It was about six o'clock. The sun still shone brightly, but in
the garden there were already faint green shadows. The air was full
of light and warmth and peace. Maria Ivanovna was making jam, and
under the green linden-tree there was a strong smell of boiling
sugar and raspberries. Sanine had been busy at the flower-beds all
the morning, trying to revive some of the flowers that suffered
most from the dust and heat.
"You had better pull up the weeds first," suggested his mother,
as from time to time she watched him through the blue, quivering
stream. "Tell Grounjka, and she'll do it for you."
Sanine looked up, hot and smiling. "Why?" said he, as he tossed
back his hair that clung to his brow. "Let them grow as much as
they like. I am fond of everything green."
"You're a funny fellow!" said his mother, as she shrugged her
shoulders, good-humouredly. For some reason or other, his answer
had pleased her.
"It is you yourselves that are funny," said Sanine, in a tone of
conviction. He then went into the house to wash his hands, and,
coming back, sat down at his ease in a wicker arm-chair near the
table. He felt happy, and in a good temper. The verdure, the
sunlight and the blue sky filled him with a keener sense of the joy
of life. Large towns with their bustle and din were to him
detestable. Around him were sunlight and freedom; the future gave
him no anxiety; for he was disposed to accept from life whatever it
could offer him. Sanine shut his eyes tight, and stretched himself;
the tension of his sound, strong muscles gave him pleasurable
A gentle breeze was blowing. The whole garden seemed to sigh.
Here and there, sparrows chattered noisily about their intensely
important but incomprehensible little lives, and Mill, the
fox-terrier, with ears erect and red tongue lolling out, lay in the
long grass, listening. The leaves whispered softly; their round
shadows quivered on the smooth gravel path.
Maria Ivanovna was vexed at her son's calmness. She was fond of
him, just as she was fond of all her children, and for that very
reason she longed to rouse him, to wound his self-respect, if only
to force him to heed her words and accept her view of life. Like an
ant in the sand, she had employed every moment of a long existence
in building up the frail structure of her domestic well-being. It
was a long, bare, monotonous edifice, like a barrack or a hospital,
built with countless little bricks that to her, as an incompetent
architect, constituted the graces of life, though in fact they were
petty worries that kept her in a perpetual state of irritation or
"Do you suppose things will go on like this, later on?" she
said, with lips compressed, and feigning intense interest in the
"What do you mean by 'later on'?" asked Sanine, and then
Maria Ivanovna thought that he had sneezed on purpose to annoy
her, and, absurd though such a notion was, looked cross.
"How nice it is to be here, with you!" said Sanine,
"Yes, it's not so bad," she answered, drily. She was secretly
pleased at her son's praise of the house and garden that to her
were as lifelong kinsfolk.
Sanine looked at her, and then said, thoughtfully:
"If you didn't bother me with all sorts of silly things, it
would be nicer still."
The bland tone in which these words were spoken seemed at
variance with their meaning, so that Maria Ivanovna did not know
whether to be vexed or amused.
"To look at you, and then to think that, as a child, you were
always rather odd," said she, sadly, "and now—"
"And now?" exclaimed Sanine, gleefully, as if he expected to
hear something specially pleasant and interesting.
"Now you are more crazy than ever!" said Maria Ivanovna sharply,
shaking her spoon.
"Well, all the better!" said Sanine, laughing. After a pause, he
added, "Ah! here's Novikoff!"
Out of the house came a tall, fair, good-looking man. His red
silk shirt, fitting tight to his well-proportioned frame, looked
brilliant in the sun; his pale blue eyes had a lazy, good-natured
"There you go! Always quarrelling!" said he, in a languid,
friendly tone. "And in Heaven's name, what about?"
"Well, the fact is, mother thinks that a Grecian nose would suit
me better, while I am quite satisfied with the one that I have
Sanine looked down his nose and, laughing, grasped the other's
big, soft hand.
"So, I should say!" exclaimed Maria Ivanovna, pettishly.
