Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Complete Novels


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This book contains the complete novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky in the chronological order of their original publication.
- Poor Folk
- The Double
- Netochka Nezvanova
- The Village of Stepanchikovo
- Uncle's Dream
- The Insulted and the Injured
- The House of the Dead
- Notes from Underground
- Crime and Punishment
- The Gambler
- The Idiot
- The Eternal Husband
- Demons
- The Adolescent
- The Brothers Karamazov



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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Poor Folk
First published : 1846
Translation : Charles James Hogarth (1869-1942)

thApril 8

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
How happy I was last night — how immeasurably, how impossibly happy! That was
because for once in your life you had relented so far as to obey my wishes. At about eight
o’clock I awoke from sleep (you know, my beloved one, that I always like to sleep for a short
hour after my work is done) — I awoke, I say, and, lighting a candle, prepared my paper to
write, and trimmed my pen. Then suddenly, for some reason or another, I raised my eyes —
and felt my very heart leap within me! For you had understood what I wanted, you had
understood what my heart was craving for. Yes, I perceived that a corner of the curtain in
your window had been looped up and fastened to the cornice as I had suggested should be
done; and it seemed to me that your dear face was glimmering at the window, and that you
were looking at me from out of the darkness of your room, and that you were thinking of me.
Yet how vexed I felt that I could not distinguish your sweet face clearly! For there was a time
when you and I could see one another without any difficulty at all. Ah me, but old age is not
always a blessing, my beloved one! At this very moment everything is standing awry to my
eyes, for a man needs only to work late overnight in his writing of something or other for, in
the morning, his eyes to be red, and the tears to be gushing from them in a way that makes
him ashamed to be seen before strangers. However, I was able to picture to myself your
beaming smile, my angel — your kind, bright smile; and in my heart there lurked just such a
feeling as on the occasion when I first kissed you, my little Barbara. Do you remember that,
my darling? Yet somehow you seemed to be threatening me with your tiny finger. Was it so,
little wanton? You must write and tell me about it in your next letter.
But what think you of the plan of the curtain, Barbara? It is a charming one, is it not? No
matter whether I be at work, or about to retire to rest, or just awaking from sleep, it enables
me to know that you are thinking of me, and remembering me — that you are both well and
happy. Then when you lower the curtain, it means that it is time that I, Makar Alexievitch,
should go to bed; and when again you raise the curtain, it means that you are saying to me,
“Good morning,” and asking me how I am, and whether I have slept well. “As for myself,”
adds the curtain, “I am altogether in good health and spirits, glory be to God!” Yes, my heart’s
delight, you see how easy a plan it was to devise, and how much writing it will save us! It is a
clever plan, is it not? And it was my own invention, too! Am I not cunning in such matters,
Barbara Alexievna?
Well, next let me tell you, dearest, that last night I slept better and more soundly than I
had ever hoped to do, and that I am the more delighted at the fact in that, as you know, I had
just settled into a new lodging — a circumstance only too apt to keep one from sleeping! This
morning, too, I arose (joyous and full of love) at cockcrow. How good seemed everything at
that hour, my darling! When I opened my window I could see the sun shining, and hear the
birds singing, and smell the air laden with scents of spring. In short, all nature was awaking to
life again. Everything was in consonance with my mood; everything seemed fair and
springlike. Moreover, I had a fancy that I should fare well today. But my whole thoughts were bent
upon you. “Surely,” thought I, “we mortals who dwell in pain and sorrow might with reason
envy the birds of heaven which know not either!” And my other thoughts were similar to these.
In short, I gave myself up to fantastic comparisons. A little book which I have says the same
kind of thing in a variety of ways. For instance, it says that one may have many, many
fancies, my Barbara — that as soon as the spring comes on, one’s thoughts become
uniformly pleasant and sportive and witty, for the reason that, at that season, the mind
inclines readily to tenderness, and the world takes on a more roseate hue. From that littlebook of mine I have culled the following passage, and written it down for you to see. In
particular does the author express a longing similar to my own, where he writes:
“Why am I not a bird free to seek its quest?”
And he has written much else, God bless him!
But tell me, my love — where did you go for your walk this morning? Even before I had
started for the office you had taken flight from your room, and passed through the courtyard
— yes, looking as vernal-like as a bird in spring. What rapture it gave me to see you! Ah, little
Barbara, little Barbara, you must never give way to grief, for tears are of no avail, nor sorrow.
I know this well — I know it of my own experience. So do you rest quietly until you have
regained your health a little. But how is our good Thedora? What a kind heart she has! You
write that she is now living with you, and that you are satisfied with what she does. True, you
say that she is inclined to grumble, but do not mind that, Barbara. God bless her, for she is an
excellent soul!
But what sort of an abode have I lighted upon, Barbara Alexievna? What sort of a
tenement, do you think, is this? Formerly, as you know, I used to live in absolute stillness —
so much so that if a fly took wing it could plainly be heard buzzing. Here, however, all is
turmoil and shouting and clatter. The PLAN of the tenement you know already. Imagine a long
corridor, quite dark, and by no means clean. To the right a dead wall, and to the left a row of
doors stretching as far as the line of rooms extends. These rooms are tenanted by different
people — by one, by two, or by three lodgers as the case may be, but in this arrangement
there is no sort of system, and the place is a perfect Noah’s Ark. Most of the lodgers are
respectable, educated, and even bookish people. In particular they include a tchinovnik (one
of the literary staff in some government department), who is so well-read that he can expound
Homer or any other author — in fact, ANYTHING, such a man of talent is he! Also, there are
a couple of officers (for ever playing cards), a midshipman, and an English tutor. But, to
amuse you, dearest, let me describe these people more categorically in my next letter, and
tell you in detail about their lives. As for our landlady, she is a dirty little old woman who
always walks about in a dressing-gown and slippers, and never ceases to shout at Theresa. I
myself live in the kitchen — or, rather, in a small room which forms part of the kitchen. The
latter is a very large, bright, clean, cheerful apartment with three windows in it, and a
partitionwall which, running outwards from the front wall, makes a sort of little den, a sort of extra
room, for myself. Everything in this den is comfortable and convenient, and I have, as I say, a
window to myself. So much for a description of my dwelling-place. Do not think, dearest, that
in all this there is any hidden intention. The fact that I live in the kitchen merely means that I
live behind the partition wall in that apartment — that I live quite alone, and spend my time in
a quiet fashion compounded of trifles. For furniture I have provided myself with a bed, a table,
a chest of drawers, and two small chairs. Also, I have suspended an ikon. True, better rooms
MAY exist in the world than this — much better rooms; yet COMFORT is the chief thing. In
fact, I have made all my arrangements for comfort’s sake alone; so do not for a moment
imagine that I had any other end in view. And since your window happens to be just opposite
to mine, and since the courtyard between us is narrow and I can see you as you pass — why,
the result is that this miserable wretch will be able to live at once more happily and with less
outlay. The dearest room in this house costs, with board, thirty-five roubles — more than my
purse could well afford; whereas MY room costs only twenty-four, though formerly I used to
pay thirty, and so had to deny myself many things (I could drink tea but seldom, and never
could indulge in tea and sugar as I do now). But, somehow, I do not like having to go without
tea, for everyone else here is respectable, and the fact makes me ashamed. After all, one
drinks tea largely to please one’s fellow men, Barbara, and to give oneself tone and an air of
gentility (though, of myself, I care little about such things, for I am not a man of the finicking
sort). Yet think you that, when all things needful — boots and the rest — have been paid for,
much will remain? Yet I ought not to grumble at my salary — I am quite satisfied with it; it issufficient. It has sufficed me now for some years, and, in addition, I receive certain gratuities.
Well good-bye, my darling. I have bought you two little pots of geraniums — quite cheap
little pots, too — as a present. Perhaps you would also like some mignonette? Mignonette it
shall be if only you will write to inform me of everything in detail. Also, do not misunderstand
the fact that I have taken this room, my dearest. Convenience and nothing else, has made me
do so. The snugness of the place has caught my fancy. Also. I shall be able to save money
here, and to hoard it against the future. Already I have saved a little money as a beginning.
Nor must you despise me because I am such an insignificant old fellow that a fly could break
me with its wing. True, I am not a swashbuckler; but perhaps there may also abide in me the
spirit which should pertain to every man who is at once resigned and sure of himself.
Goodbye, then, again, my angel. I have now covered close upon a whole two sheets of notepaper,
though I ought long ago to have been starting for the office. I kiss your hands, and remain
ever your devoted slave, your faithful friend,

Makar Dievushkin.

P.S. — One thing I beg of you above all things — and that is, that you will answer this
letter as FULLY as possible. With the letter I send you a packet of bonbons. Eat them for your
health’s sake, nor, for the love of God, feel any uneasiness about me. Once more, dearest
one, good-bye.
thApril 8

My beloved Makar Alexievitch
Do you know, must quarrel with you. Yes, good Makar Alexievitch, I really cannot accept
your presents, for I know what they must have cost you — I know to what privations and
selfdenial they must have led. How many times have I not told you that I stand in need of
NOTHING, of absolutely NOTHING, as well as that I shall never be in a position to
recompense you for all the kindly acts with which you have loaded me? Why, for instance,
have you sent me geraniums? A little sprig of balsam would not have mattered so much —
but geraniums! Only have I to let fall an unguarded word — for example, about geraniums —
and at once you buy me some! How much they must have cost you! Yet what a charm there
is in them, with their flaming petals! Wherever did you get these beautiful plants? I have set
them in my window as the most conspicuous place possible, while on the floor I have placed a
bench for my other flowers to stand on (since you are good enough to enrich me with such
presents). Unfortunately, Thedora, who, with her sweeping and polishing, makes a perfect
sanctuary of my room, is not over-pleased at the arrangement. But why have you sent me
also bonbons? Your letter tells me that something special is afoot with you, for I find in it so
much about paradise and spring and sweet odours and the songs of birds. Surely, thought I to
myself when I received it, this is as good as poetry! Indeed, verses are the only thing that
your letter lacks, Makar Alexievitch. And what tender feelings I can read in it — what
roseatecoloured fancies! To the curtain, however, I had never given a thought. The fact is that when I
moved the flower-pots, it LOOPED ITSELF up. There now!
Ah, Makar Alexievitch, you neither speak of nor give any account of what you have spent
upon me. You hope thereby to deceive me, to make it seem as though the cost always falls
upon you alone, and that there is nothing to conceal. Yet I KNOW that for my sake you deny
yourself necessaries. For instance, what has made you go and take the room which you have
done, where you will be worried and disturbed, and where you have neither elbow-space nor
comfort — you who love solitude, and never like to have any one near you? To judge from
your salary, I should think that you might well live in greater ease than that. Also, Thedora tells
me that your circumstances used to be much more affluent than they are at present. Do you
wish, then, to persuade me that your whole existence has been passed in loneliness and want
and gloom, with never a cheering word to help you, nor a seat in a friend’s chimney-corner?
Ah, kind comrade, how my heart aches for you! But do not overtask your health, Makar
Alexievitch. For instance, you say that your eyes are over-weak for you to go on writing in
your office by candle-light. Then why do so? I am sure that your official superiors do not need
to be convinced of your diligence!
Once more I implore you not to waste so much money upon me. I know how much you
love me, but I also know that you are not rich... This morning I too rose in good spirits.
Thedora had long been at work; and it was time that I too should bestir myself. Indeed I was
yearning to do so, so I went out for some silk, and then sat down to my labours. All the
morning I felt light-hearted and cheerful. Yet now my thoughts are once more dark and sad —
once more my heart is ready to sink.
Ah, what is going to become of me? What will be my fate? To have to be so uncertain as
to the future, to have to be unable to foretell what is going to happen, distresses me deeply.
Even to look back at the past is horrible, for it contains sorrow that breaks my very heart at
the thought of it. Yes, a whole century in tears could I spend because of the wicked people
who have wrecked my life!
But dusk is coming on, and I must set to work again. Much else should I have liked towrite to you, but time is lacking, and I must hasten. Of course, to write this letter is a pleasure
enough, and could never be wearisome; but why do you not come to see me in person? Why
do you not, Makar Alexievitch? You live so close to me, and at least SOME of your time is
your own. I pray you, come. I have just seen Theresa. She was looking so ill, and I felt so
sorry for her, that I gave her twenty kopecks. I am almost falling asleep. Write to me in fullest
detail, both concerning your mode of life, and concerning the people who live with you, and
concerning how you fare with them. I should so like to know! Yes, you must write again.
Tonight I have purposely looped the curtain up. Go to bed early, for, last night, I saw your
candle burning until nearly midnight. Goodbye! I am now feeling sad and weary. Ah that I
should have to spend such days as this one has been. Again good-bye. — Your friend,

Barbara Dobroselova.
thApril 8

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
To think that a day like this should have fallen to my miserable lot! Surely you are making
fun of an old man?... However, it was my own fault — my own fault entirely. One ought not to
grow old holding a lock of Cupid’s hair in one’s hand. Naturally one is misunderstood... Yet
man is sometimes a very strange being. By all the Saints, he will talk of doing things, yet leave
them undone, and remain looking the kind of fool from whom may the Lord preserve us!...
Nay, I am not angry, my beloved; I am only vexed to think that I should have written to you in
such stupid, flowery phraseology. Today I went hopping and skipping to the office, for my
heart was under your influence, and my soul was keeping holiday, as it were. Yes, everything
seemed to be going well with me. Then I betook myself to my work. But with what result? I
gazed around at the old familiar objects, at the old familiar grey and gloomy objects. They
looked just the same as before. Yet WERE those the same inkstains, the same tables and
chairs, that I had hitherto known? Yes, they WERE the same, exactly the same; so why
should I have gone off riding on Pegasus’ back? Whence had that mood arisen? It had arisen
from the fact that a certain sun had beamed upon me, and turned the sky to blue. But why
so? Why is it, sometimes, that sweet odours seem to be blowing through a courtyard where
nothing of the sort can be? They must be born of my foolish fancy, for a man may stray so far
into sentiment as to forget his immediate surroundings, and to give way to the superfluity of
fond ardour with which his heart is charged. On the other hand, as I walked home from the
office at nightfall my feet seemed to lag, and my head to be aching. Also, a cold wind seemed
to be blowing down my back (enraptured with the spring, I had gone out clad only in a thin
overcoat). Yet you have misunderstood my sentiments, dearest. They are altogether different
to what you suppose. It is a purely paternal feeling that I have for you. I stand towards you in
the position of a relative who is bound to watch over your lonely orphanhood. This I say in all
sincerity, and with a single purpose, as any kinsman might do. For, after all, I AM a distant
kinsman of yours — the seventh drop of water in the pudding, as the proverb has it — yet still
a kinsman, and at the present time your nearest relative and protector, seeing that where you
had the right to look for help and protection, you found only treachery and insult. As for
poetry, I may say that I consider it unbecoming for a man of my years to devote his faculties
to the making of verses. Poetry is rubbish. Even boys at school ought to be whipped for
writing it.
Why do you write thus about “comfort” and “peace” and the rest? I am not a fastidious
man, nor one who requires much. Never in my life have I been so comfortable as now. Why,
then, should I complain in my old age? I have enough to eat, I am well dressed and booted.
Also, I have my diversions. You see, I am not of noble blood. My father himself was not a
gentleman; he and his family had to live even more plainly than I do. Nor am I a milksop.
Nevertheless, to speak frankly, I do not like my present abode so much as I used to like my
old one. Somehow the latter seemed more cosy, dearest. Of course, this room is a good one
enough; in fact, in SOME respects it is the more cheerful and interesting of the two. I have
nothing to say against it — no. Yet I miss the room that used to be so familiar to me. Old
lodgers like myself soon grow as attached to our chattels as to a kinsman. My old room was
such a snug little place! True, its walls resembled those of any other room — I am not
speaking of that; the point is that the recollection of them seems to haunt my mind with
sadness. Curious that recollections should be so mournful! Even what in that room used to
vex me and inconvenience me now looms in a purified light, and figures in my imagination as
a thing to be desired. We used to live there so quietly — I and an old landlady who is nowdead. How my heart aches to remember her, for she was a good woman, and never
overcharged for her rooms. Her whole time was spent in making patchwork quilts with
knittingneedles that were an arshin [An ell.] long. Oftentimes we shared the same candle and board.
Also she had a granddaughter, Masha — a girl who was then a mere baby, but must now be
a girl of thirteen. This little piece of mischief, how she used to make us laugh the day long! We
lived together, a happy family of three. Often of a long winter’s evening we would first have
tea at the big round table, and then betake ourselves to our work; the while that, to amuse the
child and to keep her out of mischief, the old lady would set herself to tell stories. What stories
they were! — though stories less suitable for a child than for a grown-up, educated person.
My word! Why, I myself have sat listening to them, as I smoked my pipe, until I have forgotten
about work altogether. And then, as the story grew grimmer, the little child, our little bag of
mischief, would grow thoughtful in proportion, and clasp her rosy cheeks in her tiny hands,
and, hiding her face, press closer to the old landlady. Ah, how I loved to see her at those
moments! As one gazed at her one would fail to notice how the candle was flickering, or how
the storm was swishing the snow about the courtyard. Yes, that was a goodly life, my
Barbara, and we lived it for nearly twenty years... How my tongue does carry me away!
Maybe the subject does not interest you, and I myself find it a not over-easy subject to recall
— especially at the present time.
Darkness is falling, and Theresa is busying herself with something or another. My head
and my back are aching, and even my thoughts seem to be in pain, so strangely do they
occur. Yes, my heart is sad today, Barbara... What is it you have written to me? — -”Why do
you not come in PERSON to see me?” Dear one, what would people say? I should have but
to cross the courtyard for people to begin noticing us, and asking themselves questions.
Gossip and scandal would arise, and there would be read into the affair quite another meaning
than the real one. No, little angel, it were better that I should see you tomorrow at Vespers.
That will be the better plan, and less hurtful to us both. Nor must you chide me, beloved,
because I have written you a letter like this (reading it through, I see it to be all odds and
ends); for I am an old man now, dear Barbara, and an uneducated one. Little learning had I in
my youth, and things refuse to fix themselves in my brain when I try to learn them anew. No, I
am not skilled in letter-writing, Barbara, and, without being told so, or any one laughing at me
for it, I know that, whenever I try to describe anything with more than ordinary distinctness, I
fall into the mistake of talking sheer rubbish... I saw you at your window today — yes, I saw
you as you were drawing down the blind! Good-bye, goodbye, little Barbara, and may God
keep you! Good-bye, my own Barbara Alexievna! — Your sincere friend,

Makar Dievushkin.

P.S. — Do not think that I could write to you in a satirical vein, for I am too old to show
my teeth to no purpose, and people would laugh at me, and quote our Russian proverb: “Who
diggeth a pit for another one, the same shall fall into it himself.”
thApril 9

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
Are not you, my friend and benefactor, just a little ashamed to repine and give way to
such despondency? And surely you are not offended with me? Ah! Though often thoughtless
in my speech, I never should have imagined that you would take my words as a jest at your
expense. Rest assured that NEVER should I make sport of your years or of your character.
Only my own levity is at fault; still more, the fact that I am so weary of life.
What will such a feeling not engender? To tell you the truth, I had supposed that YOU
were jesting in your letter; wherefore, my heart was feeling heavy at the thought that you
could feel so displeased with me. Kind comrade and helper, you will be doing me an injustice if
for a single moment you ever suspect that I am lacking in feeling or in gratitude towards you.
My heart, believe me, is able to appraise at its true worth all that you have done for me by
protecting me from my enemies, and from hatred and persecution. Never shall I cease to pray
to God for you; and, should my prayers ever reach Him and be received of Heaven, then
assuredly fortune will smile upon you!
Today I am not well. By turns I shiver and flush with heat, and Thedora is greatly
disturbed about me... Do not scruple to come and see me, Makar Alexievitch. How can it
concern other people what you do? You and I are well enough acquainted with each other,
and one’s own affairs are one’s own affairs. Goodbye, Makar Alexievitch, for I have come to
the end of all I had to say, and am feeling too unwell to write more. Again I beg of you not to
be angry with me, but to rest assured of my constant respect and attachment. — Your
humble, devoted servant,

Barbara Dobroselova.
thApril 12

Dearest Mistress Barbara Alexievna
I pray you, my beloved, to tell me what ails you. Every one of your letters fills me with
alarm. On the other hand, in every letter I urge you to be more careful of yourself, and to
wrap up yourself warmly, and to avoid going out in bad weather, and to be in all things
prudent. Yet you go and disobey me! Ah, little angel, you are a perfect child! I know well that
you are as weak as a blade of grass, and that, no matter what wind blows upon you, you are
ready to fade. But you must be careful of yourself, dearest; you MUST look after yourself
better; you MUST avoid all risks, lest you plunge your friends into desolation and despair.
Dearest, you also express a wish to learn the details of my daily life and surroundings.
That wish I hasten to satisfy. Let me begin at the beginning, since, by doing so, I shall explain
things more systematically. In the first place, on entering this house, one passes into a very
bare hall, and thence along a passage to a mean staircase. The reception room, however, is
bright, clean, and spacious, and is lined with redwood and metal- work. But the scullery you
would not care to see; it is greasy, dirty, and odoriferous, while the stairs are in rags, and the
walls so covered with filth that the hand sticks fast wherever it touches them. Also, on each
landing there is a medley of boxes, chairs, and dilapidated wardrobes; while the windows have
had most of their panes shattered, and everywhere stand washtubs filled with dirt, litter,
eggshells, and fish-bladders. The smell is abominable. In short, the house is not a nice one.
As to the disposition of the rooms, I have described it to you already. True, they are
convenient enough, yet every one of them has an ATMOSPHERE. I do not mean that they
smell badly so much as that each of them seems to contain something which gives forth a
rank, sickly-sweet odour. At first the impression is an unpleasant one, but a couple of minutes
will suffice to dissipate it, for the reason that EVERYTHING here smells — people’s clothes,
hands, and everything else — and one grows accustomed to the rankness. Canaries,
however, soon die in this house. A naval officer here has just bought his fifth. Birds cannot live
long in such an air. Every morning, when fish or beef is being cooked, and washing and
scrubbing are in progress, the house is filled with steam. Always, too, the kitchen is full of
linen hanging out to dry; and since my room adjoins that apartment, the smell from the clothes
causes me not a little annoyance. However, one can grow used to anything.
From earliest dawn the house is astir as its inmates rise, walk about, and stamp their
feet. That is to say, everyone who has to go to work then gets out of bed. First of all, tea is
partaken of. Most of the tea-urns belong to the landlady; and since there are not very many of
them, we have to wait our turn. Anyone who fails to do so will find his teapot emptied and put
away. On the first occasion, that was what happened to myself. Well, is there anything else to
tell you? Already I have made the acquaintance of the company here. The naval officer took
the initiative in calling upon me, and his frankness was such that he told me all about his
father, his mother, his sister (who is married to a lawyer of Tula), and the town of Kronstadt.
Also, he promised me his patronage, and asked me to come and take tea with him. I kept the
appointment in a room where card-playing is continually in progress; and, after tea had been
drunk, efforts were made to induce me to gamble. Whether or not my refusal seemed to the
company ridiculous I cannot say, but at all events my companions played the whole evening,
and were playing when I left. The dust and smoke in the room made my eyes ache. I
declined, as I say, to play cards, and was, therefore, requested to discourse on philosophy,
after which no one spoke to me at all — a result which I did not regret. In fact, I have no
intention of going there again, since every one is for gambling, and for nothing but gambling.
Even the literary tchinovnik gives such parties in his room — though, in his case, everything isdone delicately and with a certain refinement, so that the thing has something of a retiring and
innocent air.
In passing, I may tell you that our landlady is NOT a nice woman. In fact, she is a regular
beldame. You have seen her once, so what do you think of her? She is as lanky as a plucked
chicken in consumption, and, with Phaldoni (her servant), constitutes the entire staff of the
establishment. Whether or not Phaldoni has any other name I do not know, but at least he
answers to this one, and every one calls him by it. A red-haired, swine-jowled, snub-nosed,
crooked lout, he is for ever wrangling with Theresa, until the pair nearly come to blows. In
short, life is not overly pleasant in this place. Never at any time is the household wholly at rest,
for always there are people sitting up to play cards. Sometimes, too, certain things are done
of which it would be shameful for me to speak. In particular, hardened though I am, it
astonishes me that men WITH FAMILIES should care to live in this Sodom. For example,
there is a family of poor folk who have rented from the landlady a room which does not adjoin
the other rooms, but is set apart in a corner by itself. Yet what quiet people they are! Not a
sound is to be heard from them. The father — he is called Gorshkov — is a little grey-headed
tchinovnik who, seven years ago, was dismissed from public service, and now walks about in
a coat so dirty and ragged that it hurts one to see it. Indeed it is a worse coat even than mine!
Also, he is so thin and frail (at times I meet him in the corridor) that his knees quake under
him, his hands and head are tremulous with some disease (God only knows what!), and he so
fears and distrusts everybody that he always walks alone. Reserved though I myself am, he is
even worse. As for his family, it consists of a wife and three children. The eldest of the latter
— a boy — is as frail as his father, while the mother — a woman who, formerly, must have
been good looking, and still has a striking aspect in spite of her pallor — goes about in the
sorriest of rags. Also I have heard that they are in debt to our landlady, as well as that she is
not overly kind to them. Moreover, I have heard that Gorshkov lost his post through some
unpleasantness or other — through a legal suit or process of which I could not exactly tell you
the nature. Yes, they certainly are poor — Oh, my God, how poor! At the same time, never a
sound comes from their room. It is as though not a soul were living in it. Never does one hear
even the children — which is an unusual thing, seeing that children are ever ready to sport
and play, and if they fail to do so it is a bad sign. One evening when I chanced to be passing
the door of their room, and all was quiet in the house, I heard through the door a sob, and
then a whisper, and then another sob, as though somebody within were weeping, and with
such subdued bitterness that it tore my heart to hear the sound. In fact, the thought of these
poor people never left me all night, and quite prevented me from sleeping.
Well, good-bye, my little Barbara, my little friend beyond price. I have described to you
everything to the best of my ability. All today you have been in my thoughts; all today my
heart has been yearning for you. I happen to know, dearest one, that you lack a warm cloak.
To me too, these St. Petersburg springs, with their winds and their snow showers, spell death.
Good heavens, how the breezes bite one! Do not be angry, beloved, that I should write like
this. Style I have not. Would that I had! I write just what wanders into my brain, in the hope
that I may cheer you up a little. Of course, had I had a good education, things might have
been different; but, as things were, I could not have one. Never did I learn even to do simple
Your faithful and unchangeable friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
thApril 25

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
Today I met my cousin Sasha. To see her going to wrack and ruin shocked me terribly.
Moreover, it has reached me, through a side wind, that she has been making inquiry for me,
and dogging my footsteps, under the pretext that she wishes to pardon me, to forget the past,
and to renew our acquaintance. Well, among other things she told me that, whereas you are
not a kinsman of mine, that she is my nearest relative; that you have no right whatever to
enter into family relations with us; and that it is wrong and shameful for me to be living upon
your earnings and charity. Also, she said that I must have forgotten all that she did for me,
though thereby she saved both myself and my mother from starvation, and gave us food and
drink; that for two and a half years we caused her great loss; and, above all things, that she
excused us what we owed her. Even my poor mother she did not spare. Would that she, my
dead parent, could know how I am being treated! But God knows all about it... Also, Anna
declared that it was solely through my own fault that my fortunes declined after she had
bettered them; that she is in no way responsible for what then happened; and that I have but
myself to blame for having been either unable or unwilling to defend my honour. Great God!
WHO, then, has been at fault? According to Anna, Hospodin [Mr.] Bwikov was only right when
he declined to marry a woman who — But need I say it? It is cruel to hear such lies as hers.
What is to become of me I do not know. I tremble and sob and weep. Indeed, even to write
this letter has cost me two hours. At least it might have been thought that Anna would have
confessed HER share in the past. Yet see what she says!... For the love of God do not be
anxious about me, my friend, my only benefactor. Thedora is over apt to exaggerate matters.
I am not REALLY ill. I have merely caught a little cold. I caught it last night while I was walking
to Bolkovo, to hear Mass sung for my mother. Ah, mother, my poor mother! Could you but
rise from the grave and learn what is being done to your daughter!

B. D.
thMay 20

My dearest little Barbara
I am sending you a few grapes, which are good for a convalescent person, and strongly
recommended by doctors for the allayment of fever. Also, you were saying the other day that
you would like some roses; wherefore, I now send you a bunch. Are you at all able to eat, my
darling? — for that is the chief point which ought to be seen to. Let us thank God that the past
and all its unhappiness are gone! Yes, let us give thanks to Heaven for that much! As for
books, I cannot get hold of any, except for a book which, written in excellent style, is, I
believe, to be had here. At all events, people keep praising it very much, and I have begged
the loan of it for myself. Should you too like to read it? In this respect, indeed, I feel nervous,
for the reason that it is so difficult to divine what your taste in books may be, despite my
knowledge of your character. Probably you would like poetry — the poetry of sentiment and of
love making? Well, I will send you a book of MY OWN poems. Already I have copied out part
of the manuscript.
Everything with me is going well; so pray do not be anxious on my account, beloved.
What Thedora told you about me was sheer rubbish. Tell her from me that she has not been
speaking the truth. Yes, do not fail to give this mischief-maker my message. It is not the case
that I have gone and sold a new uniform. Why should I do so, seeing that I have forty roubles
of salary still to come to me? Do not be uneasy, my darling. Thedora is a vindictive woman —
merely a vindictive woman. We shall yet see better days. Only do you get well, my angel —
only do you get well, for the love of God, lest you grieve an old man. Also, who told you that I
was looking thin? Slanders again — nothing but slanders! I am as healthy as could be, and
have grown so fat that I am ashamed to be so sleek of paunch. Would that you were equally
healthy!... Now goodbye, my angel. I kiss every one of your tiny fingers, and remain ever your
constant friend,

Makar Dievushkin.

P.S. — But what is this, dearest one, that you have written to me? Why do you place me
upon such a pedestal? Moreover, how could I come and visit you frequently? How, I repeat?
Of course, I might avail myself of the cover of night; but, alas! the season of the year is what
it is, and includes no night time to speak of. In fact, although, throughout your illness and
delirium, I scarcely left your side for a moment, I cannot think how I contrived to do the many
things that I did. Later, I ceased to visit you at all, for the reason that people were beginning to
notice things, and to ask me questions. Yet, even so, a scandal has arisen. Theresa I trust
thoroughly, for she is not a talkative woman; but consider how it will be when the truth comes
out in its entirety! What THEN will folk not say and think? Nevertheless, be of good cheer, my
beloved, and regain your health. When you have done so we will contrive to arrange a
rendezvous out of doors.
stJune 1

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

B. D.


Up to the age of fourteen, when my father died, my childhood was the happiest period of
my life. It began very far away from here- in the depths of the province of Tula, where my
father filled the position of steward on the vast estates of the Prince P — . Our house was
situated in one of the Prince’s villages, and we lived a quiet, obscure, but happy, life. A gay
little child was I — my one idea being ceaselessly to run about the fields and the woods and
the garden. No one ever gave me a thought, for my father was always occupied with business
affairs, and my mother with her housekeeping. Nor did any one ever give me any lessons — a
circumstance for which I was not sorry. At earliest dawn I would hie me to a pond or a copse,
or to a hay or a harvest field, where the sun could warm me, and I could roam wherever I
liked, and scratch my hands with bushes, and tear my clothes in pieces. For this I used to get
blamed afterwards, but I did not care.
Had it befallen me never to quit that village — had it befallen me to remain for ever in
that spot — I should always have been happy; but fate ordained that I should leave my
birthplace even before my girlhood had come to an end. In short, I was only twelve years old
when we removed to St. Petersburg. Ah! how it hurts me to recall the mournful gatherings
before our departure, and to recall how bitterly I wept when the time came for us to say
farewell to all that I had held so dear! I remember throwing myself upon my father’s neck, and
beseeching him with tears to stay in the country a little longer; but he bid me be silent, and my
mother, adding her tears to mine, explained that business matters compelled us to go. As a
matter of fact, old Prince P — had just died, and his heirs had dismissed my father from his
post; whereupon, since he had a little money privately invested in St. Petersburg, he
bethought him that his personal presence in the capital was necessary for the due
management of his affairs. It was my mother who told me this. Consequently we settled here
in St. Petersburg, and did not again move until my father died.
How difficult I found it to grow accustomed to my new life! At the time of our removal to
St. Petersburg it was autumn — a season when, in the country, the weather is clear and keen
and bright, all agricultural labour has come to an end, the great sheaves of corn are safelygarnered in the byre, and the birds are flying hither and thither in clamorous flocks. Yes, at
that season the country is joyous and fair, but here in St. Petersburg, at the time when we
reached the city, we encountered nothing but rain, bitter autumn frosts, dull skies, ugliness,
and crowds of strangers who looked hostile, discontented, and disposed to take offence.
However, we managed to settle down — though I remember that in our new home there was
much noise and confusion as we set the establishment in order. After this my father was
seldom at home, and my mother had few spare moments; wherefore, I found myself
The first morning after our arrival, when I awoke from sleep, how sad I felt! I could see
that our windows looked out upon a drab space of wall, and that the street below was littered
with filth. Passers-by were few, and as they walked they kept muffling themselves up against
the cold.
Then there ensued days when dullness and depression reigned supreme. Scarcely a
relative or an acquaintance did we possess in St. Petersburg, and even Anna Thedorovna and
my father had come to loggerheads with one another, owing to the fact that he owed her
money. In fact, our only visitors were business callers, and as a rule these came but to
wrangle, to argue, and to raise a disturbance. Such visits would make my father look very
discontented, and seem out of temper. For hours and hours he would pace the room with a
frown on his face and a brooding silence on his lips. Even my mother did not dare address
him at these times, while, for my own part, I used to sit reading quietly and humbly in a corner
— not venturing to make a movement of any sort.
Three months after our arrival in St. Petersburg I was sent to a boarding-school. Here I
found myself thrown among strange people; here everything was grim and uninviting, with
teachers continually shouting at me, and my fellow-pupils for ever holding me up to derision,
and myself constantly feeling awkward and uncouth. How strict, how exacting was the system!
Appointed hours for everything, a common table, ever-insistent teachers! These things simply
worried and tortured me. Never from the first could I sleep, but used to weep many a chill,
weary night away. In the evenings everyone would have to repeat or to learn her lessons. As I
crouched over a dialogue or a vocabulary, without daring even to stir, how my thoughts would
turn to the chimney-corner at home, to my father, to my mother, to my old nurse, to the tales
which the latter had been used to tell! How sad it all was! The memory of the merest trifle at
home would please me, and I would think and think how nice things used to be at home. Once
more I would be sitting in our little parlour at tea with my parents — in the familiar little parlour
where everything was snug and warm! How ardently, how convulsively I would seem to be
embracing my mother! Thus I would ponder, until at length tears of sorrow would softly gush
forth and choke my bosom, and drive the lessons out of my head. For I never could master
the tasks of the morrow; no matter how much my mistress and fellow-pupils might gird at me,
no matter how much I might repeat my lessons over and over to myself, knowledge never
came with the morning. Consequently, I used to be ordered the kneeling punishment, and
given only one meal in the day. How dull and dispirited I used to feel! From the first my
fellowpupils used to tease and deride and mock me whenever I was saying my lessons. Also, they
used to pinch me as we were on our way to dinner or tea, and to make groundless complaints
of me to the head mistress. On the other hand, how heavenly it seemed when, on Saturday
evening, my old nurse arrived to fetch me! How I would embrace the old woman in transports
of joy! After dressing me, and wrapping me up, she would find that she could scarcely keep
pace with me on the way home, so full was I of chatter and tales about one thing and another.
Then, when I had arrived home merry and lighthearted, how fervently I would embrace my
parents, as though I had not seen them for ten years. Such a fussing would there be — such
a talking and a telling of tales! To everyone I would run with a greeting, and laugh, and giggle,
and scamper about, and skip for very joy. True, my father and I used to have grave
conversations about lessons and teachers and the French language and grammar; yet wewere all very happy and contented together. Even now it thrills me to think of those moments.
For my father’s sake I tried hard to learn my lessons, for I could see that he was spending his
last kopeck upon me, and himself subsisting God knows how. Every day he grew more
morose and discontented and irritable; every day his character kept changing for the worse.
He had suffered an influx of debts, nor were his business affairs prospering. As for my
mother, she was afraid even to say a word, or to weep aloud, for fear of still further angering
him. Gradually she sickened, grew thinner and thinner, and became taken with a painful
cough. Whenever I reached home from school I would find every one low-spirited, and my
mother shedding silent tears, and my father raging. Bickering and high words would arise,
during which my father was wont to declare that, though he no longer derived the smallest
pleasure or relaxation from life, and had spent his last coin upon my education, I had not yet
mastered the French language. In short, everything began to go wrong, to turn to
unhappiness; and for that circumstance, my father took vengeance upon myself and my
mother. How he could treat my poor mother so I cannot understand. It used to rend my heart
to see her, so hollow were her cheeks becoming, so sunken her eyes, so hectic her face. But
it was chiefly around myself that the disputes raged. Though beginning only with some trifle,
they would soon go on to God knows what. Frequently, even I myself did not know to what
they related. Anything and everything would enter into them, for my father would say that I
was an utter dunce at the French language; that the head mistress of my school was a stupid,
common sort of women who cared nothing for morals; that he (my father) had not yet
succeeded in obtaining another post; that Lamonde’s “Grammar” was a wretched book —
even a worse one than Zapolski’s; that a great deal of money had been squandered upon me;
that it was clear that I was wasting my time in repeating dialogues and vocabularies; that I
alone was at fault, and that I must answer for everything. Yet this did not arise from any
WANT OF LOVE for me on the part of my father, but rather from the fact that he was
incapable of putting himself in my own and my mother’s place. It came of a defect of
All these cares and worries and disappointments tortured my poor father until he became
moody and distrustful. Next he began to neglect his health. with the result that, catching a
chill, he died, after a short illness, so suddenly and unexpectedly that for a few days we were
almost beside ourselves with the shock — my mother, in particular, lying for a while in such a
state of torpor that I had fears for her reason. The instant my father was dead creditors
seemed to spring up out of the ground, and to assail us en masse. Everything that we
possessed had to be surrendered to them, including a little house which my father had bought
six months after our arrival in St. Petersburg. How matters were finally settled I do not know,
but we found ourselves roofless, shelterless, and without a copper. My mother was grievously
ill, and of means of subsistence we had none. Before us there loomed only ruin, sheer ruin. At
the time I was fourteen years old. Soon afterwards Anna Thedorovna came to see us, saying
that she was a lady of property and our relative; and this my mother confirmed — though,
true, she added that Anna was only a very DISTANT relative. Anna had never taken the least
notice of us during my father’s lifetime, yet now she entered our presence with tears in her
eyes, and an assurance that she meant to better our fortunes. Having condoled with us on
our loss and destitute position, she added that my father had been to blame for everything, in
that he had lived beyond his means, and taken upon himself more than he was able to
perform. Also, she expressed a wish to draw closer to us, and to forget old scores; and when
my mother explained that, for her own part, she harboured no resentment against Anna, the
latter burst into tears, and, hurrying my mother away to church, then and there ordered Mass
to be said for the “dear departed,” as she called my father. In this manner she effected a
solemn reconciliation with my mother.
Next, after long negotiations and vacillations, coupled with much vivid description of our
destitute position, our desolation, and our helplessness, Anna invited us to pay her (as sheexpressed it) a “return visit.” For this my mother duly thanked her, and considered the
invitation for a while; after which, seeing that there was nothing else to be done, she informed
Anna Thedorovna that she was prepared, gratefully, to accept her offer. Ah, how I remember
the morning when we removed to Vassilievski Island! [A quarter of St. Petersburg.] It was a
clear, dry, frosty morning in autumn. My mother could not restrain her tears, and I too felt
depressed. Nay, my very heart seemed to be breaking under a strange, undefined load of
sorrow. How terrible it all seemed!...


At first — that is to say, until my mother and myself grew used to our new abode — we
found living at Anna Thedorovna’s both strange and disagreeable. The house was her own,
and contained five rooms, three of which she shared with my orphaned cousin, Sasha (whom
she had brought up from babyhood); a fourth was occupied by my mother and myself; and
the fifth was rented of Anna by a poor student named Pokrovski. Although Anna lived in good
style — in far better style than might have been expected — her means and her avocation
were conjectural. Never was she at rest; never was she not busy with some mysterious
something or other. Also, she possessed a wide and varied circle of friends. The stream of
callers was perpetual — although God only knows who they were, or what their business was.
No sooner did my mother hear the door- bell ring than off she would carry me to our own
apartment. This greatly displeased Anna, who used again and again to assure my mother that
we were too proud for our station in life. In fact, she would sulk for hours about it. At the time I
could not understand these reproaches, and it was not until long afterwards that I learned —
or rather, I guessed — why eventually my mother declared that she could not go on living with
Anna. Yes, Anna was a bad woman. Never did she let us alone. As to the exact motive why
she had asked us to come and share her house with her I am still in the dark. At first she was
not altogether unkind to us but, later, she revealed to us her real character — as soon, that is
to say, as she saw that we were at her mercy, and had nowhere else to go. Yes, in early days
she was quite kind to me — even offensively so, but afterwards, I had to suffer as much as
my mother. Constantly did Anna reproach us; constantly did she remind us of her
benefactions, and introduce us to her friends as poor relatives of hers whom, out of goodness
of heart and for the love of Christ, she had received into her bosom. At table, also, she would
watch every mouthful that we took; and, if our appetite failed, immediately she would begin as
before, and reiterate that we were over-dainty, that we must not assume that riches would
mean happiness, and that we had better go and live by ourselves. Moreover, she never
ceased to inveigh against my father — saying that he had sought to be better than other
people, and thereby had brought himself to a bad end; that he had left his wife and daughter
destitute; and that, but for the fact that we had happened to meet with a kind and sympathetic
Christian soul, God alone knew where we should have laid our heads, save in the street. What
did that woman not say? To hear her was not so much galling as disgusting. From time to
time my mother would burst into tears, her health grew worse from day to day, and her body
was becoming sheer skin and bone. All the while, too, we had to work — to work from
morning till night, for we had contrived to obtain some employment as occasional
sempstresses. This, however, did not please Anna, who used to tell us that there was no
room in her house for a modiste’s establishment. Yet we had to get clothes to wear, to
provide for unforeseen expenses, and to have a little money at our disposal in case we should
some day wish to remove elsewhere. Unfortunately, the strain undermined my mother’s
health, and she became gradually weaker. Sickness, like a cankerworm, was gnawing at her
life, and dragging her towards the tomb. Well could I see what she was enduring, what she
was suffering. Yes, it all lay open to my eyes.Day succeeded day, and each day was like the last one. We lived a life as quiet as
though we had been in the country. Anna herself grew quieter in proportion as she came to
realise the extent of her power over us. In nothing did we dare to thwart her. From her portion
of the house our apartment was divided by a corridor, while next to us (as mentioned above)
dwelt a certain Pokrovski, who was engaged in teaching Sasha the French and German
languages, as well as history and geography — ”all the sciences,” as Anna used to say. In
return for these services he received free board and lodging. As for Sasha, she was a clever,
but rude and uncouth, girl of thirteen. On one occasion Anna remarked to my mother that it
might be as well if I also were to take some lessons, seeing that my education had been
neglected at school; and, my mother joyfully assenting, I joined Sasha for a year in studying
under this Pokrovski.
The latter was a poor — a very poor — young man whose health would not permit of his
undertaking the regular university course. Indeed, it was only for form’s sake that we called
him “The Student.” He lived in such a quiet, humble, retiring fashion that never a sound
reached us from his room. Also, his exterior was peculiar — he moved and walked awkwardly,
and uttered his words in such a strange manner that at first I could never look at him without
laughing. Sasha was for ever playing tricks upon him — more especially when he was giving
us our lessons. But unfortunately, he was of a temperament as excitable as herself. Indeed,
he was so irritable that the least trifle would send him into a frenzy, and set him shouting at
us, and complaining of our conduct. Sometimes he would even rush away to his room before
school hours were over, and sit there for days over his books, of which he had a store that
was both rare and valuable. In addition, he acted as teacher at another establishment, and
received payment for his services there; and, whenever he had received his fees for this extra
work, he would hasten off and purchase more books.
In time I got to know and like him better, for in reality he was a good, worthy fellow —
more so than any of the people with whom we otherwise came in contact. My mother in
particular had a great respect for him, and, after herself, he was my best friend. But at first I
was just an overgrown hoyden, and joined Sasha in playing the fool. For hours we would
devise tricks to anger and distract him, for he looked extremely ridiculous when he was angry,
and so diverted us the more (ashamed though I am now to admit it). But once, when we had
driven him nearly to tears, I heard him say to himself under his breath, “What cruel children!”
and instantly I repented — I began to feel sad and ashamed and sorry for him. I reddened to
my ears, and begged him, almost with tears, not to mind us, nor to take offence at our stupid
jests. Nevertheless, without finishing the lesson, he closed his book, and departed to his own
room. All that day I felt torn with remorse. To think that we two children had forced him, the
poor, the unhappy one, to remember his hard lot! And at night I could not sleep for grief and
regret. Remorse is said to bring relief to the soul, but it is not so. How far my grief was
internally connected with my conceit I do not know, but at least I did not wish him to think me
a baby, seeing that I had now reached the age of fifteen years. Therefore, from that day
onwards I began to torture my imagination with devising a thousand schemes which should
compel Pokrovski to alter his opinion of me. At the same time, being yet shy and reserved by
nature, I ended by finding that, in my present position, I could make up my mind to nothing
but vague dreams (and such dreams I had). However, I ceased to join Sasha in playing the
fool, while Pokrovski, for his part, ceased to lose his temper with us so much. Unfortunately
this was not enough to satisfy my self-esteem.
At this point, I must say a few words about the strangest, the most interesting, the most
pitiable human being that I have ever come across. I speak of him now — at this particular
point in these memoirs — for the reason that hitherto I had paid him no attention whatever,
and began to do so now only because everything connected with Pokrovski had suddenly
become of absorbing interest in my eyes.
Sometimes there came to the house a ragged, poorly-dressed, grey- headed, awkward,amorphous — in short, a very strange-looking — little old man. At first glance it might have
been thought that he was perpetually ashamed of something — that he had on his conscience
something which always made him, as it were, bristle up and then shrink into himself. Such
curious starts and grimaces did he indulge in that one was forced to conclude that he was
scarcely in his right mind. On arriving, he would halt for a while by the window in the hall, as
though afraid to enter; until, should any one happen to pass in or out of the door — whether
Sasha or myself or one of the servants (to the latter he always resorted the most readily, as
being the most nearly akin to his own class) — he would begin to gesticulate and to beckon to
that person, and to make various signs. Then, should the person in question nod to him, or
call him by name (the recognised token that no other visitor was present, and that he might
enter freely), he would open the door gently, give a smile of satisfaction as he rubbed his
hands together, and proceed on tiptoe to young Pokrovski’s room. This old fellow was none
other than Pokrovski’s father.
Later I came to know his story in detail. Formerly a civil servant, he had possessed no
additional means, and so had occupied a very low and insignificant position in the service.
Then, after his first wife (mother of the younger Pokrovski) had died, the widower bethought
him of marrying a second time, and took to himself a tradesman’s daughter, who soon
assumed the reins over everything, and brought the home to rack and ruin, so that the old
man was worse off than before. But to the younger Pokrovski, fate proved kinder, for a
landowner named Bwikov, who had formerly known the lad’s father and been his benefactor,
took the boy under his protection, and sent him to school. Another reason why this Bwikov
took an interest in young Pokrovski was that he had known the lad’s dead mother, who, while
still a serving-maid, had been befriended by Anna Thedorovna, and subsequently married to
the elder Pokrovski. At the wedding Bwikov, actuated by his friendship for Anna, conferred
upon the young bride a dowry of five thousand roubles; but whither that money had since
disappeared I cannot say. It was from Anna’s lips that I heard the story, for the student
Pokrovski was never prone to talk about his family affairs. His mother was said to have been
very good-looking; wherefore, it is the more mysterious why she should have made so poor a
match. She died when young — only four years after her espousal.
From school the young Pokrovski advanced to a gymnasium, [Secondary school.] and
thence to the University, where Bwikov, who frequently visited the capital, continued to accord
the youth his protection. Gradually, however, ill health put an end to the young man’s
university course; whereupon Bwikov introduced and personally recommended him to Anna
Thedorovna, and he came to lodge with her on condition that he taught Sasha whatever might
be required of him.
Grief at the harshness of his wife led the elder Pokrovski to plunge into dissipation, and
to remain in an almost permanent condition of drunkenness. Constantly his wife beat him, or
sent him to sit in the kitchen — with the result that in time, he became so inured to blows and
neglect, that he ceased to complain. Still not greatly advanced in years, he had nevertheless
endangered his reason through evil courses — his only sign of decent human feeling being his
love for his son. The latter was said to resemble his dead mother as one pea may resemble
another. What recollections, therefore, of the kind helpmeet of former days may not have
moved the breast of the poor broken old man to this boundless affection for the boy? Of
naught else could the father ever speak but of his son, and never did he fail to visit him twice
a week. To come oftener he did not dare, for the reason that the younger Pokrovski did not
like these visits of his father’s. In fact, there can be no doubt that the youth’s greatest fault
was his lack of filial respect. Yet the father was certainly rather a difficult person to deal with,
for, in the first place, he was extremely inquisitive, while, in the second place, his long-winded
conversation and questions — questions of the most vapid and senseless order conceivable
— always prevented the son from working. Likewise, the old man occasionally arrived there
drunk. Gradually, however, the son was weaning his parent from his vicious ways andeverlasting inquisitiveness, and teaching the old man to look upon him, his son, as an oracle,
and never to speak without that son’s permission.
On the subject of his Petinka, as he called him, the poor old man could never sufficiently
rhapsodise and dilate. Yet when he arrived to see his son he almost invariably had on his face
a downcast, timid expression that was probably due to uncertainty concerning the way in
which he would be received. For a long time he would hesitate to enter, and if I happened to
be there he would question me for twenty minutes or so as to whether his Petinka was in good
health, as well as to the sort of mood he was in, whether he was engaged on matters of
importance, what precisely he was doing (writing or meditating), and so on. Then, when I had
sufficiently encouraged and reassured the old man, he would make up his mind to enter, and
quietly and cautiously open the door. Next, he would protrude his head through the chink, and
if he saw that his son was not angry, but threw him a nod, he would glide noiselessly into the
room, take off his scarf, and hang up his hat (the latter perennially in a bad state of repair, full
of holes, and with a smashed brim) — the whole being done without a word or a sound of any
kind. Next, the old man would seat himself warily on a chair, and, never removing his eyes
from his son, follow his every movement, as though seeking to gauge Petinka’s state of mind.
On the other hand, if the son was not in good spirits, the father would make a note of the fact,
and at once get up, saying that he had “only called for a minute or two,” that, “having been out
for a long walk, and happening at the moment to be passing,” he had “looked in for a
moment’s rest.” Then silently and humbly the old man would resume his hat and scarf; softly
he would open the door, and noiselessly depart with a forced smile on his face — the better to
bear the disappointment which was seething in his breast, the better to help him not to show it
to his son.
On the other hand, whenever the son received his father civilly the old man would be
struck dumb with joy. Satisfaction would beam in his face, in his every gesture, in his every
movement. And if the son deigned to engage in conversation with him, the old man always
rose a little from his chair, and answered softly, sympathetically, with something like
reverence, while strenuously endeavouring to make use of the most recherche (that is to say,
the most ridiculous) expressions. But, alas! He had not the gift of words. Always he grew
confused, and turned red in the face; never did he know what to do with his hands or with
himself. Likewise, whenever he had returned an answer of any kind, he would go on repeating
the same in a whisper, as though he were seeking to justify what he had just said. And if he
happened to have returned a good answer, he would begin to preen himself, and to straighten
his waistcoat, frockcoat and tie, and to assume an air of conscious dignity. Indeed, on these
occasions he would feel so encouraged, he would carry his daring to such a pitch, that, rising
softly from his chair, he would approach the bookshelves, take thence a book, and read over
to himself some passage or another. All this he would do with an air of feigned indifference
and sangfroid, as though he were free ALWAYS to use his son’s books, and his son’s
kindness were no rarity at all. Yet on one occasion I saw the poor old fellow actually turn pale
on being told by his son not to touch the books. Abashed and confused, he, in his awkward
hurry, replaced the volume wrong side uppermost; whereupon, with a supreme effort to
recover himself, he turned it round with a smile and a blush, as though he were at a loss how
to view his own misdemeanour. Gradually, as already said, the younger Pokrovski weaned his
father from his dissipated ways by giving him a small coin whenever, on three successive
occasions, he (the father) arrived sober. Sometimes, also, the younger man would buy the
older one shoes, or a tie, or a waistcoat; whereafter, the old man would be as proud of his
acquisition as a peacock. Not infrequently, also, the old man would step in to visit ourselves,
and bring Sasha and myself gingerbread birds or apples, while talking unceasingly of Petinka.
Always he would beg of us to pay attention to our lessons, on the plea that Petinka was a
good son, an exemplary son, a son who was in twofold measure a man of learning; after
which he would wink at us so quizzingly with his left eye, and twist himself about in suchamusing fashion, that we were forced to burst out laughing. My mother had a great liking for
him, but he detested Anna Thedorovna — although in her presence he would be quieter than
water and lowlier than the earth.
Soon after this I ceased to take lessons of Pokrovski. Even now he thought me a child, a
raw schoolgirl, as much as he did Sasha; and this hurt me extremely, seeing that I had done
so much to expiate my former behaviour. Of my efforts in this direction no notice had been
taken, and the fact continued to anger me more and more. Scarcely ever did I address a word
to my tutor between school hours, for I simply could not bring myself to do it. If I made the
attempt I only grew red and confused, and rushed away to weep in a corner. How it would all
have ended I do not know, had not a curious incident helped to bring about a rapprochement.
One evening, when my mother was sitting in Anna Thedorovna’s room, I crept on tiptoe to
Pokrovski’s apartment, in the belief that he was not at home. Some strange impulse moved
me to do so. True, we had lived cheek by jowl with one another; yet never once had I caught
a glimpse of his abode. Consequently my heart beat loudly- — so loudly, indeed, that it
seemed almost to be bursting from my breast. On entering the room I glanced around me
with tense interest. The apartment was very poorly furnished, and bore few traces of
orderliness. On table and chairs there lay heaps of books; everywhere were books and
papers. Then a strange thought entered my head, as well as, with the thought, an unpleasant
feeling of irritation. It seemed to me that my friendship, my heart’s affection, meant little to
him, for HE was well-educated, whereas I was stupid, and had learned nothing, and had read
not a single book. So I stood looking wistfully at the long bookshelves where they groaned
under their weight of volumes. I felt filled with grief, disappointment, and a sort of frenzy. I felt
that I MUST read those books, and decided to do so — to read them one by one, and with all
possible speed. Probably the idea was that, by learning whatsoever HE knew, I should render
myself more worthy of his friendship. So, I made a rush towards the bookcase nearest me,
and, without stopping further to consider matters, seized hold of the first dusty tome upon
which my hands chanced to alight, and, reddening and growing pale by turns, and trembling
with fear and excitement, clasped the stolen book to my breast with the intention of reading it
by candle light while my mother lay asleep at night.
But how vexed I felt when, on returning to our own room, and hastily turning the pages,
only an old, battered worm-eaten Latin work greeted my eyes! Without loss of time I retraced
my steps. Just when I was about to replace the book I heard a noise in the corridor outside,
and the sound of footsteps approaching. Fumblingly I hastened to complete what I was about,
but the tiresome book had become so tightly wedged into its row that, on being pulled out, it
caused its fellows to close up too compactly to leave any place for their comrade. To insert
the book was beyond my strength; yet still I kept pushing and pushing at the row. At last the
rusty nail which supported the shelf (the thing seemed to have been waiting on purpose for
that moment!) broke off short; with the result that the shelf descended with a crash, and the
books piled themselves in a heap on the floor! Then the door of the room opened, and
Pokrovski entered!
I must here remark that he never could bear to have his possessions tampered with.
Woe to the person, in particular, who touched his books! Judge, therefore, of my horror when
books small and great, books of every possible shape and size and thickness, came tumbling
from the shelf, and flew and sprang over the table, and under the chairs, and about the whole
room. I would have turned and fled, but it was too late. “All is over!” thought I. “All is over! I
am ruined, I am undone! Here have I been playing the fool like a ten-year-old child! What a
stupid girl I am! The monstrous fool!”
Indeed, Pokrovski was very angry. “What? Have you not done enough?” he cried. “Are
you not ashamed to be for ever indulging in such pranks? Are you NEVER going to grow
sensible?” With that he darted forward to pick up the books, while I bent down to help him.
“You need not, you need not!” he went on. “You would have done far better not to haveentered without an invitation.”
Next, a little mollified by my humble demeanour, he resumed in his usual tutorial tone —
the tone which he had adopted in his new — found role of preceptor:
“When are you going to grow steadier and more thoughtful? Consider yourself for a
moment. You are no longer a child, a little girl, but a maiden of fifteen.”
Then, with a desire (probably) to satisfy himself that I was no longer a being of tender
years, he threw me a glance — but straightway reddened to his very ears. This I could not
understand, but stood gazing at him in astonishment. Presently, he straightened himself a
little, approached me with a sort of confused expression, and haltingly said something —
probably it was an apology for not having before perceived that I was now a grown-up young
person. But the next moment I understood. What I did I hardly know, save that, in my dismay
and confusion, I blushed even more hotly than he had done and, covering my face with my
hands, rushed from the room.
What to do with myself for shame I could not think. The one thought in my head was that
he had surprised me in his room. For three whole days I found myself unable to raise my eyes
to his, but blushed always to the point of weeping. The strangest and most confused of
thoughts kept entering my brain. One of them — the most extravagant — was that I should
dearly like to go to Pokrovski, and to explain to him the situation, and to make full confession,
and to tell him everything without concealment, and to assure him that I had not acted
foolishly as a minx, but honestly and of set purpose. In fact, I DID make up my mind to take
this course, but lacked the necessary courage to do it. If I had done so, what a figure I should
have cut! Even now I am ashamed to think of it.
A few days later, my mother suddenly fell dangerously ill. For two days past she had not
left her bed, while during the third night of her illness she became seized with fever and
delirium. I also had not closed my eyes during the previous night, but now waited upon my
mother, sat by her bed, brought her drink at intervals, and gave her medicine at duly
appointed hours. The next night I suffered terribly. Every now and then sleep would cause me
to nod, and objects grow dim before my eyes. Also, my head was turning dizzy, and I could
have fainted for very weariness. Yet always my mother’s feeble moans recalled me to myself
as I started, momentarily awoke, and then again felt drowsiness overcoming me. What torture
it was! I do not know, I cannot clearly remember, but I think that, during a moment when
wakefulness was thus contending with slumber, a strange dream, a horrible vision, visited my
overwrought brain, and I awoke in terror. The room was nearly in darkness, for the candle
was flickering, and throwing stray beams of light which suddenly illuminated the room, danced
for a moment on the walls, and then disappeared. Somehow I felt afraid — a sort of horror
had come upon me — my imagination had been over-excited by the evil dream which I had
experienced, and a feeling of oppression was crushing my heart... I leapt from the chair, and
involuntarily uttered a cry — a cry wrung from me by the terrible, torturing sensation that was
upon me. Presently the door opened, and Pokrovski entered.
I remember that I was in his arms when I recovered my senses. Carefully seating me on
a bench, he handed me a glass of water, and then asked me a few questions — though how I
answered them I do not know. “You yourself are ill,” he said as he took my hand. “You
yourself are VERY ill. You are feverish, and I can see that you are knocking yourself out
through your neglect of your own health. Take a little rest. Lie down and go to sleep. Yes, lie
down, lie down,” he continued without giving me time to protest. Indeed, fatigue had so
exhausted my strength that my eyes were closing from very weakness. So I lay down on the
bench with the intention of sleeping for half an hour only; but, I slept till morning. Pokrovski
then awoke me, saying that it was time for me to go and give my mother her medicine.
When the next evening, about eight o’clock, I had rested a little and was preparing to
spend the night in a chair beside my mother (fixedly meaning not to go to sleep this time),
Pokrovski suddenly knocked at the door. I opened it, and he informed me that, since,possibly, I might find the time wearisome, he had brought me a few books to read. I accepted
the books, but do not, even now, know what books they were, nor whether I looked into them,
despite the fact that I never closed my eyes the whole night long. The truth was that a strange
feeling of excitement was preventing me from sleeping, and I could not rest long in any one
spot, but had to keep rising from my chair, and walking about the room. Throughout my whole
being there seemed to be diffused a kind of elation — of elation at Pokrovski’s attentions, at
the thought that he was anxious and uneasy about me. Until dawn I pondered and dreamed;
and though I felt sure Pokrovski would not again visit us that night, I gave myself up to fancies
concerning what he might do the following evening.
That evening, when everyone else in the house had retired to rest, Pokrovski opened his
door, and opened a conversation from the threshold of his room. Although, at this distance of
time, I cannot remember a word of what we said to one another, I remember that I blushed,
grew confused, felt vexed with myself, and awaited with impatience the end of the
conversation although I myself had been longing for the meeting to take place, and had spent
the day in dreaming of it, and devising a string of suitable questions and replies. Yes, that
evening saw the first strand in our friendship knitted; and each subsequent night of my
mother’s illness we spent several hours together. Little by little I overcame his reserve, but
found that each of these conversations left me filled with a sense of vexation at myself. At the
same time, I could see with secret joy and a sense of proud elation that I was leading him to
forget his tiresome books. At last the conversation turned jestingly upon the upsetting of the
shelf. The moment was a peculiar one, for it came upon me just when I was in the right mood
for self- revelation and candour. In my ardour, my curious phase of exaltation, I found myself
led to make a full confession of the fact that I had become wishful to learn, to KNOW,
something, since I had felt hurt at being taken for a chit, a mere baby... I repeat that that night
I was in a very strange frame of mind. My heart was inclined to be tender, and there were
tears standing in my eyes. Nothing did I conceal as I told him about my friendship for him,
about my desire to love him, about my scheme for living in sympathy with him and comforting
him, and making his life easier. In return he threw me a look of confusion mingled with
astonishment, and said nothing. Then suddenly I began to feel terribly pained and
disappointed, for I conceived that he had failed to understand me, or even that he might be
laughing at me. Bursting into tears like a child, I sobbed, and could not stop myself, for I had
fallen into a kind of fit; whereupon he seized my hand, kissed it, and clasped it to his breast —
saying various things, meanwhile, to comfort me, for he was labouring under a strong
emotion. Exactly what he said I do not remember — I merely wept and laughed by turns, and
blushed, and found myself unable to speak a word for joy. Yet, for all my agitation, I noticed
that about him there still lingered an air of constraint and uneasiness. Evidently, he was lost in
wonder at my enthusiasm and raptures — at my curiously ardent, unexpected, consuming
friendship. It may be that at first he was amazed, but that afterwards he accepted my
devotion and words of invitation and expressions of interest with the same simple frankness
as I had offered them, and responded to them with an interest, a friendliness, a devotion
equal to my own, even as a friend or a brother would do. How happy, how warm was the
feeling in my heart! Nothing had I concealed or repressed. No, I had bared all to his sight, and
each day would see him draw nearer to me.
Truly I could not say what we did not talk about during those painful, yet rapturous, hours
when, by the trembling light of a lamp, and almost at the very bedside of my poor sick mother,
we kept midnight tryst. Whatsoever first came into our heads we spoke of — whatsoever
came riven from our hearts, whatsoever seemed to call for utterance, found voice. And almost
always we were happy. What a grievous, yet joyous, period it was — a period grievous and
joyous at the same time! To this day it both hurts and delights me to recall it. Joyous or bitter
though it was, its memories are yet painful. At least they seem so to me, though a certain
sweetness assuaged the pain. So, whenever I am feeling heartsick and oppressed and jadedand sad those memories return to freshen and revive me, even as drops of evening dew
return to freshen and revive, after a sultry day, the poor faded flower which has long been
drooping in the noontide heat.
My mother grew better, but still I continued to spend the nights on a chair by her
bedside. Often, too, Pokrovski would give me books. At first I read them merely so as to avoid
going to sleep, but afterwards I examined them with more attention, and subsequently with
actual avidity, for they opened up to me a new, an unexpected, an unknown, an unfamiliar
world. New thoughts, added to new impressions, would come pouring into my heart in a rich
flood; and the more emotion, the more pain and labour, it cost me to assimilate these new
impressions, the dearer did they become to me, and the more gratefully did they stir my soul
to its very depths. Crowding into my heart without giving it time even to breathe, they would
cause my whole being to become lost in a wondrous chaos. Yet this spiritual ferment was not
sufficiently strong wholly to undo me. For that I was too fanciful, and the fact saved me.
With the passing of my mother’s illness the midnight meetings and long conversations
between myself and Pokrovski came to an end. Only occasionally did we exchange a few
words with one another — words, for the most part, that were of little purport or substance,
yet words to which it delighted me to apportion their several meanings, their peculiar secret
values. My life had now become full — I was happy; I was quietly, restfully happy. Thus did
several weeks elapse...
One day the elder Pokrovski came to see us, and chattered in a brisk, cheerful,
garrulous sort of way. He laughed, launched out into witticisms, and, finally, resolved the riddle
of his transports by informing us that in a week’s time it would be his Petinka’s birthday, when,
in honour of the occasion, he (the father) meant to don a new jacket (as well as new shoes
which his wife was going to buy for him), and to come and pay a visit to his son. In short, the
old man was perfectly happy, and gossiped about whatsoever first entered his head.
My lover’s birthday! Thenceforward, I could not rest by night or day. Whatever might
happen, it was my fixed intention to remind Pokrovski of our friendship by giving him a
present. But what sort of present? Finally, I decided to give him books. I knew that he had
long wanted to possess a complete set of Pushkin’s works, in the latest edition; so, I decided
to buy Pushkin. My private fund consisted of thirty roubles, earned by handiwork, and
designed eventually to procure me a new dress, but at once I dispatched our cook, old
Matrena, to ascertain the price of such an edition. Horrors! The price of the eleven volumes,
added to extra outlay upon the binding, would amount to at least SIXTY roubles! Where was
the money to come from? I thought and thought, yet could not decide. I did not like to resort
to my mother. Of course she would help me, but in that case every one in the house would
become aware of my gift, and the gift itself would assume the guise of a recompense — of
payment for Pokrovski’s labours on my behalf during the past year; whereas, I wished to
present the gift ALONE, and without the knowledge of anyone. For the trouble that he had
taken with me I wished to be his perpetual debtor — to make him no payment at all save my
friendship. At length, I thought of a way out of the difficulty.
I knew that of the hucksters in the Gostinni Dvor one could sometimes buy a book —
even one that had been little used and was almost entirely new — for a half of its price,
provided that one haggled sufficiently over it; wherefore I determined to repair thither. It so
happened that, next day, both Anna Thedorovna and ourselves were in want of sundry
articles; and since my mother was unwell and Anna lazy, the execution of the commissions
devolved upon me, and I set forth with Matrena.
Luckily, I soon chanced upon a set of Pushkin, handsomely bound, and set myself to
bargain for it. At first more was demanded than would have been asked of me in a shop; but
afterwards — though not without a great deal of trouble on my part, and several feints at
departing — I induced the dealer to lower his price, and to limit his demands to ten roubles in
silver. How I rejoiced that I had engaged in this bargaining! Poor Matrena could not imaginewhat had come to me, nor why I so desired to buy books. But, oh horror of horrors! As soon
as ever the dealer caught sight of my capital of thirty roubles in notes, he refused to let the
Pushkin go for less than the sum he had first named; and though, in answer to my prayers
and protestations, he eventually yielded a little, he did so only to the tune of two-and-a-half
roubles more than I possessed, while swearing that he was making the concession for my
sake alone, since I was “a sweet young lady,” and that he would have done so for no one else
in the world. To think that only two-and-a-half roubles should still be wanting! I could have
wept with vexation. Suddenly an unlooked-for circumstance occurred to help me in my
Not far away, near another table that was heaped with books, I perceived the elder
Pokrovski, and a crowd of four or five hucksters plaguing him nearly out of his senses. Each
of these fellows was proffering the old man his own particular wares; and while there was
nothing that they did not submit for his approval, there was nothing that he wished to buy. The
poor old fellow had the air of a man who is receiving a thrashing. What to make of what he
was being offered him he did not know. Approaching him, I inquired what he happened to be
doing there; whereat the old man was delighted, since he liked me (it may be) no less than he
did Petinka.
“I am buying some books, Barbara Alexievna,” said he, “I am buying them for my
Petinka. It will be his birthday soon, and since he likes books I thought I would get him some. “
The old man always expressed himself in a very roundabout sort of fashion, and on the
present occasion he was doubly, terribly confused. Of no matter what book he asked the
price, it was sure to be one, two, or three roubles. The larger books he could not afford at all;
he could only look at them wistfully, fumble their leaves with his finger, turn over the volumes
in his hands, and then replace them. “No, no, that is too dear,” he would mutter under his
breath. “I must go and try somewhere else.” Then again he would fall to examining
copybooks, collections of poems, and almanacs of the cheaper order.
“Why should you buy things like those?” I asked him. “They are such rubbish!”
“No, no!” he replied. “ See what nice books they are! Yes, they ARE nice books!” Yet
these last words he uttered so lingeringly that I could see he was ready to weep with vexation
at finding the better sorts of books so expensive. Already a little tear was trickling down his
pale cheeks and red nose. I inquired whether he had much money on him; whereupon the
poor old fellow pulled out his entire stock, wrapped in a piece of dirty newspaper, and
consisting of a few small silver coins, with twenty kopecks in copper. At once I seized the lot,
and, dragging him off to my huckster, said: “ Look here. These eleven volumes of Pushkin are
priced at thirty-two-and-a-half roubles, and I have only thirty roubles. Let us add to them these
two-and — a-half roubles of yours, and buy the books together, and make them our joint gift.”
The old man was overjoyed, and pulled out his money en masse; whereupon the huckster
loaded him with our common library. Stuffing it into his pockets, as well as filling both arms
with it, he departed homewards with his prize, after giving me his word to bring me the books
privately on the morrow.
Next day the old man came to see his son, and sat with him, as usual, for about an hour;
after which he visited ourselves, wearing on his face the most comical, the most mysterious
expression conceivable. Smiling broadly with satisfaction at the thought that he was the
possessor of a secret, he informed me that he had stealthily brought the books to our rooms,
and hidden them in a corner of the kitchen, under Matrena’s care. Next, by a natural
transition, the conversation passed to the coming fete- day; whereupon, the old man
proceeded to hold forth extensively on the subject of gifts. The further he delved into his
thesis, and the more he expounded it, the clearer could I see that on his mind there was
something which he could not, dared not, divulge. So I waited and kept silent. The mysterious
exaltation, the repressed satisfaction which I had hitherto discerned in his antics and grimaces
and left-eyed winks gradually disappeared, and he began to grow momentarily more anxiousand uneasy. At length he could contain himself no longer.
“Listen, Barbara Alexievna,” he said timidly. “Listen to what I have got to say to you.
When his birthday is come, do you take TEN of the books, and give them to him yourself —
that is, FOR yourself, as being YOUR share of the gift. Then I will take the eleventh book, and
give it to him MYSELF, as being my gift. If we do that, you will have a present for him and I
shall have one — both of us alike.”
“Why do you not want us to present our gifts together, Zachar Petrovitch?” I asked him.
“Oh, very well,” he replied. “Very well, Barbara Alexievna. Only- only, I thought that — ”
The old man broke off in confusion, while his face flushed with the exertion of thus
expressing himself. For a moment or two he sat glued to his seat.
“You see,” he went on, “I play the fool too much. I am forever playing the fool, and
cannot help myself, though I know that it is wrong to do so. At home it is often cold, and
sometimes there are other troubles as well, and it all makes me depressed. Well, whenever
that happens, I indulge a little, and occasionally drink too much. Now, Petinka does not like
that; he loses his temper about it, Barbara Alexievna, and scolds me, and reads me lectures.
So I want by my gift to show him that I am mending my ways, and beginning to conduct
myself better. For a long time past, I have been saving up to buy him a book — yes, for a
long time past I have been saving up for it, since it is seldom that I have any money, unless
Petinka happens to give me some. He knows that, and, consequently, as soon as ever he
perceives the use to which I have put his money, he will understand that it is for his sake
alone that I have acted.”
My heart ached for the old man. Seeing him looking at me with such anxiety, I made up
my mind without delay.
“I tell you what,” I said. “Do you give him all the books.”
“ALL?” he ejaculated. “ALL the books?”
“Yes, all of them.”
“As my own gift?” “Yes, as your own gift.”
“As my gift alone?”
“Yes, as your gift alone.”
Surely I had spoken clearly enough, yet the old man seemed hardly to understand me.
“Well,” said he after reflection, “that certainly would be splendid — certainly it would be
most splendid. But what about yourself, Barbara Alexievna?”
“Oh, I shall give your son nothing.”
“What?” he cried in dismay. “Are you going to give Petinka nothing — do you WISH to
give him nothing?” So put about was the old fellow with what I had said, that he seemed
almost ready to renounce his own proposal if only I would give his son something. What a kind
heart he had! I hastened to assure him that I should certainly have a gift of some sort ready,
since my one wish was to avoid spoiling his pleasure.
“Provided that your son is pleased,” I added, “and that you are pleased, I shall be equally
pleased, for in my secret heart I shall feel as though I had presented the gift.”
This fully reassured the old man. He stopped with us another couple of hours, yet could
not sit still for a moment, but kept jumping up from his seat, laughing, cracking jokes with
Sasha, bestowing stealthy kisses upon myself, pinching my hands, and making silent
grimaces at Anna Thedorovna. At length, she turned him out of the house. In short, his
transports of joy exceeded anything that I had yet beheld.
On the festal day he arrived exactly at eleven o’clock, direct from Mass. He was dressed
in a carefully mended frockcoat, a new waistcoat, and a pair of new shoes, while in his arms
he carried our pile of books. Next we all sat down to coffee (the day being Sunday) in Anna
Thedorovna’s parlour. The old man led off the meal by saying that Pushkin was a magnificent
poet. Thereafter, with a return to shamefacedness and confusion, he passed suddenly to the
statement that a man ought to conduct himself properly; that, should he not do so, it might betaken as a sign that he was in some way overindulging himself; and that evil tendencies of this
sort led to the man’s ruin and degradation. Then the orator sketched for our benefit some
terrible instances of such incontinence, and concluded by informing us that for some time past
he had been mending his own ways, and conducting himself in exemplary fashion, for the
reason that he had perceived the justice of his son’s precepts, and had laid them to heart so
well that he, the father, had really changed for the better: in proof whereof, he now begged to
present to the said son some books for which he had long been setting aside his savings.
As I listened to the old man I could not help laughing and crying in a breath. Certainly he
knew how to lie when the occasion required! The books were transferred to his son’s room,
and arranged upon a shelf, where Pokrovski at once guessed the truth about them. Then the
old man was invited to dinner and we all spent a merry day together at cards and forfeits.
Sasha was full of life, and I rivalled her, while Pokrovski paid me numerous attentions, and
kept seeking an occasion to speak to me alone. But to allow this to happen I refused. Yes,
taken all in all, it was the happiest day that I had known for four years.
But now only grievous, painful memories come to my recollection, for I must enter upon
the story of my darker experiences. It may be that that is why my pen begins to move more
slowly, and seems as though it were going altogether to refuse to write. The same reason
may account for my having undertaken so lovingly and enthusiastically a recounting of even
the smallest details of my younger, happier days. But alas! those days did not last long, and
were succeeded by a period of black sorrow which will close only God knows when!
My misfortunes began with the illness and death of Pokrovski, who was taken worse two
months after what I have last recorded in these memoirs. During those two months he worked
hard to procure himself a livelihood since hitherto he had had no assured position. Like all
consumptives, he never — not even up to his last moment — altogether abandoned the hope
of being able to enjoy a long life. A post as tutor fell in his way, but he had never liked the
profession; while for him to become a civil servant was out of the question, owing to his weak
state of health. Moreover, in the latter capacity he would have had to have waited a long time
for his first instalment of salary. Again, he always looked at the darker side of things, for his
character was gradually being warped, and his health undermined by his illness, though he
never noticed it. Then autumn came on, and daily he went out to business — that is to say, to
apply for and to canvass for posts — clad only in a light jacket; with the result that, after
repeated soakings with rain, he had to take to his bed, and never again left it. He died in
midautumn at the close of the month of October.
Throughout his illness I scarcely ever left his room, but waited on him hand and foot.
Often he could not sleep for several nights at a time. Often, too, he was unconscious, or else
in a delirium; and at such times he would talk of all sorts of things — of his work, of his books,
of his father, of myself. At such times I learned much which I had not hitherto known or
divined about his affairs. During the early part of his illness everyone in the house looked
askance at me, and Anna Thedorovna would nod her head in a meaning manner; but, I
always looked them straight in the face, and gradually they ceased to take any notice of my
concern for Pokrovski. At all events my mother ceased to trouble her head about it.
Sometimes Pokrovski would know who I was, but not often, for more usually he was
unconscious. Sometimes, too, he would talk all night with some unknown person, in dim,
mysterious language that caused his gasping voice to echo hoarsely through the narrow room
as through a sepulchre; and at such times, I found the situation a strange one. During his last
night he was especially lightheaded, for then he was in terrible agony, and kept rambling in his
speech until my soul was torn with pity. Everyone in the house was alarmed, and Anna
Thedorovna fell to praying that God might soon take him. When the doctor had been
summoned, the verdict was that the patient would die with the morning.
That night the elder Pokrovski spent in the corridor, at the door of his son’s room.
Though given a mattress to lie upon, he spent his time in running in and out of the apartment.So broken with grief was he that he presented a dreadful spectacle, and appeared to have
lost both perception and feeling. His head trembled with agony, and his body quivered from
head to foot as at times he murmured to himself something which he appeared to be
debating. Every moment I expected to see him go out of his mind. Just before dawn he
succumbed to the stress of mental agony, and fell asleep on his mattress like a man who has
been beaten; but by eight o’clock the son was at the point of death, and I ran to wake the
father. The dying man was quite conscious, and bid us all farewell. Somehow I could not
weep, though my heart seemed to be breaking.
The last moments were the most harassing and heartbreaking of all. For some time past
Pokrovski had been asking for something with his failing tongue, but I had been unable to
distinguish his words. Yet my heart had been bursting with grief. Then for an hour he had lain
quieter, except that he had looked sadly in my direction, and striven to make some sign with
his death-cold hands. At last he again essayed his piteous request in a hoarse, deep voice,
but the words issued in so many inarticulate sounds, and once more I failed to divine his
meaning. By turns I brought each member of the household to his bedside, and gave him
something to drink, but he only shook his head sorrowfully. Finally, I understood what it was
he wanted. He was asking me to draw aside the curtain from the window, and to open the
casements. Probably he wished to take his last look at the daylight and the sun and all God’s
world. I pulled back the curtain, but the opening day was as dull and mournful — looking as
though it had been the fast-flickering life of the poor invalid. Of sunshine there was none.
Clouds overlaid the sky as with a shroud of mist, and everything looked sad, rainy, and
threatening under a fine drizzle which was beating against the window-panes, and streaking
their dull, dark surfaces with runlets of cold, dirty moisture. Only a scanty modicum of daylight
entered to war with the trembling rays of the ikon lamp. The dying man threw me a wistful
look, and nodded. The next moment he had passed away.
The funeral was arranged for by Anna Thedorovna. A plain coffin was bought, and a
broken-down hearse hired; while, as security for this outlay, she seized the dead man’s books
and other articles. Nevertheless, the old man disputed the books with her, and, raising an
uproar, carried off as many of them as he could — stuffing his pockets full, and even filling his
hat. Indeed, he spent the next three days with them thus, and refused to let them leave his
sight even when it was time for him to go to church. Throughout he acted like a man bereft of
sense and memory. With quaint assiduity he busied himself about the bier — now
straightening the candlestick on the dead man’s breast, now snuffing and lighting the other
candles. Clearly his thoughts were powerless to remain long fixed on any subject. Neither my
mother nor Anna Thedorovna were present at the requiem, for the former was ill and the latter
was at loggerheads with the old man. Only myself and the father were there. During the
service a sort of panic, a sort of premonition of the future, came over me, and I could hardly
hold myself upright. At length the coffin had received its burden and was screwed down; after
which the bearers placed it upon a bier, and set out. I accompanied the cortege only to the
end of the street. Here the driver broke into a trot, and the old man started to run behind the
hearse — sobbing loudly, but with the motion of his running ever and anon causing the sobs
to quaver and become broken off. Next he lost his hat, the poor old fellow, yet would not stop
to pick it up, even though the rain was beating upon his head, and a wind was rising and the
sleet kept stinging and lashing his face. It seemed as though he were impervious to the cruel
elements as he ran from one side of the hearse to the other — the skirts of his old greatcoat
flapping about him like a pair of wings. From every pocket of the garment protruded books,
while in his hand he carried a specially large volume, which he hugged closely to his breast.
The passers-by uncovered their heads and crossed themselves as the cortege passed, and
some of them, having done so, remained staring in amazement at the poor old man. Every
now and then a book would slip from one of his pockets and fall into the mud; whereupon
somebody, stopping him, would direct his attention to his loss, and he would stop, pick up thebook, and again set off in pursuit of the hearse. At the corner of the street he was joined by a
ragged old woman; until at length the hearse turned a corner, and became hidden from my
eyes. Then I went home, and threw myself, in a transport of grief, upon my mother’s breast —
clasping her in my arms, kissing her amid a storm of sobs and tears, and clinging to her form
as though in my embraces I were holding my last friend on earth, that I might preserve her
from death. Yet already death was standing over her...
thJune 11

How I thank you for our walk to the Islands yesterday, Makar Alexievitch! How fresh and
pleasant, how full of verdure, was everything! And I had not seen anything green for such a
long time! During my illness I used to think that I should never get better, that I was certainly
going to die. Judge, then, how I felt yesterday! True, I may have seemed to you a little sad,
and you must not be angry with me for that. Happy and light-hearted though I was, there were
moments, even at the height of my felicity, when, for some unknown reason, depression
came sweeping over my soul. I kept weeping about trifles, yet could not say why I was
grieved. The truth is that I am unwell — so much so, that I look at everything from the gloomy
point of view. The pale, clear sky, the setting sun, the evening stillness — ah, somehow I felt
disposed to grieve and feel hurt at these things; my heart seemed to be over-charged, and to
be calling for tears to relieve it. But why should I write this to you? It is difficult for my heart to
express itself; still more difficult for it to forego self- expression. Yet possibly you may
understand me. Tears and laughter!... How good you are, Makar Alexievitch! Yesterday you
looked into my eyes as though you could read in them all that I was feeling — as though you
were rejoicing at my happiness. Whether it were a group of shrubs or an alleyway or a vista of
water that we were passing, you would halt before me, and stand gazing at my face as though
you were showing me possessions of your own. It told me how kind is your nature, and I love
you for it. Today I am again unwell, for yesterday I wetted my feet, and took a chill. Thedora
also is unwell; both of us are ailing. Do not forget me. Come and see me as often as you can.
Your own,

Barbara Alexievna.
thJune 12

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
I had supposed that you meant to describe our doings of the other day in verse; yet from
you there has arrived only a single sheet of writing. Nevertheless, I must say that, little though
you have put into your letter, that little is not expressed with rare beauty and grace. Nature,
your descriptions of rural scenes, your analysis of your own feelings- -the whole is beautifully
written. Alas, I have no such talent! Though I may fill a score of pages, nothing comes of it —
I might as well never have put pen to paper. Yes, this I know from experience.
You say, my darling, that I am kind and good, that I could not harm my fellow-men, that I
have power to comprehend the goodness of God (as expressed in nature’s handiwork), and
so on. It may all be so, my dearest one — it may all be exactly as you say. Indeed, I think that
you are right. But if so, the reason is that when one reads such a letter as you have just sent
me, one’s heart involuntarily softens, and affords entrance to thoughts of a graver and
weightier order. Listen, my darling; I have something to tell you, my beloved one.
I will begin from the time when I was seventeen years old and first entered the service —
though I shall soon have completed my thirtieth year of official activity. I may say that at first I
was much pleased with my new uniform; and, as I grew older, I grew in mind, and fell to
studying my fellow-men. Likewise I may say that I lived an upright life — so much so that at
last I incurred persecution. This you may not believe, but it is true. To think that men so cruel
should exist! For though, dearest one, I am dull and of no account, I have feelings like
everyone else. Consequently, would you believe it, Barbara, when I tell you what these cruel
fellows did to me? I feel ashamed to tell it you — and all because I was of a quiet, peaceful,
good-natured disposition!
Things began with “this or that, Makar Alexievitch, is your fault.” Then it went on to “I
need hardly say that the fault is wholly Makar Alexievitch’s.” Finally it became “OF COURSE
Makar Alexievitch is to blame.” Do you see the sequence of things, my darling? Every mistake
was attributed to me, until “Makar Alexievitch” became a byword in our department. Also,
while making of me a proverb, these fellows could not give me a smile or a civil word. They
found fault with my boots, with my uniform, with my hair, with my figure. None of these things
were to their taste: everything had to be changed. And so it has been from that day to this.
True, I have now grown used to it, for I can grow accustomed to anything (being, as you
know, a man of peaceable disposition, like all men of small stature) — yet why should these
things be? Whom have I harmed? Whom have I ever supplanted? Whom have I ever
traduced to his superiors? No, the fault is that more than once I have asked for an increase of
salary. But have I ever CABALLED for it? No, you would be wrong in thinking so, my dearest
one. HOW could I ever have done so? You yourself have had many opportunities of seeing
how incapable I am of deceit or chicanery.
Why then, should this have fallen to my lot?... However, since you think me worthy of
respect, my darling, I do not care, for you are far and away the best person in the world...
What do you consider to be the greatest social virtue? In private conversation Evstafi
Ivanovitch once told me that the greatest social virtue might be considered to be an ability to
get money to spend. Also, my comrades used jestingly (yes, I know only jestingly) to
propound the ethical maxim that a man ought never to let himself become a burden upon
anyone. Well, I am a burden upon no one. It is my own crust of bread that I eat; and though
that crust is but a poor one, and sometimes actually a maggoty one, it has at least been
EARNED, and therefore, is being put to a right and lawful use. What therefore, ought I to do?
I know that I can earn but little by my labours as a copyist; yet even of that little I am proud,for it has entailed WORK, and has wrung sweat from my brow. What harm is there in being a
copyist? “He is only an amanuensis,” people say of me. But what is there so disgraceful in
that? My writing is at least legible, neat, and pleasant to look upon — and his Excellency is
satisfied with it. Indeed, I transcribe many important documents. At the same time, I know
that my writing lacks STYLE, which is why I have never risen in the service. Even to you, my
dear one, I write simply and without tricks, but just as a thought may happen to enter my
head. Yes, I know all this; but if everyone were to become a fine writer, who would there be
left to act as copyists?... Whatsoever questions I may put to you in my letters, dearest, I pray
you to answer them. I am sure that you need me, that I can be of use to you; and, since that
is so, I must not allow myself to be distracted by any trifle. Even if I be likened to a rat, I do
not care, provided that that particular rat be wanted by you, and be of use in the world, and be
retained in its position, and receive its reward. But what a rat it is!
Enough of this, dearest one. I ought not to have spoken of it, but I lost my temper. Still, it
is pleasant to speak the truth sometimes. Goodbye, my own, my darling, my sweet little
comforter! I will come to you soon — yes, I will certainly come to you. Until I do so, do not fret
yourself. With me I shall be bringing a book. Once more goodbye.
Your heartfelt well-wisher,

Makar Dievushkin.
thJune 20

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
I am writing to you post-haste — I am hurrying my utmost to get my work finished in
time. What do you suppose is the reason for this? It is because an opportunity has occurred
for you to make a splendid purchase. Thedora tells me that a retired civil servant of her
acquaintance has a uniform to sell — one cut to regulation pattern and in good repair, as well
as likely to go very cheap. Now, DO not tell me that you have not got the money, for I know
from your own lips that you HAVE. Use that money, I pray you, and do not hoard it. See what
terrible garments you walk about in! They are shameful — they are patched all over! In fact,
you have nothing new whatever. That this is so, I know for certain, and I care not WHAT you
tell me about it. So listen to me for once, and buy this uniform. Do it for MY sake. Do it to
show that you really love me.
You have sent me some linen as a gift. But listen to me, Makar Alexievitch. You are
simply ruining yourself. Is it a jest that you should spend so much money, such a terrible
amount of money, upon me? How you love to play the spendthrift! I tell you that I do not need
it, that such expenditure is unnecessary. I know, I am CERTAIN, that you love me —
therefore, it is useless to remind me of the fact with gifts. Nor do I like receiving them, since I
know how much they must have cost you. No — put your money to a better use. I beg, I
beseech of you, to do so. Also, you ask me to send you a continuation of my memoirs — to
conclude them. But I know not how I contrived even to write as much of them as I did; and
now I have not the strength to write further of my past, nor the desire to give it a single
thought. Such recollections are terrible to me. Most difficult of all is it for me to speak of my
poor mother, who left her destitute daughter a prey to villains. My heart runs blood whenever I
think of it; it is so fresh in my memory that I cannot dismiss it from my thoughts, nor rest for
its insistence, although a year has now elapsed since the events took place. But all this you
Also, I have told you what Anna Thedorovna is now intending. She accuses me of
ingratitude, and denies the accusations made against herself with regard to Monsieur Bwikov.
Also, she keeps sending for me, and telling me that I have taken to evil courses, but that if I
will return to her, she will smooth over matters with Bwikov, and force him to confess his fault.
Also, she says that he desires to give me a dowry. Away with them all! I am quite happy here
with you and good Thedora, whose devotion to me reminds me of my old nurse, long since
dead. Distant kinsman though you may be, I pray you always to defend my honour. Other
people I do not wish to know, and would gladly forget if I could... What are they wanting with
me now? Thedora declares it all to be a trick, and says that in time they will leave me alone.
God grant it be so!

