A vital question; or, What is to be done?/Part Fifth

A vital question; or, What is to be done?  (1886)  by Nikolay Chernyshevsky, translated by Nathan Haskell Dole and Simon S. Skidelsky
Part Fifth.




Miss Pólozova, in her letter to her friend, referred to her gratitude to Viéra Pavlovna's husband. To explain this it is necessary to explain what kind of a man her father was.

Pólozof was a retired cavalry captain, or second captain of horse,[1] who, while in service, according to the custom of the olden time, had squandered and gambled away quite a large patrimonial estate. But after he had squandered it all, he resigned, and settled down to the creation of a new fortune. Having gathered the last crumbs which were left, he found that he had ten thousand rubles in assignats. He went into the retail grain business; he began to undertake all sorts of small contracts; he made the most of every profitable enterprise which was within his means, and at the end of ten years he had a good property. With the reputation of being such a substantial and enterprising man, with his rank and famous name in his neighborhood, he was able to choose from among the merchants' daughters of the two districts where his business transactions were carried on; and he selected very discretely one with a dowry of half a million, all in assignats. He was then fifty years old, and this was twenty years before we see his daughter entering into friendly relations with Viéra Pavlovna. Adding such a pile to his former wealth, he extended his business on a wider scale, and ten years later he became a millionaire in silver rubles, as at this time silver began to replace paper. His wife died. As she was used to provincial life, she had kept him from moving to Petersburg. Now he moved to Petersburg, "pushed up the hill" more rapidly still, and in ten years was regarded as the possessor of three or four million rubles. Girls and widows, young and old, set their caps[2] at him; but he had no wish to marry the second time, partly because he preserved a genuine feeling for his wife's memory, and, moreover, because he did not want to give Kátja, whom he loved very warmly, a stepmother.

Pólozof pushed and pushed up the mountain; he would have had not three, not four millions, but ten, if he had given himself to monopolies; but he despised them, and he considered contracts and supplies the only honest business. His confreres in the millionocracy laughed at such a slight and delicate distinction, and they were not wrong; but he, though he was not in the right, kept repeating his pet phrase, "I am a commercial man, and I do not want to get rich by robbery." But a year or a year and a half before his daughter made Viéra Pavlovna's acquaintance there appeared too clear proof that there was very little difference between his trade and monopoly, as far as the facts of the matter were concerned, though there was a great difference according to his ideas. He undertook a great contract; whether it was linen, or provisions, or boot-leather, I am not sure; but as he had been becoming every year more stubborn and supercilious on account of his age and his constant success, and the increasing respect with which he was regarded, he quarrelled with an important personage, got rather angry, berated him, and the job proved to be a bad one. At the end of a week they bade him eat humble pie: he said, "I won't"; "You will collapse"; "All right, but I won't give in." In a month he was told the same thing; he made the same reply; and really, as far as eating humble pie was concerned, he ate no humble pie; but as far as collapsing went—he collapsed! His goods were rejected; moreover, whether there were actual faults, or whether it came from ill will, at all events, his three or four millions vanished. And Pólozof, at the age of seventy, found himself a beggar; that is, a beggar compared to what he had been; but still, without any comparison with what he had been, he lived well; he had some shares in a stearine factory, and without hanging down his nose, accepted the position of manager of this factory, at a good salary. Besides that, there remained, by some chance, a few tens of thousands of rubles. If such remnants of his fortune had been in his hands fifteen or ten years before, they would have been enough to help him push himself up a respectable mountain. But being over sixty, it was hard for him to push himself, and Pólozof argued that it was too late for him to try such a thing, and not within his strength. Now he thought only about arranging as quickly as possible the sale of the factory, the shares of which gave him scarcely any income, or any credit, and the affairs of which it was difficult to bring into a better order. He argued the case cleverly, and he succeeded in explaining to the other chief shareholders that a quick sale was the only way of saving the money buried in the shares. Another thing which occupied his mind was a suitable marriage for his daughter. But the main thing was to sell the factory, turn all the money into five per cent governmental bonds, which were at that time in vogue, and to live the remainder of his days peacefully, remembering his past grandeur, the loss of which he bore bravely, preserving all his gayety and firmness.


The father loved his Kátya; he did not allow ultra-high-society's governesses to train the girl too severely. "That is nonsense," he used to say at all straightenings of the figure, straightening of the manners, and everything of this sort; and when Kátya was fifteen years old, he agreed with her that she could do without English and French governesses. Thus Kátja was entirely at her ease; she felt full freedom in the house. And freedom for her at that time was not to be disturbed in her reading and dreaming. She had few friends among girls, though two or three were very intimate; but suitors for her hand she had without number. She is Pólozof's only daughter; it's terrible to speak of: four millions!

But Kátya read and dreamed, and the suitors remained in despair. And Kátya reached the age of seventeen. Thus she read and dreamed, and did not fall in love; but she suddenly began to grow thin, and pale, and languid.


Kirsánof did not care to practise, but he did not consider it right for him to refuse consultations. But at this time—it was a year after he became professor, and a year before he married Viéra Pavlovna—the Big Wigs of the Petersburg medical world began to invite him very often to consultations. There were two reasons for it. The first was that there happened to be in the courts a certain Claude Bernard who had lived in Paris. One of the Big Wigs, who went to Paris for some reason, scientific or other, saw with his own eyes Claude Bernard,—the real living Claude Bernard. He introduced himself with his rank, his name, his decorations, and his famous patient; and Claude Bernard, after listening to him for half an hour, said, "It was idle for you to come to Paris to learn the successes of medicine; you had no need of leaving Petersburg for that purpose." The Big Wig took this as an attestation of his own fame, and after he came back to Petersburg mentioned Claude Bernard's name no less than ten times in the course of twenty-four hours, adding to it no less than five times, "my learned friend" or "my famous comrade in science." How could he help calling Kirsánof to consultations after that? It was impossible not to! And the second reason was still more important: all the Big Wigs saw that Kirsánof was not trying to get away their practice. He not only did not take cases, but even when eagerly requested did not take them. It is known that many of the Big Wigs who practise have this custom: if death, according to the opinion of the Big Wig, is inevitably approaching the patient, and if, by unfortunate change, they cannot get rid of the patient by sending him to any mineral springs or to any place abroad, then it is necessary to place him in the hands of some other medical man; and in these circumstances the Big Wig is willing to offer money from his own pocket for his colleague to take the case. Kirsánof, in these cases where the Big Wig, with the intention of running away, asked him to take a patient, was rarely willing; he generally recommended such of his friends as were in active practice, and he took for himself only a few cases which were interesting from a scientific point of view. But how could they help inviting to their consultations this confrère who was recognized by Claude Bernard, and who did not take away their practice?

Pólozof the millionnaire had a doctor who was the very ace of trumps among the Big Wigs, and when Katerina Vasílyevna became dangerously ill, the consultations for a long time were held by the Big Wigs exclusively. Finally the case became so serious that the Big Wigs decided to invite Kirsánof; and really the task was very tough for the Big Wigs. The sick girl had no evident disease, but her strength was rapidly, failing. It is necessary to get at the root of the trouble. The attending doctor called it atrophia nervorum—innutrition of the nerves. Whether there is any such disease as that in the world I do not know; but if there is, then even I can understand that it must be incurable. But if, notwithstanding its incurableness, she still must be cured, then let Kirsánof do it, or some of his friends,—those impudent little boys!

And so a new consultation with Kirsánof was arranged. They examined the patient; they asked her questions. The patient answered readily, without excitement. But Kirsánof, after the first words, stopped questioning her and merely watched the Big Wigs making the investigation. And after they had exhausted their ingenuity and tormented the girl as much as propriety requires in such cases, they turned to Kirsánof, "What do you think, Aleksandr Matvéitch?"

He replied, "I have not sufficiently examined the patient. I shall stay here. This is an interesting case. If a new consultation should be needed, I shall tell Karl Feodorvitch." (That was the name of the attendant physician, who shone with glory because he was saved from his atrophia nervorum.)

After they left, Kirsánof sat down by the patient's bedside. The sick girl smiled satirically.

"I am sorry that we are not better acquainted," he began. "A doctor must win confidence, and maybe I shall succeed in winning yours. They do not understand your troubles here; some sagacity is needed. To sound your lungs, to give you medicines, is absolutely useless. Only one thing is necessary: to know your general condition, and to think with you whether it is possible to do anything. You will help me in regard to this?"

The sick girl said not a word.

"You do not want to talk with me?"

The sick girl said not a word.

"You probably even want me to leave. I ask of you only ten minutes. If in ten minutes you find, as you think now, that my presence is useless, I shall go. Don't you know well that you have no other disease than sorrow? Don't you know that if this state of mind lasts, it will be impossible in three weeks or a fortnight, or even sooner, to save you? and that maybe you will not live two weeks? As yet you are not in consumption at all, but it is very, very near, and at your age under such conditions it develops with unusual rapidity; it may end in a few days."

The sick girl said not a word.

"You do not reply. But you do not care at all. Therefore my words were not new to you. By the very fact of your silence you say 'yes.' Do you know what almost any other man would know in my place? He would go and speak with your bátiushka. Maybe my talk with him would save you; but if you do not want me to, I shall not do it. Why? I make it a rule, nothing should ever be done for a person against his will; liberty is above everything, even life. Therefore if you don't want me to know the cause of your very dangerous condition, I shall not know it. If you tell me that you want to die, I would only ask you to explain to me the causes of this wish. If they should appear to me groundless, I still have no right to interfere with you; if they appear to me reasonable, I am bound to help you, and I am ready. I am ready to give you poison. Under this condition I ask you to tell me the cause of your illness."

The sick girl said not a word.

"You do not want to answer me; I have no right to continue these questions. But may I ask you to allow me to tell you something about myself which may serve to increase the confidence between us. Yes? Thank you. Whatever the reason may be, you are suffering. I am too. I passionately love a woman who must never know that I love her. Do you pity me?"

The sick girl said not a word, but she smiled sorrowfully.

"You are silent, but still you could not hide that you noticed these words of mine more than those that I spoke before. That is sufficient of itself. I see that you and I have one cause of suffering. Do you want to die? I understand it very well. But to die of consumption is long, is hard; I am ready to help you to die, if I cannot help you to something better. I say that I am ready to give you poison—a delightful something that kills quick, without causing pain. Will you please let me know on this condition whether your position is so intolerable as it seems to you?"

