their arches, and dived in and out of snowdrifts. The peasants ran behind the horses and in front of them, and beat them with their whips. Two peasants walked beside each other, and one of them told the other how a horse of his had once been stolen.

When the carts passed by, the hare leaped across the road and softly made for the threshing-floor. A dog saw the hare from a cart. He began to bark and darted after the hare. The hare leaped toward the threshing-floor over the snowdrifts, which held him back; but the dog stuck fast in the snow after the tenth leap, and stopped. Then the hare, too, stopped and sat up on his hind legs, and then softly went onto the threshing-floor.

On his way he met two other hares on the sowed winter field. They were feeding and playing. The hare played awhile with his companions, dug away the frosty snow with them, ate the wintergreen, and went on.

In the village everything was quiet; the fires were out. All one could hear was a baby’s cry in a hut and the crackling of the frost in the logs of the cabins. The hare went to the threshing-floor, and there found some companions. He played awhile with them on the cleared floor, ate some oats from the open granary, climbed on the kiln over the snow-covered roof, and across the wicker fence started back to his ravine.

The dawn was glimmering in the east; the stars grew less, and the frost vapours rose more densely from the earth. In the nearby village the women got up, and went to fetch water; the peasants brought the feed from the barn; the children shouted and cried. There were still more carts going down the road, and the peasants talked aloud to each other.

The hare leaped across the road, went up to his old lair, picked out a high place, dug away the snow, lay with his back in his new lair, dropped his ears on his back, and fell asleep with open eyes.


In the reign of Iván Vasílevich the Terrible there were the rich merchants, the Stroganóvs, and they lived in Perm, on the river Káma. They heard that along the river Káma, in a circle of 140 versts, there was good land: the soil had not been ploughed for centuries, the forests had not been cut down for centuries. In the forests were many wild animals, and along the river fish lakes, and no one was living on that land, but only Tartars passed through it.

The Stroganóvs wrote a letter to the Tsar:

“Give us this land, and we will ourselves build towns there and gather people and settle them there, and will not allow the Tartars to pass through it.”

The Tsar agreed to it, and gave them the land. The Stroganóvs sent out clerks to gather people. And there came to them a large number of roving people. Whoever came received from the Stroganóvs land, forest, and cattle, and no tenant pay was collected. All they had to do was to live and, in case of need, to go out in mass to fight the Tartars. Thus the land was settled by the Russian people.

About twenty years passed. The Stroganóvs grew richer yet, and that land, 140 versts around, was not enough for them. They wanted to have more land still. About one hundred versts from them were high mountains, the Ural Mountains, and beyond them, they had heard, there was good land, and to that land there was no end. This land was ruled by a small Siberian prince, Kuchum by name. In former days Kuchum had sworn allegiance to the Russian Tsar, but later he began to rebel, and he threatened to destroy Stroganóv’s towns.

So the Stroganóvs wrote to the Tsar:

“You have given us land, and we have conquered it and turned it over to you; now the thievish Tsarling Kuchum is rebelling against you, and wants to take that land away and ruin us. Command us to take possession of the land beyond the Ural Mountains; we will conquer Kuchum, and will bring all his land under your rule.”

The Tsar assented, and wrote back:

“If you have sufficient force, take the land away from Kuchum. Only do not entice many people away from Russia.”

When the Stroganóvs got that letter from the Tsar, they sent out clerks to collect more people. And they ordered them to persuade mostly the Cossacks from the Vólga and the Don to come. At that time many Cossacks were roving along the Vólga and the Don. They used to gather in bands of two, three, or six hundred men, and to select an ataman, and to row down in barges, to capture ships and rob them, and for the winter they stayed in little towns on the shore.

The clerks arrived at the Vólga, and there they asked who the famous Cossacks of that region were. They were told:

“There are many Cossacks. It is impossible to live for them. There is Míshka Cherkáshenin, and Sarý-Azmán; but there is no fiercer one than Ermák Timoféich, the ataman. He has a thousand men, and not only the merchants and the people are afraid of him, but even the Tsarian army does not dare to cope with him.”

And the clerks went to Ermák the ataman, and began to persuade him to go to the Stroganóvs. Ermák received the clerks, listened to their speeches, and promised to come with his people about the time of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

Near the holiday of the Assumption there came to the Stroganóvs six hundred Cossacks, with their ataman, Ermák Timoféich. At first Stroganóv sent them against the neighbouring Tartars. The Cossacks annihilated them. Then, when nothing was doing, the Cossacks roved in the neighbourhood and robbed.

So Stroganóv sent for Ermák, and said:

“I will not keep you any longer, if you are going to be so wanton.”

But Ermák said:

“I do not like it myself, but I cannot control my people, they are spoiled. Give us work to do!”

So Stroganóv said:

“Go beyond the Ural and fight Kuchum, and take possession of his land. The Tsar will reward you for it.”

And he showed the Tsar’s letter to Ermák. Ermák rejoiced, and collected his men, and said:

“You are shaming me before my master⁠—you are robbing without reason. If you do not stop, he will drive you away, and where will you go then? At the Vólga there is a large Tsarian army; we shall be caught, and then we shall suffer for our old misdeeds. But if you feel lonesome, here is work for you.”

And he showed them the Tsar’s letter, in which it said that Stroganóv had been permitted to conquer land beyond the Ural. The Cossacks had a consultation, and agreed to go. Ermák went to Stroganóv, and they began to deliberate how they had best go.

They discussed how many barges they needed, how much grain, cattle, guns, powder, lead, how many captive Tartar interpreters, and how many foreigners as masters of gunnery.

Stroganóv thought:

“Though it may cost me much, I must give them everything or else they will stay here and will ruin me.”

Stroganóv agreed to everything, gathered what was needed, and fitted out Ermák and the Cossacks.

On the 1st of September the Cossacks rowed with Ermák up the river Chúsovaya on thirty-two barges, with twelve men in each. For four days they rowed up the river, and then they turned into Serébryanaya River. Beyond that point it was impossible to navigate. They asked the guides, and learned that from there they had to cross the mountains and walk overland about two hundred versts, and then the rivers would begin again. The Cossacks stopped, built a town, and unloaded all their equipment; they abandoned the boats, made carts, put everything upon them, and started overland, across the mountains. All those places were covered with forest, and nobody was living there. They marched for about ten days, and struck the river Zharóvnya. Here they stopped again, and made themselves boats. They loaded them, and rowed down the river. They rowed five days, and then came more cheerful places⁠—meadows, forests, lakes. There was a plenty of fish and of animals, and animals that had not been scared by hunters. They rowed another day, and sailed into the river Túra. Along the Túra they came on Tartar people and towns.

Ermák sent some Cossacks to take a look at a town, to see what it was like, and whether there was any considerable force in it. Twenty Cossacks went there, and they frightened all the Tartars, and seized the whole town, and captured all the cattle. Some of the Tartars they killed, and others they brought back alive.

Ermák asked the Tartars through his interpreters what kind of people they were, and under whose rule they were living. The Tartars said that they were in the Siberian kingdom, and that their king was Kuchum.

Ermák let the Tartars go, but three of the more intelligent he took with him, to show him the road.

They rowed on. The farther they rowed, the larger did the river grow; and the farther they went, the better did the places become.

They met more and more people; only they were not strong men. And all the towns that were near the river the Cossacks conquered.

In one town they captured a large number of Tartars and one old man who was held in respect. They asked him what kind of a man he was. He said:

“I am Tauzik, a servant of my king, Kuchum, who has made me a commander in this town.”

Ermák asked Tauzik about his king; how far his city of Sibír was; whether Kuchum had a large force; whether he had much wealth. Tauzik told him everything. He said:

“Kuchum is the first king in the world. His city of Sibír is the largest city in the world. In that city,” he said, “there are as many people and as many cattle as there are stars in the heaven. There is no counting his force, and not all the kings of the world can conquer him.”

But Ermák said:

“We Russians have come here to conquer your king and to take his city, and to put it into the hands of the Russian Tsar. We have a large force. Those who have come with me are only the advance-guard; those that are rowing down behind us in barges are numberless, and all of them have guns. Our guns pierce trees, not like your bows and arrows. Just look!”

And Ermák fired at a tree, and pierced it, and the Cossacks began to shoot on all sides. Tauzik in fright fell on his knees. Ermák said to him:

“Go to your King Kuchum and tell him what you have seen! Let him surrender, and if he does not, we will destroy him.”

And he dismissed Tauzik.

The Cossacks rowed on. They sailed into the river Toból, and were getting nearer to the city of Sibír. They sailed up to the small river Babasán, and there they saw a small town on its bank, and around the town a large number of Tartars.

They sent an interpreter to the Tartars, to find out what kind of people they were. The interpreter returned, and said:

“That is Kuchum’s army that has gathered there. The leader of that army is Kuchum’s own son-in-law, Mametkul. He has commanded me to tell you that you must return, or else he will destroy you.”

Ermák gathered his Cossacks, landed on the bank, and began to shoot at the Tartars. The moment the Tartars heard the shooting, they began to run. The Cossacks ran after them, and killed some, and captured others. Mametkul barely escaped.

The Cossacks sailed on. They sailed into a broad, rapid river, the Irtýsh. Down Irtýsh River they sailed for a day, and came to a fair town, and there they stopped. The Cossacks went to the town. As they were coming near, the Tartars began to shoot their arrows, and they wounded three Cossacks. Then Ermák sent an interpreter to tell the Tartars that they must surrender the town, or else they would all be killed. The interpreter went, and he returned, and said:

“Here lives Kuchum’s servant, Atik Murza Kachara. He has a large force, and he says that he will not surrender the town.”

Ermák gathered the Cossacks, and said:

“Boys, if we do not take this town, the Tartars will rejoice, and will not let us pass on. The more we strike them with terror, the easier will it be. Land all, and attack them all at once!”

So they did. There were many Tartars there, and they were brave.

When the Cossacks rushed at them, the Tartars began to shoot their arrows. They covered the Cossacks with them. Some were killed, and some wounded.

The Cossacks became enraged, and when they got to the Tartars, they killed all they could lay their hands on.

In this town the Cossacks found much property⁠—cattle, rugs, furs, and honey. They buried the dead, rested themselves, took away much property, and sailed on. They did not sail far, when they saw on the shore, like a city, an endless number of troops, and the whole army surrounded by a ditch and the ditch protected by timber. The Cossacks stopped. They deliberated. Ermák gathered a circle about him.

“Well, boys, what shall we do?”

The Cossacks were frightened. Some said that they ought to sail past, while others said that they ought to go back.

And they looked gloomy and began to scold Ermák. They said:

“Why did you bring us here? Already a few of ours have been killed, and many have been wounded; and all of us will perish here.”

They began to weep.

But Ermák said to his sub-ataman, Iván Koltsó:

“Well, Ványa, what do you think?”

And Koltsó said:

“What do I think? If they do not kill us today, they will tomorrow; and if not tomorrow, we shall die anyway on the oven. In my opinion, we ought to go out on the shore and rush in a body against the Tartars. Maybe God will give us victory.”

Ermák said:

“You are a brave man, Ványa! That is what must be done. Oh, you boys! You are not Cossacks, but old women. All you are good for is to catch sturgeon and frighten Tartar women. Can’t you see for yourselves? If we turn back we shall be destroyed; and if we stay here, they will destroy us. How can we go back? After a little work, it will come easier. Listen, boys! My father had a strong mare. Downhill she would pull and on an even place she would pull. But when it came to going uphill, she became stubborn and turned back, thinking that it would be easier. But my father took a club and belaboured her with it. She twisted and tugged and broke the whole cart. My father unhitched her from the cart and gave her a terrible whacking. If she had pulled the cart, she would have suffered no torment. So it is with us, boys. There is only one thing left for us to do, and that is to make straight for the Tartars.”

The Cossacks laughed, and said:

“Timoféich, you are evidently more clever than we are. You have no business to ask us fools. Take us where you please. A man does not die twice, and one death cannot be escaped.”

And Ermák said:

“Listen, boys! This is what we shall do. They have not yet seen us all. Let us divide into three parts. Those in the middle will march straight against them, and the other two divisions will surround them on the right and on the left. When the middle detachment begins to walk toward them, they will think that we are all there, and so they will leap forward. Then we will strike them from the sides. That’s the way, boys! If we beat these, we shall not have to be afraid of anybody. We shall ourselves be kings.”

And so they did. When the middle detachment with Ermák advanced, the Tartars screamed and leaped forward; then they were attacked by Iván Koltsó on the right, and by Meshcheryákov the ataman on the left. The Tartars were frightened, and ran. The Cossacks killed a great many of them. After that nobody dared to oppose Ermák. And thus he entered the very city of Sibír. And there Ermák settled down as though he were a king.

Then kinglets came to see Ermák, to bow to him. Tartars began to settle down in Sibír, and Kuchum and his son-in-law Mametkul were afraid to go straight at him, but kept going around in a circle, wondering how they might destroy him.

In the spring, during high water, the Tartars came running to Ermák, and said:

“Mametkul is again going against you: he has gathered a large army, and is making a stand near the river Vagáy.”

Ermák made his way over rivers, swamps, brooks, and forests, stole up with his Cossacks, rushed against Mametkul, killed a large number of Tartars, and took Mametkul alive and brought him to Sibír. After that there were only a few unruly Tartars left, and Ermák went that summer against those that had not yet surrendered; and along the Irtýsh and the Ob Ermák conquered so much land that one could not march around it in two months.

When Ermák had conquered all that land, he sent a messenger to the Stroganóvs, and a letter:

“I have taken Kuchum’s city,” he said, “and have captured Mametkul, and have brought all the people here under my rule. Only I have lost many Cossacks. Send people to us that we may feel more cheerful. There is no end to the wealth in this country.”

He sent to them many costly furs⁠—fox, marten, and sable furs.

Two years passed after that. Ermák was still holding Sibír, but no aid came from Russia, and few Russians were left with Ermák.

One day the Tartar Karacha sent a messenger to Ermák, saying:

“We have surrendered to you, but now the Nogays are oppressing us. Send your brave men to aid us! We shall together conquer the Nogays. And we swear to you that we shall not insult your brave men.”

Ermák believed their oath, and sent forty men under Iván Koltsó. When these forty men came there, the Tartars rushed against them and killed them, so there were still fewer Cossacks left.

Another time some Bukhara merchants sent word to Ermák that they were on their way to the city of Sibír with goods, but that Kuchum had taken his stand with an army and would not let them pass through.

Ermák took with him fifty men and went out to clear the road for the Bukhara merchants. He came to the Irtýsh River, but did not find the Bukharans. He remained there over night. It was a dark night, and it rained. The Cossacks had just lain down to sleep, when suddenly the Tartars rushed out and threw themselves on the sleepy men and began to strike them down. Ermák jumped up and began to fight. He was wounded in the hand. He ran toward the river. The Tartars after him. He threw himself into the river. That was the last time he was seen. His body was not recovered, and no one found out how he died.

The following year came the Tsar’s army, and the Tartars were pacified.

Natural Science Stories

Stories from Physics

The Magnet


In olden days there was a shepherd whose name was Magnes. Magnes lost a sheep. He went to the mountains to find it. He came to a place where there were barren rocks. He walked over these rocks, and felt that his boots were sticking to them. He touched them with his hand, but they were dry and did not stick to his hand. He started to walk again, and again his boots stuck to the rocks. He sat down, took off one of his boots, took it into his hand, and touched the rocks with it.

Whenever he touched them with his skin, or with the sole of his boot, they did not stick; but when he touched them with the nails, they did stick.

Magnes had a cane with an iron point.

He touched a rock with the wood; it did not stick; he touched it with the iron end, and it stuck so that he could not pull it off.

Magnes looked at the stone, and he saw that it looked like iron, and he took pieces of that stone home with him. Since then that rock has been known, and has been called Magnet.


Magnet is found in the earth with iron ore. Where there is magnet in the ore, the iron is of the best quality. The magnet resembles iron.

If you put a piece of iron on a magnet, the iron itself begins to attract other iron. And if you put a steel needle on a magnet, and hold it thus for awhile, the needle will become a magnet, and will attract iron. If two magnets are brought together at their ends, one side will turn away from the other, while the other sides will be attracted.

If a magnetic rod is broken in two, each half will attract at one end, and will turn away at the other end. Cut it again, and the same will happen; cut it again, as often as you please, and still the same will happen: equal ends will turn away from each other, while opposite ends will be attracted, as though the magnet were pushing away at one end, and pulling in at the other. No matter how you may break it, it will be as though there were a bump at one end, and a saucer at the other. Whichever way you put them together⁠—a bump and a saucer will meet, but a bump and a bump, or a saucer and a saucer will not.


If you magnetize a needle (holding it for awhile over a magnet), and attach it in the middle to a pivot in such a way that it can move freely around, and let it loose, it will turn with one end toward midday (south), and with the other toward midnight (north).

When the magnet was not known, people did not sail far out to sea. When they went out far into the sea, so that land was not to be seen, they could tell only by the stars and the sun where they had to sail. But when it was dark, and the sun or stars could not be seen, they did not know which way to sail. And a ship was borne by the winds and carried on rocks and wrecked.

So long as the magnet was not known, they did not sail far from the shore; but when the magnet was discovered, they made a magnetic needle on a pivot, so that it should move around freely. By this needle they could tell in which direction to sail. With the magnetic needle they began to sail farther away from the shores, and since then they have discovered many new seas.

On ships there is always a magnetic needle (compass), and there is a measuring-rope with knots at the stern of a ship. This rope is fixed in such a way that when it unrolls, they can tell how far the ship has travelled. And thus, in sailing in a boat, they always know in what spot it is, whether far from the shore, and in what direction it is sailing.

Injurious Air

In the village of Nikólskoe, the people went on a holiday to mass. In the manor yard were left the cow-tender, the elder, and the groom. The cow-tender went to the well for water. The well was in the yard itself. She pulled out the bucket, but could not hold it. The bucket pulled away from her, struck the side of the well, and tore the rope. The cow-tender returned to the hut and said to the elder:

“Aleksándr! Climb down into the well⁠—I have dropped the bucket into it.”

Aleksándr said:

“You have dropped it, so climb down yourself.”

The cow-tender said that she did not mind fetching it herself, if he would let her down.

The elder laughed at her, and said:

“Well, let us go! You have an empty stomach now, so I shall be able to hold you up, for after dinner I could not do it.”

The elder tied a stick to a rope, and the woman sat astride it, took hold of the rope, and began to climb down into the well, while the elder turned the well-wheel. The well was about twenty feet deep, and there was less than three feet of water in it. The elder let her down slowly, and kept asking:

“A little more?”

And the cow-tender cried from below:

“Just a little more!”

Suddenly the elder felt the rope give way: he called the cow-tender, but she did not answer. The elder looked into the well, and saw the cow-tender lying with her head in the water, and with her feet in the air. The elder called for help, but there was nobody nearby; only the groom came. The elder told him to hold the wheel, and he himself pulled out the rope, sat down on the stick, and went down into the well.

The moment the groom let the elder down to the water, the same thing happened to the elder. He let go of the rope and fell head foremost upon the woman. The groom began to cry, and ran to church to call the people. Mass was over, and people were walking home. All the men and women rushed to the well. They gathered around it, and everybody holloaed, but nobody knew what to do. The young carpenter Iván made his way through the crowd, took hold of the rope, sat down on the stick, and told them to let him down. Iván tied himself to the rope with his belt. Two men let him down, and the rest looked into the well, to see what would become of Iván. Just as he was getting near the water, he dropped his hands from the rope, and would have fallen down head foremost, if the belt had not held him. All shouted, “Pull him out!” and Iván was pulled out.

He hung like dead down from the belt, and his head was drooping and beating against the sides of the well. His face was livid. They took him off the rope and put him down on the ground. They thought that he was dead; but he suddenly drew a deep breath, began to rattle, and soon revived.

Others wanted to climb down, but an old peasant said that they could not go down because there was bad air in the well, and that that bad air killed people. Then the peasants ran for hooks and began to pull out the elder and the woman. The elder’s mother and wife cried at the well, and others tried to quiet them; in the meantime the peasants put down the hooks and tried to get out the dead people. Twice they got the elder halfway up by his clothes; but he was heavy, and his clothes tore and he fell down. Finally they stuck two hooks into him and pulled him out. Then they pulled out the cow-tender. Both were dead and did not revive.

Then, when they examined the well, they found that indeed there was bad air down in the well.

This air is so heavy that neither man nor any animal can live in it. They let down a cat into the well, and the moment she reached the place where the bad air was, she died. Not only can no animal live there, even no candle will burn in it. They let down a candle, and the moment it reached that spot, it went out.

There are places underground where that air gathers, and when a person gets into one of those places, he dies at once. For this purpose they have lamps in the mines, and before a man goes down to such a place, they let down the lamp. If it goes out, no man can go there; then they let down fresh air until the lamp will burn.

Near the city of Naples there is one such cave. There is always about three feet of bad air in it on the ground, but above it the air is good. A man can walk through the cave, and nothing will happen to him, but a dog will die the moment it enters.

Where does this bad air come from? It is made of the same good air that we breathe. If you gather a lot of people in one place, and close all the doors and windows, so that no fresh air can get in, you will get the same kind of an air as in the well, and people will die.

One hundred years ago, during a war, the Hindus captured 146 Englishmen and shut them up in a cave underground, where the air could not get in.

After the captured Englishmen had been there a few hours they began to die, and toward the end of the night 123 had died, and the rest came out more dead than alive, and ailing. At first the air had been good in the cave; but when the captives had inhaled all the good air, and no fresh air came in, it became bad, just like what was in the well, and they died.

Why does the good air become bad when many people come together?

Because, when people breathe, they take in good air and breathe out bad air.


There was once a learned Italian, Galvani. He had an electric machine, and he showed his students what electricity was. He rubbed the glass hard with silk with something smeared over it, and then he approached to the glass a brass knob which was attached to the glass, and a spark flew across from the glass to the brass knob. He explained to them that the same kind of a spark came from sealing-wax and amber. He showed them that feathers and bits of paper were now attracted, and now repelled, by electricity, and explained to them the reason of it. He did all kinds of experiments with electricity, and showed them all to his students.

Once his wife grew ill. He called a doctor and asked him how to cure her. The doctor told him to prepare a frog soup for her. Galvani gave order to have edible frogs caught. They caught them for him, killed them, and left them on his table.

Before the cook came after the frogs, Galvani kept on showing the electric machine to his students, and sending sparks through it.

Suddenly he saw the dead frogs jerk their legs on the table. He watched them, and saw that every time when he sent a spark through the machine, the frogs jerked their legs. Galvani collected more frogs, and began to experiment with them. And every time he sent a spark through the machine, the dead frogs moved their legs as though they were alive.

It occurred to Galvani that live frogs moved their legs because electricity passed through them. Galvani knew that there was electricity in the air; that it was more noticeable in the amber and glass, but that it was also in the air, and that thunder and lightning came from the electricity in the air.

So he tried to discover whether the dead frogs would not move their legs from the electricity in the air. For this purpose he took the frogs, skinned them, chopped off their heads, and hung them on brass hooks on the roof, beneath an iron gutter. He thought that as soon as there should be a storm, and the air should be filled with electricity, it would pass by the brass rod to the frogs, and they would begin to move.

But the storm passed several times, and the frogs did not move. Galvani was just taking them down, and as he did so a frog’s leg touched the iron gutter, and it jerked. Galvani took down the frogs and made the following experiment: he tied to the brass hook an iron wire, and touched the leg with the wire, and it jerked.

So Galvani decided that the animals lived because there was electricity in them, and that the electricity jumped from the brain to the flesh, and that made the animals move. Nobody had at that time tried this matter and they did not know any better, and so they all believed Galvani. But at that time another learned man, Volta, experimented in his own way, and proved to everybody that Galvani was mistaken. He tried touching the frog differently from what Galvani had done, not with a copper hook with an iron wire, but either with a copper hook and a copper wire, or an iron hook and an iron wire⁠—and the frogs did not move. The frogs moved only when Volta touched them with an iron wire that was connected with a copper wire.

Volta thought that the electricity was not in the dead frog but in the iron and copper. He experimented and found it to be so: whenever he brought together the iron and the copper, there was electricity; and this electricity made the dead frogs jerk their legs. Volta tried to produce electricity differently from what it had been produced before. Before that they used to get electricity by rubbing glass or sealing-wax. But Volta got electricity by uniting iron and copper. He tried to connect iron and copper and other metals, and by the mere combination of metals, silver, platinum, zinc, lead, iron, he produced electric sparks.

After Volta they tried to increase electricity by pouring all kinds of liquids⁠—water and acids⁠—between the metals. These liquids made the electricity more powerful, so that it was no longer necessary, as before, to rub in order to produce it; it is enough to put pieces of several metals in a bowl and fill it with a liquid, and there will be electricity in that bowl, and the sparks will come from the wires.

When this kind of electricity was discovered, people began to apply it: they invented a way of gold and silver plating by means of electricity, and electric light, and a way to transmit signs from place to place over a long distance by means of electricity.

For this purpose pieces of different metals are placed in jars, and liquids are poured into them. Electricity is collected in these jars, and is transferred by means of wires to the place where it is wanted, and from that place the wire is put into the ground. The electricity runs through the ground back to the jars, and rises from the earth by means of the other wire; thus the electricity keeps going around and around, as in a ring⁠—from the wire into the ground, and along the ground, and up the wire, and again through the earth. Electricity can travel in either direction, just as one wants to send it: it can first go along the wire and return through the earth, or first go through the earth, and then return through the wire. Above the wire, in the place where the signs are given, there is attached a magnetic hand, and that hand turns in one direction, when the electricity is allowed to pass through the wire and back through the earth, and in another direction, when the electricity is sent through the earth and back through the wire. Along this hand there are certain signs, and by means of these signs they write from one place to another on the telegraph.

The Sun’s Heat

Go out in the winter on a calm, frosty day into the field, or into the woods, and look about you and listen: all around you is snow, the rivers are frozen, dry grass blades stick out of the grass, the trees are bare⁠—nothing is moving.

Look in the summer: the rivers are running and rippling, in every puddle the frogs croak and plunge in; the birds fly from place to place, and whistle, and sing; the flies and the gnats whirl around and buzz; the trees and the grass grow and wave to and fro.

Freeze a pot with water, and it will become as hard as a rock. Put the frozen pot on the fire: the ice will begin to break, and melt, and move; the water will begin to stir, and bubbles will rise; then, when it begins to boil, it whirls about and makes a noise. The same happens in the world from the heat. Without heat everything is dead; with the heat everything moves and lives. If there is little heat, there is little motion; with more heat, there is more motion; with much heat, there is much motion; with very much heat, there is also very much motion.

Where does the heat in the world come from? The heat comes from the sun.

In winter the sun travels low, to one side, and its beams do not fall straight upon the earth, and nothing moves. The sun begins to travel higher above our heads, and begins to shine straight down upon the earth, and everything is warmed up in the world, and begins to stir.

The snow settles down; the ice begins to melt on the rivers; the water comes down from the mountains; the vapours rise from the water to the clouds, and rain begins to fall. Who does it all?⁠—The sun. The seeds swell, and let out rootlets; the rootlets take hold of the ground; old roots send up new shoots, and the trees and the grass begin to grow. Who has done that?⁠—The sun.

The bears and moles get up; the flies and bees awaken; the gnats are hatched, and the fish come out from their eggs, when it is warm. Who has done it all?⁠—The sun.

The air gets warmed up in one place, and rises, and in its place comes colder air⁠—and there is a wind. Who has done that?⁠—The sun.

The clouds rise and begin to gather and to scatter⁠—and the lightning flashes. Who has made that fire?⁠—The sun.

The grass, the grain, the fruits, the trees grow up; animals find their food, men eat their fill, and gather food and fuel for the winter; they build themselves houses, railways, cities. Who has prepared it all?⁠—The sun.

A man has built himself a house. What has he made it of? Of timbers. The timbers were cut out of trees, but the trees are made to grow by the sun.

The stove is heated with wood. Who has made the wood to grow?⁠—The sun.

Man eats bread, or potatoes. Who has made them grow?⁠—The sun. Man eats meat. Who has made the animals, the birds to grow?⁠—The grass. But the grass is made to grow by the sun.

A man builds himself a house from brick and lime. The bricks and the lime are burnt by wood. The wood has been prepared by the sun.

Everything that men need, that is for their use⁠—all that is prepared by the sun, and on all that goes much sun’s heat. The reason that men need bread is because the sun has produced it, and because there is much sun’s heat in it. Bread warms him who eats it.

The reason that wood and logs are needed is because there is much heat in them. He who buys wood for the winter, buys sun’s heat; and in the winter he burns the wood whenever he wants it, and lets the sun’s heat into his room.

When there is heat, there is motion. No matter what motion it may be⁠—it all comes from heat, either directly from the sun’s heat, or from the heat which the sun has prepared in the coal, the wood, the bread, and the grass.

Horses and oxen pull, men work⁠—who moves them?⁠—Heat. Where does the heat come from?⁠—From the food. And the food has been prepared by the sun.

Watermills and windmills turn around and grind. Who moves them?⁠—Wind and water. And who drives the wind?⁠—Heat. And who drives the water?⁠—Again heat. Heat raises the water in the shape of vapour, and without this the water would not be falling down. A machine works⁠—it is moved by steam. And who makes steam?⁠—Wood. And in the wood is the sun’s heat.

Heat makes motion, and motion makes heat. And both heat and motion are from the sun.

Stories from Zoology

The Owl and the Hare

It was dusk. The owls began to fly through the forest to find some prey.

A large hare leaped out on a clearing and began to smooth out his fur. An old owl looked at the hare, and seated himself on a branch; but a young owl said to him:

“Why do you not catch the hare?”

The old owl said:

“He is too much for me: if I get caught in him, he will drag me into the woods.”

But the young owl said:

“I will stick one claw into his body, and with the other I will clutch a tree.”

The young owl made for the hare, and stuck one claw into his back so that all his talons entered the flesh, and the other claw it got ready to push into the tree. The hare yanked the owl, while the owl held on to the tree, and thought, “He will not get away.” The hare darted forward and tore the owl. One claw was left in the tree, and the other in the hare’s back.

The next year a hunter killed that hare, and wondered how the owl’s talons had grown into the hare’s back.

How the Wolves Teach Their Whelps

I was walking along the road, and heard a shout behind me. It was the shepherd boy who was shouting. He was running through the field, and pointing to something.

I looked, and saw two wolves running through the field: one was full-grown, and the other a whelp. The whelp was carrying a dead lamb on his shoulders, and holding on to one of its legs with its teeth. The old wolf was running behind. When I saw the wolves, I ran after them with the shepherd, and we began to shout. In response to our cries came peasants with dogs.

The moment the old wolf saw the dogs and the people, he ran up to the whelp, took the lamb away from him, threw it over his back, and both wolves ran as fast as they could, and disappeared from view.

Then the boy told what had happened: the large wolf had leaped out from the ravine, had seized the lamb, killed it, and carried it off.

The whelp ran up to him and grasped the lamb. The old wolf let the whelp carry the lamb, while he himself ran slowly beside him.

Only when there was danger, did the old wolf stop his teaching and himself take the lamb.

Hares and Wolves

The hares feed at night on tree bark; the field hares eat the winter rye and the grass, and the threshing-floor hares eat the grain in the granary. Through the night the hares make a deep, visible track through the snow. The hares are hunted by men, and dogs, and wolves, and foxes, and ravens, and eagles. If a hare walked straight ahead, he would be easily caught in the morning by his tracks; but God has made a hare timid, and his timidity saves him.

A hare goes at night fearlessly through the forests and fields, making straight tracks; but as soon as morning comes and his enemies wake up, and he hears the bark of dogs, or the squeak of sleighs, or the voice of peasants, or the crashing of a wolf through the forest, he begins to toss from side to side in his fear. He jumps forward, gets frightened at something, and runs back on his track. He hears something again, and he leaps at full speed to one side and runs away from his old track. Again something makes a noise, and the hare turns back, and again leaps to one side. When it is daylight, he lies down.

In the morning the hunters try to follow the hare tracks, and they get mixed up on the double tracks and long leaps, and marvel at the hare’s cunning. But the hare did not mean to be cunning. He is merely afraid of everything.

The Scent

Man sees with his eyes, hears with his ears, smells with his nose, tastes with his mouth, and feels with his fingers. One man’s eyes see better, another man’s see worse. One hears from a distance, and another is deaf. One has keen senses and smells a thing from a distance, while another smells at a rotten egg and does not perceive it. One can tell a thing by the touch, and another cannot tell by touch what is wood and what paper. One will take a substance in his mouth and will find it sweet, while another will swallow it without making out whether it is bitter or sweet.

Just so the different senses differ in strength in the animals. But with all the animals the sense of smell is stronger than in man.

When a man wants to recognize a thing, he looks at it, listens to the noise that it makes, now and then smells at it, or tastes it; but, above all, a man has to feel a thing, to recognize it.

But nearly all animals more than anything else need to smell a thing. A horse, a wolf, a dog, a cow, a bear do not know a thing until they smell it.

When a horse is afraid of anything, it snorts⁠—it clears its nose so as to scent better, and does not stop being afraid until it has smelled the object well.

A dog frequently follows its master’s track, but when it sees him, it does not recognize him and begins to bark, until it smells him and finds out that that which has looked so terrible is its master.

Oxen see other oxen stricken down, and hear them roar in the slaughterhouse, but still do not understand what is going on. But an ox or a cow need only find a spot where there is ox blood, and smell it, and it will understand and will roar and strike with its feet, and cannot be driven off the spot.

An old man’s wife had fallen ill; he went himself to milk the cow. The cow snorted⁠—she discovered that it was not her mistress, and would not give him any milk. The mistress told her husband to put on her fur coat and kerchief⁠—and the cow gave milk; but the old man threw open the coat, and the cow scented him, and stopped giving milk.

When hounds follow an animal’s trail, they never run on the track itself, but to one side, about twenty paces from it. When an inexperienced hunter wants to show the dog the scent, and sticks its nose on the track, it will always jump to one side. The track itself smells so strong to the dog that it cannot make out on the track whether the animal has run ahead or backward. It runs to one side, and then only discovers in what direction the scent grows stronger, and so follows the animal. The dog does precisely what we do when somebody speaks very loud in our ears; we step a distance away, and only then do we make out what is being said. Or, if anything we are looking at is too close, we step back and only then make it out.

Dogs recognize each other and make signs to each other by means of their scent.

The scent is more delicate still in insects. A bee flies directly to the flower that it wants to reach; a worm crawls to its leaf; a bedbug, a flea, a mosquito scents a man a hundred thousand of its steps away.

If the particles which separate from a substance and enter our noses are small, how small must be those particles that reach the organ of smell of the insects!

The Silkworm

I had some old mulberry-trees in my garden. My grandfather had planted them. In the fall I was given a dram of silkworm eggs, and was advised to hatch them and raise silkworms. These eggs are dark gray and so small that in that dram I counted 5,835 of them. They are smaller than the tiniest pinhead. They are quite dead; only when you crush them do they crack.

The eggs had been lying around on my table, and I had almost forgotten about them.

One day, in the spring, I went into the orchard and noticed the buds swelling on the mulberry-trees, and where the sun beat down, the leaves were out. I thought of the silkworm eggs, and took them apart at home and gave them more room. The majority of the eggs were no longer dark gray, as before, but some were light gray, while others were lighter still, with a milky shade.

The next morning, I looked at the eggs, and saw that some of the worms had hatched out, while other eggs were quite swollen. Evidently they felt in their shells that their food was ripening.

The worms were black and shaggy, and so small that it was hard to see them. I looked at them through a magnifying-glass, and saw that in the eggs they lay curled up in rings, and when they came out they straightened themselves out. I went to the garden for some mulberry leaves; I got about three handfuls of leaves, which I put on my table, and began to fix a place for the worms, as I had been taught to do.

While I was fixing the paper, the worms smelled their food and started to crawl toward it. I pushed it away, and began to entice the worms to a leaf, and they made for it, as dogs make for a piece of meat, crawling after the leaf over the cloth of the table and across pencils, scissors, and papers. Then I cut off a piece of paper, stuck holes through it with a penknife, placed the leaf on top of it, and with the leaf put it down on the worms. The worms crawled through the holes, climbed on the leaf, and started to eat.

When the other worms hatched out, I again put a piece of paper with a leaf on them, and all crawled through the holes and began to eat. The worms gathered on each leaf and nibbled at it from its edges. Then, when they had eaten everything, they crawled on the paper and looked for more food. Then I put on them new sheets of perforated paper with mulberry leaves upon them, and they crawled over to the new food.

They were lying on my shelf, and when there was no leaf, they climbed about the shelf, and came to its very edge, but they never fell down, though they are blind. The moment a worm comes to an edge, it lets out a web from its mouth before descending, and then it attaches itself to it and lets itself down; it hangs awhile in the air, and watches, and if it wants to get down farther, it does so, and if not, it pulls itself up by its web.

For days at a time the worms did nothing but eat. I had to give them more and more leaves. When a new leaf was brought, and they transferred themselves to it, they made a noise as though a rain were falling on leaves⁠—that was when they began to eat the new leaf.

Thus the older worms lived for five days. They had grown very large and began to eat ten times as much as ever. On the fifth day, I knew, they would fall asleep, and waited for that to happen. Toward evening, on the fifth day, one of the older worms stuck to the paper and stopped eating and stirring.

The whole next day I watched it for a long time. I knew that worms moulted several times, because they grew up and found it close in their old hide, and so put on a new one.

My friend and I watched it by turns. In the evening my friend called out:

“It has begun to undress itself⁠—come!”

I went up to him, and saw that the worm had stuck with its old hide to the paper, had torn a hole at the mouth, thrust forth its head, and was writhing and working to get out, but the old shirt held it fast. I watched it for a long time as it writhed and could not get out, and I wanted to help it. I barely touched it with my nail, but soon saw that I had done something foolish. Under my nail there was something liquid, and the worm died. At first I thought that it was blood, but later I learned that the worm has a liquid mass under its skin, so that the shirt may come off easier. With my nail I no doubt disturbed the new shirt, for, though the worm crawled out, it soon died.

The other worms I did not touch. All of them came out of their shirts in the same manner; only a few died, and nearly all came out safely, though they struggled hard for a long time.

After shedding their skins, the worms began to eat more voraciously, and more leaves were devoured. Four days later they again fell asleep, and again crawled out of their skins. A still larger quantity of leaves was now consumed by them, and they were now a quarter of an inch in length. Six days later they fell asleep once more, and once more came out in new skins, and now were very large and fat, and we had barely time to get leaves ready for them.

On the ninth day the oldest worms quit eating entirely and climbed up the shelves and rods. I gathered them in and gave them fresh leaves, but they turned their heads away from them, and continued climbing. Then I remembered that when the worms get ready to roll up into larvae, they stop eating and climb upward.

I left them alone, and began to watch what they would do.

The eldest worms climbed to the ceiling, scattered about, crawled in all directions, and began to draw out single threads in various directions. I watched one of them. It went into a corner, put forth about six threads each two inches long, hung down from them, bent over in a horseshoe, and began to turn its head and let out a silk web which began to cover it all over. Toward evening it was covered by it as though in a mist; the worm could scarcely be seen. On the following morning the worm could no longer be seen; it was all wrapped in silk, and still it spun out more.

Three days later it finished spinning, and quieted down. Later I learned how much web it had spun in those three days. If the whole web were to be unravelled, it would be more than half a mile in length, seldom less. And if we figure out how many times the worm has to toss its head in these three days in order to let out all the web, it will appear that in these three days the worm tosses its head 300,000 times. Consequently, it makes one turn a second, without stopping. But after the work, when we took down a few cocoons and broke them open, we found inside the worms all dried up and white, looking like pieces of wax.

I knew that from these larvae with their white, waxen bodies would come butterflies; but as I looked at them, I could not believe it. None the less I went to look at them on the twentieth day, to see what had become of them.

On the twentieth day, I knew, there was to be a change. Nothing was to be seen, and I was beginning to think that something was wrong, when suddenly I noticed that the end of one of the cocoons grew dark and moist. I thought that it had probably spoiled, and wanted to throw it away. But then I thought that perhaps it began that way, and so I watched to see what would happen. And, indeed, something began to move at the wet end. For a long time I could not make out what it was. Later there appeared something like a head with whiskers. The whiskers moved. Then I noticed a leg sticking out through the hole, then another, and the legs scrambled to get out of the cocoon. It came out more and more, and I saw a wet butterfly. When all six legs scrambled out, the back jumped out, too, and the butterfly crawled out and stopped. When it dried it was white; it straightened its wings, flew away, circled around, and alighted on the window.

Two days later the butterfly on the windowsill laid eggs in a row, and stuck them fast. The eggs were yellow. Twenty-five butterflies laid eggs. I collected five thousand eggs. The following year I raised more worms, and had more silk spun.

Stories from Botany

The Apple-Tree

I set out two hundred young apple-trees, and for three years I dug around them in the spring and the fall, and in winter wrapped them with straw against the hares. On the fourth year, when the snow melted, I went to take a look at my apple-trees. They had grown stouter during the winter: the bark was glossy and filled with sap; all the branches were sound, and at all the tips and axils there were pea-shaped flower-buds. Here and there the buds were bursting, and the purple edges of the flower-leaves could be seen. I knew that all the buds would be blossoms and fruit, and I was delighted as I looked at the apple-trees. But when I took off the wrapping from the first tree, I saw that down at the ground the bark was nibbled away, like a white ring, to the very wood. The mice had done that. I unwrapped a second tree, and the same had happened there. Of the two hundred trees not one was unharmed. I smeared pitch and wax on the nibbled spots; but when the trees were all in bloom, the blossoms at once fell off; there came out small leaves, and they, too, dropped off. The bark became wrinkled and black. Out of the two hundred apple-trees only nine were left. On these nine trees the bark had not been gnawed through all around, but strips of bark were left on the white ring. On the strips, where the bark held together, there grew out knots, and, although the trees suffered, they lived. All the rest were ruined; below the rings there came out shoots, but they were all wild.

The bark of the tree is like the arteries in man: through the arteries the blood goes to the whole body, and through the bark the sap goes along the tree and reaches the branches, leaves, and flowers. The whole inside of a tree may be taken out, as is often the case with old willows, and yet the tree will live so long as the bark is alive; but when the bark is ruined, the tree is gone. If a man’s arteries are cut through, he will die, in the first place, because the blood will flow out, and in the second, because the blood will not be distributed through the body.

Even thus a birch dries up when the children bore a hole into it, in order to drink its sap, and all the sap flows out of it.

Just so the apple-trees were ruined because the mice gnawed the bark all around, and the sap could not rise from the roots to the branches, leaves, and flowers.

The Old Poplar

For five years our garden was neglected. I hired labourers with axes and shovels, and myself began to work with them in the garden. We cut out and chopped out all the dry branches and wild shoots, and the superfluous trees and bushes. The poplars and bird-cherries grew ranker than the rest and choked the other trees. A poplar grows out from the roots, and it cannot be dug out, but the roots have to be chopped out underground.

Beyond the pond there stood an enormous poplar, two men’s embraces in circumference. About it there was a clearing, and this was all overgrown with poplar shoots. I ordered them to be cut out: I wanted the spot to look more cheerful, but, above all, I wanted to make it easier for the old poplar, because I thought that all those young trees came from its roots, and were draining it of its sap. When we cut out these young poplars, I felt sorry as I saw them chop out the sap-filled roots underground, and as all four of us pulled at the poplar that had been cut down, and could not pull it out. It held on with all its might, and did not wish to die. I thought that, no doubt, they had to live, since they clung so much to life. But it was necessary to cut them down, and so I did it. Only later, when nothing could be done, I learned that they ought not to have been cut down.

I thought that the shoots were taking the sap away from the old poplar, but it turned out quite differently. When I was cutting them down, the old poplar was already dying. When the leaves came out, I saw (it grew from two boughs) that one bough was bare; and that same summer it dried up completely. The tree had been dying for quite awhile, and the tree knew it, so it tried to give its life to the shoots.

That was the reason why they grew so fast. I wanted to make it easier for the tree, and only killed all its children.

The Bird-Cherry

A bird-cherry grew out on a hazel bush path and choked the bushes. I deliberated for a long time whether I had better cut down the bird-cherry, or not. This bird-cherry grew not as a bush, but as a tree, about six inches in diameter and thirty feet high, full of branches and bushy, and all besprinkled with bright, white, fragrant blossoms. You could smell it from a distance. I should not have cut it down, but one of the labourers (to whom I had before given the order to cut down the bird-cherry) had begun to chop it without me. When I came, he had already cut in about three inches, and the sap splashed under the axe whenever it struck the same cut. “It cannot be helped⁠—apparently such is its fate,” I thought, and I picked up an axe myself and began to chop it with the peasant.

It is a pleasure to do any work, and it is a pleasure to chop. It is a pleasure to let the axe enter deeply in a slanting line, and then to chop out the chip by a straight stroke, and to chop farther and farther into the tree.

I had entirely forgotten the bird-cherry, and was thinking only of felling it as quickly as possible. When I got tired, I put down my axe and with the peasant pressed against the tree and tried to make it fall. We bent it: the tree trembled with its leaves, and the dew showered down upon us, and the white, fragrant petals of the blossoms fell down.

At the same time something seemed to cry⁠—the middle of the tree creaked; we pressed against it, and it was as though something wept, there was a crash in the middle, and the tree tottered. It broke at the notch and, swaying, fell with its branches and blossoms into the grass. The twigs and blossoms trembled for awhile after the fall, and stopped.

“It was a fine tree!” said the peasant. “I am mightily sorry for it!”

I myself felt so sorry for it that I hurried away to the other labourers.

How Trees Walk

One day we were cleaning an overgrown path on a hillock near the pond. We cut down a lot of brier bushes, willows, and poplars⁠—then came the turn of a bird-cherry. It was growing on the path, and it was so old and stout that it could not be less than ten years old. And yet I knew that five years ago the garden had been cleaned. I could not understand how such an old bird-cherry could have grown out there. We cut it down and went farther. Farther away, in another thicket, there grew a similar bird-cherry, even stouter than the first. I looked at its root, and saw that it grew under an old linden. The linden with its branches choked it, and it had stretched out about twelve feet in a straight line, and only then came out to the light, raised its head, and began to blossom.

I cut it down at the root, and was surprised to find it so fresh, while the root was rotten. After we had cut it down, the peasants and I tried to pull it off; but no matter how much we jerked at it, we were unable to drag it away: it seemed to have stuck fast. I said:

“Look whether it has not caught somewhere.”

A workman crawled under it, and called out:

“It has another root; it is out on the path!”

I walked over to him, and saw that it was so.

Not to be choked by the linden, the bird-cherry had gone away from underneath the linden out on the path, about eight feet from its former root. The root which I had cut down was rotten and dry, but the new one was fresh. The bird-cherry had evidently felt that it could not exist under the linden, so it had stretched out, dropped a branch to the ground, made a root of that branch, and left the other root. Only then did I understand how the first bird-cherry had grown out on the road. It had evidently done the same⁠—only it had had time to give up the old root, and so I had not found it.

God Sees the Truth, but Waits

In the town of Vladímir lived a young merchant named Iván Dmítritch Aksyónof. He had two shops and a house of his own.

Aksyónof was a handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing. When quite a young man he had been given to drink, and was riotous when he had had too much; but after he married he gave up drinking, except now and then.

One summer Aksyónof was going to the Nízhny Fair, and as he bade goodbye to his family his wife said to him, “Iván Dmítritch, do not start today; I have had a bad dream about you.”

Aksyónof laughed, and said, “You are afraid that when I get to the fair I shall go on the spree.”

His wife replied: “I do not know what I am afraid of; all I know is that I had a bad dream. I dreamt you returned from the town, and when you took off your cap I saw that your hair was quite grey.”

Aksyónof laughed. “That’s a lucky sign,” said he. “See if I don’t sell out all my goods, and bring you some presents from the fair.”

So he said goodbye to his family, and drove away.

When he had travelled halfway, he met a merchant whom he knew, and they put up at the same inn for the night. They had some tea together, and then went to bed in adjoining rooms.

It was not Aksyónof’s habit to sleep late, and, wishing to travel while it was still cool, he aroused his driver before dawn, and told him to put in the horses.

Then he made his way across to the landlord of the inn (who lived in a cottage at the back), paid his bill, and continued his journey.

When he had gone about twenty-five miles, he stopped for the horses to be fed. Aksyónof rested awhile in the passage of the inn, then he stepped out into the porch, and, ordering a samovar219 to be heated, got out his guitar and began to play.

Suddenly a troika220 drove up with tinkling bells, and an official alighted, followed by two soldiers. He came to Aksyónof and began to question him, asking him who he was and whence he came. Aksyónof answered him fully, and said, “Won’t you have some tea with me?” But the official went on cross-questioning him and asking him, “Where did you spend last night? Were you alone, or with a fellow-merchant? Did you see the other merchant this morning? Why did you leave the inn before dawn?”

Aksyónof wondered why he was asked all these questions, but he described all that had happened, and then added, “Why do you cross-question me as if I were a thief or a robber? I am travelling on business of my own, and there is no need to question me.”

Then the official, calling the soldiers, said, “I am the police-officer of this district, and I question you because the merchant with whom you spent last night has been found with his throat cut. We must search your things.”

They entered the house. The soldiers and the police-officer unstrapped Aksyónof’s luggage and searched it. Suddenly the officer drew a knife out of a bag, crying, “Whose knife is this?”

Aksyónof looked, and seeing a bloodstained knife taken from his bag, he was frightened.

“How is it there is blood on this knife?”

Aksyónof tried to answer, but could hardly utter a word, and only stammered: “I⁠—I don’t know⁠—not mine.”

Then the police-officer said, “This morning the merchant was found in bed with his throat cut. You are the only person who could have done it. The house was locked from inside, and no one else was there. Here is this bloodstained knife in your bag, and your face and manner betray you! Tell me how you killed him, and how much money you stole?”

Aksyónof swore he had not done it; that he had not seen the merchant after they had had tea together; that he had no money except eight thousand roubles221 of his own, and that the knife was not his. But his voice was broken, his face pale, and he trembled with fear as though he were guilty.

The police-officer ordered the soldiers to bind Aksyónof and to put him in the cart. As they tied his feet together and flung him into the cart, Aksyónof crossed himself and wept. His money and goods were taken from him, and he was sent to the nearest town and imprisoned there. Enquiries as to his character were made in Vladímir. The merchants and other inhabitants of that town said that in former days he used to drink and waste his time, but that he was a good man. Then the trial came on: he was charged with murdering a merchant from Ryazán, and robbing him of twenty thousand roubles.

His wife was in despair, and did not know what to believe. Her children were all quite small; one was a baby at her breast. Taking them all with her, she went to the town where her husband was in gaol. At first she was not allowed to see him; but, after much begging, she obtained permission from the officials, and was taken to him. When she saw her husband in prison-dress and in chains, shut up with thieves and criminals, she fell down, and did not come to her senses for a long time. Then she drew her children to her, and sat down near him. She told him of things at home, and asked about what had happened to him. He told her all, and she asked, “What can we do now?”

“We must petition the Tsar not to let an innocent man perish.”

His wife told him that she had sent a petition to the Tsar, but that it had not been accepted.

Aksyónof did not reply, but only looked downcast.

Then his wife said, “It was not for nothing I dreamt your hair had turned grey. You remember? You should not have started that day.” And passing her fingers through his hair, she said: “Ványa dearest, tell your wife the truth; was it not you who did it?”

“So you, too, suspect me!” said Aksyónof, and, hiding his face in his hands, he began to weep. Then a soldier came to say that the wife and children must go away; and Aksyónof said goodbye to his family for the last time.

When they were gone, Aksyónof recalled what had been said, and when he remembered that his wife also had suspected him, he said to himself, “It seems that only God can know the truth; it is to Him alone we must appeal, and from Him alone expect mercy.”

And Aksyónof wrote no more petitions; gave up all hope, and only prayed to God.

Aksyónof was condemned to be flogged and sent to the mines. So he was flogged with a knout, and when the wounds made by the knout were healed, he was driven to Siberia with other convicts.

For twenty-six years Aksyónof lived as a convict in Siberia. His hair turned white as snow, and his beard grew long, thin, and grey. All his mirth went; he stooped; he walked slowly, spoke little, and never laughed, but he often prayed.

In prison Aksyónof learnt to make boots, and earned a little money, with which he bought The Lives of the Saints. He read this book when there was light enough in the prison; and on Sundays in the prison-church he read the lessons and sang in the choir; for his voice was still good.

The prison authorities liked Aksyónof for his meekness, and his fellow-prisoners respected him: they called him “Grandfather,” and “The Saint.” When they wanted to petition the prison authorities about anything, they always made Aksyónof their spokesman, and when there were quarrels among the prisoners they came to him to put things right, and to judge the matter.

No news reached Aksyónof from his home, and he did not even know if his wife and children were still alive.

One day a fresh gang of convicts came to the prison. In the evening the old prisoners collected round the new ones and asked them what towns or villages they came from, and what they were sentenced for. Among the rest Aksyónof sat down near the newcomers, and listened with downcast air to what was said.

One of the new convicts, a tall, strong man of sixty, with a closely-cropped grey beard, was telling the others what he had been arrested for.

“Well, friends,” he said, “I only took a horse that was tied to a sledge, and I was arrested and accused of stealing. I said I had only taken it to get home quicker, and had then let it go; besides, the driver was a personal friend of mine. So I said, ‘It’s all right.’ ‘No,’ said they, ‘you stole it.’ But how or where I stole it they could not say. I once really did something wrong, and ought by rights to have come here long ago, but that time I was not found out. Now I have been sent here for nothing at all.⁠ ⁠… Eh, but it’s lies I’m telling you; I’ve been to Siberia before, but I did not stay long.”

“Where are you from?” asked someone.

“From Vladímir. My family are of that town. My name is Makár, and they also call me Semyónitch.”

Aksyónof raised his head and said: “Tell me, Semyónitch, do you know anything of the merchants Aksyónof, of Vladímir? Are they still alive?”

“Know them? Of course I do. The Aksyónofs are rich, though their father is in Siberia: a sinner like ourselves, it seems! As for you, Gran’dad, how did you come here?”

Aksyónof did not like to speak of his misfortune. He only sighed, and said, “For my sins I have been in prison these twenty-six years.”

“What sins?” asked Makár Semyónitch.

But Aksyónof only said, “Well, well⁠—I must have deserved it!” He would have said no more, but his companions told the newcomer how Aksyónof came to be in Siberia: how someone had killed a merchant, and had put a knife among Aksyónof’s things, and Aksyónof had been unjustly condemned.

When Makár Semyónitch heard this, he looked at Aksyónof, slapped his own knee, and exclaimed, “Well, this is wonderful! Really wonderful! But how old you’ve grown, Gran’dad!”

The others asked him why he was so surprised, and where he had seen Aksyónof before; but Makár Semyónitch did not reply. He only said: “It’s wonderful that we should meet here, lads!”

These words made Aksyónof wonder whether this man knew who had killed the merchant; so he said, “Perhaps, Semyónitch, you have heard of that affair, or maybe you’ve seen me before?”

“How could I help hearing? The world’s full of rumours. But it’s long ago, and I’ve forgotten what I heard.”

“Perhaps you heard who killed the merchant?” asked Aksyónof.

Makár Semyónitch laughed, and replied, “It must have been him in whose bag the knife was found! If someone else hid the knife there, ‘He’s not a thief till he’s caught,’ as the saying is. How could anyone put a knife into your bag while it was under your head? It would surely have woke you up?”

When Aksyónof heard these words, he felt sure this was the man who had killed the merchant. He rose and went away. All that night Aksyónof lay awake. He felt terribly unhappy, and all sorts of images rose in his mind. There was the image of his wife as she was when he parted from her to go to the fair. He saw her as if she were present; her face and her eyes rose before him; he heard her speak and laugh. Then he saw his children, quite little, as they were at that time: one with a little cloak on, another at his mother’s breast. And then he remembered himself as he used to be⁠—young and merry. He remembered how he sat playing the guitar in the porch of the inn where he was arrested, and how free from care he had been. He saw, in his mind, the place where he was flogged, the executioner, and the people standing around; the chains, the convicts, all the twenty-six years of his prison life, and his premature old age. The thought of it all made him so wretched that he was ready to kill himself.

“And it’s all that villain’s doing!” thought Aksyónof. And his anger was so great against Makár Semyónitch that he longed for vengeance, even if he himself should perish for it. He kept repeating prayers all night, but could get no peace. During the day he did not go near Makár Semyónitch, nor even look at him.

A fortnight passed in this way. Aksyónof could not sleep at nights, and was so miserable that he did not know what to do.

One night as he was walking about the prison he noticed some earth that came rolling out from under one of the shelves on which the prisoners slept. He stopped to see what it was. Suddenly Makár Semyónitch crept out from under the shelf, and looked up at Aksyónof with frightened face. Aksyónof tried to pass without looking at him, but Makár seized his hand and told him that he had dug a hole under the wall, getting rid of the earth by putting it into his high-boots, and emptying it out every day on the road when the prisoners were driven to their work.

“Just you keep quiet, old man, and you shall get out too. If you blab they’ll flog the life out of me, but I will kill you first.”

Aksyónof trembled with anger as he looked at his enemy. He drew his hand away, saying, “I have no wish to escape, and you have no need to kill me; you killed me long ago! As to telling of you⁠—I may do so or not, as God shall direct.”

Next day, when the convicts were led out to work, the convoy soldiers noticed that one or other of the prisoners emptied some earth out of his boots. The prison was searched, and the tunnel found. The Governor came and questioned all the prisoners to find out who had dug the hole. They all denied any knowledge of it. Those who knew, would not betray Makár Semyónitch, knowing he would be flogged almost to death. At last the Governor turned to Aksyónof, whom he knew to be a just man, and said:

“You are a truthful old man; tell me, before God, who dug the hole?”

Makár Semyónitch stood as if he were quite unconcerned, looking at the Governor and not so much as glancing at Aksyónof. Aksyónof’s lips and hands trembled, and for a long time he could not utter a word. He thought, “Why should I screen him who ruined my life? Let him pay for what I have suffered. But if I tell, they will probably flog the life out of him, and maybe I suspect him wrongly. And, after all, what good would it be to me?”

“Well, old man,” repeated the Governor, “tell us the truth: who has been digging under the wall?”

Aksyónof glanced at Makár Semyónitch, and said, “I cannot say, your honour. It is not God’s will that I should tell! Do what you like with me; I am in your hands.”

However much the Governor tried, Aksyónof would say no more, and so the matter had to be left.

That night, when Aksyónof was lying on his bed and just beginning to doze, someone came quietly and sat down on his bed. He peered through the darkness and recognized Makár.

“What more do you want of me?” asked Aksyónof. “Why have you come here?”

Makár Semyónitch was silent. So Aksyónof sat up and said, “What do you want? Go away, or I will call the guard!”

Makár Semyónitch bent close over Aksyónof, and whispered, “Iván Dmítritch, forgive me!”

“What for?” asked Aksyónof.

“It was I who killed the merchant and hid the knife among your things. I meant to kill you too, but I heard a noise outside; so I hid the knife in your bag and escaped out of the window.”

Aksyónof was silent, and did not know what to say. Makár Semyónitch slid off the bed-shelf and knelt upon the ground. “Iván Dmítritch,” said he, “forgive me! For the love of God, forgive me! I will confess that it was I who killed the merchant, and you will be released and can go to your home.”

“It is easy for you to talk,” said Aksyónof, “but I have suffered for you these twenty-six years. Where could I go to now?⁠ ⁠… My wife is dead, and my children have forgotten me. I have nowhere to go.⁠ ⁠…”

Makár Semyónitch did not rise, but beat his head on the floor. “Iván Dmítritch, forgive me!” he cried. “When they flogged me with the knout it was not so hard to bear as it is to see you now⁠ ⁠… yet you had pity on me, and did not tell. For Christ’s sake forgive me, wretch that I am!” And he began to sob.

When Aksyónof heard him sobbing he, too, began to weep.

“God will forgive you!” said he. “Maybe I am a hundred times worse than you.” And at these words his heart grew light, and the longing for home left him. He no longer had any desire to leave the prison, but only hoped for his last hour to come.

In spite of what Aksyónof had said, Makár Semyónitch confessed his guilt. But when the order for his release came, Aksyónof was already dead.

(Written in 1872.)

The Bear-Hunt222

We were out on a bear-hunting expedition. My comrade had shot at a bear, but only gave him a flesh-wound. There were traces of blood on the snow, but the bear had got away.

We all collected in a group in the forest, to decide whether we ought to go after the bear at once, or wait two or three days till he should settle down again. We asked the peasant bear-drivers whether it would be possible to get round the bear that day.

“No. It’s impossible,” said an old bear-driver. “You must let the bear quiet down. In five days’ time it will be possible to surround him; but if you followed him now, you would only frighten him away, and he would not settle down.”

But a young bear-driver began disputing with the old man, saying that it was quite possible to get round the bear now.

“On such snow as this,” said he, “he won’t go far, for he is a fat bear. He will settle down before evening; or, if not, I can overtake him on snowshoes.”

The comrade I was with was against following up the bear, and advised waiting. But I said:

“We need not argue. You do as you like, but I will follow up the track with Damian. If we get round the bear, all right. If not, we lose nothing. It is still early, and there is nothing else for us to do today.”

So it was arranged.

The others went back to the sledges, and returned to the village. Damian and I took some bread, and remained behind in the forest.

When they had all left us, Damian and I examined our guns, and after tucking the skirts of our warm coats into our belts, we started off, following the bear’s tracks.

The weather was fine, frosty and calm; but it was hard work snowshoeing. The snow was deep and soft: it had not caked together at all in the forest, and fresh snow had fallen the day before, so that our snowshoes sank six inches deep in the snow, and sometimes more.

The bear’s tracks were visible from a distance, and we could see how he had been going; sometimes sinking in up to his belly and ploughing up the snow as he went. At first, while under large trees, we kept in sight of his track; but when it turned into a thicket of small firs, Damian stopped.

“We must leave the trail now,” said he. “He has probably settled somewhere here. You can see by the snow that he has been squatting down. Let us leave the track and go round; but we must go quietly. Don’t shout or cough, or we shall frighten him away.”

Leaving the track, therefore, we turned off to the left. But when we had gone about five hundred yards, there were the bear’s traces again right before us. We followed them, and they brought us out onto the road. There we stopped, examining the road to see which way the bear had gone. Here and there in the snow were prints of the bear’s paw, claws and all, and here and there the marks of a peasant’s bark shoes. The bear had evidently gone towards the village.

As we followed the road, Damian said:

“It’s no use watching the road now. We shall see where he has turned off, to right or left, by the marks in the soft snow at the side. He must have turned off somewhere; for he won’t have gone on to the village.”

We went along the road for nearly a mile, and then saw, ahead of us, the bear’s track turning off the road. We examined it. How strange! It was a bear’s track right enough, only not going from the road into the forest, but from the forest onto the road! The toes were pointing towards the road.

“This must be another bear,” I said.

Damian looked at it, and considered awhile.

“No,” said he. “It’s the same one. He’s been playing tricks, and walked backwards when he left the road.”

We followed the track, and found it really was so! The bear had gone some ten steps backwards, and then, behind a fir tree, had turned round and gone straight ahead. Damian stopped and said:

“Now, we are sure to get round him. There is a marsh ahead of us, and he must have settled down there. Let us go round it.”

We began to make our way round, through a fir thicket. I was tired out by this time, and it had become still more difficult to get along. Now I glided onto juniper bushes and caught my snowshoes in them, now a tiny fir tree appeared between my feet, or, from want of practise, my snowshoes slipped off; and now I came upon a stump or a log hidden by the snow. I was getting very tired, and was drenched with perspiration; and I took off my fur cloak. And there was Damian all the time, gliding along as if in a boat, his snowshoes moving as if of their own accord, never catching against anything, nor slipping off. He even took my fur and slung it over his shoulder, and still kept urging me on.

We went on for two more miles, and came out on the other side of the marsh. I was lagging behind. My snowshoes kept slipping off, and my feet stumbled. Suddenly Damian, who was ahead of me, stopped and waved his arm. When I came up to him, he bent down, pointing with his hand, and whispered:

“Do you see the magpie chattering above that undergrowth? It scents the bear from afar. That is where he must be.”

We turned off and went on for more than another half-mile, and presently we came onto the old track again. We had, therefore, been right round the bear, who was now within the track we had left. We stopped, and I took off my cap and loosened all my clothes. I was as hot as in a steam bath, and as wet as a drowned rat. Damian too was flushed, and wiped his face with his sleeve.

“Well, sir,” he said, “we have done our job, and now we must have a rest.”

The evening glow already showed red through the forest. We took off our snowshoes and sat down on them, and got some bread and salt out of our bags. First I ate some snow, and then some bread; and the bread tasted so good, that I thought I had never in my life had any like it before. We sat there resting until it began to grow dusk, and then I asked Damian if it was far to the village.

“Yes,” he said. “It must be about eight miles. We will go on there tonight, but now we must rest. Put on your fur coat, sir, or you’ll be catching cold.”

Damian flattened down the snow, and breaking off some fir branches made a bed of them. We lay down side by side, resting our heads on our arms. I do not remember how I fell asleep. Two hours later I woke up, hearing something crack.

I had slept so soundly that I did not know where I was. I looked around me. How wonderful! I was in some sort of a hall, all glittering and white with gleaming pillars, and when I looked up I saw, through delicate white tracery, a vault, raven black and studded with coloured lights. After a good look, I remembered that we were in the forest, and that what I took for a hall and pillars, were trees covered with snow and hoarfrost, and the coloured lights were stars twinkling between the branches.

Hoarfrost had settled in the night; all the twigs were thick with it, Damian was covered with it, it was on my fur coat, and it dropped down from the trees. I woke Damian; and we put on our snowshoes and started. It was very quiet in the forest. No sound was heard but that of our snowshoes pushing through the soft snow; except when now and then a tree, cracked by the frost, made the forest resound. Only once we heard the sound of a living creature. Something rustled close to us, and then rushed away. I felt sure it was the bear, but when we went to the spot whence the sound had come, we found the footmarks of hares, and saw several young aspen trees with their bark gnawed. We had startled some hares while they were feeding.

We came out on the road, and followed it, dragging our snowshoes behind us. It was easy walking now. Our snowshoes clattered as they slid behind us from side to side of the hard-trodden road. The snow creaked under our boots, and the cold hoarfrost settled on our faces like down. Seen through the branches, the stars seemed to be running to meet us, now twinkling, now vanishing, as if the whole sky were on the move.

I found my comrade sleeping, but woke him up, and related how we had got round the bear. After telling our peasant host to collect beaters for the morning, we had supper and lay down to sleep.

I was so tired that I could have slept on till midday, if my comrade had not roused me. I jumped up, and saw that he was already dressed, and busy doing something to his gun.

“Where is Damian?” said I.

“In the forest, long ago. He has already been over the tracks you made, and been back here, and now he has gone to look after the beaters.”

I washed and dressed, and loaded my guns; and then we got into a sledge, and started.

The sharp frost still continued. It was quiet, and the sun could not be seen. There was a thick mist above us, and hoarfrost still covered everything.

After driving about two miles along the road, as we came near the forest, we saw a cloud of smoke rising from a hollow, and presently reached a group of peasants, both men and women, armed with cudgels.

We got out and went up to them. The men sat roasting potatoes, and laughing and talking with the women.

Damian was there too; and when we arrived the people got up, and Damian led them away to place them in the circle we had made the day before. They went along in single file, men and women, thirty in all. The snow was so deep that we could only see them from their waists upwards. They turned into the forest, and my friend and I followed in their track.

Though they had trodden a path, walking was difficult; but, on the other hand, it was impossible to fall: it was like walking between two walls of snow.

We went on in this way for nearly half a mile, when all at once we saw Damian coming from another direction⁠—running towards us on his snowshoes, and beckoning us to join him. We went towards him, and he showed us where to stand. I took my place, and looked round me.

To my left were tall fir trees, between the trunks of which I could see a good way, and, like a black patch just visible behind the trees, I could see a beater. In front of me was a thicket of young firs, about as high as a man, their branches weighed down and stuck together with snow. Through this copse ran a path thickly covered with snow, and leading straight up to where I stood. The thicket stretched away to the right of me, and ended in a small glade, where I could see Damian placing my comrade.

I examined both my guns, and considered where I had better stand. Three steps behind me was a tall fir.

“That’s where I’ll stand,” thought I, “and then I can lean my second gun against the tree”; and I moved towards the tree, sinking up to my knees in the snow at each step. I trod the snow down, and made a clearance about a yard square, to stand on. One gun I kept in my hand; the other, ready cocked, I placed leaning up against the tree. Then I unsheathed and replaced my dagger, to make sure that I could draw it easily in case of need.

Just as I had finished these preparations, I heard Damian shouting in the forest:

“He’s up! He’s up!”

And as soon as Damian shouted, the peasants round the circle all replied in their different voices.

“Up, up, up! Ou! Ou! Ou!” shouted the men.

“Ay! Ay! Ay!” screamed the women in high-pitched tones.

The bear was inside the circle, and as Damian drove him on, the people all round kept shouting. Only my friend and I stood silent and motionless, waiting for the bear to come towards us. As I stood gazing and listening, my heart beat violently. I trembled, holding my gun fast.

“Now now,” I thought. “He will come suddenly. I shall aim, fire, and he will drop⁠—”

Suddenly, to my left, but at a distance, I heard something falling on the snow. I looked between the tall fir trees, and, some fifty paces off, behind the trunks, saw something big and black. I took aim and waited, thinking:

“Won’t he come any nearer?”

As I waited I saw him move his ears, turn, and go back; and then I caught a glimpse of the whole of him in profile. He was an immense brute. In my excitement, I fired, and heard my bullet go “flop” against a tree. Peering through the smoke, I saw my bear scampering back into the circle, and disappearing among the trees.

“Well,” thought I. “My chance is lost. He won’t come back to me. Either my comrade will shoot him, or he will escape through the line of beaters. In any case he won’t give me another chance.”

I reloaded my gun, however, and again stood listening. The peasants were shouting all round, but to the right, not far from where my comrade stood, I heard a woman screaming in a frenzied voice:

“Here he is! Here he is! Come here, come here! Oh! Oh! Ay! Ay!”

Evidently she could see the bear. I had given up expecting him, and was looking to the right at my comrade. All at once I saw Damian with a stick in his hand, and without his snowshoes, running along a footpath towards my friend. He crouched down beside him, pointing his stick as if aiming at something, and then I saw my friend raise his gun and aim in the same direction. Crack! He fired.

“There,” thought I. “He has killed him.”

But I saw that my comrade did not run towards the bear. Evidently he had missed him, or the shot had not taken full effect.

“The bear will get away,” I thought. “He will go back, but he won’t come a second time towards me.⁠—But what is that?”

Something was coming towards me like a whirlwind, snorting as it came; and I saw the snow flying up quite near me. I glanced straight before me, and there was the bear, rushing along the path through the thicket right at me, evidently beside himself with fear. He was hardly half a dozen paces off, and I could see the whole of him⁠—his black chest and enormous head with a reddish patch. There he was, blundering straight at me, and scattering the snow about as he came. I could see by his eyes that he did not see me, but, mad with fear, was rushing blindly along; and his path led him straight at the tree under which I was standing. I raised my gun and fired. He was almost upon me now, and I saw that I had missed. My bullet had gone past him, and he did not even hear me fire, but still came headlong towards me. I lowered my gun, and fired again, almost touching his head. Crack! I had hit, but not killed him!

He raised his head, and laying his ears back, came at me, showing his teeth.

I snatched at my other gun, but almost before I had touched it, he had flown at me and, knocking me over into the snow, had passed right over me.

“Thank goodness, he has left me,” thought I.

I tried to rise, but something pressed me down, and prevented my getting up. The bear’s rush had carried him past me, but he had turned back, and had fallen on me with the whole weight of his body. I felt something heavy weighing me down, and something warm above my face, and I realized that he was drawing my whole face into his mouth. My nose was already in it, and I felt the heat of it, and smelt his blood. He was pressing my shoulders down with his paws so that I could not move: all I could do was to draw my head down towards my chest away from his mouth, trying to free my nose and eyes, while he tried to get his teeth into them. Then I felt that he had seized my forehead just under the hair with the teeth of his lower jaw, and the flesh below my eyes with his upper jaw, and was closing his teeth. It was as if my face were being cut with knives. I struggled to get away, while he made haste to close his jaws like a dog gnawing. I managed to twist my face away, but he began drawing it again into his mouth.

“Now,” thought I, “my end has come!”

Then I felt the weight lifted, and looking up, I saw that he was no longer there. He had jumped off me and run away.

When my comrade and Damian had seen the bear knock me down and begin worrying me, they rushed to the rescue. My comrade, in his haste, blundered, and instead of following the trodden path, ran into the deep snow and fell down. While he was struggling out of the snow, the bear was gnawing at me. But Damian just as he was, without a gun, and with only a stick in his hand, rushed along the path shouting:

“He’s eating the master! He’s eating the master!”

And as he ran, he called to the bear:

“Oh you idiot! What are you doing? Leave off! Leave off!”

The bear obeyed him, and leaving me ran away. When I rose, there was as much blood on the snow as if a sheep had been killed, and the flesh hung in rags above my eyes, though in my excitement I felt no pain.

My comrade had come up by this time, and the other people collected round: they looked at my wound, and put snow on it. But I, forgetting about my wounds, only asked:

“Where’s the bear? Which way has he gone?”

Suddenly I heard:

“Here he is! Here he is!”

And we saw the bear again running at us. We seized our guns, but before anyone had time to fire he had run past. He had grown ferocious, and wanted to gnaw me again, but seeing so many people he took fright. We saw by his track that his head was bleeding, and we wanted to follow him up; but, as my wounds had become very painful, we went, instead, to the town to find a doctor.

The doctor stitched up my wounds with silk, and they soon began to heal.

A month later we went to hunt that bear again, but I did not get a chance of finishing him. He would not come out of the circle, but went round and round, growling in a terrible voice.

Damian killed him. The bear’s lower jaw had been broken, and one of his teeth knocked out by my bullet.

He was a huge creature, and had splendid black fur.

I had him stuffed, and he now lies in my room. The wounds on my forehead healed up so that the scars can scarcely be seen.

(Written about 1872.)

Memoirs of a Lunatic

This morning I underwent a medical examination in the government council room. The opinions of the doctors were divided. They argued among themselves and came at last to the conclusion that I was not mad. But this was due to the fact that I tried hard during the examination not to give myself away. I was afraid of being sent to the lunatic asylum, where I would not be able to go on with the mad undertaking I have on my hands. They pronounced me subject to fits of excitement, and something else, too, but nevertheless of sound mind. The doctor prescribed a certain treatment, and assured me that by following his directions my trouble would completely disappear. Imagine, all that torments me disappearing completely! Oh, there is nothing I would not give to be free from my trouble. The suffering is too great!

I am going to tell explicitly how I came to undergo that examination; how I went mad, and how my madness was revealed to the outside world.

Up to the age of thirty-five I lived like the rest of the world, and nobody had noticed any peculiarities in me. Only in my early childhood, before I was ten, I had occasionally been in a mental state similar to the present one, and then only at intervals, whereas now I am continually conscious of it.

I remember going to bed one evening, when I was a child of five or six. Nurse Euprasia, a tall, lean woman in a brown dress, with a double chin, was undressing me, and was just lifting me up to put me into bed.

“I will get into bed myself,” I said, preparing to step over the net at the bedside.

“Lie down, Fedinka. You see, Mitinka is already lying quite still,” she said, pointing with her head to my brother in his bed.

I jumped into my bed still holding nurse’s hand in mine. Then I let it go, stretched my legs under the blanket and wrapped myself up. I felt so nice and warm! I grew silent all of a sudden and began thinking: “I love nurse, nurse loves me and Mitinka, I love Mitinka too, and he loves me and nurse. And nurse loves Taras; I love Taras too, and so does Mitinka. And Taras loves me and nurse. And mother loves me and nurse, nurse loves mother and me and father; everybody loves everybody, and everybody is happy.”

Suddenly the housekeeper rushed in and began to shout in an angry voice something about a sugar basin she could not find. Nurse got cross and said she did not take it. I felt frightened; it was all so strange. A cold horror came over me, and I hid myself under the blanket. But I felt no better in the darkness under the blanket. I thought of a boy who had got a thrashing one day in my presence⁠—of his screams, and of the cruel face of Foka when he was beating the boy.

“Then you won’t do it anymore; you won’t!” he repeated and went on beating.

“I won’t,” said the boy; and Foka kept on repeating over and over, “You won’t, you won’t!” and did not cease to strike the boy.

That was when my madness came over me for the first time. I burst into sobs, and they could not quiet me for a long while. The tears and despair of that day were the first signs of my present trouble.

I well remember the second time my madness seized me. It was when aunt was telling us about Christ. She told His story and got up to leave the room. But we held her back: “Tell us more about Jesus Christ!” we said.

“I must go,” she replied.

“No, tell us more, please!” Mitinka insisted, and she repeated all she had said before. She told us how they crucified Him, how they beat and martyred Him, and how He went on praying and did not blame them.

“Auntie, why did they torture Him?”

“They were wicked.”

“But wasn’t he God?”

“Be still⁠—it is nine o’clock, don’t you hear the clock striking?”

“Why did they beat Him? He had forgiven them. Then why did they hit Him? Did it hurt Him? Auntie, did it hurt?”

“Be quiet, I say. I am going to the dining-room to have tea now.”

“But perhaps it never happened, perhaps He was not beaten by them?”

“I am going.”

“No, Auntie, don’t go!⁠ ⁠…” And again my madness took possession of me. I sobbed and sobbed, and began knocking my head against the wall.

Such had been the fits of my madness in my childhood. But after I was fourteen, from the time the instincts of sex awoke and I began to give way to vice, my madness seemed to have passed, and I was a boy like other boys. Just as happens with all of us who are brought up on rich, overabundant food, and are spoiled and made effeminate, because we never do any physical work, and are surrounded by all possible temptations, which excite our sensual nature when in the company of other children similarly spoiled, so I had been taught vice by other boys of my age and I indulged in it. As time passed other vices came to take the place of the first. I began to know women, and so I went on living, up to the time I was thirty-five, looking out for all kinds of pleasures and enjoying them. I had a perfectly sound mind then, and never a sign of madness. Those twenty years of my normal life passed without leaving any special record on my memory, and now it is only with a great effort of mind and with utter disgust, that I can concentrate my thoughts upon that time.

Like all the boys of my set, who were of sound mind, I entered school, passed on to the university and went through a course of law studies. Then I entered the State service for a short time, married, and settled down in the country, educating⁠—if our way of bringing up children can be called educating⁠—my children, looking after the land, and filling the post of a Justice of the Peace.

It was when I had been married ten years that one of those attacks of madness I suffered from in my childhood made its appearance again. My wife and I had saved up money from her inheritance and from some Government bonds226 of mine which I had sold, and we decided that with that money we would buy another estate. I was naturally keen to increase our fortune, and to do it in the shrewdest way, better than anyone else would manage it. I went about inquiring what estates were to be sold, and used to read all the advertisements in the papers. What I wanted was to buy an estate, the produce or timber of which would cover the cost of purchase, and then I would have the estate practically for nothing. I was looking out for a fool who did not understand business, and there came a day when I thought I had found one. An estate with large forests attached to it was to be sold in the Pensa Government. To judge by the information I had received the proprietor of that estate was exactly the imbecile I wanted, and I might expect the forests to cover the price asked for the whole estate. I got my things ready and was soon on my way to the estate I wished to inspect.

We had first to go by train (I had taken my manservant with me), then by coach, with relays of horses at the various stations. The journey was very pleasant, and my servant, a good-natured youth, liked it as much as I did. We enjoyed the new surroundings and the new people, and having now only about two hundred miles more to drive, we decided to go on without stopping, except to change horses at the stations. Night came on and we were still driving. I had been dozing, but presently I awoke, seized with a sudden fear. As often happens in such a case, I was so excited that I was thoroughly awake and it seemed as if sleep were gone forever. “Why am I driving? Where am I going?” I suddenly asked myself. It was not that I disliked the idea of buying an estate at a bargain, but it seemed at that moment so senseless to journey to such a far away place, and I had a feeling as if I were going to die there, away from home. I was overcome with terror.

My servant Sergius awoke, and I took advantage of the fact to talk to him. I began to remark upon the scenery around us; he had also a good deal to say, of the people at home, of the pleasure of the journey, and it seemed strange to me that he could talk so gaily. He appeared so pleased with everything and in such good spirits, whereas I was annoyed with it all. Still, I felt more at ease when I was talking with him. Along with my feelings of restlessness and my secret horror, however, I was fatigued as well, and longed to break the journey somewhere. It seemed to me my uneasiness would cease if I could only enter a room, have tea, and, what I desired most of all, sleep.

We were approaching the town Arzamas.

“Don’t you think we had better stop here and have a rest?”

“Why not? It’s an excellent idea.”

“How far are we from the town?” I asked the driver.

“Another seven miles.”

The driver was a quiet, silent man. He was driving rather slowly and wearily.