B. D.
stJune 21

My own, my darling
I wish to write to you, yet know not where to begin. Things are as strange as though we
were actually living together. Also I would add that never in my life have I passed such happy
days as I am spending at present. ‘Tis as though God had blessed me with a home and a
family of my own! Yes, you are my little daughter, beloved. But why mention the four sorry
roubles that I sent you? You needed them; I know that from Thedora herself, and it will always
be a particular pleasure to me to gratify you in anything. It will always be my one happiness in
life. Pray, therefore, leave me that happiness, and do not seek to cross me in it. Things are
not as you suppose. I have now reached the sunshine since, in the first place, I am living so
close to you as almost to be with you (which is a great consolation to my mind), while, in the
second place, a neighbour of mine named Rataziaev (the retired official who gives the literary
parties) has today invited me to tea. This evening, therefore, there will be a gathering at which
we shall discuss literature! Think of that my darling! Well, goodbye now. I have written this
without any definite aim in my mind, but solely to assure you of my welfare. Through Theresa
I have received your message that you need an embroidered cloak to wear, so I will go and
purchase one. Yes, tomorrow I mean to purchase that embroidered cloak, and so give myself
the pleasure of having satisfied one of your wants. I know where to go for such a garment.
For the time being I remain your sincere friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
ndJune 22

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

Makar Dievushkin.
thJune 25

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

B. D.
thJune 26

My dear little Barbara
To tell you the truth, I myself have not read the book of which you speak. That is to say,
though I began to read it, I soon saw that it was nonsense, and written only to make people
laugh. “However,” thought I, “it is at least a CHEERFUL work, and so may please Barbara.”
That is why I sent it you.
Rataziaev has now promised to give me something really literary to read; so you shall
soon have your book, my darling. He is a man who reflects; he is a clever fellow, as well as
himself a writer — such a writer! His pen glides along with ease, and in such a style (even
when he is writing the most ordinary, the most insignificant of articles) that I have often
remarked upon the fact, both to Phaldoni and to Theresa. Often, too, I go to spend an
evening with him. He reads aloud to us until five o’clock in the morning, and we listen to him. It
is a revelation of things rather than a reading. It is charming, it is like a bouquet of flowers —
there is a bouquet of flowers in every line of each page. Besides, he is such an approachable,
courteous, kind- hearted fellow! What am I compared with him? Why, nothing, simply nothing!
He is a man of reputation, whereas I — well, I do not exist at all. Yet he condescends to my
level. At this very moment I am copying out a document for him. But you must not think that
he finds any DIFFICULTY in condescending to me, who am only a copyist. No, you must not
believe the base gossip that you may hear. I do copying work for him simply in order to please
myself, as well as that he may notice me — a thing that always gives me pleasure. I
appreciate the delicacy of his position. He is a good — a very good — man, and an
unapproachable writer.
What a splendid thing is literature, Barbara — what a splendid thing! This I learnt before I
had known Rataziaev even for three days. It strengthens and instructs the heart of man... No
matter what there be in the world, you will find it all written down in Rataziaev’s works. And so
well written down, too! Literature is a sort of picture — a sort of picture or mirror. It connotes
at once passion, expression, fine criticism, good learning, and a document. Yes, I have
learned this from Rataziaev himself. I can assure you, Barbara, that if only you could be sitting
among us, and listening to the talk (while, with the rest of us, you smoked a pipe), and were to
hear those present begin to argue and dispute concerning different matters, you would feel of
as little account among them as I do; for I myself figure there only as a blockhead, and feel
ashamed, since it takes me a whole evening to think of a single word to interpolate — and
even then the word will not come! In a case like that a man regrets that, as the proverb has it,
he should have reached man’s estate but not man’s understanding... What do I do in my
spare time? I sleep like a fool, though I would far rather be occupied with something else —
say, with eating or writing, since the one is useful to oneself, and the other is beneficial to
one’s fellows. You should see how much money these fellows contrive to save! How much, for
instance, does not Rataziaev lay by? A few days’ writing, I am told, can earn him as much as
three hundred roubles! Indeed, if a man be a writer of short stories or anything else that is
interesting, he can sometimes pocket five hundred roubles, or a thousand, at a time! Think of
it, Barbara! Rataziaev has by him a small manuscript of verses, and for it he is asking — what
do you think? Seven thousand roubles! Why, one could buy a whole house for that sum! He
has even refused five thousand for a manuscript, and on that occasion I reasoned with him,
and advised him to accept the five thousand. But it was of no use. “For,” said he, “they will
soon offer me seven thousand,” and kept to his point, for he is a man of some determination.
Suppose, now, that I were to give you an extract from “Passion in Italy” (as another work
of his is called). Read this, dearest Barbara, and judge for yourself:“Vladimir started, for in his veins the lust of passion had welled until it had reached boiling
“‘Countess,’ he cried, ‘do you know how terrible is this adoration of mine, how infinite this
madness? No! My fancies have not deceived me — I love you ecstatically, diabolically, as a
madman might! All the blood that is in your husband’s body could never quench the furious,
surging rapture that is in my soul! No puny obstacle could thwart the all-destroying, infernal
flame which is eating into my exhausted breast! 0h Zinaida, my Zinaida!’
“‘Vladimir!’ she whispered, almost beside herself, as she sank upon his bosom.
“‘My Zinaida!’ cried the enraptured Smileski once more.
“His breath was coming in sharp, broken pants. The lamp of love was burning brightly on
the altar of passion, and searing the hearts of the two unfortunate sufferers.
“‘Vladimir!’ again she whispered in her intoxication, while her bosom heaved, her cheeks
glowed, and her eyes flashed fire.
“Thus was a new and dread union consummated.
“Half an hour later the aged Count entered his wife’s boudoir.
“‘How now, my love?’ said he. ‘Surely it is for some welcome guest beyond the common
that you have had the samovar [Tea-urn.] thus prepared?’ And he smote her lightly on the
What think you of THAT, Barbara? True, it is a little too outspoken — there can be no
doubt of that; yet how grand it is, how splendid! With your permission I will also quote you an
extract from Rataziaev’s story, Ermak and Zuleika:
“‘You love me, Zuleika? Say again that you love me, you love me!’
“‘I DO love you, Ermak,’ whispered Zuleika.
“‘Then by heaven and earth I thank you! By heaven and earth you have made me happy!
You have given me all, all that my tortured soul has for immemorial years been seeking! ‘Tis
for this that you have led me hither, my guiding star — ‘tis for this that you have conducted
me to the Girdle of Stone! To all the world will I now show my Zuleika, and no man, demon or
monster of Hell, shall bid me nay! Oh, if men would but understand the mysterious passions
of her tender heart, and see the poem which lurks in each of her little tears! Suffer me to dry
those tears with my kisses! Suffer me to drink of those heavenly drops, 0h being who art not
of this earth!’
“‘Ermak,’ said Zuleika, ‘the world is cruel, and men are unjust. But LET them drive us
from their midst — let them judge us, my beloved Ermak! What has a poor maiden who was
reared amid the snows of Siberia to do with their cold, icy, self-sufficient world? Men cannot
understand me, my darling, my sweetheart.’
“‘Is that so? Then shall the sword of the Cossacks sing and whistle over their heads!’
cried Ermak with a furious look in his eyes.”
What must Ermak have felt when he learnt that his Zuleika had been murdered,
Barbara? — that, taking advantages of the cover of night, the blind old Kouchoum had, in
Ermak’s absence, broken into the latter’s tent, and stabbed his own daughter in mistake for
the man who had robbed him of sceptre and crown?
“‘Oh that I had a stone whereon to whet my sword!’ cried Ermak in the madness of his
wrath as he strove to sharpen his steel blade upon the enchanted rock. ‘I would have his
blood, his blood! I would tear him limb from limb, the villain!’”
Then Ermak, unable to survive the loss of his Zuleika, throws himself into the Irtisch, and
the tale comes to an end.
Here, again, is another short extract — this time written in a more comical vein, to make
people laugh:
“Do you know Ivan Prokofievitch Zheltopuzh? He is the man who took a piece out of
Prokofi Ivanovitch’s leg. Ivan’s character is one of the rugged order, and therefore, one that is
rather lacking in virtue. Yet he has a passionate relish for radishes and honey. Once he alsopossessed a friend named Pelagea Antonovna. Do you know Pelagea Antonovna? She is the
woman who always puts on her petticoat wrong side outwards.”
What humour, Barbara — what purest humour! We rocked with laughter when he read it
aloud to us. Yes, that is the kind of man he is. Possibly the passage is a trifle over-frolicsome,
but at least it is harmless, and contains no freethought or liberal ideas. In passing, I may say
that Rataziaev is not only a supreme writer, but also a man of upright life — which is more
than can be said for most writers.
What, do you think, is an idea that sometimes enters my head? In fact, what if I myself
were to write something? How if suddenly a book were to make its appearance in the world
bearing the title of “The Poetical Works of Makar Dievushkin”? What THEN, my angel? How
should you view, should you receive, such an event? I may say of myself that never, after my
book had appeared, should I have the hardihood to show my face on the Nevski Prospect; for
would it not be too dreadful to hear every one saying, “Here comes the literateur and poet,
Dievushkin — yes, it is Dievushkin himself”? What, in such a case, should I do with my feet
(for I may tell you that almost always my shoes are patched, or have just been resoled, and
therefore look anything but becoming)? To think that the great writer Dievushkin should walk
about in patched footgear! If a duchess or a countess should recognise me, what would she
say, poor woman? Perhaps, though, she would not notice my shoes at all, since it may
reasonably be supposed that countesses do not greatly occupy themselves with footgear,
especially with the footgear of civil service officials (footgear may differ from footgear, it must
be remembered). Besides, I should find that the countess had heard all about me, for my
friends would have betrayed me to her — Rataziaev among the first of them, seeing that he
often goes to visit Countess V., and practically lives at her house. She is said to be a woman
of great intellect and wit. An artful dog, that Rataziaev!
But enough of this. I write this sort of thing both to amuse myself and to divert your
thoughts. Goodbye now, my angel. This is a long epistle that I am sending you, but the reason
is that today I feel in good spirits after dining at Rataziaev’s. There I came across a novel
which I hardly know how to describe to you. Do not think the worse of me on that account,
even though I bring you another book instead (for I certainly mean to bring one). The novel in
question was one of Paul de Kock’s, and not a novel for you to read. No, no! Such a work is
unfit for your eyes. In fact, it is said to have greatly offended the critics of St. Petersburg.
Also, I am sending you a pound of bonbons — bought specially for yourself. Each time that
you eat one, beloved, remember the sender. Only, do not bite the iced ones, but suck them
gently, lest they make your teeth ache. Perhaps, too, you like comfits? Well, write and tell me
if it is so. Goodbye, goodbye. Christ watch over you, my darling!
Always your faithful friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
thJune 27

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
Thedora tells me that, should I wish, there are some people who will be glad to help me
by obtaining me an excellent post as governess in a certain house. What think you, my friend?
Shall I go or not? Of course, I should then cease to be a burden to you, and the post appears
to be a comfortable one. On the other hand, the idea of entering a strange house appals me.
The people in it are landed gentry, and they will begin to ask me questions, and to busy
themselves about me. What answers shall I then return? You see, I am now so unused to
society — so shy! I like to live in a corner to which I have long grown used. Yes, the place with
which one is familiar is always the best. Even if for companion one has but sorrow, that place
will still be the best... God alone knows what duties the post will entail. Perhaps I shall merely
be required to act as nursemaid; and in any case, I hear that the governess there has been
changed three times in two years. For God’s sake, Makar Alexievitch, advise me whether to
go or not. Why do you never come near me now? Do let my eyes have an occasional sight of
you. Mass on Sundays is almost the only time when we see one another. How retiring you
have become! So also have I, even though, in a way, I am your kinswoman. You must have
ceased to love me, Makar Alexievitch. I spend many a weary hour because of it. Sometimes,
when dusk is falling, I find myself lonely — oh, so lonely! Thedora has gone out somewhere,
and I sit here and think, and think, and think. I remember all the past, its joys and its sorrows.
It passes before my eyes in detail, it glimmers at me as out of a mist; and as it does so,
wellknown faces appear, which seem actually to be present with me in this room! Most frequently
of all, I see my mother. Ah, the dreams that come to me! I feel that my health is breaking, so
weak am I. When this morning I arose, sickness took me until I vomited and vomited. Yes, I
feel, I know, that death is approaching. Who will bury me when it has come? Who will visit my
tomb? Who will sorrow for me? And now it is in a strange place, in the house of a stranger,
that I may have to die! Yes, in a corner which I do not know!... My God, how sad a thing is
life!... Why do you send me comfits to eat? Whence do you get the money to buy them? Ah,
for God’s sake keep the money, keep the money. Thedora has sold a carpet which I have
made. She got fifty roubles for it, which is very good — I had expected less. Of the fifty
roubles I shall give Thedora three, and with the remainder make myself a plain, warm dress.
Also, I am going to make you a waistcoat — to make it myself, and out of good material.
Also, Thedora has brought me a book — “The Stories of Bielkin” — which I will forward
you, if you would care to read it. Only, do not soil it, nor yet retain it, for it does not belong to
me. It is by Pushkin. Two years ago I read these stories with my mother, and it would hurt me
to read them again. If you yourself have any books, pray let me have them — so long as they
have not been obtained from Rataziaev. Probably he will be giving you one of his own works
when he has had one printed. How is it that his compositions please you so much, Makar
Alexievitch? I think them SUCH rubbish!
— Now goodbye. How I have been chattering on! When feeling sad, I always like to talk
of something, for it acts upon me like medicine — I begin to feel easier as soon as I have
uttered what is preying upon my heart. Good bye, good-bye, my friend — Your own

B. D.
thJune 28

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
Away with melancholy! Really, beloved, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! How can
you allow such thoughts to enter your head? Really and truly you are quite well; really and
truly you are, my darling. Why, you are blooming — simply blooming. True, I see a certain
touch of pallor in your face, but still you are blooming. A fig for dreams and visions! Yes, for
shame, dearest! Drive away those fancies; try to despise them. Why do I sleep so well? Why
am I never ailing? Look at ME, beloved. I live well, I sleep peacefully, I retain my health, I can
ruffle it with my juniors. In fact, it is a pleasure to see me. Come, come, then, sweetheart! Let
us have no more of this. I know that that little head of yours is capable of any fancy — that all
too easily you take to dreaming and repining; but for my sake, cease to do so.
Are you to go to these people, you ask me? Never! No, no, again no! How could you
think of doing such a thing as taking a journey? I will not allow it — I intend to combat your
intention with all my might. I will sell my frockcoat, and walk the streets in my shirt sleeves,
rather than let you be in want. But no, Barbara. I know you, I know you. This is merely a trick,
merely a trick. And probably Thedora alone is to blame for it. She appears to be a foolish old
woman, and to be able to persuade you to do anything. Do not believe her, my dearest. I am
sure that you know what is what, as well as SHE does. Eh, sweetheart? She is a stupid,
quarrelsome, rubbish-talking old woman who brought her late husband to the grave. Probably
she has been plaguing you as much as she did him. No, no, dearest; you must not take this
step. What should I do then? What would there be left for ME to do? Pray put the idea out of
your head. What is it you lack here? I cannot feel sufficiently overjoyed to be near you, while,
for your part, you love me well, and can live your life here as quietly as you wish. Read or
sew, whichever you like — or read and do not sew. Only, do not desert me. Try, yourself, to
imagine how things would seem after you had gone. Here am I sending you books, and later
we will go for a walk. Come, come, then, my Barbara! Summon to your aid your reason, and
cease to babble of trifles.
As soon as I can I will come and see you, and then you shall tell me the whole story. This
will not do, sweetheart; this certainly will not do. Of course, I know that I am not an educated
man, and have received but a sorry schooling, and have had no inclination for it, and think too
much of Rataziaev, if you will; but he is my friend, and therefore, I must put in a word or two
for him. Yes, he is a splendid writer. Again and again I assert that he writes magnificently. I do
not agree with you about his works, and never shall. He writes too ornately, too laconically,
with too great a wealth of imagery and imagination. Perhaps you have read him without
insight, Barbara? Or perhaps you were out of spirits at the time, or angry with Thedora about
something, or worried about some mischance? Ah, but you should read him sympathetically,
and, best of all, at a time when you are feeling happy and contented and pleasantly disposed
— for instance, when you have a bonbon or two in your mouth. Yes, that is the way to read
Rataziaev. I do not dispute (indeed, who would do so?) that better writers than he exist —
even far better; but they are good, and he is good too — they write well, and he writes well. It
is chiefly for his own sake that he writes, and he is to be approved for so doing.
Now goodbye, dearest. More I cannot write, for I must hurry away to business. Be of
good cheer, and the Lord God watch over you!
Your faithful friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
P.S. — Thank you so much for the book, darling! I will read it through, this volume of
Pushkin, and tonight come to you.
thJune 28

My dear Makar Alexievitch
No, no, my friend, I must not go on living near you. I have been thinking the matter over,
and come to the conclusion that I should be doing very wrong to refuse so good a post. I
should at least have an assured crust of bread; I might at least set to work to earn my
employers’ favour, and even try to change my character if required to do so. Of course it is a
sad and sorry thing to have to live among strangers, and to be forced to seek their patronage,
and to conceal and constrain one’s own personality — but God will help me. I must not remain
forever a recluse, for similar chances have come my way before. I remember how, when a
little girl at school, I used to go home on Sundays and spend the time in frisking and dancing
about. Sometimes my mother would chide me for so doing, but I did not care, for my heart
was too joyous, and my spirits too buoyant, for that. Yet as the evening of Sunday came on, a
sadness as of death would overtake me, for at nine o’clock I had to return to school, where
everything was cold and strange and severe — where the governesses, on Mondays, lost
their tempers, and nipped my ears, and made me cry. On such occasions I would retire to a
corner and weep alone; concealing my tears lest I should be called lazy. Yet it was not
because I had to study that I used to weep, and in time I grew more used to things, and, after
my schooldays were over, shed tears only when I was parting with friends...
It is not right for me to live in dependence upon you. The thought tortures me. I tell you
this frankly, for the reason that frankness with you has become a habit. Cannot I see that
daily, at earliest dawn, Thedora rises to do washing and scrubbing, and remains working at it
until late at night, even though her poor old bones must be aching for want of rest? Cannot I
also see that YOU are ruining yourself for me, and hoarding your last kopeck that you may
spend it on my behalf? You ought not so to act, my friend, even though you write that you
would rather sell your all than let me want for anything. I believe in you, my friend — I entirely
believe in your good heart; but, you say that to me now (when, perhaps, you have received
some unexpected sum or gratuity) and there is still the future to be thought of. You yourself
know that I am always ailing — that I cannot work as you do, glad though I should be of any
work if I could get it; so what else is there for me to do? To sit and repine as I watch you and
Thedora? But how would that be of any use to you? AM I necessary to you, comrade of
mine? HAVE I ever done you any good? Though I am bound to you with my whole soul, and
love you dearly and strongly and wholeheartedly, a bitter fate has ordained that that love
should be all that I have to give — that I should be unable, by creating for you subsistence, to
repay you for all your kindness. Do not, therefore, detain me longer, but think the matter out,
and give me your opinion on it. In expectation of which I remain your sweetheart,

B. D.
stJuly 1

Rubbish, rubbish, Barbara! — What you say is sheer rubbish. Stay here, rather, and put
such thoughts out of your head. None of what you suppose is true. I can see for myself that it
is not. Whatsoever you lack here, you have but to ask me for it. Here you love and are loved,
and we might easily be happy and contented together. What could you want more? What
have you to do with strangers? You cannot possibly know what strangers are like. I know it,
though, and could have told you if you had asked me. There is a stranger whom I know, and
whose bread I have eaten. He is a cruel man, Barbara — a man so bad that he would be
unworthy of your little heart, and would soon tear it to pieces with his railings and reproaches
and black looks. On the other hand, you are safe and well here — you are as safe as though
you were sheltered in a nest. Besides, you would, as it were, leave me with my head gone.
For what should I have to do when you were gone? What could I, an old man, find to do? Are
you not necessary to me? Are you not useful to me? Eh? Surely you do not think that you are
not useful? You are of great use to me, Barbara, for you exercise a beneficial influence upon
my life. Even at this moment, as I think of you, I feel cheered, for always I can write letters to
you, and put into them what I am feeling, and receive from you detailed answers... I have
bought you a wardrobe, and also procured you a bonnet; so you see that you have only to
give me a commission for it to be executed... No — in what way are you not useful? What
should I do if I were deserted in my old age? What would become of me? Perhaps you never
thought of that, Barbara — perhaps you never said to yourself, “How could HE get on without
me?” You see, I have grown so accustomed to you. What else would it end in, if you were to
go away? Why, in my hiking to the Neva’s bank and doing away with myself. Ah, Barbara,
darling, I can see that you want me to be taken away to the Volkovo Cemetery in a
brokendown old hearse, with some poor outcast of the streets to accompany my coffin as chief
mourner, and the gravediggers to heap my body with clay, and depart and leave me there.
How wrong of you, how wrong of you, my beloved! Yes, by heavens, how wrong of you! I am
returning you your book, little friend; and,if you were to ask of me my opinion of it, I should
say that never before in my life had I read a book so splendid. I keep wondering how I have
hitherto contrived to remain such an owl. For what have I ever done? From what wilds did I
spring into existence? I KNOW nothing — I know simply NOTHING. My ignorance is
complete. Frankly, I am not an educated man, for until now I have read scarcely a single book
— only “A Portrait of Man” (a clever enough work in its way), “The Boy Who Could Play Many
Tunes Upon Bells”, and “Ivik’s Storks”. That is all. But now I have also read “The Station
Overseer” in your little volume; and it is wonderful to think that one may live and yet be
ignorant of the fact that under one’s very nose there may be a book in which one’s whole life
is described as in a picture. Never should I have guessed that, as soon as ever one begins to
read such a book, it sets one on both to remember and to consider and to foretell events.
Another reason why I liked this book so much is that, though, in the case of other works
(however clever they be), one may read them, yet remember not a word of them (for I am a
man naturally dull of comprehension, and unable to read works of any great importance) —
although, as I say, one may read such works, one reads such a book as YOURS as easily as
though it had been written by oneself, and had taken possession of one’s heart, and turned it
inside out for inspection, and were describing it in detail as a matter of perfect simplicity. Why,
I might almost have written the book myself! Why not, indeed? I can feel just as the people in
the book do, and find myself in positions precisely similar to those of, say, the character
Samson Virin. In fact, how many good-hearted wretches like Virin are there not walking about
amongst us? How easily, too, it is all described! I assure you, my darling, that I almost shedtears when I read that Virin so took to drink as to lose his memory, become morose, and
spend whole days over his liquor; as also that he choked with grief and wept bitterly when,
rubbing his eyes with his dirty hand, he bethought him of his wandering lamb, his daughter
Dunasha! How natural, how natural! You should read the book for yourself. The thing is
actually alive. Even I can see that; even I can realise that it is a picture cut from the very life
around me. In it I see our own Theresa (to go no further) and the poor Tchinovnik — who is
just such a man as this Samson Virin, except for his surname of Gorshkov. The book
describes just what might happen to ourselves — to myself in particular. Even a count who
lives in the Nevski Prospect or in Naberezhnaia Street might have a similar experience,
though he might APPEAR to be different, owing to the fact that his life is cast on a higher
plane. Yes, just the same things might happen to him — just the same things... Here you are
wishing to go away and leave us; yet, be careful lest it would not be I who had to pay the
penalty of your doing so. For you might ruin both yourself and me. For the love of God, put
away these thoughts from you, my darling, and do not torture me in vain. How could you, my
poor little unfledged nestling, find yourself food, and defend yourself from misfortune, and
ward off the wiles of evil men? Think better of it, Barbara, and pay no more heed to foolish
advice and calumny, but read your book again, and read it with attention. It may do you much
I have spoken of Rataziaev’s “The Station Overseer”. However, the author has told me
that the work is old-fashioned, since, nowadays, books are issued with illustrations and
embellishments of different sorts (though I could not make out all that he said). Pushkin he
adjudges a splendid poet, and one who has done honour to Holy Russia. Read your book
again, Barbara, and follow my advice, and make an old man happy. The Lord God Himself will
reward you. Yes, He will surely reward you.
Your faithful friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
stJuly 1

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
Today Thedora came to me with fifteen roubles in silver. How glad was the poor woman
when I gave her three of them! I am writing to you in great haste, for I am busy cutting out a
waistcoat to send to you — buff, with a pattern of flowers. Also I am sending you a book of
stories; some of which I have read myself, particularly one called “The Cloak.”... You invite me
to go to the theatre with you. But will it not cost too much? Of course we might sit in the
gallery. It is a long time (indeed I cannot remember when I last did so) since I visited a
theatre! Yet I cannot help fearing that such an amusement is beyond our means. Thedora
keeps nodding her head, and saying that you have taken to living above your income. I myself
divine the same thing by the amount which you have spent upon me. Take care, dear friend,
that misfortune does not come of it, for Thedora has also informed me of certain rumours
concerning your inability to meet your landlady’s bills. In fact, I am very anxious about you.
Now, goodbye, for I must hasten away to see about another matter — about the changing of
the ribands on my bonnet.
P.S. — Do you know, if we go to the theatre, I think that I shall wear my new hat and
black mantilla. Will that not look nice?
thJuly 7

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
So much for yesterday! Yes, dearest, we have both been caught playing the fool, for I
have become thoroughly bitten with the actress of whom I spoke. Last night I listened to her
with all my ears, although, strangely enough, it was practically my first sight of her, seeing that
only once before had I been to the theatre. In those days I lived cheek by jowl with a party of
five young men — a most noisy crew- and one night I accompanied them, willy-nilly, to the
theatre, though I held myself decently aloof from their doings, and only assisted them for
company’s sake. How those fellows talked to me of this actress! Every night when the theatre
was open, the entire band of them (they always seemed to possess the requisite money)
would betake themselves to that place of entertainment, where they ascended to the gallery,
and clapped their hands, and repeatedly recalled the actress in question. In fact, they went
simply mad over her. Even after we had returned home they would give me no rest, but would
go on talking about her all night, and calling her their Glasha, and declaring themselves to be
in love with “the canary-bird of their hearts.” My defenseless self, too, they would plague
about the woman, for I was as young as they. What a figure I must have cut with them on the
fourth tier of the gallery! Yet, I never got a sight of more than just a corner of the curtain, but
had to content myself with listening. She had a fine, resounding, mellow voice like a
nightingale’s, and we all of us used to clap our hands loudly, and to shout at the top of our
lungs. In short, we came very near to being ejected. On the first occasion I went home
walking as in a mist, with a single rouble left in my pocket, and an interval of ten clear days
confronting me before next pay-day. Yet, what think you, dearest? The very next day, before
going to work, I called at a French perfumer’s, and spent my whole remaining capital on some
eau-de- Cologne and scented soap! Why I did so I do not know. Nor did I dine at home that
day, but kept walking and walking past her windows (she lived in a fourth-storey flat on the
Nevski Prospect). At length I returned to my own lodging, but only to rest a short hour before
again setting off to the Nevski Prospect and resuming my vigil before her windows. For a
month and a half I kept this up — dangling in her train. Sometimes I would hire cabs, and
discharge them in view of her abode; until at length I had entirely ruined myself, and got into
debt. Then I fell out of love with her — I grew weary of the pursuit... You see, therefore, to
what depths an actress can reduce a decent man. In those days I was young. Yes, in those
days I was VERY young.

M. D.
thJuly 8

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
The book which I received from you on the 6th of this month I now hasten to return,
while at the same time hastening also to explain matters to you in this accompanying letter.
What a misfortune, my beloved, that you should have brought me to such a pass! Our lots in
life are apportioned by the Almighty according to our human deserts. To such a one He
assigns a life in a general’s epaulets or as a privy councillor — to such a one, I say, He
assigns a life of command; whereas to another one, He allots only a life of unmurmuring toil
and suffering. These things are calculated according to a man’s CAPACITY. One man may be
capable of one thing, and another of another, and their several capacities are ordered by the
Lord God himself. I have now been thirty years in the public service, and have fulfilled my
duties irreproachably, remained abstemious, and never been detected in any unbecoming
behaviour. As a citizen, I may confess — I confess it freely — I have been guilty of certain
shortcomings; yet those shortcomings have been combined with certain virtues. I am
respected by my superiors, and even his Excellency has had no fault to find with me; and
though I have never been shown any special marks of favour, I know that every one finds me
at least satisfactory. Also, my writing is sufficiently legible and clear. Neither too rounded nor
too fine, it is a running hand, yet always suitable. Of our staff only Ivan Prokofievitch writes a
similar hand. Thus have I lived till the grey hairs of my old age; yet I can think of no serious
fault committed. Of course, no one is free from MINOR faults. Everyone has some of them,
and you among the rest, my beloved. But in grave or in audacious offences never have I been
detected, nor in infringements of regulations, nor in breaches of the public peace. No, never!
This you surely know, even as the author of your book must have known it. Yes, he also must
have known it when he sat down to write. I had not expected this of you, my Barbara. I should
never have expected it.
What? In future I am not to go on living peacefully in my little corner, poor though that
corner be I am not to go on living, as the proverb has it, without muddying the water, or
hurting any one, or forgetting the fear of the Lord God and of oneself? I am not to see,
forsooth, that no man does me an injury, or breaks into my home — I am not to take care that
all shall go well with me, or that I have clothes to wear, or that my shoes do not require
mending, or that I be given work to do, or that I possess sufficient meat and drink? Is it
nothing that, where the pavement is rotten, I have to walk on tiptoe to save my boots? If I
write to you overmuch concerning myself, is it concerning ANOTHER man, rather, that I ought
to write — concerning HIS wants, concerning HIS lack of tea to drink (and all the world needs
tea)? Has it ever been my custom to pry into other men’s mouths, to see what is being put
into them? Have I ever been known to offend any one in that respect? No, no, beloved! Why
should I desire to insult other folks when they are not molesting ME? Let me give you an
example of what I mean. A man may go on slaving and slaving in the public service, and earn
the respect of his superiors (for what it is worth), and then, for no visible reason at all, find
himself made a fool of. Of course he may break out now and then (I am not now referring only
to drunkenness), and (for example) buy himself a new pair of shoes, and take pleasure in
seeing his feet looking well and smartly shod. Yes, I myself have known what it is to feel like
that (I write this in good faith). Yet I am nonetheless astonished that Thedor Thedorovitch
should neglect what is being said about him, and take no steps to defend himself. True, he is
only a subordinate official, and sometimes loves to rate and scold; yet why should he not do
so — why should he not indulge in a little vituperation when he feels like it? Suppose it to be
NECESSARY, for FORM’S sake, to scold, and to set everyone right, and to shower aroundabuse (for, between ourselves, Barbara, our friend cannot get on WITHOUT abuse — so
much so that every one humours him, and does things behind his back)? Well, since officials
differ in rank, and every official demands that he shall be allowed to abuse his fellow officials
in proportion to his rank, it follows that the TONE also of official abuse should become divided
into ranks, and thus accord with the natural order of things. All the world is built upon the
system that each one of us shall have to yield precedence to some other one, as well as to
enjoy a certain power of abusing his fellows. Without such a provision the world could not get
on at all, and simple chaos would ensue. Yet I am surprised that our Thedor should continue
to overlook insults of the kind that he endures.
Why do I do my official work at all? Why is that necessary? Will my doing of it lead
anyone who reads it to give me a greatcoat, or to buy me a new pair of shoes? No, Barbara.
Men only read the documents, and then require me to write more. Sometimes a man will hide
himself away, and not show his face abroad, for the mere reason that, though he has done
nothing to be ashamed of, he dreads the gossip and slandering which are everywhere to be
encountered. If his civic and family life have to do with literature, everything will be printed and
read and laughed over and discussed; until at length, he hardly dare show his face in the
street at all, seeing that he will have been described by report as recognisable through his gait
alone! Then, when he has amended his ways, and grown gentler (even though he still
continues to be loaded with official work), he will come to be accounted a virtuous, decent
citizen who has deserved well of his comrades, rendered obedience to his superiors, wished
noone any evil, preserved the fear of God in his heart, and died lamented. Yet would it not be
better, instead of letting the poor fellow die, to give him a cloak while yet he is ALIVE — to
give it to this same Thedor Thedorovitch (that is to say, to myself)? Yes, ‘twere far better if,
on hearing the tale of his subordinate’s virtues, the chief of the department were to call the
deserving man into his office, and then and there to promote him, and to grant him an
increase of salary. Thus vice would be punished, virtue would prevail, and the staff of that
department would live in peace together. Here we have an example from everyday,
commonplace life. How, therefore, could you bring yourself to send me that book, my
beloved? It is a badly conceived work, Barbara, and also unreal, for the reason that in creation
such a Tchinovnik does not exist. No, again I protest against it, little Barbara; again I protest.
— Your most humble, devoted servant,

M. D.
thJuly 27

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
Your latest conduct and letters had frightened me, and left me thunderstruck and
plunged in doubt, until what you have said about Thedor explained the situation. Why despair
and go into such frenzies, Makar Alexievitch? Your explanations only partially satisfy me.
Perhaps I did wrong to insist upon accepting a good situation when it was offered me, seeing
that from my last experience in that way I derived a shock which was anything but a matter for
jesting. You say also that your love for me has compelled you to hide yourself in retirement.
Now, how much I am indebted to you I realised when you told me that you were spending for
my benefit the sum which you are always reported to have laid by at your bankers; but, now
that I have learned that you never possessed such a fund, but that, on hearing of my destitute
plight, and being moved by it, you decided to spend upon me the whole of your salary — even
to forestall it — and when I had fallen ill, actually to sell your clothes — when I learnED all this
I found myself placed in the harassing position of not knowing how to accept it all, nor what to
think of it. Ah, Makar Alexievitch! You ought to have stopped at your first acts of charity —
acts inspired by sympathy and the love of kinsfolk, rather than have continued to squander
your means upon what was unnecessary. Yes, you have betrayed our friendship, Makar
Alexievitch, in that you have not been open with me; and, now that I see that your last coin
has been spent upon dresses and bon-bons and excursions and books and visits to the
theatre for me, I weep bitter tears for my unpardonable improvidence in having accepted
these things without giving so much as a thought to your welfare. Yes, all that you have done
to give me pleasure has become converted into a source of grief, and left behind it only
useless regret. Of late I have remarked that you were looking depressed; and though I felt
fearful that something unfortunate was impending, what has happened would otherwise never
have entered my head. To think that your better sense should so play you false, Makar
Alexievitch! What will people think of you, and say of you? Who will want to know you? You
whom, like everyone else, I have valued for your goodness of heart and modesty and good
sense — YOU, I say, have now given way to an unpleasant vice of which you seem never
before to have been guilty. What were my feelings when Thedora informed me that you had
been discovered drunk in the street, and taken home by the police? Why, I felt petrified with
astonishment — although, in view of the fact that you had failed me for four days, I had been
expecting some such extraordinary occurrence. Also, have you thought what your superiors
will say of you when they come to learn the true reason of your absence? You say that
everyone is laughing at you, that every one has learnED of the bond which exists between us,
and that your neighbours habitually refer to me with a sneer. Pay no attention to this, Makar
Alexievitch; for the love of God, be comforted. Also, the incident between you and the officers
has much alarmed me, although I had heard certain rumours concerning it. Pray explain to
me what it means. You write, too, that you have been afraid to be open with me, for the
reason that your confessions might lose you my friendship. Also, you say that you are in
despair at the thought of being unable to help me in my illness, owing to the fact that you have
sold everything which might have maintained me, and preserved me in sickness, as well as
that you have borrowed as much as it is possible for you to borrow, and are daily experiencing
unpleasantness with your landlady. Well, in failing to reveal all this to me you chose the worse
course. Now, however, I know all. You have forced me to recognise that I have been the
cause of your unhappy plight, as well as that my own conduct has brought upon myself a
twofold measure of sorrow. The fact leaves me thunderstruck, Makar Alexievitch. Ah, friend,
an infectious disease is indeed a misfortune, for now we poor and miserable folk mustperforce keep apart from one another, lest the infection be increased. Yes, I have brought
upon you calamities which never before in your humble, solitary life you had experienced. This
tortures and exhausts me more than I can tell to think of.
Write to me quite frankly. Tell me how you came to embark upon such a course of
conduct. Comfort, oh, comfort me if you can. It is not self-love that prompts me to speak of
my own comforting, but my friendship and love for you, which will never fade from my heart.
Goodbye. I await your answer with impatience. You have thought but poorly of me, Makar
Your friend and lover,

Barbara Dobroselova.
thJuly 28

My priceless Barbara Alexievna
What am I to say to you, now that all is over, and we are gradually returning to our old
position? You say that you are anxious as to what will be thought of me. Let me tell you that
the dearest thing in life to me is my self-respect; wherefore, in informing you of my
misfortunes and misconduct, I would add that none of my superiors know of my doings, nor
ever will know of them, and that therefore, I still enjoy a measure of respect in that quarter.
Only one thing do I fear — I fear gossip. Garrulous though my landlady be, she said but little
when, with the aid of your ten roubles, I today paid her part of her account; and as for the rest
of my companions, they do not matter at all. So long as I have not borrowed money from
them, I need pay them no attention. To conclude my explanations, let me tell you that I value
your respect for me above everything in the world, and have found it my greatest comfort
during this temporary distress of mine. Thank God, the first shock of things has abated, now
that you have agreed not to look upon me as faithless and an egotist simply because I have
deceived you. I wish to hold you to myself, for the reason that I cannot bear to part with you,
and love you as my guardian angel... I have now returned to work, and am applying myself
diligently to my duties. Also, yesterday Evstafi Ivanovitch exchanged a word or two with me.
Yet I will not conceal from you the fact that my debts are crushing me down, and that my
wardrobe is in a sorry state. At the same time, these things do not REALLY matter and I
would bid you not despair about them. Send me, however, another half-rouble if you can
(though that half-rouble will stab me to the heart — stab me with the thought that it is not I
who am helping you, but YOU who are helping ME). Thedora has done well to get those
fifteen roubles for you. At the moment, fool of an old man that I am, I have no hope of
acquiring any more money; but as soon as ever I do so, I will write to you and let you know all
about it. What chiefly worries me is the fear of gossip. Goodbye, little angel. I kiss your hands,
and beseech you to regain your health. If this is not a detailed letter, the reason is that I must
soon be starting for the office, in order that, by strict application to duty, I may make amends
for the past. Further information concerning my doings (as well as concerning that affair with
the officers) must be deferred until tonight.
Your affectionate and respectful friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
thJuly 28

Dearest little Barbara
It is YOU who have committed a fault — and one which must weigh heavily upon your
conscience. Indeed, your last letter has amazed and confounded me — so much so that, on
once more looking into the recesses of my heart, I perceive that I was perfectly right in what I
did. Of course I am not now referring to my debauch (no, indeed!), but to the fact that I love
you, and to the fact that it is unwise of me to love you — very unwise. You know not how
matters stand, my darling. You know not why I am BOUND to love you. Otherwise you would
not say all that you do. Yet I am persuaded that it is your head rather than your heart that is
speaking. I am certain that your heart thinks very differently.
What occurred that night between myself and those officers I scarcely know, I scarcely
remember. You must bear in mind that for some time past I have been in terrible distress —
that for a whole month I have been, so to speak, hanging by a single thread. Indeed, my
position has been most pitiable. Though I hid myself from you, my landlady was forever
shouting and railing at me. This would not have mattered a jot — the horrible old woman might
have shouted as much as she pleased — had it not been that, in the first place, there was the
disgrace of it, and, in the second place, she had somehow learned of our connection, and
kept proclaiming it to the household until I felt perfectly deafened, and had to stop my ears.
The point, however, is that other people did not stop their ears, but, on the contrary, pricked
them. Indeed, I am at a loss what to do.
Really this wretched rabble has driven me to extremities. It all began with my hearing a
strange rumour from Thedora — namely, that an unworthy suitor had been to visit you, and
had insulted you with an improper proposal. That he had insulted you deeply I knew from my
own feelings, for I felt insulted in an equal degree. Upon that, my angel, I went to pieces, and,
losing all self- control, plunged headlong. Bursting into an unspeakable frenzy, I was at once
going to call upon this villain of a seducer — though what to do next I knew not, seeing that I
was fearful of giving you offence. Ah, what a night of sorrow it was, and what a time of gloom,
rain, and sleet! Next, I was returning home, but found myself unable to stand upon my feet.
Then Emelia Ilyitch happened to come by. He also is a tchinovnik — or rather, was a
tchinovnik, since he was turned out of the service some time ago. What he was doing there at
that moment I do not know; I only know that I went with him... Surely it cannot give you
pleasure to read of the misfortunes of your friend — of his sorrows, and of the temptations
which he experienced?... On the evening of the third day Emelia urged me to go and see the
officer of whom I have spoken, and whose address I had learned from our dvornik. More
strictly speaking, I had noticed him when, on a previous occasion, he had come to play cards
here, and I had followed him home. Of course I now see that I did wrong, but I felt beside
myself when I heard them telling him stories about me. Exactly what happened next I cannot
remember. I only remember that several other officers were present as well as he. Or it may
be that I saw everything double — God alone knows. Also, I cannot exactly remember what I
said. I only remember that in my fury I said a great deal. Then they turned me out of the
room, and threw me down the staircase — pushed me down it, that is to say. How I got home
you know. That is all. Of course, later I blamed myself, and my pride underwent a fall; but no
extraneous person except yourself knows of the affair, and in any case it does not matter.
Perhaps the affair is as you imagine it to have been, Barbara? One thing I know for certain,
and that is that last year one of our lodgers, Aksenti Osipovitch, took a similar liberty with
Peter Petrovitch, yet kept the fact secret, an absolute secret. He called him into his room (I
happened to be looking through a crack in the partition-wall), and had an explanation with himin the way that a gentleman should — noone except myself being a witness of the scene;
whereas, in my own case, I had no explanation at all. After the scene was over, nothing
further transpired between Aksenti Osipovitch and Peter Petrovitch, for the reason that the
latter was so desirous of getting on in life that he held his tongue. As a result, they bow and
shake hands whenever they meet... I will not dispute the fact that I have erred most
grievously — that I should never dare to dispute, or that I have fallen greatly in my own
estimation; but, I think I was fated from birth so to do — and one cannot escape fate, my
beloved. Here, therefore, is a detailed explanation of my misfortunes and sorrows, written for
you to read whenever you may find it convenient. I am far from well, beloved, and have lost all
my gaiety of disposition, but I send you this letter as a token of my love, devotion, and
respect, Oh dear lady of my affections.
Your humble servant,

Makar Dievushkin.
thJuly 29

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
I have read your two letters, and they make my heart ache. See here, dear friend of
mine. You pass over certain things in silence, and write about a PORTION only of your
misfortunes. Can it be that the letters are the outcome of a mental disorder?... Come and see
me, for God’s sake. Come today, direct from the office, and dine with us as you have done
before. As to how you are living now, or as to what settlement you have made with your
landlady, I know not, for you write nothing concerning those two points, and seem purposely
to have left them unmentioned. Au revoir, my friend. Come to me today without fail. You
would do better ALWAYS to dine here. Thedora is an excellent cook. Goodbye.
Your own,

Barbara Dobroselova.
stAugust 1

My darling Barbara Alexievna
Thank God that He has sent you a chance of repaying my good with good. I believe in so
doing, as well as in the sweetness of your angelic heart. Therefore, I will not reproach you.
Only I pray you, do not again blame me because in the decline of my life I have played the
spendthrift. It was such a sin, was it not? — such a thing to do? And even if you would still
have it that the sin was there, remember, little friend, what it costs me to hear such words fall
from your lips. Do not be vexed with me for saying this, for my heart is fainting. Poor people
are subject to fancies — this is a provision of nature. I myself have had reason to know this.
The poor man is exacting. He cannot see God’s world as it is, but eyes each passer-by
askance, and looks around him uneasily in order that he may listen to every word that is being
uttered. May not people be talking of him? How is it that he is so unsightly? What is he feeling
at all? What sort of figure is he cutting on the one side or on the other? It is matter of
common knowledge, my Barbara, that the poor man ranks lower than a rag, and will never
earn the respect of any one. Yes, write about him as you like — let scribblers say what they
choose about him — he will ever remain as he was. And why is this? It is because, from his
very nature, the poor man has to wear his feelings on his sleeve, so that nothing about him is
sacred, and as for his self-respect — ! Well, Emelia told me the other day that once, when he
had to collect subscriptions, official sanction was demanded for every single coin, since people
thought that it would be no use paying their money to a poor man. Nowadays charity is
strangely administered. Perhaps it has always been so. Either folk do not know how to
administer it, or they are adept in the art — one of the two. Perhaps you did not know this, so
I beg to tell it you. And how comes it that the poor man knows, is so conscious of it all? The
answer is — by experience. He knows because any day he may see a gentleman enter a
restaurant and ask himself, “What shall I have to eat today? I will have such and such a dish,”
while all the time the poor man will have nothing to eat that day but gruel. There are men, too
— wretched busybodies — who walk about merely to see if they can find some wretched
tchinovnik or broken-down official who has got toes projecting from his boots or his hair uncut!
And when they have found such a one they make a report of the circumstance, and their
rubbish gets entered on the file... But what does it matter to you if my hair lacks the shears? If
you will forgive me what may seem to you a piece of rudeness, I declare that the poor man is
ashamed of such things with the sensitiveness of a young girl. YOU, for instance, would not
care (pray pardon my bluntness) to unrobe yourself before the public eye; and in the same
way, the poor man does not like to be pried at or questioned concerning his family relations,
and so forth. A man of honour and self-respect such as I am finds it painful and grievous to
have to consort with men who would deprive him of both.
Today I sat before my colleagues like a bear’s cub or a plucked sparrow, so that I fairly
burned with shame. Yes, it hurt me terribly, Barbara. Naturally one blushes when one can see
one’s naked toes projecting through one’s boots, and one’s buttons hanging by a single
thread! As though on purpose, I seemed, on this occasion, to be peculiarly dishevelled. No
wonder that my spirits fell. When I was talking on business matters to Stepan Karlovitch, he
suddenly exclaimed, for no apparent reason, “Ah, poor old Makar Alexievitch!” and then left
the rest unfinished. But I knew what he had in his mind, and blushed so hotly that even the
bald patch on my head grew red. Of course the whole thing is nothing, but it worries me, and
leads to anxious thoughts. What can these fellows know about me? God send that they know
nothing! But I confess that I suspect, I strongly suspect, one of my colleagues. Let them only
betray me! They would betray one’s private life for a groat, for they hold nothing sacred.I have an idea who is at the bottom of it all. It is Rataziaev. Probably he knows someone
in our department to whom he has recounted the story with additions. Or perhaps he has
spread it abroad in his own department, and thence, it has crept and crawled into ours.
Everyone here knows it, down to the last detail, for I have seen them point at you with their
fingers through the window. Oh yes, I have seen them do it. Yesterday, when I stepped
across to dine with you, the whole crew were hanging out of the window to watch me, and the
landlady exclaimed that the devil was in young people, and called you certain unbecoming
names. But this is as nothing compared with Rataziaev’s foul intention to place us in his
books, and to describe us in a satire. He himself has declared that he is going to do so, and
other people say the same. In fact, I know not what to think, nor what to decide. It is no use
concealing the fact that you and I have sinned against the Lord God... You were going to send
me a book of some sort, to divert my mind — were you not, dearest? What book, though,
could now divert me? Only such books as have never existed on earth. Novels are rubbish,
and written for fools and for the idle. Believe me, dearest, I know it through long experience.
Even should they vaunt Shakespeare to you, I tell you that Shakespeare is rubbish, and
proper only for lampoons.
Your own,

Makar Dievushkin.
ndAugust 2

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
Do not disquiet yourself. God will grant that all shall turn out well. Thedora has obtained a
quantity of work, both for me and herself, and we are setting about it with a will. Perhaps it will
put us straight again. Thedora suspects my late misfortunes to be connected with Anna
Thedorovna; but I do not care — I feel extraordinarily cheerful today. So you are thinking of
borrowing more money? If so, may God preserve you, for you will assuredly be ruined when
the time comes for repayment! You had far better come and live with us here for a little while.
Yes, come and take up your abode here, and pay no attention whatever to what your landlady
says. As for the rest of your enemies and ill-wishers, I am certain that it is with vain imaginings
that you are vexing yourself... In passing, let me tell you that your style differs greatly from
letter to letter. Goodbye until we meet again. I await your coming with impatience.
Your own,

B. D.
rdAugust 3

My Angel, Barbara Alexievna
I hasten to inform you, 0h light of my life, that my hopes are rising again. But, little
daughter of mine — do you really mean it when you say that I am to indulge in no more
borrowings? Why, I could not do without them. Things would go badly with us both if I did so.
You are ailing. Consequently, I tell you roundly that I MUST borrow, and that I must continue
to do so.
Also, I may tell you that my seat in the office is now next to that of a certain Emelia
Ivanovitch. He is not the Emelia whom you know, but a man who, like myself, is a privy
councillor, as well as represents, with myself, the senior and oldest official in our department.
Likewise he is a good, disinterested soul, and one that is not over-talkative, though a true bear
in appearance and demeanour. Industrious, and possessed of a handwriting purely English,
his caligraphy is, it must be confessed, even worse than my own. Yes, he is a good soul. At
the same time, we have never been intimate with one another. We have done no more than
exchange greetings on meeting or parting, borrow one another’s penknife if we needed one,
and, in short, observe such bare civilities as convention demands. Well, today he said to me,
“Makar Alexievitch, what makes you look so thoughtful?” and inasmuch as I could see that he
wished me well, I told him all — or, rather, I did not tell him EVERYTHING, for that I do to no
man (I have not the heart to do it); I told him just a few scattered details concerning my
financial straits. “Then you ought to borrow,” said he. “You ought to obtain a loan of Peter
Petrovitch, who does a little in that way. I myself once borrowed some money of him, and he
charged me fair and light interest.” Well, Barbara, my heart leapt within me at these words. I
kept thinking and thinking, — if only God would put it into the mind of Peter Petrovitch to be
my benefactor by advancing me a loan!” I calculated that with its aid I might both repay my
landlady and assist yourself and get rid of my surroundings (where I can hardly sit down to
table without the rascals making jokes about me). Sometimes his Excellency passes our desk
in the office. He glances at me, and cannot but perceive how poorly I am dressed. Now,
neatness and cleanliness are two of his strongest points. Even though he says nothing, I feel
ready to die with shame when he approaches. Well, hardening my heart, and putting my
diffidence into my ragged pocket, I approached Peter Petrovitch, and halted before him more
dead than alive. Yet I was hopeful, and though, as it turned out, he was busily engaged in
talking to Thedosei Ivanovitch, I walked up to him from behind, and plucked at his sleeve. He
looked away from me, but I recited my speech about thirty roubles, et cetera, et cetera, of
which, at first, he failed to catch the meaning. Even when I had explained matters to him more
fully, he only burst out laughing, and said nothing. Again I addressed to him my request;
whereupon, asking me what security I could give, he again buried himself in his papers, and
went on writing without deigning me even a second glance. Dismay seized me. “Peter
Petrovitch,” I said, “I can offer you no security,” but to this I added an explanation that some
salary would, in time, be due to me, which I would make over to him, and account the loan my
first debt. At that moment someone called him away, and I had to wait a little. On returning,
he began to mend his pen as though he had not even noticed that I was there. But I was for
myself this time. “Peter Petrovitch,” I continued, “can you not do ANYTHING?” Still he
maintained silence, and seemed not to have heard me. I waited and waited. At length I
determined to make a final attempt, and plucked him by the sleeve. He muttered something,
and, his pen mended, set about his writing. There was nothing for me to do but to depart. He
and the rest of them are worthy fellows, dearest — that I do not doubt — but they are also
proud, very proud. What have I to do with them? Yet I thought I would write and tell you allabout it. Meanwhile Emelia Ivanovitch had been encouraging me with nods and smiles. He is a
good soul, and has promised to recommend me to a friend of his who lives in Viborskaia
Street and lends money. Emelia declares that this friend will certainly lend me a little; so
tomorrow, beloved, I am going to call upon the gentleman in question... What do you think
about it? It would be a pity not to obtain a loan. My landlady is on the point of turning me out
of doors, and has refused to allow me any more board. Also, my boots are wearing through,
and have lost every button — and I do not possess another pair! Could anyone in a
government office display greater shabbiness? It is dreadful, my Barbara — it is simply

Makar Dievushkin.
thAugust 4

My beloved Makar Alexievitch
For God’s sake borrow some money as soon as you can. I would not ask this help of you
were it not for the situation in which I am placed. Thedora and myself cannot remain any
longer in our present lodgings, for we have been subjected to great unpleasantness, and you
cannot imagine my state of agitation and dismay. The reason is that this morning we received
a visit from an elderly — almost an old — man whose breast was studded with orders. Greatly
surprised, I asked him what he wanted (for at the moment Thedora had gone out shopping);
whereupon he began to question me as to my mode of life and occupation, and then, without
waiting for an answer, informed me that he was uncle to the officer of whom you have
spoken; that he was very angry with his nephew for the way in which the latter had behaved,
especially with regard to his slandering of me right and left; and that he, the uncle, was ready
to protect me from the young spendthrift’s insolence. Also, he advised me to have nothing to
say to young fellows of that stamp, and added that he sympathised with me as though he
were my own father, and would gladly help me in any way he could. At this I blushed in some
confusion, but did not greatly hasten to thank him. Next, he took me forcibly by the hand, and,
tapping my cheek, said that I was very good-looking, and that he greatly liked the dimples in
my face (God only knows what he meant!). Finally he tried to kiss me, on the plea that he was
an old man, the brute! At this moment Thedora returned; whereupon, in some confusion, he
repeated that he felt a great respect for my modesty and virtue, and that he much wished to
become acquainted with me; after which he took Thedora aside, and tried, on some pretext or
another, to give her money (though of course she declined it). At last he took himself off —
again reiterating his assurances, and saying that he intended to return with some earrings as
a present; that he advised me to change my lodgings; and, that he could recommend me a
splendid flat which he had in his mind’s eye as likely to cost me nothing. Yes, he also declared
that he greatly liked me for my purity and good sense; that I must beware of dissolute young
men; and that he knew Anna Thedorovna, who had charged him to inform me that she would
shortly be visiting me in person. Upon that, I understood all. What I did next I scarcely know,
for I had never before found myself in such a position; but I believe that I broke all restraints,
and made the old man feel thoroughly ashamed of himself — Thedora helping me in the task,
and well-nigh turning him neck and crop out of the tenement. Neither of us doubt that this is
Anna Thedorovna’s work — for how otherwise could the old man have got to know about us?
Now, therefore, Makar Alexievitch, I turn to you for help. Do not, for God’s sake, leave
me in this plight. Borrow all the money that you can get, for I have not the wherewithal to
leave these lodgings, yet cannot possibly remain in them any longer. At all events, this is
Thedora’s advice. She and I need at least twenty-five roubles, which I will repay you out of
what I earn by my work, while Thedora shall get me additional work from day to day, so that, if
there be heavy interest to pay on the loan, you shall not be troubled with the extra burden.
Nay, I will make over to you all that I possess if only you will continue to help me. Truly, I
grieve to have to trouble you when you yourself are so hardly situated, but my hopes rest
upon you, and upon you alone. Goodbye, Makar Alexievitch. Think of me, and may God
speed you on your errand!

thAugust 4

My beloved Barbara Alexievna
These unlooked-for blows have shaken me terribly, and these strange calamities have
quite broken my spirit. Not content with trying to bring you to a bed of sickness, these
lickspittles and pestilent old men are trying to bring me to the same. And I assure you that
they are succeeding — I assure you that they are. Yet I would rather die than not help you. If
I cannot help you I SHALL die; but, to enable me to help you, you must flee like a bird out of
the nest where these owls, these birds of prey, are seeking to peck you to death. How
distressed I feel, my dearest! Yet how cruel you yourself are! Although you are enduring pain
and insult, although you, little nestling, are in agony of spirit, you actually tell me that it grieves
you to disturb me, and that you will work off your debt to me with the labour of your own
hands! In other words, you, with your weak health, are proposing to kill yourself in order to
relieve me to term of my financial embarrassments! Stop a moment, and think what you are
saying. WHY should you sew, and work, and torture your poor head with anxiety, and spoil
your beautiful eyes, and ruin your health? Why, indeed? Ah, little Barbara, little Barbara! Do
you not see that I shall never be any good to you, never any good to you? At all events, I
myself see it. Yet I WILL help you in your distress. I WILL overcome every difficulty, I WILL
get extra work to do, I WILL copy out manuscripts for authors, I WILL go to the latter and
force them to employ me, I WILL so apply myself to the work that they shall see that I am a
good copyist (and good copyists, I know, are always in demand). Thus there will be no need
for you to exhaust your strength, nor will I allow you to do so — I will not have you carry out
your disastrous intention... Yes, little angel, I will certainly borrow some money. I would rather
die than not do so. Merely tell me, my own darling, that I am not to shrink from heavy interest,
and I will not shrink from it, I will not shrink from it — nay, I will shrink from nothing. I will ask
for forty roubles, to begin with. That will not be much, will it, little Barbara? Yet will any one
trust me even with that sum at the first asking? Do you think that I am capable of inspiring
confidence at the first glance? Would the mere sight of my face lead any one to form of me a
favourable opinion? Have I ever been able, remember you, to appear to anyone in a
favourable light? What think you? Personally, I see difficulties in the way, and feel sick at heart
at the mere prospect. However, of those forty roubles I mean to set aside twenty-five for
yourself, two for my landlady, and the remainder for my own spending. Of course, I ought to
give more than two to my landlady, but you must remember my necessities, and see for
yourself that that is the most that can be assigned to her. We need say no more about it. For
one rouble I shall buy me a new pair of shoes, for I scarcely know whether my old ones will
take me to the office tomorrow morning. Also, a new neck-scarf is indispensable, seeing that
the old one has now passed its first year; but, since you have promised to make of your old
apron not only a scarf, but also a shirt-front, I need think no more of the article in question. So
much for shoes and scarves. Next, for buttons. You yourself will agree that I cannot do
without buttons; nor is there on my garments a single hem unfrayed. I tremble when I think
that some day his Excellency may perceive my untidiness, and say — well, what will he NOT
say? Yet I shall never hear what he says, for I shall have expired where I sit — expired of
mere shame at the thought of having been thus exposed. Ah, dearest!... Well, my various
necessities will have left me three roubles to go on with. Part of this sum I shall expend upon
a half-pound of tobacco — for I cannot live without tobacco, and it is nine days since I last put
a pipe into my mouth. To tell the truth, I shall buy the tobacco without acquainting you with the
fact, although I ought not so to do. The pity of it all is that, while you are depriving yourself of
everything, I keep solacing myself with various amenities — which is why I am telling you this,that the pangs of conscience may not torment me. Frankly, I confess that I am in desperate
straits — in such straits as I have never yet known. My landlady flouts me, and I enjoy the
respect of noone; my arrears and debts are terrible; and in the office, though never have I
found the place exactly a paradise, noone has a single word to say to me. Yet I hide, I
carefully hide, this from every one. I would hide my person in the same way, were it not that
daily I have to attend the office where I have to be constantly on my guard against my fellows.
Nevertheless, merely to be able to CONFESS this to you renews my spiritual strength. We
must not think of these things, Barbara, lest the thought of them break our courage. I write
them down merely to warn you NOT to think of them, nor to torture yourself with bitter
imaginings. Yet, my God, what is to become of us? Stay where you are until I can come to
you; after which I shall not return hither, but simply disappear. Now I have finished my letter,
and must go and shave myself, inasmuch as, when that is done, one always feels more
decent, as well as consorts more easily with decency. God speed me! One prayer to Him, and
I must be off.

M. Dievushkin.
thAugust 5

Dearest Makar Alexievitch
You must not despair. Away with melancholy! I am sending you thirty kopecks in silver,
and regret that I cannot send you more. Buy yourself what you most need until tomorrow. I
myself have almost nothing left, and what I am going to do I know not. Is it not dreadful,
Makar Alexievitch? Yet do not be downcast — it is no good being that. Thedora declares that
it would not be a bad thing if we were to remain in this tenement, since if we left it suspicions
would arise, and our enemies might take it into their heads to look for us. On the other hand, I
do not think it would be well for us to remain here. If I were feeling less sad I would tell you my
What a strange man you are, Makar Alexievitch! You take things so much to heart that
you never know what it is to be happy. I read your letters attentively, and can see from them
that, though you worry and disturb yourself about me, you never give a thought to yourself.
Yes, every letter tells me that you have a kind heart; but I tell YOU that that heart is overly
kind. So I will give you a little friendly advice, Makar Alexievitch. I am full of gratitude towards
you — I am indeed full for all that you have done for me, I am most sensible of your
goodness; but, to think that I should be forced to see that, in spite of your own troubles (of
which I have been the involuntary cause), you live for me alone — you live but for MY joys
and MY sorrows and MY affection! If you take the affairs of another person so to heart, and
suffer with her to such an extent, I do not wonder that you yourself are unhappy. Today, when
you came to see me after office-work was done, I felt afraid even to raise my eyes to yours,
for you looked so pale and desperate, and your face had so fallen in. Yes, you were dreading
to have to tell me of your failure to borrow money — you were dreading to have to grieve and
alarm me; but, when you saw that I came very near to smiling, the load was, I know, lifted
from your heart. So do not be despondent, do not give way, but allow more rein to your better
sense. I beg and implore this of you, for it will not be long before you see things take a turn for
the better. You will but spoil your life if you constantly lament another person’s sorrow.
Goodbye, dear friend. I beseech you not to be over-anxious about me.

B. D.
thAugust 5

My darling little Barbara
This is well, this is well, my angel! So you are of opinion that the fact that I have failed to
obtain any money does not matter? Then I too am reassured, I too am happy on your
account. Also, I am delighted to think that you are not going to desert your old friend, but
intend to remain in your present lodgings. Indeed, my heart was overcharged with joy when I
read in your letter those kindly words about myself, as well as a not wholly unmerited
recognition of my sentiments. I say this not out of pride, but because now I know how much
you love me to be thus solicitous for my feelings. How good to think that I may speak to you
of them! You bid me, darling, not be faint-hearted. Indeed, there is no need for me to be so.
Think, for instance, of the pair of shoes which I shall be wearing to the office tomorrow! The
fact is that over-brooding proves the undoing of a man — his complete undoing. What has
saved me is the fact that it is not for myself that I am grieving, that I am suffering, but for
YOU. Nor would it matter to me in the least that I should have to walk through the bitter cold
without an overcoat or boots — I could bear it, I could well endure it, for I am a simple man in
my requirements; but the point is — what would people say, what would every envious and
hostile tongue exclaim, when I was seen without an overcoat? It is for OTHER folk that one
wears an overcoat and boots. In any case, therefore, I should have needed boots to maintain
my name and reputation; to both of which my ragged footgear would otherwise have spelled
ruin. Yes, it is so, my beloved, and you may believe an old man who has had many years of
experience, and knows both the world and mankind, rather than a set of scribblers and
But I have not yet told you in detail how things have gone with me today. During the
morning I suffered as much agony of spirit as might have been experienced in a year. ‘Twas
like this: First of all, I went out to call upon the gentleman of whom I have spoken. I started
very early, before going to the office. Rain and sleet were falling, and I hugged myself in my
greatcoat as I walked along. “Lord,” thought I, “pardon my offences, and send me fulfilment of
all my desires;” and as I passed a church I crossed myself, repented of my sins, and
reminded myself that I was unworthy to hold communication with the Lord God. Then I retired
into myself, and tried to look at nothing; and so, walking without noticing the streets, I
proceeded on my way. Everything had an empty air, and everyone whom I met looked
careworn and preoccupied, and no wonder, for who would choose to walk abroad at such an
early hour, and in such weather? Next a band of ragged workmen met me, and jostled me
boorishly as they passed; upon which nervousness overtook me, and I felt uneasy, and tried
hard not to think of the money that was my errand. Near the Voskresenski Bridge my feet
began to ache with weariness, until I could hardly pull myself along; until presently I met with
Ermolaev, a writer in our office, who, stepping aside, halted, and followed me with his eyes, as
though to beg of me a glass of vodka. “Ah, friend,” thought I, “go YOU to your vodka, but
what have I to do with such stuff?” Then, sadly weary, I halted for a moment’s rest, and
thereafter dragged myself further on my way. Purposely I kept looking about me for
something upon which to fasten my thoughts, with which to distract, to encourage myself; but
there was nothing. Not a single idea could I connect with any given object, while, in addition,
my appearance was so draggled that I felt utterly ashamed of it. At length I perceived from
afar a gabled house that was built of yellow wood. This, I thought, must be the residence of
the Monsieur Markov whom Emelia Ivanovitch had mentioned to me as ready to lend money
on interest. Half unconscious of what I was doing, I asked a watchman if he could tell me to
whom the house belonged; whereupon grudgingly, and as though he were vexed atsomething, the fellow muttered that it belonged to one Markov. Are ALL watchmen so
unfeeling? Why did this one reply as he did? In any case I felt disagreeably impressed, for like
always answers to like, and, no matter what position one is in, things invariably appear to
correspond to it. Three times did I pass the house and walk the length of the street; until the
further I walked, the worse became my state of mind. “No, never, never will he lend me
anything!” I thought to myself, “He does not know me, and my affairs will seem to him
ridiculous, and I shall cut a sorry figure. However, let fate decide for me. Only, let Heaven
send that I do not afterwards repent me, and eat out my heart with remorse!” Softly I opened
the wicket-gate. Horrors! A great ragged brute of a watch-dog came flying out at me, and
foaming at the mouth, and nearly jumping out his skin! Curious is it to note what little, trivial
incidents will nearly make a man crazy, and strike terror to his heart, and annihilate the firm
purpose with which he has armed himself. At all events, I approached the house more dead
than alive, and walked straight into another catastrophe. That is to say, not noticing the
slipperiness of the threshold, I stumbled against an old woman who was filling milk- jugs from
a pail, and sent the milk flying in every direction! The foolish old dame gave a start and a cry,
and then demanded of me whither I had been coming, and what it was I wanted; after which
she rated me soundly for my awkwardness. Always have I found something of the kind befall
me when engaged on errands of this nature. It seems to be my destiny invariably to run into
something. Upon that, the noise and the commotion brought out the mistress of the house —
an old beldame of mean appearance. I addressed myself directly to her: “Does Monsieur
Markov live here?” was my inquiry. “No,” she replied, and then stood looking at me civilly
enough. “But what want you with him?” she continued; upon which I told her about Emelia
Ivanovitch and the rest of the business. As soon as I had finished, she called her daughter —
a barefooted girl in her teens — and told her to summon her father from upstairs. Meanwhile,
I was shown into a room which contained several portraits of generals on the walls and was
furnished with a sofa, a large table, and a few pots of mignonette and balsam. “Shall I, or shall
I not (come weal, come woe) take myself off?” was my thought as I waited there. Ah, how I
longed to run away! “Yes,” I continued, “I had better come again tomorrow, for the weather
may then be better, and I shall not have upset the milk, and these generals will not be looking
at me so fiercely.” In fact, I had actually begun to move towards the door when Monsieur
Markov entered — a grey-headed man with thievish eyes, and clad in a dirty dressing-gown
fastened with a belt. Greetings over, I stumbled out something about Emelia Ivanovitch and
forty roubles, and then came to a dead halt, for his eyes told me that my errand had been
futile. “No.” said he, “I have no money. Moreover, what security could you offer?” I admitted
that I could offer none, but again added something about Emelia, as well as about my
pressing needs. Markov heard me out, and then repeated that he had no money. “ Ah,”
thought I, “I might have known this — I might have foreseen it!” And, to tell the truth, Barbara,
I could have wished that the earth had opened under my feet, so chilled did I feel as he said
what he did, so numbed did my legs grow as shivers began to run down my back. Thus I
remained gazing at him while he returned my gaze with a look which said, “Well now, my
friend? Why do you not go since you have no further business to do here?” Somehow I felt
conscience-stricken. “How is it that you are in such need of money?” was what he appeared
to be asking; whereupon,I opened my mouth (anything rather than stand there to no purpose
at all!) but found that he was not even listening. “I have no money,” again he said, “or I would
lend you some with pleasure.” Several times I repeated that I myself possessed a little, and
that I would repay any loan from him punctually, most punctually, and that he might charge
me what interest he liked, since I would meet it without fail. Yes, at that moment I
remembered our misfortunes, our necessities, and I remembered your half-rouble. “No,” said
he, “I can lend you nothing without security,” and clinched his assurance with an oath, the
How I contrived to leave the house and, passing through Viborskaia Street, to reach theVoskresenski Bridge I do not know. I only remember that I feltterribly weary, cold, and
starved, and that it was ten o’clock before I reached the office. Arriving, I tried to clean myself
up a little, but Sniegirev, the porter, said that it was impossible for me to do so, and that I
should only spoil the brush, which belonged to the Government. Thus, my darling, do such
fellows rate me lower than the mat on which they wipe their boots! What is it that will most
surely break me? It is not the want of money, but the LITTLE worries of life — these
whisperings and nods and jeers. Anyday his Excellency himself may round upon me. Ah,
dearest, my golden days are gone. Today I have spent in reading your letters through; and
the reading of them has made me sad. Goodbye, my own, and may the Lord watch over you!

M. Dievushkin.

P.S. — To conceal my sorrow I would have written this letter half jestingly; but, the
faculty of jesting has not been given me. My one desire, however, is to afford you pleasure.
Soon I will come and see you, dearest. Without fail I will come and see you.
thAugust 11

O Barbara Alexievna, I am undone — we are both of us undone! Both of us are lost
beyond recall! Everything is ruined — my reputation, my self-respect, all that I have in the
world! And you as much as I. Never shall we retrieve what we have lost. I — I have brought
you to this pass, for I have become an outcast, my darling. Everywhere I am laughed at and
despised. Even my landlady has taken to abusing me. Today she overwhelmed me with shrill
reproaches, and abased me to the level of a hearth-brush. And last night, when I was in
Rataziaev’s rooms, one of his friends began to read a scribbled note which I had written to
you, and then inadvertently pulled out of my pocket. Oh beloved, what laughter there arose at
the recital! How those scoundrels mocked and derided you and myself! I walked up to them
and accused Rataziaev of breaking faith. I said that he had played the traitor. But he only
replied that I had been the betrayer in the case, by indulging in various amours. “You have
kept them very dark though, Mr. Lovelace!” said he — and now I am known everywhere by
this name of “Lovelace.” They know EVERYTHING about us, my darling, EVERYTHING —
both about you and your affairs and about myself; and when today I was for sending Phaldoni
to the bakeshop for something or other, he refused to go, saying that it was not his business.
“But you MUST go,” said I. “I will not,” he replied. “You have not paid my mistress what you
owe her, so I am not bound to run your errands.” At such an insult from a raw peasant I lost
my temper, and called him a fool; to which he retorted in a similar vein. Upon this I thought
that he must be drunk, and told him so; whereupon he replied: “WHAT say you that I am?
Suppose you yourself go and sober up, for I know that the other day you went to visit a
woman, and that you got drunk with her on two grivenniks.” To such a pass have things come!
I feel ashamed to be seen alive. I am, as it were, a man proclaimed; I am in a worse plight
even than a tramp who has lost his passport. How misfortunes are heaping themselves upon
me! I am lost — I am lost for ever!

M. D.
thAugust 13

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

B. D.
thAugust 14

What is the matter with you, Makar Alexievitch? Surely you cannot fear the Lord God as
you ought to do? You are not only driving me to distraction but also ruining yourself with this
eternal solicitude for your reputation. You are a man of honour, nobility of character, and
selfrespect, as everyone knows; yet, at any moment, you are ready to die with shame! Surely you
should have more consideration for your grey hairs. No, the fear of God has departed from
you. Thedora has told you that it is out of my power to render you anymore help. See,
therefore, to what a pass you have brought me! Probably you think it is nothing to me that you
should behave so badly; probably you do not realise what you have made me suffer. I dare
not set foot on the staircase here, for if I do so I am stared at, and pointed at, and spoken
about in the most horrible manner. Yes, it is even said of me that I am “united to a drunkard.”
What a thing to hear! And whenever you are brought home drunk folk say, “They are carrying
in that tchinovnik.” THAT is not the proper way to make me help you. I swear that I MUST
leave this place, and go and get work as a cook or a laundress. It is impossible for me to stay
here. Long ago I wrote and asked you to come and see me, yet you have not come. Truly my
tears and prayers must mean NOTHING to you, Makar Alexievitch! Whence, too, did you get
the money for your debauchery? For the love of God be more careful of yourself, or you will
be ruined. How shameful, how abominable of you! So the landlady would not admit you last
night, and you spent the night on the doorstep? Oh, I know all about it. Yet if only you could
have seen my agony when I heard the news!... Come and see me, Makar Alexievitch, and we
will once more be happy together. Yes, we will read together, and talk of old times, and
Thedora shall tell you of her pilgrimages in former days. For God’s sake beloved, do not ruin
both yourself and me. I live for you alone; it is for your sake alone that I am still here. Be your
better self once more — the self which still can remain firm in the face of misfortune. Poverty
is no crime; always remember that. After all, why should we despair? Our present difficulties
will pass away, and God will right us. Only be brave. I send you two grivenniks for the
purchase of some tobacco or anything else that you need; but,for the love of heaven, do not
spend the money foolishly. Come you and see me soon; come without fail. Perhaps you may
be ashamed to meet me, as you were before, but you NEED not feel like that — such shame
would be misplaced. Only do bring with you sincere repentance and trust in God, who orders
all things for the best.

B. D.
thAugust 19

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

Makar Dievushkin.
stAugust 21

My dear and kind Barbara Alexievna
I feel that I am guilty, I feel that I have sinned against you. Yet also I feel, from what you
say, that it is no use for me so to feel. Even before I had sinned I felt as I do now; but I gave
way to despair, and the more so as recognised my fault. Darling, I am not cruel or
hardhearted. To rend your little soul would be the act of a blood-thirsty tiger, whereas I have
the heart of a sheep. You yourself know that I am not addicted to bloodthirstiness, and
therefore that I cannot really be guilty of the fault in question, seeing that neither my mind nor
my heart have participated in it.
Nor can I understand wherein the guilt lies. To me it is all a mystery. When you sent me
those thirty kopecks, and thereafter those two grivenniks, my heart sank within me as I looked
at the poor little money. To think that though you had burned your hand, and would soon be
hungry, you could write to me that I was to buy tobacco! What was I to do? Remorselessly to
rob you, an orphan, as any brigand might do? I felt greatly depressed, dearest. That is to say,
persuaded that I should never do any good with my life, and that I was inferior even to the
sole of my own boot, I took it into my head that it was absurd for me to aspire at all — rather,
that I ought to account myself a disgrace and an abomination. Once a man has lost his
selfrespect, and has decided to abjure his better qualities and human dignity, he falls headlong,
and cannot choose but do so. It is decreed of fate, and therefore I am not guilty in this
That evening I went out merely to get a breath of fresh air, but one thing followed
another — the weather was cold, all nature was looking mournful, and I had fallen in with
Emelia. This man had spent everything that he possessed, and, at the time I met him, had not
for two days tasted a crust of bread. He had tried to raise money by pawning, but what
articles he had for the purpose had been refused by the pawnbrokers. It was more from
sympathy for a fellow-man than from any liking for the individual that I yielded. That is how the
fault arose, dearest.
He spoke of you, and I mingled my tears with his. Yes, he is a man of kind, kind heart —
a man of deep feeling. I often feel as he did, dearest, and, in addition, I know how beholden to
you I am. As soon as ever I got to know you I began both to realise myself and to love you;
for until you came into my life I had been a lonely man — I had been, as it were, asleep rather
than alive. In former days my rascally colleagues used to tell me that I was unfit even to be
seen; in fact, they so disliked me that at length I began to dislike myself, for, being frequently
told that I was stupid, I began to believe that I really was so. But the instant that YOU came
into my life, you lightened the dark places in it, you lightened both my heart and my soul.
Gradually, I gained rest of spirit, until I had come to see that I was no worse than other men,
and that, though I had neither style nor brilliancy nor polish, I was still a MAN as regards my
thoughts and feelings. But now, alas! pursued and scorned of fate, I have again allowed
myself to abjure my own dignity. Oppressed of misfortune, I have lost my courage. Here is my
confession to you, dearest. With tears I beseech you not to inquire further into the matter, for
my heart is breaking, and life has grown indeed hard and bitter for me.
Beloved, I offer you my respect, and remain ever your faithful friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
rdSeptember 3

The reason why I did not finish my last letter, Makar Alexievitch, was that I found it so
difficult to write. There are moments when I am glad to be alone — to grieve and repine
without any one to share my sorrow: and those moments are beginning to come upon me with
ever-increasing frequency. Always in my reminiscences I find something which is inexplicable,
yet strongly attractive-so much so that for hours together I remain insensible to my
surroundings, oblivious of reality. Indeed, in my present life there is not a single impression
that I encounter — pleasant or the reverse — which does not recall to my mind something of
a similar nature in the past. More particularly is this the case with regard to my childhood, my
golden childhood. Yet such moments always leave me depressed. They render me weak, and
exhaust my powers of fancy; with the result that my health, already not good, grows steadily
However, this morning it is a fine, fresh, cloudless day, such as we seldom get in
autumn. The air has revived me and I greet it with joy. Yet to think that already the fall of the
year has come! How I used to love the country in autumn! Then but a child, I was yet a
sensitive being who loved autumn evenings better than autumn mornings. I remember how
beside our house, at the foot of a hill, there lay a large pond, and how the pond — I can see it
even now! — shone with a broad, level surface that was as clear as crystal. On still evenings
this pond would be at rest, and not a rustle would disturb the trees which grew on its banks
and overhung the motionless expanse of water. How fresh it used to seem, yet how cold! The
dew would be falling upon the turf, lights would be beginning to shine forth from the huts on
the pond’s margin, and the cattle would be wending their way home. Then quietly I would slip
out of the house to look at my beloved pond, and forget myself in contemplation. Here and
there a fisherman’s bundle of brushwood would be burning at the water’s edge, and sending
its light far and wide over the surface. Above, the sky would be of a cold blue colour, save for
a fringe of flame-coloured streaks on the horizon that kept turning ever paler and paler; and
when the moon had come out there would be wafted through the limpid air the sounds of a
frightened bird fluttering, of a bulrush rubbing against its fellows in the gentle breeze, and of a
fish rising with a splash. Over the dark water there would gather a thin, transparent mist; and
though, in the distance, night would be looming, and seemingly enveloping the entire horizon,
everything closer at hand would be standing out as though shaped with a chisel — banks,
boats, little islands, and all. Beside the margin a derelict barrel would be turning over and over
in the water; a switch of laburnum, with yellowing leaves, would go meandering through the
reeds; and a belated gull would flutter up, dive again into the cold depths, rise once more, and
disappear into the mist. How I would watch and listen to these things! How strangely good
they all would seem! But I was a mere infant in those days — a mere child.
Yes, truly I loved autumn-tide — the late autumn when the crops are garnered, and field
work is ended, and the evening gatherings in the huts have begun, and everyone is awaiting
winter. Then does everything become more mysterious, the sky frowns with clouds, yellow
leaves strew the paths at the edge of the naked forest, and the forest itself turns black and
blue — more especially at eventide when damp fog is spreading and the trees glimmer in the
depths like giants, like formless, weird phantoms. Perhaps one may be out late, and had got
separated from one’s companions. Oh horrors! Suddenly one starts and trembles as one
seems to see a strange-looking being peering from out of the darkness of a hollow tree, while
all the while the wind is moaning and rattling and howling through the forest — moaning with a
hungry sound as it strips the leaves from the bare boughs, and whirls them into the air. High
over the tree-tops, in a widespread, trailing, noisy crew, there fly, with resounding cries, flocksof birds which seem to darken and overlay the very heavens. Then a strange feeling comes
over one, until one seems to hear the voice of some one whispering: “Run, run, little child! Do
not be out late, for this place will soon have become dreadful! Run, little child! Run!” And at
the words terror will possess one’s soul, and one will rush and rush until one’s breath is spent
— until, panting, one has reached home.
At home, however, all will look bright and bustling as we children are set to shell peas or
poppies, and the damp twigs crackle in the stove, and our mother comes to look fondly at our
work, and our old nurse, Iliana, tells us stories of bygone days, or terrible legends concerning
wizards and dead men. At the recital we little ones will press closer to one another, yet smile
as we do so; when suddenly, everyone becomes silent. Surely somebody has knocked at the
door?... But nay, nay; it is only the sound of Frolovna’s spinning-wheel. What shouts of
laughter arise! Later one will be unable to sleep for fear of the strange dreams which come to
visit one; or, if one falls asleep, one will soon wake again, and, afraid to stir, lie quaking under
the coverlet until dawn. And in the morning, one will arise as fresh as a lark and look at the
window, and see the fields overlaid with hoarfrost, and fine icicles hanging from the naked
branches, and the pond covered over with ice as thin as paper, and a white steam rising from
the surface, and birds flying overhead with cheerful cries. Next, as the sun rises, he throws his
glittering beams everywhere, and melts the thin, glassy ice until the whole scene has come to
look bright and clear and exhilarating; and as the fire begins to crackle again in the stove, we
sit down to the tea-urn, while, chilled with the night cold, our black dog, Polkan, will look in at
us through the window, and wag his tail with a cheerful air. Presently, a peasant will pass the
window in his cart bound for the forest to cut firewood, and the whole party will feel merry and
contented together. Abundant grain lies stored in the byres, and great stacks of wheat are
glowing comfortably in the morning sunlight. Everyone is quiet and happy, for God has
blessed us with a bounteous harvest, and we know that there will be abundance of food for
the wintertide. Yes, the peasant may rest assured that his family will not want for aught. Song
and dance will arise at night from the village girls, and on festival days everyone will repair to
God’s house to thank Him with grateful tears for what He has done... Ah, a golden time was
my time of childhood!...
Carried away by these memories, I could weep like a child. Everything, everything comes
back so clearly to my recollection! The past stands out so vividly before me! Yet in the present
everything looks dim and dark! How will it all end? — how? Do you know, I have a feeling, a
sort of sure premonition, that I am going to die this coming autumn; for I feel terribly, oh so
terribly ill! Often do I think of death, yet feel that I should not like to die here and be laid to rest
in the soil of St. Petersburg. Once more I have had to take to my bed, as I did last spring, for
I have never really recovered. Indeed I feel so depressed! Thedora has gone out for the day,
and I am alone. For a long while past I have been afraid to be left by myself, for I keep
fancying that there is someone else in the room, and that that someone is speaking to me.
Especially do I fancy this when I have gone off into a reverie, and then suddenly awoken from
it, and am feeling bewildered. That is why I have made this letter such a long one; for, when I
am writing, the mood passes away. Goodbye. I have neither time nor paper left for more, and
must close. Of the money which I saved to buy a new dress and hat, there remains but a
single rouble; but, I am glad that you have been able to pay your landlady two roubles, for
they will keep her tongue quiet for a time. And you must repair your wardrobe.
Goodbye once more. I am so tired! Nor can I think why I am growing so weak — why it is
that even the smallest task now wearies me? Even if work should come my way, how am I to
do it? That is what worries me above all things.

