A Raw Youth - Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1875

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About
Part 1
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10







About Dostoyevsky:

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (November 11 [O.S. October 30] 1821 – February 9 [O.S. January 28] 1881) is considered one of two greatest prose writers of Russian literature, alongside close contemporary Leo Tolstoy. Dostoevsky's works have had a profound and lasting effect on twentieth-century thought and world literature. Dostoevsky's chief ouevre, mainly novels, explore the human psychology in the disturbing political, social and spiritual context of his 19th-century Russian society. Considered by many as a founder or precursor of 20th-century existentialism, his Notes from Underground (1864), written in the anonymous, embittered voice of the Underground Man, is considered by Walter Kaufmann as the "best overture for existentialism ever written." Source: Wikipedia

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Chapter 1

 

1.

I cannot resist sitting down to write the history of the first steps in my career, though I might very well abstain from doing so… . I know one thing for certain: I shall never again sit down to write my autobiography even if I live to be a hundred. One must be too disgustingly in love with self to be able without shame to write about oneself. I can only excuse myself on the ground that I am not writing with the same object with which other people write, that is, to win the praise of my readers. It has suddenly occurred to me to write out word for word all that has happened to me during this last year, simply from an inward impulse, because I am so impressed by all that has happened. I shall simply record the incidents, doing my utmost to exclude everything extraneous, especially all literary graces. The professional writer writes for thirty years, and is quite unable to say at the end why he has been writing for all that time. I am not a professional writer and don't want to be, and to drag forth into the literary market-place the inmost secrets of my soul and an artistic description of my feelings I should regard as indecent and contemptible. I foresee, however, with vexation, that it will be impossible to avoid describing feelings altogether and making reflections (even, perhaps, cheap ones), so corrupting is every sort of literary pursuit in its effect, even if it be undertaken only for one's own satisfaction. The reflections may indeed be very cheap, because what is of value for oneself may very well have no value for others. But all this is beside the mark. It will do for a preface, however. There will be nothing more of the sort. Let us get to work, though there is nothing more difficult than to begin upon some sorts of work—perhaps any sort of work.


Chapter 2

 

1.

On that 19th of September I was also to receive my first salary for the first month of my work in Petersburg in my "private" situation. They did not ask me about this job but simply handed me over to it, I believe, on the very first day of my arrival. This was very unmannerly, and it was almost my duty to protest. The job turned out to be a situation in the household of old Prince Sokolsky. But to protest then would have meant breaking off relations on the spot, and though I was not in the least afraid of that, it would have hindered the attainment of my primary objects; and so in silence I accepted the job for the time, maintaining my dignity by silence. I must explain from the very first that this Prince Sokolsky, a wealthy man and a privy councillor, was no relation at all of the Moscow princes of that name (who had been poor and insignificant for several generations past) with whom Versilov was contesting his lawsuit. It was only that they had the same name. Yet the old prince took a great interest in them, and was particularly fond of one of them who was, so to speak, the head of the family—a young officer. Versilov had till recently had an immense influence in this old man's affairs and had been his friend, a strange sort of friend, for the poor old prince, as I detected, was awfully afraid of him, not only at the time when I arrived on the scene, but had apparently been always afraid of him all through their friendship. They had not seen each other for a long time, however. The dishonourable conduct of which Versilov was accused concerned the old prince's family. But Tatyana Pavlovna had intervened and it was through her that I was placed in attendance on the old prince, who wanted a "young man" in his study. At the same time it appeared that he was very anxious to do something to please Versilov, to make, so to speak, the first advance to him, and Versilov ALLOWED it. The old man had made the arrangement in the absence of his daughter, the widow of a general, who would certainly not have permitted him to take this step. Of this later, but I may remark that the strangeness of his relations with Versilov impressed me in the latter's favour. It occurred to the imagination that if the head of the injured family still cherished a respect for Versilov, the rumours of Versilov's scoundrelly behaviour must be absurd, or at least exaggerated, and might have more than one explanation. It was partly this circumstance which kept me from protesting against the situation; in accepting it I hoped to verify all this.

Tatyana Pavlovna was playing a strange part at the time when I found her in Petersburg. I had almost forgotten her, and had not at all expected to find her possessed of such influence. She had met me three or four times during my life in Moscow, and had always turned up, goodness knows where from, sent by some one or other whenever I needed fitting out—to go into Touchard's boarding school, or two and a half years later, when I was being transferred to the grammar school and sent to board with Nikolay Semyonovitch, a friend I shall never forget. She used to spend the whole day with me and inspect my linen and my clothes. She drove about the town with me, took me to Kuznetsky Street, bought me what was necessary, provided me with a complete outfit, in fact, down to the smallest box and penknife. All the while she nagged at me, scolded me, reproached me, cross-examined me, quoting as examples to me various phantom boys among her relations and acquaintances who were all said to be better than I was. She even pinched me and actually gave me several vicious pokes. After fitting me out and installing me, she would disappear completely for several years. On this occasion, too, she turned up at once on my arrival to instal me again. She was a spare little figure with a sharp nose like a beak, and sharp little eyes like a bird's. She waited on Versilov like a slave, and grovelled before him as though he were the Pope, but she did it through conviction. But I soon noticed with surprise that she was respected by all and, what was more, known to every one everywhere. Old Prince Sokolsky treated her with extraordinary deference; it was the same thing with his family; the same with Versilov's haughty children; the same with the Fanariotovs; and yet she lived by taking in sewing, and washing lace, and fetched work from the shops. She and I fell out at the first word, for she thought fit to begin nagging at me just as she had done six years before. And from that time forward we quarrelled every day, but that did not prevent us from sometimes talking, and I must confess that by the end of the month I began to like her: for her independent character, I believe. But I did not tell her so.

I realized at once that I had only been given this post at the old invalid prince's in order to "amuse" him, and that that was my whole duty. Naturally this was humiliating, and I should at once have taken steps, but the queer old fellow soon made an unexpected impression upon me. I felt something like compassion for him, and by the end of the month I had become strangely attached to him; anyway I gave up my intention of being rude. He was not more than sixty, however, but there had been a great to-do with him a year and a half before, when he suddenly had a fit. He was travelling somewhere and went mad on the way, so there was something of a scandal of which people talked in Petersburg. As is usual in such cases, he was instantly taken abroad, but five months later he suddenly reappeared perfectly well, though he gave up the service. Versilov asserted seriously (and with noticeable heat) that he had not been insane at all, but had only had some sort of nervous fit. I promptly made a note of Versilov's warmth about it. I may observe, however, that I was disposed to share his opinion. The old man only showed perhaps an excessive frivolity at times, not quite appropriate to his years, of which, so they say, there was no sign in him before. It was said that in the past he had been a councillor of some sort, and on one occasion had quite distinguished himself in some commission with which he had been charged. After knowing him for a whole month, I should never have supposed he could have any special capacity as a councillor. People observed (though I saw nothing of it) that after his fit he developed a marked disposition to rush into matrimony, and it was said that he had more than once reverted to this idea during the last eighteen months, that it was known in society and a subject of interest. But as this weakness by no means fell in with the interests of certain persons of the prince's circle, the old man was guarded on all sides. He had not a large family of his own; he had been a widower for twenty years, and had only one daughter, the general's widow, who was now daily expected from Moscow. She was a young person whose strength of will was evidently a source of apprehension to the old man. But he had masses of distant relatives, principally through his wife, who were all almost beggars, besides a multitude of protégés of all sorts, male and female, all of whom expected to be mentioned in his will, and so they all supported the general's widow in keeping watch over the old man. He had, moreover, had one strange propensity from his youth up (I don't know whether it was ridiculous or not) for making matches for poor girls. He had been finding husbands for the last twenty-five years—for distant relations, for the step-daughters of his wife's cousins, for his god-daughters; he even found a husband for the daughter of his house porter. He used to take his protégées into his house when they were little girls, provide them with governesses and French mademoiselles, then have them educated in the best boarding schools, and finally marry them off with a dowry. The calls upon him were continually increasing. When his protégées were married they naturally produced more little girls and all these little girls became his protégées. He was always having to stand as god-father. The whole lot turned up to congratulate him on his birthdays, and it was all very agreeable to him.

I noticed at once that the old man had lurking in his mind a painful conviction (it was impossible to avoid noticing it, indeed) that every one had begun to look at him strangely, that every one had begun to behave to him not as before, not as to a healthy man. This impression never left him even at the liveliest social functions. The old man had become suspicious, had begun to detect something in every one's eyes. He was evidently tormented by the idea that every one suspected him of being mad. He sometimes looked mistrustfully even at me. And if he had found out that some one was spreading or upholding such rumours, the benevolent old man would have become his implacable foe. I beg that this circumstance may be noted. I may add that it was what decided me from the first day not to be rude to him; in fact, I was glad if I were able sometimes to amuse or entertain him; I don't think that this confession can cast any slur on my dignity.

The greater part of his money was invested. He had since his illness become a partner in a large joint stock enterprise, a very safe one, however. And though the management was in other hands he took a great interest in it, too, attended the shareholders' meetings, was appointed a director, presided at the board-meetings, opposed motions, was noisy and obviously enjoyed himself. He was very fond of making speeches: every one could judge of his brain anyway. And in general he developed a great fancy for introducing profound reflections and bon mots in his conversation, even in the intimacy of private life. I quite understand it.

On the ground floor of his house there was something like a private office where a single clerk kept the books and accounts and also managed the house. This clerk was quite equal to the work alone, though he had some government job as well, but by the prince's own wish I was engaged to assist him; but I was immediately transferred to the prince's study, and often had no work before me, not even books or papers to keep up appearances. I am writing now sobered by time; and about many things feel now almost like an outsider; but how can I describe the depression (I recall it vividly at this moment) that weighed down my heart in those days, and still more, the excitement which reached such a pitch of confused feverishness that I did not sleep at night—all due to my impatience, to the riddles I had set myself to solve.


Chapter 3

 

1.

Indeed there was no need: a higher consideration swallowed up all petty feelings, and one powerful emotion made up to me for everything. I went out in a sort of ecstasy. As I stepped into the street I was ready to sing aloud. To match my mood it was an exquisite morning, sunshine, people out walking, noise, movement, joyousness, and crowds. Why, had not that woman insulted me? From whom would I have endured that look and that insolent smile without instant protest however stupid it might be. I did not mind about that. Note that she had come expressly to insult me as soon as she could, although she had never seen me. In her eyes I was an "envoy from Versilov," and she was convinced at that time, and for long afterwards, that Versilov held her fate in his hands and could ruin her at once if he wanted to, by means of a certain document; she suspected that, anyway. It was a duel to the death. And yet—I was not offended! It was an insult, but I did not feel it. How should I? I was positively glad of it; though I had come here to hate her I felt I was beginning to love her.

I don't know whether the spider perhaps does not hate the fly he has marked and is snaring. Dear little fly! It seems to me that the victim is loved, or at least may be loved. Here I love my enemy; I am delighted, for instance, that she is so beautiful. I am delighted, madam, that you are so haughty and majestic. If you were meeker it would not be so delightful. You have spat on me— and I am triumphant. If you were literally to spit in my face I should really not be angry because you—are my victim; MINE and not HIS. How fascinating was that idea! Yes, the secret consciousness of power is more insupportably delightful than open domination. If I were a millionaire I believe I should take pleasure in going about in the oldest clothes and being taken for a destitute man, almost a beggar, being jostled and despised. The consciousness of the truth would be enough for me.

That is how I should interpret my thoughts and happiness, and much of what I was feeling that day. I will only add that in what I have just written there is too much levity; in reality my feeling was deeper and more modest. Perhaps even now I am more modest in myself than in my words and deeds—God grant it may be so!

Perhaps I have done amiss in sitting down to write at all. Infinitely more remains hidden within than comes out in words. Your thought, even if it is an evil one, is always deeper while it is in your mind; it becomes more absurd and dishonourable when it is put into words. Versilov once said to me that the opposite was true only with horrid people, they simply tell lies, it is easy for them; but I am trying to write the whole truth, and that's fearfully difficult!


Chapter 4

 

1.