"Won't you deceive me?" demanded the sick girl.

"Look me straight in the eye; you see that I will not deceive you."

The sick girl hesitated for some time. "No; I know you very little."

"Any one else in my place might have said that the feeling from which you are suffering is good. I shall not say so. Does your bátiushka know about it? I beg you to remember that I am not going to speak with him without your permission."

"He does not know."

"Does he love you?"


"What do you think that I am going to tell you now? You say that he loves you; I have heard that he was a stupid. What makes you think that it will be useless for you to reveal to him your feeling, that he will not consent? If the obstacle had lain simply in the poverty of the man whom you love, this would not have kept you from trying to persuade your father to give his consent; that is what I think about it. Therefore I must think that you entertain an exceedingly poor opinion of him; there could be no other reason for you to hide the matter from your father. Isn't it so?"

The sick girl said not a word.

"It is evident that I am not mistaken. What shall I think now? Your bátiushka is a man of experience in life, who knows human nature; you are inexperienced; if any person seems bad to him, and good to you, then according to all probabilities it is you who are mistaken, and not he. You see that I must think so? Do you want to know why I tell you such a disagreeable thing? I will tell you. You may get angry at my words, you may hate me because of them, but still you will say to yourself, 'He is saying what he thinks; he is not hypocritical, he does not want to deceive me.' You are gaining confidence in me. Isn't it true that I am speaking sincerely with you?"

The sick girl was hesitating whether to answer or not. "You are a strange man, doctor," she said, at last.

"No, not strange; but I am not like one who deceives. I have told you straightforwardly what I think. But this is only my supposition. Maybe I am mistaken. Let me know whether I am. Tell me the name of the man towards whom you feel this inclination. Then—but again, only with your permission—I will speak about him to your bátiushka."

"What will you tell him?"

"Does he know him intimately?"


"In that case, I shall tell him that he must consent to your marriage, but only on one condition, that the time of the wedding be appointed not immediately, but in two or three months, so that you may have time to think coolly, whether you may not be right."

"He will not consent."

"He will consent in all probability. But if not, I will help you, as I said."

Kirsánof spoke long in this style. Finally he succeeded in getting the sick girl to toll him the man's name, and to let him talk with her father. But to bring the old man to terms was a harder matter than to manage her. Pólozof was greatly surprised to hear that his daughter's strength had been failing on account of hopeless love; and still more surprised to hear the name of the man with whom she was in love, and he firmly declared: "Let her die sooner than marry him. Her death would be a lesser grief for both her and me." It was a very hard case, all the more because Kirsánof hearing Pólozof's reasons saw that the truth was really on the side of the old man, and not his daughter.


Bridegrooms had swarmed by the hundred around the heiress of the great fortune; but the society which flocked to Pólozof's dinners and suppers was a society of that excessively dubious type, of that excessively dubious refinement, which is generally found crowding the parlors of all such rich people as Pólozof, lifted above the more or less polite but still not fashionable circle in which they are born, without having any relationship or connection in the more or less genuinely polite society of the fashionable world. They become the benefactors of cunning adventurers and dandies who are absolutely indecent in their outward appearance, without speaking of their inward qualities. Therefore, Katerina Vasílyevna became interested when among the number of admirers came a genuine society man of absolutely good breeding; he behaved with so much more refinement; he spoke so much more sensibly and wittily than the others. Her father soon noticed that she was going to prefer him above the others; and, as an active, decided, substantial man, he immediately had a talk with his daughter:—

"My dear Katya—Sólovtsof, look out for him; he is a very bad man, a perfectly heartless man; you would be so unhappy with him, that I would rather see you dead than his wife. It would be easier for both me and you."

Katerina Vasílyevna loved her father; she was accustomed to respect his opinion; he never put restrictions upon her; she knew that he was speaking thus because he loved her; and above all, her character was inclined more to regard the wishes of those who loved her than of her caprices; she was one of those who liked to say to her friends, "I will do as you think best."

She answered her father: "I like Sólovtsof; but if you think it is better for me to keep at a distance from him, I shall do so."

Of course she would not have done so; and as her nature was opposed to falsehood, she would not have said so if she had loved him. Her attachment to Sólovtsof was as yet very weak. At that time it had hardly taken root; he was merely more interesting to her than others. She began to grow cool towards him; and maybe everything would have ended satisfactorily; but the father in his zeal put in too much salt; and, though in reality he did not put on much, yet it was enough to salt off the polite Sólovtsof. He saw that he must play the part of a victim, but how to find a pretext for becoming a victim. Pólozof somehow stepped on his toes; Sólovtsof, with a sense of self-respect and pain on his face, took leave of them, and ceased his calls. A week later, Katerina Vasílyevna received from him a passionate and exceedingly humble letter, to the effect that he never expected that his love would be returned, that for his happiness it would be sufficient for him to see her occasionally, even though he did not speak with her but only saw her; that he was willing to sacrifice even this happiness, and yet he would be happy or unhappy, and so on, without a single request or wish. He did not even ask for a reply. Such letters kept coming; and finally they had their effect.

But it took a long time before they had their effect. Katerina Vasílyevna, at first after Sólovtsof left, was neither melancholy nor sorrowfully inclined, and even before that she had been cool to him; and she accepted so calmly her father's advice to look out for him, that consequently when, after too months, she began to grow despondent, what could make her father think that Sólovtsof was at the bottom of it, when he had forgotten all about him?

"It seems to me you're under the weather, Kátya."

"No; it's nothing—nothing; it'll pass."

In a week or two the old man was already asking, "Are you ill, Kátya?"

"No, not at all."

Two weeks later the old man said, "You must see the doctor, Kátya."

Kátya begins to consult the doctor; and the old man is entirely at ease because the doctor finds no cause of alarm. "It is only a weakness, some exhaustion"; and he very sensibly ascribed it to weariness, arising from Katerina's style of life the past winter. Every night she had been up at parties till two or three, or even five o'clock, in the morning. "This exhaustion will pass." But it did not pass; it rather increased.

Why did not Katerina Vasílyevna tell her father? She was convinced that this would have been in vain. Her father had told her before very firmly, and he does not speak unmeaning words. He does not like to express opinions about people without being sure of what he says; and he will never consent to her marrying a man whom he considers to be bad.

And so Katerina Vasílyevna kept on dreaming and dreaming while reading Sólovtsof's humble and hopeless letters; and after half a year's such reading, she was within half a step of consumption. And not by a single word could her father perceive that her disease originated from a matter in which he was partly to blame; his daughter had been as tender towards him as before.

"Is there anything that isn't to your mind?"

"Nothing, papa."

And it is evident that there is nothing; she is only out of spirits, but this is from her weakness, from illness. And the doctor declares that it is the result of her illness. But what is the cause of the illness? As soon as the doctor regarded the illness as trifling, he contented himself with laying the blame on dances and corsets; but when he saw that it was getting dangerous, then appeared his "innutrition of the nerves,—atrophia nervorum."


But if the practising Big Wigs agreed that Mademoiselle Pólozova's atrophia nervorum, which had been developed by a weakening mode of life, with the natural inclination towards dreaminess and melancholy, then not much was left for Kirsánof to study in the sick girl in order to see that her decline in strength originated from some mental causes. Before the consultation, the attending physician explained to him all the relations which she had had; family sorrows there were none; father and daughter are very dear to each other; at the same time the father does not know the reason of the illness, because the attending physician does not know it. But it is evident that the girl must have a strong character, if she has been able to conceal so long the illness itself, and has not given her father a single chance to conjecture the cause. A strong character was also evident by the quiet tone of her answers during the consultation. She shows no sign of irritability; she firmly endures her lot. Kirsánof saw that such a girl deserved attention. Can't something be done for her? Interference seemed to him essential; of course the thing will be revealed some time, but won't it be too late? Consumption is very near at hand, and then no care can help it. And so he wrestled with the patient for two hours; and he succeeded in conquering her suspicion; he learned the secret; and he obtained her permission to speak about it with her father.

The old man was startled when he heard from Kirsánof that the cause of his daughter's illness was love for Sólovtsof. How is this? Kátya accepted so coolly at that time his advice to beware of him; she remained so indifferent after he ceased to call upon them: how then is she dying of love for him? Yes, and is it even possible for people to die of love? Such exaltations could not appear likely to a person who was accustomed to lead an exclusively practical life, and to look upon everything with cool reason. Kirsánof had a tough subject in him; he kept repeating, "It's a child's fancy tormenting her, but soon forgotten." Kirsánof explained and explained; finally he told him plainly, "It is just because she is a child that she does not forget it, and is dying." Pólozof was persuaded and convinced, but instead of concession, he pounded the table with his fist, and said in a tone of concentrated decision, "If she is to die, let her die; it is better than for her to be unhappy: it would be easier for both her and me!" The very same words he had said to his daughter six months before. Katerina Vasílyevna was not mistaken in thinking that it was idle to talk with him.

"But what makes you so stubborn? I am perfectly convinced that he is a bad man; but is he really so bad that death is better than to live with him?"

"He is; he has no heart. She is delicate, gentle, but he is a beastly wretch!" And Pólozof went on to describe Sólovtsof, and in such a way that Kirsánof had nothing to say. And really how could he help agreeing with Pólozof?

Sólovtsof was the very same Jean who, at the time before Storeshnikof's courtship, ate supper with Serge and Julia after the opera. It is absolutely true that it is better for a respectable girl to die than to become the wife of such a man. He will pollute, he will chill, he will consume with his wretchedness a respectable woman; it is far better for her to die.

Kirsánof was lost in thought for some minutes. "No," he said at length. "Well, am I really carried away by your earnestness? This case is without danger just because he is so bad. She cannot help seeing it; only give her time to look at it calmly."

He began persistently to assure Pólozof what he had expressed to his daughter only as a suggestion, as possible—nay, even probable—that she would refuse this man whom she loved if he was really bad; and now he was absolutely sure of it, because the man she loved was very bad.

"I shall not tell you that marriage does not present such an importance if we look upon it coolly. If a woman is unhappy, then why should she not leave her husband? You consider this improper: your daughter has been brought up with the very same ideas; for you and her it seems really an irremediable loss, and before she would ever adopt new ideas, she would suffer with such a man till she died a death worse than consumption. But it is necessary to view the matter from another standpoint. Why should you not depend upon your daughter's reason? She is not a fool, is she? Always count on reason; only allow it to act freely, and it will never prove fallacious when any cause is right. You yourself are to blame for your daughter's attachment to him. Let him have free course, and he will bring your daughter round on your side, if the right is on your side. Passion blinds, especially if obstacles are put in the way of it; remove them, and your daughter will become reasonable. Give her liberty to love or not to love, and she will see whether this man is worthy of her love. Let him be her 'bridegroom,' and after some time she herself will dismiss him."