B. D.
thSeptember 5

My beloved Barbara
Today I have undergone a variety of experiences. In the first place, my head has been
aching, and towards evening I went out to get a breath of fresh air along the Fontanka Canal.
The weather was dull and damp, and even by six o’clock, darkness had begun to set in. True,
rain was not actually falling, but only a mist like rain, while the sky was streaked with masses
of trailing cloud. Crowds of people were hurrying along Naberezhnaia Street, with faces that
looked strange and dejected. There were drunken peasants; snub-nosed old harridans in
slippers; bareheaded artisans; cab drivers; every species of beggar; boys; a locksmith’s
apprentice in a striped smock, with lean, emaciated features which seemed to have been
washed in rancid oil; an ex-soldier who was offering penknives and copper rings for sale; and
so on, and so on. It was the hour when one would expect to meet no other folk than these.
And what a quantity of boats there were on the canal. It made one wonder how they could all
find room there. On every bridge were old women selling damp gingerbread or withered
apples, and every woman looked as damp and dirty as her wares. In short, the Fontanka is a
saddening spot for a walk, for there is wet granite under one’s feet, and tall, dingy buildings on
either side of one, and wet mist below and wet mist above. Yes, all was dark and gloomy
there this evening.
By the time I had returned to Gorokhovaia Street darkness had fallen and the lamps had
been lit. However, I did not linger long in that particular spot, for Gorokhovaia Street is too
noisy a place. But what sumptuous shops and stores it contains! Everything sparkles and
glitters, and the windows are full of nothing but bright colours and materials and hats of
different shapes. One might think that they were decked merely for display; but no — people
buy these things, and give them to their wives! Yes, it IS a sumptuous place. Hordes of
German hucksters are there, as well as quite respectable traders. And the quantities of
carriages which pass along the street! One marvels that the pavement can support so many
splendid vehicles, with windows like crystal, linings made of silk and velvet, and lacqueys
dressed in epaulets and wearing swords! Into some of them I glanced, and saw that they
contained ladies of various ages. Perhaps they were princesses and countesses! Probably at
that hour such folk would be hastening to balls and other gatherings. In fact, it was interesting
to be able to look so closely at a princess or a great lady. They were all very fine. At all
events, I had never before seen such persons as I beheld in those carriages...
Then I thought of you. Ah, my own, my darling, it is often that I think of you and feel my
heart sink. How is it that YOU are so unfortunate, Barbara? How is it that YOU are so much
worse off than other people? In my eyes you are kind-hearted, beautiful, and clever — why,
then, has such an evil fate fallen to your lot? How comes it that you are left desolate — you,
so good a human being! While to others happiness comes without an invitation at all? Yes, I
know — I know it well — that I ought not to say it, for to do so savours of free-thought; but
why should that raven, Fate, croak out upon the fortunes of one person while she is yet in her
mother’s womb, while another person it permits to go forth in happiness from the home which
has reared her? To even an idiot of an Ivanushka such happiness is sometimes granted.
“You, you fool Ivanushka,” says Fate, “shall succeed to your grandfather’s money-bags, and
eat, drink, and be merry; whereas YOU (such and such another one) shall do no more than
lick the dish, since that is all that you are good for.” Yes, I know that it is wrong to hold such
opinions, but involuntarily the sin of so doing grows upon one’s soul. Nevertheless, it is you,
my darling, who ought to be riding in one of those carriages. Generals would have come
seeking your favour, and, instead of being clad in a humble cotton dress, you would havebeen walking in silken and golden attire. Then you would not have been thin and wan as now,
but fresh and plump and rosy-cheeked as a figure on a sugar-cake. Then should I too have
been happy — happy if only I could look at your lighted windows from the street, and watch
your shadow — happy if only I could think that you were well and happy, my sweet little bird!
Yet how are things in reality? Not only have evil folk brought you to ruin, but there comes also
an old rascal of a libertine to insult you! Just because he struts about in a frockcoat, and can
ogle you through a gold-mounted lorgnette, the brute thinks that everything will fall into his
hands — that you are bound to listen to his insulting condescension! Out upon him! But why is
this? It is because you are an orphan, it is because you are unprotected, it is because you
have no powerful friend to afford you the decent support which is your due. WHAT do such
facts matter to a man or to men to whom the insulting of an orphan is an offence allowed?
Such fellows are not men at all, but mere vermin, no matter what they think themselves to be.
Of that I am certain. Why, an organ-grinder whom I met in Gorokhovaia Street would inspire
more respect than they do, for at least he walks about all day, and suffers hunger — at least
he looks for a stray, superfluous groat to earn him subsistence, and is, therefore, a true
gentleman, in that he supports himself. To beg alms he would be ashamed; and, moreover,
he works for the benefit of mankind just as does a factory machine. “So far as in me lies,”
says he, “I will give you pleasure.” True, he is a pauper, and nothing but a pauper; but, at
least he is an HONOURABLE pauper. Though tired and hungry, he still goes on working —
working in his own peculiar fashion, yet still doing honest labour. Yes, many a decent fellow
whose labour may be disproportionate to its utility pulls the forelock to no one, and begs his
bread of no one. I myself resemble that organ-grinder. That is to say, though not exactly he, I
resemble him in this respect, that I work according to my capabilities, and so far as in me lies.
More could be asked of no one; nor ought I to be adjudged to do more.
Apropos of the organ-grinder, I may tell you, dearest, that today I experienced a double
misfortune. As I was looking at the grinder, certain thoughts entered my head and I stood
wrapped in a reverie. Some cabmen also had halted at the spot, as well as a young girl, with a
yet smaller girl who was dressed in rags and tatters. These people had halted there to listen
to the organ- grinder, who was playing in front of some one’s windows. Next, I caught sight of
a little urchin of about ten — a boy who would have been good-looking but for the fact that his
face was pinched and sickly. Almost barefooted, and clad only in a shirt, he was standing
agape to listen to the music — a pitiful childish figure. Nearer to the grinder a few more
urchins were dancing, but in the case of this lad his hands and feet looked numbed, and he
kept biting the end of his sleeve and shivering. Also, I noticed that in his hands he had a paper
of some sort. Presently a gentleman came by, and tossed the grinder a small coin, which fell
straight into a box adorned with a representation of a Frenchman and some ladies. The
instant he heard the rattle of the coin, the boy started, looked timidly round, and evidently
made up his mind that I had thrown the money; whereupon, he ran to me with his little hands
all shaking, and said in a tremulous voice as he proffered me his paper: “Pl-please sign this.” I
turned over the paper, and saw that there was written on it what is usual under such
circumstances. “Kind friends I am a sick mother with three hungry children. Pray help me.
Though soon I shall be dead, yet, if you will not forget my little ones in this world, neither will I
forget you in the world that is to come.” The thing seemed clear enough; it was a matter of life
and death. Yet what was I to give the lad? Well, I gave him nothing. But my heart ached for
him. I am certain that, shivering with cold though he was, and perhaps hungry, the poor lad
was not lying. No, no, he was not lying.
The shameful point is that so many mothers take no care of their children, but send them
out, half-clad, into the cold. Perhaps this lad’s mother also was a feckless old woman, and
devoid of character? Or perhaps she had no one to work for her, but was forced to sit with her
legs crossed — a veritable invalid? Or perhaps she was just an old rogue who was in the habit
of sending out pinched and hungry boys to deceive the public? What would such a boy learnfrom begging letters? His heart would soon be rendered callous, for, as he ran about begging,
people would pass him by and give him nothing. Yes, their hearts would be as stone, and their
replies rough and harsh. “Away with you!” they would say. “You are seeking but to trick us.”
He would hear that from every one, and his heart would grow hard, and he would shiver in
vain with the cold, like some poor little fledgling that has fallen out of the nest. His hands and
feet would be freezing, and his breath coming with difficulty; until, look you, he would begin to
cough, and disease, like an unclean parasite, would worm its way into his breast until death
itself had overtaken him — overtaken him in some foetid corner whence there was no chance
of escape. Yes, that is what his life would become.
There are many such cases. Ah, Barbara, it is hard to hear “For Christ’s sake!” and yet
pass the suppliant by and give nothing, or say merely: “May the Lord give unto you!” Of
course, SOME supplications mean nothing (for supplications differ greatly in character).
Occasionally supplications are long, drawn-out and drawling, stereotyped and mechanical —
they are purely begging supplications. Requests of this kind it is less hard to refuse, for they
are purely professional and of long standing. “The beggar is overdoing it,” one thinks to
oneself. “He knows the trick too well.” But there are other supplications which voice a strange,
hoarse, unaccustomed note, like that today when I took the poor boy’s paper. He had been
standing by the kerbstone without speaking to anybody — save that at last to myself he said,
“For the love of Christ give me a groat!” in a voice so hoarse and broken that I started, and
felt a queer sensation in my heart, although I did not give him a groat. Indeed, I had not a
groat on me. Rich folk dislike hearing poor people complain of their poverty. “They disturb us,”
they say, “and are impertinent as well. Why should poverty be so impertinent? Why should its
hungry moans prevent us from sleeping?”
To tell you the truth, my darling, I have written the foregoing not merely to relieve my
feelings, but, also, still more, to give you an example of the excellent style in which I can write.
You yourself will recognise that my style was formed long ago, but of late such fits of
despondency have seized upon me that my style has begun to correspond to my feelings; and
though I know that such correspondence gains one little, it at least renders one a certain
justice. For not unfrequently it happens that, for some reason or another, one feels abased,
and inclined to value oneself at nothing, and to account oneself lower than a dishclout; but this
merely arises from the fact that at the time one is feeling harassed and depressed, like the
poor boy who today asked of me alms. Let me tell you an allegory, dearest, and do you
hearken to it. Often, as I hasten to the office in the morning, I look around me at the city — I
watch it awaking, getting out of bed, lighting its fires, cooking its breakfast, and becoming
vocal; and at the sight, I begin to feel smaller, as though some one had dealt me a rap on my
inquisitive nose. Yes, at such times I slink along with a sense of utter humiliation in my heart.
For one would have but to see what is passing within those great, black, grimy houses of the
capital, and to penetrate within their walls, for one at once to realise what good reason there is
for self-depredation and heart-searching. Of course, you will note that I am speaking
figuratively rather than literally.
Let us look at what is passing within those houses. In some dingy corner, perhaps, in
some damp kennel which is supposed to be a room, an artisan has just awakened from sleep.
All night he has dreamt — IF such an insignificant fellow is capable of dreaming? — about the
shoes which last night he mechanically cut out. He is a master-shoemaker, you see, and
therefore able to think of nothing but his one subject of interest. Nearby are some squalling
children and a hungry wife. Nor is he the only man that has to greet the day in this fashion.
Indeed, the incident would be nothing — it would not be worth writing about, save for another
circumstance. In that same house ANOTHER person — a person of great wealth-may also
have been dreaming of shoes; but, of shoes of a very different pattern and fashion (in a
manner of speaking, if you understand my metaphor, we are all of us shoemakers). This,
again, would be nothing, were it not that the rich person has no one to whisper in his ear:“Why dost thou think of such things? Why dost thou think of thyself alone, and live only for
thyself — thou who art not a shoemaker? THY children are not ailing. THY wife is not hungry.
Look around thee. Can’st thou not find a subject more fitting for thy thoughts than thy shoes?”
That is what I want to say to you in allegorical language, Barbara. Maybe it savours a little of
free-thought, dearest; but, such ideas WILL keep arising in my mind and finding utterance in
impetuous speech. Why, therefore, should one not value oneself at a groat as one listens in
fear and trembling to the roar and turmoil of the city? Maybe you think that I am exaggerating
things — that this is a mere whim of mine, or that I am quoting from a book? No, no, Barbara.
You may rest assured that it is not so. Exaggeration I abhor, with whims I have nothing to do,
and of quotation I am guiltless.
I arrived home today in a melancholy mood. Sitting down to the table, I had warmed
myself some tea, and was about to drink a second glass of it, when there entered Gorshkov,
the poor lodger. Already, this morning, I had noticed that he was hovering around the other
lodgers, and also seeming to want to speak to myself. In passing I may say that his
circumstances are infinitely worse than my own; for, only think of it, he has a wife and
children! Indeed, if I were he, I do not know what I should do. Well, he entered my room, and
bowed to me with the pus standing, as usual, in drops on his eyelashes, his feet shuffling
about, and his tongue unable, at first, to articulate a word. I motioned him to a chair (it was a
dilapidated enough one, but I had no other), and asked him to have a glass of tea. To this he
demurred — for quite a long time he demurred, but at length he accepted the offer. Next, he
was for drinking the tea without sugar, and renewed his excuses, but upon the sugar I
insisted. After long resistance and many refusals, he DID consent to take some, but only the
smallest possible lump; after which, he assured me that his tea was perfectly sweet. To what
depths of humility can poverty reduce a man! “Well, what is it, my good sir?” I inquired of him;
whereupon he replied: “It is this, Makar Alexievitch. You have once before been my
benefactor. Pray again show me the charity of God, and assist my unfortunate family. My wife
and children have nothing to eat. To think that a father should have to say this!” I was about
to speak again when he interrupted me. “You see,” he continued, “I am afraid of the other
lodgers here. That is to say, I am not so much afraid of, as ashamed to address them, for
they are a proud, conceited lot of men. Nor would I have troubled even you, my friend and
former benefactor, were it not that I know that you yourself have experienced misfortune and
are in debt; wherefore, I have ventured to come and make this request of you, in that I know
you not only to be kind-hearted, but also to be in need, and for that reason the more likely to
sympathise with me in my distress.” To this he added an apology for his awkwardness and
presumption. I replied that, glad though I should have been to serve him, I had nothing,
absolutely nothing, at my disposal. “Ah, Makar Alexievitch,” he went on, “surely it is not much
that I am asking of you? My-my wife and children are starving. C-could you not afford me just
a grivennik? “ At that my heart contracted, “How these people put me to shame!” thought I.
But I had only twenty kopecks left, and upon them I had been counting for meeting my most
pressing requirements. “No, good sir, I cannot,” said I. “Well, what you will,” he persisted.
“Perhaps ten kopecks?” Well I got out my cash-box, and gave him the twenty. It was a good
deed. To think that such poverty should exist! Then I had some further talk with him. “How is
it,” I asked him, “that, though you are in such straits, you have hired a room at five roubles?”
He replied that though, when he engaged the room six months ago, he paid three months’
rent in advance, his affairs had subsequently turned out badly, and never righted themselves
since. You see, Barbara, he was sued at law by a merchant who had defrauded the Treasury
in the matter of a contract. When the fraud was discovered the merchant was prosecuted, but
the transactions in which he had engaged involved Gorshkov, although the latter had been
guilty only of negligence, want of prudence, and culpable indifference to the Treasury’s
interests. True, the affair had taken place some years ago, but various obstacles had since
combined to thwart Gorshkov. “Of the disgrace put upon me,” said he to me, “I am innocent.True, I to a certain extent disobeyed orders, but never did I commit theft or embezzlement.”
Nevertheless the affair lost him his character. He was dismissed the service, and though not
adjudged capitally guilty, has been unable since to recover from the merchant a large sum of
money which is his by right, as spared to him (Gorshkov) by the legal tribunal. True, the
tribunal in question did not altogether believe in Gorshkov, but I do so. The matter is of a
nature so complex and crooked that probably a hundred years would be insufficient to unravel
it; and, though it has now to a certain extent been cleared up, the merchant still holds the key
to the situation. Personally I side with Gorshkov, and am very sorry for him. Though lacking a
post of any kind, he still refuses to despair, though his resources are completely exhausted.
Yes, it is a tangled affair, and meanwhile he must live, for, unfortunately, another child which
has been born to him has entailed upon the family fresh expenses. Also, another of his
children recently fell ill and died — which meant yet further expense. Lastly, not only is his wife
in bad health, but he himself is suffering from a complaint of long standing. In short, he has
had a very great deal to undergo. Yet he declares that daily he expects a favourable issue to
his affair — that he has no doubt of it whatever. I am terribly sorry for him, and said what I
could to give him comfort, for he is a man who has been much bullied and misled. He had
come to me for protection from his troubles, so I did my best to soothe him. Now, goodbye,
my darling. May Christ watch over you and preserve your health. Dearest one, even to think
of you is like medicine to my ailing soul. Though I suffer for you, I at least suffer gladly.
Your true friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 9

My dearest Barbara Alexievna
I am beside myself as I take up my pen, for a most terrible thing has happened. My head
is whirling round. Ah, beloved, how am I to tell you about it all? I had never foreseen what has
happened. But no — I cannot say that I had NEVER foreseen it, for my mind DID get an
inkling of what was coming, through my seeing something very similar to it in a dream.
I will tell you the whole story — simply, and as God may put it into my heart. Today I
went to the office as usual, and, upon arrival, sat down to write. You must know that I had
been engaged on the same sort of work yesterday, and that, while executing it, I had been
approached by Timothei Ivanovitch with an urgent request for a particular document. “Makar
Alexievitch,” he had said, “pray copy this out for me. Copy it as quickly and as carefully as you
can, for it will require to be signed today.” Also let me tell you, dearest, that yesterday I had
not been feeling myself, nor able to look at anything. I had been troubled with grave
depression — my breast had felt chilled, and my head clouded. All the while I had been
thinking of you, my darling. Well, I set to work upon the copying, and executed it cleanly and
well, except for the fact that, whether the devil confused my mind, or a mysterious fate so
ordained, or the occurrence was simply bound to happen, I left out a whole line of the
document, and thus made nonsense of it! The work had been given me too late for signature
last night, so it went before his Excellency this morning. I reached the office at my usual hour,
and sat down beside Emelia Ivanovitch. Here I may remark that for a long time past I have
been feeling twice as shy and diffident as I used to do; I have been finding it impossible to
look people in the face. Let only a chair creak, and I become more dead than alive. Today,
therefore, I crept humbly to my seat and sat down in such a crouching posture that Efim
Akimovitch (the most touchy man in the world) said to me sotto voce: “What on earth makes
you sit like that, Makar Alexievitch?” Then he pulled such a grimace that everyone near us
rocked with laughter at my expense. I stopped my ears, frowned, and sat without moving, for I
found this the best method of putting a stop to such merriment. All at once I heard a bustle
and a commotion and the sound of someone running towards us. Did my ears deceive me? It
was I who was being summoned in peremptory tones! My heart started to tremble within me,
though I could not say why. I only know that never in my life before had it trembled as it did
then. Still I clung to my chair — — and at that moment was hardly myself at all. The voices
were coming nearer and nearer, until they were shouting in my ear: “Dievushkin! Dievushkin!
Where is Dievushkin?” Then at length I raised my eyes, and saw before me Evstafi Ivanovitch.
He said to me: “Makar Alexievitch, go at once to his Excellency. You have made a mistake in
a document.” That was all, but it was enough, was it not? I felt dead and cold as ice — I felt
absolutely deprived of the power of sensation; but, I rose from my seat and went whither I had
been bidden. Through one room, through two rooms, through three rooms I passed, until I
was conducted into his Excellency’s cabinet itself. Of my thoughts at that moment I can give
no exact account. I merely saw his Excellency standing before me, with a knot of people
around him. I have an idea that I did not salute him — that I forgot to do so. Indeed, so
panicstricken was I, that my teeth were chattering and my knees knocking together. In the first
place, I was greatly ashamed of my appearance (a glance into a mirror on the right had
frightened me with the reflection of myself that it presented), and, in the second place, I had
always been accustomed to comport myself as though no such person as I existed. Probably
his Excellency had never before known that I was even alive. Of course, he might have heard,
in passing, that there was a man named Dievushkin in his department; but never for a
moment had he had any intercourse with me.He began angrily: “What is this you have done, sir? Why are you not more careful? The
document was wanted in a hurry, and you have gone and spoiled it. What do you think of it?”
— the last being addressed to Evstafi Ivanovitch. More I did not hear, except for some flying
exclamations of “What negligence and carelessness! How awkward this is!” and so on. I
opened my mouth to say something or other; I tried to beg pardon, but could not. To attempt
to leave the room, I had not the hardihood. Then there happened something the recollection
of which causes the pen to tremble in my hand with shame. A button of mine — the devil take
it! — a button of mine that was hanging by a single thread suddenly broke off, and hopped
and skipped and rattled and rolled until it had reached the feet of his Excellency himself — this
amid a profound general silence! THAT was what came of my intended self-justification and
plea for mercy! THAT was the only answer that I had to return to my chief!
The sequel I shudder to relate. At once his Excellency’s attention became drawn to my
figure and costume. I remembered what I had seen in the mirror, and hastened to pursue the
button. Obstinacy of a sort seized upon me, and I did my best to arrest the thing, but it
slipped away, and kept turning over and over, so that I could not grasp it, and made a sad
spectacle of myself with my awkwardness. Then there came over me a feeling that my last
remaining strength was about to leave me, and that all, all was lost — reputation, manhood,
everything! In both ears I seemed to hear the voices of Theresa and Phaldoni. At length,
however, I grasped the button, and, raising and straightening myself, stood humbly with
clasped hands — looking a veritable fool! But no. First of all I tried to attach the button to the
ragged threads, and smiled each time that it broke away from them, and smiled again. In the
beginning his Excellency had turned away, but now he threw me another glance, and I heard
him say to Evstafi Ivanovitch: “What on earth is the matter with the fellow? Look at the figure
he cuts! Who to God is he? Ah, beloved, only to hear that, “Who to God is he? Truly I had
made myself a marked man! In reply to his Excellency Evstafi murmured: “He is no one of any
note, though his character is good. Besides, his salary is sufficient as the scale goes.” “Very
well, then; but help him out of his difficulties somehow,” said his Excellency. “Give him a trifle
of salary in advance.” “It is all forestalled,” was the reply. “He drew it some time ago. But his
record is good. There is nothing against him.” At this I felt as though I were in Hell fire. I could
actually have died! “Well, well,” said his Excellency, “let him copy out the document a second
time. Dievushkin, come here. You are to make another copy of this paper, and to make it as
quickly as possible.” With that he turned to some other officials present, issued to them a few
orders, and the company dispersed. No sooner had they done so than his Excellency hurriedly
pulled out a pocket-book, took thence a note for a hundred roubles, and, with the words,
“Take this. It is as much as I can afford. Treat it as you like,” placed the money in my hand! At
this, dearest, I started and trembled, for I was moved to my very soul. What next I did I hardly
know, except that I know that I seized his Excellency by the hand. But he only grew very red,
and then — no, I am not departing by a hair’s-breadth from the truth — it is true — that he
took this unworthy hand in his, and shook it! Yes, he took this hand of mine in his, and shook
it, as though I had been his equal, as though I had been a general like himself! “Go now,” he
said. “This is all that I can do for you. Make no further mistakes, and I will overlook your fault.”
What I think about it is this: I beg of you and of Thedora, and had I any children I should
beg of them also, to pray ever to God for his Excellency. I should say to my children: “For
your father you need not pray; but for his Excellency, I bid you pray until your lives shall end.”
Yes, dear one — I tell you this in all solemnity, so hearken well unto my words — that though,
during these cruel days of our adversity, I have nearly died of distress of soul at the sight of
you and your poverty, as well as at the sight of myself and my abasement and helplessness, I
yet care less for the hundred roubles which his Excellency has given me than for the fact that
he was good enough to take the hand of a wretched drunkard in his own and press it. By that
act he restored me to myself. By that act he revived my courage, he made life forever sweet
to me... Yes, sure am I that, sinner though I be before the Almighty, my prayers for thehappiness and prosperity of his Excellency will yet ascend to the Heavenly Throne!...
But, my darling, for the moment I am terribly agitated and distraught. My heart is beating
as though it would burst my breast, and all my body seems weak... I send you forty-five
roubles in notes. Another twenty I shall give to my landlady, and the remaining thirty-five I
shall keep — twenty for new clothes and fifteen for actual living expenses. But these
experiences of the morning have shaken me to the core, and I must rest awhile. It is quiet,
very quiet, here. My breath is coming in jerks — deep down in my breast I can hear it sobbing
and trembling... I will come and see you soon, but at the moment my head is aching with
these various sensations. God sees all things, my darling, my priceless treasure!
Your steadfast friend,

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 10

My beloved Makar Alexievitch
I am unspeakably rejoiced at your good fortune, and fully appreciate the kindness of your
superior. Now, take a rest from your cares. Only do not AGAIN spend money to no
advantage. Live as quietly and as frugally as possible, and from today begin always to set
aside something, lest misfortune again overtake you. Do not, for God’s sake, worry yourself
— Thedora and I will get on somehow. Why have you sent me so much money? I really do
not need it — what I had already would have been quite sufficient. True, I shall soon be
needing further funds if I am to leave these lodgings, but Thedora is hoping before long to
receive repayment of an old debt. Of course, at least TWENTY roubles will have to be set
aside for indispensable requirements, but theremainder shall be returned to you. Pray take
care of it, Makar Alexievitch. Now, goodbye. May your life continue peacefully, and may you
preserve your health and spirits. I would have written to you at greater length had I not felt so
terribly weary. Yesterday I never left my bed. I am glad that you have promised to come and
see me. Yes, you MUST pay me a visit.

B. D.
thSeptember 11

My darling Barbara Alexievna
I implore you not to leave me now that I am once more happy and contented. Disregard
what Thedora says, and I will do anything in the world for you. I will behave myself better,
even if only out of respect for his Excellency, and guard my every action. Once more we will
exchange cheerful letters with one another, and make mutual confidence of our thoughts and
joys and sorrows (if so be that we shall know any more sorrows?). Yes, we will live twice as
happily and comfortably as of old. Also, we will exchange books... Angel of my heart, a great
change has taken place in my fortunes — a change very much for the better. My landlady has
become more accommodating; Theresa has recovered her senses; even Phaldoni springs to
do my bidding. Likewise, I have made my peace with Rataziaev. He came to see me of his
own accord, the moment that he heard the glad tidings. There can be no doubt that he is a
good fellow, that there is no truth in the slanders that one hears of him. For one thing, I have
discovered that he never had any intention of putting me and yourself into a book. This he told
me himself, and then read to me his latest work. As for his calling me “Lovelace,” he had
intended no rudeness or indecency thereby. The term is merely one of foreign derivation,
meaning a clever fellow, or, in more literary and elegant language, a gentleman with whom
one must reckon. That is all; it was a mere harmless jest, my beloved. Only ignorance made
me lose my temper, and I have expressed to him my regret... How beautiful is the weather
today, my little Barbara! True, there was a slight frost in the early morning, as though
scattered through a sieve, but it was nothing, and the breeze soon freshened the air. I went
out to buy some shoes, and obtained a splendid pair. Then, after a stroll along the Nevski
Prospect, I read “The Daily Bee”. This reminds me that I have forgotten to tell you the most
important thing of all. It happened like this:
This morning I had a talk with Emelia Ivanovitch and Aksenti Michaelovitch concerning
his Excellency. Apparently, I am not the only person to whom he has acted kindly and been
charitable, for he is known to the whole world for his goodness of heart. In many quarters his
praises are to be heard; in many quarters he has called forth tears of gratitude. Among other
things, he undertook the care of an orphaned girl, and married her to an official, the son of a
poor widow, and found this man place in a certain chancellory, and in other ways benefited
him. Well, dearest, I considered it to be my duty to add my mite by publishing abroad the
story of his Excellency’s gracious treatment of myself. Accordingly, I related the whole
occurrence to my interlocutors, and concealed not a single detail. In fact, I put my pride into
my pocket — though why should I feel ashamed of having been elated by such an
occurrence? “Let it only be noised afield,” said I to myself, and it will resound greatly to his
Excellency’s credit. — So I expressed myself enthusiastically on the subject and never
faltered. On the contrary, I felt proud to have such a story to tell. I referred to every one
concerned (except to yourself, of course, dearest) — to my landlady, to Phaldoni, to
Rataziaev, to Markov. I even mentioned the matter of my shoes! Some of those standing by
laughed — in fact every one present did so, but probably it was my own figure or the incident
of my shoes — more particularly the latter — that excited merriment, for I am sure it was not
meant ill-naturedly. My hearers may have been young men, or well off; certainly they cannot
have been laughing with evil intent at what I had said. Anything against his Excellency
CANNOT have been in their thoughts. Eh, Barbara?
Even now I cannot wholly collect my faculties, so upset am I by recent events... Have
you any fuel to go on with, Barbara? You must not expose yourself to cold. Also, you have
depressed my spirits with your fears for the future. Daily I pray to God on your behalf. Ah,HOW I pray to Him!... Likewise, have you any woollen stockings to wear, and warm clothes
generally? Mind you, if there is anything you need, you must not hurt an old man’s feelings by
failing to apply to him for what you require. The bad times are gone now, and the future is
looking bright and fair.
But what bad times they were, Barbara, even though they be gone, and can no longer
matter! As the years pass on we shall gradually recover ourselves. How clearly I remember
my youth! In those days I never had a kopeck to spare. Yet, cold and hungry though I was, I
was always light-hearted. In the morning I would walk the Nevski Prospect, and meet
nicelooking people, and be happy all day. Yes, it was a glorious, a glorious time! It was good to be
alive, especially in St. Petersburg. Yet it is but yesterday that I was beseeching God with tears
to pardon me my sins during the late sorrowful period — to pardon me my murmurings and
evil thoughts and gambling and drunkenness. And you I remembered in my prayers, for you
alone have encouraged and comforted me, you alone have given me advice and instruction. I
shall never forget that, dearest. Today I gave each one of your letters a kiss... Goodbye,
beloved. I have been told that there is going to be a sale of clothing somewhere in this
neighbourhood. Once more goodbye, goodbye, my angel.
Yours in heart and soul,

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 15

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
I am in terrible distress. I feel sure that something is about to happen. The matter, my
beloved friend, is that Monsieur Bwikov is again in St. Petersburg, for Thedora has met him.
He was driving along in a drozhki, but, on meeting Thedora, he ordered the coachman to stop,
sprang out, and inquired of her where she was living; but this she would not tell him. Next, he
said with a smile that he knew quite well who was living with her (evidently Anna Thedorovna
had told him); whereupon Thedora could hold out no longer, but then and there, in the street,
railed at and abused him — telling him that he was an immoral man, and the cause of all my
misfortunes. To this he replied that a person who did not possess a groat must surely be
rather badly off; to which Thedora retorted that I could always either live by the labour of my
hands or marry — that it was not so much a question of my losing posts as of my losing my
happiness, the ruin of which had led almost to my death. In reply he observed that, though I
was still quite young, I seemed to have lost my wits, and that my “virtue appeared to be under
a cloud” (I quote his exact words). Both I and Thedora had thought that he does not know
where I live; but, last night, just as I had left the house to make a few purchases in the
Gostinni Dvor, he appeared at our rooms (evidently he had not wanted to find me at home),
and put many questions to Thedora concerning our way of living. Then, after inspecting my
work, he wound up with: “Who is this tchinovnik friend of yours?” At the moment you
happened to be passing through the courtyard, so Thedora pointed you out, and the man
peered at you, and laughed. Thedora next asked him to depart — telling him that I was still ill
from grief, and that it would give me great pain to see him there; to which, after a pause, he
replied that he had come because he had had nothing better to do. Also, he was for giving
Thedora twenty-five roubles, but, of course, she declined them. What does it all mean? Why
has he paid this visit? I cannot understand his getting to know about me. I am lost in
conjecture. Thedora, however, says that Aksinia, her sister-in-law (who sometimes comes to
see her), is acquainted with a laundress named Nastasia, and that this woman has a cousin in
the position of watchman to a department of which a certain friend of Anna Thedorovna’s
nephew forms one of the staff. Can it be, therefore, that an intrigue has been hatched through
THIS channel? But Thedora may be entirely mistaken. We hardly know what to think. What if
he should come again? The very thought terrifies me. When Thedora told me of this last night
such terror seized upon me that I almost swooned away. What can the man be wanting? At all
events, I refuse to know such people. What have they to do with my wretched self? Ah, how I
am haunted with anxiety, for every moment I keep thinking that Bwikov is at hand! WHAT will
become of me? WHAT MORE has fate in store for me? For Christ’s sake come and see me,
Makar Alexievitch! For Christ’s sake come and see me soon!
thSeptember 18

My beloved Barbara Alexievna
Today there took place in this house a most lamentable, a most mysterious, a most
unlooked-for occurrence. First of all, let me tell you that poor Gorshkov has been entirely
absolved of guilt. The decision has been long in coming, but this morning he went to hear the
final resolution read. It was entirely in his favour. Any culpability which had been imputed to
him for negligence and irregularity was removed by the resolution. Likewise, he was
authorised to recover of the merchant a large sum of money. Thus, he stands entirely
justified, and has had his character cleansed from all stain. In short, he could not have wished
for a more complete vindication. When he arrived home at three o’clock he was looking as
white as a sheet, and his lips were quivering. Yet there was a smile on his face as he
embraced his wife and children. In a body the rest of us ran to congratulate him, and he was
greatly moved by the act. Bowing to us, he pressed our hands in turn. As he did so I thought,
somehow, that he seemed to have grown taller and straighter, and that the pus-drops seemed
to have disappeared from his eyelashes. Yet how agitated he was, poor fellow! He could not
rest quietly for two minutes together, but kept picking up and then dropping whatsoever came
to his hand, and bowing and smiling without intermission, and sitting down and getting up, and
again sitting down, and chattering God only knows what about his honour and his good name
and his little ones. How he did talk — yes, and weep too! Indeed, few of ourselves could
refrain from tears; although Rataziaev remarked (probably to encourage Gorshkov) that
honour mattered nothing when one had nothing to eat, and that money was the chief thing in
the world, and that for it alone ought God to be thanked. Then he slapped Gorshkov on the
shoulder, but I thought that Gorshkov somehow seemed hurt at this. He did not express any
open displeasure, but threw Rataziaev a curious look, and removed his hand from his
shoulder. ONCE upon a time he would not have acted thus; but characters differ. For
example, I myself should have hesitated, at such a season of rejoicing, to seem proud, even
though excessive deference and civility at such a moment might have been construed as a
lapse both of moral courage and of mental vigour. However, this is none of my business. All
that Gorshkov said was: “Yes, money IS a good thing, glory be to God!” In fact, the whole
time that we remained in his room he kept repeating to himself: “Glory be to God, glory be to
God!” His wife ordered a richer and more delicate meal than usual, and the landlady herself
cooked it, for at heart she is not a bad woman. But until the meal was served Gorshkov could
not remain still. He kept entering everyone’s room in turn (whether invited thither or not), and,
seating himself smilingly upon a chair, would sometimes say something, and sometimes not
utter a word, but get up and go out again. In the naval officer’s room he even took a pack of
playing-cards into his hand, and was thereupon invited to make a fourth in a game; but after
losing a few times, as well as making several blunders in his play, he abandoned the pursuit.
“No,” said he, “that is the sort of man that I am — that is all that I am good for,” and departed.
Next, encountering myself in the corridor, he took my hands in his, and gazed into my face
with a rather curious air. Then he pressed my hands again, and moved away still smiling,
smiling, but in an odd, weary sort of manner, much as a corpse might smile. Meanwhile his
wife was weeping for joy, and everything in their room was decked in holiday guise. Presently
dinner was served, and after they had dined Gorshkov said to his wife: “See now, dearest, I
am going to rest a little while;” and with that went to bed. Presently he called his little daughter
to his side, and, laying his hand upon the child’s head, lay a long while looking at her. Then he
turned to his wife again, and asked her: “What of Petinka? Where is our Petinka?” whereupon
his wife crossed herself, and replied: “Why, our Petinka is dead!” “Yes, yes, I know — ofcourse,” said her husband. “Petinka is now in the Kingdom of Heaven.” This showed his wife
that her husband was not quite in his right senses — that the recent occurrence had upset
him; so she said: “My dearest, you must sleep awhile.” “I will do so,” he replied, “ — at once
— I am rather — ” And he turned over, and lay silent for a time. Then again he turned round
and tried to say something, but his wife could not hear what it was. “What do you say?” she
inquired, but he made no reply. Then again she waited a few moments until she thought to
herself, “He has gone to sleep,” and departed to spend an hour with the landlady. At the end
of that hour she returned — only to find that her husband had not yet awoken, but was still
lying motionless. “He is sleeping very soundly,” she reflected as she sat down and began to
work at something or other. Since then she has told us that when half an hour or so had
elapsed she fell into a reverie. What she was thinking of she cannot remember, save that she
had forgotten altogether about her husband. Then she awoke with a curious sort of sensation
at her heart. The first thing that struck her was the deathlike stillness of the room. Glancing at
the bed, she perceived her husband to be lying in the same position as before. Thereupon she
approached him, turned the coverlet back, and saw that he was stiff and cold — that he had
died suddenly, as though smitten with a stroke. But of what precisely he died God only knows.
The affair has so terribly impressed me that even now I cannot fully collect my thoughts. It
would scarcely be believed that a human being could die so simply — and he such a poor,
needy wretch, this Gorshkov! What a fate, what a fate, to be sure! His wife is plunged in tears
and panic-stricken, while his little daughter has run away somewhere to hide herself. In their
room, however, all is bustle and confusion, for the doctors are about to make an autopsy on
the corpse. But I cannot tell you things for certain; I only know that I am most grieved, most
grieved. How sad to think that one never knows what even a day, what even an hour, may
bring forth! One seems to die to so little purpose!
Your own

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 19

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

Makar Dievushkin.
rdSeptember 23

My dearest Makar Alexievitch
I have not written to you these three days past for the reason that I have been so
worried and alarmed.
Three days ago Bwikov came again to see me. At the time I was alone, for Thedora had
gone out somewhere. As soon as I opened the door the sight of him so terrified me that I
stood rooted to the spot, and could feel myself turning pale. Entering with his usual loud laugh,
he took a chair, and sat down. For a long while I could not collect my thoughts; I just sat
where I was, and went on with my work. Soon his smile faded, for my appearance seemed
somehow to have struck him. You see, of late I have grown thin, and my eyes and cheeks
have fallen in, and my face has become as white as a sheet; so that anyone who knew me a
year ago would scarcely recognise me now. After a prolonged inspection, Bwikov seemed to
recover his spirits, for he said something to which I duly replied. Then again he laughed. Thus
he sat for a whole hour — — talking to me the while, and asking me questions about one
thing and another. At length, just before he rose to depart, he took me by the hand, and said
(to quote his exact words): “Between ourselves, Barbara Alexievna, that kinswoman of yours
and my good friend and acquaintance — I refer to Anna Thedorovna — is a very bad woman “
(he also added a grosser term of opprobrium). “First of all she led your cousin astray, and
then she ruined yourself. I also have behaved like a villain, but such is the way of the world.”
Again he laughed. Next, having remarked that, though not a master of eloquence, he had
always considered that obligations of gentility obliged him to have with me a clear and
outspoken explanation, he went on to say that he sought my hand in marriage; that he looked
upon it as a duty to restore to me my honour; that he could offer me riches; that, after
marriage, he would take me to his country seat in the Steppes, where we would hunt hares;
that he intended never to visit St. Petersburg again, since everything there was horrible, and
he had to entertain a worthless nephew whom he had sworn to disinherit in favour of a legal
heir; and, finally, that it was to obtain such a legal heir that he was seeking my hand in
marriage. Lastly, he remarked that I seemed to be living in very poor circumstances (which
was not surprising, said he, in view of the kennel that I inhabited); that I should die if I
remained a month longer in that den; that all lodgings in St. Petersburg were detestable; and
that he would be glad to know if I was in want of anything.
So thunderstruck was I with the proposal that I could only burst into tears. These tears
he interpreted as a sign of gratitude, for he told me that he had always felt assured of my
good sense, cleverness, and sensibility, but that hitherto he had hesitated to take this step
until he should have learned precisely how I was getting on. Next he asked me some
questions about YOU; saying that he had heard of you as a man of good principle, and that
since he was unwilling to remain your debtor, would a sum of five hundred roubles repay you
for all you had done for me? To this I replied that your services to myself had been such as
could never be requited with money; whereupon, he exclaimed that I was talking rubbish and
nonsense; that evidently I was still young enough to read poetry; that romances of this kind
were the undoing of young girls, that books only corrupted morality, and that, for his part, he
could not abide them. “You ought to live as long as I have done,” he added, “and THEN you
will see what men can be.”
With that he requested me to give his proposal my favourable consideration — saying
that he would not like me to take such an important step unguardedly, since want of thought
and impetuosity often spelt ruin to youthful inexperience, but that he hoped to receive an
answer in the affirmative. “Otherwise,” said he, “I shall have no choice but to marry a certainmerchant’s daughter in Moscow, in order that I may keep my vow to deprive my nephew of
the inheritance. — Then he pressed five hundred roubles into my hand — to buy myself some
bonbons, as he phrased it — and wound up by saying that in the country I should grow as fat
as a doughnut or a cheese rolled in butter; that at the present moment he was extremely
busy; and that, deeply engaged in business though he had been all day, he had snatched the
present opportunity of paying me a visit. At length he departed.
For a long time I sat plunged in reflection. Great though my distress of mind was, I soon
arrived at a decision... My friend, I am going to marry this man; I have no choice but to accept
his proposal. If anyone could save me from this squalor, and restore to me my good name,
and avert from me future poverty and want and misfortune, he is the man to do it. What else
have I to look for from the future? What more am I to ask of fate? Thedora declares that one
need NEVER lose one’s happiness; but what, I ask HER, can be called happiness under such
circumstances as mine? At all events I see no other road open, dear friend. I see nothing else
to be done. I have worked until I have ruined my health. I cannot go on working forever. Shall
I go out into the world? Nay; I am worn to a shadow with grief, and become good for nothing.
Sickly by nature, I should merely be a burden upon other folks. Of course this marriage will
not bring me paradise, but what else does there remain, my friend — what else does there
remain? What other choice is left?
I had not asked your advice earlier for the reason that I wanted to think the matter over
alone. However, the decision which you have just read is unalterable, and I am about to
announce it to Bwikov himself, who in any case has pressed me for a speedy reply, owing to
the fact (so he says) that his business will not wait nor allow him to remain here longer, and
that therefore, no trifle must be allowed to stand in its way. God alone knows whether I shall
be happy, but my fate is in His holy, His inscrutable hand, and I have so decided. Bwikov is
said to be kind-hearted. He will at least respect me, and perhaps I shall be able to return that
respect. What more could be looked for from such a marriage?
I have now told you all, Makar Alexievitch, and feel sure that you will understand my
despondency. Do not, however, try to divert me from my intention, for all your efforts will be in
vain. Think for a moment; weigh in your heart for a moment all that has led me to take this
step. At first my anguish was extreme, but now I am quieter. What awaits me I know not.
What must be must be, and as God may send...
Bwikov has just arrived, so I am leaving this letter unfinished. Otherwise I had much else
to say to you. Bwikov is even now at the door!...
rdSeptember 23

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

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 27

Dear Makar Alexievitch
Bwikov has just informed me that I must have at least three dozen linen blouses; so I
must go at once and look for sempstresses to make two out of the three dozen, since time
presses. Indeed, Monsieur Bwikov is quite angry about the fuss which these fripperies are
entailing, seeing that there remain but five days before the wedding, and we are to depart on
the following day. He keeps rushing about and declaring that no time ought to be wasted on
trifles. I am terribly worried, and scarcely able to stand on my feet. There is so much to do,
and, perhaps, so much that were better left undone! Moreover, I have no blond or other lace;
so THERE is another item to be purchased, since Bwikov declares that he cannot have his
bride look like a cook, but, on the contrary, she must “put the noses of the great ladies out of
joint.” That is his expression. I wish, therefore, that you would go to Madame Chiffon’s, in
Gorokhovaia Street, and ask her, in the first place, to send me some sempstresses, and, in
the second place, to give herself the trouble of coming in person, as I am too ill to go out. Our
new flat is very cold, and still in great disorder. Also, Bwikov has an aunt who is at her last
gasp through old age, and may die before our departure. He himself, however, declares this
to be nothing, and says that she will soon recover. He is not yet living with me, and I have to
go running hither and thither to find him. Only Thedora is acting as my servant, together with
Bwikov’s valet, who oversees everything, but has been absent for the past three days.
Each morning Bwikov goes to business, and loses his temper. Yesterday he even had
some trouble with the police because of his thrashing the steward of these buildings... I have
no one to send with this letter so I am going to post it... Ah! I had almost forgotten the most
important point — which is that I should like you to go and tell Madame Chiffon that I wish the
blond lace to be changed in conformity with yesterday’s patterns, if she will be good enough to
bring with her a new assortment. Also say that I have altered my mind about the satin, which I
wish to be tamboured with crochet-work; also, that tambour is to be used with monograms on
the various garments. Do you hear? Tambour, not smooth work. Do not forget that it is to be
tambour. Another thing I had almost forgotten, which is that the lappets of the fur cloak must
be raised, and the collar bound with lace. Please tell her these things, Makar Alexievitch.
Your friend,

B. D.

P.S. — I am so ashamed to trouble you with my commissions! This is the third morning
that you will have spent in running about for my sake. But what else am I to do? The whole
place is in disorder, and I myself am ill. Do not be vexed with me, Makar Alexievitch. I am
feeling so depressed! What is going to become of me, dear friend, dear, kind, old Makar
Alexievitch? I dread to look forward into the future. Somehow I feel apprehensive; I am living,
as it were, in a mist. Yet, for God’s sake, forget none of my commissions. I am so afraid lest
you should make a mistake! Remember that everything is to be tambour work, not smooth.
thSeptember 27

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

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 28

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

B. D.
thSeptember 28

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

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 29

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

Makar Dievushkin.
thSeptember 30

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


P.S. — My heart is full! It is full to bursting of tears! Sorrow has me in its grip, and is
tearing me to pieces. Goodbye. My God, what grief! Do not, do not forget your poor Barbara!
thSeptember 30

Beloved Barbara
My jewel, my priceless one — You are now almost en route, you are now just about to
depart! Would that they had torn my heart out of my breast rather than have taken you away
from me! How could you allow it? You weep, yet you go! And only this moment I have
received from you a letter stained with your tears! It must be that you are departing
unwillingly; it must be that you are being abducted against your will; it must be that you are
sorry for me; it must be that — that you LOVE me!...
Yet how will it fare with you now? Your heart will soon have become chilled and sick and
depressed. Grief will soon have sucked away its life; grief will soon have rent it in twain! Yes,
you will die where you be, and be laid to rest in the cold, moist earth where there is no one to
bewail you. Monsieur Bwikov will only be hunting hares!...
Ah, my darling, my darling! WHY did you come to this decision? How could you bring
yourself to take such a step? What have you done, have you done, have you done? Soon
they will be carrying you away to the tomb; soon your beauty will have become defiled, my
angel. Ah, dearest one, you are as weak as a feather. And where have I been all this time?
What have I been thinking of? I have treated you merely as a forward child whose head was
aching. Fool that I was, I neither saw nor understood. I have behaved as though, right or
wrong, the matter was in no way my concern. Yes, I have been running about after
fripperies!... Ah, but I WILL leave my bed. Tomorrow I WILL rise sound and well, and be once
more myself...
Dearest, I could throw myself under the wheels of a passing vehicle rather than that you
should go like this. By what right is it being done?... I will go with you; I will run behind your
carriage if you will not take me — yes, I will run, and run so long as the power is in me, and
until my breath shall have failed. Do you know whither you are going? Perhaps you will not
know, and will have to ask me? Before you there lie the Steppes, my darling — only the
Steppes, the naked Steppes, the Steppes that are as bare as the palm of my hand. THERE
there live only heartless old women and rude peasants and drunkards. THERE the trees have
already shed their leaves. THERE there abide but rain and cold. Why should you go thither?
True, Monsieur Bwikov will have his diversions in that country — he will be able to hunt the
hare; but what of yourself? Do you wish to become a mere estate lady? Nay; look at yourself,
my seraph of heaven. Are you in any way fitted for such a role? How could you play it? To
whom should I write letters? To whom should I send these missives? Whom should I call “my
darling”? To whom should I apply that name of endearment? Where, too, could I find you?
When you are gone, Barbara, I shall die — for certain I shall die, for my heart cannot
bear this misery. I love you as I love the light of God; I love you as my own daughter; to you I
have devoted my love in its entirety; only for you have I lived at all; only because you were
near me have I worked and copied manuscripts and committed my views to paper under the
guise of friendly letters.
Perhaps you did not know all this, but it has been so. How, then, my beloved, could you
bring yourself to leave me? Nay, you MUST not go — it is impossible, it is sheerly, it is utterly,
impossible. The rain will fall upon you, and you are weak, and will catch cold. The floods will
stop your carriage. No sooner will it have passed the city barriers than it will break down,
purposely break down. Here, in St. Petersburg, they are bad builders of carriages. Yes, I
know well these carriage-builders. They are jerry-builders who can fashion a toy, but nothing
that is durable. Yes, I swear they can make nothing that is durable... All that I can do is to go
upon my knees before Monsieur Bwikov, and to tell him all, to tell him all. Do you also tell himall, dearest, and reason with him. Tell him that you MUST remain here, and must not go. Ah,
why did he not marry that merchant’s daughter in Moscow? Let him go and marry her now.
She would suit him far better and for reasons which I well know. Then I could keep you. For
what is he to you, this Monsieur Bwikov? Why has he suddenly become so dear to your
heart? Is it because he can buy you gewgaws? What are THEY? What use are THEY? They
are so much rubbish. One should consider human life rather than mere finery.
Nevertheless, as soon as I have received my next instalment of salary I mean to buy you
a new cloak. I mean to buy it at a shop with which I am acquainted. Only, you must wait until
my next installment is due, my angel of a Barbara. Ah, God, my God! To think that you are
going away into the Steppes with Monsieur Bwikov — that you are going away never to
return!... Nay, nay, but you SHALL write to me. You SHALL write me a letter as soon as you
have started, even if it be your last letter of all, my dearest. Yet will it be your last letter? How
has it come about so suddenly, so irrevocably, that this letter should be your last? Nay, nay; I
will write, and you shall write — yes, NOW, when at length I am beginning to improve my
style. Style? I do not know what I am writing. I never do know what I am writing. I could not
possibly know, for I never read over what I have written, nor correct its orthography. At the
present moment, I am writing merely for the sake of writing, and to put as much as possible
into this last letter of mine...
Ah, dearest, my pet, my own darling!...
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Below is a rendering of the page up to the first error.
The Double
First published : 1846
Translation : Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

Chapter 1

It was a little before eight o’clock in the morning when Yakov Petrovitch Golyadkin, a
titular councillor, woke up from a long sleep. He yawned, stretched, and at last opened his
eyes completely. For two minutes, however, he lay in his bed without moving, as though he
were not yet quite certain whether he were awake or still asleep, whether all that was going on
around him were real and actual, or the continuation of his confused dreams. Very soon,
however, Mr. Golyadkin’s senses began more clearly and more distinctly to receive their
habitual and everyday impressions. The dirty green, smoke-begrimed, dusty walls of his little
room, with the mahogany chest of drawers and chairs, the table painted red, the sofa covered
with American leather of a reddish colour with little green flowers on it, and the clothes taken
off in haste overnight and flung in a crumpled heap on the sofa, looked at him familiarly. At
last the damp autumn day, muggy and dirty, peeped into the room through the dingy window
pane with such a hostile, sour grimace that Mr. Golyadkin could not possibly doubt that he
was not in the land of Nod, but in the city of Petersburg, in his own flat on the fourth storey of
a huge block of buildings in Shestilavotchny Street. When he had made this important
discovery Mr. Golyadkin nervously closed his eyes, as though regretting his dream and
wanting to go back to it for a moment. But a minute later he leapt out of bed at one bound,
probably all at once, grasping the idea about which his scattered and wandering thoughts had
been revolving. From his bed he ran straight to a little round looking-glass that stood on his
chest of drawers. Though the sleepy, short-sighted countenance and rather bald head
reflected in the looking-glass were of such an insignificant type that at first sight they would
certainly not have attracted particular attention in any one, yet the owner of the countenance
was satisfied with all that he saw in the looking-glass. “What a thing it would be,” said Mr.
Golyadkin in an undertone, “what a thing it would be if I were not up to the mark today, if
something were amiss, if some intrusive pimple had made its appearance, or anything else
unpleasant had happened; so far, however, there’s nothing wrong, so far everything’s all
Greatly relieved that everything was all right, Mr Golyadkin put the looking-glass back in
its place and, although he had nothing on his feet and was still in the attire in which he was
accustomed to go to bed, he ran to the little window and with great interest began looking for
something in the courtyard, upon which the windows of his flat looked out. Apparently what he
was looking for in the yard quite satisfied him too; his face beamed with a self-satisfied smile.
Then, after first peeping, however, behind the partition into his valet Petrushka’s little room
and making sure that Petrushka was not there, he went on tiptoe to the table, opened the
drawer in it and, fumbling in the furthest corner of it, he took from under old yellow papers and
all sorts of rubbish a shabby green pocket-book, opened it cautiously, and with care and relish
peeped into the furthest and most hidden fold of it. Probably the roll of green, grey, blue, red
and particoloured notes looked at Golyadkin, too, with approval: with a radiant face he laid the
open pocket-book before him and rubbed his hands vigorously in token of the greatest
satisfaction. Finally, he took it out — his comforting roll of notes — and, for the hundredth
time since the previous day, counted them over, carefully smoothing out every note between
his forefinger and his thumb.
“Seven hundred and fifty roubles in notes,” he concluded at last, in a half-whisper.
“Seven hundred and fifty roubles, a noteworthy sum! It’s an agreeable sum,” he went on, in a
voice weak and trembling with gratification, as he pinched the roll with his fingers and smiled
significantly; “it’s a very agreeable sum! A sum agreeable to any one! I should like to see the
man to whom that would be a trivial sum! There’s no knowing what a man might not do with asum like that... What’s the meaning of it, though?” thought Mr. Golyadkin; “where’s
Petrushka?” And still in the same attire he peeped behind the partition again. Again there was
no sign of Petrushka; and the samovar standing on the floor was beside itself, fuming and
raging in solitude, threatening every minute to boil over, hissing and lisping in its mysterious
language, to Mr. Golyadkin something like, “Take me, good people, I’m boiling and perfectly
“Damn the fellow,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “That lazy brute might really drive a man out
of all patience; where’s he dawdling now?”
In just indignation he went out into the hall, which consisted of a little corridor at the end
of which was a door into the entry, and saw his servant surrounded by a good-sized group of
lackeys of all sorts, a mixed rabble from outside as well as from the flats of the house.
Petrushka was telling something, the others were listening. Apparently the subject of the
conversation, or the conversation itself, did not please Mr. Golyadkin. He promptly called
Petrushka and returned to his room, displeased and even upset. “That beast would sell a man
for a halfpenny, and his master before any one,” he thought to himself: “and he has sold me,
he certainly has. I bet he has sold me for a farthing. Well?”
“They’ve brought the livery, sir.”
“Put it on, and come here.”
When he had put on his livery, Petrushka, with a stupid smile on his face, went in to his
master. His costume was incredibly strange. He had on a much-worn green livery, with frayed
gold braid on it, apparently made for a man a yard taller than Petrushka. In his hand he had a
hat trimmed with the same gold braid and with a feather in it, and at his hip hung a footman’s
sword in a leather sheath. Finally, to complete the picture, Petrushka, who always liked to be
in negligé, was barefooted. Mr. Golyadkin looked at Petrushka from all sides and was
apparently satisfied. The livery had evidently been hired for some solemn occasion. It might
be observed, too, that during his master’s inspection Petrushka watched him with strange
expectance and with marked curiosity followed every movement he made, which extremely
embarrassed Mr. Golyadkin.
“Well, and how about the carriage?”
“The carriage is here too.”
“For the whole day?”
“For the whole day. Twenty five roubles.”
“And have the boots been sent?”
“Dolt! can’t even say, ‘yes, sir.’ Bring them here.”
Expressing his satisfaction that the boots fitted, Mr. Golyadkin asked for his tea, and for
water to wash and shave. He shaved with great care and washed as scrupulously, hurriedly
sipped his tea and proceeded to the principal final process of attiring himself: he put on an
almost new pair of trousers; then a shirtfront with brass studs, and a very bright and
agreeably flowered waistcoat; about his neck he tied a gay, particoloured cravat, and finally
drew on his coat, which was also newish and carefully brushed. As he dressed, he more than
once looked lovingly at his boots, lifted up first one leg and then the other, admired their
shape, kept muttering something to himself, and from time to time made expressive grimaces.
Mr. Golyadkin was, however, extremely absent-minded that morning, for he scarcely noticed
the little smiles and grimaces made at his expense by Petrushka, who was helping him dress.
At last, having arranged everything properly and having finished dressing, Mr. Golyadkin put
his pocket-book in his pocket, took a final admiring look at Petrushka, who had put on his
boots and was therefore also quite ready, and, noticing that everything was done and that
there was nothing left to wait for, he ran hurriedly and fussily out on to the stairs, with a slight
throbbing at his heart. The light-blue hired carriage with a crest on it rolled noisily up to the
steps. Petrushka, winking to the driver and some of the gaping crowd, helped his master intothe carriage; and hardly able to suppress an idiotic laugh, shouted in an unnatural voice: “Off!”
jumped up on the footboard, and the whole turnout, clattering and rumbling noisily, rolled into
the Nevsky Prospect. As soon as the light-blue carriage dashed out of the gate, Mr. Golyadkin
rubbed his hands convulsively and went off into a slow, noiseless chuckle, like a jubilant man
who has succeeded in bringing off a splendid performance and is as pleased as Punch with
the performance himself. Immediately after his access of gaiety, however, laughter was
replaced by a strange and anxious expression on the face of Mr. Golyadkin. Though the
weather was damp and muggy, he let down both windows of the carriage and began carefully
scrutinizing the passers-by to left and to right, at once assuming a decorous and sedate air
when he thought any one was looking at him. At the turning from Liteyny Street into the
Nevsky Prospect he was startled by a most unpleasant sensation and, frowning like some
poor wretch whose corn has been accidentally trodden on, he huddled with almost
panicstricken hast into the darkest corner of his carriage.
He had seen two of his colleagues, two young clerks serving in the same government
department. The young clerks were also, it seemed to Mr. Golyadkin, extremely amazed at
meeting their colleague in such a way; one of them, in fact, pointed him out to the other. Mr.
Golyadkin even fancied that the other had actually called his name, which, of course, was very
unseemly in the street. Our hero concealed himself and did not respond. “The silly
youngsters!” he began reflecting to himself. “Why, what is there strange in it? A man in a
carriage, a man needs to be in a carriage, and so he hires a carriage. They’re simply noodles!
I know them — simply silly youngsters, who still need thrashing! They want to be paid a salary
for playing pitch-farthing and dawdling about, that’s all they’re fit for. It’d let them all know, if
Mr. Golyadkin broke off suddenly, petrified. A smart pair of Kazan horses, very familiar to
Mr. Golyadkin, in a fashionable droshky, drove rapidly by on the right side of his carriage. The
gentleman sitting in the droshky, happening to catch a glimpse of Mr. Golyadkin, who was
rather incautiously poking his head out of the carriage window, also appeared to be extremely
astonished at the unexpected meeting and, bending out as far as he could, looked with the
greatest of curiosity and interest into the corner of the carriage in which our hero made haste
to conceal himself. The gentleman in the droshky was Andrey Filippovitch, the head of the
office in which Mr. Golyadkin served in the capacity of assistant to the chief clerk. Mr.
Golyadkin, seeing that Andrey Filippovitch recognized him, that he was looking at him
openeyed and that it was impossible to hide, blushed up to his ears.
“Bow or not? Call back or not? Recognize him or not?” our hero wondered in
indescribable anguish, “or pretend that I am not myself, but somebody else strikingly like me,
and look as though nothing were the matter. Simply not I, not I — and that’s all,” said Mr.
Golyadkin, taking off his hat to Andrey Filippovitch and keeping his eyes fixed upon him. “I’m...
I’m all right,” he whispered with an effort; “I’m... quite all right. It’s not I, it’s not I — and that is
the fact of the matter.”
Soon, however, the droshky passed the carriage, and the magnetism of his chief’s eyes
was at an end. Yet he went on blushing, smiling and muttering something to himself...
“I was a fool not to call back,” he thought at last. “I ought to have taken a bolder line and
behaved with gentlemanly openness. I ought to have said ‘This is how it is, Andrey
Filippovitch, I’m asked to the dinner too,’ and that’s all it is!”
Then, suddenly recalling how taken aback he had been, our hero flushed as hot as fire,
frowned, and cast a terrible defiant glance at the front corner of the carriage, a glance
calculated to reduce all his foes to ashes. At last, he was suddenly inspired to pull the cord
attached to the driver’s elbow, and stopped the carriage, telling him to drive back to Liteyny
Street. The fact was, it was urgently necessary for Mr. Golyadkin, probably for the sake of his
own peace of mind, to say something very interesting to his doctor, Krestyan Ivanovitch. And,
though he had made Krestyan Ivanovitch’s acquaintance quite recently, having, indeed, onlypaid him a single visit, and that one the previous week, to consult him about some symptom.
but a doctor, as they say, is like a priest, and it would be stupid for him to keep out of sight,
and, indeed, it was his duty to know his patients. “Will it be all right, though,” our hero went on,
getting out of the carriage at the door of a five-storey house in Liteyny Street, at which he had
told the driver to stop the carriage: “Will it be all right? Will it be proper? Will it be appropriate?
After all, though,” he went on, thinking as he mounted the stairs out of breath and trying to
suppress that beating of his heart, which had the habit of beating on all other people’s
staircases: “After all, it’s on my own business and there’s nothing reprehensible in it... It would
be stupid to keep out of sight. Why, of course, I shall behave as though I were quite all right,
and have simply looked in as I passed... He will see, that it’s all just as it should be.”
Reasoning like this, Mr. Golyadkin mounted to the second storey and stopped before flat
number five, on which there was a handsome brass door-plate with the inscription —

Doctor of Medicine and Surgery

Stopping at the door, our hero made haste to assume an air of propriety, ease, and even
of a certain affability, and prepared to pull the bell. As he was about to do so he promptly and
rather appropriately reflected that it might be better to come to-morrow, and that it was not
very pressing for the moment. But as he suddenly heard footsteps on the stairs, he
immediately changed his mind again and at once rang Krestyan Ivanovitch’s bell — with an
air, moreover, of great determination.
Chapter 2

The doctor of medicine and surgery, Krestyan Ivanovitch Rutenspitz, a very hale though
elderly man, with thick eyebrows and whiskers that were beginning to turn grey, eyes with an
expressive gleam in them that looked capable of routing every disease, and, lastly, with orders
of some distinction on his breast, was sitting in his consulting-room that morning in his
comfortable armchair. He was drinking coffee, which his wife had brought him with her own
hand, smoking a cigar and from time to time writing prescriptions for his patients. After
prescribing a draught for an old man who was suffering from haemorrhoids and seeing the
aged patient out by the side door, Krestyan Ivanovitch sat down to await the next visitor.
Mr. Golyadkin walked in.
Apparently Krestyan Ivanovitch did not in the least expect nor desire to see Mr.
Golyadkin, for he was suddenly taken aback for a moment, and his countenance
unconsciously assumed a strange and, one may almost say, a displeased expression. As Mr.
Golyadkin almost always turned up inappropriately and was thrown into confusion whenever
he approached any one about his own little affairs, on this occasion, too, he was desperately
embarrassed. Having neglected to get ready his first sentence, which was invariably a
stumbling-block for him on such occasions, he muttered something — apparently an apology
— and, not knowing what to do next, took a chair and sat down, but, realizing that he had sat
down without being asked to do so, he was immediately conscious of his lapse, and made
haste to efface his offence against etiquette and good breeding by promptly getting up again
from the seat he had taken uninvited. Then, on second thoughts, dimly perceiving that he had
committed two stupid blunders at once, he immediately decided to commit a third — that is,
tried to right himself, muttered something, smiled, blushed, was overcome with
embarrassment, sank into expressive silence, and finally sat down for good and did not get up
again. Only, to protect himself from all contingencies, he looked at the doctor with that defiant
glare which had an extraordinary power of figuratively crushing Mr. Golyadkin’s enemies and
reducing them to ashes. This glance, moreover, expressed to the full Mr. Golyadkin’s
independence — that is, to speak plainly, the fact that Mr. Golyadkin was “all right,” that he
was “quite himself, like everybody else,” and that there was “nothing wrong in his upper
storey.” Krestyan Ivanovitch coughed, cleared his throat, apparently in token of approval and
assent to all this, and bent an inquisitorial interrogative gaze upon his visitor.
“I have come to trouble you a second time, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” began Mr. Golyadkin,
with a smile, “and now I venture to ask your indulgence a second time...” He was obviously at
a loss for words.
“H’m... Yes!” pronounced Krestyan Ivanovitch, puffing out a spiral of smoke and putting
down his cigar on the table, “but you must follow the treatment prescribed to you; I explained
to you that what would be beneficial to your health is a change of habits... Entertainment, for
instance, and, well, friends — you should visit your acquaintances, and not be hostile to the
bottle; and likewise keep cheerful company.”
Mr. Golyadkin, still smiling, hastened to observe that he thought he was like every one
else, that he lived by himself, that he had entertainments like every one else... that, of course,
he might go to the theatre, for he had the means like every one else, that he spent the day at
the office and the evenings at home, that he was quite all right; he even observed, in passing,
that he was, so far as he could see, as good as any one, that he lived at home, and finally,
that he had Petrushka. At this point Mr. Golyadkin hesitated.
“H’m! no, that is not the order of proceeding that I want; and that is not at all what I
would ask you. I am interested to know, in general, are you a great lover of cheerfulcompany? Do you take advantages of festive occasions; and well, do you lead a melancholy
or cheerful manner of life?”
“Krestyan Ivanovitch, I...”
“H’m!... I tell you,” interrupted the doctor, “that you must have a radical change of life,
must, in a certain sense, break in your character.” (Krestyan Ivanovitch laid special stress on
the word “break in,” and paused for a moment with a very significant air.) “Must not shrink
from gaiety, must visit entertainments and clubs, and in any case, be not hostile to the bottle.
Sitting at home is not right for you... sitting at home is impossible for you.”
“I like quiet, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, with a significant look at the doctor
and evidently seeking words to express his ideas more successfully: “In my flat there’s only
me and Petrushka... I mean my man, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I mean to say, Krestyan
Ivanovitch, that I go my way, my own way, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I keep myself to myself, and
so far as I can see am not dependent on any one. I go out for walks, too, Krestyan
“What? Yes! well, nowadays there’s nothing agreeable in walking: the climate’s extremely
“Quite so, Krestyan Ivanovitch. Though I’m a peaceable man, Krestyan Ivanovitch, as
I’ve had the honour of explaining to you already, yet my way lies apart, Krestyan Ivanovitch.
The ways of life are manifold... I mean... I mean to say, Krestyan Ivanovitch... Excuse me,
Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’ve no great gift for eloquent speaking.”
“H’m... you say...”
“I say, you must excuse me, Krestyan Ivanovitch, that as far as I can see I am no great
hand at eloquence in speaking,” Mr. Golyadkin articulated, stammering and hesitating, in a
half-aggrieved voice. “In that respect, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’m not quite like other people,” he
added, with a peculiar smile, “I can’t talk much, and have never learnt to embellish my speech
with literary graces. On the other hand, I act, Krestyan Ivanovitch; on the other hand, I act,
Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
“H’m... How’s that... you act?” responded Krestyan Ivanovitch.
Then silence followed for half a minute. The doctor looked somewhat strangely and
mistrustfully at his visitor. Mr. Golyadkin, for his part, too, stole a rather mistrustful glance at
the doctor.
“Krestyan Ivanovitch,” he began, going on again in the same tone as before, somewhat
irritated and puzzled by the doctors extreme obstinacy: “I like tranquillity and not the noisy
gaiety of the world. Among them, I mean, in the noisy world, Krestyan Ivanovitch one must be
able to polish the floor with one’s boots...” (here Mr. Golyadkin made a slight scrape on the
floor with his toe); “they expect it, and they expect puns too... one must know how to make a
perfumed compliment... that’s what they expect there. And I’ve not learnt to do it, Krestyan
Ivanovitch, I’ve never learnt all those tricks, I’ve never had the time. I’m a simple person, and
not ingenious, and I’ve no external polish. On that side I surrender, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I lay
down my arms, speaking in that sense.”
All this Mr. Golyadkin pronounced with an air which made it perfectly clear that our hero
was far from regretting that he was laying down his arms in that sense and that he had not
learnt these tricks; quite the contrary, indeed. As Krestyan Ivanovitch listened to him, he
looked down with a very unpleasant grimace on his face, seeming to have a presentiment of
something. Mr. Golyadkin’s tirade was followed by a rather long and significant silence.
“You have, I think, departed a little from the subject,” Krestyan Ivanovitch said at last, in
a low voice: “I confess I cannot altogether understand you.”
“I’m not a great hand at eloquent speaking, Krestyan Ivanovitch; I’ve had the honour to
inform you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, already,” said Mr. Golyadkin, speaking this time in a sharp
and resolute tone.
“H’m!”...“Krestyan Ivanovitch!” began Mr. Golyadkin again in a low but more significant voice in a
somewhat solemn style and emphasizing every point: “Krestyan Ivanovitch, when I came in
here I began with apologies. I repeat the same thing again, and again ask for your indulgence.
There’s no need for me to conceal it, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I’m an unimportant man, as you
know; but fortunately for me, I do not regret being an unimportant man. Quite the contrary,
indeed, Krestyan Ivanovitch, and, to be perfectly frank, I’m proud that I’m not a great man but
an unimportant man. I’m not one to intrigue and I’m proud of that too, I don’t act on the sly,
but openly, without cunning, and although I could do harm too, and a great deal of harm,
indeed, and know to whom and how to do it, Krestyan Ivanovitch, yet I won’t sully myself, and
in that sense I wash my hands. In that sense, I say, I wash them, Krestyan Ivanovitch!” Mr.
Golyadkin paused expressively for a moment; he spoke with mild fervour.
“I set to work, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” our hero continued, “directly, openly, by no devious
ways, for I disdain them, and leave them to others. I do not try to degrade those who are
perhaps purer than you and I... that is, I mean, I and they, Krestyan Ivanovitch — I didn’t
mean you. I don’t like insinuations; I’ve no taste for contemptible duplicity; I’m disgusted by
slander and calumny. I only put on a mask at a masquerade, and don’t wear one before
people every day. I only ask you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, how you would revenge yourself upon
your enemy, your most malignant enemy — the one you would consider such?” Mr. Golyadkin
concluded with a challenging glance at Krestyan Ivanovitch.
Though Mr. Golyadkin pronounced this with the utmost distinctness and clearness,
weighing his words with a self-confident air and reckoning on their probable effect, yet
meanwhile he looked at Krestyan Ivanovitch with anxiety, with great anxiety, with extreme
anxiety. Now he was all eyes: and timidly waited for the doctor’s answer with irritable and
agonized impatience. But to the perplexity and complete amazement of our hero, Krestyan
Ivanovitch only muttered something to himself; then he moved his armchair up to the table,
and rather drily though politely announced something to the effect that his time was precious,
and that he did not quite understand; that he was ready, however, to attend to him as far as
he was able, but he wold not go into anything further that did not concern him. At this point he
took the pen, drew a piece of paper towards him, cut out of it the usual long strip, and
announced that he would immediately prescribe what was necessary.
“No, it’s not necessary, Krestyan Ivanovitch! No, that’s not necessary at all!” said Mr.
Golyadkin, getting up from his seat, and clutching Krestyan Ivanovitch’s right hand. “That isn’t
what’s wanted, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
And, while he said this, a queer change came over him. His grey eyes gleamed
strangely, his lips began to quiver, all the muscles, all the features of his face began moving
and working. He was trembling all over. After stopping the doctor’s hand, Mr. Golyadkin
followed his first movement by standing motionless, as though he had no confidence in
himself and were waiting for some inspiration for further action.
Then followed a rather strange scene.
Somewhat perplexed, Krestyan Ivanovitch seemed for a moment rooted to his chair and
gazed open-eyed in bewilderment at Mr. Golyadkin, who looked at him in exactly the same
way. At last Krestyan Ivanovitch stood up, gently holding the lining of Mr. Golyadkin’s coat.
For some seconds they both stood like that, motionless, with their eyes fixed on each other.
Then, however, in an extraordinarily strange way came Mr. Golyadkin’s second movement.
His lips trembled, his chin began twitching, and our hero quite unexpectedly burst into tears.
Sobbing, shaking his head and striking himself on the chest with his right hand, while with his
left clutching the lining of the doctor’s coat, he tried to say something and to make some
explanation but could not utter a word.
At last Krestyan Ivanovitch recovered from his amazement.
“Come, calm yourself!” he brought out at last, trying to make Mr. Golyadkin sit down in
an armchair.“I have enemies, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I have enemies; I have malignant enemies who
have sworn to ruin me...” Mr Golyadkin answered in a frightened whisper.
“Come, come, why enemies? you mustn’t talk about enemies! You really mustn’t. Sit
down, sit down,” Krestyan Ivanovitch went on, getting Mr. Golyadkin once and for all into the
Mr. Golyadkin sat down at last, still keeping his eyes fixed on the doctor. With an
extremely displeased air, Krestyan Ivanovitch strode from one end of the room to another. A
long silence followed.
“I’m grateful to you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’m very grateful, and I’m very sensible of all
you’ve done for me now. To my dying day I shall never forget your kindness, Krestyan
Ivanovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, getting up from his seat with an offended air.
“Come, give over! I tell you, give over!” Krestyan Ivanovitch responded rather sternly to
Mr. Golyadkin’s outburst, making him sit down again.
“Well, what’s the matter? Tell me what is unpleasant,” Krestyan Ivanovitch went on, “and
what enemies are you talking about? What is wrong?”
“No, Krestyan Ivanovitch we’d better leave that now,” answered Mr. Golyadkin, casting
down his eyes; “let us put all that aside for the time... Till another time, Krestyan Ivanovitch, till
a more convenient moment, when everything will be discovered and the mask falls off certain
faces, and something comes to light. But, meanwhile, now, of course, after what has passed
between us... you will agree yourself, Krestyan Ivanovitch... Allow me to wish you good
morning, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, getting up gravely and resolutely and
taking his hat.
“Oh, well... as you like... h’m...” (A moment of silence followed.) “For my part, you
know... whatever I can do... and I sincerely wish you well.”
“I understand you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I understand: I understand you perfectly now...
In any case excuse me for having troubled you, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
“H’m, no, I didn’t mean that. However, as you please; go on taking the medicines as
“I will go with the medicines as you say, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I will go on with them, and I
will get them at the same chemist’s... To be a chemist nowadays, Krestyan Ivanovitch, is an
important business...”
“How so? In what sense do you mean?”
“In a very ordinary sense, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I mean to say that nowadays that’s the
way of the world...”
“And that every silly youngster, not only a chemist’s boy turns up his nose at respectable
“H’m. How do you understand that?”
“I’m speaking of a certain person, Krestyan Ivanovitch... of a common acquaintance of
ours, Krestyan Ivanovitch, of Vladimir Semyonovitch...”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch: and I know certain people, Krestyan Ivanovitch, who didn’t
keep to the general rule of telling the truth, sometimes.”
“Ah! How so?”
“Why, yes, it is so: but that’s neither here nor there: they sometimes manage to serve
you up a fine egg in gravy.”
“What? Serve up what?”
“An egg in gravy, Krestyan Ivanovitch. It’s a Russian saying. They know how to
congratulate some one the right moment, for instance; there are people like that.”
“yes, congratulate, Krestyan Ivanovitch, as some one I know very well did the otherday!”...
“Some one you know very well... Ah! how was that?” said Krestyan Ivanovitch, looking
attentively at Mr. Golyadkin.
“Yes, some one I know very well indeed congratulated some one else I know very well —
and, what’s more, a comrade, a friend of his heart, on his promotion, on his receiving the rank
of assessor. This was how it happened to come up: ‘I am exceedingly glad of the opportunity
to offer you, Vladimir Semyonovitch, my congratulations, my sincere congratulations, on your
receiving the rank of assessor. And I’m the more pleased, as all the world knows that there
are old women nowadays who tell fortunes.’”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin gave a sly nod, and screwing up his eyes, looked at Krestyan
“H’m. So he said that...”
“He did, Krestyan Ivanovitch, he said it and glanced at once at Andrey Filippovitch, the
uncle of our Prince Charming, Vladimir Semyonovitch. But what is it to me, Krestyan
Ivanovitch, that he has been made an assessor? What is it to me? And he wants to get
married and the milk is scarcely dry on his lips, if I may be allowed the expression. And I said
as much. Vladimir Semyonovitch, said I! I’ve said everything now; allow me to withdraw.”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, all me now, I say, to withdraw. But, to kill two birds with one
stone, as I twitted our young gentleman with the old women, I turned to Klara Olsufyevna (it
all happened the same day, before yesterday at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s), and she had only just
sung a song with feeling, ‘You’ve sung songs of feeling, madam,’ said I, ‘but they’ve not been
listened to with a pure heart.’ And by that I hinted plainly, Krestyan Ivanovitch, hinted plainly,
that they were not running after her now, but looking higher...”
“Ah! And what did he say?”
“He swallowed the pill, Krestyan Ivanovitch, as the saying is.”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch. To the old man himself, too, I said, ‘Olsufy Ivanovitch,’ said I,
‘I know how much I’m indebted to you, I appreciate to the full all the kindness you’ve
showered upon me from my childhood up. But open your eyes, Olsufy Ivanovitch,’ I said.
‘Look about you. I myself do things openly and aboveboard, Olsufy Ivanovitch.’”
“Oh, really!”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch. Really...”
“What did he say?”
“Yes, what, indeed, Krestyan Ivanovitch? He mumbled one thing and another, and ‘I
know you,’ and that ‘his Excellency was a benevolent man’ — he rambled on... But, there, you
know! he’s begun to be a bit shaky, as they say, with old age.”
“Ah! So that’s how it is now...”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch. And that’s how we all are! Poor old man! He looks towards the
grave, breathes incense, as they say, while they concoct a piece of womanish gossip and he
listens to it; without him they wouldn’t...”
“Gossip, you say?”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, they’ve concocted a womanish scandal. Our bear, too, had a
finger in it, and his nephew, our Prince Charming. They’ve joined hands with the old women
and, of course, they’ve concocted the affair. Would you believe it? They plotted the murder of
some one!...”
“The murder of some one?”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, the moral murder of some one. They spread about... I’m
speaking of a man I know very well.”
Krestyan Ivanovitch nodded.
“They spread rumours about him... I confess I’m ashamed to repeat them, KrestyanIvanovitch.”
“They spread a rumour that he had signed a promise to marry though he was already
engaged in another quarter... and would you believe it, Krestyan Ivanovitch, to whom?”
“To a cook, to a disreputable German woman from whom he used to get his dinners;
instead of paying what he owed, he offered her his hand.”
“Is that what they say?”
“Would you believe it, Krestyan Ivanovitch? A low German, a nasty shameless German,
Karolina Ivanovna, if you know...”
“I confess, for my part...”
“I understand you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I understand, and for my part I feel it...”
“Tell me, please, where are you living now?”
“Where am I living now, Krestyan Ivanovitch?”
“Yes... I want... I believe you used to live...”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I did, I used to. To be sure I lived!” answered Mr. Golyadkin,
accompanying his words with a little laugh, and somewhat disconcerting Krestyan Ivanovitch
by his answer.
“No, you misunderstood me; I meant to say...”
“I, too, meant to say, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I meant it too,” Mr. Golyadkin continued,
laughing. “But I’ve kept you far too long, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I hope you will allow me now, to
wish you good morning.”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I understand you; I fully understand you now,” said our hero,
with a slight flourish before Krestyan Ivanovitch. “And so permit me to wish you good
At this point our hero made a scraping with the toe of his boot and walked out of the
room, leaving Krestyan Ivanovitch in the utmost amazement. As he went down the doctor’s
stairs he smiled and rubbed his hands gleefully. On the steps, breathing the fresh air and
feeling himself at liberty, he was certainly prepared to admit that he was the happiest of
mortals, and thereupon to go straight to his office — when suddenly his carriage rumbled up
to the door: he glanced at it and remembered everything. Petrushka was already opening the
carriage door. Mr. Golyadkin was completely overwhelmed by a strong and unpleasant
sensation. He blushed, as it were, for a moment. Something seemed to stab him. He was just
about to raise his foot to the carriage step when he suddenly turned round and looked towards
Krestyan Ivanovitch’s window. Yes, it was so! Krestyan Ivanovitch was standing at the
window, was stroking his whiskers with his right hand and staring with some curiosity at the
hero of our story.
“That doctor is silly,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, huddling out of sight in the carriage;
“extremely silly. He may treat his patients all right, but still... he’s as stupid as a post.”
Mr. Golyadkin sat down, Petrushka shouted “Off!” and the carriage rolled towards
Nevsky Prospect again.
Chapter 3

All that morning was spent by Mr. Golyadkin in a strange bustle of activity. On reaching
the Nevsky Prospect our hero told the driver to stop at the bazaar. Skipping out of his
carriage, he ran to the Arcade, accompanied by Petrushka, and went straight to a shop where
gold and silver articles were for sale. One could see from his very air that he was
overwhelmed with business and had a terrible amount to do. Arranging to purchase a
complete dinner — and tea-service for fifteen hundred roubles and including in the bargain for
that sum a cigar-case of ingenious form and a silver shaving-set, and finally, asking the price
of some other articles, useful and agreeable in their own way, he ended by promising to come
without fail next day, or to send for his purchases the same day. He took the number of the
shop, and listening attentively to the shopkeeper, who was very pressing for a small deposit,
said that he should have it all in good time. After which he took leave of the amazed
shopkeeper and, followed by a regular flock of shopmen, walked along the Arcade, continually
looking round at Petrushka and diligently seeking our fresh shops. On the way he dropped into
a money-changer’s and changed all his big notes into small ones, and though he lost on the
exchange, his pocket-book was considerably fatter, which evidently afforded him extreme
satisfaction. Finally, he stopped at a shop for ladies’ dress materials. Here, too, after deciding
to purchase good for a considerable sum, Mr. Golyadkin promised to come again, took the
number of the shop and, on being asked for a deposit, assured the shopkeeper that “he
should have a deposit too, all in good time.” Then he visited several other shops, making
purchases in each of them, asked the price of various things, sometimes arguing a long time
with the shopkeeper, going out of the shop and returning two or three times — in fact he
displayed exceptional activity. From the Arcade our hero went to a well-known furniture shop,
where he ordered furniture for six rooms; he admired a fashionable and very toilet table for
ladies’ use in the latest style, and, assuring the shopkeeper that he would certainly send for all
these things, walked out of the shop, as usual promising a deposit. then he went off
somewhere else and ordered something more. In short, there seemed to be no end to the
business he had to get through. At last, Mr. Golyadkin seemed to grow heartily sick of it all,
and he began, goodness knows why, to be tormented by the stings of conscience. Nothing
would have induced him now, for instance, to meet Andrey Filippovitch, or even Krestyan
At last, the town clock struck three. When Mr. Golyadkin finally took his seat in the
carriage, of all the purchases he had made that morning he had, it appeared, in reality only
got a pair of gloves and a bottle of scent, that cost a rouble and a half. As it was still rather
early, he ordered his coachman to stop near a well-known restaurant in Nevsky Prospect
which he only knew by reputation, got out of the carriage, and hurried in to have a light lunch,
to rest and to wait for the hour fixed for the dinner.
Lunching as a man lunches who has the prospect before him of going out to a
sumptuous dinner, that is, taking a snack of something in order to still the pangs, as they say,
and drinking one small glass of vodka, Mr. Golyadkin established himself in an armchair and,
modestly looking about him, peacefully settled down to an emaciated nationalist paper. After
reading a couple of lines he stood up and looked in the looking-glass, set himself to rights and
smoothed himself down; then he went to the window and looked to see whether his carriage
was there... then he sat down again in his place and took up the paper. It was noticeable that
our hero was in great excitement. Glancing at his watch and seeing that it was only a quarter
past three and that he had consequently a good time to wait and, at the same time, opining
that to sit like that was unsuitable, Mr. Golyadkin ordered chocolate, though he felt noparticular inclination for it at the moment. Drinking the chocolate and noticing that the time had
moved on a little, he went up to pay his bill.
He turned round and saw facing him two of his colleagues, the same two he had met that
morning in Liteyny Street, — young men, very much his juniors both in age and rank. Our
hero’s relations with them were neither one thing nor the other, neither particularly friendly nor
openly hostile. Good manners were, of course, observed on both sides: there was no closer
intimacy, nor could there be. The meeting at this moment was extremely distasteful to Mr.
Golyadkin. He frowned a little, and was disconcerted for an instant.
“Yakov Petrovitch, Yakov Petrovitch!” chirped the two register clerks; “you here? what
brings you?...”
“Ah, it is you, gentlemen,” Mr. Golyadkin interrupted hurriedly, somewhat embarrassed
and scandalized by the amazement of the clerks and by the abruptness of their address, but
feeling obliged, however, to appear jaunty and free and easy. “You’ve deserted gentlemen,
he-he-he...” Then, to keep up his dignity and to condescend to the juveniles, with whom he
never overstepped certain limits, he attempted to slap one of the youths on the shoulder; but
this effort at good fellowship did not succeed and, instead of being a well-bred little jest,
produced quite a different effect.
“Well, and our bear, is he still at the office?”
“Who’s that, Yakov Petrovitch?”
“Why, the bear. Do you mean to say you don’t know whose name that is?...” Mr.
Golyadkin laughed and turned to the cashier to take his change.
“I mean Andrey Filippovitch, gentlemen,” he went on, finishing with the cashier, and
turning to the clerks this time with a very serious face. The two register clerks winked at one
“He’s still at the office and asking for you, Yakov Petrovitch,” answered one of them.
“At the office, eh! In that case, let him stay, gentlemen. And asking for me, eh?”
“He was asking for you, Yakov Petrovitch; but what’s up with you, scented, pomaded,
and such a swell?...”
“Nothing, gentlemen, nothing! that’s enough,” answered Mr. Golyadkin, looking away with
a constrained smile. Seeing that Mr. Golyadkin was smiling, the clerks laughed aloud. Mr.
Golyadkin was a little offended.
“I’ll tell you as friends, gentlemen,” our hero said, after a brief silence, as though making
up his mind (which, indeed, was the case) to reveal something to them. “You all know me,
gentlemen, but hitherto you’ve known me only on one side. no one is to blame for that and I’m
conscious that the fault has been partly my own.”
Mr. Golyadkin pursed his lips and looked significantly at the clerks. The clerks winked at
one another again.
“Hitherto, gentlemen, you have not known me. To explain myself here and now would not
be appropriate. I will only touch on it lightly in passing. There are people, gentlemen, who
dislike roundabout ways and only mask themselves at masquerades. There are people who
do not see man’s highest avocation in polishing the floor with their boots. There are people,
gentlemen, who refuse to say that they are happy and enjoying a full life when, for instance,
their trousers set properly. There are people, finally, who dislike dashing and whirling about for
no object, fawning, and licking the dust, and above all, gentlemen, poking their noses where
they are not wanted... I’ve told you almost everything, gentlemen; now allow me to
Mr. Golyadkin paused. As the register clerks had not got all that they wanted, both of
them with great incivility burst into shouts of laughter. Mr. Golyadkin flared up.
“Laugh away, gentlemen, laugh away for the time being! If you live long enough you will
see,” he said, with a feeling of offended dignity, taking his hat and retreating to the door.
“But I will say more, gentlemen,” he added, turning for the last time to the register clerks,“I will say more — you are both here with me face to face. This, gentlemen, is my rule: if I fail
I don’t lose heart, if I succeed I persevere, and in any case I am never underhand. I’m not one
to intrigue — and I’m proud of it. I’ve never prided myself on diplomacy. They say, too,
gentlemen, that the bird flies itself to the hunter. It’s true and I’m ready to admit it; but who’s
the hunter, and who’s the bird in this case? That is still the question, gentlemen!”
Mr. Golyadkin subsided into eloquent silence, and, with a most significant air, that is,
pursing up his lips and raising his eyebrows as high as possible, he bowed to the clerks and
walked out, leaving them in the utmost amazement.
“What are your orders now?” Petrushka asked, rather gruffly; he was probably weary of
hanging about in the cold. “What are your orders?” he asked Mr. Golyadkin, meeting the
terrible, withering glance with which our hero had protected himself twice already that
morning, and to which he had recourse now for the third time as he came down the steps.
“To Ismailovsky Bridge.”
“To Ismailovsky Bridge! Off!”
“Their dinner will not begin till after four, or perhaps five o’clock,” thought Mr. Golyadkin;
“isn’t it early now? However, I can go a little early; besides, it’s only a family dinner. And so I
can go sans facons, as they say among well-bred people. Why shouldn’t I go sans facons?
The bear told us, too, that it would all be sans facons, and so I will be the same...” Such were
Mr. Golyadkin’s reflections and meanwhile his excitement grew more and more acute. It could
be seen that he was preparing himself for some great enterprise, to say nothing more; he
muttered to himself, gesticulated with his right hand, continually looked out of his carriage
window, so that, looking at Mr. Golyadkin, no one would have said that he was on his way to a
good dinner, and only a simple dinner in his family circle — sans facons, as they say among
well-bred people. Finally, just at Ismailovsky Bridge, Mr. Golyadkin pointed out a house; and
the carriage rolled up noisily and stopped at the first entrance on the right. Noticing a feminine
figure at the second storey window, Mr. Golyadkin kissed his hand to her. He had, however,
not the slightest idea what he was doing, for he felt more dead than alive at the moment. He
got out of the carriage pale, distracted; he mounted the steps, took off his hat, mechanically
straightened himself, and though he felt a slight trembling in his knees, he went upstairs.
“Olsufy Ivanovitch?” he inquired of the man who opened the door.
“At home, sir; at least he’s not at home, his honour’s not at home.”
“What? What do you mean, my good man? I-I’ve come to dinner, brother. Why, you
know me?”
“To be sure I know you! I’ve orders not to admit you.”
“You... you, brother... you must be making a mistake. It’s I, my boy, I’m invited; I’ve
come to dinner,” Mr. Golyadkin announced, taking off his coat and displaying unmistakable
intentions of going into the room.
“Allow me, sir, you can’t, sir. I’ve orders not to admit you. I’ve orders to refuse you.
That’s how it is.”
Mr. Golyadkin turned pale. At that very moment the door of the inner room opened and
Gerasimitch, Olsufy Ivanovitch’s old butler, came out.
“You see the gentlemen wants to go in, Emelyan Gerasimitch, and I...”
“And you’re a fool, Alexeitch. Go inside and send the rascal Semyonovitch here. It’s
impossible,” he said politely but firmly, addressing Mr. Golyadkin. “It’s quite impossible. His
honour begs you to excuse him; he can’t see you.”
“He said he couldn’t see me?” Mr. Golyadkin asked uncertainly. “Excuse me,
Gerasimitch, why is it impossible?”
“It’s quite impossible. I’ve informed your honour; they said ‘Ask him to excuse us.’ They
can’t see you.”
“Why not? How’s that? Why.”
“Allow me, allow me!...”“How is it though? It’s out of the question! Announce me... How is it? I’ve come to
“Excuse me, excuse me...”
“Ah, well, that’s a different matter, they asked to be excused: but, allow me, Gerasimitch;
how is it, Gerasimitch?”
“Excuse me, excuse me! replied Gerasimitch, very firmly putting away Mr. Golyadkin’s
hand and making way for two gentlemen who walked into the entry that very instant. The
gentlemen in question were Andrey Filippovitch and his nephew Vladimir Semyonovitch. Both
of the looked with amazement at Mr. Golyadkin. Andrey Filippovitch seemed about to say
something, but Mr. Golyadkin had by now made up his mind: he was by now walking out of
Olsufy Ivanovitch’s entry, blushing and smiling, with eyes cast down and a countenance of
helpless bewilderment. “I will come afterwards, Gerasimitch; I will explain myself: I hope that
all this will without delay be explained in due season...”
“Yakov Petrovitch, Yakov Petrovitch...” He heard the voice of Andrey Filippovitch
following him.
Mr. Golyadkin was by that time on the first landing. He turned quickly to Andrey
“What do you desire, Andrey Filippovitch?” he said in a rather resolute voice.
“What’s wrong with you, Yakov Petrovitch? In what way?”
“No matter, Andrey Filippovitch. I’m on my own account here. This is my private life,
Andrey Filippovitch.”
“What’s that?”
“I say, Andrey Filippovitch, that this is my private life, and as for my being here, as far as
I can see, there’s nothing reprehensible to be found in it as regards my official relations.”
“What! As regards your official... What’s the matter with you, my good sir?”
“Nothing, Andrey Filippovitch, absolutely nothing; an impudent slut of a girl, and nothing
“What! What?” Andrey Filippovitch was stupefied with amazement. Mr. Golyadkin, who
had up till then looked as though he would fly into Andrey Filippovitch’s face, seeing that the
head of his office was laughing a little, almost unconsciously took a step forward. Andrey
Filippovitch jumped back. Mr. Golyadkin went up one step and then another. Andrey
Filippovitch looked about him uneasily. Mr. Golyadkin mounted the stairs rapidly. Still more
rapidly Andrey Filippovitch darted into the flat and slammed the door after him. Mr. Golyadkin
was left alone. Everything grew dark before his eyes. He was utterly nonplussed, and stood
now in a sort of senseless hesitation, as though recalling something extremely senseless, too,
that had happened quite recently. “Ech, ech!” he muttered, smiling with constraint. Meanwhile,
there came the sounds of steps and voices on the stairs, probably of other guests invited by
Olsufy Ivanovitch. Mr. Golyadkin recovered himself to some extent; put up his racoon collar,
concealing himself behind it as far as possible, and began going downstairs with rapid little
steps, tripping and stumbling in his haste. He felt overcome by a sort of weakness and
numbness. His confusion was such that, when he came out on the steps, he did not even wait
for his carriage but walked across the muddy court to it. When he reached his carriage and
was about to get into it, Mr. Golyadkin inwardly uttered a desire to sink into the earth, or to
hide in a mouse hole together with his carriage. It seemed to him that everything in Olsufy
Ivanovitch’s house was looking at him now out of every window. He knew that he would
certainly die on the spot if he were to go back.
“What are you laughing at, blockhead?” he said in a rapid mutter to Petrushka, who was
preparing to help him into the carriage.
“What should I laugh at? I’m not doing anything; where are we to drive to now?”
“Go home, drive on...”
“Home, off!” shouted Petrushka, climbing on to the footboard.“What a crow’s croak!” thought Mr. Golyadkin. Meanwhile, the carriage had driven a
good distance from Ismailovsky Bridge. Suddenly our hero pulled the cord with all his might
and shouted to the driver to turn back at once. The coachman turned his horses and within
two minutes was driving into Olsufy Ivanovitch’s yard again.
“Don’t, don’t, you fool, back!” shouted Mr. Golyadkin — and, as though he were
expecting this order, the driver made no reply but, without stopping at the entrance, drove all
round the courtyard and out into the street again.
Mr. Golyadkin did not drive home, but, after passing the Semyonovsky Bridge, told the
driver to return to a side street and stop near a restaurant of rather modest appearance.
Getting out of the carriage, our hero settled up with the driver and so got rid of his equipage at
last. He told Petrushka to go home and await his return, while he went into the restaurant,
took a private room and ordered dinner. He felt very ill and his brain was in the utmost
confusion and chaos. For a long time he walked up and down the room in agitation; at last he
sat down in a chair, propped his brow in his hands and began doing his very utmost to
consider and settle something relating to his present position.
Chapter 4