We drove on. I was silent, but I felt better, looking forward to a rest and hoping to feel the better for it. We drove on and on in the darkness, and the seven miles seemed to have no end. At last we reached the town. It was sound asleep at that early hour. First came the small houses, piercing the darkness, and as we passed them, the noise of our jingling bells and the trotting of our horses sounded louder. In a few places the houses were large and white, but I did not feel less dejected for seeing them. I was waiting for the station, and the samovar, and longed to lie down and rest.

At last we approached a house with pillars in front of it. The house was white, but it seemed to me very melancholy. I felt even frightened at its aspect and stepped slowly out of the carriage. Sergius was busying himself with our luggage, taking what we needed for the night, running about and stepping heavily on the doorsteps. The sound of his brisk tread increased my weariness. I walked in and came into a small passage. A man received us; he had a large spot on his cheek and that spot filled me with horror. He asked us into a room which was just an ordinary room. My uneasiness was growing.

“Could we have a room to rest in?” I asked.

“Oh, yes, I have a very nice bedroom at your disposal. A square room, newly whitewashed.”

The fact of the little room being square was⁠—I remember it so well⁠—most painful to me. It had one window with a red curtain, a table of birchwood and a sofa with a curved back and arms. Sergius boiled the water in the samovar and made the tea. I put a pillow on the sofa in the meantime and lay down. I was not asleep; I heard Sergius busy with the samovar and urging me to have tea. I was afraid to get up from the sofa, afraid of driving away sleep; and just to be sitting in that room seemed awful. I did not get up, but fell into a sort of doze. When I started up out of it, nobody was in the room and it was quite dark. I woke up with the very same sensation I had the first time and knew sleep was gone. “Why am I here? Where am I going? Just as I am I must be forever. Neither the Pensa nor any other estate will add to or take anything away from me. As for me, I am unbearably weary of myself. I want to go to sleep, to forget⁠—and I cannot, I cannot get rid of self.”

I went out into the passage. Sergius was sleeping there on a narrow bench, his hand hanging down beside it. He was sleeping soundly, and the man with the spot on his cheek was also asleep. I thought, by going out of the room, to get away from what was tormenting me. But it followed me and made everything seem dark and dreary. My feeling of horror, instead of leaving me, was increasing.

“What nonsense!” I said to myself. “Why am I so dejected? What am I afraid of?” “You are afraid of me”⁠—I heard the voice of Death⁠—“I am here.”

I shuddered. Yes⁠—Death! Death will come, it will come and it ought not to come. Even in facing actual death I would certainly not feel anything of what I felt now. Then it would be simply fear, whereas now it was more than that. I was actually seeing, feeling the approach of death, and along with it I felt that death ought not to exist.

My entire being was conscious of the necessity of the right to live, and at the same time of the inevitability of dying. This inner conflict was causing me unbearable pain. I tried to shake off the horror; I found a half-burnt candle in a brass candlestick and lighted it. The candle with its red flame burnt down until it was not much taller than the low candlestick. The same thing seemed to be repeated over and over: nothing lasts, life is not, all is death⁠—but death ought not to exist. I tried to turn my thoughts to what had interested me before, to the estate I was to buy and to my wife. Far from being a relief, these seemed nothing to me now. To feel my life doomed to be taken from me was a terror shutting out any other thought. “I must try to sleep,” I decided. I went to bed, but the next instant I jumped up, seized with horror. A sickness overcame me, a spiritual sickness not unlike the physical uneasiness preceding actual illness⁠—but in the spirit, not in the body. A terrible fear similar to the fear of death, when mingled with the recollections of my past life, developed into a horror as if life were departing. Life and death were flowing into one another. An unknown power was trying to tear my soul into pieces, but could not bend it. Once more I went out into the passage to look at the two men asleep; once more I tried to go to sleep. The horror was always the same⁠—now red, now white and square. Something was tearing within but could not be torn apart. A torturing sensation! An arid hatred deprived me of every spark of kindly feeling. Just a dull and steady hatred against myself and against that which had created me. What did create me? God? We say God.⁠ ⁠… “What if I tried to pray?” I suddenly thought. I had not said a prayer for more than twenty years and I had no religious sentiment, although just for formality’s sake I fasted and partook of the communion every year. I began saying prayers; “God, forgive me,” “Our Father,” “Our Lady,” I was composing new prayers, crossing myself, bowing to the earth, looking around me all the while for fear I might be discovered in my devotional attitude. The prayers seemed to divert my thoughts from the previous terror, but it was more the fear of being seen by somebody that did it. I went to bed again. But the moment I shut my eyes the very same feeling of terror made me jump up. I could not stand it any longer. I called the hotel servant, roused Sergius from his sleep, ordered him to harness the horses to the carriage and we were soon driving on once more. The open air and the drive made me feel much better. But I realised that something new had come into my soul, and had poisoned the life I had lived up to that hour.

We reached our destination in the evening. The whole day long I remained struggling with despair, and finally conquered it; but a horror remained in the depth of my soul. It was as if a misfortune had happened to me, and although I was able to forget it for a while, it remained at the bottom of my soul, and I was entirely dominated by it.

The manager of the estate, an old man, received us in a very friendly manner, though not exactly with great joy; he was sorry that the estate was to be sold. The clean little rooms with upholstered furniture, a new, shining samovar on the tea-table, nice large cups, honey served with the tea⁠—everything was pleasant to see. I began questioning him about the estate without any interest, as if I were repeating a lesson learned long ago and nearly forgotten. It was so uninteresting. But that night I was able to go to sleep without feeling miserable. I thought this was due to having said my prayers again before going to bed.

After that incident I resumed my ordinary life; but the apprehension that this horror would again come upon me was continual. I had to live my usual life without any respite, not giving way to my thoughts, just like a schoolboy who repeats by habit and without thinking the lesson learned by heart. That was the only way to avoid being seized again by the horror and the despair I had experienced in Arzamas.

I had returned home safe from my journey; I had not bought the estate⁠—I had not enough money. My life at home seemed to be just as it had always been, save for my having taken to saying prayers and to going to church. But now, when I recollect that time, I see that I only imagined my life to be the same as before. The fact was I merely continued what I had previously started, and was running with the same speed on rails already laid; but I did not undertake anything new.

Even in those things which I had already taken in hand my interest had diminished. I was tired of everything, and was growing very religious. My wife noticed this, and was often vexed with me for it. No new fit of distress occurred while I was at home. But one day I had to go unexpectedly to Moscow, where a lawsuit was pending. In the train I entered into conversation with a landowner from Kharkov. We were talking about the management of estates, about bank business, about the hotels in Moscow, and the theatres. We both decided to stop at the “Moscow Court,” in the Miasnizkaia Street, and go that evening to the opera, to Faust. When we arrived I was shown into a small room, the heavy smell of the passage being still in my nostrils. The porter brought in my portmanteau, and the maid lighted the candle, the flame of which burned up brightly and then flickered, as it usually does. In the room next to mine I heard somebody coughing, probably an old man. The maid went out, and the porter asked whether I wished him to open my bag. In the meanwhile the candle flame had flared up, throwing its light on the blue wallpaper with yellow stripes, on the partition, on the shabby table, on the small sofa in front of it, on the mirror hanging on the wall, and on the window. I saw what the small room was like, and suddenly felt the horror of the Arzamas night awakening within me.

“My God! Must I stay here for the night? How can I?” I thought. “Will you kindly unfasten my bag?” I said to the porter, to keep him longer in the room. “And now I’ll dress quickly and go to the theatre,” I said to myself.

When the bag had been untied I said to the porter, “Please tell the gentleman in Number 8⁠—the one who came with me⁠—that I shall be ready presently, and ask him to wait for me.”

The porter left, and I began to dress in haste, afraid to look at the walls. “But what nonsense!” I said to myself. “Why am I frightened like a child? I am not afraid of ghosts⁠—” Ghosts!⁠—to be afraid of ghosts is nothing to what I was afraid of! “But what is it? Absolutely nothing. I am only afraid of myself.⁠ ⁠… Nonsense!”

I slipped into a cold, rough, starched shirt, stuck in the studs, put on evening dress and new boots, and went to call for the Kharkov landowner, who was ready. We started for the opera house. He stopped on the way to have his hair curled, while I went to a French hairdresser to have mine cut, where I talked a little to the Frenchwoman in the shop and bought a pair of gloves. Everything seemed all right. I had completely forgotten the oblong room in the hotel, and the walls.

I enjoyed the Faust performance very much, and when it was over my companion proposed that we should have supper. This was contrary to my habits; but just at that moment I remembered the walls in my room, and accepted.

We returned home after one. I had two glasses of wine⁠—an unusual thing for me⁠—in spite of which I was feeling quite at ease.

But the moment we entered the passage with the lowered lamp lighting it, the moment I was surrounded by the peculiar smell of the hotel. I felt a cold shudder of horror running down my back. But there was nothing to be done. I shook hands with my new friend, and stepped into my room.

I had a frightful night⁠—much worse than the night at Arzamas; and it was not until dawn, when the old man in the next room was coughing again, that I fell asleep⁠—and then not in my bed, but, after getting in and out of it many times, on the sofa.

I suffered the whole night unbearably. Once more my soul and my body were tearing themselves apart within me. The same thoughts came again: “I am living, I have lived up till now, I have the right to live; but all around me is death and destruction. Then why live? Why not die? Why not kill myself immediately? No; I could not. I am afraid. Is it better to wait for death to come when it will? No, that is even worse; and I am also afraid of that. Then, I must live. But what for? In order to die?” I could not get out of that circle. I took a book, and began reading. For a moment it made me forget my thoughts. But then the same questions and the same horror came again. I got into bed, lay down, and shut my eyes. That made the horror worse. God had created things as they are. But why? They say, “Don’t ask; pray.” Well, I did pray; I was praying now, just as I did at Arzamas. At that time I had prayed simply, like a child. Now my prayers had a definite meaning: “If Thou exist, reveal Thy existence to me. To what end am I created? What am I?” I was bowing to the earth, repeating all the prayers I knew, composing new ones; and I was adding each time, “Reveal Thy existence to me!” I became quiet, waiting for an answer. But no answer came, as if there were nothing to answer. I was alone, alone with myself and was answering my own questions in place of him who would not answer. “What am I created for?” “To live in a future life,” I answered. “Then why this uncertainty and torment? I cannot believe in future life. I did believe when I asked, but not with my whole soul. Now I cannot, I cannot! If Thou didst exist, Thou wouldst reveal it to me, to all men. But Thou dost not exist, and there is nothing true but distress.” But I cannot accept that! I rebelled against it; I implored Him to reveal His existence to me. I did all that everybody does, but He did not reveal Himself to me. “Ask and it shall be given unto you,” I remembered, and began to entreat; in doing so I felt no real comfort, but just surcease of despair. Perhaps it was not entreaty on my part, but only denial of Him. You retreat a step from Him, and He goes from you a mile. I did not believe in Him, and yet here I was entreating Him. But He did not reveal Himself. I was balancing my accounts with Him, and was blaming Him. I simply did not believe.

The next day I used all my endeavors to get through with my affairs somehow during the day, in order to be saved from another night in the hotel room. Although I had not finished everything, I left for home in the evening.

That night at Moscow brought a still greater change into my life, which had been changing ever since the night at Arzamas. I was now paying less attention to my affairs, and grew more and more indifferent to everything around me. My health was also getting bad. My wife urged me to consult a doctor. To her my continual talk about God and religion was a sign of ill-health, whereas I knew I was ill and weak, because of the unsolved questions of religion and of God.

I was trying not to let that question dominate my mind, and continued living amid the old unaltered conditions, filling up my time with incessant occupations. On Sundays and feast days I went to church; I even fasted as I had begun to do since my journey to Pensa, and did not cease to pray. I had no faith in my prayers, but somehow I kept the demand note in my possession instead of tearing it up, and was always presenting it for payment, although I was aware of the impossibility of getting paid. I did it just on the chance. I occupied my days, not with the management of the estate⁠—I felt disgusted with all business because of the struggle it involved⁠—but with the reading of papers, magazines, and novels, and with card-playing for small stakes. The only outlet for my energy was hunting. I had kept that up from habit, having been fond of this sport all my life.

One day in winter, a neighbor of mine came with his dogs to hunt wolves. Having arrived at the meeting-place, we put on snowshoes to walk over the snow and move rapidly along. The hunt was unsuccessful; the wolves contrived to escape through the stockade. As I became aware of that from a distance, I took the direction of the forest to follow the fresh track of a hare. This led me far away into a field. There I spied the hare, but he had disappeared before I could fire. I turned to go back, and had to pass a forest of huge trees. The snow was deep, the snowshoes were sinking in, and the branches were entangling me. The wood was getting thicker and thicker. I wondered where I was, for the snow had changed all the familiar places. Suddenly I realised that I had lost my way. How should I get home or reach the hunting party? Not a sound to guide me! I was tired and bathed in perspiration. If I stopped, I would probably freeze to death; if I walked on, my strength would forsake me. I shouted, but all was quiet, and no answer came. I turned in the opposite direction, which was wrong again, and looked round. Nothing but the wood on every hand. I could not tell which was east or west. I turned back again, but I could hardly move a step. I was frightened, and stopped. The horror I had experienced in Arzamas and in Moscow seized me again, only a hundred times greater. My heart was beating, my hands and feet were shaking. Am I to die here? I don’t want to! Why death? What is death? I was about to ask again, to reproach God, when I suddenly felt I must not; I ought not. I had not the right to present any account to him; He had said all that was necessary, and the fault was wholly mine. I began to implore His forgiveness for I felt disgusted with myself. The horror, however, did not last long. I stood still one moment, plucked up courage, took the direction which seemed to be the right one, and was actually soon out of the wood. I had not been far from its edge when I lost my way. As I came out on the main road, my hands and feet were still shaking, and my heart was beating violently. But my soul was full of joy. I soon found my party, and we all returned home together. I was not quite happy but I knew there was a joy within me which I would understand later on; and that joy proved real. I went to my study to be alone and prayed remembering my sins, and asking for forgiveness. They did not seem to be numerous; but when I thought of what they were they were hateful to me.

Then I began to read the Scriptures. The Old Testament I found incomprehensible but enchanting, the New touching in its meekness. But my favorite reading was now the lives of the saints; they were consoling to me, affording example which seemed more and more possible to follow. Since that time I have grown even less interested in the management of affairs and in family matters. These things even became repulsive to me. Everything was wrong in my eyes. I did not quite realise why they were wrong, but I knew that the things of which my whole life had consisted, now counted for nothing. This was plainly revealed to me again on the occasion of the projected purchase of an estate, which was for sale in our neighborhood on very advantageous terms. I went to inspect it. Everything was very satisfactory, the more so because the peasants on that estate had no land of their own beyond their vegetable gardens. I grasped at once that in exchange for the right of using the landowner’s pasture-grounds, they would do all the harvesting for him; and the information I was given proved that I was right. I saw how important that was, and was pleased, as it was in accordance with my old habits of thought. But on my way home I met an old woman who asked her way, and I entered into a conversation with her, during which she told me about her poverty. On returning home, when telling my wife about the advantages the estate afforded, all at once I felt ashamed and disgusted. I said I was not going to buy that estate, for its profits were based on the sufferings of the peasants. I was struck at that moment with the truth of what I was saying, the truth of the peasants having the same desire to live as ourselves, of their being our equals, our brethren, the children of the Father, as the Gospel says. But unexpectedly something which had been gnawing within me for a long time became loosened and was torn away, and something new seemed to be born instead.

My wife was vexed with me and abused me. But I was full of joy. This was the first sign of my madness. My utter madness began to show itself about a month later.

This began by my going to church; I was listening to the Mass with great attention and with a faithful heart, when I was suddenly given a wafer; after which everyone began to move forward to kiss the Cross, pushing each other on all sides. As I was leaving church, beggars were standing on the steps. It became instantly clear to me that this ought not to be, and in reality was not. But if this is not, then there is no death and no fear, and nothing is being torn asunder within me, and I am not afraid of any calamity which may come.

At that moment the full light of the truth was kindled in me, and I grew into what I am now. If all this horror does not necessarily exist around me, then it certainly does not exist within me. I distributed on the spot all the money I had among the beggars in the porch, and walked home instead of driving in my carriage as usual, and all the way I talked with the peasants.

A Spark Neglected Burns the House

“Then came Peter, and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would make a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat saying, Pay what thou owest. So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.”

⁠Matthew 18:21⁠–⁠35

There once lived in a village a peasant named Iván Stcherbakóf. He was comfortably off, in the prime of life, the best worker in the village, and had three sons all able to work. The eldest was married, the second about to marry, and the third was a big lad who could mind the horses and was already beginning to plough. Iván’s wife was an able and thrifty woman, and they were fortunate in having a quiet, hardworking daughter-in-law. There was nothing to prevent Iván and his family from living happily. They had only one idle mouth to feed; that was Iván’s old father, who suffered from asthma and had been lying ill on the top of the brick oven for seven years. Iván had all he needed: three horses and a colt, a cow with a calf, and fifteen sheep. The women made all the clothing for the family, besides helping in the fields, and the men tilled the land. They always had grain enough of their own to last over beyond the next harvest and sold enough oats to pay the taxes and meet their other needs. So Iván and his children might have lived quite comfortably had it not been for a feud between him and his next-door neighbour, Limping Gabriel, the son of Gordéy Ivánof.

As long as old Gordéy was alive and Iván’s father was still able to manage the household, the peasants lived as neighbours should. If the women of either house happened to want a sieve or a tub, or the men required a sack, or if a cartwheel got broken and could not be mended at once, they used to send to the other house, and helped each other in neighbourly fashion. When a calf strayed into the neighbour’s thrashing-ground they would just drive it out, and only say, “Don’t let it get in again; our grain is lying there.” And such things as locking up the barns and outhouses, hiding things from one another, or backbiting were never thought of in those days.

That was in the fathers’ time. When the sons came to be at the head of the families, everything changed.

It all began about a trifle.

Iván’s daughter-in-law had a hen that began laying rather early in the season, and she started collecting its eggs for Easter. Every day she went to the cart-shed, and found an egg in the cart; but one day the hen, probably frightened by the children, flew across the fence into the neighbour’s yard and laid its egg there. The woman heard the cackling, but said to herself: “I have no time now; I must tidy up for Sunday. I’ll fetch the egg later on.” In the evening she went to the cart, but found no egg there. She went and asked her mother-in-law and brother-in-law whether they had taken the egg. “No,” they had not; but her youngest brother-in-law, Tarás, said: “Your Biddy laid its egg in the neighbour’s yard. It was there she was cackling, and she flew back across the fence from there.”

The woman went and looked at the hen. There she was on the perch with the other birds, her eyes just closing ready to go to sleep. The woman wished she could have asked the hen and got an answer from her.

Then she went to the neighbour’s, and Gabriel’s mother came out to meet her.

“What do you want, young woman?”

“Why, Granny, you see, my hen flew across this morning. Did she not lay an egg here?”

“We never saw anything of it. The Lord be thanked, our own hens started laying long ago. We collect our own eggs and have no need of other people’s! And we don’t go looking for eggs in other people’s yards, lass!”

The young woman was offended, and said more than she should have done. Her neighbour answered back with interest, and the women began abusing each other. Iván’s wife, who had been to fetch water, happening to pass just then, joined in too. Gabriel’s wife rushed out, and began reproaching the young woman with things that had really happened and with other things that never had happened at all. Then a general uproar commenced, all shouting at once, trying to get out two words at a time, and not choice words either.

“You’re this!” and “You’re that!” “You’re a thief!” and “You’re a slut!” and “You’re starving your old father-in-law to death!” and “You’re a good-for-nothing!” and so on.

“And you’ve made a hole in the sieve I lent you, you jade! And it’s our yoke you’re carrying your pails on⁠—you just give back our yoke!”

Then they caught hold of the yoke, and spilt the water, snatched off one another’s shawls, and began fighting. Gabriel, returning from the fields, stopped to take his wife’s part. Out rushed Iván and his son and joined in with the rest. Iván was a strong fellow, he scattered the whole lot of them, and pulled a handful of hair out of Gabriel’s beard. People came to see what was the matter, and the fighters were separated with difficulty.

That was how it all began.

Gabriel wrapped the hair torn from his beard in a paper, and went to the District Court to have the law of Iván. “I didn’t grow my beard,” said he, “for pockmarked Iván to pull it out!” And his wife went bragging to the neighbours, saying they’d have Iván condemned and sent to Siberia. And so the feud grew.

The old man, from where he lay on the top of the oven, tried from the very first to persuade them to make peace, but they would not listen. He told them, “It’s a stupid thing you are after, children, picking quarrels about such a paltry matter. Just think! The whole thing began about an egg. The children may have taken it⁠—well, what matter? What’s the value of one egg? God sends enough for all! And suppose your neighbour did say an unkind word⁠—put it right; show her how to say a better one! If there has been a fight⁠—well, such things will happen; we’re all sinners, but make it up, and let there be an end of it! If you nurse your anger it will be worse for you yourselves.”

But the younger folk would not listen to the old man. They thought his words were mere senseless dotage. Iván would not humble himself before his neighbour.

“I never pulled his beard,” he said, “he pulled the hair out himself. But his son has burst all the fastenings on my shirt, and torn it.⁠ ⁠… Look at it!”

And Iván also went to law. They were tried by the Justice of the Peace and by the District Court. While all this was going on, the coupling-pin of Gabriel’s cart disappeared. Gabriel’s womenfolk accused Iván’s son of having taken it. They said: “We saw him in the night go past our window, towards the cart; and a neighbour says he saw him at the pub, offering the pin to the landlord.”

So they went to law about that. And at home not a day passed without a quarrel or even a fight. The children, too, abused one another, having learnt to do so from their elders; and when the women happened to meet by the riverside, where they went to rinse the clothes, their arms did not do as much wringing as their tongues did nagging, and every word was a bad one.

At first the peasants only slandered one another; but afterwards they began in real earnest to snatch anything that lay handy, and the children followed their example. Life became harder and harder for them. Iván Stcherbakóf and Limping Gabriel kept suing one another at the Village Assembly, and at the District Court, and before the Justice of the Peace until all the judges were tired of them. Now Gabriel got Iván fined or imprisoned; then Iván did as much to Gabriel; and the more they spited each other the angrier they grew⁠—like dogs that attack one another and get more and more furious the longer they fight. You strike one dog from behind, and it thinks it’s the other dog biting him, and gets still fiercer. So these peasants: they went to law, and one or other of them was fined or locked up, but that only made them more and more angry with each other. “Wait a bit,” they said, “and I’ll make you pay for it.” And so it went on for six years. Only the old man lying on the top of the oven kept telling them again and again: “Children, what are you doing? Stop all this paying back; keep to your work, and don’t bear malice⁠—it will be better for you. The more you bear malice, the worse it will be.”

But they would not listen to him.

In the seventh year, at a wedding, Iván’s daughter-in-law held Gabriel up to shame, accusing him of having been caught horse-stealing. Gabriel was tipsy, and unable to contain his anger, gave the woman such a blow that she was laid up for a week; and she was pregnant at the time. Iván was delighted. He went to the magistrate to lodge a complaint. “Now I’ll get rid of my neighbour! He won’t escape imprisonment, or exile to Siberia.” But Iván’s wish was not fulfilled. The magistrate dismissed the case. The woman was examined, but she was up and about and showed no sign of any injury. Then Iván went to the Justice of the Peace, but he referred the business to the District Court. Iván bestirred himself: treated the clerk and the Elder of the District Court to a gallon of liquor and got Gabriel condemned to be flogged. The sentence was read out to Gabriel by the clerk: “The Court decrees that the peasant Gabriel Gordéyef shall receive twenty lashes with a birch rod at the District Court.”

Iván too heard the sentence read, and looked at Gabriel to see how he would take it. Gabriel grew as pale as a sheet, and turned round and went out into the passage. Iván followed him, meaning to see to the horse, and he overheard Gabriel say, “Very well! He will have my back flogged: that will make it burn; but something of his may burn worse than that!”

Hearing these words, Iván at once went back into the Court, and said: “Upright judges! He threatens to set my house on fire! Listen: he said it in the presence of witnesses!”

Gabriel was recalled. “Is it true that you said this?”

“I haven’t said anything. Flog me, since you have the power. It seems that I alone am to suffer, and all for being in the right, while he is allowed to do as he likes.”

Gabriel wished to say something more, but his lips and his cheeks quivered, and he turned towards the wall. Even the officials were frightened by his looks. “He may do some mischief to himself or to his neighbour,” thought they.

Then the old Judge said: “Look here, my men; you’d better be reasonable and make it up. Was it right of you, friend Gabriel, to strike a pregnant woman? It was lucky it passed off so well, but think what might have happened! Was it right? You had better confess and beg his pardon, and he will forgive you, and we will alter the sentence.”

The clerk heard these words, and remarked: “That’s impossible under Statute 117. An agreement between the parties not having been arrived at, a decision of the Court has been pronounced and must be executed.”

But the Judge would not listen to the clerk.

“Keep your tongue still, my friend,” said he. “The first of all laws is to obey God, Who loves peace.” And the Judge began again to persuade the peasants, but could not succeed. Gabriel would not listen to him.

“I shall be fifty next year,” said he, “and have a married son, and have never been flogged in my life, and now that pockmarked Iván has had me condemned to be flogged, and am I to go and ask his forgiveness? No; I’ve borne enough.⁠ ⁠… Iván shall have cause to remember me!”

Again Gabriel’s voice quivered, and he could say no more, but turned round and went out.

It was seven miles from the Court to the village, and it was getting late when Iván reached home. He unharnessed his horse, put it up for the night, and entered the cottage. No one was there. The women had already gone to drive the cattle in, and the young fellows were not yet back from the fields. Iván went in, and sat down, thinking. He remembered how Gabriel had listened to the sentence, and how pale he had become, and how he had turned to the wall; and Iván’s heart grew heavy. He thought how he himself would feel if he were sentenced, and he pitied Gabriel. Then he heard his old father up on the oven cough, and saw him sit up, lower his legs, and scramble down. The old man dragged himself slowly to a seat, and sat down. He was quite tired out with the exertion, and coughed a long time till he had cleared his throat. Then, leaning against the table, he said: “Well, has he been condemned?”

“Yes, to twenty strokes with the rods,” answered Iván.

The old man shook his head.

“A bad business,” said he. “You are doing wrong, Iván! Ah! it’s very bad⁠—not for him so much as for yourself!⁠ ⁠… Well, they’ll flog him: but will that do you any good?”

“He’ll not do it again,” said Iván.

“What is it he’ll not do again? What has he done worse than you?”

“Why, think of the harm he has done me!” said Iván. “He nearly killed my wife, and now he’s threatening to burn us up. Am I to thank him for it?”

The old man sighed, and said: “You go about the wide world, Iván, while I am lying on the oven all these years, so you think you see everything, and that I see nothing.⁠ ⁠… Ah, lad! It’s you that don’t see; malice blinds you. Others’ sins are before your eyes, but your own are behind your back. ‘He’s acted badly!’ What a thing to say! If he were the only one to act badly, how could strife exist? Is strife among men ever bred by one alone? Strife is always between two. His badness you see, but your own you don’t. If he were bad, but you were good, there would be no strife. Who pulled the hair out of his beard? Who spoilt his haystack? Who dragged him to the law court? Yet you put it all on him! You live a bad life yourself, that’s what is wrong! It’s not the way I used to live, lad, and it’s not the way I taught you. Is that the way his old father and I used to live? How did we live? Why, as neighbours should! If he happened to run out of flour, one of the women would come across: ‘Uncle Trol, we want some flour.’ ‘Go to the barn, dear,’ I’d say: ‘take what you need.’ If he’d no one to take his horses to pasture, ‘Go, Iván,’ I’d say, ‘and look after his horses.’ And if I was short of anything, I’d go to him. ‘Uncle Gordéy,’ I’d say, ‘I want so-and-so!’ ‘Take it Uncle Trol!’ That’s how it was between us, and we had an easy time of it. But now?⁠ ⁠… That soldier the other day was telling us about the fight at Plevna.227 Why, there’s war between you worse than at Plevna! Is that living?⁠ ⁠… What a sin it is! You are a man and master of the house; it’s you who will have to answer. What are you teaching the women and the children? To snarl and snap? Why, the other day your Taráska⁠—that greenhorn⁠—was swearing at neighbour Irena, calling her names; and his mother listened and laughed. Is that right? It is you will have to answer. Think of your soul. Is this all as it should be? You throw a word at me, and I give you two in return; you give me a blow, and I give you two. No, lad! Christ, when He walked on earth, taught us fools something very different.⁠ ⁠… If you get a hard word from anyone, keep silent, and his own conscience will accuse him. That is what our Lord taught. If you get a slap, turn the other cheek. ‘Here, beat me, if that’s what I deserve!’ And his own conscience will rebuke him. He will soften, and will listen to you. That’s the way He taught us, not to be proud!⁠ ⁠… Why don’t you speak? Isn’t it as I say?”

Iván sat silent and listened.

The old man coughed, and having with difficulty cleared his throat, began again: “You think Christ taught us wrong? Why, it’s all for our own good. Just think of your earthly life; are you better off, or worse, since this Plevna began among you? Just reckon up what you’ve spent on all this law business⁠—what the driving backwards and forwards and your food on the way have cost you! What fine fellows your sons have grown; you might live and get on well; but now your means are lessening. And why? All because of this folly; because of your pride. You ought to be ploughing with your lads, and do the sowing yourself; but the fiend carries you off to the judge, or to some pettifogger or other. The ploughing is not done in time, nor the sowing, and mother earth can’t bear properly. Why did the oats fail this year? When did you sow them? When you came back from town! And what did you gain? A burden for your own shoulders.⁠ ⁠… Eh, lad, think of your own business! Work with your boys in the field and at home, and if someone offends you, forgive him, as God wished you to. Then life will be easy, and your heart will always be light.”

Iván remained silent.

“Iván, my boy, hear your old father! Go and harness the roan, and go at once to the Government office; put an end to all this affair there; and in the morning go and make it up with Gabriel in God’s name, and invite him to your house for tomorrow’s holiday” (it was the eve of the Virgin’s Nativity). “Have tea ready, and get a bottle of vodka and put an end to this wicked business, so that there should not be any more of it in future, and tell the women and children to do the same.”

Iván sighed, and thought, “What he says is true,” and his heart grew lighter. Only he did not know how, now, to begin to put matters right.

But again the old man began, as if he had guessed what was in Iván’s mind.

“Go, Iván, don’t put it off! Put out the fire before it spreads, or it will be too late.”

The old man was going to say more, but before he could do so the women came in, chattering like magpies. The news that Gabriel was sentenced to be flogged, and of his threat to set fire to the house, had already reached them. They had heard all about it and added to it something of their own, and had again had a row, in the pasture, with the women of Gabriel’s household. They began telling how Gabriel’s daughter-in-law threatened a fresh action: Gabriel had got the right side of the examining magistrate, who would now turn the whole affair upside down; and the schoolmaster was writing out another petition, to the Tsar himself this time, about Iván; and everything was in the petition⁠—all about the coupling-pin and the kitchen-garden⁠—so that half of Iván’s homestead would be theirs soon. Iván heard what they were saying, and his heart grew cold again, and he gave up the thought of making peace with Gabriel.

In a farmstead there is always plenty for the master to do. Iván did not stop to talk to the women, but went out to the threshing-floor and to the barn. By the time he had tidied up there, the sun had set and the young fellows had returned from the field. They had been ploughing the field for the winter crops with two horses. Iván met them, questioned them about their work, helped to put everything in its place, set a torn horse-collar aside to be mended, and was going to put away some stakes under the barn, but it had grown quite dusk, so he decided to leave them where they were till next day. Then he gave the cattle their food, opened the gate, let out the horses Tarás was to take to pasture for the night, and again closed the gate and barred it. “Now,” thought he, “I’ll have my supper, and then to bed.” He took the horse-collar and entered the hut. By this time he had forgotten about Gabriel and about what his old father had been saying to him. But, just as he took hold of the door-handle to enter the passage, he heard his neighbour on the other side of the fence cursing somebody in a hoarse voice: “What the devil is he good for?” Gabriel was saying. “He’s only fit to be killed!” At these words all Iván’s former bitterness towards his neighbour re-awoke. He stood listening while Gabriel scolded, and, when he stopped, Iván went into the hut.

There was a light inside; his daughter-in-law sat spinning, his wife was getting supper ready, his eldest son was making straps for bark shoes, his second sat near the table with a book, and Tarás was getting ready to go out to pasture the horses for the night. Everything in the hut would have been pleasant and bright, but for that plague⁠—a bad neighbour!

Iván entered, sullen and cross; threw the cat down from the bench, and scolded the women for putting the slop-pail in the wrong place. He felt despondent, and sat down, frowning, to mend the horse-collar. Gabriel’s words kept ringing in his ears: his threat at the law court, and what he had just been shouting in a hoarse voice about someone who was “only fit to be killed.”

His wife gave Tarás his supper, and, having eaten it, Tarás put on an old sheepskin and another coat, tied a sash round his waist, took some bread with him, and went out to the horses. His eldest brother was going to see him off, but Iván himself rose instead, and went out into the porch. It had grown quite dark outside, clouds had gathered, and the wind had risen. Iván went down the steps, helped his boy to mount, started the foal after him, and stood listening while Tarás rode down the village and was there joined by other lads with their horses. Iván waited until they were all out of hearing. As he stood there by the gate he could not get Gabriel’s words out of his head: “Mind that something of yours does not burn worse!”

“He is desperate,” thought Iván. “Everything is dry, and it’s windy weather besides. He’ll come up at the back somewhere, set fire to something, and be off. He’ll burn the place and escape scot free, the villain!⁠ ⁠… There now, if one could but catch him in the act, he’d not get off then!” And the thought fixed itself so firmly in his mind that he did not go up the steps but went out into the street and round the corner. “I’ll just walk round the buildings; who can tell what he’s after?” And Iván, stepping softly, passed out of the gate. As soon as he reached the corner, he looked round along the fence, and seemed to see something suddenly move at the opposite corner, as if someone had come out and disappeared again. Iván stopped, and stood quietly, listening and looking. Everything was still; only the leaves of the willows fluttered in the wind, and the straws of the thatch rustled. At first it seemed pitch dark, but, when his eyes had grown used to the darkness, he could see the far corner, and a plough that lay there, and the eaves. He looked awhile, but saw no one.

“I suppose it was a mistake,” thought Iván; “but still I will go round,” and Iván went stealthily along by the shed. Iván stepped so softly in his bark shoes that he did not hear his own footsteps. As he reached the far corner, something seemed to flare up for a moment near the plough and to vanish again. Iván felt as if struck to the heart; and he stopped. Hardly had he stopped, when something flared up more brightly in the same place, and he clearly saw a man with a cap on his head, crouching down, with his back towards him, lighting a bunch of straw he held in his hand. Iván’s heart fluttered within him like a bird. Straining every nerve, he approached with great strides, hardly feeling his legs under him. “Ah,” thought Iván, “now he won’t escape! I’ll catch him in the act!”

Iván was still some distance off, when suddenly he saw a bright light, but not in the same place as before, and not a small flame. The thatch had flared up at the eaves, the flames were reaching up to the roof, and, standing beneath it, Gabriel’s whole figure was clearly visible.

Like a hawk swooping down on a lark, Iván rushed at Limping Gabriel. “Now I’ll have him; he shan’t escape me!” thought Iván. But Gabriel must have heard his steps, and (however he managed it) glancing round, he scuttled away past the barn like a hare.

“You shan’t escape!” shouted Iván, darting after him.

Just as he was going to seize Gabriel, the latter dodged him; but Iván managed to catch the skirt of Gabriel’s coat. It tore right off, and Iván fell down. He recovered his feet, and shouting, “Help! Seize him! Thieves! Murder!” ran on again. But meanwhile Gabriel had reached his own gate. There Iván overtook him and was about to seize him, when something struck Iván a stunning blow, as though a stone had hit his temple, quite deafening him. It was Gabriel who, seizing an oak wedge that lay near the gate, had struck out with all his might.

Iván was stunned; sparks flew before his eyes, then all grew dark and he staggered. When he came to his senses Gabriel was no longer there: it was as light as day, and from the side where his homestead was, something roared and crackled like an engine at work. Iván turned round and saw that his back shed was all ablaze, and the side shed had also caught fire, and flames and smoke and bits of burning straw mixed with the smoke, were being driven towards his hut.

“What is this, friends?⁠ ⁠…” cried Iván, lifting his arms and striking his thighs. “Why, all I had to do was just to snatch it out from under the eaves and trample on it! What is this, friends?⁠ ⁠…” he kept repeating. He wished to shout, but his breath failed him; his voice was gone. He wanted to run, but his legs would not obey him, and got in each other’s way. He moved slowly, but again staggered and again his breath failed. He stood still till he had regained breath, and then went on. Before he had got round the back shed to reach the fire, the side shed was also all ablaze; and the corner of the hut and the covered gateway had caught fire as well. The flames were leaping out of the hut, and it was impossible to get into the yard. A large crowd had collected, but nothing could be done. The neighbours were carrying their belongings out of their own houses, and driving the cattle out of their own sheds. After Iván’s house, Gabriel’s also caught fire, then, the wind rising, the flames spread to the other side of the street and half the village was burnt down.

At Iván’s house they barely managed to save his old father; and the family escaped in what they had on; everything else, except the horses that had been driven out to pasture for the night, was lost; all the cattle, the fowls on their perches, the carts, ploughs, and harrows, the women’s trunks with their clothes, and the grain in the granaries⁠—all were burnt up!

At Gabriel’s, the cattle were driven out, and a few things saved from his house.

The fire lasted all night. Iván stood in front of his homestead and kept repeating, “What is this?⁠ ⁠… Friends!⁠ ⁠… One need only have pulled it out and trampled on it!” But when the roof fell in, Iván rushed into the burning place, and seizing a charred beam, tried to drag it out. The women saw him, and called him back; but he pulled out the beam, and was going in again for another when he lost his footing and fell among the flames. Then his son made his way in after him and dragged him out. Iván had singed his hair and beard and burnt his clothes and scorched his hands, but he felt nothing. “His grief has stupefied him,” said the people. The fire was burning itself out, but Iván still stood repeating: “Friends!⁠ ⁠… What is this?⁠ ⁠… One need only have pulled it out!”

In the morning the village Elder’s son came to fetch Iván.

“Daddy Iván, your father is dying! He has sent for you to say goodbye.”

Iván had forgotten about his father, and did not understand what was being said to him.

“What father?” he said. “Whom has he sent for?”

“He sent for you, to say goodbye; he is dying in our cottage! Come along, daddy Iván,” said the Elder’s son, pulling him by the arm; and Iván followed the lad.

When he was being carried out of the hut, some burning straw had fallen onto the old man and burnt him, and he had been taken to the village Elder’s in the farther part of the village, which the fire did not reach.

When Iván came to his father, there was only the Elder’s wife in the hut, besides some little children on the top of the oven. All the rest were still at the fire. The old man, who was lying on a bench holding a wax candle228 in his hand, kept turning his eyes towards the door. When his son entered, he moved a little. The old woman went up to him and told him that his son had come. He asked to have him brought nearer. Iván came closer.

“What did I tell you, Iván?” began the old man. “Who has burnt down the village?”

“It was he, father!” Iván answered. “I caught him in the act. I saw him shove the firebrand into the thatch. I might have pulled away the burning straw and stamped it out, and then nothing would have happened.”

“Iván,” said the old man, “I am dying, and you in your turn will have to face death. Whose is the sin?”

Iván gazed at his father in silence, unable to utter a word.

“Now, before God, say whose is the sin? What did I tell you?”

Only then Iván came to his senses and understood it all. He sniffed and said, “Mine, father!” And he fell on his knees before his father, saying, “Forgive me, father; I am guilty before you and before God.”

The old man moved his hands, changed the candle from his right hand to his left, and tried to lift his right hand to his forehead to cross himself, but could not do it, and stopped.

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” said he, and again he turned his eyes towards his son.

“Iván! I say, Iván!”

“What, father?”

“What must you do now?”

Iván was weeping.

“I don’t know how we are to live now, father!” he said.

The old man closed his eyes, moved his lips as if to gather strength, and opening his eyes again, said: “You’ll manage. If you obey God’s will, you’ll manage!” He paused, then smiled, and said: “Mind, Iván! Don’t tell who started the fire! Hide another man’s sin, and God will forgive two of yours!” And the old man took the candle in both hands and, folding them on his breast, sighed, stretched out, and died.

Iván did not say anything against Gabriel, and no one knew what had caused the fire.

And Iván’s anger against Gabriel passed away, and Gabriel wondered that Iván did not tell anybody. At first Gabriel felt afraid, but after awhile he got used to it. The men left off quarrelling, and then their families left off also. While rebuilding their huts, both families lived in one house; and when the village was rebuilt and they might have moved farther apart, Iván and Gabriel built next to each other, and remained neighbours as before.

They lived as good neighbours should. Iván Stcherbakóf remembered his old father’s command to obey God’s law, and quench a fire at the first spark; and if anyone does him an injury he now tries not to revenge himself, but rather to set matters right again; and if anyone gives him a bad word, instead of giving a worse in return, he tries to teach the other not to use evil words; and so he teaches his womenfolk and children. And Iván Stcherbakóf has got on his feet again, and now lives better even than he did before.


Where Love Is, God Is

In a certain town there lived a cobbler, Martin Avdéitch by name. He had a tiny room in a basement, the one window of which looked out onto the street. Through it one could only see the feet of those who passed by, but Martin recognized the people by their boots. He had lived long in the place and had many acquaintances. There was hardly a pair of boots in the neighbourhood that had not been once or twice through his hands, so he often saw his own handiwork through the window. Some he had resoled, some patched, some stitched up, and to some he had even put fresh uppers. He had plenty to do, for he worked well, used good material, did not charge too much, and could be relied on. If he could do a job by the day required, he undertook it; if not, he told the truth and gave no false promises; so he was well known and never short of work.

Martin had always been a good man; but in his old age he began to think more about his soul and to draw nearer to God. While he still worked for a master, before he set up on his own account, his wife had died, leaving him with a three-year old son. None of his elder children had lived, they had all died in infancy. At first Martin thought of sending his little son to his sister’s in the country, but then he felt sorry to part with the boy, thinking: “It would be hard for my little Kapitón to have to grow up in a strange family; I will keep him with me.”

Martin left his master and went into lodgings with his little son. But he had no luck with his children. No sooner had the boy reached an age when he could help his father and be a support as well as a joy to him, than he fell ill and, after being laid up for a week with a burning fever, died. Martin buried his son, and gave way to despair so great and overwhelming that he murmured against God. In his sorrow he prayed again and again that he too might die, reproaching God for having taken the son he loved, his only son, while he, old as he was, remained alive. After that Martin left off going to church.

One day an old man from Martin’s native village, who had been a pilgrim for the last eight years, called in on his way from Tróitsa Monastery. Martin opened his heart to him, and told him of his sorrow.

“I no longer even wish to live, holy man,” he said. “All I ask of God is that I soon may die. I am now quite without hope in the world.”

The old man replied: “You have no right to say such things, Martin. We cannot judge God’s ways. Not our reasoning, but God’s will, decides. If God willed that your son should die and you should live, it must be best so. As to your despair⁠—that comes because you wish to live for your own happiness.”

“What else should one live for?” asked Martin.

“For God, Martin,” said the old man. “He gives you life, and you must live for Him. When you have learnt to live for Him, you will grieve no more, and all will seem easy to you.”

Martin was silent awhile, and then asked: “But how is one to live for God?”

The old man answered: “How one may live for God has been shown us by Christ. Can you read? Then buy the Gospels, and read them: there you will see how God would have you live. You have it all there.”

These words sank deep into Martin’s heart, and that same day he went and bought himself a Testament in large print, and began to read.

At first he meant only to read on holidays, but having once begun he found it made his heart so light that he read every day. Sometimes he was so absorbed in his reading that the oil in his lamp burnt out before he could tear himself away from the book. He continued to read every night, and the more he read the more clearly he understood what God required of him, and how he might live for God. And his heart grew lighter and lighter. Before, when he went to bed he used to lie with a heavy heart, moaning as he thought of his little Kapitón; but now he only repeated again and again: “Glory to Thee, glory to Thee, O Lord! Thy will be done!”

From that time Martin’s whole life changed. Formerly, on holidays he used to go and have tea at the public house, and did not even refuse a glass or two of vodka. Sometimes, after having had a drop with a friend, he left the public house not drunk, but rather merry, and would say foolish things: shout at a man, or abuse him. Now, all that sort of thing passed away from him. His life became peaceful and joyful. He sat down to his work in the morning, and when he had finished his day’s work he took the lamp down from the wall, stood it on the table, fetched his book from the shelf, opened it, and sat down to read. The more he read the better he understood, and the clearer and happier he felt in his mind.

It happened once that Martin sat up late, absorbed in his book. He was reading Luke’s Gospel; and in the sixth chapter he came upon the verses:

“To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloke withhold not thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

He also read the verses where our Lord says:

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth, against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.”

When Martin read these words his soul was glad within him. He took off his spectacles and laid them on the book, and leaning his elbows on the table pondered over what he had read. He tried his own life by the standard of those words, asking himself:

“Is my house built on the rock, or on sand? If it stands on the rock, it is well. It seems easy enough while one sits here alone, and one thinks one has done all that God commands; but as soon as I cease to be on my guard, I sin again. Still I will persevere. It brings such joy. Help me, O Lord!”

He thought all this, and was about to go to bed, but was loth to leave his book. So he went on reading the seventh chapter⁠—about the centurion, the widow’s son, and the answer to John’s disciples⁠—and he came to the part where a rich Pharisee invited the Lord to his house; and he read how the woman who was a sinner, anointed his feet and washed them with her tears, and how he justified her. Coming to the forty-fourth verse, he read:

“And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment.”

He read these verses and thought: “He gave no water for his feet, gave no kiss, his head with oil he did not anoint.⁠ ⁠…” And Martin took off his spectacles once more, laid them on his book, and pondered.

“He must have been like me, that Pharisee. He too thought only of himself⁠—how to get a cup of tea, how to keep warm and comfortable; never a thought of his guest. He took care of himself, but for his guest he cared nothing at all. Yet who was the guest? The Lord himself! If he came to me, should I behave like that?”

Then Martin laid his head upon both his arms and, before he was aware of it, he fell asleep.

“Martin!” he suddenly heard a voice, as if someone had breathed the word above his ear.

He started from his sleep. “Who’s there?” he asked.

He turned round and looked at the door; no one was there. He called again. Then he heard quite distinctly: “Martin, Martin! Look out into the street tomorrow, for I shall come.”

Martin roused himself, rose from his chair and rubbed his eyes, but did not know whether he had heard these words in a dream or awake. He put out the lamp and lay down to sleep.

Next morning he rose before daylight, and after saying his prayers he lit the fire and prepared his cabbage soup and buckwheat porridge. Then he lit the samovar, put on his apron, and sat down by the window to his work. As he sat working Martin thought over what had happened the night before. At times it seemed to him like a dream, and at times he thought that he had really heard the voice. “Such things have happened before now,” thought he.

So he sat by the window, looking out into the street more than he worked, and whenever anyone passed in unfamiliar boots he would stoop and look up, so as to see not the feet only but the face of the passerby as well. A house-porter passed in new felt boots; then a water-carrier. Presently an old soldier of Nicholas’ reign came near the window spade in hand. Martin knew him by his boots, which were shabby old felt ones, goloshed with leather. The old man was called Stepánitch: a neighbouring tradesman kept him in his house for charity, and his duty was to help the house-porter. He began to clear away the snow before Martin’s window. Martin glanced at him and then went on with his work.

“I must be growing crazy with age,” said Martin, laughing at his fancy. “Stepánitch comes to clear away the snow, and I must needs imagine it’s Christ coming to visit me. Old dotard that I am!”

Yet after he had made a dozen stitches he felt drawn to look out of the window again. He saw that Stepánitch had leaned his spade against the wall, and was either resting himself or trying to get warm. The man was old and broken down, and had evidently not enough strength even to clear away the snow.

“What if I called him in and gave him some tea?” thought Martin. “The samovar is just on the boil.”

He stuck his awl in its place, and rose; and putting the samovar on the table, made tea. Then he tapped the window with his fingers. Stepánitch turned and came to the window. Martin beckoned to him to come in, and went himself to open the door.

“Come in,” he said, “and warm yourself a bit. I’m sure you must be cold.”

“May God bless you!” Stepánitch answered. “My bones do ache to be sure.” He came in, first shaking off the snow, and lest he should leave marks on the floor he began wiping his feet; but as he did so he tottered and nearly fell.

“Don’t trouble to wipe your feet,” said Martin; “I’ll wipe up the floor⁠—it’s all in the day’s work. Come, friend, sit down and have some tea.”

Filling two tumblers, he passed one to his visitor, and pouring his own out into the saucer, began to blow on it.

Stepánitch emptied his glass, and, turning it upside down, put the remains of his piece of sugar on the top. He began to express his thanks, but it was plain that he would be glad of some more.

“Have another glass,” said Martin, refilling the visitor’s tumbler and his own. But while he drank his tea Martin kept looking out into the street.

“Are you expecting anyone?” asked the visitor.

“Am I expecting anyone? Well, now, I’m ashamed to tell you. It isn’t that I really expect anyone; but I heard something last night which I can’t get out of my mind. Whether it was a vision, or only a fancy, I can’t tell. You see, friend, last night I was reading the Gospel, about Christ the Lord, how he suffered, and how he walked on earth. You have heard tell of it, I dare say.”

“I have heard tell of it,” answered Stepánitch; “but I’m an ignorant man and not able to read.”

“Well, you see, I was reading of how he walked on earth. I came to that part, you know, where he went to a Pharisee who did not receive him well. Well, friend, as I read about it, I thought how that man did not receive Christ the Lord with proper honour. Suppose such a thing could happen to such a man as myself, I thought, what would I not do to receive him! But that man gave him no reception at all. Well, friend, as I was thinking of this, I began to doze, and as I dozed I heard someone call me by name. I got up, and thought I heard someone whispering, ‘Expect me; I will come tomorrow.’ This happened twice over. And to tell you the truth, it sank so into my mind that, though I am ashamed of it myself, I keep on expecting him, the dear Lord!”

Stepánitch shook his head in silence, finished his tumbler and laid it on its side; but Martin stood it up again and refilled it for him.

“Here, drink another glass, bless you! And I was thinking, too, how he walked on earth and despised no one, but went mostly among common folk. He went with plain people, and chose his disciples from among the likes of us, from workmen like us, sinners that we are. ‘He who raises himself,’ he said, ‘shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be raised.’ ‘You call me Lord,’ he said, ‘and I will wash your feet.’ ‘He who would be first,’ he said, ‘let him be the servant of all; because,’ he said, ‘blessed are the poor, the humble, the meek, and the merciful.’ ”

Stepánitch forgot his tea. He was an old man, easily moved to tears, and as he sat and listened the tears ran down his cheeks.

“Come, drink some more,” said Martin. But Stepánitch crossed himself, thanked him, moved away his tumbler, and rose.

“Thank you, Martin Avdéitch,” he said, “you have given me food and comfort both for soul and body.”

“You’re very welcome. Come again another time. I am glad to have a guest,” said Martin.

Stepánitch went away; and Martin poured out the last of the tea and drank it up. Then he put away the tea things and sat down to his work, stitching the back seam of a boot. And as he stitched he kept looking out of the window, waiting for Christ, and thinking about him and his doings. And his head was full of Christ’s sayings.

Two soldiers went by: one in Government boots, the other in boots of his own; then the master of a neighbouring house, in shining goloshes; then a baker carrying a basket. All these passed on. Then a woman came up in worsted stockings and peasant-made shoes. She passed the window, but stopped by the wall. Martin glanced up at her through the window, and saw that she was a stranger, poorly dressed, and with a baby in her arms. She stopped by the wall with her back to the wind, trying to wrap the baby up though she had hardly anything to wrap it in. The woman had only summer clothes on, and even they were shabby and worn. Through the window Martin heard the baby crying, and the woman trying to soothe it, but unable to do so. Martin rose, and going out of the door and up the steps he called to her.

“My dear, I say, my dear!”

The woman heard, and turned round.

“Why do you stand out there with the baby in the cold? Come inside. You can wrap him up better in a warm place. Come this way!”

The woman was surprised to see an old man in an apron, with spectacles on his nose, calling to her, but she followed him in.

They went down the steps, entered the little room, and the old man led her to the bed.

“There, sit down, my dear, near the stove. Warm yourself, and feed the baby.”

“Haven’t any milk. I have eaten nothing myself since early morning,” said the woman, but still she took the baby to her breast.

Martin shook his head. He brought out a basin and some bread. Then he opened the oven door and poured some cabbage soup into the basin. He took out the porridge pot also, but the porridge was not yet ready, so he spread a cloth on the table and served only the soup and bread.

“Sit down and eat, my dear, and I’ll mind the baby. Why, bless me, I’ve had children of my own; I know how to manage them.”

The woman crossed herself, and sitting down at the table began to eat, while Martin put the baby on the bed and sat down by it. He chucked and chucked, but having no teeth he could not do it well and the baby continued to cry. Then Martin tried poking at him with his finger; he drove his finger straight at the baby’s mouth and then quickly drew it back, and did this again and again. He did not let the baby take his finger in its mouth, because it was all black with cobbler’s wax. But the baby first grew quiet watching the finger, and then began to laugh. And Martin felt quite pleased.

The woman sat eating and talking, and told him who she was, and where she had been.

“I’m a soldier’s wife,” said she. “They sent my husband somewhere, far away, eight months ago, and I have heard nothing of him since. I had a place as cook till my baby was born, but then they would not keep me with a child. For three months now I have been struggling, unable to find a place, and I’ve had to sell all I had for food. I tried to go as a wet-nurse, but no one would have me; they said I was too starved-looking and thin. Now I have just been to see a tradesman’s wife (a woman from our village is in service with her) and she has promised to take me. I thought it was all settled at last, but she tells me not to come till next week. It is far to her place, and I am fagged out, and baby is quite starved, poor mite. Fortunately our landlady has pity on us, and lets us lodge free, else I don’t know what we should do.”

Martin sighed. “Haven’t you any warmer clothing?” he asked.

“How could I get warm clothing?” said she. “Why, I pawned my last shawl for sixpence yesterday.”

Then the woman came and took the child, and Martin got up. He went and looked among some things that were hanging on the wall, and brought back an old cloak.

“Here,” he said, “though it’s a worn-out old thing, it will do to wrap him up in.”

The woman looked at the cloak, then at the old man, and taking it, burst into tears. Martin turned away, and groping under the bed brought out a small trunk. He fumbled about in it, and again sat down opposite the woman. And the woman said:

“The Lord bless you, friend. Surely Christ must have sent me to your window, else the child would have frozen. It was mild when I started, but now see how cold it has turned. Surely it must have been Christ who made you look out of your window and take pity on me, poor wretch!”

Martin smiled and said; “It is quite true; it was he made me do it. It was no mere chance made me look out.”

And he told the woman his dream, and how he had heard the Lord’s voice promising to visit him that day.

“Who knows? All things are possible,” said the woman. And she got up and threw the cloak over her shoulders, wrapping it round herself and round the baby. Then she bowed, and thanked Martin once more.

“Take this for Christ’s sake,” said Martin, and gave her sixpence to get her shawl out of pawn. The woman crossed herself, and Martin did the same, and then he saw her out.

After the woman had gone, Martin ate some cabbage soup, cleared the things away, and sat down to work again. He sat and worked, but did not forget the window, and every time a shadow fell on it he looked up at once to see who was passing. People he knew and strangers passed by, but no one remarkable.

After a while Martin saw an apple-woman stop just in front of his window. She had a large basket, but there did not seem to be many apples left in it; she had evidently sold most of her stock. On her back she had a sack full of chips, which she was taking home. No doubt she had gathered them at some place where building was going on. The sack evidently hurt her, and she wanted to shift it from one shoulder to the other, so she put it down on the footpath and, placing her basket on a post, began to shake down the chips in the sack. While she was doing this a boy in a tattered cap ran up, snatched an apple out of the basket, and tried to slip away; but the old woman noticed it, and turning, caught the boy by his sleeve. He began to struggle, trying to free himself, but the old woman held on with both hands, knocked his cap off his head, and seized hold of his hair. The boy screamed and the old woman scolded. Martin dropped his awl, not waiting to stick it in its place, and rushed out of the door. Stumbling up the steps, and dropping his spectacles in his hurry, he ran out into the street. The old woman was pulling the boy’s hair and scolding him, and threatening to take him to the police. The lad was struggling and protesting, saying, “I did not take it. What are you beating me for? Let me go!”

Martin separated them. He took the boy by the hand and said, “Let him go, Granny. Forgive him for Christ’s sake.”

“I’ll pay him out, so that he won’t forget it for a year! I’ll take the rascal to the police!”

Martin began entreating the old woman.

“Let him go, Granny. He won’t do it again. Let him go for Christ’s sake!”

The old woman let go, and the boy wished to run away, but Martin stopped him.

“Ask the Granny’s forgiveness!” said he. “And don’t do it another time. I saw you take the apple.”

The boy began to cry and to beg pardon.

“That’s right. And now here’s an apple for you,” and Martin took an apple from the basket and gave it to the boy, saying, “I will pay you, Granny.”

“You will spoil them that way, the young rascals,” said the old woman. “He ought to be whipped so that he should remember it for a week.”

“Oh, Granny, Granny,” said Martin, “that’s our way⁠—but it’s not God’s way. If he should be whipped for stealing an apple, what should be done to us for our sins?”

The old woman was silent.

And Martin told her the parable of the lord who forgave his servant a large debt, and how the servant went out and seized his debtor by the throat. The old woman listened to it all, and the boy, too, stood by and listened.

“God bids us forgive,” said Martin, “or else we shall not be forgiven. Forgive everyone; and a thoughtless youngster most of all.”

The old woman wagged her head and sighed.

“It’s true enough,” said she, “but they are getting terribly spoilt.”

“Then we old ones must show them better ways,” Martin replied.

“That’s just what I say,” said the old woman. “I have had seven of them myself, and only one daughter is left.” And the old woman began to tell how and where she was living with her daughter, and how many grandchildren she had. “There now,” she said, “I have but little strength left, yet I work hard for the sake of my grandchildren; and nice children they are, too. No one comes out to meet me but the children. Little Annie, now, won’t leave me for anyone. ‘It’s grandmother, dear grandmother, darling grandmother.’ ” And the old woman completely softened at the thought.

“Of course, it was only his childishness, God help him,” said she, referring to the boy.

As the old woman was about to hoist her sack on her back, the lad sprang forward to her, saying, “Let me carry it for you, Granny. I’m going that way.”

The old woman nodded her head, and put the sack on the boy’s back, and they went down the street together, the old woman quite forgetting to ask Martin to pay for the apple. Martin stood and watched them as they went along talking to each other.

When they were out of sight Martin went back to the house. Having found his spectacles unbroken on the steps, he picked up his awl and sat down again to work. He worked a little, but could soon not see to pass the bristle through the holes in the leather; and presently he noticed the lamplighter passing on his way to light the street lamps.

“Seems it’s time to light up,” thought he. So he trimmed his lamp, hung it up, and sat down again to work. He finished off one boot and, turning it about, examined it. It was all right. Then he gathered his tools together, swept up the cuttings, put away the bristles and the thread and the awls, and, taking down the lamp, placed it on the table. Then he took the Gospels from the shelf. He meant to open them at the place he had marked the day before with a bit of morocco, but the book opened at another place. As Martin opened it, his yesterday’s dream came back to his mind, and no sooner had he thought of it than he seemed to hear footsteps, as though someone were moving behind him. Martin turned round, and it seemed to him as if people were standing in the dark corner, but he could not make out who they were. And a voice whispered in his ear: “Martin, Martin, don’t you know me?”

“Who is it?” muttered Martin.

“It is I,” said the voice. And out of the dark corner stepped Stepánitch, who smiled and vanishing like a cloud was seen no more.

“It is I,” said the voice again. And out of the darkness stepped the woman with the baby in her arms, and the woman smiled and the baby laughed, and they too vanished.

“It is I,” said the voice once more. And the old woman and the boy with the apple stepped out and both smiled, and then they too vanished.

And Martin’s soul grew glad. He crossed himself, put on his spectacles, and began reading the Gospel just where it had opened; and at the top of the page he read:

“I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”

And at the bottom of the page he read:

“Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me” (Matthew 25).

And Martin understood that his dream had come true; and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, and he had welcomed him.


Evil Allures, but Good Endures

There lived in olden times a good and kindly man. He had this world’s goods in abundance, and many slaves to serve him. And the slaves prided themselves on their master, saying:

“There is no better lord than ours under the sun. He feeds and clothes us well, and gives us work suited to our strength. He bears no malice, and never speaks a harsh word to anyone. He is not like other masters, who treat their slaves worse than cattle: punishing them whether they deserve it or not, and never giving them a friendly word. He wishes us well, does good, and speaks kindly to us. We do not wish for a better life.”

Thus the slaves praised their lord, and the Devil, seeing it, was vexed that slaves should live in such love and harmony with their master. So getting one of them, whose name was Aleb, into his power, the Devil ordered him to tempt the other slaves. And one day, when they were all sitting together resting and talking of their master’s goodness, Aleb raised his voice, and said:

“It is stupid to make so much of our master’s goodness. The Devil himself would be kind to you, if you did what he wanted. We serve our master well, and humour him in all things. As soon as he thinks of anything, we do it: foreseeing all his wishes. What can he do but be kind to us? Just try how it will be if, instead of humouring him, we do him some harm instead. He will act like anyone else, and will repay evil for evil, as the worst of masters do.”

The other slaves began denying what Aleb had said, and at last bet with him. Aleb undertook to make their master angry. If he failed, he was to lose his holiday garment; but if he succeeded, the other slaves were to give him theirs. Moreover, they promised to defend him against the master, and to set him free if he should be put in chains or imprisoned. Having arranged this bet, Aleb agreed to make his master angry next morning.

Aleb was a shepherd, and had in his charge a number of valuable, purebred sheep, of which his master was very fond. Next morning, when the master brought some visitors into the inclosure to show them the valuable sheep, Aleb winked at his companions, as if to say:

“See, now, how angry I will make him.”

All the other slaves assembled, looking in at the gates or over the fence, and the Devil climbed a tree nearby to see how his servant would do his work. The master walked about the inclosure, showing his guests the ewes and lambs, and presently he wished to show them his finest ram.

“All the rams are valuable,” said he, “but I have one with closely twisted horns, which is priceless. I prize him as the apple of my eye.”

Startled by the strangers, the sheep rushed about the inclosure, so that the visitors could not get a good look at the ram. As soon as it stood still, Aleb startled the sheep as if by accident, and they all got mixed up again. The visitors could not make out which was the priceless ram. At last the master got tired of it.

“Aleb, dear friend,” he said, “pray catch our best ram for me, the one with the tightly twisted horns. Catch him very carefully, and hold him still for a moment.”

Scarcely had the master said this, when Aleb rushed in among the sheep like a lion, and clutched the priceless ram. Holding him fast by the wool, he seized the left hind leg with one hand, and, before his master’s eyes, lifted it and jerked it so that it snapped like a dry branch. He had broken the ram’s leg, and it fell bleating onto its knees. Then Aleb seized the right hind leg, while the left twisted round and hung quite limp. The visitors and the slaves exclaimed in dismay, and the Devil, sitting up in the tree, rejoiced that Aleb had done his task so cleverly. The master looked as black as thunder, frowned, bent his head, and did not say a word. The visitors and the slaves were silent, too, waiting to see what would follow. After remaining silent for a while, the master shook himself as if to throw off some burden. Then he lifted his head, and raising his eyes heavenward, remained so for a short time. Presently the wrinkles passed from his face, and he looked down at Aleb with a smile, saying:

“Oh, Aleb, Aleb! Your master bade you anger me; but my master is stronger than yours. I am not angry with you, but I will make your master angry. You are afraid that I shall punish you, and you have been wishing for your freedom. Know, then, Aleb, that I shall not punish you; but, as you wish to be free, here, before my guests, I set you free. Go where you like, and take your holiday garment with you!”

And the kind master returned with his guests to the house; but the Devil, grinding his teeth, fell down from the tree, and sank through the ground.


Little Girls Wiser Than Men

It was an early Easter. Sledging was only just over; snow still lay in the yards; and water ran in streams down the village street.

Two little girls from different houses happened to meet in a lane between two homesteads, where the dirty water after running through the farmyards had formed a large puddle. One girl was very small, the other a little bigger. Their mothers had dressed them both in new frocks. The little one wore a blue frock, the other a yellow print, and both had red kerchiefs on their heads. They had just come from church when they met, and first they showed each other their finery, and then they began to play. Soon the fancy took them to splash about in the water, and the smaller one was going to step into the puddle, shoes and all, when the elder checked her:

“Don’t go in so, Malásha,” said she, “your mother will scold you. I will take off my shoes and stockings, and you take off yours.”

They did so; and then, picking up their skirts, began walking towards each other through the puddle. The water came up to Malásha’s ankles, and she said:

“It is deep, Akoúlya, I’m afraid!”

“Come on,” replied the other. “Don’t be frightened. It won’t get any deeper.”

When they got near one another, Akoúlya said:

“Mind, Malásha, don’t splash. Walk carefully!”

She had hardly said this, when Malásha plumped down her foot so that the water splashed right on to Akoúlya’s frock. The frock was splashed, and so were Akoúlya’s eyes and nose. When she saw the stains on her frock, she was angry and ran after Malásha to strike her. Malásha was frightened, and seeing that she had got herself into trouble, she scrambled out of the puddle, and prepared to run home. Just then Akoúlya’s mother happened to be passing, and seeing that her daughter’s skirt was splashed, and her sleeves dirty, she said:

“You naughty, dirty girl, what have you been doing?”

“Malásha did it on purpose,” replied the girl.

At this Akoúlya’s mother seized Malásha, and struck her on the back of her neck. Malásha began to howl so that she could be heard all down the street. Her mother came out.

“What are you beating my girl for?” said she; and began scolding her neighbour. One word led to another and they had an angry quarrel. The men came out, and a crowd collected in the street, everyone shouting and no one listening. They all went on quarrelling, till one gave another a push, and the affair had very nearly come to blows, when Akoúlya’s old grandmother, stepping in among them, tried to calm them.

“What are you thinking of, friends? Is it right to behave so? On a day like this, too! It is a time for rejoicing, and not for such folly as this.”

They would not listen to the old woman, and nearly knocked her off her feet. And she would not have been able to quiet the crowd, if it had not been for Akoúlya and Malásha themselves. While the women were abusing each other, Akoúlya had wiped the mud off her frock, and gone back to the puddle. She took a stone and began scraping away the earth in front of the puddle to make a channel through which the water could run out into the street. Presently Malásha joined her, and with a chip of wood helped her dig the channel. Just as the men were beginning to fight, the water from the little girls’ channel ran streaming into the street towards the very place where the old woman was trying to pacify the men. The girls followed it; one running each side of the little stream.

“Catch it, Malásha! Catch it!” shouted Akoúlya; while Malásha could not speak for laughing.

Highly delighted, and watching the chip float along on their stream, the little girls ran straight into the group of men; and the old woman, seeing them, said to the men:

“Are you not ashamed of yourselves? To go fighting on account of these lassies, when they themselves have forgotten all about it, and are playing happily together. Dear little souls! They are wiser than you!”

The men looked at the little girls, and were ashamed, and, laughing at themselves, went back each to his own home.

“Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”



There once lived, in the Government of Oufá, a Bashkir named Ilyás. His father, who died a year after he had found his son a wife, did not leave him much property. Ilyás then had only seven mares, two cows, and about a score of sheep. He was a good manager, however, and soon began to acquire more. He and his wife worked from morn till night; rising earlier than others and going later to bed; and his possessions increased year by year. Living in this way, Ilyás little by little acquired great wealth. At the end of thirty-five years he had 200 horses, 150 head of cattle, and 1,200 sheep. Hired labourers tended his flocks and herds, and hired women milked his mares and cows, and made kumiss,235 butter and cheese. Ilyás had abundance of everything, and everyone in the district envied him. They said of him:

“Ilyás is a fortunate man: he has plenty of everything. This world must be a pleasant place for him.”

People of position heard of Ilyás and sought his acquaintance. Visitors came to him from afar; and he welcomed everyone, and gave them food and drink. Whoever might come, there was always kumiss, tea, sherbet, and mutton to set before them. Whenever visitors arrived a sheep would be killed, or sometimes two; and if many guests came he would even slaughter a mare for them.

Ilyás had three children: two sons and a daughter; and he married them all off. While he was poor, his sons worked with him, and looked after the flocks and herds themselves; but when he grew rich they got spoiled, and one of them took to drink. The eldest was killed in a brawl; and the younger, who had married a self-willed woman, ceased to obey his father, and they could not live together any more.

So they parted, and Ilyás gave his son a house and some of the cattle; and this diminished his wealth. Soon after that, a disease broke out among Ilyás’s sheep, and many died. Then followed a bad harvest, and the hay crop failed; and many cattle died that winter. Then the Kirghíz captured his best herd of horses; and Ilyás’s property dwindled away. It became smaller and smaller, while at the same time his strength grew less; till, by the time he was seventy years old, he had begun to sell his furs, carpets, saddles, and tents. At last he had to part with his remaining cattle, and found himself face to face with want. Before he knew how it had happened, he had lost everything, and in their old age he and his wife had to go into service. Ilyás had nothing left, except the clothes on his back, a fur cloak, a cup, his indoor shoes and overshoes, and his wife, Sham-Shemagi, who also was old by this time. The son who had parted from him had gone into a far country, and his daughter was dead, so that there was no one to help the old couple.

Their neighbour, Muhammad-Shah, took pity on them. Muhammad-Shah was neither rich nor poor, but lived comfortably, and was a good man. He remembered Ilyás’s hospitality, and pitying him, said:

“Come and live with me, Ilyás, you and your old woman. In summer you can work in my melon-garden as much as your strength allows, and in winter feed my cattle; and Sham-Shemagi shall milk my mares and make kumiss. I will feed and clothe you both. When you need anything, tell me, and you shall have it.”

Ilyás thanked his neighbour, and he and his wife took service with Muhammad-Shah as labourers. At first the position seemed hard to them, but they got used to it, and lived on, working as much as their strength allowed.

Muhammad-Shah found it was to his advantage to keep such people, because, having been masters themselves, they knew how to manage and were not lazy, but did all the work they could. Yet it grieved Muhammad-Shah to see people brought so low who had been of such high standing.

It happened once that some of Muhammad-Shah’s relatives came from a great distance to visit him, and a Mullah came too. Muhammad-Shah told Ilyás to catch a sheep and kill it. Ilyás skinned the sheep, and boiled it, and sent it in to the guests. The guests ate the mutton, had some tea, and then began drinking kumiss. As they were sitting with their host on down cushions on a carpet, conversing and sipping kumiss from their cups, Ilyás, having finished his work, passed by the open door. Muhammad-Shah, seeing him pass, said to one of the guests:

“Did you notice that old man who passed just now?”

“Yes,” said the visitor, “what is there remarkable about him?”

“Only this⁠—that he was once the richest man among us,” replied the host. “His name is Ilyás. You may have heard of him.”

“Of course I have heard of him,” the guest answered, “I never saw him before, but his fame has spread far and wide.”

“Yes, and now he has nothing left,” said Muhammad-Shah, “and he lives with me as my labourer, and his old woman is here too⁠—she milks the mares.”

The guest was astonished: he clicked with his tongue, shook his head, and said:

“Fortune turns like a wheel. One man it lifts, another it sets down! Does not the old man grieve over all he has lost?”

“Who can tell. He lives quietly and peacefully, and works well.”

“May I speak to him?” asked the guest. “I should like to ask him about his life.”

“Why not?” replied the master, and he called from the kibítka236 in which they were sitting:

Babay;” (which in the Bashkir tongue means “Grandfather”) “come in and have a cup of kumiss with us, and call your wife here also.”

Ilyás entered with his wife; and after exchanging greetings with his master and the guests, he repeated a prayer, and seated himself near the door. His wife passed in behind the curtain and sat down with her mistress.

A cup of kumiss was handed to Ilyás; he wished the guests and his master good health, bowed, drank a little, and put down the cup.

“Well, Daddy,” said the guest who had wished to speak to him, “I suppose you feel rather sad at the sight of us. It must remind you of your former prosperity, and of your present sorrows.”

Ilyás smiled, and said:

“If I were to tell you what is happiness and what is misfortune, you would not believe me. You had better ask my wife. She is a woman, and what is in her heart is on her tongue. She will tell you the whole truth.”

The guest turned towards the curtain.

“Well, Granny,” he cried, “tell me how your former happiness compares with your present misfortune.”

And Sham-Shemagi answered from behind the curtain:

“This is what I think about it: My old man and I lived for fifty years seeking happiness and not finding it; and it is only now, these last two years, since we had nothing left and have lived as labourers, that we have found real happiness, and we wish for nothing better than our present lot.”

The guests were astonished, and so was the master; he even rose and drew the curtain back, so as to see the old woman’s face. There she stood with her arms folded, looking at her old husband, and smiling; and he smiled back at her. The old woman went on:

“I speak the truth and do not jest. For half a century we sought for happiness, and as long as we were rich we never found it. Now that we have nothing left, and have taken service as labourers, we have found such happiness that we want nothing better.”

“But in what does your happiness consist?” asked the guest.

“Why, in this,” she replied, “when we were rich, my husband and I had so many cares that we had no time to talk to one another, or to think of our souls, or to pray to God. Now we had visitors, and had to consider what food to set before them, and what presents to give them, lest they should speak ill of us. When they left, we had to look after our labourers, who were always trying to shirk work and get the best food, while we wanted to get all we could out of them. So we sinned. Then we were in fear lest a wolf should kill a foal or a calf, or thieves steal our horses. We lay awake at night, worrying lest the ewes should overlie their lambs, and we got up again and again to see that all was well. One thing attended to, another care would spring up: how, for instance, to get enough fodder for the winter. And besides that, my old man and I used to disagree. He would say we must do so and so, and I would differ from him; and then we disputed⁠—sinning again. So we passed from one trouble to another, from one sin to another, and found no happiness.”

“Well, and now?”

“Now, when my husband and I wake in the morning, we always have a loving word for one another, and we live peacefully, having nothing to quarrel about. We have no care but how best to serve our master. We work as much as our strength allows, and do it with a will, that our master may not lose, but profit by us. When we come in, dinner or supper is ready and there is kumiss to drink. We have fuel to burn when it is cold, and we have our fur cloak. And we have time to talk, time to think of our souls, and time to pray. For fifty years we sought happiness, but only now at last have we found it.”

The guests laughed.

But Ilyás said:

“Do not laugh, friends. It is not a matter for jesting⁠—it is the truth of life. We also were foolish at first, and wept at the loss of our wealth; but now God has shown us the truth, and we tell it, not for our own consolation, but for your good.”

And the Mullah said:

“That is a wise speech. Ilyás has spoken the exact truth. The same is said in Holy Writ.”

And the guests ceased laughing and became thoughtful.


Croesus and Solon

In olden times⁠—long, long before the coming of Christ⁠—there reigned over a certain country a great king called Croesus. He had much gold and silver, and many precious stones, as well as numberless soldiers and slaves. Indeed, he thought that in all the world there could be no happier man than himself.

But one day there chanced to visit the country which Croesus ruled a Greek philosopher named Solon. Far and wide was Solon famed as a wise man and a just; and, inasmuch as his fame had reached Croesus also, the king commanded that he should be conducted to his presence.

Seated upon his throne, and robed in his most gorgeous apparel, Croesus asked of Solon: “Have you ever seen aught more splendid than this?”

“Of a surety have I,” replied Solon. “Peacocks, cocks, and pheasants glitter with colours so diverse and so brilliant that no art can compare with them.”

Croesus was silent as he thought to himself: “Since this is not enough, I must show him something more, to surprise him.”

So he exhibited the whole of his riches before Solon’s eyes, as well as boasted of the number of foes he had slain, and the number of territories he had conquered. Then he said to the philosopher:

“You have lived long in the world, and have visited many countries. Tell me whom you consider to be the happiest man living?”

“The happiest man living I consider to be a certain poor man who lives in Athens,” replied Solon.

The king was surprised at this answer, for he had made certain that Solon would name him himself; yet, for all that, the philosopher had named a perfectly obscure individual!

“Why do you say that?” asked Croesus.

“Because,” replied Solon, “the man of whom I speak has worked hard all his life, has been content with little, has reared fine children, has served his city honourably, and has achieved a noble reputation.”

When Croesus heard this he exclaimed:

“And do you reckon my happiness as nothing, and consider that I am not fit to be compared with the man of whom you speak?”

To which Solon replied:

“Often it befalls that a poor man is happier than a rich man. Call no man happy until he is dead.”

The king dismissed Solon, for he was not pleased at his words, and had no belief in him.

“A fig for melancholy!” he thought. “While a man lives he should live for pleasure.”

So he forgot about Solon entirely.

Not long afterwards the king’s son went hunting, but wounded himself by a mischance, and died of the wound. Next, it was told to Croesus that the powerful Emperor Cyrus was coming to make war upon him.

So Croesus went out against Cyrus with a great army, but the enemy proved the stronger, and, having won the battle and shattered Croesus’ forces, penetrated to the capital.

Then the foreign soldiers began to pillage all King Croesus’ riches, and to slay the inhabitants, and to sack and fire the city. One soldier seized Croesus himself, and was just about to stab him, when the king’s son darted forward to defend his father, and cried aloud:

“Do not touch him! That is Croesus, the king!”

So the soldiers bound Croesus, and carried him away to the Emperor; but Cyrus was celebrating his victory at a banquet, and could not speak with the captive, so orders were sent out for Croesus to be executed.

In the middle of the city square the soldiers built a great burning-pile, and upon the top of it they placed King Croesus, bound him to a stake, and set fire to the pile.

Croesus gazed around him, upon his city and upon his palace. Then he remembered the words of the Greek philosopher, and, bursting into tears, could only say:

“Ah, Solon, Solon!”

The soldiers were closing in about the pile when the Emperor Cyrus arrived in person to view the execution. As he did so he caught these words uttered by Croesus, but could not understand them.

So he commanded Croesus to be taken from the pile, and inquired of him what he had just said. Croesus answered:

“I was but naming the name of a wise man⁠—of one who told me a great truth⁠—a truth that is of greater worth than all earthly riches, than all our kingly glory.”

And Croesus related to Cyrus his conversation with Solon. The story touched the heart of the Emperor, for he bethought him that he too was but a man, that he too knew not what Fate might have in store for him. So in the end he had mercy upon Croesus, and became his friend.

The Three Hermits

An Old Legend Current in the Volga District

“And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.”

⁠Matthew 6:7⁠–⁠8

A Bishop was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman, who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing, however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

“Do not let me disturb you, friends,” said the Bishop. “I came to hear what this good man was saying.”

“The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,” replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

“What hermits?” asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. “Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?”

“Why, that little island you can just see over there,” answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. “That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.”

“Where is the island?” asked the Bishop. “I see nothing.”

“There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it, and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.”

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.

“I cannot see it,” he said. “But who are the hermits that live there?”

“They are holy men,” answered the fisherman. “I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.”

And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.

“And what are they like?” asked the Bishop.

“One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest’s cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel’s from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears a tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with overhanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.”

“And did they speak to you?” asked the Bishop.

“For the most part they did everything in silence, and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: ‘Have mercy upon us,’ and smiled.”

While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.

“There, now you can see it plainly, if your Grace will please to look,” said the tradesman, pointing with his hand.

The Bishop looked, and now he really saw a dark streak⁠—which was the island. Having looked at it awhile, he left the prow of the vessel, and going to the stern, asked the helmsman:

“What island is that?”

“That one,” replied the man, “has no name. There are many such in this sea.”

“Is it true that there are hermits who live there for the salvation of their souls?”

“So it is said, your Grace, but I don’t know if it’s true. Fishermen say they have seen them; but of course they may only be spinning yarns.”

“I should like to land on the island and see these men,” said the Bishop. “How could I manage it?”

“The ship cannot get close to the island,” replied the helmsman, “but you might be rowed there in a boat. You had better speak to the captain.”

The captain was sent for and came.

“I should like to see these hermits,” said the Bishop. “Could I not be rowed ashore?”

The captain tried to dissuade him.

“Of course it could be done,” said he, “but we should lose much time. And if I might venture to say so to your Grace, the old men are not worth your pains. I have heard say that they are foolish old fellows, who understand nothing, and never speak a word, any more than the fish in the sea.”

“I wish to see them,” said the Bishop, “and I will pay you for your trouble and loss of time. Please let me have a boat.”

There was no help for it; so the order was given. The sailors trimmed the sails, the steersman put up the helm, and the ship’s course was set for the island. A chair was placed at the prow for the Bishop, and he sat there, looking ahead. The passengers all collected at the prow, and gazed at the island. Those who had the sharpest eyes could presently make out the rocks on it, and then a mud hut was seen. At last one man saw the hermits themselves. The captain brought a telescope and, after looking through it, handed it to the Bishop.