Such a way of looking upon things was entirely new to Pólozof. He answered sharply that he did not believe any such nonsense; that he knows life too well; that he has seen too many examples of foolish people, to depend upon their reason; and so much the more absurd was it to trust the reason of a seventeen-year-old girl. Kirsánof tried in vain to prove to him that follies were committed only on two occasions,—either under the momentary influence of excitement, or from restraint, in which case he is irritated by resistance. Such ideas seemed entirely ridiculous to Pólozof. "She has no sense; it would be foolish to trust such a child with this fate; sooner let her die." From such reasoning it was impossible to stir him.

It is a fact, that no matter how set may be the ideas of a man who is in the wrong, when a man who is better developed, who knows more, who understands things more wisely, works constantly with the purpose of removing his errors, the errors must give way. It is so; but how long does a logical battle with him last? Of course all the conversation here recorded will fail of its result, though so far its influence upon Pólozof is not appreciable yet. The old man is beginning to think over Kirsánof's words. This is unavoidable, and if such conversation should be kept up with him, he will come to himself. But he is proud of his experience; he looks upon himself as infallible; he is set and stubborn; it is possible to bring him to terms, without doubt, but it takes time, and all delay is dangerous. A long delay is surely fatal; and a long delay is inevitable when a methodical manner of conducting the logical battle with him is employed.

It was necessary to employ radical means. It is risky without doubt; but if it is employed, it is only a risk; without, it is sure death. And the risk in it is, in reality, not nearly so great as it may seem to a person who is less solid in his comprehension of the laws of life than this Kirsánof. The risk is not great at all, but it is serious. From the whole lottery only one ticket is a blank. And there is no probability of its being drawn—but supposing it were drawn? Whoever runs a risk must be ready not to wink if he draws the blank. Kirsánof saw the girl's calm, quiet firmness, and he was sure of her. But had he the right to subject her to the risk? Of course he had. Now, out of a hundred chances, there is only one that she will not lose her health in this case. More than half of them are that she will lose it rapidly. But here, out of a thousand chances, one would be against her. Let her risk the lottery, though it is apparently more terrible because it is more rapid, but in reality it is incomparably less dangerous.

"All right," said Kirsánof. "You do not want to cure her by those means which are in your power; I shall cure her with mine. To-morrow I shall have another consultation."

After he returned to the sick girl, he told her that her father was stubborn, more stubborn than he expected, and that it would be necessary to act towards him with severe measures.

"No; it is of no use," said the sick girl, despondently.

"Are you sure of it?"


"Are you ready to die?"


"Now supposing that I decide to subject you to the risk of death. I told you briefly, in order to gain your confidence, to show you that I am ready for everything that may be for your good; now I speak positively. Supposing that it be necessary to administer poison?"

"I have seen this long time that my death is inevitable; that I have only a few days longer to live."

"Supposing it were to-morrow morning?"

"So much the better." She spoke with perfect calmness.

"When there is only one salvation left, and that is your readiness to die, this support will almost always save you. If you say to any one, 'Give in, or I shall die,' you almost always gain what you wish. But you know that one should not play with such a lofty principle; and besides, it is impossible for you to lower your self-respect if they don't yield. And therefore it is necessary to die." He explained to her the plan, which was perfectly comprehensible from this conversation.


Of course in other cases of this sort Kirsánof would not have thought of running such a risk; it would be more simple to take the girl from home, and let her marry whomsoever she pleased. But here the affair was complicated by the girl's ideas, and the peculiarities of the man whom she loved. With her ideas of the inseparability of husband and wife, she would have clung to the wretched man even if she had found that to live with him was a torment. To unite them would be worse than to kill. Therefore there remained one choice, either to kill, or to give her the possibility of coming to reason.

On the next day the consultation was held, composed of some of the practitioners in the high world. There are five doctors, the most renowned; it is impossible not to have the best; how otherwise could they bend Pólozof? It was necessary that the sentence should be without appeal in his eyes. Kirsánof spoke; they listened with great condescension to what he said, and they all confirmed it with an air of great importance. It could not be otherwise, because, you remember, there is in existence a certain Claude Bernard, and he lives in Paris; and besides that, Kirsánof says such things which—but the plague take these boys! You can't understand them! Then how can you help agreeing with them?

Kirsánof said that he had examined the invalid very carefully, and he entirely agreed with Karl Feodorvitch that the illness is incurable, and the agony of this disease is torture; and, generally speaking, every additional hour that the sick girl shall live is an additional hour of suffering. Therefore he considers that it is the duty of the consulting physicians to decide according to the dictates of humanity to shorten the sick girl's sufferings by a dose of morphine, from which she would not awaken. The consulting physicians investigated the case, blinking their eyes under the hailstones of incomprehensible explanations on the part of Kirsánof; they came back from the sick girl's room to the one where they had been sitting; and they decided to shorten the sick girl's sufferings by a fatal dose of morphine.

After the decision was made, Kirsánof rang for the servant, and asked him to call Pólozof into the parlor, where the consultation was held. Pólozof came in. The most important of the sages, in appropriately gloomily solemn language and in a majestically funereal voice, announced the decision of the consulting physicians.

Pólozof started back as though struck on the forehead by a hammer. To be waiting for death, when death is at hand, but uncertain how soon it may come, or whether it may come at all, and to hear that in half an hour she will not be among the living, are two absolutely different things. Kirsánof looked at Pólozof with an intense gaze; he was absolutely sure of the effect, but still the thing was a strain on his nerves. Two minutes the old man stood silent, horror-stricken.

"No; it must not be! She is dying from my stubbornness. I am ready for anything. Can she get well?"

"Of course," said Kirsánof.

The famous practitioners would have been greatly stirred to wrath, if they had had time for it; that is, to exchange glances, and to see that "my colleagues also like me understand that I have been a doll in the hands of this young boy." But Kirsánof allowed them no time to turn their attention to the thought, "how others looked on me." Kirsánof told the servant to conduct the frightened Pólozof from the room; thanked them for their shrewdness, which they had displayed in fathoming his intentions, for their understanding that the cause of the illness was mental suffering; that it was necessary to frighten the stubborn old man, who would otherwise have lost his daughter. The famous practitioners went each his way, satisfied that his scientific knowledge and shrewdness was recognized by all the others.

But having given them this brief testimony of their skill, Kirsánof went to tell the sick girl that the plan had succeeded. At the first words she seized his hand, and he had hardly time to take it away from her before she would have kissed it. "But I shall not let your father come quite yet, to tell you the same thing," he said. "I shall first give him a lecture as to the way that he should behave himself towards you." He told her that he was going to give her father some good advice, and that he should not leave him until he had firmly implanted it.

Shocked by the result of the consultation, the old man became very pliable; and he regarded Kirsánof, not with the same eyes as the day before, but with such as Marya Alekséyevna looked upon Lopukhóf, after dreaming of Lopukhóf as a monopolist.

Yesterday a natural thought was always in Pólozof's mind, "I am older than you, and more experienced. Yes, there is no one in the world smarter than I am; and as for you, milk-sucker and bubby, so much the less reason have I to listen to you, since I, with my own reason, have made four millions" (although in reality they were only two, and not four). "You try to make two millions, and then talk." But now he thought, "What a bear he is! how he routed me! He knows how to break one in." And the more he spoke with Kirsánof, the more lively arose before him, in addition to the quality of "bear," another picture—an old and forgotten recollection of his life as a hussar: his riding-master,[3] Zakhártchenko, was sitting on his horse, "Gromoboï" (at that time Zhukóvsky's[4] ballads were fashionable among young ladies, and therefore to a certain extent among young cavaliers, both in the army and civil life), and "Gromoboï" was prancing under Zakhártchenko, only "Gromoboï's" lips were covered with blood. Pólozof was somewhat horrified, as he heard Kirsánof's answer to his first question.

"Would you really have given her a fatal dose?"

"Certainly I should," replied Kirsánof, with absolute sang-froid.

"What a murderer! He talks like a cook about a dead chicken! And you would have courage for it?"

"Of course I should. What a clout I should be if I hadn't!"

"You are a terrible man!" said Pólozof again.

"It shows that you have never seen any terrible men." said Kirsánof, with an indulgent smile, thinking to himself, "I should like to show you Rakhmétof."

"But how did you manage all those doctors?"

"As though it were hard to manage such men!" said Kirsánof, with a slight grimace.

Pólozof recollected Zakhártchenko, who said to the second-captain, Volutnof: "Did you bring me this lop-eared beast for me to ride on, your eminence? I am ashamed to mount him."

After settling all of Pólozof's endlessly repeated questions, Kirsánof began to suggest to him how he should comport himself.

"Remember that a person is able to reason only when he is entirely undisturbed; that he is not excited only when he is not stirred up; that he does not value his fancies except when they are taken from him, when he is allowed to find out for himself whether they are good or not. If Sólovtsof is as bad as you describe him,—and I fully believe it,—your daughter will see it herself. But only if you don't interfere; if you don't excite the thought in her mind that you are in any way intriguing against him, that you are trying to block them. One word on your part, one hostile word, will injure the case for two weeks; a few words may ruin it forever. You must keep yourself entirely apart."

This course of conduct was inculcated with words like these: "It isn't easy to compel you to do what you don't like, is it? and yet I have brought you to it. This shows that I understand how to take charge of a case. Then believe that whatever I say must be done. Whatever I say; you only take it second-hand."

With such people as Pólozof it was impossible at that time, otherwise than by force, and by stepping on his throat. Pólozof became more amenable to reason, and he promised to comport himself as he was told. But even after he became convinced that Kirsánof was saying the right thing, and that it was necessary to listen to him, Pólozof could not yet comprehend what kind of a man he was. He at one and the same time took both his side and his daughter's. He compels him to yield to his daughter, and he wants his daughter to change; how to reconcile this?

"Very simply. I want you not to hinder her return to reason, and that is all."