That day the birthday of Klara Olsufyevna, the only daughter of the civil councillor,
Berendyev, at one time Mr. Golyadkin’s benefactor and patron, was being celebrated by a
brilliant and sumptuous dinner-party, such as had not been seen for many a long day within
the walls of the flats in the neighbourhood of Ismailovsky Bridge — a dinner more like some
Balthazar’s feast, with a suggestion of something Babylonian in its brilliant luxury and style,
with Veuve-Clicquot champagne, with oysters and fruit from Eliseyev’s and Milyutin’s, with all
sorts of fatted calves, and all grades of the government service. This festive day was to
conclude with a brilliant ball, a small birthday ball, but yet brilliant in its taste, its distinction and
its style. Of course, I am willing to admit that similar balls do happen sometimes, though
rarely. Such balls, more like family rejoicings than balls, can only be given in such houses as
that of the civil councillor, Berendyev. I will say more: I even doubt if such balls could be given
in the houses of all civil councillors. Oh, if I were a poet! such as Homer or Pushkin, I mean,
of course; with any lesser talent one would not venture — I should certainly have painted all
that glorious day for you, oh, my readers, with a free brush and brilliant colours! Yes, I should
begin my poem with my dinner, I should lay special stress on that striking and solemn moment
when the first goblet was raised to the honour of the queen of the fete. I should describe to
you the guests plunged in a reverent silence and expectation, as eloquent as the rhetoric of
Demosthenes; I should describe for you, then, how Andrey Filippovitch, having as the eldest
of the guests some right to take precedence, adorned with his grey hairs and the orders that
well befit grey hairs, got up from his seat and raised above his head the congratulatory glass
of sparkling wine — brought from a distant kingdom to celebrate such occasions and more like
heavenly nectar than plain wine. I would portray for you the guests and the happy parents
raising their glasses, too, after Andrey Filippovitch, and fastening upon him eyes full of
expectation. I would describe for you how the same Andrey Filippovitch, so often mentioned,
after dropping a tear in his glass, delivered his congratulations and good wishes, proposed the
toast and drank the health... but I confess, I freely confess, that I could not do justice to the
solemn moment when the queen of the fete, Klara Olsufyevna, blushing like a rose in spring,
with the glow of bliss and of modesty, was so overcome by her feelings that she sank into the
arms of her tender mamma; how that tender mamma shed tears, and how the father, Olsufy
Ivanovitch, a hale old man and a privy councillor, who had lost the use of his legs in his long
years of service and been rewarded by destiny for his devotion with investments, a house,
some small estates, and a beautiful daughter, sobbed like a little child and announced through
his tears that his Excellency was a benevolent man. I could not, I positively could not, describe
the enthusiasm that followed that moment in every heart, an enthusiasm clearly evinced in the
conduct of a youthful register clerk (though at that moment he was more like a civil councillor
than a register clerk), who was moved to tears, too, as he listened to Andrey Filippovitch. In
his turn, too, Andrey Filippovitch was in that solemn moment quite unlike a collegiate councillor
and the head of an office in the department — yes, he was something else... what, exactly, I
do not know, but not a collegiate councillor. He was more exalted! Finally... Oh, why do I not
possess the secret of lofty, powerful language, of the sublime style, to describe these grand
and edifying moments of human life, which seem created expressly to prove that virtue
sometimes triumphs over ingratitude, free-thinking, vice and envy! I will say nothing, but in
silence — which will be better than any eloquence — I will point to that fortunate youth, just
entering on his twenty-sixth spring — to Vladimir Semyonovitch, Andrey Filippovitch’s nephew,
who in his turn now rose from his seat, who in his turn proposed a toast, and upon whom
were fastened the tearful eyes of the parents, the proud eyes of Andrey Filippovitch, themodest eyes of the queen of the fete, the solemn eyes of the guests and even the decorously
envious eyes of some of the young man’s youthful colleagues. I will say nothing of that,
though I cannot refrain from observing that everything in that young man — who was, indeed,
speaking in a complimentary sense, more like an elderly than a young man — everything,
from his blooming cheeks to his assessorial rank seemed almost to proclaim aloud the lofty
pinnacle a man can attain through morality and good principles! I will not describe how Anton
Antonovitch Syetotochkin, a little old man as grey as a badger, the head clerk of a
department, who was a colleague of Andrey Filippovitch’s and had once been also of Olsufy
Ivanovitch’s, and was an old friend of the family and Klara Olsufyevna’s godfather, in his turn
proposed a toast, crowed like a cock, and cracked many little jokes; how by this extremely
proper breach of propriety, if one may use such an expression, he made the whole company
laugh till they cried, and how Klara Olsufyevna, at her parents’ bidding, rewarded him for his
jocularity and politeness with a kiss. I will only say that the guests, who must have felt like
kinsfolk and brothers after such a dinner, at last rose from the table, and the elderly and more
solid guests, after a brief interval spent in friendly conversation, interspersed with some
candid, though, of course, very polite and proper observations, went decorously into the next
room and, without losing valuable time, promptly divided themselves up into parties and, full of
the sense of their own dignity, installed themselves at tables covered with green baize.
Meanwhile, the ladies established in the drawing-room suddenly became very affable and
began talking about dress-materials. And the venerable host, who had lost the use of his legs
in the service of loyalty and religion, and had been rewarded with all the blessings we have
enumerated above, began walking about on crutches among his guests, supported by
Vladimir Semyonovitch and Klara Olsufyevna, and he, too, suddenly becoming extremely
affable, decided to improvise a modest little dance, regardless of expense; to that end a
nimble youth (the one who was more like a civil councillor than a youth) was despatched to
fetch musicians, and musicians to the number of eleven arrived, and exactly at half-past eight
struck up the inviting strains of a French quadrille, followed by various other dances... It is
needless to say that my pen is too weak, dull, and spiritless to describe the dance that owed
its inspiration to the genial hospitality of the grey-headed host. And how, I ask, can the
modest chronicler of Mr. Golyadkin’s adventures, extremely interesting as they are in their
own way, how can I depict the choice and rare mingling of beauty, brilliance, style, gaiety,
polite solidity and solid politeness, sportiveness, joy, all the mirth and playfulness of these
wives and daughters of petty officials, more like fairies than ladies — in a complimentary
sense — with their lily shoulders and their rosy faces, their ethereal figures, their playfully agile
homeopathic — to use the exalted language appropriate — little feet? How can I describe to
you, finally, the gallant officials, their partners — gay and solid youths, steady, gleeful,
decorously vague, smoking a pipe in the intervals between the dancing in a little green room
apart, or not smoking a pipe in the intervals between the dances, every one of them with a
highly respectable surname and rank in the service — all steeped in a sense of the elegant
and a sense of their own dignity; almost all speaking French to their partners, or if Russian,
using only the most well-bred expressions, compliments and profound observations, and only
in the smoking — room permitting themselves some genial lapses from this high tone, some
phrases of cordial and friendly brevity, such, for instance, as: “‘Pon my soul, Petka, you rake,
you did kick me off that polka in style,” or, “I say, Vasya, you dog, you did give your partner a
time of it.” For all this, as I’ve already had the honour of explaining, oh, my readers! my pen
fails me, and therefore I am dumb. Let us rather return to Mr. Golyadkin, the true and only
hero of my very truthful tale.
The fact is that he found himself now in a very strange position, to the least of it. He was
here also, gentlemen — that is, not at the dance, but almost at the dance; he was “all right,
though; he could take care of himself,” yet at that moment he was a little astray; he was
standing at that moment, strange to say — on the landing of the back stairs to OlsufyIvanovitch’s flat. But it was “all right” his standing there; he was “quite well.” He was standing
in a corner, huddled in a place which was not very warm, though it was dark, partly hidden by
a huge cupboard and an old screen, in the midst of rubbish, litter, and odds and ends of all
sorts, concealing himself for the time being and watching the course of proceedings as a
disinterested spectator. He was only looking on now, gentlemen; he, too, gentlemen, might go
in, of course... why should he not go in? He had only to take one step and he would go in, and
would go in very adroitly. Just now, though he had been standing nearly three hours between
the cupboard and the screen in the midst of the rubbish, litter and odds and ends of all sorts,
he was only quoting, in his own justification, a memorable phrase of the French minister,
Villesle: “All things come in time to him who has the strength to wait.” Mr. Golyadkin had read
this sentence in some book on quite a different subject, but now very aptly recalled it. The
phrase, to begin with, was exceedingly appropriate to his present position, and, indeed, why
should it not occur to the mind of a man who had been waiting for almost three hours in the
cold and the dark in expectation of a happy ending to his adventures. After quoting very
appropriately the phrase of the French minister, Villesle, Mr. Golyadkin immediately thought of
the Turkish Vizier, Martsimiris, as well as of the beautiful Mergravine Luise, whose story he
had read also in some book. Then it occurred to his mind that the Jesuits made it their rule
that any means were justified if only the end were attained. Fortifying himself somewhat with
this historical fact, Mr. Golyadkin said to himself, What were the Jesuits? The Jesuits were
every one of them very great fools; that he was better than any of them; that if only the
refreshment-room would be empty for one minute (the door of the refreshment-room opened
straight into the passage to the back stairs, where Mr. Golyadkin was in hiding now), he
would, in spite of all the Jesuits in the world, go straight in, first from the refreshment-room
into the tea-room, then into the room where they were now playing cards, and then straight
into the hall where they were now dancing the polka, and he would go in — he would slip
through — and that would be all, no one would notice him; and once there he would know
what to do.
Well, so this is the position in which we find the hero of our perfectly true story, though,
indeed, it is difficult to explain what was passing in him at that moment. The fact is that he had
made his way to the back of the stairs and to the passage, on the ground that, as he said,
“why shouldn’t he? and everyone did go that way?”; but he had not ventured to penetrate
further, evidently he did not dare to do so... “not because there was anything he did not dare,
but just because he did not care to, because he preferred to be in hiding”; so here he was,
waiting now for a chance to slip in, and he had been waiting for it two hours and a half. “Why
not wait? Villesle himself had waited. But what had Villesle to do with it?” thought Mr.
Golyadkin: “How does Villesle come in? But how am I to... to go and walk in?... Ech, you
dummy!” said Mr. Golyadkin, pinching his benumbed cheek with his benumbed fingers; “you
silly fool, you silly old Golyadkin — silly fool of a surname!”...
But these compliments paid to himself were only by the way and without any apparent
aim. Now he was on the point of pushing forward and slipping in; the refreshment-room was
empty and no one was in sight. Mr. Golyadkin saw all this through the little window; in two
steps he was at the door and had already opened it. “Should he go in or not? Come, should
he or not? I’ll go in... why not? to the bold all ways lie open!” Reassuring himself in this way,
our hero suddenly and quite unexpectedly retreated behind the screen. “No,” he thought. “Ah,
now, somebody’s coming in? Yes, they’ve come in; why did I dawdle when there were no
people about? Even so, shall I go and slip in?... No, how slip in when a man has such a
temperament! Fie, what a low tendency! I’m as scared as a hen! Being scared is our special
line, that’s the fact of the matter! To be abject on every occasion is our line: no need to ask us
about that. Just stand here like a post and that’s all! At home I should be having a cup of tea
now... It would be pleasant, too, to have a cup of tea. If I come in later Petrushka ‘ll grumble,
maybe. Shall I go home? Damnation take all this! I’ll go and that’ll be the end of it!” Reflectingon his position in this way, Mr. Golyadkin dashed forward as though some one had touched a
spring in him; in two steps he found himself in the refreshment-room, flung off his overcoat,
took off his hat, hurriedly thrust these things into a corner, straightened himself and smoothed
himself down; then...then he moved on to the tea-room, and from the tea-room darted into
the next room, slipped almost unnoticed between the card-players, who were at the tip-top of
excitement, then... Mr. Golyadkin forgot everything that was going on about him, and went
straight as an arrow into the drawing room.
As luck would have it they were not dancing. The ladies were promenading up and down
the room in picturesque groups. The gentlemen were standing about in twos and threes or
flitting about the room engaging partners. Mr. Golyadkin noticed nothing of this. He saw only
Klara Olsufyevna, near her Andrey Filippovitch, then Vladimir Semyonovitch, two or three
officers, and, finally, two or three other young men who were also very interesting and, as any
one could see at once, were either very promising or had actually done something... He saw
some one else too. Or, rather, he saw nobody and looked at nobody... but, moved by the
same spring which had sent him dashing into the midst of a ball to which he had not been
invited, he moved forward, and then forwarder and forwarder. On the way he jostled against a
councillor and trod on his foot, and incidentally stepped on a very venerable old lady’s dress
and tore it a little, pushed against a servant with a tray and then ran against somebody else,
and, not noticing all this, passing further and further forward, he suddenly found himself facing
Klara Olsufyevna. There is no doubt whatever that he would, with the utmost delight, without
winking an eyelid, have sunk through the earth at that moment; but what has once been done
cannot be recalled... can never be recalled. What was he to do? “If I fail I don’t lose heart, if I
succeed I persevere.” Mr. Golyadkin was, of course, not “one to intrigue,” and “not
accomplished in the art of polishing the floor with his boots.”... And so, indeed, it proved.
Besides, the Jesuits had some hand in it too... though Mr. Golyadkin had no thoughts to spare
for them now! All the moving, noisy, laughing groups were suddenly hushed as though at a
signal and, little by little, crowded round Mr. Golyadkin. He, however, seemed to hear nothing,
to see nothing, he could not look... he could not possibly look at anything; he kept his eyes on
the floor and so stood, giving himself his word of honour, in passing, to shoot himself one way
or another that night. Making this vow, Mr. Golyadkin inwardly said to himself, “Here goes!”
and to his own great astonishment began unexpectedly to speak.
He began with congratulations and polite wishes. The congratulations went off well, but
over the good wishes our hero stammered. He felt that if he stammered all would be lost at
once. And so it turned out — he stammered and floundered... floundering, he blushed
crimson; blushing, he was overcome with confusion. In his confusion he raised his eyes;
raising his eyes he looked about him; looking about him — he almost swooned... Every one
stood still, every one was silent, a little nearer there was laughter. Mr. Golyadkin fastened a
humble, imploring look on Andrey Filippovitch. Andrey Filippovitch. Andrey Filippovitch
responded with such a look that if our hero had not been utterly crushed already he certainly
would have been crushed a second time — that is, if that were possible. The silence lasted
“This is rather concerned with my domestic circumstances and my private life, Andrey
Filippovitch,” our hero, half-dead, articulated in a scarcely audible voice; “it is not an official
incident, Andrey Filippovitch...”
“For shame, sir, for shame!” Andrey Filippovitch pronounced in a half whisper, with an
indescribable air of indignation; he pronounced these words and, giving Klara Olsufyevna his
arm, he turned away from Mr. Golyadkin.
“I’ve nothing to be ashamed of, Andrey Filippovitch,” answered Mr. Golyadkin, also in a
whisper, turning his miserable eyes about him, trying helplessly to discover in the amazed
crowd something on which he could gain a footing and retrieve his social position.
“Why, it’s all right, it’s nothing, gentlemen! Why, what’s the matter? Why, it might happento any one,” whispered Mr. Golyadkin, moving a little away and trying to escape from the
crowd surrounding him.
They made way for him. Our hero passed through two rows of inquisitive and wondering
spectators. Fate drew him on. He felt himself, that fate was leading him on. He would have
given a great deal, of course, for a chance to be back in the passage by the back stairs,
without having committed a breach of propriety; but as that was utterly impossible he began
trying to creep away into a corner and to stand there — modestly, decorously, apart, without
interfering with any one, without attracting especial attention, but at the same time to win the
favourable notice of his host and the company. At the same time Mr. Golyadkin felt as though
the ground were giving way under him, as though he were staggering, falling. At last he made
his way to a corner and stood in it, like an unconcerned, rather indifferent spectator, leaning
his arms on the backs of two chairs, taking complete possession of them in that way, and
trying, as far as he could, to glance confidently at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s guests, grouped about
him. Standing nearest him was an officer, a tall and handsome fellow, beside whom Golyadkin
felt himself an insect.
“These two chairs, lieutenant, are intended, one for Klara Olsufyevna, and the other for
Princess Tchevtchehanov; I’m taking care of them for them,” said Mr. Golyadkin breathlessly,
turning his imploring eyes on the officer. The lieutenant said nothing, but turned away with a
murderous smile. Checked in this direction, our hero was about to try his luck in another
quarter, and directly addressed an important councillor with a cross of great distinction on his
breast. But the councillor looked him up and down with such a frigid stare that Mr. Golyadkin
felt distinctly as though a whole bucketful of cold water had been thrown over him. He
subsided into silence. He made up his mind that it was better to keep quiet, not to open his
lips, and to show that he was “all right,” that he was “like every one else,” and that his
position, as far as he could see, was quite a proper one. With this object he rivetted his gaze
on the lining of his coat, then raised his eyes and fixed them upon a very respectable-looking
gentleman. “That gentleman has a wig on,” thought Mr. Golyadkin; “and if he takes off that
wig he will be bald, his head will be as bare as the palm of my hand.” Having made this
important discovery, Mr. Golyadkin thought of the Arab Emirs, whose heads are left bare and
shaven if they take off the green turbans they wear as a sign of their descent from the
prophet Mahomet. Then, probably from some special connection of ideas with the Turks, he
thought of Turkish slippers and at once, apropos of that, recalled the fact that Andrey
Filippovitch was wearing boots, and that his boots were more like slippers than boots. It was
evident that Mr. Golyadkin had become to some extent reconciled to his position. “What if that
chandelier,” flashed through Mr. Golyadkin’s mind, “were to come down from the ceiling and
fall upon the company. I should rush at once to save Klara Olsufyevna. ‘Save her!’ I should
cry. ‘Don’t be alarmed, madam, it’s of no consequence, I will rescue you, I.’ Then...” At that
moment Mr. Golyadkin looked about in search of Klara Olsufyevna, and saw Gerasimitch,
Olsufy Ivanovitch’s old butler. Gerasimitch, with a most anxious and solemnly official air, was
making straight for him. Mr. Golyadkin started and frowned from an unaccountable but most
disagreeable sensation; he looked about him mechanically; it occurred to his mind that if only
he could somehow creep off somewhere, unobserved, on the sly — simply disappear, that it,
behave as though he had done nothing at all, as though the matter did not concern him in the
least!... But before our hero could make up his mind to do anything, Gerasimitch was standing
before him.
“Do you see, Gerasimitch,” said our hero, with a little smile, addressing Gerasimitch;
“you go and tell them — do you see the candle there in the chandelier, Gerasimitch — it will
be falling down directly: so, you know, you must tell them to see to it; it really will fall down,
“The candle? No, the candle’s standing straight; but somebody is asking for you, sir.”
“Who is asking for me, Gerasimitch?”“I really can’t say, sir, who it is. A man with a message. ‘Is Yakov Petrovitch Golyadkin
here?’ says he. ‘Then call him out,’ says he, ‘on very urgent and important business...’ you
“No, Gerasimitch, you are making a mistake; in that you are making a mistake,
“I doubt it, sir.”
“No, Gerasimitch, it isn’t doubtful; there’s nothing doubtful about it, Gerasimitch.
Nobody’s asking for me, but I’m quite at home here — that is, in my right place, Gerasimitch.”
Mr. Golyadkin took breath and looked about him. Yes! every one in the room, all had
their eyes fixed upon him, and were listening in a sort of solemn expectation. The men had
crowded a little nearer and were all attention. A little further away the ladies were whispering
together. The master of the house made his appearance at no great distance from Mr.
Golyadkin, and though it was impossible to detect from his expression that he, too, was taking
a close and direct interest in Mr. Golyadkin’s position, for everything was being done with
delicacy, yet, nevertheless, it all made our hero feel that the decisive moment had come for
him. Mr. Golyadkin saw clearly that the time had come for a old stroke, the chance of putting
his enemies to shame. Mr. Golyadkin was in great agitation. He was aware of a sort of
inspiration and, in a quivering and impressive voice, he began again, addressing the waiting
butler —
“No, my dear fellow, no one’s calling for me. You are mistaken. I will say more: you were
mistaken this morning too, when you assured me... dared to assure me, I say (he raised his
voice), “that Olsufy Ivanovitch, who has been my benefactor for as long as I can remember
and has, in a sense, been a father to me, was shutting his door upon me at the moment of
solemn family rejoicing for his paternal heart.” (Mr. Golyadkin looked about him complacently,
but with deep feeling. A tear glittered on his eyelash.) “I repeat, my friend,” our hero
concluded, “you were mistaken, you were cruelly and unpardonably mistaken...”
The moment was a solemn one. Mr. Golyadkin felt that the effect was quite certain. He
stood with modestly downcast eyes, expecting Olsufy Ivanovitch to embrace him. Excitement
and perplexity were apparent in the guests, even the inflexible and terrible Gerasimitch
faltered over the words “I doubt it...” when suddenly the ruthless orchestra, apropos of
nothing, struck up a polka. All was lost, all was scattered to the winds. Mr. Golyadkin started;
Gerasimitch stepped back; everything in the room began undulating like the sea; and Vladimir
Semyonovitch led the dance with Klara Olsufyevna, while the handsome lieutenant followed
with Princess Tchevtchehanov. Onlookers, curious and delighted, squeezed in to watch them
dancing the polka — an interesting, fashionable new dance which every one was crazy over.
Mr. Golyadkin was, for the time, forgotten. But suddenly all were thrown into excitement,
confusion and bustle; the music ceased... a strange incident had occurred. Tired out with the
dance, and almost breathless with fatigue, Klara Olsufyevna, with glowing cheeks and heaving
bosom, sank into an armchair, completely exhausted... All hearts turned to the fascinating
creature, all vied with one another in complimenting her and thanking her for the pleasure
conferred on them, — all at once there stood before her Mr. Golyadkin. He was pale,
extremely perturbed; he, too, seemed completely exhausted, he could scarcely move. He was
smiling for some reason, he stretched out his hand imploringly. Klara Olsufyevna was so
taken aback that she had not time to withdraw hers and mechanically got up at his invitation.
Mr. Golyadkin lurched forward, first once, then a second time, then lifted his leg, then made a
scrape, then gave a sort of stamp, then stumbled... he, too, wanted to dance with Klara
Olsufyevna. Klara Olsufyevna uttered a shriek; every one rushed to release her hand from
Mr. Golyadkin’s, and in a moment our hero was carried almost ten paces away by the rush of
the crowd. A circle formed round him too. Two old ladies, whom he had almost knocked down
in his retreat raised a great shrieking and outcry. The confusion was awful; all were asking
questions, every one was shouting, every one was finding fault. The orchestra was silent. Ourhero whirled round in his circle and mechanically, with a semblance of a smile, muttered
something to himself, such as, “Why not?” and “that the polka, so far, at least, as he could
see, was a new and very interesting dance, invented for the diversion of the ladies... but that
since things had taken this turn, he was ready to consent.” But Mr. Golyadkin’s consent no
one apparently thought of asking. Our hero was suddenly aware that some one’s hand was
laid on his arm, that another hand was pressed against his back, that he was with peculiar
solicitude being guided in a certain direction. At last he noticed that he was going straight to
the door. Mr. Golyadkin wanted to say something, to do something... But no, he no longer
wanted to do anything. He only mechanically kept laughing in answer. At last he was aware
that they were putting on his greatcoat, that his hat was thrust over his eyes; finally he felt
that he was in the entry on the stairs in the dark and cold. At last he stumbled, he felt that he
was falling down a precipice; he tried to cry out — and suddenly he found himself in the
courtyard. The air blew fresh on him, he stood still for a minute; at that very instant, the
strains reached him of the orchestra striking up again. Mr. Golyadkin suddenly recalled it all; it
seemed to him that all his flagging energies came back to him again. He had been standing as
though rivetted to the spot, but now he started off and rushed away headlong, anywhere, into
the air, into freedom, wherever chance might take him.
Chapter 5

It was striking midnight from all the clock towers in Petersburg when Mr. Golyadkin,
beside himself, ran out on the Fontanka Quay, close to the Ismailovsky Bridge, fleeing from
his foes, from persecution, from a hailstorm of nips and pinches aimed at him, from the
shrieks of excited old ladies, from the Ohs and Ahs of women and from the murderous eyes
of Andrey Filippovitch. Mr. Golyadkin was killed — killed entirely, in the full sense of the word,
and if he still preserved the power of running, it was simply through some sort of miracle, a
miracle in which at last he refused himself to believe. It was an awful November night — wet,
foggy, rainy, snowy, teeming with colds in the head, fevers, swollen faces, quinseys,
inflammations of all kinds and descriptions — teeming, in fact, with all the gifts of a Petersburg
November. The wind howled in the deserted streets, lifting up the black water of the canal
above the rings on the bank, and irritably brushing against the lean lamp-posts which chimed
in with its howling in a thin, shrill creak, keeping up the endless squeaky, jangling concert with
which every inhabitant of Petersburg is so familiar. Snow and rain were falling both at once.
Lashed by the wind, the streams of rainwater spurted almost horizontally, as though from a
fireman’s hose, pricking and stinging the face of the luckless Mr. Golyadkin like a thousand
pins and needles. In the stillness of the night, broken only by the distant rumbling of carriages,
the howl of the wind and the creaking of the lamp-posts, there was the dismal sound of the
splash and gurgle of water, rushing from every roof, every porch, every pipe and every
cornice, on to the granite of the pavement. There was not a soul, near or far, and, indeed, it
seemed there could not be at such an hour and in such weather. And so only Mr. Golyadkin,
alone with his despair, was fleeing in terror along the pavement of Fontanka, with his usual
rapid little step, in haste to get home as soon as possible to his flat on the fourth storey in
Shestilavotchny Street.
Though the snow, the rain, and all the nameless horrors of a raging snowstorm and fog,
under a Petersburg November sky, were attacking Mr. Golyadkin, already shattered by
misfortunes, were showing him no mercy, giving him no rest, drenching him to the bone,
glueing up his eyelids, blowing right through him from all sides, baffling and perplexing him —
though conspiring and combining with all his enemies to make a grand day, evening, and night
for him, in spite of all this Mr. Golyadkin was almost insensible to this final proof of the
persecution of destiny: so violent had been the shock and the impression made upon him a
few minutes before at the civil councillor Berendyev’s! If any disinterested spectator could
have glanced casually at Mr. Golyadkin’s painful progress, he would certainly have said that
Mr. Golyadkin looked as though he wanted to hide from himself, as though he were trying to
run away from himself! Yes! It was really so. One may say more: Mr. Golyadkin did not want
only to run away from himself, but to be obliterated, to cease to be, to return to dust. At the
moment he took in nothing surrounding him, understood nothing of what was going on about
him, and looked as though the miseries of the stormy night, of the long tramp, the rain, the
snow, the wind, all the cruelty of the weather, did not exist for him. The golosh slipping off the
boot on Mr. Golyadkin’s right foot was left behind in the snow and slush on the pavement of
Fontanka, and Mr. Golyadkin did not think of turning back to get it, did not, in fact, notice that
he had lost it. He was so perplexed that, in spite of everything surrounding him, he stood
several times stock still in the middle of the pavement, completely possessed by the thought
of his recent horrible humiliation; at that instant he was dying, disappearing; then he suddenly
set off again like mad and ran and ran without looking back, as though he were pursued, as
though he were fleeing from some still more awful calamity... The position was truly awful!...
At last Mr. Golyadkin halted in exhaustion, leaned on the railing in the attitude of a man whosenose has suddenly begun to bleed, and began looking intently at the black and troubled
waters of the canal. All that is known is that at that instant Mr. Golyadkin reached such a pitch
of despair, was so harassed, so tortured, so exhausted, and so weakened in what feeble
faculties were left him that he forgot everything, forgot the Ismailovsky Bridge, forgot
Shestilavotchny Street, forgot his present plight... After all, what did it matter to him? The
thing was done. The decision was affirmed and ratified; what could he do? All at once... all at
once he started and involuntarily skipped a couple of paces aside. With unaccountable
uneasiness he began gazing about him; but no one was there, nothing special had happened,
and yet... and yet he fancied that just now, that very minute, some one was standing near
him, beside him, also leaning on the railing, and — marvellous to relate! — had even said
something to him, said something quickly, abruptly, not quite intelligibly, but something quite
private, something concerning himself.
“Why, was it my fancy?” said Mr. Golyadkin, looking round once more. “But where am I
standing?... Ech, ech,” he thought finally, shaking his head, though he began gazing with an
uneasy, miserable feeling into the damp, murky distance, straining his sight and doing his
utmost to pierce with his short-sighted eyes the wet darkness that stretched all round him.
There was nothing new, however, nothing special caught the eye of Mr. Golyadkin. Everything
seemed to be all right, as it should be, that is, the snow was falling more violently, more thickly
and in larger flakes, nothing could be seen twenty paces away, the lamp-posts creaked more
shrilly than ever and the wind seemed to intone its melancholy song even more tearfully, more
piteously, like an importunate beggar whining for a copper to get a crust of bread. At the same
time a new sensation took possession of Mr. Golyadkin’s whole being: agony upon agony,
terror upon terror... a feverish tremor ran through his veins. The moment was insufferably
unpleasant! “Well, no matter; perhaps it’s no matter at all, and there’s no stain on any one’s
honour. Perhaps it’s as it should be,” he went on, without understanding what he was saying.
“Perhaps it will all be for the best in the end, and there will be nothing to complain of, and
every one will be justified.”
Talking like this and comforting himself with words, Mr. Golyadkin shook himself a little,
shook off the snow which had drifted in thick layers on his hat, his collar, his overcoat, his tie,
his boots and everything — but his strange feeling, his strange obscure misery he could not
get rid of, could not shake off. Somewhere in the distance there was the boom of a cannon
shot. “Ach, what weather!” thought our hero. “Tchoo! isn’t there going to be a flood? It seems
as though the water has risen so violently.”
Mr. Golyadkin had hardly said or thought this when he saw a person coming towards
him, belated, no doubt, like him, through some accident. An unimportant, casual incident, one
might suppose, but for some unknown reason Mr. Golyadkin was troubled, even scared, and
rather flurried. It was not that he was exactly afraid of some ill-intentioned man, but just that
“perhaps... after all, who knows, this belated individual,” flashed through Mr. Golyadkin’s mind,
“maybe he’s that very thing, maybe he’s the very principal thing in it, and isn’t here for
nothing, but is here with an object, crossing my path and provoking me.” Possibly, however,
he did not think this precisely, but only had a passing feeling of something like it — and very
unpleasant. There was no time, however, for thinking and feeling. The stranger was already
within two paces. Mr. Golyadkin, as he invariably did, hastened to assume a quite peculiar air,
an air that expressed clearly that he, Golyadkin, kept himself to himself, that he was “all right,”
that the road was wide enough for all, and that he, Golyadkin, was not interfering with any
one. Suddenly he stopped short as though petrified, as though struck by lightning, and quickly
turned round after the figure which had only just passed him — turned as though some one
had given him a tug from behind, as though the wind had turned him like a weathercock. The
passer-by vanished quickly in the snowstorm. He, too, walked quickly; he was dressed like Mr.
Golyadkin and, like him, too, wrapped up from head to foot, and he, too, tripped and trotted
along the pavement of Fontanka with rapid little steps that suggested that he was a littlescared.
“What — what is it?” whispered Mr. Golyadkin, smiling mistrustfully, though he trembled
all over. An icy shiver ran down his back. Meanwhile, the stranger had vanished completely;
there was no sound of his step, while Mr. Golyadkin still stood and gazed after him. At last,
however, he gradually came to himself.
“Why, what’s the meaning of it?” he thought with vexation. “Why, have I really gone out
of my mind, or what?” He turned and went on his way, making his footsteps more rapid and
frequent, and doing his best not to think of anything at all. He even closed his eyes at last with
the same object. Suddenly, through the howling of the wind and the uproar of the storm, the
sound of steps very close at hand reached his ears again. He started and opened his eyes.
Again a rapidly approaching figure stood out black before him, some twenty paces away. This
little figure was hastening, tripping along, hurrying nervously; the distance between them grew
rapidly less. Mr. Golyadkin could by now get a full view of the second belated companion. He
looked full at him and cried out with amazement and horror; his legs gave way under him. It
was the same individual who had passed him ten minutes before, and who now quite
unexpectedly turned up facing him again. But this was not the only marvel that struck Mr.
Golyadkin. He was so amazed that he stood still, cried out, tried to say something, and rushed
to overtake the stranger, even shouted something to him, probably anxious to stop him as
quickly as possible. The stranger did, in fact, stop ten paces from Mr. Golyadkin, so that the
light from the lamp-post that stood near fell full upon his whole figure — stood still, turned to
Mr. Golyadkin, and with impatient and anxious face waited to hear what he would say.
“Excuse me, possibly I’m mistaken,” our hero brought out in a quavering voice.
The stranger in silence, and with an air of annoyance, turned and rapidly went on his
way, as though in haste to make up for the two seconds he had wasted on Mr. Golyadkin. As
for the latter, he was quivering in every nerve, his knees shook and gave way under him, and
with a moan he squatted on a stone at the edge of the pavement. There really was reason,
however, for his being so overwhelmed. The fact is that this stranger seemed to him
somehow familiar. That would have been nothing, though. But he recognised, almost certainly
recognised this man. He had often seen him, that man, had seen him some time, and very
lately too; where could it have been? Surely not yesterday? But, again, that was not the chief
thing that Mr. Golyadkin had often seen him before; there was hardly anything special about
the man; the man at first sight would not have aroused any special attention. He was just a
man like any one else, a gentleman like all other gentlemen, of course, and perhaps he had
some good qualities and very valuable one too — in fact, he was a man who was quite
himself. Mr. Golyadkin cherished no sort of hatred or enmity, not even the slightest hostility
towards this man — quite the contrary, it would seem, indeed — and yet (and this was the
real point) he would not for any treasure on earth have been willing to meet that man, and
especially to meet him as he had done now, for instance. We may say more: Mr. Golyadkin
knew that man perfectly well: he even knew what he was called, what his name was; and yet
nothing would have induced him, and again, for no treasure on earth would he have
consented to name him, to consent to acknowledge that he was called so-and-so, that his
father’s name was this and his surname was that. Whether Mr. Golyadkin’s stupefaction
lasted a short time or a long time, whether he was sitting for a long time on the stone of the
pavement I cannot say; but, recovering himself a little at last, he suddenly fell to running,
without looking round, as fast as his legs could carry him; his mind was preoccupied, twice he
stumbled and almost fell — and through this circumstance his other boot was also bereaved
of its golosh. At last Mr. Golyadkin slackened his pace a little to get breath, looked hurriedly
round and saw that he had already, without being aware of it, run passed part of the Nevsky
Prospect and was now standing at the turning into Liteyny Street. Mr. Golyadkin turned into
Liteyny Street. His position at that instant was like that of a man standing at the edge of a
fearful precipice, while the earth is bursting open under him, is already shaking, moving,rocking for the last time, falling, drawing him into the abyss, and yet, the luckless wretch has
not the strength, nor the resolution, to leap back, to avert his eyes from the yawning gulf
below; the abyss draws him and at last he leaps into it of himself, himself hastening the
moment of destruction. Mr. Golyadkin knew, felt and was firmly convinced that some other
evil would certainly befall him on the way, that some unpleasantness would overtake him, that
he would, for instance, meet his stranger once more: but — strange to say, he positively
desired this meeting, considered it inevitable, and all he asked was that it might all be quickly
over, that he should be relieved from his position in one way or another, but as soon as
possible. And meanwhile he ran on and on, as though moved by some external force, for he
felt a weakness and numbness in his whole being: he could not think of anything, though his
thoughts caught at everything like brambles. A little lost dog, soaked and shivering, attached
itself to Mr. Golyadkin, and ran beside him, scurrying along with tail and ears drooping, looking
at him from time to time with timid comprehension. Some remote, long-forgotten idea — some
memory of something that had happened long ago — came back into his mind now, kept
knocking at his brain as with a hammer, vexing him and refusing to be shaken off.
“Ech, that horrid little cur!” whispered Mr. Golyadkin, not understanding himself.
At last he saw his stranger at the turning into Italyansky Street. But this time the stranger
was not coming to meet him, but was running in the same direction as he was, and he, too,
was running, a few steps in front. At last they turned into Shestilavotchny Street.
Mr. Golyadkin caught his breath. The stranger stopped exactly before the house in which
Mr. Golyadkin lodged. He heard a ring at the bell and almost at the same time the grating of
the iron bolt. The gate opened, the stranger stooped, darted in and disappeared. Almost at
the same instant Mr. Golyadkin reached the spot and like an arrow flew in at the gate.
Heedless of the grumbling porter, he ran, gasping for breath, into the yard, and immediately
saw his interesting companion, whom he had lost sight of for a moment.
The stranger darted towards the staircase which led to Mr. Golyadkin’s flat. Mr.
Golyadkin rushed after him. The stairs were dark, damp and dirt. At every turning there were
heaped-up masses of refuse from the flats, so that any unaccustomed stranger who found
himself on the stairs in the dark was forced to travel to and fro for half an hour in danger of
breaking his legs, cursing the stairs as well as the friends who lived in such an inconvenient
place. But Mr. Golyadkin’s companion seemed as though familiar with it, as though at home;
he ran up lightly, without difficulty, showing a perfect knowledge of his surroundings. Mr.
Golyadkin had almost caught him up; in fact, once or twice the stranger’s coat flicked him on
the nose. His heart stood still. The stranger stopped before the door of Mr. Golyadkin’s flat,
knocked on it, and (which would, however, have surprised Mr. Golyadkin at any other time)
Petrushka, as though he had been sitting up in expectation, opened the door at once and,
with a candle in his hand, followed the strange as the latter went in. The hero of our story
dashed into his lodging beside himself; without taking off his hat or coat he crossed the little
passage and stood still in the doorway of his room, as though thunderstruck. All his
presentiments had come true. All that he had dreaded and surmised was coming to pass in
reality. His breath failed him, his head was in a whirl. The stranger, also in his coat and hat,
was sitting before him on his bed, and with a faint smile, screwing up his eyes, nodded to him
in a friendly way. Mr. Golyadkin wanted to scream, but could not — to protest in some way,
but his strength failed him. His hair stood on end, and he almost fell down with horror. And,
indeed, there was good reason. He recognised his nocturnal visitor. The nocturnal visitor was
no other than himself — Mr. Golyadkin himself, another Mr. Golyadkin, but absolutely the
same as himself — in fact, what is called a double in every respect...
Chapter 6

At eight o’clock next morning Mr. Golyadkin woke up in his bed. At once all the
extraordinary incidents of the previous day and the wild, incredible night, with all its almost
impossible adventures, presented themselves to his imagination and memory with terrifying
vividness. Such intense, diabolical malice on the part of his enemies, and, above all, the final
proof of that malice, froze Mr. Golyadkin’s heart. But at the same time it was all so strange,
incomprehensible, wild, it seemed so impossible, that it was really hard to credit the whole
business; Mr. Golyadkin was, indeed, ready to admit himself that it was all an incredible
delusion, a passing aberration of the fancy, a darkening of the mind, if he had not fortunately
known by bitter experience to what lengths spite will sometimes carry any one, what a pitch of
ferocity an enemy may reach when he is bent on revenging his honour and prestige. Besides,
Mr. Golyadkin’s exhausted limbs, his heavy head, his aching back, and the malignant cold in
his head bore vivid witness to the probability of his expedition of the previous night and upheld
the reality of it, and to some extent of all that had happened during that expedition. And,
indeed, Mr. Golyadkin had known long, long before that something was being got up among
them, that there was some one else with them. But after all, thinking it over thoroughly, he
made up his mind to keep quiet, to submit and not to protest for the time.
“They are simply plotting to frighten me, perhaps, and when they see that I don’t mind,
that I make no protest, but keep perfectly quiet and put up with it meekly, they’ll give it up,
they’ll give it up of themselves, give it up of their own accord.”
Such, then, were the thoughts in the mind of Mr. Golyadkin as, stretching in his bed,
trying to rest his exhausted limbs, he waited for Petrushka to come into his room as usual...
He waited for a full quarter of an hour. He heard the lazy scamp fiddling about with the
samovar behind the screen, and yet he could not bring himself to call him. We may say more:
Mr. Golyadkin was a little afraid of confronting Petrushka.
“Why, goodness knows,” he thought, “goodness knows how that rascal looks at it all. He
keeps on saying nothing, but he has his own ideas.”
At last the door creaked and Petrushka came in with a tray in his hands. Mr. Golyadkin
stole a timid glance at him, impatiently waiting to see what would happen, waiting to see
whether he would not say something about a certain circumstance. But Petrushka said
nothing; he was, on the contrary, more silent, more glum and ill-humoured than usual; he
looked askance from under his brows at everything; altogether it was evident that he was very
much put out about something; he did not even once glance at his master, which, by the way,
rather piqued the latter. Setting all he had brought on the table, he turned and went out of the
room without a word.
“He knows, he knows, he knows all about it, the scoundrel!” Mr. Golyadkin grumbled to
himself as he took his tea. Yet out hero did not address a single question to his servant,
though Petrushka came into his room several times afterwards on various errands. Mr.
Golyadkin was in great trepidation of spirit. He dreaded going to the office. He had a strong
presentiment that there he would find something that would not be “just so.”
“You may be sure,” he thought, “that as soon as you go you will light upon something!
Isn’t it better to endure in patience? Isn’t it better to wait a bit now? Let them do what they like
there; but I’d better stay here a bit today, recover my strength, get better, and think over the
whole affair more thoroughly, then afterwards I could seize the right moment, fall upon them
like snow from the sky, and get off scot free myself.”
Reasoning like this, Mr. Golyadkin smoked pipe after pipe; time was flying. It was already
nearly half-past nine.“Why, it’s half-past nine already,” thought Mr. Golyadkin; “it’s late for me to make my
appearance. Besides, I’m ill, of course I’m ill, I’m certainly ill; who denies it? What’s the matter
with me? If they send to make inquiries, let the executive clerk come; and, indeed, what is the
matter with me really? My back aches, I have a cough, and a cold in my head; and, in fact, it’s
out of the question for me to go out, utterly out of the question in such weather. I might be
taken ill and, very likely, die; nowadays especially the death-rate is so high...”
With such reasoning Mr. Golyadkin succeeded at last in setting his conscience at rest,
and defended himself against the reprimands he expected from Andrey Filippovitch for neglect
of his duty. As a rule in such cases our hero was particularly fond of justifying himself in his
own eyes with all sorts of irrefutable arguments, and so completely setting his conscience at
rest. And so now, having completely soothed his conscience, he took up his pipe, filled it, and
had no sooner settled down comfortably to smoke, when he jumped up quickly from the sofa,
flung away the pipe, briskly washed, shaved, and brushed his hair, got into his uniform and so
on, snatched up some papers, and flew to the office.
Mr. Golyadkin went into his department timidly, in quivering expectation of something
unpleasant — an expectation which was none the less disagreeable for being vague and
unconscious; he sat timidly down in his invariable place next the head clerk, Anton Antonovitch
Syetotchkin. Without looking at anything or allowing his attention to be distracted, he plunged
into the contents of the papers that lay before him. He made up his mind and vowed to
himself to avoid, as far as possible, anything provocative, anything that might compromise
him, such as indiscreet questions, jests, or unseemly allusions to any incidents of the previous
evening; he made up his mind also to abstain from the usual interchange of civilities with his
colleagues, such as inquiries after health and such like. But evidently it was impossible, out of
the question, to keep to this. Anxiety and uneasiness in regard to anything near him that was
annoying always worried him far more than the annoyance itself. And that was why, in spite of
his inward vows to refrain from entering into anything, whatever happened, and to keep aloof
from everything, Mr. Golyadkin from time to time, on the sly, very, very quietly, raised his
head and stealthily looked about him to right and to left, peeped at the countenances of his
colleagues, and tried to gather whether there were not something new and particular in them
referring to himself and with sinister motives concealed from him. He assumed that there
must be a connection between all that had happened yesterday and all that surrounded him
now. At last, in his misery, he began to long for something — goodness knows what — to
happen to put an end to it — even some calamity — he did not care. At this point destiny
caught Mr. Golyadkin: he had hardly felt this desire when his doubts were solved in the
strange and most unexpected manner.
The door leading from the next room suddenly gave a soft and timid creak, as though to
indicate that the person about to enter was a very unimportant one, and a figure, very familiar
to Mr. Golyadkin, stood shyly before the very table at which our hero was seated. The latter
did not raise his head — no, he only stole a glance at him, the tiniest glance; but he knew all,
he understood all, to every detail. He grew hot with shame, and buried his devoted head in his
papers with precisely the same object with which the ostrich, pursued by hunters, hides his
head in the burning sand. The new arrival bowed to Andrey Filippovitch, and thereupon he
heard a voice speaking in the regulation tone of condescending tone of politeness with which
all persons in authority address their subordinates in public offices.
“Take a seat here.” said Andrey Filippovitch, motioning the newcomer to Anton
Antonovitch’s table. “Here, opposite Mr. Golyadkin, and we’ll soon give you something to do.”
Andrey Filippovitch ended by making a rapid gesture that decorously admonished the
newcomer of his duty, and then he immediately became engrossed in the study of the papers
that lay in a heap before him.
Mr. Golyadkin lifted his eyes at last, and that he did not fall into a swoon was simply
because he had foreseen it all from the first, that he had been forewarned from the first,guessing in his soul who the stranger was. Mr. Golyadkin’s first movement was to look quickly
about him, to see whether there were any whispering, any office joke being cracked on the
subject, whether any one’s face was agape with wonder, whether, indeed, some one had not
fallen under the table from terror. But to his intense astonishment there was no sign of
anything of the sort. The behaviour of his colleagues and companions surprised him. It
seemed contrary to the dictates of common sense. Mr. Golyadkin was positively scared at this
extraordinary reticent. The fact spoke for itself; it was a strange, horrible, uncanny thing. It
was enough to rouse any one. All this, of course, only passed rapidly through Mr. Golyadkin’s
mind. He felt as though he were burning in a slow fire. And, indeed, there was enough to
make him. The figure that was sitting opposite Mr. Golyadkin now was his terror, was his
shame, was his nightmare of the evening before; in short, was Mr. Golyadkin himself, not the
Mr. Golyadkin who was sitting now in his chair with his mouth wide open and his pen petrified
in his hand, not the one who acted as assistant to his chief, not the one who liked to efface
himself and slink away in the crowd, not the one whose deportment plainly said, “Don’t touch
me and I won’t touch you,” or, “Don’t interfere with me, you see I’m not touching you”; no, this
was another Mr. Golyadkin, quite different, yet at the same time, exactly like the first — the
same height, the same figure, the same clothes, the same baldness; in fact, nothing,
absolutely nothing, was lacking to complete the likeness, so that if one were to set them side
by side, nobody, absolutely nobody, could have undertaken to distinguish which was the real
Mr. Golyadkin and which was the new one, which was the original and which was the copy.
Our hero was — if the comparison can be made — in the position of a man upon whom
some practical joker has stealthily, by way of jest, turned a burning glass.
“What does it mean? Is it a dream?” he wondered. “Is it reality or the continuation of
what happened yesterday? And besides, by what right is this all being done? Who sanctioned
such a clerk, who authorized this? Am I asleep, am I in a waking dream?”
Mr. Golyadkin tried pinching himself, even tried to screw up his courage to pinch some
one else... No, it was not a dream and that was all about it. Mr. Golyadkin felt that the sweat
was trickling down him in big drops; he felt that what was happening to him was something
incredible, unheard of, and for that very reason was, to complete his misery, utterly unseemly,
for Mr. Golyadkin realized and felt how disadvantageous it was to be the first example of such
a burlesque adventure. He even began to doubt his own existence, and though he was
prepared for anything and had been longing for his doubts to be settled in any way whatever,
yet the actual reality was startling in its unexpectedness. His misery was poignant and
overwhelming. At times he lost all power of thought and memory. Coming to himself after
such a moment, he noticed that he was mechanically and unconsciously moving the pen over
the paper. Mistrustful of himself, he began going over what he had written — and could make
nothing of it. At last the other Mr. Golyadkin, who had been sitting discreetly and decorously at
the table, got up and disappeared through the door into the other room. Mr. Golyadkin looked
around — everything was quiet; he heard nothing but the scratching of pens, the rustle of
turning over pages, and conversation in the corners furthest from Andrey Filippovitch’s seat.
Mr. Golyadkin looked at Anton Antonovitch, and as, in all probability, our hero’s countenance
fully reflected his real condition and harmonized with the whole position, and was
consequently, from one point of view, very remarkable, good-natured Anton Antonovitch,
laying aside his pen, inquired after his health with marked sympathy.
“I’m very well, thank God, Anton Antonovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, stammering. “I am
perfectly well, Anton Antonovitch. I am all right now, Anton Antonovitch,” he added uncertainly,
not yet fully trusting Anton Antonovitch, whose name he had mentioned so often.
“I fancied you were not quite well: though that’s not to be wondered at; no, indeed!
Nowadays especially there’s such a lot of illness going about. Do you know...”
“Yes, Anton Antonovitch, I know there is such a lot of illness... I did not mean that, Anton
Antonovitch,” Mr. Golyadkin went on, looking intently at Anton Antonovitch. “You see, AntonAntonovitch, I don’t even know how you, that is, I mean to say, how to approach this matter,
Anton Antonovitch...”
“How so? I really... do you know... I must confess I don’t quite understand; you must...
you must explain, you know, in what way you are in difficulties,” said Anton Antonovitch,
beginning to be in difficulties himself, seeing that there were actually tears in Mr. Golyadkin’s
“Really, Anton Antonovitch... I... here... there’s a clerk here, Anton Antonovitch...”
“Well! I don’t understand now.”
“I mean to say, Anton Antonovitch, there’s a new clerk here.”
“Yes, there is; a namesake of yours.”
“What?” cried Mr. Golyadkin.
“I say a namesake of yours; his name’s Golyadkin too. Isn’t he a brother of yours?”
“No, Anton Antonovitch, I...”
“H’m! you don’t say so! Why, I thought he must be a relation of yours. Do you know,
there’s a sort of family likeness.”
Mr. Golyadkin was petrified with astonishment, and for the moment he could not speak.
To treat so lightly such a horrible, unheard-of thing, a thing undeniably rare and curious in its
way, a thing which would have amazed even an unconcerned spectator, to talk of a family
resemblance when he could see himself as in a looking-glass!
“Do you know, Yakov Petrovitch, what I advise you to do?” Anton Antonovitch went on.
“Go and consult a doctor. Do you know, you look somehow quite unwell. You eyes look
peculiar... you know, there’s a peculiar expression in them.”
“No, Anton Antonovitch, I feel, of course... that is, I keep wanting to ask about this clerk.”
“That is, have not you noticed, Anton Antonovitch, something peculiar about him,
something very marked?”
“That is...?”
“That is, I mean, Anton Antonovitch, a striking likeness with somebody, for instance; with
me, for instance? You spoke just now, you see, Anton Antonovitch, of a family likeness. You
let slip the remark... You know there really are sometimes twins exactly alike, like two drops of
water, so that they can’t be told apart. Well, it’s that that I mean.”
“To be sure,” said Anton Antonovitch, after a moment’s thought, speaking as though he
were struck by the fact for the first time: “yes, indeed! You are right, there is a striking
likeness, and you are quite right in what you say. You really might be mistaken for one
another,” he went on, opening his eyes wider and wider; “and, do you know, Yakov Petrovitch,
it’s positively a marvellous likeness, fantastic, in fact, as the saying is; that is, just as you...
Have you observed, Yakov Petrovitch? I wanted to ask you to explain it; yes, I must confess I
didn’t take particular notice at first. It’s wonderful, it’s really wonderful! And, you know, you are
not a native of these parts, are you, Yakov Petrovitch?”
“He is not from these parts, you know, either. Perhaps he comes from the same part of
the country as you do. Where, may I make bold to inquire, did your mother live for the most
“You said... you say, Anton Antonovitch, that he is not a native of these parts?”
“No, he is not. And indeed how strange it is!” continued the talkative Anton Antonovitch,
for whom it was a genuine treat to gossip. “It may well arouse curiosity; and yet, you know,
you might pass him by, brush against him, without noticing anything. But you mustn’t be upset
about it. It’s a thing that does happen. Do you know, the same thing, I must tell you,
happened to my aunt on my mother’s side; she saw her own double before her death...”
“No, I — excuse me for interrupting you, Anton Antonovitch — I wanted to find out,
Anton Antonovitch, how that clerk... that is, on what footing is he here?”“In the place of Semyon Ivanovitch, to fill the vacancy left by his death; the post was
vacant, so he was appointed. Do you know, I’m told poor Semyon Ivanovitch left three
children, all tiny dots. The widow fell at the feet of his Excellency. They do say she’s hiding
something; she’s got a bit of money, but she’s hiding it.”
“No, Anton Antonovitch, I was still referring to that circumstance.”
“You mean...? To be sure! But why are you so interested in that? I tell you not to upset
yourself. All this is temporary to some extent. Why, after all, you know, you have nothing to do
with it. So it has been ordained by God Almighty, it’s His will, and it is sinful repining. His
wisdom is apparent in it. And as far as I can make out, Yakov Petrovitch, you are not to blame
in any way. There are all sorts of strange things in the world! Mother Nature is liberal with her
gifts, and you are not called upon to answer for it, you won’t be responsible. Here, for
instance, you have heard, I expect, of those — what’s their name? — oh, the Siamese twins
who are joined together at the back, live and eat and sleep together. I’m told they get a lot of
“Allow me, Anton Antonovitch...”
“I understand, I understand! Yes! But what of it? It’s no matter, I tell you, ad far as I can
see there’s nothing for you to upset yourself about. After all, he’s a clerk — as a clerk he
seems to be a capable man. He says his name is Golyadkin, that he’s not a native of this
district, and that he’s a titular councillor. He had a personal interview with his Excellency.”
“And how did his Excellency...?”
“It was all right; I am told he gave a satisfactory account of himself, gave his reasons,
said, ‘It’s like this, your Excellency,’ and that he was without means and anxious to enter the
service, and would be particularly flattered to be serving under his Excellency... all that was
proper, you know; he expressed himself neatly. He must be a sensible man. But of course he
came with a recommendation; he couldn’t have got in without that...”
“Oh, from whom... that is, I mean, who is it has had a hand in this shameful business?”
“Yes, a good recommendation, I’m told; his Excellency, I’m told laughed with Andrey
“Laughed with Andrey Filippovitch?”
“Yes, he only just smiled and said that it was all right, and that he had nothing against it,
so long as he did his duty...”
“Well, and what more? You relieve me to some extent, Anton Antonovitch; go on, I
entreat you.”
“Excuse me, I must tell you again... Well, then, come, it’s nothing, it’s a very simple
matter; you mustn’t upset yourself, I tell you, and there’s nothing suspicious about it...”
“No. I... that is, Anton Antonovitch, I want to ask you, didn’t his Excellency say anything
more...about me, for instance?”
“Well! To be sure! No, nothing of the sort; you can set your mind quite at rest. You know
it is, of course, a rather striking circumstance, and at first...why, here, I, for instance, I
scarcely noticed it. I really don’t know why I didn’t notice it till you mentioned it. But you can
set your mind at rest entirely. He said nothing particular, absolutely nothing,” added
goodnatured Anton Antonovitch, getting up from his chair.
“So then, Anton, Antonovitch, I...”
“Oh, you must excuse me. Here I’ve been gossiping about these trivial matters, and I’ve
business that is important and urgent. I must inquire about it.”
“Anton Antonovitch!” Andrey Filippovitch’s voice sounded, summoning him politely, “his
Excellency has been asking for you.”
“This minute, I’m coming this minute, Andrey Filippovitch.” And Anton Antonovitch, taking
a pile of papers, flew off first to Andrey Filippovitch and then into his Excellency’s room.
“Then what is the meaning of it?” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “Is there some sort of game
going on? So the wind’s in that quarter now... That’s just as well; so things have taken a muchpleasanter turn,” our hero said to himself, rubbing his hands, and so delighted that he scarcely
knew where he was. “So our position is an ordinary thing. So it turns out to be all nonsense, it
comes to nothing at all. No one has done anything really, and they are not budging, the
rascals, they are sitting busy over their work; that’s splendid, splendid! I like the good-natured
fellow, I’ve always liked him, and I’m always ready to respect him... though it must be said one
doesn’t know what to think; this Anton Antonovitch... I’m afraid to trust him; his hair’s grey,
and he’s getting shaky. It’s an immense and glorious thing that his Excellency said nothing,
and let it pass! It’s a good thing! I approve! Only why does Andrey Filippovitch interfere with
his grins? What’s he got to do with it? The old rogue. Always on my track, always, like a black
cat, on the watch to run across a man’s path, always thwarting and annoying a man, always
annoying and thwarting a man...”
Mr. Golyadkin looked around him again, and again his hopes revived. Yet he felt that he
was troubled by one remote idea, an unpleasant idea. It even occurred to him that he might
try somehow to make up to the clerks, to be the first in the field even (perhaps when leaving
the office or going up to them as though about his work), to drop a hint in the course of
conversation, saying, “This is how it is, what a striking likeness, gentlemen, a strange
circumstance, a burlesque farce!” — that is, treat it all lightly, and in this way sound the depth
of the danger. “Devils breed in still waters,” our hero concluded inwardly.
Mr. Golyadkin, however, only contemplated this; he thought better of it in time. He
realized that this would be going too far. “That’s your temperament,” he said to himself,
tapping himself lightly on the forehead; “as soon as you gain anything you are delighted!
You’re a simple soul! No, you and I had better be patient, Yakov Petrovitch; let us wait and be
Nevertheless, as we have mentioned already, Mr. Golyadkin was buoyed up with the
most confident hopes, feeling as though he had risen from the dead.
“No matter,” he thought, “it’s as though a hundred tons had been lifted off my chest!
Here is a circumstance, to be sure! The box has been opened by the lid. Krylov is right, a
clever chap, a rogue, that Krylov, and a great fable-write! And as for him, let him work in the
office, and good luck to him so long as he doesn’t meddle or interfere with any one; let him
work in the office — I consent and approve!”
Meanwhile the hours were passing, flying by, and before he noticed the time it struck
four. The office was closed. Andrey Filippovitch took his hat, and all followed his example in
due course. Mr. Golyadkin dawdled a little on purpose, long enough to be the last to go out
when all the others had gone their several ways. Going out from the street he felt as though
he were in Paradise, so that he even felt inclined to go a longer way round, and to walk along
the Nevsky Prospect.
“To be sure this is destiny,” thought our hero, “this unexpected turn in affairs. And the
weather’s more cheerful, and the frost and the little sledges. And the frost suits the Russian,
the Russian gets on capitally with the frost. I like the Russian. And the dear little snow, and
the first few flakes in autumn; the sportsman would say, ‘It would be nice to go shooting hares
in the first snow.’ Well, there, it doesn’t matter.”
This was how Mr. Golyadkin’s enthusiasm found expression. Yet something was fretting
in his brain, not exactly melancholy, but at times he had such a gnawing at his heart that he
did not know how to find relief.
“Let us wait for the day, though, and then we shall rejoice. And, after all, you know, what
does it matter? Come, let us think it over, let us look at it. Come, let us consider it, my young
friend, let us consider it. Why, a man’s exactly like you in the first place, absolutely the same.
Well, what is there in that? If there is such a man, why should I weep over it? What is it to
me? I stand aside, I whistle to myself, and that’s all! That’s what I laid myself open to, and
that’s all about it! Let him work in the office! Well, it’s strange and marvellous, they say, that
the Siamese twins... But why bring in Siamese twins? They are twins, of course, but evengreat men, you know, sometimes look queer creatures. In fact, we know from history that the
famous Suvorov used to crow like a cock... But there, he did all that with political motives; and
he was a great general...but what are generals, after all? But I keep myself to myself, that’s
all, and I don’t care about any one else, and, secure in my innocence, I scorn my enemies. I
am not one to intrigue, and I’m proud of it. Gentle, straightforward, neat and nice, meek and
All at once Mr. Golyadkin broke off, his tongue failed him and he began trembling like a
leaf; he even closed his eyes for a minute. Hoping, however, that the object of his terror was
only an illusion, he opened his eyes at last and stole a timid glance to the right. No, it was not
an illusion!... His acquaintance of that morning was tripping along by his side, smiling, peeping
into his face, and apparently seeking an opportunity to begin a conversation with him. The
conversation was not begun, however. They both walked like this for about fifty paces. All Mr.
Golyadkin’s efforts were concentrated on muffling himself up, hiding himself in his coat and
pulling his hat down as far as possible over his eyes. To complete his mortification, his
companion’s coat and hat looked as though they had been taken off Mr. Golyadkin himself.
“Sir,” our hero articulated at last, trying to speak almost in a whisper, and not looking at
his companion, “we are going different ways, I believe... I am convinced of it, in fact,” he said,
after a pause. “I am convinced, indeed, that you quite understand me,” he added, rather
severely, in conclusion.
“I could have wished...” his companion pronounced at last, “I could have wished... no
doubt you will be magnanimous and pardon me... I don’t know to whom to address myself
here... my circumstances... I trust you will pardon my intrusiveness. I fancied, indeed, that,
moved by compassion, you showed some interest in me this morning. On my side, I felt
drawn to you from the first moment. I...”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin inwardly wished that his companion might sink into the earth.
“If I might venture to hope that you would accord me an indulgent hearing, Yakov
“We — here, we — we... you had better come home with me,” answered Mr. Golyadkin.
“We will cross now to the other side of the Nevsky Prospect, it will be more convenient for us
there, and then by the little back street... we’d better go by the back street.”
“Very well, by all means let us go by the back street,” our hero’s meek companion
responded timidly, suggesting by the tone of his reply that it was not for him to choose, and
that in his position he was quite prepared to accept the back street. As for Mr. Golyadkin, he
was utterly unable to grasp what was happening to him. He could not believe in himself. He
could not get over his amazement.
Chapter 7

He recovered himself a little on the staircase as he went up to his flat.
“Oh, I’m a sheep’s head,” he railed at himself inwardly. “Where am I taking him? I am
thrusting my head into the noose. What will Petrushka think, seeing us together? What will the
scoundrel dare to imagine now? He’s suspicious...”
But it was too late to regret it. Mr. Golyadkin knocked at the door; it was opened, and
Petrushka began taking off the visitor’s coat as well as his master’s. Mr. Golyadkin looked
askance, just stealing a glance at Petrushka, trying to read his countenance and divine what
he was thinking. But to his intense astonishment he saw that his servant showed no trace of
surprise, but seemed, on the contrary, to be expecting something of the sort. Of course he
did not look morose, as it was; he kept his eyes turned away and looked as though he would
like to fall upon somebody.
“Hasn’t somebody bewitched them all today?” thought our hero. “Some devil must have
got round them. There certainly must be something peculiar in the whole lot of them today.
Damn it all, what a worry it is!”
Such were Mr. Golyadkin’s thoughts and reflections as he led his visitor into his room
and politely asked him to sit down. The visitor appeared to be greatly embarrassed, he was
very shy, and humbly watched every movement his host made, caught his glance, and
seemed trying to divine his thoughts from them. There was a downtrodden, crushed, scared
look about all his gestures, so that — if the comparison may be allowed — he was at that
moment rather like the man who, having lost his clothes, is dressed up in somebody else’s:
the sleeves work up to the elbows, the waist is almost up to his neck, and he keeps every
minute pulling down the short waistcoat; he wriggles sideways and turns away, tries to hide
himself, or peeps into every face, and listens whether people are talking of his position,
laughing at him or putting him to shame — and he is crimson with shame and overwhelmed
with confusion and wounded vanity... Mr. Golyadkin put down his hat in the window, and
carelessly sent it flying to the floor. The visitor darted at once to pick it up, brushed off the
dust, and carefully put it back, while he laid his own on the floor near a chair, on the edge of
which he meekly seated himself. This little circumstance did something to open Mr.
Golyadkin’s eyes; he realized that the man was in great straits, and so did not put himself out
for his visitor as he had done at first, very properly leaving all that to the man himself. The
visitor, for his part, did nothing either; whether he was shy, a little ashamed, or from
politeness was waiting for his host to begin is not certain and would be difficult to determine.
At that moment Petrushka came in; he stood still in the doorway, and fixed his eyes in the
direction furthest from where the visitor and his master were seated.
“Shall I bring in dinner for two?” he said carelessly, in a husky voice.
“I — I don’t know... you... yes, bring dinner for two, my boy.”
Petrushka went out. Mr. Golyadkin glanced at his visitor. The latter crimsoned to his
ears. Mr. Golyadkin was a kind-hearted man, and so in the kindness of his heart he at once
elaborated a theory.
“The fellow’s hard up,” he thought. “Yes, and in his situation only one day. Most likely
he’s suffered in his time. Maybe his good clothes are all that he has, and nothing to get him a
dinner. Ah, poor fellow, how crushed he seems! But no matter; in a way it’s better so...
Excuse me,” began Mr. Golyadkin, “allow me to ask what I may call you.”
“I... I... I’m Yakov Petrovitch,” his visitor almost whispered, as though
consciencestricken and ashamed, as though apologizing for being called Yakov Petrovitch too.
“Yakov Petrovitch!” repeated our visitor, unable to conceal his confusion.“Yes, just so... The same name as yours,” responded the meek visitor, venturing to smile
and speak a little jocosely. But at once he drew back, assuming a very serious air, though a
little disconcerted, noticing that his host was in no joking mood.
“You... allow me to ask you, to what am I indebted for the honour...?”
“Knowing your generosity and your benevolence,” interposed the visitor in a rapid but
timid voice, half rising from his seat, “I have ventured to appeal to you and to beg for your...
acquaintance and protection...” he concluded, choosing his phrases with difficulty and trying to
select words not too flattering or servile, that he might not compromise his dignity and not so
bold as to suggest an unseemly equality. In fact, one may say the visitor behaved like a
gentlemanly beggar with a darned waistcoat, with an honourable passport in his pocket, who
has not yet learnt by practice to hold out his hand properly for alms.
“You perplex me,” answered Mr. Golyadkin, gazing round at himself, his walls and his
visitor. “In what could I... that is, I mean, in what way could I be of service to you?”
“I felt drawn to you, Yakov Petrovitch, at first sight, and, graciously forgive me, I built my
hopes Yakov Petrovitch. I... I’m in a desperate plight here, Yakov Petrovitch; I’m poor, I’ve
had a great deal of trouble, Yakov Petrovitch, and have only recently come here. Learning
that you, with your innate goodness and excellence of heart, are of the same name...”
Mr. Golyadkin frowned.
“Of the same name as myself and a native of the same district, I made up my mind to
appeal to you, and to make known to you my difficult position.”
“Very good, very good; I really don’t know what to say,” Mr. Golyadkin responded in an
embarrassed voice. “We’ll have a talk after dinner...”
The visitor bowed; dinner was brought in. Petrushka laid the table, and Mr. Golyadkin
and his visitor proceeded to partake of it. The dinner did not last long, for they were both in a
hurry, the host because he felt ill at ease, and was, besides, ashamed that the dinner was a
poor one — he was partly ashamed because he wanted to give the visitor a good meal, and
partly because he wanted to show him he did not live like a beggar. The visitor, on his side
too, was in terrible confusion and extremely embarrassed. When he had finished the piece of
bread he had taken, he was afraid to put out his hand to take another piece, was ashamed to
help himself to the best morsels, and was continually assuring his host that he was not at all
hungry, that the dinner was excellent, that he was absolutely satisfied with it, and should not
forget it to his dying day. When the meal was over Mr. Golyadkin lighted his pipe, and offered
a second, which was brought in, to his visitor. They sat facing each other, and the visitor
began telling his adventures.
Mr. Golyadkin junior’s story lasted for three or four hours. His history was, however,
composed of the most trivial and wretched, if one may say so, incidents. It dealt with details of
service in some lawcourt in the provinces, of prosecutors and presidents, of some department
intrigues, of the depravity of some registration clerks, of an inspector, of the sudden
appointment of a new chief in the department, of how the second Mr. Golyadkin had suffered
quite without any fault on his part; of his aged aunt, Pelegea Semyonovna; of how, through
various intrigues on the part of his enemies, he had lost his situation, and had come to
Petersburg on foot; of the harassing and wretched time he had spent here in Petersburg, how
for a long time he had tried in vain to get a job, had spent all his money, had nothing left, had
been living almost in the street, lived on a crust of bread and washed it down with his tears,
slept on the bare floor, and finally how some good Christian had exerted himself on his behalf,
had given him an introduction, and had nobly got him into a new berth. Mr. Golyadkin’s visitor
shed tears as he told his story, and wiped his eyes with a blue-check handkerchief that looked
like oilcloth. He ended by making a clean breast of it to Mr. Golyadkin, and confessing that he
was not only for the time without means of subsistence and money for a decent lodging, but
had not even the wherewithal to fit himself out properly, so that he had, he said in conclusion,
been able to get together enough for a pair of wretched boots, and that he had had to hire auniform for the time.
Mr. Golyadkin was melted; he was genuinely touched. Even though his visitor’s story was
the paltriest story, every word of it was like heavenly manna to his heart. The fact was that
Mr. Golyadkin was beginning to forget his last misgivings, to surrender his soul to freedom
and rejoicing, and at last mentally dubbed himself a fool. It was all so natural! And what a
thing to break his heart over, what a thing to be so distressed about! To be sure there was,
there really was, one ticklish circumstance — but, after all, it was not a misfortune; it could be
no disgrace to a man, it could not cast a slur on his honour or ruin his career, if he were
innocent, since nature herself was mixed up in it. Moreover, the visitor begged for protection,
wept, railed at destiny, seemed such an artless, pitiful, insignificant person, with no craft or
malice about him, and he seemed now to be ashamed himself, though perhaps on different
grounds, of the strange resemblance of his countenance with that of Mr. Golyadkin’s. his
behaviour was absolutely unimpeachable; his one desire was to please his host, and he
looked as a man looks who feels conscience-stricken and to blame in regard to some one
else. If any doubtful point were touched upon, for instance, the visitor at once agreed with Mr.
Golyadkin’s opinion. If by mistake he advanced an opinion in opposition to Mr. Golyadkin’s and
afterwards noticed that he had made a slip, he immediately corrected his mistake, explained
himself and made it clear that he meant the same thing as his host, that he thought as he did
and took the same view of everything as he did. In fact, the visitor made every possible effort
to “make up to” Mr. Golyadkin, so that the latter made up his mind at last that his visitor must
be a very amiable person in every way. Meanwhile, tea was brought in; it was nearly nine
o’clock. Mr. Golyadkin felt in a very good-humour, grew lively and skittish, let himself go a
little, and finally plunged into a most animated and interesting conversation with his visitor. In
his festive moments Mr. Golyadkin was fond of telling interesting anecdotes. So now he told
the visitor a great deal about Petersburg, about its entertainments and attractions, about the
theatre, the clubs, about Brulov’s picture, and about the two Englishmen who came from
England to Petersburg on purpose to look at the iron railing of the Summer Garden, and
returned at once when they had seen it; about the office; about Olsufy Ivanovitch and Andrey
Filippovitch; about the way that Russia was progressing, was hour by hour progressing
towards a state of perfection, so that

“Arts and letters flourish here today”;

about an anecdote he had lately read in the Northern Bee concerning a boa-constrictor in
India of immense strength; about Baron Brambeus, and so on. In short, Mr. Golyadkin was
quite happy, first, because his mind was at rest, secondly, because, so far from being afraid
of his enemies, he was quite prepared now to challenge them all to mortal combat; thirdly,
because he was now in the role of patron and was doing a good deed. Yet he was conscious
at the bottom of his heart that he was not perfectly happy, that there was still a hidden worm
gnawing at his heart, though it was only a tiny one. He was extremely worried by the thought
of the previous evening at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s. He would have given a great deal now for
nothing to have happened of what took place then.
“It’s no matter, though!” our hero decided at last, and he firmly resolved in his heart to
behave well in future and never to be guilty of such pranks again. As Mr. Golyadkin was now
completely worked up, and had suddenly become almost blissful, the fancy took him to have a
jovial time. Rum was brought in by Petrushka, and punch was prepared. The visitor and his
host drained a glass each, and then a second. The visitor appeared even more amiable than
before, and gave more than one proof of his frankness and charming character; he entered
keenly into Mr. Golyadkin’s joy, seemed only to rejoice in his rejoicing, and to look upon him
as his one and only benefactor. Taking up a pen and a sheet of paper, he asked Golyadkin
not to look at what he was going to write, but afterwards showed his host what he had written.It turned out to be a verse of four lines, written with a good deal of feeling, in excellent
language and handwriting, and evidently was the composition of the amiable visitor himself.
the lines were as follows —

“If thou forget me,
I shall not forget thee;
Though all things may be,
Do not thou forget me.”

With tears in his eyes Mr. Golyadkin embraced his companion, and, completely
overcome by his feelings, he began to initiate his friend into some of his own secrets and
private affairs, Andrey Filippovitch and Klara Olsufyevna being prominent in his remarks.
“Well, you may be sure we shall get on together, Yakov Petrovitch,” said our hero to his
visitor. “You and I will take to each other like fish to the water, Yakov Petrovitch; we shall be
like brothers; we’ll be cunning, my dear fellow, we’ll work together; we’ll get up an intrigue, too,
to pay them out. To pay them out we’ll get up an intrigue too. And don’t you trust any of them.
I know you, Yakov Petrovitch, and I understand your character; you’ll tell them everything
straight out, you know, you’re a guileless soul! You must hold aloof from them all, my boy.”
His companion entirely agreed with him, thanked Mr. Golyadkin, and he, too, grew tearful
at last.
“Do you know, Yasha,” Mr. Golyadkin went on in a shaking voice, weak with emotion,
“you must stay with me for a time, or stay with me for ever. We shall get on together. What
do you say, brother, eh? And don’t you worry or repine because there’s such a strange
circumstance about us now; it’s a sin to repine, brother; it’s nature! And Mother Nature is
liberal with her gifts, so there, brother Yasha! It’s from love for you that I speak, from brotherly
love. But we’ll be cunning, Yasha; we’ll lay a mine, too, and we’ll make them laugh out the
other side of their mouths.”
They reached their third and fourth glasses of punch at last, and then Mr. Golyadkin
began to be aware of two sensations: the one that he was extraordinarily happy, and the other
that he could not stand on his legs. The guest was, of course, invited to stay the night. A bed
was somehow made up on two chairs. Mr. Golyadkin junior declared that under a friend’s roof
the bare floor would be a soft bed, that for his part he could sleep anywhere, humbly and
gratefully; that he was in paradise now, that he had been through a great deal of trouble and
grief in his time; he had seen ups and downs, had all sorts of things to put up with, and —
who could tell what the future would be? — maybe he would have still more to put up with. Mr.
Golyadkin senior protested against this, and began to maintain that one must put one’s faith in
God. His guest entirely agreed, observing that there was, of course, no one like God. At this
point Mr. Golyadkin senior observed that in certain respects the Turks were right in calling
upon God even in their sleep. Then, though disagreeing with certain learned professors in the
slanders thy had promulgated against the Turkish prophet Mahomet and recognizing him as a
great politician in his own line, Mr. Golyadkin passed to a very interesting description of an
Algerian barber’s shop which he had read in a book of miscellanies. The friends laughed
heartily at the simplicity of the Turks, but paid due tribute to their fanaticism, which they
ascribed to opium... At last the guest began undressing, and thinking in the kindness of his
heart that very likely he hadn’t even a decent shirt, Mr. Golyadkin went behind the screen to
avoid embarrassing a man who had suffered enough, and partly to reassure himself as far as
possible about Petrushka, to sound him, to cheer him up if he could, to be kind to the fellow
so that every one might be happy and that everything might be pleasant all round. It must be
remarked that Petrushka still rather bothered Mr. Golyadkin.
“You go to bed now, Pyotr,” Mr. Golyadkin said blandly, going into his servant’s domain;
“you go to bed now and wake me up at eight o’clock. Do you understand Petrushka?”Mr. Golyadkin spoke with exceptional softness and friendliness. But Petrushka remained
mute. He was busy making his bed, and did not even turn round to face his master, which he
ought to have done out of simple respect.
“Did you hear what I said, Pyotr?” Mr. Golyadkin went on. “You go to bed now and wake
me tomorrow at eight o’clock; do you understand?”
“Why, I know that; what’s the use of telling me?” Petrushka grumbled to himself.
“Well, that’s right, Petrushka; I only mention it that you might be happy and at rest. Now
we are all happy, so I want you, too, to be happy and satisfied. And now I wish you
goodnight. Sleep, Petrushka, sleep; we all have to work... Don’t think anything amiss, my man...”
Mr. Golyadkin began, but stopped short. “Isn’t this too much?” he thought. “Haven’t I gone too
far? That’s how it always is; I always overdo things.”
Our hero felt much dissatisfied with himself as he left Petrushka. He was, besides, rather
wounded by Petrushka’s grumpiness and rudeness. “One jests with the rascal, his master
does him too much honour, and the rascal does not feel it,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “But there,
that’s the nasty way of all that sort of people!”
Somewhat shaken, he went back to his room, and, seeing that his guest had settled
himself for the night, he sat down on the edge of his bed for a minute.
“Come, you must own, Yasha,” he began in a whisper, wagging his head, “you’re a
rascal, you know; what a way you’ve treated me! You see, you’ve got my name, do you know
that?” he went on, jesting in a rather familiar way with his visitor. At last, saying a friendly
good-night to him, Mr. Golyadkin began preparing for the night. The visitor meanwhile began
snoring. Mr. Golyadkin in his turn got into bed, laughing and whispering to himself: “You are
drunk today, my dear fellow, Yakov Petrovitch, you rascal, you old Golyadkin — what a
surname to have! Why, what are you so pleased about? You’ll be crying tomorrow, you know,
you sniveller; what am I to do with you?”
At this point a rather strange sensation pervaded Mr. Golyadkin’s whole being,
something like doubt or remorse.
“I’ve been over-excited and let myself go,” he thought; “now I’ve a noise in my head and
I’m drunk; I couldn’t restrain myself, ass that I am! and I’ve been babbling bushels of
nonsense, and, like a rascal, I was planning to be so sly. Of course, to forgive and forget
injuries is the height of virtue; but it’s a bad thing, nevertheless! Yes, that is so!”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin got up, took a candle and went on tiptoe to look once more at
his sleeping guest. He stood over him for a long time meditating deeply.
“An unpleasant picture! A burlesque, a regular burlesque, and that’s the fact of the
At last Mr. Golyadkin settled down finally. There was a humming, a buzzing, a ringing in
his head. He grew more and more drowsy... tried to think about something very important,
some delicate question — but could not. Sleep descended upon his devoted head, and he
slept as people generally do sleep who are not used to drinking and have consumed five
glasses of punch at some festive gathering.
Chapter 8

Mr. Golyadkin woke up next morning at eight o’clock as usual; as soon as he was awake
he recalled all the adventures of the previous evening — and frowned as he recalled them.
“Ugh, I did play the fool last night!” he thought, sitting up and glancing at his visitor’s bed. But
what was his amazement when he saw in the room no trace, not only of his visitor, but even
of the bed on which his visitor had slept!
“What does it mean?” Mr. Golyadkin almost shrieked. “What can it be? What does this
new circumstance portend?”
While Mr. Golyadkin was gazing in open-mouthed bewilderment at the empty spot, the
door creaked and Petrushka came in with the tea-tray.
“Where, where?” our hero said in a voice hardly audible, pointing to the place which had
ben occupied by his visitor the night before.
At first Petrushka made no answer and did not look at his master, but fixed his eyes
upon the corner to the right till Mr. Golyadkin felt compelled to look into that corner too. After
a brief silence, however, Petrushka in a rude and husky voice answered that his master was
not at home.
“You idiot; why I’m your master, Petrushka!” said Mr. Golyadkin in a breaking voice,
looking open-eyed at his servant.
Petrushka made no reply, but he gave Mr. Golyadkin such a look that the latter
crimsoned to his ears — looked at him with an insulting reproachfulness almost equivalent to
open abuse. Mr. Golyadkin was utterly flabbergasted, as the saying is. At last Petrushka
explained that the ‘other one’ had gone away an hour and a half ago, and would not wait. His
answer, of course, sounded truthful and probable; it was evident that Petrushka was not lying;
that his insulting look and the phrase the ‘other one’ employed by him were only the result of
the disgusting circumstance with which he was already familiar, but still he understood, though
dimly, that something was wrong, and that destiny had some other surprise, not altogether a
pleasant one, in store for him.
“All right, we shall see,” he thought to himself. “We shall see in due time; we’ll get to the
bottom of all this... Oh, Lord, have mercy upon us!” he moaned in conclusion, in quite a
different voice. “And why did I invite him to what end did I do all that? Why, I am thrusting my
head into their thievish noose myself; I am tying the noose with my own hands. Ach, you fool,
you fool! You can’t resist babbling like some silly boy, some chancery clerk, some wretched
creature of no class at all, some rag, some rotten dishcloth; you’re a gossip, an old woman!...
Oh, all ye saints! And he wrote verses, the rogue, and expressed his love for me! How could...
How can I show him the door in a polite way if he turns up again, the rogue? Of course, there
are all sorts of ways and means. I can say this is how it is, my salary being so limited... Or
scare him off in some way saying that, taking this and that into consideration, I am forced to
make clear... that he would have to pay an equal share of the cost of board and lodging, and
pay the money in advance. H’m! No, damn it all, no! That would be degrading to me. It’s not
quite delicate! Couldn’t I do something like this: suggest to Petrushka that he should annoy
him in some way, should be disrespectful, be rude, and get rid of him in that way. Set them at
each other in some way... No, damn it all, no! It’s dangerous and again, if one looks at it from
that point of view — it’s not the right thing at all! Not the right thing at all! But there, even if he
doesn’t come, it will be a bad look-out, too! I babbled to him last night!... Ach, it’s a bad
lookout, a bad look-out! Ach, we’re in a bad way! Oh, I’m a cursed fool, a cursed fool! you can’t
train yourself to behave as you ought, you can’t conduct yourself reasonably. Well, what if he
comes and refuses. And God grant he may come! I should be very glad if he did come...”Such were Mr. Golyadkin’s reflections as he swallowed his tea and glanced continually at
the clock on the wall.
“It’s a quarter to nine; it’s time to go. And something will happen! What will there be
there? I should like to know what exactly lies hidden in this — that is, the object, the aim, and
the various intrigues. It would be a good thing to find out what all these people are plotting,
and what will be their first step...”
Mr. Golyadkin could endure it no longer. He threw down his unfinished pipe, dressed and
set off for the office, anxious to ward off the danger if possible and to reassure himself about
everything by his presence in person. There was danger: he knew himself that there was
“We... will get to the bottom of it,” said Mr. Golyadkin, taking off his coat and goloshes in
the entry. “We’ll go into all these matters immediately.”
Making up his mind to act in this way, our hero put himself to rights, assumed a correct
and official air, and was just about to pass into the adjoining room, when suddenly, in the very
doorway, he jostled against his acquaintance of the day before, his friend and companion. Mr.
Golyadkin junior seemed not to notice Mr. Golyadkin senior, though they met almost nose to
nose. Mr. Golyadkin junior seemed to be busy, to be hastening somewhere, was breathless;
he had such an official, such a business-like air that it seemed as though any one could read
his face: ‘Entrusted with a special commission.’...
“Oh, it’s you, Yakov Petrovitch!” said our hero, clutching the hand of his last night’s
“Presently, presently, excuse me, tell me about it afterwards,” cried Mr. Golyadkin junior,
dashing on.
“But, excuse me; I believe, Yakov Petrovitch, you wanted...”
“What is it? Make haste and explain.”
At this point his visitor of the previous night halted as though reluctantly and against his
will, and put his ear almost to Mr. Golyadkin’s nose.
“I must tell you, Yakov Petrovitch, that I am surprised at your behaviour... behaviour
which seemingly I could not have expected at all.”
“There’s a proper form for everything. Go to his Excellency’s secretary and then appeal
in the proper way to the directors of the office. Have you got your petition?”
“You... I really don’t know Yakov Petrovitch! You simply amaze me, Yakov Petrovitch!
You certainly don’t recognize me or, with characteristic gaiety, you are joking.”
“Oh, it’s you,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior, seeming only now to recognize Mr. Golyadkin
senior. “So, it’s you? Well, have you had a good night?”
Then smiling a little — a formal and conventional smile, by no means the sort of smile
that was befitting (for, after all, he owed a debt of gratitude to Mr. Golyadkin senior) — smiling
this formal and conventional smile, Mr. Golyadkin junior added that he was very glad Mr.
Golyadkin senior had had a good night; then he made a slight bow and shuffling a little with his
feet, looked to the right, and to the left, then dropped his eyes to the floor, made for the side
door and muttering in a hurried whisper that he had a special commission, dashed into the
next room. He vanished like an apparition.
“Well, this is queer!” muttered our hero, petrified for a moment; “this is queer! This is a
strange circumstance.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin felt as though he had pins and needles all over him.
“However,” he went on to himself, as he made his way to his department, “however, I
spoke long ago of such a circumstance: I had a presentiment long ago that he had a special
commission. Why, I said yesterday that the man must certainly be employed on some special
“Have you finished copying out the document you had yesterday, Yakov Petrovitch,”
Anton Antonovitch Syetotchkin asked Mr. Golyadkin, when the latter was seated beside him.“Have you got it here?”
“Yes,” murmured Mr. Golyadkin, looking at the head clerk with a rather helpless glance.
“That’s right! I mention it because Andrey Filippovitch has asked for it twice. I’ll be bound
his Excellency wants it...”
“Yes, it’s finished...”
“Well, that’s all right then.”
“I believe, Anton Antonovitch, I have always performed my duties properly. I’m always
scrupulous over the work entrusted to me by my superiors, and I attend to it conscientiously.”
“Yes. Why, what do you mean by that?”
“I mean nothing, Anton Antonovitch. I only want to explain, Anton Antonovitch, that I...
that is, I meant to express that spite and malice sometimes spare no person whatever in their
search for their daily and revolting food...”
“Excuse me, I don’t quite understand you. What person are you alluding to?”
“I only meant to say, Anton Antonovitch, that I’m seeking the straight path and I scorn
going to work in a roundabout way. That I am not one to intrigue, and that, if I may be allowed
to say so, I may very justly be proud of it...”
“Yes. That’s quite so, and to the best of my comprehension I thoroughly endorse your
remarks; but allow me to tell you, Yakov Petrovitch, that personalities are not quite
permissible in good society, that I, for instance, am ready to put up with anything behind my
back — for every one’s abused behind his back — but to my face, if you please, my good sir,
I don’t allow any one to be impudent. I’ve grown grey in the government service, sir, and I
don’t allow any one to be impudent to me in my old age...”
“No, Anton Antonovitch... you see, Anton Antonovitch... you haven’t quite caught my
meaning. To be sure, Anton Antonovitch, I for my part could only think it an honour...”
“Well, then, I ask pardon too. We’ve been brought up in the old school. And it’s too late
for us to learn your new-fangled ways. I believe we’ve had understanding enough for the
service of our country up to now. As you are aware, sir, I have an order of merit for
twentyfive years’ irreproachable service...”
“I feel it, Anton Antonovitch, on my side, too, I quite feel all that. But I didn’t mean that, I
am speaking of a mask, Anton Antonovitch...”
“A mask?”
“Again you... I am apprehensive that you are taking this, too, in a wrong sense, that is
the sense of my remarks, as you say yourself, Anton Antonovitch. I am simply enunciating a
theory, that is, I am advancing the idea, Anton Antonovitch, that persons who wear a mask
have become far from uncommon, and that nowadays it is hard to recognize the man beneath
the mask...”
“Well, do you know, it’s not altogether so hard. Sometimes it’s fairly easy. Sometimes
one need not go far to look for it.”
“No, you know, Anton Antonovitch, I say, I say of myself, that I, for instance, do not put
on a mask except when there is need of it; that is simply at carnival time or at some festive
gathering, speaking in the literal sense; but that I do not wear a mask before people in daily
life, speaking in another less obvious sense. That’s what I meant to say, Anton Antonovitch.”
“Oh, well, but we must drop all this, for now I’ve no time to spare,” said Anton
Antonovitch, getting up from his seat and collecting some papers in order to report upon them
to his Excellency. “Your business, as I imagine, will be explained in due course without delay.
You will see for yourself whom you should censure and whom you should blame, and
thereupon I humbly beg you to spare me from further explanations and arguments which
interfere with my work...”
“No, Anton Antonovitch,” Mr. Golyadkin, turning a little pale, began to the retreating
figure of Anton Antonovitch; “I had no intention of the kind.”
“What does it mean?” our hero went on to himself, when he was left alone; “what quarteris the wind in now, and what is one to make of this new turn?”
At the very time when our bewildered and half-crushed hero was setting himself to solve
this new question, there was a sound of movement and bustle in the next room, the door
opened and Andrey Filippovitch, who had been on some business in his Excellency’s study,
appeared breathless in the doorway, and called to Mr. Golyadkin. Knowing what was wanted
and anxious not to keep Andrey Filippovitch waiting, Mr. Golyadkin leapt up from his seat, and
as was fitting immediately bustled for all he was worth getting the manuscript that was
required finally neat and ready and preparing to follow the manuscript and Andrey Filippovitch
into his Excellency’s study. Suddenly, almost slipping under the arm of Andrey Filippovitch,
who was standing right in the doorway, Mr. Golyadkin junior darted into the room in breathless
haste and bustle, with a solemn and resolutely official air; he bounded straight up to Mr.
Golyadkin senior, who was expecting nothing less than such a visitation.
“The papers, Yakov Petrovitch, the papers... his Excellency has been pleased to ask for
them; have you got them ready?” Mr. Golyadkin senior’s friend whispered in a hurried
undertone. “Andrey Filippovitch is waiting for you...”
“I know he is waiting without your telling me,” said Mr. Golyadkin senior, also in a hurried
“No, Yakov Petrovitch, I did not mean that; I did not mean that at all, Yakov Petrovitch,
not that at all; I sympathise with you, Yakov Petrovitch, and am humbly moved by genuine
“Which I most humbly beg you to spare me. Allow me, allow me...”
“You’ll put it in an envelope, of course, Yakov Petrovitch, and you’ll put a mark in the
third page; allow me, Yakov Petrovitch...”
“You allow me, if you please...”
“But, I say, there’s a blot here, Yakov Petrovitch; did you know there was a blot here?...”
At this point Andrey Filippovitch called Yakov Petrovitch a second time.
“One moment, Andrey Filippovitch, I’m only just... Do you understand Russian, sir?”
“It would be best to take it out with a penknife, Yakov Petrovitch. You had better rely
upon me; you had better not touch it yourself, Yakov Petrovitch, rely upon me — I’ll do it with
a penknife...”
Andrey Filippovitch called Mr. Golyadkin a third time.
“But, allow me, where’s the blot? I don’t think there’s a blot at all.”
“It’s a huge blot. Here it is! Here, allow me, I saw it here... you just let me, Yakov
Petrovitch, I’ll just touch it with the penknife, I’ll scratch it out with the penknife from
truehearted sympathy. There, like this; see, it’s done.”
At this point, and quite unexpectedly, Mr. Golyadkin junior overpowered Mr. Golyadkin
senior in the momentary struggle that had arisen between them, and so, entirely against the
latter’s will, suddenly, without rhyme or reason, took possession of the document required by
the authorities, and instead of scratching it out with the penknife in true-hearted sympathy as
he had perfidiously promised Mr. Golyadkin senior, hurriedly rolled it up, put it under his arm,
in two bounds was beside Andrey Filippovitch, who noticed none of his manoeuvres, and flew
with the latter into the Director’s room. Mr. Golyadkin remained as though rivetted to the spot,
holding the penknife in his hand and apparently on the point of scratching something out with
Our hero could not yet grasp his new position. He could not at once recover himself. He
felt the blow, but thought that it was somehow all right. In terrible, indescribable misery he tore
himself at last from his seat, rushed straight to the Director’s room, imploring heaven on the
way that it would be all right... In the furthest most room, which adjoined the Director’s private
room, he ran straight upon Andrey Filippovitch in company with his namesake. Both of them
moved aside. Andrey Filippovitch was talking with a good-humoured smile, Mr. Golyadkin
senior’s namesake was smiling, too, fawning upon Andrey Filippovitch and tripping about at arespectful distance from him, and was whispering something in his ear with a delighted air, to
which Andrey Filippovitch assented with a gracious nod. In a flash our hero grasped the whole
position. The fact was that the work had surpassed his Excellency’s expectations (as he learnt
afterwards) and was finished punctually by the time it was needed. His Excellency was
extremely pleased with it. It was even said that his excellency had said “Thank you” to Mr.
Golyadkin junior, had thanked him warmly, had said that he would remember it on occasion
and would never forget it... Of course, the first thing Mr. Golyadkin did was to protest, to
protest with the utmost vigour of which he was capable. Pale as death, and hardly knowing
what he was doing, he rushed up to Andrey Filippovitch. But the latter, hearing that Mr.
Golyadkin’s business was a private matter, refused to listen, observing firmly that he had not
a minute to spare for his own affairs.
The curtness of his tone and his refusal struck Mr. Golyadkin.
“I had better, perhaps, try in another quarter... I had better appeal to Anton Antonovitch.”
But to his disappointment Anton Antonovitch was not available either: he, too, was busy
over something somewhere!
“Ah, it was not without design that he asked me to spare him explanation and
discussion!” thought our hero. “This was what the old rogue had in his mind! In that case I
shall simply make bold to approach his Excellency.”
Still pale and feeling that his brain was in a complete ferment, greatly perplexed as to
what he ought to decide to do, Mr. Golyadkin sat down on the edge of the chair. “It would
have been a great deal better if it had all been just nothing,” he kept incessantly thinking to
himself. “Indeed, such a mysterious business was utterly improbable. In the first place, it was
nonsense, and secondly it could not happen. Most likely it was imagination, or something else
happened, and not what really did happen; or perhaps I went myself... and somehow mistook
myself for some one else... in short, it’s an utterly impossible thing.”
Mr. Golyadkin had no sooner made up his mind that it was an utterly impossible thing
that Mr. Golyadkin junior flew into the room with papers in both hands as well as under his
arm. Saying two or three words about business to Andrey Filippovitch as he passed,
exchanging remarks with one, polite greetings with another, and familiarities with a third, Mr.
Golyadkin junior, having apparently no time to waste, seemed on the point of leaving the
room, but luckily for Mr. Golyadkin senior he stopped near the door to say a few words as he
passed two or three clerks who were at work there. Mr. Golyadkin senior rushed straight at
him. As soon as Mr. Golyadkin junior saw Mr. Golyadkin senior’s movement he began
immediately, with great uneasiness, looking about him to make his escape. but our hero
already held his last night’s guest by the sleeve. The clerks surrounding the two titular
councillors stepped back and waited with curiosity to see what would happen. The senior
titular councillor realized that public opinion was not on his side, he realized that they were
intriguing against him: which made it all the more necessary to hold his own now. The moment
was a decisive one.
“Well!” said Mr. Golyadkin junior, looking rather impatiently at Mr. Golyadkin senior.
The latter could hardly breathe.
“I don’t know,” he began, “in what way to make plain to you the strangeness of your
behaviour, sir.”
“Well. Go on.” At this point Mr. Golyadkin junior turned round and winked to the clerks
standing round, as though to give them to understand that a comedy was beginning.
“The impudence and shamelessness of your manners with me, sir, in the present case,
unmasks your true character... better than any words of mine could do. Don’t rely on your
trickery: it is worthless...”
“Come, Yakov Petrovitch, tell me now, how did you spend the night?” answered Mr.
Golyadkin junior, looking Mr. Golyadkin senior straight in the eye.
“You forget yourself, sir,” said the titular councillor, completely flabbergasted, hardly ableto feel the floor under his feet. “I trust that you will take a different tone...”
“My darling!” exclaimed Mr. Golyadkin junior, making a rather unseemly grimace at Mr.
Golyadkin senior, and suddenly, quite unexpectedly, under the pretence of caressing him, he
pinched his chubby cheek with two fingers.
Our hero grew as hot as fire... As soon as Mr. Golyadkin junior noticed that his
opponent, quivering in every limb, speechless with rage, as red as a lobster, and exasperated
beyond all endurance, might actually be driven to attack him, he promptly and in the most
shameless way hastened to be beforehand with his victim. Patting him two or three times on
the cheek, tickling him two or three times, playing with him for a few seconds in this way while
his victim stood rigid and beside himself with fury to the no little diversion of the young men
standing round, Mr. Golyadkin junior ended with a most revolting shamelessness by giving Mr.
Golyadkin senior a poke in his rather prominent stomach, and with a most venomous and
suggestive smile said to him: “You’re mischievous brother Yakov, you are mischievous! We’ll
be sly, you and I, Yakov Petrovitch, we’ll be sly.”
Then, and before our hero could gradually come to himself after the last attack, Mr.
Golyadkin junior (with a little smile beforehand to the spectators standing round) suddenly
assumed a most businesslike, busy and official air, dropped his eyes to the floor and, drawing
himself in, shrinking together, and pronouncing rapidly “on a special commission” he cut a
caper with his short leg, and darted away into the next room. Our hero could not believe his
eyes and was still unable to pull himself together...
At last he roused himself. Recognizing in a flash that he was ruined, in a sense
annihilated, that he had disgraced himself and sullied his reputation, that he had been turned
into ridicule and treated with contempt in the presence of spectators, that he had been
treacherously insulted, by one whom he had looked on only the day before as his greatest and
most trustworthy friend, that he had been put to utter confusion, Mr. Golyadkin senior rushed
in pursuit of his enemy. At the moment he would not even think of the witnesses of his
“They’re all in a conspiracy together,” he said to himself; “they stand by each other and
set each other on to attack me.” After taking a dozen steps, however, our hero perceived
clearly that all pursuit would be vain and useless, and so he turned back. “You won’t get
away,” he thought, “you will get caught one day; the wolf will have to pay for the sheep’s
With ferocious composure and the most resolute determination Mr. Golyadkin went up to
his chair and sat down upon it. “You won’t escape,” he said again.
Now it was not a question of passive resistance: there was determination and pugnacity
in the air, and any one who had seen how Mr. Golyadkin at that moment, flushed and scarcely
able to restrain his excitement, stabbed his pen into the inkstand and with what fury he began
scribbling on the paper, could be certain beforehand that the matter would not pass off like
this, and could not end in a simple, womanish way. In the depth of his soul he formed a
resolution, and in the depth of his heart swore to carry it out. To tell the truth he still did not
quite know how to act, or rather did not know at all, but never mind, that did not matter!
“Imposture and shamelessness do not pay nowadays, sir. Imposture and
shamelessness, sir, lead to no good, but lead to the halter. Grishka Otrepyov was the only
one, sir, who gained by imposture, deceiving the blind people and even that not for long.”
In spite of this last circumstance Mr. Golyadkin proposed to wait til such time as the
mask should fall from certain persons and something should be made manifest. For this it was
necessary, in the first place, that office hours should be over as soon as possible, and till then
our hero proposed to take no step. He knew then how he must act after taking that step, how
to arrange his whole plan of action, to abase the horn of arrogance and crush the snake
gnawing the dust in contemptible impotence. To allow himself to be treated like a rag used for
wiping dirty boots, Mr. Golyadkin could not. He could not consent to that, especially in thepresent case. Had it not been for that last insult, our hero might have, perhaps, brought
himself to control his anger; he might, perhaps, have been silent, have submitted and not
have protested too obstinately; he would just have disputed a little, have made a slight
complaint, have proved that he was in the right, then he would have given way a little, then,
perhaps, he would have given way a little more, then he would have come round altogether,
then, especially when the opposing party solemnly admitted that he was right, perhaps, he
would have overlooked it completely, would even have been a little touched, there might even,
perhaps — who could tell — spring up a new, close, warm friendship, on an even broader
basis than the friendship of last night, so that this friendship might, in the end, completely
eclipse the unpleasantness of the rather unseemly resemblance of the two individuals, so that
both the titular councillors might be highly delighted, and might go on living till they were a
hundred, and so on. To tell the whole truth, Mr. Golyadkin began to regret a little that he had
stood up for himself and his rights, and had at once come in for unpleasantness in
“Should he give in,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, “say he was joking, I would forgive him. I
would forgive him even more if he would acknowledge it aloud. but I won’t let myself be
treated like a rag. And I have not allowed even persons very different from him to treat me so,
still less will I permit a depraved person to attempt it. I am not a rag. I am not a rag, sir!”
In short, our hero made up his mind “You’re in fault yourself, sir!” he thought. He made
up his mind to protest with all his might to the very last. That was the sort of man he was! He
could not consent to allow himself to be insulted, still less to allow himself to be treated as a
rag, and, above all, to allow a thoroughly vicious man to treat him so. No quarrelling, however,
no quarrelling! Possibly if some one wanted, if some one, for instance, actually insisted on
turning Mr. Golyadkin into rag, he might have done so, might have done so without opposition
or punishment (Mr. Golyadkin was himself conscious of this at times), and he would have
been a rag and not Golyadkin — yes, a nasty, filthy rag; but that rag would not have been a
simple rag, it would have been a rag possessed of dignity, it would have been a rag
possessed of feelings and sentiments, even though dignity was defenceless and feelings
could not assert themselves, and lay hidden deep down in the filthy folds of the rag, still these
feelings were there...
The hours dragged on incredibly slowly; at last it struck four. Soon after, all got up and,
following the head of the department, moved each on his homeward way. Mr. Golyadkin
mingled with the crowd; he kept a vigilant look out, and did not lose sight of the man he
wanted. At last our hero saw that his friend ran up to the office attendants who handed the
clerks their overcoats, and hung about near them waiting for his in his usual nasty way. The
minute was a decisive one. Mr. Golyadkin forced his way somehow through the crowd and,
anxious not to be left behind, he, too, began fussing about his overcoat. But Mr. Golyadkin’s
friend and companion was given his overcoat first because on this occasion, too, he had
succeeded, as he always did, in making up to them, whispering something to them, cringing
upon them and getting round them.
After putting on his overcoat, Mr. Golyadkin junior glanced ironically at Mr. Golyadkin
senior, acting in this way openly and defiantly, looked about him with his characteristic
insolence, finally he tripped to and fro among the other clerks — no doubt in order to leave a
good impression on them — said a word to one, whispered something to another, respectfully
accosted a third, directed a smile at a fourth, gave his hand to a fifth, and gaily darted
downstairs. Mr. Golyadkin senior flew after him, and to his inexpressible delight overtook him
on the last step, and seized him by the collar of his overcoat. It seemed as though Mr.
Golyadkin junior was a little disconcerted, and he looked about him with a helpless air.
“What do you mean by this?” he whispered to Mr. Golyadkin at last, in a weak voice.
“Sir, if you are a gentleman, I trust that you remember our friendly relations yesterday,”
said our hero.“Ah, yes! Well? Did you sleep well?”
Fury rendered Mr. Golyadkin senior speechless for a moment.
“I slept well, sir... but allow me to tell you, sir, that you are playing a very complicated
“Who says so? My enemies say that,” answered abruptly the man who called himself Mr.
Golyadkin, and saying this, he unexpectedly freed himself from the feeble hand of the real Mr.
Golyadkin. As soon as he was free he rushed away from the stairs, looked around him, saw a
cab, ran up to it, got in, and in one moment vanished from Mr. Golyadkin senior’s sight. The
despairing titular councillor, abandoned by all, gazed about him, but there was no other cab.
He tried to run, but his legs gave way under him. With a look of open-mouthed astonishment
on his countenance, feeling crushed and shrivelled up, he leaned helplessly against a lamp
post, and remained so for some minutes in the middle of the pavement. It seemed as though
all were over for Mr. Golyadkin.
Chapter 9

