By Leo Tolstoy
Translated by C.J. Hogarth
I — THE TUTOR, KARL IVANITCH
On the 12th of August, 18— (just three days after my tenth birthday, when I had been given such wonderful presents), I was awakened at seven o'clock in the morning by Karl Ivanitch slapping the wall close to my head with a fly-flap made of sugar paper and a stick. He did this so roughly that he hit the image of my patron saint suspended to the oaken back of my bed, and the dead fly fell down on my curls. I peeped out from under the coverlet, steadied the still shaking image with my hand, flicked the dead fly on to the floor, and gazed at Karl Ivanitch with sleepy, wrathful eyes. He, in a parti-coloured wadded dressing-gown fastened about the waist with a wide belt of the same material, a red knitted cap adorned with a tassel, and soft slippers of goat skin, went on walking round the walls and taking aim at, and slapping, flies.
"Suppose," I thought to myself, "that I am only a small boy, yet why should he disturb me? Why does he not go killing flies around Woloda's bed? No; Woloda is older than I, and I am the youngest of the family, so he torments me. That is what he thinks of all day long—how to tease me. He knows very well that he has woken me up and frightened me, but he pretends not to notice it. Disgusting brute! And his dressing-gown and cap and tassel too—they are all of them disgusting."
While I was thus inwardly venting my wrath upon Karl Ivanitch, he had passed to his own bedstead, looked at his watch (which hung suspended in a little shoe sewn with bugles), and deposited the fly-flap on a nail, then, evidently in the most cheerful mood possible, he turned round to us.
"Get up, children! It is quite time, and your mother is already in the drawing-room," he exclaimed in his strong German accent. Then he crossed over to me, sat down at my feet, and took his snuff-box out of his pocket. I pretended to be asleep. Karl Ivanitch sneezed, wiped his nose, flicked his fingers, and began amusing himself by teasing me and tickling my toes as he said with a smile, "Well, well, little lazy one!"
For all my dread of being tickled, I determined not to get out of bed or to answer him, but hid my head deeper in the pillow, kicked out with all my strength, and strained every nerve to keep from laughing.
"How kind he is, and how fond of us!" I thought to myself. "Yet to think that I could be hating him so just now!"
I felt angry, both with myself and with Karl Ivanitch, I wanted to laugh and to cry at the same time, for my nerves were all on edge.
"Leave me alone, Karl!" I exclaimed at length, with tears in my eyes, as I raised my head from beneath the bed-clothes.
Karl Ivanitch was taken aback, He left off tickling my feet, and asked me kindly what the matter was, Had I had a disagreeable dream? His good German face and the sympathy with which he sought to know the cause of my tears made them flow the faster. I felt conscience-stricken, and could not understand how, only a minute ago, I had been hating Karl, and thinking his dressing-gown and cap and tassel disgusting. On the contrary, they looked eminently lovable now. Even the tassel seemed another token of his goodness. I replied that I was crying because I had had a bad dream, and had seen Mamma dead and being buried. Of course it was a mere invention, since I did not remember having dreamt anything at all that night, but the truth was that Karl's sympathy as he tried to comfort and reassure me had gradually made me believe that I HAD dreamt such a horrible dream, and so weep the more—though from a different cause to the one he imagined.
When Karl Ivanitch had left me, I sat up in bed and proceeded to draw my stockings over my little feet. The tears had quite dried now, yet the mournful thought of the invented dream was still haunting me a little. Presently Uncle [This term is often applied by children to old servants in Russia] Nicola came in—a neat little man who was always grave, methodical, and respectful, as well as a great friend of Karl's, He brought with him our clothes and boots—at least, boots for Woloda, and for myself the old detestable, be-ribanded shoes. In his presence I felt ashamed to cry, and, moreover, the morning sun was shining so gaily through the window, and Woloda, standing at the washstand as he mimicked Maria Ivanovna (my sister's governess), was laughing so loud and so long, that even the serious Nicola—a towel over his shoulder, the soap in one hand, and the basin in the other—could not help smiling as he said, "Will you please let me wash you, Vladimir Petrovitch?" I had cheered up completely.
"Are you nearly ready?" came Karl's voice from the schoolroom. The tone of that voice sounded stern now, and had nothing in it of the kindness which had just touched me so much. In fact, in the schoolroom Karl was altogether a different man from what he was at other times. There he was the tutor. I washed and dressed myself hurriedly, and, a brush still in my hand as I smoothed my wet hair, answered to his call. Karl, with spectacles on nose and a book in his hand, was sitting, as usual, between the door and one of the windows. To the left of the door were two shelves—one of them the children's (that is to say, ours), and the other one Karl's own. Upon ours were heaped all sorts of books—lesson books and play books—some standing up and some lying down. The only two standing decorously against the wall were two large volumes of a Histoire des Voyages, in red binding. On that shelf could be seen books thick and thin and books large and small, as well as covers without books and books without covers, since everything got crammed up together anyhow when play time arrived and we were told to put the "library" (as Karl called these shelves) in order The collection of books on his own shelf was, if not so numerous as ours, at least more varied. Three of them in particular I remember, namely, a German pamphlet (minus a cover) on Manuring Cabbages in Kitchen-Gardens, a History of the Seven Years' War (bound in parchment and burnt at one corner), and a Course of Hydrostatics. Though Karl passed so much of his time in reading that he had injured his sight by doing so, he never read anything beyond these books and The Northern Bee.
Another article on Karl's shelf I remember well. This was a round piece of cardboard fastened by a screw to a wooden stand, with a sort of comic picture of a lady and a hairdresser glued to the cardboard. Karl was very clever at fixing pieces of cardboard together, and had devised this contrivance for shielding his weak eyes from any very strong light.
I can see him before me now—the tall figure in its wadded dressing-gown and red cap (a few grey hairs visible beneath the latter) sitting beside the table; the screen with the hairdresser shading his face; one hand holding a book, and the other one resting on the arm of the chair. Before him lie his watch, with a huntsman painted on the dial, a check cotton handkerchief, a round black snuff-box, and a green spectacle-case, The neatness and orderliness of all these articles show clearly that Karl Ivanitch has a clear conscience and a quiet mind.
Sometimes, when tired of running about the salon downstairs, I would steal on tiptoe to the schoolroom and find Karl sitting alone in his armchair as, with a grave and quiet expression on his face, he perused one of his favourite books. Yet sometimes, also, there were moments when he was not reading, and when the spectacles had slipped down his large aquiline nose, and the blue, half-closed eyes and faintly smiling lips seemed to be gazing before them with a curious expression, All would be quiet in the room—not a sound being audible save his regular breathing and the ticking of the watch with the hunter painted on the dial. He would not see me, and I would stand at the door and think: "Poor, poor old man! There are many of us, and we can play together and be happy, but he sits there all alone, and has nobody to be fond of him. Surely he speaks truth when he says that he is an orphan. And the story of his life, too—how terrible it is! I remember him telling it to Nicola, How dreadful to be in his position!" Then I would feel so sorry for him that I would go to him, and take his hand, and say, "Dear Karl Ivanitch!" and he would be visibly delighted whenever I spoke to him like this, and would look much brighter.
On the second wall of the schoolroom hung some maps—mostly torn, but glued together again by Karl's hand. On the third wall (in the middle of which stood the door) hung, on one side of the door, a couple of rulers (one of them ours—much bescratched, and the other one his—quite a new one), with, on the further side of the door, a blackboard on which our more serious faults were marked by circles and our lesser faults by crosses. To the left of the blackboard was the corner in which we had to kneel when naughty. How well I remember that corner—the shutter on the stove, the ventilator above it, and the noise which it made when turned! Sometimes I would be made to stay in that corner till my back and knees were aching all over, and I would think to myself. "Has Karl Ivanitch forgotten me? He goes on sitting quietly in his arm-chair and reading his Hydrostatics, while I—!" Then, to remind him of my presence, I would begin gently turning the ventilator round. Or scratching some plaster off the wall; but if by chance an extra large piece fell upon the floor, the fright of it was worse than any punishment. I would glance round at Karl, but he would still be sitting there quietly, book in hand, and pretending that he had noticed nothing.
In the middle of the room stood a table, covered with a torn black oilcloth so much cut about with penknives that the edge of the table showed through. Round the table stood unpainted chairs which, through use, had attained a high degree of polish. The fourth and last wall contained three windows, from the first of which the view was as follows, Immediately beneath it there ran a high road on which every irregularity, every pebble, every rut was known and dear to me. Beside the road stretched a row of lime-trees, through which glimpses could be caught of a wattled fence, with a meadow with farm buildings on one side of it and a wood on the other—the whole bounded by the keeper's hut at the further end of the meadow, The next window to the right overlooked the part of the terrace where the "grownups" of the family used to sit before luncheon. Sometimes, when Karl was correcting our exercises, I would look out of that window and see Mamma's dark hair and the backs of some persons with her, and hear the murmur of their talking and laughter. Then I would feel vexed that I could not be there too, and think to myself, "When am I going to be grown up, and to have no more lessons, but sit with the people whom I love instead of with these horrid dialogues in my hand?" Then my anger would change to sadness, and I would fall into such a reverie that I never heard Karl when he scolded me for my mistakes.