Kraft had been somewhere in the service, and at the same time had been a paid assistant of Andronikov's in the management of the private business which the deceased gentleman had always carried on in addition to his official duties. What mattered to me was, that from his close association with Andronikov, Kraft might well know a great deal of what interested me. But Marie Ivanovna, the wife of Nikolay Semyonovitch, with whom I had boarded so many years while I was at the grammar school in Moscow, was a favourite niece of Andronikov and was brought up by him, and from her I learnt that Kraft had actually been "commissioned" to give me something. I had been expecting him for a whole month.

He lived in a little flat of two rooms quite apart from the rest of the house, and at the moment, having only just returned, he had no servant. His trunk stood open, not yet unpacked. His belongings lay about on the chairs, and were spread out on the table in front of the sofa: his travelling bag, his cashbox, his revolver and so on. As we went in, Kraft seemed lost in thought, as though he had altogether forgotten me. He had perhaps not noticed that I had not spoken to him on the way. He began looking for something at once, but happening to catch a glimpse of himself in the looking-glass he stood still for a full minute gazing at his own face. Though I noticed this peculiar action, and recalled it all afterwards, I was depressed and disturbed. I was not feeling equal to concentrating my mind. For a moment I had a sudden impulse to go straight away and to give it all up for ever. And after all what did all these things amount to in reality? Was it not simply an unnecessary worry I had taken upon myself? I sank into despair at the thought that I was wasting so much energy perhaps on worthless trifles from mere sentimentality, while I had facing me a task that called for all my powers. And meanwhile my incapacity for any real work was clearly obvious from what had happened at Dergatchev's.

"Kraft, shall you go to them again?" I asked him suddenly.

He turned slowly to me as though hardly understanding me. I sat down on a chair.

"Forgive them," said Kraft suddenly.

I fancied, of course, that this was a sneer, but looking attentively at him, I saw such a strange and even wonderful ingenuousness in his face that I positively wondered at his asking me so earnestly to "forgive" them. He brought up a chair and sat down beside me.

"I know that I am perhaps a medley of all sorts of vanities and nothing more," I began, "but I'm not apologizing."

"And you've no need to apologize to anyone," he said, quietly and earnestly. He talked all the time quietly and very slowly.

"I may be guilty in my own eyes… . I like being guilty in my own eyes… . Kraft, forgive me for talking nonsense. Tell me, surely you don't belong to that circle? That's what I wanted to ask."

"They are no sillier than other people and no wiser; they are mad like every one else… ."

"Why, is every one mad?" I asked, turning towards him with involuntary curiosity.

"All the best people are mad nowadays; it's the carnival of mediocrity and ineptitude and nothing else… . But it's not worth talking about."

As he talked he looked away into the air and began sentences and broke off without finishing them. I was particularly struck by a note of despondency in his voice.

"Surely Vassin is not one of them, Vassin has a mind, Vassin has a moral idea!" I cried.

"There are no moral ideas now. It suddenly appears that there is not one left and, what's worse, that there never have been any."

"Never have been any in the past?"

"Let us leave that!" he brought out with unmistakable weariness.

I was touched by his sorrowful earnestness. Ashamed of my own egoism I began to drop into his tone.

"The present day," he began after a pause lasting two minutes, looking away into space, "the present day is the golden age of mediocrity and callousness, of a passion for ignorance, idleness, inefficiency, a craving for everything ready-made. No one thinks; it's rare for anyone to work out an idea for himself."

He broke off again and paused for a while; I listened. "Nowadays they are stripping Russia of her forests, and exhausting her natural wealth, turning the country into a waste and making it only fit for the Kalmucks. If a man looks forward and plants a tree every one laughs at him, and tells him he won't live to enjoy it. On the other hand those with aspirations discuss nothing but what will be in a thousand years. The idea that sustained men has utterly gone. It's as though they were all at an hotel and were leaving Russia to-morrow. They are alive if they could only… ."

"Excuse me, Kraft, you said they worried their heads about what would happen in a thousand years. But you despair about the future of Russia … isn't that an anxiety of the same sort?"

"It—it's the most essential question in the world!" he said irritably, and jumped up quickly from his seat.

"Ah, yes! I forgot," he said suddenly in quite a different voice, looking at me in perplexity. "I asked you to come for something special and meanwhile … for heaven's sake excuse me."

He seemed suddenly to wake up from a sort of dream, and was almost disconcerted; he took a letter out of a portfolio on the table and gave it to me.

"This is what I have to give you. It's a document of some importance," he began, speaking collectedly and with a businesslike air. Long afterwards, when I recalled it, I was struck by this faculty in him (at an hour such as this was—for him!) of turning such wholehearted attention on another person's affairs and going into them with such firmness and composure.

"It is a letter of Stolbyeev's, that is of the man whose will gave rise to Versilov's lawsuit with the Princes Sokolsky. The case is just being decided in the court, and will certainly be decided in Versilov's favour; the law is on his side. Meanwhile, in this letter, a private letter written two years ago, the deceased sets forth his real dispositions, or more accurately his desires, and expresses them rather in favour of the Sokolskys than of Versilov. At any rate the points on which the Sokolskys rest their case in contesting the will are materially strengthened by this letter. Versilov's opponents would give a great deal for this letter, though it really has no positive legal value. Alexey Nikanoritch (Andronikov), who managed Versilov's affairs, kept this letter and not long before his death gave it to me, telling me to 'take care of it'; perhaps he had a presentiment that he was dying and was anxious about his papers. I was unwilling to judge of Alexey Nikanoritch's intentions in the case, and I must confess that at his death I found myself in disagreeable uncertainty what to do with this document, especially as the case was so soon to be concluded. But Marie Ivanovna, in whom Alexey Nikanoritch seems to have put great confidence in his lifetime, helped me out of the difficulty. She wrote to me three weeks ago telling me that I was to give the letter to you, as this would, she BELIEVED (her own expression) be in accordance with the wishes of the deceased, and I am very glad that I can at last give it to you."

"Tell me," I said, dumbfoundered at this new and unexpected information, "what am I to do with this letter now? How am I to act?"

"That's for you to decide."

"Impossible; my hands are tied, you must admit that! Versilov is so reckoning on this fortune … and, you know, he'll be utterly lost without it; and it suddenly appears that a document like this exists!"

"It only exists here in this room."

"Is that really so?" I looked at him attentively.

"If you can't decide how to act in this case, what can I advise you?"

"But I can't give it to the Sokolskys either. I should ruin all Versilov's hopes, and be a traitor to him besides… . On the other hand if I give it to Versilov I plunge the innocent into poverty, and I should put Versilov in a hopeless dilemma too; he would either have to give up the fortune or become a thief."

"You exaggerate the importance of the matter."

"Tell me one thing: is this letter decisive, conclusive?"

"No, it isn't. I'm not much of a lawyer. A lawyer on the other side would, no doubt, know how to make use of such a document and to turn it to account; but Alexey Nikanoritch considered positively that if this letter were put forward it would have no great legal value, so that Versilov's case might be won all the same. This letter is more a matter of conscience, so to say… ."

"But that's what matters most of all," I interrupted, "just because it would put Versilov in a hopeless dilemma."

"He may on the contrary destroy the document, and so escape all danger."

"Have you any grounds for supposing such a thing of him, Kraft? That's what I want to know; that's why I'm here."

"I believe every one would do the same in his place."

"Would you behave so, yourself?"

"I'm not going to receive a fortune, so I can't tell about myself."

"Very well," I said, putting the letter in my pocket. "The matter's settled for the present. Listen, Kraft. Marie Ivanovna, who has, I assure you, told me a great deal, said to me that you and only you could tell me the truth of what happened at Ems a year and a half ago between Versilov and Mme. Ahmakov. I've been looking forward to seeing you as a sun that would throw light on everything. You don't know my position, Kraft. I beseech you to tell me the whole truth. What I want to know is what kind of man He is, and now—now I need to know it more than ever."

"I wonder Marie Ivanovna did not tell you all about it herself; she might have heard it all from Andronikov, and of course she has heard it and very likely knows more than I do."

"Andronikov was not clear about it himself, so Marie Ivanovna told me. It seems a maze to which no one has the clue. The devil himself would be lost in it. I know that you were at Ems yourself at the time."

"I never knew the whole of it, but what I do know I will willingly tell you if you like, though I doubt whether I shall satisfy you."


Chapter 5

 

1.

My "idea" is—to become a Rothschild. I invite the reader to keep calm and not to excite himself.

I repeat it. My "idea" is to become a Rothschild, to become as rich as Rothschild, not simply rich, but as rich as Rothschild. What objects I have in view, what for, and why—all that shall come later. First I will simply show that the attainment of my object is a mathematical certainty.

It is a very simple matter; the whole secret lies in two words: OBSTINACY and PERSEVERANCE.

"We have heard that; it's nothing new," people will tell me. Every "vater," in Germany repeats this to his children, and meanwhile your Rothschild (James Rothschild the Parisian, is the one I mean) is unique while there are millions of such "vaters."

I should answer:

"You assert that you've heard it, but you've heard nothing. It's true that you're right about one thing. When I said that this was 'very simple,' I forgot to add that it is most difficult. All the religions and the moralities of the world amount to one thing: 'Love virtue and avoid vice.' One would think nothing could be simpler. But just try doing something virtuous and giving up any one of your vices; just try it. It's the same with this.

"That's why your innumerable German 'vaters' may, for ages past reckoning, have repeated those two wonderful words which contain the whole secret, and, meanwhile, Rothschild remains unique. It shows it's the same but not the same, and these 'vaters' don't repeat the same idea.

"No doubt they too have heard of obstinacy and perseverance, but to attain my object what I need is not these German 'vaters' ' obstinacy or these 'vaters' ' perseverance."

"The mere fact that he is a 'vater'—I don't mean only the Germans—that he has a family, that he is living like other people, has expenses like other people, has obligations like other people, means that he can't become a Rothschild, but must remain an average man. I understand quite clearly that in becoming a Rothschild, or merely desiring to become one, not in the German 'vaters'' way but seriously, I must at the same time cut myself off from society."

Some years ago I read in the newspaper that on one of the steamers on the Volga there died a beggar who went about begging in rags and was known to every one. On his death they found sewn up in his shirt three thousand roubles in notes. The other day I read of another beggar of the "respectable" sort, who used to go about the restaurants holding out his hand. He was arrested and there was found on him five thousand roubles. Two conclusions follow directly from this. The first, that OBSTINACY in saving even the smallest coin will produce enormous results in the long run (time is of no account in this), and secondly that the most unskilful form of accumulation if only PERSEVERING is mathematically certain of success.

Meanwhile there are perhaps a good number of respectable, clever, obstinate people who cannot save either three or five thousand, however much they struggle, though they would be awfully glad to have such a sum. Why is that? The answer is clear: it is because not one of them, in spite of all their wishing it, DESIRES it to such a degree that, for instance, if he is not able to save by other means, he is ready to become a beggar, and so persistent that after becoming a beggar, he will not waste the first farthing he is given on an extra crust of bread for himself or his family. With this system of saving, that is in beggary, one must live on bread and salt and nothing more, to save up such sums; at least, so I imagine. That is no doubt what the two beggars I have mentioned above did do; they must have eaten nothing but bread and have lived almost in the open air. There is no doubt that they had no intention of becoming Rothschilds; they were simply Harpagons or Ilyushkins in their purest form, nothing more; but, when there is intelligent accumulation in quite a different form with the object of becoming a Rothschild, no less strength of will is needed than in the case of those two beggars. The German "vater" does not show such strength of will. There are many kinds of strength in the world, especially of strength of will and of desire. There is the temperature of boiling water and there is the temperature of molten iron.