Everything, apparently, and even nature itself, seemed up in arms against Mr. Golyadkin;
but he was still on his legs and unconquered; he felt that he was unconquered. He was ready
to struggle. he rubbed his hands with such feeling and such energy when he recovered from
his first amazement that it could be deduced from his very air that he would not give in. yet
the danger was imminent; it was evident; Mr. Golyadkin felt it; but how to grapple with it, with
this danger? — that was the question. the thought even flashed through Mr. Golyadkin’s mind
for a moment, “After all, why not leave it so, simply give up? Why, what is it? Why, it’s
nothing. I’ll keep apart as though it were not I,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “I’ll let it all pass; it’s
not I, and that’s all about it; he’s separate too, maybe he’ll give it up too; he’ll hang about, the
rascal, he’ll hang about. He’ll come back and give it up again. Than’s how it will be! I’ll take it
meekly. And, indeed, where is the danger? Come, what danger is there? I should like any one
to tell me where the danger lies in this business. It is a trivial affair. An everyday affair...”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin’s tongue failed; the words died away on his lips; he even
swore at himself for this thought; he convicted himself on the spot of abjectness, of cowardice
for having this thought; things were no forwarder, however. He felt that to make up his mind to
some course of action was absolutely necessary for him at the moment; he even felt that he
would have given a great deal to any one who could have told him what he must decide to do.
Yes, but how could he guess what? Though, indeed, he had no time to guess. In any case,
that he might lose no time he took a cab and dashed home.
“Well? What are you feeling now?” he wondered; “what are you graciously pleased to be
thinking of, Yakov Petrovitch? What are you doing? What are you doing now, you rogue, you
rascal? You’ve brought yourself to this plight, and now you are weeping and whimpering!”
So Mr. Golyadkin taunted himself as he jolted along in the vehicle. To taunt himself and
so to irritate his wounds was, at this time, a great satisfaction to Mr. Golyadkin, almost a
voluptuous enjoyment.
“Well,” he thought, “if some magician were to turn up now, or if it could come to pass in
some official way and I were told: ‘Give a finger of your right hand, Golyadkin — and it’s a
bargain with you; there shall not be the other Golyadkin, and you will be happy, only you won’t
have your finger’ — yes, I would sacrifice my finger, I would certainly sacrifice it, I would
sacrifice it without winking... The devil take it all!” the despairing titular councillor cried at last.
“Why, what is it all for? Well, it all had to be; yes, it absolutely had to; yes, just this had to be,
as though nothing else were possible! And it was all right at first. Every one was pleased and
happy. But there, it had to be! There’s nothing to be gained by talking, though; you must act.”
And so, almost resolved upon some action, Mr. Golyadkin reached home, and without a
moment’s delay snatched up his pipe and, sucking at it with all his might and puffing out
clouds of smoke to right and to left, he began pacing up and down the room in a state of
violent excitement. Meanwhile, Petrushka began laying the table. At last Mr. Golyadkin made
up his mind completely, flung aside his pipe, put on his overcoat, said he would not dine at
home and ran out of the flat. Petrushka, panting, overtook him on the stairs, bringing the hat
he had forgotten. Mr. Golyadkin took his hat, wanted to say something incidentally to justify
himself in Petrushka’s eyes that the latter might not think anything particular, such as, “What a
queer circumstance! here he forgot his hat — and so on,” but as Petrushka walked away at
once and would not even look at him, Mr. Golyadkin put on his hat without further explanation,
ran downstairs, and repeating to himself that perhaps everything might be for the best, and
that affairs would somehow be arranged, though he was conscious among other things of a
cold chill right down to his heels, he went out into the street, took a cab and hastened toAndrey Filippovitch’s.
“Would it not be better tomorrow, though?” thought Mr. Golyadkin, as he took hold of the
bell-rope of Andrey Filippovitch’s flat. “And, besides, what can I say in particular? There is
nothing particular in it. It’s such a wretched affair, yes, it really is wretched, paltry, yes, that is,
almost a paltry affair... yes, that’s what it is, the incident... Suddenly Mr. Golyadkin pulled at
the bell; the bell rang; footsteps were heard within... Mr. Golyadkin cursed himself on the spot
for his hastiness and audacity. His recent unpleasant experiences, which he had almost
forgotten over his work, and his encounter with Andrey Filippovitch immediately came back
into his mind. But by now it was too late to run away: the door opened. Luckily for Mr.
Golyadkin he was informed that Andrey Filippovitch had not returned from the office and had
not dined at home.
“I know where he dines: he dines near the Ismailovsky Bridge,” thought our hero; and he
was immensely relieved. To the footman’s inquiry what message he would leave, he said: “It’s
all right, my good man, I’ll look in later,” and he even ran downstairs with a certain cheerful
briskness. Going out into the street, he decided to dismiss the cab and paid the driver. When
the man asked for something extra, saying he had been waiting in the street and had not
spared his horse for his honour, he gave him five kopecks extra, and even willingly; and then
walked on.
“It really is such a thing,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, “that it cannot be left like that; though, if
one looks at it that way, looks at it sensibly, why am I hurrying about here, in reality? Well,
yes, though, I will go on discussing why I should take a lot of trouble; why I should rush about,
exert myself, worry myself and wear myself out. To begin with, the thing’s done and there’s no
recalling it... of course, there’s no recalling it! Let us put it like this: a man turns up with a
satisfactory reference, said to be a capable clerk, of good conduct, only he is a poor man and
has suffered many reverses — all sorts of ups and downs — well, poverty is not a crime: so I
must stand aside. Why, what nonsense it is! Well, he came; he is so made, the man is so
made by nature itself that he is as like another man as though they were two drops of water,
as though he were a perfect copy of another man; how could they refuse to take him into the
department on that account? If it is fate, if it is only fate, if it only blind chance that is to blame
— is he to be treated like a rag, is he to be refused a job in the office?... Why, what would
become of justice after that? He is a poor man, hopeless, downcast; it makes one’s heart
ache: compassion bids one care for him! Yes! There’s no denying, there would be a fine set of
head officials, if they took the same view as a reprobate like me! What an addlepate I am! I
have foolishness enough for a dozen! Yes, yes! They did right, and many thanks to them for
being good to a poor, luckless fellow... Why, let us imagine for a moment that we are twins,
that we had been born twin brothers, and nothing else — there it is! Well, what of it? Why,
nothing! All the clerks can get used to it... And an outsider, coming into our office, would
certainly find nothing unseemly or offensive in the circumstance. In fact, there is really
something touching it; to think that the divine Providence created two men exactly alike, and
the heads of the department, seeing the divine handiwork, provided for two twins. It would, of
course,” Mr. Golyadkin went on, drawing a breath and dropping his voice, “it would, of
course... it would, of course, have been better if there had been... if there had been nothing of
this touching kindness, and if there had been no twins either... The devil take it all! And what
need was there for it? And what was the particular necessity that admitted of no delay! My
goodness! The devil has made a mess of it! Besides, he has such a character, too, he’s of
such a playful, horrid disposition — he’s such a scoundrel, he’s such a nimble fellow! He’s
such a toady! Such a lickspittle! He’s such a Golyadkin! I daresay he will misconduct himself;
yes, he’ll disgrace my name, the blackguard! And now I have to look after him and wait upon
him! What an infliction! But, after all, what of it? It doesn’t matter. Granted, he’s a scoundrel,
well, let him be a scoundrel, but to make up for it, the other one’s honest; so he will be a
scoundrel and I’ll be honest, and they’ll say that this Golyadkin’s a rascal, don’t take anynotice of him, and don’t mix him up with the other; but the other one’s honest, virtuous, mild,
free from malice, always to be relied upon in the service, and worthy of promotion; that’s how
it is, very good... but what if... what if they get us mixed up!... He is equal to anything! Ah,
Lord, have mercy upon us!... He will counterfeit a man, he will counterfeit him, the rascal —
he will change one man for another as though he were a rag, and not reflect that a man is not
a rag. Ach, mercy on us! Ough, what a calamity!”...
Reflecting and lamenting in this way, Mr. Golyadkin ran on, regardless of where he was
going. He came to his senses in Nevsky Prospect, only owing to the chance that he ran so
neatly full-tilt into a passer-by that he saw stars in his eyes. Mr. Golyadkin muttered his
excuses without raising his head, and it was only after the passer-by, muttering something far
from flattering, had walked a considerable distance away, that he raised his nose and looked
about to see where he was and how he had got there. Noticing when he did so that he was
close to the restaurant in which he had sat for a while before the dinner-party at Olsufy
Ivanovitch’s, our hero was suddenly conscious of a pinching and nipping sensation in his
stomach; he remembered that he had not dined; he had no prospect of a dinner-party
anywhere. And so, without losing precious time, he ran upstairs into the restaurant to have a
snack of something as quickly as possible, and to avoid delay by making all the haste he
could. And though everything in the restaurant was rather dear, that little circumstance did not
on this occasion make Mr. Golyadkin pause, and, indeed, he had no time to pause over such
a trifle. In the brightly lighted room the customers were standing in rather a crowd round the
counter, upon which lay heaps of all sorts of such edibles as are eaten by well-bred person’s
at lunch. The waiter scarcely had time to fill glasses, to serve, to take money and give
change. Mr. Golyadkin waited for his turn and modestly stretched out his had for a savoury
patty. Retreating into a corner, turning his back on the company and eating with appetite, he
went back to the attendant, put down his plate and, knowing the price, took out a ten-kopeck
piece and laid the coin on the counter, catching the waiter’s eye as though to say, “Look,
here’s the money, one pie,” and so on.
“One rouble ten kopecks is your bill,” the waiter filtered through his teeth.
Mr. Golyadkin was a good deal surprised.
“You are speaking to me?... I... I took one pie, I believe.”
“You’ve had eleven,” the man said confidently.
“You... so it seems to me... I believe, you’re mistaken... I really took only one pie, I
“I counted them; you took eleven. Since you’ve had them you must pay for them; we
don’t give anything away for nothing.”
Mr. Golyadkin was petrified. “What sorcery is this, what is happening to me?” he
wondered. Meanwhile, the man waited for Mr. Golyadkin to make up his mind; people
crowded round Mr. Golyadkin; he was already feeling in his pocket for a silver rouble, to pay
the full amount at once, to avoid further trouble. “Well, if it was eleven, it was eleven,” he
thought, turning as red as a lobster. “Why, a man’s hungry, so he eats eleven pies; well, let
him eat, and may it do him good; and there’s nothing to wonder at in that, and there’s nothing
to laugh at... “
At that moment something seemed to stab Mr. Golyadkin. He raised his eyes and — at
once he guessed the riddle. He knew what the sorcery was. All his difficulties were solved...
In the doorway of the next room, almost directly behind the waiter and facing Mr.
Golyadkin, in the doorway which, till that moment, our hero had taken for a looking-glass, a
man was standing — he was standing, Mr. Golyadkin was standing — not the original Mr.
Golyadkin, the hero of our story, but the other Mr. Golyadkin, the new Mr. Golyadkin. The
second Mr. Golyadkin was apparently in excellent spirits. He smiled to Mr. Golyadkin the first,
nodded to him, winked, shuffled his feet a little, and looked as though in another minute he
would vanish, would disappear into the next room, and then go out, maybe, by a back wayout; and there it would be, and all pursuit would be in vain. In his hand he had the last morsel
of the tenth pie, and before Mr. Golyadkin’s very eyes he popped it into his mouth and
smacked his lips.
“He had impersonated me, the scoundrel!” thought Mr. Golyadkin, flushing hot with
shame. “He is not ashamed of the publicity of it! Do they see him? I fancy no one notices
him... “
Mr. Golyadkin threw down his rouble as though it burnt his fingers, and without noticing
the waiter’s insolently significant grin, a smile of triumph and serene power, he extricated
himself from the crowd, and rushed away without looking round. “We must be thankful that at
least he has not completely compromised anyone!” thought Mr. Golyadkin senior. “We must
be thankful to him, the brigand, and to fate, that everything was satisfactorily settled. The
waiter was rude, that was all. But, after all, he was in the right. One rouble and ten kopecks
were owing: so he was in the right. ‘We don’t give things away for nothing,’ he said! Though
he might have been more polite, the rascal...”
All this Mr. Golyadkin said to himself as he went downstairs to the entrance, but on the
last step he stopped suddenly, as though he had been shot, and suddenly flushed till the tears
came into his eyes at the insult to his dignity. After standing stockstill for half a minute, he
stamped his foot, resolutely, at one bound leapt from the step into the street and, without
looking round, rushed breathless and unconscious of fatigue back home, without changing his
coat, though it was his habit to change into an old coat at home, without even stopping to take
his pipe, he sat down on the sofa, drew the inkstand towards him, took up a pen, got a sheet
of notepaper, and with a hand that trembled from inward excitement, began scribbling the
following epistle,

Dear Sir Yakov Petrovitch!
I should not take up my pen if my circumstances, and your own action, sir, had
not compelled me to that step. Believe me that nothing but necessity would have
induced me to enter upon such a discussion with you and therefore, first of all, I beg
you, sir, to look upon this step of mine not as a premeditated design to insult you,
but as the inevitable consequence of the circumstance that is a bond between us

(“I think that’s all right, proper courteous, though not lacking in force and firmness... I
don’t think there is anything for him to take offence at. Besides, I’m fully within my rights,”
thought Mr. Golyadkin, reading over what he had written.)

Your strange and sudden appearance, sir, on a stormy night, after the coarse
and unseemly behaviour of my enemies to me, for whom I feel too much contempt
even to mention their names, was the starting-point of all the misunderstanding
existing between us at the present time. Your obstinate desire to persist in your
course of action, sir, and forcibly to enter the circle of my existence and all my
relations in practical life, transgresses every limit imposed by the merest politeness
and every rule of civilized society. I imagine there is no need, sir, for me to refer to
the seizure by you of my papers, and particularly to your taking away my good
name, in order to gain the favour of my superiors — favour you have not deserved.
There is no need to refer here either to your intentional and insulting refusal of the
necessary explanation in regard to us. Finally, to omit nothing, I will not allude here
to your last strange, one may even say, your incomprehensible behaviour to me in
the coffee-house. I am far from lamenting over the needless — for me — loss of a
rouble; but I cannot help expressing my indignation at the recollection of your public
outrage upon me, to the detriment of my honour, and what is more, in the presenceof several persons of good breeding, though not belonging to my circle of

(“Am I not going too far?” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “Isn’t it too much; won’t it be too
insulting — that taunt about good breeding, for instance?... But there, it doesn’t matter! I must
show him the resoluteness of my character. I might, however, to soften him, flatter him, and
butter him up at the end. But there, we shall see.”)

But I should not weary you with my letter, sir, if I were not firmly convinced that
the nobility of your sentiments and your open, candid character would suggest to
you yourself a means for retrieving all lapses and returning everything to its original
With full confidence I venture to rest assured that you will not take my letter in
a sense derogatory to yourself, and at the same time that you will not refuse to
explain yourself expressly on this occasion by letter, sending the same by my man.
In expectation of your reply, I have the honour, dear sir, to remain,
Your humble servant,
Y. Golyadkin.

“Well, that is quite all right. The thing’s done, it has come to letter-writing. But who is to
blame for that? He is to blame himself: by his own action he reduces a man to the necessity
of resorting to epistolary composition. And I am within my rights...”
Reading over his letter for the last time, Mr. Golyadkin folded it up, sealed it and called
Petrushka. Petrushka came in looking, as usual, sleepy and cross about something.
“You will take this letter, my boy... do you understand?”
Petrushka did not speak.
“You will take it to the department; there you must find the secretary on duty,
Vahramyev. He is the one on duty today. Do you understand that?”
“I understand.”
“‘I understand’! He can’t even say, ‘I understand, sir!’ You must ask the secretary,
Vahramyev, and tell him that your master desired you to send his regards, and humbly
requests him to refer to the address book of our office and find out where the titular councillor,
Golyadkin, is living?”
Petrushka remained mute, and, as Mr. Golyadkin fancied, smiled.
“Well, so you see, Pyotr, you have to ask him for the address, and find out where the
new clerk, Golyadkin, lives.”
“You must ask for the address and then take this letter there. Do you understand?”
“I understand.”
“If there... where you have to take the letter, that gentleman to whom you have to give
the letter, that Golyadkin... What are you laughing at, you blockhead?”
“What is there to laugh at? What is it to me! I wasn’t doing anything, sir. it’s not for the
likes of us to laugh...”
“Oh, well... if that gentleman should ask, ‘How is your master, how is he’; if he... well, if
he should ask you anything — you hold your tongue, and answer, ‘My master is all right and
begs you for an answer to his letter.’ Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, then, say, ‘My master is all right and quite well,’ say ‘and is just getting ready to
pay a call: and he asks you,’ say, ‘for an answer in writing.’ Do you understand?”
“Well, go along, then.”“Why, what a bother I have with this blockhead too! He’s laughing, and there’s nothing to
be done. What’s he laughing at? I’ve lived to see trouble. Here I’ve lived like this to see
trouble. Though perhaps it may all turn out for the best... That rascal will be loitering about for
the next two hours now, I expect; he’ll go off somewhere else... There’s no sending him
anywhere. What a misery it is!... What misery has come upon me!”
Feeling his troubles to the full, our hero made up his mind to remain passive for two
hours till Petrushka returned. For an hour of the time he walked about the room, smoked,
then put aside his pipe and sat down to a book, then he lay down on the sofa, then took up his
pipe again, then again began running about the room. He tried to think things over but was
absolutely unable to think about anything. At last the agony of remaining passive reached the
climax and Mr. Golyadkin made up his mind to take a step. “Petrushka will come in another
hour,” he thought. “I can give the key to the porter, and I myself can, so to speak... I can
investigate the matter: I shall investigate the matter in my own way.”
Without loss of time, in haste to investigate the matter, Mr. Golyadkin took his hat, went
out of the room, locked up his flat, went in to the porter, gave him the key, together with ten
kopecks — Mr. Golyadkin had become extraordinarily free-handed of late — and rushed off.
Mr. Golyadkin went first on foot to the Ismailovsky Bridge. It took him half an hour to get
there. When he reached to goal of his journey he went straight into the yard of the house so
familiar to him, and glanced up at the windows of the civil councillor Berendyev’s flat. Except
for three windows hung with red curtains all the rest was dark.
“Olsufy Ivanovitch has no visitors today,” thought Mr. Golyadkin; “they must all be
staying at home today.”
After standing for some time in the yard, our hero tried to decide on some course of
action. but he was apparently not destined to reach a decision. Mr. Golyadkin changed his
mind, and with a wave of his hand went back into the street.
“No, there’s no need for me to go today. What could I do here?... No, I’d better, so to
speak... I’ll investigate the matter personally.”
Coming to this conclusion, Mr. Golyadkin rushed off to his office. He had a long way to
go. It was horribly muddy, besides, and the wet snow lay about in thick drifts. But it seemed
as though difficulty did not exist for our hero at the moment. He was drenched through, it is
true, and he was a good deal spattered with mud.
“But that’s no matter, so long as the object is obtained.”
And Mr. Golyadkin certainly was nearing his goal. The dark mass of the huge
government building stood up black before his eyes.
“Stay,” he thought; “where am I going, and what am I going to do here? Suppose I do
find out where he lives? Meanwhile, Petrushka will certainly have come back and brought me
the answer. I am only wasting my precious time, I am simply wasting my time. Though
shouldn’t I, perhaps, go in and see Vahramyev? But, no, I’ll go later... Ech! There was no
need to have gone out at all. But, there, it’s my temperament! I’ve a knack of always seizing a
chance of rushing ahead of things, whether there is a need to or not... H’m!... what time is it?
It must be nine by now. Petrushka might come and not find me at home. It was pure folly on
my part to go out... Ech, it is really a nuisance!”
Sincerely acknowledging that he had been guilty of an act of folly, our hero ran back to
Shestilavotchny Street. He arrived there, weary and exhausted. From the porter he learned
that Petrushka has not dreamed of turning up yet.
“To be sure! I foresaw it would be so,” thought our hero; and meanwhile it’s nine o’clock.
Ech, he’s such a good-for-nothing chap! He’s always drinking somewhere! Mercy on us! What
a day had fallen to my miserable lot!”
Reflecting in this way, Mr. Golyadkin unlocked his flat, got a light, took off his outdoor
things, lighted his pipe and, tired, worn-out, exhausted and hungry, lay down on the sofa and
waited for Petrushka. The candle burnt dimly; the light flickered on the wall... Mr. Golyadkingazed and gazed, and thought and thought, and fell asleep at last, worn out.
It was late when he woke up. The candle had almost burnt down, was smoking and on
the point of going out. Mr. Golyadkin jumped up, shook himself, and remembered it all,
absolutely all. behind the screen he heard Petrushka snoring lustily. Mr. Golyadkin rushed to
the window — not a light anywhere. he opened the movable pane — all was still; the city was
asleep as though it were dead: so it must have been two or three o’clock; so it proved to be,
indeed; the clock behind the partition made an effort and struck two. Mr. Golyadkin rushed
behind the partition.
He succeeded, somehow, though only after great exertions, in rousing Petrushka, and
making him sit up in his bed. At that moment the candle went out completely. About ten
minutes passed before Mr. Golyadkin succeeded in finding another candle and lighting it. In
the interval Petrushka had fallen asleep again.
“You scoundrel, you worthless fellow!” said Mr. Golyadkin, shaking him up again. “Will
you get up, will you wake?” After half an hour of effort Mr. Golyadkin succeeded, however, in
rousing his servant thoroughly, and dragging him out from behind the partition. Only then, our
hero remarked the fact that Petrushka was what is called dead-drunk and could hardly stand
on his legs.
“You good-for-nothing fellow!” cried Mr. Golyadkin; “you ruffian! You’ll be the death of
me! Good heavens! whatever has he done with the letter? Ach, my God! where is it?... And
why did I write it? As though there were any need for me to have written it! I went scribbling
away out of pride, like a noodle! I’ve got myself into this fix out of pride! That is what dignity
does for you, you rascal, that is dignity!... Come, what have you done with the letter, you
ruffian? To whom did you give it?”
“I didn’t give any one any letter; and I never had any letter... so there!”
Mr. Golyadkin wrung his hands in despair.
“Listen, Pyotr... listen to me, listen to me...”
“I am listening...”
“Where have you been? — answer...”
“Where have I been... I’ve been to see good people! What is it to me!”
“Oh, Lord, have mercy on us! Where did you go, to begin with? Did you go to the
department?... Listen, Pyotr, perhaps you’re drunk?”
“Me drunk! If I should be struck on the spot this minute, not a drop, not a drop — so
“No, no, it’s no matter you’re being drunk... I only asked; it’s all right your being drunk; I
don’t mind, Petrushka, I don’t mind... Perhaps it’s only that you have forgotten, but you’ll
remember it all. Come, try to remember — have you been to that clerk’s, to Vahramyev’s;
have you been to him or not?”
“I have not been, and there’s no such clerk. Not if I were this minute...”
“No, no, Pyotr! No, Petrushka, you know I don’t mind. Why, you see I don’t mind...
Come, what happened? To be sure, it’s cold and damp in the street, and so a man has a
drop, and it’s no matter. I am not angry. I’ve been drinking myself today, my boy... Come,
think and try and remember, did you go to Vahramyev?”
“Well, then, now, this is how it was, it’s the truth — I did go, if this very minute...”
“Come, that is right, Petrushka, that is quite right that you’ve been. you see I’m not
angry... Come, come,” our hero went on, coaxing his servant more and more, patting him on
the shoulder and smiling to him, “come, you had a little nip, you scoundrel... You had
twopenn’orth of something I suppose? You’re a sly rogue! Well, that’s no matter; come, you see
that I’m not angry... I’m not angry, my boy, I’m not angry...”
“No, I’m not a sly rogue, say what you like... I only went to see some good friends. I’m
not a rogue, and I never have been a rogue...”
“Oh, no, no, Petrushka; listen, Petrushka, you know I’m not scolding when I called you arogue. I said that in fun, I said it in a good sense. You see, Petrushka, it is sometimes a
compliment to a man when you call him a rogue, a cunning fellow, that he’s a sharp chap and
would not let any one take him in. Some men like it... Come, come, it doesn’t matter! Come,
tell me, Petrushka, without keeping anything back, openly, as to a friend... did you go to
Vahramyev’s, and did he give you the address?”
“He did give me the address, he did give me the address too. He’s a nice gentleman!
‘Your master,’ says he, ‘is a nice man,’ says he, ‘very nice man;’ says he, ‘I send my regards,’
says he, ‘to your master, thank him and say that I like him,’ says he — ‘how I do respect your
master,’ says he. ‘Because,’ says he, ‘your master, Petrushka,’ says he, ‘is a good man, and
you,’ says he, ‘Petrushka, are a good man too...’”
“Ah, mercy on us! But the address, the address! You Judas!” The last word Mr.
Golyadkin uttered almost in a whisper.
“And the address... he did give the address too.”
“He did? Well, where does Golyadkin, the clerk Golyadkin, the titular councillor, live?”
“‘Why,’ says he, ‘Golyadkin will be now at Shestilavotchny Street. When you get into
Shestilavotchny Street take the stairs on the right and it’s on the fourth floor. And there,’ says
he, ‘you’ll find Golyadkin...”
“You scoundrel!” our hero cried, out of patience at last. “You’re a ruffian! Why, that’s my
address; why, you are talking about me. But there’s another Golyadkin; I’m talking about the
other one, you scoundrel!”
“Well, that’s as you please! What is it to me? Have it your own way...”
“And the letter, the letter?”...
“What letter? There wasn’t any letter, and I didn’t see any letter.”
“But what have you done with it, you rascal?”
“I delivered the letter, I delivered it. He sent his regards. ‘Thank you,’ says he, ‘your
master’s a nice man,’ says he. ‘Give my regards,’ says he, ‘to your master...’”
“But who said that? Was it Golyadkin said it?”
Petrushka said nothing for a moment, and then, with a broad grin, he stared straight into
his master’s face...
“Listen, you scoundrel!” began Mr. Golyadkin, breathless, beside himself with fury;
“listen, you rascal, what have you done to me? Tell me what you’ve done to me! You’ve
destroyed me, you villain, you’ve cut the head off my shoulders, you Judas!”
“Well, have it your own way! I don’t care,” said Petrushka in a resolute voice, retreating
behind the screen.
“Come here, come here, you ruffian...”
“I’m not coming to you now, I’m not coming at all. What do I care, I’m going to good
folks... Good folks live honestly, good folks live without falsity, and they never have doubles...”
Mr. Golyadkin’s hands and feet went icy cold, his breath failed him...
“Yes,” Petrushka went on, “they never have doubles. God doesn’t afflict honest folk...”
“You worthless fellow, you are drunk! Go to sleep now, you ruffian! And tomorrow you’ll
catch it,” Mr. Golyadkin added in a voice hardly audible. As for Petrushka, he muttered
something more; then he could be heard getting into bed, making the bed creak. After a
prolonged yawn, he stretched; and at last began snoring, and slept the sleep of the just, as
they say. Mr. Golyadkin was more dead than alive. Petrushka’s behaviour, his very strange
hints, which were yet so remote that it was useless to be angry at them, especially as they
were uttered by a drunken man, and, in short, the sinister turn taken by the affair altogether,
all this shook Mr. Golyadkin to the depths of his being.
“And what possessed me to go for him in the middle of the night?” said our hero,
trembling all over from a sickly sensation. “What the devil made me have anything to do with a
drunken man! What could I expect from a drunken man? Whatever he says is a lie. But what
was he hinting at, the ruffian? Lord, have mercy on us! And why did I write that letter? I’m myown enemy, I’m my own murderer! As if I couldn’t hold my tongue? I had to go scribbling
nonsense! And what now! You are going to ruin, you are like an old rag, and yet you worry
about your pride; you say, ‘my honour is wounded,’ you must stick up for your honour! My
own murderer, that is what I am!”
Thus spoke Mr. Golyadkin and hardly dared to stir for terror. At last his eyes fastened
upon an object which excited his interest to the utmost. In terror lest the object that caught his
attention should prove to be an illusion, a deception of his fancy, he stretched out his hand to
it with hope, with dread, with indescribable curiosity... No, it was not a deception Not a
delusion! It was a letter, really a letter, undoubtedly a letter, and addressed to him. Mr.
Golyadkin took the letter from the table. His heart beat terribly.
“No doubt that scoundrel brought it,” he thought, “put it there, and then forgot it; no
doubt that is how it happened: no doubt that is just how it happened...”
The letter was from Vahramyev, a young fellow-clerk who had once been his friend. “I
had a presentiment of this,” thought our hero, “and I had a presentiment of all that there will
be in the letter...”
The letter was as follows —

Dear Sir Yakov Petrovitch!
Your servant is drunk, and there is no getting any sense out of him. For that
reason I prefer to reply by letter. I hasten to inform you that the commission you’ve
entrusted to me — that is, to deliver a letter to a certain person you know, I agree
to carry out carefully and exactly. That person, who is very well known to you and
who has taken the place of a friend to me, whose name I will refrain from
mentioning (because I do not wish unnecessarily to blacken the reputation of a
perfectly innocent man), lodges with us at Karolina Ivanovna’s, in the room in which,
when you were among us, the infantry officer from Tambov used to be. That
person, however, is always to be found in the company of honest and true-hearted
persons, which is more than one can say for some people. I intend from this day to
break off all connection with you; it’s impossible for us to remain on friendly terms
and to keep up the appearance of comradeship congruous with them. And,
therefore, I beg you, dear sir, immediately on the receipt of this candid letter from
me, to send me the two roubles you owe me for the razor of foreign make which I
sold you seven months ago, if you will kindly remember, when you were still living
with us in the lodgings of Karolina Ivanovna, a lady whom I respect from the bottom
of my heart. I am acting in this way because you, from the accounts I hear from
sensible persons, have lost your dignity and reputation and have become a source
of danger to the morals of the innocent and uncontaminated. For some persons are
not straightforward, their words are full of falsity and their show of good intentions is
suspicious. People can always be found capable of insulting Karolina Ivanovna, who
is always irreproachable in her conduct, and an honest woman, and, what’s more, a
maiden lady, though no longer young — though, on the other hand, of a good
foreign family — and this fact I’ve been asked to mention in this letter by several
persons, and I speak also for myself. In any case you will learn all in due time, if you
haven’t learnt it yet, though you’ve made yourself notorious from one end of the
town to the other, according to the accounts I hear from sensible people, and
consequently might well have received intelligence relating to you, my dear sir, that
a certain person you know, whose name I will not mention here, for certain
honourable reasons, is highly respected by right-thinking people, and is, moreover,
of lively and agreeable disposition, and is equally successful in the service and in
the society of persons of common sense, is true in word and in friendship, and does
not insult behind their back those with whom he is on friendly terms to their face.In any case, I remain
Your obedient servant,
N. Vahramyev.

P.S. You had better dismiss your man: he is a drunkard and probably gives
you a great deal of trouble; you had better engage Yevstafy, who used to be in
service here, and is not out of a place. Your present servant is not only a drunkard,
but, what’s more, he’s a thief, for only last week he sold a pound of sugar to
Karolina Ivanovna at less than cost price, which, in my opinion, he could not have
done otherwise than by robing you in a very sly way, little by little, at different times.
I write this to you for your own good, although some people can do nothing but
insult and deceive everybody, especially persons of honesty and good nature; what
is more, they slander them behind their back and misrepresent them, simply from
envy, and because they can’t call themselves the same.

After reading Vahramyev’s letter our hero remained for a long time sitting motionless on
his sofa. A new light seemed breaking through the obscure and baffling fog which had
surrounded him for the last two days. Our hero seemed to reach a partial understanding... He
tried to get up from the sofa to take a turn about the room, to rouse himself, to collect his
scattered ideas, to fix them upon a certain subject and then to set himself to rights a little, to
think over his position thoroughly. But as soon as he tried to stand up he fell back again at
once, weak and helpless. “Yes, of course, I had a presentiment of all that; how he writes
though, and what is the real meaning of his words. Supposing I do understand the meaning;
but what is it leading to? He should have said straight out: this and that is wanted, and I would
have done it. Things have taken such a turn, things have come to such an unpleasant pass!
Oh, if only tomorrow would make haste and come, and I could make haste and get to work! I
know now what to do. I shall say this and that, I shall agree with his arguments, I won’t sell my
honour, but... maybe; but he, that person we know of, that disagreeable person, how does he
come to be mixed up in it? And why has he turned up here? Oh, if tomorrow would make
haste and come! They’ll slander me before then, they are intriguing, they are working to spite
me! The great thing is not to lose time, and now, for instance, to write a letter, and to say this
and that and that I agree to this and that. And as soon as it is daylight tomorrow send it off,
before he can do anything... and so checkmate them, get in before them, the darlings... They
will ruin me by their slanders, and that’s the fact of the matter!”
Mr. Golyadkin drew the paper to him, took up a pen and wrote the following missive in
answer to the secretary’s letter —

Dear Sir Nestor Ignatyevitch!
With amazement mingled with heartfelt distress I have perused your insulting
letter to me, for I see clearly that you are referring to me when you speak of certain
discreditable persons and false friends. I see with genuine sorrow how rapidly the
calumny has spread and how deeply it has taken root, to the detriment of my
prosperity, my honour and my good name. And this is the more distressing and
mortifying that even honest people of a genuinely noble way of thinking and, what is
even more important, of straightforward and open dispositions, abandon the
interests of honourable men and with all the qualities of their hearts attach
themselves to the pernicious corruption, which in our difficult and immoral age has
unhappily increased and multiplied so greatly and so disloyally. In conclusion, I will
say that the debt of two roubles of which you remind me I regard as a sacred duty
to return to you in its entirety.As for your hints concerning a certain person of the female sex, concerning the
intentions, calculations and various designs of that person, I can only tell you, sir,
that I have but a very dim and obscure understanding of those insinuations. Permit
me, sir, to preserve my honourable way of thinking and my good name undefiled, in
any case. I am ready to stoop to a written explanation as more secure, and I am,
moreover, ready to enter into conciliatory proposals on mutual terms, of course. To
that end I beg you, my dear sir, to convey to that person my readiness for a
personal arrangement and, what is more, to beg her to fix the time and place of the
interview. It grieved me, sir, to read your hints of my having insulted you, having
been treacherous to our original friendship and having spoken ill of you. I ascribe
this misunderstanding to the abominable calumny, envy and ill-will of those whom I
may justly stigmatize as my bitterest foes. But I suppose they do not know that
innocence is strong through its very innocence, that the shamelessness, the
insolence and the revolting familiarity of some persons, sooner or later gains the
stigma of universal contempt; and that such persons come to ruin through nothing
but their own worthlessness and the corruption of their own hearts. In conclusion, I
beg you, sir, to convey to those persons that their strange pretensions and their
dishonourable and fantastic desire to squeeze others out of the position which those
others occupy, by their very existence in this world, and to take their place, are
deserving of contempt, amazement, compassion and, what is more, the madhouse;
moreover, such efforts are severely prohibited by law, which in my opinion is
perfectly just, for every one ought to be satisfied with his own position. Every one
has his fixed position, and if this is a joke it is a joke in very bad taste. I will say
more: it is utterly immoral, for, I make bold to assure you, sir, my own views which I
have expounded above, in regard to keeping one’s own place, are purely moral.
In any case I have the honour to remain,
Your humble servant,
Y. Golyadkin.Chapter 10

Altogether, we may say, the adventures of the previous day had thoroughly unnerved
Mr. Golyadkin. Our hero passed a very bad night; that is, he did not get thoroughly off to
sleep for five minutes: as though some practical joker had scattered bristles in his bed. He
spent the whole night in a sort of half-sleeping state, tossing from side to side, from right to
left, moaning and groaning, dozing off for a moment, waking up again a minute later, and all
was accompanied by a strange misery, vague memories, hideous visions — in fact,
everything disagreeable that can be imagined...
At one moment the figure of Andrey Filippovitch appeared before him in a strange,
mysterious half-light. It was a frigid, wrathful figure, with a cold, harsh eye and with stiffly
polite word of blame on its lips... and as soon as Mr. Golyadkin began going up to Andrey
Filippovitch to defend himself in some way and to prove to him that he was not at all such as
his enemies represented him, that he was like this and like that, that he even possessed
innate virtues of his own, superior to the average — at once a person only too well known for
his discreditable behaviour appeared on the scene, and by some most revolting means
instantly frustrated poor Mr. Golyadkin’s efforts, on the spot, almost before the latter’s eyes,
blackened his reputation, trampled his dignity in the mud, and then immediately took
possession of his place in the service and in society.
At another time Mr. Golyadkin’s head felt sore from some sort of slight blow of late
conferred and humbly accepted, received either in the course of daily life or somehow in the
performance of his duty, against which blow it was difficult to protest... And while Mr.
Golyadkin was racking his brains over the question of why it was difficult to protest even
against such a blow, this idea of a blow gradually melted away into a different form — into the
form of some familiar, trifling, or rather important piece of nastiness which he had seen,
heard, or even himself committed — and frequently committed, indeed, and not on nasty
ground, not from any nasty impulse, even, but just because it happened — sometimes, for
instance, out of delicacy, another time owing to his absolute defencelessness — in fact,
because... because, in fact, Mr. Golyadkin knew perfectly well because of what! At this point
Mr. Golyadkin blushed in his sleep, and, smothering his blushes, muttered to himself that in
this case he ought to be able to show the strength of his character, he ought to be able to
show in this case the remarkable strength of his character, and then wound up by asking
himself, “What, after all, is strength of character? Why understand it now?”...
But what irritated and enraged Mr. Golyadkin most of all was that invariably, at such a
moment, a person well known for his undignified burlesque turned up uninvited, and,
regardless of the fact that the matter was apparently settled, he, too, would begin muttering,
with an unseemly little smile “What’s the use of strength of character! How could you and I,
Yakov Petrovitch, have strength of character?...”
Then Mr. Golyadkin would dream that he was in the company of a number of persons
distinguished for their wit and good breeding; that he, Mr. Golyadkin, too, was conspicuous for
his wit and politeness, that everybody like him, which was very agreeable to Mr. Golyadkin,
too, was conspicuous for his wit and politeness, that everybody liked him, even some of his
enemies who were present began to like him, which was very agreeable to Mr. Golyadkin; that
every one gave him precedence, and that at last Mr. Golyadkin himself, with gratification,
overheard the host, drawing one of the guests aside, speak in his, Mr. Golyadkin’s praise...
and all of a sudden, apropos of nothing, there appeared again a person, notorious for his
treachery and brutal impulses, in the form of Mr. Golyadkin junior, and on the spot, at once,
by his very appearance on the scene, Mr. Golyadkin junior destroyed the whole triumph andglory of Mr. Golyadkin senior, eclipsed Mr. Golyadkin senior, trampled him in the mud, and, at
last, proved clearly that Golyadkin senior — that is, the genuine one — was not the genuine
one at all but the sham, and that he, Golyadkin junior, was the real one; that, in fact, Mr.
Golyadkin senior was not at all what he appeared to be, but something very disgraceful, and
that consequently he had no right to mix in the society of honourable and well-bred people.
And all this was done so quickly that Mr. Golyadkin had not time to open his mouth before all
of them were subjugated, body and soul, by the wicked, sham Mr. Golyadkin, and with
profound contempt rejected him, the real and innocent Mr. Golyadkin. There was not one
person left whose opinion the infamous Mr. Golyadkin would not have changed round. There
was not left one person, even the most insignificant of the company, to whom the false and
worthless Mr. Golyadkin would not make up in his blandest manner, upon whom he would not
fawn in his own way, before whom he would not burn sweet and agreeable incense, so that
the flattered person simply sniffed and sneezed till the tears came, in token of the intensest
pleasure. And the worst of it was that all this was done in a flash: the swiftness of movement
of the false and worthless Mr. Golyadkin was marvellous! he sincerely had time, for instance,
to make up to one person and win his good graces — and before one could wink an eye he
was at another. He stealthily fawns on another, drops a smile of benevolence, twirls on his
short, round, though rather wooden-looking leg, and already he’s at a third, and is cringing
upon a third, he’s making up to him in a friendly way; before one has time to open one’s
mouth, before one has time to feel surprised he’s at a fourth, at the same manoeuvres with
him — it was horrible: sorcery and nothing else! And every one was pleased with him and
everybody liked him, and every one was exalting him, and all were proclaiming in chorus that
his politeness and sarcastic wit were infinitely superior to the politeness and sarcastic wit of
the real Mr. Golyadkin and putting the real and innocent Mr. Golyadkin to shame thereby and
rejecting the veritable Mr. Golyadkin, and shoving and pushing out the loyal Mr. Golyadkin,
and showering blows on the man so well known for his love towards his fellow creatures!...
In misery, in terror and in fury, the cruelly treated Mr. Golyadkin ran out into the street
and began trying to take a cab in order to drive straight to his Excellency’s, or, at any rate, to
Andrey Filippovitch, but — horror! the cabman absolutely refused to take Mr. Golyadkin,
saying, “We cannot drive two gentlemen exactly alike, sir; a good man tries to like honestly,
your honour, and never has a double.” Overcome with shame, the unimpeachable, honest Mr.
Golyadkin looked round and did, in fact, assure himself with his own eyes that the cabman
and Petrushka, who had joined them, were all quite right, for the depraved Mr. Golyadkin was
actually on the spot, beside him, close at hand, and with his characteristic nastiness was
again, at this critical moment, certainly preparing to do something very unseemly, and quite
out of keeping with that gentlemanliness of character which is usually acquired by good
breeding — that gentlemanliness of which the loathsome Mr. Golyadkin the second was
always boasting on every opportunity. Beside himself with shame and despair, the utterly
ruined though perfectly just Mr. Golyadkin dashed headlong away, wherever fate might lead
him; but with every step he took, with every thud of his foot on the granite of the pavement,
there leapt up as though out of the earth a Mr. Golyadkin precisely the same, perfectly alike,
and of a revolting depravity of heart. And all these precisely similar Golyadkins set to running
after one another as soon as they appeared, and stretched in a long chain like a file of geese,
hobbling after the real Mr. Golyadkin, so there was nowhere to escape from these duplicates
— so that Mr. Golyadkin, who was in every way deserving of compassion, was breathless with
terror; so that at last a terrible multitude of duplicates had sprung into being; so that the whole
town was obstructed at last by duplicate Golyadkins, and the police officer, seeing such a
breach of decorum, was obliged to seize all these duplicates by the collar and to put them into
the watch-house, which happened to be beside him... Numb and chill with horror, our hero
woke up, and numb and chill with horror felt that his waking state was hardly more cheerful...
It was oppressive and harrowing... He was overcome by such anguish that it seemed asthough some one were gnawing at his heart.
At last Mr. Golyadkin could endure it no longer. “This shall not be!” he cried, resolutely
sitting up in bed, and after this exclamation he felt fully awake.
It seemed as though it were rather late in the day. It was unusually light in the room. The
sunshine filtered through the frozen panes and flooded the room with light, which surprised
Mr. Golyadkin not a little and, so far as Mr. Golyadkin could remember, at least, there had
scarcely ever been such exceptions in the course of the heavenly luminary before. Our hero
had hardly time to wonder at this when he heard the clock buzzing behind the partition as
thought it was just on the point of striking. “Now,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, and he prepared to
listen with painful suspense...
But to complete Mr. Golyadkin’s astonishment, clock whirred and only struck once.
“What does this mean?” cried our hero, finally leaping out of bed. And, unable to believe
his ears, he rushed behind the screen just as he was. It actually was one o’clock. Mr.
Golyadkin glanced at Petrushka’s bed; but the room did not even smell of Petrushka: his bed
had long been made and left, his boots were nowhere to be seen either — an unmistakable
sign that Petrushka was not in the house. Mr. Golyadkin rushed to the door: the door was
locked. “But where is he, where is Petrushka?” he went on in a whisper, conscious of intense
excitement and feeling a perceptible tremor run all over him... Suddenly a thought floated into
his mind... Mr. Golyadkin rushed to the table, looked all over it, felt all round — yes, it was
true, his letter of the night before to Vahramyev was not there. Petrushka was nowhere
behind the screen either, the clock had just struck one, and some new points were evident to
him in Vahramyev’s letter, points that were obscure at first sight though now they were fully
explained. Petrushka had evidently been bribed at last! “Yes, yes, that was so!”
“So this was how the chief plot was hatched!” cried Mr. Golyadkin, slapping himself on
the forehead, opening his eyes wider and wider; “so in that filthy German woman’s den the
whole power of evil lies hidden now! So she was only making a strategic diversion in directing
me to the Ismailovsky Bridge — she was putting me off the scent, confusing me (the
worthless witch), and in that way laying her mines! Yes, that is so! If one only looks at the
thing from that point of view, all of this is bound to be so, and the scoundrel’s appearance on
the scene is fully explained: it’s all part and parcel of the same thing. They’ve kept him in
reserve a long while, they had him in readiness for the evil day. This is how it has all turned
out! This is what it has come to. But there, never mind. No time has been lost so far.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin recollected with horror that it was past one in the afternoon.
“What if they have succeeded by now?...” He uttered a moan... “But, no, they are lying,
they’ve not had time — we shall see...”
He dressed after a fashion, seized paper and a pen, and scribbled the following missive

Dear Sir Yakov Petrovitch!
Either you or I, but both together is out of the question! And so I must inform
you that your strange, absurd, and at the same time impossible desire to appear to
be my twin and to give yourself out as such serves no other purpose than to bring
about your complete disgrace and discomfiture. And so I beg you, for the sake of
your own advantage, to step aside and make way for really honourable men of loyal
aims. In the opposite case I am ready to determine upon extreme measures. I lay
down my pen and await... However, I remain ready to oblige or to meet you with
Y. Golyadkin.

Our hero rubbed his hands energetically when he had finished the letter. Then, pulling on
his greatcoat and putting on his hat, he unlocked his flat with a spare key and set off for thedepartment. He reached the office but could not make up his mind to go in — it was by now
too late. It was half-past two by Mr. Golyadkin’s watch. All at once a circumstance of
apparently little importance settled some doubts in Mr. Golyadkin’s mind: a flushed and
breathless figure suddenly made its appearance from behind the screen of the department
building and with a stealthy movement like a rat he darted up the steps and into the entry. It
was a copying clerk called Ostafyev, a man Mr. Golyadkin knew very well, who was rather
useful and ready to do anything for a trifle. Knowing Ostafyev’s weak spot and surmising that
after his brief, unavoidable absence he would probably be greedier than ever for tips, our hero
made up his mind not to be sparing of them, and immediately darted up the steps, and then
into the entry after him, called to him and, with a mysterious are, drew him aside into a
convenient corner, behind a huge iron stove. And having led him there, our hero began
questioning him.
“Well, my dear fellow, how are things going in there... you understand me?...”
“Yes, your honour, I wish you good health, your honour.”
“All right, my good man, all right; but I’ll reward you, my good fellow. Well, you see, how
are things?”
“What is your honour asking?” At this point Ostafyev held his hand as though by accident
before his open mouth.
“You see, my dear fellow, this is how it is... but don’t you imagine... Come, is Andrey
Filippovitch here?...”
“Yes, he is here.”
“And are the clerks here?”
“Yes, sir, they are here as usual.”
“And his Excellency too?”
“And his Excellency too.” Here the man held his hand before his mouth again, and looked
rather curiously and strangely at Mr. Golyadkin, so at least our hero fancied.
“And there’s nothing special there, my good man?”
“No, sir, certainly not, sir.”
“So there’s nothing concerning me, my friend. Is there nothing going on there — that is,
nothing more than... eh? nothing more, you understand, my friend?”
“No, sir, I’ve heard nothing so far, sir.” Again the man put his hand before his mouth and
again looked rather strangely at Mr. Golyadkin. The fact was, Mr. Golyadkin was trying to
read Ostafyev’s countenance, trying to discover whether there was not something hidden in it.
And, in fact, he did look as though he were hiding something: Ostafyev seemed to grow colder
and more churlish, and did not enter into Mr. Golyadkin’s interests with the same sympathy as
at the beginning of the conversation. “He is to some extent justified,” thought Mr. Golyadkin.
“After all, what am I to him? Perhaps he has already been bribed by the other side, and that’s
why he has just been absent. but, here, I’ll try him...” Mr. Golyadkin realized that the moment
for kopecks had arrived.
“Here, my dear fellow...”
“I’m feelingly grateful for your honour’s kindness.”
“I’ll give you more than that.”
“Yes, your honour.”
“I’ll give you some more directly, and when the business is over I’ll give you as much
again. Do you understand?”
The clerk did not speak. He stood at attention and stared fixedly at Mr. Golyadkin.
“Come, tell me now: have you heard nothing about me?...”
“I think, so far, I have not... so to say... nothing so far.” Ostafyev, like Mr. Golyadkin,
spoke deliberately and preserved a mysterious air, moving his eyebrows a little, looking at the
ground, trying to fall into the suitable tone, and, in fact, doing his very utmost to earn what had
been promised him, for what he had received already he reckoned as already earned.“And you know nothing?”
“So far, nothing, sir.”
“Listen... you know... maybe you will know...”
“Later on, of course, maybe I shall know.”
“It’s a poor look out,” thought our hero. “Listen: here’s something more, my dear fellow.”
“I am truly grateful to your honour.”
“Was Vahramyev here yesterday?...”
“Yes, sir.”
“And... somebody else?... Was he?... Try and remember, brother.”
The man ransacked his memory for a moment, and could think of nothing appropriate.
“No, sir, there wasn’t anybody else.”
“H’m!” a silence followed.
“Listen, brother, here’s some more; tell me all, every detail.”
“Yes, sir,” Ostafyev had by now become as soft as silk; which was just what Mr.
Golyadkin needed.
“Explain to me now, my good man, what footing is he on?”
“All right, sir, a good one, sir,” answered the man, gazing open-eyed at Mr. Golyadkin.
“How do you mean, all right?”
“Well, it’s just like that, sir.” Here Ostafyev twitched his eyebrows significantly. But he
was utterly nonplussed and didn’t know what more to say.
“It’s a poor look out,” thought Mr. Golyadkin.
“And hasn’t anything more happened... in there... about Vahramyev?”
“But everything is just as usual.”
“Think a little.”
“There is, they say...”
“Come, what?”
Ostafyev put his hand in front of his mouth.
“Wasn’t there a letter... from here... to me?”
“Mihyeev the attendant went to Vahramyev’s lodging, to their German landlady, so I’ll go
and ask him if you like.”
“Do me the favour, brother, for goodness’ sake!... I only mean... you mustn’t imagine
anything, brother, I only mean... Yes, you question him, brother, find out whether they are not
getting up something concerning me. Find out how he is acting. That is what I want; that is
what you must find out, my dear fellow, and then I’ll reward you, my good man...”
“I will, your honour, and Ivan Semyonovitch sat in your place today, sir.”
“Ivan Semyonovitch? Oh! really, you don’t say so.”
“Andrey Filippovitch told him to sit there.”
“Re-al-ly! How did that happen? You must find out, brother; for God’s sake find out,
brother; find it all out — and I’ll reward you, my dear fellow; that’s what I want to know... and
don’t you imagine anything, brother...”
“Just so, sir, just so; I’ll go at once. And aren’t you going in today, sir?”
“No, my friend; I only looked round, I only looked round, you know. I only came to have a
look round, my friend, and I’ll reward you afterwards, my friend.”
“Yes, sir.” The man ran rapidly and eagerly up the stairs and Mr. Golyadkin was left
“It’s a poor look out!” he thought. “Eh, it’s a bad business, a bad business! Ech! things
are in a bad way with us now! What does it all mean? What did that drunkard’s insinuations
mean, for instance, and whose trickery was it? Ah! I know whose it was. And what a thing this
is. No doubt they found out and made him sit there... But, after all, did they sit him there? It
was Andrey Filippovitch sat him there and with what object? Probably they found out... That is
Vahramyev’s work — that is, not Vahramyev, he is as stupid as an ashen post, Vahramyev is,and they are all at work on his behalf, and they egged that scoundrel on to come here for the
same purpose, and the German woman brought up her grievance, the one-eyed hussy. I
always suspected that this intrigue was not without an object and that in all this old-womanish
gossip there must be something, and I said as much to Krestyan Ivanovitch, telling him they’d
sworn to cut a man’s throat — in a moral sense, of course — and they pounced upon Karolina
Ivanovna. Yes, there are master hands at work in this, one can see! Yes, sir, there are
master hands at work in this, not Vahramyev’s. I’ve said already that Vahramyev is stupid,
but... I know who it is behind it all, it’s that rascal, that impostor! It’s only that he relies upon,
which is partly proved by his successes in the best society. And it would certainly be desirable
to know on what footing he stands now. What is he now among them? Only, why have they
taken Ivan Semyonovitch? What the devil do they want with Ivan Semyonovitch? Could not
they have found any one else? Though it would come to the same thing whoever it had been,
and the only thing I know is that I have suspected Ivan Semyonovitch for a long time past. I
noticed long ago what a nasty, horrid old man he was — they say he lends money and takes
interest like any Jew. To be sure, the bear’s the leading spirit in the whole affair. One can
detect the bear in the whole affair. It began in this way. It began at the Ismailovsky Bridge;
that’s how it began...”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin frowned, as though he had taken a bite out of a lemon,
probably remembering something very unpleasant.
“But, there, it doesn’t matter,” he thought. “I keep harping on my own troubles. What will
Ostafyev find out? Most likely he is staying on or has been delayed somehow. It is a good
thing, in a sense, that I am intriguing like this, and am laying mines on my side too. I’ve only to
give Ostafyev ten kopecks and he’s... so to speak, on my side. Only the point is, is he really
on my side? Perhaps they’ve got him on their side too... and they are carrying on an intrigue
by means of him on their side too. He looks a ruffian, the rascal, a regular ruffian; he’s hiding
something, the rogue. ‘No, nothing,’ says he, ‘and I am deeply grateful to your honour.’ says
he. You ruffian, you!”
He heard a noise... Mr. Golyadkin shrank up and skipped behind the stove. Some one
came down stairs and went out into the street. “Who could that be going away now?” our hero
thought to himself. A minute later footsteps were audible again... At this point Mr. Golyadkin
could not resist poking the very tip of his nose out beyond his corner — he poked it out and
instantly withdrew it again, as though some one had pricked it with a pin. This time some one
he knew well was coming — that is the scoundrel, the intriguer and the reprobate — he was
approaching with his usual mean, tripping little step, prancing and shuffling with his feet as
though he were going to kick some one.
“The rascal,” said our hero to himself.
Mr. Golyadkin could not, however, help observing that the rascal had under his arm a
huge green portfolio belonging to his Excellency.
“He’s on a special commission again,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, flushing crimson and
shrinking into himself more than ever from vexation.
As soon as Mr. Golyadkin junior had slipped past Mr. Golyadkin senior without observing
him in the least, footsteps were heard for the third time, and this time Mr. Golyadkin guessed
that these were Ostafyev’s. It was, in fact, the sleek figure of a copying clerk, Pisarenko by
name. This surprised Mr. Golyadkin. Why had he mixed up other people in their secret? our
hero wondered. What barbarians! nothing is sacred to them! “Well, my friend?” he brought
out, addressing Pisarenko: “who sent you, my friend?...”
“I’ve come about your business. There’s no news so far from any one. But should there
be any we’ll let you know.”
“And Ostafyev?”
“It was quite impossible for him to come, your honour. His Excellency has walked through
the room twice, and I’ve no time to stay.”“Thank you, my good man, thank you... only, tell me...”
“Upon my word, sir, I can’t stay... They are asking for us every minute... but if your
honour will stay here, we’ll let you know if anything happens concerning your little affair.”
“No, my friend, you just tell me...”
“Excuse me, I’ve no time to stay, sir,” said Pisarenko, tearing himself away from Mr.
Golyadkin, who had clutched him by the lapel of his coat. “I really can’t. If your honour will stay
here we’ll let you know.”
“In a minute, my good man, in a minute! In a minute, my good fellow! I tell you what,
here’s a letter; and I’ll reward you, my good man.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Try and give it to Mr. Golyadkin my dear fellow.”
“Yes, my man, to Mr. Golyadkin.”
“Very good, sir; as soon as I get off I’ll take it, and you stay here, meanwhile; no one will
see you here... “
“No, my good man, don’t imagine... I’m not standing here to avoid being seen. But I’m
not going to stay here now, my friend... I’ll be close here in the side of the street. There’s a
coffee-house near here; so I’ll wait there, and if anything happens, you let me know about
anything, you understand?”
“Very good, sir. Only let me go; I understand.”
“And I’ll reward you,” Mr. Golyadkin called after Pisarenko, when he had at last released
“The rogue seemed to be getting rather rude,” our hero reflected as he stealthily
emerged from behind the stove. “There’s some other dodge here. That’s clear... At first it was
one thing and another... he really was in a hurry, though; perhaps there’s a great deal to do in
the office. And his Excellency had been through the room twice... How did that happen?...
Ough! never mind! it may mean nothing, perhaps; but now we shall see...”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin was about to open the door, intending to go out into the
street, when suddenly, at that very instant, his Excellency’s carriage was opened from within
and a gentleman jumped out. This gentleman was no other than Mr. Golyadkin junior, who
had only gone out ten minutes before. Mr. Golyadkin senior remembered that the Director’s
flat was only a couple of paces away.
“He has been out on a special commission,” our hero thought to himself.
Meanwhile, Mr. Golyadkin junior took out of the carriage a thick green portfolio and other
papers. Finally, giving some orders to the coachman, he opened the door, almost ran up
against Mr. Golyadkin senior, purposely avoided noticing him, acting in this way expressly to
annoy him, and mounted the office staircase at a rapid canter.
“It’s a bad look out,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “This is what it has come to now! Oh, good
Lord! look at him.”
For half a minute our hero remained motionless. At last he made up his mind. Without
pausing to think, though he was aware of a violent palpitation of the heart and a tremor in all
his limbs, he ran up the stair after his enemy.
“Here goes; what does it matter to me? I have nothing to do with the case,” he thought,
taking off his hat, his greatcoat and his goloshes in the entry.
When Mr. Golyadkin walked into his office, it was already getting dusk. Neither Andrey
Filippovitch nor Anton Antonovitch were in the room. Both of them were in the Director’s room,
handing in reports. The Director, so it was rumoured, was in haste to report to a still higher
Excellency. In consequence of this, and also because twilight was coming on, and the office
hours were almost over, several of the clerks, especially the younger ones, were, at the
moment when our hero entered, enjoying a period of inactivity; gathered together in groups,
they were talking, arguing, and laughing, and some of the most youthful — that is, belongingto the lowest grades in the service, had got up a game of pitch-farthing in a corner, by a
window. Knowing what was proper, and feeling at the moment a special need to conciliate and
get on with them, Mr. Golyadkin immediately approached those with him he used to get on
best, in order to wish them good day, and so on. But his colleagues answered his greetings
rather strangely. He was unpleasantly impressed by a certain coldness, even curtness, one
might almost say severity in their manner. No one shook hands with him. Some simply said,
“Good day” and walked away; others barely nodded; one simply turned away and pretended
not to notice him; at last some of them — and what mortified Mr. Golyadkin most of all, some
of the youngsters of the lowest grades, mere lads who, as Mr. Golyadkin justly observed
about them, were capable of nothing but hanging about and playing pitch-farthing at every
opportunity — little by little collected round Mr. Golyadkin, formed a group round him and
almost barred his way. They all looked at him with a sort of insulting curiosity.
It was a bad sign. Mr. Golyadkin felt this, and very judiciously decided not to notice it.
Suddenly a quite unexpected event completely finished him off, as they say, and utterly
crushed him.
At the moment most trying to Mr. Golyadkin senior, suddenly, as though by design, there
appeared in the group of fellow clerks surrounding him the figure of Mr. Golyadkin junior, gay
as ever, smiling a little smile as ever, nimble, too, as ever; in short, mischievous, skipping and
tripping, chuckling and fawning, with sprightly tongue and sprightly toe, as always, precisely as
he had been the day before at a very unpleasant moment for Mr. Golyadkin senior, for
Grinning, tripping and turning with a smile that seemed to say “good evening,” to every
one, he squeezed his way into the group of clerks, shaking hands with one, slapping another
on the shoulder, putting his arm round another, explaining to a fourth how he had come to be
employed by his Excellency, where he had been, what he had done, what he had brought with
him; to the fifth, probably his most intimate friend, he gave a resounding kiss — in fact,
everything happened as it had in Mr. Golyadkin’s dream. When he had skipped about to his
heart’s content, polished them all off in his usual way, disposed them all in his favour, whether
he needed them or not, when he had lavished his blandishments to the delectation of all the
clerks, Mr. Golyadkin junior suddenly, and most likely by mistake, for he had not yet had time
to notice his senior, held out his hand to Mr. Golyadkin senior also. Probably also by mistake
— though he had had time to observe the dishonourable Mr. Golyadkin junior thoroughly, our
hero at once eagerly seized the hand so unexpectedly held out to him and pressed it in the
warmest and friendliest way, pressed it with a strange, quite unexpected, inner feeling, with a
tearful emotion. Whether our hero was misled by the first movement of his worthless foe, or
was taken unawares, or, without recognizing it, felt at the bottom of his heart how defenceless
he was — it is difficult to say. The fact remains that Mr. Golyadkin senior, apparently knowing
what he was doing, of his own free will, before witnesses, solemnly shook hands with him
whom he called his mortal foe. But what was the amazement, the stupefaction and fury, what
was the horror and the shame of Mr. Golyadkin senior, when his enemy and mortal foe, the
dishonourable Mr. Golyadkin junior, noticing the mistake of that persecuted, innocent,
perfidiously deceived man, without a trace of shame, of feeling, of compassion or of
conscience, pulled his hand away with insufferable rudeness and insolence. What was worse,
he shook the hand as though it had been polluted with something horrid; what is more, he
spat aside with disgust, accompanying this with a most insulting gesture; worse still, he drew
out his handkerchief and, in the most unseemly way, wiped all the fingers that had rested for
one moment in the hand of Mr. Golyadkin senior. While he did this Mr. Golyadkin junior looked
about him in his characteristic horrid way, took care that every one should see what he was
doing, glanced into people’s eyes and evidently tried to insinuate to every one everything that
was most unpleasant in regard to Mr. Golyadkin senior. Mr. Golyadkin junior’s revolting
behaviour seemed to arouse general indignation among the clerks that surrounded them;even the frivolous youngsters showed their displeasure. A murmur of protest rose on all sides.
Mr. Golyadkin could not but discern the general feeling; but suddenly — an appropriate
witticism that bubbled from the lips of Mr. Golyadkin junior shattered, annihilated our hero’s
last hopes, and inclined the balance again in favour of his deadly and undeserving for.
“He’s our Russian Faublas, gentlemen; allow me to introduce the youthful Faublas,”
piped Mr. Golyadkin junior, with his characteristic insolence, pirouetting and threading his way
among the clerks, and directing their attention to the petrified though genuine Mr. Golyadkin.
“Let us kiss each other, darling,” he went on with insufferable familiarity, addressing the man
he had so treacherously insulted. Mr. Golyadkin junior’s unworthy jest seemed to touch a
responsive chord, for it contained an artful allusion to an incident with which all were
apparently familiar. Our hero was painfully conscious of the hand of his enemies. But he had
made up his mind by now. With glowing eyes, with pale face, with a fixed smile he tore himself
somehow out of the crowd and with uneven, hurried steps made straight for his Excellency’s
private room. In the room next to the last he was met by Andrey Filippovitch, who had only
just come out from seeing his Excellency, and although there were present in this room at the
moment a good number of persons of whom Mr. Golyadkin knew nothing, yet our hero did not
care to take such a fact into consideration. Boldly, resolutely, directly, almost wondering at
himself and inwardly admiring his own courage, without loss of time he accosted Andrey
Filippovitch, who was a good deal surprised by the unexpected attack.
“Ah!... What is it... what do you want?” asked the head of the division, not hearing Mr.
Golyadkin’s hesitant words.
“Andrey Filippovitch, may... might I, Andrey Filippovitch, may I have a conversation with
his Excellency at once and in private?” our hero said resolutely and distinctly, fixing the most
determined glance on Andrey Filippovitch.
“What next! of course not.” Andrey Filippovitch scanned Mr. Golyadkin from head to foot.
“I say all this, Andrey Filippovitch, because I am surprised that no-one here unmasks the
imposter and scoundrel.”
“Scoundrel, Andrey Filippovitch!”
“Of whom are you pleased to speak in those terms?”
“Of a certain person, Andrey Filippovitch; I’m alluding, Andrey Filippovitch, to a certain
person; I have the right... I imagine, Andrey Filippovitch, that the authorities would surely
encourage such action,” added Mr. Golyadkin, evidently hardly knowing what he was saying.
“Andrey Filippovitch... but no doubt you see yourself, Andrey Filippovitch, that this honourable
action is a mark of my loyalty in every way — of my looking upon my superior as a father,
Andrey Filippovitch; I as much as to say look upon my benevolent superior as a father and
blindly trust my fate to him. It’s as much as to say... you see... “ At this point Mr. Golyadkin’s
voice trembled and two tears ran down his eyelashes.
As Andrey Filippovitch listened to Mr. Golyadkin he was so astonished that he could not
help stepping back a couple of paces. Then he looked about him uneasily... It is difficult to say
how the matter would have ended. But suddenly the door of his Excellency’s room was
opened, and he himself came out, accompanied by several officials. All the persons in his
room followed in a string. His Excellency called to Andrey Filippovitch and walked beside him,
beginning to discuss some business details. When all had set off and gone out of the room,
Mr. Golyadkin woke up. Growing calmer, he took refuge under the wing of Anton Antonovitch,
who came last in the procession and who, Mr. Golyadkin fancied, looked stern and anxious.
“I’ve been talking nonsense, I’ve been making a mess of it again, but there, never mind,” he
“I hope, at least, that you, Anton Antonovitch will consent to listen to me and to enter into
my position,” he said quietly, in a voice that still trembled a little. “Rejected by all, I appeal to
you. I am still at a loss to understand what Andrey Filippovitch’s words mean, AntonAntonovitch. Explain them to me if you can...”
“Everything will be explained in due time,” Anton Antonovitch replied sternly and
emphatically, and as Mr. Golyadkin fancied with an air that gave him plainly to understand that
Anton Antonovitch did not wish to continue the conversation. “You will soon know all about it.
You will be officially informed about everything today.”
“What do you mean by officially informed, Anton Antonovitch? Why officially?” our hero
asked timidly.
“It is not for you and me to discuss what our superiors decide upon, Yakov Petrovitch.”
“Why our superiors, Anton Antonovitch?” said our hero, still more intimidated; “why our
superiors? I don’t see what reason there is to trouble our superiors in the matter, Anton
Antonovitch... Perhaps you mean to say something about yesterday’s doings, Anton
“Oh no, nothing to do with yesterday; there’s something else amiss with you.”
“What is there amiss, Anton Antonovitch? I believe, Anton Antonovitch, that I have done
nothing amiss.”
“Why, you were meaning to be sly with some one,” Anton Antonovitch cut in sharply,
completely flabbergasting Mr. Golyadkin.
Mr. Golyadkin started, and turned as white as a pocket-handkerchief.
“Of course, Anton Antonovitch,” he said, in a voice hardly audible, “if one listens to the
voice of calumny and hears one’s enemies’ tales, without heeding what the other side has to
say in its defence, then, of course... then, of course, Anton Antonovitch, one must suffer
innocently and for nothing.”
“To be sure; but your unseemly conduct, in injuring the reputation of a virtuous young
lady belonging to that benevolent, highly distinguished and well-known family who had
befriended you...”
“What conduct do you mean, Anton Antonovitch?”
“What I say. Do you know anything about your praiseworthy conduct in regard to that
other young lady who, though poor, is of honourable foreign extraction?”
“Allow me, Anton Antonovitch... if you would kindly listen to me, Anton Antonovitch...”
“And your treacherous behaviour and slander of another person, your charging another
person with your own sins. Ah, what do you call that?”
“I did not send him away, Anton Antonovitch,” said our hero, with a tremor; “and I’ve
never instructed Petrushka, my man, to do anything of the sort... He has eaten my bread,
Anton Antonovitch, he has taken advantage of my hospitality,” our hero added expressively
and with deep emotion, so much so that his chin twitched a little and tears were ready to start
“That is only your talk, that he has eaten your bread,” answered Anton Antonovitch,
somewhat offended, and there was a perfidious note in his voice which sent a pang to Mr.
Golyadkin’s heart.
“Allow me most humbly to ask you again, Anton Antonovitch, is his Excellency aware of
all this business?”
“Upon my word, you must let me go now, though. I’ve not time for you now... You’ll know
everything you need to know today.”
“Allow me, for God’s sake, one minute, Anton Antonovitch.”
“Tell me afterwards...”
“No, Anton Antonovitch; I... you see, Anton Antonovitch... only listen... I am not one for
freethinking, Anton Antonovitch; I shun freethinking; I am quite ready for my part... and,
indeed, I’ve given up that idea...”
“Very good, very good. I’ve heard that already.”
“No, you have not heard it, Anton Antonovitch. It is something else, Anton Antonovitch:
it’s a good thing, really, a good thing and pleasant to hear... As I’ve explained to you, AntonAntonovitch, I admit that idea, that divine Providence has created two men exactly alike, and
that a benevolent government, seeing the hand of Providence, provided a berth for two twins.
That is a good thing, Anton Antonovitch, and that I am very far from freethinking. I look upon
my benevolent government as a father; I say ‘yes,’ by all means; you are benevolent
authorities, and you, of course... A young man must be in the service... Stand up for me,
Anton Antonovitch, take my part, Anton Antonovitch... I am all right... Anton Antonovitch, for
God’s sake, one little word more... Anton Antonovitch...”
But by now Anton Antonovitch was far away from Mr. Golyadkin... Our hero was so
bewildered and overcome by all that had happened and all that he had heard that he did not
know where he was standing, what he had heard, what he had done, what was being done to
him, and what was going to be done to him.
With imploring eyes he sought for Anton Antonovitch in the crowd of clerks, that he might
justify himself further in his eyes and say something to him extremely high toned and very
agreeable, and creditable to himself... By degrees, however, a new light began to break upon
our hero’s bewildered mind, a new and awful light that revealed at once a whole perspective of
hitherto unknown and utterly unsuspected circumstances... At that moment somebody gave
our bewildered hero a poke in the ribs. He looked around. Pisarenko was standing before him.
“A letter, your honour.”
“Ah, you’ve been taken out already, my good man?”
“No, it was brought at ten o’clock this morning. Sergey Mihyeev, the attendant, brought it
form Mr. Vahramyev’s lodging.”
“Very good, very good, and I’ll reward you now, my dear fellow.”
Saying this, Mr. Golyadkin thrust the letter in his side pocket of his uniform and buttoned
up every button of it; then he looked round him, and to his surprise, found that he was by now
in the hall of the department in a group of clerks crowding at the outer door, for office hours
were over. Mr. Golyadkin had not only failed till that moment to observe this circumstance, but
had no notion how he suddenly came to be wearing his greatcoat and goloshes and to be
holding his hat in his hand. All the clerks were motionless, in reverential expectation. The fact
was that his Excellency was standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting for his carriage, which
was for some reason late in arriving, and was carrying on a very interesting conversation with
Andrey Filippovitch and two councillors. At a little distance from Andrey Filippovitch stood
Anton Antonovitch and several other clerks, who were all smiles, seeing that his Excellency
was graciously making a joke. The clerks who were crowded at the top of the stair were
smiling too, in expectation of his Excellency’s laughing again. The only one who was not
smiling was Fedosyevitch, the corpulent hall-porter, who stood stiffly at attention, holding the
handle of the door, waiting impatiently for the daily gratification that fell to his share — that is,
the task of flinging one half of the door wide open with a swing of his arm, and then, with a low
bow, reverentially making way for his Excellency to pass. But the one who seemed to be more
delighted than any and to feel the most satisfaction of all was the worthless and
ungentlemanly enemy of Mr. Golyadkin. At that instant he positively forgot all the clerks, and
even gave up tripping and pirouetting in his usual odious way; he even forgot to make up to
anybody. He was all eyes and ears, he even doubled himself up strangely, no doubt in the
strained effort to hear, and never took his eyes off his Excellency, and only from time to time
his arms, legs and head twitched with faintly perceptible tremors that betrayed the secret
emotions of his soul.
“Ah, isn’t he in a state!” thought our hero; “he looks like a favourite, the rascal! I should
like to know how it is that he deceives society of every class. He has neither brains nor
character, neither education nor feeling; he’s a lucky rogue! Mercy on us! How can a man,
when you think of it, come and make friends with every one so quickly! And he’ll get on, I
swear the fellow will get on, the rogue will make his way — he’s a lucky rascal! I should like to
know, too, what he keeps whispering to every one — what plots he is hatching with all thesepeople, and what secrets they are talking about? Lord, have mercy on us! If only I could... get
on with them a little too... say this and that and the other. Hadn’t I better ask him... tell him I
won’t do it again; say ‘I’m in fault, and a young man must serve nowadays, your Excellency’? I
am not going to protest in any way, either; I shall bear it all with meekness and patience, so
there! Is that the way to behave?... Though you’ll never see through him, though, the rascal;
you can’t reach him with anything you say; you can’t hammer reason into his head... We’ll
make an effort, though. I may happen to hit on a good moment, so I’ll make an effort...”
Feeling in his uneasiness, his misery and his bewilderment that he couldn’t leave things
like this, that the critical moment had come, that he must explain himself to some one, our
hero began to move a little towards the place where his worthless and undeserving enemy
stood: but at that very moment his Excellency’s long-expected carriage rolled up into the
entrance, Fedosyevitch flung open the door and, bending double, let his Excellency pass out.
All the waiting clerks streamed out towards the door, and for a moment separated Mr.
Golyadkin senior from Mr. Golyadkin junior.
“You shan’t get away!” said our hero, forcing his way through the crowd while he kept his
eyes fixed upon the man he wanted. At last the crowd dispersed. Our hero felt he was free
and flew in pursuit of his enemy.
Chapter 11