At last, on the morning of which I am speaking, Karl Ivanitch took off his dressing-gown, put on his blue frockcoat with its creased and crumpled shoulders, adjusted his tie before the looking-glass, and took us down to greet Mamma.
II — MAMMA
Mamma was sitting in the drawing-room and making tea. In one hand she was holding the tea-pot, while with the other one she was drawing water from the urn and letting it drip into the tray. Yet though she appeared to be noticing what she doing, in reality she noted neither this fact nor our entry.
However vivid be one's recollection of the past, any attempt to recall the features of a beloved being shows them to one's vision as through a mist of tears—dim and blurred. Those tears are the tears of the imagination. When I try to recall Mamma as she was then, I see, true, her brown eyes, expressive always of love and kindness, the small mole on her neck below where the small hairs grow, her white embroidered collar, and the delicate, fresh hand which so often caressed me, and which I so often kissed; but her general appearance escapes me altogether.
To the left of the sofa stood an English piano, at which my dark-haired sister Lubotshka was sitting and playing with manifest effort (for her hands were rosy from a recent washing in cold water) Clementi's "Etudes." Then eleven years old, she was dressed in a short cotton frock and white lace-frilled trousers, and could take her octaves only in arpeggio. Beside her was sitting Maria Ivanovna, in a cap adorned with pink ribbons and a blue shawl, Her face was red and cross, and it assumed an expression even more severe when Karl Ivanitch entered the room. Looking angrily at him without answering his bow, she went on beating time with her foot and counting, "One, two, three—one, two, three," more loudly and commandingly than ever.
Karl Ivanitch paid no attention to this rudeness, but went, as usual, with German politeness to kiss Mamma's hand, She drew herself up, shook her head as though by the movement to chase away sad thoughts from her, and gave Karl her hand, kissing him on his wrinkled temple as he bent his head in salutation.
"I thank you, dear Karl Ivanitch," she said in German, and then, still using the same language asked him how we (the children) had slept. Karl Ivanitch was deaf in one ear, and the added noise of the piano now prevented him from hearing anything at all. He moved nearer to the sofa, and, leaning one hand upon the table and lifting his cap above his head, said with, a smile which in those days always seemed to me the perfection of politeness: "You, will excuse me, will you not, Natalia Nicolaevna?"
The reason for this was that, to avoid catching cold, Karl never took off his red cap, but invariably asked permission, on entering the drawing-room, to retain it on his head.
"Yes, pray replace it, Karl Ivanitch," said Mamma, bending towards him and raising her voice, "But I asked you whether the children had slept well?"
Still he did not hear, but, covering his bald head again with the red cap, went on smiling more than ever.
"Stop a moment, Mimi." said Mamma (now smiling also) to Maria Ivanovna. "It is impossible to hear anything."
How beautiful Mamma's face was when she smiled! It made her so infinitely more charming, and everything around her seemed to grow brighter! If in the more painful moments of my life I could have seen that smile before my eyes, I should never have known what grief is. In my opinion, it is in the smile of a face that the essence of what we call beauty lies. If the smile heightens the charm of the face, then the face is a beautiful one. If the smile does not alter the face, then the face is an ordinary one. But if the smile spoils the face, then the face is an ugly one indeed.
Mamma took my head between her hands, bent it gently backwards, looked at me gravely, and said: "You have been crying this morning?"
I did not answer. She kissed my eyes, and said again in German: "Why did you cry?"
When talking to us with particular intimacy she always used this language, which she knew to perfection.
"I cried about a dream, Mamma" I replied, remembering the invented vision, and trembling involuntarily at the recollection.
Karl Ivanitch confirmed my words, but said nothing as to the subject of the dream. Then, after a little conversation on the weather, in which Mimi also took part, Mamma laid some lumps of sugar on the tray for one or two of the more privileged servants, and crossed over to her embroidery frame, which stood near one of the windows.
"Go to Papa now, children," she said, "and ask him to come to me before he goes to the home farm."
Then the music, the counting, and the wrathful looks from Mimi began again, and we went off to see Papa. Passing through the room which had been known ever since Grandpapa's time as "the pantry," we entered the study.
III — PAPA
He was standing near his writing-table, and pointing angrily to some envelopes, papers, and little piles of coin upon it as he addressed some observations to the bailiff, Jakoff Michaelovitch, who was standing in his usual place (that is to say, between the door and the barometer) and rapidly closing and unclosing the fingers of the hand which he held behind his back, The more angry Papa grew, the more rapidly did those fingers twirl, and when Papa ceased speaking they came to rest also. Yet, as soon as ever Jakoff himself began to talk, they flew here, there, and everywhere with lightning rapidity. These movements always appeared to me an index of Jakoff's secret thoughts, though his face was invariably placid, and expressive alike of dignity and submissiveness, as who should say, "I am right, yet let it be as you wish." On seeing us, Papa said, "Directly—wait a moment," and looked towards the door as a hint for it to be shut.
"Gracious heavens! What can be the matter with you to-day, Jakoff?" he went on with a hitch of one shoulder (a habit of his). "This envelope here with the 800 roubles enclosed,"—Jacob took out a set of tablets, put down "800" and remained looking at the figures while he waited for what was to come next—"is for expenses during my absence. Do you understand? From the mill you ought to receive 1000 roubles. Is not that so? And from the Treasury mortgage you ought to receive some 8000 roubles. From the hay—of which, according to your calculations, we shall be able to sell 7000 poods [The pood = 40 lbs.]at 45 copecks a piece there should come in 3000, Consequently the sum-total that you ought to have in hand soon is—how much?—12,000 roubles. Is that right?"
"Precisely," answered Jakoff, Yet by the extreme rapidity with which his fingers were twitching I could see that he had an objection to make. Papa went on:
"Well, of this money you will send 10,000 roubles to the Petrovskoe local council, As for the money already at the office, you will remit it to me, and enter it as spent on this present date." Jakoff turned over the tablet marked "12,000," and put down "21,000"—seeming, by his action, to imply that 12,000 roubles had been turned over in the same fashion as he had turned the tablet. "And this envelope with the enclosed money," concluded Papa, "you will deliver for me to the person to whom it is addressed."
I was standing close to the table, and could see the address. It was "To Karl Ivanitch Mayer." Perhaps Papa had an idea that I had read something which I ought not, for he touched my shoulder with his hand and made me aware, by a slight movement, that I must withdraw from the table. Not sure whether the movement was meant for a caress or a command, I kissed the large, sinewy hand which rested upon my shoulder.
"Very well," said Jakoff. "And what are your orders about the accounts for the money from Chabarovska?" (Chabarovska was Mamma's village.)
"Only that they are to remain in my office, and not to be taken thence without my express instructions."
For a minute or two Jakoff was silent. Then his fingers began to twitch with extraordinary rapidity, and, changing the expression of deferential vacancy with which he had listened to his orders for one of shrewd intelligence, he turned his tablets back and spoke.
"Will you allow me to inform you, Peter Alexandritch," he said, with frequent pauses between his words, "that, however much you wish it, it is out of the question to repay the local council now. You enumerated some items, I think, as to what ought to come in from the mortgage, the mill, and the hay (he jotted down each of these items on his tablets again as he spoke). Yet I fear that we must have made a mistake somewhere in the accounts." Here he paused a while, and looked gravely at Papa.
"Well, will you be good enough to look for yourself? There is the account for the mill. The miller has been to me twice to ask for time, and I am afraid that he has no money whatever in hand. He is here now. Would you like to speak to him?"
"No. Tell me what he says," replied Papa, showing by a movement of his head that he had no desire to have speech with the miller.
"Well, it is easy enough to guess what he says. He declares that there is no grinding to be got now, and that his last remaining money has gone to pay for the dam. What good would it do for us to turn him out? As to what you were pleased to say about the mortgage, you yourself are aware that your money there is locked up and cannot be recovered at a moment's notice. I was sending a load of flour to Ivan Afanovitch to-day, and sent him a letter as well, to which he replies that he would have been glad to oblige you, Peter Alexandritch, were it not that the matter is out of his hands now, and that all the circumstances show that it would take you at least two months to withdraw the money. From the hay I understood you to estimate a return of 3000 roubles?" (Here Jakoff jotted down "3000" on his tablets, and then looked for a moment from the figures to Papa with a peculiar expression on his face.) "Well, surely you see for yourself how little that is? And even then we should lose if we were to sell the stuff now, for you must know that—"
It was clear that he would have had many other arguments to adduce had not Papa interrupted him.