Novikoff laughed merrily; and from the green thicket, came a
gentle echo in reply, as if some one yonder heartily; shared his
"Ah! I know what it is! Worrying about your future."
"What, you, too?" exclaimed Sanine, in comic alarm.
"It just serves you right."
"Ah!" cried Sanine. "If it's a case of two to one, I had better
"No, it is I that will soon have to clear out," said Maria
Ivanovna with sudden irritation at which she herself was vexed.
Hastily removing her saucepan of jam, she hurried into the house,
without looking back. The terrier jumped up, and with ears erect
watched her go. Then it rubbed its nose with its front paw, gave
another questioning glance at the house and ran off into the
"Have you got any cigarettes?" asked Sanine, delighted at his
Novikoff with a lazy movement of his large body produced a
"You ought not to tease her so," said he, in a voice of gentle
reproof. "She's an old lady."
"How have I teased her?"
"Well, you see—"
"What do you mean by 'well, you see?' It is she who is always
after me. I have never asked anything of anybody, and therefore
people ought to leave me alone."
Both remained silent.
"Well, how goes it, doctor?" asked Sanine, as he watched the
tobacco- smoke rising in fantastic curves above his head.
Novikoff, who was thinking of something else, did not answer at
"In what way?"
"Oh! in every way. Everything is so dull and this little town
bores me to death. There's nothing to do."
"Nothing to do? Why it was you that complained of not having
time to breathe!"
"That is not what I mean. One can't be always seeing patients,
seeing patients. There is another life besides that."
"And who prevents you from living that other life?"
"That is rather a complicated question."
"In what way is it complicated? You are a young, good-looking,
healthy man; what more do you want?"
"In my opinion that is not enough," replied Novikoff, with mild
"Really!" laughed Sanine. "Well, I think it is a very great
"But not enough for me," said Novikoff, laughing in his turn. It
was plain that Sanine's remark about his health and good looks had
pleased him, and yet it had made him feel shy as a girl.
"There's one thing that you want," said Sanine, pensively.
"And what is that?"
"A just conception of life. The monotony of your existence
oppresses you; and yet, if some one advised you to give it all up,
and go straight away into the wide world, you would be afraid to do
"And as what should I go? As a beggar? H .. m!"
"Yes, as a beggar, even! When I look at you, I think: there is a
man who in order to give the Russian Empire a constitution would
let himself be shut up in Schlusselburg [Footnote: A fortress for
political prisoners.] for the rest of his life, losing all his
rights, and his liberty as well. After all, what is a constitution
to him? But when it is a question of altering his own tedious mode
of life, and of going elsewhere to find new interests, he at once
asks, 'how should I get a living? Strong and healthy as I am,
should I not come to grief if I had not got my fixed salary, and
consequently cream in my tea, my silk shirts, stand-up collars, and
all the rest of it?' It's funny, upon my word it is!"
"I cannot see anything funny in it at all. In the first case, it
is the question of a cause, an idea, whereas in the other—"
"Oh! I don't know how to express myself!" And Novikoff snapped
"There now!" said Sanine, interrupting. "That's how you always
evade the point. I shall never believe that the longing for a
constitution is stronger in you than the longing to make the most
of your own life."
"That is just a question. Possibly it is."
Sanine waved his hand, irritably.
"Oh! don't, please! If somebody were to cut off your finger, you
would feel it more than if it were some other Russian's finger.
That is a fact, eh?"
"Or a cynicism," said Novikoff, meaning to be sarcastic when he
was merely foolish.
"Possibly. But, all the same, it is the truth. And now though in
Russia and in many other States there is no constitution, nor the
slightest sign of one, it is your own unsatisfactory life that
worries you, not the absence of a constitution. And if you say it
isn't, then you're telling a lie. What is more," added Sanine, with
a merry twinkle in his eyes, "you are worried not about your life
but because Lida has not yet fallen in love with you. Now, isn't
"What utter nonsense you're talking!" cried Novikoff, turning as
red as his silk shirt. So confused was he, that tears rose to his
calm, kindly eyes.