Pólozof wrote Sólovtsof a note, in which he asked him to come to see him about a very important matter. That same evening Sólovtsof came; he made the old man a gentle explanation, full of self-respect; he was acknowledged as "bridegroom," on condition that the wedding should be in three months


Kirsánof could not give up the case; it was necessary to help Katerina Vasílyevna emerge from her blindness, and it was still more necessary to manage her father, to keep him up to his promise of not interfering. But he made it inconvenient to call upon the Polovtsófs, during the first few days after the crisis. Katerina Vasílyevna was still feeling exalted; if he saw, as was to be infallibly expected, that the "bridegroom" was a scoundrel, then, even his silent dissatisfaction with the "bridegroom," and not alone his upright and downright opinion, would be prejudicial; would still further kindle her excitement. Kirsánof called there one morning, after a week and a half, so as not directly to seek a meeting with the "bridegroom," but to secure Katerina Vasílyevna's permission. Katerina Vasílyevna was already beginning to look better; she was as yet very thin and pale, but was entirely well, though the former famous practitioner still prescribed for her; for, when Kirsánof again put her in his hands, he said, "Ask his advice; now none of his medicines will do you any harm, even if you should take them."

Katerina Vasílyevna met Kirsánof enthusiastically, and looked at him with wondering eyes, when he told her what he had come for.

"You saved my life, and yet you want to ask my permission to call on us!"

"But my calling upon you, without your consent, while he is here, might seem to you as an attempt, on my part, to interfere in your relations, if I came. You know my rule: not to do anything against the will of a person for whose benefit I would like to work."

Kirsánof came on the second or third evening, and found the "bridegroom" to be exactly what Pólozof described him, and Pólozof himself, in a proper state of mind; the well-trained old man did not interfere. Kirsánof spent the evening, giving no sign of what he thought of the "bridegroom," and as he said good night to Katerina Vasílyevna, he did not hint at all how the bridegroom pleased him.

This was quite enough to wake her curiosity and doubt. On the next day she kept thinking: "Kirsánof did not say a word about him. If he had made a good impression on him, Kirsánof would have told me so. Is it possible that he didn't please him? What can there be that Kirsánof disliked in him?" When the "bridegroom" came in the evening, she scrutinized his behavior, she pondered over his words. She said to herself, "What is he doing this for," in order to convince herself that Kirsánof had no right or reason in finding any blemish in him. And she did convince herself; but the necessity of proving to yourself that there are no blemishes in the being you love leads to the quick discovery of such blemishes.

After a few days Kirsánof called again, and again he said not a word about his impression of the "bridegroom"; but this time she could not restrain herself, and at the end of the evening, she said:—

"Your opinion? Why are you so silent?"

"I am afraid that you won't enjoy hearing my opinion; I am afraid that you will think that I am partial."

"Don't you like him?"

Kirsánof did not reply.

"You don't like him, do you?"

"I did not say so."

"It is evident. Why don't you like him?"

"I am going to wait till it is also evident to you why I don't like him."

On the following evening Katerina Vasílyevna began to scrutinize Sólovtsof still more particularly. "Everything about him is lovely. Kirsánof is not fair; but why can't I see what there is in him that Kirsánof does not like?" She was vexed at her inability to observe. She asked herself, "Am I really so simple?" Her self-respect was aroused in her in a direction most dangerous for her bridegroom.

When Kirsánof came again a few days later, he perceived the possibility of acting more energetically. Till now he had avoided talk with Sólovtsof, in order to avoid stirring up Katerina Vasílyevna by a premature interference; now he joined the group surrounding her and Sólovtsof, and led the conversations to topics in which Sólovtsof's character would be shown forth as soon as he was drawn into the current. The conversation turned on riches, and it appeared to Katerina Vasílyevna that Sólovtsof was greatly interested in riches. The conversation turned upon "bridegrooms," and it seemed to her that Sólovtsof spoke rather slightingly about them. The conversation turned upon family life, and she tried in vain to banish from her mind the impression that possibly it might be cold and hard for a wife to live with such a husband.

A crisis occurred. Katerina Vasílyevna could not go to sleep for a long while; her face was bathed in tears from being vexed at herself for insulting Sólovtsof with such thoughts about him. "No, he is not a cold man; he does not despise women; he loves me and not my money." If these objections had been given as an answer to the words of somebody else, they would have firmly clung to her memory. But she objected to her own self, and it is impossible long to resist the truth which you yourself have discovered. It is your own; you cannot suspect any trickery. The next evening she examined Sólovtsof just as Kirsánof had done the evening before. She said to herself that she only wanted to be convinced that she insulted him without reason; but she herself felt that a distrust of him had sprung up in her. And again she could not sleep, but she was vexed at him. Why didn't he speak so as to allay her doubts instead of corroborating them? She was vexed at herself, but in her vexation clearly appeared the motive. "How could I be so blind!"

Naturally, in a day or two, she began to be exclusively absorbed by the fear arising from the thought, "I shall soon lose the possibility of correcting my mistake, if I have been mistaken in him."

When Kirsánof came the next time, he saw that he could speak with her.

"You asked my opinion about him," said he; "it is not so important as your own. What do you think of him?"

Now she had nothing to reply.

"I have no right to be inquisitive," said he; talked about something else, and soon left her to herself.

But in half an hour she herself came to him.

"Give me some counsel; you see my thoughts are disturbed."

"Why do you want the advice of a stranger when you yourself know what ought to be done when your thoughts are disturbed."

"Wait till they cease to be disturbed at all?"

"Do according to your best knowledge."

"I shall postpone the wedding."

"Why shouldn't you postpone it if it seems to you better?"

"But how will he take it?"

"When you see how he takes it, then you can decide what is best to be done."

"But it is hard for me to tell him."

"If that is the case, then let your bátiushka tell him."

"I don't want to get behind anybody's back; I shall tell him myself."

"If you feel strong enough to tell him yourself, then it would be much better."

Of course, with others, Viéra Pavlovna for example, it would not have done to drag out the affair so tediously; but every temperament has its own demands. If a hot-tempered man is irritated by slow methods, then a slow man is vexed by an abrupt measure.

Katerina Vasílyevna's success in dealing with her "bridegroom" exceeded Kirsánof's expectations. He thought that Sólovtsof would be able to guard his interests, that he would prolong the matter by humiliation and gentle entreaties. No, with all his tact, Sólovtsof could not control himself when he saw that great wealth was slipping out of his hands, and he himself let go of the slight chances which he still had. He poured out sharp reproaches on Pólozof, who he declared was intriguing against him, and he said to Katerina Vasílyevna that she gave her father too great power over her, that she was afraid of him, and was acting now at his command. But Pólozof did not know as yet about his daughter's decision to delay the wedding; the daughter constantly felt that he gave her perfect freedom. The reproaches heaped upon her father grieved her by their unfairness, and they insulted her because by them Sólovtsof expressed his views in regard to her as a being deprived of will and character.

"It seems to me that you take me to be a plaything in the hands of others."

"Yes," said he in his irritation.

"I was ready to die, not regarding my father's will, and you don't appreciate it. From this moment everything is ended between us," said she, and quickly left the room.


After these occurrences, Katerina Vasílyevna was long melancholy; but her melancholy, though developed by this state of things, was not at all attributable to this special state of things. There are characters to whom a special fact in itself has very little interest, and serves only to engender general ideas which act upon them with much greater power. If such people possess remarkably strong minds, they become reformers nowadays just as in ancient times they became great philosophers. Kant, Fichte, Hegel, never worked out private questions; it was too tedious for them. This, of course, is true only of men; women, according to the prevailing idea, have very little understanding. Nature did not give it them, just as she did not give a clean face to blacksmiths, straight backs to tailors, a delicate sense of smell to shoemakers; all this is nature. It is for this reason that there are no women of great intellect. People of weak minds and with tendency of character become phlegmatic even to apathy. People of ordinary brains are inclined to melancholy, to a quiet life, and are generally imaginative. This does not signify that they are chimerical. In a good many cases the imagination is weak and they are very positive people. They simply love a quiet revery.

Katerina Vasílyevna had been in love with Jean Sólovtsof on account of his letters. She was dying with love founded only on her imagination. It may readily be seen that she was inclined to be very romantic, and frivolous life led by the trivial people who frequented Pólozof's house did not at all dispose her to an exalted idealism. This shows that this feature of her character arose from her own nature. She had long been burdened by the frivolity of that kind of life; she loved to read and dream. And now she was troubled not only by its frivolity, but by the wealth with which she was surrounded. It must not be thought that because she had this feeling, she had an extraordinary nature; it is common among all wealthy women of a humble and retiring character. In her it developed earlier than ordinary, simply because she had early received a powerful lesson.

"Whom shall I believe? What shall I believe?" she asked herself after the episode with Sólovtsof, and it seemed to her that nobody and nothing were worthy of her faith. Her father's riches attracted the envious, cunning, deceitful, from the whole city. She was surrounded by avaricious men, by liars, by flatterers; every word that was said to her was calculated with a view to her father's millions.

Her thoughts kept growing more serious. She began to get interested in the general questions arising from the wealth that troubled her so much, as well as in those arising from the poverty which troubled others. Her father gave her plenty of pin money, but like any other good woman she used it in helping the poor. But she read and thought and began to notice that such help as she could give did less good than she had reason to expect. She began to see that she was constantly deceived by feigned or knavish poverty; that people worthy of aid, able to make good use of such money, scarcely ever got any solid good from it; it lifts them temporarily out of their poverty, but in half a year or a year those people are in the same situation again. She began to think: "Why should money ruin people? Why does this importunate poverty never leave the poor? And why are there so many poor who are as unreasonable and bad as the rich?"

She was a person of imagination, but her imaginations were gentle, like her character, and there was just as little brilliancy about them as there was in herself. Her favorite author was George Sand, but she never imagined herself to be Lélia or Indiana or Cavalcanti or Consuélo; she more often imagined herself to be Jeannette or Geneviève. Geneviève was her favorite heroine. Here she is going through the field and is gathering flowers which will serve as models of her handiwork; here she meets Andrè—such quiet meetings! Here they discover that they love each other; such were her imaginations, and she knew that they were only imaginations. And she loved to dream how enviable was the lot of Miss Nightingale, that quiet, unostentatious little woman, of whom scarcely anything was known except that she was loved by all England. Was she young? Was she rich or poor? Was she happy or unhappy? About this nothing is said, about this nothing is thought; every one blesses the little woman, who was a ministering angel in the English hospitals of the Krimea and Skutari, and who at the end of the war, while returning to her native land with hundreds saved by her, still continued to take care of the sick. Such were the dreams whose fulfilment Katerina Vasílyevna would have liked to see. Her fancy did not carry her beyond the thoughts of Geneviève and Miss Nightingale. Can one say that she was fanciful? Can one call her imaginative?