"I cannot make any change in my arrangements," said Papa. "Yet if there should REALLY have to be any delay in the recovery of these sums, we could borrow what we wanted from the Chabarovska funds."
"Very well, sir." The expression of Jakoff's face and the way in which he twitched his fingers showed that this order had given him great satisfaction. He was a serf, and a most zealous, devoted one, but, like all good bailiffs, exacting and parsimonious to a degree in the interests of his master. Moreover, he had some queer notions of his own. He was forever endeavouring to increase his master's property at the expense of his mistress's, and to prove that it would be impossible to avoid using the rents from her estates for the benefit of Petrovskoe (my father's village, and the place where we lived). This point he had now gained and was delighted in consequence.
Papa then greeted ourselves, and said that if we stayed much longer in the country we should become lazy boys; that we were growing quite big now, and must set about doing lessons in earnest,
"I suppose you know that I am starting for Moscow to-night?" he went on, "and that I am going to take you with me? You will live with Grandmamma, but Mamma and the girls will remain here. You know, too, I am sure, that Mamma's one consolation will be to hear that you are doing your lessons well and pleasing every one around you."
The preparations which had been in progress for some days past had made us expect some unusual event, but this news left us thunderstruck, Woloda turned red, and, with a shaking voice, delivered Mamma's message to Papa.
"So this was what my dream foreboded!" I thought to myself. "God send that there come nothing worse!" I felt terribly sorry to have to leave Mamma, but at the same rejoiced to think that I should soon be grown up, "If we are going to-day, we shall probably have no lessons to do, and that will be splendid, However, I am sorry for Karl Ivanitch, for he will certainly be dismissed now. That was why that envelope had been prepared for him. I think I would almost rather stay and do lessons here than leave Mamma or hurt poor Karl. He is miserable enough already."
As these thoughts crossed my mind I stood looking sadly at the black ribbons on my shoes, After a few words to Karl Ivanitch about the depression of the barometer and an injunction to Jakoff not to feed the hounds, since a farewell meet was to be held after luncheon, Papa disappointed my hopes by sending us off to lessons—though he also consoled us by promising to take us out hunting later.
On my way upstairs I made a digression to the terrace. Near the door leading on to it Papa's favourite hound, Milka, was lying in the sun and blinking her eyes.
"Miloshka," I cried as I caressed her and kissed her nose, "we are going away today. Good-bye. Perhaps we shall never see each other again." I was crying and laughing at the same time.
IV — LESSONS
Karl Ivanitch was in a bad temper, This was clear from his contracted brows, and from the way in which he flung his frockcoat into a drawer, angrily donned his old dressing-gown again, and made deep dints with his nails to mark the place in the book of dialogues to which we were to learn by heart. Woloda began working diligently, but I was too distracted to do anything at all. For a long while I stared vacantly at the book; but tears at the thought of the impending separation kept rushing to my eyes and preventing me from reading a single word. When at length the time came to repeat the dialogues to Karl (who listened to us with blinking eyes—a very bad sign), I had no sooner reached the place where some one asks, "Wo kommen Sie her?" ("Where do you come from?") and some one else answers him, "Ich komme vom Kaffeehaus" ("I come from the coffee-house"), than I burst into tears and, for sobbing, could not pronounce, "Haben Sie die Zeitung nicht gelesen?" ("Have you not read the newspaper?") at all. Next, when we came to our writing lesson, the tears kept falling from my eyes and, making a mess on the paper, as though some one had written on blotting-paper with water, Karl was very angry. He ordered me to go down upon my knees, declared that it was all obstinacy and "puppet-comedy playing" (a favourite expression of his) on my part, threatened me with the ruler, and commanded me to say that I was sorry. Yet for sobbing and crying I could not get a word out. At last—conscious, perhaps, that he was unjust—he departed to Nicola's pantry, and slammed the door behind him. Nevertheless their conversation there carried to the schoolroom.
"Have you heard that the children are going to Moscow, Nicola?" said Karl.
"Yes. How could I help hearing it?"
At this point Nicola seemed to get up for Karl said, "Sit down, Nicola," and then locked the door. However, I came out of my corner and crept to the door to listen.
"However much you may do for people, and however fond of them you may be, never expect any gratitude, Nicola," said Karl warmly. Nicola, who was shoe-cobbling by the window, nodded his head in assent.
"Twelve years have I lived in this house," went on Karl, lifting his eyes and his snuff-box towards the ceiling, "and before God I can say that I have loved them, and worked for them, even more than if they had been my own children. You recollect, Nicola, when Woloda had the fever? You recollect how, for nine days and nights, I never closed my eyes as I sat beside his bed? Yes, at that time I was 'the dear, good Karl Ivanitch'—I was wanted then; but now"—and he smiled ironically—"the children are growing up, and must go to study in earnest. Perhaps they never learnt anything with me, Nicola? Eh?"
"I am sure they did," replied Nicola, laying his awl down and straightening a piece of thread with his hands.
"No, I am wanted no longer, and am to be turned out. What good are promises and gratitude? Natalia Nicolaevna"—here he laid his hand upon his heart—"I love and revere, but what can SHE I do here? Her will is powerless in this house."
He flung a strip of leather on the floor with an angry gesture. "Yet I know who has been playing tricks here, and why I am no longer wanted. It is because I do not flatter and toady as certain people do. I am in the habit of speaking the truth in all places and to all persons," he continued proudly, "God be with these children, for my leaving them will benefit them little, whereas I—well, by God's help I may be able to earn a crust of bread somewhere. Nicola, eh?"
Nicola raised his head and looked at Karl as though to consider whether he would indeed be able to earn a crust of bread, but he said nothing. Karl said a great deal more of the same kind—in particular how much better his services had been appreciated at a certain general's where he had formerly lived (I regretted to hear that). Likewise he spoke of Saxony, his parents, his friend the tailor, Schonheit (beauty), and so on.
I sympathised with his distress, and felt dreadfully sorry that he and Papa (both of whom I loved about equally) had had a difference. Then I returned to my corner, crouched down upon my heels, and fell to thinking how a reconciliation between them might be effected.
Returning to the study, Karl ordered me to get up and prepare to write from dictation. When I was ready he sat down with a dignified air in his arm-chair, and in a voice which seemed to come from a profound abyss began to dictate: "Von al-len Lei-den-shaf-ten die grau-samste ist. Have you written that?" He paused, took a pinch of snuff, and began again: "Die grausamste ist die Un-dank-bar-keit [The most cruel of all passions is ingratitude.] a capital U, mind."
The last word written, I looked at him, for him to go on.
"Punctum" (stop), he concluded, with a faintly perceptible smile, as he signed to us to hand him our copy-books.
Several times, and in several different tones, and always with an expression of the greatest satisfaction, did he read out that sentence, which expressed his predominant thought at the moment, Then he set us to learn a lesson in history, and sat down near the window. His face did not look so depressed now, but, on the contrary, expressed eloquently the satisfaction of a man who had avenged himself for an injury dealt him.
By this time it was a quarter to one o'clock, but Karl Ivanitch never thought of releasing us, He merely set us a new lesson to learn. My fatigue and hunger were increasing in equal proportions, so that I eagerly followed every sign of the approach of luncheon. First came the housemaid with a cloth to wipe the plates, Next, the sound of crockery resounded in the dining-room, as the table was moved and chairs placed round it, After that, Mimi, Lubotshka, and Katenka. (Katenka was Mimi's daughter, and twelve years old) came in from the garden, but Foka (the servant who always used to come and announce luncheon) was not yet to be seen. Only when he entered was it lawful to throw one's books aside and run downstairs.
Hark! Steps resounded on the staircase, but they were not Foka's. Foka's I had learnt to study, and knew the creaking of his boots well. The door opened, and a figure unknown to me made its appearance.
V — THE IDIOT
The man who now entered the room was about fifty years old, with a pale, attenuated face pitted with smallpox, long grey hair, and a scanty beard of a reddish hue. Likewise he was so tall that, on coming through the doorway, he was forced not only to bend his head, but to incline his whole body forward. He was dressed in a sort of smock that was much torn, and held in his hand a stout staff. As he entered he smote this staff upon the floor, and, contracting his brows and opening his mouth to its fullest extent, laughed in a dreadful, unnatural way. He had lost the sight of one eye, and its colourless pupil kept rolling about and imparting to his hideous face an even more repellent expression than it otherwise bore.