“It’s right enough. There are three men standing on the shore. There, a little to the right of that big rock.”

The Bishop took the telescope, got it into position, and he saw the three men: a tall one, a shorter one, and one very small and bent, standing on the shore and holding each other by the hand.

The captain turned to the Bishop.

“The vessel can get no nearer in than this, your Grace. If you wish to go ashore, we must ask you to go in the boat, while we anchor here.”

The cable was quickly let out, the anchor cast, and the sails furled. There was a jerk, and the vessel shook. Then a boat having been lowered, the oarsmen jumped in, and the Bishop descended the ladder and took his seat. The men pulled at their oars, and the boat moved rapidly towards the island. When they came within a stone’s throw, they saw three old men: a tall one with only a mat tied round his waist: a shorter one in a tattered peasant coat, and a very old one bent with age and wearing an old cassock⁠—all three standing hand in hand.

The oarsmen pulled in to the shore, and held on with the boathook while the Bishop got out.

The old men bowed to him, and he gave them his benediction, at which they bowed still lower. Then the Bishop began to speak to them.

“I have heard,” he said, “that you, godly men, live here saving your own souls, and praying to our Lord Christ for your fellow men. I, an unworthy servant of Christ, am called, by God’s mercy, to keep and teach His flock. I wished to see you, servants of God, and to do what I can to teach you, also.”

The old men looked at each other smiling, but remained silent.

“Tell me,” said the Bishop, “what you are doing to save your souls, and how you serve God on this island.”

The second hermit sighed, and looked at the oldest, the very ancient one. The latter smiled, and said:

“We do not know how to serve God. We only serve and support ourselves, servant of God.”

“But how do you pray to God?” asked the Bishop.

“We pray in this way,” replied the hermit. “Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.”

And when the old man said this, all three raised their eyes to heaven, and repeated:

“Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!”

The Bishop smiled.

“You have evidently heard something about the Holy Trinity,” said he. “But you do not pray aright. You have won my affection, godly men. I see you wish to please the Lord, but you do not know how to serve Him. That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.”

And the Bishop began explaining to the hermits how God had revealed Himself to men; telling them of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

“God the Son came down on earth,” said he, “to save men, and this is how He taught us all to pray. Listen, and repeat after me: ‘Our Father.’ ”

And the first old man repeated after him, “Our Father,” and the second said, “Our Father,” and the third said, “Our Father.”

“Which art in heaven,” continued the Bishop.

The first hermit repeated, “Which art in heaven,” but the second blundered over the words, and the tall hermit could not say them properly. His hair had grown over his mouth so that he could not speak plainly. The very old hermit, having no teeth, also mumbled indistinctly.

The Bishop repeated the words again, and the old men repeated them after him. The Bishop sat down on a stone, and the old men stood before him, watching his mouth, and repeating the words as he uttered them. And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.

The Bishop did not leave off till he had taught them the whole of the Lord’s prayer so that they could not only repeat it after him, but could say it by themselves. The middle one was the first to know it, and to repeat the whole of it alone. The Bishop made him say it again and again, and at last the others could say it too.

It was getting dark, and the moon was appearing over the water, before the Bishop rose to return to the vessel. When he took leave of the old men, they all bowed down to the ground before him. He raised them, and kissed each of them, telling them to pray as he had taught them. Then he got into the boat and returned to the ship.

And as he sat in the boat and was rowed to the ship he could hear the three voices of the hermits loudly repeating the Lord’s prayer. As the boat drew near the vessel their voices could no longer be heard, but they could still be seen in the moonlight, standing as he had left them on the shore, the shortest in the middle, the tallest on the right, the middle one on the left. As soon as the Bishop had reached the vessel and got on board, the anchor was weighed and the sails unfurled. The wind filled them, and the ship sailed away, and the Bishop took a seat in the stern and watched the island they had left. For a time he could still see the hermits, but presently they disappeared from sight, though the island was still visible. At last it too vanished, and only the sea was to be seen, rippling in the moonlight.

The pilgrims lay down to sleep, and all was quiet on deck. The Bishop did not wish to sleep, but sat alone at the stern, gazing at the sea where the island was no longer visible, and thinking of the good old men. He thought how pleased they had been to learn the Lord’s prayer; and he thanked God for having sent him to teach and help such godly men.

So the Bishop sat, thinking, and gazing at the sea where the island had disappeared. And the moonlight flickered before his eyes, sparkling, now here, now there, upon the waves. Suddenly he saw something white and shining, on the bright path which the moon cast across the sea. Was it a seagull, or the little gleaming sail of some small boat? The Bishop fixed his eyes on it, wondering.

“It must be a boat sailing after us,” thought he, “but it is overtaking us very rapidly. It was far, far away a minute ago, but now it is much nearer. It cannot be a boat, for I can see no sail; but whatever it may be, it is following us, and catching us up.”

And he could not make out what it was. Not a boat, nor a bird, nor a fish! It was too large for a man, and besides a man could not be out there in the midst of the sea. The Bishop rose, and said to the helmsman:

“Look there, what is that, my friend? What is it?” the Bishop repeated, though he could now see plainly what it was⁠—the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not moving.

The steersman looked and let go the helm in terror.

“Oh Lord! The hermits are running after us on the water as though it were dry land!”

The passengers hearing him, jumped up, and crowded to the stern. They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:

“We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.”

The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship’s side, said:

“Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.”

And the Bishop bowed low before the old men; and they turned and went back across the sea. And a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.


The Imp and the Crust

A poor peasant set out early one morning to plough, taking with him for his breakfast a crust of bread. He got his plough ready, wrapped the bread in his coat, put it under a bush, and set to work. After a while, when his horse was tired and he was hungry, the peasant fixed the plough, let the horse loose to graze, and went to get his coat and his breakfast.

He lifted the coat, but the bread was gone! He looked and looked, turned the coat over, shook it out⁠—but the bread was gone. The peasant could not make this out at all.

“That’s strange,” thought he; “I saw no one, but all the same someone has been here and has taken the bread!”

It was an imp who had stolen the bread while the peasant was ploughing, and at that moment he was sitting behind the bush, waiting to hear the peasant swear and call on the Devil.

The peasant was sorry to lose his breakfast, but “It can’t be helped,” said he. “After all, I shan’t die of hunger! No doubt whoever took the bread needed it. May it do him good!”

And he went to the well, had a drink of water, and rested a bit. Then he caught his horse, harnessed it, and began ploughing again.

The imp was crestfallen at not having made the peasant sin, and he went to report what had happened to the Devil, his master.

He came to the Devil and told how he had taken the peasant’s bread, and how the peasant instead of cursing had said, “May it do him good!”

The Devil was angry, and replied: “If the man got the better of you, it was your own fault⁠—you don’t understand your business! If the peasants, and their wives after them, take to that sort of thing, it will be all up with us. The matter can’t be left like that! Go back at once,” said he, “and put things right. If in three years you don’t get the better of that peasant, I’ll have you ducked in holy water!”

The imp was frightened. He scampered back to earth, thinking how he could redeem his fault. He thought and thought, and at last hit upon a good plan.

He turned himself into a labouring man, and went and took service with the poor peasant. The first year he advised the peasant to sow corn in a marshy place. The peasant took his advice, and sowed in the marsh. The year turned out a very dry one, and the crops of the other peasants were all scorched by the sun, but the poor peasant’s corn grew thick and tall and full-eared. Not only had he grain enough to last him for the whole year, but he had much left over besides.

The next year the imp advised the peasant to sow on the hill; and it turned out a wet summer. Other people’s corn was beaten down and rotted and the ears did not fill; but the peasant’s crop, up on the hill, was a fine one. He had more grain left over than before, so that he did not know what to do with it all.

Then the imp showed the peasant how he could mash the grain and distil spirit from it; and the peasant made strong drink, and began to drink it himself and to give it to his friends.

So the imp went to the Devil, his master, and boasted that he had made up for his failure. The Devil said that he would come and see for himself how the case stood.

He came to the peasant’s house, and saw that the peasant had invited his well-to-do neighbours and was treating them to drink. His wife was offering the drink to the guests, and as she handed it round she tumbled against the table and spilt a glassful.

The peasant was angry, and scolded his wife: “What do you mean, you slut? Do you think it’s ditchwater, you cripple, that you must go pouring good stuff like that over the floor?”

The imp nudged the Devil, his master, with his elbow: “See,” said he, “that’s the man who did not grudge his last crust!”

The peasant, still railing at his wife, began to carry the drink round himself. Just then a poor peasant returning from work came in uninvited. He greeted the company, sat down, and saw that they were drinking. Tired with his day’s work, he felt that he too would like a drop. He sat and sat, and his mouth kept watering, but the host instead of offering him any only muttered: “I can’t find drink for everyone who comes along.”

This pleased the Devil; but the imp chuckled and said, “Wait a bit, there’s more to come yet!”

The rich peasants drank, and their host drank too. And they began to make false, oily speeches to one another.

The Devil listened and listened, and praised the imp.

“If,” said he, “the drink makes them so foxy that they begin to cheat each other, they will soon all be in our hands.”

“Wait for what’s coming,” said the imp. “Let them have another glass all round. Now they are like foxes, wagging their tails and trying to get round one another; but presently you will see them like savage wolves.”

The peasants had another glass each, and their talk became wilder and rougher. Instead of oily speeches, they began to abuse and snarl at one another. Soon they took to fighting, and punched one another’s noses. And the host joined in the fight, and he too got well beaten.

The Devil looked on and was much pleased at all this.

“This is first-rate!” said he.

But the imp replied: “Wait a bit⁠—the best is yet to come. Wait till they have had a third glass. Now they are raging like wolves, but let them have one more glass, and they will be like swine.”

The peasants had their third glass, and became quite like brutes. They muttered and shouted, not knowing why, and not listening to one another.

Then the party began to break up. Some went alone, some in twos, and some in threes, all staggering down the street. The host went out to speed his guests, but he fell on his nose into a puddle, smeared himself from top to toe, and lay there grunting like a hog.

This pleased the Devil still more.

“Well,” said he, “you have hit on a first-rate drink, and have quite made up for your blunder about the bread. But now tell me how this drink is made. You must first have put in fox’s blood: that was what made the peasants sly as foxes. Then, I suppose, you added wolf’s blood: that is what made them fierce like wolves. And you must have finished off with swine’s blood, to make them behave like swine.”

“No,” said the imp, “that was not the way I did it. All I did was to see that the peasant had more corn than he needed. The blood of the beasts is always in man; but as long as he has only enough corn for his needs, it is kept in bounds. While that was the case, the peasant did not grudge his last crust. But when he had corn left over, he looked for ways of getting pleasure out of it. And I showed him a pleasure⁠—drinking! And when he began to turn God’s good gifts into spirits for his own pleasure⁠—the fox’s, wolf’s and swine’s blood in him all came out. If only he goes on drinking, he will always be a beast!”

The Devil praised the imp, forgave him for his former blunder, and advanced him to a post of high honour.


A Grain as Big as a Hen’s Egg

One day some children found, in a ravine, a thing shaped like a grain of corn, with a groove down the middle, but as large as a hen’s egg. A traveller passing by saw the thing, bought it from the children for a penny, and taking it to town sold it to the King as a curiosity.

The King called together his wise men, and told them to find out what the thing was. The wise men pondered and pondered and could not make head or tail of it, till one day, when the thing was lying on a windowsill, a hen flew in and pecked at it till she made a hole in it, and then everyone saw that it was a grain of corn. The wise men went to the King, and said:

“It is a grain of corn.”

At this the King was much surprised; and he ordered the learned men to find out when and where such corn had grown. The learned men pondered again, and searched in their books, but could find nothing about it. So they returned to the King and said:

“We can give you no answer. There is nothing about it in our books. You will have to ask the peasants; perhaps some of them may have heard from their fathers when and where grain grew to such a size.”

So the King gave orders that some very old peasant should be brought before him; and his servants found such a man and brought him to the King. Old and bent, ashy pale and toothless, he just managed with the help of two crutches to totter into the King’s presence.

The King showed him the grain, but the old man could hardly see it; he took it, however, and felt it with his hands. The King questioned him, saying:

“Can you tell us, old man, where such grain as this grew? Have you ever bought such corn, or sown such in your fields?”

The old man was so deaf that he could hardly hear what the King said, and only understood with great difficulty.

“No!” he answered at last, “I never sowed nor reaped any like it in my fields, nor did I ever buy any such. When we bought corn, the grains were always as small as they are now. But you might ask my father. He may have heard where such grain grew.”

So the King sent for the old man’s father, and he was found and brought before the King. He came walking with one crutch. The King showed him the grain, and the old peasant, who was still able to see, took a good look at it. And the King asked him:

“Can you not tell us, old man, where corn like this used to grow? Have you ever bought any like it, or sown any in your fields?”

Though the old man was rather hard of hearing, he still heard better than his son had done.

“No,” he said, “I never sowed nor reaped any grain like this in my field. As to buying, I never bought any, for in my time money was not yet in use. Everyone grew his own corn, and when there was any need we shared with one another. I do not know where corn like this grew. Ours was larger and yielded more flour than present-day grain, but I never saw any like this. I have, however, heard my father say that in his time the grain grew larger and yielded more flour than ours. You had better ask him.”

So the King sent for this old man’s father, and they found him too, and brought him before the King. He entered walking easily and without crutches: his eye was clear, his hearing good, and he spoke distinctly. The King showed him the grain, and the old grandfather looked at it, and turned it about in his hand.

“It is long since I saw such a fine grain,” said he, and he bit a piece off and tasted it.

“It’s the very same kind,” he added.

“Tell me, grandfather,” said the King, “when and where was such corn grown? Have you ever bought any like it, or sown any in your fields?”

And the old man replied:

“Corn like this used to grow everywhere in my time. I lived on corn like this in my young days, and fed others on it. It was grain like this that we used to sow and reap and thrash.”

And the King asked:

“Tell me, grandfather, did you buy it anywhere, or did you grow it all yourself?”

The old man smiled.

“In my time,” he answered, “no one ever thought of such a sin as buying or selling bread; and we knew nothing of money. Each man had corn enough of his own.”

“Then tell me, grandfather,” asked the King, “where was your field, where did you grow corn like this?”

And the grandfather answered:

“My field was God’s earth. Wherever I ploughed, there was my field. Land was free. It was a thing no man called his own. Labour was the only thing men called their own.”

“Answer me two more questions,” said the King. “The first is, Why did the earth bear such grain then, and has ceased to do so now? And the second is, Why your grandson walks with two crutches, your son with one, and you yourself with none? Your eyes are bright, your teeth sound, and your speech clear and pleasant to the ear. How have these things come about?”

And the old man answered:

“These things are so, because men have ceased to live by their own labour, and have taken to depending on the labour of others. In the old time, men lived according to God’s law. They had what was their own, and coveted not what others had produced.”


The Godson

“Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil.”

⁠Matthew 5:38⁠–⁠39

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”

⁠Romans 12:19


A son was born to a poor peasant. He was glad, and went to his neighbour to ask him to stand godfather to the boy. The neighbour refused⁠—he did not like standing godfather to a poor man’s child. The peasant asked another neighbour, but he too refused, and after that the poor father went to every house in the village, but found no one willing to be godfather to his son. So he set off to another village, and on the way he met a man who stopped and said:

“Good day, my good man; where are you off to?”

“God has given me a child,” said the peasant, “to rejoice my eyes in youth, to comfort my old age, and to pray for my soul after death. But I am poor, and no one in our village will stand godfather to him, so I am now on my way to seek a godfather for him elsewhere.”

“Let me be godfather,” said the stranger.

The peasant was glad, and thanked him, but added:

“And whom shall I ask to be godmother?”

“Go to the town,” replied the stranger, “and, in the square, you will see a stone house with shopwindows in the front. At the entrance you will find the tradesman to whom it belongs. Ask him to let his daughter stand godmother to your child.”

The peasant hesitated.

“How can I ask a rich tradesman?” said he. “He will despise me, and will not let his daughter come.”

“Don’t trouble about that. Go and ask. Get everything ready by tomorrow morning, and I will come to the christening.”

The poor peasant returned home, and then drove to the town to find the tradesman. He had hardly taken his horse into the yard, when the tradesman himself came out.

“What do you want?” said he.

“Why, sir,” said the peasant, “you see God has given me a son to rejoice my eyes in youth, to comfort my old age, and to pray for my soul after death. Be so kind as to let your daughter stand godmother to him.”

“And when is the christening?” said the tradesman.

“Tomorrow morning.”

“Very well. Go in peace. She shall be with you at Mass tomorrow morning.”

The next day the godmother came, and the godfather also, and the infant was baptized. Immediately after the christening the godfather went away. They did not know who he was, and never saw him again.


The child grew up to be a joy to his parents. He was strong, willing to work, clever and obedient. When he was ten years old his parents sent him to school to learn to read and write. What others learnt in five years, he learnt in one, and soon there was nothing more they could teach him.

Easter came round, and the boy went to see his godmother, to give her his Easter greeting.

“Father and mother,” said he when he got home again, “where does my godfather live? I should like to give him my Easter greeting, too.”

And his father answered:

“We know nothing about your godfather, dear son. We often regret it ourselves. Since the day you were christened we have never seen him, nor had any news of him. We do not know where he lives, or even whether he is still alive.”

The son bowed to his parents.

“Father and mother,” said he, “let me go and look for my godfather. I must find him and give him my Easter greeting.”

So his father and mother let him go, and the boy set off to find his godfather.


The boy left the house and set out along the road. He had been walking for several hours when he met a stranger who stopped him and said:

“Good day to you, my boy. Where are you going?”

And the boy answered:

“I went to see my godmother and to give her my Easter greeting, and when I got home I asked my parents where my godfather lives, that I might go and greet him also. They told me they did not know. They said he went away as soon as I was christened, and they know nothing about him, not even if he be still alive. But I wished to see my godfather, and so I have set out to look for him.”

Then the stranger said: “I am your godfather.”

The boy was glad to hear this. After kissing his godfather three times for an Easter greeting, he asked him:

“Which way are you going now, godfather? If you are coming our way, please come to our house; but if you are going home, I will go with you.”

“I have no time now,” replied his godfather, “to come to your house. I have business in several villages; but I shall return home again tomorrow. Come and see me then.”

“But how shall I find you, godfather?”

“When you leave home, go straight towards the rising sun, and you will come to a forest; going through the forest you will come to a glade. When you reach this glade sit down and rest awhile, and look around you and see what happens. On the further side of the forest you will find a garden, and in it a house with a golden roof. That is my home. Go up to the gate, and I will myself be there to meet you.”

And having said this the godfather disappeared from his godson’s sight.


The boy did as his godfather had told him. He walked eastward until he reached a forest, and there he came to a glade, and in the midst of the glade he saw a pine tree to a branch of which was tied a rope supporting a heavy log of oak. Close under this log stood a wooden trough filled with honey. Hardly had the boy had time to wonder why the honey was placed there, and why the log hung above it, when he heard a crackling in the wood, and saw some bears approaching; a she-bear, followed by a yearling and three tiny cubs. The she-bear, sniffing the air, went straight to the trough, the cubs following her. She thrust her muzzle into the honey, and called the cubs to do the same. They scampered up and began to eat. As they did so, the log, which the she-bear had moved aside with her head, swung away a little and, returning, gave the cubs a push. Seeing this the she-bear shoved the log away with her paw. It swung further out and returned more forcibly, striking one cub on the back and another on the head. The cubs ran away howling with pain, and the mother, with a growl, caught the log in her forepaws and, raising it above her head, flung it away. The log flew high in the air, and the yearling, rushing to the trough, pushed his muzzle into the honey and began to suck noisily. The others also drew near, but they had not reached the trough when the log, flying back, struck the yearling on the head and killed him. The mother growled louder than before and, seizing the log, flung it from her with all her might. It flew higher than the branch it was tied to; so high that the rope slackened; and the she-bear returned to the trough, and the little cubs after her. The log flew higher and higher, then stopped, and began to fall. The nearer it came the faster it swung, and at last, at full speed, it crashed down on her head. The she-bear rolled over, her legs jerked, and she died! The cubs ran away into the forest.


The boy watched all this in surprise, and then continued his way. Leaving the forest, he came upon a large garden in the midst of which stood a lofty palace with a golden roof. At the gate stood his godfather, smiling. He welcomed his godson, and led him through the gateway into the garden. The boy had never dreamed of such beauty and delight as surrounded him in that place.

Then his godfather led him into the palace, which was even more beautiful inside than outside. The godfather showed the boy through all the rooms: each brighter and finer than the other, but at last they came to one door that was sealed up.

“You see this door,” said he. “It is not locked, but only sealed. It can be opened, but I forbid you to open it. You may live here, and go where you please, and enjoy all the delights of the place. My only command is⁠—do not open that door! But should you ever do so, remember what you saw in the forest.”

Having said this the godfather went away. The godson remained in the palace, and life there was so bright and joyful that he thought he had only been there three hours, when he had really lived there thirty years. When thirty years had gone by, the godson happened to be passing the sealed door one day, and he wondered why his godfather had forbidden him to enter that room.

“I’ll just look in and see what is there,” thought he, and he gave the door a push. The seals gave way, the door opened, and the godson entering saw a hall more lofty and beautiful than all the others, and in the midst of it a throne. He wandered about the hall for a while, and then mounted the steps and seated himself upon the throne. As he sat there he noticed a sceptre leaning against the throne, and took it in his hand. Hardly had he done so when the four walls of the hall suddenly disappeared. The godson looked around, and saw the whole world, and all that men were doing in it. He looked in front, and saw the sea with ships sailing on it. He looked to the right, and saw where strange heathen people lived. He looked to the left, and saw where men who were Christians, but not Russians, lived. He looked round, and on the fourth side, he saw Russian people, like himself.

“I will look,” said he, “and see what is happening at home, and whether the harvest is good.”

He looked towards his father’s fields and saw the sheaves standing in stooks. He began counting them to see whether there was much corn, when he noticed a peasant driving in a cart. It was night, and the godson thought it was his father coming to cart the corn by night. But as he looked he recognized Vasíly Koudryashóf, the thief, driving into the field and beginning to load the sheaves onto his cart. This made the godson angry, and he called out:

“Father, the sheaves are being stolen from our field!”

His father, who was out with the horses in the night-pasture, woke up.

“I dreamt the sheaves were being stolen,” said he. “I will just ride down and see.”

So he got on a horse and rode out to the field. Finding Vasíly there, he called together other peasants to help him, and Vasíly was beaten, bound, and taken to prison.

Then the godson looked at the town, where his godmother lived. He saw that she was now married to a tradesman. She lay asleep, and her husband rose and went to his mistress. The godson shouted to her:

“Get up, get up, your husband has taken to evil ways.”

The godmother jumped up and dressed, and finding out where her husband was, she shamed and beat his mistress, and drove him away.

Then the godson looked for his mother, and saw her lying asleep in her cottage. And a thief crept into the cottage and began to break open the chest in which she kept her things. The mother awoke and screamed, and the robber seizing an axe, swung it over his head to kill her.

The godson could not refrain from hurling the sceptre at the robber. It struck him upon the temple, and killed him on the spot.


As soon as the godson had killed the robber, the walls closed and the hall became just as it had been before.

Then the door opened and the godfather entered, and coming up to his godson he took him by the hand and led him down from the throne.

“You have not obeyed my command,” said he. “You did one wrong thing, when you opened the forbidden door; another, when you mounted the throne and took my sceptre into your hands; and you have now done a third wrong, which has much increased the evil in the world. Had you sat here an hour longer, you would have ruined half mankind.”

Then the godfather led his godson back to the throne, and took the sceptre in his hand; and again the walls fell asunder and all things became visible. And the godfather said:

“See what you have done to your father. Vasíly has now been a year in prison, and has come out having learnt every kind of wickedness, and has become quite incorrigible. See, he has stolen two of your father’s horses, and he is now setting fire to his barn. All this you have brought upon your father.”

The godson saw his father’s barn breaking into flames, but his godfather shut off the sight from him, and told him to look another way.

“Here is your godmother’s husband,” he said. “It is a year since he left his wife, and now he goes after other women. His former mistress has sunk to still lower depths. Sorrow has driven his wife to drink. That’s what you have done to your godmother.”

The godfather shut off this also, and showed the godson his father’s house. There he saw his mother weeping for her sins, repenting, and saying:

“It would have been better had the robber killed me that night. I should not have sinned so heavily.”

“That,” said the godfather, “is what you have done to your mother.”

He shut this off also, and pointed downwards; and the godson saw two warders holding the robber in front of a prison-house.

And the godfather said:

“This man had murdered ten men. He should have expiated his sins himself, but by killing him you have taken his sins on yourself. Now you must answer for all his sins. That is what you have done to yourself. The she-bear pushed the log aside once, and disturbed her cubs; she pushed it again, and killed her yearling; she pushed it a third time, and was killed herself. You have done the same. Now I give you thirty years to go into the world and atone for the robber’s sins. If you do not atone for them, you will have to take his place.”

“How am I to atone for his sins?” asked the godson.

And the godfather answered:

“When you have rid the world of as much evil as you have brought into it, you will have atoned both for your own sins and for those of the robber.”

“How can I destroy evil in the world?” the godson asked.

“Go out,” replied the godfather, “and walk straight towards the rising sun. After a time you will come to a field with some men in it. Notice what they are doing, and teach them what you know. Then go on and note what you see. On the fourth day you will come to a forest. In the midst of the forest is a cell, and in the cell lives a hermit. Tell him all that has happened. He will teach you what to do. When you have done all he tells you, you will have atoned for your own and the robber’s sins.”

And, having said this, the godfather led his godson out of the gate.


The godson went his way, and as he went he thought:

“How am I to destroy evil in the world? Evil is destroyed by banishing evil men, keeping them in prison, or putting them to death. How then am I to destroy evil without taking the sins of others upon myself?”

The godson pondered over it for a long time, but could come to no conclusion. He went on until he came to a field where corn was growing thick and good and ready for the reapers. The godson saw that a little calf had got in among the corn. Some men who were at hand saw it, and mounting their horses they chased it backwards and forwards through the corn. Each time the calf was about to come out of the corn, someone rode up and the calf got frightened and turned back again, and they all galloped after it, trampling down the corn. On the road stood a woman crying.

“They will chase my calf to death,” she said.

And the godson said to the peasants:

“What are you doing? Come out of the cornfield, all of you, and let the woman call her calf.”

The men did so; and the woman came to the edge of the cornfield and called to the calf. “Come along browney, come along,” said she. The calf pricked up its ears, listened awhile, and then ran towards the woman of its own accord, and hid its head in her skirts, almost knocking her over. The men were glad, the woman was glad, and so was the little calf.

The godson went on, and he thought:

“Now I see that evil spreads evil. The more people try to drive away evil, the more the evil grows. Evil, it seems, cannot be destroyed by evil; but in what way it can be destroyed, I do not know. The calf obeyed its mistress and so all went well; but if it had not obeyed her, how could we have got it out of the field?”

The godson pondered again, but came to no conclusion, and continued his way.


He went on until he came to a village. At the furthest end he stopped and asked leave to stay the night. The woman of the house was there alone, housecleaning, and she let him in. The godson entered, and taking his seat upon the brick oven he watched what the woman was doing. He saw her finish scrubbing the room and begin scrubbing the table. Having done this, she began wiping the table with a dirty cloth. She wiped it from side to side⁠—but it did not come clean. The soiled cloth left streaks of dirt. Then she wiped it the other way. The first streaks disappeared, but others came in their place. Then she wiped it from one end to the other, but again the same thing happened. The soiled cloth messed the table; when one streak was wiped off another was left on. The godson watched for awhile in silence, and then said:

“What are you doing, mistress?”

“Don’t you see I’m cleaning up for the holiday. Only I can’t manage this table, it won’t come clean. I’m quite tired out.”

“You should rinse your cloth,” said the godson, “before you wipe the table with it.”

The woman did so, and soon had the table clean.

“Thank you for telling me,” said she.

In the morning he took leave of the woman and went on his way. After walking a good while, he came to the edge of a forest. There he saw some peasants who were making wheel-rims of bent wood. Coming nearer, the godson saw that the men were going round and round, but could not bend the wood.

He stood and looked on, and noticed that the block, to which the piece of wood was fastened, was not fixed, but as the men moved round it went round too. Then the godson said:

“What are you doing, friends?”

“Why, don’t you see, we are making wheel-rims. We have twice steamed the wood, and are quite tired out, but the wood will not bend.”

“You should fix the block, friends,” said the godson, “or else it goes round when you do.”

The peasants took his advice and fixed the block, and then the work went on merrily.

The godson spent the night with them, and then went on. He walked all day and all night, and just before dawn he came upon some drovers encamped for the night, and lay down beside them. He saw that they had got all their cattle settled, and were trying to light a fire. They had taken dry twigs and lighted them, but before the twigs had time to burn up, they smothered them with damp brushwood. The brushwood hissed, and the fire smouldered and went out. Then the drovers brought more dry wood, lit it, and again put on the brushwood⁠—and again the fire went out. They struggled with it for a long time, but could not get the fire to burn. Then the godson said:

“Do not be in such a hurry to put on the brushwood. Let the dry wood burn up properly before you put any on. When the fire is well alight you can put on as much as you please.”

The drovers followed his advice. They let the fire burn up fiercely before adding the brushwood, which then flared up so that they soon had a roaring fire.

The godson remained with them for a while, and then continued his way. He went on, wondering what the three things he had seen might mean; but he could not fathom them.


The godson walked the whole of that day, and in the evening came to another forest. There he found a hermit’s cell, at which he knocked.

“Who is there?” asked a voice from within.

“A great sinner,” replied the godson. “I must atone for another’s sins as well as for my own.”

The hermit hearing this came out.

“What sins are those that you have to bear for another?”

The godson told him everything: about his godfather; about the she-bear with the cubs; about the throne in the sealed room; about the commands his godfather had given him, as well as about the peasants he had seen trampling down the corn, and the calf that ran out when its mistress called it.

“I have seen that one cannot destroy evil by evil,” said he, “but I cannot understand how it is to be destroyed. Teach me how it can be done.”

“Tell me,” replied the hermit, “what else you have seen on your way.”

The godson told him about the woman washing the table, and the men making cartwheels, and the drovers fighting their fire.

The hermit listened to it all, and then went back to his cell and brought out an old jagged axe.

“Come with me,” said he.

When they had gone some way, the hermit pointed to a tree.

“Cut it down,” he said.

The godson felled the tree.

“Now chop it into three,” said the hermit.

The godson chopped the tree into three pieces. Then the hermit went back to his cell, and brought out some blazing sticks.

“Burn those three logs,” said he.

So the godson made a fire, and burnt the three logs till only three charred stumps remained.

“Now plant them half in the ground, like this.”

The godson did so.

“You see that river at the foot of the hill. Bring water from there in your mouth, and water these stumps. Water this stump, as you taught the woman: this one, as you taught the wheelwrights: and this one, as you taught the drovers. When all three have taken root and from these charred stumps apple-trees have sprung, you will know how to destroy evil in men, and will have atoned for all your sins.”

Having said this, the hermit returned to his cell. The godson pondered for a long time, but could not understand what the hermit meant. Nevertheless he set to work to do as he had been told.


The godson went down to the river, filled his mouth with water, and returning, emptied it onto one of the charred stumps. This he did again and again, and watered all three stumps. When he was hungry and quite tired out, he went to the cell to ask the old hermit for some food. He opened the door, and there upon a bench he saw the old man lying dead. The godson looked round for food, and he found some dried bread and ate a little of it. Then he took a spade and set to work to dig the hermit’s grave. During the night he carried water and watered the stumps, and in the day he dug the grave. He had hardly finished the grave, and was about to bury the corpse, when some people from the village came, bringing food for the old man.

The people heard that the old hermit was dead, and that he had given the godson his blessing, and left him in his place. So they buried the old man, gave the bread they had brought to the godson, and promising to bring him some more, they went away.

The godson remained in the old man’s place. There he lived, eating the food people brought him, and doing as he had been told: carrying water from the river in his mouth and watering the charred stumps.

He lived thus for a year, and many people visited him. His fame spread abroad, as a holy man who lived in the forest and brought water from the bottom of a hill in his mouth to water charred stumps for the salvation of his soul. People flocked to see him. Rich merchants drove up bringing him presents, but he kept only the barest necessaries for himself, and gave the rest away to the poor.

And so the godson lived: carrying water in his mouth and watering the stumps half the day, and resting and receiving people the other half. And he began to think that this was the way he had been told to live, in order to destroy evil and atone for his sins.

He spent two years in this manner, not omitting for a single day to water the stumps. But still not one of them sprouted.

One day, as he sat in his cell, he heard a man ride past, singing as he went. The godson came out to see what sort of a man it was. He saw a strong young fellow, well dressed, and mounted on a handsome, well-saddled horse.

The godson stopped him, and asked him who he was, and where he was going.

“I am a robber,” the man answered, drawing rein. “I ride about the highways killing people; and the more I kill, the merrier are the songs I sing.”

The godson was horror-struck, and thought:

“How can the evil be destroyed in such a man as this? It is easy to speak to those who come to me of their own accord and confess their sins. But this one boasts of the evil he does.”

So he said nothing, and turned away, thinking: “What am I to do now? This robber may take to riding about here, and he will frighten away the people. They will leave off coming to me. It will be a loss to them, and I shall not know how to live.”

So the godson turned back, and said to the robber:

“People come to me here, not to boast of their sins, but to repent, and to pray for forgiveness. Repent of your sins, if you fear God; but if there is no repentance in your heart, then go away and never come here again. Do not trouble me, and do not frighten people away from me. If you do not hearken, God will punish you.”

The robber laughed:

“I am not afraid of God, and I will not listen to you. You are not my master,” said he. “You live by your piety, and I by my robbery. We all must live. You may teach the old women who come to you, but you have nothing to teach me. And because you have reminded me of God, I will kill two more men tomorrow. I would kill you, but I do not want to soil my hands just now. See that in future you keep out of my way!”

Having uttered this threat, the robber rode away. He did not come again, and the godson lived in peace, as before, for eight more years.


One night the godson watered his stumps, and, after returning to his cell, he sat down to rest, and watched the footpath, wondering if someone would soon come. But no one came at all that day. He sat alone till evening, feeling lonely and dull, and he thought about his past life. He remembered how the robber had reproached him for living by his piety; and he reflected on his way of life. “I am not living as the hermit commanded me to,” thought he. “The hermit laid a penance upon me, and I have made both a living and fame out of it; and have been so tempted by it, that now I feel dull when people do not come to me; and when they do come, I only rejoice because they praise my holiness. That is not how one should live. I have been led astray by love of praise. I have not atoned for my past sins, but have added fresh ones. I will go to another part of the forest where people will not find me; and I will live so as to atone for my old sins and commit no fresh ones.”

Having come to this conclusion the godson filled a bag with dried bread and, taking a spade, left the cell and started for a ravine he knew of in a lonely spot, where he could dig himself a cave and hide from the people.

As he was going along with his bag and his spade he saw the robber riding towards him. The godson was frightened, and started to run away, but the robber overtook him.

“Where are you going?” asked the robber.

The godson told him he wished to get away from the people and live somewhere where no one would come to him. This surprised the robber.

“What will you live on, if people do not come to see you?” asked he.

The godson had not even thought of this, but the robber’s question reminded him that food would be necessary.

“On what God pleases to give me,” he replied.

The robber said nothing, and rode away.

“Why did I not say anything to him about his way of life?” thought the godson. “He might repent now. Today he seems in a gentler mood, and has not threatened to kill me.” And he shouted to the robber:

“You have still to repent of your sins. You cannot escape from God.”

The robber turned his horse, and drawing a knife from his girdle threatened the hermit with it. The latter was alarmed, and ran away further into the forest.

The robber did not follow him, but only shouted:

“Twice I have let you off, old man, but next time you come in my way I will kill you!”

Having said this, he rode away. In the evening when the godson went to water his stumps⁠—one of them was sprouting! A little apple tree was growing out of it.


After hiding himself from everybody, the godson lived all alone. When his supply of bread was exhausted, he thought: “Now I must go and look for some roots to eat.” He had not gone far, however, before he saw a bag of dried bread hanging on a branch. He took it down, and as long as it lasted he lived upon that.

When he had eaten it all, he found another bagful on the same branch. So he lived on, his only trouble being his fear of the robber. Whenever he heard the robber passing, he hid, thinking:

“He may kill me before I have had time to atone for my sins.”

In this way he lived for ten more years. The one apple-tree continued to grow, but the other two stumps remained exactly as they were.

One morning the godson rose early and went to his work. By the time he had thoroughly moistened the ground round the stumps, he was tired out and sat down to rest. As he sat there he thought to himself:

“I have sinned, and have become afraid of death. It may be God’s will that I should redeem my sins by death.”

Hardly had this thought crossed his mind when he heard the robber riding up, swearing at something. When the godson heard this, he thought:

“No evil and no good can befall me from anyone but from God.”

And he went to meet the robber. He saw the robber was not alone, but behind him on the saddle sat another man, gagged, and bound hand and foot. The man was doing nothing, but the robber was abusing him violently. The godson went up and stood in front of the horse.

“Where are you taking this man?” he asked.

“Into the forest,” replied the robber. “He is a merchant’s son, and will not tell me where his father’s money is hidden. I am going to flog him till he tells me.”

And the robber spurred on his horse, but the godson caught hold of his bridle, and would not let him pass.

“Let this man go!” he said.

The robber grew angry, and raised his arm to strike.

“Would you like a taste of what I am going to give this man? Have I not promised to kill you? Let go!”

The godson was not afraid.

“You shall not go,” said he. “I do not fear you. I fear no one but God, and He wills that I should not let you pass. Set this man free!”

The robber frowned, and snatching out his knife, cut the ropes with which the merchant’s son was bound, and set him free.

“Get away both of you,” he said, “and beware how you cross my path again.”

The merchant’s son jumped down and ran away. The robber was about to ride on, but the godson stopped him again, and again spoke to him about giving up his evil life. The robber heard him to the end in silence, and then rode away without a word.

The next morning the godson went to water his stumps and lo! the second stump was sprouting. A second young apple-tree had begun to grow.


Another ten years had gone by. The godson was sitting quietly one day, desiring nothing, fearing nothing, and with a heart full of joy.

“What blessings God showers on men!” thought he. “Yet how needlessly they torment themselves. What prevents them from living happily?”

And remembering all the evil in men, and the troubles they bring upon themselves, his heart filled with pity.

“It is wrong of me to live as I do,” he said to himself. “I must go and teach others what I have myself learnt.”

Hardly had he thought this, when he heard the robber approaching. He let him pass, thinking:

“It is no good talking to him, he will not understand.”

That was his first thought, but he changed his mind and went out into the road. He saw that the robber was gloomy, and was riding with downcast eyes. The godson looked at him, pitied him, and running up to him laid his hand upon his knee.

“Brother, dear,” said he, “have some pity on your own soul! In you lives the spirit of God. You suffer, and torment others, and lay up more and more suffering for the future. Yet God loves you, and has prepared such blessings for you. Do not ruin yourself utterly. Change your life!”

The robber frowned and turned away.

“Leave me alone!” said he.

But the godson held the robber still faster, and began to weep.

Then the robber lifted his eyes and looked at the godson. He looked at him for a long time, and alighting from his horse, fell on his knees at the godson’s feet.

“You have overcome me, old man,” said he. “For twenty years I have resisted you, but now you have conquered me. Do what you will with me, for I have no more power over myself. When you first tried to persuade me, it only angered me more. Only when you hid yourself from men did I begin to consider your words: for I saw then that you asked nothing of them for yourself. Since that day I have brought food for you, hanging it upon the tree.”

Then the godson remembered that the woman got her table clean only after she had rinsed her cloth. In the same way, it was only when he ceased caring about himself, and cleansed his own heart, that he was able to cleanse the hearts of others.

The robber went on.

“When I saw that you did not fear death, my heart turned.”

Then the godson remembered that the wheelwrights could not bend the rims until they had fixed their block. So, not till he had cast away the fear of death and made his life fast in God, could he subdue this man’s unruly heart.

“But my heart did not quite melt,” continued the robber, “until you pitied me and wept for me.”

The godson, full of joy, led the robber to the place where the stumps were. And when they got there, they saw that from the third stump an apple-tree had begun to sprout. And the godson remembered that the drovers had not been able to light the damp wood until the fire had burnt up well. So it was only when his own heart burnt warmly, that another’s heart had been kindled by it.

And the godson was full of joy that he had at last atoned for his sins.

He told all this to the robber, and died. The robber buried him, and lived as the godson had commanded him, teaching to others what the godson had taught him.


The Repentant Sinner

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

⁠Luke 23:42⁠–⁠43

There was once a man who lived for seventy years in the world, and lived in sin all that time. He fell ill, but even then did not repent. Only at the last moment, as he was dying, he wept and said:

“Lord! forgive me, as Thou forgavest the thief upon the cross.”

And as he said these words, his soul left his body. And the soul of the sinner, feeling love towards God and faith in His mercy, went to the gates of heaven, and knocked, praying to be let into the heavenly kingdom.

Then a voice spoke from within the gate:

“What man is it that knocks at the gates of Paradise, and what deeds did he do during his life?”

And the voice of the Accuser replied, recounting all the man’s evil deeds, and not a single good one.

And the voice from within the gates answered:

“Sinners cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Go hence!”

Then the man said:

“Lord, I hear thy voice, but cannot see thy face, nor do I know thy name.”

The voice answered:

“I am Peter, the Apostle.”

And the sinner replied:

“Have pity on me, Apostle Peter! Remember man’s weakness, and God’s mercy. Wert not thou a disciple of Christ? Didst not thou hear his teaching from his own lips, and hadst thou not his example before thee? Remember then how, when he sorrowed and was grieved in spirit, and three times asked thee to keep awake and pray, thou didst sleep, because thine eyes were heavy, and three times he found thee sleeping. So it was with me. Remember, also, how thou didst promise to be faithful unto death, and yet didst thrice deny him, when he was taken before Caiaphas. So it was with me. And remember, too, how when the cock crowed thou didst go out and didst weep bitterly. So it is with me. Thou canst not refuse to let me in.”

And the voice behind the gates was silent.

Then the sinner stood a little while, and again began to knock, and to ask to be let into the kingdom of heaven.

And he heard another voice behind the gates, which said:

“Who is this man, and how did he live on earth?”

And the voice of the Accuser again repeated all the sinner’s evil deeds, and not a single good one.

And the voice from behind the gates replied:

“Go hence! Such sinners cannot live with us in Paradise.” Then the sinner said:

“Lord, I hear thy voice, but I see thee not, nor do I know thy name.”

And the voice answered:

“I am David; king and prophet.”

The sinner did not despair, nor did he leave the gates of paradise, but said:

“Have pity on me, King David! Remember man’s weakness, and God’s mercy. God loved thee and exalted thee among men. Thou hadst all: a kingdom, and honour, and riches, and wives, and children; but thou sawest from thy housetop the wife of a poor man, and sin entered into thee, and thou tookest the wife of Uriah, and didst slay him with the sword of the Ammonites. Thou, a rich man, didst take from the poor man his one ewe lamb, and didst kill him. I have done likewise. Remember, then, how thou didst repent, and how thou saidst, ‘I acknowledge my transgressions: my sin is ever before me?’ I have done the same. Thou canst not refuse to let me in.”

And the voice from within the gates was silent.

The sinner having stood a little while, began knocking again, and asking to be let into the kingdom of heaven. And a third voice was heard within the gates, saying:

“Who is this man, and how has he spent his life on earth?”

And the voice of the Accuser replied for the third time, recounting the sinner’s evil deeds, and not mentioning one good deed.

And the voice within the gates said:

“Depart hence! Sinners cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

And the sinner said:

“Thy voice I hear, but thy face I see not, neither do I know thy name.”

Then the voice replied:

“I am John the Divine, the beloved disciple of Christ.”

And the sinner rejoiced and said:

“Now surely I shall be allowed to enter. Peter and David must let me in, because they know man’s weakness and God’s mercy; and thou wilt let me in, because thou lovest much. Was it not thou, John the Divine, who wrote that God is Love, and that he who loves not, knows not God? And in thine old age didst thou not say unto men: ‘Brethren, love one another.’ How, then, canst thou look on me with hatred, and drive me away? Either thou must renounce what thou hast said, or loving me, must let me enter the kingdom of heaven.”

And the gates of Paradise opened, and John embraced the repentant sinner and took him into the kingdom of heaven.


The Candle

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil.”

⁠Matthew 5:38⁠–⁠39

It was in the time of serfdom⁠—many years before Alexander II’s liberation of the sixty million serfs in 1862. In those days the people were ruled by different kinds of lords. There were not a few who, remembering God, treated their slaves in a humane manner, and not as beasts of burden, while there were others who were seldom known to perform a kind or generous action; but the most barbarous and tyrannical of all were those former serfs who arose from the dirt and became princes.

It was this latter class who made life literally a burden to those who were unfortunate enough to come under their rule. Many of them had arisen from the ranks of the peasantry to become superintendents of noblemen’s estates.

The peasants were obliged to work for their master a certain number of days each week. There was plenty of land and water and the soil was rich and fertile, while the meadows and forests were sufficient to supply the needs of both the peasants and their lord.

There was a certain nobleman who had chosen a superintendent from the peasantry on one of his other estates. No sooner had the power to govern been vested in this newly-made official than he began to practice the most outrageous cruelties upon the poor serfs who had been placed under his control. Although this man had a wife and two married daughters, and was making so much money that he could have lived happily without transgressing in any way against either God or man, yet he was filled with envy and jealousy and deeply sunk in sin.

Michael Simeonovitch began his persecutions by compelling the peasants to perform more days of service on the estate every week than the laws obliged them to work. He established a brickyard, in which he forced the men and women to do excessive labor, selling the bricks for his own profit.

On one occasion the overworked serfs sent a delegation to Moscow to complain of their treatment to their lord, but they obtained no satisfaction. When the poor peasants returned disconsolate from the nobleman their superintendent determined to have revenge for their boldness in going above him for redress, and their life and that of their fellow-victims became worse than before.

It happened that among the serfs there were some very treacherous people who would falsely accuse their fellows of wrongdoing and sow seeds of discord among the peasantry, whereupon Michael would become greatly enraged, while his poor subjects began to live in fear of their lives. When the superintendent passed through the village the people would run and hide themselves as from a wild beast. Seeing thus the terror which he had struck to the hearts of the moujiks, Michael’s treatment of them became still more vindictive, so that from overwork and ill-usage the lot of the poor serfs was indeed a hard one.

There was a time when it was possible for the peasants, when driven to despair, to devise means whereby they could rid themselves of an inhuman monster such as Simeonovitch, and so these unfortunate people began to consider whether something could not be done to relieve them of their intolerable yoke. They would hold little meetings in secret places to bewail their misery and to confer with one another as to which would be the best way to act. Now and then the boldest of the gathering would rise and address his companions in this strain: “How much longer can we tolerate such a villain to rule over us? Let us make an end of it at once, for it were better for us to perish than to suffer. It is surely not a sin to kill such a devil in human form.”

It happened once, before the Easter holidays, that one of these meetings was held in the woods, where Michael had sent the serfs to make a clearance for their master. At noon they assembled to eat their dinner and to hold a consultation. “Why can’t we leave now?” said one. “Very soon we shall be reduced to nothing. Already we are almost worked to death⁠—there being no rest, night or day, either for us or our poor women. If anything should be done in a way not exactly to please him he will find fault and perhaps flog some of us to death⁠—as was the case with poor Simeon, whom he killed not long ago. Only recently Anisim was tortured in irons till he died. We certainly cannot stand this much longer.” “Yes,” said another, “what is the use of waiting? Let us act at once. Michael will be here this evening, and will be certain to abuse us shamefully. Let us, then, thrust him from his horse and with one blow of an axe give him what he deserves, and thus end our misery. We can then dig a big hole and bury him like a dog, and no one will know what became of him. Now let us come to an agreement⁠—to stand together as one man and not to betray one another.”

The last speaker was Vasili Minayeff, who, if possible, had more cause to complain of Michael’s cruelty than any of his fellow-serfs. The superintendent was in the habit of flogging him severely every week, and he took also Vasili’s wife to serve him as cook.

Accordingly, during the evening that followed this meeting in the woods Michael arrived on the scene on horseback. He began at once to find fault with the manner in which the work had been done, and to complain because some lime-trees had been cut down.

“I told you not to cut down any lime-trees!” shouted the enraged superintendent. “Who did this thing? Tell me at once, or I shall flog every one of you!”

On investigation, a peasant named Sidor was pointed out as the guilty one, and his face was roundly slapped. Michael also severely punished Vasili, because he had not done sufficient work, after which the master rode safely home.

In the evening the serfs again assembled, and poor Vasili said: “Oh, what kind of people are we, anyway? We are only sparrows, and not men at all! We agree to stand by each other, but as soon as the time for action comes we all run and hide. Once a lot of sparrows conspired against a hawk, but no sooner did the bird of prey appear than they sneaked off in the grass. Selecting one of the choicest sparrows, the hawk took it away to eat, after which the others came out crying, ‘Twee-twee!’ and found that one was missing. ‘Who is killed?’ they asked. ‘Vanka! Well, he deserved it.’ You, my friends, are acting in just the same manner. When Michael attacked Sidor you should have stood by your promise. Why didn’t you arise, and with one stroke put an end to him and to our misery?”

The effect of this speech was to make the peasants more firm in their determination to kill their superintendent. The latter had already given orders that they should be ready to plough during the Easter holidays, and to sow the field with oats, whereupon the serfs became stricken with grief, and gathered in Vasili’s house to hold another indignation meeting. “If he has really forgotten God,” they said, “and shall continue to commit such crimes against us, it is truly necessary that we should kill him. If not, let us perish, for it can make no difference to us now.”

This despairing programme, however, met with considerable opposition from a peaceably-inclined man named Peter Mikhayeff. “Brethren,” said he, “you are contemplating a grievous sin. The taking of human life is a very serious matter. Of course it is easy to end the mortal existence of a man, but what will become of the souls of those who commit the deed? If Michael continues to act toward us unjustly God will surely punish him. But, my friends, we must have patience.”

This pacific utterance only served to intensify the anger of Vasili. Said he: “Peter is forever repeating the same old story, ‘It is a sin to kill anyone.’ Certainly it is sinful to murder; but we should consider the kind of man we are dealing with. We all know it is wrong to kill a good man, but even God would take away the life of such a dog as he is. It is our duty, if we have any love for mankind, to shoot a dog that is mad. It is a sin to let him live. If, therefore, we are to suffer at all, let it be in the interests of the people⁠—and they will thank us for it. If we remain quiet any longer a flogging will be our only reward. You are talking nonsense, Mikhayeff. Why don’t you think of the sin we shall be committing if we work during the Easter holidays⁠—for you will refuse to work then yourself?”

“Well, then,” replied Peter, “if they shall send me to plough, I will go. But I shall not be going of my own free will, and God will know whose sin it is, and shall punish the offender accordingly. Yet we must not forget him. Brethren, I am not giving you my own views only. The law of God is not to return evil for evil; indeed, if you try in this way to stamp out wickedness it will come upon you all the stronger. It is not difficult for you to kill the man, but his blood will surely stain your own soul. You may think you have killed a bad man⁠—that you have gotten rid of evil⁠—but you will soon find out that the seeds of still greater wickedness have been planted within you. If you yield to misfortune it will surely come to you.”

As Peter was not without sympathizers among the peasants, the poor serfs were consequently divided into two groups: the followers of Vasili and those who held the views of Mikhayeff.

On Easter Sunday no work was done. Toward the evening an elder came to the peasants from the nobleman’s court and said: “Our superintendent, Michael Simeonovitch, orders you to go tomorrow to plough the field for the oats.” Thus the official went through the village and directed the men to prepare for work the next day⁠—some by the river and others by the roadway. The poor people were almost overcome with grief, many of them shedding tears, but none dared to disobey the orders of their master.

On the morning of Easter Monday, while the church bells were calling the inhabitants to religious services, and while everyone else was about to enjoy a holiday, the unfortunate serfs started for the field to plough. Michael arose rather late and took a walk about the farm. The domestic servants were through with their work and had dressed themselves for the day, while Michael’s wife and their widowed daughter (who was visiting them, as was her custom on holidays) had been to church and returned. A steaming samovar awaited them, and they began to drink tea with Michael, who, after lighting his pipe, called the elder to him.

“Well,” said the superintendent, “have you ordered the moujiks to plough today?”

“Yes, sir, I did,” was the reply.

“Have they all gone to the field?”

“Yes, sir; all of them. I directed them myself where to begin.”

“That is all very well. You gave the orders, but are they ploughing? Go at once and see, and you may tell them that I shall be there after dinner. I shall expect to find one and a half acres done for every two ploughs, and the work must be well done; otherwise they shall be severely punished, notwithstanding the holiday.”

“I hear, sir, and obey.”

The elder started to go, but Michael called him back. After hesitating for some time, as if he felt very uneasy, he said:

“By the way, listen to what those scoundrels say about me. Doubtless some of them will curse me, and I want you to report the exact words. I know what villains they are. They don’t find work at all pleasant. They would rather lie down all day and do nothing. They would like to eat and drink and make merry on holidays, but they forget that if the ploughing is not done it will soon be too late. So you go and listen to what is said, and tell it to me in detail. Go at once.”

“I hear, sir, and obey.”

Turning his back and mounting his horse, the elder was soon at the field where the serfs were hard at work.

It happened that Michael’s wife, a very good-hearted woman, overheard the conversation which her husband had just been holding with the elder. Approaching him, she said:

“My good friend, Mishinka,241 I beg of you to consider the importance and solemnity of this holy-day. Do not sin, for Christ’s sake. Let the poor moujiks go home.”

Michael laughed, but made no reply to his wife’s humane request. Finally he said to her:

“You’ve not been whipped for a very long time, and now you have become bold enough to interfere in affairs that are not your own.”

“Mishinka,” she persisted, “I have had a frightful dream concerning you. You had better let the moujiks go.”

“Yes,” said he; “I perceive that you have gained so much flesh of late that you think you would not feel the whip. Look out!”

Rudely thrusting his hot pipe against her cheek, Michael chased his wife from the room, after which he ordered his dinner. After eating a hearty meal consisting of cabbage-soup, roast pig, meat-cake, pastry with milk, jelly, sweet cakes, and vodka, he called his woman cook to him and ordered her to be seated and sing songs, Simeonovitch accompanying her on the guitar.

While the superintendent was thus enjoying himself to the fullest satisfaction in the musical society of his cook the elder returned, and, making a low bow to his superior, proceeded to give the desired information concerning the serfs.

“Well,” asked Michael, “did they plough?”

“Yes,” replied the elder; “they have accomplished about half the field.”

“Is there no fault to be found?”

“Not that I could discover. The work seems to be well done. They are evidently afraid of you.”

“How is the soil?”

“Very good. It appears to be quite soft.”

“Well,” said Simeonovitch, after a pause, “what did they say about me? Cursed me, I suppose?”

As the elder hesitated somewhat, Michael commanded him to speak and tell him the whole truth. “Tell me all,” said he; “I want to know their exact words. If you tell me the truth I shall reward you; but if you conceal anything from me you will be punished. See here, Catherine, pour out a glass of vodka to give him courage!”

After drinking to the health of his superior, the elder said to himself: “It is not my fault if they do not praise him. I shall tell him the truth.” Then turning suddenly to the superintendent he said:

“They complain, Michael Simeonovitch! They complain bitterly.”

“But what did they say?” demanded Michael. “Tell me!”

“Well, one thing they said was, ‘He does not believe in God.’ ”

Michael laughed. “Who said that?” he asked.

“It seemed to be their unanimous opinion. ‘He has been overcome by the Evil One,’ they said.”

“Very good,” laughed the superintendent; “but tell me what each of them said. What did Vasili say?”

The elder did not wish to betray his people, but he had a certain grudge against Vasili, and he said:

“He cursed you more than did any of the others.”

“But what did he say?”

“It is awful to repeat it, sir. Vasili said, ‘He shall die like a dog, having no chance to repent!’ ”

“Oh, the villain!” exclaimed Michael. “He would kill me if he were not afraid. All right, Vasili; we shall have an accounting with you. And Tishka⁠—he called me a dog, I suppose?”

“Well,” said the elder, “they all spoke of you in anything but complimentary terms; but it is mean in me to repeat what they said.”

“Mean or not you must tell me, I say!”

“Some of them declared that your back should be broken.”

Simeonovitch appeared to enjoy this immensely, for he laughed outright. “We shall see whose back will be the first to be broken,” said he. “Was that Tishka’s opinion? While I did not suppose they would say anything good about me, I did not expect such curses and threats. And Peter Mikhayeff⁠—was that fool cursing me too?”

“No; he did not curse you at all. He appeared to be the only silent one among them. Mikhayeff is a very wise moujik, and he surprises me very much. At his actions all the other peasants seemed amazed.”

“What did he do?”

“He did something remarkable. He was diligently ploughing, and as I approached him I heard someone singing very sweetly. Looking between the ploughshares, I observed a bright object shining.”

“Well, what was it? Hurry up!”

“It was a small, five-kopeck wax candle, burning brightly, and the wind was unable to blow it out. Peter, wearing a new shirt, sang beautiful hymns as he ploughed, and no matter how he handled the implement the candle continued to burn. In my presence he fixed the plough, shaking it violently, but the bright little object between the colters remained undisturbed.”

“And what did Mikhayeff say?”

“He said nothing⁠—except when, on seeing me, he gave me the holy-day salutation, after which he went on his way singing and ploughing as before. I did not say anything to him, but, on approaching the other moujiks, I found that they were laughing and making sport of their silent companion. ‘It is a great sin to plough on Easter Monday,’ they said. ‘You could not get absolution from your sin if you were to pray all your life.’ ”

“And did Mikhayeff make no reply?”

“He stood long enough to say: ‘There should be peace on earth and goodwill to men,’ after which he resumed his ploughing and singing, the candle burning even more brightly than before.”

Simeonovitch had now ceased to ridicule, and, putting aside his guitar, his head dropped on his breast and he became lost in thought. Presently he ordered the elder and cook to depart, after which Michael went behind a screen and threw himself upon the bed. He was sighing and moaning, as if in great distress, when his wife came in and spoke kindly to him. He refused to listen to her, exclaiming:

“He has conquered me, and my end is near!”

“Mishinka,” said the woman, “arise and go to the moujiks in the field. Let them go home, and everything will be all right. Heretofore you have run far greater risks without any fear, but now you appear to be very much alarmed.”

“He has conquered me!” he repeated. “I am lost!”

“What do you mean?” demanded his wife, angrily. “If you will go and do as I tell you there will be no danger. Come, Mishinka,” she added, tenderly; “I shall have the saddle-horse brought for you at once.”

When the horse arrived the woman persuaded her husband to mount the animal, and to fulfil her request concerning the serfs. When he reached the village a woman opened the gate for him to enter, and as he did so the inhabitants, seeing the brutal superintendent whom everybody feared, ran to hide themselves in their houses, gardens, and other secluded places.

At length Michael reached the other gate, which he found closed also, and, being unable to open it himself while seated on his horse, he called loudly for assistance. As no one responded to his shouts he dismounted and opened the gate, but as he was about to remount, and had one foot in the stirrup, the horse became frightened at some pigs and sprang suddenly to one side. The superintendent fell across the fence and a very sharp picket pierced his stomach, when Michael fell unconscious to the ground.

Toward the evening, when the serfs arrived at the village gate, their horses refused to enter. On looking around, the peasants discovered the dead body of their superintendent lying face downward in a pool of blood, where he had fallen from the fence. Peter Mikhayeff alone had sufficient courage to dismount and approach the prostrate form, his companions riding around the village and entering by way of the backyards. Peter closed the dead man’s eyes, after which he put the body in a wagon and took it home.

When the nobleman learned of the fatal accident which had befallen his superintendent, and of the brutal treatment which he had meted out to those under him, he freed the serfs, exacting a small rent for the use of his land and the other agricultural opportunities.

And thus the peasants clearly understood that the power of God is manifested not in evil, but in goodness.


The History of a Horse242



Constantly higher and higher the sky lifted itself, wider and wider spread the dawn, whiter and whiter grew the unpolished silver of the dew, more and more lifeless the sickle of the moon, more vocal the forest. The men began to arise; and at the stables belonging to the bárin were heard with increasing frequency the whinnying of the horses, the stamping of hoofs on the straw, and also the angry, shrill neighing of the animals collecting together, and even disputing with each other over something.

“Noo! you got time enough; mighty hungry, ain’t you?” said the old drover, quickly opening the creaking gates. “Where you going?” he shouted, waving his hands at a mare which tried to run through the gate.

Nester, the drover, was dressed in a Cossack coat,243 with a decorated leather belt around his waist; his knout was slung over his shoulder, and a handkerchief, containing some bread, was tied into his belt. In his arms he carried a saddle and halter.

The horses were not in the least startled, nor did they show any resentment, at the drover’s sarcastic tone: they made believe that it was all the same to them, and leisurely moved back from the gate⁠—all except one old dark-bay mare, with a long flowing mane, who laid back her ears and quickly turned around. At this opportunity a young mare, who was standing behind, and had nothing at all to do with this, whinnied, and began to kick at the first horse that she fell in with.

“No!” shouted the drover still more loudly and angrily, and turned to the corner of the yard.244

Out of all the horses⁠—there must have been nearly a hundred⁠—that were moving off toward their breakfast, none manifested so little impatience as a piebald gelding, which stood alone in one corner under the shed, and gazed with half-shut eyes, and bit on the oaken lining of the shed.

It is hard to say what enjoyment the piebald gelding got from this, but his expression while doing so was solemn and thoughtful.

“Nonsense!” again cried the drover in the same tone, turning to him; and going up to him he laid the saddle and shiny blanket on a pile of manure near him.

The piebald gelding ceased biting, and looked long at Nester without moving. He did not manifest any sign of mirth or anger or sullenness, but only drew in his whole belly and sighed heavily, heavily, and then turned away. The drover took him by the neck, and gave him his breakfast.

“What are you sighing for?” asked Nester.

The horse switched his tail as though to say, “Well, it’s nothing, Nester.” Nester put on the blanket and saddle, whereupon the horse pricked up his ears, expressing as plainly as could be his disgust; but he received nothing but execrations for this “rot,” and then the saddle-girth was pulled tight.

At this the gelding tried to swell out; but his mouth was thrust open, and a knee was pressed into his side, so that he was forced to let out his breath. Notwithstanding this, when they got the bit between his teeth, he still pricked back his ears, and even turned round. Though he knew that this was of no avail, yet he seemed to reckon it essential to express his displeasure, and always showed it. When he was saddled, he pawed with his swollen right leg, and began to champ the bit⁠—here also for some special reason, because it was full time for him to know that there could be no taste in bits.

Nester mounted the gelding by the short stirrups, unwound his knout, freed his Cossack coat from under his knee, settled down in the saddle in that position peculiar to coachmen, hunters, and drivers, and twitched on the reins. The gelding lifted his head, showing a disposition to go where he should be directed, but he stirred not from the spot. He knew that before he went there would be much shouting on the part of him who sat on his back, and many orders to be given to Vaska, the other drover, and to the horses. In fact Nester began to shout, “Vaska! ha, Vaska! have you let out any of the mares⁠—hey? Where are you, you old devil? No-o! Are you asleep? Open the gate. Let the mares go first,” and so on.

The gates creaked. Vaska, morose, and still full of sleep, holding a horse by the bridle, stood at the gatepost and let the horses out. The horses, one after the other, gingerly stepping over the straw and sniffing it, began to pass out⁠—the young fillies, the yearlings, the little colts; while the mares with young stepped along needfully, one at a time, avoiding all contact. The young fillies sometimes crowded in two at once, three at once, throwing their heads across each other’s backs, and hitting their hoofs against the gates, each time receiving a volley of abuse from the drovers. The colts sometimes kicked the mares whom they did not know, and whinnied loudly in answer to the short neighing of their mothers.

A young filly, full of wantonness, as soon as she got outside the gate, tossed her head up and around, began to back, and whinnied, but nevertheless did not venture to dash ahead of the old gray, grain-bestrewed Zhuldiba, who, with a gentle but solid step, swinging her belly from side to side, was always the dignified leader of the other horses.

After a few moments the lively yard was left in melancholy loneliness; the posts stood out in sadness under the empty sheds, and only the sodden straw, soiled with dung, was to be seen.

Familiar as this picture of emptiness was to the piebald gelding, it seemed to have a melancholy effect upon him. He slowly, as though making a bow, lowered and lifted his head, sighed as deeply as the tightly drawn girth permitted, and dragging his somewhat bent and decrepit legs, he started off after the herd, carrying the old Nester on his bony back.

“I know now. As soon as we get out on the road, he will go to work to make a light, and smoke his wooden pipe with its copper mounting and chain,” thought the gelding. “I am glad of this, because it is early in the morning and the dew is on the grass, and this odor is agreeable to me, and brings up many pleasant recollections. I am sorry only that when the old man has his pipe in his mouth he always becomes excited, gets to imagining things, and sits on one side, far over on one side, and on that side it always hurts. However, God be with him. It’s no new thing for me to suffer for the sake of others. I have even come to find some equine satisfaction in this. Let him play that he’s cock of the walk, poor fellow; but it’s for his own pleasure that he looks so big, since no one sees him at all. Let him ride sidewise,” said the horse to himself; and, stepping gingerly on his crooked legs, he walked along the middle of the road.


After driving the herd down to the river, near which the horses were to graze, Nester dismounted and took off the saddle. Meantime the herd began slowly to scatter over the as yet untrodden field, covered with dew and with vapor rising alike from the damp meadow and the river that encircled it.

Taking off the blanket from the piebald gelding, Nester scratched him on his neck; and the horse in reply expressed his happiness and satisfaction by shutting his eyes.

“The old dog likes it,” said Nester.

The gelding really did not like this scratching very much, and only out of delicacy intimated that it was agreeable to him. He shook his head as a sign of assent. But suddenly, unexpectedly, and without any reason, Nester, imagining perhaps that too great familiarity might give the horse false ideas about what he meant⁠—Nester, without any warning, pushed away his head, and, lifting up the bridle, struck the horse very severely with the buckle on his bare leg, and, without saying anything, went up the hillock to a stump, near which he sat down as though nothing had happened.

Though this proceeding incensed the gelding, he did not manifest it; and leisurely switching his thin tail, and sniffing at something, and merely for recreation cropping at the grass, he wandered down toward the river.

Not paying any heed to the antics played around him by the young fillies, the colts, and the yearlings, and knowing that the health of everybody, and especially one who had attained his years, was subserved by getting a good drink of water on an empty stomach, and then eating, he turned his steps to where the bank was less steep and slippery; and wetting his hoofs and gambrels, he thrust his snout into the river, and began to suck the water through his lips drawn back, to puff with his distending sides, and out of pure satisfaction to switch his thin, piebald tail with its leathery stump.

A chestnut filly, always mischievous, always nagging the old horse, and causing him manifold unpleasantnesses, came down to the water as though for her own necessities, but really merely for the sake of roiling the water in front of his nose.

But the gelding had already drunk enough, and apparently giving no thought to the impudent mare, calmly put one miry leg before the other, shook his head, and, turning aside from the wanton youngster, began to eat. Dragging his legs in a peculiar manner, and not tramping down the abundant grass, the horse grazed for nearly three hours, scarcely stirring from the spot. Having eaten so much that his belly hung down like a bag from his thin, sharp ribs, he stood solidly on his four weak legs, so that as little strain as possible might come on any one of them⁠—at least on the right foreleg, which was weaker than all⁠—and went to sleep.

There is an honorable old age, there is a miserable old age, there is a pitiable old age; there is also an old age that is both honorable and miserable. The old age which the piebald gelding had reached was of this latter sort.

The old horse was of a great size⁠—more than seventeen hands high.245 His color was white, spotted with black; at least, it used to be so, but now the black spots had changed to a dirty brown. The regions of black spots were three in number: one on the head, including the mane, and side of the nose, the star on the forehead, and half of the neck; the long mane, tangled with burrs, was striped white and brownish; the second spotted place ran along the right side, and covered half the belly; the third was on the flank, including the upper part of the tail and half of the loins; the rest of the tail was whitish, variegated.

The huge, corrugated head, with deep hollows under the eyes, and with pendent black lips, somewhat lacerated, sat heavily and draggingly on the neck, which bent under its leanness, and seemed to be made of wood. From under the pendent lip could be seen the dark-red tongue protruding on one side, and the yellow, worn tusks of his lower teeth. His ears, one of which was slit, fell over sidewise, and only occasionally he twitched them a little to scare away the sticky flies. One long tuft still remaining of the forelock hung behind the ears; the broad forehead was hollowed and rough; the skin hung loose on the big cheekbones. On the neck and head the veins stood out in knots, trembling and twitching whenever a fly touched them. The expression of his face was sternly patient, deeply thoughtful, and expressive of pain.

His forelegs were crooked at the knees. On both hoofs were swellings; and on the one which was half covered by the marking, there was near the knee at the back a sore boil. The hind legs were in better condition, but there had been severe bruises long before on the haunches, and the hair did not grow on those places. His legs seemed disproportionately long, because his body was so emaciated. His ribs, though also thick, were so exposed and drawn that the hide seemed dried in the hollows between them.

The back and withers were variated with old scars, and behind was still a freshly galled and purulent slough. The black stump of the tail, where the vertebrae could be counted, stood out long and almost bare. On the brown flank near the tail, where it was overgrown with white hairs, was a scar as big as one’s hand, that must have been from a bite. Another cicatrice was to be seen on the off shoulder. The houghs of the hind legs and the tail were foul with excrement. The hair all over the body, though short, stood out straight.

But in spite of the filthy old age to which this horse had come, anyone looking at him would have involuntarily thought, and a connoisseur would have said immediately, that he must have been in his day a remarkably fine horse. The connoisseur would have said also that there was only one breed in Russia246 that could give such broad bones, such huge joints, such hoofs, such slender leg-bones, such an arched neck, and, most of all, such a skull⁠—eyes large, black, and brilliant, and such a thoroughbred network of nerves over his head and neck, and such delicate skin and hair.

In reality there was something noble in the form of this horse, and in the terrible union in him of the repulsive signs of decrepitude, the increased variegatedness of his hide, and his actions, and the expression of self-dependence, and the calm consciousness of beauty and strength.

Like a living ruin he stood in the middle of the dewy field, alone; while not far away from him were heard the galloping, the neighing, the lively whinnying, the snorting, of the scattered herd.


The sun was now risen above the forest, and shone brightly on the grass and the winding river. The dew dried away and fell off in drops. Like smoke the last of the morning mist rolled up. Curly clouds made their appearance, but as yet there was no wind. On the other side of the gleaming river stood the rye, bending on its stalks, and the air was fragrant with bright verdure and the flowers. The cuckoo cooed from the forest with echoing voice; and Nester, lying flat on his back, was reckoning up how many years of life lay before him. The larks arose from the rye and the field. The belated hare stood up among the horses and leaped without restraint, and sat down by the copse and pricked up his ears to listen.

Vaska went to sleep, burying his head in the grass; the mares, making wide circuits around him, scattered themselves on the field below. The older ones, neighing, picked out a shining track across the dewy grass, and constantly tried to find some place where they might be undisturbed. They no longer grazed, but only nibbled on the sweet grass-blades. The whole herd was imperceptibly moving in one direction.

And again the old Zhuldiba, stately stepping before the others, showed how far it was possible to go. The young Mushka, who had cast her first foal, constantly hinnying, and lifting her tail, was scolding her violet-colored colt. The young Atlásnaya, with smooth and shining skin, dropping her head so that her black and silken forelock hid her forehead and eyes, was gambolling in the grass, nipping and tossing and stamping her leg, with its hairy fetlock. One of the older little colts⁠—he must have been imagining, some kind of game⁠—lifting, for the twenty-sixth time, his rather short and tangled tail, like a plume, gambolled around his dam, who calmly picked at the herbage, having evidently had time to sum up her son’s character, and only occasionally stopping to look askance at him out of her big black eye.

One of these same young colts⁠—black as a coal, with a large head with a marvellous topknot rising above his ears, and his tail still inclining to the side on which he had laid in his mother’s belly⁠—pricking up his ears, and opening his stupid eyes, as he stood motionless in his place, looked steadily at the colt jumping and dancing, not at all understanding why he did it, whether out of jealousy or indignation.

Some suckle, butting with their noses; others, for some unknown reason, notwithstanding their mothers’ invitation, move along in a short, awkward trot, in a diametrically opposite direction, as though seeking something, and then, no one knows why, stop short and hinny in a desperately penetrating voice. Some lie on their sides in a row; some take lessons in grazing; some try to scratch themselves with their hind legs behind the ear.

Two mares, still with young, go off by themselves, and slowly moving their legs continue to graze. Evidently their condition is respected by the others, and none of the young colts ventures to go near or disturb them. If any saucy young steed takes it into his head to approach too near to them, then merely a motion of an ear or tail is sufficient to show him all the impropriety of his behavior.

The yearlings and the young fillies pretend to be full-grown and dignified, and rarely indulge in pranks, or join their gay companions. They ceremoniously nibble at the blades of grass, bending their swan-like, short-shorn necks, and, as though they also were blessed with tails, switch their little brushes. Just like the big horses, some of them lie down, roll over, and scratch each others’ backs.

A very jolly band consists of the two-year-old and the three-year-old mares who have never foaled. They almost all wander off by themselves, and make a specially jolly virgin throng. Among them is heard a great tramping and stamping, hinnying and whinnying. They gather together, lay their heads over each others’ shoulders, snuff the air, leap; and sometimes, lifting the tail like an oriflamme, proudly and coquettishly, in a half-trot, half-gallop, caracole in front of their companions.

Conspicuous for beauty and sprightly dashing ways, among all this young throng, was the wanton bay mare. Whatever she set on foot, the others also did; wherever she went, there in her track followed also the whole throng of beauties.

The wanton was in a specially playful frame of mind this morning. The spirit of mischief was in her, just as it sometimes comes upon men. Even at the riverside, playing her pranks upon the old gelding, she had galloped along in the water, pretending that something had scared her, snorting, and then dashed off at full speed across the field; so that Vaska was constrained to gallop after her, and after the others who were at her heels. Then, after grazing a little while, she began to roll, then to tease the old mares, by dashing in front of them. Then she separated a suckling colt from its dam, and began to chase after it, pretending that she wanted to bite it. The mother was frightened, and ceased to graze; the little colt squealed in piteous tones. But the wanton young mare did not touch it, but only scared it, and made a spectacle for her comrades, who looked with sympathy on her antics.

Then she set out to turn the head of the roan horse, which a muzhik, far away on the other side of the river, was driving with a plough in the rye-field. She stood proudly, somewhat on one side, lifting her head high, shook herself, and neighed in a sweet, significant, and alluring voice.

’Tis the time when the rail-bird, running from place to place among the thick reeds, passionately calls his mate; when also the cuckoo and the quail sing of love; and the flowers send to each other, on the breeze, their aromatic dust.

“And I am young and kind and strong,” said the jolly wanton’s neighing, “and till now it has not been given to me to experience the sweetness of this feeling, never yet to feel it; and no lover, no, not one, has yet come to woo me.”

And the significant neighing rang with youthful melancholy over lowland and field, and it came to the ears of the roan horse far away. He pricked up his ears, and stopped. The muzhik kicked him with his wooden shoe; but the roan was bewitched by the silver sound of the distant neighing, and whinnied in reply. The muzhik grew angry, twitched him with the reins, and again kicked him in the belly with his bast shoe, so that he did not have a chance to complete all that he had to say in his neighing, but was forced to go on his way. And the roan horse felt a sweet sadness in his heart; and the sounds from the far-off rye-field, of that unfinished and passionate neigh, and the angry voice of the muzhik, long echoed in the ears of the herd.

If through one sound of her voice the roan horse could become so captivated as to forget his duty, what would have become of him if he had had full view of the beautiful wanton, as she stood pricking up her ears, inflating her nostrils, breathing in the air, and filled with longing, while her young and beauteous body trembled as she called to him?

But the wanton did not long ponder over her novel sensations. When the voice of the roan was still, she whinnied scornfully, and, sinking her head, began to paw the ground; and then she trotted off to wake up and tease the piebald gelding. The piebald gelding was a long-suffering butt for the amusement of this happy young wanton. She made him suffer more than men did. But in neither case did he give way to wrath. He was indispensable to men, but why should these young horses torment him?


He was old, they were young; he was lean, they were fat; he was sad, they were happy. So he was thoroughly strange, alien, an absolutely different creature; and it was impossible for them to have compassion on him. Horses have pity only on themselves, and rarely on those whose places they may easily come themselves to fill. But, indeed, was not the piebald gelding himself to blame, that he was old and gaunt and crippled?⁠ ⁠…

One would think that he was not to blame. But in equine ethics he was, and only those were right who were strong, young, and happy; those who had all life before them; those whose every muscle was tense with superfluous energy, and curled their tails into a wheel.

Maybe the piebald gelding himself understood this, and in tranquil moments was agreed that he was to blame because he had lived out all his life, that he must pay for his life; but he was after all only a horse, and he could not restrain himself often from feeling hurt, melancholy, and discontented, when he looked on all these young horses who tormented him for the very thing to which they would be subjected when they came to the end of their lives.

The reason for the heartlessness of these horses was a peculiarly aristocratic feeling. Every one of them was related, either on the side of father or mother, to the celebrated Smetanka; but it was not known from what stock the piebald gelding sprang. The gelding was a chance comer, bought at market three years before for eighty paper rubles.

The young chestnut mare, as though accidentally wandering about, came up to the piebald gelding’s very nose, and brushed against him. He knew beforehand what it meant, and did not open his eyes, but laid back his ears and showed his teeth. The mare wheeled around, and made believe that she was going to let fly at him with her heels. He opened his eyes, and wandered off to another part. He had no desire to sleep, and began to crop the grass. Again the wanton young mare, accompanied by her confederates, went to the gelding. A two-year-old mare with a star on her forehead, very stupid, always in mischief, and always ready to imitate the chestnut mare, trotted along with her, and, as imitators always do, began to: play the same trick that the instigator had done.

The brown mare marched along at an ordinary gait, as though bent on her own affairs, and passed by the gelding’s very nose, not looking at him, so that he really did not know whether to be angry or not; and this was the very fun of the thing.

This was what she did; but the starred mare following in her steps, and feeling very gay, hit the gelding on the chest. He showed his teeth once more, whinnied, and, with a quickness of motion unexpected on his part, sprang at the mare, and bit her on the flank. The young mare with the star flew out with her bind legs, and kicked the old horse heavily on his thin bare ribs. The old horse uttered a hoarse noise, and was about to make another lunge, but thought better of it, and sighing deeply turned away.

It must have been that all the young horses of the drove regarded as a personal insult the boldness which the piebald gelding permitted himself to show toward the starred mare; for all the rest of the day they gave him no chance to graze, and left him not a moment of peace, so that the drover several times rebuked them, and could not comprehend what they were doing.

The gelding was so abused that he himself walked up to Nester when it was time for the old man to drive back the drove, and he showed greater happiness and content when Nester saddled him and mounted him.

God knows what the old gelding’s thoughts were as he bore on his back the old man Nester. Did he think with bitterness of these importunate and merciless youngsters? or, with a scornful and silent pride peculiar to old age, did he pardon his persecutors? At all events, he did not make manifest any of his thoughts till he reached home.

That evening some cronies had come to see Nester; and as the horses were driven by the huts of the domestics, he noticed a horse and telega standing at his doorstep. After he had driven in the horses, he was in such a hurry that he did not take the saddle off: he left the gelding at the yard,247 and shouted to Vaska to unsaddle the animal, then shut the gate, and hurried to his friends.

Perhaps owing to the affront put upon the starred mare, the descendant of Smetanka, by that “low trash” bought for a horse, and not knowing father or mother, and therefore offending the aristocratic sentiment of the whole community; or because the gelding with the high saddle without a rider presented a strangely fantastic spectacle for the horses⁠—at all events, that night something extraordinary took place in the paddock. All the horses, young and old, showing their teeth, tagged after the gelding, and drove him from one part of the yard to the other; the trampling of their hoofs echoed around him as he sighed and drew in his thin sides.

The gelding could not longer endure this, could not longer avoid their kicks. He halted in the middle of the field: his face expressed the repulsive, weak anger of helpless old age, and despair besides. He laid back his ears, and suddenly248 something happened that caused all the horses suddenly249 to become quiet. A very old mare, Viazopúrikha, came up and sniffed the gelding, and sighed. The gelding also sighed.


In the middle of the yard, flooded with the moonlight, stood the tall, gaunt figure of the gelding, still wearing the high saddle with its prominent pommel. The horses, motionless and in deep silence, stood around him, as though they were learning something new and extraordinary from him. And, indeed, something new and extraordinary they learned from him.

This is what they learned from him:⁠—

First Night

“Yes, I was sired by Liubeznuï I. Baba was my dam. According to the genealogy my name is Muzhik I. Muzhik I, I am according to my pedigree; but generally I am known as Kholstomír, on account of a long and glorious gallop, the like of which never took place in Russia. In lineage no horse in the world stands higher than I, for good blood. I would never have told you this. Why should I? You would never have known me as Viazopúrikha knew me when we used to be together at Khrénova, and who only just now recognized me. You would not have believed me had it not been for Viazopúrikha’s witness, and I would never have told you this. I do not need the pity of my kind. But you insisted upon it. Well, I am that Kholstomír whom the amateurs are seeking for and cannot find, that Kholstomír whom the count himself named, and whom he let go from his stud because I outran his favorite ‘Lebedi.’