Geneviève in a frivolous, contemptible society of fops and empty-headed dandies, Miss Nightingale in idle grandeur, would not they be lonesome? wouldn't they be melancholy? And therefore Katerina Vasílyevna was rather more glad than sorry when her father failed. She was sorry to see him who had been so strong growing prematurely old; she was sorry also that her ability to help others was curtailed. At first it was offensive to see the scorn of the crowd which had crawled and cringed before her and her father. But she was also glad that this mean, pitiable, wretched crowd had deserted them, had ceased to burden her life, to arouse her indignation by their falsehood and degradation; she felt so free now! Hopes of happiness arose in her heart. "Now if any one shows me any devotion, it will be for myself alone, and not for my father's millions."


Pólozof was anxious to arrange for the sale of the stearine factory of which he was part owner and had been the manager. After more than half a year of energetic effort, he found a purchaser. On the purchaser's visiting-cards was engraved the name Charles Beaumont, not pronounced Sharl Bomon, as the ignorant might suppose, but in the true English fashion, Beemont; and it was entirely natural that it was pronounced so, for the purchaser was the agent of the London house of Hodgson, Lotter and Company, for the purchase of tallow and stearine. The factory could not exist under the wretched financial and administrative conduct of its shareholders; but in the hands of a solid firm it would be sure to bring great profits. After spending on it five or six hundred thousand rubles, the firm could count on having one hundred thousand rubles of profits. The agent was a conscientious man; he looked over the factory with great care, and examined the books in detail before he advised the firm to buy the property. Then followed negotiations with the stockholders in regard to the selling of the factory. They were excessively long and according to the nature of Russian business transactions; even the patient Greeks who spent ten years in the siege of Troy would have found them tedious. And Pólozof all this time was with the agent, according to the old custom of being hospitable to people who are of use, and he invited him to dinner every day. The agent tried to get out of his way, and persistently refused to stay to dinner. But one day, after he had been having an unusually long session with the directors of the company and was tired and hungry, he consented to go to dinner with Pólozof, who lived in a flat in the factory.


Charles Beaumont, like the average Charles, John, James, and William, did not care to indulge in intimacies or personal confidences; but on being asked, he related his story briefly, but very plainly. His family, he said, was from Canada; and in Canada almost half the population consisted of the descendants of French colonists; his family was one of these, and therefore his name was of French origin, and his face was more like a Frenchman's than an Englishman's or Yankee's. But, he continued, his grandfather emigrated from the vicinity of Quebec to New York; it often happened so. At the time of this emigration his father was a child. Afterwards, of course, he grew up and became a grown-up man; and at this time a certain rich man, with advanced ideas of agriculture, determined to establish on the southern shores of the Krimea instead of vineyards a cotton plantation; he commissioned some one to find him a manager in North America. James Beaumont was recommended to him—a Canadian by birth, a resident of New York, and a man who had all his life been as many versts from a cotton plantation as you or I, reader, who live at Petersburg or Kursk, have been from Mount Ararat. This is the usual experience of such progressionists. It is true that it was not the fault of the American manager's absolute ignorance of cotton plantations that his plan was ruined, because to plant cotton in the Krimea is as absurd as it would be to establish vineyards in Petersburg. And when this was found out, the American manager was discharged from the cotton plantation, and found a position as distiller in a factory in the government of Tambof. Here he lived all his life; here his son Charles was born, and soon after that he buried his wife. When he was about sixty-five years old, having accumulated a little money for his declining years, he determined to return to America, and he left. Charles was then twenty years old. When his father died, Charles made up his mind to come back to Russia, because, since he had been born and had lived twenty years in a village of the government of Tambof, he felt that he was a Russian. He had lived with his father in New York and had been a clerk in a merchant's office. When his father died, he went to the New York office of the London firm of Hodgson, Lotter and Company, because he knew that this house had business with Petersburg, and after he had succeeded in making himself useful, he expressed a desire to get a place in Russia, explaining that he knew Russia, it being his native land. To have such an agent in Russia was of course advantageous for the firm; he was transferred to the London office for a trial, and some six months before his dinner with Pólozof, he came to Petersburg as an agent for the firm for the purchase of stearine and tallow, with a salary of five hundred pounds. In perfect agreement with this tale, Beaumont, who was born and had lived in the government of Tambof till he was twenty years old, with only one American or Englishman in a circle of twenty or fifty or one hundred versts around, with his father, who had been all day long in the factory; in conformity with this tale, Charles Beaumont spoke Russian like a native Russian, and English fairly well, very well, but not distinctly, as is likely to be the case with a man who has lived in the land of the English tongue only a few years after reaching maturity.


Beaumont found himself at the dinner-table, sitting with only two others, the old man and a very genteel, but somewhat melancholy blondinka, his daughter.

"Did I ever think," said Pólozof at dinner, "that the shares in this factory would ever have such importance for me? It is hard for a man of my years to have such a shock come upon him, but it is good that Kátya cares so little that I have lost her fortune; for, even while I live, it is more her property than mine: her mother had property, and I had little. Of course I made every ruble grow into twenty; it shows that, on the other hand, it grew more from my labor than by inheritance; and how hard I worked! and how much one has to know!" The old man talked long in this self-flattering tone. "And everything was gained by my sweat and blood, but most of all by my brains," he said in conclusion, and he repeated what he said at first: that such a shock was very hard to bear, and that if Kátya too were worried by it, it seemed to him that he would lose his senses; but Kátya not only does not worry, but even consoles him.

Either according to the American custom of not seeing anything extraordinary in a rapid accumulation of wealth, or in a failure, or because it was his natural character, Beaumont had no desire either to be overpowered by the greatness of the mind that could make three or four millions, or to feel great concern for the failure which left sufficient means to allow the maintenance of a good cook; but nevertheless it was necessary to offer some consolation after this long speech, and therefore he said, "Yes, it is a great solace when a family faces its troubles courageously."

"Yes? you speak rather doubtfully, Karl Yakovlitch. You think that Kátya is melancholy on account of her lost riches? No, Karl Yakovlitch, no; you judge her unfairly; she and I have a different trouble; she and I have lost our confidence in men," said Pólozof in that half-jesting, half-serious tone in which old and experienced people speak of the good and inexperienced thoughts of their children.

Katerina Vasílyevna blushed; it was disagreeable to her that her father turned the conversation to her feelings: but besides her father's love there was another certain circumstance, for which her father was not to blame; if there is nothing to talk about, and there happens to be in the room a cat or a dog, the conversation will seize upon the animal; and if there is no cat or dog, then it goes to the children. The weather is the third and the extremity of resourcelessness.

"No, papa, it is hardly necessary to explain my melancholy by any motive so high; you know that I have a reserved nature, and I am lonesome."

"One need not be melancholy unless he pleases," said Beaumont; "but to be bored is in my opinion unpardonable. Loneliness is a fashion among our brethren, the English, but we Americans know nothing about it; we have no time to be melancholy. We have too much to do to allow of it, I think; I mean, it seems to me" (he corrected his Americanism) "that the Russian people ought to see themselves in the same situation: according to my way of looking at it, they too have too much to do; but, in reality, I see exactly the opposite in the Russians; they are very much disposed to reserve. Even the English cannot equal them in this respect. Englishmen are known all over Europe, including Russia, to be the most gloomy people in the world, but they are as much more sociable, lively, and gay than the Russians, as they themselves are behind the French in this respect, and your tourists tell you how reserved English society is. I don't understand where their eyes are when they look at themselves."

"And the Russians are right in being gloomy," said Katerina Vasílyevna; "what chance do they have for activity? They have nothing to do! They have to sit and fold their hands. Give me something to do, and the chances are that I shall not be melancholy."

"You want to find something to do? Oh, there ought not to be any obstacle to that; you see all around you such ignorance; excuse me for speaking so about your country, about your fatherland" (again he corrected his Anglicism); "but I was born here myself, and grew up here; I look upon it as my own, and therefore I don't stand upon ceremony; you see in it genuine Turkish ignorance, Chinese helplessness. 'I detest your fatherland because I love it as my own,' I will say, imitating your poet; but there are great opportunities."

"Yes, but what can a man, much less, what can a woman, do?"

"But you are doing something, Kátya," said Pólozof.—"I am going to expose her secret, Karl Yakovlitch. She teaches little girls because she hasn't anything else to do. Every day she has her pupils, and she is busy with them from ten o'clock till one, and sometimes even longer."

Beaumont looked up at Katerina Vasílyevna with respect. "This is our style in America; of course by America I mean only the Northern free States. The Southern States are worse than Mexico, almost as bad as Brazil." Beaumont was an ardent abolitionist. "This is in our style," he repeated; "and if this is so, why be lonesome?"

"Is this a serious undertaking, Mr. Beaumont? It seems to me merely a recreation; perhaps I may be mistaken; maybe you will call me a materialist."

"Do you expect such a reproach from a man belonging to a nation whose sole aim and thought, as every one asserts, is dollars?"

"Those are idle words, but I really fear to express my opinion; it may seem analogous to what the obskurants are agitating about the uselessness of education."

"Now I see,[5]" thought Beaumont; "has she really come to that? This is getting interesting.—I myself am an obskurant" said he; "I am in favor of the illiterate colored people against their civilized owners in the Southern States. Excuse me; I am drawn away by my American prejudices; but I am very curious to know your opinion."

"It is very prosaic, Mr. Beaumont, but life brought me to it. It seems to me that the thing that I am doing is too one-sided; and that side to which it is directed is not the most important side, if those who want to do good to the people want really to do the best for them; this is what I think: give men bread, and they themselves will get education. It is necessary to begin with bread; otherwise, we are simply wasting our time."

"Then why don't you begin where you ought to begin?" asked Beaumont, in a somewhat excited manner. "It is possible that I know instances at home in America," he added.

"I told you that I was alone, and what can I do? I don't know how to begin; and if I did know, what chance have I? A girl is tied in every way. I am not independent even in my own room. What can I do in my room? Lay a book down on the table, and teach children how to read. Where can I go alone by myself? Whom can I see alone? What action can I take by myself?"