One wants here the same thing as in a monastery, the same heroic asceticism. Feeling is wanted, not only idea. What for? Why? Is it moral and not monstrous to wear sackcloth and eat black bread all one's life to heap up filthy lucre? These questions I will consider later. Now I am discussing only the possibility of attaining the object. When I thought of my "idea" and it was forged in white heat, I began asking myself—am I capable of asceticism? With this object, for the whole of the first month I took bread and water, not more than two and a half pounds of black bread a day. To do this I was obliged to deceive Nikolay Semyonovitch who was clever, and Marie Ivanovna who was anxious for my welfare. Though I wounded her and somewhat surprised Nikolay Semyonovitch who was a man of great delicacy, I insisted on having my dinner brought to my room. There I simply got rid of it. I poured the soup out of window on to the nettles or elsewhere, the meat I either flung out of window to a dog, or wrapping it up in paper put it in my pocket and threw it away after, and so on. As the bread given me for dinner was much less than two and a half pounds I bought bread on the sly. I stood this for a month perhaps, only upsetting my stomach a little, but the next month I added soup to the bread and drank a glass of tea morning and evening, and I assure you I passed a year like that in perfect health and content, as well as in a moral ecstasy and perpetual secret delight. Far from regretting the dainties I missed, I was overjoyed. At the end of the year, having convinced myself I was capable of standing any fast, however severe, I began eating as they did, and went back to dine with them. Not satisfied with this experiment I made a second; apart from the sum paid to Nikolay Semyonovitch for my board I was allowed five roubles a month for pocket money. I resolved to spend only half. This was a very great trial, but after at most two years I had in my pocket by the time I went to Petersburg seventy roubles saved entirely in this way, besides other money. The result of these two experiments was of vast importance to me: I had learnt positively that I could so will a thing as to attain my objects, and that I repeat is the essence of "my idea"—the rest is all nonsense.


Chapter 6

 

1.

My hopes were not fully realized. I did not find them alone though Versilov was not at home, Tatyana Pavlovna was sitting with my mother, and she was, after all, not one of the family. Fully half of my magnanimous feelings disappeared instantly. It is wonderful how hasty and changeable I am; in such cases a straw, a grain of sand is enough to dissipate my good mood and replace it by a bad one. My bad impressions, I regret to say, are not so quickly dispelled, though I am not resentful… . When I went in, I had a feeling that my mother immediately and hastily broke off what she was saying to Tatyana Pavlovna; I fancied they were talking very eagerly. My sister turned from her work only for a moment to look at me and did not come out of her little alcove again. The flat consisted of three rooms. The room in which we usually sat, the middle room or drawing-room, was fairly large and almost presentable. In it were soft, red armchairs and a sofa, very much the worse for wear, however (Versilov could not endure covers on furniture); there were rugs of a sort and several tables, including some useless little ones. On the right was Versilov's room, cramped and narrow with one window; it was furnished with a wretched-looking writing-table covered with unused books and crumpled papers, and an equally wretched-looking easy chair with a broken spring that stuck up in one corner and often made Versilov groan and swear. On an equally threadbare sofa in this room he used to sleep. He hated this study of his, and I believe he never did anything in it; he preferred sitting idle for hours together in the drawing-room. On the left of the drawing-room there was another room of the same sort in which my mother and sister slept. The drawing-room was entered from the passage at the end of which was the kitchen, where the cook, Lukerya, lived, and when she cooked, she ruthlessly filled the whole flat with the smell of burnt fat. There were moments when Versilov cursed his life and fate aloud on account of the smell from the kitchen, and in that one matter I sympathized with him fully; I hated that smell, too, though it did not penetrate to my room: I lived upstairs in an attic under the roof, to which I climbed by a very steep and shaky ladder. The only things worth mentioning in it were a semicircular window, a low-pitched ceiling, a sofa covered with American leather on which at night Lukerya spread sheets and put a pillow for me. The rest of the furniture consisted of two articles, a perfectly plain deal table and a wooden rush-bottomed chair. We still preserved, however, some relics of former comfort. In the drawing- room, for instance, we had a fairly decent china lamp, and on the wall hung a large and splendid engraving of the Sistine Madonna; facing it on the other wall was an immense and expensive photograph of the cast-bronze gates of the cathedral of Florence. In the corner of the same room was a shrine of old-fashioned family ikons, one of which had a gilt-silver setting—the one they had meant to pawn, while another (the image of Our Lady) had a velvet setting embroidered in pearls. Under the ikons hung a little lamp which was lighted on every holiday. Versilov evidently had no feeling for the ikons in their inner meaning and religious significance, but he restrained himself. He merely screwed up his eyes, sometimes complaining that the lamplight reflected in the gilt setting hurt them, but he did not hinder my mother from lighting the lamp.

I usually entered in gloomy silence, looking away into some corner, and sometimes without even greeting anyone. As a rule I returned earlier than to-day, and they used to send my dinner to me upstairs. Going into the room I said, "Good evening, mother," a thing I had never done before. Though even this time I was unable from a sort of bashfulness to make myself look at her, and I sat down in the opposite corner of the room. I was awfully tired, but I did not think of that.

"That lout of yours still walks in as rudely as ever," Tatyana Pavlovna hissed at me. She had been in the habit in old days of using abusive epithets to me and it had become an established tradition between us.

My mother faltered "Good evening" to me, using the formal mode of address, and evidently embarrassed at my greeting her. "Your dinner has been ready a long while," she added, almost overcome by confusion: "I hope the soup is not cold, I will order the cutlets at once… ." She was hastily jumping up to go to the kitchen and, for the first time perhaps during that whole month, I felt ashamed that she should run about to wait on me so humbly, though till that moment I had expected it of her.

"Thank you very much, mother, I have had dinner already. May I stay and rest here if I am not in the way?"

"Oh … of course… . how can you ask, pray sit down… ."

"Don't worry yourself, mother, I won't be rude to Andrey Petrovitch again," I rapped out all at once.

"Good heavens! how noble of him," cried Tatyana Pavlovna. "Sonia darling, you don't mean to say you still stand on ceremony with him? Who is he to be treated with such deference, and by his own mother, too! Look at you, why you behave as though you were afraid of him, it is disgraceful."

"I should like it very much, mother, if you would call me Arkasha."

"Oh … yes … certainly, yes I will," my mother said hurriedly. I … don't always … henceforward I will."

She blushed all over. Certainly her face had at times a great charm… . It had a look of simplicity, but by no means of stupidity. It was rather pale and anaemic, her cheeks were very thin, even hollow; her forehead was already lined by many wrinkles, but there were none round her eyes, and her eyes were rather large and wide open, and shone with a gentle and serene light which had drawn me to her from the very first day. I liked her face, too, because it did not look particularly depressed or drawn; on the contrary, her expression would have been positively cheerful, if she had not been so often agitated, sometimes almost panic-stricken over trifles, starting up from her seat for nothing at all, or listening in alarm to anything new that was said, till she was sure that all was well and as before. What mattered to her was just that all should be as before; that there should be no change, that nothing new should happen, not even new happiness… . It might have been thought that she had been frightened as a child. Besides her eyes, I liked the oval of her rather long face, and I believe if it had been a shade less broad across the cheekbones she might have been called beautiful, not only in her youth but even now. She was not more than thirty-nine, but grey hairs were already visible in her chestnut hair.

Tatyana Pavlovna glanced at her in genuine indignation.

"A booby like him! And you tremble before him, you are ridiculous, Sofia, you make me angry, I tell you!"

"Ah, Tatyana Pavlovna, why should you attack him now? But you are joking perhaps, eh?" my mother added, detecting something like a smile on Tatyana Pavlovna's face. Her scoldings could not indeed be always taken seriously. But she smiled (if she did smile) only at my mother, of course, because she loved her devotedly, and no doubt noticed how happy she was at that moment at my meekness.

"Of course, I can't help feeling hurt, if you will attack people unprovoked, Tatyana Pavlovna, and just when I've come in saying 'Good evening, mother,' a thing I've never done before," I thought it necessary to observe at last.

"Only fancy," she boiled over at once: "He considers it as something to be proud of. Am I to go down on my knees to you, pray, because for once in your life you've been polite? and as though it were politeness! Why do you stare into the corner when you come in? I know how you tear and fling about before her! You might have said 'Good evening' to me, too, I wrapped you in your swaddling clothes, I am your godmother."

I need not say I did not deign to answer. At that moment my sister came in and I made haste to turn to her.

"Liza, I saw Vassin to-day and he inquired after you. You have met him?"

"Yes, last year in Luga," she answered quite simply, sitting down beside me and looking at me affectionately. I don't know why, but I had fancied she would flush when I spoke of Vassin. My sister was a blonde; very fair with flaxen hair, quite unlike both her parents. But her eyes and the oval of her face were like our mother's. Her nose was very straight, small, and regular; there were tiny freckles in her face, however, of which there was no sign in my mother's. There was very little resemblance to Versilov, nothing but the slenderness of figure, perhaps, her tallness and something charming in her carriage. There was not the slightest likeness between us—we were the opposite poles.

"I knew his honour for three months," Liza added.

"Is it Vassin you call 'his honour,' Liza? You should call him by his name. Excuse my correcting you, sister, but it grieves me that they seem to have neglected your education."

"But it's shameful of you to remark upon it before your mother," cried Tatyana Pavlovna, firing up; "and you are talking nonsense, it has not been neglected at all."

"I am not saying anything about my mother," I said sharply, defending myself. "Do you know, mother, that when I look at Liza it's as though it were you over again; you have given her the same charm of goodness, which you must have had yourself, and you have it to this day and always will have it… . I was only talking of the surface polish, of the silly rules of etiquette, which are necessary, however. I am only indignant at the thought that when Versilov has heard you call Vassin 'his honour' he has not troubled to correct you at all—his disdain and his indifference to us are so complete. That's what makes me furious."

"He is a perfect bear himself, and he is giving us lessons in good manners! Don't you dare talk of Versilov before your mother, sir, or before me either, I won't stand it!" Tatyana Pavlovna flashed out.

"I got my salary to-day, mother, fifty roubles; take it, please; here!"

I went up to her and gave her the money; she was in a tremor of anxiety at once.

"Oh, I don't know about taking it," she brought out, as though afraid to touch the money. I did not understand.

"For goodness' sake, mother, if you both think of me as one of the family, as a son and a brother… ."

"Oh, I've been to blame, Arkady: I ought to have confessed something to you, but I am afraid of you… ."

She said this with a timid and deprecating smile; again I did not understand and interrupted.

"By the way, did you know, mother, that Andrey Petrovitch's case against the Sokolskys is being decided to-day?"

"Ah! I knew," she cried, clasping her hands before her (her favourite gesture) in alarm.

"To-day?" cried Tatyana Pavlovna startled, "but it's impossible, he would have told us. Did he tell you?" she turned to my mother.

"Oh! no … that it was to-day … he didn't. But I have been fearing it all the week. I would have prayed for him to lose it even, only to have it over and off one's mind, and to have things as they used to be again."

"What! hasn't he even told you, mother?" I exclaimed. "What a man! There's an example of the indifference and contempt I spoke of just now."

"It's being decided, how is it being decided? And who told you?" cried Tatyana Pavlovna, pouncing upon me. "Speak, do."

"Why, here he is himself! Perhaps he will tell you," I announced, catching the sound of his step in the passage and hastily sitting down again beside Liza.

"Brother, for God's sake, spare mother, and be patient with Andrey Petrovitch … " she whispered to me.

"I will, I will," with that I turned to her and pressed her hand.

Liza looked at me very mistrustfully, and she was right.


Chapter 7

 

1.

I describe all these scenes without sparing myself, in order to recall it clearly and revive the impression. As I went up to my attic, I did not know in the least whether I ought to be ashamed or triumphant as though I had done my duty. Had I been ever so little more experienced, I should have had a misgiving that the least doubt in such cases must be taken as a bad sign, but another fact threw me out in my reckoning: I don't know what I was pleased about, but I felt awfully pleased, in spite of my being uncertain, and of my realizing distinctly that I had not come off with flying colours downstairs. Even Tatyana Pavlovna's spiteful abuse of me struck me as funny and amusing and did not anger me at all. Probably all this was because I had anyway broken my chains and for the first time felt myself free.

I felt, too, that I had weakened my position: how I was to act in regard to the letter about the inheritance was more obscure than ever. Now it would be certainly taken for granted that I was revenging myself on Versilov. But while all this discussion was going on downstairs I had made up my mind to submit the question of the letter to an impartial outsider and to appeal to Vassin for his decision, or, failing Vassin, to take it to some one else. I had already made up my mind to whom. I would go to see Vassin once, for that occasion only, I thought to myself, and then—then I would vanish for a long while, for some months, from the sight of all, especially of Vassin. Only my mother and sister I might see occasionally. It was all inconsistent and confused; I felt that I had done something, though not in the right way, and I was satisfied: I repeat, I was awfully pleased anyway.