“When I was born I did not know what they meant when they called me a piebald;250 I thought that I was a horse. The first remark made about my hide, I remember, deeply surprised me and my dam.

“I must have been foaled in the night. In the morning, licked clean by my dam’s tongue, I stood on my legs. I remember all my sensations, and that everything seemed to me perfectly wonderful, and, at the same time, perfectly simple. Our stalls were in a long, warm corridor, with latticed gates, through which nothing could be seen.

“My dam tempted me to suckle; but I was so innocent as yet that I bunted her with my nose, now under her forelegs, now in other places. Suddenly my dam gazed at the latticed gate, and, throwing her leg over me, stepped to one side. One of the grooms was looking in at us through the lattice.

“ ‘See, Baba has foaled!’ he exclaimed, and began to draw the bolt. He came in over the straw bed, and took me up in his arms. ‘Come and look, Taras!’ he cried; ‘see what a piebald colt, a perfect magpie!’

“I tore myself away from him, and fell on my knees.

“ ‘See, a perfect little devil!’ he said.

“My dam became disquieted; but she did not take my part, and merely drew a long, long breath, and stepped to one side. The grooms came, and began to look at me. One ran to tell the equerry.

“All laughed as they looked at my spotting, and gave me various odd names. I did not understand these names, nor did my dam either. Up to that time in all my family there had never been a single piebald known. We had no idea that there was anything disgraceful in it. And then all examined my structure and strength.

“See what a lively one!” said the hostler. ‘You can’t hold him.’

“In a little while came the equerry, and began to marvel at my coloring. He also seemed disgusted.

“ ‘What a nasty beast!’ he cried. ‘The general will not keep him in the stud. Ekh! Baba, you have caused me much trouble,’ he said, turning to my dam. ‘You ought to have foaled a colt with a star, but this is completely piebald.’

“My dam vouchsafed no answer, and, as always in such circumstances, merely sighed again.

“ ‘What kind of a devil was his sire? A regular muzhik!’ he went on to say. ‘It is impossible to keep him in the stud; it’s a shame! But we’ll see, we’ll see,’ said he; and all said the same as they looked at me.

“After a few days the general himself came. He took a look at me, and again all seemed horror-struck, and scolded me and my mother also on account of my hide. ‘But we’ll see, we’ll see,’ said everyone, as soon as they caught sight of me.

“Until spring we young colts lived in separate cells with our dams; only occasionally, when the snow on the roof of the sheds began to melt in the sun, they would let us out into the wide yard, spread with fresh straw. There for the first time I became acquainted with all my kin, near and remote. There I saw how from different doors issued all the famous mares of that time with their colts. There was the old Holland mare, Mushka, sired by Smetankin, Krasnukha, the saddle-horse Dobrokhotíkha, all celebrities at that time. All gathered together there with their colts, walked up and down in the sunshine, rolled over on the fresh straw, and sniffed of each other like ordinary horses.

“I cannot even now forget the sight of that paddock, full of the beauties of that day. It may seem strange to you to think of me as ever having been young and frisky, but I used to be. This very same Viazopúrikha was there then, a yearling, whose mane had just been cut,251⁠—a kind, jolly, frolicsome little horse. But let it not be taken as unkindly meant when I say, that, though she is now considered a rarity among you on account of her pedigree, then she was only one of the meanest horses of that stud. She herself will corroborate this.

“Though my coat of many colors had been displeasing to the men, it was exceedingly attractive to all the horses. They all stood round me, expressing their delight, and frisking with me. I even began to forget the words of the men about my hide, and felt happy. But I soon experienced the first sorrow of my life, and the cause of it was my dam. As soon as it began to thaw, and the swallows chirped on the roof, and the spring made itself felt more and more in the air, my dam began to change in her behavior toward me.

“Her whole character was transformed. Suddenly, without any reason, she began to frisk, galloping around the yard, which certainly did not accord with her dignified growth; then she would pause and consider, and begin to whinny; then she would bite and kick her sister mares; then she began to smell of me, and neigh with dissatisfaction; then trotting out into the sun she would lay her head across the shoulder of my two-year-old sister Kúpchika, and long and earnestly scratch her back, and push me away from nursing her. One time the equerry came, commanded the halter to be put on her, and they led her out of the paddock. She whinnied; I replied to her, and darted after her, but she would not even look at me. The groom Taras seized me in both arms, just as they shut the door on my mother’s retreating form.

“I struggled, threw the groom on the straw; but the door was closed, and I only heard my mother’s whinnying growing fainter and fainter. And in this whinnying I perceived that she called not for me, but I perceived a very different expression. In reply to her voice, there was heard in the distance a mighty voice.

“I don’t remember how Taras got out of my stall; it was too grievous for me. I felt that I had forever lost my mother’s love; and wholly because I was a piebald, I said to myself, remembering what the people said of my hide; and such passionate anger came over me, that I began to pound the sides of the stall with my head and feet, and I pounded them until the sweat poured from me, and I could not stand up from exhaustion.

“After some time my dam returned to me. I heard her as she came along the corridor in a prancing trot, wholly unusual to her, and entered our stall. The door was opened for her. I did not recognize her, so much younger and handsomer had she grown. She snuffed at me, neighed, and began to snort. But in her whole expression I could see that she did not love me.

“Soon they led us to pasture. I now began to experience new pleasures which consoled me for the loss of my mother’s love. I had friends and companions. We learned together to eat grass, to neigh like the old horses, and to lift our tails and gallop in wide circles around our dams. This was a happy time. Everything was forgiven to me; all loved me, and were loved by me, and looked indulgently on all that I did. This did not last long.

“Here something terrible happened to me.”

The gelding sighed deeply, deeply, and moved aside from the horses.

The dawn was already far advanced. The gates creaked. Nester came. The horses scattered. The drover straightened the saddle on the gelding’s back, and drove away the horses.

Second Night

As soon as the horses were driven in, they once more gathered around the piebald.

“In the month of August,” continued the horse, “I was separated from my mother, and I did not experience any unusual grief. I saw that she was already suckling a small brother⁠—the famous Usan⁠—and I was not what I had been before. I was not jealous, but I felt that I had become more than ever cool toward her. Besides, I knew that in leaving my mother I should be transferred to the general division of young horses, where we were stalled in twos and threes, and every day all went out to exercise.

“I was in one stall with Milui. Milui was a saddle-horse, and afterwards belonged to the emperor himself, and was put into pictures and statuary. At that time he was a mere colt, with a shiny soft coat, a swan-like neck, and slender straight legs. He was always lively, good-natured, and lovable; was always ready to frisk, and be caressed, and sport with either horse or man. He and I could not help being good friends, living together as we did; and our friendship lasted till we grew up. He was gay, and inclined to be wanton. Even then he began to feel the tender passion to disport with the fillies, and he used to make sport of my guilelessness. To my unhappiness I myself, out of egotism, tried to follow his example, and very soon was in love. And this early inclination of mine was the cause, in great measure, of my fate.

“But I am not going to relate all the story of my unhappy first love; she herself remembers my stupid passion, which ended for me in the most important change in my life.

“The drovers came along, drove her away, and pounded me. In the evening they led me into a special stall. I whinnied the whole night long, as though with a presentiment of what was coming on the morrow.

“In the morning the general, the equerry, the under grooms, and the hostlers came into the corridor where my stall was, and set up a terrible screaming. The general screamed to the head groom; the groom justified himself, saying that he had not given orders to send me away, but that the under grooms had done it of their own free will. The general said that it had spoiled everything, but that it was impossible to keep young stallions. The head groom replied that he would have it attended to. They calmed down and went out, I did not understand it at all⁠—except that something concerning me was under consideration.

“On the next day I had ceased forever to whinny; I became what I am now. All the light of my eyes was quenched. Nothing seemed sweet to me; I became self-absorbed, and began to be pensive. At first I felt indifferent to everything. I ceased even to eat, to drink, and to run; and all thought of sprightly sport was gone. Then it nevermore came into my mind to kick up my heels, to roll over, to whinny, without bringing up the terrible question⁠—Why? for what purpose?’ And my vigor died away.

“Once they led me out at eventide, at the time when they were driving the stud home from the field. From afar I saw already the cloud of dust in which could be barely distinguished the familiar lineaments of all of our mothers. I heard the cheerful snorting, and the trampling of hoofs. I stopped short, though the halter-rope by which the groom held me cut my neck; and I gazed at the approaching drove as one gazes at happiness that is lost forever and will ne’er return again. They drew near, and my eyes fell upon forms so well known to me⁠—beautiful, grand, plump, full of life every one. Who among them all deigned to glance at me? I did not feel the pain that the groom in pulling the rope inflicted. I forgot myself, and involuntarily tried to whinny as of yore, and to gallop off; but my whinnying sounded melancholy, ridiculous, and unbecoming. There was no ribaldry among the stud, but I noticed that many of them from politeness turned away from me.

“It was evident that in their eyes I was despicable and pitiable, and worst of all ridiculous. My slender, weakly neck, my big head (I had become thin), my long, thick legs, and the awkward gait that I struck up, in my old fashion, around the groom, all must have seemed absurd to them. No one heeded my whinnying, all turned away from me.

“Suddenly I comprehended it all, comprehended how I was forever sundered from them, every one; and I know not how I stumbled home behind the groom.

“I had already shown a tendency toward gravity and thoughtfulness; but now a decided change came over me. My variegated coat, which occasioned such a strange prejudice in men, my terrible and unexpected unhappiness, and, moreover, my peculiarly isolated position in the stud⁠—which I felt, but could never explain to myself⁠—compelled me to turn my thoughts inward upon myself. I pondered on the disgust that people showed when they berated me for being a piebald; I pondered on the inconstancy of maternal and especially of female affection, and its dependence upon physical conditions; and, above all, I pondered on the characteristics of that strange race of mortals with whom we are so closely bound, and whom we call men⁠—those characteristics which were the source of the peculiarity of my position in the stud, felt by me but incomprehensible.

“The significance of this, peculiarity, and of the human characteristics on which it was based, was discovered to me by the following incident:⁠—

“It was winter, at Christmastide. All day long no fodder had been given to me, nor had I been led out to water. I afterwards learned that this arose from our groom being drunk. On this day the equerry came to me, saw that I had no food, and began to use hard language about the missing groom, and went away.

“On the next day, the groom with his mates came out to our stalls to give us some hay. I noticed that he was especially pale and glum, and in the expression of his long back there was a something significant and demanding sympathy.

“He austerely flung the hay behind the grating. I laid my head over his shoulder; but he struck me such a hard blow with his fist on the nose, that I started back. Then he kicked me in the belly with his boot.

“ ‘If it hadn’t been for this scurvy beast,’ said he, ‘there wouldn’t have been any trouble.’

“ ‘Why?’ asked another groom.

“ ‘He doesn’t come to inquire about the count’s you bet! But twice a day he comes out to look after his own.’

“ ‘Have they given him the piebald?’ inquired another.

“ ‘Whether they’ve given it to him or sold it to him, the dog only knows! The count’s might die o’ starvation⁠—it wouldn’t make any difference; but see how it upset him when I didn’t give his horse his fodder! ‘Go to bed,’ says he, ‘and then you’ll get a basting.’ No Christianity in it. More pity on the cattle than on a man. I don’t believe he’s ever been christened, he himself counted the blows, the barbarian! The general did not use the whip so. He made my back all welts. There’s no soul of a Christian in him!’

“Now, what they said about whips and Christianity, I understood well enough; but it was perfectly dark to me as to the meaning of the words, my horse, his horse, by which I perceived that men understood some sort of bond between me and the groom. Wherein consisted this bond, I could not then understand at all. Only long after, when I was separated from the other horses, I came to learn what it meant. At that time I could not understand at all that it meant that they considered me the property of a man. To say my horse in reference to me, a live horse, seemed to me as strange as to say, my earth, my atmosphere, my water.

“But these words had a monstrous influence upon me. I pondered upon them ceaselessly; and only after long and varied relations with men did I come at last to comprehend the meaning that men find in these strange words.

“The meaning is this: Men rule in life, not by deeds, but by words. They love not so much the possibility of doing or not doing anything, as the possibility of talking about different objects in words agreed upon between them. Such words, considered very important among them, are the words, my, mine, ours, which they employ for various things, beings, and objects; even for the earth, people, and horses. In regard to any particular thing, they agree that only one person shall say ‘It is mine.’ And he who in this play, which they engage in, can say mine in regard to the greatest number of things, is considered the most fortunate among them. Why this is so, I know not; but it is so. Long before, I had tried to explain this to my satisfaction, by some direct advantage; but it seemed that I was wrong.

“Many of the men who, for instance, called me their horse, did not ride on me, but entirely different men rode on me. They themselves did not feed me, but entirely different people fed me. Again, it was not those who called me their horse who treated me kindly, but the coachman, the veterinary, and, as a general thing, outside men.

“Afterwards, as I widened the sphere of my experiences, I became convinced that the concept my, as applied not only to us horses, but to other things, has no other foundation than a low and animal, a human instinct, which they call the sentiment or right of property. Man says, my house, and never lives in it, but is only cumbered with the building and maintenance of it. The merchant says, my shop⁠—my clothing-shop, for example⁠—and he does not even wear clothes made of the best cloth in the shop.

“There are people who call land theirs, and have never seen their land, and have never been on it. There are men who call other people theirs, but have never seen these people; and the whole relationship of these owners, to these people, consists in doing them harm.

“There are men who call women theirs⁠—their wives or mistresses; but these women live with other men. And men struggle in life not to do what they consider good, but to be possessors of what they call their own.

“I am convinced now that herein lies the substantial difference between men and us. And, therefore, not speaking of other things, where we are superior to men, we are able boldly to say that in this one respect at least, we stand, in the scale of living beings, higher than men. The activity of men⁠—at all events, of those with whom I have had to do⁠—is guided by words; ours, by deeds.

“And here the head groom obtained this right to say about me, my horse; and hence he lashed the hostler. This discovery deeply disturbed me; and those thoughts and opinions which my variegated coat aroused in men, and the thoughtfulness aroused in me by the change in my mother, together subserved to make me into that solemn and contemplative gelding that I am.

“I was threefold unhappy: I was piebald; I was a gelding; and men imagined that I did not belong to God and myself, as is the prerogative of every living thing, but that I belonged to the equerry.

“The consequences of their imagining this about me were many. The first was, that they kept me apart from the others, fed me better, led me more often, and harnessed me up earlier. They harnessed me first when I was in my third year. I remember the first time, the equerry himself, who imagined that I was his, began, with a crowd of grooms, to harness me, expecting from me some ebullition of temper or contrariness. They put leather straps on me, and conducted me into the stalls. They laid on my back a wide leather cross, and attached it to the thills, so that I should not kick; but I was only waiting an opportunity to show my gait, and my love for work.

“They marvelled because I went like an old horse. They began to drive me, and I began to practise trotting. Every day I made greater and greater improvement, so that in three months the general himself, and many others, praised my gait. But this was a strange thing: for the very reason that they imagined that I was the equerry’s, and not theirs, my gait had for them an entirely different significance.

“The stallions, my brothers, were put through their paces; their time was reckoned; people came to see them; they were driven in gilded droshkies. Costly saddles were put upon them. But I was driven in the equerry’s simple droshkies, when he had business at Chesmenka and other manor-houses. All this resulted from the fact that I was piebald, but more than all from the fact that I was, according to their idea, not the property of the count, but of the equerry.

“Tomorrow, if we are alive, I will tell you what a serious influence upon me was exercised by this right of proprietorship which the equerry arrogated to himself.”

All that day the horses treated Kholstomír with great consideration; but Nester, from old custom, rode him into the field. But Nester’s ways were so rough! The muzhik’s gray stallion, coming toward the drove, whinnied: and again the chestnut filly coquettishly replied to him.

Third Night

The moon had quartered; and her narrow band poured a mild light on Kholstomír, standing in the middle of the yard, with the horses clustered around him.

“The principal and most surprising consequence to me of the fact that I was not the property of the count nor of God, but of the equerry,” continued the piebald, “was that what constitutes our chief activity⁠—the eager race⁠—was made the cause of my banishment. They were driving Lebedi around the ring; and a jockey from Chesmenka was riding me, and entered the course. Lebedi dashed past us. He trotted well, but he seemed to want to show off. He had not that skill which I had cultivated in myself; that is, of compelling one leg instantly to follow on the motion of the other, and not to waste the least degree of energy, but use it all in pressing forward. Lebedi dashed by us. I entered the ring: the jockey did not hold me back.

“ ‘Say, will you time my piebald?’ he cried; and when Lebedi came abreast of us a second time, he let me out. He had the advantage of his momentum, and so I was left behind in the first heat; but in the second I began to gain on him; came up to him in the droshky, caught up with him, passed beyond him, and won the race. They tried it a second time⁠—the same thing. I was the swifter. And this filled them all with dismay. The general begged them to send me away as soon as possible, so that I might not be heard of again. ‘Otherwise the count will know about it, and there will be trouble,’ said he. And they sent me to the horse-dealer. I did not remain there long. A hussar, who came along to get a remount, bought me. All this had been so disagreeable, so cruel, that I was glad when they took me from Khrénova, and forever separated me from all that had been near and dear to me. It was too hard for me among them. Before them stood love, honor, freedom; before me labor, humiliation⁠—humiliation, labor, to the end of my days. Why? Because I was piebald, and because I was compelled to be somebody’s horse.”

Fourth Night

The next evening when the gates were closed, and all was still, the piebald continued thus:⁠—

“I had many experiences, both among men and among my own kind, while changing about from hand to hand. I stayed with two masters the longest: with the prince, the officer of the hussars, and then with an old man who lived at Nikola Yavleonoï Church.

“I spent the happiest days of my life with the hussar.

“Though he was the cause of my destruction, though he loved nothing and nobody, yet I loved him, and still love him, for this very reason.

“He pleased me precisely, because he was handsome, fortunate, rich, and therefore loved no one.

“You are familiar with this lofty equine sentiment of ours. His coldness, and my dependence upon him, added greatly to the strength of my affection for him. Because he beat me, and drove me to death, I used to think in those happy days, for that very reason I was all the happier.

“He bought me of the horse-dealer to whom the equerry had sold me, for eight hundred rubles. He bought me because there was no demand for piebald horses. Those were my happiest days.

“He had a mistress. I knew it because every day I took him to her; and I took her out driving, and sometimes took them together.

“His mistress was a handsome woman, and he was handsome, and his coachman was handsome; and I loved them all because they were. And life was worth living then.

“This is the way that my life was spent: In the morning the man came to groom me⁠—not the coachman, but the groom. The groom was a young lad, taken from among the muzhiks. He would open the door, let the wind drive out the steam from the horses, shovel out the manure, take off the blanket, begin to flourish the brush over my body, and with the currycomb to brush out the scruff on the floor of the stall, marked by the stamping of hoofs. I would make believe bite his sleeves, would push him with my leg.

“Then we were led out, one after the other, to drink from a tub of cold water; and the youngster admired my sleek spotted coat, my legs straight as an arrow, my broad hoofs, my polished flank, and back wide enough to sleep on. Then he would throw the hay behind the broad rack, and pour the oats into the oaken cribs. Then Feofán and the old coachman would come.

“The master and the coachman were alike. Neither the one nor the other feared anyone or loved anyone except themselves, and therefore everybody loved them. Feofán came in a red shirt, plush breeches, and coat. I used to like to hear him when, all pomaded for a holiday, he would come to the stable in his coat, and cry⁠—

“ ‘Well, cattle, are you asleep?’ and poke me in the loin with the handle of his fork; but never so as to hurt, only in fun. I could instantly take a joke, and I would lay back my ears and show my teeth.

“We had a chestnut stallion that belonged to a pair. Sometimes they would harness us together. This Polkan could not understand a joke, and was simply ugly as the devil. I used to stand in the next stall to him, and feel seriously pained. Feofán was not afraid of him. He used to go straight up to him, shout to him⁠—it seemed as though he were going to kick him⁠—but no, straight by, and put on the halter.

“Once we ran away together, in a pair, over the Kuznetskoë. Neither the master nor the coachman was frightened; they laughed, they shouted to the people, and they sawed on the reins and pulled up, and so I did not run over anybody.

“In their service I expended my best qualities, and half of my life. Then I was given too much water to drink, and my legs gave out.⁠ ⁠… But in spite of everything, that was the best part of my life. At twelve they would come, harness us, oil my hoofs, moisten my forelock and mane, and put us between the thills.

“The sledge was of cane, plaited, upholstered in velvet. The harness had little silver buckles, the reins of silk, and once I wore a fly-net. The whole harness was such, that, when all the straps and belts were put on and drawn, it was impossible to make out where the harness ended and the horse began. They would finish harnessing in the shed. Feofán would come out, his middle wider than his shoulders, with his red girdle under his arms. He would inspect the harness, take his seat, straighten his kaftan, put his foot in the stirrup, get off some joke, always crack his whip, though he scarcely ever touched me with it⁠—merely for form’s sake⁠—and cry, ‘Now off with you!’252 And frisking at every step, I would prance out of the gate; and the cook, coming out to empty her slops, would pause in the road; and the muzhik, bringing in his firewood, would open his eyes. We would drive up and down, occasionally stopping. The lackeys come out, the coachmen drive up. There is constant conversation. Always kept waiting. Sometimes for three hours we were kept at the door; occasionally we take a turn around, and talk a while, and again we halt.

“At last there would be a tumult in the hallway; the gray-haired Tikhon, fat in paunch, comes out in his dress-coat. ‘Drive on;’ then there was none of that use of superfluous words that obtains now. Feofán clucks as if I did not know what ‘forward’ meant; comes up to the door, and drives away quickly, unconcernedly, as though there was nothing wonderful either in the sledge or the horses, or Feofán himself, as he bends his back and holds out his hands in such a way that it would seem impossible to keep it up long.

“The prince comes out in his shako and cloak, with a gray beaver collar concealing his handsome, ruddy, black-browed face, which ought never to be covered. He would come out with clanking sabre, jingling spurs, and copper-heeled boots; stepping over the carpet as though in a hurry, and not paying any heed to me or to Feofán, whom everybody except himself looked at and admired.

“Feofán clucks. I pull at the reins, and with a respectable rapid trot we are off and away. I glance round at the prince, and toss my aristocratic head and delicate topknot. The prince is in good spirits; he sometimes jests with Feofán. Feofán replies, half turning round to the prince his handsome face, and, not dropping his hands, makes some ridiculous motion with the reins which I understand; and on, on, on, with ever wider and wider strides, straining every muscle, and sending the muddy snow over the dasher, off I go! Then there was none of the absurd way that obtains today of crying, O! as though the coachman were in pain, and couldn’t speak. ‘G’long! Look out there!253 G’long! Look out there,’ shouts Feofán; and the people clear the way, and stand craning their necks to see the handsome gelding, the handsome coachman, and the handsome harm.⁠ ⁠…

“I loved especially to outstrip some racer. When Feofán and I would see in the distance some team worthy of our mettle, flying like a whirlwind, we would gradually come nearer and nearer to him. And soon tossing the mud over the dasher, I would be even with the passenger, and would snort over his head, then even with the saddle, with the bell-bow;254 then I would already see him and hear him behind me, gradually getting farther and farther away. But the prince and Feofán and I, we all kept silent, and made believe that we were merely out for a drive, and by our actions that we did not notice those with slow horses whom we overtook on our way. I loved to race, but I loved also to meet a good racer. One wink, sound, glance, and we would be off, and would fly along, each on his own side of the road.⁠ ⁠…”

Here the gates creaked, and the voices of Nester and Vaska were heard.

Fifth Night

The weather began to change. The sky was overcast; and in the morning there was no dew, but it was warm, and the flies were sticky. As soon as the herd was driven in, the horses gathered around the piebald, and thus he finished his story:⁠—

“The happy days of my life were soon over. I lived so only two years. At the end of the second winter, there happened an event which was most delightful to me, and immediately after came my deepest sorrow. It was at Shrovetide. I took the prince to the races. Atlásnui and Buichók also ran in the race.

“I don’t know what they were doing in the summerhouse; but I know that he came, and ordered Feofán to enter the ring. I remember they drove me into the ring, stationed me and stationed Atlásnui. Atlásnui was in racing gear, but I was harnessed in a city sleigh. At the turning stake I left him behind. A laugh and a cry of victory greeted my achievement. When they began to lead me round, a crowd followed after, and a man offered the prince five thousand. He only laughed, showing his white teeth.

“ ‘No,’ said he, ‘this isn’t a horse, it’s a friend. I wouldn’t sell him for a mountain of gold. Good day, gentlemen!’255

“He threw open the fur robes, and got in.

“ ‘To Ostozhenka.’

“That was where his mistress lived. And we flew.⁠ ⁠…

“It was our last happy day. We reached her home. He called her his. But she loved someone else, and had gone off with him. The prince ascertained this at her room. It was five o’clock; and, not letting me be unharnessed, he started in pursuit of her, though she had never really been his. They applied the knout to me, and made me gallop. For the first time, I began to flag, and I am ashamed to say, I wanted to rest.

“But suddenly I heard the prince himself shouting in an unnatural voice, ‘Hurry up!’256 and the knout whistled and cut me; and I dashed ahead again, my leg hitting against the iron of the dasher. We overtook her, after going twenty-five versts. I got him there; but I trembled all night, and could not eat anything. In the morning they gave me water. I drank it, and forever ceased to be the horse that I was. I was sick. They tortured me and maimed me⁠—treated me as men are accustomed to do. My hoofs came off. I had abscesses, and my legs grew bent. I had no strength in my chest. Laziness and weakness were everywhere apparent. I was sent to the horse-dealer. He fed me on carrots and other things, and made me something quite unlike my old self, but yet capable of deceiving one who did not know. But there was no strength and no swiftness in me.

“Moreover, the horse-dealer tormented me, by coming to my stall when customers were on hand, and beginning to stir me up, and torture me with the knout, so that it drove me to madness. Then he would wipe the bloody foam off the whip, and lead me out.

“An old lady bought me of the dealer. She used to keep coming to Nikola Yavlennoï, and she used to whip the coachman. The coachman would come and weep in my stall. And I knew that his tears had an agreeable salt taste. Then the old woman chid her overseer,257 took me into the country, and sold me to a peddler; then I was fed on wheat, and grew sicker still. I was sold to a muzhik. There I had to plough, had almost nothing to eat, and I cut my leg with a ploughshare. I became sick again. A gypsy got possession of me. He tortured me horribly, and at last I was sold to the overseer here. And here I am.⁠ ⁠…” All were silent. The rain began to fall.


As the herd returned home the following evening, they met the master258 and a guest. Zhulduiba, leading the way, cast her eyes on two men’s figures: one was the young master in a straw hat; the other, a tall, stout, military man, with wrinkled face. The old mare gazed at the man, and swerving went near to him; the rest, the younger ones, were thrown into some confusion, huddled together, especially when the master and his guest came directly into the midst of the horses, making gestures to each other, and talking.

“Here’s this one. I bought it of Voyéïkof⁠—the dapple-gray horse,” said the master.

“And that young black mare, with the white legs⁠—where did you get her? Fine one,” said the guest. They examined many of the horses as they walked around, or stood on the field. They remarked also the chestnut mare.

“That’s one of the saddle-horses⁠—the breed of Khrenovsky.”

They quietly gazed at all the horses as they went by. The master shouted to Nester; and the old man, hastily digging his heels into the sides of the piebald, trotted out. The piebald horse hobbled along, limping on one leg; but his gait was such that it was evident that in other circumstances he would not have complained, even if he had been compelled to go in this way, as long as his strength held out, to the world’s end. He was ready even to go at full gallop, and at first even broke into one.

“I have no hesitation in saying that there isn’t a better horse in Russia than that one,” said the master, pointing to one of the mares. The guest corroborated this praise. The master, full of satisfaction, walked up and down, made observations, and told the story and pedigree of each of the horses.

It was apparently somewhat of a bore to the guest to listen to the master; but he devised questions, to make it seem as if he were interested in it.

“Yes, yes,” said he in some confusion.

“Look,” said the host, not replying to the questions, “look at those legs, look at the⁠ ⁠… She cost me dear, but I shall have a three-year-old from her that’ll go!”

“Does she trot well?” asked the guest.

Thus they scrutinized almost all the horses, and there was nothing more to show. And they were silent.

“Well, shall we go?”

“Yes, let us go.”

They went out through the gate. The guest was glad that the exhibition was over, and that he was going home where he would eat, drink, smoke, and have a good time. As they went by Nester, who was sitting on the piebald and waiting for further orders, the guest struck his big fat hand on the horse’s side.

“Here’s good blood,” said he. “He’s like the piebald horse, if you remember, that I told you about.”

The master perceived that it was not of his horses that the guest was speaking; and he did not listen, but, looking around, continued to gaze at his stud.

Suddenly, at his very ear, was heard a dull, weak, senile neigh. It was the piebald horse that began to neigh, but could not finish it. Becoming, as it were, confused, he broke short off.

Neither the guest nor the master paid any attention to this neigh, but went home. Kholstomír had recognized in the wrinkled old man his beloved former master, the once brilliant, handsome, and wealthy Sierpukhovskoï.


The rain continued to fall. In the paddock it was gloomy, but at the manor-house259 it was quite the reverse. The luxurious evening meal was spread in the luxurious dining-room. At the table sat master, mistress, and the guest who had just arrived.

The master held in his hand a box of specially fine ten-year-old cigars, such as no one else had, according to his story, and proceeded to offer them to the guest. The master was a handsome young man of twenty-five, fresh, neatly dressed, smoothly brushed. He was dressed in a fresh, loosely-fitting suit of clothes, made in London. On his watch-chain were big expensive charms. His cuff-buttons were of gold, large, even massive, set with turquoises. His beard was à la Napoleon III; and his moustaches were waxed, and stood out as though he had got them nowhere else than in Paris.

The lady wore a silk-muslin dress, brocaded with large variegated flowers; on her head, large gold hairpins in her thick auburn hair, which was beautiful, though not entirely her own. Her hands were adorned with bracelets and rings, all expensive.

The samovar was silver, the service exquisite. The lackey, magnificent in his dress-coat and white vest and necktie, stood like a statue at the door, awaiting orders. The furniture was of bent wood, and bright; the wallpapers dark, with large flowers. Around the table tinkled a cunning little dog, with a silver collar bearing an extremely hard English name, which neither of them could pronounce because they knew not English.

In the corner, among the flowers, stood the pianoforte, inlaid with mother-of-pearl.260 Everything breathed of newness, luxury, and rareness. Everything was extremely good; but it all bore a peculiar impress of profusion, wealth, and an absence of intellectual interests.

The master was a great lover of racing, strong and hotheaded; one of those whom one meets everywhere, who drive out in sable furs, send costly bouquets to actresses, drink the most expensive wine, of the very latest brand, at the most expensive restaurant, offer prizes in their own names, and entertain the most expensive.⁠ ⁠…

The newcomer, Nikíta Sierpukhovskoï, was a man of forty years, tall, stout, bald, with huge mustaches and side-whiskers. He ought to have been very handsome; but it was evident that he had wasted his forces⁠—physical and moral and pecuniary.

He was so deeply in debt that he was obliged to go into the service so as to escape the sponging-house. He had now come to the government city as chief of the imperial stud. His influential relations had obtained this for him.

He was dressed in an army kittel and blue trousers. His kittel and trousers were such as only those who are rich can afford to wear; so with his linen also. His watch was English. His boots had peculiar soles, as thick as a finger.

Nikíta Sierpukhovskoï had squandered a fortune of two millions, and was still in debt to the amount of one hundred and twenty thousand rubles. From such a course there always remains a certain momentum of life, giving credit, and the possibility of living almost luxuriously for another ten years.

The ten years had already passed, and the momentum was finished; and it had become hard for him to live. He had already begun to drink too much; that is, to get fuddled with wine, which had never been the case with him before. Properly speaking, he had never begun and never finished drinking.

More noticeable in him than all else was the restlessness of his eyes (they had begun to wander), and the uncertainty of his intonations and motions. This restlessness was surprising, from the fact that it was evidently a new thing in him, because it could be seen that he had been accustomed, all his life long, to fear nothing and nobody, and that now he endured severe sufferings from some dread that was thoroughly alien to his nature.

The host and hostess261 remarked this, exchanged glances, showing that they understood each other, postponed until they should get to bed the consideration of this subject; and, evidently, merely endured poor Sierpukhovskoï.

The sight of the young master’s happiness humiliated Nikíta, and compelled him to painful envy, as he remembered his own irrevocable past.

“You don’t object to cigars, Marie?” he asked, addressing the lady in that peculiar tone, acquired only by practice, full of urbanity and friendliness, but not wholly satisfactory⁠—such as men use who are familiar with the society of women not enjoying the dignity of wifehood. Not that he could have wished to insult her: on the contrary, he was much more anxious to gain her goodwill and that of the host, though he would not for anything have acknowledged it to himself. But he was already used to talking thus with such women. He knew that she would have been astonished, even affronted, if he had behaved to her as toward a lady. Moreover, it was necessary for him to preserve that peculiar shade of deference for the acknowledged wife of his friend. He treated such women always with consideration, not because he shared those so-called convictions that are promulgated in newspapers (he never read such trash), about esteem as the prerogative of every man, about the absurdity of marriage, etc., because all well-bred men act thus, and he was a well-bred man, though inclined to drink.

He took a cigar. But his host awkwardly seized a handful of cigars, and placed them before the guest.

“No, just see how good these are! try them.”

Nikíta pushed away the cigars with his hand, and in his eyes flashed something like injury and shame.

“Thanks,”⁠—he took out his cigar-case⁠—“try mine.”

The lady was on the watch. She perceived how it affected him. She began hastily to talk with him.

“I am very fond of cigars. I should smoke myself if everybody about did not smoke.”

And she gave him one of her bright, kindly smiles. He half-smiled in reply. Two of his teeth were gone.

“No, take this,” continued the host, not heeding. “Those others are not so strong. Fritz, bringen Sie noch eine Kasten,” he said, “dort zwei.”

The German lackey brought another box.

“Do you like these larger ones? They are stronger. This is a very good kind. Take them all,” he added, continuing to force them upon his guest.

He was evidently glad that there was someone on whom he could lavish his rarities, and he saw nothing out of the way in it. Sierpukhovskoï began to smoke, and hastened to take up the subject that had been dropped.

“How much did you have to go on Atlásnui?” he asked.

“He cost me dear⁠—not less than five thousand, but at all events I am secured. Plenty of colts, I tell you!”

“Do they trot?” inquired Sierpukhovskoï.

“First-rate. Today Atlásnui’s colt took three prizes: one at Tula, one at Moscow, and one at Petersburg. He raced with Voyéïkof’s Vorónui. The rascally jockey made four abatements, and almost put him out of the race.”

“He was rather raw; too much Dutch stock in him, I should say,” said Sierpukhovskoï.

“Well, but the mares are finer ones. I will show you tomorrow. I paid three thousand for Dobruina, two thousand for Laskovaya.”

And again the host began to enumerate his wealth. The mistress saw that this was hard for Sierpukhovskoï, and that he only pretended to listen.

“Won’t you have some more tea?” asked the hostess.

“I don’t care for any more,” said the host, and he went on with his story. She got up; the host detained her, took her in his arms, and kissed her.

Sierpukhovskoï smiled at first, as he looked at them; but his smile seemed to them unnatural. When his host got up, and took her in his arms, and went out with her as far as the portière, his face suddenly changed; he sighed deeply, and an expression of despair took possession of his wrinkled face. There was also wrath in it.

“Yes, you said that you bought him of Voyéïkof,” said Sierpukhovskoï, with assumed indifference.


The host returned, and smiled as he sat down opposite his guest. Neither of them spoke.

“Oh, yes! I was speaking of Atlásnui. I had a great mind to buy the mares of Dubovitsky. Nothing but rubbish was left.”

“He was burned out,” said Sierpukhovskoï, and suddenly stood up and looked around. He remembered that he owed this ruined man twenty thousand rubles; and that, if burned out were said of anyone, it might by good rights be said about himself. He began to laugh.

Both kept silence long. The master was revolving in his mind how he might boast a little before his guest. Sierpukhovskoï was cogitating how he might show that he did not consider himself burned out. But the thoughts of both moved with difficulty, in spite of the fact that they tried to enliven themselves with cigars.

“Well, when shall we have something to drink?” asked the guest of himself.

“At all events, we must have something to drink, else we shall die of the blues,” said the host to himself.

“How is it? are you going to stay here long?” asked Sierpukhovskoï.

“About a month yet. Shall we have a little lunch? What say you? Fritz, is everything ready?”

They went back to the dining-room. There, under a hanging lamp, stood the table loaded with candles and very extraordinary things: siphons, and bottles with fancy stoppers, extraordinary wine in decanters, extraordinary liqueurs and vodka. They drank, sat down, drank again, sat down, and tried to talk. Sierpukhovskoï grew flushed, and began to speak unreservedly.

They talked about women: who kept such and such an one; the gypsy, the ballet-girl, the soubrette.262

“Why, you left Mathieu, didn’t you?” asked the host.

This was the mistress who had caused Sierpukhovskoï such pain.

“No, she left me. O my friend,263 how one remembers what one has squandered in life! Now I am glad, fact, when I get a thousand rubles; glad, fact, when I get out of everybody’s way. I cannot in Moscow. Ah! what’s to be said!”

The host was bored to listen to Sierpukhovskoï. He wanted to talk about himself⁠—to brag. But Sierpukhovskoï also wanted to talk about himself⁠—about his glittering past. The host poured out some more wine, and waited till he had finished, so as to tell him about his affairs⁠—how he was going to arrange his stud as no one ever had before; and how Marie loved him, not for his money, but for himself.

“I was going to tell you that in my stud⁠ ⁠…” he began. But Sierpukhovskoï interrupted him.

“There was a time, I may say,” he began, “when I loved, and knew how to live. You were talking just now about racing; please tell me what is your best racer.”

The host was glad of the chance to tell some more about his stud, but Sierpukhovskoï again interrupted him.

“Yes, yes,” said he. “But the trouble with you breeders is, that you do it only for ostentation, and not for pleasure, for life. It wasn’t so with me. I was telling you this very day that I used to have a piebald racer, with just such spots as I saw among your colts. Okh! what a horse he was! You can’t imagine it: this was in ’42. I had just come to Moscow. I went to a dealer, and saw a piebald gelding. All in best form. He pleased me. Price? Thousand rubles. He pleased me. I took him, and began to ride him. I never had, and you never had and never will have, such a horse. I never knew a better horse, either for gait, or strength, or beauty. You were a lad then. You could not have known, but you may have heard, I suppose. All Moscow knew him.”

“Yes, I heard about him,” said the host reluctantly; “but I was going to tell you about my⁠ ⁠…”

So you heard about him. I bought him just as he was, without pedigree, without proof; but then I knew Voyéïkof, and I traced him. He was sired by Liubeznuï I. He was called Kholstomír.264 He’d measure linen for you! On account of his spotting, he was given to the equerry at the Khrenovski stud; and he had him gelded, and sold him to the dealer. Aren’t any horses like him anymore, friend! Akh! “What a time that was! Akh! vanished youth!” he said, quoting the words of a gypsy song. He began to get wild. “Ekh! that was a golden time! I was twenty-five. I had eighty thousand a year income; then I hadn’t a gray hair; all my teeth like pearls.⁠ ⁠… Whatever I undertook prospered. And yet all came to an end.⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, you didn’t have such lively times then,” said the host, taking advantage of the interruption. “I tell you that my first horses began to run without⁠ ⁠…”

“Your horses! Horses were more mettlesome then⁠ ⁠…”

“How more mettlesome?”

“Yes, more mettlesome. I remember how one time I was at Moscow at the races. None of my horses were in it. I did not care for racing; but I had blooded horses, General Chaulet, Muhammad. I had my piebald with me. My coachman was a splendid young fellow. I liked him. But he was rather given to drink, so I drove.⁠—‘Sierpukhovskoï,’ said they, ‘when are you going to get some trotters?’⁠—‘I don’t care for your lowbred beasts,265 the devil take ’em! I have a hackdriver’s piebald that’s worth all of yours.’⁠—Yes, but he doesn’t race.’⁠—‘Bet you a thousand rubles.’ They took me up. He went round in five seconds, won the wager of a thousand rubles. But that was nothing. With my blooded horses I went in a troika a hundred versts in three hours. All Moscow knew about it.”

And Sierpukhovskoï began to brag so fluently and steadily that the host could not get in a word, and sat facing him with dejected countenance. Only, by way of diversion, he would fill up his glass and that of his companion.

It began already to grow light, but still they sat there. It became painfully tiresome to the host. He got up.

“Sleep⁠—let’s go to sleep, then,” said Sierpukhovskoï, as he got up, and went staggering and puffing to the room that had been assigned to him.

The master of the house rejoined his mistress.

“Oh, he’s unendurable. He got drunk, and lied faster than he could talk.”

“And he made love to me too.”

“I fear that he’s going to borrow of me.”

Sierpukhovskoï threw himself on the bed without undressing, and drew a long breath.

“I must have talked a good deal of nonsense,” he thought. “Well, it’s all the same. Good wine, but he’s a big hog. Something cheap about him.266 And I am a hog myself,” he remarked, and laughed aloud. “Well, I used to support others: now it’s my turn. I guess the Winkler girl will help me. I’ll borrow some money of her. He may come to it. Suppose I’ve got to undress. Can’t get my boot off. Hey, hey!” he cried; but the man who had been ordered to wait on him had long before gone to bed.

He sat up, took off his kittel and his vest, and somehow managed to crawl out of his trousers; but it was long before his boots would stir: with his stout belly it was hard work to stoop over. He got one off; he struggled and struggled with the other, got out of breath, and gave it up. And so with one leg in the boot he threw himself down, and began to snore, filling the whole room with the odor of wine, tobacco, and vile old age.


If Kholstomír remembered anything that night, it was the frolic that Vaska gave him. He threw over him a blanket, and galloped off. He was left till morning at the door of a tavern, with a muzhik’s horse. They licked each other. When it became light he went back to the herd, and itched all over.

“Something makes me itch fearfully,” he thought.

Five days passed. They brought a veterinary. He said cheerfully⁠—

“The mange. You’ll have to dispose of him to the gypsies.”

“Better have his throat cut; only have it done today.”

The morning was calm and clear. The herd had gone to pasture. Kholstomír remained behind. A strange man came along; thin, dark, dirty, in a kaftan spotted with something black. This was the scavenger. He took Kholstomír by the halter, and without looking at him started off. The horse followed quietly, not looking round, and, as always, dragging his legs and kicking up the straw with his hind-legs.

As he went out of the gate, he turned his head toward the well; but the scavenger twitched the halter, and said⁠—

“It’s not worthwhile.”

The scavenger, and Vaska who followed, proceeded to a depression behind the brick barn, and stopped, as though there were something peculiar in this most ordinary place; and the scavenger, handing the halter to Vaska, took off his kaftan, rolled up his sleeves, and produced a knife and whetstone from his bootleg.

The piebald pulled at the halter, and out of sheer ennui tried to bite it, but it was too far off. He sighed, and closed his eyes. He hung down his lip, showing his worn yellow teeth, and began to drowse, lulled by the sound of the knife on the stone. Only his sick and swollen leg trembled a little.

Suddenly he perceived that he was grasped by the lower jaw, and that his head was lifted up. He opened his eyes. Two dogs were in front of him. One was snuffing in the direction of the scavenger, the other sat looking at the gelding as though expecting something especially from him. The gelding looked at them, and began to rub his jaw against the hand that held him.

“Of course they want to cure me,” he said: “let it come!”

And the thought had hardly passed through his mind, before they did something to his throat. It hurt him; he started back, stamped his foot, but restrained himself, and waited for what was to follow.⁠ ⁠… What followed, was some liquid pouring in a stream down his neck and breast. He drew a deep breath, lifting his sides. And it seemed easier, much easier, to him.

The whole burden of his life was taken from him.

He closed his eyes, and began to droop his head⁠—no one held it. Then his legs quivered, his whole body swayed. He was not so much terrified as he was astonished.⁠ ⁠…

Everything was so new. He was astonished; he tried to run ahead, up the hill,⁠ ⁠… but instead of this, his legs, moving where he stood, interfered. He began to roll over on his side, and while expecting to make a step he fell forward, and on his left side.

The scavenger waited till the death-struggle was over, drove away the dogs that were creeping nearer, and then seized the horse by the legs, turned him over on the back, and, telling Vaska to hold his leg, began to take off the hide.

“That was a horse indeed!” said Vaska.

“If he’d been fatter, it would have been a fine hide,” said the scavenger.

That evening the herd passed by the hill; and those who were on the left wing saw a red object below them, and around it some dogs busily romping, and crows and hawks flying over it. One dog, with his paws on the carcass, and shaking his head, was growling over what he was tearing with his teeth. The brown filly stopped, lifted her head and neck, and long sniffed the air. It took force to drive her away.

At sunrise, in a ravine of the ancient forest, in the bottom of an overgrown glade, some wolf-whelps were beside themselves with joy. There were five of them⁠—four about of a size, and one little one with a head bigger than his body. A lean, hairless she-wolf, her belly with hanging dugs almost touching the ground, crept out of the bushes, and sat down in front of the wolves. The wolves sat in a semicircle in front of her. She went to the smallest, and lowering her stumpy tail, and bending her nose to the ground, made a few convulsive motions, and opening her jaws filled with teeth she struggled, and disgorged a great piece of horseflesh.

The larger whelps made a movement to seize it; but she restrained them with a threatening growl, and let the little one have it all. The little one, as though in anger, seized the morsel, hiding it under him, and began to devour it. Then the she-wolf disgorged for the second, and the third, and in the same way for all five, and finally lay down in front of them to rest.

At the end of a week there lay behind the brick barn only the great skull, and two shoulder-blades; all the rest had disappeared. In the summer a muzhik who gathered up the bones carried off also the skull and shoulder-blades, and put them to use.

The dead body of Sierpukhovskoï who had been about in the world, and had eaten and drunken, was buried long after. Neither his skin nor his flesh nor his bones were of any use.

And just as his dead body, which had been about in the world, had been a great burden to others for twenty years, so the disposal of this body became only an additional charge upon men. Long it had been useless to everyone, long it had been only a burden. But still the dead who bury their dead found it expedient to dress this soon-to-be-decaying, swollen body, in a fine uniform, in fine boots; to place it in a fine new coffin, with new tassels on the four corners; then to place this new coffin in another, made of lead, and carry it to Moscow; and there to dig up the bones of people long buried, and then to lay away this malodorous body devoured by worms, in its new uniform and polished boots, and to cover the whole with earth.

Walk in the Light While There Is Light

A Tale of the Time of the Early Christians


Chapter I

It was in the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, a century after the birth of Christ. It was at the time when the disciples of Christ’s disciples were still living, and the Christians faithfully observed the laws of the Master as it is related in the Acts:⁠—

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the Apostles’ feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

(Acts 4:32⁠–⁠35.)

In these early times, a rich Syrian tradesman named Juvenal, a dealer in precious stones, was living in the province of Cilicia, in the city of Tarsus. He was of poor and simple origin; but, by dint of hard work and skill in his art, he had accumulated property and won the respect of his fellow-citizens. He had traveled widely in different lands; and though he was not a literate man, he had seen and learned much, and the city people regarded him highly for his intellect and his probity.

He held to the pagan faith of Rome, which was professed by all respectable people of the Roman Empire⁠—that faith burdened with ceremonies which the emperors since the days of Augustus had so strenuously inculcated, and which the reigning Emperor Trajan so strictly maintained.

The province of Cilicia was far from Rome, but it was administered by a Roman proconsul, and everything that took place in Rome found its echo in Cilicia, and the rulers were mimic emperors.

Juvenal remembered all that had been told him in his childhood about the actions of Nero in Rome. As time went on, he had seen how one emperor after another perished; and, like a clever man, he came to the conclusion that there was nothing sacred about the Roman religion, but that it was all the work of human hands. The senselessness of all the life which went on around him, especially that in Rome, where his business often took him, bewildered him. He had his doubts, he could not comprehend everything; and he attributed this to his lack of cultivation.

He was married, and four children had been born to him; but three had died young, and only one, a son named Julius, survived. Juvenal lavished on this son Julius all his affection and all his care. He especially wished so to educate his son that he might not be tortured by such doubts regarding life as had bewildered him. When Julius had passed the age of fifteen, his father entrusted his education to a philosopher who had settled in their city and devoted himself to the instruction of youth. Juvenal entrusted him to this philosopher, together with a comrade of his, Pamphilius, the son of a former slave whom Juvenal had freed.

The two boys were of the same age, both handsome, and good friends. They studied diligently, and both of them were of good morals. Julius distinguished himself more in the study of the poets and in mathematics; Pamphilius, in the study of philosophy.

About a year before the completion of their course of study, Pamphilius, coming to school one day, explained to the teacher that his widowed mother was going to the city of Daphne, and that he would be obliged to give up his studies.

The teacher was sorry to lose a pupil who had reflected credit on him; Juvenal also was sorry, but sorriest of all was Julius. But in spite of all their entreaties that he should stay and finish his studies, Pamphilius remained obdurate, and after thanking his friends for their love toward him and their solicitude for him, he took his departure.

Two years passed: Julius completed his studies; and during all that time he did not once see his friend.

One day, however, he met him in the street, invited him home, and began to ask him how and where he lived.

Pamphilius told him he still lived in the same place with his mother.

“We do not live alone,” said he, “but many friends live with us, and we have all things in common.”

“What do you mean ‘in common’?” asked Julius.

“In such a way that none of us considers anything his private property.”

“Why do you do that way?”

“We are Christians,” said Pamphilius.

“Is it possible!” cried Julius. “Why, I have been told that Christians kill children and eat them. Can it be that you take part in doing such things?”

“Come and see,” replied Pamphilius. “We do nothing of the sort; we live simply, trying to do nothing wrong.”

“But how can you live, if you have no property of your own?”

“We support each other. If we give our brethren our labors, then they give us theirs.”

“But if your brethren take your labors and don’t reciprocate, then what?”

“We don’t have such persons,” said Pamphilius; “such persons prefer to live luxuriously, and they don’t join us; life among us is simple, and without luxury.”

“But are there not many lazy ones who would delight in being fed for nothing?”

“Yes, there are some such, and we willingly receive them. Not long ago a man of that character came to us⁠—a runaway slave; at first, it is true, he was lazy, and led a bad life, but soon he changed his life, and has now become one of the good brethren.”

“But supposing he had not ordered his life aright?”

“Well, there are some such. The old man Cyril says that we must treat such as if they were the very best of the brethren, and love them all the more.”

“Can one love good-for-nothings?”

“It is impossible to help loving a human being.”

“But how can you give all men whatever they ask of you?” asked Julius. “If my father gave all persons whatever they asked him for, very soon he wouldn’t have anything left.”

“I don’t know,” replied Pamphilius. “We always have enough left for our necessities. Even if it came about that we had nothing to eat or nothing to wear, then we ask the others and they give to us. Yes, it sometimes happens so. Only once did I ever have to go to bed without my supper, and that was because I was very tired and did not feel like going to ask any of the brethren.”

“I don’t know how you do,” said Julius, “only what my father says: if he didn’t have his own property, and if he gave to everyone who asked him, he would die of starvation.”

“We don’t! Come and see. We live, and not only do not lack, but we have even more than we need.”

“How can that be?”

“This is the way of it: We all profess one law, but our powers of fulfilling it vary in each individual; some have greater, some have less. One has already made great improvement in the good life, while another has only just begun in it. At the head of us all stands Christ, with His life, and we all try to imitate Him, and in this only we see our well-being. Certain of us, like the old man Cyril and his wife Pelagia, are our leaders; others stand next to them, and still others in a third rank, but all of us are traveling along the same path. Those in advance are already near to the law of Christ⁠—self-renunciation⁠—and they are willing to lose their life in order to save it. These need nothing; they have no regret for themselves, and to those that ask they give their last possession according to the law of Christ. There are others, feebler, who cannot give all they have, who have some pity on themselves, who grow weak if they don’t have their usual dress and food, and cannot give everything away. Then there are others still weaker⁠—such as have only just started on the path; these still live in the old way, keeping much for themselves and giving away only what is superfluous. Even these that linger in the rear give aid to those in the van. Moreover, all of us are entangled by our relationships with pagans. One man’s father is a pagan and has a property, and gives to his son. The son gives to those that ask, but the father still continues to provide. The mother of another is a pagan, and has pity on her son, and helps him. A third has heathen children, while a mother is a Christian, and the children obey her, give to her, and beg her not to give her possessions away, while she, out of love to them, takes what they give her, and gives to others. Then, again, a fourth will have a pagan wife, and a fifth a pagan husband. Thus all are perplexed, and those in the van would be glad to give their all, but they cannot. In this way the feeble in faith are confirmed, and thus much of the superfluous is collected together.”

In reply to this Julius said:⁠—

“Well, if this is so, then it means you fail to observe the teaching of Christ, and only pretend to observe it. For if you don’t give away your all, then there is no distinction between us and you. In my mind, if you are going to be a Christian, then you must fulfil the whole law; give everything away and remain a beggar.”

“That is the best way of all,” said Pamphilius. “Do so!”

“Yes, I will do so when I see that you do.”

“We do not wish to set an example. And I don’t advise you to join us and renounce your present life for a mere display; we act as we do, not for show, but as a part of our religion.”

“What do you mean⁠—your ‘religion’?”

“Why, it means that salvation from the evils of the world, from death, is to be found only in life according to the teaching of Christ. And it makes no difference to us what men say about us. We are not doing this in the eyes of men, but because in this alone do we see life and welfare.”

“It is impossible not to live for self,” said Julius. “The gods instilled in us our instinct to love ourselves better than others and to seek happiness for ourselves. And you do the same thing. You confess that some of you have pity on yourselves; more and more they will look out for their own pleasures, and be ever more willing to give up your faith and do just what we are doing.”

“No,” replied Pamphilius; “our brethren will go in another path and will never weaken, but will become more and more confirmed in it: just as a fire will never go out when wood is added to it. In this is our faith.”

“I don’t find in what this faith consists.”

“Our faith is this: that we understand life as Christ has interpreted it to us.”

“How is that?”

“Christ uttered some such parable as this: Certain vine-dressers cultivated a vineyard, and they were obliged to pay tribute to the owner of the vineyard. We are the vine-dressers who live in the world and have to pay tribute to God and fulfil His will. But those that held to the worldly faith fancied that the vineyard was theirs, that they had nothing to pay for it, but only to enjoy the fruits of it. The Lord of the vineyard sent a messenger to these men to receive His tribute, but they drove him away. The Lord of the vineyard sent His Son after the tribute, but they killed Him, thinking that after that no one would interfere with them. This is the belief of the world, whereby all men live who do not acknowledge that life is given only for God’s service. But Christ has taught us how false is the worldly belief that it would be better for man if he drove out of the vineyard the Master’s messenger and His Son and avoided paying tribute, for He showed us that we must either pay tribute or be expelled from the vineyard. He taught us that all pleasures which we call pleasures⁠—eating, drinking, amusements⁠—cannot be pleasures if our life is devoted to them, that they are pleasures only when we seek another⁠—the fulfilment of the will of God; that only then these are pleasures, as a present reward following the fulfilment of the will of God. To wish to have pleasure without the labor of fulfilling the will of God, to separate pleasure from work, is the same as to tear off the stalks of flowers and plant them without seeds. We have this belief, and therefore we cannot seek for deception in place of truth. Our faith consists in this: that the welfare of life is not in its pleasures, but in the fulfilment of the will of God without a thought of its pleasures, or hoping for them. And thus we live, and the longer we live the more we see that pleasure and well-being, like a wheel behind the shafts, follow on the fulfilment of the will of God. Our Lord has said: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ ”

Thus said Pamphilius.

Julius listened, and his heart was stirred within him; but what Pamphilius said was not clear to him: at one moment it seemed to him that Pamphilius was deceiving him, but when he looked into his friend’s kindly eyes and remembered his goodness, it seemed to him that Pamphilius was deceiving himself.

Pamphilius invited Julius to visit him so as to examine into the life they led, and if it pleased him to remain and live with them.

And Julius promised, but he did not go to Pamphilius; and being drawn into his own life, he forgot about him.

Chapter II

Julius’ father was rich, and as he loved his only son and was proud of him, he never stinted him for money. Julius lived the life of rich young men; in idleness, luxury, and dissipated amusements, which have always been, and are still, the same⁠—wine, gambling, and fast women.

But the pleasures to which Julius gave himself up kept demanding more and more money, and after a time he found he had not enough. Once he asked for more than his father generally gave him. His father gave it to him, but accompanied it with a rebuke. The son, conscious that he was to blame, and yet unwilling to acknowledge his fault, became angry, behaved rudely to his father, as those that are aware of their guilt, and are unwilling to confess it, are apt to do.

The money he obtained from his father was very quickly spent, and moreover, about the same time Julius and a companion happened to get into a drunken quarrel, and killed a man. The prefect of the city heard about it, and was desirous of subjecting Julius to punishment, but his father succeeded in bringing about his pardon. At this time, Julius, by his irregular life, required still more money. He borrowed it of a boon companion and agreed to repay it. Moreover his mistress asked him to give her a present; she desired a pearl necklace, and he knew that if he did not accede to her request, she would throw him over and take up with a rich man, who had already for some time been trying to entice her away from Julius.

Julius went to his mother and told her he had got to have some money; that if he did not succeed in raising as much as he needed, he should kill himself. For the fact that he had got into such a scrape he blamed his father, not himself. He said:⁠—

“My father has accustomed me to a luxurious life, and then he began to blame me for wanting money. If at first he had given me what I needed without scolding, then with what he gave me afterward I should have regulated my life, and should not have needed much, but as he has always given me too little, I have had to apply to usurers, and they have extorted from me everything I had, and so nothing is left for me to live on, as a rich young man should, and I am put to shame before my companions; and yet my father can’t seem to understand this at all. He has forgotten that he was young once himself. He got me into this position, and now, if he does not give me what I ask for, I shall kill myself.”

The mother, who spoiled her son, went to his father. The father called the young man, and began to upbraid both him and his mother. The son answered the father rudely. The father struck him. The son seized his father’s arm. The father called to his slaves and ordered them to take the young man and lock him up.

When he was left alone, Julius cursed his father and the day he was born. His own death or his father’s presented itself before him as the only way of escape from the position in which he found himself.

Julius’ mother suffered more than he did. She did not comprehend who was really to blame in all this. She felt nothing but pity for her beloved child. She went to her husband and begged him to forgive the youth, but he refused to listen to her, and began to reproach her for having spoiled her son; she blamed him, and the upshot of it was the husband beat his wife. But the wife made no account of the beating. She went to the son and persuaded him to go and beg his father’s forgiveness and yield to his wishes. She promised him, if he would do so, she would give him the money he needed, and not let his father know.

The son consented, and then the mother went to her husband and urged him to pardon the young man. The father for a long time stormed at his wife and son, but at last decided to pardon him, but only on the condition that he should abandon his dissipated life and marry a rich tradesman’s daughter, whose father wished her to enter into an engagement with him.

“He shall have money from me and his wife’s dowry,” said the young man’s father, “and then let him enter upon a regular life. If he will agree to fulfil my wishes I will pardon him. But otherwise I will give him nothing, and at his first offense I will deliver him over into the hands of the prefect.”

Julius agreed to everything, and was released. He promised to marry and to abandon his wicked ways, but he had no intention of doing so; and life at home now became a perfect hell for him: his father did not speak to him, and was quarreling about him with his mother, who wept.

On the next day his mother called him to her room and secretly gave him a precious stone which she had got from her husband.

“Go, sell it; not here, but in another city, and with the money do what you need, and I will manage to conceal the loss for a time, and if it is discovered I will blame it on one of the slaves.”

Julius’ heart was touched by his mother’s words. He was horror-struck at what she had done; and he left home, but did not take the precious stone with him. He himself did not know where or wherefore he was going. He kept going on and on, away from the city, feeling the necessity of remaining alone, and thinking over all that had happened to him and was before him. As he kept going farther and farther away, he came entirely beyond the city limits and entered a grove sacred to the goddess Diana. Coming to a solitary spot, he began to think.

The first thought that occurred to him was to ask help of the goddess. But he no longer believed in his gods, and so he knew that no help was to be expected from them. But if no help came from them, then who would help him? As he thought over his position, it seemed to him too terrible. His soul was all confusion and gloom. But there was help for it. He had to appeal to his conscience, and he began to examine into his life and his acts. And both seemed to him wicked, and, more than all, stupid. Why was he tormenting himself so? He had few pleasures, and many trials and tribulations!

The principal thing was that he felt himself all alone. Hitherto he had had a beloved mother, a father; he certainly had friends; now he had no one. No one loved him. He was a burden to everyone. He had succeeded in bringing trouble into all their lives: he had caused his mother to quarrel with his father; he had wasted his father’s substance, gathered with so much labor all his life long; he had been a dangerous and disagreeable rival to his friends. There could be no doubt about it⁠—all would find it a relief if he were dead.

As he reviewed his life, he remembered Pamphilius, and his last meeting with him, and how Pamphilius had invited him to come there, to the Christians. And it occurred to him not to return home, but to go straight to the Christians, and remain with them.

“But was his position so desperate?” he asked himself, and again he proceeded to review what had happened, and again he was horror-struck because no one seemed to love him, and he loved no one. His mother, father, friends, did not love him, and must wish he were dead; but whom did he himself love? His friends? He was conscious that he did not love anyone. All were rivals of his, all were pitiless toward him, now that he was in disgrace. “His father?” he asked himself, and horror seized him when at this question he looked into his heart. Not only did he not love him, but he hated him for his stinginess, for the affront he had put on him. He hated him, and, moreover, he saw plainly that for his own happiness his father’s death was essential.

“Yes,” Julius asked to himself, “and supposing I knew that no one would see it or ever find it out, what would I do if I could with one blow, once and for all, deprive him of life and set myself free?”

And Julius replied to this question:⁠—

“Yes, I should kill him!”

He replied to this question, and was horror-struck at himself.

“My mother? Yes, I pity her, but I do not love her; It makes no difference to me what happens to her⁠—all I need is her help.⁠ ⁠… Yes, I am a wild beast! and a wild beast beaten and tracked to its lair, and the only distinction is that I am able, if I choose, to quit this false, wicked life; I can do what the wild beast cannot⁠—I can kill myself. I hate my father, there is no one I love⁠ ⁠… neither my mother, nor my friends⁠—but how about Pamphilius?”

And again he remembered his one friend. He began to recall the last interview, and their conversation, and Pamphilius’ words, how, according to their teaching, Christ had said: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Can that be true?

As he went on with his thoughts and recollections, he recalled Pamphilius’ sweet, joyous, passionless face, and he felt inclined to believe in what Pamphilius said.

“What am I, in reality?” he asked himself. “Who am I? A man seeking well-being. I have sought for it in animal pleasures, and have not found it. And all living beings, like myself, also failed to find it. All are evil, and suffer. If any man is always happy, it is because he is seeking for nothing. He says that there are many such, and that all men will be such if they obey their Master’s teachings. What if this is the truth? Whether it is the truth or not, it attracts me to it, and I am going.”

Thus said Julius to himself, and he left the grove resolved never again to return home, and he bent his steps to the town where the Christians lived.

Chapter III

Julius went on boldly and cheerfully, and the farther he went and the more vividly he represented to himself the life of the Christians, remembering all to himself that Pamphilius had said, the more joyous he became in spirit.

The sun was already descending toward the west, and he felt the need of rest, when he fell in with a man who was resting and taking his nooning. This man was of middle age, and had an intellectual face. He was sitting and eating olives and cakes. When he saw Julius, he smiled and said:⁠—

“How are you, young man? The way is still long. Sit down and rest.”

Julius thanked him, and sat down.

“Where are you going?” asked the stranger.

“To the Christians,” said Julius; and he gave a truthful account of his life and his decision.

The stranger listened attentively, and though he asked him about certain details, he did not express his opinion; but when Julius had finished, the stranger stowed away in his wallet the remains of his luncheon, arranged his attire, and said:⁠—

“Young man, do not carry out your intention; you are making a mistake. I know life, and you do not. I know the Christians, and you do not know them. Listen, and I will explain your whole life and your ideas; and when you hear me you shall adopt the decision that seems to you the wiser. You are young, rich, handsome, strong; your passions are boiling in you. You wish to find a quiet refuge in which your passions would not disturb you, and you would not suffer from their consequences; and it seems to you that you might find such a refuge among the Christians.

“There is no such place, my dear young man, because what troubles you is not peculiar to Cilicia or to Rome, but to yourself. In the quiet of a village solitude the same passions will torment you⁠—only a hundred times more violently. The fraud of the Christians, or their mistake⁠—for I don’t care to judge them⁠—consists simply in this⁠—that they don’t wish to understand the nature of man. The only person who can perfectly carry out their teachings is an old man who has outlived all his passions. A man in his prime, or a youth like you who has not yet learned life or himself, cannot submit to their law, because this law has for its basis, not the nature of man, but an idle philosophy. If you go to them, you will suffer what you suffer now, only in a far higher degree. Now, your passions entice you along false paths; but having once made a mistake in your direction, you can rectify it. Now, you still have the satisfaction of passion freed⁠—in other words⁠—of life.

“But, in their midst, controlling your passions by main force, you will make precisely the same mistakes, if not worse ones; and, besides that suffering, you will also have the incessant anguish of the unsatisfied human longings. Let the water out of a dam, and it will irrigate the soil and the meadows, and quench the thirst of animals; but if you keep it back it will tear away the earth and trickle away in mud. It is the same with the passions. The teachings of the Christians⁠—beyond those doctrines from which they get consolation, and which I will not speak of⁠—their teachings, I say, for life, consist in the following: They do not recognize violence, they do not recognize war or courts of justice, they do not recognize private property, they do not recognize the sciences, the arts, or anything which makes life cheerful and pleasant.

“All this would be good if all men were such as they describe their teacher to have been. But you see this is not so, and cannot be. Men are bad, and given over to their passions. It is this play of passions, and the collisions resulting from them, that keep men in those conditions of life in which they live. The barbarians know no restraint, and one savage, for the satisfaction of his own desires, would destroy the whole world, if all men submitted as these Christians submit. If the gods lodged in the human heart the sentiments of anger, of vengeance, even of evil against evildoers, they must have done it because these sentiments are necessary for the life of men. The Christians teach that these feelings are wicked, and that men would be happy if they did not have them; there would be no murders, no punishments, no want. That is true; but one might as well take the position that men ought to refrain from eating for the sake of their happiness. In reality, it would put an end to greediness, hunger, and all the misfortunes that come from it. But this supposition could not change the nature of man. Even if two or three dozen people, believing in this, and actually refraining from food, should die of starvation, it would not change the nature of man. The same, exactly, with the other passions of men: indignation, wrath, vengeance, even love for women, for luxury, for splendor and pomp, are characteristic of the gods, and consequently they are the ineradicable characteristics of man.

“Annihilate man’s nutrition, and you annihilate man. In exactly the same way annihilate the passions characteristic of man, and you annihilate humanity.

“The same is true also of private property, which the Christian would do away with. Look around you: every vineyard, every inclosure, every house, every ass⁠—everything has been produced by men under the conditions of private property. Abolish the right of private property, and not a vineyard would be planted, not a creature would be trained and pastured. The Christians assure you that they have no rights of private property; but they enjoy its fruits. They say they have all things in common, and everything they have is brought to one place; but what they bring together they receive from men who have private property. They merely deceive men, or in the very best light, deceive themselves. You say they themselves work in order to support life, but the work they do would not support them if they did not take advantage of what men possessing private property produced. Even if they could support themselves, it would be a mere existence, and there would be no place among them for the arts and sciences. (And indeed it is impossible for them to do otherwise. They do not even acknowledge the advantage of our arts and sciences.) All their doctrine tends to reduce them to a primitive condition, to barbarism, to the animal. They cannot serve humanity by arts and sciences, and as they do not know them, they renounce them; they cannot take advantage of the qualities which are the peculiar prerogative of man and ally him to the gods. They will not have temples, or statues, or theaters, or museums. They say these things are not necessary for them. The easiest way not to be ashamed of one’s own baseness is to scorn nobility; and this they do. They are atheists. They do not recognize the gods, or their interference in the affairs of men. They acknowledge only the father of their teacher, whom they also call their father, and their teacher himself, who, according to their notions, has revealed to them all the mysteries of life. Their doctrine is a wretched deception.

“Notice one thing⁠—our doctrine asserts that the world depends on the gods; the gods afford protection to men. In order that men may live well, they must reverence the gods, must search and think, and then our lives are regulated on the one hand by the will of the gods, on the other by the collective wisdom of all mankind. We live, think, search, and consequently approve the truth.

“But they have neither the gods nor their wills, nor the wisdom of humanity, but only one thing⁠—a blind faith in their crucified teacher, and in all he said to them.

“Now consider well: which is the more hopeful guide⁠—the will of the gods and the collective, free activity of human wisdom, or the compulsory blind belief in the words of one man?”

Julius was struck by what the stranger said to him, and especially by his last words. Not only was his purpose of going to the Christians shaken, but it now seemed to him strange enough that he, under the influence of his misfortunes, could ever have come to such a foolish decision. But the question still remained, What was he to do now, and how was he to escape from the difficult circumstances in which he was placed, and so, after he had related his situation, he asked the stranger’s advice.

“That is the very thing that I wanted to speak about,” continued the stranger. “What are you to do? Your way, as far as human wisdom is given me, is clear to me. All your misfortunes are the results of the passions peculiar to men. Passion has seduced you, has led you so far that you have suffered. Such are the ordinary lessons of life. These lessons must be turned to your advantage. You have learned much, and you know what is bitter and what is sweet; you cannot repeat the mistakes you have made. Profit by your experience. What has hurt you more than all is your quarrel with your father; this quarrel is the outcome of your position. Take another, and the quarrel will either cease, or at least it will not be so painfully apparent. All your tribulations have arisen from the irregularity of your position. You have yielded to the gaieties of youth; this was natural, and therefore it was certainly good. It was good while it was appropriate to your age. But that time has passed; you, with the powers of manhood, have yielded to the friskiness of youth, and it was bad. You have now reached the time when you must become a man, a citizen, and serve the state, and work for its welfare. Your father proposes to you to marry. His advice is wise. You have outlived one period of life⁠—your youth⁠—and have reached another. All your tribulations are the indications of a period of transition. Recognize that the period of youth is passed, and having boldly renounced all that belonged to it, and that is not appropriate to manhood, start on your new way. Marry, give up the amusements of youth, occupy yourself with trade, with social affairs, with arts and sciences, and you will find peace and joy as well as reconciliation with your father. The main thing that has disturbed you has been the unnaturalness of your position. Now you have reached manhood, and you must enter into matrimony, and be a man.

“And therefore my chief advice is: Fulfil your father’s wishes, and marry. If you are attracted by that solitude which you expected to find among the Christians, if you are inclined toward philosophy and not to the activities of life, you can with profit devote yourself to this only after you have had experience of life in its actuality. But you will know this only as an independent citizen and head of a family. If then you feel drawn to a solitude, yield to it; then it will be a genuine inclination, and not a whim of discontent, as it is now. Then go.”

These last words, more than anything else, persuaded Julius. He thanked the stranger, and returned home.

His mother received him joyfully. The father, also, on learning his intention to submit to his will and marry the girl whom he had chosen for him, was reconciled to him.

Chapter IV

In three months Julius’ wedding with the beautiful Eulampia was celebrated, and the young man, having changed his manner of life, began to live with his wife in their own house and to conduct a part of the business which his father entrusted to him.

Once upon a time he went on business to a not very distant city, and there, as he was sitting in a merchant’s shop, he saw Pamphilius passing by with a girl whom he did not know. Both were walking, laden with heavy bunches of grapes, which they were selling. Julius, when he recognized his friend, went out to him and asked him to go into the shop and have a talk with him. The young girl, seeing Pamphilius’ desire to go with his friend, and his reluctance to leave her alone, hastened to say that she did not need him, and that she would sit down with the grapes and wait for customers. Pamphilius thanked her, and went with Julius into the shop.

Julius asked his acquaintance, the merchant, permission to go with his friend into his private room, and, having received this permission, he went with Pamphilius into the apartment in the rear of the shop.

The friends inquired of each about the circumstances of their lives. Pamphilius’ life had not changed since they had last seen each other: he had continued to live in the Christian community, he was not married, and he assured his friend that his life each year, day, and hour had been growing happier and happier.

Julius told his friend all that had happened to him, and how he had started to join the Christians, when his meeting with the stranger had opened his eyes to the mistakes of the Christians, and to his great obligation to marry, and how he had followed his advice and married.

“Well, tell me, are you happy now?” asked Pamphilius. “Have you found in marriage what the stranger promised you?”

“Happy?” repeated Julius. “What is being happy? If you mean by that word full satisfaction of my desires, then of course I am not happy. I am conducting my trade with success, men are beginning to respect me, and in both of these respects I find some satisfaction. Although I see many men who are richer and more regarded than I, yet I foresee the possibility of equaling them and even of excelling them. This side of my life is full; but my marriage, I will say frankly, does not satisfy me. I will say more: I am conscious that this same marriage, which ought to have given me joy, has not done so, and that the joy I experienced at first has kept growing less and less, and has at last vanished, and in its place, where joy had been, out of marriage arose sorrow. My wife is beautiful, intellectual, well educated, and good. At first I was perfectly happy. But now⁠—this you can’t know, having no wife⁠—there have arisen causes of discord between us, at one time because she seeks my caresses when I am indifferent toward her, at another time the case is reversed. Moreover, for love, novelty is necessary. A woman less fascinating than my wife fascinates me more at first, but afterward becomes still less fascinating than my wife. I have already experienced this. No, I have not found satisfaction in matrimony. Yes, my friend,” said Julius, in conclusion, “the philosophers are right; life does not give what the soul desires. This I have experienced in my marriage. But the fact that life does not give that happiness which the soul desires does not prove that your fraudulent practices can give it,” he added with a smile.

“In what do you see we are fraudulent?” asked Pamphilius.

“Your fraud consists in this: that in order to free men from the evils connected with the facts of life, you repudiate all the facts of life⁠—life itself. In order to free yourselves from disenchantment, you repudiate enchantment, you repudiate marriage itself.”

“We do not repudiate marriage,” said Pamphilius.

“If not marriage, then you repudiate love.”

“On the contrary, we repudiate everything except love. For us it is the chief cornerstone of everything.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Julius. “As far as I have heard from others and from yourself, and from the fact that you are not married yet, though you are as old as I am, I conclude that you don’t have marriages among you. Those of you who are already married continue married, but the rest of you do not enter into new relations. You do not take pains to perpetuate the human race. And if there were no other people besides you, the human race would have long ago perished,” said Julius, repeating what he had many times heard.

“That is unjust,” said Pamphilius. “It is true we do not make it our aim to perpetuate the human race, and we take no anxious care about this, as I have many times heard from your wise men. We take for granted that our Heavenly Father has already provided for this: our aim is simply to live in accordance with His will. If the perpetuation of the race is consonant with His will, then it will be perpetuated; if not, then it will come to an end; this is not our business or our care; our care is to live in accordance with His will. His will is expressed both in our sermons and in our revelation, where it is said that the husband shall cleave unto the wife, and they twain shall be one flesh. Marriage amongst us is not only not forbidden, but is encouraged by our elders and teachers. The difference between marriage amongst us and marriage amongst you consists solely in this: that our law has revealed to us that everyone who looks lustfully on a woman commits a sin; and therefore we and our women, instead of adorning ourselves and stimulating lust, try to avoid it as much as possible, so that the feeling of love, like that between brothers and sisters, may be stronger than that of lust, for one woman, which you call love.”

“But still you cannot suppress the feeling for beauty,” said Julius. “I am convinced, for example, that the beautiful young girl with whom you were carrying grapes, in spite of her garb, which concealed her charming figure, must awaken in you the feeling of love to a woman.”

“I do not know as yet,” said Pamphilius, reddening. “I have not thought about her beauty. You are the first person that has spoken of it. She is to me only as a sister. But I will continue what I was just going to say to you concerning the difference between our form of marriage and yours. The variance arises from the fact that, among you, lust, under the name of beauty and love and the service of the goddess Venus, is maintained and expressed in men. With us it is the contrary; carnal desire is not regarded as an evil⁠—for God has created no evil⁠—but a good, which becomes an evil when it is not in its place⁠—a temptation, as we call it; and we try to avoid it by all the means in our power. And that is why I am not married as yet, though very possibly I might marry tomorrow.”

“But what decides this?”

“The will of God.”

“How do you find it out?”

“If one never seeks for its indications, one will never see them; but if one is all the time on the lookout for them, they become clear, as to you omens by sacrifices and birds are clear. And as you have your wise men who interpret for you the will of the gods by their wisdom, and by the vitals of the sacrificed victim, and by the flight of birds, so have we our wise men who explain to us the will of the Father by the revelation of Christ, by the promptings of their hearts, and the thoughts of other men, and chiefly by love to them.”

“But all this is very indefinite,” objected Julius. “What shows you, for example, when and whom you ought to marry? When I was about to marry, I had a choice between three girls. These girls were selected from the rest because they were beautiful and rich, and my father was satisfied whichever one of them I chose. Out of the three I chose my Eulampia because she was more beautiful and more attractive than the others. But what will govern you in your choice?”

“In order to answer you,” said Pamphilius, “I must inform you, first of all, that as according to our doctrine all men are equal before our Father, so likewise they are equal before us both in their station and in their spiritual and physical qualities, and consequently our choice (if I may use this word so meaningless to us) cannot be in any way circumscribed. Any one of all the men and women of the world may be the wife of a Christian man or the husband of a Christian woman.”

“That would make it still more impossible to decide,” said Julius.

“I will tell you what our elder told me as to the difference between a Christian and a pagan marriage. The pagan⁠—you, for example⁠—chooses a wife who, according to his idea, will cause him, personally, more delight than anyone else. In this choice his eyes wander about, and it is hard to decide; the more, because the enjoyment is before him. But the Christian has no such choice; or rather the choice for his personal enjoyment occupies not the first, but a subordinate place. For the Christian the question is whether by his marriage he is going contrary to God’s will.”

“But in what respect can there be in marriage anything contrary to God’s will?”

“I might forget the Iliad, which you and I read together, but you who live amid poets and sages cannot forget it. What is the whole Iliad? It is a story of violations of the will of God in relation to marriage. Menelaus and Paris and Helen and Achilles and Agamemnon and Chreseis⁠—it is all a description of the terrible tribulations that have ensued and are all the time coming from this violation.”

“In what consists this violation?”

“It consists in this: that a man loves a woman for the personal enjoyment he gets from connection with her, and not because she is a human being like himself, and so he enters into matrimony for the sake of his pleasure. Christian marriage is possible only when a man has love for his fellow-men, and when the object of his carnal love has already been the object of fraternal love of man to man. As a house can be built satisfactorily and lastingly only when there is a foundation; as a picture can be painted only when there is something prepared to paint it on; so carnal love is lawful, reasonable, and lasting only when it is based on the respect and love of man to man. On this foundation only can a reasonable Christian family life be established.”

“But still,” said Julius, “I do not see why Christian love, as you call it, excludes such love for a woman as Paris experienced.”

“I don’t say that Christian marriage did not permit exclusive love for a woman; on the contrary, only then is it reasonable and holy; but exclusive love for a woman can take its rise only when the existent love to all men has not been previously violated. The exclusive love for a woman which the poets sing, calling it good, though it is not founded on love to men, has no right to be called love at all. It is animal passion, and very frequently passes over into hate. The best proof of this is how this so-called love, or eros, if it be not founded on brotherly love to all men, becomes brutal; this is shown in the cases where violence is offered to the very woman whom a man professes to love, and in so doing compels her to suffer, and ruins her. In violence it is manifest that there is no love to man⁠—no, not if he torments the one he loves. But in unchristian marriage violence is often concealed when the man that weds a girl who does not love him, or who loves someone else, compels her to suffer and does not pity her, provided only he satisfies his passion.”

“Let us admit that this is so,” said Julius, “but if a girl loves him, then there is no injustice, and I don’t see any difference between Christian and pagan marriage.”

“I do not know the details of your marriage,” replied Pamphilius; “but I know that every marriage having for its basis personal advantage only cannot help being the cause of discord, just exactly as the mere act of feeding cannot take place among animals and men without quarrels and brawls. Everyone wants the sweet morsel, and since there is an insufficiency of sweet morsels for all, the quarrel breaks out. Even if there is no outward quarrel, there is a secret one. The weak one desires the sweet morsel, but he knows that the strong one will not give it to him, and though he is aware of the impossibility of taking it directly away from the strong one, he looks at him with secret hatred and envy, and seizes the first opportunity of getting it away from him. The same is true of pagan marriages, only it is twice as bad, because the object of the hatred is a man, so that enmity is produced even between husband and wife.”