"It seems to me that you represent me as a despot, Kátya," said her father. "I am not to blame in this case, and have not been since you taught me my lesson."

"Papa, I am still blushing for that; I was only a child then. No, papa, you are kind; you don't restrain me; it is society that restrains. Is it true, Mr. Beaumont, that a girl in America is freer in her actions?"

"Yes; we have that to be proud of. To be sure, we are far from being what we ought to be; but still, what a comparison between us and you Europeans! All that you have been told about the emancipation of women there, is true."

"Papa, let us go to America, as soon as Mr. Beaumont has bought your factory," said Katerina Vasílyevna, gayly. "There I should accomplish something. Akh! how happy I should be!"

"One can find something to do in Petersburg," said Beaumont.

"I should like to see it."

Beaumont hesitated two or three seconds. "Why did I come here?" he asked himself; "who would be better to find out for me?—Haven't you heard? An experiment has been tried of putting into practice the principles of political economy, which have recently been established; do you know them?"

"Yes, I have read about them. It must be very interesting and profitable; and I can take a part in them. Where can I find them?"

"It was established by a Mrs. Kirsánova."

"Who is she? Is her husband a doctor?"

"Do you know him? And didn't he tell you about this experiment?"

"I knew him long before he was married. I was very ill; he called on us several times, and saved me. Akh! what a fine man he is! Is she like him?"

But how could she get acquainted with Mrs. Kirsánova? Will Beaumont give Katerina Vasílyevna a letter to Mrs. Kirsánova? No; the Kirsánofs had never even heard his name, but no introduction is necessary. Mrs. Kirsánova will certainly be glad to meet such sympathy. Her address can easily be found where Kirsánof is employed.


It thus came about that Miss Pólozova became acquainted with Viéra Pavlovna. She went to see her the very next morning; and Beaumont was so much interested, that he came back in the evening to find out how Katerina Vasílyevna liked her new acquaintance and the new enterprise.

Katerina Vasílyevna was greatly inspired. Her melancholy had entirely disappeared; her dreaminess had given way to enthusiasm. She eagerly related to Beaumont—and she had already told her father, but once telling of it was not enough—what she had seen that morning, and there seemed to be no end to her story; yes, now her heart was full. She had found a lively enterprise. Beaumont listened to her attentively; but can one be satisfied with listening only? And she said, almost with vexation, "Mr. Beaumont, I am disappointed in you. Does it have so little effect on you, that it only interests you, and nothing more?"

"Katerina Vasílyevna, you forget that I have seen all this at home in America; some of the details may be interesting to me; but the enterprise itself is too familiar to me. Only the people who carry it on with such success are of interest to me, while to you the thing is a novelty. For instance, what can you tell me about Madame Kirsánova?"

"Akh! Bozhe moi! Of course I liked her very much indeed. She was so lovely in describing everything to me."

"You told me that before."

"What else do you want? What more can I tell you? What attention could I give to her when I had such a novel thing before my eyes?"

"That is so," said Beaumont; "I understand we entirely forget about persons when we are interested in things; however, can't you tell me something else about Madame Kirsánova?"

Katerina Vasílyevna tried to gather all her recollections about Viéra Pavlovna, but she could only bring back the first impression which Viéra Pavlovna made upon her; she gave a very lively picture of her personal appearance, her way of speaking, all, in fact, that the eye takes in when meeting a stranger for the first time; but further, there was absolutely nothing in her recollections of Viéra Pavlovna that was of special interest: it was her work-shop, work-shop, work-shop, and Viéra Pavlovna's explanations about the work-shop. She understood the explanations perfectly, but Viéra Pavlovna herself, from the time that followed their first meeting, made no impression upon her.

"And so this time I am disappointed in my expectations in learning about Madame Kirsánova; but I am not going to give you up; in a few days I shall ask you again about her."

"But why don't you yourself make her acquaintance, if she interests you so?"

"I should like to do so; maybe I will do so some time. But before, I must learn more about her."—Beaumont was silent for a moment.—"I was wondering whether to ask you or not; but it seems better to ask you, if you should happen to mention my name in your conversation with her, please don't tell her that I have made any inquiries about her, or that I want to make her acquaintance some time."

"That's very mysterious, Mr. Beaumont," said Katerina Vasílyevna in a serious tone. "You want to find out about them, and yet you yourself want to be concealed."

"Yes, Katerina Vasílyevna; how can I explain that to you? I am afraid to make their acquaintance."

"This is very strange, Mr. Beaumont."

"It is true. I will speak plainer; I am afraid that it would be disagreeable to her. They have never heard my name. But I might have had some intercourse with some of the people that are friends of theirs, or even with themselves; it is all the same. In a word, I must know first whether it would be agreeable to them to make my acquaintance."

"All this is strange, Mr. Beaumont."

"I am an honest man, Katerina Vasílyevna; let me assure you that I would never think of putting you into a false position; this is only the second time that I have ever seen you, but I have a great respect for you."

"I also see, Mr. Beaumont, that you are a man worthy of respect, but—"

"If you think that I am a man worthy of respect, you will allow me to call upon you, so that when you know me well enough, I can ask you again about the Kirsánofs. Or, rather, you will speak about them yourself when it will seem to you that you can fulfil my request which I shall make now, and which I shall not repeat. Do you agree?"

"All right, Mr. Beaumont," said Katerina Vasílyevna, slightly shrugging her shoulders. "But you must confess that—"

Again she did not want to finish her sentence.

"That my action seems rather suspicious? True; but I will wait till you get over your suspicions."


Beaumont got into the way of making frequent calls at the Pólozofs'. "Why not?" thought the old man. "He is an excellent match. Of course in other days Kátya could have had a better husband. But even then she did not care for money or for flattery. And now nothing better could be desired."

Indeed, Beaumont was an excellent match. He said that he intended to live the rest of his life in Russia because he looked upon it as his native land. He was a man of character; he was thirty years old, a self-made man; and he had a good situation. If he had been a Russian, Pólozof would have liked him to belong to the nobility.[6] But as he was a foreigner, this was of no consequence, especially as he was of French origin, and, above all, an American citizen. Among the Americans, a man who may be to-day a journeyman shoemaker, or a plowman, to-morrow will be a general, and the next day president; and after that he may be a lawyer, or in a counting-house. It is a peculiar people altogether; they care only for a man's money or his brains. This is the right way of looking at it," continued Pólozof. "I myself am that kind of man. I entered mercantile life; I married a merchant's widow. The main thing is money, and brains, because without brains you can't get any money. And this man is on the road to it. He will buy the factory, will become manager; then the firm will take him as a partner. And their firms are not like ours. He too will roll in his millions."

It is very possible that Pólozof's imagination about his son-in-law becoming a millionaire in the commercial line will not be realized any more than Marya Alekséyevna's imaginations in regard to her chosen son-in-law becoming a great monopolist were realized. But for all that, Beaumont was an excellent match for Katerina Vasílyevna.

But, after all, was not Pólozof mistaken in thinking that Beaumont was going to be his son-in-law? If the old man had a shadow of a doubt about this, it vanished when Beaumont, in the course of a fortnight, said to him, that the purchase of the factory might be delayed for several days, the delay was unavoidable; even if Mr. Lotter were not coming, it would take at least a week to bring it to a conclusion, and Mr. Lotter would not be in Petersburg for a week. "Before I was personally acquainted with you," said Beaumont, "I wanted to finish the business myself. Now it would not look well, because we are so well acquainted. In order that there should be no misunderstanding by and by, I have written about it to the firm to this effect: that during the business transaction I have made the acquaintance of the manager whose whole property is invested in the factory, and I asked the firm to send some one to conclude the bargain in my place, and now, as you see, Mr. Lotter is coming."

Shrewd and clever! At the same time it shows plainly Beaumont's intention of marrying Kátya; a mere acquaintance would not be sufficient reason to take such a careful step.


For the next two or three visits Beaumont was met very coolly by Katerina Vasílyevna. In truth, she began to feel a certain distrust in this person with whom her acquaintance was so slight, and who expressed a puzzling desire to learn about a family where he was not acquainted, and at the same time, according to his own words, he feared to become acquainted because he feared that his acquaintance might not be agreeable there. But although Katerina Vasílyevna met him suspiciously during these first calls, yet she was soon drawn into a lively conversation with him. In her former life, before she had ever known Kirsánof, she had never met such a man; he was so sympathetic in regard to all that interested her; he understood her so well, even among her dearest friends—by the way, there was only one who was a real friend, Paulina, who had long ago moved to Moscow, and there married a Muscovite manufacturer, and even with Paulina she could not speak with as much ease as with him.

And he, at first he came not so much on her account as for the purpose of learning through her about the Kirsánofs; but from the very beginning of their acquaintance, from the very moment when they spoke about melancholy and the means of curing it, it could be seen that he respected her, that he sympathized with her. At his second call he was still more attracted to her by her enthusiam at finding a new field of activity. Now, with every new meeting, his inclination to her was more and more evident to her. Very soon there arose between them most simple and friendly relations. At the end of a week Katerina Vasílyevna told him about the Kirsánofs; she was sure that this man could have no unworthy thoughts.

It is true that when she began to speak about the Kirsánofs, he stopped her: "Why so soon? You know me too slightly."

"No; sufficiently, Mr. Beaumont; I see that if you did not want to explain to me what seemed strange in your desire, you must have had good reason; and there are so many mysteries in this world."

And he replied, "You see that I have no longer that great impatience to know what I wanted to know about them."


Katerina Vasílyevna's enthusiasm continued without diminution, but changed into a constant, habitual mood, earnest, eager, and bright. And, as it seemed to her, this enthusiasm drew Beaumont closer to her. And he thought a great deal about her; this was sufficiently apparent. Having heard two or three times what she had to tell about the Kirsánofs, on the fourth time he said: "I now know everything that I wanted to know about them. Thank you."

"But what do you know? I only told you that they love each other, and are perfectly happy in their married life."

"More than that I did not care to know. However, all that I knew already."

The conversation turned on something else.

Of course Katerina Vasílyevna's first thought was when he asked about Mrs. Kirsánova, that he was in love with Viéra Pavlovna. But no; it was perfectly evident that such was not the case. So far as Katerina Vasílyevna was able to judge him now, she thought that Beaumont was not even able to fall in love. Truly, to love was in his power; that is true. But if he loves any one now, it is I," thought Katerina Vasílyevna.