I meant to go to bed rather early, foreseeing I should have a lot to do next day. Besides finding a lodging and moving, I had another project which in one way or another I meant to carry out. But the evening was not destined to end without surprises, and Versilov succeeded in astonishing me extremely. He had certainly never been into my attic, and lo and behold, before I had been an hour in my room I heard his footsteps on the ladder: he called to me to show a light. I took a candle, and stretching out my hand, which he caught hold of, I helped him up.

"Merci, my dear fellow; I've never climbed up here before, not even when I took the lodgings. I imagined what sort of place it was, but I never supposed it was quite such a hole as this." He stood in the middle of my attic, looking around with curiosity. "Why, this is a coffin, a regular coffin."

It really had a resemblance to the inside of a coffin, and I positively admired the way he had described it in one word. It was a long narrow box of a room, the ceiling sloped away from the wall at the height of my shoulder, and the top of it was within easy reach of my hand. Versilov unconsciously stood stooping, afraid of hitting his head against the ceiling; he did not knock it, however, and, finally more or less reassured, he seated himself on the sofa, where my bed had already been made up. But I did not sit down, I looked at him in the greatest amazement.

"Your mother says she does not know whether to take the money you gave her this evening for your board for the month. But for a coffin like this, instead of taking your money, we ought rather to offer you compensation! I have never been up and … I can't conceive how you can exist here!"

"I am used to it. But what I can't get used to is seeing you in my room after what has just happened downstairs."

"O, yes, you were distinctly rude downstairs, but … I, too, have a special object which I will explain to you, though indeed there is nothing extraordinary in my coming; even the scene downstairs is in the regular order of things; but for mercy's sake do explain this: what you told us downstairs after preparing us and approaching the subject so solemnly was surely not all you meant to disclose or communicate? Was there really nothing else?"

"That was all, or we'll assume it was all."

"It's not much, my dear fellow: I must own that from your beginning and the way you urged us to laugh, in fact from your eagerness to talk, I expected more."

"But that does not matter to you, surely?"

"But I speak simply from a sense of proportion; it was not worth making such a fuss about, it was quite disproportionate; you've been sitting mute a whole month, preparing to speak, and when it comes—it's nothing."

"I meant to say more, but I am ashamed of having said even that. Not everything can be put into words, there are things it's better never to say at all; I said a good deal, but you did not understand."

"Why, so you, too, are sometimes distressed at the impossibility of putting thought into words! That's a noble sorrow, my dear fellow, and it's only vouchsafed to the elect: the fool is always satisfied with what he has said, and always, too, says more than he need; they love to have something to spare."

"As I see I did, for instance; I said more than I need: I asked for the 'whole of Versilov,' that was a great deal too much; I don't need Versilov at all."

"My dear fellow, I see you want to retrieve your failure downstairs. It is very evident you repent it, and as repentance among us always involves immediately attacking some one, you are very anxious to hit hard this time. I have come too soon, and you have not yet cooled down, and besides you are not very good at standing criticism. But sit down, for mercy's sake; I have come to tell you something; thank you, that's right. From what you said to your mother, as you went out, it's quite clear that it is better for us to separate. I have come to persuade you to do so as gently and with as little fuss as possible, to avoid grieving and alarming your mother any further. My coming up here even has cheered her. She believes in a way that we may still be reconciled and that everything will go on as before. I imagine that if we were to laugh heartily once or twice we should fill their timid hearts with delight. They may be simple souls, but they are sincere and true- hearted in their love. Why not humour them on occasion? Well, that's one thing. Another thing: why should we necessarily part thirsting for revenge, gnashing our teeth, vowing vengeance, etc. Of course there is no manner of need to fall on each other's necks, but we might part, so to say, with mutual respect, mightn't we?"

"That's all nonsense! I promise to go away without a fuss—and that's enough. And is it for my mother's sake you are anxious? But it strikes me that my mother's peace of mind has absolutely nothing to do with it, and you are simply saying that."

"You don't believe it?"

"You talk to me just as though I were a baby."

"I am ready to beg your pardon a thousand times over for that, in fact for everything you bring up against me, for those years of your childhood and the rest of it, but, cher enfant, what will be the use of it? You are too clever to want to be put into such a stupid position. To say nothing of my not understanding, so far, the exact nature of your accusations. What is it you blame me for in reality? For your not having been born a Versilov? Bah! You laugh contemptuously and wave your hands, so that's not it?"

"No, I assure you. I assure you I don't think it an honour to be called Versilov."

"Let's leave honour out of the question; and, besides, your answer was bound to be democratic; but if so, what are you blaming me for?"

"Tatyana Pavlovna told me just now all I needed to know, and had always failed to grasp, till she spoke. That is, that you did not apprentice me to a shoemaker, and that consequently I had to be grateful, too. I can't understand why it is I am not grateful, even now, even after I have been taught my lesson. Isn't it the pride of your race showing itself in me, Andrey Petrovitch?"

"Probably not, and apart from that, you must admit that by your sallies downstairs you've only bullied and tormented your mother instead of crushing me, as you intended. Yet I should have thought it was not for you to judge her. Besides, what wrong has she done you? Explain to me, too, by the way, my dear fellow: for what reason and with what object did you spread abroad that you were illegitimate, at your boarding school and at the grammar school, and everywhere you have been, to every casual stranger, as I hear you have? I hear that you did this with a peculiar relish. And yet that's all nonsense, and a revolting calumny: you are legitimate, a Dolgoruky, the son of Makar Ivanovitch Dolgoruky, a respectable man, remarkable for his intelligence and character. That you have received a superior education is entirely owing to your former master, Versilov, and what's the upshot of it? By proclaiming your illegitimacy, which is a calumny in itself, you first and foremost gave away your mother's secret, and from a false pride exposed your mother to the criticism of every dirty stranger. My dear fellow, that was very discreditable, especially as your mother is in no way to blame: she has a nature of the greatest purity, and that her name is not Versilov is simply because her husband is still living."

"Enough, I entirely agree with you, and I have enough faith in your intelligence to hope that you won't go on rating at me too long for it. You are so fond of moderation; and yet there's a moderation in all things, even in your sudden love for my mother. I'll tell you what would be better: since you have gone so far as to come up and see me and mean to spend a quarter of an hour or half an hour with me (I still don't know what for, we'll assume for my mother's peace of mind), and what's more, in spite of the scene downstairs, seem so eager to talk to me, you had better tell me about my father— tell me about Makar Ivanovitch the pilgrim. I want to hear from you about him: I have been intending to ask you for some time past. Now that we are parting perhaps for a long time, I should very much like to get from you an answer to another question: has it really been impossible for you during these twenty years to affect my mother's traditional ideas—and now my sister's, too—so as to dissipate by your civilizing influence the primitive darkness of her environment? Oh, I am not speaking of the purity of her nature. She's infinitely nobler than you, morally anyway, excuse my saying so … but she's only an infinitely noble corpse. Versilov is the only one living, everything else about him and everything connected with him exists only on the express condition of having the honour to nourish him with its force, its living sap. But I suppose she, too, was once alive, wasn't she? I suppose you loved something in her, didn't you? I suppose she was once a woman?"

"My dear fellow, she never was, if you will have it," he assured me, at once dropping into his habitual manner with me, with which I was so familiar, and by which I was so enraged, that is he was apparently all sincerity and open-heartedness, but if one looked more closely there was nothing in him but the deepest irony: "she never was. The Russian woman never is a woman."

"Is the Polish woman, the French woman? Or the Italian, the passionate Italian, that's the sort to fascinate the civilized upper-class Russian of the type of Versilov?"

"Well, I certainly did not expect to meet a Slavophil," laughed Versilov.

I remember his story, word for word: he began talking with great readiness indeed, and with evident pleasure. It was quite clear to me, that he had come up not to have a gossip with me, and not to pacify my mother either, but with some other object.


Chapter 8

 

1.

I tried to get up as early as possible in the morning. As a rule we, that is my mother, my sister and I, used to get up about eight o'clock. Versilov used to lie comfortably in bed till half-past nine. Punctually at half-past eight my mother used to bring me up my coffee. But this time I slipped out of the house at eight o'clock without waiting for it. I had the day before mapped out roughly my plan of action for the whole of this day. In spite of my passionate resolve to carry out this plan I felt that there was a very great deal of it that was uncertain and indefinite in its most essential points. That was why I lay all night in a sort of half-waking state; I had an immense number of dreams, as though I were light-headed, and I hardly fell asleep properly all night. In spite of that I got up feeling fresher and more confident than usual. I was particularly anxious not to meet my mother. I could not have avoided speaking to her on a certain subject, and I was afraid of being distracted from the objects I was pursuing by some new and unexpected impression.

It was a cold morning and a damp, milky mist hovered over everything. I don't know why, but I always like the early workaday morning in Petersburg in spite of its squalid air; and the self- centred people, always absorbed in thought, and hurrying on their affairs, have a special attraction for me at eight o'clock in the morning. As I hasten on my road I particularly like either asking some one a practical question, or being asked one by some passer- by: both question and answer are always brief, clear, and to the point; they are spoken without stopping and almost always in a friendly manner, and there is a greater readiness to answer than at any other hour. In the middle of the day, or in the evening, the Petersburger is far more apt to be abusive or jeering. It is quite different early in the morning, before work has begun, at the soberest and most serious hour of the day. I have noticed that.

I set off again for the Petersburg Side. As I had to be back in Fontanka by twelve o'clock to see Vassin (who was always more likely to be at home at midday), I hurried on without stopping, though I had a great longing to have a cup of coffee. It was absolutely necessary to find Efim Zvyerev at home too; I went to him and almost missed him; he had finished his coffee and was just ready to go out.

"What brings you here so often?" was how he greeted me without getting up from his seat.

"I will explain that directly."

The early morning everywhere, including Petersburg, has a sobering effect on a man's nature. Some of the passionate dreams of night evaporate completely with the light and chill of morning, and it has happened to me myself sometimes to recall in the morning my dreams and even my actions of the previous night, with shame and self-reproach. But I will remark, however, in passing, I consider a Petersburg morning—which might be thought the most prosaic on the terrestrial globe—almost the most fantastic in the world. That is my personal view, or rather impression, but I am prepared to defend it. On such a Petersburg morning, foul, damp and foggy, the wild dream of some Herman out of Pushkin's "Queen of Spades" (a colossal figure, an extraordinary and regular Petersburg type—the type of the Petersburg period!) would, I believe, be more like solid reality. A hundred times over, in such a fog, I have been haunted by a strange but persistent fancy: "What if this fog should part and float away, would not all this rotten and slimy town go with it, rise up with the fog, and vanish like smoke, and the old Finnish marsh be left as before, and in the midst of it, perhaps, to complete the picture, a bronze horseman on a panting, overdriven steed." In fact I cannot find words for my sensations, for all this is fantastic after all—poetic, and therefore nonsensical; nevertheless I have often been and often am haunted by an utterly senseless question: "Here they are all flitting to and fro, but how can one tell, perhaps all this is some one's dream, and there is not one real person here, nor one real action. Some one who is dreaming all this will suddenly wake up—and everything will suddenly disappear." But I am digressing.

I must say by way of preface that there are projects and dreams in every one's experience so eccentric that they might well be taken at first sight for madness. It was with such a phantasy in my mind that I arrived that morning at Efim's,—I went to Efim because I had no one else in Petersburg to whom I could apply on this occasion. Yet Efim was the last person to whom I should have gone with such a proposition if I had had any choice. When I was sitting opposite him, I was actually struck myself with the thought that I was the incarnation of fever and delirium, sitting opposite the incarnation of prose and the golden mean. Yet on my side there was an idea and true feeling, while on his there was nothing but the practical conviction, that things were not done like that. In short I explained to him briefly and clearly that I had absolutely no one else in Petersburg whom I could send by way of a second in matter vitally affecting my honour; that he, Efim, was an old comrade, and therefore had no right to refuse, and that I wanted to challenge a lieutenant in the Guards, Prince Sokolsky, because more than a year ago he had given my father a slap in the face at Ems. I may mention by the way that Efim knew all the details of my family circumstances, my relations with Versilov, and almost all that I knew myself of Versilov's career; I had on various occasions talked to him of my private affairs, except, of course, of certain secrets. He sat and listened as his habit was, all ruffling up his feathers like a sparrow in a cage, silent and serious, with his puffy face and his untidy, flaxen-white hair. A set smile of mockery never left his lips. This smile was all the nastier for being quite unintentional and unconscious; it was evident that he genuinely and sincerely considered himself at that moment vastly superior to me in intellect and character. I suspected, too, that he despised me for the scene the evening before at Dergatchev's; that was bound to be so. Efim was the crowd, Efim was the man in the street, and the man in the street has no reverence for anything but success.