“But how manage so that the married couple love no one but each other? Always the man or the girl is found loving this person or another. And then in your system the marriage is impossible. This is the very reason I see the justice of what is said about you, that you do not marry at all. It is for this reason you are not married, and apparently will not marry. How can it possibly be that a man should marry a single woman never having before kindled the feelings of love in some other woman, or that a girl should reach maturity without having awakened the feelings of some man? How must Helen have acted?”

“The elder Cyril thus speaks in regard to this: in the pagan world, men having no thought of love to their brethren, never having trained that feeling, think about one thing⁠—about the awakening of passionate love toward some woman, and they foster this passion in their hearts. And therefore in their world every Helen, and every woman like Helen, stimulates the love of many. Rivals fight with one another, and strive to supplant one another as animals do to possess the female. And to a greater or less degree their marriage is a constraint. In our community we not only do not think of the personal fascination of beauty, but we avoid all temptations which lead to that, and which in the heathen world are highly regarded as a merit and an object of adoration.

“We, on the contrary, think about those obligations of reverence and love to our neighbors which we have without distinction for all men, for the greatest beauty and the greatest ugliness. We use all our endeavors to educate this feeling, and so in us the feeling of love toward men gets the upper hand of the seduction of beauty, and conquers it, and annihilates the discords arising from sexual relations. The Christian marries only when he knows that his union with a woman causes no one any grief.”

“But is this possible?” interrupted Julius. “Can men regulate their inclinations?”

“It is impossible if they have given them free course, but we can keep them from spreading and rising. Take, for example, the relations of a father to his daughter, of a mother to her sons, of brothers and sisters. The mother is to her son, the daughter to her father, the sister to her brother, not an object of personal enjoyment, but of pure love, and the passions are not awakened. They would be awakened only when the father should discover that she whom he had accounted his daughter was not his daughter, or the mother that her son was not her son, or that brother and sister were not brother and sister; but even then this passion would be very feeble and humble, and it would be in a man’s power to repress it. The lustful feeling would be feeble, for it would be based on that of maternal, paternal, or fraternal love. Why then can’t you believe that the feeling toward all women might be trained and controlled so that they would regard them in the same light as mothers, sisters, and daughters, and that the feeling of conjugal love might grow out of the basis of such an affection? As a brother permits the feeling of love toward the woman whom he has considered his sister to arise only when he has learned that she is not his sister, so when the Christian feels that his love does not injure anyone, he permits this passion to arise in his soul.”

“Well, but suppose two men love the same girl?”

“Then one sacrifices his happiness to the happiness of the other.”

“But supposing she loves one of them?”

“Then the one whom she loves least sacrifices his feelings for the sake of her happiness.”

“Well, supposing she loves both, and both sacrifice themselves, whom would she take?”

“In that case the elders would decide the matter, and advise in such a way that the greatest happiness would come to all, with the greatest amount of love.”

“But it can’t be done in such a way; and the reason is because it is contrary to human nature.”

“Contrary to human nature! What is the nature of man? Man, besides being an animal, is a man, and it is true that such a relation to a woman is not consonant with man’s animal nature, but is consonant with his rational nature. And when he employs his reason in the service of his animal nature, he does worse than a beast⁠—he descends to violence, to incest⁠—a level to which no brute ever sinks. But when he employs his rational nature to the suppression of the animal, when the animal nature serves, then only he attains the well-being which satisfies him.”

Chapter V

“But tell me about yourself personally,” said Julius. “I see you with that pretty girl; you apparently live near her and serve her; can it be that you do not desire to be her husband?”

“I have not thought about it,” said Pamphilius. “She is the daughter of a Christian widow. I serve them just as others do. You ask me if I love her in a way to unite my life with hers. This question is hard for me. But I will answer frankly. This idea has occurred to me; but there is a young man who loves her, and therefore I do not dare as yet to think about it. This young man is a Christian, and loves us both, and I cannot take a step which would hurt him. I live, not thinking about this. I try to do one thing: to fulfil the law of love to men⁠—this is the only thing I demand; I shall marry when I see that it is proper.”

“But it cannot be a matter of indifference to the mother whether she has a good industrious son-in-law or not. She would want you, and not anyone else.”

“No, it is a matter of indifference to her, because she knows that, besides me, all of us are ready to serve her as well as everyone else, and I should serve her neither more nor less whether I were her son-in-law or not. If my marriage to her daughter results, I shall enter upon it with joy, and so I should rejoice even if she married someone else.”

“That is impossible!” exclaimed Julius. “This is a horrible thing of you⁠—that you deceive yourselves! And thus you deceive others. That stranger told me correctly about you. When I listen to you I cannot help yielding to the beauty of the life which you describe for me; but as I think it over, I see that it is all deception, leading to savagery, brutality, of life approaching that of brutes.”

“Wherein do you see this savagery?”

“In this: that as you subject your own lives to labors, you have no leisure or chance to occupy yourselves with arts and sciences. Here you are in ragged dress, with hardened hands and feet; your fair friend, who might be a goddess of beauty, is like a slave. You have no hymns of Apollo, or temples, or poetry, or games⁠—none of those things which the gods have given for beautifying the life of man. To work, work like slaves or like oxen merely for a coarse existence⁠—isn’t this a voluntary and impious renunciation of the will and nature of man.”

“The nature of man again!” said Pamphilius. “But in what does this nature consist? Is it in this, that you torment your slaves with unbearable labors, that you kill your brothers and reduce them to slavery, and make your women an object of enjoyment? All this is essential for that beauty of life which you consider a part of human nature. Or does it consist in this, that you must live in love and concord with all men, feeling yourself a member of one universal brotherhood?”

“You are also greatly mistaken if you think that we scorn the arts and sciences. We highly prize all the qualities with which human nature is endowed. But we look on all the qualities belonging to man as the means for the attainment of one single aim to which we devote our whole lives, and that is to fulfil the will of God. In art and science we do not see an amusement suitable only to while away the time of idle people; we demand from art and science what we demand from all human occupations⁠—that they hold the same activity of love to God and one’s neighbor as permeates all the acts of a Christian. We call real science only those occupations which help us to live better, and art we regard only when it purifies our thoughts, elevates our souls, increases the force which we need for a loving, laborious life. Such science, as far as possible, we develop in ourselves and in our children, and such art we gladly cultivate in our free time. We read and study the writings bequeathed to us; we sing songs, we paint pictures, and our songs and paintings encourage our souls and cheer us up in moments of depression. And this is why we cannot approve of the application which you make of the arts and sciences. Your learned men employ their aptitudes and acquirements to the invention of new means of causing evil to men; they perfect the methods of war, in other words, of murder; they contrive new ways of moneymaking, that is to say, of enriching some at the expense of others. Your art serves for the erection and decoration of temples in honor of your gods, in whom the more cultivated of you have long ago ceased to believe, but belief in whom you inculcate in others, considering that, by such a deception, you keep them under your power. You erect statues in honor of the most powerful and cruel of your tyrants, whom no one respects, but all fear. In your theaters representations are permitted which hold criminal love up to admiration. Music serves for the delectation of your rich men who have eaten and drunken at their luxurious feasts. Pictorial art is employed in representing in houses of debauchery such scenes as no sober man unvitiated by animal passions could look at without blushing. No, not for this was man endowed with these lofty qualities which differentiate him from the beasts! It is impossible to use them for the mere gratification of your bodies. Consecrating our whole lives to the accomplishment of the will of God, we all the more employ our highest faculties in the same service.”

“Yes,” said Julius, “all this would be admirable if life in such conditions was possible; but it is not possible to live so. You deceive yourselves. You do not acknowledge our protection. But if it were not for the Roman legions, could you live in any comfort? You profit by our protection, though you do not acknowledge it. Some among you, as you yourself say, protect yourselves. You do not acknowledge private property, but take advantage of it; we have it and give it to you. You yourselves do not give away your grapes, but sell them and then make purchases. All this is a cheat. If you did what you say, then it would be so; but now you deceive others as yourselves.”

Julius was indignant, and he spoke out what he had in his mind. Pamphilius was silent and waited his turn. When Julius had finished, Pamphilius said:⁠—

“You are wrong in thinking that we do not acknowledge your protection, and yet take advantage of it. Our well-being consists in our not requiring protection, and this cannot be taken away from us. Even if material objects, which constitute property in your eyes, pass through our hands, we do not call them ours, and we give them to whoever needs them for subsistence. We sell goods to those that wish to buy them; yet it is not for the sake of increasing our private means, but solely that those that need may acquire what is required for supporting life. If anyone desired to take these grapes away from us we should give them up without resistance. This is the precise reason why we have no fear, even of an invasion of the barbarians. If they proceeded to take from us the products of our toil, we should let them go; if they insisted on our working for them, we should joyfully comply with their demands, and not only would they have no reason to kill us or torture us, but it would be contrary to their interest to do so. The barbarians would speedily understand and like us, and we should have far less to endure at their hands than from the enlightened people that surround us now and persecute us.

“Your accusation against us consists in this⁠—that we do not wholly attain what we are striving for; that is, that we do not recognize violence and private property, and at the same time we take advantage of them. If we are deceivers, then it is no use to talk with us, and we are worthy neither of anger nor of being exposed, but only of scorn, and we should willingly accept your scorn, since one of our rules is the recognition of our insignificance. But if we are genuine in our striving toward what we profess, then your blaming us for deception would be unjust. If we strive, as I and my brethren strive, to fulfil our Teacher’s law, then we strive for it, not for external ends⁠—for riches and honors, for you see all these things we do not recognize⁠—but for something else. You are seeking your best advantage, and so are we; the only difference is that we see our advantage in different things. You believe that your well-being consists in riches and honors; we believe in something else. Our belief shows us that our advantage is not in violence, but in submissiveness; not in wrath, but in giving everything away. And we, like plants in the light, cannot help striving in the direction where we see our advantage. It is true we do not accomplish all we wish for our own advantage; but how can it be otherwise? You strive to have the most beautiful woman for a wife, to have the largest property⁠—but have you, or has anyone else succeeded in doing this? If the arrow does not hit the bull’s-eye, does the bowman any the less cease to aim at it, because he fails many times to hit it? It is the same with us. Our well-being, according to the teaching of Christ, is in love. We search for our advantage, but each one in his own way falls more or less short of attaining it.”

“Yes, but why don’t you believe in all human wisdom, and why do you turn your back on it, and put your faith in your one crucified Teacher? Your thraldom, your submissiveness before Him, is what repels me.”

“Again you make a mistake, and anyone makes a mistake who thinks that we, in fulfilling our doctrine, pin our faith to anything because the man we believe in commanded it. On the contrary, those that seek with all their soul for the instructions of Truth, for Communion with the Father, those that seek for true happiness, cannot help hitting upon that path which Christ traversed, and, therefore, cannot help following Him, seeing Him as their leader. All who love God meet on this path, and there you will be also! He is the Son of God and the mediator between God and men, and this is so, not because anyone has told us this, and we blindly believe it, but because all those that seek God find His Son before them, and only through Him can they understand, see, and know God.”

Julius made no reply to this, and sat for a long while silent.

“Are you happy?” he asked.

“I have nothing better to desire. But although, for the most part, I experience a sense of perplexity, a consciousness of some vague injustice, yet that is the very reason I am so tremendously happy,” said Pamphilius, smiling.

“Yes,” said Julius; “maybe I should have been happier if I had not met that stranger, and if I had joined you.”

“Why! if you think so, what prevents your doing so even now?”

“How about my wife?”

“You say she has an inclination to Christianity, then she will come with you.”

“Yes, but we have already begun a different kind of life; how can we break it off? We have begun; we must live it out,” said Julius, picturing to himself the dissatisfaction which his father and mother and friends would feel, and, above all, the energy which it would require to make this change.

At this moment there appeared at the door of the shop this young girl, Pamphilius’ friend, accompanied by a young man. Pamphilius joined them, and the young man said loud enough for Julius to hear that he had been sent by Cyril to buy leather. The grapes had been sold and wheat had been bought. Pamphilius proposed to the young man to go home with Magdalina while he himself should buy and bring home the leather. “It will be pleasanter for you,” said he.

“No, it would be pleasanter for Magdalina to go with you,” said the young man, and he took his departure. Julius introduced Pamphilius in the shop to a tradesman whom he knew. Pamphilius put the wheat into bags, and bestowing the smaller share on Magdalina, took up his own heavy load, said goodbye to Julius, and left the city with the young girl. As he turned into a side street he looked round and nodded his head to Julius, and then still more joyously smiling said something to Magdalina, and thus they vanished from sight.

“Yes, I should have done better if I had gone to them,” said Julius to himself, and in his imagination, commingling, arose two pictures: that of the lusty Pamphilius with the tall robust maiden carrying the baskets on their heads and their kindly radiant faces; then that of his own home which he had left that morning, and to which he should return, and then his pampered beautiful wife, of whom he had grown so tired, lying in her finery and bracelets on rugs and cushions.

But Julius had no time to think long; his acquaintances, the tradesmen, came, and they entered upon their usual proceedings, finishing up with a dinner with liquors and the night with women.⁠ ⁠…

Chapter VI

Ten years passed. Julius saw nothing more of Pamphilius, and his interviews gradually faded from his remembrance, and his impressions of him and the Christian life grew dim.

Julius’ life ran in the usual course. About that time his father died, and he was obliged to take the head of the whole business, which was complicated; there were old customers, there were salesmen in Africa, there were clerks, there were debts to be collected and to be paid. Julius, in spite of himself, was drawn into business and gave all his time to it. Moreover, new cares came upon him. He was selected for some civic function. And this new occupation, flattering to his pride, was attractive to him. Besides his commercial affairs, he was also interested in public matters, and having brains and the gift of eloquence, he proceeded to use his influence among his fellow-citizens, so as to acquire a high public position.

In the course of these ten years, a serious and, to him, unpleasant change had also taken place in his family life. Three children had been born to him, and this had estranged him from his wife. In the first place, his wife had lost a large part of her beauty and freshness; in the second place, she paid less attention to her husband. All her affection and tenderness were lavished on the children. Though the children were handed over to nurses and attendants, after the manner of the pagans, Julius often found them in their mother’s rooms or found her in theirs. But the children for the most part were a burden to Julius, occasioning him more annoyance than pleasure.

Engrossed in his commercial and public affairs, Julius had abandoned his former dissipated life, but he took it for granted that he needed some refined recreation after his labors, and he did not find it with his wife. At this time she was more and more occupied with a Christian slave-woman, was more and more carried away by the new doctrine, and had renounced everything external and pagan which had constituted a charm for Julius. As he did not find this in his wife, he took up with a woman of frivolous character, and enjoyed with her those leisure moments which remained to him above his duties.

If Julius had been asked whether he was happy or unhappy in these years of his life, he could not have replied.

He was so busy! He hurried from affair to affair, from pleasure to pleasure, but there was not one so satisfying to him that he would have it last. Everything he did was of such a kind that the quicker he got through with it the better he liked it; and none of his pleasures was so sweet as not to be poisoned by something, not to have mingled with it the weariness of satiety.

This kind of existence Julius was leading when an event happened which very nearly revolutionized the whole nature of his life. At the Olympic games he was taking part in the races, and as he was driving his chariot successfully near the goal, he suddenly collided with another which he was just outstripping: the wheel was broken, he was thrown out, and two of his ribs and an arm were fractured. His injuries were serious, but not fatal; he was taken home, and had to lie in bed for three months.

In the course of these three months, in the midst of severe physical sufferings, his thought began to ferment, and he had leisure to review his life as if it were the life of a stranger, and his life presented itself before him in a gloomy light, the more because during this time three unpleasant events, deeply mortifying to him, occurred.

The first was that a slave in whom his father had reposed implicit trust, having gone to Africa for him to purchase precious stones, had run away, causing great loss and confusion in Julius’ business.

The second was that his concubine had deserted him, and accepted a new protector.

The third and most unpleasant blow was that during his illness the election for the position of administrator which he had been ambitious to fill, took place, and his rival was chosen. All this, it seemed to Julius, resulted from the fact that his chariot-wheel had swerved to the left the width of a finger.

As he lay alone on his couch, he began involuntarily to think how from such insignificant circumstances his happiness depended, and these ideas led him to still others, and to a recollection of his former misfortunes, of his attempt to join the Christians, and of Pamphilius, whom he had not seen for ten years.

These recollections were still further strengthened by conversations with his wife, who, during his illness, was frequently with him, and told him everything she could learn about Christianity from her slave-woman. This slave-woman had lived for a time in the same community where Pamphilius lived, and knew him. Julius wanted to see this slave-woman, and when she came to his bedside she gave him a circumstantial account of everything, and particularly about Pamphilius.

“Pamphilius,” the slave-woman said, “was one of the best of the brethren, and was loved and regarded by them all. He was married to that same Magdalina whom Julius had seen ten years previous. They already had several children. Any man who did not believe that God had created men for their good should go and observe the lives of these,” said the slave-woman in conclusion.

Julius dismissed the slave-woman and remained alone, thinking over what he had heard. It made him envious to compare Pamphilius’ life with his own, and he tried not to think about it.

In order to divert his mind, he took the Greek manuscript which his wife had put into his hands, and began to read it. In the manuscript he reads as follows:⁠—

There are two paths: one of life and one of death. The path of life consists in this: first, thou must love God, who created thee; secondly, thy neighbor as thyself; and do not unto another that which thou wouldst not have done unto thee. The doctrine included in these words is this:⁠—

Bless those that curse you;

Pray for your enemies and for your persecutors; for what thanks have you if you love those that love you. Do not even the heathen the same?

Do you love them that hate you and you will not have enemies.

Abstain from sensual and worldly lusts.

If anyone smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and thou shalt be perfect. If anyone compel thee to go one mile with him go with him twain;

If anyone take what is thine, ask it not back, since this thou canst not do;

If anyone take away thy outer garment, give also thy shirt;

Give to everyone that asketh of thee and demand it not back, since the Father desires that His beneficent gifts be given unto all.

Blessed is he that giveth according to the Commandments.

My child! shun all evil and all appearance of evil. Be not given to wrath, since wrath leadeth to murder; nor to jealousy, nor to quarrelsomeness, since the outcome of all these is murder.

My child! be not lustful, since lust leadeth to fornication; be not obscene, for from obscenity proceedeth adultery.

My child! be not deceitful, because falsehood leadeth to theft; be not mercenary, be not ostentatious, since from all this proceedeth theft.

My child! be not a murmurer, since this leadeth to blasphemy; be not insolent or evil-minded, since from all this cometh blasphemy.

But be meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth.

Be long-suffering and gentle and mild and humble and good, and always beware of the words to which thou lendest thine ear.

Be not puffed up with pride and give not thy soul to insolence.

Yea, verily, let not thy soul cleave to the proud, but treat the just and the peaceful as thy friends.

All things that happen unto thee accept as for thy good, knowing that nothing can befall thee without God.

My child! be not the cause of discord, but act as a peacemaker when men are quarreling.

Widen not thy hands to receive, and make them not narrow when thou givest. Hesitate not about giving; and when thou hast given, do not repine, for thou knowest who is the beneficent giver of rewards.

Turn not from the needy but share all things with thy brother, and call nothing thine own property, for if you are all sharers in the imperishable, then how much more in that which perisheth.

Teach thy children from early youth the fear of God.

Correct not thy manservant nor thy maidservant in anger, lest they cease to fear God, who is above you both; for He cometh not to call men, judging by whom they are, but He calleth those whom the Spirit hath prepared.

But the path of Death is this: first of all it is evil and full of curses, here are murder, adultery, lust, fornication, robbery, idolatry, sorcery, poison, rape, false evidence, hypocrisy, duplicity, slyness, pride, wrath, arrogance, greediness, obscenity, hatred, insolence, presumption, vanity; here are the persecutors of the good, haters of the truth, lovers of falsehood, those that do not recognize rewards for justice, that do not cling to the good nor to just judgment, those that are vigilant, not for what is right but for what is wrong, from whom gentleness and patience hold aloof; here are those that love vanity and yearn for rewards, that have no sympathy with their neighbors, that work not for the overworked, that know not their Creator, slaughterers of children, breakers of God’s images, who turn from the needy, persecutors of the oppressed, defenders of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, sinners in all things!

Children, beware of all such persons!

Long before he had read the manuscript to the end, Julius had the experience which men always have when they read books⁠—that is to say, the thoughts of others⁠—with a genuine desire for the Truth; he felt that he had entered with his whole soul into communion with the one that had inspired them. He read on and on, his mind foreseeing what was coming; and he not only agreed with the thoughts of the book, but he imagined that he himself had uttered them.

There happened to him that ordinary phenomenon, not noticed by many persons and yet most mysterious and significant, consisting in this, that the so-called living man becomes alive when he enters into communion⁠—unites⁠—with the so-called dead, and lives one life with them.

Julius’ soul merged with the one who had written and composed these thoughts, and after this union had taken place he contemplated himself and his life. And he himself and his whole life seemed to him one horrible mistake. He had not lived, but by all his labors in regard to life, and by his temptations, he had only destroyed in himself the possibility of a true life.

“I do not wish to destroy life; I wish to live, to go on the path of life,” he said to himself.

He remembered all that Pamphilius had said to him in their former interviews, and it seemed to him now so clear and indubitable that he was amazed that he could ever have believed in the stranger, and have renounced his intention of going to the Christians. He remembered also what the stranger had said to him:⁠—

“Go when you have had experience of life.”

“Well, I have had experience of life, and found nothing in it.”

He also remembered how Pamphilius had said to him that whenever he should come to them they would be glad to receive him.

“No, I have erred and suffered enough,” he said to himself. “I will renounce everything, and I will go to them and live as it says here.”

He communicated his plan to his wife, and she was delighted with his intention. She was ready for everything. The only thing left was to decide how to carry it into execution. What should they do with the children? Should they take them along or leave them with their grandmother? How could they take them? How, after the tenderness of their nurture, subject them to all the trials of an austere life? The slave-woman proposed to accompany them. But the mother was troubled about her children, and declared that it would be better to leave them with their grandmother, and go alone. And they both decided to do this.

All was determined, and nothing but Julius’ illness prevented its fulfilment.

Chapter VII

In this condition of mind Julius fell asleep. The next morning he was told that a skilful physician traveling through the city desired to see him, and promised to give him speedy relief. Julius with joy received the physician. He proved to be none other than the stranger whom Julius had met when he started to join the Christians.

After he had examined his wounds, the physician prescribed certain simples for renewing his strength.

“Shall I be able to work with my arm?” asked Julius.

“Oh, yes, to drive a chariot, or to write; yes.”

“But I mean hard work⁠—to dig?”

“I was not thinking about that,” said the physician, “because such work is not necessary to one in your position.”

“On the contrary, it is very necessary to me,” said Julius; and he told the physician that since the time he had last seen him he had followed his advice, had made trial of life, but life had not given him what it had promised him, but, on the contrary, had disillusioned him, and that he now was going to carry out the plan of which he had spoken to him at that time.

“Yes, evidently they have put into effect all their powers of deception and entangled you, if in your position, with your responsibilities, especially in regard to your children, cannot see their fallacies.”

“Read this,” was all that Julius said, producing the manuscript he had been reading. The physician took the manuscript and glanced at it.

“I know this,” said he; “I know this fraud, and I am surprised that such a clever man as you are can fall into such a snare.”

“I do not understand you. Where lies the snare?”

“The whole thing is in life; and here these sophists and rebels against men and the gods propose a happy path of life in which all men would be happy; there would be no wars, no executions, no poverty, no licentiousness, no quarrels, no evil. And they insist that such a condition of men would come about when men should fulfil the precepts of Christ; not to quarrel, not to commit fornication, not to blaspheme, not to use violence, not to bear ill-will against one another. But they make a mistake in taking the end for the means. Their aim is to keep from quarreling, from blasphemy, from fornication, and the like, and this aim is attained only by means of social life. And in speaking thus they say almost what a teacher of archery should say, if he said, ‘You will hit the target when your arrow flies in a straight line directly to the target.’

“But the problem is, how to make it fly in a straight line. And this problem is solved in archery by the string being tightly stretched, the bow being elastic, the arrow straight. The same with the life of men;⁠—the very best life for men⁠—that in which they need not quarrel, or commit adultery, or do murder⁠—is attained by the bowstring⁠—the rulers; the elasticity of the bow⁠—the force of the authorities; and the straight arrow⁠—the equity of the law.267

“Not only this,” continued the physician, “let us admit what is senseless, what is impossible⁠—let us admit that the foundations of this Christian doctrine may be communicated to all men, like a dose of certain drops, and that suddenly all men should fulfil Christ’s teachings, love God and their fellows, and fulfil the precepts. Let us admit this, and yet the way of life, according to their teaching, would not bear examination. There would be no life, and life would be cut short. Now the living live out their lives, but their children will not live their full time, or not one in ten will. According to their teaching all children must be the same to all mothers and fathers, theirs and others’. How will their children protect themselves when we see that all the passion, all the love, which the mother feels for these children scarcely protects them from destruction? What then will it be when this mother-passion is translated into a general commiseration, the same for all children? Who will take and protect the child? Who will spend sleepless nights watching with sick, ill-smelling children, unless it be the mother? Nature made a protective armor for the child in the mother’s love; they take it away, giving nothing in its place. Who will educate the boy? Who will penetrate into his soul, if not his father? Who will ward off danger? All this is put aside! All life that is the perpetuation of the human race is put aside.”

“That seems correct,” said Julius, carried away by the physician’s eloquence.

“No, my friend, have nothing to do with this nonsense, and live rationally; especially now, when such great, serious, and pressing responsibilities rest upon you. To fulfil them is a matter of honor. You have lived to reach your second period of doubt, but go onward, and your doubts will vanish. Your first and indubitable obligation is to educate your children, whom you have neglected; your obligation toward them is to make them worthy servants of their country. The existent form of government has given you all you have: you ought to serve it yourself and to give it capable servants in your children, and by so doing you confer a blessing on your children. The second obligation upon you is to serve the public. Your lack of success has mortified and discouraged you⁠—this circumstance is temporary. Nothing is given to us without effort and struggle. And the joy of triumph is mighty only when the battle was hard. Begin a life with a recognition of your duty, and all your doubts will vanish. They were caused by your feeble state of health. Fulfil your obligations to the country by serving it, and by educating your children for this service. Put them on their feet so that they may take your place, and then calmly devote yourself to that life which attracts you; till then you have no right to do so, and if you did, you would find nothing but disappointment.”

Chapter VIII

Either the learned physician’s simples or his advice had their effect on Julius: he very speedily recovered his spirits, and his notions concerning the Christian life seemed to him idle vaporings.

The physician, after a visit of a few days, took his departure. Soon after, Julius got up, and, profiting by his advice, began a new life. He engaged tutors for his children, and he himself superintended their instruction. His time was wholly spent in public duties, and very soon he acquired great consideration in the city.

Thus Julius lived a year, and during this year not once did he remember the Christians. But during this time a tribunal was appointed to try the Christians in their city. An emissary of the Roman Empire had come to Cilicia to stamp out the Christian faith. Julius heard of the measures taken against the Christians, and though he supposed that it concerned the Christian community in which Pamphilius lived, he did not think of him. But one day as he was walking along the square in the place where his official duties called him, he was accosted by a poorly dressed, elderly man, whom he did not recognize at first. It was Pamphilius. He came up to Julius, leading a child by the hand.

“How are you, friend?” said Pamphilius. “I have a great favor to ask of you, but I don’t know as you will be willing to recognize me as your friend, now that we Christians are being persecuted; you might be in danger of losing your place if you had any relations with me.”

“I am not in the least afraid of it,” replied Julius, “and as a proof of it I will ask you to come home with me. I will even postpone my business in the market so as to talk with you and be of service to you. Let us go home together. Whose child is this?”

“It is my son.”

“Really, I need not have asked. I recognize your features in him. I recognize also those blue eyes, and I should not have to ask who your wife is: she is the beautiful woman whom I saw with you some years ago.”

“You have surmised correctly,” replied Pamphilius. “Shortly after we met, she became my wife.”

The friends went to Julius’ home. Julius summoned his wife and gave the boy to her, and brought Pamphilius to his luxurious private room.

“Here you can say anything; no one will hear us,” said Julius.

“I am not afraid of being heard,” replied Pamphilius; “since my request is not that the Christians, who have been arrested, may not be sentenced and executed, but only that they may be permitted publicly to confess their faith.”

And Pamphilius told how the Christians arrested by the authorities had sent word to the community from the dungeons where they were confined. The elder Cyril, knowing of Pamphilius’ relations with Julius, commissioned him to go and plead for the Christians. The Christians did not ask for mercy. They considered it their mission to bear witness to the truth of Christ’s teaching. They could bear witness to this in the course of a long life of eighty years, and they could bear witness to the same by enduring tortures. Either way was immaterial to them; and physical death, unavoidable as it was, for them was alike free from terror and full of joy, whether it came immediately or at the end of half a century: but they wished their lives to be useful to men, and therefore they had sent Pamphilius to labor in their behalf, that their trial and punishment might be public.

Julius was dumbfounded at Pamphilius’ request, but he promised to do all in his power.

“I have promised you my intercession,” said Julius, “but I have promised it to you on account of my friendship for you, and on account of the peculiarly pleasant feeling of tenderness which you have always awakened in me; but I must confess that I consider your doctrine most senseless and harmful. I can judge in regard to this, because not very long ago, in a moment of disappointment and illness, in a state of depression of spirits, I once more shared your views, and once more almost abandoned everything and went to you. I understand on what your error is based, for I have been through it; it is based on selfishness, on weakness of spirit, and the feebleness caused by ill health; it is a creed for women, but not for men.”

“Why so?”

“Because, out of pride, instead of taking part by your labors in the affairs of the empire, and in proportion to your services rising higher and higher in the estimation of men,268 you forthwith, by your pride, I say, regard all men equal, so that you consider no one higher than yourselves, and consider yourselves equal to Caesar.

“You yourself think so, and teach others to think so. And for the weak and the lazy this is a great temptation. Instead of laboring, every slave immediately counts himself equal to Caesar. If men listened to you, society would be dissolved, and we should return to primitive savagery. You in the empire preach the dissolution of empire. But your very existence is dependent on the empire. If it was not for that, you would not be. You would all be slaves of the Scythians or the barbarians, the first who knew of your condition. You are like a tumor destroying the body, but able to make a show, and to feed on the body and nothing else. And the living body struggles with it and suppresses it! Thus do we act in regard to you, and we cannot do otherwise. And notwithstanding my promise to help you, and to comply with your request, I look on your doctrine as most harmful and low: low, because dishonorably and unjustly you devour the breast that nourishes you: take advantage of the blessings of the imperial order without sharing in its support, and yet trying to destroy it!”

“What you say would be just,” said Pamphilius, “if we really lived as you think. But you do not know about our life, and you have formed a false conception of it. For you, with your habitual luxury, it is hard to imagine how little a man requires when he exists without superfluities. A man is so constituted that, when he is well, he can produce with his hands far more than he needs for the support of his life. Living in a community as we do, we are able by our labor to support without effort our children, and the aged and the sick and the feeble. You assert that we Christians arouse in the slave the desire to be the Caesar; on the contrary, both by word and deed we fulfil one thing: patient submissiveness and work, the most humble work of all⁠—the work of the workingman. We know nothing and we care nothing about affairs of state. We know one thing, but we know it beyond question⁠—that our well-being is only when the well-being of others is found, and we strive after this well-being; the well-being of all men is in their union.”269

“But tell me, Pamphilius, why men hold aloof from you in hostility, persecute you, hunt you down, kill you? How does your doctrine of love give rise to such discord?”

“The source of this is not in us, but outside of us. We regard as higher than anything the law of God, which controls by our conscience and by reason. We can obey only such laws of the State as are not contrary to God’s: ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.’ And that is why men persecute us. We have not the power of stopping this hostility, which does not have its source in us, because we cannot cease to realize that truth which we have accepted, because we cannot live contrary to our conscience and reason. In regard to this very hostility which our faith should arouse in others against us, our Teacher said, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace into the world; I came not to send peace, but a sword.’

“Christ experienced this hostility in His own lifetime and more than once he warned us, His disciples, in regard to it. ‘Me,’ He said, ‘the world hateth because its deeds are evil. If ye were of the world the world would love you, but since ye are not of this world therefore the world hateth you, and the time will come when he who killeth you will think he is serving God.’ But we, like Christ, ‘fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. And this is their condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.’

“In this there is nothing to worry over, because the truth will prevail. The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice, and follow him because they know his voice. And Christ’s flock will not perish but will increase, attracting to it new sheep from all the lands of the earth, for ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth.⁠ ⁠…’ ”

“Yes,” Julius said, interrupting him, “but are there many sincere ones among you? You are often blamed for only pretending to be martyrs and glad to lay down your lives for the truth, but the truth is not on your side. You are proud madmen, destroying the foundations of social life.”

Pamphilius made no reply, and looked at Julius with melancholy.

Chapter IX

Just as Julius was saying this, Pamphilius’ little son came running into the room, and clung to his father. In spite of all the blandishments of Julius’ wife, he would not stay with her, but ran to his father. Pamphilius sighed, caressed his son, and stood up; but Julius detained him, begging him to stay and talk some more, and have dinner with them.

“It surprises me that you are married and have children,” exclaimed Julius. “I cannot comprehend how Christians can bring up children when you have no private property. How can the mothers live in any peace of mind knowing the precariousness of their children’s position?”

“Wherein are our children more precariously placed than yours?”

“Why, because you have no slaves, no property. My wife was greatly inclined to Christianity; she was at one time desirous of abandoning this life, and I had made up my mind to go with her. But what chiefly prevented was the fear she felt at the insecurity, the poverty, which threatened her children, and I could not help agreeing with her. This was at the time of my illness. All my life seemed repulsive to me, and I wanted to abandon everything. But then my wife’s anxiety, and, on the other hand, the explanation of the physician who cured me, convinced me that the Christian life, as led by you, is impossible, and not good for families; but that there is no place in it for married people, for mothers with children; that in life as you understand it, life⁠—that is the human race⁠—would be annihilated. And this is perfectly correct. Consequently the sight of you with a child especially surprised me.”

“Not one child only. At home I left one at the breast and a three-year-old girl.”

“Explain to me how this happens. I don’t understand. I was ready to abandon everything and join you. But I had children, and I came to the conclusion that, however pleasant it might be for me, I had no right to sacrifice my children, and for their sake I continued to live as before, in order to bring them up in the same conditions as I myself had grown up and lived.”

“Strange,” said Pamphilius; “we take diametrically opposite views. We say: ‘If grown people live a worldly life it can be forgiven them, because they are already corrupted; but children! That is horrible! To live with them in the world and tempt them! “Woe unto the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that by whom the offense cometh.” ’270

“So spake our Teacher, and I do not say this to you as a refutation, but because it is actually so. The chiefest obligation that we have to live as we do arises from the fact that amongst us are children⁠—those beings of whom it is said, ‘Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’ ”

“But how can a Christian family do without definite means of subsistence?”

“According to our faith there is only one means of subsistence⁠—loving labor for men. For your means of livelihood you depend on violence. It can be destroyed as wealth is destroyed, and then all that is left is the labor and love of men. We consider that we must hold fast by that which is the basis of everything, and that we must increase it. And when this is done, then the family lives and prospers.

“No,” continued Pamphilius; “if I were in doubt as to the truth of Christ’s teaching, and if I were hesitating as to the fulfilling of it, then my doubts and hesitations would instantly come to an end if I thought about the fate of children brought up among the heathen in those conditions in which you grew up, and are educating your children. Whatever we, a few people, should do for the arrangement of our lives, with palaces, slaves, and the imported products of foreign lands, the life of the majority of men would still remain what it must be. The only security of that life will remain, love of mankind and labor. We wish to free ourselves and our children from these conditions, not by love, but by violence. We compel men to serve us, and⁠—wonder of wonders!⁠—the more we secure, as it were, our lives by this, the more we deprive ourselves of the only true, natural, and lasting security⁠—love. The same with the other guarantee⁠—labor.271 The more a man rids himself of labor and accustoms himself to luxury, the less he becomes fitted for work, the more he deprives himself of the true and lasting security. And these conditions in which men place their children they call security! Take your son and mine and send them now to find a path, to transmit an order, or to do any needful business, and see which of the two would do it most successfully; or try to give them to be educated, which of the two would be most willingly received? No, don’t utter those horrible words that the Christian life is possible only for the childless. On the contrary, it might be said: to live the pagan life is excusable only in those who are childless. ‘But woe to him who offendeth272 one of these little ones.’ ”

Julius remained silent.

“Yes,” said he, “maybe you are right, but the education of my children is begun, the best teachers are teaching them. Let them know all that we know. There can be no harm in that. But for me and for them there is still time. They may come to you when they reach their maturity, if they find it necessary. I also can do this, when I set them on their feet and am free.”

“Know the Truth and you shall be free,” said Pamphilius. “Christ gives full freedom instantly; earthly teaching never will give it. Goodbye.”

And Pamphilius went away with his son.

The trial was public, and Julius saw Pamphilius there as he and other Christians carried away the bodies of the martyrs. He saw him, but as he stood in fear of the authorities he did not go to him, and did not invite him home.

Chapter X

Twenty years more passed. Julius’ wife died. His life flowed on in the labors of his public office, in efforts to secure power, which sometimes fell to his share, sometimes slipped out of his grasp. His wealth was large, and kept increasing.

His sons had grown up, and his second son, especially, began to lead a luxurious life. He made holes in the bottom of the bucket in which the wealth was held, and in proportion as the wealth increased, increased also the rapidity of its escape through these holes.

Julius began to have just such a struggle with his sons as he had had with his father⁠—wrath, hatred, jealousy.

About this time a new prefect deprived Julius of his favor.

Julius was forsaken by his former flatterers, and banishment threatened him. He went to Rome to offer explanations. He was not received, and was ordered to depart.

On reaching home he found his son carousing with boon companions. The report had spread through Cilicia that Julius was dead, and his son was celebrating his father’s death! Julius lost control of himself, struck his son so that he fell, apparently lifeless, and he went to his wife’s room. In his wife’s room he found a copy of the gospel, and read:⁠—

Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

“Yes,” said Julius, to himself, “He has been calling me long. I did not believe in Him, and I was disobedient and wicked; and my yoke was heavy and my burden was grievous.”

Julius long sat with the gospel opened on his knee, thinking over his past life and recalling what Pamphilius had said to him at various times.

Then Julius arose and went to his son. He found his son on his feet, and was inexpressibly rejoiced to find he had suffered no injury from the blow he had given him. Without saying a word to his son, Julius went into the street and bent his steps in the direction of the Christian settlement. He went all day, and at eventide stopped at a countryman’s for the night. In the room which he entered lay a man. At the noise of steps the man roused himself. It was the physician.

“No, this time you do not dissuade me!” cried Julius. “This is the third time I have started thither, and I know that there only shall I find peace of mind.”

“Where?” asked the physician.

“Among the Christians.”

“Yes, maybe you will find peace of mind, but you will not have fulfilled your obligations. You have no courage. Misfortunes have conquered you. True philosophers do not act thus. Misfortune is only the fire in which the gold is tried. You have passed through the furnace, and now you are needed, you are running away. Now test others and yourself. You have gained true wisdom, and you ought to employ it for the good of your country. What would become of the citizens if those that knew men, their passions and conditions of life, instead of devoting their knowledge and experience to the service of their country, should hide them away, in their search for peace of mind. Your experience of life has been gained in society, and so you ought to devote it to the same society.”

“But I have no wisdom at all. I am wholly in error. My errors are ancient, but no wisdom has grown out of them. Like water, however old and stale it is, it never becomes wine.”

Thus spake Julius; and seizing his cloak, he left the house and, without resting, walked on and on. At the end of the second day he reached the Christians.

They received him joyfully, though they did not know that he was a friend of Pamphilius, whom everyone loved and respected. At the refectory Pamphilius recognized his friend, and with joy ran to him, and embraced him.

“Well, at last I have come,” said Julius. “What is there for me to do? I will obey you.”

“Don’t worry about that,” said Pamphilius. “You and I will go together.”

And Pamphilius led Julius into the house where visitors were entertained, and showing him a bed, said:⁠—

“In what way you can serve the people you yourself will see after you have had time to examine into the way we live; but in order that you may know where immediately to lend a hand, I will show you something tomorrow. In our vineyards the grape harvest is taking place. Go and help there. You yourself will see where there is a place for you.”

The next morning Julius went to the vineyard. The first was a young vineyard hung with thick clusters. Young people were plucking and gathering them. All the places were occupied, and Julius, after going about for a long while, found no chance for himself.

He went farther. There he found an older plantation; there was less fruit, but here also Julius found nothing to do; all were working in pairs, and there was no place for him.

He went farther, and came to a superannuated vineyard. It was all empty. The vinestocks were gnarly and crooked, and, as it seemed to Julius, all empty.

“Just like my life,” he said to himself. “If I had come the first time it would have been like the fruit in the first vineyard. If I had come when the second time I started, it would have been like the fruit in the second vineyard; but now here is my life; like these useless superannuated vinestocks, it is good only for firewood.”

And Julius was terrified at what he had done; he was terrified at the punishment awaiting him because he had ruined his life. And Julius became melancholy, and he said: “I am good for nothing; there is no work I can do now.”

And he did not rise from where he sat, and he wept because he had wasted what could never more return to him. And suddenly he heard an old man’s voice⁠—a voice calling him. “Work, my brother,” said the voice. Julius looked around and saw a white-haired old man, bent with years, and scarcely able to walk. He was standing by a vinestock and gathering from it the few sweet bunches remaining. Julius went to him.

“Work, dear brother; work is joyous;” and he showed him how to find the bunches here and there.

Julius went and searched; he found a few, and brought them and laid them in the old man’s basket. And the old man said to him:⁠—

“Look, in what respect are these bunches worse than those gathered in yonder vineyards? ‘Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you,’ said our Teacher. ‘And this is the will of Him that sent me; that everyone which seeth the Son and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him at the last day.’

“ ‘For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.’

“ ‘He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’

“ ‘And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.’

“ ‘For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved.’

“ ‘But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.’

“Be not unhappy, my son. We are all the children of God and His servants. We all go to make up His one army! Do you think that He has no servants besides you? And that if you, in all your strength, had given yourself to His service, would you have done all that He required all that men ought to do to establish His kingdom? You say you would have done twice, ten times, a hundred times more than you did. But suppose you had done ten thousand times ten thousand more than all men, what would that have been in the work of God? Nothing! To God’s work, as to God Himself, there are no limits and no end. God’s work is in you. Come to Him, and be not a laborer but a son, and you become a copartner with the infinite God and in His work. With God there is neither small nor great, but there is straight and crooked. Enter into the straight path of life and you will be with God, and your work will be neither small nor great, but it will be God’s work. Remember that in heaven there is more joy over one sinner, than over a hundred just men. The world’s work, all that you have neglected to do, has only shown you your sin, and you have repented. And as you have repented, you have found the straight path; go forward in it with God, and think not of the past, or of great and small. Before God, all living men are equal. There is one God and one life.”

And Julius found peace of mind, and he began to live and to work for the brethren according to his strength. And he lived thus in joy twenty years longer, and he did not perceive how he died the physical death.

The Kreutzer Sonata

But I say unto you, that everyone that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

⁠Matthew 5:28

The disciples said unto him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given.

⁠Matthew 19:10⁠–⁠11


It was early spring, and the second day of our journey. Passengers going short distances entered and left our carriage, but three others, like myself, had come all the way with the train. One was a lady, plain and no longer young, who smoked, had a harassed look, and wore a mannish coat and cap; another was an acquaintance of hers, a talkative man of about forty, whose things looked neat and new; the third was a rather short man who kept himself apart. He was not old, but his curly hair had gone prematurely grey. His movements were abrupt and his unusually glittering eyes moved rapidly from one object to another. He wore an old overcoat, evidently from a first-rate tailor, with an astrakhan collar, and a tall astrakhan cap. When he unbuttoned his overcoat a sleeveless Russian coat and embroidered shirt showed beneath it. A peculiarity of this man was a strange sound he emitted, something like a clearing of his throat, or a laugh begun and sharply broken off.

All the way this man had carefully avoided making acquaintance or making any intercourse with his fellow passengers. When spoken to by those near him he gave short and abrupt answers, and at other times read, looked out of the window, smoked, or drank tea and ate something he took out of an old bag.

It seemed to me that his loneliness depressed him, and I made several attempts to converse with him, but whenever our eyes met, which happened often as he sat nearly opposite me, he turned away and took up his book or looked out of the window.

Towards the second evening, when our train stopped at a large station, this nervous man fetched himself some boiling water and made tea. The man with the neat new things⁠—a lawyer as I found out later⁠—and his neighbor, the smoking lady with the mannish coat, went to the refreshment room to drink tea.

During their absence several new passengers entered the carriage, among them a tall, shaven, wrinkled old man, evidently a tradesman, in a coat lined with skunk fur, and a cloth cap with an enormous peak. The tradesman sat down opposite the seats of the lady and the lawyer, and immediately started a conversation with a young man who had also entered at that station and, judging by his appearance, was a tradesman’s clerk.

I was sitting the other side of the gangway and as the train was standing still I could hear snatches of their conversation when nobody was passing between us. The tradesman began by saying that he was going to his estate which was only one station farther on; then as usual the conversation turned to prices and trade, and they spoke of the state of business in Moscow and then of the Nízhni-Nóvgorod Fair. The clerk began to relate how a wealthy merchant, known to both of them, had gone on the spree at the fair, but the old man interrupted him by telling of the orgies he had been at in former times at Kunávin Fair. He evidently prided himself on the part he had played in them, and recounted with pleasure how he and some acquaintances, together with the merchant they had been speaking of, had once got drunk at Kunávin and played such a trick that he had to tell of it in a whisper. The clerk’s roar of laughter filled the whole carriage; the old man laughed also, exposing two yellow teeth.

Not expecting to hear anything interesting, I got up to stroll about the platform till the train should start. At the carriage door I met the lawyer and the lady who were talking with animation as they approached.

“You won’t have time,” said the sociable lawyer, “the second bell will ring in a moment.”273

And the bell did ring before I had gone the length of the train. When I returned, the animated conversation between the lady and the lawyer was proceeding. The old tradesman sat silent opposite to them, looking sternly before him, and occasionally mumbled disapprovingly as if chewing something.

“Then she plainly informed her husband,” the lawyer was smilingly saying as I passed him, “that she was not able, and did not wish, to live with him since⁠ ⁠…”

He went on to say something I could not hear. Several other passengers came in after me. The guard passed, a porter hurried in, and for some time the noise made their voices inaudible. When all was quiet again the conversation had evidently turned from the particular case to general considerations.

The lawyer was saying that public opinion in Europe was occupied with the question of divorce, and that cases of “that kind” were occurring more and more often in Russia. Noticing that his was the only voice audible, he stopped his discourse and turned to the old man.

“Those things did not happen in the old days, did they?” he said, smiling pleasantly.

The old man was about to reply, but the train moved and he took off his cap, crossed himself, and whispered a prayer. The lawyer turned away his eyes and waited politely. Having finished his prayer and crossed himself three times the old man set his cap straight, pulled it well down over his forehead, changed his position, and began to speak.

“They used to happen even then, sir, but less often,” he said. “As times are now they can’t help happening. People have got too educated.”

The train moved faster and faster and jolted over the joints of the rails, making it difficult to hear, but being interested I moved nearer. The nervous man with the glittering eyes opposite me, evidently also interested, listened without changing his place.

“What is wrong with education?” said the lady, with a scarcely perceptible smile. “Surely it can’t be better to marry as they used to in the old days when the bride and bridegroom did not even see one another before the wedding,” she continued, answering not what her interlocutor had said but what she thought he would say, in the way many ladies have. “Without knowing whether they loved, or whether they could love, they married just anybody, and were wretched all their lives. And you think that this was better?” she said, evidently addressing me and the lawyer chiefly and least of all the old man with whom she was talking.

“They’ve got so very educated,” the tradesman reiterated, looking contemptuously at the lady and leaving her question unanswered.

“It would be interesting to know how you explain the connection between education and matrimonial discord,” said the lawyer, with a scarcely perceptible smile.

The tradesman was about to speak, but the lady interrupted him.

“No,” she said, “those times have passed.” But the lawyer stopped her.

“Yes, but allow the gentleman to express his views.”

“Foolishness comes from education,” the old man said categorically.

“They make people who don’t love one another marry, and then wonder that they live in discord,” the lady hastened to say, turning to look at the lawyer, at me, and even at the clerk, who had got up and, leaning on the back of the seat, was smilingly listening to the conversation. “It’s only animals, you know, that can be paired off as their master likes; but human beings have their own inclinations and attachments,” said the lady, with an evident desire to annoy the tradesman.

“You should not talk like that, madam,” said the old man, “animals are cattle, but human beings have a law given them.”

“Yes, but how is one to live with a man when there is no love?” the lady again hastened to express her argument, which had probably seemed very new to her.

“They used not to go into that,” said the old man in an impressive tone. “It is only now that all this has sprung up. The least thing makes them say: ‘I will leave you!’ The fashion has spread even to the peasants. ‘Here you are!’ she says. ‘Here, take your shirts and trousers and I will go with Vánka; his head is curlier than yours.’ What can you say? the first thing that should be required of a woman is fear!”

The clerk glanced at the lawyer, at the lady, and at me, apparently suppressing a smile and prepared to ridicule or to approve of the tradesman’s words according to the reception they met with.

“Fear of what?” asked the lady.

“Why this: Let her fear her husband! That fear!”

“Oh, the time for that, sir, has passed,” said the lady with a certain viciousness.

“No, madam, that time cannot pass. As she, Eve, was made from the rib of a man, so it will remain to the end of time,” said the old man, jerking his head with such sternness and such a victorious look that the clerk at once concluded that victory was on his side, and laughed loudly.

“Ah yes, that’s the way you men argue,” said the lady unyieldingly, and turned to us. “You have given yourselves freedom but want to shut women up in a tower.274 You no doubt permit yourselves everything.”

“No one is permitting anything, but a man does not bring offspring into the home; while a woman⁠—a wife⁠—is a leaky vessel,” the tradesman continued insistently. His tone was so impressive that it evidently vanquished his hearers, and even the lady felt crushed but still did not give in.

“Yes, but I think you will agree that a woman is a human being and has feelings as a man has. What is she to do then, if she does not love her husband?”

“Does not love!” said the tradesman severely, moving his brows and lips. “She’ll love, no fear!” this unexpected argument particularly pleased the clerk, and he emitted a sound of approval.

“Oh, no, she won’t!” the lady began. “And when there is no love you can’t enforce it.”

“Well, and supposing the wife is unfaithful, what then?” asked the lawyer.

“That is not admissible,” said the old man. “One has to see to that.”

“But if it happens, what then? You know it does occur.”

“It happens among some, but not among us,” said the old man.

All were silent. The clerk moved, came still nearer, and, evidently unwilling to be behind hand, began with a smile.

“Yes, a young fellow of ours had a scandal. It was a difficult case to deal with. It too was a case of a woman who was a bad lot. She began to play the devil, and the young fellow is respectable and cultured. At first it was with one of the office clerks. The husband tried to persuade her with kindness. She would not stop, but played all sorts of dirty tricks. Then she began to steal his money. He beat her, but she only grew worse. Carried on intrigues, if I may mention it, with an unchristened Jew. What was he to do? He turned her out altogether and lives as a bachelor, while she gads about.”

“Because he is a fool,” said the old man. “If he’d pulled her up properly from the first and not let her have way, she’d be living with him, no fear! It’s giving way at first that counts. Don’t trust your horse in the field, or your wife in the house.”

At that moment the guard entered to collect the tickets for the next station. The old man gave up his. “Yes, the female sex must be curbed in time or else all is lost!”

“Yes, but you yourself just now were speaking about the way married men amuse themselves at the Kunávin Fair,” I could not help saying.

“That’s a different matter,” said the old man and relapsed into silence.

When the whistle sounded the tradesman rose, got out his bag from under the seat, buttoned up his coat, and slightly lifting his cap went out of the carriage.


As soon as the old man had gone several voices were raised.

“A daddy of the old style!” remarked the clerk.

“A living Domostróy!”275 said the lady. “What barbarous views of women and marriage!”

“Yes, we are far from the European understanding of marriage,” said the lawyer.276

“The chief thing such people do not understand,” continued the lady, “is that marriage without love is not marriage; that love sanctifies marriage, and that real marriage is only such as is sanctified by love.”

The clerk listened smilingly, trying to store up for future use all he could of the clever conversation.

In the midst of the lady’s remarks we heard, behind me, a sound like that of a broken laugh or sob; and on turning round we saw my neighbor, the lonely grey-haired man with the glittering eyes, who had approached unnoticed during our conversation, which evidently interested him. He stood with his arms on the back of the seat, evidently much excited; his face was red and a muscle twitched in his cheek.

“What kind of love⁠ ⁠… love⁠ ⁠… is it that sanctifies marriage?” he asked hesitatingly.

Noticing the speaker’s agitation, the lady tried to answer him as gently and fully as possible.

“True love⁠ ⁠… When such love exists between a man and a woman, then marriage is possible,” she said.

“Yes, but how is one to understand what is meant by ‘true love’?” said the gentleman with the glittering eyes timidly and with an awkward smile.

“Everybody knows what love is,” replied the lady, evidently wishing to break off her conversation with him.

“But I don’t,” said the man. “You must define what you understand⁠ ⁠…”

“Why? It’s very simple,” she said, but stopped to consider. “Love? Love is an exclusive preference for one above everybody else,” said the lady.

“Preference for how long? A month, two days, or half an hour?” said the grey-haired man and began to laugh.

“Excuse me, we are evidently not speaking of the same thing.”

“Oh, yes! Exactly the same.”

“She means,” interposed the lawyer, pointing to the lady, “that in the first place marriage must be the outcome of attachment⁠—or love, if you please⁠—and only where that exists is marriage sacred, so to speak. Secondly, that marriage when not based on natural attachment⁠—love, if you prefer the word⁠—lacks the element that makes it morally binding. Do I understand you rightly?” He added, addressing the lady.

The lady indicated her approval of his explanation by a nod of her head.

“It follows⁠ ⁠…” the lawyer continued⁠—but the nervous man whose eyes now glowed as if aflame and who had evidently restrained himself with difficulty, began without letting the lawyer finish: “Yes, I mean exactly the same thing, a preference for one person over everybody else, and I am only asking: a preference for how long?”

“For how long? For a long time; for life sometimes,” replied the lady, shrugging her shoulders.

“Oh, but that happens only in novels and never in real life. In real life this preference for one may last for years (that happens very rarely), more often for months, or perhaps for weeks, days, or hours,” he said, evidently aware that he was astonishing everybody by his views and pleased that it was so.

“Oh, what are you saying?” “But no⁠ ⁠…” “No, allow me⁠ ⁠…” we all three began at once. Even the clerk uttered an indefinite sound of disapproval.

“Yes, I know,” the grey-haired man shouted above our voices, “you are talking about what is supposed to be, but I am speaking of what is. Every man experiences what you call love for every pretty woman.”

“Oh, what you say is awful! But the feeling that is called love does exist among people, and is given not for months or years, but for a lifetime!”

“No, it does not! Even if we should grant that a man might prefer a certain woman all his life, the woman in all probability would prefer someone else; and so it always has been and still is in the world,” he said, and taking out his cigarette case he began to smoke.

“But the feeling may be reciprocal,” said the lawyer.

“No sir, it can’t!” rejoined the other. “Just as it cannot be that in a cartload of peas, two marked peas will lie side by side. Besides, it is not merely this impossibility, but the inevitable satiety. To love one person for a whole lifetime is like saying that one candle will burn a whole life,” he said, greedily inhaling the smoke.

“But you are talking all the time about physical love. Don’t you acknowledge love based on identity of ideals, on spiritual affinity?” asked the lady.

“Spiritual affinity! Identity of ideals!” he repeated, emitting his peculiar sound. “But in that case why go to bed together? (Excuse my coarseness!) Or do people go to bed together because of the identity of their ideals?” he said, bursting into a nervous laugh.

“But permit me,” said the lawyer. “Facts contradict you. We do see that matrimony exists, that all mankind, or the greater part of it, lives in wedlock, and many people honourably live long married lives.”

The grey-haired man again laughed.

“First you say that marriage is based on love, and when I express a doubt as to the existence of a love other than sensual, you prove the existence of love by the fact that marriages exist. But marriages in our days are mere deception!”

“No, allow me!” said the lawyer. “I only say that marriages have existed and do exist.”

“They do! But why? They have existed and do exist among people who see in marriage something sacramental, a mystery binding them in the sight of God. Among them marriages do exist. Among us, people marry regarding marriage as nothing but copulation, and the result is either deception or coercion. When it is deception it is easier to bear. The husband and wife merely deceive people by pretending to be monogamists, while living polygamously. That is bad, but still bearable. But when, as most frequently happens, the husband and wife have undertaken the external duty of living together all their lives, and begin to hate each other after a month, and wish to part but still continue to live together, it leads to that terrible hell which makes people take to drink, shoot themselves, or kill or poison themselves or one another,” he went on, speaking more and more rapidly, not allowing anyone to put in a word and becoming more and more excited. We all felt embarrassed.

“Yes, undoubtedly there are critical episodes in married life,” said the lawyer, wishing to end this disturbingly heated conversation.

“I see you have found out who I am!” said the grey-haired man softly, and with apparent calm.

“No, I have not that pleasure.”

“It is no great pleasure. I am that Pózdnyshev in whose life that critical episode occurred to which you alluded; the episode when he killed his wife,” he said, rapidly glancing at each of us.

No one knew what to say and all remained silent.

“Well, never mind,” he said with that peculiar sound of his. “However, pardon me. Ah!⁠ ⁠… I won’t intrude on you.”

“Oh, no, if you please⁠ ⁠…” said the lawyer, himself not knowing “if you please” what.

But Pózdnyshev, without listening to him, rapidly turned away and went back to his seat. The lawyer and the lady whispered together. I sat down beside Pózdnyshev in silence, unable to think of anything to say. It was too dark to read, so I shut my eyes pretending that I wished to go to sleep. So we travelled in silence to the next station.

At that station the lawyer and the lady moved into another car, having some time previously consulted the guard about it. The clerk lay down on the seat and fell asleep. Pózdnyshev kept smoking and drinking tea which he had made at the last station.

When I opened my eyes and looked at him he suddenly addressed me resolutely and irritably:

“Perhaps it is unpleasant for you to sit with me, knowing who I am? In that case I will go away.”

“Oh no, not at all.”

“Well then, won’t you have some? Only it’s very strong.”

He poured out some tea for me.

“They talk⁠ ⁠… and they always lie⁠ ⁠…” he remarked.

“What are you speaking about?” I asked.

“Always about the same thing. About that love of theirs and what it is! Don’t you want to sleep?”

“Not at all.”

“Then would you like me to tell you how that love led to what happened to me?”

“Yes, if it will not be painful for you.”

“No, it is painful for me to be silent. Drink the tea⁠ ⁠… or is it too strong?”

The tea was really like beer, but I drank a glass of it.277 Just then the guard entered. Pózdnyshev followed him with angry eyes, and only began to speak after he had left.


“Well then, I’ll tell you. But do you really want to hear it?”

I repeated that I wished it very much. He paused, rubbed his face with his hands, and began:

“If I am to tell it, I must tell everything from the beginning: I must tell how and why I married, and the kind of man I was before my marriage.

“Till my marriage I lived as everybody does, that is, everybody in our class. I am a landowner and a graduate of the university, and was a marshal of the gentry. Before my marriage I lived as everyone does, that is, dissolutely; and while living dissolutely I was convinced, like everyone else in our class, that I was living as one has to. I thought I was a charming fellow and quite a moral man. I was not a seducer, had no unnatural tastes, did not make that the chief purpose of my life as many of my associates did, but I practiced debauchery in a steady, decent way for health’s sake. I avoided women who might tie my hands by having a child or by attachment for me. However, there may have been children and attachments, but I acted as if there were not. And this I not only considered moral, but I was even proud of it.”

He paused and gave vent to his peculiar sound, as he evidently did whenever a new idea occurred to him.

“And you know, that is the chief abomination!” he exclaimed. “dissoluteness does not lie in anything physical⁠—no kind of physical misconduct is debauchery; real debauchery lies precisely in freeing oneself from moral relations with a woman with whom you have physical intimacy. And such emancipation I regarded as a merit. I remember how I once worried because I had not had an opportunity to pay a woman who gave herself to me (having probably taken a fancy to me) and how I only became tranquil after having sent her some money⁠—thereby intimating that I did not consider myself in any way morally bound to her⁠ ⁠… Don’t nod as if you agreed with me,” he suddenly shouted at me. “Don’t I know these things? We all, and you too unless you are a rare exception, hold those same views, just as I used to. Never mind, I beg your pardon, but the fact is that it’s terrible, terrible, terrible!”

“What is terrible?” I asked.

“That abyss of error in which we live regarding women and our relations with them. No, I can’t speak calmly about it, not because of that ‘episode,’ as he called it, in my life, but because since that ‘episode’ occurred my eyes have been opened and I have seen everything in quite a different light. Everything reversed, everything reversed!”

He lit a cigarette and began to speak, leaning his elbows on his knees.

It was too dark to see his face, but, above the jolting of the train, I could hear his impressive and pleasant voice.


“Yes, only after such torments as I have endured, only by their means, have I understood where the root of the matter lies⁠—understood what ought to be, and therefore seen all the horror of what is.

“So you will see how and when that which led up to my ‘episode’ began. It began when I was not quite sixteen. It happened when I still went to the grammar school and my elder brother was a first-year student at the university. I had not yet known any woman, but, like all the unfortunate children of our class, I was no longer an innocent boy. I had been depraved two years before that by other boys. Already woman, not some particular woman but woman as something to be desired, woman, every woman, woman’s nudity, tormented me. My solitude was not pure. I was tormented, as ninety-nine percent of our boys are. I was horrified, I suffered, I prayed, and I fell. I was already depraved in imagination and in fact, but I had not yet laid hands on another human being. But one day a comrade of my brother’s, a jolly student, a so-called good fellow, that is, the worst kind of good-for-nothing, who had taught us to drink and to play cards, persuaded us after a carousal to go there. We went. My brother was also still innocent, and he fell that same night. And I, a fifteen-year-old boy, defiled myself and took part in defiling a woman, without at all understanding what I was doing. I had never heard from any of my elders that what I was doing was wrong, you know. And indeed no one hears it now. It is true it is in the Commandments but then the Commandments are only needed to answer the priest at Scripture examination, and even then they are not very necessary, not nearly as necessary as the commandment about the use of ut in conditional sentences in Latin.

“And so I never heard those older persons whose opinions I respected say that it was an evil. On the contrary, I heard people I respected say it was good. I had heard that my struggles and sufferings would be eased after that. I heard this and read it, and heard my elders say it would be good for my health, while from my comrades I heard that it was rather a fine, spirited thing to do. So in general I expected nothing but good from it. The risk of disease? But that too had been foreseen. A paternal government saw to that. It sees to the correct working of brothels,278 and makes profligacy safe for schoolboys. Doctors too deal with it for a consideration. That is proper. They assert that debauchery is good for the health, and they organize proper well-regulated debauchery. I know some mothers who attend to their sons’ health in that sense. And science sends them to the brothels.”

“Why do you say ‘science’?” I asked.

“Why, who are the doctors? The priests of science. Who deprave youths by maintaining that this is necessary for their health? They do.

“Yet if a one-hundredth part of the efforts devoted to the cure of syphilis were devoted to the eradication of debauchery there would long ago not have been a trace of syphilis left. But as it is, efforts are made not to eradicate debauchery but to encourage it and to make debauchery safe. That is not the point however. The point is that with me⁠—and with nine-tenths, if not more, not of our class only but of all classes, even the peasants⁠—this terrible thing happens that happened to me; I fell not because I succumbed to the natural temptation of a particular woman’s charm⁠—no, I was not seduced by a woman⁠—but I fell because, in the set around me, what was really a fall was regarded by some as a most legitimate function good for one’s health, and by others as a very natural and not only excusable but even innocent amusement for a young man. I did not understand that it was a fall, but simply indulged in that half-pleasure, half-need, which, as was suggested to me, was natural at a certain age. I began to indulge in debauchery as I began to drink and to smoke. Yet in that first fall there was something special and pathetic. I remember that at once, on the spot before I left the room, I felt sad, so sad that I wanted to cry⁠—to cry for the loss of my innocence and for my relationship with women, now sullied forever. Yes, my natural, simple relationship with women was spoilt forever. From that time I have not had, and could not have, pure relations with women. I had become what is called a libertine. To be a libertine is a physical condition like that of a morphinist, a drunkard, or a smoker. As a morphinist, a drunkard, or a smoker is no longer normal, so too a man who has known several women for his pleasure is not normal but is a man perverted forever, a libertine. As a drunkard or a morphinist can be recognized at once by his face and manner, so it is with a libertine. A libertine may restrain himself, may struggle, but he will never have those pure, simple, clear, brotherly relations with a woman. By the way he looks at a young woman and examines, a libertine can always be recognized. And I had become and I remained a libertine, and it was this that brought me to ruin.”


“Ah, yes! After that things went from bad to worse, and there were all sorts of deviations. Oh, God! When I recall the abominations I committed in this respect I am seized with horror! And that is true of me, whom my companions, I remember, ridiculed for my so-called innocence. And when one hears of the ‘gilded youths,’ of officers, of the Parisians⁠ ⁠… ! And when all these gentlemen, and I⁠—who have on our souls hundreds of the most varied and horrible crimes against women⁠—when we thirty-year-old profligates, very carefully washed, shaved, perfumed, in clean linen and in evening dress or uniform, enter a drawing room or ballroom, we are emblems of purity, charming!

“Only think of what ought to be, and of what is! When in society such a gentleman comes up to my sister or daughter, I, knowing his life, ought to go up to him, take him aside, and say quietly, ‘My dear fellow, I know the life you lead, and how and with whom you pass your nights. This is no place for you. There are pure, innocent girls here. Be off!’ that is what ought to be; but what happens is that when such a gentleman comes and dances, embracing our sister or daughter, we are jubilant, if he is rich and well-connected. Maybe after Rigulboche279 he will honor my daughter! Even if traces of disease remain, no matter! They are clever at curing that nowadays. Oh, yes, I know several girls in the best society whom their parents enthusiastically gave in marriage to men suffering from a certain disease. Oh, oh⁠ ⁠… the abomination of it! But a time will come when this abomination and falsehood will be exposed!”

He made his strange noise several times and again drank tea. It was fearfully strong and there was no water with which to dilute it. I felt that I was much excited by the two glasses I had drunk.

Probably the tea affected him too, for he became more and more excited. His voice grew increasingly mellow and expressive. He continually changed his position, now taking off his cap and now putting it on again, and his face changed strangely in the semidarkness in which we were sitting.

“Well, so I lived till I was thirty, not abandoning for a moment the intention of marrying and arranging for myself a most elevated and pure family life. With that purpose I observed the girls suitable for that end,” he continued. “I weltered in a mire of debauchery and at the same time was on the lookout for a girl pure enough to be worthy of me.

“I rejected many just because they were not pure enough to suit me, but at last I found one whom I considered worthy. She was one of two daughters of a once wealthy Pénza landowner who had been ruined.

“One evening after we had been out in a boat and had returned by moonlight, and I was sitting beside her admiring her curls and her shapely figure in a tight-fitting jersey, I suddenly decided that it was she! It seemed to me that evening that she understood all that I felt and thought, and that what I felt and thought was very lofty. In reality it was only that the jersey and the curls were particularly becoming to her and that after a day spent near her I wanted to be still closer.

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness. A handsome woman talks nonsense, you listen and hear not nonsense but cleverness. She says and does horrid things, and you see only charm. And if a handsome woman does not say stupid or horrid things, you at once persuade yourself that she is wonderfully clever and moral.

“I returned home in rapture, decided that she was the acme of moral perfection, and that therefore she was worthy to be my wife, and I proposed to her next day.

“What a muddle it is! Out of a thousand men who marry (not only among us but unfortunately also among the masses) there is hardly one who has not already been married ten, a hundred, or even, like Don Juan, a thousand times, before his wedding.

“It is true as I have heard and have myself observed that there are nowadays some chaste young men who feel and know that this thing is not a joke but an important matter.

“God help them! But in my time there was not one such in ten thousand. And everybody knows this and pretends not to know it. In all the novels they describe in detail the heroes’ feelings and the ponds and bushes beside which they walk, but when their great love for some maiden is described, nothing is said about what has happened to these interesting heroes before: not a word about their frequenting certain houses, or about the servant girls, cooks, and other people’s wives! If there are such improper novels they are not put into the hands of those who most need this information⁠—the unmarried girls.

“We first pretend to these girls that the profligacy which fills half the life of our towns, and even of the villages, does not exist at all.

“Then we get so accustomed to this pretence that at last, like the English, we ourselves really begin to believe this quite seriously. So too did my unfortunate wife. I remember how, when we were engaged, I showed her my diary, from which she could learn something, if but a little, of my past, especially about my last liaison, of which she might hear from others, and about which I therefore felt it necessary to inform her. I remember her horror, despair, and confusion, when she learnt of it and understood it. I saw that she then wanted to give me up. And why did she not do so?⁠ ⁠…”

He again made that sound, swallowed another mouthful of tea, and remained silent for a while.


“No, after all, it is better, better so!” he exclaimed. “It serves me right! But that’s not to the point⁠—I meant to say that it is only the unfortunate girls who are deceived.

“The mothers know it, especially mothers educated by their own husbands⁠—they know it very well. While pretending to believe in the purity of men, they act quite differently. They know with what sort of bait to catch men for themselves and for their daughters.

“You see it is only we men who don’t know (because we don’t wish to know) what women know very well, that the most exalted poetic love, as we call it, depends not on moral qualities but on physical nearness and on the coiffure, and the colour and cut of the dress. Ask an expert coquette who has set herself the task of captivating a man, which she would prefer to risk: to be convicted in his presence of lying, of cruelty, or even of dissoluteness, or to appear before him in an ugly and badly made dress⁠—she will always prefer the first. She knows that we are continually lying about high sentiments, but really only want her body and will therefore forgive any abomination except an ugly tasteless costume that is in bad style.

“A coquette knows that consciously, and every innocent girl knows it unconsciously just as animals do.

“That is why there are those detestable jerseys, bustles, and naked shoulders, arms, almost breasts. A woman, especially if she has passed the male school, knows very well that all the talk about elevated subjects is just talk, but that what a man wants is her body and all that presents it in the most deceptive but alluring light; and she acts accordingly. If we only throw aside our familiarity with this indecency, which has become a second nature to us, and look at the life of our upper classes as it is, in all its shamelessness⁠—why, it is simply a brothel⁠ ⁠… You don’t agree? Allow me, I’ll prove it,” he said, interrupting me. “You say that the women of our society have other interests in life than prostitutes have, but I say no, and will prove it. If people differ in the aims of their lives, by the inner content of their lives, this difference will necessarily be reflected in externals and their externals will be different. But look at those unfortunate despised women and at the highest society ladies: the same costumes, the same fashions, the same perfumes, the exposure of arms, shoulders, and breasts, the same tight skirts over prominent bustles, the same passion for little stones, for costly, glittering objects, the same amusements, dances, music, and singing. As the former employ all means to allure, so do these others.”


“Well, so these jerseys and curls and bustles caught me!

“It was very easy to catch me for I was brought up in the conditions in which amorous young people are forced like cucumbers in a hotbed. You see our stimulating superabundance of food, together with complete physical idleness, is nothing but a systematic excitement of desire. Whether this astonishes you or not, it is so. Why, till quiet recently I did not see anything of this myself, but now I have seen it. That is why it torments me that nobody knows this, and people talk such nonsense as that lady did.

“Yes, last spring some peasants were working in our neighborhood on a railway embankment. The usual food of a young peasant is rye bread, kvass, and onions; he keeps alive and is vigorous and healthy; his work is light agricultural work. When he goes to railway work his rations are buckwheat porridge and a pound of meat a day. But he works off that pound of meat during his sixteen hours’ work wheeling barrow-loads of half-a-ton weight, so it is just enough for him. But we who every day consume two pounds of meat, and game, and fish and all sorts of heating foods and drinks⁠—where does that go to? Into excesses of sensuality. And if it goes there and the safety valve is open, all is well; but try and close the safety valve, as I closed it temporarily, and at once a stimulus arises which, passing through the prism of our artificial life, expresses itself in utter infatuation, sometimes even platonic. And I fell in love as they all do.

“Everything was there to hand: raptures, tenderness, and poetry. In reality that love of mine was the result, on the one hand of her mamma’s and the dressmakers’ activity, and on the other of the superabundance of food consumed by me while living an idle life. If on the one hand there had been no boating, no dressmaker with her waists and so forth, and had my wife been sitting at home in a shapeless dressing gown, and had I on the other hand been in circumstances normal to man⁠—consuming just enough food to suffice for the work I did, and had the safety valve been open⁠—it happened to be closed at the time⁠—I should not have fallen in love and nothing of all this would have happened.”


“Well, and now it so chanced that everything combined⁠—my condition, her becoming dress, and the satisfactory boating. It had failed twenty times but now it succeeded. Just like a trap! I am not joking. You see nowadays marriages are arranged that way⁠—like traps. What is the natural way? The lass is ripe, she must be given in marriage. It seems very simple if the girl is not a fright and there are men wanting to marry. That is how it was done in olden times. The lass was grown up and her parents arranged the marriage. So it was done, and is done, among all mankind⁠—Chinese, Hindus, Mohammedans, and among our own working classes; so it is done among at least ninety-nine percent of the human race. Only among one percent or less, among us libertines, has it been discovered that that is not right, and something new has been invented. And what is this novelty? It is that the maidens sit around and the men walk about, as at a bazaar, choosing. And the maidens wait and think, but dare not say: ‘Me, please!’ ‘No, me!’ ‘Not her, but me!’ ‘Look what shoulders and other things I have!’ And we men stroll around and look, and are very pleased. ‘Yes, I know! I won’t be caught!’ They stroll about and look and are very pleased that everything is arranged like that for them. And then in an unguarded moment⁠—snap! He is caught!”

“Then how ought it to be done?” I asked. “Should the woman propose?”

“Oh, I don’t know how; only if there’s to be equality, let it be equality. If they have discovered that prearranged matches are degrading, why this is a thousand times worse! Then the rights and chances were equal, but here the woman is a slave in a bazaar or the bait in a trap. Tell any mother, or the girl herself, the truth, that she is only occupied in catching a husband⁠ ⁠… oh dear! what an insult! Yet they all do it and have nothing else to do. What is so terrible is to see sometimes quite innocent poor young girls engaged on it. And again, if it were but done openly⁠—but it is always done deceitfully. ‘Ah, the origin of species, how interesting!’ ‘Oh, Lily takes such an interest in painting! And will you be going to the exhibition? How instructive!’ And the troika drives, and shows, and symphonies! ‘Oh! how remarkable! My Lily is mad on music.’ ‘And why don’t you share these convictions?’ and boating⁠ ⁠… but their one thought is: ‘take me, take me!’ ‘take my Lily!’ ‘Or try⁠—at least!’ Oh, what an abomination! What falsehood!’ he concluded, finishing his tea and beginning to put away the tea things.


“You know,” he began while packing the tea and sugar into his bag. “The domination of women from which the world suffers all arises from this.”

“What ‘domination of women’?” I asked. “The rights, the legal privileges, are on the man’s side.”

“Yes, yes! That’s just it,” he interrupted me. “That’s just what I want to say. It explains the extraordinary phenomenon that on the one hand woman is reduced to the lowest stage of humiliation, while on the other she dominates. Just like the Jews: as they pay us back for their oppression by a financial domination, so it is with women. ‘Ah, you want us to be traders only⁠—all right, as traders we will dominate you!’ say the Jews. ‘Ah, you want us to be merely objects of sensuality⁠—all right, as objects of sensuality we will enslave you,’ say the women. Woman’s lack of rights arises not from the fact that she must not vote or be a judge⁠—to be occupied with such affairs is no privilege⁠—but from the fact that she is not man’s equal in sexual intercourse and has not the right to use a man or abstain from him as she likes⁠—is not allowed to choose a man at her pleasure instead of being chosen by him. You say that is monstrous. Very well! Then a man must not have those rights either. As it is at present, a woman is deprived of that right while a man has it. And to make up for that right she acts on man’s sensuality, and through his sensuality subdues him so that he only chooses formally, while in reality it is she who chooses. And once she has obtained these means she abuses them and acquires a terrible power over people.”

“But where is this special power?” I inquired.

“Where is it? Why everywhere, in everything! Go round the shops in any big town. There are goods worth millions and you cannot estimate the human labour expended on them, and look whether in nine-tenths of these shops there is anything for the use of men. All the luxuries of life are demanded and maintained by women.

“Count all the factories. An enormous proportion of them produce useless ornaments, carriages, furniture, and trinkets, for women. Millions of people, generations of slaves, perish at hard labour in factories merely to satisfy woman’s caprice. Women, like queens, keep nine-tenths of mankind in bondage to heavy labour. And all because they have been abased and deprived of equal rights with men. And they revenge themselves by acting on our sensuality and catch us in their nets. Yes, it all comes of that.

“Women have made of themselves such an instrument for acting upon our sensuality that a man cannot quietly consort with a woman. As soon as a man approaches a woman he succumbs to her stupefying influence and becomes intoxicated and crazy. I used formerly to feel uncomfortable and uneasy when I saw a lady dressed up for a ball, but now I am simply frightened and plainly see her as something dangerous and illicit. I want to call a policeman and ask for protection from the peril, and demand that the dangerous object be removed and put away.

“Ah, you are laughing!” he shouted at me, “but it is not at all a joke. I am sure a time will come, and perhaps very soon, when people will understand this and will wonder how a society could exist in which actions were permitted which so disturb social tranquillity as those adornments of the body directly evoking sensuality, which we tolerate for women in our society. Why, it’s like setting all sorts of traps along the paths and promenades⁠—it is even worse! Why is gambling forbidden while women in costumes which evoke sensuality are not forbidden? They are a thousand times more dangerous!”


“Well, you see, I was caught that way. I was what is called in love. I not only imagined her to be the height of perfection, but during the time of our engagement I regarded myself also as the height of perfection. You know there is no rascal who cannot, if he tries, find rascals in some respects worse than himself, and who consequently cannot find reasons for pride and self-satisfaction. So it was with me: I was not marrying for money⁠—covetousness had nothing to do with it⁠—unlike the majority of my acquaintances who married for money or connections⁠—I was rich, she was poor. That was one thing. Another thing I prided myself on was that while others married intending to continue in future the same polygamous life they had lived before marriage, I was firmly resolved to be monogamous after marriage, and there was no limit to my pride on that score. Yes, I was a dreadful pig and imagined myself to be an angel.

“Our engagement did not last long. I cannot now think of that time without shame! What nastiness! Love is supposed to be spiritual and not sensual. Well, if the love is spiritual, a spiritual communion, then that spiritual communion should find expression in words, in conversations, in discourse. There was nothing of the kind. It used to be dreadfully difficult to talk when we were left alone. It was the labour of Sisyphus. As soon as we thought of something to say and said it, we had again to be silent, devising something else. There was nothing to talk about. All that could be said about the life that awaited us, our arrangements and plans, had been said, and what was there more? Now if we had been animals we should have known that speech was unnecessary; but here on the contrary it was necessary to speak, and there was nothing to say, because we were not occupied with what finds vent in speech. And moreover there was that ridiculous custom of giving sweets, of coarse gormandizing on sweets, and all those abominable preparations for the wedding: remarks about the house, the bedroom, beds, wraps, dressing gowns, underclothing, costumes. You must remember that if one married according to the injunctions of Domostróy, as that old fellow was saying, then the feather beds, the trousseau, and the bedstead are all but details appropriate to the sacrament. But among us, when of ten who marry there are certainly nine who not only do not believe in the sacrament, but do not even believe that what they are doing entails certain obligations⁠—where scarcely one man out of a hundred has not been married before, and of fifty scarcely one is not preparing in advance to be unfaithful to his wife at every convenient opportunity⁠—when the majority regard the going to church as only a special condition for obtaining possession of a certain woman⁠—think what a dreadful significance all these details acquire. They show that the whole business is only that; they show that it is a kind of sale. An innocent girl is sold to a profligate, and the sale is accompanied by certain formalities.”


“That is how everybody marries and that is how I married, and the much vaunted honeymoon began. Why, its very name is vile!” he hissed viciously. “In Paris I once went to see the sights, and noticing a bearded woman and a water-dog on a sign board, I entered the show. It turned out to be nothing but a man in a woman’s low-necked dress, and a dog done up in a walrus skin and swimming in a bath. It was very far from being interesting; but as I was leaving, the showman politely saw me out and, addressing the public at the entrance, pointed to me and said, ‘Ask the gentleman whether it is not worth seeing! Come in, come in, one franc apiece!’ I felt ashamed to say it was not worth seeing, and the showman had probably counted on that. It must be the same with those who have experienced the abomination of a honeymoon and who do not disillusion others. Neither did I disillusion anyone, but I do not now see why I should not tell the truth. Indeed, I think it needful to tell the truth about it. One felt awkward, ashamed, repelled, sorry, and above all dull, intolerably dull! It was something like what I felt when I learned to smoke⁠—when I felt sick and the saliva gathered in my mouth and I swallowed it and pretended that it was very pleasant. Pleasure from smoking, just as from that, if it comes at all, comes later. The husband must cultivate that vice in his wife in order to derive pleasure from it.”