Mr. Golyadkin’s breath failed him; he flew as though on wings after his rapidly retreating
enemy. He was conscious of immense energy. Yet in spite of this terrible energy he might
confidently have said that at that moment a humble gnat — had a gnat been able to exist in
Petersburg at that time of the year — could very easily have knocked him down. He felt, too,
that he was utterly weak again, that he was carried along by a peculiar outside force, that it
was not he himself who was running, but, on the contrary, that his legs were giving way under
him, and refused to obey him. This all might turn out for the best, however.
“Whether it is for the best or not for the best,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, almost breathless
from running so quickly, “but that the game is lost there cannot be the slightest doubt now;
that I am utterly done for is certain, definite, signed and ratified.”
In spite of all this our hero felt as though he had risen from the dead, as though he had
withstood a battalion, as though he had won a victory when he succeeded in clutching the
overcoat of his enemy, who had already raised one foot to get into the cab he had engaged.
“My dear sir! My dear sir!” he shouted to the infamous Mr. Golyadkin junior, holding him
by the button. “My dear sir, I hope that you...”
“No, please do not hope for anything,” Mr. Golyadkin’s heartless enemy answered
evasively, standing with one foot on the step of the cab and vainly waving the other leg in the
air, in his efforts to get in, trying to preserve his equilibrium, and at the same time trying with
all his might to wrench his coat away from Mr. Golyadkin senior, while the latter held on to it
with all the strength that had been vouchsafed to him by nature.
“Yakov Petrovitch, only ten minutes...”
“Excuse me, I’ve no time...”
“You must admit, Yakov Petrovitch... please, Yakov Petrovitch... For God’s sake, Yakov
Petrovitch... let us have it out — in a straightforward way... one little second, Yakov
“My dear fellow, I can’t stay,” answered Mr. Golyadkin’s dishonourable enemy, with
uncivil familiarity, disguised as good-natured heartiness; “another time, believe me, with my
whole soul and all my heart; but now I really can’t...”
“Scoundrel!” thought our hero. “Yakov Petrovitch,” he cried miserably. “I have never
been your enemy. Spiteful people have described me unjustly... I am ready, on my side...
Yakov Petrovitch, shall we go in here together, at once, Yakov Petrovitch? And with all my
heart, as you have so justly expressed it just now, and in straightforward, honourable
language, as you have expressed it just now — here into this coffee-house; there the facts will
explain themselves: they will really, Yakov Petrovitch. Then everything will certainly explain
“Into the coffee-house? Very good. I am not against it. Let us go into the coffee-house
on one condition only, my dear, on one condition — that these things shall be cleared up. We
will have it out, darling,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior, getting out of the cab and shamelessly
slapping our hero on the shoulder; “You friend of my heart, for your sake, Yakov Petrovitch, I
am ready to go by the back street (as you were pleased to observe so aptly on one occasion,
Yakov Petrovitch). Why, what a rogue he is! Upon my word, he does just what he likes with
one!” Mr. Golyadkin’s false friend went on, fawning upon him and cajoling him with a little
smile. The coffee-house which the two Mr. Golyadkins entered stood some distance away
from the main street and was at the moment quite empty. A rather stout German woman
made her appearance behind the counter. Mr. Golyadkin and his unworthy enemy went into
the second room, where a puffy-looking boy with a closely shaven head was busy with abundle of chips at the stove, trying to revive the smouldering fire. At Mr. Golyadkin junior’s
request chocolate was served.
“And a sweet little lady-tart,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior, with a sly wink at Mr. Golyadkin
Our hero blushed and was silent.
“Oh, yes, I forgot, I beg your pardon. I know your taste. We are sweet on charming little
Germans, sir; you and I are sweet on charming and agreeable little Germans, aren’t we, you
upright soul? We take their lodgings, we seduce their morals, they win our hearts with their
beersoup and their milksoup, and we give them notes of different sorts, that’s what we do,
you Faublas, you deceiver!” All this Mr. Golyadkin junior said, making an unworthy though
villainously artful allusion to a certain personage of the female sex, while he fawned upon our
hero, smiled at him with an amiable air, with a deceitful show of being delighted with him and
pleased to have met him. Seeing that Mr. Golyadkin senior was by no means so stupid and
deficient in breeding and the manners of good society as to believe in him, the infamous man
resolved to change his tactics and to make a more open attack upon him. After uttering his
disgusting speech, the false Mr. Golyadkin ended by slapping the real and substantial Mr.
Golyadkin on the shoulder, with a revolting effrontery and familiarity. Not content with that, he
began playing pranks utterly unfit for well-bred society; he took it into his head to repeat his
old, nauseous trick — that is, regardless of the resistance and faint cries of the indignant Mr.
Golyadkin senior, he pinched the latter on the cheek. At the spectacle of such depravity our
hero boiled within, but was silent... only for the time, however.
“That is the talk of my enemies,” he answered at last, in a trembling voice, prudently
restraining himself. At the same time our hero looked round uneasily towards the door. The
fact was that Mr. Golyadkin junior seemed in excellent spirits, and ready for all sorts of little
jokes, unseemly in a public place, and, speaking generally, not permissible by the laws of
good manners, especially in well-bred society.
“Oh, well, in that case, as you please,” Mr. Golyadkin junior gravely responded to our
hero’s thought, setting down upon the table the empty cup which he had gulped down with
unseemly greed. “Well, there’s no need for me to stay long with you, however... Well, how are
you getting on now, Yakov Petrovitch?”
“There’s only one thing I can tell you, Yakov Petrovitch,” our hero answered, with
sangfroid and dignity; “I’ve never been your enemy.”
“H’m... Oh, what about Petrushka? Petrushka is his name, I fancy? Yes, it is Petrushka!
Well, how is he? Well? The same as ever?”
“He’s the same as ever, too, Yakov Petrovitch,” answered Mr. Golyadkin senior,
somewhat amazed. “I don’t know, Yakov Petrovitch... from my standpoint... from a candid,
honourable standpoint, Yakov Petrovitch, you must admit, Yakov Petrovitch...”
“Yes, but you know yourself, Yakov Petrovitch,” Mr. Golyadkin junior answered in a soft
and expressive voice, so posing falsely as a sorrowful man overcome with remorse and
deserving compassion. “You know yourself as we live in difficult time... I appeal to you, Yakov
Petrovitch; you are an intelligent man and your reflections are just,” Mr. Golyadkin junior said
in conclusion, flattering Mr. Golyadkin senior in an abject way. “Life is not a game, you know
yourself, Yakov Petrovitch,” Mr. Golyadkin junior added, with vast significance, assuming the
character of a clever and learned man, who is capable of passing judgements on lofty
“For my part, Yakov Petrovitch,” our hero answered warmly, “for my part, scorning to be
roundabout and speaking boldly and openly, using straightforward, honourable language and
putting the whole matter on an honourable basis, I tell you I can openly and honourably
assert, Yakov Petrovitch, that I am absolutely pure, and that, you know it yourself, Yakov
Petrovitch, the error is mutual — it may all be the world’s judgment, the opinion of the slavish
crowd... I speak openly, Yakov Petrovitch, everything is possible. I will say, too, YakovPetrovitch, if you judge it in this way, if you look at the matter from a lofty, noble point of view,
then I will boldly say, without false shame I will say, Yakov Petrovitch, it will positively be a
pleasure to me to discover that I have been in error, it will positively be a pleasure to me to
recognize it. You know yourself you are an intelligent man and, what is more, you are a
gentleman. Without shame, without false shame, I am ready to recognize it,” he wound up
with dignity and nobility.
“It is the decree of destiny, Yakov Petrovitch... but let us drop all this,” said Mr.
Golyadkin junior. “Let us rather use the brief moment of our meeting for a more pleasant and
profitable conversation, as is only suitable between two colleagues in the service... Really, I
have not succeeded in saying two words to you all this time... I am not to blame for that,
Yakov Petrovitch...”
“Nor I,” answered our hero warmly, “nor I, either! My heart tells me, Yakov Petrovitch,
that I’m not to blame in all this matter. Let us blame fate for all this, Yakov Petrovitch,” added
Mr. Golyadkin senior, in a quick, conciliatory tone of voice. His voice began little by little to
soften and to quaver.
“Well! How are you in health?” said the sinner in a sweet voice.
“I have a little cough,” answered our hero, even more sweetly.
“Take care of yourself. There is so much illness going about, you may easily get quinsy;
for my part I confess I’ve begun to wrap myself up in flannel.”
“One may, indeed, Yakov Petrovitch, very easily get quinsy,” our hero pronounced after
a brief silence; “Yakov Petrovitch, I see that I have made a mistake, I remember with softened
feelings those happy moments which we were so fortunate as to spend together, under my
poor, though I venture to say, hospitable roof...”
“In your letter, however, you wrote something very different,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior
reproachfully, speaking on this occasion — though only on this occasion — quite justly.
“Yakov Petrovitch, I was in error... I see clearly now that I was in error in my unhappy
letter too. Yakov Petrovitch, I am ashamed to look at you, Yakov Petrovitch, you wouldn’t
believe... Give me that letter that I may tear it to pieces before your eyes, Yakov Petrovitch,
and if that is utterly impossible I entreat you to read it the other way before — precisely the
other way before — that is, expressly with a friendly intention, giving the opposite sense to the
whole letter. I was in error. Forgive me, Yakov Petrovitch, I was quite... I was grievously in
error, Yakov Petrovitch.”
“You say so?” Mr. Golyadkin’s perfidious friend inquired, rather casually and indifferently.
“I say that I was quite in error, Yakov Petrovitch, and that for my part, quite without false
shame, I am...”
“Ah, well, that’s all right! That’s a nice thing your being in error,” answered Mr. Golyadkin
“I even had an idea, Yakov Petrovitch,” our candid hero answered in a gentlemanly way,
completely failing to observe the horrible perfidy of his deceitful enemy; “I even had an idea
that here were two people created exactly alike...”
“Ah, is that your idea?”
At this point the notoriously worthless Mr. Golyadkin took up his hat. Still failing to
observe his treachery, Mr. Golyadkin senior, too, got up and with a noble, simple-hearted
smile to his false friend, tried in his innocence to be friendly to him, to encourage him, and in
that way to form a new friendship with him.
“Good-bye, your Excellency,” Mr. Golyadkin junior called out suddenly. Our hero started,
noticing in his enemy’s face something positively Bacchanalian, and, solely to get rid of him,
put two fingers into the unprincipled man’s outstretched hand; but then... then his enemy’s
shameless ness passed all bounds. Seizing the two fingers of Mr. Golyadkin’s hand and at
first pressing them, the worthless fellow on the spot, before Mr. Golyadkin’s eyes, had the
effrontery to repeat the shameful joke of the morning. The limit of human patience wasexhausted.
He had just hidden in his pocket the handkerchief with which he had wiped his fingers
when Mr. Golyadkin senior recovered from the shock and dashed after him into the next
room, into which his irreconcilable foe had in his usual hasty way hastened to decamp. As
though perfectly innocent, he was standing at the counter eating pies, and with perfect
composure, like a virtuous man, was making polite remarks to the German woman behind the
“I can’t go into it before ladies,” thought our hero, and he, too, went up to the counter, so
agitated that he hardly knew what he was doing.
“The tart is certainly not bad! What do you think?” Mr. Golyadkin junior began upon his
unseemly sallies again, reckoning, no doubt, upon Mr. Golyadkin’s infinite patience. The stout
German, for her part, looked at both her visitors with pewtery, vacant-looking eyes, smiling
affably and evidently not understanding Russian. Our hero flushed red as fire at the words of
the unabashed Mr. Golyadkin junior, and, unable to control himself, rushed at him with the
evident intention of tearing him to pieces and finishing him off completely, but Mr. Golyadkin
junior, in his usual mean way, was already far off; he took flight, he was already on the steps.
It need hardly be said that, after the first moment of stupefaction with which Mr. Golyadkin
senior was naturally overcome, he recovered himself and went at full speed after his insulting
enemy, who had already got into a cab, whose driver was obviously in collusion with him. But
at that very instant the stout German, seeing both her customers make off, shrieked and rang
her bell with all her might. Our hero was on the point of flight, but he turned back, and, without
asking for change, flung her money for himself and for the shameless man who had left
without paying, and although thus delayed he succeeded in catching up his enemy. Hanging
on to the side of the cab with all the force bestowed on him by nature, our hero was carried
for some time along the street, clambering upon the vehicle, while Mr. Golyadkin junior did his
utmost to dislodge him. Meanwhile the cabman, with whip, with reins, with kicks and with
shouts urged on his exhausted nag, who quite unexpectedly dropped into a gallop, biting at
the bit, and kicking with his hind legs in a horrid way. At last our enemy and with his back to
the driver, his knees touching the knees and his right hand clutching the very shabby fur collar
of his depraved and exasperated foe.
The enemies were borne along for some time in silence. Our hero could scarcely
breathe. It was a bad road and he was jolted at every step and in peril of breaking his neck.
Moreover, his exasperated foe still refused to acknowledge himself vanquished and was trying
to shove him off into the mud. To complete the unpleasantness of his position the weather
was detestable. The snow was falling in heavy flakes and doing its utmost to creep under the
unfastened overcoat of the genuine Mr. Golyadkin. It was foggy and nothing could be seen. It
was difficult to tell through what street and in what direction they were being taken... It
seemed to Mr. Golyadkin that what was happening to him was somehow familiar. One instant
he tried to remember whether he had had a presentiment of it the day before, in a dream, for
At last his wretchedness reached the utmost pitch of agony. Leaning upon his merciless
opponent, he was beginning to cry out. But his cries died away upon his lips... There was a
moment when Mr. Golyadkin forgot everything, and made up his mind that all this was of no
consequence and that it was all nothing, that it was happening in some inexplicable manner,
and that, therefore, to protest was effort thrown away... But suddenly and almost at the same
instant that our hero was drawing this conclusion, an unexpected jolt gave quite a new turn to
the affair. Mr. Golyadkin fell off the cab like a sack of flour and rolled on the ground, quite
correctly recognizing, at the moment of his fall, that his excitement had been very
inappropriate. Jumping up at last, he saw that they had arrived somewhere; the cab was
standing in the middle of some courtyard, and from the first glance our hero noticed that it
was the courtyard of the house in which was Olsufy Ivanovitch’s flat. At the same instant henoticed that his enemy was mounting the steps, probably on his way to Olsufy Ivanovitch’s. In
indescribable misery he was about to pursue his enemy, but, fortunately for himself, prudently
thought better of it. Not forgetting to pay the cabman, Mr. Golyadkin ran with all his might
along the street, regardless of where he was going. The snow was falling heavily as before; as
before it was muggy, wet, and dark. Our hero did not walk, but flew, coming into collision with
every one on the way — men, women and children. About him and after him he heard
frightened voices, squeals, screams... But Mr. Golyadkin seemed unconscious and would pay
no heed to anything... He came to himself, however, on Semyonovsky Bridge, and then only
through succeeding in tripping against and upsetting two peasant women and the wares they
were selling, and tumbling over them.
“That’s no matter,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, “that can easily be set right,” and felt in his
pocket at once, intending to make up for the cakes, apples, nuts and various trifles he had
scattered with a rouble. Suddenly a new light dawned upon Mr. Golyadkin; in his pocket he felt
the letter given him in the morning by the clerk. Remembering that there was a tavern he
knew close by, he ran to it without a moment’s delay, settled himself at a little table lighted up
by a tallow candle, and, taking no notice of anything, regardless of the waiter who came to ask
for his orders, broke the seal and began reading the following letter, which completely
astounded him —
“You noble man, who are suffering for my sake, and will be dear to my heart for ever!
“I am suffering, I am perishing — save me! The slanderer, the intriguer, notorious for the
immorality of his tendencies, has entangled me in his snares and I am undone! I am lost! But
he is abhorrent to me, while you!... They have separated us, they have intercepted my letters
to you — and all this has been the vicious man who has taken advantage of his one good
quality — his likeness to you. A man can always be plain in appearance, yet fascinate by his
intelligence, his strong feelings and his agreeable manners... I am ruined! I am being married
against my will, and the chief part in this intrigue is taken by my parent, benefactor and civil
councillor, Olsufy Ivanovitch, no doubt desirous of securing me a place and relations in
wellbred society... But I have made up my mind and I protest by all the powers bestowed on me
by nature. Be waiting for me with a carriage at nine o’clock this evening at the window of
Olsufy Ivanovitch’s flat. We are having another ball and a handsome lieutenant is coming. I
will come out and we will fly. Moreover, there are other government offices in which one can
be of service to one’s country. In any case, remember, my friend, that innocence is strong in
its very innocence. Farewell. Wait with the carriage at the entrance. I shall throw myself into
the protection of your arms at two o’clock in the night.
“Yours till death,
“Klara Olsufyevna.”
After reading the letter our hero remained for some minutes as though petrified. In
terrible anxiety, in terrible agitation, white as a sheet, with the letter in his hand, he walked
several times up and down the room; to complete the unpleasantness of his position, though
our hero failed to observe it, he was at that moment the object of the exclusive attention of
every one in the room, his gesticulating with both hands, perhaps some enigmatic words
unconsciously addressed to the air, probably all this prejudiced Mr. Golyadkin in the opinion of
the customers, and even the waiter began to look at him suspiciously. Coming to himself, Mr.
Golyadkin noticed that he was standing in the middle of the room and was in an almost
unseemly, discourteous manner staring at an old man of very respectable appearance who,
having dined and said grace before the ikon, had sat down again and fixed his eyes upon Mr.
Golyadkin. Our hero looked vaguely about him and noticed that every one, actually every one,
was looking at him with a hostile and suspicious air. All at once a retired military man in a red
collar asked loudly for the Police News. Mr. Golyadkin started and turned crimson: he
happened to look down and saw that he was in such disorderly attire as he would not have
worn even at home, much less in a public place. His boots, his trousers and the whole of hisleft side were covered with mud; the trouser-strap was torn off his right foot, and his coat was
even torn in many places. In extreme misery our hero went up to the table at which he had
read the letter, ad saw that the attendant was coming up to him with a strange and impudently
peremptory expression of face. utterly disconcerted and crestfallen, our hero began to look
about the table at which he was now standing. On the table stood a dirt plate, left there from
somebody’s dinner, a soled table-napkin and a knife, fork and spoon that had just been used.
“Who has been having dinner?” thought our hero. “Can it have been I? Anything is possible! I
must have had dinner without noticing it; what am I to do?”
Raising his eyes, Mr. Golyadkin again saw beside him the waiter who was about to
address him.
“How much is my bill, my lad?” our hero inquired, in a trembling voice.
A loud laugh sounded round Mr. Golyadkin, the waiter himself grinned. Mr. Golyadkin
realized that he had blundered again, and had done something dreadfully stupid. He was
overcome by confusion, and to avoid standing there with nothing to do he put his hand in his
pocket to get out his handkerchief; but to the indescribable amazement of himself and all
surrounding him, he pulled out instead of his handkerchief the bottle of medicine which
Krestyan Ivanovitch had prescribed for him four days earlier. “Get the medicine at the same
chemist’s,” floated through Mr. Golyadkin’s brain...
Suddenly he started and almost cried out in horror. A new light dawned... The dark
reddish and repulsive liquid had a sinister gleam to Mr. Golyadkin’s eyes... The bottle dropped
from his hands and was instantly smashed. Our hero cried out and stepped back a pace to
avoid the spilled medicine... he was trembling in every limb, and drops of sweat came out on
to his brow and temples. “So my life is in danger!” Meantime there was a stir, a commotion in
the room; every one surrounded Mr. Golyadkin, every one talked to Mr. Golyadkin, some
even caught hold of Mr. Golyadkin. But our hero was dumb and motionless, seeing nothing,
hearing nothing, feeling nothing... At last, as though tearing himself from the place, he rushed
out of the tavern, pushing away all and each who tried to detain him; almost unconscious, he
got into the first cab that passed him and drove to his flat.
In the entry of his flat he met Mihyeev, an attendant from the office, with an official
envelope in his hand.
“I know, my good man, I know all about it,” our exhausted hero answered, in a weak,
miserable voice; “it’s official...”
The envelope did, in fact, contain instructions to Mr. Golyadkin, signed by Andrey
Filippovitch, to give up the business in his hands to Ivan Semyonovitch. Taking the envelope
and giving ten kopecks to the man, Mr. Golyadkin went into his flat and saw that Petrushka
was collecting all his odds and ends, all his things into a heap, evidently intending to abandon
Mr. Golyadkin and move to the flat of Karolina Ivanovna, who had enticed him to take the
place of Yevstafy.
Chapter 12

Petrushka came in swaggering, with a strangely casual manner and an air of vulgar
triumph on his face. It was evident that he had some idea in his head, that he felt thoroughly
within his rights, and he looked like an unconcerned spectator — that is, as though he were
anybody’s servant rather than Mr. Golyadkin’s.
“I say, you know, my good lad,” our hero began breathlessly, “what time is it?”
Without speaking, Petrushka went behind his partition, then returned, and in a rather
independent tone announced that it was nearly half-past seven.
“Well, that’s all right, my lad, that’s all right. Come, you see, my boy... allow me to tell
you, my good lad, that everything, I fancy, is at an end between us.”
Petrushka said nothing.
“Well, now as everything is over between us, tell me openly, as a friend, where you have
“Where I’ve been? To see good people, sir.”
“I know, my good lad, I know. I have always been satisfied with you, and I give you a
character... Well, what are you doing with them now?”
“Why, sir! You know yourself. We all know a decent man won’t teach you any harm.”
“I know, my dear fellow, I know. Nowadays good people are rare, my lad; prize them, my
friend. Well, how are they?”
“To be sure, they... Only I can’t serve you any longer, sir; as your honour must know.”
“I know, my dear fellow, I know your zeal and devotion; I have seen it all, my lad, I’ve
noticed it. I respect you, my friend. I respect a good and honest man, even though he’s a
“Why, yes, to be sure! The like’s of us, of course, as you know yourself, are as good as
anybody. That’s so. We all know, sir, that there’s no getting on without a good man.”
“Very well, very well, my boy, I feel it... Come, here’s your money and here’s your
character. Now we’ll kiss and say good-bye, brother... Come, now, my lad, I’ll ask one service
of you, one last service,” said Mr. Golyadkin, in a solemn voice. “You see, my dear boy, all
sorts of things happen. Sorrow is concealed in gilded palaces, and there’s no escaping it. You
know, my boy, I’ve always been kind to you, my boy.
Petrushka remained mute.
“I believe I’ve always been kind to you, my dear fellow... Come, how much linen have we
now, my dear boy?”
“Well, it’s all there. Linen shirts six, three pairs of socks; four shirtfronts; flannel vests; of
underlinen two sets. You know all that yourself. I’ve got nothing of yours, sir... I look after my
master’s belongings, sir. I am like that, sir... we all know... and I’ve... never been guilty of
anything of the sort, sir, you know yourself, sir...”
“I trust you, my lad, I trust you. I didn’t mean that, my friend, I didn’t mean that, you
know, my lad; I tell you what... “
“To be sure, sir, we know that already. Why, when I used to be in the service at general
Stolnyakov’s... I lost the lace through the family’s going away to Saratov... they’ve an estate
“No; I didn’t mean that, my lad, I didn’t mean that; don’t think anything of the sort, my
dear fellow...”
“To be sure. It’s easy, as you know yourself, sir, to take away the character of folks like
us. And I’ve always given satisfaction — ministers, generals, senators, counts — I’ve served
them all. I’ve been at Prince Svintchatkin’s, at Colonel Pereborkin’s, at General Nedobarov’s— they’ve gone away too, they’ve gone to their property. As we all know...”
“Yes, my lad, very good, my lad, very good. And now I’m going away, my friend... A
different path lies before each man, no one can tell what road he may have to take. Come,
my lad, put out my clothes now, lay out my uniform too... and my other trousers, my sheets,
quilts and pillows...”
“Am I to pack them all in the bag?”
“Yes, my lad, yes; the bag, please. Who knows what may happen to us. Come, my dear
boy, you can go and find a carriage...”
“A carriage?... “
“Yes, my lad, a carriage; a roomy one, and take it by the hour. And don’t imagine
“Are you planning to go far away, sir?”
“I don’t know my lad, I don’t know that either. I think you had better pack my feather bed
too. What do you think, my lad? I am relying on you, my dear fellow...”
“Is your honour setting off at once?”
“Yes, my friend, yes! Circumstances have turned out so... so it is, my dear fellow, so it
“To be sure, sir; when we were in the regiment the same thing happened to the
lieutenant; they eloped from a country gentleman’s...”
“Eloped?... How! My dear fellow!”
“Yes, sir, eloped, and they were married in another house. Everything was got ready
beforehand. There was a hue and cry after them; the late prince took their part, and so it was
all settled...”
“They were married, but... how is it, my dear fellow... How did you come to know, my
“Why, to be sure! The earth is full of rumours, sir. We know, sir, we’ve all... to be sure,
there’s no one without sin. Only I’ll tell you now, sir, let me speak plainly and vulgarly, sir;
since it has come to this, I must tell you, sir; you have an enemy — you’ve a rival, sir, a
powerful rival, so there...”
“I know, my dear fellow, I know; you know yourself, my dear fellow... So, you see, I’m
relying upon you. What are we to do now, my friend! How do you advise me?”
“Well, sir, if you are in that way now, if you’ve come, so to say, to such a pass, sir, you’ll
have to make some purchases, sir — say some sheets, pillows, another feather bed, a double
one, a good quilt — here at the neighbours downstairs — she’s a shopkeeper, sir — she has
a good fox-fur cloak, so you might look at it and buy it, you might have a look at it at once.
You’ll need it now, sir; it’s a good cloak, sir, satin-lined with fox...”
“Very good, my lad, very good, I agree; I rely upon you, I rely upon you entirely; a cloak
by all means, if necessary... Only make haste, make haste! For God’s sake make haste! I’ll
buy the cloak — only please make haste! It will soon be eight o’clock. Make haste for God’s
sake, my dear lad! Hurry up, my lad...”
Petrushka ran up to gather together a bundle of linen, pillows, quilt, sheets, and all sorts
of odds and ends, tied them up and rushed headlong out of the room. Meanwhile, Mr.
Golyadkin seized the letter once more, but he could not read it. Clutching his devoted head,
he leaned against the wall in a state of stupefaction. He could not think of anything, he could
do nothing either, and could not even tell what was happening to him. At last, seeing that time
was passing and neither Petrushka nor the fur cloak had made their appearance, Mr.
Golyadkin made up his mind to go himself. Opening the door into the entry, he heard below
noise, talk, disputing and scuffling... Several of the women of the neighbouring flats were
shouting, talking and protesting about something — Mr. Golyadkin knew what. Petrushka’s
voice was heard: then there was a sound of footsteps.
“My goodness! They’ll bring all the world in here,” moaned Mr. Golyadkin, wringing hishands in despair and rushing back into his room. Running back into his room, he fell almost
senseless on the sofa with his face in the pillow. After lying a minute in this way, he jumped up
and, without waiting for Petrushka, he put on his goloshes, his hat and his greatcoat, snatched
up his papers and ran headlong downstairs.
“Nothing is wanted, nothing, my dear fellow! I will manage myself — everything myself. I
don’t need you for the time, and meantime, things may take a better turn, perhaps,” Mr.
Golyadkin muttered to Petrushka, meeting him on the stair; then he ran out into the yard,
away from the house. There was a faintness at his heart, he had not yet made up his mind
what was his position, what he was to do, how he was to act in the present critical position.
“Yes, how am I to act? Lord, have mercy on me! And that all this should happen!” he
cried out at last in despair, tottering along the street at random; “that all this must needs
happen! Why, but for this, but for just this, everything would have been put right; at one
stroke, at one skilful, vigorous, firm stroke it would have been set right. I would have my finger
cut off to have set right! And I know, indeed, how it would have been settled. This is how it
would have been managed: I’d have gone on the spot... said how it was... ‘with your
permission, sir, I’m neither here nor there in it... things aren’t done like that,’ I would say, ‘my
dear sir, things aren’t done like that, there’s no accepting an imposter in our office; an
imposter... my dear sir, is a man... who is worthless and of no service to his country. Do you
understand that? Do you understand that, my dear sir,’ I should say! That’s how it would be...
But no... after all, things are not like that... not a bit like that... I am talking nonsense, like a
fool! A suicidal fool! It’s not like that at all, you suicidal fool... This is how things are done,
though, you profligate man!... Well, what am I to do with myself now? Well, what am I going to
do with myself now. What am I fit for now? Come, what are you fit for now, for instance, you,
Golyadkin, you, you worthless fellow! Well, what now? I must get a carriage; ‘hire a carriage
and bring it here,’ says she, ‘we shall get our feet wet without a carriage,’ says she... And who
could ever have thought it! Fie, fie, my young lady! Fie, fie, a young lady of virtuous
behaviour! Well, well, the girl we all thought so much of! You’ve distinguished yourself,
madam, there’s no doubt of that! you’ve distinguished yourself!... And it all comes from
immoral education. And now that I’ve looked into it and seen through it all I see that it is due
to nothing else but immorality. Instead of looking after her as a child... and the rod at times...
they stuff her with sweets and dainties, and the old man is always doting over her: saying ‘my
dear, my love, my beauty,’ saying, ‘we’ll marry you to a count!’... And now she has come
forward herself and shown her cards, as though to say that’s her little game! Instead of
keeping her at home as a child, they sent her to a boarding school, to a French madame, and
emigre, a Madame Falbalas or something, and she learned all sorts of things at that Madame
Falbalas’, and this is how it always turns out. ‘Come,’ says she, ‘and be happy! Be in a
carriage,’ she says, ‘at such a time, under the windows, and sing a sentimental serenade in
the Spanish style; I await you and I know you love me, and we will fly together and live in a
hut.’ But the fact is it’s impossible; since it has come to that, madam, it’s impossible, it is
against the law to abduct an innocent, respectable girl from her parents’ roof without their
sanction! And, if you come to that, why, what for and what need is there to do it? Come, she
should marry a suitable person, the man marked out by destiny, and that would be the end of
it. But I’m in the government service, I might lose my berth through it: I might be arrested for
it, madam! I tell you that! If you did not know it. It’s that German woman’s doing. She’s at the
bottom of it all, the witch; she cooked the whole kettle of fish. For they’ve slandered a man,
for they’ve invented a bit of womanish gossip about him, a regular performance by the advice
of Andrey Filippovitch, that’s what it came from. Otherwise how could Petrushka be mixed up
in it? What has he to do with it? What need for the rogue to be in it? No, I cannot, madam, I
cannot possibly, not on any account... No, madam, this time you must really excuse me. It’s
all your doing, madam, it’s not all the German’s doing, it’s not the witch’s doing at all, but
simply yours. For the witch is a good woman, for the witch is not to blame in any way; it’s yourfault, madam; it’s you who are to blame, let me tell you! I shall not be charged with a crime
through you, madam... A man might be ruined... a man might lose sight of himself, and not be
able to restrain himself — a wedding, indeed! And how is it all going to end? And how will it all
be arranged? I would give a great deal to know all that!...”
So our hero reflected in his despair. Coming to himself suddenly, he observed that he
was standing somewhere in Liteyny Street. The weather was awful: it was a thaw; snow and
rain were falling — just as at that memorable time when at the dread hour of midnight all Mr.
Golyadkin’s troubles had begun. “This is a nice night for a journey!” thought Mr. Golyadkin,
looking at the weather; “it’s death all round... Good Lord! Where am I to find a carriage, for
instance? I believe there’s something black there at the corner. We’ll see, we’ll investigate...
Lord, have mercy on us!” our hero went on, bending his weak and tottering steps in the
direction in which he saw something that looked like a cab.
“No, I know what I’ll do; I’ll go straight and fall on my knees, if I can, and humbly beg,
saying ‘I put my fate in your hands, in the hands of my superiors’; saying, ‘Your Excellency, be
a protector and a benefactor’; and then I’ll say this and that, and explain how it is and that it is
an unlawful act; ‘Do not destroy me, I look upon you as my father, do not abandon me... save
my dignity, my honour, my name, my reputation... and save me from a miscreant, a vicious
man... He’s another person, your Excellency, and I’m another person too; he’s apart and I am
myself by myself too; I am really myself by myself, your Excellency; really myself by myself,’
that’s what I shall say. ‘I cannot be like him. Change him, dismiss him, give orders for him to
be changed and a godless, licentious impersonation to be suppressed... that it may not be an
example to others, your Excellency. I look upon you as a father’; those in authority over us,
our benefactors and protectors, are bound, of course, to encourage such impulses... There’s
something chivalrous about it: I shall say, ‘I look upon you, my benefactor and superior, as a
father, and trust my fate to you, and I will not say anything against it; I put myself in your
hands, and retire from the affair myself’... that’s what I would say.”
“Well, my man, are you a cabman?”
“I want a cab for the evening...”
“And does your honour want to go far?”
“For the evening, for the evening; wherever I have to go, my man, wherever I have to
“Does your honour want to drive out of town?”
“Yes, my friend, out of town, perhaps. I don’t quite know myself yet, I can’t tell you for
certain, my man. Maybe you see it will all be settled for the best. We all know, my friend...”
“Yes, sir, of course we all know. Please God it may.”
“Yes, my friend, yes; thank you, my dear fellow; come, what’s your fare, my good
“Do you want to set off at once?”
“Yes, at once, that is, no, you must wait at a certain place... A little while, not long, you’ll
have to wait...”
“Well, if you hire me for the whole time, I couldn’t ask less than six roubles for weather
like this...”
“Oh, very well, my friend; and I thank you, my dear fellow. So, come, you can take me
now, my good man.”
“Get in; allow me, I’ll put it straight a bit — now will your honour get in. Where shall I
“To the Ismailovsky Bridge, my friend.”
The driver plumped down on the box, with difficulty roused his pair of lean nags from the
trough of hay, and was setting off for Ismailovsky Bridge. But suddenly Mr. Golyadkin pulled
the cord, stopped the cab, and besought him in an imploring voice not to drive to IsmailovskyBridge, but to turn back to another street. The driver turned into another street, and then
minutes later Mr. Golyadkin’s newly hired equipage was standing before the house in which
his Excellency had a flat. Mr. Golyadkin got out of the carriage, begged the driver to be sure
to wait and with a sinking heart ran upstairs to the third storey and pulled the bell; the door
was opened and our hero found himself in the entry of his Excellency’s flat.
“Is his Excellency graciously pleased to be at home?” said Mr. Golyadkin, addressing the
man who opened the door.
“What do you want?” asked the servant, scrutinizing Mr. Golyadkin from head to foot.
“I, my friend... I am Golyadkin, the titular councillor, Golyadkin... To say... something or
other... to explain...”
“You must wait; you cannot...”
“My friend, I cannot wait; my business is important, it’s business that admits of no
“But from whom have you come? Have you brought papers?... “
“No, my friend, I am on my own account. Announce me, my friend, say something or
other, explain. I’ll reward you, my good man...”
“I cannot. His Excellency is not at home, he has visitors. Come at ten o’clock in the
“Take in my name, my good man, I can’t wait — it is impossible... You’ll have to answer
for it, my good man.”
“Why, go and announce him! What’s the matter with you; want to save your shoe
leather?” said another lackey who was lolling on the bench and had not uttered a word till
“Shoe leather! I was told not to show any one up, you know; their time is the morning.”
“Announce him, have you lost your tongue?”
“I’ll announce him all right — I’ve not lost my tongue. It’s not my orders; I’ve told you, it’s
not my orders. Walk inside.”
Mr. Golyadkin went into the outermost room; there was a clock on the table. He glanced
at it: it was half-past eight. His heart ached within him. Already he wanted to turn back, but at
that very moment the footman standing at the door of the next room had already boomed out
Mr. Golyadkin’s name.
“Oh, what lungs,” thought our hero in indescribable misery. “Why, you ought to have
said: ‘he has come most humbly and meekly to make an explanation... something... be
graciously pleased to see him’... Now the whole business is ruined; all my hopes are scattered
to the winds. But... however... never mind...”
There was no time to think, moreover. The lackey, returning, said, “Please walk in,” and
led Mr. Golyadkin into the study.
When our hero went in, he felt as though he were blinded, for he could see nothing at
all... But three or four figures seemed flitting before his eyes: “Oh, yes, they are the visitors,”
flashed through Mr. Golyadkin’s mind. At last our hero could distinguish clearly the star on the
black coat of his Excellency, then by degrees advanced to seeing the black coat and at last
gained the power of complete vision...
“What is it?” said a familiar voice above Mr. Golyadkin.
“The titular councillor, Golyadkin, your Excellency.”
“I have come to make an explanation...”
“How?... What?”
“Why, yes. This is how it is. I’ve come for an explanation, your Excellency...”
“But you... but who are you?...”
“M-m-m-mist-er Golyadkin, your Excellency, a titular councillor.”
“Well, what is it you want?”“Why, this is how it is, I look upon you as a father; I retire... defend me from my
“What’s this?...”
“We all know...”
“What do we all know?”
Mr. Golyadkin was silent: his chin began twitching a little.
“I thought it was chivalrous, your Excellency... ‘There’s something chivalrous in it,’ I said,
‘and I look upon my superior as a father’... this is what I thought; ‘protect me, I tear...
earfully... b... eg and that such imp... impulses ought... to... be encouraged...”
His excellency turned away, our hero for some minutes could distinguish nothing. There
was a weight on his chest. His breathing was laboured; he did not know where he was
standing... He felt ashamed and sad. God knows what followed... Recovering himself, our
hero noticed that his Excellency was talking with his guests, and seemed to be briskly and
emphatically discussing something with them. One of the visitors Mr. Golyadkin recognized at
once. This was Andrey Filippovitch; he knew no one else; yet there was another person that
seemed familiar — a tall, thick-set figure, middle-aged, possessed of very thick eyebrows and
whiskers and a significant sharp expression. On his chest was an order and in his mouth a
cigar. This gentleman was smoking and nodding significantly without taking the cigar out of his
mouth, glancing from time to time at Mr. Golyadkin. Mr. Golyadkin felt awkward; he turned
away his eyes and immediately saw another very strange visitor. Through a door which our
hero had taken for a looking-glass, just as he had done once before — he made his
appearance — we know who: a very intimate friend and acquaintance of Mr. Golyadkin’s. Mr.
Golyadkin junior had actually been till then in a little room close by, hurriedly writing
something; now, apparently, he was needed — and he came in with papers under his arm,
went up to his Excellency, and while waiting for exclusive attention to be paid him succeeded
very adroitly in putting his spoke into the talk and consultation, taking his place a little behind
Andrey Filippovitch’s back and partly screening him from the gentleman smoking the cigar.
Apparently Mr. Golyadkin junior took an intense interest in the conversation, to which he was
listening now in a gentlemanly way, nodding his head, fidgeting with his feet, smiling,
continually looking at his Excellency — as it were beseeching him with his eyes to let him put
his word in.
“The scoundrel,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, and involuntarily he took a step forward. At this
moment his Excellency turned round and came rather hesitatingly towards Mr. Golyadkin.
“Well, that’s all right, that’s all right; well, run along, now. I’ll look into your case, and give
orders for you to be taken...”
At this point his Excellency glanced at the gentleman with the thick whiskers. The latter
nodded in assent.
Mr. Golyadkin felt and distinctly understood that they were taking him for something
different and not looking at him in the proper light at all.
“In one way or another I must explain myself,” he thought; “I must say, ‘This is how it is,
your Excellency.’”
At this point in his perplexity he dropped his eyes to the floor and to his great
astonishment he saw a good-sized patch of something white on his Excellency’s boots.
“Can there be a hole in them?” thought Mr. Golyadkin. Mr. Golyadkin was, however,
soon convinced that his Excellency’s boots were not split, but were only shining brilliantly — a
phenomenon fully explained by the fact that they were patent leather and highly polished.
“It is what they call blick,” thought our hero; “the term is used particularly in artists
studios; in other places such a reflected light is called a rib of light.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin raised his eyes and saw that the time had come to speak, for
things might easily end badly...Our hero took a step forward.
“I say this is how it is, your Excellency,” he said, “and there’s no accepting imposters
His Excellency made no answer, but rang the bell violently. Our hero took another step
“He is a vile, vicious man, your Excellency,” said our hero, beside himself and faint with
terror, though he still pointed boldly and resolutely at his unworthy twin, who was fidgeting
about near his Excellency. “I say this is how it is, and I am alluding to a well-known person.”
There was a general sensation at Mr. Golyadkin’s words. Andrey Filippovitch and the
gentleman with the cigar nodded their heads; his Excellency impatiently tugged at the bell to
summon the servants. At this point Mr. Golyadkin junior came forward in his turn.
“Your Excellency,” he said, “I humbly beg permission to speak.” There was something
very resolute in Mr. Golyadkin junior’s voice; everything showed that he felt himself completely
in the right.
“Allow me to ask you,” he began again, anticipating his Excellency’s reply in his
eagerness, and this time addressing Mr. Golyadkin; “allow me to ask you, in whose presence
you are making this explanation? Before whom are you standing, in whose room are you?...”
Mr. Golyadkin junior was in a state of extraordinary excitement, flushed and glowing with
wrath and indignation; there were positively tears in his eyes.
A lackey, appearing in the doorway, roared at the top of his voice the name of some new
arrivals, the Bassavryukovs.
“A good aristocratic name, hailing from Little Russia,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, and at that
moment he felt some one lay a very friendly hand on his back, then a second hand was laid
on his back. Mr. Golyadkin’s infamous twin was tripping about in front leading the way; and
our hero saw clearly that he was being led to the big doors of the room.
“Just as it was at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s,” he thought, and he found himself in the hall.
Looking round, he saw beside him two of the Excellency’s lackeys and his twin.
“The greatcoat, the greatcoat, the greatcoat, the greatcoat, my friend! The greatcoat of
my best friend!” whispered the depraved man, snatching the coat from one of the servants,
and by way of a nasty and ungentlemanly joke flinging it straight at Mr. Golyadkin’s head.
Extricating himself from under his coat, Mr. Golyadkin distinctly heard the two lackeys snigger.
But without listening to anything, or paying attention to it, he went out of the hall and found
himself on the lighted stairs. Mr. Golyadkin junior following him.
“Goodbye, your Excellency!” he shouted after Mr. Golyadkin senior.
“Scoundrel!” our hero exclaimed, beside himself.
“Well, scoundrel, then...”
“Depraved man!...”
“Well, depraved man, then...” answered Mr. Golyadkin’s unworthy enemy, and with his
characteristic baseness he looked down from the top of the stairs straight into Mr. Golyadkin’s
face as though begging him to go on. Our hero spat with indignation and ran out of the front
door; he was so shattered, so crushed, that he had no recollection of how he got into the cab
or who helped him in. Coming to himself, he found that he was being driven to Fontanka. “To
Ismailovsky Bridge, then,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. At this point Mr. Golyadkin tried to think of
something else, but could not; there was something so terrible that he could not explain it...
“Well, never mind,” our hero concluded, and he drove to Ismailovsky Bridge.
Chapter 13

...It seemed as though the weather meant to change for the better. The snow, which had
till then been coming down in regular clouds, began growing visible and here and there tiny
stars sparkled in it. It was only wet, muddy, damp and stifling, especially for Mr. Golyadkin,
who could hardly breathe as it was. His greatcoat, soaked and heavy with wet, sent a sort of
unpleasant warm dampness all through him and weighed down his exhausted legs. A feverish
shiver sent sharp, shooting pains all over him; he was in a painful cold sweat of exhaustion, so
much so that Mr. Golyadkin even forgot to repeat at every suitable occasion with his
characteristic firmness and resolution his favourite phrase that “it all, maybe, most likely,
indeed, might turn out for the best.” “But all this does not matter for the time,” our hero
repeated, still staunch and not downhearted, wiping from his face the cold drops that
streamed in all directions from the brim of his round hat, which was so soaked that it could
hold no more water. Adding that all this was nothing so far, our hero tried to sit on a rather
thick clump of wood, which was lying near a heap of logs in Olsufy Ivanovitch’s yard. Of
course, it was no good thinking of Spanish serenades or silken ladders, but it was quite
necessary to think of a modest corner, snug and private, if not altogether warm. He felt
greatly tempted, we may mention in passing, by that corner in the back entry of Olsufy
Ivanovitch’s flat in which he had once, almost at the beginning of this true story, stood for two
hours between a cupboard and an old screen among all sorts of domestic odds and ends and
useless litter. The fact is that Mr. Golyadkin had been standing waiting for two whole hours on
this occasion in Olsufy Ivanovitch’s yard. But in regard to that modest and snug little corner
there were certain drawbacks which had not existed before. The first drawback was the fact
that it was probably now a marked place and that certain precautionary measures had been
taken in regard to it since the scandal at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s last ball. Secondly, he had to wait
for a signal from Klara Olsufyevna, for there was bound to be some such signal, it was always
a feature in such cases and, “it didn’t begin with us and it won’t end with us.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin very appropriately remembered a novel he had read long ago
in which the heroine, in precisely similar circumstances, signalled to Alfred by tying a pink
ribbon to her window. But now, at night, in the climate of Petersburg, famous for its dampness
and unreliability, a pink ribbon was hardly appropriate and, in fact, was utterly out of the
“No, it’s not a matter of silk ladders,” thought our hero, “and I had better stay here quietly
and comfortably... I had better stand here.”
And he selected a place in the yard exactly opposite the window, near a stack of
firewood. Of course, many persons, grooms and coachmen, were continually crossing the
yard, and there was, besides, the rumbling of wheels and the snorting of horses and so on;
yet it was a convenient place, whether he was observed or not; but now, anyway, there was
the advantage of being to some extent in the shadow, and no one could see Mr. Golyadkin
while he himself could see everything.
The windows were brightly lit up, there was some sort of ceremonious party at Olsufy
Ivanovitch’s. But he could hear no music as yet.
“So it’s not a ball, but a party of some other sort,” thought our hero, somewhat aghast.
“Is it today?” floated the doubt through him. “Have I made a mistake in the date? Perhaps;
anything is possible... Yes, to be sure, anything is possible... Perhaps she wrote a letter to me
yesterday, and it didn’t reach me, and perhaps it did not reach me because Petrushka put his
spoke in, the rascal! Or it was tomorrow, that is — wait with a carriage...”
At this point our hero turned cold all over and felt in his pocket for the letter, to makesure. But to his surprise the letter was not in his pocket.
“How’s this?” muttered Mr. Golyadkin, more dead than alive. “Where did I leave it? Then
I must have lost it. That is the last straw!” he moaned at last. “Oh, if it falls into evil hands!
Perhaps it has already. Good Lord! What may it not lead to! It may lead to something such
that... Ach, my miserable fate!” At this point Mr. Golyadkin began trembling like a leaf at the
thought that perhaps his vicious twin had thrown the greatcoat at him with the object of
stealing the letter of which he had somehow got an inkling from Mr. Golyadkin’s enemies.
“What’s more, he’s stealing it,” thought our hero, “as evidence... but why evidence!...”
After the first shock of horror, the blood rushed to Mr. Golyadkin’s head. Moaning and
gnashing his teeth, he clutched his burning head, sank back on his block of wood and
relapsed into brooding... But he could form no coherent thought. Figures kept flitting through
his brain, incidents came back to his memory, now vaguely, now very distinctly, the tunes of
some foolish songs kept ringing in his ears... He was in great distress, unnatural distress!
“My God, my God!” our hero thought, recovering himself a little, and suppressing a
muffled sob, “give me fortitude in the immensity of my afflictions! That I am done for, utterly
destroyed — of that there can be no doubt, and that’s all in the natural order of things, since it
cannot be otherwise. To begin with, I’ve lost my berth, I’ve certainly lost it, I must have lost
it... Well, supposing things are set right somehow. Supposing I have money enough to begin
with: I must have another lodging, furniture of some sort... In the first place, I shan’t have
Petrushka. I can get on without the rascal... somehow, with help from the people of the
house; well, that will be all right! I can go in and out when I like, and Petrushka won’t grumble
at my coming in late — yes, that is so; that’s why it’s a good thing to have the people in the
house... Well, supposing that’s all right; but all that’s nothing to do with it.”
At this point the thought of the real position again dawned upon Mr. Golyadkin’s memory.
He looked round.
“Oh, Lord, have mercy on me, have mercy on me! What am I talking about?” he thought,
growing utterly desperate and clutching his burning head in his hands...
“Won’t you soon be going, sir?” a voice pronounced above Mr. Golyadkin. Our hero
started; before him stood his cabman, who was also drenched through and shivering; growing
impatient, and having nothing to do, he had thought fit to take a look at Mr. Golyadkin behind
the woodstack.
“I am all right, my friend... I am coming soon, soon, very soon; you wait...”
The cabman walked away, grumbling to himself. “What is he grumbling about?” Mr.
Golyadkin wondered through his tears. “Why, I have hired him for the evening, why, I’m...
within my rights now... that’s so! I’ve hired him for the evening and that’s the end of it. If one
stands still, it’s just the same. That’s for me to decide. I am free to drive on or not to drive on.
And my staying here by the woodstack has nothing to do with the case... and don’t dare to
say anything; think, the gentleman wants to stand behind the woodstack, and so he’s standing
behind it... and he is not disgracing any one’s honour! That’s the fact of the matter.
“I tell you what is it is, madam, if you care to know. Nowadays, madam, nobody lives in a
hut, or anything of that sort. No, indeed. And in our industrial age there’s no getting on without
morality, a fact of which you are a fatal example, madam... You say we must get a job as a
register clerk and live in a hut on the sea-shore. In the first place, madam, there are no
register clerks on the sea-shore, and in the second place we can’t get a job as a register
clerk. For supposing, for example, I send in a petition, present myself — saying a register
clerk’s place or something of the sort... and defend me from my enemy... they’ll tell you,
madam, they’ll say, to be sure... we’ve lots of register clerks, and here you are not at
Madame Falbalas’, where you learnt the rules of good behaviour of which you are a fatal
example. Good behaviour, madam, means staying at home, honouring your father and not
thinking about suitors prematurely. Suitors will come in good time, madam, that’s so! Of
course, you are bound to have some accomplishments, such as playing the piano sometimes,speaking French, history, geography, scripture and arithmetic, that’s the truth of it! And that’s
all you need. Cooking, too, cooking certainly forms part of the education of a well-behaved
girl! But as it is, in the first place, my fine lady, they won’t let you go, they’ll raise a hue and cry
after you, and then they’ll lock you up in a nunnery. How will it be then, madam? What will you
have me do then? Would you have me, madam, follow the example of some stupid novels,
and melt into tears on a neighbouring hillock, gazing at the cold walls of your prison house,
and finally die, following the example of some wretched German poets and novelists. Is that it,
madam? But, to begin with, allow me to tell you, as a friend, that things are not done like that,
and in the second place I would have given you and your parents, too, a good thrashing for
letting you read French books; for French books teach you no good. There’s a poison in
them... a pernicious poison, madam! Or do you imagine, allow me to ask you, or do you
imagine that we shall elope with impunity, or something of that sort... that we shall have a hut
on the shore of the sea and so on; and that we shall begin billing and cooing and talking about
our feelings, and that so we shall spend our lives in happiness and content; and then there
would be little ones — so then we shall... shall go to our father, the civil councillor, Olsufy
Ivanovitch, and say, ‘we’ve got a little one, and so, on this propitious occasion remove your
curse, and bless the couple.’ No, madam, I tell you again, that’s not the way to do things, and
for the first thing there’ll be no billing and cooing and please don’t reckon on it. Nowadays,
madam, the husband is the master and a good, well-brought-up wife should try and please
him in every way. And endearments, madam, are not in favour, nowadays, in our industrial
age; the day of Jean Jacques Rousseau is over. The husband comes home, for instance,
hungry from the office, and asks, ‘Isn’t there something to eat, my love, a drop of vodka to
drink, a bit of salt fish to eat?’ So then, madam, you must have the vodka and the herring
ready. Your husband will eat it with relish, and he won’t so much as look at you, he’ll only say
‘Run into the kitchen, kitten,’ he’ll say, ‘and look after the dinner, and at most, once a week,
he’ll kiss you, even then rather indifferently... That’s how it will be with us, my young lady! Yes,
even then indifferently... That’s how it will be, if one considers it, if it has come to one’s looking
at the thing in that way... And how do I come in? Why have you mixed me up in your
caprices? ‘The noble man who is suffering for your sake and will be dear to your heart for
ever,’ and so on. but in the first place, madam, I am not suited to you, you know yourself, I’m
not a great hand at compliments, I’m not fond of uttering perfumed trifles for the ladies. I’m
not fond of lady-killers, and I must own I’ve never been a beauty to look at. You won’t find any
swagger or false shame in me, and I tell you so now in all sincerity. This is the fact of the
matter: we can boast of nothing but a straightforward, open character and common sense; we
have nothing to do with intrigues. I am not one to intrigue, I say so and I’m proud of it — that’s
the fact of the matter!... I wear no mask among straightforward people, and to tell you the
whole truth...”
Suddenly Mr. Golyadkin started. The red and perfectly sopping beard of the cabman
appeared round the woodstack again...
“I am coming directly, my friend. I’m coming at once, you know,” Mr. Golyadkin
responded in a trembling and failing voice.
The cabman scratched his head, then stroked his beard, and moved a step forward...
stood still and looked suspiciously at Mr. Golyadkin.
“I am coming directly, my friend; you see, my friend... I... just a little, you see, only a
second!... more... here, you see, my friend...”
“Aren’t you coming at all?” the cabman asked at last, definitely coming up to Mr.
“No, my friend, I’m coming directly. I am waiting, you see, my friend...”
“So I see...”
“You see, my friend, I... What part of the country do you come from, my friend?”
“We are under a master...”“And have you a good master?...”
“All right...”
“Yes, my friend; you stay here, my friend, you see... Have you been in Petersburg long,
my friend?”
“It’s a year since I came...”
“And are you getting on all right, my friend?”
“To be sure, my friend, to be sure. You must thank Providence, my friend. You must look
out for straightforward people. Straightforward people are none too common nowadays, my
friend; he would give you washing, food, and drink, my good fellow, a good man would. But
sometimes you see tears shed for the sake of gold, my friend... you see a lamentable
example; that’s the fact of the matter, my friend...”
The cabman seemed to feel sorry for Mr. Golyadkin. “Well, your honour, I’ll wait. Will
your honour be waiting long?”
“No, my friend, no; I... you know... I won’t wait any longer, my good man... What do you
think, my friend? I rely upon you. I won’t stay any longer.”
“Aren’t you going at all?”
“No, my friend, no; I’ll reward you, my friend... that’s the fact of the matter. How much
ought I to give you, my dear fellow?”
“What you hired me for, please, sir. I’ve been waiting here a long time; don’t be hard on
a man, sir.”
“Well, here, my good man, here.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin gave six roubles to the cabman, and made up his mind in
earnest to waste no more time, that is, to clear off straight away, especially as the cabman
was dismissed and everything was over, and so it was useless to wait longer. He rushed out
of the yard, went out of the gate, turned to the left and without looking round took to his heels,
breathless and rejoicing. “Perhaps it will all be for the best,” he thought, “and perhaps in this
way I’ve run away from trouble.” Mr. Golyadkin suddenly became all at once light-hearted.
“Oh, if only it could turn out for the best!” thought our hero, though he put little faith in his own
words. “I know what I’ll do...” he thought. “No, I know, I’d better try the other tack... Or
wouldn’t it be better to do this?...” In this way, hesitating and seeking for the solution of his
doubts, our hero ran to Semyonovsky Bridge; but while running to Semyonovsky Bridge he
very rationally and conclusively decided to return.
“It will be better so,” he thought. “I had better try the other tack, that is... I will just go —
I’ll look on simply as an outsider, an outsider — and nothing more, whatever happens — it’s
not my fault, that’s the fact of the matter! That’s how it shall be now.”
Deciding to return, our hero actually did return, the more readily because with this happy
thought he conceived of himself now as quite an outsider.
“It’s the best thing; one’s not responsible for anything, and one will see all that’s
necessary... that’s the fact of the matter!”
It was a safe plan and that settled it. Reassured, he crept back under the peaceful
shelter of his soothing and protecting woodstack, and began gazing intently at the window.
This time he was not destined to gaze and wait long. Suddenly a strange commotion became
apparent at all the windows. Figures appeared, curtains were drawn back, whole groups of
people were crowding to the windows at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s flat. All were peeping out looking
for something in the yard. From the security of his woodstack, our hero, too, began with
curiosity watching the general commotion, and with interest craned forward to right and to left
so far as he could within the shadow of the woodstack. Suddenly he started, held his breath
and almost sat down with horror. It seemed to him — in short, he realized, that they were
looking for nothing and for nobody but him, Mr. Golyadkin! Every one was looking in his
direction. It was impossible to escape; they saw him... In a flutter, Mr. Golyadkin huddled asclosely as he could to the woodstack, and only then noticed that the treacherous shadow had
betrayed him, that it did not cover him completely. Our hero would have been delighted at that
moment to creep into a mouse-hole in the woodstack, and there meekly to remain, if only it
had been possible. But it was absolutely impossible. In his agony he began at last staring
openly and boldly at the windows, it was the best thing to do... And suddenly he glowed with
shame. He had been fully discovered, every one was staring at him at once, they were all
waving their hands, all were nodding their heads at him, all were calling to him; then several
windows creaked as they opened, several voices shouted something to him at once...
“I wonder why they don’t whip these naughty girls as children,” our hero muttered to
himself, losing his head completely. Suddenly there ran The Landlady
First published : 1847
Translation : Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Part 1
Chapter 1

Ordynov had made up his mind at last to change his lodgings. The landlady with whom
he lodged, the poor and elderly widow of a petty functionary, was leaving Petersburg, for
some reason or other, and setting off to a remote province to live with relations, before the
first of the month when his time at the lodging was up. Staying on till his time was up the
young man thought regretfully of his old quarters and felt vexed at having to leave them; he
was poor and lodgings were dear. The day after his landlady went away, he took his cap and
went out to wander about the back streets of Petersburg, looking at all the bills stuck up on
the gates of the houses, and choosing by preference the dingiest and most populous blocks of
buildings, where there was always more chance of finding a comer in some poor tenant’s flat.
He had been looking for a long time, very carefully, but soon he was visited by new,
almost unknown, sensations. He looked about him at first carelessly and absent-mindedly,
then with attention, and finally with intense curiosity. The crowd and bustle of the street, the
noise, the movement, the novelty of objects and the novelty of his position, all the paltry,
everyday triviality of town fife so wearisome to a busy Petersburger spending his whole life in
the fruitless effort to gain by toil, by sweat and by various other means a snug little home, in
which to rest in peace and quiet — all this vulgar prose and dreariness aroused in Ordynov,
on the contrary, a sensation of gentle gladness and serenity. His pale cheeks began to be
suffused with a faint flush, his eyes began to shine as though with new hope, and he drew
deep and eager breaths of the cold fresh air. He felt unusually lighthearted.
He always led a quiet and absolutely solitary life. Three years before, after taking his
degree and becoming to a great extent his own master, he went to see an old man whom he
had known only at second-hand, and was kept waiting a long while before the liveried servants
consented to take his name in a second time. Then he walked into a dark, lofty, and deserted
room, one of those dreary-looking rooms still to be found in old- fashioned family mansions
that have been spared by time, and saw in it a grey-headed old man, hung with orders of
distinction, who had been the friend and colleague of his father, and was his guardian. The old
man handed him a tiny screw of notes. It turned out to be a very small sum: it was all that was
left of his ancestral estates, which had been sold by auction to pay the family debts. Ordynov
accepted his inheritance unconcernedly, took leave for ever of his guardian, and went out into
the sheet. It was a cold, gloomy, autumn evening; the young man was dreamy and his heart
was tom with a sort of unconscious sadness. There was a glow of fire in his eyes; he felt
feverish, and was hot and chilly by turns. He calculated on the way that on his money he could
live for two or three years, or even on half rations for four years. It grew dusk and began to
drizzle with rain. He had taken the first comer he came across, and within an hour had moved
into it. There he shut himself up as though he were in a monastery, as though he had
renounced the world. Within two years he had become a complete recluse.
He had grown shy and unsociable without being aware of the fact; meanwhile, it never
occurred to him that there was another sort of life — full of noise and uproar, of continual
excitement, of continual variety, which was inviting him and was sooner or later inevitable. It is
true that he could not avoid hearing of it, but he had never known it or sought to know it: from
childhood his life had been exceptional; and now it was more exceptional than ever. He was
devoured by the deepest and most insatiable passion, which absorbs a man’s whole fife and
does not, for beings like Ordynov, provide any niche in the domain of practical daily activity.
This passion was science. Meanwhile it was consuming his youth, marring his rest at nights
with its slow, intoxicating poison, robbing him of wholesome food and of fresh air which never
penetrated to his stifling comer. Yet, intoxicated by his passion, Ordynov refused to notice it.
He was young and, so far, asked for nothing more. His passion made him a babe as regardsexternal existence and totally incapable of forcing other people to stand aside when needful to
make some sort of place for himself among them. Some clever people’s science is a capital in
their hands; for Ordynov it was a weapon turned against himself.
He was prompted rather by an instinctive impulse than by a logical, clearly defined
motive for studying and knowing, and it was the same in every other work he had done
hitherto, even the most trivial. Even as a child he had been thought queer and unlike his
schoolfellows. He had never known his parents; he had to put up with coarse and brutal
treatment from his schoolfellows, provoked by his odd and unsociable disposition, and that
made him really unsociable and morose, and little by little he grew more and more secluded in
his habits. But there never had been and was not even now any order and system in his
solitary studies; even now he had only the first ecstasy, the first fever, the first delirium of the
artist. He was creating a system for himself, it was being evolved in him by the years; and the
dim, vague, but marvellously soothing image of an idea, embodied in a new, clarified form,
was gradually emerging in his soul. And this form craved expression, fretting his soul; he was
still timidly aware of its originality, its truth, its independence: creative genius was already
showing, it was gathering strength and taking shape. But the moment of embodiment and
creation was still far off, perhaps very far off, perhaps altogether impossible!
Now he walked about the streets like a recluse, like a hermit who has suddenly come
from his dumb wilderness into the noisy, roaring city. Everything seemed to him new and
strange. But he was so remote from all the world that was surging and clattering around him
that he did not wonder at his own strange sensation. He seemed unconscious of his own
aloofness; on the contrary, there was springing up in his heart a joyful feeling, a sort of
intoxication, like the ecstasy of a hungry man who has meat and drink set before him after a
long fast; though, of course, it was strange that such a trivial novelty as a change of lodgings
could excite and thrill any inhabitant of Petersburg, even Ordynov; but the truth is that it had
scarcely ever happened to him to go out with a practical object.
He enjoyed wandering about the streets more and more. He stared about at everything
like a flâneur.
But, even now, inconsequent as ever, he was reading significance in the picture that lay
so brightly before him, as though between the lines of a book. Everything struck him; he did
not miss a single impression, and looked with thoughtful eyes into the faces of passing people,
watched the characteristic aspect of everything around him and listened lovingly to the speech
of the people as though verifying in everything the conclusions that had been formed in the
stillness of solitary nights. Often some trifle impressed him, gave rise to an idea, and for the
first time he felt vexed that he had so buried himself alive in his cell. Here everything moved
more swiftly, his pulse was full and rapid, his mind, which had been oppressed by solitude and
had been stirred and uplifted only by strained, exalted activity, worked now swiftly, calmly and
boldly. Moreover, he had an unconscious longing to squeeze himself somehow into this life
which was so strange to him, of which he had hitherto known — or rather correctly divined —
only by the instinct of the artist. His heart began instinctively throbbing with a yearning for love
and sympathy. He looked more attentively at the people who passed by him; but they were
strangers, preoccupied and absorbed in thought, and by degrees Ordynov’s careless
lightheartedness began unconsciously to pass away; reality began to weigh upon him, and to
inspire in him a sort of unconscious dread and awe. He began to be weary from the surfeit of
new impressions, like an invalid who for the first time joyfully gets up from his sick bed, and
sinks down giddy and stupefied by the movement and exhausted by the light, the glare, the
whirl of life, the noise and medley of colours in the crowd that flutters by him. He began to feel
dejected and miserable, he began to be full of dread for his whole life, for his work, and even
for the future. A new idea destroyed his peace. A thought suddenly occurred to him that all his
life he had been solitary and no one had loved him — and, indeed, he had succeeded in loving
no one either. Some of the passers-by, with whom he had chanced to enter into conversationat the beginning of his walk, had looked at him rudely and strangely. He saw that they took
him for a madman or a very original, eccentric fellow, which was, indeed, perfectly correct. He
remembered that everyone was always somewhat ill at ease in his presence, that even in his
childhood everyone had avoided him on account of his dreamy, obstinate character, that
sympathy for people had always been difficult and oppressive to him, and had been unnoticed
by others, for though it existed in him there was no moral equality perceptible in it, a fact
which had worried him even as a child, when he was utterly unlike other children of his own
age. Now he remembered and reflected that always, at all times, he had been left out and
passed over by everyone.
Without noticing it, he had come into an end of Petersburg remote from the centre of the
town. Dining after a fashion in a solitary restaurant, he went out to wander about again. Again
he passed through many streets and squares. After them stretched long fences, grey and
yellow; he began to come across quite dilapidated little cottages, instead of wealthy houses,
and mingled with them colossal factories, monstrous, soot-begrimed, red buildings, with long
chimneys. All round it was deserted and desolate, everything looked grim and forbidding, so at
least it seemed to Ordynov. It was by now evening. He came out of a long side-street into a
square where there stood a parish church.
He went into it without thinking. The service was just over, the church was almost empty,
only two old women were kneeling near the entrance. The verger, a grey-headed old man,
was putting out the candles. The rays of the setting sun were streaming down from above
through a narrow window in the cupola and flooding one of the chapels with a sea of brilliant
light, but it grew fainter and fainter, and the blacker the darkness that gathered under the
vaulted roof, the more brilliantly glittered in places the gilt ikons, reflecting the flickering glow of
the lamps and the lights. In an access of profound depression and some stifled feeling
Ordynov leaned against the wall in the darkest comer of the church, and for an instant sank
into forgetfulness. He came to himself when the even, hollow sound of the footsteps of two
persons resounded in the building. He raised his eyes and an indescribable curiosity took
possession of him at the sight of the two advancing figures. They were an old man and a
young woman. The old man was tall, still upright and hale-looking, but thin and of a sickly
pallor. From his appearance he might have been taken for a merchant from some distant
province. He was wearing a long black full-skirted coat trimmed with fur, evidently a holiday
dress, and he wore it unbuttoned; under it could be seen some other long-skirted Russian
garment, buttoned closely from top to bottom. His bare neck was covered with a bright red
handkerchief carelessly knotted; in his hands he held a fur cap. His thin, long, grizzled beard
fell down to his chest, and fiery, feverishly glowing eyes flashed a haughty, prolonged stare
from under his frowning, overhanging brows. The woman was about twenty and wonderfully
beautiful. She wore a splendid blue, fur-trimmed jacket, and her head was covered with a
white satin kerchief tied under her chin. She walked with her eyes cast down, and a sort of
melancholy dignity pervaded her whole figure and was vividly and mournfully reflected in the
sweet contours of the childishly soft, mild lines of her face. There was something strange in
this surprising couple.
The old man stood still in the middle of the church, and bowed to all the four points of the
compass, though the church was quite empty; his companion did the same. Then he took her
by the hand and led her up to the big ikon of the Virgin, to whom the church was dedicated. It
was shining on the altar, with the dazzling light of the candles reflected on the gold and
precious stones of the setting. The church verger, the last one remaining in the church, bowed
respectfully to the old man; the latter nodded to him. The woman fell on her face, before the
ikon. The old man took the hem of the veil that hung at the pedestal of the ikon and covered
her head. A muffled sob echoed through the church.
Ordynov was impressed by the solemnity of this scene and waited in impatience for its
conclusion. Two minutes later the woman raised her head and again the bright light of thelamp fell on her charming face. Ordynov started and took a step forward. She had already
given her hand to the old man and they both walked quietly out of the church. Tears were
welling up from her dark blue eyes under the long eyelashes that glistened against the milky
pallor of her face, and were rolling down her pale cheeks. There was a glimpse of a smile on
her lips; but there were traces in her face of some childlike fear and mysterious horror. She
pressed timidly close to the old man and it could be seen that she was trembling from
Overwhelmed, tormented by a sweet and persistent feeling that was novel to him,
Ordynov followed them quickly and overtook them in the church porch. The old man looked at
him with unfriendly churlishness; she glanced at him, too, but absent-mindedly, without
curiosity, as though her mind were absorbed by some far-away thought. Ordynov followed
them without understanding his own action. By now it had grown quite dark; he followed at a
little distance. The old man and die young woman turned into a long, wide, dirty street full of
hucksters’ booths, com chandlers’ shops and taverns, leading straight to the city gates, and
turned from it into a long narrow lane, with long fences on each side of it, running alongside
the huge, blackened wall of a four-storeyed block of buildings, by the gates of which one could
pass into another street also big and crowded. They were approaching the house; suddenly
the old man turned round and looked with impatience at Ordynov. The young man stood still
as though he had been shot; he felt himself how strange his impulsive conduct was. The old
man looked round once more, as though he wanted to assure himself that his menacing gaze
had produced its effect, and then the two of them, he and the young woman, went in at the
narrow gate of the courtyard. Ordynov turned back.
He was in the most discontented humour and was vexed with himself, reflecting that he
had wasted his day, that he had tired himself for nothing, and had ended foolishly by
magnifying into an adventure an incident that was absolutely ordinary.
However severe he had been with himself in the morning for his recluse habits, yet it was
instinctive with him to shun anything that might distract him, impress and shock him in his
external, not in his internal, artistic world. Now he thought mournfully and regretfully of his
sheltered comer; then he was overcome by depression and anxiety about his unsettled
position and the exertions before him. At last, exhausted and incapable of putting two ideas
together, he made his way late at night to his lodging and realised with amazement that he
had been about to pass the house in which he lived. Dumb-foundered, he shook his head, and
put down his absentmindedness to fatigue and, going up the stairs, at last reached his garret
under the roof. There he lighted a candle — and a minute later the image of the weeping
woman rose vividly before his imagination. So glowing, so intense was the impression, so
longingly did his heart reproduce those mild, gentle features, quivering with mysterious
emotion and horror, and bathed in tears of ecstasy or childish penitence, that there was a mist
before his eyes and a thrill of fire seemed to run through all his limbs. But the vision did not
last long. After enthusiasm, after ecstasy came reflection, then vexation, then impotent anger;
without undressing he threw himself on his I hard bed...
Ordynov woke up rather late in the morning, in a nervous, timid and oppressed state of
mind. He hurriedly got ready, almost forcing himself to concentrate his mind on the practical
problems before him, and set off in the opposite direction from that he had taken on his
pilgrimage the day before. At last he found a lodging, a little room in the flat of a poor German
called Schpies, who lived alone with a daughter called Tinchen. On receiving a deposit
Schpies instantly took down the notice that was nailed on the gate to attract lodgers,
complimented Ordynov on his devotion to science, and promised to work with him zealously
himself. Ordynov said that he would move in in the evening. From there he was going home,
but changed his mind and turned off in the other direction; his self-confidence had returned
and he smiled at his own curiosity. In his impatience the way seemed very long to him. At last
he reached the church in which he had been the evening before. Evening service was goingon. He chose a place from which he could see almost all the congregation; but the figures he
was looking for were not there. After waiting a long time he went away, blushing. Resolutely
suppressing in himself an involuntary feeling, he tried obstinately to force himself, to change
the current of his thoughts. Reflecting on everyday practical matters, he remembered he had
not had dinner and, feeling that he was hungry, he went into the same tavern in which he had
dined the day before. Unconsciously he sauntered a long time about the streets, through
crowded and deserted alleys, and at last came out into a desolate region where the town
ended in a vista of fields that were turning yellow; he came to himself when the deathlike
silence struck him by its strangeness and unfamiliarity. It was a dry and frosty day such as are
frequent in Petersburg in October. Not far away was a cottage; and near it stood two
haystacks; a little horse with prominent ribs was standing unharnessed, with drooping head
and lip thrust out, beside a little two-wheeled gig, and seemed to be pondering over
something. A watch-dog, growling, gnawed a bone beside a broken wheel, and a child of three
who, with nothing on but his shirt, was engaged in combing his shaggy white head, stared in
wonder at the solitary stranger from the town. Behind the cottage there was a stretch of field
and cottage garden. There was a dark patch of forest against the blue sky on the horizon, and
on the opposite side were thick snow-clouds, which seemed chasing before them a flock of
flying birds moving noiselessly one after another across the sky. All was still and, as it were,
solemnly melancholy, full of a palpitating, hidden suspense... Ordynov was walking on farther
and farther, but the desolation weighed upon him. He turned back to the town, from which
there suddenly floated the deep clamour of bells, ringing for evening service; he redoubled his
pace and within a short time he was again entering the church that had been so familiar to
him since the day before.
The unknown woman was there already. She was kneeling at the very entrance, among
the crowd of worshippers. Ordynov forced his way through the dense mass of beggars, old
women in rags, sick people and cripples, who were waiting for alms at the church door, and
knelt down beside the stranger. His clothes touched her clothes and he heard the breath that
came irregularly from her lips as she whispered a fervent prayer. As before, her features were
quivering with a feeling of boundless devotion, and tears again were falling and drying on her
burning cheeks, as though washing away some fearful crime. It was quite dark in the place
where they were both kneeling, and only from time to time the dim flame of the lamp,
flickering in the draught from the narrow open window pane, threw a quivering glimmer on her
face, every feature of which printed itself on the young man’s memory, making his eyes swim,
and rending his heart with a vague, insufferable pain. But this torment had a peculiar, intense
ecstasy of its own. At last he could not endure it; his breast began shuddering and aching all
in one instant with a sweet and unfamiliar yearning, and, bursting into sobs, he bowed down
with his feverish head to the cold pavement of the church. He saw nothing and felt nothing but
the ache in his heart, which thrilled with sweet anguish.
This extreme impressionability, sensitiveness, and lack of resisting power may have been
developed by solitude, or this impulsiveness of heart may have been evolved in the
exhausting, suffocating and hopeless silence of long, sleepless nights, in the midst of
unconscious yearnings and impatient stirrings of spirit, till it was ready at last to explode and
find an outlet, or it may have been simply that the time for that solemn moment had suddenly
arrived and it was as inevitable as when on a sullen, stifling day the whole sky grows suddenly
black and a storm pours rain and fire on the parched earth, hangs pearly drops on the
emerald twigs, beats down the grass, the crops, crushes to the earth the tender cups of the
flowers, in order that afterwards, at the first rays of the sun, everything, reviving again, may
shine and rise to meet it, and triumphantly lift to the sky its sweet, luxuriant incense, glad and
rejoicing in its new life...
But Ordynov could not think now what was the matter with him. He was scarcely
conscious.He hardly noticed how the service ended, and only recovered his senses as he threaded
his way after his unknown lady through the crowd that thronged the entrance. At times he met
her clear and wondering eyes. Stopped every minute by the people passing out, she turned
round to him more than once; he could see that her surprise grew greater and greater, and all
at once she flushed a fiery red. At that minute the same old man came forward again out of
the crowd and took her by the arm. Ordynov met his morose and sarcastic stare again, and a
strange anger suddenly gripped his heart. At last he lost sight of them in the darkness; then,
with a superhuman effort, he pushed forward and got out of the church. But the fresh evening
air could not restore him; his breathing felt oppressed and stifled, and his heart began
throbbing slowly and violently as though it would have burst his breast. At last he saw that he
really had lost his strangers — they were neither in the main street nor in the alley. But
already a thought had come to Ordynov, and in his mind was forming one of those strange,
decisive projects, which almost always succeed when they are carried out, in spite of their
wildness. At eight o’clock next morning he went to the house from the side of the alley and
walked into a narrow, filthy, and unclean backyard which was like an open cesspool in a
house. The porter, who was doing something in the yard, stood still, leaned with his chin on
the handle of his spade, looked Ordynov up and down and asked him what he wanted. The
porter was a little fellow about five and twenty, a Tatar with an extremely old-looking face,
covered with wrinkles.
“I’m looking for a lodging,” Ordynov answered impatiently.
“Which?” asked the porter, with a grin. He looked at Ordynov as if he knew all about him.
“I want a furnished room in a flat,” answered Ordynov.
“There’s none in that yard,” the porter answered enigmatically.
“And here?”
“None here, either.” The porter took up his spade again.
“Perhaps they will let me have one,” said Ordynov, giving the porter ten kopecks.
The Tatar glanced at Ordynov, took the ten kopecks, then took up his spade again, and
after a brief silence announced that: “No, there was no lodging.” But the young man did not
hear him; he walked along the rotten, shaking planks that lay in the pool towards the one
entrance from that yard into the lodge of the house, a black, filthy, muddy entrance that
looked as though it were drowning in the pool. In the lower storey lived a poor coffin-maker.
Passing by his cheering workshop, Ordynov clambered by a half-broken, slippery, spiral
staircase to the upper storey, felt in the darkness a heavy, clumsy door covered with rags of
sacking, found the latch and opened it. He was not mistaken. Before him stood the same old
man, looking at him intently with extreme surprise.
“What do you want?” he asked abruptly and almost in a whisper.
“Is there a room to let?” asked Ordynov, almost forgetting everything he had meant to
say. He saw over the old man’s shoulder the young woman.
The old man began silently closing the door, shutting Ordynov out.
“We have a lodging to let,” the young woman’s friendly voice said suddenly.
The old man let go of the door.
“I want a corner,” said Ordynov, hurriedly entering the room and addressing himself to
the beautiful woman.
But he stopped in amazement as though petrified, looking at his future landlord and
landlady; before his eyes a mute and amazing scene was taking place. The old man was as
pale as death, as though on the point of losing consciousness. He looked at the woman with a
leaden, fixed, searching gaze. She too grew pale at first; then blood rushed to her face and
her eyes flashed strangely. She led Ordynov into another little room.
The whole flat consisted of one rather large room, divided into three by two partitions.
From the outer room they went straight into a narrow dark passage; directly opposite was the
door, evidently leading to a bedroom the other side of the partition. On the right, the otherside of the passage, they went into the room which was to let; it was narrow and pokey,
squeezed in between the partition and two low windows; it was blocked up with the objects
necessary for daily life; it was poor and cramped but passably clean. The furniture consisted
of a plain white table, two plain chairs and a locker that ran both sides of the wall. A big,
oldfashioned ikon in a gilt wreath stood over a shelf in a comer and a lamp was burning before it.
There was a huge, clumsy Russian stove partly in this room and partly in the passage. It was
clear that it was impossible for three people to live in such a flat.
They began discussing terms, but incoherently and hardly understanding one another.
Two paces away from her, Ordynov could hear the beating of her heart; he saw she was
trembling with emotion and, it seemed, with fear. At last they came to an agreement of some
sort. The young man announced that he should move in at once and glanced at his landlord.
The old man was standing at the door, still pale, but a quiet, even dreamy smile had stolen on
to his lips. Meeting Ordynov’s eyes he frowned again.
“Have you a passport?” he asked suddenly, in a loud and abrupt voice, opening the door
into the passage for him.
“Yes,” answered Ordynov, suddenly taken aback.
“Who are you?”
“Vassily Ordynov, nobleman, not in the service, engaged in private work,” he answered,
falling into the old man’s tone.
“So am I,” answered the old man. “I’m Ilya Murin, artisan. Is that enough for you? You
can go...”
An hour later Ordynov was in his new lodging, to the surprise of himself and of his
German, who, together with his dutiful Tinchen, was beginning to suspect that his new lodger
had deceived him.
Ordynov did not understand how it had all happened, and he did not want to
Chapter 2

His heart was beating so violently that he was giddy, and everything was green before
his eyes; mechanically he busied himself arranging his scanty belongings in his new lodgings:
he undid the bag containing various necessary possessions, opened the box containing his
books and began laying them out on the table; but soon all this work dropped from his hands.
Every minute there rose before his eyes the image of the woman, the meeting with whom had
so troubled and disturbed his whole existence, who had filled his heart with such irresistible,
violent ecstasy — and such happiness seemed at once flooding his starved life that his
thoughts grew dizzy and his soul swooned in anguish and perplexity.
He took his passport and carried it to the landlord in the hope of getting a glance at her.
But Murin scarcely opened the door; he took the paper from him, said, “Good; live in peace,”
and closed the door again. An unpleasant feeling came over Ordynov. He did not know why,
but it was irksome for him to look at the old man. There was something spiteful and
contemptuous in his eyes. But the unpleasant impression quickly passed off. For the last three
days Ordynov had, in comparison with his former stagnation, been living in a whirl of life; but
he could not reflect, he was, indeed, afraid to. His whole existence was in a state of upheaval
and chaos; he dimly felt as though his life had been broken in half; one yearning, one
expectation possessed him, and no other thoughts troubled him.
In perplexity he went back to his room. There by the stove in which the cooking was
done a little humpbacked old woman was busily at work, so filthy and clothed in such rags that
she was a pitiful sight. She seemed very ill-humoured and grumbled to herself at times,
mumbling with her lips. She was his landlord’s servant. Ordynov tried to talk to her, but she
would not speak, evidently from ill-humour. At last dinnertime arrived. The old woman took
cabbage soup, pies and beef out of the oven, and took them to her master and mistress. She
gave some of the same to Ordynov. After dinner there was a death-like silence in the flat.
Ordynov took up a book and spent a long time turning over its pages, trying to follow the
meaning of what he had read often before. Losing patience, he threw down the book and
began again putting his room to rights; at last he took up his cap, put on his coat and went out
into the street. Walking at hazard, without seeing the road, he still tried as far as he could to
concentrate his mind, to collect his scattered thoughts and to reflect a little upon his position.
But the effort only reduced him to misery, to torture. He was attacked by fever and chills
alternately, and at times his heart beat so violently that he had to support himself against the
wall. “No, better death,” he thought; “better death,” he whispered with feverish, trembling lips,
hardly thinking of what he was saying. He walked for a very long time; at last, feeling that he
was soaked to the skin and noticing for the first time that it was pouring with rain, he returned
home. Not far from home he saw his porter. He fancied that the Tatar stared at him for some
time with curiosity, and then went his way when he noticed that he had been seen.
“Good-morning,” said Ordynov, overtaking him. “What are you called?”
“Folks call me porter,” he answered, grinning.
“Have you been porter here long?”
“Is my landlord an artisan?”
“Yes, if he says so.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s ill, lives, prays to God. That’s all.”
“Is that his wife?”
“What wife?”
“Who lives with him.”“Ye-es, if he says so. Good-bye, sir.”
The Tatar touched his cap and went off to his den. Ordynov went to his room. The old
woman, mumbling and grumbling to herself, opened the door to him, fastened it again with the
latch, and again climbed on the stove where she spent her life. It was already getting dark.
Ordynov was going to get a light, when he noticed that the door to the landlord’s room was
locked. He called the old woman, who, propping herself on her elbow, looked sharply at him
from the stove, as though wondering what he wanted with the landlord’s lock; she threw him a
box of matches without a word. He went back into his room and again, for the hundredth time,
tried to busy himself with his books and things. But, little by little, without understanding what
he was doing, he sat down on the locker, and it seemed to him that he fell asleep. At times he
came to himself and realised that his sleep was not sleep but the agonising unconsciousness
of illness. He heard a knock at the door, heard it opened, and guessed that it was the landlord
and landlady returning from evening service. At that point it occurred to him that he must go in
to them for something. He stood up, and it seemed to him that he was already going to them,
but stumbled and fell over a heap of firewood which the old woman had flung down in the
middle of the floor. At that point he lost consciousness completely, and opening his eyes after
a long, long time, noticed with surprise that he was lying on the same locker, just as he was,
in his clothes, and that over him there bent with tender solicitude a woman’s face, divinely,
beautiful and, it seemed, drenched with gentle, motherly tears. He felt her put a pillow under
his head and lay something warm over him, and some tender hand was laid on his feverish
brow. He wanted to say “Thank you,” he wanted to take that hand, to press it to his parched
lips, to wet it with his tears, to kiss, to kiss it to all eternity. He wanted to say a great deal, but
what he did not know himself; he would have been glad to die at that instant. But his arms felt
like lead and would not move; he was as it were numb, and felt nothing but the blood pulsing
through his veins, with throbs which seemed to lift him up as he lay in bed. Somebody gave
him water... At last he fell into unconsciousness.
He woke up at eight o’clock in the morning. The sunshine was pouring through the green,
mouldy windows in a sheaf of golden rays; a feeling of comfort relaxed the sick man’s limbs.
He was quiet and calm, infinitely happy. It seemed to him that someone had just been by his
pillow. He woke up, looking anxiously around him for that unseen being; he so longed to
embrace his friend and for the first time in his life to say, “A happy day to you, my dear one.”
“What a long time you have been asleep!” said a woman’s gentle voice.
Ordynov looked round, and the face of his beautiful landlady was bending over him with a
friendly smile as clear as sunlight.
“How long you have been ill!” she said. “It’s enough; get up. Why keep yourself in
bondage? Freedom is sweeter than bread, fairer than sunshine. Get up, my dove, get up.”
Ordynov seized her hand and pressed it warmly. It seemed to. him that he was still
“Wait; I’ve made tea for you. Do you want some tea? You had better have some; you’ll
be better. I’ve been ill myself and I know.”
“Yes, give me something to drink,” said Ordynov in a faint voice, and he got up on his
feet. He was still very weak. A chill ran down his spine, all his limbs ached and felt as though
they were broken. But there was a radiance in his heart, and the sunlight seemed to warm
him with a sort of solemn, serene joy. He felt that a new, intense, incredible life was beginning
for him. His head was in a slight whirl.
“Your name is Vassily?” she asked. “Either I have made a mistake, or I fancy the master
called you that yesterday.”
“Yes, it is. And what is your name?” said Ordynov, going nearer to her and hardly able to
stand on his feet. He staggered.
She caught him by the arm, and laughed.
“My name is Katerina,” she said, looking into his face with her large, clear blue eyes.They were holding each other by the hands.
“You want to say something to me,” she said at last.
“I don’t know,” answered Ordynov; everything was dark before his eyes.
“See what a state you’re in. There, my dove, there; don’t grieve, don’t pine; sit here at
the table in the sun; sit quiet, and don’t follow me,” she added, seeing that the young man
made a movement as though to keep her. “I will be with you again at once; you have plenty of
time to see as much as you want of me.” A minute later she brought in the tea, put it on the
table, and sat down opposite him.
“Come, drink it up,” she said. “Does your head ache?”
“No, now it doesn’t ache,” he said. “I don’t know, perhaps it does... I don’t want any...
enough, enough!... I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” he said, breathless, and finding
her hand at last. “Stay here, don’t go away from me; give me your hand again... It’s all dark
before my eyes; I look at you as though you were the sun,” he said, as it were tearing the
words out of his heart, and almost swooning with ecstasy as he uttered them. His throat was
choking with sobs.
“Poor fellow! It seems you have not lived with anyone kind. You are all lonely and forlorn.
Haven’t you any relations?”
“No, no one; I am alone... never mind, it’s no matter! Now it’s better; I am all right now,”
said Ordynov, as though in delirium. The room seemed to him to be going round.
“I, too, have not seen my people for many years. You look at me as...” she said, after a
minute’s silence.
“Well... what?”
“You look at me as though my eyes were warming you! You know, when you love
anyone... I took you to my heart from the first word. If you are ill I will look after you again.
Only don’t you be ill; no. When you get up we will live like brother and sister. Will you? You
know it’s difficult to get a sister if God has not given you one.”
“Who are you? Where do you come from?” said Ordynov in a weak voice.
“I am not of these parts... You know the folks tell how twelve brothers lived in a dark
forest, and how a fair maiden lost her way in that forest. She went to them and tidied
everything in the house for them, and put her love into everything. The brothers came home,
and learned that the sister had spent the day there. They began calling her; she came out to
them. They all called her sister, gave her freedom, and she was equal with all. Do you know
the fairy tale?”
“I know it,” whispered Ordynov.
“Life is sweet; is it sweet to you to live in the world?”
“Yes, yes; to live for a long time, to live for ages,” answered Ordynov.
“I don’t know,” said Katerina dreamily. “I should like death, too. Is life sweet? To love,
and to love good people, yes... Look, you’ve turned as white as flour again.”
“Yes, my head’s going round...”
“Stay, I will bring you my bedclothes and another pillow; I will make up the bed here.
Sleep, and dream of me; your weakness will pass. Our old woman is ill, too.”
While she talked she began making the bed, from time to time looking at Ordynov with a
“What a lot of books you’ve got!” she said, moving away a box.
She went up to him, took him by. the right arm, led him to the bed, tucked him up and
covered him with the quilt.
“They say books spoil a man,” she said, shaking her head thoughtfully. “Do you like
“Yes,” answered Ordynov, not knowing whether he were asleep or awake, and pressing
Katerina’s hand tight to assure himself that he was awake.
“My master has a lot of books; you should see! He says they are religious books. He’salways reading to me out of them. I will show you afterwards; you shall tell me afterwards
what he reads to me out of them.”
“Tell me,” whispered Ordynov, keeping his eyes fixed on her.
“Are you fond of praying?” she said to him after a moment’s silence. “Do you know. I’m
afraid, I am always afraid...”
She did not finish; she seemed to be meditating. At last Ordynov raised her hand to his
“Why are you kissing my hand?” (and her cheeks flushed faintly crimson). “Here, kiss
them,” she said, laughing and holding out both hands to him; then she took one away and laid
it on his burning forehead; then she began to stroke and arrange his hair. She flushed more
and more; at last she sat down on the floor by his bedside and laid her cheek against his
cheek; her warm, damp breath tickled his face... At last Ordynov felt a gush of hot tears fall
from her eyes like molten lead on his cheeks. He felt weaker and weaker; he was too faint to
move a hand. At that moment there was a knock at the door, followed by the grating of the
bolt. Ordynov could hear the old man, his landlord, come in from the other side of the
partition. Then he heard Katerina get up, without haste and without listening, take her books;
he felt her make the sign of the cross over him as she went out; he closed his eyes. Suddenly
a long, burning kiss scorched his feverish lips; it was like a knife thrust into his heart. He
uttered a faint shriek and sank into unconsciousness...
Then a strange life began for him.
In moments when his mind was not clear, the thought flashed upon him that he was
condemned to live in a long, unending dream, full of strange, fruitless agitations, struggles and
sufferings. In terror he tried to resist the disastrous fatalism that weighed upon him, and at a
moment of tense and desperate conflict some unknown force struck him again and he felt
clearly that he was once more losing memory, that an impassable, bottomless abyss was
opening before him and he was flinging himself into it with a wail of anguish and despair. At
times he had moments of insufferable, devastating happiness, when the life force quickens
convulsively in the whole organism, when the past shines clear, when the present glad
moment resounds with triumph and one dreams, awake, of a future beyond all ken; when a
hope beyond words falls with life-giving dew on the soul; when one wants to scream with
ecstasy; when one feels that the flesh is too weak for such a mass of impressions, that the
whole thread of existence is breaking, and yet, at the same time, one greets all one’s life with
hope and renewal. At times he sank into lethargy, and then everything that had happened to
him the last few days was repeated again, and passed across his mind in a swarm of broken,
vague images; but his visions came in strange and enigmatic form. At times the sick man
forgot what had happened to him, and wondered that he was not in his old lodging with his old
landlady. He could not understand why the old woman did not come as she always used at
the twilight hour to the stove, which from time to time flooded the whole dark comer of the
room with a faint, flickering glow, to warm her trembling, bony hands at the dying embers
before the fire went out, always talking and whispering to herself, and sometimes looking at
him, her strange lodger, who had, she thought, grown mad by sitting so long over his books.
Another time he would remember that he had moved into another lodging; but how it had
happened, what was the matter with him, and why he had to move he did not know, though
his whole soul was swooning in continual, irresistible yearning... But to what end, what led him
on and tortured him, and who had kindled this terrible flame that stifled him and consumed his
blood, again he did not know and could not remember. Often he greedily clutched at some
shadow, often he heard the rustle of light footsteps near his bed, and a whisper, sweet as
music, of tender, caressing words. Someone’s moist and uneven breathing passed over his
face, thrilling his whole being with love; hot tears dropped upon his feverish cheeks, and
suddenly a long, tender kiss was printed on his lips; then his life lay languishing in
unquenchable torture; all existence, the whole world, seemed standing still, seemed to bedying for ages around him, and everything seemed shrouded in a long night of a thousand
Then the tender, calmly flowing years of early childhood seemed coming back to him
again with serene joy, with the inextinguishable happiness, the first sweet wonder of life, with
the swarms of bright spirits that fluttered under every flower he picked, that sported with him
on the luxuriant green meadow before the little house among the acacias, that smiled at him
from the immense crystal lake beside which he would sit for hours together, listening to the
plashing of the waves, and that rustled about him with their wings, lovingly scattering bright
rainbow dreams upon his little cot, while his mother, bending over him, made the sign of the
cross, kissed him, and sang him sweet lullabies in the long, peaceful nights. But then a being
suddenly began to appear who overwhelmed him with a childlike terror, first bringing into his
life the slow poison of sorrow and tears; he dimly felt that an unknown old man held all his
future years in thrall, and, trembling, he could not turn his eyes away from him. The wicked
old man followed him about everywhere. He peeped out and treacherously nodded to the boy
from under every bush in the copse, laughed and mocked at him, took the shape of every
doll, grimacing and laughing in his hands, like a spiteful evil gnome: he set every one of the
child’s inhuman schoolfellows against him, or, sitting with the little ones on the school bench,
peeped out, grimacing, from every letter of his grammar. Then when he was asleep the evil
old man sat by his pillow... he drove away the bright spirits whose gold and sapphire wings
rustled about his cot, carried off his poor mother from him for ever, and began whispering to
him every night long, wonderful fairy tales, unintelligible to his childish imagination, but thrilling
and tormenting him with terror and unchildlike passion. But the wicked old man did not heed
his sobs and entreaties, and would go on talking to him till he sank into numbness, into
unconsciousness. Then the child suddenly woke up a man; the years passed over him
unseen, unheeded. He suddenly became aware of his real position. He understood all at once
that he was alone, an alien to all the world, alone in a comer not his own, among mysterious
and suspicious people, among enemies who were always gathering together and whispering in
the comers of his dark room, and nodding to the old woman squatting on her heels near the
fire, warming her bony old hands, and pointing to him. He sank into perplexity and uneasiness;
he wanted to know who these people were, why they were here, why he was himself in this
room, and guessed that he had strayed into some dark den of miscreants, drawn on by some
powerful but incomprehensible force, without having first found out who and what die tenants
were and who his landlord was. He began to be tortured by suspicion — and suddenly, in the
stillness of the night, again there began a long whispered story and some old woman,
mournfully nodding her white, grizzled head before the dying fire, was muttering it softly,
hardly audibly to herself. But — and again he was overcome with horror — the story took
shape before him in forms and faces. He saw everything, from his dim, childish visions
upwards: all his thoughts and dreams, all his experiences in life, all he had read in books,
things he had forgotten long ago, all were coming to life, all were being put together, taking
shape and rising up before him in colossal forms and images, moving and swarming about
him; he saw spread out before him magnificent, enchanted gardens, a whole town built up and
demolished before his eyes, a whole churchyard giving up its dead, who began living over
again; whole races and peoples came into being and passed away before his eyes; finally,
every one of his thoughts, every immaterial fancy, now took bodily shape around his sick-bed;
took bodily shape almost at the moment of its conception: at last he saw himself thinking not
in immaterial ideas, but in whole worlds, whole creations, saw himself borne along like an
atom in this infinite, strange world from which there was no escape, and all this life in its
mutinous independence crushing and oppressing him and pursuing him with eternal, infinite
irony; he felt that he was dying, dissolving into dust and ashes for ever, and even without
hope of resurrection, he tried to flee, but there was no comer in all the universe to hide him.
At last, in an access of despair, he made an intense effort, uttered a shriek and woke up.He woke up, bathed in a chill, icy sweat. About him was a deadly silence; it was the dead
of night. But still it seemed to him that somewhere the wonderful fairy tale was going on, that
some hoarse voice was really telling along story of something that seemed familiar to him. He
heard talk of dark forests, of bold brigands, of some daring bravoes, maybe of Stenka Razin
himself, of merry drunken bargemen, of some fair maiden, and of Mother Volga. Was it not a
fairy tale? Was he really hearing it? For a whole hour he lay, open-eyed, without stirring a
muscle, in agonising numbness. At last he got up carefully, and joyfully felt that his strength
had come back to him after his severe illness. The delirium was over and reality was
beginning. He noticed that he was dressed exactly as he had been during his talk with
Katerina, so that it could not have been long since the morning she had left him. The fire of
resolution ran through his veins. Mechanically he felt with his hand for a big nail for some
reason driven into the top of the partition near which stood his bed, seized it, and hanging his
whole weight upon it, succeeded in pulling himself up to the crevice from which a hardly
perceptible light stole into his room. He put his eye to the opening and, almost breathless with
excitement, began peeping in.
There was a bed in the comer of the landlord’s room; before it was a table covered with a
cloth and piled up with books of old-fashioned shape, looking from their bindings like
devotional books. In the corner was an ikon of the same old- fashioned pattern as in his room;
a lamp was burning before it. On the bed lay the old man, Murin, sick, worn out with suffering
and pale as a sheet, covered with a fur rag. On his knees was an open book. On a bench
beside the bed lay Katerina, with her arm about the old man’s chest and her head bent on his
shoulder. She was looking at him with attentive, childishly wondering eyes, and seemed,
breathless with expectation, to be listening with insatiable curiosity to what Murin was telling
her. From time to time the speaker’s voice rose higher, there was a shade of animation on his
pale face; he frowned, his eyes began to flash, and Katerina seemed to turn pale with dread
and expectation. Then something like a smile came into the old man’s face and Katerina
began laughing softly: Sometimes tears came into her eyes; then the old man tenderly
stroked her on the head like a child, and she embraced him more tightly than ever with her
bare arm that gleamed like snow, and nestled even more lovingly to his bosom.
At times Ordynov still thought this was part of his dream; in fact, he was convinced of it;
but the blood rushed to his head and the veins throbbed painfully in his temples. He let go of
the nail, got off the bed, and staggering, feeling his way like a lunatic, without understanding
the impulse that flamed up like fire in his blood, he went to the door and pushed violently; the
rusty bolt flew open at once, and with a bang and a crash he suddenly found himself in the
middle of the landlord’s bedroom. He saw Katerina start and tremble, saw the old man’s eyes
flash angrily under his lowering brows, and his whole face contorted with sudden fury. He saw
the old man, still keeping close watch upon him, feel hurriedly with fumbling hand for a gun
that hung upon the wall; then he saw the barrel of the gun flash, aimed straight at his breast
with an uncertain hand that trembled with fury... There was the sound of a shot, then a wild,
almost unhuman, scream, and when the smoke parted, a terrible sight met Ordynov’s eyes.
Trembling all over, he bent over the old man. Murin was lying on the floor; he was writhing in
convulsions, his face was contorted in agony, and there was foam upon his working lips.
Ordynov guessed that the unhappy man was in a severe epileptic fit. He flew, together with
Katerina, to help him...
Chapter 3