"How is it nonsense, when besides Lida you can see nothing else
in the whole world? The wish to possess her is written in large
letters on your brow."
Novikoff winced perceptibly and began to walk rapidly up and
down the path. If anyone but Lida's brother had spoken to him in
this way it would have pained him deeply, but to hear such words
from Sanine's mouth amazed him; in fact at first he scarcely
"Look here," he muttered, "either you are posing, or else—"
"Or else—what?" asked Sanine, smiling.
Novikoff looked aside, shrugged his shoulders, and was silent.
The other inference led him to regard Sanine as an immoral, bad
man. But he could not tell him this, for, ever since their college
days, he had always felt sincere affection for him, and it seemed
to Novikoff impossible that he should have chosen a wicked man as
his friend. The effect on his mind was at once bewildering and
unpleasant. The allusion to Lida pained him, but, as the goddess
whom he adored, he could not feel angry with Sanine for speaking of
her. It pleased him, and yet he felt hurt, as if a burning hand had
seized his heart and had gently pressed it.
Sanine was silent, and smiled good-humouredly.
After a pause he said:
"Well, finish your statement; I am in no hurry!"
Novikoff kept walking up and down the path, as before. He was
evidently hurt. At this moment the terrier came running back
excitedly and rubbed against Sanine's knees, as if wishful to let
every one know how pleased he was.
"Good dog!" said Sanine, patting him.
Novikoff strove to avoid continuing the discussion, being afraid
that Sanine might return to the subject which for personally was
the most interesting in the whole world. Anything that did not
concern Lida seemed le to him—dull.
"And—where is Lidia Petrovna?" he asked mechanically, albeit
loth to utter the question that was uppermost in his mind.
"Lida? Where should she be? Walking with officers on the
boulevard, where all our young ladies are to be found at this time
A look of jealousy darkened his face, as Novikoff asked:
"How can a girl so clever and cultivated as she waste her time
with such empty-headed fools?"
"Oh! my friend," exclaimed Sanine, smiling, "Lida is handsome,
and young, and healthy, just as you are; more so, in fact, because
she has that which you lack—keen desire for everything. She wants
to know everything, to experience everything—why, here she comes!
You've only got to look at her to understand that. Isn't she
Lida was shorter and much handsomer than her brother. Sweetness
combined with supple strength gave to her whole personality charm
and distinction. There was a haughty look in her dark eyes, and her
voice, of which she was proud, sounded rich and musical. She walked
slowly down the steps, moving with the lithe grace of a
thoroughbred, while adroitly holding up her long grey dress. Behind
her, clinking their spurs, came two good-looking young officers in
tightly-fitting riding- breeches and shining top-boots.
"Who is pretty? Is it I?" asked Lida, as she filled the whole
garden with the charm of her voice, her beauty and her youth. She
gave Novikoff her hand, with a side-glance at her brother, about
whose attitude she did not feel quite clear, never knowing whether
he was joking or in earnest. Grasping her hand tightly, Novikoff
grew very red, but his emotions were unnoticed by Lida, used as she
was to his reverent, bashful glance that never troubled her.
"Good evening, Vladimir Petrovitch," said the elder, handsomer
and fairer of the two officers, rigid, erect as a spirited
stallion, while his spurs clinked noisily.
Sanine knew him to be Sarudine, a captain of cavalry, one of
Lida's most persistent admirers. The other was Lieutenant Tanaroff,
who regarded Sarudine as the ideal soldier, and strove to copy
everything he did. He was taciturn, somewhat clumsy, and not so
good-looking as Sarudine. Tanaroff rattled his spurs in his turn,
but said nothing.
"Yes, you!" replied Sanine to his sister, gravely.