“Why vice?” I said. “You are speaking of the most natural human functions.”

“Natural?” he said. “Natural? No, I may tell you that I have come to the conclusion that it is, on the contrary, unnatural. Yes, quite unnatural. As a child, as an unperverted girl.

“Natural, you say!

“It is natural to eat. And to eat is, from the very beginning enjoyable, easy, pleasant, and not shameful; but this is horrid, shameful, and painful. No, it is unnatural! And an unspoiled girl, as I have convinced myself, always hates it.”

“But how,” I asked, “would the human race continue?”

“Yes, would not the human race perish?” he said, irritably and ironically, as if he had expected this familiar and insincere objection. “Teach abstention from childbearing so that English lords may always gorge themselves⁠—that is all right. Preach it for the sake of greater pleasure⁠—that is all right; but just hint at abstention from childbearing in the name of morality⁠—and, my goodness, what a rumpus⁠ ⁠… ! Isn’t there a danger that the human race may die out because they want to cease to be swine? But forgive me! This light is unpleasant, may I shade it?” he said, pointing to the lamp. I said I did not mind; and with the haste with which he did everything, he got up on the seat and drew the woollen shade over the lamp.

“All the same,” I said, “if everyone thought this the right thing to do, the human race would cease to exist.”

He did not reply at once.

“You ask how the human race will continue to exist,” he said, having again sat down in front of me, and spreading his legs far apart he leant his elbows on his knees. “Why should it continue?”

“Why? If not, we should not exist.”

“And why should we exist?”

“Why? In order to live, of course.”

“But why live? If life has no aim, if life is given us for life’s sake, there is no reason for living. And if it is so, then the Schopenhauers, the Hartmanns, and all the Buddhists as well, are quite right. But if life has an aim, it is clear that it ought to come to an end when that aim is reached. And so it turns out,” he said with a noticeable agitation, evidently prizing his thought very highly. “So it turns out. Just think: if the aim of humanity is goodness, righteousness, love⁠—call it what you will⁠—if it is what the prophets have said, that all mankind should be united together in love, that the spears should be beaten into pruning hooks and so forth, what is it that hinders the attainment of this aim? The passions hinder it. Of all the passions the strongest, cruellest, and most stubborn is the sex passion, physical love; and therefore if the passions are destroyed, including the strongest of them⁠—physical love⁠—the prophecies will be fulfilled, mankind will be brought into a unity, the aim of human existence will be attained, and there will be nothing further to live for. As long as mankind exists the ideal is before it, and of course not the rabbits’ and pigs’ ideal of breeding as fast as possible, nor that of monkeys or Parisians⁠—to enjoy sex passion in the most refined manner, but the ideal of goodness attained by continence and purity. Towards that people have always striven and still strive. You see what follows.

“It follows that physical love is a safety valve. If the present generation has not attained its aim, it has not done so because of its passions, of which the sex passion is the strongest. And if the sex passion endures there will be a new generation and consequently the possibility of attaining the aim in the next generation. If the next one does not attain it, then the next after that may, and so on, till the aim is attained, the prophecies fulfilled, and mankind attains unity. If not, what would result? If one admits that God created men for the attainment of a certain aim, and created them mortal but sexless, or created them immortal, what would be the result? Why, if they were mortal but without the sex passion, and died without attaining the aim, God would have had to create new people to attain his aim. If they were immortal, let us grant that (though it would be more difficult for the same people to correct their mistakes and approach perfection than for those of another generation) they might attain that aim after many thousands of years, but then what use would they be afterwards? What could be done with them? It is best as it is.⁠ ⁠… But perhaps you don’t like that way of putting it? Perhaps you are an evolutionist? It comes to the same thing. The highest race of animals, the human race, in order to maintain itself in the struggle with other animals ought to unite into one whole like a swarm of bees, and not breed continually; it should bring up sexless members as the bees do; that is, again, it should strive towards continence and not towards inflaming desire⁠—to which the whole system of our life is now directed.” He paused. “The human race will cease? But can anyone doubt it, whatever his outlook on life may be? Why, it is as certain as death. According to all the teaching of the Church the end of the world will come, and according to all the teaching of science the same result is inevitable.”


“In our world it is just the reverse: even if a man does think of continence while he is a bachelor, once married he is sure to think continence no longer necessary. You know those wedding tours⁠—the seclusion into which, with their parents’ consent, the young couple go⁠—are nothing but licensed debauchery. But a moral law avenges itself when it is violated. Hard as I tried to make a success of my honeymoon, nothing came of it. It was horrid, shameful, and dull, the whole time. And very soon I began also to experience a painful, oppressive feeling. That began very quickly. I think it was on the third or fourth day that I found my wife depressed. I began asking her the reason and embracing her, which in my view was all she could want, but she removed my arm and began to cry. What about? She could not say. But she felt sad and distressed. Probably her exhausted nerves suggested to her the truth as to the vileness of our relation but she did not know how to express it. I began to question her, and she said something about feeling sad without her mother. It seemed to me that this was untrue, and I began comforting her without alluding to her mother. I did not understand that she was simply depressed and her mother was merely an excuse. But she immediately took offence because I had not mentioned her mother, as though I did not believe her. She told me she saw that I did not love her. I reproached her with being capricious, and suddenly her face changed entirely and instead of sadness it expressed irritation, and with the most venomous words she began accusing me of selfishness and cruelty. I gazed at her. Her whole face showed complete coldness and hostility, almost hatred. I remember how horror-struck I was when I saw this. ‘How? What?’ I thought. ‘Love is a union of souls⁠—and instead of that there is this! Impossible, this is not she!’ I tried to soften her, but encountered such an insuperable wall of cold virulent hostility that before I had time to turn round I too was seized with irritation and we said a great many unpleasant things to one another. The impression of that first quarrel was dreadful. I call it a quarrel, but it was not a quarrel but only the disclosure of the abyss that really existed between us. Amorousness was exhausted by the satisfaction of sensuality and we were left confronting one another in our true relation: that is, as two egotists quite alien to each other who wished to get as much pleasure as possible each from the other. I call what took place between us a quarrel, only the consequence of the cessation of sensuality⁠—revealing our real relations to one another. I did not understand that this cold and hostile relation was our normal state, I did not understand it because at first this hostile attitude was very soon concealed from us by a renewal of redistilled sensuality, that is by lovemaking.

“I thought we had quarrelled and made it up again, and that it would not recur. But during that same first month of honeymoon a period of satiety soon returned, we again ceased to need one another, and another quarrel supervened. This second quarrel struck me even more painfully than the first. ‘So the first one was not an accident but was bound to happen and will happen again,’ I thought. I was all the more staggered by that second quarrel because it arose from such an impossible pretext. It had something to do with money, which I never grudged and could certainly not have grudged to my wife. I only remember that she gave the matter such a twist that some remark of mine appeared to be an expression of a desire on my part to dominate over her by means of money, to which I was supposed to assert an exclusive right⁠—it was something impossibly stupid, mean, and not natural either to me or to her. I became exasperated, and upbraided her with lack of consideration for me. She accused me of the same thing, and it all began again. In her words and in the expression of her face and eyes I again noticed the cruel cold hostility that had so staggered me before. I had formerly quarrelled with my brother, my friends, and my father, but there had never, I remember, been the special venomous malice which there was here. But after a while this mutual hatred was screened by amorousness, that is sensuality, and I still consoled myself with the thought that these two quarrels had been mistakes and could be remedied. But then a third and a fourth quarrel followed and I realized that it was not accidental, but that it was bound to happen and would happen so, and I was horrified at the prospect before me. At the same time I was tormented by the terrible thought that I alone lived on such bad terms with my wife, so unlike what I had expected, whereas this did not happen between other married couples. I did not know then that it is our common fate, but that everybody imagines, just as I did, that is their peculiar misfortune, and everyone conceals this exceptional and shameful misfortune not only from others but even from himself and does not acknowledge it to himself.

“It began during the first days and continued all the time, ever increasing and growing more obdurate. In the depths of my soul I felt from the first weeks that I was lost, that things had not turned out as I expected, that marriage was not only no happiness but a very heavy burden; but like everybody else I did not wish to acknowledge this to myself (I should not have acknowledged it even now but for the end that followed) and I concealed it not only from others but from myself too. Now I am astonished that I failed to see my real position. It might have been seen from the fact that the quarrels began on pretexts it was impossible to remember when they were over. Our reason was not quick enough to devise sufficient excuses for the animosity that always existed between us. But more striking still was the insufficiency of the excuses for our reconciliations. Sometimes there were words, explanations, even tears, but sometimes⁠ ⁠… oh! it is disgusting even now to think of it⁠—after the most cruel words to one another, came sudden silent glances, smiles, kisses, embraces.⁠ ⁠… Faugh, how horrid! How is it I did not then see all the vileness of it?”


Two fresh passengers entered and settled down on the farthest seats. He was silent while they were seating themselves, but as soon as they had settled down continued, evidently not for a moment losing the thread of his idea.

“You know, what is vilest about it,” he began, “is that in theory love is something ideal and exalted, but in practice it is something abominable, swinish, which it is horrid and shameful to mention or remember. It is not for nothing that nature has made it disgusting and shameful. And if it is disgusting and shameful one must understand that it is so. But here, on the contrary, people pretend that what is disgusting and shameful is beautiful and lofty. What were the first symptoms of my love? Why, that I gave way to animal excesses, not only without shame but being somehow even proud of the possibility of these physical excesses, and without in the least considering either her spiritual or even her physical life. I wondered what embittered us against one another, yet it was perfectly simple: that animosity was nothing but the protest of our human nature against the animal nature that overpowered it.

“I was surprised at our enmity to one another; yet it could not have been otherwise. That hatred was nothing but the mutual hatred of accomplices in a crime⁠—both for the incitement to the crime and for the part taken in it. What was it but a crime when she, poor thing, became pregnant in the first month and our swinish connection continued? You think I am straying from my subject? Not at all! I am telling you how I killed my wife. They asked me at the trial with what and how I killed her. Fools! They thought I killed her with a knife, on the 5th of October. It was not then I killed her, but much earlier. Just as they are all now killing, all, all.⁠ ⁠…”

“But with what?” I asked.

“That is just what is so surprising, that nobody wants to see what is so clear and evident, what doctors ought to know and preach, but are silent about. Yet the matter is very simple. Men and women are created like the animals so that physical love is followed by pregnancy and then by suckling⁠—conditions under which physical love is bad for the woman and for her child. There are an equal number of men and women. What follows from this? It seems clear, and no great wisdom is needed to draw the conclusion that animals do, namely, the need of continence. But no. Science has been able to discover some kind of leukocytes that run about in the blood, and all sorts of useless nonsense, but cannot understand that. At least one does not hear of science teaching it!

“And so a woman has only two ways out: one is to make a monster of herself, to destroy and go on destroying within herself to such a degree as may be necessary the capacity of being a woman, that is, a mother, in order that a man may quietly and continuously get his enjoyment; the other way out⁠—and it is not even a way out but a simple, coarse, and direct violation of the laws of nature⁠—practiced in all so-called decent families⁠—is that, contrary to her nature, the woman must be her husband’s mistress even while she is pregnant or nursing⁠—must be what not even an animal descends to, and for which her strength is insufficient. That is what causes nerve troubles and hysteria in our class, and among the peasants causes what they call being ‘possessed by the devil’⁠—epilepsy. You will notice that no pure maidens are ever ‘possessed,’ but only married women living with their husbands. That is so here, and it is just the same in Europe. All the hospitals for hysterical women are full of those who have violated nature’s law. The epileptics and Charcot’s patients are complete wrecks, you know, but the world is full of half-crippled women. Just think of it, what a great work goes on within a woman when she conceives or when she is nursing an infant. That is growing which will continue us and replace us. And this sacred work is violated⁠—by what? It is terrible to think of it! And they prate about the freedom and the rights of women! It is as if cannibals fattened their captives to be eaten, and at the same time declared that they were concerned about their prisoners’ rights and freedom.”

All this was new to me and startled me.

“What is one to do? If that is so,” I said, “it means that one may love one’s wife once in two years, yet men⁠ ⁠…”

“Men must!” he interrupted me. “It is again those precious priests of science who have persuaded everybody of that. Imbue a man with the idea that he requires vodka, tobacco, or opium, and all these things will be indispensable to him. It seems that God did not understand what was necessary and therefore, omitting to consult those wizards, arranged things badly. You see matters do not tally. They have decided that it is essential for a man to satisfy his desires, and the bearing and nursing of children comes and interferes with it and hinders the satisfaction of that need. What is one to do then? Consult the wizards! They will arrange it. And they have devised something. Oh! when will those wizards with their deceptions be dethroned? It is high time. It has come to such a point that people go mad and shoot themselves and all because of this. How could it be otherwise? The animals seem to know that their progeny continue their race, and they keep it to a certain law in this matter. Man alone neither knows it nor wishes to know, but is concerned only to get all the pleasure he can. And who is doing that? The lord of nature⁠—man! Animals, you see, only come together at times when they are capable of producing progeny, but the filthy lord of nature is at it any time if only it pleases him! And as if that were not sufficient, he exalts this apish occupation into the most precious pearl of creation, into love. In the name of this love, that is, this filth, he destroys⁠—what? why, half the human race! All the women who might help the progress of mankind towards truth and goodness he converts, for the sake of his pleasure, into enemies instead of helpmates. See what it is that everywhere impedes the forward movement of mankind. Women! and why are they what they are? Only because of that. Yes, yes⁠ ⁠…” he repeated several times, and began to move about, and to get out his cigarettes and to smoke, evidently trying to calm himself.


“I too lived like a pig of that sort,” he continued in his former tone. “The worst thing about it was that while living that horrid life I imagined that, because I did not go after other women, I was living an honest family life, that I was a moral man and in no way blameworthy, and if quarrels occurred it was her fault and resulted from her character.

“Of course the fault was not hers. She was like everybody else⁠—like the majority of women. She had been brought up as the position of women in our society requires, and as therefore all women of the leisured classes without exception are brought up and cannot help being brought up. People talk about some new kind of education for women. It is all empty words: their education is exactly what it has to be in view of our unfeigned, real, general opinion about women.

“The education of women will always correspond to men’s opinion about them. Don’t we know how men regard women: Wein, Weib und Gesang, and what the poets say in their verses? Take all poetry, all pictures and sculpture, beginning with love poems and the nude Venuses and Phrynes, and you will see that woman is an instrument of enjoyment; she is so on the Trubá and the Grachévka,280 and also at the Court281 balls. And note the devil’s cunning: if they are here for enjoyment and pleasure, let it be known that it is pleasure and that woman is a sweet morsel. But no, first the knights-errant declare that they worship women (worship her, and yet regard her as an instrument of enjoyment), and now people assure us that they respect women. Some give up their places to her, pick up her handkerchief; others acknowledge her right to occupy all positions and to take part in the government, and so on. They do all that, but their outlook on her remains the same. She is a means of enjoyment. Her body is a means of enjoyment. And she knows this. It is just as it is with slavery. Slavery, you know, is nothing else than the exploitation by some of the unwilling labour of many. Therefore to get rid of slavery it is necessary that people should not wish to profit by the forced labour of others and should consider it a sin and a shame. But they go and abolish the external form of slavery and arrange so that one can no longer buy and sell slaves, and they imagine and assure themselves that slavery no longer exists, and do not see or wish to see that it does, because people still want and consider it good and right to exploit the labour of others. And as long as they consider that good, there will always be people stronger or more cunning than others who will succeed in doing it. So it is with the emancipation of woman: the enslavement of woman lies simply in the fact that people desire and think it good, to avail themselves of her as a tool of enjoyment. Well, and they liberate woman, give her all sorts of rights equal to man, but continue to regard her as an instrument of enjoyment, and so educate her in childhood and afterwards by public opinion. And there she is, still the same humiliated and depraved slave, and the man still a depraved slave owner.

“They emancipate women in universities and in law courts, but continue to regard her as an object of enjoyment. Teach her, as she is taught among us, to regard herself as such, and she will always remain an inferior being. Either with the help of those scoundrels the doctors she will prevent the conception of offspring⁠—that is, will be a complete prostitute, lowering herself not to the level of an animal but to the level of a thing⁠—or she will be what the majority of women are, mentally diseased, hysterical, unhappy, and lacking capacity for spiritual development. High schools and universities cannot alter that. It can only be changed by a change in men’s outlook on women and women’s way of regarding themselves. It will change only when woman regards virginity as the highest state, and does not, as at present, consider the highest state of a human being a shame and a disgrace. While that is not so, the ideal of every girl, whatever her education may be, will continue to be to attract as many men as possible, as many males as possible, so as to have the possibility of choosing.

“But the fact that one of them knows more mathematics, and another can play the harp, makes no difference. A woman is happy and attains all she can desire when she has bewitched a man. Therefore the chief aim of a woman is to be able to bewitch him. So it has been and will be. So it is in her maiden life in our society, and so it continues to be in her married life. For a maiden this is necessary in order to have a choice, for the married woman in order to have power over her husband.

“The one thing that stops this or at any rate suppresses it for a time, is children, and then only if the mother is not a monster, that is, if she nurses them herself. But here the doctors again come in.

“My wife, who wanted to nurse, and did nurse the four later children herself, happened to be unwell after the birth of her first child. And those doctors, who cynically undressed her and felt her all over⁠—for which I had to thank them and pay them money⁠—those dear doctors considered that she must not nurse the child; and that first time she was deprived of the only means which might have kept her from coquetry. We engaged a wet nurse, that is, we took advantage of the poverty, the need, and the ignorance of a woman, tempted her away from her own baby to ours, and in return gave her a fine headdress with gold lace.282 But that is not the point. The point is that during that time when my wife was free from pregnancy and suckling, the feminine coquetry which had lain dormant within her manifested itself with particular force. And coinciding with this the torments of jealousy rose up in me with a special force. They tortured me all my married life, as they cannot but torture all husbands who live with their wives and I did with mine, that is, immorally.”


“During the whole of my married life I never ceased to be tormented by jealousy, but there were periods when I specially suffered from it. One of these periods was when, after the birth of our first child, the doctors forbade my wife to nurse it. I was particularly jealous at that time, in the first place because my wife was experiencing that unrest natural to a mother which is sure to be aroused when the natural course of life is needlessly violated; and secondly, because seeing how easily she abandoned her moral obligations as a mother, I rightly though unconsciously concluded that it would be equally easy for her to disregard her duty as a wife, especially as she was quite well and in spite of the precious doctors’ prohibition was able to nurse her later children admirably.”

“I see you don’t like doctors,” I said, noticing a peculiarly malevolent tone in his voice whenever he alluded to them.

“It is not a case of liking or disliking. They have ruined my life as they have ruined and are ruining the lives of thousands and hundreds of thousands of human beings, and I cannot help connecting the effect with the cause. I understand that they want to earn money like lawyers and others, and I would willingly give them half my income, and all who realize what they are doing would willingly give them half of their possessions, if only they would not interfere with our family life and would never come near us. I have not collected evidence, but I know dozens of cases (there are any number of them!) where they have killed a child in its mother’s womb asserting that she could not give it birth, though she has had children quite safely later on; or they have killed the mother on the pretext of performing some operation. No one reckons these murders any more than they reckoned the murders of the Inquisition, because it is supposed that it is done for the good of mankind. It is impossible to number all the crimes they commit. But all those crimes are as nothing compared to the moral corruption of materialism they introduce into the world, especially through women.

“I don’t lay stress on the fact that if one is to follow their instructions, then on account of the infection which exists everywhere and in everything, people would not progress towards greater unity but towards separation; for according to their teaching we ought all to sit apart and not remove the carbolic atomizer from our mouths (though now they have discovered that even that is of no avail). But that does not matter either. The principal poison lies in the demoralization of the world, especially of women.

“Today one can no longer say: ‘You are not living rightly, live better.’ One can’t say that, either to oneself or to anyone else. If you live a bad life it is caused by the abnormal functioning of your nerves, etc. So you must go to them, and they will prescribe eight penn’orth of medicine from a chemist, which you must take!

“You get still worse: then more medicine and the doctor again. An excellent trick!

“That however is not the point. All I wish to say is that she nursed her babies perfectly well and that only her pregnancy and the nursing of her babies saved me from the torments of jealousy. Had it not been for that it would all have happened sooner. The children saved me and her. In eight years she had five children and nursed all except the first herself.”

“And where are your children now?” I asked.

“The children?” he repeated in a frightened voice.

“Forgive me, perhaps it is painful for you to be reminded of them.”

“No, it does not matter. My wife’s sister and brother have taken them. They would not let me have them. I gave them my estate, but they did not give them up to me. You know I am a sort of lunatic. I have left them now and am going away. I have seen them, but they won’t let me have them because I might bring them up so that they would not be like their parents, and they have to be just like them. Oh well, what is to be done? Of course they won’t let me have them and won’t trust me. Besides, I do not know whether I should be able to bring them up. I think not. I am a ruin, a cripple. Still I have one thing in me. I know! Yes, that is true, I know what others are far from knowing.

“Yes, my children are living and growing up just such savages as everybody around them. I saw them, saw them three times. I can do nothing for them, nothing. I am now going to my place in the south. I have a little house and a small garden there.

“Yes, it will be a long time before people learn what I know. How much of iron and other metal there is in the sun and the stars is easy to find out, but anything that exposes our swinishness is difficult, terribly difficult!

“You at least listen to me, and I am grateful for that.”


“You mentioned my children. There again, what terrible lies are told about children! Children a blessing from God, a joy! That is all a lie. It was so once upon a time, but now it is not so at all. Children are a torment and nothing else. Most mothers feel this quite plainly, and sometimes inadvertently say so. Ask most mothers of our propertied classes and they will tell you that they do not want to have children for fear of their falling ill and dying. They don’t want to nurse283 them if they do have them, for fear of becoming too much attached to them and having to suffer. The pleasure a baby gives them by its loveliness, its little hands and feet, and its whole body, is not as great as the suffering caused by the very fear of its possibly falling ill and dying, not to speak of its actual illness or death. After weighing the advantages and disadvantages it seems disadvantageous, and therefore undesirable, to have children. They say this quite frankly and boldly, imagining that these feelings of theirs arise from their love of children, a good and laudable feeling of which they are proud. They do not notice that by this reflection they plainly repudiate love, and only affirm their own selfishness. They get less pleasure from a baby’s loveliness than suffering from fear on its account, and therefore the baby they would love is not wanted. They do not sacrifice themselves for a beloved being, but sacrifice a being whom they might love, for their own sakes.

“It is clear that this is not love but selfishness. But one has not the heart to blame them⁠—the mothers in well-to-do families⁠—for that selfishness, when one remembers how dreadfully they suffer on account of their children’s health, again thanks to the influence of those same doctors among our well-to-do classes. Even now, when I do but remember my wife’s life and the condition she was in during the first years when we had three or four children and she was absorbed in them, I am seized with horror! We led no life at all, but were in a state of constant danger, of escape from it, recurring danger, again followed by a desperate struggle and another escape⁠—always as if we were on a sinking ship. Sometimes it seemed to me that this was done on purpose and that she pretended to be anxious about the children in order to subdue me. It solved all questions in her favour with such tempting simplicity. It sometimes seemed as if all she did and said on these occasions was pretence. But no! She herself suffered terribly, and continually tormented herself about the children and their health and illnesses. It was torture for her and for me too; and it was impossible for her not to suffer. After all, the attachment to her children, the animal need of feeding, caressing, and protecting them, was there as with most women, but there was not the lack of imagination and reason that there is in animals. A hen is not afraid of what may happen to her chick, does not know all the diseases that may befall it, and does not know all those remedies with which people imagine that they can save from illness and death. And for a hen her young are not a source of torment. She does for them what it is natural and pleasurable for her to do; her young ones are a pleasure to her. When a chick falls ill her duties are quite definite: she warms and feeds it. And doing this she knows that she is doing all that is necessary. If her chick dies she does not ask herself why it died, or where it has gone to; she cackles for a while, and then leaves off and goes on living as before. But for our unfortunate women, my wife among them, it was not so. Not to mention illnesses and how to cure them, she was always hearing and reading from all sides endless rules for the rearing and educating of children, which were continually being superseded by others. This is the way to feed a child: feed it in this way, on such a thing; no, not on such a thing, but in this way; clothes, drinks, baths, putting to bed, walking, fresh air⁠—for all these things we, especially she, heard of new rules every week, just as if children had only begun to be born into the world since yesterday. And if a child that had not been fed or bathed in the right way or at the right time fell ill, it appeared that we were to blame for not having done what we ought.

“That was so while they were well. It was a torment even then. But if one of them happened to fall ill, it was all up: a regular hell! It is supposed that illness can be cured and that there is a science about it, and people⁠—doctors⁠—who know about it. Ah, but not all of them know⁠—only the very best. When a child is ill one must get hold of the very best one, the one who saves, and then the child is saved; but if you don’t get that doctor, or if you don’t live in the place where that doctor lives, the child is lost. This was not a creed peculiar to her, it is the creed of all the women of our class, and she heard nothing else from all sides. Catherine Semënovna lost two children because Iván Zakhárych was not called in in time, but Iván Zakhárych saved Mary Ivánovna’s eldest girl, and the Petróvs moved in time to various hotels by the doctor’s advice, and the children remained alive; but if they had not been segregated the children would have died. Another who had a delicate child moved south by the doctor’s advice and saved the child. How can she help being tortured and agitated all the time, when the lives of the children for whom she has an animal attachment depend on her finding out in time that what Iván Zakhárych will say! But what Iván Zakhárych will say nobody knows, and he himself least of all, for he is well aware that he knows nothing and therefore cannot be of any use, but just shuffles about at random so that people should not cease to believe that he knows something or other. You see, had she been wholly an animal she would not have suffered so, and if she had been quite a human being she would have had faith in God and would have said and thought, as a believer does: ‘The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. One can’t escape from God.’

“Our whole life with the children, for my wife and consequently for me, was not a joy but a torment. How could she help torturing herself? She tortured herself incessantly. Sometimes when we had just made peace after some scene of jealousy, or simply after a quarrel, and thought we should be able to live, to read, and to think a little, we had no sooner settled down to some occupation than the news came that Vásya was being sick, or Másha showed symptoms of dysentery, or Andrúsha had a rash, and there was an end to peace, it was not life anymore. Where was one to drive to? For what doctor? How isolate the child? And then it’s a case of enemas, temperatures, medicines, and doctors. Hardly is that over before something else begins. We had no regular settled family life but only, as I have already said, continual escapes from imaginary and real dangers. It is like that in most families nowadays, you know, but in my family it was especially acute. My wife was a child-loving and a credulous woman.

“So the presence of children not only failed to improve our life but poisoned it. Besides, the children were a new cause of dissension. As soon as we had children they became the means and the object of our discord, and more often the older they grew. They were not only the object of discord but the weapons of our strife. We used our children, as it were, to fight one another with. Each of us had a favourite weapon among them for our strife. I used to fight her chiefly through Vásya, the eldest boy, and she me through Lisa. Besides that, as they grew older and their characters became defined, it came about that they grew into allies whom each of us tried to draw to his or her side. They, poor things, suffered terribly from this, but we, with our incessant warfare, had no time to think of that. The girl was my ally, and the eldest boy, who resembled his mother and was her favourite, was often hateful to me.”


“Well, and so we lived. Our relations to one another grew more and more hostile and at last reached a stage where it was not disagreement that caused hostility but hostility that caused disagreement. Whatever she might say I disagreed with beforehand, and it was just the same with her.

“In the fourth year we both, it seemed, came to the conclusion that we could not understand one another. We no longer tried to bring any dispute to a conclusion. We invariably kept to our own opinions even about the most trivial questions, but especially about the children. As I now recall them the views I maintained were not at all so dear to me that I could not have given them up; but she was of the opposite opinion and to yield meant yielding to her, and that I could not do. It was the same with her. She probably considered herself quite in the right towards me, and as for me I always thought myself a saint towards her. When we were alone together we were doomed almost to silence, or to conversations such as I am convinced animals can carry on with one another: ‘What is the time? Time to go to bed. What is today’s dinner? Where shall we go? What is there in the papers? Send for the doctor; Másha has a sore throat.’ We only needed to go a hairsbreadth beyond this impossibly limited circle of conversation for irritation to flare up. We had collisions and acrimonious words about the coffee, a tablecloth, a trap, a lead at bridge,284 all of them things that could not be of any importance to either of us. In me at any rate there often raged a terrible hatred of her. Sometimes I watched her pouring out tea, swinging her leg, lifting a spoon to her mouth, smacking her lips and drawing in some liquid, and I hated her for these things as though they were the worst possible actions. I did not then notice that the periods of anger corresponded quite regularly and exactly to the periods of what we called love. A period of love⁠—then a period of animosity; an energetic period of love, then a long period of animosity; a weaker manifestation of love, and a shorter period of animosity. We did not then understand that this love and animosity were one and the same animal feeling only at opposite poles. To live like that would have been awful had we understood our position; but we neither understood nor saw it. Both salvation and punishment for man lie in the fact that if he lives wrongly he can befog himself so as not to see the misery of his position. And this we did. She tried to forget herself in intense and always hurried occupation with household affairs, busying herself with the arrangements of the house, her own and the children’s clothes, their lessons, and their health; while I had my own occupations: wine, my office duties, shooting, and cards. We were both continually occupied, and we both felt that the busier we were the nastier we might be to each other. ‘It’s all very well for you to grimace,’ I thought, ‘but you have harassed me all night with your scenes, and I have a meeting on.’ ‘It’s all very well for you,’ she not only thought but said, ‘but I have been awake all night with the baby.’ Those new theories of hypnotism, psychic diseases, and hysterics are not a simple folly, but a dangerous and repulsive one. Charcot would certainly have said that my wife was hysterical, and that I was abnormal, and he would no doubt have tried to cure me. But there was nothing to cure.

“Thus we lived in a perpetual fog, not seeing the condition we were in. And if what did happen had not happened, I should have gone on living so to old age and should have thought, when dying, that I had led a good life. I should not have realized the abyss of misery and horrible falsehood in which I wallowed.

“We were like two convicts hating each other and chained together, poisoning one another’s lives and trying not to see it. I did not then know that ninety-nine percent of married people live in a similar hell to the one I was in and that it cannot be otherwise. I did not then know this either about others or about myself.

“It is strange what coincidences there are in regular, or even in irregular, lives! Just when the parents find life together unendurable, it becomes necessary to move to town for the children’s education.”

He stopped, and once or twice gave vent to his strange sounds, which were now quite like suppressed sobs. We were approaching a station.

“What is the time?” he asked.

I looked at my watch. It was two o’clock.

“You are not tired?” he asked.

“No, but you are?”

“I am suffocating. Excuse me, I will walk up and down and drink some water.”

He went unsteadily through the carriage. I remained alone thinking over what he had said, and I was so engrossed in thought that I did not notice when he re-entered by the door at the other end of the carriage.


“Yes, I keep diverging,” he began. “I have thought much over it. I now see many things differently and I want to express it.

“Well, so we lived in town. In town a man can live for a hundred years without noticing that he has long been dead and has rotted away. He has no time to take account of himself, he is always occupied. Business affairs, social intercourse, health, art, the children’s health and their education. Now one has to receive so-and-so and so-and-so, go to see so-and-so and so-and-so; now one has to go and look at this, and hear this man or that woman. In town, you know, there are at any given moment one or two, or even three celebrities whom one must on no account miss seeing. Then one has to undergo a treatment oneself or get someone else attended to, then there are teachers, tutors, and governesses, but one’s own life is quite empty. Well, so we lived and felt less the painfulness of living together. Besides at first we had splendid occupations, arranging things in a new place, in new quarters; and we were also occupied in going from the town to the country and back to town again.

“We lived so through one winter, and the next there occurred, unnoticed by anyone, an apparently unimportant thing, but the cause of all that happened later.

“She was not well and the doctors told her not to have children, and taught her how to avoid it. To me it was disgusting. I struggled against it, but she with frivolous obstinacy insisted on having her own way and I submitted. The last excuse for our swinish life⁠—children⁠—was then taken away, and life became viler than ever.

“To a peasant, a labouring man, children are necessary; though it is hard for him to feed them, still he needs them, and therefore his marital relations have a justification. But to us who have children, more children are unnecessary; they are an additional care and expense, a further division of property, and a burden. So our swinish life has no justification. We either artificially deprive ourselves of children or regard them as a misfortune, the consequences of carelessness, and that is still worse.

“We have no justification. But we have fallen morally so low that we do not even feel the need of any justification.

“The majority of the present educated world devote themselves to this kind of debauchery without the least qualm of conscience.

“There is indeed nothing that can feel qualms, for conscience in our society is nonexistent, unless one can call public opinion and the criminal law a ‘conscience.’ In this case neither the one nor the other is infringed: there is no reason to be ashamed of public opinion for everybody acts in the same way⁠—Mary Pávlovna, Iván Zakhárych, and the rest. Why breed paupers or deprive oneself of the possibility of social life? There is no need to fear or be ashamed in face of the criminal law either. Those shameless hussies, or soldiers’ wives, throw their babies into ponds or wells, and they of course must be put into prison, but we do it all at the proper time and in a clean way.

“We lived like that for another two years. The means employed by those scoundrel-doctors evidently began to bear fruit; she became physically stouter and handsomer, like the late beauty of summer’s end. She felt this and paid attention to her appearance. She developed a provocative kind of beauty which made people restless. She was in the full vigour of a well fed and excited woman of thirty who is not bearing children. Her appearance disturbed people. When she passed men she attracted their notice. She was like a fresh, well fed harnessed horse, whose bridle has been removed. There was no bridle, as is the case with ninety-nine hundredths of our women. And I felt this⁠—and was frightened.”


He suddenly rose and sat down close to the window.

“Pardon me,” he muttered and, with his eyes fixed on the window, he remained silent for about three minutes. Then he sighed deeply and moved back to the seat opposite mine. His face was quite changed, his eyes looked pathetic, and his lips puckered strangely, almost as if he were smiling. “I am rather tired but I will go on with it. We have still plenty of time, it is not dawn yet. Ah, yes,” he began after lighting a cigarette, “She grew plumper after she stopped having babies, and her malady⁠—that everlasting worry about the children⁠—began to pass⁠ ⁠… at least not actually to pass, but she was it were woke up from an intoxication, came to herself, and saw that there was a whole divine world with its joys which she had forgotten, but a divine world she did not know how to live in and did not at all understand. ‘I must not miss it! Time is passing and won’t come back!’ So, I imagine, she thought, or rather felt, nor could she have thought or felt differently: she had been brought up in the belief that there was only one thing in the world worthy of attention⁠—love. She had married and received something of that love, but not nearly what had been promised and was expected. Even that had been accompanied by many disappointments and sufferings, and then this unexpected torment: so many children! The torments exhausted her. And then, thanks to the obliging doctors, she learned that it is possible to avoid having children. She was very glad, tried it, and became alive again for the one thing she knew⁠—for love. But love with a husband befouled by jealousy and all kinds of anger, was not longer the thing she wanted. She had visions of some other, clean, new love; at least I thought she had. And she began to look about her as if expecting something. I saw this and could not help feeling anxious. It happened again and again that while talking to me, as usual through other people⁠—that is, telling a third person what she meant for me⁠—she boldly, without remembering that she had expressed the opposite opinion an hour before, declared, though half-jokingly, that a mother’s cares are a fraud, and that it is not worthwhile to devote one’s life to children when one is young and can enjoy life. She gave less attention to the children, and less frenziedly than before, but gave more and more attention to herself, to her appearance (though she tried to conceal this), and to her pleasures, even to her accomplishments. She again enthusiastically took to the piano which she had quite abandoned, and it all began from that.”

He turned his weary eyes to the window again but, evidently making an effort, immediately continued once more.

“Yes, that man made his appearance⁠ ⁠…” he became confused and once or twice made that peculiar sound with his nose.

I could see that it was painful for him to name that man, to recall him, or speak about him. But he made an effort and, as if he had broken the obstacle that hindered him, continued resolutely.

“He was a worthless man in my opinion and according to my estimate. And not because of the significance he acquired in my life but because he really was so. However, the fact that he was a poor sort of fellow only served to show how irresponsible she was. If it had not been he then it would have been another. It had to be!”

Again he paused. “Yes, he was a musician, a violinist; not a professional, but a semiprofessional semi-society man.

“His father, a landowner, was a neighbor of my father’s. He had been ruined, and his children⁠—there were three boys⁠—had obtained settled positions; only this one, the youngest, had been handed over to his godmother in Paris. There he was sent to the Conservatoire because he had a talent for music, and he came out as a violinist and played at concerts. He was a man⁠ ⁠…” Having evidently intended to say something bad about him, Pózdnyshev restrained himself and rapidly said: “Well, I don’t really know how he lived, I only know that he returned to Russia that year and appeared in my house.

“With moist almond-shaped eyes, red smiling lips, a small waxed moustache, hair done in the latest fashion, and an insipidly pretty face, he was what women call “not bad looking.” His figure was weak though not misshapen, and he had a specially developed posterior, like a woman’s, or such as Hottentots are said to have. They too are reported to be musical. Pushing himself as far as possible into familiarity, but sensitive and always ready to yield at the slightest resistance, he maintained his dignity in externals, wore buttoned boots of a special Parisian fashion, bright-coloured ties, and other things foreigners acquire in Paris, which by their noticeable novelty always attract women. There was an affected external gaiety in his manner. That manner, you know, of speaking about everything in allusions and unfinished sentences, as if you knew it all, remembered it, and could complete it yourself.

“It was he with his music who was the cause of it all. You know at the trial the case was put as if it was all caused by jealousy. No such thing; that is, I don’t mean ‘no such thing,’ it was and yet it was not. At the trial it was decided that I was a wronged husband and that I had killed her while defending my outraged honour (that is the phrase they employ, you know). That is why I was acquitted. I tried to explain matters at the trial but they took it that I was trying to rehabilitate my wife’s honour.

“What my wife’s relations with that musician may have been has no meaning for me, or for her either. What has a meaning is what I have told you about⁠—my swinishness. The whole thing was an outcome of the terrible abyss between us of which I have told you⁠—that dreadful tension of mutual hatred which made the first excuse sufficient to produce a crisis. The quarrels between us had for some time past become frightful, and were all the more startling because they alternated with similarly intense animal passion.

“If he had not appeared there would have been someone else. If the occasion had not been jealousy it would have been something else. I maintain that all husbands who live as I did, must either live dissolutely, separate, or kill themselves or their wives as I have done. If there is anybody who has not done so, he is a rare exception. Before I ended as I did, I had several times been on the verge of suicide, and she too had repeatedly tried to poison herself.”


“Well, that is how things were going not long before it happened. We seemed to be living in a state of truce and had no reason to infringe it. Then we chanced to speak about a dog which I said had been awarded a medal at an exhibition. She remarked, ‘Not a medal, but an honourable mention.’ A dispute ensues. We jump from one subject to another, reproach one another, ‘Oh, that’s nothing new, it’s always been like that.’ ‘You said⁠ ⁠…’ ‘No, I didn’t say so.’ ‘Then I am telling lies!⁠ ⁠…’ You feel that at any moment that dreadful quarrelling which makes you wish to kill yourself or her will begin. You know it will begin immediately, and fear it like fire and therefore wish to restrain yourself, but your whole being is seized with fury. She being in the same or even a worse condition purposely misinterprets every word you say, giving it a wrong meaning. Her every word is venomous; where she alone knows that I am most sensitive, she stabs. It gets worse and worse. I shout: ‘Be quiet!’ or something of that kind.

“She rushes out of the room and into the nursery. I try to hold her back in order to finish what I was saying, to prove my point, and I seize her by the arm. She pretends that I have hurt her and screams: ‘Children, your father is striking me!’ I shout: ‘Don’t lie!’ ‘But it’s not the first time!’ she screams, or something like that. The children rush to her. She calms them down. I say, ‘Don’t sham!’ She says, ‘Everything is sham in your eyes, you would kill anyone and say they were shamming. Now I have understood you. That’s just what you want!’ ‘Oh, I wish you were dead as a dog!’ I shout. I remember how those dreadful words horrified me. I never thought I could utter such dreadful, coarse words, and am surprised that they escaped me. I shout them and rush away into my study and sit down and smoke. I hear her go out into the hall preparing to go away. I ask, ‘Where are you going to?’ She does not reply. ‘Well, devil take her,’ I say to myself, and go back to my study and lie down and smoke. A thousand different plans of how to revenge myself on her and get rid of her, and how to improve matters and go on as if nothing had happened, come into my head. I think all that and go on smoking and smoking. I think of running away from her, hiding myself, going to America. I get as far as dreaming of how I shall get rid of her, how splendid that will be, and how I shall unite with another woman⁠—quite different. I shall get rid of her either by her dying or by a divorce, and I plan how it is to be done. I notice that I am getting confused and not thinking of what is necessary, and to prevent myself from perceiving that my thoughts are not to the point I go on smoking.

“Life in the house goes on. The governess comes in and asks: ‘Where is madame? When will she be back?’ The footman asks whether he is to serve tea. I go to the dining room. The children, especially Lisa who already understands, gaze inquiringly and disapprovingly at me. We drink tea in silence. She has still not come back. The evening passes, she has not returned, and two different feelings alternate within me. Anger because she torments me and all the children by her absence which will end by her returning; and fear that she will not return but will do something to herself. I would go to fetch her, but where am I to look for her? At her sister’s? But it would be so stupid to go and ask. And it’s all the better: if she is bent on tormenting someone, let her torment herself. Besides, that is what she is waiting for; and next time it would be worse still. But suppose she is not with her sister but is doing something to herself, or has already done it! It’s past ten, past eleven! I don’t go to the bedroom⁠—it would be stupid to lie there alone waiting⁠—but I’ll not lie down here either. I wish to occupy my mind, to write a letter or to read, but I can’t do anything. I sit alone in my study, tortured, angry, and listening. It’s three o’clock, four o’clock, and she is not back. Towards morning I fall asleep. I wake up, she has still not come!

“Everything in the house goes on in the usual way, but all are perplexed and look at me inquiringly and reproachfully, considering me to be the cause of it all. And in me the same struggle still continues: anger that she is torturing me, and anxiety for her.

“At about eleven in the morning her sister arrives as her envoy. And the usual talk begins. ‘She is in a terrible state. What does it all mean?’ ‘After all, nothing has happened.’ I speak of her impossible character and say that I have not done anything.

“ ‘But, you know, it can’t go on like this,’ says her sister.

“ ‘It’s all her doing and not mine,’ I say. ‘I won’t take the first step. If it means separation, let it be separation.’

“My sister-in-law goes away having achieved nothing. I had boldly said that I would not take the first step; but after her departure, when I came out of my study and saw the children piteous and frightened, I was prepared to take the first step. I should be glad to do it, but I don’t know how. Again I pace up and down and smoke; at lunch I drink vodka and wine and attain what I unconsciously desire⁠—I no longer see the stupidity and humiliation of my position.

“At about three she comes. When she meets me she does not speak. I imagine that she has submitted, and begin to say that I had been provoked by her reproaches. She, with the same stern expression on her terribly harassed face, says that she has not come for explanations but to fetch the children, because we cannot live together. I begin telling her that the fault is not mine and that she provoked me beyond endurance. She looks severely and solemnly at me and says: ‘Do not say any more, you will repent it.’ I tell her that I cannot stand comedies. Then she cries out something I don’t catch, and rushes into her room. The key clicks behind her⁠—she has locked herself in. I try the door, but getting no answer, go away angrily. Half-an-hour later Lisa runs in crying. ‘What is it? Has anything happened?’ ‘We can’t hear mama.’ We go. I pull at the double doors with all my might. The bolt had not been firmly secured, and the two halves both open. I approach the bed, on which she is lying awkwardly in her petticoats and with a pair of high boots on. An empty opium bottle is on the table. She is brought to herself. Tears follow, and a reconciliation. No, not a reconciliation: in the heart of each there is still the old animosity, with the additional irritation produced by the pain of this quarrel which each attributes to the other. But one must of course finish it all somehow, and life goes on in the old way. And so the same kind of quarrel, and even worse ones, occurred continually: once a week, once a month, or at times every day. It was always the same. Once I had already procured a passport to go abroad⁠—the quarrel had continued for two days. But there was again a partial explanation, a partial reconciliation, and I did not go.


“So those were our relations when that man appeared. He arrived in Moscow⁠—his name is Trukhachévski⁠—and came to my house. It was in the morning. I received him. We had once been on familiar terms and he tried to maintain a familiar tone by using noncommittal expressions, but I definitely adopted a conventional tone and he at once submitted to it. I disliked him from the first glance. But curiously enough a strange and fatal force led me not to repulse him, not to keep him away, but on the contrary to invite him to the house. After all, what could have been simpler than to converse with him coldly, and say goodbye without introducing him to my wife? But no, as if purposely, I began talking about his playing, and said I had been told he had given up the violin. He replied that, on the contrary, he now played more than ever. He referred to the fact that there had been a time when I myself played. I said I had given it up but that my wife played well. It is an astonishing thing that from the first day, from the first hour of my meeting him, my relations with him were such as they might have been only after all that subsequently happened. There was something strained in them: I noticed every word, every expression he or I used, and attributed importance to them.

“I introduced him to my wife. The conversation immediately turned to music, and he offered to be of use to her by playing with her. My wife was, as usual of late, very elegant, attractive, and disquietingly beautiful. He evidently pleased her at first sight. Besides she was glad that she would have someone to accompany her on a violin, which she was so fond of that she used to engage a violinist from the theatre for the purpose; and her face reflected her pleasure. But catching sight of me she at once understood my feeling and changed her expression, and a game of mutual deception began. I smiled pleasantly to appear as if I liked it. He, looking at my wife as all immoral men look at pretty women, pretended that he was only interested in the subject of the conversation⁠—which no longer interested him at all; while she tried to seem indifferent, though my false smile of jealousy with which she was familiar, and his lustful gaze, evidently excited her. I saw that from their first encounter her eyes were particularly bright and, probably as a result of my jealousy, it seemed as if an electric current had been established between them, evoking as it were an identity of expressions, looks, and smiles. She blushed and he blushed. She smiled and he smiled. We spoke about music, Paris, and all sorts of trifles. Then he rose to go, and stood smilingly, holding his hat against his twitching thigh and looking now at her and now at me, as if in expectation of what we would do. I remember that instant just because at that moment I might not have invited him, and then nothing would have happened. But I glanced at him and at her and said silently to myself, ‘Don’t suppose that I am jealous, or that I am afraid of you,’ I added mentally addressing him, and I invited him to come some evening and bring his violin to play with my wife. She glanced at me with surprise, flushed, and as if frightened began to decline, saying that she did not play well enough. This refusal irritated me still more, and I insisted the more on his coming. I remember the curious feeling with which I looked at the back of his head, with the black hair parted in the middle contrasting with the white nape of his neck, as he went out with his peculiar springing gait suggestive of some kind of a bird. I could not conceal from myself that that man’s presence tormented me. ‘It depends on me,’ I reflected, ‘to act so as to see nothing more of him. But that would be to admit that I am afraid of him. No, I am not afraid of him; it would be too humiliating,’ I said to myself. And there in the anteroom, knowing that my wife heard me, I insisted that he should come that evening with his violin. He promised to do so, and left.

“In the evening he brought his violin and they played. But it took a long time to arrange matters⁠—they had not the music they wanted, and my wife could not without preparation play what they had. I was very fond of music and sympathized with their playing, arranging a music stand for him and turning over the pages. They played a few things, some songs without words, and a little sonata by Mozart. They played splendidly, and he had an exceptionally fine tone. Besides that, he had a refined and elevated taste not at all in correspondence with his character.

“He was of course a much better player than my wife, and he helped her, while at the same time politely praising her playing. He behaved himself very well. My wife seemed interested only in music and was very simple and natural. But though I pretended to be interested in the music I was tormented by jealousy all the evening.

“From the first moment his eyes met my wife’s I saw that the animal in each of them, regardless of all conditions of their position and of society, asked, ‘May I?’ and answered, ‘Oh yes, certainly.’ I saw that he had not at all expected to find my wife, a Moscow lady, so attractive, and that he was very pleased. For he had no doubt whatever that she was willing. The only crux was whether that unendurable husband could hinder them. Had I been pure I should not have understood this, but, like the majority of men, I had myself regarded women in that way before I married and therefore could read his mind like a manuscript. I was particularly tormented because I saw without doubt that she had no other feeling towards me than a continual irritation only occasionally interrupted by the habitual sensuality; but that this man⁠—by his external refinement and novelty and still more by his undoubtedly great talent for music, by the nearness that comes of playing together, and by the influence music, especially the violin, exercises on impressionable natures⁠—was sure not only to please but certainly and without the least hesitation to conquer, crush, bind her, twist her round his little finger and do whatever he like with her. I could not help seeing this and I suffered terribly. But for all that, or perhaps on account of it, some force obliged me against my will to be not merely polite but amiable to him. Whether I did it for my wife or for him, to show that I was not afraid of him, or whether I did it to deceive myself⁠—I don’t know, but I know that from the first I could not behave naturally with him. In order not to yield to my wish to kill him there and then, I had to make much of him. I gave him expensive wines at supper, went into raptures over his playing, spoke to him with a particularly amiable smile, and invited him to dine and play with my wife again the next Sunday. I told him I would ask a few friends who were fond of music to hear him. And so it ended.”

Greatly agitated, Pózdnyshev changed his position and emitted his peculiar sound.

“It is strange how the presence of that man acted on me,” he began again, with an evident effort to keep calm. “I come home from the Exhibition a day or two later, enter the anteroom, and suddenly feel something heavy, as if a stone had fallen on my heart, and I cannot understand what it is. It was that passing through the anteroom I noticed something which reminded me of him. I realized what it was only in my study, and went back to the anteroom to make sure. Yes, I was not mistaken, there was his overcoat. A fashionable coat, you know. (Though I did not realize it, I observed everything connected with him with extraordinary attention.) I inquire: sure enough he is there. I pass on to the dancing room, not through the drawing room but through the schoolroom. My daughter, Lisa, sits reading a book and the nurse sits with the youngest boy at the table, making a lid of some kind spin round. The door to the dancing room is shut but I hear the sound of a rhythmic arpeggio and his and her voices. I listen, but cannot make out anything.

“Evidently the sound of the piano is purposely made to drown the sound of their voices, their kisses⁠ ⁠… perhaps. My God! What was aroused in me! Even to think of the beast that then lived in me fills me with horror! My heart suddenly contracted, stopped, and then began to beat like a hammer. My chief feeling, a usual whenever I was enraged, was one of self pity. ‘In the presence of the children! of their nurse!’ thought I. Probably I looked awful, for Lisa gazed at me with strange eyes. ‘What am I to do?’ I asked myself. ‘Go in? I can’t: heaven only knows what I should do. But neither can I go away.’ The nurse looked at me as if she understood my position. ‘But it is impossible not to go in,’ I said to myself, and I quickly opened the door. He was sitting at the piano playing those arpeggios with his large white upturned fingers. She was standing in the curve of the piano, bending over some open music. She was the first to see or hear, and glanced at me. Whether she was frightened and pretended not to be, or whether she was really not frightened, anyway she did not start or move but only blushed, and that not at once.

“ ‘How glad I am that you have come: we have not decided what to play on Sunday,’ she said in a tone she would not have used to me had we been alone. This and her using the word ‘we’ of herself and him, filled me with indignation. I greeted him silently.

“He pressed my hand, and at once, with a smile which I thought distinctly ironic, began to explain that he had brought some music to practise for Sunday, but that they disagreed about what to play: a classical but more difficult piece, namely Beethoven’s sonata for the violin, or a few little pieces. It was all so simple and natural that there was nothing one could cavil at, yet I felt certain that it was all untrue and that they had agreed how to deceive me.

“One of the most distressing conditions of life for a jealous man (and everyone is jealous in our world) are certain society conventions which allow a man and a woman the greatest and most dangerous proximity. You would become a laughingstock to others if you tried to prevent such nearness at balls, or the nearness of doctors to their women patients, or of people occupied with art, sculpture, and especially music. A couple are occupied with the noblest of arts, music; this demands a certain nearness, and there is nothing reprehensible in that and only a stupid jealous husband can see anything undesirable in it. Yet everybody knows that it is by means of those very pursuits, especially of music, that the greater part of the adulteries in our society occur. I evidently confused them by the confusion I betrayed: for a long time I could not speak. I was like a bottle held upside down from which the water does not flow because it is too full. I wanted to abuse him and to turn him out, but again felt that I must treat him courteously and amiably. And I did so. I acted as though I approved of it all, and again because of the strange feeling which made me behave to him the more amiably the more his presence distressed me, I told him that I trusted his taste and advised her to do the same. He stayed as long as was necessary to efface the unpleasant impression caused by my sudden entrance⁠—looking frightened and remaining silent⁠—and then left, pretending that it was now decided what to play next day. I was however fully convinced that compared to what interested them the question of what to play was quite indifferent.

“I saw him out to the anteroom with special politeness. (How could one do less than accompany a man who had come to disturb the peace and destroy the happiness of a whole family?) And I pressed his soft white hand with particular warmth.”


“I did not speak to her all that day⁠—I could not. Nearness to her aroused in me such hatred of her that I was afraid of myself. At dinner in the presence of the children she asked me when I was going away. I had to go next week to the District Meetings of the Zemstvo. I told her the date. She asked whether I did not want anything for the journey. I did not answer but sat silent at table and then went in silence to my study. Latterly she used never to come to my room especially not at that time of day. I lay in my study filled with anger. Suddenly I heard her familiar step, and the terrible, monstrous idea entered my head that she, like Uriah’s wife, wished to conceal the sin she had already committed and that was why she was coming to me at such an unusual time. ‘Can she be coming to me?’ thought I, listening to her approaching footsteps. ‘If she is coming here, then I am right,’ and an expressible hatred of her took possession of me. Nearer and nearer came the steps. Is it possible that she won’t pass on to the dancing room? No, the door creaks and in the doorway appears her tall handsome figure, on her face and in her eyes a timid ingratiating look which she tries to hide, but which I see and the meaning of which I know. I almost choked, so long did I hold my breath, and still looking at her I grasped my cigarette case and began to smoke.

“ ‘Now how can you? One comes to sit with you for a bit, and you begin smoking’⁠—and she sat down close to me on the sofa, leaning against me. I moved away so as not to touch her.

“ ‘I see you are dissatisfied at my wanting to play on Sunday,’ she said.

“ ‘I am not at all dissatisfied,’ I said.

“ ‘As if I don’t see!’

“ ‘Well, I congratulate you on seeing. But I only see that you behave like a coquette.⁠ ⁠… You always find pleasure in all kinds of vileness, but to me it is terrible!’

“ ‘Oh, well, if you are going to scold like a cabman I’ll go away.’

“ ‘Go, but remember that if you don’t value the family honour, I value not you (devil take you) but the honour of the family!’

“ ‘But what is the matter? What?’

“ ‘Go away, for God’s sake be off!’

“Whether she pretended not to understand what it was about or really did not understand, at any rate she took offence, grew angry, and did not go away but stood in the middle of the room.

“ ‘You have really become impossible,’ she began. ‘You have a character that even an angel could not put up with.’ And as usual trying to sting me as painfully as possible, she reminded me of my conduct to my sister (an incident when, being exasperated, I said rude things to my sister); she knew I was distressed about it and she stung me just on that spot. ‘After that, nothing from you will surprise me,’ she said.

“ ‘Yes! Insult me, humiliate me, disgrace me, and then put the blame on me,’ I said to myself, and suddenly I was seized by such terrible rage as I had never before experienced.

“For the first time I wished to give physical expression to that rage. I jumped up and went towards her; but just as I jumped up I remembered becoming conscious of my rage and asking myself: ‘Is it right to give way to this feeling?’ and at once I answered that it was right, that it would frighten her, and instead of restraining my fury, I immediately began inflaming it still further, and was glad it burnt yet more fiercely within me.

“ ‘Be off, or I’ll kill you!’ I shouted, going up to her and seizing her by the arm. I consciously intensified the anger in my voice as I said this. And I suppose I was terrible for she was so frightened that she had not even the strength to go away, but only said: ‘Vásya, what is it? What is the matter with you?’

“ ‘Go!’ I roared louder still. ‘No one but you can drive me to fury. I do not answer for myself!’

“Having given reins to my rage, I revelled in it and wished to do something still more unusual to show the extreme degree of my anger. I felt a terrible desire to beat her, to kill her, but knew that this would not do, and so to give vent to my fury I seized a paperweight from my table, again shouting ‘Go!’ and hurled it to the floor near her. I aimed it very exactly past her. Then she left the room, but stopped at the doorway, and immediately, while she still saw it (I did it so that she might see), I began snatching things from the table⁠—candlesticks and inkstand⁠—and hurling them on the floor still shouting ‘Go! Get out! I don’t answer for myself!’ She went away⁠—and I immediately stopped.

“An hour later the nurse came to tell me that my wife was in hysterics. I went to her; she sobbed, laughed, could not speak, and her whole body was convulsed. She was not pretending, but was really ill.

“Towards morning she grew quiet, and we made peace under the influence of the feeling we called love.

“In the morning when, after our reconciliation, I confessed to her that I was jealous of Trukhachévski, she was not at all confused, but laughed most naturally; so strange did the very possibility of an infatuation for such a man seem to her, she said.

“ ‘Could a decent woman have any other feeling for such a man than the pleasure of his music? Why, if you like I am ready never to see him again⁠ ⁠… not even on Sunday, though everybody has been invited. Write and tell him that I am ill, and there’s an end of it! Only it is unpleasant that anyone, especially he himself, should imagine that he is dangerous. I am too proud to allow anyone to think that of me!’

“And you know, she was not lying, she believed what she was saying; she hoped by those words to evoke in herself contempt for him and so to defend herself from him, but she did not succeed in doing so. Everything was against her, especially that accursed music. So it all ended, and on the Sunday the guests assembled and they again played together.


“I suppose it is hardly necessary to say that I was very vain: if one is not vain there is nothing to live for in our usual way of life. So on that Sunday I arranged the dinner and the musical evening with much care. I bought the provisions myself and invited the guests.

“Towards six the visitors assembled. He came in evening dress with diamond studs that showed bad taste. He behaved in a free and easy manner, answered everything hurriedly with a smile of agreement and understanding, you know, with that peculiar expression which seems to say that all you may do or say is just what he expected. Everything that was not in good taste about him I noticed with particular pleasure, because it ought all to have had the effect of tranquilizing me and showing that he was so far beneath my wife that, as she had said, she could not lower herself to his level. I did not now allow myself to be jealous. In the first place I had worried through that torment and needed rest, and secondly I wanted to believe my wife’s assurances and did believe them. But though I was not jealous I was nevertheless not natural with either of them, and at dinner and during the first half of the evening before the music began I still followed their movements and looks.

“The dinner was, as dinners are, dull and pretentious. The music began pretty early. Oh, how I remember every detail of that evening! I remember how he brought in his violin, unlocked the case, took off the cover a lady had embroidered for him, drew out the violin, and began tuning it. I remember how my wife sat down at the piano with pretended unconcern, under which I saw that she was trying to conceal great timidity⁠—chiefly as to her own ability⁠—and then the usual A on the piano began, the pizzicato of the violin, and the arrangement of the music. Then I remember how they glanced at one another, turned to look at the audience who were seating themselves, said something to one another, and began. He took the first chords. His face grew serious, stern, and sympathetic, and listening to the sounds he produced, he touched the strings with careful fingers. The piano answered him. The music began.⁠ ⁠…”

Pózdnyshev paused and produced his strange sound several times in succession. He tried to speak, but sniffed, and stopped.

“They played Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata,” he continued. “Do you know the first presto? You do?” he cried. “Ugh! Ugh! It is a terrible thing, that sonata. And especially that part. And in general music is a dreadful thing! What is it? I don’t understand it. What is music? What does it do? And why does it do what it does? They say music exalts the soul. Nonsense, it is not true! It has an effect, an awful effect⁠—I am speaking of myself⁠—but not of an exalting kind. It has neither an exalting nor a debasing effect but it produces agitation. How can I put it? Music makes me forget myself, my real position; it transports me to some other position not my own. Under the influence of music it seems to me that I feel what I do not really feel, that I understand what I do not understand, that I can do what I cannot do. I explain it by the fact that music acts like yawning, like laughter: I am not sleepy, but I yawn when I see someone yawning; there is nothing for me to laugh at, but I laugh when I hear people laughing.

“Music carries me immediately and directly into the mental condition in which the man was who composed it. My soul merges with his and together with him I pass from one condition into another, but why this happens I don’t know. You see, he who wrote, let us say, the Kreutzer Sonata⁠—Beethoven⁠—knew of course why he was in that condition; that condition caused him to do certain actions and therefore that condition had a meaning for him, but for me⁠—none at all. That is why music only agitates and doesn’t lead to a conclusion. Well, when a military march is played the soldiers march to the music and the music has achieved its object. A dance is played, I dance and the music has achieved its object. Mass has been sung, I receive Communion, and that music too has reached a conclusion. Otherwise it is only agitating, and what ought to be done in that agitation is lacking. That is why music sometimes acts so dreadfully, so terribly. In China, music is a State affair. And that is as it should be. How can one allow anyone who pleases to hypnotize another, or many others, and do what he likes with them? And especially that this hypnotist should be the first immoral man who turns up?

“It is a terrible instrument in the hands of any chance user! Take that Kreutzer Sonata, for instance, how can that first presto be played in a drawing room among ladies in low-necked dresses? To hear that played, to clap a little, and then to eat ices and talk of the latest scandal? Such things should only be played on certain important significant occasions, and then only when certain actions answering to such music are wanted; play it then and do what the music has moved you to. Otherwise an awakening of energy and feeling unsuited both to the time and the place, to which no outlet is given, cannot but act harmfully. At any rate that piece had a terrible effect on me; it was as if quite new feelings, new possibilities, of which I had till then been unaware, had been revealed to me. ‘That’s how it is: not at all as I used to think and live, but that way,’ something seemed to say within me. What this new thing was that had been revealed to me I could not explain to myself, but the consciousness of this new condition was very joyous. All those same people, including my wife and him, appeared in a new light.

“After that allegro they played the beautiful, but common and unoriginal, andante with trite variations, and the very weak finale. Then, at the request of the visitors, they played Ernst’s Elegy and a few small pieces. They were all good, but they did not produce on me a one-hundredth part of the impression the first piece had. The effect of the first piece formed the background for them all.

“I felt lighthearted and cheerful the whole evening. I had never seen my wife as she was that evening. Those shining eyes, that severe, significant expression while she played, and her melting languor and feeble, pathetic, and blissful smile after they had finished. I saw all that but did not attribute any meaning to it except that she was feeling what I felt, and that to her as to me new feelings, never before experienced, were revealed or, as it were, recalled. The evening ended satisfactorily and the visitors departed.

“Knowing that I had to go away to attend the Zemstvo Meetings two days later, Trukhachévski on leaving said he hoped to repeat the pleasure of that evening when he next came to Moscow. From this I concluded that he did not consider it possible to come to my house during my absence, and this pleased me.

“It turned out that as I should not be back before he left town, we should not see one another again.

“For the first time I pressed his hand with real pleasure, and thanked him for the enjoyment he had given us. In the same way he bade a final farewell to my wife. Their leave-taking seemed to be most natural and proper. Everything was splendid. My wife and I were both very well satisfied with our evening party.


“Two days later I left for the Meetings, parting from my wife in the best and most tranquil of moods.

“In the district there was always an enormous amount to do and a quite special life, a special little world of its own. I spent two ten hour days at the Council. A letter from my wife was brought me on the second day and I read it there and then.

“She wrote about the children, about uncle, about the nurse, about shopping, and among other things she mentioned, as a most natural occurrence, that Trukhachévski had called, brought some music he had promised, and had offered to play again, but that she had refused.

“I did not remember his having promised any music, but thought he had taken leave for good, and I was therefore unpleasantly struck by this. I was however so busy that I had not time to think of it, and it was only in the evening when I had returned to my lodgings that I reread her letter.

“Besides the fact that Trukhachévski had called at my house during my absence, the whole tone of the letter seemed to me unnatural. The mad beast of jealousy began to growl in its kennel and wanted to leap out, but I was afraid of that beast and quickly fastened him in. ‘What an abominable feeling this jealousy is!’ I said to myself. ‘What could be more natural than what she writes?’

“I went to bed and began thinking about the affairs awaiting me next day. During those Meetings, sleeping in a new place, I usually slept badly, but now I fell asleep very quickly. And as sometimes happens, you know, you feel a kind of electric shock and wake up. So I awoke thinking of her, of my physical love for her, and of Trukhachévski, and of everything being accomplished between them. Horror and rage compressed my heart. But I began to reason with myself. ‘What nonsense!’ said I to myself. ‘There are no grounds to go on, there is nothing and there has been nothing. How can I so degrade her and myself as to imagine such horrors? He is a sort of hired violinist, known as a worthless fellow, and suddenly an honourable woman, the respected mother of a family, my wife.⁠ ⁠… What absurdity!’ So it seemed to me on the one hand. ‘How could it help being so?’ it seemed on the other. ‘How could that simplest and most intelligible thing help happening⁠—that for the sake of which I married her, for the sake of which I have been living with her, what alone I wanted of her, and which others including this musician must therefore also want? He is an unmarried man, healthy (I remember how he crunched the gristle of a cutlet and how greedily his red lips clung to the glass of wine), well fed, plump, and not merely unprincipled but evidently making it a principle to accept the pleasures that present themselves. And they have music, that most exquisite voluptuousness of the senses, as a link between them. What then could make him refrain? She? But who is she? She was, and still is, a mystery. I don’t know her. I only know her as an animal. And nothing can or should restrain an animal.’

“Only then did I remember their faces that evening when, after the Kreutzer Sonata, they played some impassioned little piece, I don’t remember by whom, impassioned to the point of obscenity. ‘How dared I go away?’ I asked myself, remembering their faces. Was it not clear that everything had happened between them that evening? Was it not evident already then that there was not only no barrier between them, but that they both, and she chiefly, felt a certain measure of shame after what had happened? I remember her weak, piteous, and beatific smile as she wiped the perspiration from her flushed face when I came up to the piano. Already then they avoided looking at one another, and only at supper when she was pouring out some water for her, they glanced at each other with the vestige of a smile. I now recalled with horror the glance and scarcely perceptible smile I had then caught. ‘Yes, it is all over,’ said one voice, and immediately the other voice said something entirely different. ‘Something has come over you, it can’t be that it is so,’ said the other voice. It felt uncanny lying in the dark and I struck a light, and felt a kind of terror in that little room with its yellow wallpaper. I lit a cigarette and, as always happens when one’s thought go round and round in a circle of insoluble contradictions, I smoked, taking one cigarette after another in order to befog myself so as not to see those contradictions.

“I did not sleep all night, and at five in the morning, having decided that I could not continue in such a state of tension, I rose, woke the caretaker who attended me and sent him to get horses. I sent a note to the Council saying that I had been recalled to Moscow on urgent business and asking that one of the members should take my place. At eight o’clock I got into my trap and started.”


The conductor entered and seeing that our candle had burnt down put it out, without supplying a fresh one. The day was dawning. Pózdnyshev was silent, but sighed deeply all the time the conductor was in the carriage. He continued his story only after the conductor had gone out, and in the semidarkness of the carriage only the rattle of the windows of the moving carriage and the rhythmic snoring of the clerk could be heard. In the half-light of dawn I could not see Posdnyshev’s face at all, but only heard his voice becoming ever more and more excited and full of suffering.

“I had to travel twenty-four miles by road and eight hours by rail. It was splendid driving. It was frosty autumn weather, bright and sunny. The roads were in that condition when the tyres leave their dark imprint on them, you know. They were smooth, the light brilliant and the air invigorating. It was pleasant driving in the tarantass. When it grew lighter and I had started I felt easier. Looking at the houses, the fields, and the passersby, I forgot where I was going. Sometimes I felt that I was simply taking a drive, and that nothing of what was calling me back had taken place. This oblivion was peculiarly enjoyable. When I remembered where I was going to, I said to myself, ‘We shall see when the time comes; I must not think about it.’ When we were halfway an incident occurred which detained me and still further distracted my thoughts. The tarantass broke down and had to be repaired. That breakdown had a very important effect, for it caused me to arrive in Moscow at midnight, instead of at seven o’clock as I had expected, and to reach home between twelve and one, as I missed the express and had to travel by an ordinary train. Going to fetch a cart, having the tarantass mended, settling up, tea at the inn, a talk with the innkeeper⁠—all this still further diverted my attention. It was twilight before all was ready and I started again. By night it was even pleasanter driving than during the day. There was a new moon, a slight frost, still good roads, good horses, and a jolly driver, and as I went on I enjoyed it, hardly thinking at all of what lay before me; or perhaps I enjoyed it just because I knew what awaited me and was saying goodbye to the joys of life. But that tranquil mood, that ability to suppress my feelings, ended with my drive. As soon as I entered the train something entirely different began. That eight-hour journey in a railway carriage was something dreadful, which I shall never forget all my life. Whether it was that having taken my seat in the carriage I vividly imagined myself as having already arrived, or that railway travelling has such an exciting effect on people, at any rate from the moment I sat down in the train I could no longer control my imagination, and with extraordinary vividness which inflamed my jealousy it painted incessantly, one after another, pictures of what had gone on in my absence, of how she had been false to me. I burnt with indignation, anger, and a peculiar feeling of intoxication with my own humiliation, as I gazed at those pictures, and I could not tear myself away from them; I could not help looking at them, could not efface them, and could not help evoking them.

“That was not all. The more I gazed at those imaginary pictures the stronger grew my belief in their reality. The vividness with which they presented themselves to me seemed to serve as proof that what I imagined was real. It was as if some devil against my will invented and suggested to me the most terrible reflections. An old conversation I had had with Trukhachévski’s brother came to my mind, and in a kind of ecstasy I rent my heart with that conversation, making it refer to Trukhachévski and my wife.

“That had occurred long before, but I recalled it. Turkhachevski’s brother, I remember, in reply to a question whether he frequented houses of ill fame, had said that a decent man would not go to placed where there was danger of infection and it was dirty and nasty, since he could always find a decent woman. And now his brother had found my wife! ‘True, she is not in her first youth, has lost a side tooth, and there is a slight puffiness about her; but it can’t be helped, one has to take advantage of what one can get,’ I imagined him to be thinking. ‘Yes, it is condescending of him to take her for his mistress!’ I said to myself. ‘And she is safe.⁠ ⁠… No, it is impossible!’ I thought horror-struck. ‘There is nothing of the kind, nothing! There are not even any grounds for suspecting such things. Didn’t she tell me that the very thought that I could be jealous of him was degrading to her? Yes, but she is lying, she is always lying!’ I exclaimed and everything began anew.⁠ ⁠… There were only two other people in the carriage; an old woman and her husband, both very taciturn, and even they got out at one of the stations and I was quite alone. I was like a caged animal: now I jumped up and went to the window, now I began to walk up and down trying to speed the carriage up; but the carriage with all its seats and windows went jolting on in the same way, just as ours does.⁠ ⁠…”

Pózdnyshev jumped up, took a few steps, and sat down again.

“Oh, I am afraid, afraid of railway carriages, I am seized with horror. Yes, it is awful!” he continued. “I said to myself, ‘I will think of something else. Suppose I think of the innkeeper where I had tea,’ and there in my mind’s eye appears the innkeeper with his long beard and his grandson, a boy of the age of my Vásya! ‘He will see how the musician kisses his mother. What will happen in his poor soul? But what does she care? She loves⁠ ⁠…’ and again the same thing rose up in me. ‘No, no⁠ ⁠… I will think about the inspection of the District Hospital. Oh, yes, about the patient who complained of the doctor yesterday. The doctor has a moustache like Trukhachévski’s. And how impudent he is⁠ ⁠… they both deceived me when he said he was leaving Moscow,’ and it began afresh. Everything I thought of had some connection with them. I suffered dreadfully. The chief cause of the suffering was my ignorance, my doubt, and the contradictions within me: my not knowing whether I ought to love or hate her. My suffering was of a strange kind. I felt a hateful consciousness of my humiliation and of his victory, but a terrible hatred for her. ‘It will not do to put an end to myself and leave her; she must at least suffer to some extent, and at least understand that I have suffered,’ I said to myself. I got out at every station to divert my mind. At one station I saw some people drinking, and I immediately drank some vodka. Beside me stood a Jew who was also drinking. He began to talk, and to avoid being alone in my carriage I went with him into his dirty third class carriage reeking with smoke and bespattered with shells of sunflower seeds. There I sat down beside him and he chattered a great deal and told anecdotes. I listened to him, but could not take in what he was saying because I continued to think about my own affairs. He noticed this and demanded my attention. Then I rose and went back to my carriage. ‘I must think it over,’ I said to myself. ‘Is what I suspect true, and is there any reason for me to suffer?’ I sat down, wishing to think it over calmly, but immediately, instead of calm reflection, the same thing began again: Instead of reflection, pictures and fancies. ‘How often I have suffered like this,’ I said to myself (recalling former similar attacks of jealousy), ‘and afterwards it all ended in nothing. So it will be now perhaps, yes certainly it will. I shall find her calmly asleep, she will wake up, be pleased to see me, and by her words and looks I shall know that there has been nothing and that this is all nonsense. Oh, how good that would be! But no, that has happened too often and won’t happen again now,’ some voice seemed to say; and it began again. Yes, that was where the punishment lay! I wouldn’t take a young man to a lock-hospital to knock the hankering after women out of him, but into my soul, to see the devils that were rending it! What was terrible, you know, was that I considered myself to have a complete right to her body as if it were my own, and yet at the same time I felt I could not control that body, that it was not mine and she could dispose of it as she pleased, and that she wanted to dispose of it not as I wished her to. And I could do nothing either to her or to him. He, like Vánka the Steward,285 could sing a song before the gallows of how he kissed the sugared lips and so forth. And he would triumph. If she has not yet done it but wishes to⁠—and I know that she does wish to⁠—it is still worse; it would be better if she had done it and I knew it, so that there would be an end to this uncertainty. I could not have said what it was I wanted. I wanted her not to desire that which she was bound to desire. It was utter insanity.


“At the last station but one, when the conductor had been to collect the tickets, I gathered my things together and went out onto the brake platform, and the consciousness that the crisis was at hand still further increased my agitation. I felt cold, and my jaw trembled so that my teeth chattered. I automatically left the terminus with the crowd, took a cab, got in, and drove off. I rode looking at the few passersby, the night watchmen, and the shadows of my trap thrown by the street lamps, now in front and now behind me, and did not think of anything. When we had gone about half a mile my feet felt cold, and I remembered that I had taken off my woollen stockings in the train and put them in my satchel. ‘Where is the satchel? Is it here? Yes.’ And my wicker trunk? I remembered that I had entirely forgotten about my luggage, but finding that I had the luggage ticket I decided that it was not worthwhile going back for it, and so continued my way.

“Try now as I will, I cannot recall my state of mind at the time. What did I think? What did I want? I don’t know at all. All I remember is a consciousness that something dreadful and very important in my life was imminent. Whether that important event occurred because I thought it would, or whether I had a presentiment of what was to happen, I don’t know. It may even be that after what has happened all the foregoing moments have acquired a certain gloom in my mind. I drove up to the front porch. It was past midnight. Some cabmen were waiting in front of the porch expecting, from the fact that there were lights in the windows, to get fares. (The lights were in our flat, in the dancing room and drawing room.) Without considering why it was still light in our windows so late, I went upstairs in the same state of expectation of something dreadful, and rang. Egór, a kind, willing, but very stupid footman, opened the door. The first thing my eyes fell on in the hall was a man’s cloak hanging on the stand with other outdoor coats. I ought to have been surprised but was not, for I had expected it. ‘That’s it!’ I said to myself. When I asked Egór who the visitor was and he named Trukhachévski, I inquired whether there was anyone else. He replied, ‘Nobody, sir.’ I remember that he replied in a tone as if he wanted to cheer me and dissipate my doubts of there being anybody else there. ‘So it is, so it is,’ I seemed to be saying to myself. ‘And the children?’ ‘All well, heaven be praised. In bed, long ago.’

“I could not breathe, and could not check the trembling of my jaw. ‘Yes, so it is not as I thought: I used to expect a misfortune but things used to turn out all right and in the usual way. Now it is not as usual, but is all as I pictured to myself. I thought it was only fancy, but here it is, all real. Here it all is⁠ ⁠… !’

“I almost began to sob, but the devil immediately suggested to me: ‘Cry, be sentimental, and they will get away quietly. You will have no proof and will continue to suffer and doubt all your life.’ And my self-pity immediately vanished, and a strange sense of joy arose in me, that my torture would now be over, that now I could punish her, could get rid of her, and could vent my anger. And I gave vent to it⁠—I became a beast, a cruel and cunning beast.

“ ‘Don’t!’ I said to Egór, who was about to go to the drawing room. “Here is my luggage ticket, take a cab as quick as you can and go and get my luggage. Go!’ He went down the passage to fetch his overcoat. Afraid that he might alarm them, I went as far as his little room and waited while he put on his overcoat. From the drawing room, beyond another room, one could hear voices and the clatter of knives and plates. They were eating and had not heard the bell. ‘If only they don’t come out now,’ thought I. Egór put on his overcoat, which had an astrakhan collar, and went out. I locked the door after him and felt creepy when I knew I was alone and must act at once. How, I did not yet know. I only knew that all was now over, that there could be no doubt as to her guilt, and that I should punish her immediately and end my relations with her.

“Previously I had doubted and had thought: ‘Perhaps after all it’s not true, perhaps I am mistaken.’ But now it was so no longer. It was all irrevocably decided. ‘Without my knowledge she is alone with him at night! That is a complete disregard of everything! Or worse still: It is intentional boldness and impudence in crime, that the boldness may serve as a sign of innocence. All is clear. There is no doubt.’ I only feared one thing⁠—their parting hastily, inventing some fresh lie, and thus depriving me of clear evidence and of the possibility of proving the fact. So as to catch them more quickly I went on tiptoe to the dancing room where they were, not through the drawing room but through the passage and nurseries.

“In the first nursery slept the boys. In the second nursery the nurse moved and was about to wake, and I imagined to myself what she would think when she knew all; and such pity for myself seized me at that thought that I could not restrain my tears, and not to wake the children I ran on tiptoe into the passage and on into my study, where I fell sobbing on the sofa.

“ ‘I, an honest man, I, the son of my parent, I, who have all my life dreamt of the happiness of married life; I, a man who was never unfaithful to her.⁠ ⁠… And now! Five children, and she is embracing a musician because he has red lips!

“ ‘No, she is not a human being. She is a bitch, an abominable bitch! In the next room to her children whom she has all her life pretended to love. And writing to me as she did! Throwing herself so barefacedly on his neck! But what do I know? Perhaps she long ago carried on with the footmen, and so got the children who are considered mine!

“ ‘Tomorrow I should have come back and she would have met me with her fine coiffure, with her elegant waist and her indolent, graceful movements’ (I saw all her attractive, hateful face), ‘and that beast of jealousy would forever have sat in my heart lacerating it. What will the nurse think?⁠ ⁠… And Egór? And poor little Lisa! She already understands something. Ah, that imprudence, those lies! And that animal sensuality which I know so well,’ I said to myself.

“I tried to get up but could not. My heart was beating so that I could not stand on my feet. ‘Yes, I shall die of a stroke. She will kill me. That is just what she wants. What is killing to her? But no, that would be too advantageous for her and I will not give her that pleasure. Yes, here I sit while they eat and laugh and⁠ ⁠… Yes, though she was no longer in her first freshness he did not disdain her. For in spite of that she is not bad looking, and above all she is at any rate not dangerous to his precious health. And why did I not throttle her then?’ I said to myself, recalling the moment when, the week before, I drove her out of my study and hurled things about. I vividly recalled the state I had then been in; I not only recalled it, but again felt the need to strike and destroy that I had felt then. I remember how I wished to act, and how all considerations except those necessary for action went out of my head. I entered into that condition when an animal or a man, under the influence of physical excitement at a time of danger, acts with precision and deliberation but without losing a moment and always with a single definite aim in view.

“The first thing I did was to take off my boots and, in my socks, approach the sofa, on the wall above which guns and daggers were hung. I took down a curved Damascus dagger that had never been used and was very sharp. I drew it out of its scabbard. I remember the scabbard fell behind the sofa, and I remember thinking ‘I must find it afterwards or it will get lost.’ Then I took off my overcoat which was still wearing, and stepping softly in my socks I went there.