"Hullo, you are caught!" he exclaimed as he ran to Woloda with little short steps and, seizing him round the head, looked at it searchingly. Next he left him, went to the table, and, with a perfectly serious expression on his face, began to blow under the oil-cloth, and to make the sign of the cross over it, "O-oh, what a pity! O-oh, how it hurts! They are angry! They fly from me!" he exclaimed in a tearful choking voice as he glared at Woloda and wiped away the streaming tears with his sleeve, His voice was harsh and rough, all his movements hysterical and spasmodic, and his words devoid of sense or connection (for he used no conjunctions). Yet the tone of that voice was so heartrending, and his yellow, deformed face at times so sincere and pitiful in its expression, that, as one listened to him, it was impossible to repress a mingled sensation of pity, grief, and fear.
This was the idiot Grisha. Whence he had come, or who were his parents, or what had induced him to choose the strange life which he led, no one ever knew. All that I myself knew was that from his fifteenth year upwards he had been known as an imbecile who went barefooted both in winter and summer, visited convents, gave little images to any one who cared to take them, and spoke meaningless words which some people took for prophecies; that nobody remembered him as being different; that at, rare intervals he used to call at Grandmamma's house; and that by some people he was said to be the outcast son of rich parents and a pure, saintly soul, while others averred that he was a mere peasant and an idler.
At last the punctual and wished-for Foka arrived, and we went downstairs. Grisha followed us sobbing and continuing to talk nonsense, and knocking his staff on each step of the staircase. When we entered the drawing-room we found Papa and Mamma walking up and down there, with their hands clasped in each other's, and talking in low tones. Maria Ivanovna was sitting bolt upright in an arm-chair placed at tight angles to the sofa, and giving some sort of a lesson to the two girls sitting beside her. When Karl Ivanitch entered the room she looked at him for a moment, and then turned her eyes away with an expression which seemed to say, "You are beneath my notice, Karl Ivanitch." It was easy to see from the girls' eyes that they had important news to communicate to us as soon as an opportunity occurred (for to leave their seats and approach us first was contrary to Mimi's rules). It was for us to go to her and say, "Bon jour, Mimi," and then make her a low bow; after which we should possibly be permitted to enter into conversation with the girls.
What an intolerable creature that Mimi was! One could hardly say a word in her presence without being found fault with. Also whenever we wanted to speak in Russian, she would say, "Parlez, donc, francais," as though on purpose to annoy us, while, if there was any particularly nice dish at luncheon which we wished to enjoy in peace, she would keep on ejaculating, "Mangez, donc, avec du pain!" or, "Comment est-ce que vous tenez votre fourchette?" "What has SHE got to do with us?" I used to think to myself. "Let her teach the girls. WE have our Karl Ivanitch." I shared to the full his dislike of "certain people."
"Ask Mamma to let us go hunting too," Katenka whispered to me, as she caught me by the sleeve just when the elders of the family were making a move towards the dining-room.
"Very well. I will try."
Grisha likewise took a seat in the dining-room, but at a little table apart from the rest. He never lifted his eyes from his plate, but kept on sighing and making horrible grimaces, as he muttered to himself: "What a pity! It has flown away! The dove is flying to heaven! The stone lies on the tomb!" and so forth.
Ever since the morning Mamma had been absent-minded, and Grisha's presence, words, and actions seemed to make her more so.
"By the way, there is something I forgot to ask you," she said, as she handed Papa a plate of soup.
"What is it?"
"That you will have those dreadful dogs of yours tied up, They nearly worried poor Grisha to death when he entered the courtyard, and I am sure they will bite the children some day."
No sooner did Grisha hear himself mentioned that he turned towards our table and showed us his torn clothes. Then, as he went on with his meal, he said: "He would have let them tear me in pieces, but God would not allow it! What a sin to let the dogs loose—a great sin! But do not beat him, master; do not beat him! It is for God to forgive! It is past now!"
"What does he say?" said Papa, looking at him gravely and sternly. "I cannot understand him at all."
"I think he is saying," replied Mamma, "that one of the huntsmen set the dogs on him, but that God would not allow him to be torn in pieces, Therefore he begs you not to punish the man."
"Oh, is that it?" said Papa, "How does he know that I intended to punish the huntsman? You know, I am not very fond of fellows like this," he added in French, "and this one offends me particularly. Should it ever happen that—"
"Oh, don't say so," interrupted Mamma, as if frightened by some thought. "How can you know what he is?"
"I think I have plenty of opportunities for doing so, since no lack of them come to see you—all of them the same sort, and probably all with the same story."
I could see that Mamma's opinion differed from his, but that she did not mean to quarrel about it.
"Please hand me the cakes," she said to him, "Are they good to-day or not?"
"Yes, I AM angry," he went on as he took the cakes and put them where Mamma could not reach them, "very angry at seeing supposedly reasonable and educated people let themselves be deceived," and he struck the table with his fork.
"I asked you to hand me the cakes," she repeated with outstretched hand.
"And it is a good thing," Papa continued as he put the hand aside, "that the police run such vagabonds in. All they are good for is to play upon the nerves of certain people who are already not over-strong in that respect," and he smiled, observing that Mamma did not like the conversation at all. However, he handed her the cakes.
"All that I have to say," she replied, "is that one can hardly believe that a man who, though sixty years of age, goes barefooted winter and summer, and always wears chains of two pounds' weight, and never accepts the offers made to him to live a quiet, comfortable life—it is difficult to believe that such a man should act thus out of laziness." Pausing a moment, she added with a sigh: "As to predictions, je suis payee pour y croire, I told you, I think, that Grisha prophesied the very day and hour of poor Papa's death?"
"Oh, what HAVE you gone and done?" said Papa, laughing and putting his hand to his cheek (whenever he did this I used to look for something particularly comical from him). "Why did you call my attention to his feet? I looked at them, and now can eat nothing more."
Luncheon was over now, and Lubotshka and Katenka were winking at us, fidgeting about in their chairs, and showing great restlessness. The winking, of course, signified, "Why don't you ask whether we too may go to the hunt?" I nudged Woloda, and Woloda nudged me back, until at last I took heart of grace, and began (at first shyly, but gradually with more assurance) to ask if it would matter much if the girls too were allowed to enjoy the sport. Thereupon a consultation was held among the elder folks, and eventually leave was granted—Mamma, to make things still more delightful, saying that she would come too.
VI — PREPARATIONS FOR THE CHASE
During dessert Jakoff had been sent for, and orders given him to have ready the carriage, the hounds, and the saddle-horses—every detail being minutely specified, and every horse called by its own particular name. As Woloda's usual mount was lame, Papa ordered a "hunter" to be saddled for him; which term, "hunter" so horrified Mamma's ears, that she imagined it to be some kind of an animal which would at once run away and bring about Woloda's death. Consequently, in spite of all Papa's and Woloda's assurances (the latter glibly affirming that it was nothing, and that he liked his horse to go fast), poor Mamma continued to exclaim that her pleasure would be quite spoilt for her.
When luncheon was over, the grown-ups had coffee in the study, while we younger ones ran into the garden and went chattering along the undulating paths with their carpet of yellow leaves. We talked about Woloda's riding a hunter and said what a shame it was that Lubotshka, could not run as fast as Katenka, and what fun it would be if we could see Grisha's chains, and so forth; but of the impending separation we said not a word. Our chatter was interrupted by the sound of the carriage driving up, with a village urchin perched on each of its springs. Behind the carriage rode the huntsmen with the hounds, and they, again, were followed by the groom Ignat on the steed intended for Woloda, with my old horse trotting alongside. After running to the garden fence to get a sight of all these interesting objects, and indulging in a chorus of whistling and hallooing, we rushed upstairs to dress—our one aim being to make ourselves look as like the huntsmen as possible. The obvious way to do this was to tuck one's breeches inside one's boots. We lost no time over it all, for we were in a hurry to run to the entrance steps again there to feast our eyes upon the horses and hounds, and to have a chat with the huntsmen. The day was exceedingly warm while, though clouds of fantastic shape had been gathering on the horizon since morning and driving before a light breeze across the sun, it was clear that, for all their menacing blackness, they did not really intend to form a thunderstorm and spoil our last day's pleasure. Moreover, towards afternoon some of them broke, grew pale and elongated, and sank to the horizon again, while others of them changed to the likeness of white transparent fish-scales. In the east, over Maslovska, a single lurid mass was louring, but Karl Ivanitch (who always seemed to know the ways of the heavens) said that the weather would still continue to be fair and dry.
In spite of his advanced years, it was in quite a sprightly manner that Foka came out to the entrance steps, to give the order "Drive up." In fact, as he planted his legs firmly apart and took up his station between the lowest step and the spot where the coachman was to halt, his mien was that of a man who knew his duties and had no need to be reminded of them by anybody. Presently the ladies, also came out, and after a little discussions as to seats and the safety of the girls (all of which seemed to me wholly superfluous), they settled themselves in the vehicle, opened their parasols, and started. As the carriage was, driving away, Mamma pointed to the hunter and asked nervously "Is that the horse intended for Vladimir Petrovitch?" On the groom answering in the affirmative, she raised her hands in horror and turned her head away. As for myself, I was burning with impatience. Clambering on to the back of my steed (I was just tall enough to see between its ears), I proceeded to perform evolutions in the courtyard.