"Why, of course I am pretty. You should have said indescribably
pretty!" And, laughing gaily, Lida sank into a chair, glancing
again at Sanine. Raising her arms and thus emphasizing the curves
of her shapely bosom, she proceeded to remove her hat, but, in so
doing, let a long hat-pin fall on the gravel, and her veil and hair
"Andrei Pavlovitch, do please help me!" she plaintively cried to
the taciturn lieutenant.
"Yes, she's a beauty!" murmured Sanine, thinking aloud, and
never taking his eyes off her. Once more Lida glanced shyly at her
"We're all of us beautiful here," said she.
"What's that? Beautiful? Ha! Ha!" laughed Sarudine, showing his
white, shining teeth. "We are at best but the modest frame that
serves to heighten the dazzling splendour of your beauty."
"I say, what eloquence, to be sure!" exclaimed Sanine, in
surprise. There was a slight shade of irony in his tone.
"Lidia Petrovna would make anybody eloquent," said Tanaroff the
silent, as he tried to help Lida to take off her hat, and in so
doing ruffled her hair. She pretended to be vexed, laughing all the
"What?" drawled Sanine. "Are you eloquent too?"
"Oh! let them be!" whispered Novikoff, hypocritically, though
Lida frowned at Sanine, to whom her dark eyes plainly said:
"Don't imagine that I cannot see what these people are. I intend
to please myself. I am not a fool any more than you are, and I know
what I am about."
Sanine smiled at her.
At last the hat was removed, which Tanaroff solemnly placed on
"Look! Look what you've done to me, Andrei Pavlovitch!" cried
Lida half peevishly, half coquettishly. "You've got my hair into
such a tangle! Now I shall have to go indoors."
"I'm so awfully sorry!" stammered Tanaroff, in confusion.
Lida rose, gathered up her skirts, and ran indoors laughing,
followed by the glances of all the men. When she had gone they
seemed to breathe more freely, without that nervous sense of
restraint which men usually experience in the presence of a pretty
young woman. Sarudine lighted a cigarette which he smoked with
evident gusto. One felt, when he spoke, that he habitually took the
lead in a conversation, and that what he thought was something
quite different from what he said.
"I have just been persuading Lidia Petrovna to study singing
seriously. With such a voice, her career is assured."
"A fine career, upon my word!" sullenly rejoined Novikoff,
"What is wrong with it?" asked Sarudine, in genuine amazement,
removing the cigarette from his lips.
"Why, what's an actress? Nothing else but a harlot!" replied
Novikoff, with sudden heat. Jealousy tortured him; the thought that
the young woman whose body he loved could appear before other men
in an alluring dress that would exhibit her charms in order to
provoke their passions.
"Surely it is going too far to say that," replied Sarudine,
raising his eyebrows.
Novikoff's glance was full of hatred. He regarded Sarudine as
one of those men who meant to rob him of his beloved; moreover, his
good looks annoyed him.
"No, not in the least too far," he retorted. "To appear half
nude on the stage and in some voluptuous scene exhibit one's
personal charms to those who in an hour or so take their leave as
they would of some courtesan after paying the usual fee! A charming
"My friend," said Sanine, "every woman in the first instance
likes to be admired for her personal charms."
Novikoff shrugged his shoulders irritably.
"What a silly, coarse statement!" said he.
"At any rate, coarse or not, it's the truth," replied Sanine.
"Lida would be most effective on the stage, and I should like to
see her there."
Although in the others this speech roused a certain instinctive
curiosity, they all felt ill at ease. Sarudine, who thought himself
more intelligent and tactful than the rest, deemed it his duty to
dispel this vague feeling of embarrassment.
"Well, what do you think the young lady ought to do? Get
married? Pursue a course of study, or let her talent be lost? That
would be a crime against nature that had endowed her with its
"Oh!" exclaimed Sanine, with undisguised sarcasm, "till now the
idea of such a crime had never entered my head."
Novikoff laughed maliciously, but replied politely enough to
"Why a crime? A good mother or a female doctor is worth a
thousand times more than an actress."
"Not at all!" said Tanaroff, indignantly.