“Having crept up stealthily to the door, I suddenly opened it. I remember the expression of their faces. I remember that expression because it gave me a painful pleasure⁠—it was an expression of terror. That was just what I wanted. I shall never forget the look of desperate terror that appeared on both their faces the first instant they saw me. He I think was sitting at the table, but on seeing or hearing me he jumped to his feet and stood with his back to the cupboard. His face expressed nothing but quite unmistakable terror. Her face too expressed terror but there was something else besides. If it had expressed only terror, perhaps what happened might not have happened; but on her face there was, or at any rate so it seemed to me at the first moment, also an expression of regret and annoyance that love’s raptures and her happiness with him had been disturbed. It was as if she wanted nothing but that her present happiness should not be interfered with. These expressions remained on their faces but an instant. The look of terror on his changed immediately to one of inquiry; might he, or might he not, begin lying? If he might, he must begin at once; if not, something else would happen. But what?⁠ ⁠… He looked inquiringly at her face. On her face the look of vexation and regret changed as she looked at him (so it seemed to me) to one of solicitude for him.

“For an instant I stood in the doorway holding the dagger behind my back.

“At that moment he smiled, and in a ridiculously indifferent tone remarked: ‘And we have been having some music.’

“ ‘What a surprise!’ she began, falling into his tone. But neither of them finished; the same fury I had experienced the week before overcame me. Again I felt that need of destruction, violence, and a transport of rage, and yielded to it. Neither finished what they were saying. That something else began which he had feared and which immediately destroyed all they were saying. I rushed towards her, still hiding the dagger that he might not prevent my striking her in the side under her breast. I selected that spot from the first. Just as I rushed at her he saw it, and⁠—a thing I never expected of him⁠—seized me by the arm and shouted: ‘Think what you are doing!⁠ ⁠… Help, someone!⁠ ⁠…’

“I snatched my arm away and rushed at him in silence. His eyes met mine and he suddenly grew as pale as a sheet to his very lips. His eyes flashed in a peculiar way, and⁠—what again I had not expected⁠—he darted under the piano and out at the door. I was going to rush after him, but a weight hung on my left arm. It was she. I tried to free myself, but she hung on yet more heavily and would not let me go. This unexpected hindrance, the weight, and her touch which was loathsome to me, inflamed me still more. I felt that I was quite mad and that I must look frightful, and this delighted me. I swung my left arm with all my might, and my elbow hit her straight in the face. She cried out and let go my arm. I wanted to run after him, but remembered that it is ridiculous to run after one’s wife’s lover in one’s socks; and I did not wish to be ridiculous but terrible. In spite of the fearful frenzy I was in, I was all the time aware of the impression I might produce on others, and was even partly guided by that impression. I turned towards her. She fell on the couch, and holding her hand to her bruised eyes, looked at me. Her face showed fear and hatred of me, the enemy, as a rat’s does when one lifts the trap in which it has been caught. At any rate I saw nothing in her expression but this fear and hatred of me. It was just the fear and hatred of me which would be evoked by love for another. But still I might perhaps have restrained myself and not done what I did had she remained silent. But she suddenly began to speak and to catch hold of the hand in which I held the dagger.

“ ‘Come to yourself! What are you doing? What is the matter? There has been nothing, nothing, nothing.⁠ ⁠… I swear it!’

“I might still have hesitated, but those last words of hers, from which I concluded just the opposite⁠—that everything had happened⁠—called forth a reply. And the reply had to correspond to the temper to which I had brought myself, which continued to increase and had to go on increasing. Fury, too, has its laws.

“ ‘Don’t lie, you wretch!’ I howled, and seized her arm with my left hand, but she wrenched herself away. Then, still without letting go of the dagger, I seized her by the throat with my left hand, threw her backwards, and began throttling her. What a firm neck it was⁠ ⁠… ! She seized my hand with both hers trying to pull it away from her throat, and as if I had only waited for that, I struck her with all my might with the dagger in the side below the ribs.

“When people say they don’t remember what they do in a fit of fury, it is rubbish, falsehood. I remembered everything and did not for a moment lose consciousness of what I was doing. The more frenzied I became the more brightly the light of consciousness burnt in me, so that I could not help knowing everything I did. I knew what I was doing every second. I cannot say that I knew beforehand what I was going to do; but I knew what I was doing when I did it, and even I think a little before, as if to make repentance possible and to be able to tell myself that I could stop. I knew I was hitting below the ribs and that the dagger would enter. At the moment I did it I knew I was doing an awful thing such as I had never done before, which would have terrible consequences. But that consciousness passed like a flash of lightning and the deed immediately followed the consciousness. I realized the action with the extraordinary clearness. I felt, and remember, the momentary resistance of her corset and of something else, and then the plunging of the dagger into something soft. She seized the dagger with her hands, and cut them, but could not hold it back.

“For a long time afterwards, in prison when the moral change had taken place in me, I thought of that moment, recalled what I could of it, and considered it. I remembered that for an instant, only an instant, before the action I had a terrible consciousness that I was killing, had killed, a defenceless woman, my wife! I remember the horror of that consciousness and conclude from that, and even dimly remember, that having plunged the dagger in I pulled it out immediately, trying to remedy what had been done and to stop it. I stood for a second motionless waiting to see what would happen, and whether it could be remedied.

“She jumped to her feet and screamed: ‘Nurse! He has killed me.’

“Having heard the noise the nurse was standing by the door. I continued to stand waiting, and not believing the truth. But the blood rushed from under her corset. Only then did I understand that it could not be remedied, and I immediately decided that it was not necessary it should be, that I had done what I wanted and had to do. I waited till she fell down, and the nurse, crying ‘Good God!’ ran to her, and only then did I throw away the dagger and leave the room.

“ ‘I must not be excited; I must know what I am doing,’ I said to myself without looking at her and at the nurse. The nurse was screaming⁠—calling for the maid. I went down the passage, sent the maid, and went into my study. ‘What am I to do now?’ I asked myself, and immediately realized what it must be. On entering the study I went straight to the wall, took down a revolver and examined it⁠—it was loaded⁠—I put it on the table. Then I picked up the scabbard from behind the sofa and sat down there.

“I sat thus for a long time. I did not think of anything or call anything to mind. I heard the sounds of bustling outside. I heard someone drive up, then someone else. Then I heard and saw Egór bring into the room my wicker trunk he had fetched. As if anyone wanted that!

“ ‘Have you heard what has happened?’ I asked. ‘Tell the yard porter to inform the police.’ He did not reply, and went away. I rose, locked the door, got out my cigarettes and matches and began to smoke. I had not finished the cigarette before sleep overpowered me. I must have slept for a couple of hours. I remember dreaming that she and I were friendly together, that we had quarrelled but were making it up, there was something rather in the way, but we were friends. I was awakened by someone knocking at the door. ‘That is the police!’ I thought, waking up. ‘I have committed murder, I think. But perhaps it is she, and nothing has happened.’ There was again a knock at the door. I did not answer, but was trying to solve the question whether it had happened or not. Yet, it had! I remembered the resistance of the corset and the plunging in of the dagger, and a cold shiver ran down my back. ‘Yes, it has. Yes, and now I must do away with myself too,’ I thought. But I thought this knowing that I should not kill myself. Still I got up and took the revolver in my hand. But it is strange: I remember how I had many times been near suicide, how even that day on the railway it had seemed easy, only just because I thought how it would stagger her⁠—now I was not only unable to kill myself but even to think of it. ‘Why should I do it?’ I asked myself, and there was no reply. There was more knocking at the door. ‘First I must find out who is knocking. There will still be time for this.’ I put down the revolver and covered it with a newspaper. I went to the door and unlatched it. It was my wife’s sister, a kindly, stupid widow. ‘Vásya, what is this?’ and her ever ready tears began to flow.

“ ‘What do you want?’ I asked rudely. I knew I ought not to be rude to her and had no reason to be, but I could think of no other tone to adopt.

“ ‘Vásya, she is dying! Iván Zakhárych says so.’ Iván Zakhárych was her doctor and adviser.

“ ‘Is he here?’ I asked, and all my animosity against surged up again. ‘Well, what of it?’

“ ‘Vásya, go to her. Oh, how terrible it is!’ said she.

“ ‘Shall I go to her?’ I asked myself, and immediately decided that I must go to her. Probably it is always done, when a husband has killed his wife, as I had⁠—he must certainly go to her. ‘If that is what is done, then I must go,’ I said to myself. ‘If necessary I shall always have time,’ I reflected, referring to the shooting of myself, and I went to her. ‘Now we shall have phrases, grimaces, but I will not yield to them,’ I thought. ‘Wait,’ I said to her sister, ‘it is silly without boots, let me at least put on slippers.’


“Wonderful to say, when I left my study and went through the familiar rooms, the hope that nothing had happened again awoke in me; but the smell of that doctor’s nastiness⁠—iodoform and carbolic⁠—took me aback. ‘No, it had happened.’ Going down the passage past the nursery I saw little Lisa. She looked at me with frightened eyes. It even seemed to me that all the five children were there and all looked at me. I approached the door, and the maid opened it from inside for me and passed out. The first thing that caught my eye was her light-grey dress thrown on a chair and all stained black with blood. She was lying on one of the twin beds (on mine because it was easier to get at), with her knees raised. She say in a very sloping position supported by pillows, with her dressing jacket unfastened. Something had been put on the wound. There was a heavy smell of iodoform in the room. What struck me first and most of all was her swollen and bruised face, blue on part of the nose and under the eyes. This was the result of the blow with my elbow when she had tried to hold me back. There was nothing beautiful about her, but something repulsive as it seemed to me. I stopped on the threshold. ‘Go up to her, do,’ said her sister. ‘Yes, no doubt she wants to confess,’ I thought. ‘Shall I forgive her? Yes, she is dying and may be forgiven,’ I thought, trying to be magnanimous. I went up close to her. She raised her eyes to me with difficulty, one of them was black, and with an effort said falteringly:

“ ‘You’ve got your way, killed⁠ ⁠…’ and through the look of suffering and even the nearness of death her face had the old expression of cold animal hatred that I knew so well. ‘I shan’t⁠ ⁠… let you have⁠ ⁠… the children, all the same.⁠ ⁠… She’ (her sister) ‘will take⁠ ⁠…’

“Of what to me was the most important matter, her guilt, her faithlessness, she seemed to consider it beneath her to speak.

“ ‘Yes, look and admire what you have done,’ she said looking towards the door, and she sobbed. In the doorway stood her sister with the children. ‘Yes, see what you have done.’

“I looked at the children and at her bruised and disfigured face, and for the first time I forgot myself, my rights, my pride, and for the first time saw a human being in her. And so insignificant did all that had offended me, all my jealousy, appear, and so important what I had done, that I wished to fall with my face to her hand, and say: ‘Forgive me,’ but dared not do so.

“She lay silent with her eyes closed, evidently too weak to say more. Then her disfigured face trembled and puckered. She pushed me feebly away.

“ ‘Why did it all happen? Why?’

“ ‘Forgive me,’ I said.

“ ‘Forgive! That’s all rubbish!⁠ ⁠… only not to die!⁠ ⁠…’ she cried, raising herself, and her glittering eyes were bent on me. ‘Yes, you have had your way!⁠ ⁠… I hate you! Ah! Ah!’ she cried, evidently already in delirium and frightened at something. ‘Shoot! I’m not afraid!⁠ ⁠… Only kill everyone⁠ ⁠… ! He has gone⁠ ⁠… ! Gone⁠ ⁠… !’

“After that the delirium continued all the time. She did not recognize anyone. She died towards noon that same day. Before that they had taken me to the police station and from there to prison. There, during the eleven months I remained awaiting trial, I examined myself and my past, and understood it. I began to understand it on the third day: on the third day they took me there⁠ ⁠…”

He was going on but, unable to repress his sobs, he stopped. When he recovered himself he continued:

“I only began to understand when I saw her in her coffin⁠ ⁠…”

He gave a sob, but immediately continued hurriedly:

“Only when I saw her dead face did I understand all that I had done. I realized that I, I, had killed her; that it was my doing that she, living, moving, warm, had now become motionless, waxen, and cold, and that this could never, anywhere, or by any means, be remedied. He who has not lived through it cannot understand.⁠ ⁠… Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!⁠ ⁠…” he cried several times and then was silent.

We sat in silence a long while. He kept sobbing and trembling as he sat opposite me without speaking. His face had grown narrow and elongated and his mouth seemed to stretch right across it. “Yes,” he suddenly said. “Had I then known what I know now, everything would have been different. Nothing would have induced me to marry her.⁠ ⁠… I should not have married at all.”

Again we remained silent for a long time.

“Well, forgive me.⁠ ⁠…”286 He turned away from me and lay down on the seat, covering himself up with his plaid. At the station where I had to get out (it was at eight o’clock in the morning) I went up to him to say goodbye. Whether he was asleep or only pretended to be, at any rate he did not move. I touched him with my hand. He uncovered his face, and I could see he had not been asleep.

“Goodbye,” I said, holding out my hand. He gave me his and smiled slightly, but so piteously that I felt ready to weep.

“Yes, forgive me⁠ ⁠…” he said, repeating the same words with which he had concluded his story.

The Devil

But I say unto you, that everyone that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell.

And if thy right hand causeth thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body go into hell.

⁠Matthew 5:28⁠–⁠30


A brilliant career lay before Eugène Irténev. He had everything necessary to attain it: an admirable education at home, high honours when he graduated in law at Petersburg University, and connections in the highest society through his recently deceased father; he had also already begun service in one of the Ministries under the protection of the minister. Moreover he had a fortune; even a large one, though insecure. His father had lived abroad and in Petersburg, allowing his sons, Eugène and Andrew (who was older than Eugène and in the Horse Guards), six thousand rubles a year each, while he himself and his wife spent a great deal. He only used to visit his estate for a couple of months in summer and did not concern himself with its direction, entrusting it all to an unscrupulous manager who also failed to attend to it, but in whom he had complete confidence.

After the father’s death, when the brothers began to divide the property, so many debts were discovered that their lawyer even advised them to refuse the inheritance and retain only an estate left them by their grandmother, which was valued at a hundred thousand rubles. But a neighbouring landed-proprietor who had done business with old Irténev, that is to say, who had promissory notes from him and had come to Petersburg on that account, said that in spite of the debts they could straighten out affairs so as to retain a large fortune (it would only be necessary to sell the forest and some outlying land, retaining the rich Semënov estate with four thousand desyatins of black earth, the sugar factory, and two hundred desyatins of water-meadows) if one devoted oneself to the management of the estate, settled there, and farmed it wisely and economically.

And so, having visited the estate in spring (his father had died in Lent), Eugène looked into everything, resolved to retire from the Civil Service, settle in the country with his mother, and undertake the management with the object of preserving the main estate. He arranged with his brother, with whom he was very friendly, that he would pay him either four thousand rubles a year, or a lump sum of eighty thousand, for which Andrew would hand over to him his share of his inheritance.

So he arranged matters and, having settled down with his mother in the big house, began managing the estate eagerly, yet cautiously.

It is generally supposed the Conservatives are usually old people, and that those in favour of change are the young. That is not quite correct. Usually Conservatives are young people: those who want to live but who do not think about how to live, and have not time to think, and therefore take as a model for themselves a way of life that they have seen.

Thus it was with Eugène. Having settled in the village, his aim and ideal was to restore the form of life that had existed, not in his father’s time⁠—his father had been a bad manager⁠—but in his grandfather’s. And now he tried to resurrect the general spirit of his grandfather’s life⁠—in the house, the garden, and in the estate management⁠—of course with changes suited to the times⁠—everything on a large scale⁠—good order, method, and everybody satisfied. But to do this entailed much work. It was necessary to meet the demands of the creditors and the banks, and for that purpose to sell some land and arrange renewals of credit. It was also necessary to get money to carry on (partly by farming out land, and partly by hiring labour) the immense operations on the Semënov estate, with its four hundred desyatins of ploughland and its sugar factory, and to deal with the garden so that it should not seem to be neglected or in decay.

There was much work to do, but Eugène had plenty of strength⁠—physical and mental. He was twenty-six, of medium height, strongly built, with muscles developed by gymnastics. He was fullblooded and his whole neck was very red, his teeth and lips were bright, and his hair soft and curly though not thick. His only physical defect was shortsightedness, which he had himself developed by using spectacles, so that he could not now do without a pince-nez, which had already formed a line on the bridge of his nose.

Such was his physically. For his spiritual portrait it might be said that the better people knew him the better they liked him. His mother had always loved him more than anyone else, and now after her husband’s death she concentrated on him not only her whole affection but her whole life. Nor was it only his mother who so loved him. All his comrades at the high school and the university not merely liked him very much, but respected him. He had this effect on all who met him. It was impossible not to believe what he said, impossible to suspect any deception or falseness in one who had such an open, honest face and in particular such eyes.

In general his personality helped him much in his affairs. A creditor who would have refused another trusted him. The clerk, the village Elder, or a peasant, who would have played a dirty trick and cheated someone else, forgot to deceive under the pleasant impression of intercourse with this kindly, agreeable, and above all candid man.

It was the end of May. Eugène had somehow managed in town to get the vacant land freed from the mortgage, so as to sell it to a merchant, and had borrowed money from that same merchant to replenish his stock, that is to say, to procure horses, bulls, and carts, and in particular to begin to build a necessary farmhouse. The matter had been arranged. The timber was being carted, the carpenters were already at work, and manure for the estate was being brought on eighty carts, but everything still hung by a thread.


Amid these cares something came about which though unimportant tormented Eugène at the time. As a young man he had lived as all healthy young men live, that is, he had had relations with women of various kinds. He was not a libertine but neither, as he himself said, was he a monk. He only turned to this, however, in so far as was necessary for physical health and to have his mind free, as he used to say. This had begun when he was sixteen and had gone on satisfactorily⁠—in the sense that he had never given himself up to debauchery, never once been infatuated, and had never contracted a disease. At first he had a seamstress in Petersburg, then she got spoilt and he made other arrangements, and that side of his affairs was so well secured that it did not trouble him.

But now he was living in the country for the second month and did not at all know what he was to do. Compulsory self-restraint was beginning to have a bad effect on him.

Must he really go to town for that purpose? And where to? How? That was the only thing that disturbed him; but as he was convinced that the thing was necessary and that he needed it, it really became a necessity, and he felt that he was not free and that his eyes involuntarily followed every young woman.

He did not approve of having relations with a married woman or a maid in his own village. He knew by report that both his father and grandfather had been quite different in this matter from other landowners of that time. At home they had never had any entanglements with peasant-women, and he had decided that he would not do so either; but afterwards, feeling himself ever more and more under compulsion and imagining with horror what might happen to him in the neighbouring country town, and reflecting on the fact that the days of serfdom were now over, he decided that it might be done on the spot. Only it must be done so that no one should know of it, and not for the sake of debauchery but merely for health’s sake⁠—as he said to himself. And when he had decided this he became still more restless. When talking to the village Elder, the peasants, or the carpenters, he involuntarily brought the conversation round to women, and when it turned to women he kept it on that theme. He noticed the women more and more.


To settle the matter in his own mind was one thing but to carry it out was another. To approach a woman himself was impossible. Which one? Where? It must be done through someone else, but to whom should he speak about it?

He happened to go into a watchman’s hut in the forest to get a drink of water. The watchman had been his father’s huntsman, and Eugène Ivánich chatted with him, and the man began telling some strange tales of hunting sprees. It occurred to Eugène Ivánich that it would be convenient to arrange matters in this hut, or in the wood, only he did not know how to manage it and whether old Daniel would undertake the arrangement. “Perhaps he will be horrified at such a proposal and I shall have disgraced myself, but perhaps he will agree to it quite simply.” So he thought while listening to Daniel’s stories. Daniel was telling how once when they had been stopping at the hut of the sexton’s wife in an outlying field, he had brought a woman for Fëdor Zakhárich Pryánishnikov.

“It will be all right,” thought Eugène.

“Your father, may the kingdom of heaven be his, did not go in for nonsense of that kind.”

“It won’t do,” thought Eugène. But to test the matter he said: “How was it you engaged on such bad things?”

“But what was there bad in it? She was glad, and Fëdor Zakhárich was satisfied, very satisfied. I got a ruble. Why, what was he to do? He too is a lively limb apparently, and drinks wine.”

“Yes, I may speak,” thought Eugène, and at once proceeded to do so.

“And do you know, Daniel, I don’t know how to endure it,”⁠—he felt himself going scarlet.

Daniel smiled.

“I am not a monk⁠—I have been accustomed to it.”

He felt that what he was saying was stupid, but was glad to see that Daniel approved.

“Why of course, you should have told me long ago. It can all be arranged,” said he: “only tell me which one you want.”

“Oh, it is really all the same to me. Of course not an ugly one, and she must be healthy.”

“I understand!” said Daniel briefly. He reflected.

“Ah! There is a tasty morsel,” he began. Again Eugène went red. “A tasty morsel. See here, she was married last autumn.” Daniel whispered⁠—“and he hasn’t been able to do anything. Think what that is worth to one who wants it!”

Eugène even frowned with shame.

“No, no,” he said. “I don’t want that at all. I want, on the contrary (what could the contrary be?), on the contrary I only want that she should be healthy and that there should be as little fuss as possible⁠—a woman whose husband is away in the army or something of that kind.”

“I know. It’s Stepanída I must bring you. Her husband is away in town, just the same as a soldier. And she is a fine woman, and clean. You will be satisfied. As it is I was saying to her the other day⁠—you should go, but she⁠ ⁠…”

“Well then, when is it to be?”

“Tomorrow if you like. I shall be going to get some tobacco and I will call in, and at the dinner-hour come here, or to the bathhouse behind the kitchen garden. There will be nobody about. Besides after dinner everybody takes a nap.”

“All right then.”

A terrible excitement seized Eugène as he rode home. “What will happen? What is a peasant-woman like? Suppose it turns out that she is hideous, horrible? No, she is handsome,” he told himself, remembering some he had been noticing. “But what shall I say? What shall I do?”

He was not himself all that day. Next day at noon he went to the forester’s hut. Daniel stood at the door and silently and significantly nodded towards the wood. The blood rushed to Eugène’s heart, he was conscious of it and went to the kitchen garden. No one was there. He went to the bathhouse⁠—there was no one about, he looked in, came out, and suddenly heard the crackling of a breaking twig. He looked round⁠—and she was standing in the thicket beyond the little ravine. He rushed there across the ravine. There were nettles in it which he had not noticed. They stung him and, losing the pince-nez from his nose, he ran up the slope on the farther side. She stood there, in a white embroidered apron, a red-brown skirt, and a bright red kerchief, barefoot, fresh, firm, and handsome, and smiling shyly.

“There is a path leading round⁠—you should have gone round,” she said. “I came long ago, ever so long.”

He went up to her and, looking her over, touched her.

A quarter of an hour later they separated; he found his pince-nez, called in to see Daniel, and in reply to his question: “Are you satisfied, master?” gave him a ruble and went home.

He was satisfied. Only at first had he felt ashamed, then it had passed off. And everything had gone well. The best thing was that he now felt at ease, tranquil and vigorous. As for her, he had not even seen her thoroughly. He remembered that she was clean, fresh, not bad-looking, and simple, without any pretence. “Whose wife is she?” said he to himself. “Péchnikov’s, Daniel said. What Péchnikov is that? There are two households of that name. Probably she is old Michael’s daughter-in-law. Yes, that must be it. His son does live in Moscow. I’ll ask Daniel about it some time.”

From then onward that previously important drawback to country life⁠—enforced self-restraint⁠—was eliminated. Eugène’s freedom of mind was no longer disturbed and he was able to attend freely to his affairs.

And the matter Eugène had undertaken was far from easy: before he had time to stop up one hole a new one would unexpectedly show itself, and it sometimes seemed to him that he would not be able to go through with it and that it would end in his having to sell the estate after all, which would mean that all his efforts would be wasted and that he had failed to accomplish what he had undertaken. That prospect disturbed him most of all.

All this time more and more debts of his father’s unexpectedly came to light. It was evident that towards the end of his life he had borrowed right and left. At the time of the settlement in May, Eugène had thought he at least knew everything, but in the middle of the summer he suddenly received a letter from which it appeared that there was still a debt of twelve thousand rubles to the widow Esípova. There was no promissory note, but only an ordinary receipt which his lawyer told him could be disputed. But it did not enter Eugène’s head to refuse to pay a debt of his father’s merely because the document could be challenged. He only wanted to know for certain whether there had been such a debt.

“Mamma! Who is Kalériya Vladímirovna Esípova?” he asked his mother when they met as usual for dinner.

“Esípova? She was brought up by your grandfather. Why?”

Eugène told his mother about the letter.

“I wonder she is not ashamed to ask for it. Your father gave her so much!”

“But do we owe her this?”

“Well now, how shall I put it? It is not a debt. Papa, out of his unbounded kindness⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, but did Papa consider it a debt?”

“I cannot say. I don’t know. I only know it is hard enough for you without that.”

Eugène saw that Mary Pávlovna did not know what to say, and was as it were sounding him.

“I see from what you say that it must be paid,” said he. “I will go to see her tomorrow and have a chat, and see if it cannot be deferred.”

“Ah, how sorry I am for you, but you know that will be best. Tell her she must wait,” said Mary Pávlovna, evidently tranquillized and proud of her son’s decision.

Eugène’s position was particularly hard because his mother, who was living with him, did not at all realize his position. She had been accustomed all her life long to live extravagantly that she could not even imagine to herself the position her son was in, that is to say, that today or tomorrow matters might shape themselves so that they would have nothing left and he would have to sell everything and live and support his mother on what salary he could earn, which at the very most would be two thousand rubles. She did not understand that they could only save themselves from that position by cutting down expense in everything, and so she could not understand why Eugène was so careful about trifles, in expenditure on gardeners, coachmen, servants⁠—even on food. Also, like most widows, she nourished feelings of devotion to the memory of her departed spouse quite different from those she had felt for him while he lived, and she did not admit the thought that anything the departed had done or arranged could be wrong or could be altered.

Eugène by great efforts managed to keep up the garden and the conservatory with two gardeners, and the stables with two coachmen. And Mary Pávlovna naively thought that she was sacrificing herself for her son and doing all a mother could do, by not complaining of the food which the old man-cook prepared, of the fact that the paths in the park were not all swept clean, and that instead of footmen they had only a boy.

So, too, concerning this new debt, in which Eugène saw an almost crushing blow to all his undertakings, Mary Pávlovna only saw an incident displaying Eugène’s noble nature. Moreover she did not feel much anxiety about Eugène’s position, because she was confident that he would make a brilliant marriage which would put everything right. And he could make a very brilliant marriage: she knew a dozen families who would be glad to give their daughters to him. And she wished to arrange the matter as soon as possible.


Eugène himself dreamt of marriage, but not in the same way as his mother. The idea of using marriage as a means of putting his affairs in order was repulsive to him. He wished to marry honourably, for love. He observed the girls whom he met and those he knew, and compared himself with them, but no decision had yet been taken. Meanwhile, contrary to his expectations, his relations with Stepanída continued, and even acquired the character of a settled affair. Eugène was so far from debauchery, it was so hard for him secretly to do this thing which he felt to be bad, that he could not arrange these meetings himself and even after the first one hoped not to see Stepanída again; but it turned out that after some time the same restlessness (due he believed to that cause) again overcame him. And his restlessness this time was no longer impersonal, but suggested just those same bright, black eyes, and that deep voice, saying, “ever so long,” that same scent of something fresh and strong, and that same full breast lifting the bib of her apron, and all this in that hazel and maple thicket, bathed in bright sunlight.

Though he felt ashamed he again approached Daniel. And again a rendezvous was fixed for midday in the wood. This time Eugène looked her over more carefully and everything about her seemed attractive. He tried talking to her and asked about her husband. He really was Michael’s son and lived as a coachman in Moscow.

“Well, then, how is it you⁠ ⁠…” Eugène wanted to ask how it was she was untrue to him.

“What about ‘how is it’?” asked she. Evidently she was clever and quick-witted.

“Well, how is it you come to me?”

“There now,” said she merrily. “I bet he goes on the spree there. Why shouldn’t I?”

Evidently she was putting on an air of sauciness and assurance, and this seemed charming to Eugène. But all the same he did not himself fix a rendezvous with her. Even when she proposed that they should meet without the aid of Daniel, to whom she seemed not very well disposed, he did not consent. He hoped that this meeting would be the last. He liked her. He thought such intercourse was necessary for him and that there was nothing bad about it, but in the depth of his soul there was a stricter judge who did not approve of it and hoped that this would be the last time, or if he did not hope that, at any rate did not wish to participate in arrangements to repeat it another time.

So the whole summer passed, during which they met a dozen times and always by Daniel’s help. It happened once that she could not be there because her husband had come home, and Daniel proposed another woman, but Eugène refused with disgust. Then the husband went away and the meetings continued as before, at first through Daniel, but afterwards he simply fixed the time and she came with another woman, Prókhorova⁠—as it would not do for a peasant-woman to go about alone.

Once at the very time fixed for the rendezvous a family came to call on Mary Pávlovna, with the very girl she wished Eugène to marry, and it was impossible for Eugène to get away. As soon as he could do so, he went out as though to the thrashing-floor, and round by the path to their meeting place in the wood. She was not there, but at the accustomed spot everything within reach had been broken⁠—the black alder, the hazel-twigs, and even a young maple the thickness of a stake. She had waited, had become excited and angry, and had skittishly left him a remembrance. He waited and waited, and then went to Daniel to ask him to call her for tomorrow. She came and was just as usual.

So the summer passed. The meetings ere always arranged in the wood, and only once, when it grew towards autumn, in the shed that stood in her backyard.

It did not enter Eugène’s head that these relations of his had any importance for him. About her he did not even think. He gave her money and nothing more. At first he did not know and did not think that the affair was known and that she was envied throughout the village, or that her relations took money from her and encouraged her, and that her conception of any sin in the matter had been quite obliterated by the influence of the money and her family’s approval. It seemed to her that if people envied her, then what she was doing was good.

“It is simply necessary for my health,” thought Eugène. “I grant it is not right, and though no one says anything, everybody, or many people, know of it. The woman who comes with her knows. And once she knows she is sure to have told others. But what’s to be done? I am acting badly,” thought Eugène, “but what’s one to do? Anyhow it is not for long.”

What chiefly disturbed Eugène was the thought of the husband. At first for some reason it seemed to him that the husband must be a poor sort, and this as it were partly justified his conduct. But he saw the husband and was struck by his appearance: he was a fine fellow and smartly dressed, in no way a worse man than himself, but surely better. At their next meeting he told her he had seen her husband and had been surprised to see that he was such a fine fellow.

“There’s not another man like him in the village,” said she proudly.

This surprised Eugène, and the thought of the husband tormented him still more after that. He happened to be at Daniel’s one day and Daniel, having begun chatting said to him quite openly:

“And Michael asked me the other day: ‘Is it true that the master is living with my wife?’ I said I did not know. ‘Anyway,’ I said, ‘better with the master than with a peasant.’ ”

“Well, and what did he say?”

“He said: ‘Wait a bit. I’ll get to know and I’ll give it her all the same.’ ”

“Yes, if the husband returned to live here I would give her up,” thought Eugène.

But the husband lived in town and for the present their intercourse continued.

“When necessary I will break it off, and there will be nothing left of it,” thought he.

And this seemed to him certain, especially as during the whole summer many different things occupied him very fully: the erection of the new farmhouse, and the harvest and building, and above all meeting the debts and selling the wasteland. All these were affairs that completely absorbed him and on which he spent his thoughts when he lay down and when he got up. All that was real life. His intercourse⁠—he did not even call it connection⁠—with Stepanída he paid no attention to. It is true that when the wish to see her arose it came with such strength that he could think of nothing else. But this did not last long. A meeting was arranged, and he again forgot her for a week or even for a month.

In autumn Eugène often rode to town, and there became friendly with the Ánnenskis. They had a daughter who had just finished the Institute.287 And then, to Mary Pávlovna’s great grief, it happened that Eugène “cheapened himself,” as she expressed it, by falling in love with Liza Ánnenskaya and proposing to her.

From that time his relations with Stepanída ceased.


It is impossible to explain why Eugène chose Liza Ánnenskaya, as it is always impossible to explain why a man chooses this and not that woman. There were many reasons⁠—positive and negative. One reason was that she was not a very rich heiress such as his mother sought for him, another that she was naive and to be pitied in her relations with her mother, another that she was not a beauty who attracted general attention to herself, and yet she was not bad-looking. But the chief reason was that his acquaintance with her began at the time when he was ripe for marriage. He fell in love because he knew that he would marry.

Liza Ánnenskaya was at first merely pleasing to Eugène, but when he decided to make her his wife his feelings for her became much stronger. He felt that he was in love.

Liza was tall, slender, and long. Everything about her was long; her face, and her nose (not prominently but downwards), and her fingers, and her feet. The colour of her face was very delicate, creamy white and delicately pink; she had long, soft, and curly, light-brown hair, and beautiful eyes, clear, mild, and confiding. Those eyes especially struck Eugène, and when he thought of Liza he always saw those clear, mild, confiding eyes.

Such was she physically; he knew nothing of her spiritually, but only saw those eyes. And those eyes seemed to tell him all he needed to know. The meaning of their expression was this:

While still in the Institute, when she was fifteen, Liza used continually to fall in love with all the attractive men she met and was animated and happy only when she was in love. After leaving the Institute she continued to fall in love in just the same way with all the young men she met, and of course fell in love with Eugène as soon as she made his acquaintance. It was this being in love which gave her eyes that particular expression which so captivated Eugène. Already that winter she had been in love with two young men at one and the same time, and blushed and became excited not only when they entered the room but whenever their names were mentioned. But afterwards, when her mother hinted to her that Irténev seemed to have serious intentions, her love for him increased so that she became almost indifferent to the two previous attractions, and when Irténev began to come to their balls and parties and danced with her more than with others and evidently only wished to know whether she loved him, her love for him became painful. She dreamed of him in her sleep and seemed to see him when she was awake in a dark room, and everyone else vanished from her mind. But when he proposed and they were formally engaged, and when they had kissed one another and were a betrothed couple, then she had no thoughts but of him, no desire but to be with him, to love him, and to be loved by him. She was also proud of him and felt emotional about him and herself and her love, and quite melted and felt faint from love of him.

The more he got to know her the more he loved her. He had not at all expected to find such love, and it strengthened his own feeling more.


Towards spring he went to his estate at Semënovskoe to have a look at it and to give directions about the management, and especially about the house which was being done up for his wedding.

Mary Pávlovna was dissatisfied with her son’s choice, not only because the match was not as brilliant as it might have been, but also because she did not like Varvára Alexéevna, his future mother-in-law. Whether she was good-natured or not she did not know and could not decide, but that she was not well-bred, not comme il faut⁠—“not a lady” as Mary Pávlovna said to herself⁠—she saw from their first acquaintance, and this distressed her; distressed her because she was accustomed to value breeding and knew that Eugène was sensitive to it, and she foresaw that he would suffer much annoyance on this account. But she liked the girl. Liked her chiefly because Eugène did. One could not help loving her, and Mary Pávlovna was quite sincerely ready to do so.

Eugène found his mother contented and in good spirits. She was getting everything straight in the house and preparing to go away herself as soon as he brought his young wife. Eugène persuaded her to stay for the time being, and the future remained undecided.

In the evening after tea Mary Pávlovna played patience as usual. Eugène sat by, helping her. This was the hour of their most intimate talks. Having finished one game and while preparing to begin another, she looked up at him and, with a little hesitation, began thus:

“I wanted to tell you, Jénya⁠—of course I do not know, but in general I wanted to suggest to you⁠—that before your wedding it is absolutely necessary to have finished with all your bachelor affairs so that nothing may disturb either you or your wife. God forbid that it should. You understand me?”

And indeed Eugène at once understood that Mary Pávlovna was hinting at his relations with Stepanída which had ended in the previous autumn, and that she attributed much more importance to those relations than they deserved, as solitary women always do. Eugène blushed, not from shame so much as from vexation that good-natured Mary Pávlovna was bothering⁠—out of affection no doubt, but still was bothering⁠—about matters that were not her business and that she did not and could not understand. He answered that there was nothing that needed concealment, and that he had always conducted himself so that there should be nothing to hinder his marrying.

“Well, dear, that is excellent. Only, Jénya⁠ ⁠… don’t be vexed with me,” said Mary Pávlovna, and broke off in confusion.

Eugène saw that she had not finished and had not said what she wanted to. And this was confirmed, when a little later she began to tell him how, in his absence, she had been asked to stand godmother at⁠ ⁠… the Péchnikovs.

Eugène flushed again, not with vexation or shame this time, but with some strange consciousness of the importance of what was about to be told him⁠—an involuntary consciousness quite at variance with his conclusions. And what he expected happened. Mary Pávlovna, as if merely by way of conversation, mentioned that this year only boys were being born⁠—evidently a sign of a coming war. Both at the Vásins and the Péchnikovs the young wife had a first child⁠—at each house a boy. Mary Pávlovna wanted to say this casually, but she herself felt ashamed when she saw the colour mount to her son’s face and saw him nervously removing, tapping, and replacing his pince-nez and hurriedly lighting a cigarette. She became silent. He too was silent and could not think how to break that silence. So they both understood that they had understood one another.

“Yes, the chief thing is that there should be justice and no favouritism in the village⁠—as under your grandfather.”

“Mamma,” said Eugène suddenly, “I know why you are saying this. You have no need to be disturbed. My future family life is so sacred to me that I should not infringe it in any case. And as to what occurred in my bachelor days, that is quite ended. I never formed any union and on one has any claims on me.”

“Well, I am glad,” said his mother. “I know how noble your feelings are.”

Eugène accepted his mother’s words as a tribute due to him, and did not reply.

Next day he drove to town thinking of his fiancée and of anything in the world except of Stepanída. But, as if purposely to remind him, on approaching the church he met people walking and driving back from it. He met old Matvéy with Simon, some lads and girls, and then two women, one elderly, the other, who seemed familiar, smartly dressed and wearing a bright-red kerchief. This woman was walking lightly and boldly, carrying a child in her arms. He came up to them, and the elder woman bowed, stopping in the old-fashioned way, but the young woman with the child only bent her head, and from under the kerchief gleamed familiar, merry, smiling eyes.

Yes, this was she, but all that was over and it was no use looking at her: “and the child may be mine,” flashed through his mind. No, what nonsense! There was her husband, she used to see him. He did not even consider the matter further, so settled in his mind was it that it had been necessary for his health⁠—he had paid her money and there was no more to be said; there was, there had been, and there could be, no question of any union between them. It was not that he stifled the voice of conscience, no⁠—his conscience simply said nothing to him. And he thought no more about her after the conversation with his mother and this meeting. Nor did he meet her again.

Eugène was married in town the week after Easter, and left at once with his young wife for his country estate. The house had been arranged as usual for a young couple. Mary Pávlovna wished to leave, but Eugène begged her to remain, and Liza still more strongly, and she only moved into a detached wing of the house.

And so a new life began for Eugène.


The first year of his marriage was a hard one for Eugène. It was hard because affairs he had managed to put off during the time of his courtship now, after his marriage, all came upon him at once.

To escape from debts was impossible. An outlying part of the estate was sold and the most pressing obligations met, but others remained, and he had no money. The estate yielded a good revenue, but he had had to send payments to his brother and to spend on his own marriage, so that there was no ready money and the factory could not carry on and would have to be closed down. The only way of escape was to use his wife’s money; and Liza, having realized her husband’s position, insisted on this herself. Eugène agreed, but only on condition that he should give her a mortgage on half his estate, which he did. Of course this was done not for his wife’s sake, who felt offended at it, but to appease his mother-in-law.

These affairs with various fluctuations of success and failure helped to poison Eugène’s life that first year. Another thing was his wife’s ill-health. That same first year, seven months after their marriage, a misfortune befell Liza. She was driving out to meet her husband on his return from town, and the quiet horse became rather playful and she was frightened and jumped out. Her jump was comparatively fortunate⁠—she might have been caught by the wheel⁠—but she was pregnant, and that same night the pains began and she had a miscarriage from which she was long in recovering. The loss of the expected child and his wife’s illness, together with the disorder in his affairs, and above all the presence of his mother-in-law, who arrived as soon as Liza fell ill⁠—all this together made the year still harder for Eugène.

But notwithstanding these difficult circumstances, towards the end of the first year Eugène felt very well. First of all his cherished hope of restoring his fallen fortune and renewing his grandfather’s way of life in a new form, was approaching accomplishment, though slowly and with difficulty. There was no longer any question of having to sell the whole estate to meet the debts. The chief estate, thoughh transferred to his wife’s name, was saved, and if only the beet crop succeeded and the price kept up, by next year his position of want and stress might be replaced by one of complete prosperity. That was one thing.

Another was that however much he had expected from his wife, he had never expected to find in her what he actually found. He found not what he had expected, but something much better. Raptures of love⁠—though he tried to produce them⁠—did not take place or were very slight, but he discovered something quite different, namely that he was not merely more cheerful and happier but that it had become easier to live. He did not know why this should be so, but it was.

And it was so because immediately after marriage his wife decided that Eugène Irténev was superior to anyone else in the world: wiser, purer, and nobler than they, and that therefore it was right for everyone to serve him and please him; but that as it was impossible to make everyone do this, she must do it herself to the limit of her strength. And she did; directing all her strength of mind towards learning and guessing what he liked, and then doing just that thing, whatever it was and however difficult it might be.

She had the gift which furnishes the chief delight of intercourse with a loving woman: thanks to her love of her husband she penetrated into his soul. She knew his every state and his every shade of feeling⁠—better it seemed to him than he himself⁠—and she behaved correspondingly and therefore never hurt his feelings, but always lessened his distresses and strengthened his joys. And she understood not only his feelings but also his joys. Things quite foreign to her⁠—concerning the farming, the factory, or the appraisement of others⁠—she immediately understood so that she could not merely converse with him, but could often, as he himself said, be a useful and irreplaceable counselor. She regarded affairs and people and everything in the world only though his eyes. She loved her mother, but having seen that Eugène disliked his mother-in-law’s interference in their life she immediately took her husband’s side, and did so with such decision that he had to restrain her.

Besides all this she had very good taste, much tact, and above all she had repose. All that she did, she did unnoticed; only the results of what she did were observable, namely, that always and in everything there was cleanliness, order, and elegance. Liza had at once understood in what her husband’s ideal of life consisted, and she tried to attain, and in the arrangement and order of the house did attain, what he wanted. Children it is true were lacking, but there was hope of that also. In winter she went to Petersburg to see a specialist and he assured them that she was quite well and could have children.

And this desire was accomplished. By the end of the year she was again pregnant.

The one thing that threatened, not to say poisoned, their happiness was her jealousy⁠—a jealousy she restrained and did not exhibit, but from which she often suffered. Not only might Eugène not love any other woman⁠—because there was not a woman on earth worthy of him (as to whether she herself was worthy or not she never asked herself)⁠—but not a single woman might therefore dare to love him.


This was how they lived: he rose early, as he always had done, and went to see to the farm or the factory where work was going on, or sometimes to the fields. Towards ten o’clock he would come back for his coffee, which they had on the veranda: Mary Pávlovna, an uncle who lived with them, and Liza. After a conversation which was often very animated while they drank their coffee, they dispersed till dinnertime. At two o’clock they dined and then went for a walk or a drive. In the evening when he returned from the office they drank their evening tea and sometimes he read aloud while she worked, or when there were guests they had music or conversation. When he went away on business he wrote to his wife and received letters from her every day. Sometimes she accompanied him, and then they were particularly merry. On his name-day and on hers guests assembled, and it pleased him to see how well she managed to arrange things so that everybody enjoyed coming. He saw and heard that they all admired her⁠—the young, agreeable hostess⁠—and he loved her still more for this.

All went excellently. She bore her pregnancy easily and, though they were afraid, they both began making plans as to how they would bring the child up. The system of education and the arrangements were all decided by Eugène, and her only wish was to carry out his desires obediently. Eugène on his part read up medical works and intended to bring the child up according to all the precepts of science. She of course agreed to everything and made preparations, making warm and also cool “envelopes,”288 and preparing a cradle. Thus the second year of their marriage arrived and the second spring.


It was just before Trinity Sunday. Liza was in her fifth month, and though careful she was still brisk and active. Both his mother and hers were living in the house, but under the pretext of watching and safeguarding her only upset her by their tiffs. Eugène was specially engrossed with a new experiment for the cultivation of sugar-beet on a large scale.

Just before Trinity Liza decided it was necessary to have a thorough housecleaning as it had not been done since Easter, and she hired two women by the day to help the servants wash the floors and windows, beat the furniture and the carpets, and put covers on them. These women came early in the morning, heated the coppers, and set to work. One of the two was Stepanída, who had just weaned her baby boy and had begged for the job of washing the floors through the office-clerk⁠—whom she now carried on with. She wanted to have a good look at the new mistress. Stepanída was living by herself as formerly, her husband being away, and she was up to tricks as she had formerly been first with old Daniel (who had once caught her taking some logs of firewood), afterwards with the master, and now with the young clerk. She was not concerning herself any longer about her master. “He has a wife now,” she thought. But it would be good to have a look at the lady and at her establishment: folk said it was well arranged.

Eugène had not seen her since he had met her with the child. Having a baby to attend to she had not been going out to work, and he seldom walked through the village. That morning, on the eve of Trinity Sunday, he got up at five o’clock and rode to the fallow land which was to be sprinkled with phosphates, and had left the house before the women were about, and while they were still engaged lighting the copper fires.

He returned to breakfast merry, contented, and hungry; dismounting from his mare at the gate and handing her over to the gardener. Flicking the high grass with his whip and repeating a phrase he had just uttered, as one often does, he walked towards the house. The phrase was: “phosphates justify”⁠—what or to whom, he neither knew nor reflected.

They were beating a carpet on the grass. The furniture had been brought out.

“There now! What a housecleaning Liza has undertaken!⁠ ⁠… Phosphates justify.⁠ ⁠… What a manageress she is! Yes, a manageress,” said he to himself, vividly imagining her in her white wrapper and with her smiling joyful face, as it nearly always was when he looked at her. “Yes, I must change my boots, or else ‘phosphates justify,’ that is, smell of manure, and the manageress in such a condition. Why ‘in such a condition’? Because a new little Irténev is growing there inside her,” he thought. “Yes, phosphates justify,” and smiling at his thoughts he put his hand to the door of his room.

But he had not time to push the door before it opened of itself and he came face to face with a woman coming towards him carrying a pail, barefoot and with sleeves turned up high. He stepped aside to let her pass and she too stepped aside, adjusting her kerchief with a wet hand.

“Go on, go on, I won’t go in, if you⁠ ⁠…” began Eugène and suddenly stopped, recognizing her.

She glanced merrily at him with smiling eyes, and pulling down her skirt went out at the door.

“What nonsense!⁠ ⁠… It is impossible,” said Eugène to himself, frowning and waving his hand as though to get rid of a fly, displeased at having noticed her. He was vexed that he had noticed her and yet he could not take his eyes from her strong body, swayed by her agile strides, from her bare feet, or from her arms and shoulders, and the pleasing folds of her shirt and the handsome skirt tucked up high above her white calves.

“But why am I looking?” said he to himself, lowering his eyes so as not to see her. “And anyhow I must go in to get some other boots.” And he turned back to go into his own room, but had not gone five steps before he again glanced round to have another look at her without knowing why or wherefore. She was just going round the corner and also glanced at him.

“Ah, what am I doing!” said he to himself. “She may think⁠ ⁠… It is even certain that she already does think⁠ ⁠…”

He entered his damp room. Another woman, an old and skinny one, was there, and was still washing it. Eugène passed on tiptoe across the floor, wet with dirty water, to the wall where his boots stood, and he was about to leave the room when the woman herself went out.

“This one has gone and the other, Stepanída, will come here alone,” someone within him began to reflect.

“My God, what am I thinking of and what am I doing!” He seized his boots and ran out with them into the hall, put them on there, brushed himself, and went out onto the veranda where both the mammas were already drinking coffee. Liza had evidently been expecting him and came onto the veranda through another door at the same time.

“My God! If she, who considers me so honourable, pure, and innocent⁠—if she only knew!”⁠—thought he.

Liza as usual met him with shining face. But today somehow she seemed to him particularly pale, yellow, long, and weak.


During coffee, as often happened, a peculiarly feminine kind of conversation went on which had no logical sequence but which evidently was connected in some way for it went on uninterruptedly.

The two old ladies were pinpricking one another, and Liza was skillfully manoeuvring between them.

“I am so vexed that we had not finished washing your room before you got back,” she said to her husband. “But I do so want to get everything arranged.”

“Well, did you sleep well after I got up?”

“Yes, I slept well and I fell well.”

“How can a woman be well in her condition during this intolerable heat, when her windows face the sun,” said Varvára Alexéevna, her mother. “And they have no venetian-blinds or awnings. I always had awnings.”

“But you know we are in the shade after ten o’clock,” said Mary Pávlovna.

“That’s what causes fever; it comes of dampness,” said Varvára Alexéevna, not noticing that what she was saying did not agree with what she had just said. “My doctor always says that it is impossible to diagnose an illness unless one knows the patient. And he certainly knows, for he is the leading physician and we pay him a hundred rubles a visit. My late husband did not believe in doctors, but he did not grudge me anything.”

“How can a man grudge anything to a woman when perhaps her life and the child’s depend⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, when she has means a wife need not depend on her husband. A good wife submits to her husband,” said Varvára Alexéevna⁠—“only Liza is too weak after her illness.”

“Oh no, mamma, I feel quite well. But why have they not brought you any boiled cream?”

“I don’t want any. I can do with raw cream.”

“I offered some to Varvára Alexéevna, but she declined,” said Mary Pávlovna, as if justifying herself.

“No, I don’t want any today.” and as if to terminate an unpleasant conversation and yield magnanimously, Varvára Alexéevna turned to Eugène and said: “Well, and have you sprinkled the phosphates?”

Liza ran to fetch the cream.

“But I don’t want it. I don’t want it.”

“Liza, Liza, go gently,” said Mary Pávlovna. “Such rapid movements do her harm.”

“Nothing does harm if one’s mind is at peace,” said Varvára Alexéevna as if referring to something, though she knew that there was nothing her words could refer to.

Liza returned with the cream and Eugène drank his coffee and listened morosely. He was accustomed to these conversations, but today he was particularly annoyed by its lack of sense. He wanted to think over what had happened to him but this chatter disturbed him. Having finished her coffee Varvára Alexéevna went away in a bad humour. Liza, Eugène, and Mary Pávlovna stayed behind, and their conversation was simple and pleasant. But Liza, being sensitive, at once noticed that something was tormenting Eugène, and she asked him whether anything unpleasant had happened. He was not prepared for this question and hesitated a little before replying that there had been nothing. This reply made Liza think all the more. That something was tormenting him, and greatly tormenting, was as evident to her as that a fly had fallen into the milk, yet he would not speak of it. What could it be?


After breakfast they all dispersed. Eugène as usual went to his study, but instead of beginning to read or write his letters, he sat smoking one cigarette after another and thinking. He was terribly surprised and disturbed by the unexpected recrudescence within him of the bad feeling from which he had thought himself free since his marriage. Since then he had not once experienced that feeling, either for her⁠—the woman he had known⁠—or for any other woman except his wife. He had often felt glad of this emancipation, and now suddenly a chance meeting, seemingly so unimportant, revealed to him the fact that he was not free. What now tormented him was not that he was yielding to that feeling and desired her⁠—he did not dream of so doing⁠—but that the feeling was awake within him and he had to be on his guard against it. He had not doubt but that he would suppress it.

He had a letter to answer and a paper to write, and sat down at his writing table and began to work. Having finished it and quite forgotten what had disturbed him, he went out to go to the stables. And again as ill-luck would have it, either by unfortunate chance or intentionally, as soon as he stepped from the porch a red skirt and a red kerchief appeared from round the corner, and she went past him swinging her arms and swaying her body. She not only went past him, but on passing him ran, as if playfully, to overtake her fellow-servant.

Again the bright midday, the nettles, the back of Daniel’s hut, and in the shade of the plane-trees her smiling face biting some leaves, rose in his imagination.

“No, it is impossible to let matters continue so,” he said to himself, and waiting till the women had passed out of sight he went to the office.

It was just the dinner-hour and he hoped to find the steward still there, and so it happened. The steward was just waking up from his after-dinner nap, and stretching himself and yawning was standing in the office, looking at the herdsman who was telling him something.

“Vasíli Nikoláich!” said Eugène to the steward.

“What is your pleasure?”

“I want to speak to you.”

“What is your pleasure?”

“Just finish what you are saying.”

“Aren’t you going to bring it in?” said Vasíli Nikoláich to the herdsman.

“It’s heavy, Vasíli Nikoláich.”

“What is it?” asked Eugène.

“Why, a cow has calved in the meadow. Well, all right, I’ll order them to harness a horse at once. Tell Nicholas Lysúkh to get out the dray cart.”

The herdsman went out.

“Do you know,” began Eugène, flushing and conscious that he was doing so, “do you know, Vasíli Nikoláich, while I was a bachelor I went off the track a bit.⁠ ⁠… You may have heard⁠ ⁠…”

Vasíli Nikoláich, evidently sorry for his master, said with smiling eyes: “Is it about Stepanída?”

“Why, yes. Look here. Please, please do not engage her to help in the house. You understand, it is very awkward for me⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, it must have been Ványa the clerk who arranged it.”

“Yes, please⁠ ⁠… and hadn’t the rest of the phosphate better be strewn?” said Eugène, to hide his confusion.

“Yes, I am just going to see to it.”

So the matter ended, and Eugène calmed down, hoping that as he had lived for a year without seeing her, so things would go on now. “Besides, Vasíli Nikoláich will speak to Iván the clerk; Iván will speak to her, and she will understand that I don’t want it,” said Eugène to himself, and he was glad he had forced himself to speak to Vasíli Nikoláich, hard as it had been to do so.

“Yes, it is better, much better, than that feeling of doubt, that feeling of shame.” He shuddered at the mere remembrance of his sin in thought.


The moral effort he had made to overcome his shame and speak to Vasíli Nikoláich tranquillized Eugène. It seemed to him that the matter was all over now. Liza at once noticed that he was quite calm, and even happier than usual. “No doubt he was upset by our mothers pinpricking one another. It really is disagreeable, especially for him who is so sensitive and noble, always to hear such unfriendly and ill-mannered insinuations,” thought she.

The next day was Trinity Sunday. It was a beautiful day, and the peasant-women, on their way into the woods to plait wreaths, came, according to custom, to the landowner’s home and began to sing and dance. Mary Pávlovna and Varvára Alexéevna came out onto the porch in smart clothes, carrying sunshades, and went up to the ring of singers. With them, in a jacket of Chinese silk, came out the uncle, a flabby libertine and drunkard, who was living that summer with Eugène.

As usual there was a bright, many-coloured ring of young women and girls, the centre of everything, and around these from different sides like attendant planets that had detached themselves and were circling round, went girls hand in hand, rustling in their new print gowns; young lads giggling and running backwards and forwards after one another; full-grown lads in dark blue or black coats and caps and with red shirts, who unceasingly spat out sunflower-seed shells; and the domestic servants or other outsiders watching the dance-circle from aside. Both the old ladies went close up to the ring, and Liza accompanied them in a light blue dress, with light blue ribbons on her head, and with wide sleeves under which her long white arms and angular elbows were visible.

Eugène did not wish to come out, but it was ridiculous to hide, and he too came out onto the porch smoking a cigarette, bowed to the men and lads, and talked with one of them. The women meanwhile shouted a dance-song with all their might, snapping their fingers, clapping their hands, and dancing.

“They are calling for the master,” said a youngster coming up to Eugène’s wife, who had not noticed the call. Liza called Eugène to look at the dance and at one of the women dancers who particularly pleased her. This was Stepanída. She wore a yellow skirt, a velveteen sleeveless jacket and a silk kerchief, and was broad, energetic, ruddy, and merry. No doubt she danced well. He saw nothing.

“Yes, yes,” he said, removing and replacing his pince-nez. “Yes, yes,” he repeated. “So it seems I cannot be rid of her,” he thought.

He did not look at her, fearing her attraction, and just on that account what his passing glance caught of her seemed to him especially attractive. Besides this he saw by her sparkling look that she saw him and saw that he admired her. He stood there as long as propriety demanded, and seeing that Varvára Alexéevna had called her “my dear” senselessly and insincerely and was talking to her, he turned aside and went away.

He went into the house in order not to see her, but on reaching the upper story he approached the window, without knowing how or why, and as long as the women remained at the porch he stood there and looked and looked at her, feasting his eyes on her.

He ran, while there was no one to see him, and then went with quiet steps onto the veranda and from there, smoking a cigarette, he passed through the garden as if going for a stroll, and followed the direction she had taken. He had not gone two steps along the alley before he noticed behind the trees a velveteen sleeveless jacket, with a pink and yellow skirt and a red kerchief. She was going somewhere with another woman. “Where are they going?”

And suddenly a terrible desire scorched him as though a hand were seizing his heart. As if by someone else’s wish he looked round and went towards her.

“Eugène Ivánich, Eugène Ivánich! I have come to see your honour,” said a voice behind him, and Eugène, seeing old Samókhin who was digging a well for him, roused himself and turning quickly round went to meet Samókhin. While speaking with him he turned sideways and saw that she and the woman who was with her went down the slope, evidently to the well or making an excuse of the well, and having stopped there a little while ran back to the dance-circle.


After talking to Samókhin, Eugène returned to the house as depressed as if he had committed a crime. In the first place she had understood him, believed that he wanted to see her, and desired it herself. Secondly that other woman, Anna Prókhorova, evidently knew of it.

Above all he felt that he was conquered, that he was not master of his own will but that there was another power moving him, that he had been saved only by good fortune, and that if not today then tomorrow or a day later, he would perish all the same.

“Yes, perish,” he did not understand it otherwise: to be unfaithful to his young and loving wife with a peasant-woman in the village, in the sight of everyone⁠—what was it but to perish, perish utterly, so that it would be impossible to live? No, something must be done.

“My God, my God! What am I to do? Can it be that I shall perish like this?” said he to himself. “Is it not possible to do anything? Yet something must be done. Do not think about her”⁠—he ordered himself. “Do not think!” and immediately he began thinking and seeing her before him, and seeing also the shade of the plane-tree.

He remembered having read of a hermit who, to avoid the temptation he felt for a woman on whom he had to lay his hand to heal her, thrust his other hand into a brazier and burnt his fingers. He called that to mind. “Yes, I am ready to burn my fingers rather than to perish.” He looked round to make sure that there was no one in the room, lit a candle, and put a finger into the flame. “There, now think about her,” he said to himself ironically. It hurt him and he withdrew his smoke-stained finger, threw away the match, and laughed at himself. What nonsense! That was not what had to be done. But it was necessary to do something, to avoid seeing her⁠—either to go away himself or to send her away. Yes⁠—send her away. Offer her husband money to remove to town or to another village. People would hear of it and would talk about it. Well, what of that? At any rate it was better than this danger. “Yes, that must be done,” he said to himself, and at that very moment he was looking at her without moving his eyes. “Where is she going?” he suddenly asked himself. She, it seemed to him, had seen him at the window and now, having glanced at him and taken another woman by the hand, was going towards the garden swinging her arm briskly. Without knowing why or wherefore, merely in accord with what he had been thinking, he went to the office.

Vasíli Nikoláich in holiday costume and with oiled hair was sitting at tea with his wife and a guest who was wearing an oriental kerchief.

“I want a word with you, Vasíli Nikoláich!”

“Please say what you want to. We have finished tea.”

“No. I’d rather you came out with me.”

“Directly; only let me get my cap. Tánya, put out the samovar,” said Vasíli Nikoláich, stepping outside cheerfully.

It seemed to Eugène that Vasíli had been drinking, but what was to be done? It might be all the better⁠—he would sympathize with him in his difficulties the more readily.

“I have come again to speak about that same matter, Vasíli Nikoláich,” said Eugène⁠—“about that woman.”

“Well, what of her? I told them not to take her again on any account.”

“No, I have been thinking in general, and this is what I wanted to take your advice about. Isn’t it possible to get them away, to send the whole family away?”

“Where can they be sent?” said Vasíli, disapprovingly and ironically as it seemed to Eugène.

“Well, I thought of giving them money, or even some land in Koltóvski⁠—so that she should not be here.”

“But how can they be sent away? Where is he to go⁠—torn up from his roots? And why should you do it? What harm can she do you?”

“Ah, Vasíli Nikoláich, you must understand that it would be dreadful for my wife to hear of it.”

“But who will tell her?”

“How can I live with this dread? The whole thing is vary painful for me.”

“But really, why should you distress yourself? Whoever stirs up the past⁠—out with his eye! Who is not a sinner before God and to blame before the Tsar, as the saying is?”

“All the same it would be better to get rid of them. Can’t you speak to the husband?”

“But it is no use speaking! Eh, Eugène Ivánich, what is the matter with you? It is all past and forgotten. All sorts of things happen. Who is there that would now say anything bad of you? Everybody sees you.”

“But all the same go and have a talk with him.”

“All right, I will speak to him.”

Though he knew that nothing would come of it, this talk somewhat calmed Eugène. Above all, it made him feel that through excitement he had been exaggerating the danger.

Had he gone to meet her by appointment? It was impossible. He had simply gone to stroll in the garden and she had happened to run out at the same time.


After dinner that very Trinity Sunday Liza while walking from the garden to the meadow, where her husband wanted to show her the clover, took a false step and fell when crossing a little ditch. She fell gently, on her side; but she gave an exclamation, and her husband saw an expression in her face not only of fear but of pain. He was about to help her up, but she motioned him away with her hand.

“No, wait a bit, Eugène,” she said, with a weak smile, and looked up guiltily as it seemed to him. “My foot only gave way under me.”

“There, I always say,” remarked Varvára Alexéevna, “can anyone in her condition possibly jump over ditches?”

“But it is all right, mamma. I shall get up directly.” With her husband’s help she did get up, but she immediately turned pale, and looked frightened.

“Yes, I am not well!” and she whispered something to her mother.

“Oh, my God, what have you done! I said you ought not to go there,” cried Varvára Alexéevna. “Wait⁠—I will call the servants. She must not walk. She must be carried!”

“Don’t be afraid, Liza, I will carry you,” said Eugène, putting his left arm round her. “Hold me by the neck. Like that.” And stopping down he put his right arm under her knees and lifted her. He could never afterwards forget the suffering and yet beatific expression of her face.

“I am too heavy for you, dear,” she said with a smile. “Mamma is running, tell her!” And she bent towards him and kissed him. She evidently wanted her mother to see how he was carrying her.

Eugène shouted to Varvára Alexéevna not to hurry, and that he would carry Liza home. Varvára Alexéevna stopped and began to shout still louder.

“You will drop her, you’ll be sure to drop her. You want to destroy her. You have no conscience!”

“But I am carrying her excellently.”

“I do not want to watch you killing my daughter, and I can’t.” And she ran round the bend in the alley.

“Never mind, it will pass,” said Liza, smiling.

“Yes, If only it does not have consequences like last time.”

“No. I am not speaking of that. That is all right. I mean mamma. You are tired. Rest a bit.”

But though he found it heavy, Eugène carried his burden proudly and gladly to the house and did not hand her over to the housemaid and the man-cook whom Varvára Alexéevna had found and sent to meet them. He carried her to the bedroom and put her on the bed.

“Now go away,” she said, and drawing his hand to her she kissed it. “Ánnushka and I will manage all right.”

Mary Pávlovna also ran in from her rooms in the wing. They undressed Liza and laid her on the bed. Eugène sat in the drawing room with a book in his hand, waiting. Varvára Alexéevna went past him with such a reproachfully gloomy air that he felt alarmed.

“Well, how is it?” he asked.

“How is it? What’s the good of asking? It is probably what you wanted when you made your wife jump over the ditch.”

“Varvára Alexéevna!” he cried. “This is impossible. If you want to torment people and to poison their life” (he wanted to say, “then go elsewhere to do it,” but restrained himself). “How is it that it does not hurt you?”

“It is too late now.” And shaking her cap in a triumphant manner she passed out by the door.

The fall had really been a bad one; Liza’s foot had twisted awkwardly and there was danger of her having another miscarriage. Everyone knew that there was nothing to be done but that she must just lie quietly, yet all the same they decided to send for a doctor.

“Dear Nikoláy Semënich,” wrote Eugène to the doctor, “you have always been so kind to us that I hope you will not refuse to come to my wife’s assistance. She⁠ ⁠…” and so on. Having written the letter he went to the stables to arrange about the horses and the carriage. Horses had to be got ready to bring the doctor and others to take him back. When an estate is not run on a large scale, such things cannot be quickly decided but have to be considered. Having arranged it all and dispatched the coachman, it was past nine before he got back to the house. His wife was lying down, and said that she felt perfectly well and had no pain. But Varvára Alexéevna was sitting with a lamp screened from Liza by some sheets of music and knitting a large red coverlet, with a mien that said that after what had happened peace was impossible, but that she at any rate would do her duty no matter what anyone else did.

Eugène noticed this, but, to appear as if he had not done so, tried to assume a cheerful and tranquil air and told how he had chosen the horses and how capitally the mare, Kabúshka, had galloped as left trace-horse in the troika.

“Yes, of course, it is just the time to exercise the horses when help is needed. Probably the doctor will also be thrown into the ditch,” remarked Varvára Alexéevna, examining her knitting from under her pince-nez and moving it close up to the lamp.

“But you know we had to send one way or another, and I made the best arrangement I could.”

“Yes, I remember very well how your horses galloped with me under the arch of the gateway.” This was a long-standing fancy of hers, and Eugène now was injudicious enough to remark that that was not quite what had happened.

“It is not for nothing that I have always said, and have often remarked to the prince, that it is hardest of all to live with people who are untruthful and insincere. I can endure anything except that.”

“Well, if anyone has to suffer more than another, it is certainly I,” said Eugène. “But you⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, it is evident.”


“Nothing, I am only counting my stitches.”

Eugène was standing at the time by the bed and Liza was looking at him, and one of her moist hands outside the coverlet caught his hand and pressed it. “Bear with her for my sake. You know she cannot prevent our loving one another,” was what her look said.

“I won’t do so again. It’s nothing,” he whispered, and he kissed her damp, long hand and then her affectionate eyes, which closed while he kissed them.

“Can it be the same thing over again?” he asked. “How are you feeling?”

“I am afraid to say for fear of being mistaken, but I feel that he is alive and will live,” said she, glancing at her stomach.

“Ah, it is dreadful, dreadful to think of.”

Notwithstanding Liza’s insistence that he should go away, Eugène spent the night with her, hardly closing an eye and ready to attend on her.

But she passed the night well, and had they not sent for the doctor she would perhaps have got up.

By dinnertime the doctor arrived and of course said that though if the symptoms recurred there might be cause for apprehension, yet actually there were no positive symptoms, but as there were also no contrary indications one might suppose on the one hand that⁠—and on the other hand that⁠ ⁠… And therefore she must lie still, and that “though I do not like prescribing, yet all the same she should take this mixture and should lie quiet.” Besides this, the doctor gave Varvára Alexéevna a lecture on woman’s anatomy, during which Varvára Alexéevna nodded her head significantly. Having received his fee, as usual into the backmost part of his palm, the doctor drove away and the patient was left to lie in bed for a week.


Eugène spent most of his time by his wife’s bedside, talking to her, reading to her, and what was hardest of all, enduring without murmur Varvára Alexéevna’s attacks, and even contriving to turn these into jokes.

But he could not stay at home all the time. In the first place his wife sent him away, saying that he would fall ill if he always remained with her; and secondly the farming was progressing in a way that demanded his presence at every step. He could not stay at home, but had to be in the fields, in the wood, in the garden, at the thrashing-floor; and everywhere he was pursued not merely by the thought but by the vivid image of Stepanída, and he only occasionally forgot her. But that would not have mattered, he could perhaps have mastered his feeling; what was worst of all was that, whereas he had previously lived for months without seeing her, he now continually came across her. She evidently understood that he wished to renew relations with her and tried to come in his way. Nothing was said either by him or by her, and therefore neither he nor she went directly to a rendezvous, but only sought opportunities of meeting.

The most possible place for them to meet was in the forest, where peasant-women went with sacks to collect grass for their cows. Eugène knew this and therefore went there every day. Every day he told himself that he would not go, and every day it ended by his making his way to the forest and, on hearing the sound of voices, standing behind the bushes with sinking heart looking to see if she was there.

Why he wanted to know whether it was she who was there, he did not know. If it had been she and she had been alone, he would not have gone to her⁠—so he believed⁠—he would have run away; but he wanted to see her.

Once he met her. As he was entering the forest she came out of it with two other women, carrying a heavy sack full of grass on her back. A little earlier he would perhaps have met her in the forest. Now, with the other women there, she could not go back to him. But though he realized this impossibility, he stood for a long time behind a hazel bush, at the risk of attracting the other women’s attention. Of course she did not return, but he stayed there a long time. And, great heavens, how delightful his imagination made her appear to him! And this not only once, but five or six times, and each time more intensely. Never had she seemed so attractive, and never had he been so completely in her power.

He felt that he had lost control of himself and had become almost insane. His strictness with himself had not weakened a jog; on the contrary he saw all the abomination of his desire and even of his action, for his going to the wood was an action. He knew that he only need come near her anywhere in the dark, and if possible touch her, and he would yield to his feelings. He knew that it was only shame before people, before her, and no doubt before himself that restrained him. And he knew too that he had sought conditions in which that shame would not be apparent⁠—darkness or proximity⁠—in which it would be stifled by animal passion. And therefore he knew that he was a wretched criminal, and despised and hated himself with all his soul. He hated himself because he still had not surrendered: every day he prayed God to strengthen him, to save him from perishing; every day he determined that from today onward he would not take a step to see her, and would forget her. Every day he devised means of delivering himself from this enticement, and he made use of those means.

But it was all in vain.

One of the means was continual occupation; another was intense physical work and fasting; a third was imagining to himself the shame that would fall upon him when everybody knew of it⁠—his wife, his mother-in-law, and the folk around. He did all this and it seemed to him that he was conquering, but midday came⁠—the hour of their former meetings and the hour when he had met her carrying the grass⁠—and he went to the forest. Thus five days of torment passed. He only saw her from a distance, and did not once encounter her.


Liza was gradually recovering, she could move about and was only uneasy at the change that had taken place in her husband, which she did not understand.

Varvára Alexéevna had gone away for a while, and the only visitor was Eugène’s uncle. Mary Pávlovna was as usual at home.

Eugène was in his semi-insane condition when there came two days of pouring rain, as often happens after thunder in June. The rain stopped all work. They even ceased carting manure on account of the dampness and dirt. The peasants remained at home. The herdsmen wore themselves out with the cattle, and eventually drove them home. The cows and sheep wandered about in the pastureland and ran loose in the grounds. The peasant-women, barefoot and wrapped in shawls, splashing through the mud, rushed about to seek the runaway cows. Streams flowed everywhere along the paths, all the leaves and all the grass were saturated with water, and streams flowed unceasingly from the spouts into the bubbling puddles. Eugène sat at home with his wife, who was particularly wearisome that day. She questioned Eugène several times as to the cause of his discontent, and he replied with vexation that nothing was the matter. She ceased questioning him but was still distressed.

They were sitting after breakfast in the drawing room. His uncle for the hundredth time was recounting fabrications about his society acquaintances. Liza was knitting a jacket and sighed, complaining of the weather and of a pain in the small of her back. The uncle advised her to lie down, and asked for vodka for himself. It was terribly dull for Eugène in the house. Everything was weak and dull. He read a book and a magazine, but understood nothing of them.

“I must go out and look at the rasping-machine they brought yesterday,” said he, and got up and went out.

“Take an umbrella with you.”

“Oh, no, I have a leather coat. And I am only going as far as the boiling-room.”

He put on his boots and his leather coat and went to the factory; and he had not gone twenty steps before he met her coming towards him, with her skirts tucked up high above her white calves. She was walking, holding down the shawl in which her head and shoulders were wrapped.

“Where are you going?” said he, not recognizing her the first instant. When he recognized her it was already too late. She stopped, smiling, and looked long at him.

“I am looking for a calf. Where are you off to in such weather?” said she, as if she were seeing him every day.

“Come to the shed,” said he suddenly, without knowing how he said it. It was as if someone else had uttered the words.

She bit her shawl, winked, and ran in the direction which led from the garden to the shed, and he continued his path, intending to turn off beyond the lilac-bush and go there too.

“Master,” he heard a voice behind him. “The mistress is calling you, and wants you to come back for a minute.”

This was Mísha, his manservant.

“My God! This is the second time you have saved me,” thought Eugène, and immediately turned back. His wife reminded him that he had promised to take some medicine at the dinner-hour to a sick woman, and he had better take it with him.

While they were getting the medicine some five minutes elapsed, and then, going away with the medicine, he hesitated to go direct to the shed lest he should be seen from the house, but as soon as he was out of sight he promptly turned and made his way to it. He already saw her in imagination inside the shed smiling gaily. But she was not there, and there was nothing in the shed to show that she had been there.

He was already thinking that she had not come, had not heard or understood his words⁠—he had muttered them through his nose as if afraid of her hearing them⁠—or perhaps she had not wanted to come. “And why did I imagine that she would rush to me? She has her own husband; it is only I who am such a wretch as to have a wife, and a good one, and to run after another.” Thus he thought sitting in the shed, the thatch of which had a leak and dripped from its straw. “But how delightful it would be if she did come⁠—alone here in this rain. If only I could embrace her once again, then let happen what may. But I could tell if she has been here by her footprints,” he reflected. He looked at the trodden ground near the shed and at the path overgrown by grass, and the fresh print of bare feet, and even of one that had slipped, was visible. “Yes, she has been here. Well, now it is settled. Wherever I may see her I shall go straight to her. I will go to her at night.” He sat for a long time in the shed and left it exhausted and crushed. He delivered the medicine, returned home, and lay down in his room to wait for dinner.


Before dinner Liza came to him and, still wondering what could be the cause of his discontent, began to say that she was afraid he did not like the idea of her going to Moscow for her confinement, and that she had decided that she would remain at home and on no account go to Moscow. He knew how she feared both her confinement itself and the risk of not having a healthy child, and therefore he could not help being touched at seeing how ready she was to sacrifice everything for his sake. All was so nice, so pleasant, so clean, in the house; and in his soul it was so dirty, despicable, and foul. The whole evening Eugène was tormented by knowing that notwithstanding his sincere repulsion at his own weakness, notwithstanding his firm intention to break off⁠—the same thing would happen again tomorrow.

“No, this is impossible,” he said to himself, walking up and down in his room. “There must be some remedy for it. My God! What am I to do?”

Someone knocked at the door as foreigners do. He knew this must be his uncle. “Come in,” he said.

The uncle had come as a self-appointed ambassador from Liza.

“Do you know, I really do notice that there is a change in you,” he said⁠—“and Liza⁠—I understand how it troubles her. I understand that it must be hard for you to leave all the business you have so excellently started, but que veux-tu?289 I should advise you to go away. It will be more satisfactory both for you and for her. And do you know, I should advise you to go to the Crimea. The climate is beautiful and there is an excellent accoucheur there, and you would be just in time for the best of the grape season.”

“Uncle,” Eugène suddenly exclaimed. “Can you keep a secret? A secret that is terrible to me, a shameful secret.”

“Oh, come⁠—do you really feel any doubt of me?”

“Uncle, you can help me. Not only help, but save me!” said Eugène. And the thought of disclosing his secret to his uncle whom he did not respect, the thought that he should show himself in the worst light and humiliate himself before him, was pleasant. He felt himself to be despicable and guilty, and wished to punish himself.

“Speak, my dear fellow, you know how fond I am of you,” said the uncle, evidently well content that there was a secret and that it was a shameful one, and that it would be communicated to him, and that he could be of use.

“First of all I must tell you that I am a wretch, a good-for-nothing, a scoundrel⁠—a real scoundrel.”

“Now what are you saying⁠ ⁠…” began his uncle, as if he were offended.

“What! Not a wretch when I⁠—Liza’s husband, Liza’s! One has only to know her purity, her love⁠—and that I, her husband, want to be untrue to her with a peasant-woman!”

“What is this? Why do you want to⁠—you have not been unfaithful to her?”

“Yes, at least just the same as being untrue, for it did not depend on me. I was ready to do so. I was hindered, or else I should⁠ ⁠… now. I do not know what I should have done⁠ ⁠…”

“But please, explain to me⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, it is like this. When I was a bachelor I was stupid enough to have relations with a woman here in our village. That is to say, I used to have meetings with her in the forest, in the field⁠ ⁠…”

“Was she pretty?” asked his uncle.

Eugène frowned at this question, but he was in such need of external help that he made as if he did not hear it, and continued:

“Well, I thought this was just casual and that I should break it off and have done with it. And I did break it off before my marriage. For nearly a year I did not see her or think about her.” It seemed strange to Eugène himself to hear the description of his own condition. “Then suddenly, I don’t myself know why⁠—really one sometimes believes in witchcraft⁠—I saw her, and a worm crept into my heart; and it gnaws. I reproach myself, I understand the full horror of my action, that is to say, of the act I may commit any moment, and yet I myself turn to it, and if I have not committed it, it is only because God preserved me. Yesterday I was on my way to see her when Liza sent for me.”

“What, in the rain?”

“Yes. I am worn out, Uncle, and have decided to confess to you and to ask your help.”

“Yes, of course, it’s a bad thing on your own estate. People will get to know. I understand that Liza is weak and that it is necessary to spare her, but why on your own estate?”

Again Eugène tried not to hear what his uncle was saying, and hurried on to the core of the matter.

“Yes, save me from myself. That is what I ask of you. Today I was hindered by chance. But tomorrow or next time no one will hinder me. And she knows now. Don’t leave me alone.”

“Yes, all right,” said his uncle⁠—“but are you really so much in love?”

“Oh, it is not that at all. It is not that, it is some kind of power that has seized me and holds me. I do not know what to do. Perhaps I shall gain strength, and then⁠ ⁠…”

“Well, it turns out as I suggested,” said his uncle. “Let us be off to the Crimea.”

“Yes, yes, let us go, and meanwhile you will be with me and will talk to me.”


The fact that Eugène had confided his secret to his uncle, and still more the sufferings of his conscience and the feeling of shame he experienced after that rainy day, sobered him. It was settled that they would start for Yálta in a week’s time. During that week Eugène drove to town to get money for the journey, gave instructions from the house and from the office concerning the management of the estate, again became gay and friendly with his wife, and began to awaken morally.

So without having once seen Stepanída after that rainy day he left with his wife for the Crimea. There he spent an excellent two months. He received so many new impressions that it seemed to him that the past was obliterated from his memory. In the Crimea they met former acquaintances and became particularly friendly with them, and they also made new acquaintances. Life in the Crimea was a continual holiday for Eugène, besides being instructive and beneficial. They became friendly there with the former Marshal of the Nobility of their province, a clever and liberal-minded man who became fond of Eugène and coached him, and attracted him to his Party.

At the end of August Liza gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter, and her confinement was unexpectedly easy.

In September they returned home, the four of them, including the baby and its wet-nurse, as Liza was unable to nurse it herself. Eugène returned home entirely free from the former horrors and quite a new and happy man. Having gone through all that a husband goes through when his wife bears a child, he loved her more than ever. His feeling for the child when he took it in his arms was a funny, new, very pleasant and, as it were, a tickling feeling. Another new thing in his life now was that, besides his occupation with the estate, thanks to his acquaintance with Dúmchin (the ex-Marshal) a new interest occupied his mind, that of the Zemstvo⁠—partly an ambitious interest, partly a feeling of duty. In October there was to be a special Assembly, at which he was to be elected. After arriving home he drove once to town and another time to Dúmchin.

Of the torments of his temptation and struggle he had forgotten even to think, and could with difficulty recall them to mind. It seemed to him something like an attack of insanity he had undergone.

To such an extent did he now feel free from it that he was not even afraid to make inquiries on the first occasion when he remained alone with the steward. As he had previously spoken to him about the matter he was not ashamed to ask.

“Well, and is Sídor Péchnikov still away from home?” he inquired.

“Yes, he is still in town.”

“And his wife?”

“Oh, she is a worthless woman. She is now carrying on with Zenóvi. She has gone quite on the loose.”

“Well, that is all right,” thought Eugène. “How wonderfully indifferent to it I am! How I have changed.”


All that Eugène had wished had been realized. He had obtained the property, the factory was working successfully, the beet-crops were excellent, and he expected a large income; his wife had borne a child satisfactorily, his mother-in-law had left, and he had been unanimously elected to the Zemstvo.

He was returning home from town after the election. He had been congratulated and had had to return thanks. He had had dinner and had drunk some five glasses of champagne. Quite new plans of life now presented themselves to him, and he was thinking about these as he drove home. It was the Indian summer: an excellent road and a hot sun. As he approached his home Eugène was thinking of how, as a result of this election, he would occupy among the people the position he had always dreamed of; that is to say, one in which he would be able to serve them not only by production, which gave employment, but also by direct influence. He imagined what his own and the other peasants would think of him in three years’ time. “For instance this one,” he thought, drifting just then through the village and glancing at a peasant who with a peasant-woman was crossing the street in front of him carrying a full water-tub. They stopped to let his carriage pass. The peasant was old Péchnikov, and the woman was Stepanída. Eugène looked at her, recognized her, and was glad to feel that he remained quite tranquil. She was still as good-looking as ever, but this did not touch him at all. He drove home.