"Mind you don't ride over the hounds, sir," said one of the huntsmen.
"Hold your tongue, It is not the first time I have been one of the party." I retorted with dignity.
Although Woloda had plenty of pluck, he was not altogether free from apprehensions as he sat on the hunter. Indeed, he more than once asked as he patted it, "Is he quiet?" He looked very well on horseback—almost a grown-up young man, and held himself so upright in the saddle that I envied him since my shadow seemed to show that I could not compare with him in looks.
Presently Papa's footsteps sounded on the flagstones, the whip collected the hounds, and the huntsmen mounted their steeds. Papa's horse came up in charge of a groom, the hounds of his particular leash sprang up from their picturesque attitudes to fawn upon him, and Milka, in a collar studded with beads, came bounding joyfully from behind his heels to greet and sport with the other dogs. Finally, as soon as Papa had mounted we rode away.
VII — THE HUNT
AT the head of the cavalcade rode Turka, on a hog-backed roan. On his head he wore a shaggy cap, while, with a magnificent horn slung across his shoulders and a knife at his belt, he looked so cruel and inexorable that one would have thought he was going to engage in bloody strife with his fellow men rather than to hunt a small animal. Around the hind legs of his horse the hounds gambolled like a cluster of checkered, restless balls. If one of them wished to stop, it was only with the greatest difficulty that it could do so, since not only had its leash-fellow also to be induced to halt, but at once one of the huntsmen would wheel round, crack his whip, and shout to the delinquent,
"Back to the pack, there!"
Arrived at a gate, Papa told us and the huntsmen to continue our way along the road, and then rode off across a cornfield. The harvest was at its height. On the further side of a large, shining, yellow stretch of cornland lay a high purple belt of forest which always figured in my eyes as a distant, mysterious region behind which either the world ended or an uninhabited waste began. This expanse of corn-land was dotted with swathes and reapers, while along the lanes where the sickle had passed could be seen the backs of women as they stooped among the tall, thick grain or lifted armfuls of corn and rested them against the shocks. In one corner a woman was bending over a cradle, and the whole stubble was studded with sheaves and cornflowers. In another direction shirt-sleeved men were standing on waggons, shaking the soil from the stalks of sheaves, and stacking them for carrying. As soon as the foreman (dressed in a blouse and high boots, and carrying a tally-stick) caught sight of Papa, he hastened to take off his lamb's-wool cap and, wiping his red head, told the women to get up. Papa's chestnut horse went trotting along with a prancing gait as it tossed its head and swished its tail to and fro to drive away the gadflies and countless other insects which tormented its flanks, while his two greyhounds—their tails curved like sickles—went springing gracefully over the stubble. Milka was always first, but every now and then she would halt with a shake of her head to await the whipper-in. The chatter of the peasants; the rumbling of horses and waggons; the joyous cries of quails; the hum of insects as they hung suspended in the motionless air; the smell of the soil and grain and steam from our horses; the thousand different lights and shadows which the burning sun cast upon the yellowish-white cornland; the purple forest in the distance; the white gossamer threads which were floating in the air or resting on the soil-all these things I observed and heard and felt to the core.
Arrived at the Kalinovo wood, we found the carriage awaiting us there, with, beside it, a one-horse waggonette driven by the butler—a waggonette in which were a tea-urn, some apparatus for making ices, and many other attractive boxes and bundles, all packed in straw! There was no mistaking these signs, for they meant that we were going to have tea, fruit, and ices in the open air. This afforded us intense delight, since to drink tea in a wood and on the grass and where none else had ever drunk tea before seemed to us a treat beyond expressing.
When Turka arrived at the little clearing where the carriage was halted he took Papa's detailed instructions as to how we were to divide ourselves and where each of us was to go (though, as a matter of fact, he never acted according to such instructions, but always followed his own devices). Then he unleashed the hounds, fastened the leashes to his saddle, whistled to the pack, and disappeared among the young birch trees the liberated hounds jumping about him in high delight, wagging their tails, and sniffing and gambolling with one another as they dispersed themselves in different directions.
"Has anyone a pocket-handkerchief to spare?" asked Papa. I took mine from my pocket and offered it to him.
"Very well, Fasten it to this greyhound here."
"Gizana?" I asked, with the air of a connoisseur.
"Yes. Then run him along the road with you. When you come to a little clearing in the wood stop and look about you, and don't come back to me without a hare."
Accordingly I tied my handkerchief round Gizana's soft neck, and set off running at full speed towards the appointed spot, Papa laughing as he shouted after me, "Hurry up, hurry up or you'll be late!"
Every now and then Gizana kept stopping, pricking up his ears, and listening to the hallooing of the beaters. Whenever he did this I was not strong enough to move him, and could do no more than shout, "Come on, come on!" Presently he set off so fast that I could not restrain him, and I encountered more than one fall before we reached our destination. Selecting there a level, shady spot near the roots of a great oak-tree, I lay down on the turf, made Gizana crouch beside me, and waited. As usual, my imagination far outstripped reality. I fancied that I was pursuing at least my third hare when, as a matter of fact, the first hound was only just giving tongue. Presently, however, Turka's voice began to sound through the wood in louder and more excited tones, the baying of a hound came nearer and nearer, and then another, and then a third, and then a fourth, deep throat joined in the rising and falling cadences of a chorus, until the whole had united their voices in one continuous, tumultuous burst of melody. As the Russian proverb expresses it, "The forest had found a tongue, and the hounds were burning as with fire."
My excitement was so great that I nearly swooned where I stood. My lips parted themselves as though smiling, the perspiration poured from me in streams, and, in spite of the tickling sensation caused by the drops as they trickled over my chin, I never thought of wiping them away. I felt that a crisis was approaching. Yet the tension was too unnatural to last. Soon the hounds came tearing along the edge of the wood, and then—behold, they were racing away from me again, and of hares there was not a sign to be seen! I looked in every direction and Gizana did the same—pulling at his leash at first and whining. Then he lay down again by my side, rested his muzzle on my knees, and resigned himself to disappointment. Among the naked roots of the oak-tree under which I was sitting. I could see countless ants swarming over the parched grey earth and winding among the acorns, withered oak-leaves, dry twigs, russet moss, and slender, scanty blades of grass. In serried files they kept pressing forward on the level track they had made for themselves—some carrying burdens, some not. I took a piece of twig and barred their way. Instantly it was curious to see how they made light of the obstacle. Some got past it by creeping underneath, and some by climbing over it. A few, however, there were (especially those weighted with loads) who were nonplussed what to do. They either halted and searched for a way round, or returned whence they had come, or climbed the adjacent herbage, with the evident intention of reaching my hand and going up the sleeve of my jacket. From this interesting spectacle my attention was distracted by the yellow wings of a butterfly which was fluttering alluringly before me. Yet I had scarcely noticed it before it flew away to a little distance and, circling over some half-faded blossoms of white clover, settled on one of them. Whether it was the sun's warmth that delighted it, or whether it was busy sucking nectar from the flower, at all events it seemed thoroughly comfortable. It scarcely moved its wings at all, and pressed itself down into the clover until I could hardly see its body. I sat with my chin on my hands and watched it with intense interest.
Suddenly Gizana sprang up and gave me such a violent jerk that I nearly rolled over. I looked round. At the edge of the wood a hare had just come into view, with one ear bent down and the other one sharply pricked, The blood rushed to my head, and I forgot everything else as I shouted, slipped the dog, and rushed towards the spot. Yet all was in vain. The hare stopped, made a rush, and was lost to view.
How confused I felt when at that moment Turka stepped from the undergrowth (he had been following the hounds as they ran along the edges of the wood)! He had seen my mistake (which had consisted in my not biding my time), and now threw me a contemptuous look as he said, "Ah, master!" And you should have heard the tone in which he said it! It would have been a relief to me if he had then and there suspended me to his saddle instead of the hare. For a while I could only stand miserably where I was, without attempting to recall the dog, and ejaculate as I slapped my knees, "Good heavens! What a fool I was!" I could hear the hounds retreating into the distance, and baying along the further side of the wood as they pursued the hare, while Turka rallied them with blasts on his gorgeous horn: yet I did not stir.
VIII — WE PLAY GAMES
THE hunt was over, a cloth had been spread in the shade of some young birch-trees, and the whole party was disposed around it. The butler, Gabriel, had stamped down the surrounding grass, wiped the plates in readiness, and unpacked from a basket a quantity of plums and peaches wrapped in leaves.