"Don't you find this sort of talk rather boring?" asked
Sarudine's rejoinder was lost in a fit of coughing. They all of
them really thought such a discussion tedious and unnecessary; and
yet they all felt somewhat offended. An unpleasant silence
Lida and Maria Ivanovna appeared on the verandah. Lida had heard
her brother's last words, but did not know to what they
"You seem to have soon become bored!" cried she, laughing. "Let
us go down to the river. It is charming there, now."
As she passed in front of the men, her shapely figure swayed
slightly, and there was a look of dark mystery in her eyes that
seemed to say something, to promise something.
"Go for a walk till supper-time," said Maria Ivanovna.
"Delighted," exclaimed Sarudine. His spurs clinked, as he
offered Lida his arm.
"I hope that I may be allowed to come too," said Novikoff,
meaning to be satirical, though his face wore a tearful
"Who is there to prevent you?" replied Lida, smiling, at him
over her shoulder.
"Yes, you go, too," exclaimed Sanine. "I would come with you if
she were not so thoroughly convinced that I am her brother."
Lida winced somewhat, and glanced swiftly at Sanine, as she
laughed, a short, nervous laugh.
Maria Ivanovna was obviously displeased.
"Why do you talk in that stupid way?" she bluntly exclaimed. "I
suppose you think it is original?"
"I really never thought about it at all," was Sanine's
Maria Ivanovna looked at him in amazement. She had never been
able to understand her son; she never could tell when he was joking
or in earnest, nor what he thought or felt, when other
comprehensible persons felt and thought much as she did herself.
According to her idea, a man was always bound to speak and feel and
act exactly as other men of his social and intellectual status were
wont to speak and feel and act. She was also of opinion that people
were not simply men with their natural characteristics and
peculiarities, but that they must be all cast in one common mould.
Her own environment encouraged and confirmed this belief.
Education, she thought, tended to divide men into two groups, the
intelligent and the unintelligent. The latter might retain their
individuality, which drew upon them the contempt of others. The
former were divided into groups, and their convictions did not
correspond with their personal qualities but with their respective
positions. Thus, every student was a revolutionary, every official
was bourgeois, every artist a free thinker, and every officer an
exaggerated stickler for rank. If, however, it chanced that a
student was a Conservative, or an officer an Anarchist, this must
be regarded as most extraordinary, and even unpleasant. As for
Sanine, according to his origin and education he ought to have been
something quite different from what he was; and Maria Ivanovna felt
as Lida, Novikoff and all who came into contact with him felt, that
he had disappointed expectation. With a mother's instinct she
quickly saw the impression that her son made on those about him;
and it pained her.
Sanine was aware of this. He would fain have reassured her, but
was at a loss how to begin. At first he thought of professing
sentiments that were false, so that she might be pacified; however,
he only laughed, and, rising, went indoors. There, for a while, he
lay on his bed, thinking. It seemed as if men wished to turn the
whole world into a sort of military cloister, with one set of rules
for all, framed with a view to destroy all individuality, or else
to make this submit to one vague, archaic power of some kind. He
was even led to reflect upon Christianity and its fate, but this
bored him to such an extent that he fell asleep, and did not wake
until evening had turned to night.
Maria Ivanovna watched him go, and she, too, sighing deeply,
became immersed in thought. Sarudine, so she said to herself, was
obviously paying court to Lida, and she hoped that his intentions
"Lida's already twenty, and Sarudine seems to be quite a nice
sort of young man. They say he'll get his squadron this year. Of
course, he's heavily in debt—But oh! why did I have that horrid
dream? I know it's absurd, yet somehow I can't get it out of my
This dream was one that she had dreamed on the same day that
Sarudine had first entered the house. She thought that she saw
Lida, dressed all in white, walking in a green meadow bright with
Maria Ivanovna sank into an easy chair, leaning her head on her
hand, as old women do, and she gazed at the darkening sky. Thoughts
gloomy and tormenting gave no respite, and there was an indefinable
something caused her to feel anxious and afraid.