But the main thing was, did they love each other? Let us begin with her. There was one case when she showed some solicitude about Beaumont; but how did this case end? Quite otherwise from what might have been expected at the beginning. Beaumont got into the habit of calling at the Pólozofs' literally every day, sometimes making longer calls than at others, but every day just the same. And this caused Pólozof to think that he was going to offer himself to Katerina Vasílyevna; he had no other foundations for such a belief. But one evening it happened that Beaumont did not come. "You don't know what is the matter with him, do you, papa?"

"I have not heard; I guess there is nothing the matter. He probably did not have time."

A second evening passed, and still there was no Beaumont. On the following morning, Katerina Vasílyevna was evidently going somewhere. "Where are you going. Kátya?"

"Somewhere, papa, on my own business." She went to find about Beaumont. He was sitting in his wide-sleeved overcoat, and was reading; he lifted his eyes from the book when the door opened.

"Katerina Vasílyevna, is this you? I am very glad and very grateful to you," he said in the same tone as he would have addressed her father; possibly the tone was a little more cordial.

"What is the matter, Mr. Beaumont, that you have not been to see us for so long? You made me worry about you, and besides, you made me feel my lonesomeness."

"It was nothing particular, Katerina Vasílyevna; as you see, I am well. Won't you take some tea with me? You see I am just having mine."

"Of course I will; but why have you stayed away from us so long?"

"Piotr, bring a glass. You see I am well; a mere trifle; this is the reason: I was at the factory with Mr. Lotter, and while I was explaining something to him, I was rather careless; and putting my arm on a screw, it turned around and scratched my arm through the sleeve, and so I have not been able to put on my coat for the last three days."

"Let me see it; else I shall be worried lest it is not a scratch, but a serious wound."

"Yes, it must be a big one" (here Piotr comes in with a glass for Katerina Vasílyevna)—"when I make use of both my hands. However, I will show it to you." He rolled up his sleeve to the elbow. "Piotr, throw the ashes out of the tray, and give me my cigar-holder; it's on the library table. See, it is a mere trifle; nothing but an English plaster was necessary."

"Yes; but there is still some swelling, and it is inflamed."

"Yesterday there was considerably more, and by to-morrow there will be none at all."

Piotr, after cleaning out the ash-tray and bringing the cigar-holder, leaves the room.

"I did not want to appear before you as a wounded hero."

"Why didn't you write me, then?"

"Da! I thought that I should be able to put on my coat right away; that is, day before yesterday; and day before yesterday, I expected to put it on yesterday; and yesterday, to-day. I thought it was not worth while to worry you."

"Yes, and you have worried me all the more. It was not nice of you, Mr. Beaumont. And when shall you finish this business of yours?"

"Da! probably in a day or two; the delay is not our fault. Mr. Lotter and I are all ready, but it is the stockholders."

"And what have you been reading?"

"A new novel by Thackeray. How can a man write himself out so when he has such a talent! It is because his fund of ideas is getting low."

"I have read it; it is quite true." And she went on to speak of Thackeray's failing powers. Then they so spoke about half an hour on various other topics in the very same manner.

"Well, it is almost time for me to go to Viéra Pavlovna. When do you want to make her acquaintance? They are lovely people."

"I will try to arrange to do it soon; I will ask you to introduce me. I am very grateful to you for your visit. Is that your horse?"

"Yes, it is mine."

"That's the reason why your bátiushka never rides him. It is a very good horse."

"I think he is; I don't know much about them."

"It's a beautiful horse, sir; cost three hundred and fifty rubles," said the coachman.

"How old is he?"

"Six years, sir."

"Let us start, Zakhár; I am all ready. Good by, Mr. Beaumont; will you come to-day?"

"Hardly likely, no; to-morrow, sure."


Does it ever happen that people do such things? Do young girls who are in love ever make such visits? Not to speak of the fact that no well-trained young lady would allow herself to do such a thing; but if she did, the conversation would be quite different. If the action performed by Katerina Vasílyevna was contrary to morality, then still more contrary to the generally accepted ideas as to the relations between men and young women, would be the character, so to speak, of this immoral action. Isn't it clear that Katerina Vasílyevna and Beaumont were not human beings, but fish? and if they were human beings, that they had the blood of fishes in their veins? The way that she usually behaved towards him in her own house, also absolutely corresponded with this theory.

"I am too tired to talk, Mr. Beaumont," she used to say when he stayed late. "You stay with papa, but I am going to bed"; and she used to leave him.

Sometimes he used to reply, "Stay quarter of an hour more, Katerina Vasílyevna."

"All right," she would say in such cases; but more often he replied, "Then good by,[7] Katerina Vasílyevna."

What kind of people are these, I should like to know; and I should like to know if they are not simply excellent people, whose meetings are disturbed by nobody, who are free to see each other when and as much as they please, whose marriage no one will hinder as soon as they make up their minds, and who, therefore, have no reason to be possessed of devils. But still I am vexed at their cool treatment of each other, and I am not as much ashamed for them as for myself. Is it really my fate as a novelist, to compromise in the eyes of all well-bred readers, all my heroes and heroines? Some of them eat and drink; others are not possessed of devils without cause; what uninteresting people!


Meantime, so far as the old man Pólozof could judge, the affair was coming to a marriage. When the probable bride and probable bridegroom were getting to be so intimate, it was evident that there would be a marriage. Has he not heard their talk? To be sure, his daughter and the probable bridegroom were not always under his eyes. More often than not they would sit by themselves or walk together by themselves; but this did not change in the least the tenor of their conversations. Even the shrewdest student of the human heart would have never suspected, had he heard them talk, that Beaumont would marry Katerina Vasílyevna. Not that they never spoke about their feelings. They spoke about them as they spoke about everything else in the world; but they said excessively little about them; and even this little counted as nothing from the tone in which they spoke. The tone was vexatious from its very calmness, and what they said would have seemed terribly absurd to any one in society. Now, for example, it happened that in about a week after the visit for which Beaumont was so grateful to Katerina Vasílyevna, and in about two months after their acquaintance had begun, the sale of the factory was accomplished. Mr. Lotter was intending to leave on the following day. (And he left; don't imagine that he is going to bring a catastrophe. He, as is common with business men in transacting commercial operations, told Beaumont that the firm would make him the manager of the factory, at the salary of a thousand pounds, as might have been expected, and nothing more. What need had he, as a business man, to interfere with Beaumont's love affairs?) The shareholders, including Pólozof, were to receive, on the following day (and they did receive all that they expected. Here, again, you must not expect a catastrophe; for the firm of Hodgson, Lotter and Company is a very reliable one) half in ready cash, and half in notes payable in three months. Pólozof, full of satisfaction at this turn of affairs, was sitting at his table in the reception-room, and was counting over the banknotes. He overheard in part the conversation that was going on between his daughter and Beaumont, as they passed through the reception-room. They were walking through the four rooms of the flat that faced on the street.

"If a woman, a girl, is embarrassed with prejudices," said Beaumont (not committing any Americanisms or Anglicisms), "then a man—I speak of respectable men—is subject to great inconveniences on that account. Tell me, how can one marry a girl who has not been trained in the simple duties of life, who does not realize what relations may arise after she has accepted an offer? She may not be able to judge whether she will enjoy her life with the man who is to be her husband."

"But, Mr. Beaumont, if her relations to this man are of a sincere character, such as they had been before he proposed to her, then I think that this would be some guarantee that they would be contented with each other."

"Some guarantee, certainly; but it would be much surer if the trial were longer and more thorough. She cannot know in any way the character of the relation into which she is going to enter; and so marriage is for her a terrible risk. So much for her; and the honorable man who is to marry her has to run the same risk. He can generally judge whether he will be satisfied. He knows intimately women of various natures; he has made trial of what nature suits him the best. She has not that chance."

"But she can observe the lives and characters of those in her own family and in the families of her friends; she can think a great deal."

"All that is good, so far as it goes, but it is not sufficient. Nothing can take the place of a personal trial."

"Would you have only widows get married?" asked Katerina Vasílyevna, laughing.

"You have expressed yourself quite to the point. Only widows; girls should be prohibited from marrying."

"That is true," said Katerina Vasílyevna, seriously.

Such talk as this seemed very wild to Pólozof at first, as he caught fragments of it. But gradually he got accustomed to the thought, and he said to himself, "Well, I myself am a man without prejudices. I started in business, and I, too, married a widow, a merchant's widow."

What he heard was only a little episode in their conversation, which was also devoted to other affairs; but on the following day this subject of their yesterday's conversation was continued in this way:—

"You have told me the story of your love for Sólovtsof. But what was it? It was—"

"Let us sit down, if it is just the same to you; I am tired of walking."

"Very well. It was a childish feeling, such as gives no guarantee. You remember it only as a subject to laugh over, or, rather, to feel gloomy about; for it certainly has its melancholy side. You were saved only by a strange and rare piece of good fortune, because your case fell into the hands of a man like Aleksandr."


"Aleksandr Matvéitch Kirsánof," he added, as though not to say merely his first name. "If it had not been for Kirsánof, you would have died, either by consumption or by that wretch. One can draw very sensible conclusions about the unhappy position that you held in society. You yourself have drawn such conclusions. All this is good enough, and it has only in the end made you a far more sensible and excellent girl; but it did not in the slightest degree give you any further experience for making up your mind what sort of a man would satisfy you as a husband."

"Not a miserable but an honorable man; that is all that you can decide. So far so good; but would it be enough for any honorable woman to know that the character of the man that she had chosen for her husband was honorable, if she did not know him any more than that? It is necessary to have a more exact knowledge of a man's character; that is, you must have a very different experience from what you have already had. We decided yesterday that according to your expression it is only widows who should be allowed to marry. But what sort of a widow are you?"

All this was said by Beaumont in a tone expressing dissatisfaction, and his last words were spoken actually in a grieved tone.

"That is true," said Katerina Vasílyevna rather gloomily, "for all that, I could not be easily deceived."

"And you could not if you tried, because it is impossible to affect experience if you have it not."

"You are always speaking about the lack of ways that we girls have for making a satisfactory choice. As a general thing it is absolutely true; but there are exceptional cases when so much experience is not necessary for making a satisfactory choice. If a girl is not so very young, she may understand her own character very well. For instance, I know my character, and it is evident to me that it is not going to change. I am twenty-two years old. I know what is necessary for my happiness: to live quietly so as not to be stirred up, that is all."

"That is true. That is evident."