Through the green branches of the young birch-trees the sun glittered and threw little glancing balls of light upon the pattern of my napkin, my legs, and the bald moist head of Gabriel. A soft breeze played in the leaves of the trees above us, and, breathing softly upon my hair and heated face, refreshed me beyond measure, When we had finished the fruit and ices, nothing remained to be done around the empty cloth, so, despite the oblique, scorching rays of the sun, we rose and proceeded to play.
"Well, what shall it be?" said Lubotshka, blinking in the sunlight and skipping about the grass, "Suppose we play Robinson?"
"No, that's a tiresome game," objected Woloda, stretching himself lazily on the turf and gnawing some leaves, "Always Robinson! If you want to play at something, play at building a summerhouse."
Woloda was giving himself tremendous airs. Probably he was proud of having ridden the hunter, and so pretended to be very tired. Perhaps, also, he had too much hard-headedness and too little imagination fully to enjoy the game of Robinson. It was a game which consisted of performing various scenes from The Swiss Family Robinson, a book which we had recently been reading.
"Well, but be a good boy. Why not try and please us this time?" the girls answered. "You may be Charles or Ernest or the father, whichever you like best," added Katenka as she tried to raise him from the ground by pulling at his sleeve.
"No, I'm not going to; it's a tiresome game," said Woloda again, though smiling as if secretly pleased.
"It would be better to sit at home than not to play at ANYTHING," murmured Lubotshka, with tears in her eyes. She was a great weeper.
"Well, go on, then. Only, DON'T cry; I can't stand that sort of thing."
Woloda's condescension did not please us much. On the contrary, his lazy, tired expression took away all the fun of the game. When we sat on the ground and imagined that we were sitting in a boat and either fishing or rowing with all our might, Woloda persisted in sitting with folded hands or in anything but a fisherman's posture. I made a remark about it, but he replied that, whether we moved our hands or not, we should neither gain nor lose ground—certainly not advance at all, and I was forced to agree with him. Again, when I pretended to go out hunting, and, with a stick over my shoulder, set off into the wood, Woloda only lay down on his back with his hands under his head, and said that he supposed it was all the same whether he went or not. Such behaviour and speeches cooled our ardour for the game and were very disagreeable—the more so since it was impossible not to confess to oneself that Woloda was right, I myself knew that it was not only impossible to kill birds with a stick, but to shoot at all with such a weapon. Still, it was the game, and if we were once to begin reasoning thus, it would become equally impossible for us to go for drives on chairs. I think that even Woloda himself cannot at that moment have forgotten how, in the long winter evenings, we had been used to cover an arm-chair with a shawl and make a carriage of it—one of us being the coachman, another one the footman, the two girls the passengers, and three other chairs the trio of horses abreast. With what ceremony we used to set out, and with what adventures we used to meet on the way! How gaily and quickly those long winter evenings used to pass! If we were always to judge from reality, games would be nonsense; but if games were nonsense, what else would there be left to do?
IX — A FIRST ESSAY IN LOVE
PRETENDING to gather some "American fruit" from a tree, Lubotshka suddenly plucked a leaf upon which was a huge caterpillar, and throwing the insect with horror to the ground, lifted her hands and sprang away as though afraid it would spit at her. The game stopped, and we crowded our heads together as we stooped to look at the curiosity.
I peeped over Katenka's shoulder as she was trying to lift the caterpillar by placing another leaf in its way. I had observed before that the girls had a way of shrugging their shoulders whenever they were trying to put a loose garment straight on their bare necks, as well as that Mimi always grew angry on witnessing this manoeuvre and declared it to be a chambermaid's trick. As Katenka bent over the caterpillar she made that very movement, while at the same instant the breeze lifted the fichu on her white neck. Her shoulder was close to my lips, I looked at it and kissed it, She did not turn round, but Woloda remarked without raising his head, "What spooniness!" I felt the tears rising to my eyes, and could not take my gaze from Katenka. I had long been used to her fair, fresh face, and had always been fond of her, but now I looked at her more closely, and felt more fond of her, than I had ever done or felt before.
When we returned to the grown-ups, Papa informed us, to our great joy, that, at Mamma's entreaties, our departure was to be postponed until the following morning. We rode home beside the carriage—Woloda and I galloping near it, and vieing with one another in our exhibition of horsemanship and daring. My shadow looked longer now than it had done before, and from that I judged that I had grown into a fine rider. Yet my complacency was soon marred by an unfortunate occurrence, Desiring to outdo Woloda before the audience in the carriage, I dropped a little behind. Then with whip and spur I urged my steed forward, and at the same time assumed a natural, graceful attitude, with the intention of whooting past the carriage on the side on which Katenka was seated. My only doubt was whether to halloo or not as I did so. In the event, my infernal horse stopped so abruptly when just level with the carriage horses that I was pitched forward on to its neck and cut a very sorry figure!
X — THE SORT OF MAN MY FATHER WAS
Papa was a gentleman of the last century, with all the chivalrous character, self-reliance, and gallantry of the youth of that time. Upon the men of the present day he looked with a contempt arising partly from inborn pride and partly from a secret feeling of vexation that, in this age of ours, he could no longer enjoy the influence and success which had been his in his youth. His two principal failings were gambling and gallantry, and he had won or lost, in the course of his career, several millions of roubles.
Tall and of imposing figure, he walked with a curiously quick, mincing gait, as well as had a habit of hitching one of his shoulders. His eyes were small and perpetually twinkling, his nose large and aquiline, his lips irregular and rather oddly (though pleasantly) compressed, his articulation slightly defective and lisping, and his head quite bald. Such was my father's exterior from the days of my earliest recollection. It was an exterior which not only brought him success and made him a man a bonnes fortunes but one which pleased people of all ranks and stations. Especially did it please those whom he desired to please.
At all junctures he knew how to take the lead, for, though not deriving from the highest circles of society, he had always mixed with them, and knew how to win their respect. He possessed in the highest degree that measure of pride and self-confidence which, without giving offence, maintains a man in the opinion of the world. He had much originality, as well as the ability to use it in such a way that it benefited him as much as actual worldly position or fortune could have done. Nothing in the universe could surprise him, and though not of eminent attainments in life, he seemed born to have acquired them. He understood so perfectly how to make both himself and others forget and keep at a distance the seamy side of life, with all its petty troubles and vicissitudes, that it was impossible not to envy him. He was a connoisseur in everything which could give ease and pleasure, as well as knew how to make use of such knowledge. Likewise he prided himself on the brilliant connections which he had formed through my mother's family or through friends of his youth, and was secretly jealous of any one of a higher rank than himself—any one, that is to say, of a rank higher than a retired lieutenant of the Guards. Moreover, like all ex-officers, he refused to dress himself in the prevailing fashion, though he attired himself both originally and artistically—his invariable wear being light, loose-fitting suits, very fine shirts, and large collars and cuffs. Everything seemed to suit his upright figure and quiet, assured air. He was sensitive to the pitch of sentimentality, and, when reading a pathetic passage, his voice would begin to tremble and the tears to come into his eyes, until he had to lay the book aside. Likewise he was fond of music, and could accompany himself on the piano as he sang the love songs of his friend A— or gipsy songs or themes from operas; but he had no love for serious music, and would frankly flout received opinion by declaring that, whereas Beethoven's sonatas wearied him and sent him to sleep, his ideal of beauty was "Do not wake me, youth" as Semenoff sang it, or "Not one" as the gipsy Taninsha rendered that ditty. His nature was essentially one of those which follow public opinion concerning what is good, and consider only that good which the public declares to be so. [It may be noted that the author has said earlier in the chapter that his father possessed "much originality."] God only knows whether he had any moral convictions. His life was so full of amusement that probably he never had time to form any, and was too successful ever to feel the lack of them.
As he grew to old age he looked at things always from a fixed point of view, and cultivated fixed rules—but only so long as that point or those rules coincided with expediency, The mode of life which offered some passing degree of interest—that, in his opinion, was the right one and the only one that men ought to affect. He had great fluency of argument; and this, I think, increased the adaptability of his morals and enabled him to speak of one and the same act, now as good, and now, with abuse, as abominable.
XI — IN THE DRAWING-ROOM AND THE STUDY
Twilight had set in when we reached home. Mamma sat down to the piano, and we to a table, there to paint and draw in colours and pencil. Though I had only one cake of colour, and it was blue, I determined to draw a picture of the hunt. In exceedingly vivid fashion I painted a blue boy on a blue horse, and—but here I stopped, for I was uncertain whether it was possible also to paint a blue HARE. I ran to the study to consult Papa, and as he was busy reading he never lifted his eyes from his book when I asked, "Can there be blue hares?" but at once replied, "There can, my boy, there can." Returning to the table I painted in my blue hare, but subsequently thought it better to change it into a blue bush. Yet the blue bush did not wholly please me, so I changed it into a tree, and then into a rick, until, the whole paper having now become one blur of blue, I tore it angrily in pieces, and went off to meditate in the large arm-chair.