"And Versilov knows nothing of this?" he asked.

"Of course not."

"Then what right have you to meddle in his affairs? That's the first question. And the second one is, what do you want to show by it?"

I was prepared for the objection, and at once explained to him that it was not so stupid as he supposed. To begin with, the insolent prince would be shown that there are people, even in our class, who know what is meant by honour; and secondly, Versilov would be put to shame and learn a lesson. And in the third place, what mattered most of all, even if Versilov had been right in refusing to challenge him in accordance with his convictions at the time, he would see that there was some one who was capable of feeling the insult to him so keenly that he accepted it as an insult to himself, and was prepared to lay down his life for his, Versilov's, interests … although he was leaving him for ever… .

"Wait a minute, don't shout, my aunt does not like it. Tell me, is it this same Prince Sokolsky that Versilov is at law with about a will? If so, this will be quite a new and original way of winning a lawsuit—to kill your opponent in a duel."

I explained to him en toutes lettres, that he was simply silly and impertinent, and that if his sarcastic grin was growing broader and broader, it only showed his conceit and commonplaceness, and that he was incapable of imagining that I had had the lawsuit in my mind from the very beginning, and that reflection on that subject was not confined to his sagacity. Then I informed him that the case was already decided, and, moreover, it had not been brought by Prince Sokolsky but by the Princes Sokolsky, so that if a Prince Sokolsky were killed the others would be left, but that no doubt it would be necessary to put off the challenge till the end of the time within which an appeal was possible, not that the Solkoskys would as a fact appeal, but simply as a matter of good form. When the latest possible date for an appeal had passed, the challenge would follow; that I had come about it now, not that the duel would take place immediately, but that I must be prepared at any rate in time to find a second, if he, Efim, refused, as I knew no one. That was why, I said, I had come.

"Well, come and talk about it then, or else you'll be leading us a wild-goose chase."

He stood up and took his cap.

"So you'll go then?"

"No, of course I won't."

"Why not?"

"Well, for one reason if I agreed now that I would go then, you would begin hanging about here every evening till the time for the appeal was over. And besides, it's simply nonsense, and that's all about it. And am I going to mess up my career for you? Why, Prince Sokolsky will ask me at once: 'Who sent you?'—'Dolgoruky'— 'And what's Dolgoruky got to do with Versilov?' And am I to explain your pedigree to him, pray? Why, he'd burst out laughing!"

"Then you give him a punch in the face!"

"But it's all gibberish."

"You're afraid! You so tall and the strongest at the grammar school!"

"I'm afraid, of course, I am afraid. Besides, the prince won't fight, for they only fight their equals."

"I am a gentleman, too, by education. I have rights, I am his equal … on the contrary, he is not my equal."

"You are a small boy."

"How a small boy?"

"Just a small boy; we are both boys but he is grown up."

"You fool! But I might have been married a year ago by the law."

"Well, get married then, but anyway you are a ——! you will grow up one day!"

I saw, of course, that he thought fit to jeer at me. I might not indeed have told all this foolish episode, and it would have been better in fact for it to have perished in obscurity; besides, it's revolting in its pettiness and gratuitousness, though it had rather serious consequences.

But to punish myself still further I will describe it fully. Realizing that Efim was jeering at me, I permitted myself to push him on the shoulder with my right hand, or rather my right fist. Then he took me by the shoulder, turned me upside down and—proved to me conclusively that he was the strongest of us at the grammar school.


Chapter 9

 

1.

I hurried home and—marvellous to relate—I was very well satisfied with myself. That's not the way one talks to women, of course, and to such women too—it would be truer to say such a woman, for I was not considering Tatyana Pavlovna. Perhaps it's out of the question to say to a woman of that class that one spits on her intrigues, but I had said that, and it was just that that I was pleased with. Apart from anything else, I was convinced that by taking this tone I had effaced all that was ridiculous in my position. But I had not time to think much about that: my mind was full of Kraft. Not that the thought of him distressed me very greatly, but yet I was shaken to my inmost depths, and so much so that the ordinary human feeling of pleasure at another man's misfortune—at his breaking his leg or covering himself with disgrace, at his losing some one dear to him, and so on—even this ordinary feeling of mean satisfaction was completely eclipsed by another absolutely single- hearted feeling, a feeling of sorrow, of compassion for Kraft—at least I don't know whether it was compassion, but it was a strong and warm-hearted feeling. And I was glad of this too. It's marvellous how many irrelevant ideas can flash through the mind at the very time when one is shattered by some tremendous piece of news, which one would have thought must overpower all other feelings and banish all extraneous thoughts, especially petty ones; yet petty ones, on the contrary, obtrude themselves. I remember, too, that I was gradually overcome by a quite perceptible nervous shudder, which lasted several minutes, in fact all the time I was at home and talking to Versilov.

This interview followed under strange and exceptional circumstances. I had mentioned already that we lived in a separate lodge in the courtyard; this lodging was marked "No. 13." Before I had entered the gate I heard a woman's voice asking loudly, with impatience and irritation, "Where is No. 13?" The question was asked by a lady who was standing close to the gate and had opened the door of the little shop; but apparently she got no answer there, or was even repulsed, for she came down the steps, resentful and angry.

"But where is the porter?" she cried, stamping her foot. I had already recognized the voice.

"I am going to No. 13," I said, approaching her. "Whom do you want?"

"I have been looking for the porter for the last hour. I keep asking every one; I have been up all the staircases."

"It's in the yard. Don't you recognize me?"

But by now she had recognized me.

"You want Versilov; you want to see him about something, and so do I," I went on. "I have come to take leave of him for ever. Come along."

"You are his son?"

"That means nothing. Granted, though, that I am his son, yet my name's Dolgoruky; I am illegitimate. This gentleman has an endless supply of illegitimate children. When conscience and honour require it a son will leave his father's house. That's in the Bible. He has come into a fortune too, and I don't wish to share it, and I go to live by the work of my hands. A noble-hearted man will sacrifice life itself, if need be; Kraft has shot himself, Kraft for the sake of an idea, imagine, a young man, yet he overcame hope… . This way, this way! We live in a lodge apart. But that's in the Bible; children leave their parents and make homes for themselves… . If the idea draws one on … if there is an idea! The idea is what matters, the idea is everything… ."

I babbled on like this while we were making our way to the lodge. The reader will, no doubt, observe that I don't spare myself much, though I give myself a good character on occasion; I want to train myself to tell the truth. Versilov was at home. I went in without taking off my overcoat; she did the same. Her clothes were dreadfully thin: over a wretched gown of some dark colour was hung a rag that did duty for a cloak or mantle; on her head she wore an old and frayed sailor-hat, which was very unbecoming. When we went into the room my mother was sitting at her usual place at work, and my sister came out of her room to see who it was, and was standing in the doorway. Versilov, as usual, was doing nothing, and he got up to meet us. He looked at me intently with a stern and inquiring gaze.

"It's nothing to do with me," I hastened to explain, and I stood on one side. "I only met this person at the gate; she was trying to find you and no one could direct her. I have come about my own business, which I shall be delighted to explain afterwards… ."

Versilov nevertheless still scrutinized me curiously.

"Excuse me," the girl began impatiently. Versilov turned towards her.

"I have been wondering a long while what induced you to leave money for me yesterday… . I … in short … here's your money!" she almost shrieked, as she had before, and flung a bundle of notes on the table. "I've had to hunt for you through the address bureau, or I should have brought it before. Listen, you!" She suddenly addressed my mother, who had turned quite pale. "I don't want to insult you; you look honest, and perhaps this is actually your daughter. I don't know whether you are his wife, but let me tell you that this gentleman gets hold of the advertisements on which teachers and governesses have spent their last farthing and visits these luckless wretches with dishonourable motives, trying to lure them to ruin by money. I don't understand how I could have taken his money yesterday: he looked so honest… . Get away, don't say a word! You are a villain, sir! Even if you had honourable intentions I don't want your charity. Not a word, not a word! Oh, how glad I am that I have unmasked you now before your women! Curse you!"

She ran to the door, but turned for one instant in the doorway to shout.

"You've come into a fortune, I'm told."

With that she vanished like a shadow. I repeat again, it was frenzy. Versilov was greatly astonished; he stood as though pondering and reflecting on something. At last he turned suddenly to me:

"You don't know her at all?"

"I happened to see her this morning when she was raging in the passage at Vassin's; she was screaming and cursing you. But I did not speak to her and I know nothing about it, and just now I met her at the gate. No doubt she is that teacher you spoke of yesterday, who also gives lessons in arithmetic."

"Yes, she is. For once in my life I did a good deed and… . But what's the matter with you?"

"Here is this letter," I answered. "I don't think explanation necessary: it comes from Kraft, and he got it from Andronikov. You will understand what's in it. I will add that no one but me in the whole world knows about that letter, for Kraft, who gave me that letter yesterday just as I was leaving him, has shot himself."

While I was speaking with breathless haste he took the letter and, holding it lightly poised in his left hand, watched me attentively. When I told him of Kraft's suicide I looked at him with particular attention to see the effect. And what did I see? The news did not make the slightest impression on him. If he had even raised an eyebrow! On the contrary, seeing that I had paused, he drew out his eyeglasses, which he always had about him hanging on a black ribbon, carried the letter to the candle and, glancing at the signature, began carefully examining it. I can't express how mortified I was at this supercilious callousness. He must have known Kraft very well: it was, in any case, such an extraordinary piece of news! Besides, I naturally desired it to produce an effect. Knowing that the letter was long, I turned, after waiting, and went out. My trunk had been packed long ago, I had only to stuff a few things into my bag. I thought of my mother and that I had not gone up to speak to her. Ten minutes later, when I had finished my preparations and was meaning to go for a cab, my sister walked into my attic.

"Here are your sixty roubles; mother sends it and begs you again to forgive her for having mentioned it to Andrey Petrovitch. And here's twenty roubles besides. You gave her fifty yesterday for your board; mother says she can't take more than thirty from you because you haven't cost fifty, and she sends you twenty roubles back."

"Well, thanks, if she is telling the truth. Good-bye, sister, I'm going."

"Where are you going now?"

"For the time being to an hotel, to escape spending the night in this house. Tell mother that I love her."

"She knows that. She knows that you love Andrey Petrovitch too. I wonder you are not ashamed of having brought that wretched girl here!"

"I swear I did not; I met her at the gate."

"No, it was your doing."

"I assure you… ."

"Think a little, ask yourself, and you will see that you were the cause."

"I was only very pleased that Versilov should be put to shame. Imagine, he had a baby by Lidya Ahmakov … but what am I telling you!"

"He? A baby? But it is not his child! From whom have you heard such a falsehood?"

"Why, you can know nothing about it."

"Me know nothing about it? But I used to nurse the baby in Luga. Listen, brother: I've seen for a long time past that you know nothing about anything, and meanwhile you wound Andrey Petrovitch— and … mother too."

"If he is right, then I shall be to blame. That's all, and I love you no less for it. What makes you flush like that, sister? And more still now! Well, never mind, anyway, I shall challenge that little prince for the slap he gave Versilov at Ems. If Versilov was in the right as regards Mlle. Ahmakov, so much the better."

"Brother, what are you thinking of?"

"Luckily, the lawsuit's over now… . Well, now she has turned white!"

"But the prince won't fight you," said Liza, looking at me with a wan smile in spite of her alarm.

"Then I will put him to shame in public. What's the matter with you, Liza?"

She had turned so pale that she could not stand, and sank on to my sofa.

"Liza," my mother's voice called from below.