“Well, may we congratulate you?” said his uncle.

“Yes, I was elected.”

“Capital! We must drink to it!”

Next day Eugène drove about to see to the farming which he had been neglecting. At the outlying farmstead a new thrashing machine was at work. While watching it Eugène stepped among the women, trying not to take notice of them; but try as he would he once or twice noticed the black eyes and red kerchief of Stepanída, who was carrying away the straw. Once or twice he glanced sideways at her and felt that something was happening, but could not account for it to himself. Only next day, when he again drove to the thrashing-floor and spent two hours there quite unnecessarily, without ceasing to caress with his eyes the familiar, handsome figure of the young woman, did he feel that he was lost, irremediably lost. Again those torments! Again all that horror and fear, and there was no saving himself.

What he expected happened to him. The evening of the next day, without knowing how, he found himself at her backyard, by her hay-shed, where in autumn they had once had a meeting. As though having a stroll, he stopped there lighting a cigarette. A neighbouring peasant-woman saw him, and as he turned back he heard her say to someone: “Go, he is waiting for you⁠—on my dying word he is standing there. Go, you fool!”

He saw how a woman⁠—she⁠—ran to the hay-shed; but as a peasant had met him it was no longer possible for him to turn back, and so he went home.


When he entered the drawing-room everything seemed strange and unnatural to him. He had risen that morning vigorous, determined to fling it all aside, to forget it and not allow himself to think about it. But without noticing how it occurred he had all the morning not merely not interested himself in the work, but tried to avoid it. What had formerly cheered him and been important was now insignificant. Unconsciously he tried to free himself from business. It seemed to him that he had to do so in order to think and to plan. And he freed himself and remained alone. But as soon as he was alone he began to wander about in the garden and the forest. And all those spots were besmirched in his recollection by memories that gripped him. He felt that he was walking in the garden and pretending to himself that he was thinking out something, but that really he was not thinking out anything, but insanely and unreasonably expecting her; expecting that by some miracle she would be aware that he was expecting her, and would come here at once and go somewhere where no one would see them, or would come at night when there would be no moon, and no one, not even she herself, would see⁠—on such a night she would come and he would touch her body.⁠ ⁠…

“There now, talking of breaking off when I wish to,” he said to himself. “Yes, and that is having a clean healthy woman for one’s health sake! No, it seems one can’t play with her like that. I thought I had taken her, but it was she who took me; took me and does not let me go. Why, I thought I was free, but I was not free and was deceiving myself when I married. It was all nonsense⁠—fraud. From the time I had her I experienced a new feeling, the real feeling of a husband. Yes, I ought to have lived with her.

“One of two lives is possible for me: that which I began with Liza: service, estate management, the child, and people’s respect. If that is life, it is necessary that she, Stepanída, should not be there. She must be sent away, as I said, or destroyed so that she shall not exist. And the other life⁠—is this: For me to take her away from her husband, pay him money, disregard the shame and disgrace, and live with her. But in that case it is necessary that Liza should not exist, nor Mimi (the baby). No, that is not so, the baby does not matter, but it is necessary that there should be no Liza⁠—that she should go away⁠—that she should know, curse me, and go away. That she should know that I have exchanged her for a peasant-woman, that I am a deceiver and a scoundrel!⁠—No, that is too terrible! It is impossible. But it might happen,” he went on thinking⁠—“it might happen that Liza might fall ill and die. Die, and then everything would be capital.

“Capital! Oh, scoundrel! No, if someone must die it should be Stepanída. If she were to die, how good it would be.

“Yes, that is how men come to poison or kill their wives or lovers. Take a revolver and go and call her, and instead of embracing her, shoot her in the breast and have done with it.

“Really she is⁠—a devil. Simply a devil. She has possessed herself of me against my own will.

“Kill? Yes. There are only two ways out: to kill my wife or her. For it is impossible to live like this.290 It is impossible! I must consider the matter and look ahead. If things remain as they are what will happen? I shall again be saying to myself that I do not wish it and that I will throw her off, but it will be merely words; in the evening I shall be at her backyard, and she will know it and will come out. And if people know of it and tell my wife, or if I tell her myself⁠—for I can’t lie⁠—I shall not be able to live so. I cannot! People will know. They will all know⁠—Parásha and the blacksmith. Well, is it possible to live so?

“Impossible! There are only two ways out: to kill my wife, or to kill her. Yes, or else⁠ ⁠… Ah, yes, there is a third way: to kill myself,” said he softly, and suddenly a shudder ran over his skin. “Yes, kill myself, then I shall not need to kill them.” He became frightened, for he felt that only that way was possible. He had a revolver. “Shall I really kill myself? It is something I never thought of⁠—how strange it will be⁠ ⁠…”

He returned to his study and at once opened the cupboard where the revolver lay, but before he had taken it out of its case his wife entered the room.


He threw a newspaper over the revolver.

“Again the same!” said she aghast when she had looked at him.

“What is the same?”

“The same terrible expression that you had before and would not explain to me. Jénya, dear one, tell me about it. I see that you are suffering. Tell me and you will feel easier. Whatever it may be, it will be better than for you to suffer so. Don’t I know that it is nothing bad?”

“You know? While⁠ ⁠…”

“Tell me, tell me, tell me. I won’t let you go.”

He smiled a piteous smile.

“Shall I?⁠—No, it is impossible. And there is nothing to tell.”

Perhaps he might have told her, but at that moment the wet-nurse entered to ask if she should go for a walk. Liza went out to dress the baby.

“Then you will tell me? I will be back directly.”

“Yes, perhaps⁠ ⁠…”

She never could forget the piteous smile with which he said this. She went out.

Hurriedly, stealthily like a robber, he seized the revolver and took it out of its case. It was loaded, yes, but long ago, and one cartridge was missing.

“Well, how will it be?” He put it to his temple and hesitated a little, but as soon as he remembered Stepanída⁠—his decision not to see her, his struggle, temptation, fall, and renewed struggle⁠—he shuddered with horror. “No, this is better,” and he pulled the trigger⁠ ⁠…

When Liza ran into the room⁠—she had only had time to step down from the balcony⁠—he was lying face downwards on the floor: black, warm blood was gushing from the wound, and his corpse was twitching.

There was an inquest. No one could understand or explain the suicide. It never even entered his uncle’s head that its cause could be anything in common with the confession Eugène had made to him two months previously.

Varvára Alexéevna assured them that she had always foreseen it. It had been evident from his way of disputing. Neither Liza nor Mary Pávlovna could at all understand why it had happened, but still they did not believe what the doctors said, namely, that he was mentally deranged⁠—a psychopath. They were quite unable to accept this, for they knew he was saner than hundreds of their acquaintances.

And indeed if Eugène Irténev was mentally deranged everyone is in the same case; the most mentally deranged people are certainly those who see in others indications of insanity they do not notice in themselves.

Variation of the Conclusion of “The Devil”

“To kill, yes. There are only two ways out: to kill my wife, or to kill her. For it is impossible to live like this,” said he to himself, and going up to the table he took from it a revolver and, having examined it⁠—one cartridge was wanting⁠—he put it in his trouser pocket.

“My God! What am I doing?” he suddenly exclaimed, and folding his hands he began to pray.

“O God, help me and deliver me! Thou knowest that I do not desire evil, but by myself am powerless. Help me,” said he, making the sign of the cross on his breast before the icon.

“Yes, I can control myself. I will go out, walk about and think things over.”

He went to the entrance-hall, put on his overcoat and went out onto the porch. Unconsciously his steps took him past the garden along the field path to the outlying farmstead. There the thrashing machine was still droning and the cries of the driver-lads were heard. He entered the barn. She was there. He saw her at once. She was raking up the corn, and on seeing him she ran briskly and merrily about, with laughing eyes, raking up the scattered corn with agility. Eugène could not help watching her though he did not wish to do so. He only recollected himself when she was no longer in sight. The clerk informed him that they were now finishing thrashing the corn that had been beaten down⁠—that was why it was going slower and the output was less. Eugène went up to the drum, which occasionally gave a knock as sheaves not evenly fed in passed under it, and he asked the clerk if there were many such sheaves of beaten-down corn.

“There will be five cartloads of it.”

“Then look here⁠ ⁠…” began Eugène, but he did not finish the sentence. She had gone close up to the drum and was raking the corn from under it, and she scorched him with her laughing eyes. That look spoke of a merry, careless love between them, of the fact that she knew he wanted her and had come to her shed, and that she as always was ready to live and be merry with him regardless of all conditions or consequences. Eugène felt himself to be in her power but did not wish to yield.

He remembered his prayer and tried to repeat it. He began saying it to himself, but at once felt that it was useless. A single thought now engrossed him entirely: how to arrange a meeting with her so that the others should not notice it.

“If we finish this lot today, are we to start on a fresh stack or leave it till tomorrow?” asked the clerk.

“Yes, yes,” replied Eugène, involuntarily following her to the heap to which with the other women she was raking the corn.

“But can I really not master myself?” said he to himself. “Have I really perished? O God! But there is no God. There is only a devil. And it is she. She has possessed me. But I won’t, I won’t! A devil, yes, a devil.”

Again he went up to her, drew the revolver from his pocket and shot her, once, twice, thrice, in the back. She ran a few steps and fell on the heap of corn.

“My God, my God! What is that?” cried the women.

“No, it was not an accident. I killed her on purpose,” cried Eugène. “Send for the police-officer.”

He went home and went to his study and locked himself in, without speaking to his wife.

“Do not come to me,” he cried to her through the door. “You will know all about it.”

An hour later he rang, and bade the manservant who answered the bell: “Go and find out whether Stepanída is alive.”

The servant already knew all about it, and told him she had died an hour ago.

“Well, all right. Now leave me alone. When the police-officer or the magistrate comes, let me know.”

The police-officer and magistrate arrived next morning, and Eugène, having bidden his wife and baby farewell, was taken to prison.

He was tried. It was during the early days of trial by jury,291 and the verdict was one of temporary insanity, and he was sentenced only to perform church penance.

He had been kept in prison for nine months and was then confined in a monastery for one month.

He had begun to drink while still in prison, continued to do so in the monastery, and returned home an enfeebled, irresponsible drunkard.

Varvára Alexéevna assured them that she had always predicted this. It was, she said, evident from the way he disputed. Neither Liza nor Mary Pávlovna could understand how the affair had happened, but for all that, they did not believe what the doctors said, namely, that he was mentally deranged⁠—a psychopath. They could not accept that, for the knew that he was saner than hundreds of their acquaintances.

And indeed, if Eugène Irténev was mentally deranged when he committed this crime, then everyone is similarly insane. The most mentally deranged people are certainly those who see in others indications of insanity they do not notice in themselves.

November 19, 1889.


(Tolstoy’s Adaptation of a Story by Guy de Maupassant)


On the 3rd of May 1882 a three-masted sailing vessel, Notre-Dame-des-Vents, left Havre for the China Seas. After discharging her cargo in China, she took on board a fresh freight for Buenos Aires, from whence she carried other goods to Brazil.

Apart from these long voyages, the vessel was so much delayed by damages, repairs, calms that continued for months, gales which drove her far out of her course, adventures at sea, and various accidents, that it was four years before she returned to France. At last however, on the 8th of May 1886, she reached Marseilles with a cargo of American tinned fruit.

When the ship left Havre she had on board a captain, a mate, and fourteen sailors. During the voyage one sailor died, four were lost in various adventures, and of those that had sailed from France only nine returned home. In place of these men struck off the list, two Americans had been engaged, besides one negro, and a Swede who had been picked up in a drink-shop at Singapore.

The sails were furled and all the rigging made taut. A tug took them in tow and, steaming noisily, drew the vessel to the line of ships moored at the quay. The sea was calm, only a slight swell plashed on the shore. The vessel took her place in the line of those ranged along the quay, where cheek by jowl stood ships large and small, of all sizes, shapes, and kinds, from every country in the world. Notre-Dame-des-Vents lay between an Italian brig and an English schooner, which had both crowded up to make room for their new companion.

As soon as the captain had got rid of the customhouse officers and port officials, he gave leave to the greater part of the crew to go ashore for the night.

It was a warm summer night. The streets of Marseilles were lighted up and were pervaded by the smell of food, the buzz of conversation, and the noise of traffic interspersed by sounds of gaiety.

The sailors from Notre-Dame-des-Vents had not been on shore for four months and now on landing went about timidly in pairs, like strangers unused to a town. They wandered about the streets nearest the quay, looking around them like dogs sniffing about in search of something. It was four months since they had seen a woman. In front walked Celestin Duclos, a strong and agile fellow who always took the lead when they went ashore. He knew how to find the right places and how to get out of a scrape when necessary. He avoided such broils as sailors frequently engage in when they go ashore, but he went the pace with his comrades and could stand up for himself.

For some time the sailors strolled about those streets which run down to the sea like sewers, filled with an oppressive smell rising from their damp cellars and musty attics. At last Celestin chose a narrow side-street where large, prominent lamps shone over the doors of the houses, and into this he turned. The others followed him, grinning and singing. Numbers were painted in huge figures on the coloured glass of these lamps. In the low doorways, on straw-platted chairs, sat women in aprons. They rushed out at the sight of the sailors, and running into the street threw themselves in their way, enticing them each to her own lair.

At times a door unexpectedly opened at the end of a passage, through which one saw a half-naked woman wearing very short skirts and a very low-cut velvet bodice trimmed with gilt lace.

“Ah! lads, come here,” such a one would cry from a distance, or even ran out herself and catching hold of a sailor dragged him with all her strength towards her den. She stuck to him like a spider seizing a fly stronger than itself. The fellow resisted feebly and the others stopped to see the result, but Celestin Duclos shouted:

“Not there, don’t go in there: come farther!”

The fellow obeyed, tearing himself from the woman by force, and the sailors went on, followed by the abuse of the enraged woman. At the noise of the encounter other women along the street rushed out and fell upon them, shouting the praises of their wares in hoarse voices, but the sailors went on farther and farther. Occasionally they met a soldier with jingling spurs or a solitary clerk or tradesman making his way to some accustomed haunt. In other side-streets shone other lamps of the same kind, but the sailors went farther and farther, tramping through the foul-smelling slush that oozed from the yards. At last Duclos stopped at a house of better appearance than the others, and led his comrades in.


The sailors were sitting in the chief room of the establishment. Each of them had chosen a woman companion from whom he did not part the whole evening; such was the custom of the place. Three tables had been placed together, and first of all the sailors drank, each with his lass. Then they rose and went upstairs with them. Long and loud clattered their twenty feet in their thick boots on the wooden stairs before they had all tumbled through the narrow doors into their separate rooms. From there they came down again to drink, and then returned once more upstairs.

The carouse was kept up recklessly. The whole half-year’s pay went in a four hours’ debauch. By eleven o’clock they were all drunk, and with bloodshot eyes were shouting disconnected phrases not knowing what they said. They sang, shouted, beat with their fists on the table, or poured wine down their throats. Celestin Duclos was there among his comrades and with him sat a large, stout, red-cheeked woman. He had had as much to drink as the others, but was not yet quite drunk: some more or less connected thoughts still flickered through his brain. He grew tender, and tried to think of something to say to his lass, but the thoughts that came into his head vanished again at once and he was unable to remember or express them.

“Yes,” said he, laughing. “Just so.⁠ ⁠… Just so.⁠ ⁠… And have you lived here long?”

“Six months,” replied the woman.

He nodded his head, as if to show his approval of this.

“And are you comfortable here?”

She thought a moment.

“I have got accustomed to it,” she said. “One has to live somehow. It is not so bad as being in service or working in a laundry.”

He nodded his head approvingly, as if to commend her for this also.

“Were you born in these parts?” said he.

She shook her head.

“Do you come from far away?” he continued.

She nodded.

“Where from?”

She paused, as if to remember.

“I am from Perpignan,” said she.

“Yes, yes,” said he and ceased questioning her.

“And what are you⁠—a sailor?” asked the woman in her turn.

“Yes, we are sailors.”

“And have you been on long voyages?”

“Yes, long enough! We have seen places of all sorts.”

“Have you been round the world?”

“Oh yes,” said he, “not once only⁠—we have been nearly twice round.”

She again paused, as if remembering something.

“I suppose you have met many ships?” said she.

“Of course we have.”

“Have you ever met the Notre-Dame-des-Vents? There is a ship of that name.”

He was surprised at her naming his vessel, and thought he would play a trick on her.

“Why, certainly,” said he; “we met her only last week.”

“Is that the truth?” she said, growing pale.

“The solemn truth.”

“You are not telling me a lie?”

“So help me God,” swore he, “I am telling the truth.”

“And did you not meet a man on board named Celestin Duclos?” asked she.

“Celestin Duclos?” he repeated, astonished and even alarmed. How did this woman know his name?

“Why! do you know him?” he asked.

It was evident that she too was alarmed.

“No, not I, but there is a woman here that knows him.”

“What woman? Here in this house?”

“No, but near here.”

“Tell me where?”

“Oh, not very far away.”

“Who is she?”

“Oh, just a woman⁠—like myself.”

“What has she to do with him?”

“How should I know? Perhaps they come from the same parts.”

They looked searchingly into each other’s eyes.

“I should like to see that woman,” he said.

“Why?” she asked. “Have you anything to tell her?”

“I want to tell her⁠ ⁠…”

“To tell her⁠—what?”

“That I have seen Celestin Duclos.”

“You have seen Celestin Duclos! Is he alive and well?”

“He is quite well. But what is that to you?”

She was silent, again collecting her thoughts. Then she said softly:

“What port is the Notre-Dame-des-Vents bound for?”

“What port? Why, Marseilles.”

“Is that true?” cried she.

“Quite true.”

“And you know Duclos?”

“I have already told you that I know him.”

She thought awhile.

“Yes, yes, it is well,” said she softly.

“What do you want with him?”

“If you should see him, tell him⁠ ⁠… No, better not!”

“What shall I tell him?”

“No, never mind.”

As he looked at her he became more and more agitated.

“Do you know him yourself?” asked he.

“No, I don’t know him myself.”

“Then what does he matter to you?”

She did not answer, but jumping up ran to the counter, behind which the hostess sat. Taking a lemon, she cut it in half and squeezed the juice into a glass which she filled with water, and this she gave to Celestin.

“There⁠—drink that!” she said, sitting down as before on his knees.

“What is this for?” he asked, taking the glass from her.

“To clear your head. Then I will tell you something. Drink it!”

He drank it, and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

“Well, now tell me! I am attending.”

“But you must not let him know that you have seen me, nor tell him whom you heard it from.”

“Very well, I will not tell.”

“Swear it!”

He swore.

“So help you God!”

“So help me God!”

“Well then, tell him his father and mother are both dead and his brother also. A fever broke out and they all died in one and the same month.”

Duclos felt the blood rushing to his heart. For some minutes he sat in silence, not knowing what to say. Presently he uttered the words:

“Are you sure it is so?”

“Quite sure.”

“Who told you?”

She put her hands on his shoulders and looked him straight in the eyes.

“Swear you will not let it out!”

He swore it: “So help me God!”

“I am his sister.”

“Françoise!” he shrieked.

She looked intently at him, and softly, softly moved her lips, hardly letting the words escape:

“So you are Celestin!”

They did not stir, but remained as though benumbed, gazing into each other’s eyes.

Around them the others shouted with drunken voices. The ringing of glasses, the beating of hands and heels, and the piercing screams of women, intermingled with the singing and the shouting.

“How can it have happened?” said he, so gently that even she could hardly catch the words.

Her eyes suddenly filled with tears.

“They died,” she continued. “All three in one month. What was I to do? I was left alone. The chemist, the doctor, the three funerals.⁠ ⁠… I had to sell everything to pay the debts. Nothing was left but the clothes I wore. I went as servant to Monsieur Cacheux.⁠ ⁠… Do you remember him? A lame man. I was only just fifteen. I was scarcely fourteen when you left home⁠—and I went wrong with him.⁠ ⁠… You know how stupid we peasant girls are. Then I went as nurse in a notary’s family⁠—and it was the same with him. For a time he made me his mistress and I had a lodging of my own; but that did not last long. He left me, and for three days I was without food. No one would take me, so I came here like the rest of them.” And as she spoke the water flowed in streams from her eyes and nose, wetting her cheeks and trickling into her mouth.

“What have we done?” said he.

“I thought you were dead also. How could I have helped it?” whispered she through her tears.

“How was it you did not know me?” he answered, also in a whisper.

“I do not know. It was not my fault,” continued she, weeping yet more bitterly.

“How could I know you?” he said again. “You were so different when I left home! But you should have known me!”

She threw up her hands in despair.

“Ah! I see so many of them⁠—these men. They all look alike to me now!”

His heart contracted so painfully and so strongly that he wanted to cry aloud, as a little boy does when he is beaten.

He rose and held her at arm’s length; then, seizing her head in his great sailor paws, he gazed intently into her face.

Little by little he recognized in her the small, slender, merry maiden he had left at home with those others whose eyes it had been her lot to close.

“Yes, you are Françoise! My sister!” he exclaimed. And suddenly sobs⁠—the sobs of a strong man, sounding like the hiccups of a drunkard⁠—rose in his throat. He let go of her head, and striking the table so that the glasses upset and broke to atoms, he cried out in a wild voice.

His comrades, astonished, turned towards him.

“See how he’s swaggering,” said one.

“Stop that shouting,” said another.

“Eh, Duclos! What are you bawling about? Let’s get upstairs again,” said a third, plucking Celestin by the sleeve with one hand while his other arm encircled a flushed, laughing, black-eyed lass, in a rose-coloured, low cut, silk dress.

Duclos suddenly became quiet, and holding his breath looked at his comrades. Then, with the same strange and resolute expression with which he used to enter on a fight, he staggered up to the sailor who was embracing the girl, and struck down with his hand⁠—dividing them apart.

“Away! Do you not see that she is your sister! Each of them is someone’s sister. See, here is my sister, Françoise! Ha, ha⁠ ⁠… ha⁠ ⁠… and he broke into sobs that almost sounded like laughter. Then he staggered, raised his hands, and fell with a crash to the floor, where he rolled about, striking the floor with his hands and feet and choking as though about to die.

“He must be put to bed,” said one of his comrades. “We shall be having him taken up if we go out into the streets.”

So they lifted Celestin and dragged him upstairs to Françoise’s room, where they laid him on her bed.

The Empty Drum

(A Folktale Long Current in the Region of the Volga)

Emelyán was a labourer and worked for a master. Crossing the meadows one day on his way to work, he nearly trod on a frog that jumped right in front of him, but he just managed to avoid it. Suddenly he heard someone calling to him from behind.

Emelyán looked round and saw a lovely lassie, who said to him: “Why don’t you get married, Emelyán?”

“How can I marry, my lass?” said he. “I have but the clothes I stand up in, nothing more, and no one would have me for a husband.”

“Take me for a wife,” said she.

Emelyán liked the maid. “I should be glad to,” said he, “but where and how could we live?”

“Why trouble about that?” said the girl. “One only has to work more and sleep less, and one can clothe and feed oneself anywhere.”

“Very well then, let us marry,” said Emelyán. “Where shall we go to?”

“Let us go to town.”

So Emelyán and the lass went to town, and she took him to a small hut on the very edge of the town, and they married and began housekeeping.

One day the King, driving through the town, passed by Emelyán’s hut. Emelyán’s wife came out to see the King. The King noticed her and was quite surprised.

“Where did such a beauty come from?” said he, and stopping his carriage he called Emelyán’s wife and asked her: “Who are you?”

“The peasant Emelyán’s wife,” said she.

“Why did you, who are such a beauty, marry a peasant?” said the King. “You ought to be a queen!”

“Thank you for your kind words,” said she, “but a peasant husband is good enough for me.”

The King talked to her awhile and then drove on. He returned to the palace, but could not get Emelyán’s wife out of his head. All night he did not sleep, but kept thinking how to get her for himself. He could think of no way of doing it, so he called his servants and told them they must find a way.

The King’s servants said: “Command Emelyán to come to the palace to work, and we will work him so hard that he will die. His wife will be left a widow, and then you can take her for yourself.”

The King followed their advice. He sent an order that Emelyán should come to the palace as a workman, and that he should live at the palace, and his wife with him.

The messengers came to Emelyán and gave him the King’s message. His wife said, “Go, Emelyán; work all day, but come back home at night.”

So Emelyán went, and when he got to the palace the King’s steward asked him, “Why have you come alone, without your wife?”

“Why should I drag her about?” said Emelyán. “She has a house to live in.”

At the King’s palace they gave Emelyán work enough for two. He began the job not hoping to finish it; but when evening came, lo and behold! it was all done. The steward saw that it was finished, and set him four times as much for next day.

Emelyán went home. Everything there was swept and tidy; the oven was heated, his supper was cooked and ready, and his wife sat by the table sewing and waiting for his return. She greeted him, laid the table, gave him to eat and drink, and then began to ask him about his work.

“Ah!” said he, “it’s a bad business: they give me tasks beyond my strength, and want to kill me with work.”

“Don’t fret about the work,” said she, “don’t look either before or behind to see how much you have done or how much there is left to do; only keep on working and all will be right.”

So Emelyán lay down and slept. Next morning he went to work again and worked without once looking round. And, lo and behold! by the evening it was all done, and before dark he came home for the night.

Again and again they increased Emelyán’s work, but he always got through it in good time and went back to his hut to sleep. A week passed, and the King’s servants saw they could not crush him with rough work, so they tried giving him work that required skill. But this, also, was of no avail. Carpentering, and masonry, and roofing, whatever they set him to do, Emelyán had it ready in time, and went home to his wife at night. So a second week passed.

Then the King called his servants and said: “Am I to feed you for nothing? Two weeks have gone, and I don’t see that you have done anything. You were going to tire Emelyán out with work, but I see from my windows how he goes home every evening⁠—singing cheerfully! Do you mean to make a fool of me?”

The King’s servants began to excuse themselves. “We tried our best to wear him out with rough work,” they said, “but nothing was too hard for him; he cleared it all off as though he had swept it away with a broom. There was no tiring him out. Then we set him to tasks needing skill, which we did not think he was clever enough to do, but he managed them all. No matter what one sets him, he does it all, no one knows how. Either he or his wife must know some spell that helps them. We ourselves are sick of him, and wish to find a task he cannot master. We have now thought of setting him to build a cathedral in a single day. Send for Emelyán, and order him to build a cathedral in front of the palace in a single day. Then, if he does not do it, let his head be cut off for disobedience.”

The King sent for Emelyán. “Listen to my command,” said he: “build me a new cathedral on the square in front of my palace, and have it ready by tomorrow evening. If you have it ready I will reward you, but if not I will have your head cut off.”

When Emelyán heard the King’s command he turned away and went home. “My end is near,” thought he. And coming to his wife, he said: “Get ready, wife, we must fly from here, or I shall be lost by no fault of my own.”

“What has frightened you so?” said she, “and why should we run away?”

“How can I help being frightened? The King has ordered me, tomorrow, in a single day, to build him a cathedral. If I fail he will cut my head off. There is only one thing to be done: we must fly while there is yet time.”

But his wife would not hear of it. “The King has many soldiers,” said she. “They would catch us anywhere. We cannot escape from him, but must obey him as long as strength holds out.”

“How can I obey him when the task is beyond my strength?”

“Eh, goodman, don’t be downhearted. Eat your supper now, and go to sleep. Rise early in the morning and all will get done.”

So Emelyán lay down and slept. His wife roused him early next day. “Go quickly,” said she, “and finish the cathedral. Here are nails and a hammer; there is still enough work there for a day.”

Emelyán went into the town, reached the palace square, and there stood a large cathedral not quite finished. Emelyán set to work to do what was needed, and by the evening all was ready.

When the King awoke he looked out from his palace, and saw the cathedral, and Emelyán going about driving in nails here and there. And the King was not pleased to have the cathedral⁠—he was annoyed at not being able to condemn Emelyán and take his wife. Again he called his servants. “Emelyán has done this task also,” said the King, “and there is no excuse for putting him to death. Even this work was not too hard for him. You must find a more cunning plan, or I will cut off your heads as well as his.”

So his servants planned that Emelyán should be ordered to make a river round the palace, with ships sailing on it. And the King sent for Emelyán and set him this new task.

“If,” said he, “you could build a cathedral in one night, you can also do this. Tomorrow all must be ready. If not, I will have your head off.”

Emelyán was more downcast than before, and returned to his wife sad at heart.

“Why are you so sad?” said his wife. “Has the King set you a fresh task?”

Emelyán told her about it. “We must fly,” said he.

But his wife replied: “There is no escaping the soldiers; they will catch us wherever we go. There is nothing for it but to obey.”

“How can I do it?” groaned Emelyán.

“Eh! eh! goodman,” said she, “don’t be downhearted. Eat your supper now, and go to sleep. Rise early, and all will get done in good time.”

So Emelyán lay down and slept. In the morning his wife woke him. “Go,” said she, “to the palace⁠—all is ready. Only, near the wharf in front of the palace, there is a mound left; take a spade and level it.”

When the King awoke he saw a river where there had not been one; ships were sailing up and down, and Emelyán was levelling a mound with a spade. The King wondered, but was pleased neither with the river nor with the ships, so vexed was he at not being able to condemn Emelyán. “There is no task,” thought he, “that he cannot manage. What is to be done?” And he called his servants and again asked their advice.

“Find some task,” said he, “which Emelyán cannot compass. For whatever we plan he fulfils, and I cannot take his wife from him.”

The King’s servants thought and thought, and at last devised a plan. They came to the King and said: “Send for Emelyán and say to him: ‘Go to there, don’t know where,’ and bring back ‘that, don’t know what.’ Then he will not be able to escape you. No matter where he goes, you can say that he has not gone to the right place, and no matter what he brings, you can say it is not the right thing. Then you can have him beheaded and can take his wife.”

The King was pleased. “That is well thought of,” said he. So the King sent for Emelyán and said to him: “Go to ‘there, don’t know where,’ and bring back ‘that, don’t know what.’ If you fail to bring it, I will have you beheaded.”

Emelyán returned to his wife and told her what the King had said. His wife became thoughtful.

“Well,” said she, “they have taught the King how to catch you. Now we must act warily.” So she sat and thought, and at last said to her husband: “You must go far, to our Grandam⁠—the old peasant woman, the mother of soldiers⁠—and you must ask her aid. If she helps you to anything, go straight to the palace with it, I shall be there: I cannot escape them now. They will take me by force, but it will not be for long. If you do everything as Grandam directs, you will soon save me.”

So the wife got her husband ready for the journey. She gave him a wallet, and also a spindle. “Give her this,” said she. “By this token she will know that you are my husband.” And his wife showed him his road.

Emelyán set off. He left the town behind, and came to where some soldiers were being drilled. Emelyán stood and watched them. After drill the soldiers sat down to rest. Then Emelyán went up to them and asked: “Do you know, brothers, the way to ‘there, don’t know where?’ and how I can get ‘that, don’t know what?’ ”

The soldiers listened to him with surprise. “Who sent you on this errand?” said they.

“The King,” said he.

“We ourselves,” said they, “from the day we became soldiers, go we ‘don’t know where,’ and never yet have we got there; and we seek we ‘don’t know what,’ and cannot find it. We cannot help you.”

Emelyán sat a while with the soldiers and then went on again. He trudged many a mile, and at last came to a wood. In the wood was a hut, and in the hut sat an old, old woman, the mother of peasant soldiers, spinning flax and weeping. And as she spun she did not put her fingers to her mouth to wet them with spittle, but to her eyes to wet them with tears. When the old woman saw Emelyán she cried out at him: “Why have you come here?” Then Emelyán gave her the spindle, and said his wife had sent it.

The old woman softened at once, and began to question him. And Emelyán told her his whole life: how he married the lass; how they went to live in the town; how he had worked, and what he had done at the palace; how he built the cathedral, and made a river with ships on it, and how the King had now told him to go to “there, don’t know where,” and bring back “that, don’t know what.”

The Grandam listened to the end, and ceased weeping. She muttered to herself: “The time has surely come,” and said to him: “All right, my lad. Sit down now, and I will give you something to eat.”

Emelyán ate, and then the Grandam told him what to do. “Here,” said she, “is a ball of thread; roll it before you, and follow where it goes. You must go far till you come right to the sea. When you get there, you will see a great city. Enter the city and ask for a night’s lodging at the furthest house. There look out for what you are seeking.”

“How shall I know it when I see it, Granny?” said he.

“When you see something men obey more than father or mother, that is it. Seize that, and take it to the King. When you bring it to the King, he will say it is not right, and you must answer: ‘If it is not the right thing it must be smashed,’ and you must beat it, and carry it to the river, break it in pieces, and throw it into the water. Then you will get your wife back and my tears will be dried.”

Emelyán bade farewell to the Grandam and began rolling his ball before him. It rolled and rolled until at last it reached the sea. By the sea stood a great city, and at the further end of the city was a big house. There Emelyán begged for a night’s lodging, and was granted it. He lay down to sleep, and in the morning awoke and heard a father rousing his son to go and cut wood for the fire. But the son did not obey. “It is too early,” said he, “there is time enough.” Then Emelyán heard the mother say, “Go, my son, your father’s bones ache; would you have him go himself? It is time to be up!”

But the son only murmured some words and fell asleep again. Hardly was he asleep when something thundered and rattled in the street. Up jumped the son and quickly putting on his clothes ran out into the street. Up jumped Emelyán, too, and ran after him to see what it was that a son obeys more than father or mother. What he saw was a man walking along the street carrying, tied to his stomach, a thing which he beat with sticks, and that it was that rattled and thundered so, and that the son had obeyed. Emelyán ran up and had a look at it. He saw it was round, like a small tub, with a skin stretched over both ends, and he asked what it was called.

He was told, “A drum.”

“And is it empty?”

“Yes, it is empty.”

Emelyán was surprised. He asked them to give the thing to him, but they would not. So Emelyán left off asking, and followed the drummer. All day he followed, and when the drummer at last lay down to sleep, Emelyán snatched the drum from him and ran away with it.

He ran and ran, till at last he got back to his own town. He went to see his wife, but she was not at home. The day after he went away, the King had taken her. So Emelyán went to the palace, and sent in a message to the King: “He has returned who went to ‘there, don’t know where,’ and he has brought with him ‘that, don’t know what.’ ”

They told the King, and the King said he was to come again next day.

But Emelyán said, “Tell the King I am here today, and have brought what the King wanted. Let him come out to me, or I will go in to him!”

The King came out. “Where have you been?” said he.

Emelyán told him.

“That’s not the right place,” said the King. “What have you brought?”

Emelyán pointed to the drum, but the King did not look at it.

“That is not it.”

“If it is not the right thing,” said Emelyán, “it must be smashed, and may the devil take it!”

And Emelyán left the palace, carrying the drum and beating it. And as he beat it all the King’s army ran out to follow Emelyán, and they saluted him and waited his commands.

The King, from his window, began to shout at his army telling them not to follow Emelyán. They did not listen to what he said, but all followed Emelyán.

When the King saw that, he gave orders that Emelyán’s wife should be taken back to him, and he sent to ask Emelyán to give him the drum.

“It can’t be done,” said Emelyán. “I was told to smash it and to throw the splinters into the river.”

So Emelyán went down to the river carrying the drum, and the soldiers followed him. When he reached the river bank Emelyán smashed the drum to splinters, and threw the splinters into the stream. And then all the soldiers ran away.

Emelyán took his wife and went home with her. And after that the King ceased to trouble him; and so they lived happily ever after.


A Dialogue Among Clever People


Once some guests were gathered in a rich man’s home, and it happened that a serious conversation about life arose.

They talked about persons absent and persons present, and they could not hit upon a single one contented with his life.

Not only did each one find something to complain of in his fortune, but there was not one who would consider that he was living as a Christian ought to live. All confessed that they were living worldly lives, concerned only about themselves and their families, thinking little about their neighbors, and still less about God.

Thus talked the guests, and all agreed in blaming themselves for their godless, unchristian lives.

“Then why do we live so?” cried one youth. “Why do we do what we ourselves do not approve? Have we not the power over our own lives? We ourselves are conscious that our luxury, our effeminacy, our wealth, and especially our pride⁠—our separation from our brethren⁠—are our ruin. In order to be important and rich we must deprive ourselves of everything that gives man joy in living; we crowd ourselves into cities, we make ourselves effeminate, we ruin our constitutions; and notwithstanding all our diversion, we die of ennui and of disgust because our lives are not what they ought to be.

“Why live so? Why destroy our lives so, and all the good which God has bestowed on us? I mean to give up living as I have. I will give up the studies I have begun; for, don’t you see, they would lead me to no other than that tormenting life which all of us are now complaining of. I will renounce my property, and I will go and live with the poor in the country. I will work with them; I will learn to labor with my hands, and if my culture is necessary to the poor, I will share it with them, but not through institutions and books, but directly, living with them as if I were their brother.⁠ ⁠… Yes, I have made up my mind,” he added, looking inquiringly at his father, who was also present.

“Your desire is a worthy one,” said his father, “but foolish and ill-considered. Everything seems to you quite easy because you don’t know life. How beautiful it seems to us! But the truth is, the accomplishment of this beautiful ideal is very difficult and complicated. It is hard enough to go well on a beaten track, but still more to trace out new paths. They can be traced out only by men who have arrived at full maturity and have assimilated all that is in the power of man to absorb. It seems to you easy to break out new paths in life, because, as yet, you have had no experience of life. This is all the heedlessness and pride of youth. We old people are needed to curb your impulses and to guide you by our experience, while you young people must obey us so as to profit by our experience. Your active life is still before you; now you are growing and developing. Get your education, and all the culture you can; stand on your own legs, have your own firm convictions, and then begin your new life, if you feel you have the strength for it. But now you must obey those that are guiding you for your own good, and you must not strike out into new paths in life!”

The youth made no reply, and the older persons present agreed with what his father said.

“You are right,” said a middle-aged, married man, addressing the youth’s father. “It is true that a youth having no experience of life may blunder in trying new paths of life, and his resolution may not be deeply settled; but, you see, we are all agreed on this point, that our lives are contrary to our consciences, and do not make us happy. And so we can’t help regarding your desire to enter upon this new life as laudable.

“The young man may adopt his ideal through reason, but I am not a young man, and I am going to speak to you about myself. As I listened to our talk this evening the same thought entered my mind. The life which I am leading, it is plain to me, cannot give me a serene conscience and happiness. Both experience and reason prove this. Then what am I waiting for! You struggle from morning till night for your family, and the result is that both you and your family continue to live ungodly lives, and you are all the while worse and worse entangled in your sins. You work for your family, and it seems your family are not better off or happier because you work for them. And so I often think it would be better if I changed my whole life and did exactly what this young man proposed⁠—ceased to bother about wife and children, and only thought about my soul. Not without reason does it say in St. Paul: ‘He that is married takes thought about his wife, but he that is unmarried about God.’ ”

Before this married man had finished his remarks, all the women present, including his wife, fell upon him:

“You ought to have thought about all this earlier,” said one of the elderly ladies. “ ‘Once harnessed, you must work.’ According to your plan every man will be saying, ‘I want to be saved,’ when it seems to him hard to maintain and feed a family. It is all deception and baseness. No; a man ought to be able to live in a godly way even if he has a family. It is easy enough for him to save himself alone. And then the main thing⁠—to act so is to act contrary to the teaching of Christ. God has commanded us to love others, but in this way you would offend others as if it were for God. No; a married man has his definite obligations, and he ought not to shirk them. It is another thing when your family has already been established. Then you may do as you please for yourself, but no one has any right to do violence to his family.”

The married man did not agree with this. He said: “I have no wish to give up my family. All I say that it is that it is not necessary to maintain one’s family and children in a worldly fashion, or to teach them to live for their own pleasures as we were just saying; but we ought to train them so that children in their early days may be accustomed to poverty, to labor, to help others; and, above all, to lead a fraternal life with all men. And to do this it is necessary to renounce all wealth and distinction.”

“There is no sense in breaking in others while you yourself are not living a godly life,” retorted his wife, with some heat. “Ever since your earliest youth you have lived for your own gratification. Why, then, should you wish to torment your children and family? Let them grow up in peace, and then they will do as they themselves are inclined; but don’t you coerce them.”

The married man held his peace, but an elderly man who was present took up the cudgels in his defense:⁠—

“Let us admit,” said he, “it is impossible for a married man who has accustomed his family to a certain degree of luxury, suddenly to deprive them of it all. It is true that if you have begun to educate your children, you had better carry out your plans than break them off. All the more, because the children, when they are grown up, will themselves choose the path which they think best. I admit that it is difficult, if not impossible, for a family man to change his life without working injury. But to us old men God has given this as a command. I will say of myself, I am living now without any responsibilities. I am living, to tell the truth, merely for my belly. I eat, I drink, I take my ease, and it is disgusting and repulsive to my nature.

“So then it is time for me to give up this life, to distribute my property, and to live the rest of my days as God has commanded a Christian to live.”

The rest did not agree with the old man. His niece and goddaughter was present, all of whose children he had stood as sponsor for, always providing them with holiday gifts; and so was his son. All protested against his views.

“No,” said his son, “you have worked hard in your day, you deserve to rest; and you have no right to torment yourself. You have lived sixty years in your own habits; it would be impossible for you to change them. You would only torment yourself for nothing.”

“Yes, yes,” exclaimed his niece, in confirmation of this, “you would be in want, you would be out of sorts, you would grumble, and you would commit worse sin. But God is merciful and pardons all sinners⁠—much more such a good kind uncle as you are!”

“Yes, and why should we?” asked another old man, a contemporary of the old uncle. “You and I may not have two days longer to live. So what is the use of beginning?”

“What a marvelous thing!” exclaimed one of the guests⁠—he had not spoken before⁠—“What a marvelous thing! All of us confess that it is good to live a godly life, and that we live ill and suffer in soul and body; but as soon as it comes to the point, then it seems that it is impossible to break in the children, but they must be educated, not in the godlike way, but in the old-fashioned way. It is impossible for a young man to escape from his parents’ will, but he must live, not in the godlike way, but in the old way. A married man cannot restrain his wife and children, but must live the ungodlike life, in the old way. The old men cannot begin, they are not accustomed to it; and besides this, they may not live two days longer. So the upshot is that it is impossible for anyone to live well, but only to talk about it.”

The Coffeehouse of Surat

(After Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.)

In the town of Surat, in India, was a coffeehouse where many travellers and foreigners from all parts of the world met and conversed.

One day a learned Persian theologian visited this coffeehouse. He was a man who had spent his life studying the nature of the Deity, and reading and writing books upon the subject. He had thought, read, and written so much about God, that eventually he lost his wits, became quite confused, and ceased even to believe in the existence of a God. The Shah, hearing of this, had banished him from Persia.

After having argued all his life about the First Cause, this unfortunate theologian had ended by quite perplexing himself, and instead of understanding that he had lost his own reason, he began to think that there was no higher Reason controlling the universe.

This man had an African slave who followed him everywhere. When the theologian entered the coffeehouse, the slave remained outside, near the door, sitting on a stone in the glare of the sun, and driving away the flies that buzzed around him. The Persian having settled down on a divan in the coffeehouse, ordered himself a cup of opium. When he had drunk it and the opium had begun to quicken the workings of his brain, he addressed his slave through the open door:

“Tell me, wretched slave,” said he, “do you think there is a God, or not?”

“Of course there is,” said the slave, and immediately drew from under his girdle a small idol of wood.

“There,” said he, “that is the God who has guarded me from the day of my birth. Everyone in our country worships the fetish tree, from the wood of which this God was made.”

This conversation between the theologian and his slave was listened to with surprise by the other guests in the coffeehouse. They were astonished at the master’s question, and yet more so at the slave’s reply.

One of them, a Brahmin, on hearing the words spoken by the slave, turned to him and said:

“Miserable fool! Is it possible you believe that God can be carried under a man’s girdle? There is one God⁠—Brahma, and he is greater than the whole world, for he created it. Brahma is the One, the mighty God, and in His honour are built the temples on the Ganges’ banks, where his true priests, the Brahmins, worship him. They know the true God, and none but they. A thousand score of years have passed, and yet through revolution after revolution these priests have held their sway, because Brahma, the one true God, has protected them.”

So spoke the Brahmin, thinking to convince everyone; but a Jewish broker who was present replied to him, and said:

“No! the temple of the true God is not in India. Neither does God protect the Brahmin caste. The true God is not the God of the Brahmins, but of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. None does He protect but His chosen people, the Israelites. From the commencement of the world, our nation has been beloved of Him, and ours alone. If we are now scattered over the whole earth, it is but to try us; for God has promised that He will one day gather His people together in Jerusalem. Then, with the Temple of Jerusalem⁠—the wonder of the ancient world⁠—restored to its splendour, shall Israel be established a ruler over all nations.”

So spoke the Jew, and burst into tears. He wished to say more, but an Italian missionary who was there interrupted him.

“What you are saying is untrue,” said he to the Jew. “You attribute injustice to God. He cannot love your nation above the rest. Nay rather, even if it be true that of old He favoured the Israelites, it is now nineteen hundred years since they angered Him, and caused Him to destroy their nation and scatter them over the earth, so that their faith makes no converts and has died out except here and there. God shows preference to no nation, but calls all who wish to be saved to the bosom of the Catholic Church of Rome, the one outside whose borders no salvation can be found.”

So spoke the Italian. But a Protestant minister, who happened to be present, growing pale, turned to the Catholic missionary and exclaimed:

“How can you say that salvation belongs to your religion? Those only will be saved, who serve God according to the Gospel, in spirit and in truth, as bidden by the word of Christ.”

Then a Turk, an officeholder in the customhouse at Surat, who was sitting in the coffeehouse smoking a pipe, turned with an air of superiority to both the Christians.

“Your belief in your Roman religion is vain,” said he. “It was superseded twelve hundred years ago by the true faith: that of Mohammed! You cannot but observe how the true Mohammedan faith continues to spread both in Europe and Asia, and even in the enlightened country of China. You say yourselves that God has rejected the Jews; and, as a proof, you quote the fact that the Jews are humiliated and their faith does not spread. Confess then the truth of Mohammedanism, for it is triumphant and spreads far and wide. None will be saved but the followers of Mohammed, God’s latest prophet; and of them, only the followers of Omar, and not of Ali, for the latter are false to the faith.”

To this the Persian theologian, who was of the sect of Ali, wished to reply; but by this time a great dispute had arisen among all the strangers of different faiths and creeds present. There were Abyssinian Christians, Llamas from Tibet, Ismailians and Fireworshippers. They all argued about the nature of God, and how He should be worshipped. Each of them asserted that in his country alone was the true God known and rightly worshipped.

Everyone argued and shouted, except a Chinaman, a student of Confucius, who sat quietly in one corner of the coffeehouse, not joining in the dispute. He sat there drinking tea and listening to what the others said, but did not speak himself.

The Turk noticed him sitting there, and appealed to him, saying:

“You can confirm what I say, my good Chinaman. You hold your peace, but if you spoke I know you would uphold my opinion. Traders from your country, who come to me for assistance, tell me that though many religions have been introduced into China, you Chinese consider Mohammedanism the best of all, and adopt it willingly. Confirm, then, my words, and tell us your opinion of the true God and of His prophet.”

“Yes, yes,” said the rest, turning to the Chinaman, “let us hear what you think on the subject.”

The Chinaman, the student of Confucius, closed his eyes, and thought a while. Then he opened them again, and drawing his hands out of the wide sleeves of his garment, and folding them on his breast, he spoke as follows, in a calm and quiet voice.

Sirs, it seems to me that it is chiefly pride that prevents men agreeing with one another on matters of faith. If you care to listen to me, I will tell you a story which will explain this by an example.

I came here from China on an English steamer which had been round the world. We stopped for fresh water, and landed on the east coast of the island of Sumatra. It was midday, and some of us, having landed, sat in the shade of some coconut palms by the seashore, not far from a native village. We were a party of men of different nationalities.

As we sat there, a blind man approached us. We learnt afterwards that he had gone blind from gazing too long and too persistently at the sun, trying to find out what it is, in order to seize its light.

He strove a long time to accomplish this, constantly looking at the sun; but the only result was that his eyes were injured by its brightness, and he became blind.

Then he said to himself:

“The light of the sun is not a liquid; for if it were a liquid it would be possible to pour it from one vessel into another, and it would be moved, like water, by the wind. Neither is it fire; for if it were fire, water would extinguish it. Neither is light a spirit, for it is seen by the eye; nor is it matter, for it cannot be moved. Therefore, as the light of the sun is neither liquid, nor fire, nor spirit, nor matter, it is⁠—nothing!”

So he argued, and, as a result of always looking at the sun and always thinking about it, he lost both his sight and his reason. And when he went quite blind, he became fully convinced that the sun did not exist.

With this blind man came a slave, who after placing his master in the shade of a coconut tree, picked up a coconut from the ground, and began making it into a night-light. He twisted a wick from the fibre of the coconut: squeezed oil from the nut into the shell, and soaked the wick in it.

As the slave sat doing this, the blind man sighed and said to him:

“Well, slave, was I not right when I told you there is no sun? Do you not see how dark it is? Yet people say there is a sun.⁠ ⁠… But if so, what is it?”

“I do not know what the sun is,” said the slave. “That is no business of mine. But I know what light is. Here I have made a night-light, by the help of which I can serve you and find anything I want in the hut.”

And the slave picked up the coconut shell, saying:

“This is my sun.”

A lame man with crutches, who was sitting nearby, heard these words, and laughed:

“You have evidently been blind all your life,” said he to the blind man, “not to know what the sun is. I will tell you what it is. The sun is a ball of fire, which rises every morning out of the sea and goes down again among the mountains of our island each evening. We have all seen this, and if you had had your eyesight you too would have seen it.”

A fisherman, who had been listening to the conversation said:

“It is plain enough that you have never been beyond your own island. If you were not lame, and if you had been out as I have in a fishing-boat, you would know that the sun does not set among the mountains of our island, but as it rises from the ocean every morning so it sets again in the sea every night. What I am telling you is true, for I see it every day with my own eyes.”

Then an Indian who was of our party, interrupted him by saying:

“I am astonished that a reasonable man should talk such nonsense. How can a ball of fire possibly descend into the water and not be extinguished? The sun is not a ball of fire at all, it is the Deity named Deva, who rides forever in a chariot round the golden mountain, Meru. Sometimes the evil serpents Ragu and Ketu attack Deva and swallow him: and then the earth is dark. But our priests pray that the Deity may be released, and then he is set free. Only such ignorant men as you, who have never been beyond their own island, can imagine that the sun shines for their country alone.”

Then the master of an Egyptian vessel, who was present, spoke in his turn.

“No,” said he, “you also are wrong. The sun is not a Deity, and does not move only round India and its golden mountain. I have sailed much on the Black Sea, and along the coasts of Arabia, and have been to Madagascar and to the Philippines. The sun lights the whole earth, and not India alone. It does not circle round one mountain, but rises far in the East, beyond the Isles of Japan, and sets far, far away in the West, beyond the islands of England. That is why the Japanese call their country ‘Nippon,’ that is, ‘the birth of the sun.’ I know this well, for I have myself seen much, and heard more from my grandfather, who sailed to the very ends of the sea.”

He would have gone on, but an English sailor from our ship interrupted him.

“There is no country,” he said, “where people know so much about the sun’s movements as in England. The sun, as everyone in England knows, rises nowhere and sets nowhere. It is always moving round the earth. We can be sure of this for we have just been round the world ourselves, and nowhere knocked up against the sun. Wherever we went, the sun showed itself in the morning and hid itself at night, just as it does here.”

And the Englishman took a stick and, drawing circles on the sand, tried to explain how the sun moves in the heavens and goes round the world. But he was unable to explain it clearly, and pointing to the ship’s pilot said:

“This man knows more about it than I do. He can explain it properly.”

The pilot, who was an intelligent man, had listened in silence to the talk till he was asked to speak. Now everyone turned to him, and he said:

“You are all misleading one another, and are yourselves deceived. The sun does not go round the earth, but the earth goes round the sun, revolving as it goes, and turning towards the sun in the course of each twenty-four hours, not only Japan, and the Philippines, and Sumatra where we now are, but Africa, and Europe, and America, and many lands besides. The sun does not shine for some one mountain, or for some one island, or for some one sea, nor even for one earth alone, but for other planets as well as our earth. If you would only look up at the heavens, instead of at the ground beneath your own feet, you might all understand this, and would then no longer suppose that the sun shines for you, or for your country alone.”

Thus spoke the wise pilot, who had voyaged much about the world, and had gazed much upon the heavens above.

“So on matters of faith,” continued the Chinaman, the student of Confucius, “it is pride that causes error and discord among men. As with the sun, so it is with God. Each man wants to have a special God of his own, or at least a special God for his native land. Each nation wishes to confine in its own temples Him, whom the world cannot contain.

“Can any temple compare with that which God Himself has built to unite all men in one faith and one religion?

“All human temples are built on the model of this temple, which is God’s own world. Every temple has its fonts, its vaulted roof, its lamps, its pictures or sculptures, its inscriptions, its books of the law, its offerings, its altars and its priests. But in what temple is there such a font as the ocean; such a vault as that of the heavens; such lamps as the sun, moon, and stars; or any figures to be compared with living, loving, mutually-helpful men? Where are there any records of God’s goodness so easy to understand as the blessings which God has strewn abroad for man’s happiness? Where is there any book of the law so clear to each man as that written in his heart? What sacrifices equal the self-denials which loving men and women make for one another? And what altar can be compared with the heart of a good man, on which God Himself accepts the sacrifice?

“The higher a man’s conception of God, the better will he know Him. And the better he knows God, the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man.

“Therefore, let him who sees the sun’s whole light filling the world, refrain from blaming or despising the superstitious man, who in his own idol sees one ray of that same light. Let him not despise even the unbeliever who is blind and cannot see the sun at all.”

So spoke the Chinaman, the student of Confucius; and all who were present in the coffeehouse were silent, and disputed no more as to whose faith was the best.


The Young Tsar

The young Tsar had just ascended the throne. For five weeks he had worked without ceasing, in the way that Tsars are accustomed to work. He had been attending to reports, signing papers, receiving ambassadors and high officials who came to be presented to him, and reviewing troops. He was tired, and as a traveller exhausted by heat and thirst longs for a draught of water and for rest, so he longed for a respite of just one day at least from receptions, from speeches, from parades⁠—a few free hours to spend like an ordinary human being with his young, clever, and beautiful wife, to whom he had been married only a month before.

It was Christmas Eve. The young Tsar had arranged to have a complete rest that evening. The night before he had worked till very late at documents which his ministers of state had left for him to examine. In the morning he was present at the Te Deum, and then at a military service. In the afternoon he received official visitors; and later he had been obliged to listen to the reports of three ministers of state, and had given his assent to many important matters. In his conference with the Minister of Finance he had agreed to an increase of duties on imported goods, which should in the future add many millions to the State revenues. Then he sanctioned the sale of brandy by the Crown in various parts of the country, and signed a decree permitting the sale of alcohol in villages having markets. This was also calculated to increase the principal revenue to the State, which was derived from the sale of spirits. He had also approved of the issuing of a new gold loan required for a financial negotiation. The Minister of Justice having reported on the complicated case of the succession of the Baron Snyders, the young Tsar confirmed the decision by his signature; and also approved the new rules relating to the application of Article 1830 of the penal code, providing for the punishment of tramps. In his conference with the Minister of the Interior he ratified the order concerning the collection of taxes in arrears, signed the order settling what measures should be taken in regard to the persecution of religious dissenters, and also one providing for the continuance of martial law in those provinces where it had already been established. With the Minister of War he arranged for the nomination of a new Corps Commander for the raising of recruits, and for punishment of breach of discipline. These things kept him occupied till dinnertime, and even then his freedom was not complete. A number of high officials had been invited to dinner, and he was obliged to talk to them: not in the way he felt disposed to do, but according to what he was expected to say. At last the tiresome dinner was over, and the guests departed.

The young Tsar heaved a sigh of relief, stretched himself and retired to his apartments to take off his uniform with the decorations on it, and to don the jacket he used to wear before his accession to the throne. His young wife had also retired to take off her dinner-dress, remarking that she would join him presently.

When he had passed the row of footmen who were standing erect before him, and reached his room; when he had thrown off his heavy uniform and put on his jacket, the young Tsar felt glad to be free from work; and his heart was filled with a tender emotion which sprang from the consciousness of his freedom, of his joyous, robust young life, and of his love. He threw himself on the sofa, stretched out his legs upon it, leaned his head on his hand, fixed his gaze on the dull glass shade of the lamp, and then a sensation which he had not experienced since his childhood⁠—the pleasure of going to sleep, and a drowsiness that was irresistible⁠—suddenly came over him.

“My wife will be here presently and will find me asleep. No, I must not go to sleep,” he thought. He let his elbow drop down, laid his cheek in the palm of his hand, made himself comfortable, and was so utterly happy that he only felt a desire not to be aroused from this delightful state.

And then what happens to all of us every day happened to him⁠—he fell asleep without knowing himself when or how. He passed from one state into another without his will having any share in it, without even desiring it, and without regretting the state out of which he had passed. He fell into a heavy sleep which was like death. How long he had slept he did not know, but he was suddenly aroused by the soft touch of a hand upon his shoulder.

“It is my darling, it is she,” he thought. “What a shame to have dozed off!”

But it was not she. Before his eyes, which were wide open and blinking at the light, she, that charming and beautiful creature whom he was expecting, did not stand, but he stood. Who he was the young Tsar did not know, but somehow it did not strike him that he was a stranger whom he had never seen before. It seemed as if he had known him for a long time and was fond of him, and as if he trusted him as he would trust himself. He had expected his beloved wife, but in her stead that man whom he had never seen before had come. Yet to the young Tsar, who was far from feeling regret or astonishment, it seemed not only a most natural, but also a necessary thing to happen.

“Come!” said the stranger.

“Yes, let us go,” said the young Tsar, not knowing where he was to go, but quite aware that he could not help submitting to the command of the stranger. “But how shall we go?” he asked.

“In this way.”

The stranger laid his hand on the Tsar’s head, and the Tsar for a moment lost consciousness. He could not tell whether he had been unconscious a long or a short time, but when he recovered his senses he found himself in a strange place. The first thing he was aware of was a strong and stifling smell of sewage. The place in which he stood was a broad passage lit by the red glow of two dim lamps. Running along one side of the passage was a thick wall with windows protected by iron gratings. On the other side were doors secured with locks. In the passage stood a soldier, leaning up against the wall, asleep. Through the doors the young Tsar heard the muffled sound of living human beings: not of one alone, but of many. He was standing at the side of the young Tsar, and pressing his shoulder slightly with his soft hand, pushed him to the first door, unmindful of the sentry. The young Tsar felt he could not do otherwise than yield, and approached the door. To his amazement the sentry looked straight at him, evidently without seeing him, as he neither straightened himself up nor saluted, but yawned loudly and, lifting his hand, scratched the back of his neck. The door had a small hole, and in obedience to the pressure of the hand that pushed him, the young Tsar approached a step nearer and put his eye to the small opening. Close to the door, the foul smell that stifled him was stronger, and the young Tsar hesitated to go nearer, but the hand pushed him on. He leaned forward, put his eye close to the opening, and suddenly ceased to perceive the odour. The sight he saw deadened his sense of smell. In a large room, about ten yards long and six yards wide, there walked unceasingly from one end to the other, six men in long grey coats, some in felt boots, some barefoot. There were over twenty men in all in the room, but in that first moment the young Tsar only saw those who were walking with quick, even, silent steps. It was a horrid sight to watch the continual, quick, aimless movements of the men who passed and overtook each other, turning sharply when they reached the wall, never looking at one another, and evidently concentrated each on his own thoughts. The young Tsar had observed a similar sight one day when he was watching a tiger in a menagerie pacing rapidly with noiseless tread from one end of his cage to the other, waving its tail, silently turning when it reached the bars, and looking at nobody. Of these men one, apparently a young peasant, with curly hair, would have been handsome were it not for the unnatural pallor of his face, and the concentrated, wicked, scarcely human, look in his eyes. Another was a Jew, hairy and gloomy. The third was a lean old man, bald, with a beard that had been shaven and had since grown like bristles. The fourth was extraordinarily heavily built, with well-developed muscles, a low receding forehead and a flat nose. The fifth was hardly more than a boy, long, thin, obviously consumptive. The sixth was small and dark, with nervous, convulsive movements. He walked as if he were skipping, and muttered continuously to himself. They were all walking rapidly backwards and forwards past the hole through which the young Tsar was looking. He watched their faces and their gait with keen interest. Having examined them closely, he presently became aware of a number of other men at the back of the room, standing round, or lying on the shelf that served as a bed. Standing close to the door he also saw the pail which caused such an unbearable stench. On the shelf about ten men, entirely covered with their cloaks, were sleeping. A red-haired man with a huge beard was sitting sideways on the shelf, with his shirt off. He was examining it, lifting it up to the light, and evidently catching the vermin on it. Another man, aged and white as snow, stood with his profile turned towards the door. He was praying, crossing himself, and bowing low, apparently so absorbed in his devotions as to be oblivious of all around him.

“I see⁠—this is a prison,” thought the young Tsar. “They certainly deserve pity. It is a dreadful life. But it cannot be helped. It is their own fault.”

But this thought had hardly come into his head before he, who was his guide, replied to it.

“They are all here under lock and key by your order. They have all been sentenced in your name. But far from meriting their present condition which is due to your human judgment, the greater part of them are far better than you or those who were their judges and who keep them here. This one”⁠—he pointed to the handsome, curly-headed fellow⁠—“is a murderer. I do not consider him more guilty than those who kill in war or in duelling, and are rewarded for their deeds. He had neither education nor moral guidance, and his life had been cast among thieves and drunkards. This lessens his guilt, but he has done wrong, nevertheless, in being a murderer. He killed a merchant, to rob him. The other man, the Jew, is a thief, one of a gang of thieves. That uncommonly strong fellow is a horse-stealer, and guilty also, but compared with others not as culpable. Look!”⁠—and suddenly the young Tsar found himself in an open field on a vast frontier. On the right were potato fields; the plants had been rooted out, and were lying in heaps, blackened by the frost; in alternate streaks were rows of winter corn. In the distance a little village with its tiled roofs was visible; on the left were fields of winter corn, and fields of stubble. No one was to be seen on any side, save a black human figure in front at the borderline, a gun slung on his back, and at his feet a dog. On the spot where the young Tsar stood, sitting beside him, almost at his feet, was a young Russian soldier with a green band on his cap, and with his rifle slung over his shoulders, who was rolling up a paper to make a cigarette. The soldier was obviously unaware of the presence of the young Tsar and his companion, and had not heard them. He did now turn round when the Tsar, who was standing directly over the soldier, asked, “Where are we?” “On the Prussian frontier,” his guide answered. Suddenly, far away in front of them, a shot was fired. The soldier jumped to his feet, and seeing two men running, bent low to the ground, hastily put his tobacco into his pocket, and ran after one of them. “Stop, or I’ll shoot!” cried the soldier. The fugitive, without stopping, turned his head and called out something evidently abusive or blasphemous.

“Damn you!” shouted the soldier, who put one foot a little forward and stopped, after which, bending his head over his rifle, and raising his right hand, he rapidly adjusted something, took aim, and, pointing the gun in the direction of the fugitive, probably fired, although no sound was heard. “Smokeless powder, no doubt,” thought the young Tsar, and looking after the fleeing man saw him take a few hurried steps, and bending lower and lower, fall to the ground and crawl on his hands and knees. At last he remained lying and did not move. The other fugitive, who was ahead of him, turned round and ran back to the man who was lying on the ground. He did something for him and then resumed his flight.

“What does all this mean?” asked the Tsar.

“These are the guards on the frontier, enforcing the revenue laws. That man was killed to protect the revenues of the State.”

“Has he actually been killed?”

The guide again laid his hand upon the head of the young Tsar, and again the Tsar lost consciousness. When he had recovered his senses he found himself in a small room⁠—the customs office. The dead body of a man, with a thin grizzled beard, an aquiline nose, and big eyes with the eyelids closed, was lying on the floor. His arms were thrown asunder, his feet bare, and his thick, dirty toes were turned up at right angles and stuck out straight. He had a wound in his side, and on his ragged cloth jacket, as well as on his blue shirt, were stains of clotted blood, which had turned black save for a few red spots here and there. A woman stood close to the wall, so wrapped up in shawls that her face could scarcely be seen. Motionless she gazed at the aquiline nose, the upturned feet, and the protruding eyeballs; sobbing and sighing, and drying her tears at long, regular intervals. A pretty girl of thirteen was standing at her mother’s side, with her eyes and mouth wide open. A boy of eight clung to his mother’s skirt, and looked intensely at his dead father without blinking.

From a door near them an official, an officer, a doctor, and a clerk with documents, entered. After them came a soldier, the one who had shot the man. He stepped briskly along behind his superiors, but the instant he saw the corpse he went suddenly pale, and quivered; and dropping his head stood still. When the official asked him whether that was the man who was escaping across the frontier, and at whom he had fired, he was unable to answer. His lips trembled, and his face twitched. “The s⁠—s⁠—s⁠—” he began, but could not get out the words which he wanted to say. “The same, your excellency.” The officials looked at each other and wrote something down.

“You see the beneficial results of that same system!”

In a room of sumptuous vulgarity two men sat drinking wine. One of them was old and grey, the other a young Jew. The young Jew was holding a roll of banknotes in his hand, and was bargaining with the old man. He was buying smuggled goods.

“You’ve got ’em cheap,” he said, smiling.

“Yes⁠—but the risk⁠—”

“This is indeed terrible,” said the young Tsar; “but it cannot be avoided. Such proceedings are necessary.”

His companion made no response, saying merely, “Let us move on,” and laid his hand again on the head of the Tsar. When the Tsar recovered consciousness, he was standing in a small room lit by a shaded lamp. A woman was sitting at the table sewing. A boy of eight was bending over the table, drawing, with his feet doubled up under him in the armchair. A student was reading aloud. The father and daughter of the family entered the room noisily.

“You signed the order concerning the sale of spirits,” said the guide to the Tsar.

“Well?” said the woman.

“He’s not likely to live.”

“What’s the matter with him?”

“They’ve kept him drunk all the time.”

“It’s not possible!” exclaimed the wife.

“It’s true. And the boy’s only nine years old, that Vania Moroshkine.”

“What did you do to try to save him?” asked the wife.

“I tried everything that could be done. I gave him an emetic and put a mustard-plaster on him. He has every symptom of delirium tremens.”

“It’s no wonder⁠—the whole family are drunkards. Annisia is only a little better than the rest, and even she is generally more or less drunk,” said the daughter.

“And what about your temperance society?” the student asked his sister.

“What can we do when they are given every opportunity of drinking? Father tried to have the public-house shut up, but the law is against him. And, besides, when I was trying to convince Vasily Ermiline that it was disgraceful to keep a public-house and ruin the people with drink, he answered very haughtily, and indeed got the better of me before the crowd: ‘But I have a license with the Imperial eagle on it. If there was anything wrong in my business, the Tsar wouldn’t have issued a decree authorising it.’ Isn’t it terrible? The whole village has been drunk for the last three days. And as for feast-days, it is simply horrible to think of! It has been proved conclusively that alcohol does no good in any case, but invariably does harm, and it has been demonstrated to be an absolute poison. Then, ninety-nine percent of the crimes in the world are committed through its influence. We all know how the standard of morality and the general welfare improved at once in all the countries where drinking has been suppressed⁠—like Sweden and Finland, and we know that it can be suppressed by exercising a moral influence over the masses. But in our country the class which could exert that influence⁠—the Government, the Tsar and his officials⁠—simply encourage drink. Their main revenues are drawn from the continual drunkenness of the people. They drink themselves⁠—they are always drinking the health of somebody: ‘Gentlemen, the Regiment!’ The preachers drink, the bishops drink⁠—”

Again the guide touched the head of the young Tsar, who again lost consciousness. This time he found himself in a peasant’s cottage. The peasant⁠—a man of forty, with red face and bloodshot eyes⁠—was furiously striking the face of an old man, who tried in vain to protect himself from the blows. The younger peasant seized the beard of the old man and held it fast.

“For shame! To strike your father⁠—!”

“I don’t care, I’ll kill him! Let them send me to Siberia, I don’t care!”

The women were screaming. Drunken officials rushed into the cottage and separated father and son. The father had an arm broken and the son’s beard was torn out. In the doorway a drunken girl was making violent love to an old besotted peasant.

“They are beasts!” said the young Tsar.

Another touch of his guide’s hand and the young Tsar awoke in a new place. It was the office of the justice of the peace. A fat, bald-headed man, with a double chin and a chain round his neck, had just risen from his seat, and was reading the sentence in a loud voice, while a crowd of peasants stood behind the grating. There was a woman in rags in the crowd who did not rise. The guard gave her a push.

“Asleep! I tell you to stand up!” The woman rose.

“According to the decree of his Imperial Majesty⁠—” the judge began reading the sentence. The case concerned that very woman. She had taken away half a bundle of oats as she was passing the thrashing-floor of a landowner. The justice of the peace sentenced her to two months’ imprisonment. The landowner whose oats had been stolen was among the audience. When the judge adjourned the court the landowner approached, and shook hands, and the judge entered into conversation with him. The next case was about a stolen samovar. Then there was a trial about some timber which had been cut, to the detriment of the landowner. Some peasants were being tried for having assaulted the constable of the district.

When the young Tsar again lost consciousness, he awoke to find himself in the middle of a village, where he saw hungry, half-frozen children and the wife of the man who had assaulted the constable broken down from overwork.

Then came a new scene. In Siberia, a tramp is being flogged with the lash, the direct result of an order issued by the Minister of justice. Again oblivion, and another scene. The family of a Jewish watchmaker is evicted for being too poor. The children are crying, and the Jew, Isaaks, is greatly distressed. At last they come to an arrangement, and he is allowed to stay on in the lodgings.

The chief of police takes a bribe. The governor of the province also secretly accepts a bribe. Taxes are being collected. In the village, while a cow is sold for payment, the police inspector is bribed by a factory owner, who thus escapes taxes altogether. And again a village court scene, and a sentence carried into execution⁠—the lash!

“Ilia Vasilievich, could you not spare me that?”


The peasant burst into tears. “Well, of course, Christ suffered, and He bids us suffer too.”

Then other scenes. The Stundists⁠—a sect⁠—being broken up and dispersed; the clergy refusing first to marry, then to bury a Protestant. Orders given concerning the passage of the Imperial railway train. Soldiers kept sitting in the mud⁠—cold, hungry, and cursing. Decrees issued relating to the educational institutions of the Empress Mary Department. Corruption rampant in the foundling homes. An undeserved monument. Thieving among the clergy. The reinforcement of the political police. A woman being searched. A prison for convicts who are sentenced to be deported. A man being hanged for murdering a shop assistant.

Then the result of military discipline: soldiers wearing uniform and scoffing at it. A gipsy encampment. The son of a millionaire exempted from military duty, while the only support of a large family is forced to serve. The university: a teacher relieved of military service, while the most gifted musicians are compelled to perform it. Soldiers and their debauchery⁠—and the spreading of disease.

Then a soldier who has made an attempt to desert. He is being tried. Another is on trial for striking an officer who has insulted his mother. He is put to death. Others, again, are tried for having refused to shoot. The runaway soldier sent to a disciplinary battalion and flogged to death. Another, who is guiltless, flogged, and his wounds sprinkled with salt till he dies. One of the superior officers stealing money belonging to the soldiers. Nothing but drunkenness, debauchery, gambling, and arrogance on the part of the authorities.

What is the general condition of the people: the children are half-starving and degenerate; the houses are full of vermin; an everlasting dull round of labour, of submission, and of sadness. On the other hand: ministers, governors of provinces, covetous, ambitious, full of vanity, and anxious to inspire fear.

“But where are men with human feelings?”

“I will show you where they are.”

Here is the cell of a woman in solitary confinement at Schlusselburg. She is going mad. Here is another woman⁠—a girl⁠—indisposed, violated by soldiers. A man in exile, alone, embittered, half-dead. A prison for convicts condemned to hard labour, and women flogged. They are many.

Tens of thousands of the best people. Some shut up in prisons, others ruined by false education, by the vain desire to bring them up as we wish. But not succeeding in this, whatever might have been is ruined as well, for it is made impossible. It is as if we were trying to make buckwheat out of corn sprouts by splitting the ears. One may spoil the corn, but one could never change it to buckwheat. Thus all the youth of the world, the entire younger generation, is being ruined.

But woe to those who destroy one of these little ones, woe to you if you destroy even one of them. On your soul, however, are hosts of them, who have been ruined in your name, all of those over whom your power extends.

“But what can I do?” exclaimed the Tsar in despair. “I do not wish to torture, to flog, to corrupt, to kill anyone! I only want the welfare of all. Just as I yearn for happiness myself, so I want the world to be happy as well. Am I actually responsible for everything that is done in my name? What can I do? What am I to do to rid myself of such a responsibility? What can I do? I do not admit that the responsibility for all this is mine. If I felt myself responsible for one-hundredth part of it, I would shoot myself on the spot. It would not be possible to live if that were true. But how can I put an end, to all this evil? It is bound up with the very existence of the State. I am the head of the State! What am I to do? Kill myself? Or abdicate? But that would mean renouncing my duty. O God, O God, God, help me!” He burst into tears and awoke.

“How glad I am that it was only a dream,” was his first thought. But when he began to recollect what he had seen in his dream, and to compare it with actuality, he realised that the problem propounded to him in dream remained just as important and as insoluble now that he was awake. For the first time the young Tsar became aware of the heavy responsibility weighing on him, and was aghast. His thoughts no longer turned to the young Queen and to the happiness he had anticipated for that evening, but became centred on the unanswerable question which hung over him: “What was to be done?”

In a state of great agitation he arose and went into the next room. An old courtier, a co-worker and friend of his father’s, was standing there in the middle of the room in conversation with the young Queen, who was on her way to join her husband. The young Tsar approached them, and addressing his conversation principally to the old courtier, told him what he had seen in his dream and what doubts the dream had left in his mind.

“That is a noble idea. It proves the rare nobility of your spirit,” said the old man. “But forgive me for speaking frankly⁠—you are too kind to be an emperor, and you exaggerate your responsibility. In the first place, the state of things is not as you imagine it to be. The people are not poor. They are well-to-do. Those who are poor are poor through their own fault. Only the guilty are punished, and if an unavoidable mistake does sometimes occur, it is like a thunderbolt⁠—an accident, or the will of God. You have but one responsibility: to fulfil your task courageously and to retain the power that is given to you. You wish the best for your people and God sees that. As for the errors which you have committed unwittingly, you can pray for forgiveness, and God will guide you and pardon you. All the more because you have done nothing that demands forgiveness, and there never have been and never will be men possessed of such extraordinary qualities as you and your father. Therefore all we implore you to do is to live, and to reward our endless devotion and love with your favour, and everyone, save scoundrels who deserve no happiness, will be happy.”

“What do you think about that?” the young Tsar asked his wife.

“I have a different opinion,” said the clever young woman, who had been brought up in a free country. “I am glad you had that dream, and I agree with you that there are grave responsibilities resting upon you. I have often thought about it with great anxiety, and I think there is a simple means of casting off a part of the responsibility you are unable to bear, if not all of it. A large proportion of the power which is too heavy for you, you should delegate to the people, to its representatives, reserving for yourself only the supreme control, that is, the general direction of the affairs of State.”

The Queen had hardly ceased to expound her views, when the old courtier began eagerly to refute her arguments, and they started a polite but very heated discussion.

For a time the young Tsar followed their arguments, but presently he ceased to be aware of what they said, listening only to the voice of him who had been his guide in the dream, and who was now speaking audibly in his heart.

“You are not only the Tsar,” said the voice, “but more. You are a human being, who only yesterday came into this world, and will perchance tomorrow depart out of it. Apart from your duties as a Tsar, of which that old man is now speaking, you have more immediate duties not by any means to be disregarded; human duties, not the duties of a Tsar towards his subjects, which are only accidental, but an eternal duty, the duty of a man in his relation to God, the duty toward your own soul, which is to save it, and also, to serve God in establishing his kingdom on earth. You are not to be guarded in your actions either by what has been or what will be, but only by what it is your own duty to do.”

He opened his eyes⁠—his wife was awakening him. Which of the three courses the young Tsar chose, will be told in fifty years.

Three Parables

Parable the First

A weed had spread over a beautiful meadow. And in order to get rid of it the tenants of the meadow mowed it, but the weed only increased in consequence. And now the kind, wise master came to visit the tenants of the meadow, and among the other good counsels which he gave them, he told them they ought not to mow the weed, since that only made it grow the more luxuriantly, but that they must pull it up by the roots.

But either because the tenants of the meadow did not, amongst the other prescriptions of the good master, take heed of his advice not to mow down the weed, but to pull it up, or because they did not understand him, or because, according to their calculations, it seemed foolish to obey, the result was that his advice not to mow the weed but to pull it up was not followed, just as if he had never proffered it, and the men went on mowing the weed and spreading it.

And although, during the succeeding years, there were men that reminded the tenants of the meadow of the advice of the kind, wise master, they did not heed them, and continued to do as before, so that mowing of the weed as soon as it began to appear became not only a custom but even a sacred tradition, and the meadow grew more and more infested. And the matter went so far that the meadow grew nothing but weeds, and men lamented this and invented all kinds of means to correct the evil; but the only one they did not use was that which had long ago been prescribed by their kind, wise master.

And now, as time went on, it occurred to one man who saw the wretched condition into which the meadow had fallen, and who found among the master’s forgotten prescriptions the rule not to mow the weed, but to pull it up by the root⁠—it occurred to the man, I say, to remind the tenants of the meadow that they were acting foolishly, and that their folly had long ago been pointed out by the kind, wise master.

But what do you think! instead of putting credence in the correctness of this man’s recollections, and in case they proved to be reliable ceasing to mow the weed, and in case he were mistaken proving to him the incorrectness of his recollections, or stigmatizing the good, wise master’s recommendations as impracticable and not obligatory upon them, the tenants of the meadow did nothing of the sort; but they took exception to this man’s recollections and began to abuse him. Some called him a conceited fool who imagined that he was the only one to understand the master’s regulations; others called him a malicious false interpreter and slanderer; still others, forgetting that he was not giving them his own opinions, but was only reminding them of the prescriptions of the wise master whom they all revered, called him a dangerous man because he wished to pull up the weed and deprive them of their meadow. “He says we ought not to mow the meadow,” said they, purposely suppressing the fact that the man did not say that it was not necessary to destroy the weed, but said that they should pull it up by the roots instead of mowing it, “but if we do not destroy the weed, then it will spread and wholly ruin our meadow. And why was the meadow granted to us if we must train the weed in it?”

And the general impression that this man was either a fool or a false interpreter, or had the purpose of injuring the people, became so deeply grounded that everyone cast reproaches and ridicule upon him. And however earnestly he asseverated that he not only did not desire to spread the weed, but on the contrary considered that the destruction of the weed was one of the chief duties of the agriculturist, just as it was meant by the good, wise master whose words he merely repeated, still they would not listen to him because they had definitely made up their minds that he was either a conceited fool misinterpreting the good, wise master’s words, or a villain trying to induce men not to destroy the weeds but to protect and spread them more widely.

The same thing took place in my own case when I pointed out the injunction of the evangelical teaching about the nonresistance of evil by violence. This rule was laid down by Christ and after Him in all times by all His true disciples. But either because they did not notice this rule, or because they did not understand it, or because its fulfilment seemed to them too difficult, as time went the more completely this rule was forgotten, the farther the manner of men’s lives departed from this rule; and finally it came to the pass to which it has now come that this rule has already begun to seem to people something new, strange, unheard-of, and even foolish. And I, also, have the same experience as the man had who reminded men of the good, wise master’s prescription to refrain from mowing the weed, but to pull it up by the roots.

As the tenants of the meadow purposely shut their eyes to the fact that the counsel was not to give up destroying the weed, but to destroy it by a different method, and said, “We will not listen to this man, he is a fool; he forbids us to mow down the weeds and tells us to pull them up”⁠—so in reply to my reminder that according to Christ’s teaching in order to annihilate evil we must not employ violence against it, but must destroy it from the root with love, men said: “We will not listen to him, he is a fool; he advises not to oppose evil to evil so that evil may overwhelm us.”

I said that, according to Christ’s teaching, evil cannot be eradicated by evil; that all resistance of evil by violence only intensifies the evil, that according to Christ’s teaching evil is eradicated by good. “Bless them that curse you, pray for them that abuse you, do good to them that hate you, love your enemies, and you will have no enemies!”292

I said that, according to Christ’s teaching, the whole life of man is a battle with evil, a resistance of evil by reason and love, but that out of all the methods of resisting evil Christ excepted only the one unreasonable method of resisting evil with violence, which is equivalent to fighting evil with evil.

And I was misunderstood as saying that Christ taught that we must not resist evil. And all those whose lives were based on violence, and to whom in consequence violence was dear, were glad to take such a misconstruction of my words, and at the same time of Christ’s words, and it was avowed that the teaching of nonresistance of evil was incredible, stupid, godless, and dangerous. And men calmly continue under the guise of destroying evil to make it more widely spread.