Mamma was playing Field's second concerto. Field, it may be said, had been her master. As I dozed, the music brought up before my imagination a kind of luminosity, with transparent dream-shapes. Next she played the "Sonate Pathetique" of Beethoven, and I at once felt heavy, depressed, and apprehensive. Mamma often played those two pieces, and therefore I well recollect the feelings they awakened in me. Those feelings were a reminiscence—of what? Somehow I seemed to remember something which had never been.
Opposite to me lay the study door, and presently I saw Jakoff enter it, accompanied by several long-bearded men in kaftans. Then the door shut again.
"Now they are going to begin some business or other," I thought. I believed the affairs transacted in that study to be the most important ones on earth. This opinion was confirmed by the fact that people only approached the door of that room on tiptoe and speaking in whispers. Presently Papa's resonant voice sounded within, and I also scented cigar smoke—always a very attractive thing to me. Next, as I dozed, I suddenly heard a creaking of boots that I knew, and, sure enough, saw Karl Ivanitch go on tiptoe, and with a depressed, but resolute, expression on his face and a written document in his hand, to the study door and knock softly. It opened, and then shut again behind him.
"I hope nothing is going to happen," I mused. "Karl Ivanitch is offended, and might be capable of anything—" and again I dozed off.
Nevertheless something DID happen. An hour later I was disturbed by the same creaking of boots, and saw Karl come out, and disappear up the stairs, wiping away a few tears from his cheeks with his pocket handkerchief as he went and muttering something between his teeth. Papa came out behind him and turned aside into the drawing-room.
"Do you know what I have just decided to do?" he asked gaily as he laid a hand upon Mamma's shoulder.
"What, my love?"
"To take Karl Ivanitch with the children. There will be room enough for him in the carriage. They are used to him, and he seems greatly attached to them. Seven hundred roubles a year cannot make much difference to us, and the poor devil is not at all a bad sort of a fellow." I could not understand why Papa should speak of him so disrespectfully.
"I am delighted," said Mamma, "and as much for the children's sake as his own. He is a worthy old man."
"I wish you could have seen how moved he was when I told him that he might look upon the 500 roubles as a present! But the most amusing thing of all is this bill which he has just handed me. It is worth seeing," and with a smile Papa gave Mamma a paper inscribed in Karl's handwriting. "Is it not capital?" he concluded.
The contents of the paper were as follows: [The joke of this bill consists chiefly in its being written in very bad Russian, with continual mistakes as to plural and singular, prepositions and so forth.]
"Two book for the children—70 copeck. Coloured paper, gold frames, and a pop-guns, blockheads [This word has a double meaning in Russian.] for cutting out several box for presents—6 roubles, 55 copecks. Several book and a bows, presents for the childrens—8 roubles, 16 copecks. A gold watches promised to me by Peter Alexandrovitch out of Moscow, in the years 18— for 140 roubles. Consequently Karl Mayer have to receive 139 rouble, 79 copecks, beside his wage."
If people were to judge only by this bill (in which Karl Ivanitch demanded repayment of all the money he had spent on presents, as well as the value of a present promised to himself), they would take him to have been a callous, avaricious egotist yet they would be wrong.
It appears that he had entered the study with the paper in his hand and a set speech in his head, for the purpose of declaiming eloquently to Papa on the subject of the wrongs which he believed himself to have suffered in our house, but that, as soon as ever he began to speak in the vibratory voice and with the expressive intonations which he used in dictating to us, his eloquence wrought upon himself more than upon Papa; with the result that, when he came to the point where he had to say, "however sad it will be for me to part with the children," he lost his self-command utterly, his articulation became choked, and he was obliged to draw his coloured pocket-handkerchief from his pocket.
"Yes, Peter Alexandrovitch," he said, weeping (this formed no part of the prepared speech), "I am grown so used to the children that I cannot think what I should do without them. I would rather serve you without salary than not at all," and with one hand he wiped his eyes, while with the other he presented the bill.
Although I am convinced that at that moment Karl Ivanitch was speaking with absolute sincerity (for I know how good his heart was), I confess that never to this day have I been able quite to reconcile his words with the bill.
"Well, if the idea of leaving us grieves you, you may be sure that the idea of dismissing you grieves me equally," said Papa, tapping him on the shoulder. Then, after a pause, he added, "But I have changed my mind, and you shall not leave us."
Just before supper Grisha entered the room. Ever since he had entered the house that day he had never ceased to sigh and weep—a portent, according to those who believed in his prophetic powers, that misfortune was impending for the household. He had now come to take leave of us, for to-morrow (so he said) he must be moving on. I nudged Woloda, and we moved towards the door.
"What is the matter?" he said.
"This—that if we want to see Grisha's chains we must go upstairs at once to the men-servants' rooms. Grisha is to sleep in the second one, so we can sit in the store-room and see everything."
"All right. Wait here, and I'll tell the girls."
The girls came at once, and we ascended the stairs, though the question as to which of us should first enter the store-room gave us some little trouble. Then we cowered down and waited.
XII — GRISHA
WE all felt a little uneasy in the thick darkness, so we pressed close to one another and said nothing. Before long Grisha arrived with his soft tread, carrying in one hand his staff and in the other a tallow candle set in a brass candlestick. We scarcely ventured to breathe.
"Our Lord Jesus Christ! Holy Mother of God! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!" he kept repeating, with the different intonations and abbreviations which gradually become peculiar to persons who are accustomed to pronounce the words with great frequency.
Still praying, he placed his staff in a corner and looked at the bed; after which he began to undress. Unfastening his old black girdle, he slowly divested himself of his torn nankeen kaftan, and deposited it carefully on the back of a chair. His face had now lost its usual disquietude and idiocy. On the contrary, it had in it something restful, thoughtful, and even grand, while all his movements were deliberate and intelligent.
Next, he lay down quietly in his shirt on the bed, made the sign of the cross towards every side of him, and adjusted his chains beneath his shirt—an operation which, as we could see from his face, occasioned him considerable pain. Then he sat up again, looked gravely at his ragged shirt, and rising and taking the candle, lifted the latter towards the shrine where the images of the saints stood. That done, he made the sign of the cross again, and turned the candle upside down, when it went out with a hissing noise.
Through the window (which overlooked the wood) the moon (nearly full) was shining in such a way that one side of the tall white figure of the idiot stood out in the pale, silvery moonlight, while the other side was lost in the dark shadow which covered the floor, walls, and ceiling. In the courtyard the watchman was tapping at intervals upon his brass alarm plate. For a while Grisha stood silently before the images and, with his large hands pressed to his breast and his head bent forward, gave occasional sighs. Then with difficulty he knelt down and began to pray.
At first he repeated some well-known prayers, and only accented a word here and there. Next, he repeated thee same prayers, but louder and with increased accentuation. Lastly he repeated them again and with even greater emphasis, as well as with an evident effort to pronounce them in the old Slavonic Church dialect. Though disconnected, his prayers were very touching. He prayed for all his benefactors (so he called every one who had received him hospitably), with, among them, Mamma and ourselves. Next he prayed for himself, and besought God to forgive him his sins, at the same time repeating, "God forgive also my enemies!" Then, moaning with the effort, he rose from his knees—only to fall to the floor again and repeat his phrases afresh. At last he regained his feet, despite the weight of the chains, which rattled loudly whenever they struck the floor.
Woloda pinched me rudely in the leg, but I took no notice of that (except that I involuntarily touched the place with my hand), as I observed with a feeling of childish astonishment, pity, and respect the words and gestures of Grisha. Instead of the laughter and amusement which I had expected on entering the store-room, I felt my heart beating and overcome.
Grisha continued for some time in this state of religious ecstasy as he improvised prayers and repeated again and yet again, "Lord, have mercy upon me!" Each time that he said, "Pardon me, Lord, and teach me to do what Thou wouldst have done," he pronounced the words with added earnestness and emphasis, as though he expected an immediate answer to his petition, and then fell to sobbing and moaning once more. Finally, he went down on his knees again, folded his arms upon his breast, and remained silent. I ventured to put my head round the door (holding my breath as I did so), but Grisha still made no movement except for the heavy sighs which heaved his breast. In the moonlight I could see a tear glistening on the white patch of his blind eye.
"Yes, Thy will be done!" he exclaimed suddenly, with an expression which I cannot describe, as, prostrating himself with his forehead on the floor, he fell to sobbing like a child.
Much sand has run out since then, many recollections of the past have faded from my memory or become blurred in indistinct visions, and poor Grisha himself has long since reached the end of his pilgrimage; but the impression which he produced upon me, and the feelings which he aroused in my breast, will never leave my mind. O truly Christian Grisha, your faith was so strong that you could feel the actual presence of God; your love so great that the words fell of themselves from your lips. You had no reason to prove them, for you did so with your earnest praises of His majesty as you fell to the ground speechless and in tears!