She recovered herself and stood up; she smiled at me affectionately.

"Brother, drop this foolishness, or put it off for a time till you know about ever so many things: it's awful how little you understand."

"I shall remember, Liza, that you turned pale when you heard I was going to fight a duel."

"Yes, yes, remember that too!" she said, smiling once more at parting, and she went downstairs.

I called a cab, and with the help of the man I hauled my things out of the lodge. No one in the house stopped me or opposed my going. I did not go in to say good-bye to my mother as I did not want to meet Versilov again. When I was sitting in the cab a thought flashed upon me:

"To Fontanka by Semyonovsky Bridge," I told the man, and went back to Vassin's.


Chapter 10

 

1.

I woke about half-past ten, and for a long time I could not believe my eyes: on the sofa on which I had slept the previous night was sitting my mother, and beside her—the unhappy mother of the dead girl. They were holding each other's hands, they were talking in whispers, I suppose, that they might not wake me, and both were crying. I got up from the bed, and flew straight to kiss my mother. She positively beamed all over, kissed me and make the sign of the cross over me three times with the right hand. Before we had time to say a word the door opened, and Versilov and Vassin came in. My mother at once got up and led the bereaved woman away. Vassin gave me his hand, while Versilov sank into an armchair without saying a word to me. Mother and he had evidently been here for some time. His face looked overcast and careworn.

"What I regret most of all," he began saying slowly to Vassin, evidently in continuation of what they had been discussing outside, "is that I had no time to set it all right yesterday evening; then probably this terrible thing would not have happened! And indeed there was time, it was hardly eight o'clock. As soon as she ran away from us last night, I inwardly resolved to follow her and to reassure her, but this unforeseen and urgent business, though of course I might quite well have put it off till to-day … or even for a week—this vexatious turn of affairs has hindered and ruined everything. That's just how things do happen!"

"Perhaps you would not have succeeded in reassuring her; things had gone too far already, apart from you," Vassin put in.

"No, I should have succeeded, I certainly should have succeeded. And the idea did occur to me to send Sofia Andreyevna in my place. It flashed across my mind, but nothing more. Sofia Andreyevna alone would have convinced her, and the unhappy girl would have been alive. No, never again will I meddle … in 'good works' … and it is the only time in my life I have done it! And I imagined that I had kept up with the times and understood the younger generation. But we elders grow old almost before we grow ripe. And, by the way, there are a terrible number of modern people who go on considering themselves the younger generation from habit, because only yesterday they were such, and meantime they don't notice that they are no longer under the ban of the orthodox."

"There has been a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is quite evident," Vassin observed reasonably. "Her mother maintains that after the cruel way she was insulted in that infamous house, she seemed to lose her reason. Add to that her circumstances, the insult in the first place from the merchant … all this might have happened in the past, and, to my mind, is in no way particularly characteristic of the younger generation of to-day."

"It's impatient, the present generation, and has little understanding of reality; and, although that's true of all young people in all ages, it's particularly so in this … tell me, what part had Mr. Stebelkov in the trouble?"

"Mr. Stebelkov," I put in suddenly, "was the cause of it all. If it hadn't been for him nothing would have happened. He poured oil on the flames."

Versilov listened, but he did not glance at me. Vassin frowned.

"I blame myself for one ridiculous circumstance," Versilov went on deliberately, dwelling on each syllable as before, "I believe that in my usual stupid way I allowed myself to be lively after a fashion—this frivolous little laugh—in fact, I was not sufficiently abrupt, dry and gloomy, three characteristics which seem to be greatly prized by the young generation. In fact, I gave her grounds for suspecting me of being a gay deceiver."

"Quite the opposite," I put in abruptly again, "the mother lays particular stress on your having made the best possible impression through your gravity, severity even, and sincerity—those were her very words. The dead girl herself praised you on the same grounds directly after you'd gone."

"Y-yes?" Versilov mumbled with a cursory glance in my direction at last. "Take this scrap of paper, it's essential to the business"— he held out a tiny sheet to Vassin. Vassin took it, and seeing I was looking at him with curiosity, gave it to me to read. It was a note of two straggling lines scrawled in pencil, and perhaps in the dark:

"Mother darling, forgive me for cutting short my début into life. Your Olya who is causing you such grief."

"That was only found this morning," Vassin explained

"What a strange letter!" I cried in astonishment.

"Why strange?" asked Vassin.

"How can anyone use humorous expressions at such a minute?"

Vassin looked at me inquiringly.

"And the humour is strange too," I went on. "It's the conventional school jargon that schoolfellows use with one another. Who could write 'cut short my début into life' at such a moment, in such a letter to her unhappy mother—and she seems to have loved her mother too."

"Why not write it?" said Vassin, still not understanding.

"There's absolutely no humour about it," observed Versilov at last, "the expression, of course, is inappropriate, and quite incongruous, and may, as you say, have been picked up from some high-school slang or from some journalistic stuff; but the dead girl used it in that awful letter quite simply and earnestly"

"That's impossible; she had completed her studies and won the silver medal."

"A silver medal has nothing to do with it. Lots of them complete their studies as brilliantly nowadays."

"The younger generation again," said Vassin, smiling.

"Not at all," said Versilov, getting up and taking his hat. If the present generation is deficient on the literary side there's no doubt that it possesses other qualifications," he added with unusual gravity. "At the same time 'many' does not mean 'all': you, for instance, I don't accuse of being badly educated on the literary side, and you're a young man too."

"Vassin saw nothing wrong in the use of 'début' either," I could not resist saying.

Versilov held out his hand to Vassin without speaking. The latter took up his cap to go with him, calling out to me: "Goodbye for now." Versilov went out without noticing me. I too had no time to lose. Come what might, I had to run and find a lodging—now more necessary than ever. My mother was not with the landlady. She had gone out, taking the bereaved woman with her. I went out into the street, feeling particularly cheerful and confident. A new and mighty feeling had sprung up in my soul. As luck would have it, everything helped to maintain this mood. I was exceptionally fortunate and quickly found a lodging in every way suitable. Of this lodging later, but for the moment I will continue with what is more important.

It was past one when I went back to Vassin's to fetch my trunk, and again found him at home. When he saw me he cried with a sincere and good-humoured air:

"How glad I am you've caught me! I was just going out. I can tell you a piece of news that I think will interest you particularly."

"I'm sure of that," I cried.

"I say, you do look cheerful! Tell me, did you know anything about a letter that was preserved by Kraft, and came into Versilov's hands yesterday, something concerning the lawsuit he has just won? In this letter, the testator declares intentions contrary to the decision in the lawcourts yesterday. The letter was written long ago. I know nothing definite about it in fact, but don't you know something?"

"To be sure I do. The day before yesterday Kraft took me home with him from those people on purpose to give me the letter, and I gave it to Versilov yesterday."

"Yes? That's just what I thought. Only fancy, that's just the business Versilov was speaking of just now, that prevented him from coming yesterday evening to see that girl—-it was owing to that letter. Versilov went straight yesterday evening to Prince Sokolsky's lawyer, handed in the letter, and refused to take the fortune he had won. By now this refusal has been put into legal form. Versilov is not making Prince Sokolsky a present of the money, but declares that he acknowledges his claim to it."

I was dumbfoundered, but ecstatic. I had in reality been convinced that Versilov would destroy the letter, and, what is more, though I had told Kraft that this would be dishonourable, and although I had repeated this to myself in the restaurant, and had told myself that "it was to find a true man, not a man like this that I had come"— yet deeper down, that is, in my inmost soul, I felt that there was nothing to be done but to destroy the letter, that is to say, I looked upon this as quite a natural thing to do. If I blamed Versilov for it afterwards I simply blamed him on purpose, to keep up appearances, and to maintain my moral superiority. But hearing now of Versilov's noble action I was moved to genuine and whole- hearted enthusiasm, blaming myself with shame and remorse for my cynicism and indifference to principle, and instantly exalting Versilov to heights far above me. I almost embraced Vassin.

"What a man! What a man!" I exclaimed, rapturously. "Who else would have done it?"

"I quite agree with you that very many people would not have done it … and that it was undoubtedly an extremely disinterested action… ."

"But …  ? Finish, Vassin. You have a 'but'?"

"Yes, of course there is a 'but'; Versilov's action, to my mind, is a little too hasty, and not quite ingenuous," said Vassin with a smile.

"Not ingenuous?"

"Yes. There's too much of the 'hero on the pedestal' about it. For in any case he might have done the same thing without injuring himself. Some part of the inheritance, if not half of it, might well have remained with him, even from the most scrupulous standpoint, especially as the letter has no legal significance, and he has already won the case. The lawyer on the other side shares my opinion. I've just been talking to him. His conduct would have been no less handsome; but simply through a whim due to pride, things have turned out differently. What's more, Mr. Versilov let himself be carried away by his feelings, and acted too precipitately. He said himself yesterday that he might have put it off for a whole week… ."

"Do you know, Vassin, I can't help agreeing with you, but … I like it better so, it pleases me more!"

"However, it's a matter of taste! You asked for my opinion or I should have held my tongue."

"Even if there is something of the 'pedestal' about it, so much the better," I said. "A pedestal may be a pedestal but in itself it's a very precious thing. This 'pedestal' is, anyway, an 'ideal' of a sort, and it's by no means an improvement that some modern souls are without it: it's better to have it even in a slightly distorted form! And I'm sure you think so yourself, Vassin darling, Vassin, my dear Vassin! I am raving but of course you understand me. That's what you're for, Vassin. In any case I embrace and kiss you, Vassin!"

"So pleased?"

"Yes, awfully pleased. For the man 'was dead and liveth, he was lost and is found'! Vassin, I'm a miserable wretch of a boy, I'm not as good as you. I recognize it just because at some moments I'm different, deeper and loftier. I say this because the day before yesterday I flattered you to your face (and I did that because I had been humiliated and crushed)—I hated you for it for two whole days. I swore the same night that I would never come and see you, and I came to you yesterday morning simply from spite, do you understand, FROM SPITE. I sat here alone criticizing your room and you, and every one of your books and your landlady. I tried to humble you and laugh at you."

"You shouldn't say that… ."

"Yesterday evening, when I concluded from some phrase of yours that you did not understand women, I felt glad that I was able to detect you in it. This morning, when I scored off you over the 'début,' I was awfully pleased again, and all because I had praised you up so before."

"I should think so indeed!" Vassin cried at last (he still went on smiling, not in the least surprised at me). "Why, that happens with almost every one, only no one admits it, and one ought not to confess it at all, because in any case it passes, and leads to nothing."

"Is it really the same with every one? Is every one the same? And you say that quite calmly? Why, one can't go on living with such views!"

"You think then that:

To me more dear the lie ennobling Than Truth's dark infamy revealed!"

"But that's true, you know," I cried. "There's a sacred axiom in those two lines!"

"I don't know. I can't undertake to decide whether those lines are true or not. Perhaps, as always, the truth lies in the mean: that is, that in one case truth is sacred and in another falsehood. The only thing I know for certain is that that idea will long remain one of the questions most disputed among men. In any case I observe that at the moment you're longing to dance. Well, dance away then, exercise is wholesome; but I have a mass of work to get through this morning … and I've lingered on with you till I'm late!"

"I'm going! I'm going! I'm just off! One word only," I cried, after seizing my trunk, "my 'throwing myself on your neck' again; it's simply because when I came in you told me this news with such genuine pleasure and were 'so glad' I had found you, and after the 'début' incident this morning; that real gladness of yours turned my 'youthful ardent soul' to you again. Well, good-bye, good-bye, I'll do my best not to come in the future, and I know that that will please you very much, as I see from your eyes, and it will be an advantage to both of us."

Chattering like this, and almost spluttering in my joyful babble, I hauled up my trunk and set off with it to my lodging. What delighted me most of all was that Versilov had been so unmistakably angry with me, and had been unwilling to speak to me or look at me. As soon as I had deposited my trunk, I at once flew off to my old prince. I must confess that I had rather felt not seeing him those two days. Besides, he would no doubt have heard already about Versilov.


2.

I have passed the leaving examination at the grammar school, and now I am in my twenty-first year. My surname is Dolgoruky, and my legal father is Makar Ivanov Dolgoruky, formerly a serf in the household of the Versilovs. In this way I am a legitimate son, although I am, as a matter of fact, conspicuously illegitimate, and there is not the faintest doubt about my origin.