The whole night was spent in agitation. Next day Ordynov went out early in the morning,
in spite of his weakness and the fever that still hung about him. In the yard he met the porter
again. This time the Tartar lifted his cap to him from a distance and looked at him with
curiosity. Then, as though pulling himself together, he set to work with his broom, glancing
askance at Ordynov as the latter slowly approached him.
“Well, did you hear nothing in the night?” asked Ordynov.
“Yes, I heard.”
“What sort of man is he? Who is he?”
“Self took lodgings, self should know; me stranger.”
“Will you ever speak?” cried Ordynov, beside himself with an access of morbid irritability.
“What did me do? Your fault — you frightened the tenants. Below lives the coffin-maker,
he deaf, but heard it all, and his wife deaf, but she heard, and in the next yard, far away, they
heard. I go to the overseer.”
“I am going to him myself,” answered Ordynov; and he went to the gate.
“As you will; self took the room... Master, master, stay.” Ordynov looked round; the
porter touched his hat from politeness.
“If you go, I go to the landlord.”
“Better move.”
“You’re stupid,” said Ordynov, and was going on again. “Master, master, stay.” The
porter touched his hat again and grinned. “Listen, master: be not wrathful; why persecute a
poor man? It’s a sin to persecute a poor man. It is not God’s law — do you hear?”
“You listen, too: here, take that. Come, what is he?”
“What is he?”
“I’ll tell you without money.”
At this point the porter took up his broom, brandished it once or twice, then stopped and
looked intently, with an air of importance, at Ordynov.
“You’re a nice gentleman. If you don’t want to live with a good man, do as you like; that’s
what I say.”
Then the Tatar looked at him still more expressively, and fell to sweeping furiously again.
Making a show of having finished something at last, he went up to Ordynov mysteriously,
and with a very expressive gesture pronounced —
“This is how it is.”
“How — what?”
“No sense.”
“Has flown away. Yes! Has flown away!” he repeated in a still more mysterious tone. “He
is ill. He used to have a barge, a big one, and a second and a third, used to be on the Volga,
and me from the Volga myself. He had a factory, too, but it was burnt down, and he is off his
“He is mad?”
“Nay!... Nay!...” the Tatar answered emphatically. “Not mad. He is a clever man. He
knows everything; he has read many books, many, many; he has read everything, and tells
others the truth. Some bring two roubles, three roubles, forty roubles, as much as you please;
he looks in a book, sees and tells the whole truth. And the money’s on the table at once —nothing without money!”
At this point the Tatar positively laughed with glee, throwing himself into Murin’s interests
with extreme zest.
“Why, does he tell fortunes, prophesy?”
“H’m!...” muttered the porter, wagging his head quickly. “He tells the truth. He prays,
prays a great deal. It’s just that way, comes upon him.”
Then the Tatar made his expressive gesture again.
At that moment someone called the porter from the other yard, and then a little, bent,
grey-headed man in a sheepskin appeared. He walked, stumbling and looking at the ground,
groaning and muttering to himself. He looked as though he were in his dotage.
“The master, the master!” the porter whispered in a fluster, with a hurried nod to
Ordynov, and taking off his cap, he ran to meet the old man, whose face looked familiar to
Ordynov; he had anyway met him somewhere just lately.
Reflecting, however, that there was nothing remarkable in that, he walked out of the
yard. The porter struck him as an out-and-out rogue and an impudent fellow.
“The scoundrel was practically bargaining with me!” he thought. “Goodness knows what it
He had reached the street as he said this.
By degrees he began to be absorbed in other thoughts. The impression was unpleasant,
the day was grey and cold; flakes of snow were flying. The young man felt overcome by a
feverish shiver again; he felt, too, as though the earth were shaking under him. All at once an
unpleasantly sweet, familiar voice wished him good-morning in a broken tenor.
“Yaroslav Ilyitch,” said Ordynov.
Before him stood a short, sturdy, red-cheeked man, apparently about thirty, with oily
grey eyes and a little smile, dressed... as Yaroslav Ilyitch always was dressed. He was holding
out his hand to him in a very amicable way. Ordynov had made the acquaintance of Yaroslav
Ilyitch just a year before in quite a casual way, almost in the street. They had so easily
become acquainted, partly by chance and partly through Yaroslav Ilyitch’s extraordinary
propensity for picking up everywhere good-natured, well-bred people, and his preference for
friends of good education whose talents and elegance of behaviour made them worthy at least
of belonging to good society. Though Yaroslav Ilyitch had an extremely sweet tenor, yet even
in conversation with his dearest friends there was something extraordinarily clear, powerful
and dominating in the tone of his voice that would put up with no evasions; it was perhaps
merely due to habit.
“How on earth...?” exclaimed Yaroslav Ilyitch, with an expression of the most genuine,
ecstatic pleasure.
“I am living here.”
“Have you lived here long?” Yaroslav Ilyitch continued on an ascending note. “And I did
not know it! Why, we are neighbours! I am in this quarter now. I came back from the Ryazan
province a month ago. I’ve caught you, my old and noble friend!” and Yaroslav Ilyitch laughed
in a most good-natured way. “Sergeyev!” he cried impressively, “wait for me at Tarasov’s, and
don’t let them touch a sack without me. And stir up the Olsufyev porter; tell him to come to
the office at once. I shall be there in an hour...”
Hurriedly giving someone this order, the refined Yaroslav Ilyitch took Ordynov’s arm and
led him to the nearest restaurant.
“I shall not be satisfied till we have had a couple of words alone after such a long
separation. Well, what of your doings?” he pronounced almost reverently, dropping his voice
mysteriously. “Working at science, as ever?”
“Yes, as before,” answered Ordynov, struck by a bright idea.
“Splendid, Vassily Mihalitch, splendid!” At this point Yaroslav Ilyitch pressed Ordynov’s
hand warmly. “You will be a credit to the community. God give you luck in your career...Goodness! how glad I am I met you! How often I have thought of you, how often I have said:
‘Where is he, our good, noble-hearted, witty Vassily Mihalitch?’”
They engaged a private room. Yaroslav Ilyitch ordered lunch, asked for vodka, and
looked feelingly at Ordynov.
“I have read a great deal since I saw you,” he began in a timid and somewhat insinuating
voice. “I have read all Pushkin…”
Ordynov looked at him absent-mindedly.
“A marvellous understanding of human passion. But first of all, let me express my
gratitude. You have done so much for me by nobly instilling into me a right way of thinking.”
“Upon my word...”
“No, let me speak; I always like to pay honour where honour is due, and I am proud that
this feeling at least has found expression.”
“Really, you are unfair to yourself, and I, indeed...”
“No, I am quite fair,” Yaroslav Uyitch replied, with extraordinary warmth. “What am I in
comparison with you?”
“Good Heavens!”
Then followed silence.
“Following your advice, I have dropped many low acquaintances and have, to some
extent, softened the coarseness of my manners,” Yaroslav Ilyitch began again in a somewhat
timid and insinuating voice. “In the time when I am free from my duties I sit for the most part
at home; in the evenings I read some improving book and... I have only one desire, Vassily
Mihalitch: to be of some little use to the fatherland...”
“I have always thought you a very high-minded man, Yaroslav Ilyitch.”
“You always bring balm to my spirit... you generous young man...”
Yaroslav Ilyitch pressed Ordynov’s hand warmly.
“You are drinking nothing?” he said, his enthusiasm subsiding a little.
“I can’t; I’m ill.”
“Ill? Yes, are you really? How long — in what way — did you come to be ill? If you like I’ll
speak... What doctor is treating you? If you like I’ll speak to our parish doctor. I’ll run round to
him myself. He’s a very skilful man!”
Yaroslav Ilyitch was already picking up his hat.
“Thank you very much. I don’t go in for being doctored. I don’t like doctors.”
“You don’t say so? One can’t go on like that. But he’s a very clever man,” Yaroslav Ilyitch
went on imploringly. “The other day — do allow me to tell you this, dear Vassily Mihalitch —
the other day a poor carpenter came. ‘Here,’ said he, ‘I hurt my hand with a tool; cure it for
me...’ Semyon Pafnutyitch, seeing that the poor fellow was in danger of gangrene, set to work
to cut off the wounded hand; he did this in my presence, but it was done in such a gener...
that is, in such a superb way, that I confess if it had not been for compassion for suffering
humanity, it would have been a pleasure to look on, simply from curiosity. But where and how
did you fall ill?”
“In moving from my lodging... I’ve only just got up.”
“But you are still very unwell and you ought not to be out. So you are not living where you
were before? But what induced you to move?”
“My landlady was leaving Petersburg.”
“Domna Savishna? Really?... A thoroughly estimable, good-hearted woman! Do you
know? I had almost a son’s respect for her. That life, so near its end, had something of the
serene dignity of our forefathers, and looking at her, one seemed to see the incarnation of our
hoary-headed, stately old traditions... I mean of that... something in it so poetical!” Yaroslav
Ilyitch concluded, completely overcome with shyness and blushing to his ears.
“Yes, she was a nice woman.”“But allow me to ask you where you are settled now.”
“Not far from here, in Koshmarov’s Buildings.”
“I know him. A grand old man! I am, I may say, almost a real friend of his. A fine old
Yaroslav Ilyitch’s bps almost quivered with enthusiasm. He asked for another glass of
vodka and a pipe.
“Have you taken a flat?”
“No, a furnished room in a flat.”
“Who is your landlord? Perhaps I know him, too.”
“Murin, an artisan; a tall old man...”
“Murin, Murin; yes, in the back court, over the coffin- maker’s, allow me to ask?”
“Yes, yes, in the back court.”
“H’m! are you comfortable there?”
“Yes; I’ve only just moved in.”
“H’m!... I only meant to say, h’m!... have you noticed nothing special?”
“That is... I am sure you will be all right there if you are satisfied with your quarters... I did
not mean that; I am ready to warn you... but, knowing your character... How did that old
artisan strike you?”
“He seems to be quite an invalid.”
“Yes, he’s a great sufferer... But have you noticed nothing? Have you talked to him?”
“Very little; he is so morose and unsociable.”
“H’m!...” Yaroslav Ilyitch mused. “He’s an unfortunate man,” he said dreamily.
“Is he?”
“Yes, unfortunate, and at the same time an incredibly strange and interesting person.
However, if he does not worry you... Excuse my dwelling upon such a subject, but I was
“And you have really roused my curiosity, too... I should very much like to know what sort
of a man he is. Besides, I am living with him...”
“You know, they say the man was once very rich. He traded, as most likely you have
heard. But through various unfortunate circumstances he was reduced to poverty; many of his
barges were wrecked in a storm and lost, together with their cargo. His factory, which was, I
believe, in the charge of a near and dear relation, was equally unlucky and was burnt down,
and the relation himself perished in the flames. It must be admitted it was a terrible loss!
Then, so they say, Murin sank into tearful despondency; they began to be afraid he would
lose his reason, and, indeed, in a quarrel with another merchant, also an owner of barges
plying on the Volga, he suddenly showed himself in such a strange an unexpected light that
the whole incident could only be accounted for on the supposition that he was quite mad,
which I am prepared to believe. I have heard in detail of some of his queer ways; there
suddenly happened at last a very strange, so to say momentous, circumstance which can only
be attributed to the malign influence of wrathful destiny.”
“What was it?” asked Ordynov.
“They say that in a fit of madness he made an attempt on the life of a young merchant,
of whom he had before been very fond. He was so upset when he recovered from the attack
that he was on the point of taking his own life; so at least they say. I don’t know what
happened after that, but it is known that he was several years doing penance... But what is
the matter with you, Vassily Mihalitch? Am I fatiguing you with my artless tale?”
“Oh no, for goodness’ sake... You say that he has been doing penance; but he is not
“I don’t know. I am told he was alone. Anyway, no one else was mixed up in that affair.
However, I have not heard what followed; I only know...”“Well?”
“I only know — that is, I had nothing special in my mind to add... I only want to say, if
you find anything strange or out of the ordinary in him, all that is merely the result of the
misfortunes that have descended upon him one after the other...”
“Yes, he is so devout, so sanctimonious.”
“I don’t think so, Vassily Mihalitch; he has suffered so much; I believe he is quite
“But now, of course, he is not mad; he is all right.”
“Oh, yes, yes; I can answer for that, I am ready to take my oath on it; he is in full
possession of all his faculties. He is only, as you have justly observed, extremely strange and
devout. He is a very sensible man, in fact. He speaks smartly, boldly and very subtly. The
traces of his stormy life in the past are still visible on his face. He’s a curious man, and very
well read.”
“He seems to be always reading religious books.”
“Yes, he is a mystic.”
“A mystic. But I tell you that as a secret. I will tell you, as a secret, too, that a very
careful watch was kept on him for a time. The man had a great influence on people who used
to go to him.”
“What sort of influence?”
“But you’ll never believe it; you see, in those days he did not live in this building; Alexandr
Ignatyevitch, a respectable citizen, a man of standing, held in universal esteem, went to see
him with a lieutenant out of curiosity. They arrive and are received, and the strange man
begins by looking into their faces. He usually looks into people’s faces if he consents to be of
use to them; if not, he sends people away, and even very uncivilly, I’m told. He asks them,
‘What do you want, gentlemen?’ ‘Well,’ answers Alexandr Ignatyevitch, ‘your gift can tell you
that, without our saying.’ ‘Come with me into the next room,’ he says; then he signified which
of them it was who needed his services. Alexandr Ignatyevitch did not say what happened to
him afterwards, but he came out from him as white as a sheet. The same thing happened to a
well-known lady of high rank; she, too, came out from seeing him as white as a sheet, bathed
in tears and overcome with his predictions and his sayings.”
“Strange. But now does he still do the same?”
“It’s strictly prohibited. There have been marvellous instances. A young comet, the hope
and joy of a distinguished family, mocked at him. ‘What are you laughing at?’ said the old
man, angered. ‘In three days’ time you will be like this!’ and he crossed his arms over his
bosom to signify a corpse.”
“I don’t venture to believe it, but they say his prediction came true. He has a gift, Vassily
Mihalitch... You are pleased to smile at my guileless story. I know that you are greatly ahead
of me in culture; but I believe in him; he’s not a charlatan. Pushkin himself mentions a similar
case in his works.”
“H’m! I don’t want to contradict you. I think you said he’s not living alone?”
“I don’t know... I believe his daughter is with him.”
“Yes, or perhaps his wife; I know there is some woman with him. I have had a passing
glimpse of her, but I did not notice.”
“H’m! Strange...”
The young man fell to musing, Yaroslav Ilyitch to tender contemplation of him. He was
touched both at seeing an old friend and at having satisfactorily told him something very
interesting. He sat sucking his pipe with his eyes fixed on Vassily Mihalitch; but suddenly he
jumped up in a fluster.“A whole hour has passed and I forgot the time! Dear Vassily Mihalitch, once more I
thank the lucky chance that brought us together, but it is time for me to be off. Will you allow
me to visit you in your learned retreat?”
“Please do, I shall be delighted. I will come and see you, too, when I have a chance.”
“That’s almost too pleasant to believe. You gratify me, you gratify me unutterably! You
would not believe how you have delighted me!”
They went out of the restaurant. Sergeyev was already flying to meet them and to report
in a hurried sentence that Vilyam Emelyanovitch was pleased to be driving out. A pair of
spirited roans in a smart light gig did, in fact, come into sight. The trace horse was particularly
fine. Yaroslav Ilyitch pressed his best friend’s hand as though in a vice, touched his hat and
set off to meet the flying gig. On the way he turned round once or twice to nod farewells to
Ordynov felt so tired, so exhausted in every limb, that he could scarcely move his legs.
He managed somehow to crawl home. At the gate he was met again by the porter, who had
been diligently watching his parting from Yaroslav Ilyitch, and beckoning him from a distance.
But the young man passed him by. At the door of his flat he ran full tilt against a little
greyheaded figure coming out from Murin’s room, looking on the ground.
“Lord forgive my transgressions!” whispered the figure, skipping on one side with the
springiness of a cork.
“Did I hurt you?”
“No, I humbly thank you for your civility... Oh, Lord, Lord!”
The meek little man, groaning and moaning and muttering something edifying to himself,
went cautiously down the stairs. This was the “master” of the house, of whom the porter stood
in such awe. Only then Ordynov remembered that he had seen him for the first time, here at
Murin’s, when he was moving into the lodging.
He felt unhinged and shaken; he knew that his imagination and impressionability were
strained to the utmost pitch, and resolved not to trust himself. By degrees he sank into a sort
of apathy. A heavy oppressive feeling weighed upon his chest. His heart ached as though it
were sore all over, and his whole soul was full of dumb, comfortless tears.
He fell again upon the bed which she had made him, and began listening again. He heard
two breathings: one the heavy broken breathing of a sick man, the other soft but uneven, as
though also stirred by emotion, as though that heart was beating with the same yearning, with
the same passion. At times he heard the rustle of her dress the faint stir of her soft light
steps, and even that faint stir of her feet echoed with a vague but agonisingly sweet pang in
his heart. At last he seemed to distinguish sobs, rebellious sighs, and at last, praying again.
He knew that she was kneeling before the ikon, wringing her hands in a frenzy of despair!...
Who was she? For whom was she praying? By what desperate passion was her heart tom?
Why did it ache and grieve and pour itself out in such hot and hopeless tears?
He began to recall her words. All that she had said to him was still ringing in his ears
likemusic, and his heart lovingly responded with a vague heavy throb at every recollection, every
word of hers as he devoutly repeated it... For an instant a thought flashed through his mind
that he had dreamed all this. But at the same moment his whole being ached in swooning
anguish as the impression of her hot breath, her words, her kiss rose vividly again in his
imagination. He closed his eyes and sank into oblivion. A clock struck somewhere; it was
getting late; twilight was falling.
It suddenly seemed to him that she was bending over him again, that she was looking
into his eyes with her exquisitely clear eyes, wet with sparkling tears of serene, happy joy, soft
and bright as the infinite turquoise vault of heaven at hot midday. Her face beamed with such
triumphant peace; her smile was warm with such solemnity of infinite bliss; she leaned with
such sympathy, with such childlike impulsiveness on his shoulder that a moan of joy broke
from his exhausted bosom. She tried to tell him something, caressingly she confidedsomething to him. Again it was as though heartrending music smote upon his hearing.
Greedily he drank in the air, warm, electrified by her near breathing. In anguish he stretched
out his arms, sighed, opened his eyes... She stood before him, bending down to his face, all
pale as from fear, all in tears, all quivering with emotion. She was saying something to him,
entreating him with half-bare arms, clasping and wringing her hands; he folded her in his
arms, she quivered on his bosom...
Part 2
Chapter 1

“What is it? What is the matter with you?” said Ordynov, waking up completely, still
pressing her in his strong, warm embrace. “What is the matter with you, Katerina? What is it,
my love?”
She sobbed softly with downcast eyes, hiding her flushed face on his breast. For a long
while she could not speak and kept trembling as though in terror.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” she said at last, in a hardly audible voice, gasping for breath,
and scarcely able to articulate. ‘‘I don’t know how I came here...” She clasped him even more
tightly, with even more intensity, and in a violent irrepressible rush of feeling, kissed his
shoulder, his hands, his chest; at last, as though in despair, she hid her face in her hands, fell
on her knees, and buried her head in his knees. When Ordynov, in inexpressible anguish,
lifted her up impatiently and made her sit down beside him, her whole face glowed with a full
flush of shame, her weeping eyes sought forgiveness, and the smile that, in spite of herself,
played on her lip could scarcely subdue the violence of her new feeling. Now she seemed
again frightened, mistrustfully she pushed away his hand, and, with drooping head, answered
his hurried questions in a fearful whisper.
“Perhaps you have had a terrible dream?” said Ordynov. “Perhaps you have seen some
vision... Yes? Perhaps he has frightened you... He is delirious and unconscious. Perhaps he
has said something that was not for you to hear? Did you hear something? Yes?”
“No, I have not been asleep,” answered Katerina, stifling her emotion with an effort.
“Sleep did not come to me, he has been silent all the while and only once he called me. I went
up, called his name, spoke to him; I was frightened; he did not wake and did not hear me. He
is terribly sick; the Lord succour himl Then misery came upon my heart, bitter misery! I prayed
and prayed and then this came upon me.”
“Hush, Katerina, hush, my life, hush I You were frightened yesterday...”
“No, I was not frightened yesterday!...”
“Has it ever been like this with you at other times?”
“Yes.” And again she trembled all over and huddled up to him like a child. “You see,” she
said, repressing her sobs, “it was not for nothing that I have come to you, it was not for
nothing that I could not bear to stay alone,” she repeated, gratefully pressing his hands.
“Enough, enough shedding tears over other people’s sorrows! Save them for a dark day when
you are lonely and cast down and there is no one with you!... Listen, have you ever had a
“No... I never knew a love before you...”
“Before me?... You call me your love?”
She suddenly looked at him as though surprised, would have said something, but then
was silent and looked down. By degrees her whole face suddenly flushed again a glowing
crimson; her eyes shone more brightly through the forgotten tears still warm on her
eyelashes, and it could be seen that some question was hovering on her lips. With bashful
shyness she looked at him once or twice and then looked down again.
“No, it is not for me to be your first love,” she said. “No, no,” she said, shaking her head
thoughtfully, while the smile stole gently again over her face. “No,” she said, at last, laughing;
“it’s not for me, my own, to be your love.”
At that point she glanced at him, but there was suddenly such sadness reflected in her
face, such hopeless sorrow suddenly overshadowed all her features, such despair all at once
surged up from within, from her heart, that Ordynov was overwhelmed by an unaccountable,
painful feeling of compassion for her mysterious grief and looked at her with indescribable
distress.“Listen to what I say to you,” she said in a voice that wrung his heart, pressing his hands
in hers, struggling to stifle her sobs. “Heed me well, listen, my joy! You calm your heart’ and
do not love me as you love me now. It will be better for you, your heart will be lighter and
gladder, and you will guard yourself from a fell foe and will win a sister fond. I will come and
see you as you please, fondle you and take no shame upon myself for making friends with
you. I was with you for two days when you lay in that cruel sickness! Get to know your sister!
It is not for nothing that we have sworn to be brother and sister, it is not for nothing that I
prayed and wept to the Holy Mother for you! You won’t get another sister! You may go all
round the world, you may get to know the whole earth and not find another love like mine, if it
is love your heart wants. I will love you warmly, I will always love you as I do now, and I will
love you because your soul is pure and clean and can be seen through; because when first I
glanced at you, at once I knew you were the guest of my house, the longed-for guest, and it
was not for nothing that you wanted to come to us; I love you because when you look at me
your eyes are full of love and speak for your heart, and when they say anything, at once I
know of all that is within you and long to give my life for your love, my freedom, because it is
sweet to be even a slave to the man whose heart I have found... But my life is not mine but
another’s... and my freedom is bound! Take me for a sister and be a brother to me and take
me to your heart when misery, when cruel weakness falls upon me; only do so that I have no
shame to come to you and sit through the long night with you as now. Do you hear me? Is
your heart opened to me? Do you understand what I have been saying to you?...”
She tried to say something more, glanced at him, laid her hand on his shoulder and at
last sank helpless on his bosom. Her voice died away in convulsive, passionate sobbing, her
bosom heaved, and her face flushed like an evening sunset.
“My life,” whispered Ordynov; everything was dark before his eyes and he could hardly
breathe. “My joy,” he said, not knowing what he was saying, not understanding himself,
trembling lest a breath should break the spell, should destroy everything that was happening,
which he took rather for a vision than reality: so misty was everything around him! “I don’t
know, I don’t understand you, I don’t remember what you have just said to me, my mind is
darkened, my heart aches, my queen!”
At this point his voice broke with emotion. She clung more tightly, more warmly, more
fervently to him. He got up, no longer able to restrain himself; shattered, exhausted by
ecstasy, he fell on his knees. Convulsive sobs broke agonisingly from his breast at last, and
the voice that came straight from his heart quivered like a harp-string, from the fulness of
unfathomable ecstasy and bliss.
“Who are you, who are you, my own? Where do you come from, my darling?” he said,
trying to stifle his sobs. “From what heaven did you fly into my sphere? It’s like a dream about
me, I cannot believe in you. Don’t check me, let me speak, let me tell you all, all! I have long
wanted to speak... Who are you, who are you, my joy? How did you find my heart? Tell me;
have you long been my sister?... Tell me everything about yourself, where you have been till
now. Tell me what the place was called where you lived; what did you love there at first? what
rejoiced you? what grieved you?... Was the air warm? was the sky clear?... Who were dear to
you? who loved you before me? to whom did your soul yearn first?... Had you a mother? did
she pet you as a child, or did you look round upon life as solitary as I did? Tell me, were you
always like this? What were your dreams? what were your visions of the future? what was
fulfilled and what was unfulfilled with you? — tell me everything... For whom did your maiden
heart yearn first, and for what did you give it? Tell me, what must I give you for it? what must I
give you for yourself?... Tell me, my darling, my light, my sister; tell me, how am I to win your
Then his voice broke again, and he bowed his head. But when he raised his eyes, dumb
horror froze his heart and the hair stood up on his head.
Katerina was sitting pale as a sheet. She was looking with a fixed stare into the air, herlips were blue as a corpse’s and her eyes were dimmed by a mute, agonising woe. She stood
up slowly, took two steps forward and, with a piercing wail, flung herself down before the
ikon... Jerky, incoherent words broke from her throat. She lost consciousness. Shaken with
horror Ordynov lifted her up and carried her to his bed; he stood over her, frantic. A minute
later she opened her eyes, sat up in the bed, looked about her and seized his hand. She drew
him towards her, tried to whisper something with her lips that were still pale, but her voice
would not obey her. At last she burst into a flood of tears; the hot drops scalded Ordynov’s
chilly hand.
“It’s hard for me, it’s hard for me now; my last hour is at hand!” she said at last in
desperate anguish.
She tried to say something else, but her faltering tongue could not utter a word. She
looked in despair at Ordynov, who did not understand her. He bent closer to her and
listened... At last he heard her whisper distinctly:
“I am corrupted — they have corrupted me, they have ruined me!”
Ordynov lifted his head and looked at her in wild amazement. Some hideous thought
flashed across his mind. Katerina saw the convulsive workings of his face.
“Yes! Corrupted,” she went on; “a wicked man corrupted me. It is he who has ruined
me!... I have sold my soul to him. Why, why did you speak of my mother? Why did you want
to torture me? God, God be your judge!...”
A minute later she was softly weeping; Ordynov’s heart was beating and aching in mortal
“He says,” she whispered in a restrained, mysterious voice, “that when he dies he will
come and fetch my sinful soul... I am his, I have sold my soul to him. He tortures me, he
reads to me in his books. Here, look at his book! here is his book, y He says I have committed
the unpardonable sin. Look, look...”
And she showed him a book. Ordynov did not notice where it had come from. He took it
mechanically — it was all in manuscript like the old heretical books which he had happened to
see before, but now he was incapable of looking or concentrating his attention on anything
else. The book fell out of his hands. He softly embraced Katerina, trying to bring her to
reason. “Hush, hush,” he said; “they have frightened you. I am with you; rest with me, my
own, my love, my light.”
“You know nothing, nothing,” she said, warmly pressing his hand. “I am always like this! I
am always afraid... I’ve tortured you enough, enough!...”
“I go to him then,” she began a minute later, taking a breath; “sometimes he simply
comforts me with his words, sometimes he takes his book, the biggest, and reads it over me
— he always reads such grim, threatening things! I don’t know what, and don’t understand
every word; but fear comes upon me; and when I listen to his voice, it is as though it were not
he speaking, but someone else, someone evil, someone you could not soften anyhow, could
not entreat, and one’s heart grows so heavy and bums... Heavier than when this misery
comes upon me!”
“Don’t go to him. Why do you go to him?” said Ordynov, hardly conscious of his own
“Why have I come to you? If you ask — I don’t know either... But he keeps saying to me,
‘Pray, pray!’ Sometimes I get up in the dark night and for a long time, for hours together, I
pray; sometimes sleep overtakes me, but fear always wakes me, always wakes me and then I
always fancy that a storm is gathering round me, that harm is coming to me, that evil things
will tear me to pieces and torment me, that my prayers will not reach the saints, and that they
will not save me from cruel grief. My soul is being torn, my whole body seems breaking to
pieces through crying... Then I begin praying again, and pray and pray until the Holy Mother
looks down on me from the ikon, more lovingly. Then I get up and go away to sleep, utterly
shattered; sometimes I wake up on the floor, on my knees before the ikon. Then sometimeshe wakes, calls me, begins to soothe me, caress me, comfort me, and then I feel better, and
if any trouble comes I am not afraid with him. He is powerful! His word is mighty!”
“But what trouble, what sort of trouble have you?”... And Ordynov wrung his hands in
Katerina turned fearfully pale. She looked at him like one condemned to death, without
hope of pardon.
“Me? I am under a curse, I’m a murderess; my mother cursed me! I was the ruin of my
own mother!...”
Ordynov embraced her without a word. She nestled tremulously to him. He felt a
convulsive shiver pass all over her, and it seemed as though her soul were parting from her
“I hid her in the damp earth,” she said, overwhelmed by the horror of her recollections,
and lost in visions of her irrevocable past. “I have long wanted to tell it; he always forbade me
with supplications, upbraidings, and angry words, and at times he himself will arouse all my
anguish at though he were my enemy and adversary. At night, even as now — it all comes
into my mind. Listen, listen! It was long ago, very long ago, I don’t remember when, but it is all
before me as though it had been yesterday, like a dream of yesterday, devouring my heart all
night. Misery makes the time twice as long. Sit here, sit here beside me; I will tell you all my
sorrow; may I be struck down, accursed as I am, by a mother’s curse... I am putting my life
into your hands...”
Ordynov tried to stop her, but she folded her hands, beseeching his love to attend, and
then, with even greater agitation began to speak. Her story was incoherent, the turmoil of her
spirit could be felt in her words, but Ordynov understood it all, because her life had become
his life, her grief his grief, and because her foe stood visible before him, taking shape and
growing up before him with every word she uttered and, as it were, with inexhaustible strength
crushing his heart and cursing him malignantly. His blood was in a turmoil, it flooded his heart
and obscured his reason. The wicked old man of his dream (Ordynov believed this) was living
before him.
“Well, it was a night like this,” Katerina began, “only stormier, and the wind in our forest
howled as I had never heard it before... it was in that night that my ruin began! An oak was
broken before our window, and an old grey-headed beggar came to our door, and he said that
he remembered that oak as a little child, and that it was the same then as when the wind blew
it down... That night — as I remember now — my father’s barge was wrecked on the river by
a storm, and though he was afflicted with illness, he drove to the place as soon as the
fishermen ran to us at the factory. Mother and I were sitting alone. I was asleep. She was sad
about something and weeping bitterly... and I knew what about! She had just been ill, she was
still pale and kept telling me to get ready her shroud... Suddenly, at midnight, we heard a
knock at the gate; I jumped up, the blood rushed to my heart; mother cried out... I did not look
at her, I was afraid. I took a lantern and went myself to open the gate... It was he! I felt
frightened, because I was always frightened when he came, and it was so with me from
childhood ever since I remembered anything! At that time he had not white hair; his beard was
black as pitch, his eyes burnt like coals; until that time he had never once looked at me kindly.
He asked me, ‘Is your mother at home?’ Shutting the little gate, I answered that ‘Father was
not at home.’ He said, ‘I know,’ and suddenly looked at me, looked at me in such a way... it
was the first time he had looked at me like that. I went on, but he still stood. ‘Why don’t you
come in?’ ‘I am thinking.’ By then we were going up to the room. ‘Why did you say that father
was not at home when I asked you whether mother was at home?’ I said nothing... Mother
was terror-stricken — she rushed to him... He scarcely glanced at her. I saw it all. He was all
wet and shivering; the storm had driven him fifteen miles, but whence he came and where he
lived neither mother nor I ever knew; we had not seen him for nine weeks... He threw down
his cap, pulled off his gloves — did not pray to the ikon, nor bow to his hostess — he satdown by the fire...” Katerina passed her hand over her face, as though something were
weighing upon her and oppressing her, but a minute later she raised her head and began
“He began talking in Tatar to mother. Mother knew it, I don’t understand a word. Other
times when he came, they sent me away; but this time mother dared not say a word to her
own child. The unclean spirit gained possession of my soul and I looked at my mother,
exalting myself in my heart. I saw they were looking at me, they were talking about me; she
began crying. I saw him clutch at his knife and more than once of late I had seen him clutch at
the knife when he was talking with mother. I jumped up and caught at his belt, tried to tear the
evil knife away from him. He clenched his teeth, cried out and tried to beat me back; he struck
me in the breast but did not shake me off. I thought I should die on the spot, there was a mist
before my eyes. I fell on the floor, but did not cry out. Though I could hardly see, I saw him.
He took off his belt, tucked up his sleeve, with the hand with which he had struck me took out
the knife and gave it to me. ‘Here, cut it away, amuse yourself over it, even as I insulted you,
while I, proud girl, will bow down to the earth to you for it.’ I laid aside the knife; the blood
began to stifle me, I did not look at him. I remember I laughed without opening my lips and
looked threateningly straight into mother’s mournful eyes, and the shameless laugh never left
my lips, while mother sat pale, deathlike...”
With strained attention Ordynov listened to her incoherent story. By degrees her agitation
subsided after the first outburst; her words grew calmer. The poor creature was completely
carried away by her memories and her misery was spread over their limitless expanse.
“He took his cap without bowing. I took the lantern again to see him out instead of
mother, who, though she was ill, would have followed him. We reached the gates. I opened
the little gate to him, drove away the dogs in silence. I see him take off his cap and bow to
me, I see him feel in his bosom, take out a red morocco box, open the catch. I look in — big
pearls, an offering to me. ‘I have a beauty,’ says he, ‘in the town. I got it to offer to her, but I
did not take it to her; take it, fair maiden, cherish your beauty; take them, though you crush
them under foot.’ I took them, but I did not want to stamp on them, I did not want to do them
too much honour, but I took them like a viper, not saying a word. I came in and set them on
the table before mother — it was for that I took them. Mother was silent for a minute, all white
as a handkerchief. She speaks to me as though she fears me. ‘What is this, Katya?’ and I
answer, ‘The merchant brought them for you, my own — I know nothing.’ I see the tears
stream from her eyes. I see her gasp for breath. ‘Not for me, Katya, not for me, wicked
daughter, not for me.’ I remember she said it so bitterly, so bitterly, as though she were
weeping out her whole soul. I raised my eyes, I wanted to throw myself at her feet, but
suddenly the evil one prompted me. ‘Well, if not to you, most likely to father; I will give them to
him when he comes back; I will say the merchants have been, they have forgotten their
wares...’ Then how she wept, my own... ‘I will tell him myself what merchants have been, and
for what wares they came... I will tell him whose daughter you are, whose bastard child! You
are not my daughter now, you serpent’s fry! You are my accursed child!’ I say nothing, tears
do not come me to me... I went up to my room and all night I listened to the storm, while I
fitted my thoughts to its raging.
“Meanwhile, five days passed by. Towards evening after five days, father came in, surly
and menacing, and he had been stricken by illness on the way. I saw his arm was bound up, I
guessed that his enemy had waylaid him upon the road, his enemy had worn him out and
brought sickness upon him. I knew, too, who was his enemy, I knew it all. He did not say a
word to mother, he did not ask about me. He called together all the workmen, made them
leave the factory, and guard the house from the evil eye. I felt in my heart, in that hour, that
all was not well with the house. We waited, the night came, another stormy, snowy one, and
dread came over my soul. I opened the window; my face was hot, my eyes were weeping, my
restless heart was burning; I was on fire. I longed to be away from that room, far away to theland of light, where the thunder and lightning are born. My maiden heart was beating and
beating... Suddenly, in the dead of night, I was dozing, or a mist had fallen over my soul, and
confounded it all of a sudden — I hear a knock at the window: ‘Open!’ I look, there was a man
at the window, he had climbed up by a rope. I knew at once who the visitor was, I opened the
window and let him into my lonely room. It was he! Without taking off his hat, he sat down on
the bench, he panted and drew his breath as though he had been pursued. I stood in the
comer and knew myself that I turned white all over. ‘Is your father at home?’ ‘He is.’ ‘And your
mother?’ ‘Mother is at home, too.’ ‘Be silent now; do you hear?’ ‘I hear.’ ‘What?’ ‘A whistle
under the window!’ ‘Well, fair maid, do you want to cut your foe’s head off? Call your father,
take my life? I am at your maiden mercy; here is the cord, tie it, if your heart bids you; avenge
yourself for your insult.’ I am silent. ‘Well? Speak, my joy.’ ‘What do you want?’ ‘I want my
enemy to be gone, to take leave for good and all of the old love, and to lay my heart at the
feet of a new one, a fair maid like you...’ I laughed; and I don’t know how his evil words went
to my heart. ‘Let me, fair maid, walk downstairs, test my courage, pay homage to my hosts.’ I
trembled all over, my teeth knocked together, but my heart was like a red-hot iron. I went. I
opened the door to him, I let him into the house, only on the threshold with an effort I brought
out, ‘Here, take your pearls and never give me a gift again,’ and I threw the box after him.”
Here Katerina stopped to take breath. At one moment she was pale and trembling like a
leaf, at the next the blood rushed to her head, and now, when she stopped, her cheeks
glowed with fire, her eyes flashed through her tears, and her bosom heaved with her
laboured, uneven breathing. But suddenly she turned pale again and her voice sank with a
mournful and tremulous quiver.
“Then I was left alone and the storm seemed to wrap me about. All at once I hear a
shout, I hear workmen run across the yard to the factory, I hear them say, ‘The factory is on
fire.’ I kept in hiding; all ran out of the house; I was left with mother; I knew that she was
parting from life, that she had been lying for the last three days on her death-bed. I knew it,
accursed daughter!... All at once a cry under my room, a faint cry like a child when it is
frightened in its sleep, and then all was silent. I blew out the candle, I was as chill as ice, I hid
my face in my hands, I was afraid to look. Suddenly I hear a shout close by, I hear the men
running from the factory. I hung out of the window, I see them bearing my dead father, I hear
them saying among themselves, ‘He stumbled, he fell down the stairs into a red-hot cauldron;
so the devil must have pushed him down.’ I fell upon my bed; I waited, all numb with terror,
and I do not know for whom or what I waited, only I was overwhelmed with woe in that hour. I
don’t remember how long I waited; I remember that suddenly everything began rocking, my
head grew heavy, my eyes were smarting with smoke and I was glad that my end was near.
Suddenly I felt someone lift me by the shoulders. I looked as best I could; he was singed all
over and his kaftan, hot to the touch, was smoking.
“‘I’ve come for you, fair maid; lead me away from trouble as before you led me into
trouble; I have lost my soul for your sake, no prayers of mine can undo this accursed night!
Maybe we will pray together!’ He laughed, the wicked man. ‘Show me,’ said he, ‘how to get
out without passing people!’ I took his hand and led him after me. We went through the
corridor — the keys were with me — I opened the door to the store-room and pointed to the
window. The window looked into the garden, he seized me in his powerful arms, embraced me
and leapt with me out of the window. We ran together, hand-in-hand, we ran together for a
long time. We looked, we were in a thick, dark forest. He began listening: ‘There’s a chase
after us, Katya! There’s a chase after us, fair maid, but it is not for us in this hour to lay down
our fives! Kiss me, fair maid, for love and everlasting happiness!’ ‘Why are your hands
covered with blood?’ ‘My hands covered with blood, my own? I stabbed your dogs; they
barked too loud at a late guest. Come along!’
“We ran on again; we saw in the path my father’s horse, he had broken his bridle and run
out of the stable; so he did not want to be burnt. ‘Get on it, Katya, with me; God has sent ushelp.’ I was silent. ‘Won’t you? I am not a heathen, not an unclean pagan; here, I will cross
myself if you like,’ and here he made the sign of the cross. I got on the horse, huddled up to
him and forgot everything on his bosom, as though a dream had come over me, and when I
woke I saw that we were standing by a broad, broad river. He got off the horse, lifted me
down and went off to the reeds where his boat was hidden. We were getting in. ‘Well, farewell,
good horse; go to a new master, the old masters all forsake you!’ I ran to father’s horse and
embraced him warmly at parting. Then we got in, he took the oars and in an instant we lost
sight of the shore. And when we could not see the shore, I saw him lay down the oars and
look about him, all over the water.
“‘Hail,’ he said, ‘stormy river-mother, who giveth drink to God’s people and food to me!
Say, hast thou guarded my goods, are my wares safe, while I’ve been away?’ I sat mute, I
cast down my eyes to my bosom; my face burned with shame as with a flame. And he: ‘Thou
art welcome to take all, stormy and insatiable river, only let me keep my vow and cherish my
priceless pearl! Drop but one word, fair maid, send a ray of sunshine into the storm, scatter
the dark night with light!’
“He laughed as he spoke, his heart was burning for me, but I could not bear his jeers for
shame; I longed to say a word, but was afraid and sat dumb. ‘Well, then, be it so!’ he
answered to my timid thought; he spoke as though in sorrow, as though grief had come upon
him, too. ‘So one can take nothing by force. God be with you, you proud one, my dove, my
fair maid! It seems, strong is your hatred for me, or I do not find favour in your clear eyes!’ I
listened and was seized by spite, seized by spite and love; I steeled my heart. I said: ‘Pleasing
or not pleasing you came to me; it is not for me to know that, but for another senseless,
shameless girl who shamed her maiden room in the dark night, who sold her soul for mortal
sin and could not school her frantic heart; and for my sorrowing tears to know it, and for him
who, like a thief, brags of another’s woe and jeers at a maiden’s heart!’ I said it, and I could
bear no more. I wept... He said nothing; looked at me so that I trembled like a leaf. ‘Listen to
me,’ said he, ‘fair maid,’ and his eyes burned strangely. ‘It is not a vain word I say, I make you
a solemn vow. As much happiness as you give me, so much will I be a gentleman, and if ever
you do not love me — do not speak, do not drop a word, do not trouble, but stir only your
sable eyebrow, turn your black eye, stir only your little finger and I will give you back your love
with golden freedom; only, my proud, haughty beauty, then there will be an end to my life too.’
And then all my flesh laughed at his words...
At this point Katerina’s story was interrupted by deep emotion; she took breath, smiled at
her new fancy and would have gone on, but suddenly her sparkling eyes met Ordynov’s
feverish gaze fixed on her. She started, would have said something, but the blood flooded her
face... She hid her face in her hands and fell upon the pillow at though in a swoon. Ordynov
was quivering all over! An agonising feeling, an unbearable, unaccountable agitation ran like
poison through all his veins and grew with every word of Katerina’s story; a hopeless yearning,
a greedy and unendurable passion took possession of his imagination and troubled his
feelings, but at the same time his heart was more and more oppressed by bitter, infinite
sadness. At moments he longed to shriek to Katerina to be silent, longed to fling himself at
her feet and beseech her by his tears to give him back his former agonies of love, his former
pure, unquestioning yearning, and he regretted the tears that had long dried on his cheeks.
There was an ache at his heart which was painfully oppressed by fever and could not give his
tortured soul the relief of tears. He did not understand what Katerina was telling him, and his
love was frightened of the feeling that excited the poor woman. He cursed his passion at that
moment; it smothered him, it exhausted him, and he felt as though molten lead were running
in his veins instead of blood.
“Ach, that is not my grief,” said Katerina, suddenly raising her head. “What I have told
you just now is not my sorrow,” she went on in a voice that rang like copper from a sudden
new feeling, while her heart was rent with secret, unshed tears. “That is not my grief, that isnot my anguish, not my woe! What, what do I care for my mother, though I shall never have
another mother in this world! What do I care that she cursed me in her last terrible hour?
What do I care for my old golden life, for my warm room, for my maiden freedom? What do I
care that I have sold myself to the evil one and abandoned my soul to the destroyer, that for
the sake of happiness I have committed the unpardonable sin?, Ach, that is not my grief,
though in that great is my ruin! But what is bitter to me and rends my heart is that I am his
shameless slave, that my shame and disgrace are dear to me, shameless as I am, but it is
dear to my greedy heart to remember my sorrow as though it were joy and happiness that is
my grief, that there is no strength in it and no anger for my wrongs!...”
The poor creature gasped for breath and a convulsive, hysterical sob cut short her
words, her hot, laboured breath burned her lips, her bosom heaved and sank and her eyes
flashed with incomprehensible indignation. But her face was radiant with such fascination at
that moment, every line, every muscle quivered with such a passionate flood of feeling, such
insufferable, incredible beauty that Ordynov’s black thoughts died away at once and the pure
sadness in his soul was silenced. And his heart burned to be pressed to her heart and to be
lost with it in frenzied emotion, to throb in harmony with the same storm, the same rush of
infinite passion, and even to swoon with it. Katerina met Ordynov’s troubled eyes and smiled
so that his heart burned with redoubled fire. He scarcely knew what he was doing.
“Spare me, have pity on me,” he whispered, controlling his trembling voice, bending
down to her, leaning with his hand on her shoulder and looking close in her eyes, so close that
their breathing was mingled in one. “You are killing me. I do not know your sorrow and my
soul is troubled... What is it to me what your heart is weeping over I Tell me what you want —
I will do it. Come with me, let me go; do not kill me, do not murder me!...”
Katerina looked at him immovably, the tears dried on her burning cheek. She wanted to
interrupt him, to take his hand, tried to say something, but could not find the words. A strange
smile came upon her lips, as though laughter were breaking through that smile.
“I have not told you all, then,” she said at last in a broken voice; “only will you hear me,
will you hear me, hot heart? Listen to your sister. You have learned little of her bitter grief. I
would have told you how I lived a year with him, but I will not... A year passed, he went away
with his comrades down the river, and I was left with one he called his mother to wait for him
in the harbour. I waited for him one month, two, and I met a young merchant, and I glanced at
him and thought of my golden years gone by. ‘Sister, darling,’ said he, when he had spoken
two words to me, ‘I am Alyosha, your destined betrothed; the old folks betrothed us as
children; you have forgotten me — think, I am from your parts.’ ‘And what do they say of me
in your parts?’ ‘Folk’s gossip says that you behaved dishonourably, forgot your maiden
modesty, made friends with a brigand, a murderer,’ Alyosha said, laughing. ‘And what did you
say of me?’ ‘I meant to say many things when I came here’ — and his heart was troubled. ‘I
meant to say many things, but now that I have seen you my heart is dead within me, you
have slain me,’ he said. ‘Buy my soul, too, take it, though you mock at my heart and my love,
fair maiden. I am an orphan now, my own master, and my soul is my own, not another’s. I
have not sold it to anyone, like somebody who has blotted out her memory; it’s not enough to
buy the heart, I give it for nothing, and it is clear it is a good bargain.’ I laughed, and more
than once, more than twice he talked to me; a whole month he lived on the place, gave up his
merchandise, forsook his people and was all alone. I was sorry for his lonely tears. So I said
to him one morning, “Wait for me, Alyosha, lower down the harbour, as night comes on; I will
go with you to your home, I am weary of my life, forlorn.’ So night came on, I tied up a bundle
and my soul ached and worked within me. Behold, my master walks in without a word or
warning. ‘Good-day, let us go, there will be a storm on the river and the time will not wait.’ I
followed him; we came to the river and it was far to reach his mates. We look: a boat and one
we knew rowing in it as though waiting for someone. ‘Good-day, Alyosha; God be your help.
Why, are you belated at the harbour, are you in haste to meet your vessels? Row me, goodman, with the mistress, to our mates, to our place. I have let my boat go and I don’t know how
to swim.’ ‘Get in,’ said Alyosha, and my whole soul swooned when I heard his voice. ‘Get in
with the mistress, too, the wind is for all, and in my bower there will be room for you, too.’ We
got in; it was a dark night, the stars were in hiding, the wind howled, the waves rose high and
we rowed out a mile from shore — all three were silent.
“‘It’s a storm,’ said my master, ‘and it is a storm that bodes no good! I have never seen
such a storm on the river in my life as is raging now! It is too much for our boat, it will not bear
three!’ ‘No, it will not,’ answered Alyosha, ‘and one of us, it seems, turns out to be one too
many,’ he says, and his voice quivers like a harp-string. ‘Well, Alyosha, I knew you as a little
child, your father was my mate, we ate at each other’s boards — tell me, Alyosha, can you
reach the shore without the boat or will you perish for nothing, will you lose your life?’ ‘I cannot
reach it. And you, too, good man, if it is your luck to have a drink of water, will you reach the
shore or not?’ ‘I cannot reach it, it is the end for my soul. I cannot hold out against the stormy
river! Listen, Katerina, my precious pearl! I remember such a night, but the waves were not
tossing, the stars were shining, and the moon was bright... I simply want to ask you, have you
forgotten?’ ‘I remember,’ said I. ‘Well, since you have not forgotten it, well, you have not
forgotten the compact when a bold man told a fair maiden to take back her freedom from one
unloved — eh?’ ‘No, I have not forgotten that either,’ I said, more dead than alive. ‘Ah, you
have not forgotten! Well, now we are in hard case in the boat. Has not his hour come for one
of us? Tell me, my own, tell me, my dove, coo to us like a dove your tender word...’”
“I did not say my word then,” whispered Katerina, turning pale...
“Katerina!” A hoarse, hollow voice resounded above them. Ordynov started. In the
doorway stood Murin. He was barely covered with a fur rug, pale as death, and he was gazing
at them with almost senseless eyes. Katerina turned paler and paler and she, too, gazed
fixedly at him, as though spellbound.
“Come to me, Katerina,” whispered the sick man, in a voice hardly audible, and went out
of the room. Katerina still gazed fixedly into the air, as though the old man had still been
standing before her. But suddenly the blood rushed glowing into her pale cheek and she
slowly got up from the bed. Ordynov remembered their first meeting.
“Till to-morrow then, my tears!” she said, laughing strangely; “till to-morrow! Remember
at what point I stopped: ‘Choose between the two; which is dear or not dear to you, fair maid!’
Will you remember, will you wait for one night?” she repeated, laying her hand on his shoulder
and looking at him tenderly.
“Katerina, do not go, do not go to your ruin! He is mad,” whispered Ordynov, trembling
for her.
“Katerina!” he heard through the partition.
“What? Will he murder me? no fear!” Katerina answered, laughing: “Good-night to you,
my precious heart, my warm dove, my brother!” she said, tenderly pressing his head to her
bosom, while tears bedewed her face. “Those are my last tears. Sleep away your sorrow, my
darling, wake to-morrow to joy.” And she kissed him passionately.
“Katerina, Katerina!” whispered Ordynov, falling on his knees before her and trying to
stop her. “Katerina!”
She turned round, nodded to him, smiling, and went out of the room. Ordynov heard her
go in to Murin; he held his breath, listening, but heard not a sound more. The old man was
silent or perhaps unconscious again... He would have gone in to her there, but his legs
staggered under him... He sank exhausted on the bed...
Chapter 2

For a long while he could not find out what the time was when he woke. Whether it was
the twilight of dawn or of evening, it was still dark in his room. He could not decide how long
he had slept, but felt that his sleep was not healthy sleep. Coming to himself, he passed his
hand over his face as though shaking off sleep and the visions of the night. But when he tried
to step on the floor he felt as though his whole body were shattered, and his exhausted limbs
refused to obey him. His head ached and was going round, and he was alternately shivering
and feverish. Memory returned with consciousness and his heart quivered when in one instant
he lived through, in memory, the whole of the past night. His heart beat as violently in
response to his thoughts, his sensations were as burning, as fresh, as though not a night, not
long hours, but one minute had passed since Katerina had gone away. He felt as though his
eyes were still wet with tears — or were they new, fresh tears that rushed like a spring from
his burning soul? And, strange to say, his agonies were even sweet to him, though he dimly
felt all over that he could not endure such violence of feeling again. There was a moment
when he was almost conscious of death, and was ready to meet it as a welcome guest; his
sensations were so overstrained, his passion surged up with such violence on waking, such
ecstasy took possession of his soul that life, quickened by its intensity, seemed on the point of
breaking, of being shattered, of flickering out in one minute and being quenched for ever.
Almost at that instant, as though in answer to his anguish, in answer to his quivering heart,
the familiar mellow, silvery voice of Katerina rang out — like that inner music known to man’s
soul in hours of joy, in hours of tranquil happiness. Close beside him, almost over his pillow,
began a song, at first soft and melancholy... her voice rose and fell, dying away abruptly as
though hiding in itself, and tenderly crooning over its anguish of unsatisfied, smothered desire
hopelessly concealed in the grieving heart; then again it flowed into a nightingale’s trills and,
quivering and glowing with unrestrained passion, melted into a perfect sea of ecstasy, a sea of
mighty, boundless sound, like the first moment of the bliss of love.
Ordynov distinguished the words, too. They were simple, sincere, composed long ago
with direct, calm, pure, clear feeling, but he forgot them, he heard only the sounds. Through
the simple, naive verses of the song flashed other words resounding with all the yearning that
filled his bosom, responding to the most secret subtleties of his passion, which he could not
comprehend though they echoed to him clearly with full consciousness of it. And at one
moment he heard the last moan of a heart swooning helplessly in passion, then he heard the
joy of a will and a spirit breaking its chains and rushing brightly and freely into the boundless
ocean of unfettered love. Then he heard the first vow of the beloved, with fragrant shame at
the first blush on her face, with prayers, with tears, with mysterious timid murmuring; then the
passion of the Bacchante, proud and rejoicing in its strength, unveiled, undisguised, turning
her drunken eyes about her with a ringing laugh...
Ordynov could not endure the end of the song, and he got up from the bed. The song at
once died away.
“Good-morning and good-day are over, my beloved,” Katerina’s voice rang out,
“Goodevening to you; get up, come in to us, wake up to bright joy; we expect you. I and the master,
both good people, your willing servants, quench hatred with love, if your heart is still resentful.
Say a friendly word!”...
Ordynov had already gone out of his room at her first call and scarcely realised that he
was going into the landlord’s bedroom. The door opened before him and, bright as sunshine,
the golden smile of his strange landlady flashed upon him. At that instant, he saw, he heard
no one but her. In one moment his whole life, his whole joy, melted into one thing in his heart
— the bright image of his Katerina.“Two dawns have passed,” she said, giving him her hands, “since we said farewell; the
second is dying now — look out of the window. Like the two dawns in the soul of a maiden,”
Katerina added, laughing. “The one that flushes her face with its first shame, when first her
lonely maiden heart speaks in her bosom, while the other, when a maiden forgets her first
shame, glows like fire, stifles her maiden heart, and drives the red blood to her face... Come,
come into our home, good young man! Why do you stand in the doorway? Honour and love to
you, and a greeting from the master!”
With a laugh ringing like music, she took Ordynov’s hand and led him into the room. His
heart was overwhelmed with timidity. All the fever, all the fire raging in his bosom was
quenched and died down in one instant, and for one instant he dropped his eyes in confusion
and was afraid to look at her. He felt that she was so marvellously beautiful that his heart
could not endure her burning eyes. He had never seen his Katerina like this. For the first time
laughter and gaiety were sparkling on her face, and drying the mournful tears on her black
eyelashes. His hand trembled in her hand. And if he had raised his eyes he would have seen
that Katerina, with a triumphant smile, had fastened her clear eyes on his face, which was
clouded with confusion and passion.
“Get up, old man,” she said at last, as though waking up; “say a word of welcome to our
guest, a guest who is like a brother! Get up, you proud, unbending old man; get up, now, take
your guest by his white hand and make him sit down to the table.”
Ordynov raised his eyes and seemed only then to come to himself. Only then he thought
of Murin. The old man’s eyes, looking as though dimmed by the approach of death, were
staring at him fixedly; and with a pang in his heart he remembered those eyes glittering at him
last time from black overhanging brows contracted as now with pain and anger. There was a
slight dizziness in his head. He looked round him and only then realised everything clearly and
distinctly. Murin was still lying on the bed, but he was partly dressed and had already been up
and out that morning. As before, he had a red kerchief tied round his neck, he had slippers on
his feet. His attack was evidently over, only his face was terribly pale and yellow. Katerina was
standing by his bed, her hand leaning on the table, watching them both intently. But the smile
of welcome did not leave her face. It seemed as though everything had been done at a sign
from her.
“Yes! it’s you,” said Murin, raising himself up and sitting on the bed. “You are my lodger. I
must beg your pardon, sir; I have sinned and wronged you all unknowingly, playing tricks with
my gun the other day. Who could tell that you, too, were stricken by grievous sickness? It
happens to me at times,” he added in a hoarse, ailing voice, frowning and unconsciously
looking away from Ordynov. “My trouble comes upon me like a thief in the night without
knocking at the gate! I almost thrust a knife into her bosom the other day...” he brought out,
nodding towards Katerina. “I am ill, a fit comes, seizes me — well, that’s enough. Sit down —
you will be our guest.”
Ordynov was still staring at him intently.
“Sit down, sit down!” the old man shouted impatiently; “sit down, if that will please her! So
you are brother and sister, born of the same mother! You are as fond of one another as
Ordynov sat down.
“You see what a fine sister you’ve got,” the old man went on, laughing, and he showed
two rows of white, perfectly sound teeth. “Be fond of one another, my dears. Is your sister
beautiful, sir? Tell me, answer! Come, look how her cheeks are burning; come, look round,
sing the praises of her beauty to all the world, show that your heart is aching for her.”
Ordynov frowned and looked angrily at the old man, who flinched under his eyes. A blind
fury surged up in Ordynov’s heart. By some animal instinct he felt near him a mortal foe. He
could not understand what was happening to him, his reason refused to serve him.
“Don’t look,” said a voice behind him.Ordynov looked round.
“Don’t look, don’t look, I tell you, if the devil is tempting you; have pity on your love,” said
Katerina, laughing, and suddenly from behind she covered his eyes with her hands; then at
once took away her hands and hid her own face in them. But the colour in her face seemed to
show through her fingers. She removed her hands and, still glowing like fire, tried to meet their
laughter and inquisitive eyes brightly and without a tremor. But both looked at her in silence —
Ordynov with the stupefaction of love, as though it were the first time such terrible beauty had
stabbed his heart; the old man coldly and attentively. Nothing was to be seen in his pale face,
except that his lips toned blue and quivered faintly.
Katerina went up to the old man, no longer laughing, and began clearing away the books,
papers, inkstand, everything that was on the table and putting them all on the window-sill. Her
breathing was hurried and uneven, and from time to time she drew an eager breath as though
her heart were oppressed. Her full bosom heaved and fell like a wave on the seashore. She
dropped her eyes and her pitchblack eyelashes gleamed on her bright cheeks like sharp
“A maiden queen,” said the old man.
“My sovereign!” whispered Ordynov, quivering all over. He came to his senses, feeling
the old man’s eyes upon him — his glance flashed upon him for an instant like lightning —
greedily spiteful, coldly contemptuous. Ordynov would have got up from his seat but some
unseen power seemed to fetter his legs. He sat down again. At times he pinched his hand as
though not believing in reality. He felt as though he were being strangled by a nightmare, and
as though his eyes were still closed in a miserable feverish sleep. But, strange to say, he did
not want to wake up!
Katerina took the old cloth off the table, then opened a chest, took out of it a sumptuous
cloth embroidered in gold and bright silks and put it on the table; then she took out of the
cupboard an old-fashioned ancestral-looking casket, set it in the middle of the table and took
out of it three silver goblets — one for the master, one for the visitor, and one for herself; then
with a grave, almost pensive air, she looked at the old man and at the visitor.
“Is one of us dear to someone, or not dear,” she said. “If anyone is not dear to someone
he is dear to me, and shall drink my goblet with me. Each of you is dear to me as my own
brother: so let us all drink to love and concord.”
“Drink and drown dark fancies in the wine,” said the old man, in a changed voice. “Pour it
out, Katerina.”
“Do you bid me pour?” asked Katerina, looking at Ordynov.
Ordynov held out his goblet in silence.
“Stay! If one has a secret and a fancy, may his wishes come true!” said the old man,
raising his goblet.
All clinked their goblets and drank.
“Let me drink now with you, old man,” said Katerina, turning to the landlord. “Let us drink
if your heart is kindly to me! Let us drink to past happiness, let us send a greeting to the years
we have spent, let us celebrate our happiness with heart and with love. Bid me fill your goblet
if your heart is warm to me.”
“Your wine is strong, my love, but you scarcely wet your lips!” said the old man, laughing
and holding out his goblet again.
“Well, I will sip it, but you drink it to the bottom... why live, old man, brooding on gloomy
thoughts; gloomy thoughts only make the heart ache! Thought calls for sorrow; with happiness
one can live without thinking; drink, old man,” she went on; “drown your thoughts.”
“A great deal of sorrow must have fermented within you, since you arm yourself against
it like this! So you want to make an end of it all at once, my white dove. I drink with you,
Katya! And have you a sorrow, sir, if you allow me to ask?”
“If I have, I keep it to myself,” muttered Ordynov, keeping his eyes fixed on Katerina.“Do you hear, old man? For a long while I did not know myself, did not remember; but
the time came, I remembered all and recalled it; all that has passed I have passed through
again in my unsatisfied soul.”
“Yes, it is grievous if one begins looking into the past only,” said the old man dreamily.
“What is past is like wine that is drunk! What happiness is there in the past? The coat is worn
out, and away with it.”
“One must get a new one,” Katerina chimed in with a strained laugh, while two big tears
like diamonds hung on her eyelashes. “One cannot five down a lifetime in one minute, and a
girl’s heart is eager for life — there is no keeping pace with it. Do you understand, old man?
Look. I have buried my tear in your goblet.”
“And did you buy much happiness with your sorrow?” said Ordynov — and his voice
quivered with emotion.
“So you must have a great deal of your own for sale,” answered the old man, “that you
put your spoke in unasked,” and he laughed a spiteful, noiseless laugh, looking insolently at
“What I have sold it for, I have had,” answered Katerina in a voice that sounded vexed
and offended. “One thinks it much, another little. One wants to give all to take nothing,
another promises nothing and yet the submissive heart follows him! Do not you reproach
anyone,” she went on, looking sadly at Ordynov. “One man is like this, and another is
different, and as though one knew why the soul yearns towards anyone! Fill your goblet, old
man. Drink to the happiness of your dear daughter, your meek, obedient slave, as I was when
first I knew you. Raise your goblet!”
“So be it! Fill yours, too!” said the old man, taking the wine.
“Stay, old man! Put off drinking, and let us say a word first!...”
Katerina put her elbows on the table and looked intently, with passionate, kindling eyes,
at the old man. A strange determination gleamed in her eyes. But all her movements were
calm, her gestures were abrupt, unexpected, rapid. She was all as if on fire, and it was
marvellous; but her beauty seemed to grow with her emotion, her animation; her hurried
breath slightly inflating her nostrils, floated from her lips, half- opened in a smile which showed
two rows of teeth white and even as pearls. Her bosom heaved, her coil of hair, twisted three
times round her head, fell carelessly over her left ear and covered part of her glowing cheek,
drops of sweat came out on her temples.
“Tell my fortune, old man; tell my fortune, my father, before you drown your mind in
drink. Here is my white palm for you — not for nothing do the folks call you a wizard. You
have studied by the book and know all of the black art! Look, old man, tell me all my pitiful
fate; only mind you don’t tell a lie. Come, tell me as you know it — will there be happiness for
your daughter, or will you not forgive her, but call down upon her path an evil, sorrowful fate?
Tell me whether I shall have a warm comer for my home, or, like a bird of passage, shall be
seeking among good people for a home — a lonely orphan all my life. Tell me who is my
enemy, who is preparing love for me, who is plotting against me; tell me, will my warm young
heart open its life in solitude and languish to the end, or will it find itself a mate and beat
joyfully in tune with it till new sorrow comes! Tell me for once, old man, in what blue sky,
beyond far seas and forests, my bright falcon lives. And is he keenly searching for his mate,
and is he waiting lovingly, and will he love me fondly; will he soon be tired of me, will he
deceive me or not deceive me, and, once for all and altogether, tell me for the last time, old
man, am I long to while away the time with you, to sit in a comfortless comer, to read dark
books; and when am I, old man, to bow low to you, to say farewell for good and all, to thank
you for your bread and salt, for giving me to drink and eat, for telling me your tales?... But
mind, tell all the truth, do not lie. The time has come, stand up for yourself.”
Her excitement grew greater and greater up to the last word, when suddenly her voice
broke with emotion as though her heart were carried away by some inner tempest. Her eyesflashed, and her upper lip faintly quivered. A spiteful jeer could be heard hiding like a snake
under every word, but yet there was the ring of tears in her laughter. She bent across the
table to the old man and gazed with eager intentness into his lustreless eyes. Ordynov heard
her heart suddenly begin beating when she finished; he cried out with ecstasy when he
glanced at her, and was getting up from the bench. But a flitting momentary glance from die
old man riveted him to his seat again. A strange mingling of contempt, mocking, impatient,
angry uneasiness and at the same time sly, spiteful curiosity gleamed in his passing
momentary glance, which every time made Ordynov shudder and filled his heart with
annoyance, vexation and helpless anger.
Thoughtfully and with a sort of mournful curiosity the old man looked at his Katerina. His
heart was stung, words had been uttered. But not an eyebrow stirred upon his face! He only
smiled when she finished.
“You want to know a great deal at once, my full-fledged nestling, my fluttering bird! Better
fill me a deep goblet I and let us drink first to peace and goodwill; or I may spoil my forecast,
through someone’s black evil eye. Mighty is the devil! Sin is never far off!”
He raised his goblet and drank. The more wine he drank, the paler he grew. His eyes
burned like red coals. Evidently the feverish light of them and the sudden deathlike blueness
of his face were signs that another fit was imminent. The wine was strong, so that after
emptying one goblet Ordynov’s sight grew more and more blurred. His feverishly inflamed
blood could bear no more: it rushed to his heart, troubled and dimmed his reason. His
uneasiness grew more and more intense. To relieve his growing excitement, he filled his
goblet and sipped it again, without knowing what he was doing, and the blood raced even
more rapidly through his veins. He was as though in delirium, and, straining his attention to
the utmost, he could hardly follow what was passing between his strange landlord and
The old man knocked his goblet with a ringing sound against the table.
“Fill it, Katerina!” he cried, “fill it again, bad daughter, fill it to the brim! Lay the old man in
peace, and have done with him! That’s it, pour out more, pour it out, my beauty! Let us drink
together! Why have you drunk so little? Or have my eyes deceived me?...”
Katerina made him some answer, but Ordynov could not hear quite what she said: the
old man did not let her finish; he caught hold of her hand as though he were incapable of
restraining all that was weighing on his heart. His face was pale, his eyes at one moment were
dim, at the next were flashing with fire; his lips quivered and turned white, and in an uneven,
troubled voice, in which at moments there was a flash of strange ecstasy, he said to her —
“Give me your little hand, my beauty! Let me tell your fortune. I will tell the whole truth: I
am truly a wizard; so you are not mistaken, Katerina! Your golden heart said truly that I alone
am its wizard, and will not hide the truth from it, the simple, girlish heart! But one thing you
don’t see: it’s not for me, a wizard, to teach you wisdom! Wisdom is not what a maiden wants,
and she hears the whole truth, yet seems not to know, not to understand! Her head is a subtle
serpent, though her heart is melting in tears. She will find out for herself, will thread her way
between troubles, will keep her cunning will! Something she can win by sense, and where she
cannot win by sense she will dazzle by beauty, will intoxicate men’s minds with her black eye
— beauty conquers strength, even the heart of iron will be rent asunder! Will you have grief
and sorrow? Heavy is the sorrow of man! but trouble is not for the weak heart, trouble is close
friends with the strong heart; stealthily it sheds a bloody tear, but does not go begging to good
people for shameful comfort: your grief, girl, is like a print in the sand — the rain washes it
away, the sun dries it, the stormy wind lifts it and blows it away. Let me tell you more, let me
tell your fortune. Whoever loves you, you will be a slave to him, you will bind your freedom
yourself, you will give yourself in pledge and will not take yourself back, you will not know how
to cease to love in due time, you will sow a grain and your destroyer will take back a whole
ear! My tender child, my little golden head, you buried your p>earl of a tear in my goblet, butyou could not be content with that — at once you shed a hundred; you uttered no more sweet
words, and boasted of your sad life! And there was no need for you to grieve over it — the
tear, the dew of heaven! It will come back to you with interest, your pearly tear, in the woeful
night when cruel sorrow, evil fancies will gnaw your heart — then for that same tear another’s
tear will drop upon your warm heart — not a warm tear but a tear of blood, like molten lead; it
will turn your white bosom to blood, and until the dreary, heavy morning that comes on gloomy
days, you will toss in your little bed, shedding your heart’s blood and will not heal your fresh
wound till another dawn. Fill my goblet, Katerina, fill it again, my dove; fill it for my sage
counsel, and no need to waste more words.” His voice grew weak and trembling, sobs
seemed on the point of breaking from his bosom, he poured out the wine and greedily drained
another goblet. Then he brought the goblet down on the table again with a bang. His dim eyes
once more gleamed with flame.
“Ah! Live as you may!” he shouted; “what’s past is gone and done with. Fill up the heavy
goblet, fill it up, that it may smite the rebellious head from its shoulders, that the whole soul
may be dead with it! Lay me out for the long night that has no morning and let my memory
vanish altogether. What is drunk is lived and done with. So the merchant’s wares have grown
stale, have lain by too long, he must give them away for nothing! but the merchant would not
of his free will have sold it below its price. The blood of his foe should be spilt and the innocent
blood should be shed too, and that customer should have laid down his lost soul into the
bargain! Fill my goblet, fill it again, Katerina.”
But the hand that held the goblet seemed to stiffen and did not move; his breathing was
laboured and difficult, his head sank back. For the last time he fixed his lustreless eyes on
Ordynov, but his eyes, too, grew dim at last, and his eyelids dropped as though they were
made of lead. A deadly pallor overspread his face... For some time his lips twitched and
quivered as though still trying to articulate — and suddenly a big hot tear hung on his eyelash,
broke and slowly ran down his pale cheek...
Ordynov could bear no more. He got up and, reeling, took a step forward, went up to
Katerina and clutched her hand. But she seemed not to notice him and did not even glance at
him, as though she did not recognise him...
She, too, seemed to have lost consciousness, as though one thought, one fixed idea had
entirely absorbed her. She sank on the bosom of the sleeping old man, twined her white arm
round his neck, and gazed with glowing, feverish eyes as though they were riveted on him.
She did not seem to feel Ordynov taking her hand. At last she turned her head towards him,
and bent upon him a prolonged searching gaze. It seemed as though at last she understood,
and a bitter, astonished smile came wearily, as it were painfully, on her lips...
“Go away, go away,” she whispered; “you are drunk and wicked, you are not a guest for
me…” then she turned again to the old man and riveted her eyes upon him.
She seemed as it were gloating over every breath he took and soothing his slumber with
her eyes. She seemed afraid to breathe, checking her full throbbing heart, and there was such
frenzied admiration in her face that at once despair, fury and insatiable anger seized
Ordynov’s spirit...
“Katerina! Katerina!” he called, seizing her hand as though in a vice.
A look of pain passed over her face; she raised her head again, and looked at him with
such mockery, with such contemptuous haughtiness, that he could scarcely stand upon his
feet. Then she pointed to the sleeping old man and — as though all his enemy’s mockery had
passed into her eyes, she bent again a taunting glance at Ordynov that sent an icy shiver to
his heart.
“What? He will murder me, I suppose?” said Ordynov, beside himself with fury. Some
demon seemed to whisper in his ear that he understood her... and his whole heart laughed at
Katerina’s fixed idea.
“I will buy you, my beauty, from your merchant, if you want my soul; no fear, he won’t killme!...” A fixed laugh, that froze Ordynov’s whole being, remained upon Katerina’s face. Its
boundless irony rent his heart. Not knowing what he was doing, hardly conscious, he leaned
against the wall and took from a nail the old man’s expensive old-fashioned knife. A look of
amazement seemed to come into Katerina’s face, but at the same time anger and contempt
were reflected with the same force in her eyes. Ordynov turned sick, looking at her... he felt
as though someone were thrusting, urging his frenzied hand to madness. He drew out the
knife... Katerina watched him, motionless, holding her breath...
He glanced at the old man.
At that moment he fancied that one of the old man’s eyes opened and looked at him,
laughing. Their eyes met. For some minutes Ordynov gazed at him fixedly... Suddenly he
fancied that the old man’s whole face began laughing and that a diabolical, soul-freezing
chuckle resounded at last through the room. A hideous, dark thought crawled like a snake into
his head. He shuddered; the knife fell from his hands and dropped with a clang upon the floor.
Katerina uttered a shriek as though awaking from oblivion, from a nightmare, from a heavy,
immovable vision... The old man, very pale, slowly got up from the bed and angrily kicked the
knife into the comer of the room; Katerina stood pale, deathlike, immovable; her eyelids were
closing; her face was convulsed by a vague, insufferable pain; she hid her face in her hands
and, with a shriek that rent the heart, sank almost breathless at the old man’s feet...
“Alyosha, Alyosha!” broke from her gasping bosom.
The old man seized her in his powerful arms and almost crushed her on his breast. But
when she hid her head upon his heart, every feature in the old man’s face worked with such
undisguised, shameless laughter that Ordynov’s whole soul was overwhelmed with horror.
Deception, calculation, cold, jealous tyranny and horror at the poor broken heart — that was
what he read in that laugh, that shamelessly threw off all disguise.
“She is mad!” he whispered, quivering like a leaf, and, numb with terror, he ran out of the
Chapter 3

When, at eight o’clock next morning, Ordynov, pale and agitated and still dazed from the
excitement of that day, opened Yaroslav Ilyitch’s door (he went to see him though he could
not have said why) he staggered back in amazement and stood petrified in the doorway on
seeing Murin in the room. The old man, even paler than Ordynov, seemed almost too ill to
stand up; he would not sit down, however, though Yaroslav Ilyitch, highly delighted at the visit,
invited him to do so. Yaroslav Ilyitch, too, cried out in surprise at seeing Ordynov, but almost
at once his delight died away, and he was quite suddenly overtaken by embarrassment
halfway between the table and the chair next it. It was evident that he did not know what to say or
to do, and was fully conscious of the impropriety of sucking at his pipe and of leaving his
visitor to his own devices at such a difficult moment. And yet (such was his confusion) he did
go on pulling at his pipe with all his might and indeed with a sort of enthusiasm. Ordynov went
into the room at last. He flung a cursory glance at Murin, a look flitted over the old man’s face,
something like the malicious smile of the day before, which even now set Ordynov shuddering
with indignation. All hostility, however, vanished at once and was smoothed away, and the old
man’s face assumed a perfectly unapproachable and reserved air. He dropped a very low bow
to his lodger... The scene brought Ordynov to a sense of reality at last. Eager to understand
the position of affairs, he looked intently at Yaroslav Ilyitch, who began to be uneasy and
“Come in, come in,” he brought out at last. “Come in, most precious Vassily Mihalitch;
honour me with your presence, and put a stamp of... on all these ordinary objects...” said
Yaroslav Ilyitch, pointing towards a comer of the room, flushing like a crimson rose; confused
and angry that even his most exalted sentences floundered and missed fire, he moved the
chair with a loud noise into the very middle of the room.
“I hope I’m not hindering you, Yaroslav Ilyitch,” said Ordynov. “I wanted... for two
“Upon my word! As though you could hinder me, Vassily Mihalitch; but let me offer you a
cup of tea. Hey, servant... I am sure you, too, will not refuse a cup!”
Murin nodded, signifying thereby that he would not.
Yaroslav Ilyitch shouted to the servant who came in, sternly demanded another three
glasses, then sat down beside Ordynov. For some time he turned his head like a plaster kitten
to right and to left, from Murin to Ordynov, and from Ordynov to Murin. His position was
extremely unpleasant. He evidently wanted to say something, to his notions extremely
delicate, for one side at any rate. But for all his efforts he was totally unable to utter a word...
Ordynov, too, seemed in perplexity. There was a moment when both began speaking at
once... Murin, silent, watching them both with curiosity, slowly opened his mouth and showed
all his teeth...
“I’ve come to tell you,” Ordynov said suddenly, “that, owing to a most unpleasant
circumstance, I am obliged to leave my lodging, and...”
“Fancy, what a strange circumstance!” Yaroslav Ilyitch interrupted suddenly. “I confess I
was utterly astounded when this worthy old man told me this morning of your intention. But...”
“He told you,” said Ordynov, looking at Murin with surprise.
Murin stroked his beard and laughed in his sleeve.
“Yes,” Yaroslav Ilyitch rejoined; “though I may have made a mistake. But I venture to say
for you — I can answer for it on my honour that there was not a shadow of anything
derogatory to you in this worthy old man’s words...”
Here Yaroslav Ilyitch blushed and controlled his emotion with an effort. Murin, after
enjoying to his heart’s content the discomfiture of the other two men, took a step forward.“It is like this, your honour,” he began, bowing politely to Ordynov: “His honour made bold
to take a little trouble on your behalf. As it seems, sir — you know yourself — the mistress
and I, that is, we would be glad, freely and heartily, and we would not have made bold to say
a word... but the way I live, you know yourself, you see for yourself, sir! Of a truth, the Lord
barely keeps us alive, for which we pray His holy will; else you see yourself, sir, whether it is
for me to make lamentation.” Here Murin again wiped his beard with his sleeve.
Ordynov almost turned sick.
“Yes, yes, I told you about him, myself; he is ill, that is this malheur. I should like to
express myself in French but, excuse me, I don’t speak French quite easily; that is...”
“Quite so...”
“Quite so, that is...”
Ordynov and Yaroslav Ilyitch made each other a half bow, each a little on one side of his
chair, and both covered their confusion with an apologetic laugh. The practical Yaroslav Ilyitch
recovered at once.
“I have been questioning this honest man minutely,” he began. “He has been telling me
that the illness of this woman...” Here the delicate Yaroslav Ilyitch, probably wishing to conceal
a slight embarrassment that showed itself in his face, hurriedly looked at Murin with inquiry.
“Yes, of our mistress...”
The refined Yaroslav Ilyitch did not insist further.
“The mistress, that is, your former landlady; I don’t know how... but there! She is an
afflicted woman, you see... She says that she is hindering you... in your studies, and he
himself... you concealed from me one important circumstance, Vassily Mihalitch!”
“About the gun,” Yaroslav Ilyitch brought out, almost whispering in the most indulgent
tone with the millionth fraction of reproach softly ringing in his friendly tenor.
“But,” he added hurriedly, “he has told me all about it. And you acted nobly in overlooking
his involuntary wrong to you. I swear I saw tears in his eyes.”
Yaroslav Ilyitch flushed again, his eyes shone and he shifted in his chair with emotion.
“I, that is, we, sir, that is, your honour, I, to be sure, and my mistress remember you in
our prayers,” began Murin, addressing Ordynov and looking at him while Yaroslav Ilyitch
overcame his habitual agitation; “and you know yourself, sir, she is a sick, foolish woman; my
legs will hardly support me…”
“Yes, I am ready,” Ordynov said impatiently; “please, that’s enough, I am going
“No, that is, sir, we are very grateful for your kindness” (Murin made a very low bow);
“that is not what I meant to tell you, sir; I wanted to say a word — you see, sir, she came to
me almost from her home, that is from far, as the saying is, beyond the seventh water — do
not scorn our humble talk, sir, we are ignorant folk — and from a tiny child she has been like
this! A sick brain, hasty, she grew up in the forest, grew up a peasant, all among bargemen
and factory hands; and then their house must bum down; her mother, sir, was burnt, her
father burnt to death — I daresay there is no knowing what she’ll tell you... I don’t meddle, but
the Chir — chir-urgi-cal Council examined her at Moscow. You see, sir, she’s quite incurable,
that’s what it is. I am all that’s left her, and she lives with me. We live, we pray to God and
trust in the Almighty; I never cross her in anything.”
Ordynov’s face changed. Yaroslav Ilyitch looked first at one, then at the other.
“But, that is not what I wanted to say... no!” Murin corrected himself, shaking his head
gravely. “She is, so to say, such a featherhead, such a whirligig, such a loving, headstrong
creature, she’s always wanting a sweetheart — if you will pardon my saying so — and
someone to love; it’s on that she’s mad. I amuse her with fairy tales, I do my best at it. I saw,
sir, how she — forgive my foolish words, sir,” Murin went on, bowing and wiping his beard with
his sleeve — “how she made friends with you; you, so to say, your excellency, were desirousto approach her with a view to love.”
Yaroslav Ilyitch flushed crimson, and looked reproachfully at Murin. Ordynov could
scarcely sit still in his seat.
“No... that is not it, sir... I speak simply, sir, I am a peasant, I am at your service... Of
course, we are ignorant folk, we are your servants, sir,” he brought out, bowing low; “and my
wife and I will pray with all our hearts for your honour... What do we need? To be strong and
have enough to eat — we do not repine; but what am I to do, sir; put my head in the noose?
You know yourself, sir, what life is and will have pity on us; but what will it be like, sir, if she
has a lover, too!... Forgive my rough words, sir; I am a peasant, sir, and you are a
gentleman... You’re a young man, your excellency, proud and hasty, and she, you know
yourself, sir, is a little child with no sense — it’s easy for her to fall into sin. She’s a buxom
lass, rosy and sweet, while I am an old man always ailing. Well, the devil, it seems, has
tempted your honour. I always flatter her with fairy tales, I do indeed; I flatter her; and how we
will pray, my wife and I, for your honour! How we will pray! And what is she to you, your
excellency, if she is pretty? Still she is a simple woman, an unwashed peasant woman, a
foolish rustic maid, a match for a peasant like me. It is not for a gentleman like you, sir, to be
friends with peasants! But she and I will pray to God for your honour; how we will pray!”
Here Murin bowed very low and for a long while remained with his back bent, continually
wiping his beard with his sleeve.
Yaroslav Ilyitch did not know where he was standing.
“Yes, this good man,” he observed in conclusion, “spoke to me of some undesirable
incidents; I did not venture to believe him, Vassily Mihalitch, I heard that you were still ill,” he
interrupted hurriedly, looking at Ordynov in extreme embarrassment, with eyes full of tears of
“Yes, how much do I owe you?” Ordynov asked Murin hurriedly.
“What are you saying, your honour? Give over. Why, we are not Judases. Why, you are
insulting us, sir, we should be ashamed, sir. Have I and my good woman offended you?”
“But this is really strange, my good man; why, his honour took the room from you; don’t
you feel that you are insulting him by refusing?” Yaroslav Ilyitch interposed, thinking it his duty
to show Murin the strangeness and indelicacy of his conduct.
“But upon my word, sir! What do you mean, sir? What did we not do to please your
honour? Why, we tried our very best, we did our utmost, upon my word! Give over, sir, give
over, your honour. Christ have mercy upon you! Why, are we infidels or what? You might
have lived, you might have eaten our humble fare with us and welcome; you might have lain
there — we’d have said nothing against it, and we wouldn’t have dropped a word; but the evil
one tempted you. I am an afflicted man and my mistress is afflicted — what is one to do?
There was no one to wait on you, or we would have been glad, glad from our hearts. And how
the mistress and I will pray for your honour, how we will pray for you!”
Murin bowed down from the waist. Tears came into Yaroslav Ilyitch’s delighted eyes. He
looked with enthusiasm at Ordynov.
“What a generous trait, isn’t it! What sacred hospitality is to be found in the Russian
Ordynov looked wildly at Yaroslav Ilyitch.
He was almost terrified and scrutinised him from head to foot.
“Yes, indeed, sir, we do honour hospitality; we do honour it indeed, sir,” Murin asserted,
covering his beard with his whole sleeve. “Yes, indeed, the thought just came to me; we’d
have welcomed you as a guest, sir, by God! we would,” he went on, approaching Ordynov;
“and I had nothing against it; another day I would have said nothing, nothing at all; but sin is a
sore snare and my mistress is ill. Ah, if it were not for the mistress! Here, if I had been alone,
for instance; how glad I would have been of your honour, how I would have waited upon you,
wouldn’t I have waited upon you! Whom should we respect if not your honour? I’d have healedyou of your sickness, I know die art... You should have been our guest, upon my word you
should, that is a great word with us!...”
“Yes, really; is there such an art?” observed Yaroslav Ilyitch... and broke off.
Ordynov had done Yaroslav Ilyitch injustice when, just before, he had looked him up and
down with wild amazement.
He was, of course, a very honest and honourable person, but now he understood
everything and it must be owned his position was a very difficult one. He wanted to explode,
as it is called, with laughter! If he had been alone with Ordynov — two such friends —
Yaroslav Ilyitch would, of course, have given way to an immoderate outburst of gaiety without
attempting to control himself. He would, however, have done this in a gentlemanly way. He
would after laughing have pressed Ordynov’s hand with feeling, would genuinely and justly
have assured him that he felt double respect for him and that he could make allowances in
every case... and, of course, would have made no reference to his youth. But as it was, with
his habitual delicacy of feeling, he was in a most difficult position and scarcely knew what to
do with himself...
“Arts, that is decoctions,” Murin added. A quiver passed over his face at Yaroslav Ilyitch’s
tactless exclamation. “What I should say, sir, in my peasant foolishness,” he went on, taking
another step forward, “you’ve read too many books, sir; as the Russian saying is among us
peasants, ‘Wit has overstepped wisdom’...”
“Enough,” said Yaroslav Ilyitch sternly.
“I am going,” said Ordynov. “I thank you, Yaroslav Ilyitch. I will come, I will certainly come
and see you,” he said in answer to the redoubled civilities of Yaroslav Ilyitch, who was unable
to detain him further. “Good-bye, good-bye.”
“Good-bye, your honour, good-bye, sir; do not forget us, visit us, poor sinners.”
Ordynov heard nothing more — he went out like one distraught. He could bear no more,
he felt shattered, his mind was numb, he dimly felt that he was overcome by illness, but cold
despair reigned in his soul, and he was only conscious of a vague pain crushing, wearing,
gnawing at his breast; he longed to die at that minute. His legs were giving way under him and
he sat down by the fence, taking no notice of the passing people, nor of the crowd that began
to collect around him, nor of the questions, nor the exclamations of the curious. But, suddenly,
in the multitude of voices, he heard the voice of Murin above him. Ordynov raised his head.
The old man really was standing before him, his pale face was thoughtful and dignified, he
was quite a different man from the one who had played the coarse farce at Yaroslav Ilyitch’s.
Ordynov got up. Murin took his arm and led him out of the crowd. “You want to get your
belongings,” he said, looking sideways at Ordynov. “Don’t grieve, sir,” cried Murin. “You are
young, why grieve?...”
Ordynov made no reply.
“Are you offended, sir?... To be sure you are very angry now... but you have no cause;
every man guards his own goods!”
“I don’t know you,” said Ordynov; “I don’t want to know your secrets. But she, she!...” he
brought out, and the tears rushed in streams from his eyes. The wind blew them one after
another from his cheeks... Ordynov wiped them with his hand; his gesture, his eyes, the
involuntary movement of his blue lips all looked like madness.
“I’ve told you already,” said Murin, knitting his brows, “that she is crazy! What crazed
her?... Why need you know? But to me, even so, she is dear! I’ve loved her more than my life
and I’ll give her up to no one. Do you understand now?”
There was a momentary gleam of fire in Ordynov’s eyes.
“But why have I...? Why have I as good as lost my life? Why does my heart ache? Why
did I know Katerina?”
“Why?” Murin laughed and pondered. “Why, I don’t know why,” he brought out at last. “A
woman’s heart is not as deep as the sea; you can get to know it, but it is cunning, persistent,full of life! What she wants she must have at once! You may as well know, sir, she wanted to
leave me and go away with you; she was sick of the old man, she had lived through
everything that she could live with him. You took her fancy, it seems, from the first, though it
made no matter whether you or another... I don’t cross her in anything — if she asks for bird’s
milk I’ll get her bird’s milk. I’ll make up a bird if there is no such bird; she’s set on her will
though she doesn’t know herself what her heart is mad after. So it has turned out that it is
better in the old way! Ah, sir! you are very young, your heart is still hot like a girl forsaken,
drying her tears on her sleeve! Let me tell you, sir, a weak man cannot stand alone. Give him
everything, he will come of himself and give it all back; give him half the kingdoms of the world
to possess, try it and what do you think? He will hide himself in your slipper at once — he will
make himself so small. Give a weak man his freedom — he will bind it himself and give it back
to you. To a foolish heart freedom is no use! One can’t get on with ways like that. I just tell
you all this, you are very young! What are you to me? You’ve come and gone — you or
another, it’s all the same. I knew from the first it would be the same thing; one can’t cross her,
one can’t say a word to cross her if one wants to keep one’s happiness; only, you know, sir”
— Murin went on with his reflections — “as the saying is, anything may happen; one snatches
a knife in one’s anger, or an unarmed man will fall on you like a sheep, with his bare hands,
and tear his enemy’s throat with his teeth; but let them put the knife in your hands and your
enemy bare his chest before you — no fear, you’ll step back.”
They went into the yard. The Tatar saw Murin from a distance, took off his cap to him
and stared slyly at Ordynov.
“Where’s your mother? At home?” Murin shouted to him.
“Tell her to help him move his things, and you get away, run along!”
They went up the stairs. The old servant, who appeared to be really the porter’s mother,
was getting together their lodger’s belongings and peevishly putting them in a big bundle.
“Wait a minute; I’ll bring you something else of yours; it’s left in there...”
Murin went into his room. A minute later he came back and gave Ordynov a sumptuous
cushion, covered with embroidery in silks and braid, the one that Katerina had put under his
head when he was ill.
“She sends you this,” said Murin. “And now go for good and good luck to you; and mind
now, don’t hang about,” he added in a fatherly tone, dropping his voice, “or harm will come of
It was evident that he did not want to offend his lodger, but when he cast a last look at
him, a gleam of intense malice was unconsciously apparent in his face. Almost with repulsion
he closed the door after Ordynov.
Within two hours Ordynov had moved into the rooms of Schpies the German. Tinchen
was horrified when she saw him. She at once asked after his health and, when she learned
what was wrong, at once did her best to nurse him.
The old German showed his lodger complacently how he had just been going down to
paste a new placard on the gate, because the rent Ordynov had paid in advance had run out,
that very day, to the last farthing. The old man did not lose the opportunity of commending, in
a roundabout way, the accuracy and honesty of Germans. The same day Ordynov was taken
ill, and it was three months before he could leave his bed.
Little by little he got better and began to go out. Daily life in the German’s lodgings was
tranquil and monotonous. The old man had no special characteristics: pretty Tinchen, within
the limits of propriety, was all that could be desired. But life seemed to have lost its colour for
Ordynov for ever I He became dreamy and irritable; his impressionability took a morbid form
and he sank imperceptibly into dull, angry hypochondria. His books were sometimes not
opened for weeks together. The future was closed for him, his money was being spent, and
he gave up all effort, he did not even think of the future. Sometimes his old feverish zeal forscience, his old fervour, the old visions of his own creation, rose up vividly from the past, but
they only oppressed and stifled his spiritual energy. His mind would not get to work. His
creative force was at a standstill. It seemed as though all those visionary images had grown
up to giants in his imagination on purpose to mock at the impotence of their creator. At
melancholy moments he could not help comparing himself with the magician’s pupil who,
learning by stealth his master’s magic word, bade the broom bring him water and choked
himself drinking it, as he had forgotten how to say, “Stop.” Possibly a complete, original,
independent idea really did exist within him. Perhaps he had been destined to be the artist in
science. So at least he himself had believed in the past. Genuine faith is the pledge of the
future. But now at some moments he laughed himself at his blind conviction, and — and did
not take a step forward.
Six months before, he had worked out, created and jotted down on paper a sketch of a
work upon which (as he was so young) in non-creative moments he had built his most solid
hopes. It was a work relating to the history of the church, and his warmest, most fervent
convictions were to find expression in it. Now he read over that plan, made changes in it,
thought it over, read it again, looked things up and at last rejected the idea without
constructing anything fresh on its ruins. But something akin to mysticism, to fatalism and a
belief in the mysterious began to make its way into his mind. The luckless fellow felt his
sufferings and besought God to heal him. The German’s servant, a devout old Russian
woman, used to describe with relish how her meek lodger prayed and how he would lie for
hours together as though unconscious on the church pavement...
He never spoke to anyone of what had happened to him. But at times, especially at the
hour when the church bells brought back to him the moment when first his heart ached and
quivered with a feeling new to him, when he knelt beside her in the house of God, forgetting
everything, and hearing nothing but the beating of her timid heart, when with tears of ecstasy
and joy he watered the new, radiant hopes that had sprang up in his lonely life — then a storm
broke in his soul that was wounded for ever; then his soul shuddered, and again the anguish
of love glowed in his bosom with scorching fire; then
his heart ached with sorrow and passion and his love seemed to grow with his grief. Often for
hours together, forgetting himself and his daily life, forgetting everything in the world, he would
sit in the same place, solitary, disconsolate; would shake his head hopelessly and, dropping
silent tears, would whisper to himself:
“Katerina, my precious dove, my one loved sister!”
A hideous idea began to torment him more and more, it haunted him more and more
vividly, and every day took more probable, more actual shape before him. He fancied — and
at last he believed it fully — he fancied that Katerina’s reason was sound, but that Murin was
right when he called her “a weak heart”. He fancied that some mystery, some secret, bound
her to the old man, and that Katerina, though innocent of crime as a pure dove, had got into
his power. Who were they? He did not know, but he had constant visions of an immense,
overpowering despotism over a poor, defenceless creature, and his heart raged and trembled
in impotent indignation. He fancied that before the frightened eyes of her suddenly awakened
soul the idea of its degradation had been craftily presented, that the poor weak heart had
been craftily tortured, that the truth had been twisted and contorted to her, that she had, with
a purpose, been kept blind when necessary, that the inexperienced inclinations of her troubled
passionate heart had been subtly flattered, and by degrees the free soul had been clipt of its
wings till it was incapable at last of resistance or of a free movement towards free life...
By degrees Ordynov grew more and more unsociable and, to do them justice, his
Germans did not hinder him in the tendency.
He was fond of walking aimlessly about the streets. He preferred the hour of twilight,
and, by choice, remote, secluded and unfrequented places. On one rainy, unhealthy spring
evening, in one of his favourite back-lanes he met Yaroslav Ilyitch.Yaroslav Ilyitch was perceptibly thinner. His friendly eyes looked dim and he looked
altogether disappointed. He was racing off full speed on some business of the utmost
urgency, he was wet through and muddy and, all the evening, a drop of rain had in an almost
fantastic way been hanging on his highly decorous but now blue nose. He had, moreover,
grown whiskers.
These whiskers and the fact that Yaroslav Ilyitch glanced at him as though trying to avoid
a meeting with an old friend almost startled Ordynov. Strange to say, it even wounded his
heart, which had till then felt no need for sympathy. He preferred, in fact, the man as he had
been — simple, kindly, naive; speaking candidly, a little stupid, but free from all pretensions to
disillusionment and common sense. It is unpleasant when a foolish man whom we have once
liked, just on account of his foolishness, suddenly becomes sensible; it is decidedly
disagreeable. However, the distrust with which he looked at Ordynov was quickly effaced.
In spite of his disillusionment he still retained his old manners, which, as we all know,
accompany a man to the grave, and even now he eagerly tried to win Ordynov’s confidence.
First of all he observed that he was very busy, and then that they had not seen each other for
a long time; but all at once the conversation took a strange turn.
Yaroslav Ilyitch began talking of the deceitfulness of mankind in general. Of the
transitoriness of the blessings of this world, of the vanity of vanities; he even made a passing
allusion to Pushkin with more than indifference, referred with some cynicism to his
acquaintances and, in conclusion, even hinted at the deceitfulness and treachery of those who
are called friends, though there is no such thing in the world as real friendship and never has
been; in short, Yaroslav Ilyitch had grown wise.
Ordynov did not contradict him, but he felt unutterably sad, as though he had buried his
best friend.
“Ah! fancy, I was forgetting to tell you,” Yaroslav Ilyitch began suddenly, as though
recalling something very interesting. “There’s a piece of news! I’ll tell you as a secret. Do you
remember the house where you lodged?”
Ordynov started and turned pale.
“Well, only fancy, just lately a whole gang of thieves was discovered in that house; that
is, would you believe me, a regular band of brigands; smugglers, robbers of all sorts,
goodness knows what. Some have been caught but others are still being looked for; the
sternest orders have been given. And, can you believe it! do you remember the master of the
house, that pious, respectable, worthy-looking old man?”
“What is one to think of mankind? He was the chief of their gang, the leader. Isn’t it
Yaroslav Ilyitch spoke with feeling and judged of all mankind from one example, because
Yaroslav Ilyitch could not do otherwise, it was his character.
“And they? Murin?” Ordynov articulated in a whisper. “Ah! Murin, Murin! no, he was a
worthy old man, quite respectable... but, excuse me, you throw a new light...”
“Why? Was he, too, in the gang?”
Ordynov’s heart was ready to buret with impatience.
“However, as you say...” added Yaroslav Ilyitch, fixing his pewtery eyes on Ordynov — a
sign that he was reflecting — “Murin could not have been one of them. Just three weeks ago
he went home with his wife to their own parts... I learned it from the porter, that little Tatar, do
you remember?
Netochka Nezvanova
First published : 1849
Translation : Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Part 1
Chapter 1