Nevertheless the sense of awe with which I had listened to Grisha could not last for ever. I had now satisfied my curiosity, and, being cramped with sitting in one position so long, desired to join in the tittering and fun which I could hear going on in the dark store-room behind me. Some one took my hand and whispered, "Whose hand is this?" Despite the darkness, I knew by the touch and the low voice in my ear that it was Katenka. I took her by the arm, but she withdrew it, and, in doing so, pushed a cane chair which was standing near. Grisha lifted his head looked quietly about him, and, muttering a prayer, rose and made the sign of the cross towards each of the four corners of the room.
XIII — NATALIA SAVISHNA
In days gone by there used to run about the seignorial courtyard of the country-house at Chabarovska a girl called Natashka. She always wore a cotton dress, went barefooted, and was rosy, plump, and gay. It was at the request and entreaties of her father, the clarionet player Savi, that my grandfather had "taken her upstairs"—that is to say, made her one of his wife's female servants. As chamber-maid, Natashka so distinguished herself by her zeal and amiable temper that when Mamma arrived as a baby and required a nurse Natashka was honoured with the charge of her. In this new office the girl earned still further praises and rewards for her activity, trustworthiness, and devotion to her young mistress. Soon, however, the powdered head and buckled shoes of the young and active footman Foka (who had frequent opportunities of courting her, since they were in the same service) captivated her unsophisticated, but loving, heart. At last she ventured to go and ask my grandfather if she might marry Foka, but her master took the request in bad part, flew into a passion, and punished poor Natashka by exiling her to a farm which he owned in a remote quarter of the Steppes. At length, when she had been gone six months and nobody could be found to replace her, she was recalled to her former duties. Returned, and with her dress in rags, she fell at Grandpapa's feet, and besought him to restore her his favour and kindness, and to forget the folly of which she had been guilty—folly which, she assured him, should never recur again. And she kept her word.
From that time forth she called herself, not Natashka, but Natalia Savishna, and took to wearing a cap, All the love in her heart was now bestowed upon her young charge. When Mamma had a governess appointed for her education, Natalia was awarded the keys as housekeeper, and henceforth had the linen and provisions under her care. These new duties she fulfilled with equal fidelity and zeal. She lived only for her master's advantage. Everything in which she could detect fraud, extravagance, or waste she endeavoured to remedy to the best of her power. When Mamma married and wished in some way to reward Natalia Savishna for her twenty years of care and labour, she sent for her and, voicing in the tenderest terms her attachment and love, presented her with a stamped charter of her (Natalia's) freedom, [It will be remembered that this was in the days of serfdom] telling her at the same time that, whether she continued to serve in the household or not, she should always receive an annual pension Of 300 roubles. Natalia listened in silence to this. Then, taking the document in her hands and regarding it with a frown, she muttered something between her teeth, and darted from the room, slamming the door behind her. Not understanding the reason for such strange conduct, Mamma followed her presently to her room, and found her sitting with streaming eyes on her trunk, crushing her pocket-handkerchief between her fingers, and looking mournfully at the remains of the document, which was lying torn to pieces on the floor.
"What is the matter, dear Natalia Savishna?" said Mamma, taking her hand.
"Nothing, ma'am," she replied; "only—only I must have displeased you somehow, since you wish to dismiss me from the house. Well, I will go."
She withdrew her hand and, with difficulty restraining her tears, rose to leave the room, but Mamma stopped her, and they wept a while in one another's arms.
Ever since I can remember anything I can remember Natalia Savishna and her love and tenderness; yet only now have I learnt to appreciate them at their full value. In early days it never occurred to me to think what a rare and wonderful being this old domestic was. Not only did she never talk, but she seemed never even to think, of herself. Her whole life was compounded of love and self-sacrifice. Yet so used was I to her affection and singleness of heart that I could not picture things otherwise. I never thought of thanking her, or of asking myself, "Is she also happy? Is she also contented?" Often on some pretext or another I would leave my lessons and run to her room, where, sitting down, I would begin to muse aloud as though she were not there. She was forever mending something, or tidying the shelves which lined her room, or marking linen, so that she took no heed of the nonsense which I talked—how that I meant to become a general, to marry a beautiful woman, to buy a chestnut horse, to, build myself a house of glass, to invite Karl Ivanitch's relatives to come and visit me from Saxony, and so forth; to all of which she would only reply, "Yes, my love, yes." Then, on my rising, and preparing to go, she would open a blue trunk which had pasted on the inside of its lid a coloured picture of a hussar which had once adorned a pomade bottle and a sketch made by Woloda, and take from it a fumigation pastille, which she would light and shake for my benefit, saying:
"These, dear, are the pastilles which your grandfather (now in Heaven) brought back from Otchakov after fighting against the Turks." Then she would add with a sigh: "But this is nearly the last one."
The trunks which filled her room seemed to contain almost everything in the world. Whenever anything was wanted, people said, "Oh, go and ask Natalia Savishna for it," and, sure enough, it was seldom that she did not produce the object required and say, "See what comes of taking care of everything!" Her trunks contained thousands of things which nobody in the house but herself would have thought of preserving.
Once I lost my temper with her. This was how it happened.
One day after luncheon I poured myself out a glass of kvass, and then dropped the decanter, and so stained the tablecloth.
"Go and call Natalia, that she may come and see what her darling has done," said Mamma.
Natalia arrived, and shook her head at me when she saw the damage I had done; but Mamma whispered something in her car, threw a look at myself, and then left the room.
I was just skipping away, in the sprightliest mood possible, when Natalia darted out upon me from behind the door with the tablecloth in her hand, and, catching hold of me, rubbed my face hard with the stained part of it, repeating, "Don't thou go and spoil tablecloths any more!"
I struggled hard, and roared with temper.
"What?" I said to myself as I fled to the drawing-room in a mist of tears, "To think that Natalia Savishna-just plain Natalia-should say 'THOU' to me and rub my face with a wet tablecloth as though I were a mere servant-boy! It is abominable!"
Seeing my fury, Natalia departed, while I continued to strut about and plan how to punish the bold woman for her offence. Yet not more than a few moments had passed when Natalia returned and, stealing to my side, began to comfort me,
"Hush, then, my love. Do not cry. Forgive me my rudeness. It was wrong of me. You WILL pardon me, my darling, will you not? There, there, that's a dear," and she took from her handkerchief a cornet of pink paper containing two little cakes and a grape, and offered it me with a trembling hand. I could not look the kind old woman in the face, but, turning aside, took the paper, while my tears flowed the faster—though from love and shame now, not from anger.
XIV — THE PARTING
ON the day after the events described, the carriage and the luggage-cart drew up to the door at noon. Nicola, dressed for the journey, with his breeches tucked into his boots and an old overcoat belted tightly about him with a girdle, got into the cart and arranged cloaks and cushions on the seats. When he thought that they were piled high enough he sat down on them, but finding them still unsatisfactory, jumped up and arranged them once more.
"Nicola Dimitvitch, would you be so good as to take master's dressing-case with you?" said Papa's valet, suddenly standing up in the carriage, "It won't take up much room."
"You should have told me before, Michael Ivanitch," answered Nicola snappishly as he hurled a bundle with all his might to the floor of the cart. "Good gracious! Why, when my head is going round like a whirlpool, there you come along with your dressing-case!" and he lifted his cap to wipe away the drops of perspiration from his sunburnt brow.
The courtyard was full of bareheaded peasants in kaftans or simple shirts, women clad in the national dress and wearing striped handkerchiefs, and barefooted little ones—the latter holding their mothers' hands or crowding round the entrance-steps. All were chattering among themselves as they stared at the carriage. One of the postillions, an old man dressed in a winter cap and cloak, took hold of the pole of the carriage and tried it carefully, while the other postillion (a young man in a white blouse with pink gussets on the sleeves and a black lamb's-wool cap which he kept cocking first on one side and then on the other as he arranged his flaxen hair) laid his overcoat upon the box, slung the reins over it, and cracked his thonged whip as he looked now at his boots and now at the other drivers where they stood greasing the wheels of the cart—one driver lifting up each wheel in turn and the other driver applying the grease. Tired post-horses of various hues stood lashing away flies with their tails near the gate—some stamping their great hairy legs, blinking their eyes, and dozing, some leaning wearily against their neighbours, and others cropping the leaves and stalks of dark-green fern which grew near the entrance-steps. Some of the dogs were lying panting in the sun, while others were slinking under the vehicles to lick the grease from the wheels. The air was filled with a sort of dusty mist, and the horizon was lilac-grey in colour, though no clouds were to be seen, A strong wind from the south was raising volumes of dust from the roads and fields, shaking the poplars and birch-trees in the garden, and whirling their yellow leaves away. I myself was sitting at a window and waiting impatiently for these various preparations to come to an end.