The facts are as follows. Twenty-two years ago Versilov (that is my father), being twenty-five years old, visited his estate in the province of Tula. I imagine that at that time his character was still quite unformed. It is curious that this man who, even in my childhood, made such an impression upon me, who had such a crucial influence on the whole bent of my mind, and who perhaps has even cast his shadow over the whole of my future, still remains, even now, a complete enigma to me in many respects. Of this, more particulars later. There is no describing him straight off. My whole manuscript will be full of this man, anyway.

He had just been left a widower at that time, that is, when he was twenty-five. He had married one of the Fanariotovs—a girl of high rank but without much money—and by her he had a son and a daughter. The facts that I have gathered about this wife whom he lost so early are somewhat scanty, and are lost among my materials, and, indeed, many of the circumstances of Versilov's private life have eluded me, for he has always been so proud, disdainful, reserved and casual with me, in spite of a sort of meekness towards me which was striking at times. I will mention, however, to make things clear beforehand, that he ran through three fortunes in his lifetime, and very big ones too, of over fourteen hundred souls, and maybe more. Now, of course, he has not a farthing.

He went to the village on that occasion, "God knows why," so at least he said to me afterwards. His young children were, as usual, not with him but with relations. This was always his method with his children, legitimate and illegitimate alike. The house-serfs on this estate were rather numerous, and among them was a gardener called Makar Ivanov Dolgoruky. Here I will note in parenthesis, to relieve my mind once and for all, I doubt whether anyone can ever have raged against his surname as I have all my life; this is stupid, of course, but so it has been. Every time I entered a school or met persons whom I had to treat with respect as my elders, every wretched little teacher, tutor, priest—anyone you like—on asking my name and hearing it was Dolgoruky, for some reason invariably thought fitting to add, "Prince Dolgoruky?" And every single time I was forced to explain to these futile people, "No, SIMPLY Dolgoruky."

That SIMPLY began to drive me mad at last. Here I note as a curious phenomenon that I don't remember a single exception; every one asked the question. For some it was apparently quite superfluous, and indeed I don't know how the devil it could have been necessary for anyone. But all, every one of them asked it. On hearing that I was SIMPLY Dolgoruky, the questioner usually looked me up and down with a blank and stupidly apathetic stare that betrayed that he did not know why he had asked the question. Then he would walk away. My comrades and schoolfellows were the most insulting of all. How do schoolboys question a new-comer? The new boy, abashed and confused on the first day of entering a school (whatever school it may be), is the victim of all; they order him about, they tease him, and treat him like a lackey. A stout, chubby urchin suddenly stands still before his victim and watches him persistently for some moments with a stern and haughty stare. The new boy stands facing him in silence, looks at him out of the corner of his eyes, and, if he is not a coward, waits to see what is going to happen.

"What's your name?"

"Dolgoruky."

"Prince Dolgoruky?"

"No, simply Dolgoruky."

"Ah, simply! Fool."

And he was right; nothing could be more foolish than to be called Dolgoruky without being a prince. I have to bear the burden of that foolishness through no fault of my own. Later on, when I began to get very cross about it, I always answered the question "Are you a prince?" by saying, "No, I'm the son of a servant, formerly a serf."

At last, when I was roused to the utmost pitch of fury, I resolutely answered:

"No, simply Dolgoruky, the illegitimate son of my former owner."

I thought of this when I was in the sixth form of the grammar school, and though I was very soon after thoroughly convinced that I was stupid, I did not at once give up being so. I remember that one of the teachers opined—he was alone in his opinion, however— that I was "filled with ideas of vengeance and civic rights." As a rule this reply was received with a sort of meditative pensiveness, anything but flattering to me.

At last one of my schoolfellows, a very sarcastic boy, to whom I hardly talked once in a year, said to me with a serious countenance, looking a little away:

"Such sentiments do you credit, of course, and no doubt you have something to be proud of; but if I were in your place I should not be too festive over being illegitimate … you seem to expect congratulations!"

From that time forth I dropped BOASTING of being illegitimate.

I repeat, it is very difficult to write in Russian: here I have covered three pages with describing how furious I have been all my life with my surname, and after all the reader will, no doubt, probably have deduced that I was really furious at not being a prince but simply Dolgoruky. To explain again and defend myself would be humiliating.


3.

I am beginning—or rather, I should like to begin—these notes from the 19th of September of last year, that is, from the very day I first met …

But to explain so prematurely who it was I met before anything else is known would be cheap; in fact, I believe my tone is cheap. I vowed I would eschew all literary graces, and here at the first sentence I am being seduced by them. It seems as if writing sensibly can't be done simply by wanting to. I may remark, also, that I fancy writing is more difficult in Russian than in any other European language. I am now reading over what I have just written, and I see that I am much cleverer than what I have written. How is it that what is expressed by a clever man is much more stupid than what is left in him? I have more than once during this momentous year noticed this with myself in my relations with people, and have been very much worried by it.

Although I am beginning from the 19th of September, I must put in a word or two about who I am and where I had been till then, and what was consequently my state of mind on the morning of that day, to make things clearer to the reader, and perhaps to myself also.


4.

And so among the servants, of whom there were a great number besides Makar Ivanitch, there was a maid, and she was eighteen when Makar Dolgoruky, who was fifty, suddenly announced his intention of marrying her. In the days of serfdom marriages of house-serfs, as every one knows, only took place with the sanction of their masters, and were sometimes simply arranged by the latter. At that time "auntie" was living on the estate; not that she was my aunt, though: she had, in fact, an estate of her own; but, I don't know why, every one knew her all her life as "auntie"—not mine in particular but an aunt in general, even in the family of Versilov, to whom she can hardly have been related. Her name was Tatyana Pavlovna Prutkov, In those days she still had, in the same province and district, a property of thirty-five serfs of her own. She didn't exactly administer Versilov's estate (of five hundred serfs), but, being so near a neighbour, she kept a vigilant eye on it, and her superintendence, so I have heard, was as efficient as that of any trained steward. However, her efficiency is nothing to do with me. But, to dispose of all suspicion of cringing or flattery on my part, I should like to add that this Tatyana Pavlovna was a generous and even original person.

Well, far from checking the gloomy Makar Dolgoruky's matrimonial inclinations (I am told he was gloomy in those days), she gave them the warmest encouragement.

Sofia Andreyevna, the serf-girl of eighteen (that is, my mother), had been for some years fatherless and motherless. Her father, also a serf, who had a great respect for Makar Dolgoruky and was under some obligation to him, had six years before, on his death- bed, beckoned to the old gardener and, pointing significantly to his daughter, had, in the presence of the priest and all the servants, bequeathed her to him, saying, "When she's grown up, marry her." This was, so they say, a quarter of an hour before he expired, so that it might, if need be, have been put down to delirium; besides which, he had no right to dispose of property, being a serf. Every one heard his words. As for Makar Ivanovitch, I don't know in what spirit he afterwards entered upon the marriage, whether with great eagerness or simply as the fulfilment of a duty. Probably he preserved an appearance of complete indifference. He was a man who even at that time knew how to "keep up his dignity." It was not that he was a particularly well- educated or reading man (though he knew the whole of the church service and some lives of the saints, but this was only from hearing them). It was not that he was a sort of backstairs philosopher; it was simply that he was a man of obstinate, and even at times rash character, was conceited in his talk, autocratic in his judgment, and "respectful in his life," to use his own surprising expression; that is what he was like at that time. Of course, he was universally respected, but, I am told, disliked by every one. It was a different matter when he ceased to be a house- serf; then he was spoken about as a saint and a man who had suffered much. That I know for a fact.

As for my mother, Tatyana Pavlovna had kept her till the age of eighteen in her house, although the steward had urged that the girl should be sent to Moscow to be trained. She had given the orphan some education, that is, taught her sewing and cutting out clothes, ladylike deportment, and even a little reading. My mother was never able to write decently. She looked upon this marriage with Makar Ivanovitch as something settled long ago, and everything that happened to her in those days she considered very good and all for the best. She went to her wedding looking as unmoved as anyone could on such an occasion, so much so that even Tatyana Pavlovna called her a fish. All this about my mother's character at that time I heard from Tatyana Pavlovna herself. Versilov arrived just six months after this wedding.


5.

I only want to say that I have never been able to find out or to guess to my own satisfaction what led up to everything between him and my mother. I am quite ready to believe, as he himself assured me last year with a flushed face, though he talked of all this with the most unconstrained and flippant air, that there was no romance about it at all, that it had just happened. I believe that it did just happen, and that little phrase JUST HAPPENED is delightful, yet I always wanted to know how it could have come about. I have always hated that sort of nastiness all my life and always shall. It's not simply a disgraceful curiosity on my part, of course. I may remark that I knew absolutely nothing of my mother till a year ago. For the sake of Versilov's comfort I was sent away to strangers, but of that later, and so I can never picture what she looked like at that time. If she had not been at all pretty, what could a man such as Versilov was then have found attractive in her? This question is of importance to me because it throws a light on an extremely interesting side of that man's character. It is for that reason I ask it and not from depravity. Gloomy and reserved as he always was, he told me himself on one occasion, with that charming candour which he used to produce (from the devil knows where—it seemed to come out of his pocket when he saw it was indispensable) that at that time he was a "very silly young puppy"; not that he was exactly sentimental, but just that he had lately read "Poor Anton" and "Polinka Sachs," two literary works which exerted an immense, humanizing influence on the younger generation of that day. He added that it was perhaps through "Poor Anton" that he went to the country, and he added it with the utmost gravity. How did that "silly puppy" begin at first with my mother? I have suddenly realized that if I had a single reader he would certainly be laughing at me as a most ridiculous raw youth, still stupidly innocent, putting himself forward to discuss and criticize what he knows nothing about. It is true that I know nothing about it, though I recognize that not at all with pride, for I know how stupid such inexperience is in a great dolt of twenty; only I would tell such a gentleman that he knows nothing about it himself, and I will prove it to him. It is true that I know nothing about women, and I don't want to either, for I shall always despise that sort of thing, and I have sworn I will all my life.

But I know for certain, though, that some women fascinate by their beauty, or by anything you like, all in a minute, while you may ruminate over another for six months before you understand what is in her; and that to see through and love such a woman it is not enough to look at her, it is not enough to be simply ready for anything, one must have a special gift besides. Of that I am convinced, although I do know nothing about it: and if it were not true it would mean degrading all women to the level of domestic animals, and only keeping them about one as such; possibly this is what very many people would like.

I know from several sources that my mother was by no means a beauty, though I have never seen the portrait of her at that age which is in existence. So it was impossible to have fallen in love with her at first sight. Simply to "amuse himself" Versilov might have pitched on some one else, and there was some one else in the house, an unmarried girl too, Anfisa Konstantinovna Sapozhkov, a housemaid. To a man who had brought "Poor Anton" with him to the country it must have seemed shameful to take advantage of his seignorial rights to violate the sanctity of a marriage, even that of his serf, for I repeat, he spoke with extreme seriousness of this "Poor Anton" only a few months ago, that is, twenty years after the event. Why, "Poor Anton" only had his horse taken from him, but this was a wife! So there must have been something peculiar in this case, and Mlle. Sapozhkov was the loser by it (or rather, I should say, the gainer). I attacked him with all these questions once or twice last year when it was possible to talk to him (for it wasn't always possible to talk to him). And, in spite of all his society polish and the lapse of twenty years, I noticed that he winced. But I persisted. On one occasion, anyway, although he maintained the air of worldly superciliousness which he invariably thought fit to assume with me, he muttered strangely that my mother was one of those "defenceless" people whom one does not fall in love with—quite the contrary, in fact—but whom one suddenly pities for their gentleness, perhaps, though one cannot tell what for. That no one ever knows, but one goes on pitying them, one pities them and grows fond of them. "In fact, my dear boy, there are cases when one can't shake it off." That was what he told me. And if that was how it really happened I could not look upon him as the "silly puppy" he had proclaimed himself. That is just what I wanted.

He went on to assure me, however, that my mother loved him "through servility." He positively pretended it was because he was her master! He lied, thinking this was chic! He lied against his conscience, against all honour and generosity.