I don’t remember my father. He died when I was two years old. My mother married a
second time. This second marriage brought her a great deal of sorrow, though it was a
marriage of love. My stepfather was a musician. His history was a remarkable one: he was
the strangest, the most extraordinary man I have ever known. His image is very vivid among
the earliest impressions of my childhood, so vivid that those impressions have had an
influence on the whole of my life. First of all, to make my story intelligible, I will give a sketch
of his biography. Everything which I am now going to tell you I learned later on from the
celebrated violinist B., who was a comrade and an intimate friend of my stepfather’s in his
My stepfather’s surname was Yefimov. He was born on the estate of a very rich
landowner and was the son of a poor musician, who after years of wandering had settled on
the estate of this landowner and played in the latter’s orchestra. The landowner lived in
luxurious style, and loved music passionately, above everything. The story was told of him
that, though he never left home even to go to Moscow, yet on one occasion he took it into his
head to go to some watering-place abroad, and that he went there for no longer than a few
weeks with the sole object of hearing a famous violinist who, as the newspapers announced,
was going to give three concerts at the watering-place. He had himself a fairly good orchestra
of musicians, on which he spent almost the whole of his income. This orchestra my stepfather
entered as clarinet player. He was twenty-two years old when he made the acquaintance of a
strange man. In the same district there was living a wealthy count, who ruined himself over
keeping up a private theatre in his house. This count had dismissed the conductor of his
orchestra, an Italian, for bad conduct. This Italian certainly was a bad man. After he had been
turned off he sank into complete degradation. He took to going from one village tavern to
another, got drunk, sometimes begged, and there was no one in the whole province who
would employ him. It was with this fellow that my stepfather made friends. This connection
was strange and inexplicable, for no one noticed that he changed for the worse in his
behaviour through imitation of his friend; and even his patron himself, who had at first
forbidden him to associate with the Italian, afterwards winked at their friendship. At last the
Italian met with a sudden death. One morning he was found by some peasants in a ditch by
the dam. An inquest was held, and it appeared that he had died of an apoplectic fit. His
belongings were in the keeping of my stepfather, who promptly produced evidence that he
was entitled to take possession of them: the Italian had left a note in his own handwriting
bequeathing everything he had to my stepfather in case of his death. The property consisted
of a black frock-coat which had been carefully preserved by its late owner, as he never gave
up hope of getting a situation, and of a rather ordinary-looking violin. Nobody disputed the
inheritance. But a short time afterwards, the first violin of the count’s orchestra came to the
landowner with a letter from the count, in which the latter begged him to persuade Yefimov in
sell the violin left him by the Italian, as he greatly desired to obtain it for his orchestra. He
offered three thousand roubles, and added that he had several times already sent for Yegor
Yefimov in order that he might arrange the sale with him personally, but had always met with
an obstinate refusal from the latter. The count concluded by saying that the price he offered
was what the violin was worth, that he was not trying to get it for less than its value, and that
in Yefimov’s refusal he saw an insulting suspicion that he, the count, was trying to take
advantage of the musician’s simplicity and ignorance, and he therefore begged Yefimov’s
patron to bring him to reason.
The landowner promptly sent for my stepfather.
“Why won’t you sell the violin?” he asked him. “It’s no use to you. You’ll be given threethousand roubles, that’s what it is worth, and you are making a mistake if you think you will
get more. The count isn’t going to cheat you.”
Yefimov answered that he would not go to the count of his own accord, but that if he
were sent, he must do his master’s bidding; he would not sell the fiddle to the count, but if
they should take it from him by force, then again he must submit to his master’s will.
It was clear that by this answer he had touched a very sensitive spot in his patron’s
character. The fact was that the latter had always said with pride that he knew how to treat his
musicians, for they were all genuine artists, every one of them, and that thanks to them his
orchestra was not only better than the count’s, but equal to any in Petersburg or Moscow.
“Very well,” answered the landowner. “I will inform the count that you won’t sell the violin
because you won’t, for you have a perfect right to sell it or not to sell it, you understand? But I
ask you myself, what use is the violin to you? The clarinet is your instrument, though you are
a poor player. Let me have it. I’ll give you three thousand” (who could have told it was such a
valuable instrument?).
Yefimov gave a laugh.
“No, sir, I won’t sell it you,” he answered. “Of course you are the master...”
“Why, I am not forcing you, am I? I am not compelling you, am I?” cried the landowner,
losing his temper, the more readily as the conversation took place before the count’s
musician, who might from this scene draw very disadvantageous conclusions as to the
position of the musicians in the landowner’s orchestra. “Be off, you ungrateful fellow! Don’t let
me see you again. But for me what would have become of you with your clarinet, which you
can’t play? With me you are fed and clothed and get a salary; you live like a gentleman, but
you don’t care to understand that, and you don’t feel it. Be off, and do not exasperate me with
your presence here!”
The landowner used to drive everyone with whom he got angry out of his presence,
because he was afraid of himself and his own hastiness. And on no account would he have
behaved too severely with “artists”, as he called his musicians.
The bargain did not come off, and it seemed as though that was the end of the matter,
when a month later the count’s violinist got up a horrible plot. On his own initiative, he made a
statement to the police, in which he charged my stepfather with being responsible for the
Italian’s death, and with having murdered him with the mercenary object of acquiring a rich
inheritance. He asserted that the will had been extorted by force, and swore that he could
produce witnesses in support of his accusation. Neither the warnings nor the entreaties of the
count and the landowner on behalf of my stepfather could move the informer from his
purpose. They pointed out to him that the inquest on the Italian had been properly conducted,
that he was flying in the face of facts, possibly through personal spite and disappointment at
not getting the valuable instrument which was to have been bought for him. The musician
stuck to his point, swore that he was right, asserted that the apoplectic fit had been due not to
drunkenness but to poison, and demanded a second inquest. At the first glance there seemed
to be something in his story. The case was followed up, of course. Yefimov was taken and
sent to prison in town. The trial, in which the whole province took an interest, began. It was
soon over, and ended in the musician being convicted of false witness. He was sentenced to a
fitting punishment, but he stuck to the story to the end, and maintained that he was right.
Finally he acknowledged that he had no proofs, that the evidence he had brought forward had
been invented by himself, but that he had been led by suppositions, by surmises, to invent it
all; for up to the time of the second inquest, when Yefimov’s innocence was formally proved,
he had been fully convinced that Yefimov had caused the death of the luckless Italian, though
he had perhaps not poisoned him, but murdered him in some other way. But the informer’s
sentence was not carried out, he was suddenly taken ill with inflammation of the brain, went
out of his mind, and died in the prison hospital.
During the whole of this affair, the landowner behaved in the most generous way. Hedefended my stepfather as though he had been his own son. Several times he went to the
prison, to comfort him, to give him money, and learning that Yefimov was fond of smoking,
took him the best cigars, and when he was acquitted gave a fêteto the orchestra. The
landowner looked upon the Yefimov affair as a matter concerning the whole orchestra,
because he prized good behaviour in his musicians, if not more than, at least as much as their
talents. A whole year passed, and suddenly a rumour went round the province, that a famous
violinist, a Frenchman, had arrived in the chief town of the province and was going to give a
few concerts there. The landowner began at once trying to get him to pay him a visit.
Everything seemed favourable; the Frenchman promised to come. All the preparations were
made, almost the whole district had been invited to meet him, but all at once things took quite
a different turn.
One morning it was announced that Yefimov had disappeared, no one knew where. A
search was made, but there was no trace of him. The orchestra was in a desperate plight,
there was no one to play the clarinet; when, three days after Yefimov’s disappearance, the
landowner received a letter from the French violinist in which the latter haughtily refused the
invitation, adding, in a roundabout way of course, that he would for the future be extremely
careful in his relations with gentlemen who keep their own orchestras of musicians, that it was
an offence against good taste to see real talent under the control of a man who did not know
its value, and that the example of Yefimov, a true artist and the best violinist he had met in
Russia, was a proof of the justice of his words.
The landowner was thrown into the utmost amazement by reading this letter. He was
mortified to the depths of his soul. What! Yefimov, the Yefimov for whom he had done so
much, on whom he had heaped such kindness, had so mercilessly and shamelessly slandered
him to a European artist, the sort of man whose opinion he most valued! And the letter was
inexplicable in another way: he was informed that Yefimov was an artist of real talent, that he
was a violinist, but that his talent had not been recognised and he had been forced to play
another instrument. All this so much astounded the landowner that he immediately prepared
to go to the town for a personal interview with the Frenchman, when he received a letter from
the count in which the latter invited him to come to his house at once, and told him that he
knew all about the affair, that the famous Frenchman was now in his house with Yefimov, that,
being astonished at the latter’s impudence and slander, he, the count, had ordered him to be
detained, and that the presence of the landowner was essential, since he, the count, was also
implicated in Yefimov’s accusation. He added that the affair was very important, and must be
cleared up as soon as possible.
The landowner, promptly setting off to the count’s, at once made the acquaintance of the
Frenchman there and told him all my stepfather’s story, adding that he had never suspected
so great a talent in Yefimov, that the latter had been on the contrary a very poor clarinet
player, and that he heard now for the first time that his runaway musician was a violinist. He
added further that Yefimov was a free man, that he enjoyed complete liberty, and could leave
him at any moment if he really were oppressed. The Frenchman was surprised. They sent for
Yefimov, and he was almost unrecognisable: he behaved conceitedly, answered with derision
and persisted in the truth of all he had told the Frenchman. All this intensely exasperated the
count, who told my stepfather in so many words that he was a scoundrel and a slanderer, and
that he deserved an ignominious punishment.
“Don’t excite yourself, your Excellency. I know you well enough already, and understand
you thoroughly,” my stepfather answered. “Thanks to you, I was within an inch of being
sentenced for murder. I know at whose instigation Alexey Nikiforitch, your late musician,
trumped up a false charge against me.”
The count was beside himself with rage on hearing this horrible accusation. He could
hardly control himself; but a government official who had come to the count’s on business and
happened to be in the room, declared that he could not let this pass without investigation, thatYefimov’s insulting rudeness was equivalent to malice, wilful slander and libel, and he
respectfully asked to be allowed to arrest him on the spot in the count’s house. The
Frenchman showed great indignation, and said that he could not understand such black
ingratitude. Then my stepfather replied emphatically that to be punished, to be tried, even
though it were again on a charge of murder, was better than such an existence as he had
hitherto endured, belonging to the landowner’s orchestra, and being unable to leave it owing to
his extreme poverty. And with these words he went out of the room, accompanied by the man
who arrested him. They shut him up in a room apart, and threatened to take him to the town
next day.
About midnight the prisoner’s door was opened. The landowner walked in. He was in his
dressing-gown and slippers and was carrying a lighted lantern. It appeared that he could not
sleep, and that he was so terribly worried that he had been driven to leave his bed at such an
hour. Yefimov was not asleep and he looked with amazement at his visitor, who put down the
lantern and in great agitation sat down in a chair facing him.
“Yegor,” he said to him, “why have you done me this wrong?”
Yefimov did not answer. The landowner repeated his question, and there was a note of
deep feeling, of strange misery in his words.
“God knows why I have, sir!” my stepfather answered at last, with a despairing gesture.
“I suppose that the devil confounded me! I don’t know myself who drove me to do it! But I
can’t go on living with you, I can’t bear it... The devil himself has got hold of me!”
“Yegor,” the landowner began again, “come back to me. I will forget everything, I will
forgive everything. Listen: you shall be my leading musician, I offer you a salary above all the
“No, sir, no, and don’t speak of it; your house is not for me to live in! I tell you that the
devil has got hold of me. I shall set fire to the house if I stay with you. Such misery comes
over me at times that it would have been better if I had never been born. I cannot answer for
myself now; you had better leave me alone, sir. It has been like this with me ever since that
devil made a friend of me...”
“Who?” asked the landowner.
“Why, who died like a forsaken dog, the Italian.”
“It was he who taught you to play, Yegorushka.”
“Yes! Many things he taught me to my ruin. It would have been better for me not to have
seen him.”
“Was he a first-rate violinist too, Yegorushka?”
“No, he couldn’t do much himself, but he taught well. I learned by myself, he only showed
me, and better for me if my hand had been withered than what I have learned. I don’t myself
know now what I want. Here, sir, if you were to ask me: ‘What do you want, Yegorka? I can
give you anything,’ I shouldn’t say a word in answer, because I don’t know myself what I want.
No, sir, I tell you again you had better leave me alone. I shall do myself some mischief, so as
to be sent far away, and that will be the end of it!”
“Yegor,” said the landowner after a minute’s silence, “I cannot leave you like this. Since
you don’t want to be in my service, go your own way, you are a free man, I cannot keep you;
but I cannot part from you like this. Play me something, Yegor, play on your violin. For God’s
sake play something. I am not ordering you, understand me, I am not compelling you, I beg
you with tears: play me, Yegorushka, for God’s sake, what you played to the Frenchman.
Give me the pleasure. You are obstinate and I am obstinate. I have my ways too,
Yegorushka. I feel for you, you too might have feeling. I can’t bear it if of your own free will
and pleasure you do not play me what you played the Frenchman.”
“Well, so be it,” said Yefimov. “I had vowed to myself never to play before you, sir,
before you above all, but now my heart has melted. I will play to you only for the first and last
time, and you will never hear me again anywhere, sir, not if you pay me a thousand roubles.”Then he took his violin and began playing variations on Russian songs. B. said that these
variations were his first and best piece for the violin, and that he never played anything so well
and with such inspiration. The landowner, who could not listen to any music with indifference,
shed tears. When the performance was over, he got up from his chair, took out three hundred
roubles, gave them to my stepfather and said:
“Now go your way, Yegor. I will let you out from here and will make everything right with
the count; but listen: never meet me again. A wide road lies open to you, but if we run against
each other on it, it will be mortifying for you and also for me. Well, good-bye... Wait a
moment, one more piece of advice for you on your way, one only. Don’t drink, but study,
study every hour. Don’t grow conceited. I speak to you as your own father would speak to
you. Mind, I tell you once again, study and don’t take to drink; but if you once take to it from
grief (and you will have much trouble) you may reckon all is lost, everything will go to the devil,
and maybe you yourself will die in the ditch like your Italian. Come, now, good-bye!... Stay,
kiss me.”
They kissed each other, and then my stepfather went away in freedom.
Scarcely had he found himself at liberty when he began by squandering his three
hundred roubles on debauchery in the nearest town, associating with a very low, dirty crew of
rollicking companions. Being left penniless with no one to help him, he ended by being
compelled to go into a wretched band attached to a strolling provincial company, as the first
and perhaps the only violinist. All this was utterly inconsistent with his original intentions, which
were to go as soon as possible to study in Petersburg, to obtain a good situation, and to
develop into a first-rate artist. But he did not get on in the little orchestra. He soon quarrelled
with the manager of the company, and left. Then he completely lost heart, and even brought
himself to a desperate step very galling to his pride. He wrote a letter to the landowner, his
former patron, describing his position and asking for money. The letter was written in a rather
independent style, but no answer came to him. Then he wrote a second letter in which in the
most cringing phrases, calling the landowner his benefactor and a true connoisseur of the
arts, he begged him again for assistance. At last an answer came. The landowner sent him a
hundred roubles and a few lines in the handwriting of his valet, in which he told him not to
trouble him with begging letters in the future. When he got this money, my stepfather meant
to set off for Petersburg at once, but after paying his debts he had so little money left that the
journey was out of the question. He was obliged to remain in the provinces, again went into
some provincial orchestra, then again could not get on in it, and passing from one place to
another, spent six whole years in the provinces, all the while cherishing the dream of getting in
a short time to Petersburg. At last he was attacked by something like terror. With despair he
noticed how his talent was suffering, continually hampered by his disorderly and beggarly
existence; and one morning he abandoned his manager, took his violin and, almost begging
his way, at last reached Petersburg. He installed himself somewhere in a garret, and it was
here that he made the acquaintance of B., who had just arrived from Germany and was also
striving to make a career. They soon made friends, and B. recalls their acquaintance with
deep feeling even now. Both were young; they had the same hopes and the same object. But
B. was still in his first youth; he had had little experience of poverty and sorrow; moreover he
was pre-eminently a German and worked for his object obstinately and systematically, with a
complete consciousness of his powers, and almost able to calculate beforehand the degree of
success he could attain; while his companion, Yefimov, who was thirty, was already tired and
weary, had lost all capacity for persistent effort, and had exhausted his early health and vigour
in the seven years during which he had been forced for a crust of bread to lead a vagabond
existence shifting about from one provincial company or private orchestra to another. He had
been supported by the one perpetual unchanging hope of struggling out of his wretched
position, saving money and getting to Petersburg. But this hope had been dim and vague, it
was a sort of irresistible inner impulse which had with years lost its first definiteness even inYefimov’s own eyes; and by the time he came to Petersburg he was acting almost
unconsciously through a sort of everlasting habit of everlasting yearning and brooding over the
journey, and scarcely knew himself what he was going to do in the capital. His enthusiasm
was somehow spasmodic, jaundiced, and came by fits and starts, as though he were trying to
deceive himself by this enthusiasm, and to persuade himself that his vigour, his first fervour,
his first inspiration, had not yet disappeared. His incessant ecstasies impressed the cool and
methodical B.; he was dazzled, and hailed my stepfather as the coming musical genius. At
first B. could imagine no other future for him. But before long his eyes were opened, and he
saw through my step father completely. He saw clearly that all this jerkiness, feverish haste,
and impatience were nothing but unconscious despair at the thought of his wasted talents;
and that possibly the talent itself had not been even at the very first so great, that there had
been in it a great deal of blindness, of mistaken self-confidence, of premature self-satisfaction
and of incessant dreaming, incessant brooding over his own genius. “But,” B. used to tell me,
“I could not help wondering at the strange character of my companion. A desperate feverish
contest between violently over-strained will and inner impotence was taking place in actual life
before my eyes. The unhappy man had for seven whole years been content with mere
dreams of his future glory, so much so that he did not even notice how he had lost what is
most fundamental in our art, how he had let slip even the most fundamental mechanism of his
work. And yet the most colossal plans for the future were continually taking shape in his
disordered imagination. It was not enough for him to want to be a genius of the first rank, one
of the first violinists in the world; it was not enough for him that he already considered himself
such a genius — on the top of all that, he dreamed of becoming also a composer, though he
knew nothing about counterpoint. But what astounded me most of all,” B. added, “was that
this man, with his complete impotence, with his really insignificant knowledge of the technique
of his art, had yet so deep, so clear, and so instinctive an understanding of music. He felt and
understood it so deeply that it was no wonder if he went astray in his own estimate of himself,
and took himself not merely for a profound instinctive critic of music, but for a high priest of
that art, for a genius. Sometimes in his coarse, plain language, untouched by any education,
he would utter such profound truths that I was struck dumb, and could not understand how he
had divined it all, never having read anything and never having been taught anything. And I
was indebted to him,” B. would add, “to him and his counsels, for much of my own progress.
As for me,” B. continued, “I was not troubled on my own account. I, too, loved my art
passionately, though from the very beginning of my career I knew that I should be in a real
sense a humble labourer in the field of art and that I wanted nothing more; but on the other
hand, I was proud of the fact that I had not, like the ungrateful servant, buried what had been
given me by nature, but had increased it a hundredfold. And if the finish of my execution were
praised, if the perfection of my mechanism were admired, all that I owed to unceasing,
unflagging toil, to the clear recognition of my own powers, to voluntary self-subordination and
to a persistent struggle against conceit, against premature self-satisfaction, and the indolence
that is the natural consequence of that self-satisfaction.”
B. in his turn tried to give good advice to the friend by whom he was at first so
dominated, but only succeeded in irritating him to no purpose. A coolness between them
followed. B. soon observed that his friend was beginning to be more and more a prey to
apathy, misery and boredom, that his bouts of enthusiasm were becoming less and less
frequent, and that all this was followed by a gloomy, savage despondency. Finally Yefimov
took to abandoning his violin and sometimes would not touch it for a whole week. Complete
moral collapse was not far off, and before long the wretched man had sunk into every vice.
What his former patron had foretold came true. He gave way to excessive drinking. B. looked
on at him with horror; his advice had no effect, and indeed he was afraid to say a word. Little
by little Yefimov became utterly shameless; he did not scruple to live at B.’s expense, and
even behaved as though he had a complete right to do so. Meanwhile B.’s resources werebeing exhausted, he lived from hand to mouth by giving lessons, or by playing at evening
parties for merchants, for Germans, and for petty officials who, though they paid little, paid
him something. Yefimov seemed unwilling to notice his friend’s straits: he behaved sullenly
with him, and for weeks together did not deign to say a word to him. One day B. observed to
him in the mildest way that it would not be amiss for him to take up his violin occasionally, that
he might not lose his skill with the instrument altogether; then Yefimov flew into a rage and
declared that he would never touch his violin again, as though he imagined that someone
would implore him on his knees to do so. On another occasion B. needed someone to play
with him at an evening party, and he asked Yefimov. This invitation moved Yefimov to fury. He
declared that he was not a street musician, and would not demean himself like B. to degrade
his noble art by playing to low tradesmen who would not understand his talent and his playing.
B. did not say one word in answer; but Yefimov, brooding over this suggestion in the absence
of his friend, who had gone to play, imagined that all this was only a hint at the fact that he
was living at B.’s expense, and a desire to make him feel that he, too, ought to try to earn
some money. When B. came back, Yefimov began to reproach him for the meanness of his
conduct, and declared that he would not remain with him another minute. He actually did
disappear for two days, but on the third turned up again as though nothing had happened, and
went on living as before.
Only their former intimacy and affection, and the compassion which B. felt for the ruined
man, restrained him from making up his mind to put an end to this disorderly existence and to
part with Yefimov for ever. At last they did part. Fortune smiled on B., he obtained powerful
patronage and succeeded in giving a brilliant concert. By that time he was a first-rate
performer, and his rapidly growing reputation soon afterwards gained him a place in the
orchestra of an opera-house where he quickly won well-deserved success. At parting he gave
Yefimov money, and begged him with tears in his eyes to return to the right path. B. cannot to
this day remember him without marked feeling. His friendship with Yefimov was one of the
strongest impressions of his youth. They had begun their career together, had become
warmly attached to one another, and even Yefimov’s strangeness, his coarse and glaring
defects, drew B. more warmly to him. B. understood him; he saw through him, and knew
beforehand how it would end. They embraced, and both shed tears at parting. Then Yefimov
said through tears and sobs that he was a ruined and most unhappy man, that he had known
it a long time, and that only now he saw his ruin clearly.
“I have no talent!” he said, turning as pale as death.
B. was deeply moved.
“Listen, Yegor Petrovitch,” he said to him. “What are you doing to yourself? You will only
ruin yourself with your despair; you have no patience, no courage. Now you are saying in a fit
of despondency that you have no talent. It’s not true. You have talent, I assure you you have.
You have it. I can tell that merely from the way you feel and understand music. I will prove
you that by the whole of your life. You have told me about the way you lived in the past; then,
too, you were haunted by the same despair. Then your first teacher, that strange man of
whom you have told me so much, first roused in you a love for music and divined your talent.
You felt it then as intensely and painfully as you feel it now, but you did not understand what
was happening to you. You could not bear living in your patron’s house, and you did not know
yourself what you wanted. Your teacher died too early. He left you with nothing but vague
yearnings and, worst of all, did not explain you to yourself. You felt that you needed some
other wider path, that you were destined for other aims, but you did not understand how this
could come about, and in your misery you came to hate everything that surrounded you. Your
six years of poverty and hardship have not been lost; you have studied, you have thought,
you have become conscious of yourself and your powers, you understand music and your
vocation now. My friend, you must have patience and courage. A lot far more to be envied
than mine awaits you; you are a hundred times more of an artist than I; but God gave you butthe tenth part of my patience. Study and do not drink, as your kind old patron told you; and
above all, begin from the beginning again, from the A B C. What worries you? Is it poverty,
privation? But poverty and privation form the artist. They are inevitable at first. No one wants
you now, no one cares to know you; that is the way of the world. Wait a bit, it will be different
presently when they find out that you have a gift. Envy, petty meanness, and, worst of all,
stupidity will weigh upon you more heavily than privation. Talent wants sympathy, it wants to
be understood, and you will see what people will press round you when you attain ever so little
of your aim. They will set at nought and despise what you have gained by bitter toil, privations,
hunger, sleepless nights. They will not encourage you, they will not comfort you, your future
comrades, they will not point out to you what is good and true in you; but with spiteful glee will
catch up every mistake you make, will urge you to what is bad in you, to what you are
mistaken about, and under an outward show of coolness and contempt will rejoice as though it
were a festivity over every mistake you make. (As though anyone were free from mistakes!)
You are conceited, you are often proud when there is no need to be, and may offend the
amour-propre of some nonentity, and then there will be trouble — you will be one and they will
be many. They will torment you with pin-pricks. Even I am beginning to have experience of
that. Cheer up! You are not so poor, you can live. Don’t look down on humble work, slave
away as I have done at poor artisans’ entertainments. But you are impatient, you are sick with
your impatience, you are not simple enough, you are too subtle, you think too much, you give
your brain too much work. You are audacious in words, and faint-hearted when you take up
your bow. You are vain, and yet not bold enough. Courage! wait a bit, study; and if you do not
rely on your own powers, then trust to luck: you have fervour, you have feeling. You may
reach your goal, and if not, anyway try your luck, you will not lose in any case, for the stake is
too great. Trusting to luck, brother, is a great thing.” Yefimov listened to his comrade with
deep feeling. But as the latter talked, the pallor left his cheeks; they flushed red; his eyes
flashed with unaccustomed fire, courage and hope. This courage soon passed into
selfconfidence, and then into his habitual arrogance; and at last, when B. was finishing his
exhortation, Yefimov listened to him absent-mindedly and impatiently. He warmly pressed his
hand, however, thanked him, and always rapid in his transitions from the lowest
selfabasement and despondency to extreme arrogance and insolence, declared conceitedly that
his friend need not trouble himself about his future, that he knew how to manage his own
affairs, that he hoped very shortly to get powerful support, that he would give a concert and
so at once obtain fame and money. B. shrugged his shoulders but did not contradict him; and
they parted, though of course not for long. Yefimov at once spent the money that had been
given to him and came to borrow more; then a second time, and a fourth, and a tenth, till at
last B. lost patience and said he was not at home. From that time he lost sight of him
Several years passed. One day, as B. was coming home from a rehearsal, at the
entrance of a dirty tavern in a back street he jostled against a badly dressed drunken man
who called him by his name. It was Yefimov. He was greatly changed, his face looked yellow
and bloated. It could be seen that his reckless life was putting a stamp upon him that could
never be effaced. B. was overjoyed, and before he had time to say a couple of words to him,
had followed him into the tavern into which Yefimov dragged him. There in a little grimy room
apart B. scrutinised his companion more closely. The latter was almost in rags, in broken
boots; his frayed shirt-front was covered with wine-6tains. His hair was thin and beginning to
turn grey.
“How are you getting on? Where are you now?” B. asked him.
Yefimov was overcome with embarrassment, even scared at first; he answered jerkily
and incoherently, so much so that B. began to think that he was out of his mind. At last
Yefimov confessed that he could not talk until he had had a drink of vodka, and that they had
long since refused him credit in the tavern. Saying this, he flushed crimson, though he tried tocarry it off with a jaunty gesture; but it gave an effect of insolence, artificiality and importunity,
so that it was all very pitiful and excited the compassion of kind-hearted B., who saw that his
worst apprehensions were fulfilled. He ordered vodka, however. Yefimov’s face was
transformed with gratitude, and he was so overcome that he was ready with tears in his eyes
to kiss his benefactor’s hand. Over dinner B. learned to his great surprise that the wretched
man was married. But he was still more amazed when he heard that his wife was the cause of
all his misery and misfortunes, and that his marriage had destroyed all his talent.
“How is that?” asked B.
“It’s two years since I have taken up my violin, brother,” Yefimov answered. “She’s a
common woman, a cook, a coarse, uneducated woman. Damn her... We do nothing but
“Then why did you marry her if that is how it is?”
“I had nothing to eat. I got to know her; she had about a thousand roubles. I rushed
headlong into matrimony. It was she fell in love with me. She flung herself on my neck. No
one drove her to it. The money has gone on food and on drink, and — it’s all up with my
talent! All is lost.”
B. saw that Yefimov seemed in a hurry to justify himself.
“I have thrown it all up, thrown it all up,” he added. Then he informed him that of late
years he had attained almost perfection on the violin, that though B. was one of the first
violinists in the town, yet he would not have been able to hold a candle to him, Yefimov,
perhaps, if the latter had cared to outshine him.
“Then what’s the difficulty?” said B., surprised. “You should get a post!”
“It’s not worth while,” said Yefimov, with a wave of his hand. “There isn’t one of you there
who knows anything about it. What do you know? Bosh! nothing, that’s all you know. To
scrape out some jig in a ballet — that’s your job. You have never seen and never heard good
violinists. What’s the good of bothering you: you can stay as you like!”
At this point Yefimov waved his arm again and gave a lurch in his chair, for he was quite
drunk. Then he began inviting B. to come and see him. But the latter refused, taking his
address and promising to go to him next day. Yefimov, who by now had eaten his fill, looked
sarcastically at his old friend, and did everything he could to stick pins into him. When they
were going away he took B.’s expensive fur coat and handed it to him like a menial to his
superior. As they passed through the outer room he stopped and introduced him to the people
of the tavern and the company generally as the greatest violinist in Petersburg. In fact he was
very disgusting at that moment.
B. did, however, seek him out next morning, and found him in a garret where we were all
living at that time in great poverty. I was four years old then, and my mother had been
married to Yefimov two years. She was an unhappy woman. In the past she had been a
governess, very well educated, and good-looking, and had through poverty married an old
government clerk, my father. She only lived with him a year. When my father died suddenly
and his meagre fortune was divided among his heirs, my mother was left to face the world
alone with me, with a trilling sum of money, all that came to her share. To get a situation as a
governess again, with a very young child, was difficult. It was then that in some casual way
she met Yefimov, and really did fall in love with him. She was an enthusiast and a dreamer;
she saw in Yefimov a genius and believed in him on the strength of his conceited talk of a
brilliant future. Her imagination was flattered by the glorious task of being the prop, the guide
of a man of genius, and she married him.
All her dreams and hopes vanished in the first month, and there was left before her the
pitiful reality. Yefimov, who really had, perhaps, married my mother because she had about a
thousand roubles, folded his hands as soon as the money was spent; and as though delighted
at the excuse, declared to each and all that marriage was the death of his talent, that he could
not work in a stuffy room face to face with his starving family, that songs and music would notcome into his mind in such surroundings, and that evidently he was fated to be unlucky. I
believe he persuaded himself of the justice of his complaints, and it seemed as though he
were glad of an excuse. It seemed as though this unhappy ruined genius were seeking for an
external cause upon which the blame for all his failures, all his calamities, could be cast. He
could not face the awful thought that he had been ruined for art long ago and for ever. He
struggled convulsively with that fearful conviction as with a delirious nightmare, and when at
last the reality overcame him, when at moments his eyes were opened, he felt ready to go
mad with horror. He could not so easily lose his belief in what had so long been the centre of
his life, and to his last hour imagined that the moment had not passed. In times of doubt he
gave himself up to drink, which drove away his depression with its vile, stupefying fumes. In
fact he did not know how necessary’ his wife was to him at that time. She was a living pretext,
and in reality my stepfather became almost insane over the idea that when he buried his wife
who had ruined him all would go well again. My poor mother did not understand him. Like a
regular dreamer, she broke down at the first step into hostile reality; she became
hottempered, bitter, shrewish. She was continually quarrelling with her husband, who took a sort
of pleasure in tormenting her, and was continually egging him on to work. But my stepfather’s
blind obsession, his fixed idea, his craze, made him almost inhuman and unfeeling. He only
laughed, and swore he would not touch his violin till the death of his wife, and he told her this
with brutal frankness. My mother, who in spite of everything loved him passionately to the day
of her death, could not endure such a life. She became permanently ill and suffering, lived
continually on the rack, and in addition to all this misery, the whole anxiety of maintaining the
family fell upon her alone. She took to preparing meals for persons who would come and fetch
them. But her husband carried off all her money on the sly, and she was often compelled to
send back empty dishes instead of dinner to those for whom she cooked. When B. visited us
she was busy washing linen and remaking old clothes. We lived like this from hand to mouth in
our garret.
B. was struck by the poverty of the family.
“I say, it’s all nonsense what you tell me,” he said to my stepfather. “It’s not a. case of
ruining your talent. She is keeping you, and what are you doing?”
“Oh, nothing,” answered my stepfather.
But B. did not know all my mother’s troubles yet. Her husband often brought home a
regular rabble of ragamuffins and rowdies, and what scenes there were then!
B. spent a long time persuading his old comrade to reform. At last he told him if he
wouldn’t mend his ways he, B., would not help him; he declared without beating about the
bush that he would not give him money, because it would be spent on drink; and he asked
him finally to play him something on the violin, that he might see what could be done for him.
While my stepfather went for his violin, B. began secretly giving money to my mother, but she
would not take it. It was the first time she had had to take charity. Then B. gave the money to
me, and the poor woman melted into tears. My stepfather brought his violin, but asked for
vodka, saying he could not play without it. They sent for vodka. He drank it, and began getting
excited. “I will play you something of my own composition, because you are a friend,” he said
to B., and he drew out from under a chest of drawers a thick dusty manuscript book.
“I wrote all that myself,” he said, pointing to the book. “There you shall see! It’s very
different from your ballets, my boy.”
B. looked at a few pages without a word; then he opened the music he had with him, and
asked Yefimov to lay aside his own composition for the time and to play something of what he
had brought.
My stepfather was a little offended; however, afraid of losing a powerful friend, he did as
B. told him. B. perceived that his old friend had really worked and made much progress since
they had parted, though he did boast that he hadn’t touched the violin since his marriage. The
joy of my poor mother was worth seeing. She looked at her husband and was proud of himagain. The kind-hearted B., genuinely delighted, determined to set my stepfather on his feet
again. Even then he had powerful connections, and promptly began recommending his poor
friend and asking for help for him, making him promise beforehand that he would behave
himself. And meanwhile at his own expense he rigged him out in better clothes, and took him
to see several prominent persons upon whom the appointment he wanted to get for him
depended. The fact was that Yefimov’s bravado was only in words, and he seems to have
gladly accepted his old friend’s proposition. B. told me that the flattery and cringing
obsequiousness with which my stepfather tried to conciliate him, from fear of losing his favour,
made him feel ashamed. Yefimov realised that he was being put on the right path, and even
left off drinking. At last a place was found for him in the orchestra of a theatre. He stood the
test well, for in one month of diligence and hard work he regained all that he had lost in a year
and a half of idleness, and he promised to work for the future and be punctual in the
discharge of his new duties. But the position of my mother and me was not in the least
improved. My stepfather did not give my mother a farthing of his salary; he spent it all on
himself, eating and drinking with his new companions, of whom he soon had a regular circle.
He associated chiefly with the theatre attendants, chorus singers, supers — in short, with
people amongst whom he could be first; and he avoided men of real talent. He succeeded in
inspiring in them a peculiar respect for himself; he at once impressed upon them that he was
an unrecognised genius, that he had been ruined by his wife, and finally that their conductor
knew nothing at all about music. He laughed at all the players in the orchestra, at the selection
of plays that were produced, and even at the composers of the operas they played. Finally, he
propounded a new theory of music; in short, he made all the orchestra sick of him. He
quarrelled with his superiors and with the conductor, was rude to the manager, gained the
reputation of being the most troublesome, the most nonsensical, and at the same time the
most worthless person, and made himself insufferable to everybody.
And indeed it was extremely strange to see such an insignificant man, such a poor and
useless performer and careless musician, with such immense pretensions, with such
boastfulness and swagger, with such an overbearing manner.
It ended in my stepfather’s quarrelling with B., inventing the most horrible slander, the
most disgusting calumny against him, and circulating it as authentic fact. After six months of
desultory work he was discharged from the orchestra, for drunkenness and negligence in the
discharge of his duties. But he still hung round the place. He was soon seen in his old rags,
for his decent clothes were all sold or pawned. He took to visiting his former associates,
regardless of whether they were pleased to see him or not; he spread spiteful gossip, babbled
nonsense, wept over his hard lot, and invited them all to come and see his wicked wife. Of
course there were people found to listen, people who took pleasure in giving drink to the
discharged musician, and making him talk all sorts of nonsense. Besides, he always talked
wittily and cleverly, and interspersed his talk with biting sarcasm and cynical sallies which
pleased listeners of a certain class. He was taken for something like a crazy buffoon, whom it
was sometimes pleasant to set talking to pass an idle hour. They liked teasing him by talking
before him of some new violinist who had come to Petersburg. When he heard this, Yefimov’s
face fell, he grew depressed and would begin inquiring who had come, and who was this new
celebrity, and at once began to feel jealous of his fame. I believe that this was the beginning
of his real permanent madness — the fixed idea that he was the finest violinist, at least in
Petersburg, but that he was persecuted by fate and ill-used, that owing to various intrigues he
was not understood and left in obscurity. The last idea positively flattered him, for there are
natures who are very fond of thinking themselves injured and oppressed, complaining aloud of
it, or consoling themselves by gloating in secret over their unrecognised greatness. He could
count over all the violinists in Petersburg on his fingers, and according to his notions could not
find a rival in any one of them. Connoisseurs and musical amateurs who knew the poor crazy
fellow liked to talk before him of some celebrated violinist so as to set him talking. They likedhis malice, his biting remarks, they liked the apt and clever things he said as he criticised the
playing of his supposed rivals. Often they did not understand him, but they were convinced
that no one else could hit off the musical celebrities of the day so neatly and with such smart
caricature. Even the musicians at whom he laughed were a little afraid of him, for they knew
his biting wit. They recognised the aptness of his attacks and the justice of his criticism when
there was something to find fault with. People grew used to seeing him in the corridors of the
theatre and behind the scenes. The attendants let him pass unquestioned as though he were
someone indispensable, and he became something like a Russian Thersites. This manner of
life lasted for two or three years, but at last he bored everyone in this latter pose as well. His
complete ostracism followed, and for the last two years of his life my stepfather seemed to
have vanished entirely and was seen nowhere. B., however, met him ‘on two occasions, but in
such a pitiful plight that compassion once more got the upper hand of his repugnance. He
called out his name, but my stepfather was offended and affected not to have heard him,
pulled his old battered hat over his eyes and passed by. At last, on the morning of one of the
chief holidays, B. was informed that his old friend Yefimov had come with his greetings. B.
went out to him. Yefimov was drunk, and began making extremely low bows almost down to
the ground, murmured something inarticulate, and obstinately refused to go into the room.
What his behaviour was meant to convey was: “How should poor wretches like us associate
with great people like you? the flunkey’s place is good enough for the likes of us; just to greet
you on a holiday, v/e make our bow and take ourselves off.” In fact, it was all horrid, stupid,
and revoltingly nasty. From that time B. did not see him again, till the catastrophe by which
this miserable, morbid, and delirious life was ended. It ended strangely. This catastrophe is
closely interwoven not only with the earliest impressions of my childhood, but with my whole
life. This is how it came to pass. But I ought first to explain what my childhood was like, and
what this man, whose image is so painfully reflected in my earliest impressions, and who was
the cause of my mother’s death, meant to me.
Chapter 2

I begin to remember myself very late, not till I was nearly line years old. I don’t know how
it was, but everything that happened to me before that age has left no impression I can recall
now. But from the time I was eight and a half I remember everything very distinctly, day by
day, without a break, as though everything that happened then had occurred not longer ago
than yesterday. It is true I can, as though in a dream, remember something earlier — a little
lamp always burning in a dark corner before an old-fashioned ikon; then my being once kicked
in the street by a horse, from which, as I was told afterwards, I lay ill in bed for three months;
then, too, during that illness my waking up at night beside my mother with whom I was
sleeping, and being suddenly terrified by my sick dreams, the stillness of the night, and the
mice scratching in the corner, and trembling with terror all night, huddling under the
bedclothes but not daring to wake my mother, from which I conclude that my fear of her was
greater than any other terror. But from the minute when I began to be conscious of myself I
developed rapidly, surprisingly, and was terribly capable of receiving many quite unchildlike
impressions. Everything became clear before my eyes, everything became intelligible to me
extremely quickly. The time from which I begin to remember my feelings well made a vivid and
sorrowful impression on me; this impression was repeated every day afterwards and grew
stronger every day; it threw a strange and gloomy colour over the whole time I lived with my
parents, and over the whole of my childhood too.
It seems to me now that I became suddenly conscious, as though awaking from deep
sleep (though at the time, of course, the change cannot have been so startling). I found
myself in a big room with a low-pitched ceiling, stuffy and unclean. The walls were coloured a
dirty grey tint; in the comer stood a huge Russian stove; the windows looked out into the
street, or more accurately, on to the roof of the house opposite, and were low and broad, like
chinks. The window-sills were so high from the floor that I remember — I had to push the
table up, set a stool on it, and so clamber up to the window, in which I was very fond of sitting
when there was no one at home. From our room one could see half the town; we lived just
under the roof of a very huge six-storey house. Our furniture consisted of a relic of a sofa with
the stuffing coming out, covered with American leather and coated with dust, a plain white
table, two chairs, my mother’s bed, in the corner a little cupboard with things in it, a chest of
drawers which always stood tilted to one side, and a torn paper screen.
I remember that it was dusk; everything was in disorder and had been flung about —
brushes, rags, our wooden bowls and spoons, a broken bottle, and I don’t know what else
besides. I remember that my mother was intensely excited and was crying about something.
My stepfather was sitting in a comer in the tattered frock-coat he always wore. He said
something sarcastic, which made her angrier than ever, and then brushes and bowls began
flying about again. I burst out crying, I began screaming and rushed at them both. I was in a
terrible panic, and put my arms round my stepfather to shield him. God knows why, but it
seemed to me that my mother had no reason to be angry with him, that he was not to blame;
I wanted to beg forgiveness for him, to bear any punishment for his sake. I was dreadfully
frightened of my mother, and imagined that everyone else was equally afraid of her. At first
my mother was astonished, then she took me by the hand and dragged me away behind the
screen. I knocked my arm against the bedstead rather painfully, but my terror was greater
than the pain and I did not even wince. I remember, too, that my mother began hotly and
bitterly saying something to my father and pointing at me. (I will henceforward call him my
father, as it was only much later that I learned that he was not related to me.) The whole
scene lasted about two hours and, quivering with suspense, I did my very utmost to guess
how it would end. At last the quarrel subsided, and my mother went out. Then my father calledme, kissed me, stroked my head, took me on his knee, and I nestled closely, sweetly to his
bosom. It was perhaps the first caress I had ever received from either parent, and perhaps
that is why I began to remember everything so distinctly from that time. I observed, too, that I
had gained my father’s favour by defending him; and the idea occurred to me, I believe for the
first time, that he had a great deal to put up with, and suffered at my mother’s hands. From
that time this idea was always with me, and made me more indignant every day.
From that moment I began to feel a boundless love for my father; but a strange sort of
love, not a childlike feeling. I should say that it was rather a compassionate, motherly feeling,
if such a definition of my love were not rather absurd as applied to a child. My father always
seemed to me so much to be pitied, so persecuted, so crushed, such a victim, that it seemed
to me a terrible and unnatural thing not to love him passionately, not to comfort him and be
kind to him, not to do one’s utmost for him. But I don’t understand to this day how the idea
entered my head that my father was such a victim, the most unhappy man in the world! Who
had instilled that idea into me? In what way could a child such as I was have any
understanding of his failures? But I did understand them, though I interpreted them and
changed them in my imagination; but to this day I cannot conceive how this impression was
formed. Perhaps my mother was too severe with me, and I attached myself to my father as a
creature suffering together with me from the same cause.
I have already described my first awakening from the sleep of childhood, the first stirrings
of life in me. My heart was wounded from the first moment, and my development began with
inconceivable and exhausting rapidity. I could no longer be satisfied with external impressions
alone. I began to think, to reason, to notice, but this noticing began so unnaturally early, that
my imagination could not but interpret in its own way what was noticed, and I found myself all
at once in a world apart. Everything around me began to be like the fairy tale which my father
used often to tell me, and which I could not but take for the holy truth. A strange idea arose in
me. I became fully aware — though I don’t know how it came about — that I was living in a
strange home, and that my parents were utterly unlike the other people I had chanced to
meet at that time. Why is it, I wondered, why is it I see other people unlike my parents even in
appearance? How is it that I have noticed laughter on other faces, and how is it that I was at
once struck by the fact that in our corner they never laughed, they never rejoiced? What
force, what cause drove me, a child of nine, to look about me so diligently and listen to every
word uttered by the people I chanced to meet on the stairs, or in the street when, covering my
rags with my mother’s old jacket, I went out in the evening with a few coppers to buy a few
ha’p’orths of sugar, tea, or bread? I understood — and I don’t remember how I came to —
that there was everlasting, unbearable sorrow in our garret. I racked my brains trying to guess
why it was so, and I don’t know who helped me to solve the riddle in my own way; I blamed
my mother and accepted her as my father’s evil genius; and I repeat, I don’t know how so
monstrous an idea could have taken shape in my brain... And the more attached I became to
my father, the more I grew to hate my mother. The memory of all this is a deep and bitter
anguish to me to this day. Here is another incident, which did even more than the first to
strengthen my strange devotion to my father. About nine o’clock one evening my mother sent
me out to the shop for some yeast. My father was not at home. On my way back I fell down in
the street and spilt the whole cupful. My first thought was, how angry my mother would be. At
the same time I felt a horrible pain in my left arm, and could not get up. Passers-by stopped
round me; an old woman began picking me up, and a boy running by hit me on the head with
a key. At last I was set upon my feet. I picked up the pieces of the broken cup and walked on
staggering, hardly able to put one leg before the other. Suddenly I caught sight of my father.
He was standing in a crowd before a grand house that was opposite our lodging. This house
belonged to people of consequence and was brilliantly lighted up; a great number of carriages
had driven up to the entrance, and strains of music floated down from the windows into the
street. I clutched my father by the skirt of his frock-coat, pointed to the pieces of the brokencup, and with tears began saying that I was afraid to go in to mother. I felt somehow sure that
he would stand up for me. But why was I convinced of it? Who had suggested to me, who had
instilled into me that he loved me more than my mother did? Why was it I approached him
without fear? He took me by the hand, began comforting me, then said that he wanted to
show me something, and lifted me up in his arms. I could not see anything, for he took me by
my bruised arm and it hurt me frightfully; but I did not cry out for fear of wounding him. He
kept asking me whether I saw something. I did my utmost to answer so as to please him, and
said that I could see red curtains. When he wanted to carry me to the other side of the street
nearer to the house, I suddenly, I don’t know why, began crying, hugging him, and entreating
him to make haste and take me up to mother. I remember that my father’s caresses were
bitter to me at the time, and I could not bear the thought that one of the two people I so
longed to love loved me and was kind to me, while I dared not go to the other and was afraid.
But my mother was scarcely angry at all, and sent me to bed at once. I remember that the
pain in my arm, growing more and more acute, made me feverish. Yet I was particularly
happy that it had all gone off so well, and dreamed all night of the house with the red curtains.
And when I woke next morning my first thought, my first care, was the house with the
red curtains. As soon as my mother had gone out I clambered up to the little window and
began looking at it. The house had long ago excited my childish curiosity. I liked looking at it
particularly in the evening, when the street was lighted up, and when the crimson red curtains
behind the plate-glass windows of the brightly lighted house began to gleam with a peculiar
blood-red glow. Sumptuous carriages with lovely proud horses were continually driving up to
the front door, and everything attracted my curiosity: the clamour and bustle at the entrance,
and the different coloured lamps of the carriages, and the grandly dressed women who
arrived in them. All this took, in my childish imagination, an air of royal magnificence and
fairytale enchantment. Now since my meeting with my father before the grand house it
became doubly marvellous and interesting. Now strange conceptions and theories began to
stir in my excited imagination. And I am not surprised that, between two such strange people
as my father and mother, I became such a strange, fantastic child. I was peculiarly affected
by the contrast of their characters. I was struck, for instance, by the fact that my mother was
continually working and worrying to gain our poor livelihood, was continually reproaching my
father that she was the only one to toil for us all; and I could not help asking myself the
question: why was it my father did not help her at all, why was it that he lived like a stranger in
our home? One or two words dropped by my mother gave me a notion about this, and with
some astonishment I learned that my father was an artist (that word I retained in my
memory), that my father was a man of genius; the notion that an artist was a special sort of
man, unlike others, shaped itself immediately in my imagination. Possibly my father’s
behaviour led me to that reflection; perhaps I had heard something which now has escaped
my memory; but the meaning of my father’s words uttered before me on one occasion with
peculiar feeling was strangely intelligible to me. The words were: “The time would come when
he would not be in poverty, when he would be a gentleman and wealthy; and, in fact, he would
rise again when my mother died.” I remember that at first I was fearfully frightened at those
words. I could not stay in the room, I ran out into our cold passage and there burst into sobs,
with my elbows on the window-sill and my face in my hands. But afterwards, when I had
pondered continually over it, when I had grown used to my father’s horrible desire, my wild
imagination came to my assistance. Yes, I could not long remain in the agony of uncertainty,
and absolutely had to fix upon some supposition. And so, I don’t know how it all began at first
— but in the end I fastened upon the idea that when my mother died, my father would leave
this dreary garret and would go away somewhere with me. But where? Up to the last I could
not clearly picture. I remember only that everything with which I could beautify the place to
which we were going (and I made up my mind for certain that we were going together),
everything brilliant, luxurious and magnificent I could create in my wild imagination — all thiswas brought into play in these daydreams. I fancied that we should at once become rich; I
should not have to go on errands to the shops (which was very hard for me, because the
children living in the next house tormented me whenever I went out, and I was dreadfully
afraid particularly when I was carrying milk or oil and knew that if I spilt it I should be severely
punished); then in my dreams I decided that my father would at once get new clothes, that we
should go to live in a splendid house. And here the grand house with the red curtains, and my
meeting near it with my father who wanted to show me something in it, came to the
assistance of mv imagination, and it followed immediately in my conjectures that we should
move into that house and should live in it in perpetual bliss, keeping a sort of perpetual
holiday. From that time forth I used to look out of window in the evenings with intense curiosity
at that house which seemed to me enchanted, recalling the crowd of visitors more grandly
dressed than I had ever seen before; I imagined those strains of sweet music floating out of
the windows, and watched the shadows flitting on the window curtains, and kept trying to
guess what was going on there, and it always seemed to me that over th6re it was paradise
and a perpetual holiday. I grew to hate our poor abode, the rags in which I went about; and
one day when my mother scolded me and told me to get down from the window, to which I
had climbed up as usual, the idea came into my head at once that she did not want me to look
at that house, that she did not want me to think of it, that she disliked the thought of our
happiness, that she wanted to prevent it... I looked at my mother intently and suspiciously all
that evening.
And how could such unfeeling callousness in regard to a creature so continually suffering
as my mother have arisen in me? It is only now that I understand what a misery her life was,
and I cannot think of her martyrdom without pain. Even then in the dark period of my strange
childhood, in the period of this unnatural development, my heart often ached from pain and
pity — and uneasiness, bewilderment and doubt lay heavily on my soul. Even then conscience
was rising up within me, and often with distress and misery I felt my injustice towards my
mother. But we had somehow become estranged from one another, and I cannot remember
ever being affectionate to her. Now even the most trifling recollection lacerates and tears at
my heart.
I remember once (of course what I am describing now is trivial, paltry, coarse, but it is
just such reminiscences which torture me especially, and are imprinted upon my memory
more poignantly than anything), one evening when my father was not at home, my mother
sent me to the shop to buy her tea and sugar, but she kept hesitating, unable to decide, and
counting over her coppers — the pitiful sum she could spend. She was calculating, I think, for
half an hour, and seemed still unable to reckon it to her satisfaction. Moreover, there were
moments when probably she sank into a sort of stupor. As I remember now, she kept talking
on, reckoning in low measured tones, as though dropping her words accidentally; her lips and
her cheeks were pale, her hands always trembled, and she always kept shaking her head
when she was thinking in solitude.
“No, no need,” she said, looking at me. “I had better go to bed. Eh? Are you asleep,
I did not answer; then she lifted up my head and looked at me, so gently, so caressingly,
her face lighted up and glowed with such a motherly smile, that my heart ached and began
beating fast. Besides, she had called me Netochka, which meant that she was feeling
particularly fond of me. She had invented that name herself, lovingly transforming my name
Anna into the diminutive Netochka, and when she called me that, it meant that she felt
affectionate. I was touched, I longed to hug her, to nestle up to her and weep with her. And
for a long time she stroked my head, poor woman, perhaps mechanically in the end, forgetting
that she was fondling me, while she kept repeating: “My child, Anneta, Netochka.” The tears
were gushing from my eyes, but I made an effort and controlled myself. I was somehow
stubborn in not displaying my feelings before her, though I was inwardly distressed. But thatcould not have been natural hard-heartedness in me. She could not have so turned me
against her simply by her severity to me. No! I was corrupted by my fantastic exclusive love
for my father.
I sometimes woke at night in my short little bed under the chilly quilt, and I was always
frightened. Half asleep I remembered how, not long ago, when I was smaller, I slept with my
mother and was not so frightened when I woke up at night; I had only to nestle up to her, shut
my eyes and hug her tight, and I would go to sleep again at once. I still felt as though I could
not help loving her in secret. I have noticed since that many children are abnormally unfeeling,
and if they love anyone they love that one exclusively. That is how it was with me.
Sometimes there would be a deathlike silence in our garret for a whole week. My father
and mother were weary of quarrelling, and I lived between them as before, always silent,
always brooding, always fretting and always struggling to arrive at something in my dreams.
Watching them I fully grasped their attitude to one another. I understood the obscure
neverending antagonism between them, understood all the sorrow and all the stupefying influences
of the disordered existence which had made our garret its home. Of course, I understood it
without grasping cause or effect, I understood it, of course, only as far as I was capable of
understanding. Sometimes on the long winter evenings, huddled in some comer, I would
watch them eagerly for hours together and gaze into my father’s face, trying all the while to
guess what he was thinking about, what was interesting him. Then I was impressed and
frightened by my mother. She kept walking up and down the room without stopping, for hours
at a time, often even at night, in the attacks of sleeplessness from which she suffered; she
would walk up and down whispering to herself as though she were alone in the room, flinging
wide her arms or folding them across her bosom, or wringing her hands in terrible,
neverending misery. Sometimes tears streamed down her cheeks, tears which perhaps she herself
did not understand. She was suffering from a very complicated disease which she neglected
I remember that I became more and more oppressed by my solitude and the silence I
did not dare to break. I had been for a whole year living a conscious life, always thinking,
dreaming and tormented in secret by unintelligible, obscure impulses which had suddenly
sprung up in me. I was as wild as though I were in a forest. At last my father was the first to
notice me; he called me to him and asked me why I stared at him so. I don’t remember what
answer I made. I remember he seemed to reflect, and said at last that next day he would
bring me an alphabet and teach me to read. I looked forward to this alphabet with impatience
and dreamed about it all night, with no clear idea what an alphabet was. At last next day my
father really did begin to teach me. Grasping in a couple of words what was required of me, I
learned rapidly, for I knew I should please him by doing so. This was the happiest time of my
life then. When he praised me for my quickness, patted me on the head and kissed me, I
began crying with delight at once. Little by little my father began to be fond of me; I grew bold
enough to talk to him, and often we talked together for an hour without weariness, though
sometimes I did not understand a word of what he said to me. But I was somehow afraid of
him, afraid he might think I was dull with him, and so I did my very best to pretend to
understand everything. To sit with me in the evenings became at last a habit with him. As
soon as it began to get dark and he came home, I went to him at once with my reading-book.
He would make me sit down on a little stool facing him, and after the lesson he would begin to
read me a book. I did not understand a word of it, but I laughed continually, thinking to please
him very much by doing so. I certainly did interest him, and it amused him to see my laughter.
About this time, he began one evening telling me a story. It was the first story it had been my
lot to hear. I sat as though spellbound, and burning with impatience as I followed the story, I
was carried away to some other realm as I listened to him, and by the end of the tale I was in
a perfect rapture. It was not that the story affected me so greatly, no; but I took it all for truth,
at once gave full rein to my fertile fancy, and mixed up reality with fiction. The house with thered curtains, too, at once rose before my imagination; then, I don’t know in what way, my
father who told me the story appeared as a character acting in it, as well as my mother who
seemed to be preventing us going, I don’t know where, and last, or rather first, I myself, with
my marvellous day-dreams, with my fantastic brain full of wild impossible phantoms, took a
part in it, too. All this was so muddled together in my head that it soon turned into a formless
chaos, and for a time I lost all touch, all feeling of the present, of the actual, and lived in an
unreal world. At that time I was dying with impatience to speak to my father of what was
awaiting us in the future, what he was himself expecting, and where he would take me with
him when at last we should leave our garret. For my part I was convinced that all this would
soon come to pass, but how and in what form all this would be I could not tell, and worried
myself racking my brains over it. At times — and it would happen particularly in the evenings
— it seemed to me that in another minute father would beckon me on the sly, and call me out
into the passage; unseen by my mother I would snatch up my reading-book as I went, and
also our picture, a wretched lithograph which had been hanging unframed on the wall from
time immemorial, and which I was quite determined to take with us, and we should run away
in secret and never come back home to mother again. One day when mother was not at
home I chose a moment when father was in a particularly good humour — that happened to
him when he had just drunk wine — went up to him and began speaking about something with
the intention of immediately turning the conversation to my treasured secret; and hugging him
tight with a throbbing heart, frightened as though I were going to speak of something
mysterious and terrible, I began, speaking disconnectedly and faltering over every word, to
ask him: where we were going, whether it would be soon, what we should take with us, how
we should five, and finally whether we were going to live in the house with the red curtains?
“House? Red curtains? What do you mean? What nonsense are you talking, silly?”
Then, more frightened than ever, I began explaining to him that when mother died we
should not go on living in the garret, that he would take me away somewhere, that we should
both be rich and happy, and assured him at last that he had promised me all this. And as I did
so I was fully persuaded that my father really had spoken of it before, anyway I fancied it was
“Your mother? Dead? When your mother is dead?” he repeated, looking at me in
amazement, changing his countenance somewhat, and knitting his thick grizzled eyebrows.
“What are you saying, poor, foolish child?”
Then he began scolding me, and told me over and over again that I was a silly child, that
I did not understand anything... and I don’t remember what else, but he was very much upset.
I did not understand a word of his reproaches, I did not understand how it wounded him
that I had listened to what he had said to my mother in anger and intense misery, had
remembered his words and had brooded over them by myself. Whatever he was at that time,
however far his own madness had gone, yet all this must naturally have been a shock to him.
Yet though I did not understand why he was angry, it made me horribly sad and miserable; I
began to cry; it seemed to me that all that was awaiting us was so important that a silly child
like me must not dare to talk of it. Moreover, although I did not understand this at the first
word, yet I felt in an obscure way that I had wronged my mother. I was overcome by dread
and horror, and doubt crept into my heart. Then, seeing that I was crying and miserable, he
began comforting, me, wiped away my tears with his sleeve, and told me not to cry. We sat
for a little time in silence, however; he frowned and seemed to be pondering something, then
began speaking to me again; but however much I tried to attend, everything he said seemed
to me extremely obscure. From I some words of that conversation which I have remembered;
to this day, I conclude that he explained to me that he was a great artist, that nobody
understood him, and that he was a man of great talent. I remember, too, that, asking whether
I understood, and receiving, of course, a satisfactory answer, he made me repeat “of talent”,
at which he laughed a little, for perhaps in the end it struck him as funny that he should havetalked with me of a matter so important to him.
Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Karl Fyodoritch, and I laughed and
grew cheerful again when father, pointing to him, said to me:
“Now Karl Fyodoritch, here, hasn’t a ha’p’orth of talent!”
This Karl Fyodoritch was a very interesting person. I had seen so few people at that
period of my life that I could not possibly forget him. I can picture him now: he was a German
whose surname was Meyer, he was born in Germany and had come to Russia, set upon
getting into a ballet. But he was a very poor dancer, so he could not get taken on for any part
in which dancing was necessary, and was only employed as a super in the theatres. He
played various dumb parts such as one of the suite of Fortinbras, or one of those knights of
Verona who to the number of twenty flourish cardboard daggers and shout all at once, “We
will die for our king!” But certainly no actor in the world was more passionately devoted to his
parts than Karl Fyodoritch. The most dreadful misfortune and sorrow of his life was that he
could not get into a ballet. He put the art of the ballet above every other, and was in his way
as devoted to it as my father was to the violin. He had made friends with my father when they
were both employed at the theatre, and the unsuccessful dancer had never given him up
since. They saw each other very often, and together bewailed their hard lot and that their
talents were not recognised.
The German was the most sentimental, soft-hearted man in the world, and he cherished
for my stepfather the most ardent and disinterested affection; but father, I fancy, was not
particularly attached to him, and only put up with his company for lack of any other. Moreover,
father was so exclusive that he could not see that the art of the ballet was an art at all, and
this wounded the poor German to tears. Knowing his weak spot, he always touched upon it,
and laughed at the luckless Karl Fyodoritch when the latter grew hot and excited trying to
refute him. I heard a great deal about Karl Fyodoritch later on from B., who always called him
the Nuremberg skipjack. B. told me a great deal about this friendship with my father; more
than once they met, and after drinking a little, shed tears over their fate, over the fact that
they were not recognised. I remember such interviews, I remember also that, looking at the
two eccentric creatures, I began whimpering too, though I did not know why. This always
happened when mother was not at home; the German was dreadfully frightened of her, and
would always stand outside in the passage waiting till someone went out to him, and if he
heard that mother was at home he ran downstairs again at once. He always brought some
German poetry with him, and became intensely excited reading it aloud to us; and then recited
it, translated into broken Russian for our benefit. This greatly amused father, and I laughed till
I cried. But once they got hold of something in Russian over which they were both very
enthusiastic, so that they almost always read it over when they met. I remember that it was a
drama in verse by some celebrated Russian writer. I knew the first few fines of this drama so
well that when I came across it many years afterwards I recognised it without difficulty. This
drama treated of the troubles of a great artist, Gennaro or Giacobi, who cried on one page: “I
am not recognised!” and on another, “I am famous!” or, “I have no talent!” and a few fines
farther on, “I have talent!” All ended very pathetically. The play was, of course, a very poor
one; but strange to say, it affected in the most naive and tragic way the two readers, who
found in the leading character a great resemblance to themselves. I remember that
sometimes Karl Fyodoritch was so ecstatic that he would leap up from his seat, run into the
opposite comer of the room, and urgently, insistently, with tears in his eyes, beg father and
me, whom he always called “Mademoiselle”, at once upon the spot to judge between him and
his fate and the public. Thereupon he would fall to dancing and executing various steps, crying
out to us to tell him at once whether he was an artist or not, and whether anything could be
said to the contrary — that is, that he had no talent. Father would at once grow merry, and
wink at me on the sly as though to let me know that he would make fun of the German in a
most amusing way. I was immensely diverted, but father would hold up his hand and I wouldcontrol myself, choking with laughter. I cannot help laughing even now at the mere memory of
it. I can see that poor Karl Fyodoritch now. He was a very little, extremely lean, grey-headed
man, with a red hooked nose stained with snuff, and grotesque bow-legs; but in spite of that
he seemed to be proud of their shape and wore tightly fitting trousers. When he stopped at
the last caper in an attitude, holding out his hands to us and smiling as dancers smile on the
stage when they have finished their steps, father for some moments remained silent as
though he could not make up his mind to pronounce judgment, and purposely left the
unrecognised dancer in his attitude so that the latter began swaying from side to side on one
leg, doing his utmost to preserve his balance. At last father would glance towards me with a
very serious face, as though inviting me to be an impartial witness of his judgment, and at the
same time the timid imploring eyes of the dancer were fastened upon me.
“No, Karl Fyodoritch, you haven’t done it!” father would say at last, pretending that it
grieved him to utter the bitter truth.
Then a genuine groan broke from the chest of Karl Fyodoritch; but he recovered himself
instantly, with still more rapid gesticulations begged our attention again, declared that he had
been dancing on the wrong system, and besought us to criticise him once more. Then he ran
off again to the other comer, and sometimes hopped so zealously that he knocked his head
against the ceiling and bruised himself badly, but heroically bore the pain like a Spartan, again
stopped in an attitude, again with a smile stretched out trembling hands to us, and again
begged us to decide his fate. But father was relentless, and answered gloomily as before:
“No, Karl Fyodoritch, it seems it’s your fate: you’ve not done it!”
Then I could restrain myself no longer and broke into peals of laughter in which my father
joined. Karl Fyodoritch noticed at last that we were laughing at him, turned crimson with
indignation, and with tears in his eyes, with intense though comic feeling which made me feel
miserable afterwards on the poor fellow’s account, said to father:
“You are a treacherous friend!”
Then he would snatch up his hat and run away from us, swearing by everything in the
world that he would never come again. But these quarrels did not last long. A few days later
he would come to see us again, and the reading of the celebrated drama would begin once
more, once more tears would be shed, and once more the simple-hearted Karl Fyodoritch
would ask us to judge between him and the public and his fate, only he would entreat us this
time to judge seriously, as true friends should, and not to laugh at him.
One day mother sent me to the shop to make some purchase, and I came back carrying
carefully the small silver change I had been given. As I went up the stairs I met my father,
who was coming up from the yard. I laughed to him because I could not restrain my feeling
when I saw him, and bending down to kiss me, he noticed the silver money in my hand... I
had forgotten to say that I had studied the expression of his face so carefully that I could
detect almost all his wishes at the first glance. When he was sad, I was racked with misery.
He was most often and most acutely depressed when he had no money, and so could not get
a drop of the drink to which he had accustomed himself. But at the moment when I met him
on the stairs it seemed to me that something particular was passing in his mind. His lustreless
eyes shifted uneasily; for the first moment he did not notice me; but when he saw the shining
coins in my hand, he suddenly flushed, then turned pale, stretched out his hand to take the
money from me, then at once drew it back. Evidently there was a struggle going on within
him. Then apparently he mastered himself, told me to go upstairs, went down a few steps, but
suddenly stopped and hurriedly called me. He was very much confused.
“Listen, Netochka,” he said; “give me that money. I’ll give it to you back. You will give it to
Daddy, won’t you? You are a good little thing, Netochka.”
I felt that I had known this was coming. But for the first instant, the thought of mother’s
anger, timidity, and, above all, an instinctive shame on my own account and my father’s
restrained me from giving him the money. He saw that in a flash, and said hastily:“Oh, you needn’t, you needn’t!...”
“No, no, Daddy, take it; I will say I lost it, that the children next door took it.”
“Oh, very well, very well; I knew you were a clever girl,” he said, smiling with quivering
lips, no longer concealing his delight when he felt the money in his hands. “You are a kind girl,
you are my little angel! There, let me kiss your hand.”
Then he seized my hand and would have kissed it, but I quickly pulled it away. I was
overcome by a sort of pity, and began being more and more agonisingly ashamed. I ran
upstairs in a sort of panic, abandoning my father without saying good-bye to him. When I went
into the room my cheeks were burning and my heart was throbbing with an overwhelming
sensation I had never known till then. However, I had the boldness to tell my mother that I had
dropped the money in the snow and could not find it. I expected a beating at least, but it did
not come off. Mother certainly was beside herself with distress at first, for we were dreadfully
poor. She began scolding me, but at once seemed to change her mind and left off, only
observing that I was a clumsy careless girl, and that it seemed I did not love her much since I
took so little care of her property. This observation hurt me more than a beating would have
done. But mother knew me. She had noticed my sensibility, which often reached the pitch of
morbid irritability, and thought by bitter reproaches for not loving her to impress me more
strongly and make me more careful in the future.
Towards dusk, when father was to come home, I waited for him as usual in the passage.
This time I was in a terrible state of mind. My feelings were troubled by something which
sickeningly tortured my conscience. At last my father came in, and I was greatly relieved at
his coming. I seemed to think it would make me feel better. He had already been drinking, but
on seeing me at once assumed a mysterious and embarrassed air; and drawing me aside into
a corner, looking timidly towards our door, took out of his pocket a cake he had bought and
began in a whisper bidding me never to take money again and hide it from mother, that that
was bad and shameful and very wrong; that it had been done this time because Daddy
needed the money very much, but that he would give it back; that I could say afterwards I had
found it again. And to take from mother was shameful, and that for the future I must not
dream of it, and that if I were obedient for the future he would buy me some cakes again. In
the end he even added that I must feel for mother, that mother was so ill and so poor, that
she worked for us all. I listened in terror, trembling all over, and tears rushed into my eyes. I
was so overwhelmed that I could not say a word, and could not move from the spot. At last,
he went into the room, told me not to cry nor say anything about it to mother. I noticed that he
was fearfully upset himself. All the evening I was in a panic, and did not dare to look at him or
go near him. He, too, evidently avoided my eyes. Mother was walking up and down the room
and was talking to herself as usual, as though she were in a dream. That day she was feeling
worse, she had had some sort of attack. At last my mental sufferings began to make me
feverish. When night came on I could not go to sleep. I was tormented by delirious dreams. At
last I could not bear it, and began crying bitterly. My sobs wakened my mother; she called to
me and asked me what was the matter. I did not answer, but wept more bitterly. Then she
lighted a candle, came up to me and began trying to soothe me, thinking I was frightened by
something I had dreamed. “Oh, you silly little thing,” she said, “you still cry when you have a
bad dream. Come, give over!” And then she kissed me, saying I should sleep with her. But I
would not, and dared not hug her or go to her. My heart was torn in unimaginable tortures. I
longed to tell her all about it. I was on the point of doing so, but the thought of father and his
prohibition restrained me. “Oh, you poor little Netochka!” said my mother, tucking me up in my
bed and covering me up with her old jacket as she noticed that I was shivering with feverish
chilliness. “I am afraid you will be an invalid like me!” Then she looked at me so mournfully
that I could not bear her eyes, I frowned and turned away. I don’t remember how I fell asleep,
but half awake I heard my poor mother trying for a long time to lull me to sleep. I had never
suffered such anguish before. My heart ached painfully. Next morning I felt better. I talked tomy father without referring to what had happened the day before, for I divined beforehand that
this would please him. He immediately became very cheerful, for he had been frowning
whenever he looked at me. Now a sort of joy, an almost childish satisfaction came over him at
my light-hearted air. My mother soon went out, and then he could restrain himself no longer.
He began kissing me, so that I was almost hysterically delighted and laughed and cried
together. At last he said that he wanted to show me something very nice, that I should be very
much pleased to see, for my being such a good and clever girl. Then he unbuttoned his
waistcoat and took out a key, which he had hanging round his neck on a black cord. Then
looking mysteriously at me as though he wanted to read in my face all the delight that in his
opinion I must be feeling, he opened a chest and carefully took out of it a black box of peculiar
shape which I had never seen before. He took up this box with a sort of timidity and was
completely transformed; the laughter vanished from his face, and was succeeded by a solemn
expression. At last he opened the mysterious box with a key and took out of it a thing which I
had never seen before — a thing, at the first glance, of a very queer shape. He took it in his
hands carefully, with a look of reverence, and said that this was his violin, his instrument.
Then he began saying a great deal to me in a quiet solemn voice; but I did not understand
him, and only retained in my memory the phrases I knew already — that he was an artist, that
he was a genius, that he would one day play on the violin, and that at last we should all be rich
and should attain some great happiness. Tears came into his eyes and ran down his cheeks. I
was very much touched. At last he kissed his violin and gave it to me to kiss. Seeing that I
wanted to look at it more closely, he led me to my mother’s bed and put the violin in my hand,
but I saw that he was trembling with fear that I might break it. I took the violin in my hands
and touched the strings, which gave forth a faint sound.
“It’s music,” I said, looking at father.
“Yes, yes, music,” he repeated, rubbing his hands joyfully. “You are a clever child, a
good child!”
But in spite of his praise and his delight, I saw that he was uneasy over his violin, and I
was frightened too — I made haste to give it back to him. The violin was put back in the box
with the same precaution, the box was locked up and put back in the chest; father stroked me
on the head again, and promised to show me the violin every time I was as now, clever, good
and obedient. So the violin dispelled our common sadness. Only in the evening as father was
going out he whispered to me to remember what he had told me yesterday.
This was how I grew up in our garret, and little by little my love — no, I should rather say
passion, for I do not know a word strong enough to express fully the overwhelming feeling for
my father which was an anguish to myself — grew into something like a morbid obsession. I
had only one enjoyment — thinking and dreaming of him; only one desire — to do anything
that would give him the slightest satisfaction. How often have I waited on the stairs for him to
come in, often shivering and blue with cold, simply to know one instant sooner of his arrival
and to look at him a little sooner. I used to be almost frantic with delight when he bestowed
the slightest caress on me. And meanwhile it often distressed me dreadfully that I was so
obstinately cold with my poor mother; there were moments when I was torn by pity and misery
as I looked at her. I could not be unmoved by their everlasting hostility, and I had to choose
between them. I had to take the side of one or of the other, and I took the side of this
halfcrazy man, solely from his being so pitiful, so humiliated in my eyes, and from his having so
incomprehensibly impressed my imagination from the beginning. But who can tell? Perhaps I
attached myself to him because he was very strange even to look at, and not so grave and
gloomy as my mother; because he was almost mad, and often there was something of
buffoonery, of childish make-believe about him; and lastly, because I was less afraid of him
and indeed had less respect for him than for my mother. He was, as it were, more on my
level. Little by little I felt that the ascendancy was even on my side, and that I dominated him a
little, that I was necessary to him. I was inwardly proud of this, inwardly triumphant, andrealising that I was necessary to him, even played with him at times. This strange devotion of
mine was indeed not unlike being in love... But it was not destined to last long: a short time
afterwards I lost my father and mother. Their life ended in a terrible catastrophe which is
deeply and painfully printed upon my memory. This is how it happened.
Chapter 3

Just at the time all Petersburg was excited by a great piece of news. The rumour went
about that the famous S. had arrived in the town. The whole musical world of Petersburg was
astir. Singers, actors, poets, artists, musical people, and even those who were not at all
musical, but with modest pride declared that they did not know one note from another, rushed
with eager enthusiasm to buy tickets. The hall could not seat a tenth of the enthusiasts who
were able to pay twenty-five roubles for a ticket; but the European fame of S., his old age
crowned with laurels, the unflagging freshness of his talent, the rumours that of late years he
rarely took up the bow for the benefit of the public, the assertion that he was making the tour
of Europe for the last time and would give up playing altogether afterwards, all produced an
effect. In fact, the sensation was immense.
I have mentioned already that the arrival of any new violinist, of a celebrity of any note,
had a most unpleasant effect on my stepfather. He was always one of the first to hasten to
hear the new arrival, so as to discover quickly the full extent of his merits. He was often made
really ill by the applause bestowed upon the newcomer, and was only pacified when he could
discover defects in the new violinist’s playing, and greedily circulated his opinion wherever he
could. The poor madman recognised in the whole world but one musical genius, and that
genius was, of course, himself. But the talk about the arrival of S. the musical genius had a
shattering effect upon him. I must observe that for the previous ten years Petersburg had not
heard a single famous musician, even of less distinction; consequently my father could have
no conception of the play of European musicians of the first rank.
I have been told that at the first rumours of S.’s visit, my father was seen again behind
the scenes of the theatre. He is said to have seemed extremely agitated, and to have inquired
uneasily of S. and the approaching concert. It was a long time since he had been seen behind
the scenes, and his appearance there made quite a sensation. Someone wanted to tease
him, and with a challenging air said: “Now, Yegor Petrovitch, old man, you are going to hear
something very different from ballet music, something that will make your life not worth living, I
expect.” I am told that he turned pale when he heard that jeer, but answered with an
hysterical smile: “We shall see; far-off bells always ring sweet. S., you know, has only been in
Paris, and the French have made a fuss of him, and we know what the French are!” And so
on. There was a sound of laughter round him; the poor fellow was offended, but, controlling
himself, added that he would say nothing; however, that we should see, that we should know,
that the day after tomorrow was not long to wait, and that all doubts would soon be solved.
B. tells that just before dusk the same evening he met Prince X., a well-known musical
amateur, a man with a deep love and understanding of music. They walked along together,
talking of the newly arrived star, when all at once at a street-turning B. caught sight of my
father, who was standing before a shop window, looking intently at a placard in it with an
announcement in big letters of S.’s concert.
“Do you see that man?” said B., pointing to my father.
“Who is he?” asked Prince X.
“You have heard of him already. That’s Yefimov, of whom I have talked to you more than
once, and on whose behalf you interested yourself on one occasion.”
“Ah, that’s interesting,” said Prince X. “You talked a great deal about him. I am told he is
very interesting. I should like to hear him.”
“That’s not worth while,” answered B., “and it’s painful. I don’t know how it would be with
you, but he always rends my heart. His life is a terrible, hideous tragedy. I feel for him deeply,
and however abject he may be, my sympathy for him is not extinct. You say, prince, that he
must be interesting. That is true, but he makes too painful an impression. To begin with, he ismad, and then three crimes lie at his door, for besides his own he has ruined two existences
— his wife’s and his daughter’s. I know him. It would kill him on the spot if he realised his
crime. But the whole horror of it is that for the last eight years he has almost realised it, and
for eight years he has been struggling with his conscience on the brink of recognising it, not
almost, but fully.”
“You say he is poor?” said Prince X.
‘‘Yes; but poverty is almost good fortune for him now, because it is an excuse. He can
assure everyone now that poverty is the only thing that hinders him, and that if he were rich
he would have leisure and no anxiety, and it would be seen at once how far he was a
musician. He married with the strange hope that the thousand roubles his wife had could help
to give him a standing. He behaved like a dreamer, like a poet, but he has always behaved
like that all his life. Do you know what he has been continually saying for the last eight years?
He asserts that his wife is responsible for his poverty, that she hinders him. He has folded his
hands and won’t work. But if you were to take his wife away he would be the most miserable
creature on earth. Here, he hasn’t touched his violin for several years — do you know why?
Because every time he takes the bow in his hand, he is inwardly forced to admit that he is no
good, a nonentity, not a musician. Now while his fiddle is laid aside he has a faint remote hope
that that is false. He is a dreamer. He thinks that all at once by some miracle he will become
the most celebrated man in the world. His motto is: ‘Aut Caesar, out nihil,’ as though one
could become Caesar all at once, in one minute. He thirsts for fame. And if such a feeling
becomes the mainspring of an artist’s activity, then he ceases to be an artist; for he has lost
the chief instinct of the artist, that is, the love for art simply because it is art and nothing else,
not fame. With S., on the other hand, it is quite the contrary: when he takes up his bow
nothing in the world exists for him but music. Next to his violin money is the chief thing for
him, and fame only comes third, I think. But he hasn’t worried himself much about that... Do
you know what is absorbing that luckless fellow now?” added B., pointing to Yefimov. ‘‘He is
engrossed by the most stupid, most trivial, most pitiful and most absurd anxiety in the world
— that is, whether he is superior to S. or S. is superior to him — nothing less, for he is still
persuaded that he is the foremost musician in the world. Convince him that he is not a musical
genius, and I assure you he would die on the spot as though struck down by a thunderbolt; for
it is terrible to part with a fixed idea to which one has sacrificed one’s whole life, and which
anyway rests on a deep and real foundation, for he had a genuine vocation at first.”
‘‘But it will be interesting to see what happens to him when he hears S.,” observed Prince
“Yes,” said B. thoughtfully. “But, no; he would recover at once; his madness is stronger
than the truth, and he would at once invent some evasion.”
‘‘You think so,” said Prince X.
At that moment they came up to my father. He was trying to pass them unnoticed, but B.
stopped him and began speaking to him. B. asked him whether he would be at S.’s concert.
My father answered indifferently that he did not know, that he had business of more