I have said all this, of course, as it were to the credit of my mother. But I have explained already that I knew nothing whatever of her as she was then. What is more, I know the rigidity of her environment, and the pitiful ideas in which she had become set from her childhood and to which she remained enslaved for the rest of her life. The misfortune happened, nevertheless. I must correct myself, by the way. Letting my fancy run away with me, I have forgotten the fact which I ought to have stated first of all, that is, that the misfortune happened at the very outset (I hope that the reader will not be too squeamish to understand at once what I mean). In fact, it began with his exercising his seignorial rights, although Mlle. Sapozhkov was passed over. But here, in self-defence, I must declare at once that I am not contradicting myself. For—good Lord!—what could a man like Versilov have talked about at that date with a person like my mother even if he had felt the most overwhelming love for her? I have heard from depraved people that men and women very often come together without a word being uttered, which is, of course, the last extreme of monstrous loathsomeness. Nevertheless, I do not see how Versilov could have begun differently with my mother if he had wanted to. Could he have begun by expounding "Polinka Sachs" to her? And besides, they had no thoughts to spare for Russian literature; on the contrary, from what he said (he let himself go once), they used to hide in corners, wait for each other on the stairs, fly apart like bouncing balls, with flushed cheeks if anyone passed by, and the "tyrant slave-owner" trembled before the lowest scrubbing-maid, in spite of his seignorial rights. And although it was at first an affair of master and servant, it was that and yet not that, and after all, there is no really explaining it. In fact, the more you go into it the more obscure it seems. The very depth and duration of their love makes it more mysterious, for it is a leading characteristic of such men as Versilov to abandon as soon as their object is attained. That did not happen, though. To transgress with an attractive, giddy flirt who was his serf (and my mother was not a flirt) was not only possible but inevitable for a depraved young puppy (and they were all depraved, every one of them, the progressives as well as the reactionaries), especially considering his romantic position as a young widower and his having nothing to do. But to love her all his life is too much. I cannot guarantee that he did love her, but he has dragged her about with him all his life—that's certain.

I put a great many questions to my mother, but there is one, most important, which, I may remark, I did not venture to ask her directly, though I got on such familiar terms with her last year; and, what is more, like a coarse, ungrateful puppy, considering she had wronged me, I did not spare her feelings at all. This was the question: how she after six months of marriage, crushed by her ideas of the sanctity of wedlock, crushed like some helpless fly, respecting her Makar Ivanovitch as though he had been a god—how she could have brought herself in about a fortnight to such a sin? Was my mother a depraved woman, perhaps? On the contrary, I may say now at once that it is difficult to imagine anyone more pure- hearted than she was then and has been all her life. The explanation may be, perhaps, that she scarcely knew what she was doing (I don't mean in the sense in which lawyers nowadays urge this in defence of their thieves and murderers), but was carried away by a violent emotion, which sometimes gains a fatal and tragic ascendancy when the victim is of a certain degree of simplicity. There is no telling: perhaps she fell madly in love with … the cut of his clothes, the Parisian style in which he parted his hair, his French accent—yes, French, though she didn't understand a word of it—the song he sang at the piano; she fell in love with something she had never seen or heard of (and he was very handsome), and fell in love with him straight away, once for all, hopelessly, fell in love with him altogether—manners, song, and all. I have heard that this did sometimes happen to peasant girls in the days of serfdom, and to the most virtuous, too. I understand this, and the man is a scoundrel who puts it down to nothing but servility. And so perhaps this young man may have had enough direct power of fascination to attract a creature who had till then been so pure and who was of a different species, of an utterly different world, and to lead her on to such evident ruin. That it was to her ruin my mother, I hope, realized all her life; only probably when she went to it she did not think of ruin at all; but that is how it always is with these "defenceless" creatures, they know it is ruin and they rush upon it.

Having sinned, they promptly repented. He told me flippantly that he sobbed on the shoulder of Makar Ivanovitch, whom he sent for to his study expressly for the purpose, and she—she meanwhile was lying unconscious in some little back room in the servants' quarters… .


6.

But enough of questions and scandalous details. After paying Makar Ivanovitch a sum of money for my mother, Versilov went away shortly afterwards, and ever since, as I have mentioned already, he dragged her about with him, almost everywhere he went, except at certain times when he absented himself for a considerable period. Then, as a rule, he left her in the care of "auntie," that is, of Tatyana Pavlovna Prutkov, who always turned up on such occasions. They lived in Moscow, and also in other towns and villages, even abroad, and finally in Petersburg. Of all that later, though perhaps it is not worth recording. I will only mention that a year after my mother left Makar Ivanovitch, I made my appearance, and a year later my sister, and ten or eleven years afterwards a sickly child, my younger brother, who died a few months later. My mother's terrible confinement with this baby was the end of her good looks, so at least I was told: she began rapidly to grow older and feebler.

But a correspondence with Makar Ivanovitch was always kept up. Wherever the Versilovs were, whether they lived for some years in the same place, or were moving about, Makar Ivanovitch never failed to send news of himself to the "family." Strange relations grew up, somewhat ceremonious and almost solemn. Among the gentry there is always an element of something comic in such relations, I know. But there was nothing of the sort in this case. Letters were exchanged twice a year, never more nor less frequently, and they were extraordinarily alike. I have seen them. There was scarcely anything personal in them. On the contrary, they were practically nothing but ceremonious statements of the most public incidents, and the most public sentiments, if one may use such an expression of sentiments; first came news of his own health, and inquiries about their health, then ceremonious hopes, greetings and blessings—that was all.

I believe that this publicity and impersonality is looked upon as the essence of propriety and good breeding among the peasants. "To our much esteemed and respected spouse, Sofia Andreyevna, we send our humblest greetings… ." "We send to our beloved children, our fatherly blessing, ever unalterable." The children were mentioned by name, including me. I may remark here that Makar Ivanovitch had so much wit as never to describe "His high-born most respected master, Andrey Petrovitch" as his "benefactor"; though he did invariably, in each letter, send him his most humble greetings, beg for the continuance of his favour, and call down upon him the blessing of God. The answers to Makar Ivanovitch were sent shortly after by my mother, and were always written in exactly the same style. Versilov, of course, took no part in the correspondence. Makar Ivanovitch wrote from all parts of Russia, from the towns and monasteries in which he sometimes stayed for a considerable time. He had become a pilgrim, as it is called. He never asked for anything; but he invariably turned up at home once in three years on a holiday, and stayed with my mother, who always, as it happened, had her own lodgings apart from Versilov's. Of this I shall have to say more later, here I will only mention that Makar Ivanovitch did not loll on the sofa in the drawing-room, but always sat discreetly somewhere in the background. He never stayed for long: five days or a week.

I have omitted to say that he had the greatest affection and respect for his surname, "Dolgoruky." Of course this was ludicrous stupidity. And what was most stupid was that he prized his name just because there were princes of the name. A strange, topsy- turvy idea.

I have said that the family were always together, but I mean except for me, of course. I was like an outcast, and, almost from my birth, had been with strangers. But this was done with no special design, but simply because it had happened so. When I was born my mother was still young and good-looking, and therefore necessary to Versilov; and a screaming child, of course, was always a nuisance, especially when they were travelling. That was how it happened that until I was nineteen I had scarcely seen my mother except on two or three brief occasions. It was not due to my mother's wishes, but to Versilov's lofty disregard for people.


7.

Now for something quite different. A month earlier, that is a month before the 19th of September, I had made up my mind in Moscow to renounce them all, and to retire into my own idea, finally. I record that expression "retire into my own idea" because that expression may explain my leading motive, my object in life. What that "idea" of mine is, of that there will be only too much said later. In the solitary years of my dreamy life in Moscow it sprang up in my mind before I had left the sixth form of the grammar school, and from that time perhaps never left me for an instant. It absorbed my whole existence. Till then I had lived in dreams; from my childhood upwards I have lived in the world of dreams, always of a certain colour. But after this great and all-absorbing idea turned up, my dreams gained in force, took a definite shape; and became rational instead of foolish. School did not hinder my dreams, and it did not hinder the idea either. I must add, however, that I came out badly in the leaving exam, though I had always been one of the first in all the forms up to the seventh, and this was a result of that same idea, a result of a false deduction from it perhaps. So it was not school work that hindered the idea, but the idea that hindered school work, and it hindered university work too. When I left school I intended at once not only to cut myself off from my family completely, but from all the world if necessary, though I was only nineteen at the time. I wrote through a suitable person to tell them to leave me entirely alone, not to send me any more money for my maintenance, and, if possible, to forget me altogether (that is if they ever did remember me), and finally "nothing would induce" me to enter the university. An alternative presented itself from which there was no escaping: to refuse to enter the university and go on with my education, or to defer putting my idea into practice for another four years. I went for the idea without faltering, for I was absolutely resolved about it. In answer to my letter, which had not been addressed to him, Versilov, my father, whom I had only seen once for a moment when I was a boy of ten (though even in that moment he made a great impression upon me), summoned me to Petersburg in a letter written in his own hand, promising me a private situation. This cold, proud man, careless and disdainful of me, after bringing me into the world and packing me off to strangers, knew nothing of me at all and had never even regretted his conduct; who knows, perhaps he had only a vague and confused idea of my existence, for it appeared afterwards that the money for my maintenance in Moscow had not been furnished by him but by other people. Yet the summons of this man who so suddenly remembered me and deigned to write to me with his own hand, by flattering me, decided my fate. Strange to say, what pleased me in his note (one tiny sheet of paper) was that he said not a word about the university, did not ask me to change my mind, did not blame me for not wanting to continue my studies, did not, in fact, trot out any parental flourishes of the kind usual in such cases, and yet this was wrong of him since it betrayed more than anything his lack of interest in me. I resolved to go, the more readily because it would not hinder my great idea. "I'll see what will come of it," I argued, "in any case I shall associate with them only for a time; possibly a very short time. But as soon as I see that this step, tentative and trifling as it is, is keeping me from the GREAT OBJECT, I shall break off with them, throw up everything and retreat into my shell." Yes, into my shell! "I shall hide in it like a tortoise." This comparison pleased me very much. "I shall not be alone," I went on musing, as I walked about Moscow those last days like one possessed. "I shall never be alone as I have been for so many awful years till now; I shall have my idea to which I will never be false, even if I like them all there, and they make me happy, and I live with them for ten years!" It was, I may remark beforehand, just that impression, that is, just the twofold nature of the plans and objects definitely formed before leaving Moscow, and never out of my mind for one instant in Petersburg (for I hardly think there was a day in Petersburg which I had not fixed on beforehand as the final date for breaking off with them and going away), it was this, I say, that was, I believe, one of the chief causes of many of the indiscretions I have been guilty of during this year, many nasty things, many even low things, and stupid ones of course. To be sure, a father, something I had never had before, had appeared upon the scene. This thought intoxicated me as I made my preparations in Moscow and sat in the railway carriage. That he was my father would be nothing. I was not fond of sentimentality, but this man had humiliated me and had not cared to know me, while all those years I had been chewing away at my dreams of him, if one may use such an expression. From my childhood upward, my dreams were all coloured by him; all hovered about him as the final goal. I don't know whether I hated him or loved him; but his figure dominated the future and all my schemes of life. And this happened of itself. It grew up with me.

Another thing which influenced me in leaving Moscow was a tremendous circumstance, a temptation which even then, three months before my departure (before Petersburg had been mentioned), set my heart leaping and throbbing. I was drawn to this unknown ocean by the thought that I could enter it as the lord and master of other people's destinies, and what people, too! But the feelings that were surging in my heart were generous and not despotic—I hasten to declare it that my words may not be mistaken. Moreover, Versilov might think (if he ever deigned to think of me) that a small boy who had just left school, a raw youth, was coming who would be agape with wonder at everything. And meanwhile I knew all his private life, and had about me a document of the utmost importance, for which (I know that now for a fact) he would have given some years of his life, if I had told him the secret at the time. But I notice that I am talking in riddles. One cannot describe feelings without facts. Besides which, there will be enough about all this in its proper place; it is with that object I have taken up my pen. Writing like this is like a cloud of words or the ravings of delirium.