"And is it so very hard to see whether this man or that has the marks of character sufficient to satisfy this want? This can be seen in a few conversations."

"That is true; but you said that this is an exceptional case. The general rule is different."

"Of course the rule is different. But, Mr. Beaumont, in the conditions of our lives, according to our understandings and habits, it is impossible to wish that a girl should have the knowledge of those every-day relations about which we were speaking, while without it, in most cases, a girl runs the risk of making an unsatisfactory choice. Her position is inextricable under present conditions. As things are now, let her enter into whatever relations she pleases; it will in no case give her experience: she might not get any advantage, and her dangers would be vastly multiplied. A girl can easily lower herself, can learn wickedness and deceit. She would be obliged to deceive her friends and society, to hide from their eyes, and from this there is an easy transition to falsehood, which is sure to ruin her character. It is even very possible that she may learn to look superficially upon life. And if this should not result, yet if she is going to be a good woman, then her heart may be broken. In the mean time, she will gain nothing in the experience of every day's life, because these relations which are so dangerous to her character or so tormenting to her heart are theatrical, idle, and out of the ordinary. You see that it is impossible to advise in the conditions of our life."

"Of course, Katerina Vasílyevna; but for that very reason our life is bad."

"Yes, indeed, we are agreed on that point."

"What does this mean? Leaving out the fact that the deuce knows what it means, what has it to do with their personal relations? The man says, 'I doubt whether you will make me a good wife'; and the girl replies, 'Just make me an offer and see!'

"What extraordinary impertinence! Or is it not so, perhaps? Maybe the man says: 'I have no need of questioning whether I am going to be happy with you; but be careful even though you choose me. You have chosen me, but I beg of you, think, think carefully. This is a very serious matter. Don't put your confidence even in me, who love you so dearly, without a serious and attentive making up of your mind.'

"And maybe the girl answers: 'My friend, I see that you think not about yourself, but about me. It is your truthfulness; we are to be pitied, we are deceived, we are lead blindfolded, so as to be more easily deceived. But don't fear on my account; you cannot deceive me. My happiness is sure. Just as you are tranquil on your part, so am I on mine.'"

"I wonder at one thing," continued Beaumont on the following day. Again they were walking through the rooms, and Pólozof was sitting in one of them. "I wonder at one thing—that there are any happy marriages under such conditions."

"You speak in a tone as though you were sorry that there were such things as happy marriages," replied Katerina Vasílyevna laughingly. She now, as may have been observed, laughs frequently in a tranquil and joyous way.

"And in fact they generally do inspire gloomy thoughts: if with such scanty means of judging the necessities and characters of men, girls very often succeed in making satisfactory choices, what a brightness and soundness of wit it shows that women possess! What a true, strong, vigilant mind nature has gifted them withal! And this mind remains without advantage for society, society dismisses it, oppresses it, chokes it, and the history of mankind would have advanced tenfold quicker if this intellect had not been dismissed, oppressed, and killed."

"You are the panegyrist of women, Mr. Beaumont! Is there no way of explaining it in a simpler way, by opportunity?"

"By opportunity? Explain it by opportunity if you want to; but when the opportunities are numerous, you know that besides chance which originates one part of them, there must be another cause originating the other part. It is impossible to suppose any other general cause, beyond my explanation—soundness of choice arising from the strength and vigilance of mind."

"You are quite like Mrs. Beecher Stowe, on the woman question, Mr. Beaumont. She proves that the negroes are the most talented of all the races, that they stand above the white race by their intellect."

"You are joking, but I am serious."

"It seems that you are provoked at me because I don't bow before a woman. But accept as my excuse at least the difficulty of getting on my knees before myself."

"Joke! but I am seriously provoked."

"But not at me, I hope? I am not in the least to blame for the fact that women and girls cannot accomplish what is necessary according to your opinion. However, if you want, I will tell you seriously what I think—only not on the woman question: I don't want to be a judge in my own case, but exclusively about you, Mr. Beaumont. You are a man of reserved nature, but you get excited when you speak on this subject. What should follow from this? The fact that you must have some personal interest in this question. Evidently you must have suffered from some mistake in the choice made by a girl who was, as you say, inexperienced."

"Maybe I, maybe somebody else who was nearer me. However, consider, Katerina Vasílyevna. I shall tell you when I hear your answer. I shall ask your answer in three days."

"To a question which has not been asked? Do I know you so little as to be compelled to think three days?" Katerina Vasílyevna stopped, put her arm around Beaumont's neck, drew his head towards her, and kissed his forehead.

According to all the examples of the past, and according to the demands of propriety itself, Beaumont would have to take her in his arms and kiss her lips; but he did no such thing, but only pressed her hand, which had dropped down from his head. "Yes, Katerina Vasílyevna, still think the matter over." And they began to walk again.

"But who told you, Charlie, that I have been thinking about it for more than three days?" she replied, not letting go his hand.

"Yes, of course, I saw it; but still I will tell you now,—I have a secret; let us go to that room, and sit down there, so that he can't hear."

The end of this began to take place when they passed the old man. The old man saw that they were walking hand in hand, which had never happened to them before, and he thought: "He has asked her hand, and she has promised. Good!"

"Tell me your secret, Charlie; papa will not hear from there."

"It seems absurd, Katerina Vasílyevna that I appear to be afraid of you; of course there is nothing to be afraid of. But you will understand why I caution you when I tell you that I have an example in mind. Of course you see that we shall be able to live together; but I pitied her. How much she suffered, and how long she was deprived of life which was necessary to her! It was pitiful; I saw with my own eyes. Where it was makes no difference—New York, Boston, Philadelphia—you know—it's no matter; but she was a very excellent woman, and she looked upon her husband as an excellent man. They were exceedingly attached to each other; yet, still she had to suffer a great deal. He was ready to give his life for the least increase of her happiness, but, for all that, she could not live happily with him. It was well that it ended as it did, but it was hard for her. You have not experienced any such thing, and so I shall not accept your answer."

"Could I hear this story from anybody?"

"Perhaps so."

"From the woman herself?"

"Perhaps so."

"And I have not given you any answer yet?"


"Do you know what it will be?"

"I do," said Beaumont, and then began an ordinary scene, proper between "bridegroom" and "bride," with kisses.


On the next day at three o'clock Katerina Vasílyevna went to Viéra Pavlovna.

"I am to be married day after to-morrow, Viéra Pavlovna," she said as she entered; "and this evening I am going to bring my bridegroom to see you."

"Beaumont, of course, whom you have been crazy over this long time."

"I, crazy? When everything passed off so quietly and reasonably!"

"I thoroughly believe that you talked with him very quietly and sensibly; but with me, quite otherwise."

"Really, this is interesting! But here is something more interesting: he loves you very much—both of you; but you, Viéra Pavlovna, much more than Aleksandr Matvéitch."

"Is there anything interesting in that? If you have spoken to him about me with a thousandth part of the enthusiasm with which you have spoken about him to me then, of course—"

"Do you think that he knows you through me? Here's where the fun comes in, that he knows you personally, not through me, but far better than I do."

"That's news! How is that?

"How? I am going to tell you right away. The very first day that he came to Petersburg he was very anxious to see you, but it seemed to him that it would be better to postpone the acquaintance till he should come to you, not by himself, but with a 'bride' or a wife. It seemed to him that it would be pleasanter for you to see him with a wife than single. You see that our engagement came about through his desire to make your acquaintance."

"He marries you so as to get acquainted with me!"

"The idea! who says that he marries me for your sake? Oh, no! we get married, of course, not from love to you. But did we know of each other's existence until he came to Petersburg, and if he had not come, how should we have got acquainted? But he came to Petersburg for your sake! How absurd you are!"

"Does he speak Russian better than English?" asked Viéra Pavlovna, in excitement.

"He speaks Russian just as I do, and English just as I do."

"My dear Kátenka, how glad I am!" Viéra Pavlovna threw her arms around her guest.—"Sasha, come here! hurry, hurry!"

"What is it, Viérotchka? How d'ye do, Katerina Vas—"

He had no chance to speak her whole name before the young lady was kissing him.

"To-day is Easter, Sasha. Say to Kátenka, 'Indeed, he is risen.'"[8]

"But what is this all about?"

"Sit down, and she will tell you everything. And I myself have not heard all I want about it. That'll do; you have had enough kisses! and before me too! Now tell us, Kátenka!"


There was still more riotous conduct during the evening; but when order was restored, Beaumont, by the request of his new acquaintance, began to tell the story of his life after he came to the United States.

"As soon as I got there," said he, "I took pains to become naturalized. For that purpose, I had to make friends with some party. What do you suppose it was? Naturally, the Abolitionists. I wrote several articles for the Tribune about the influence of slavery upon the whole state of society in Russia. This, a new argument, was not a bad one, for the Abolitionists to use against slavery in the Southern States, and I became a citizen of Massachusetts. Soon after my arrival, I found a position in the office of one of the few large firms belonging to that party in New York." Further, he told them the same story which we already know. At least, this part of Beaumont's biography cannot be doubted.


That very evening they made an agreement that the two families should look for apartments which should be adjoining. In the expectation of finding and arranging suitable apartments, the Beaumonts lived in the factory, where, according to the orders given by the firm, rooms for the manager were prepared. This temporary departure from the city might be regarded as akin to the beautiful English custom of a wedding journey, which is now common all over Europe.

When, in six weeks, two convenient adjoining flats were found, the Kirsánofs suited in the one, the Beaumonts in the other, the old Pólozof preferred to remain in his factory apartment, the rooms of which reminded him, though to a limited degree, of his former grandeur. It was also pleasant for him to stay there because he was popular within a distance of three or four versts around. There was no limit to the signs of respect offered him by his own clerks and those of the neighborhood, by the porters, and all the other suburban brethren of higher or lower dignity in this society which gathered around the factory, and there was no measure to the pleasure with which the patriarch accepted these signs of the general respect in which he was held as the most important person of the district. His son-in-law came to the factory every day; and almost every day his daughter came with her husband. In summer they moved down there entirely, and lived in the factory, which took the place of a datcha. The rest of the year, the old man, besides receiving his daughter and son-in-law, who still was known as the North American, often—every week, and oftener—had the pleasure of receiving guests, who came to spend an evening with Katerina Vasílyevna and her husband. Sometimes only the Kirsánofs and some young folks, sometimes the party was larger. The factory served the general purpose of frequent out-of-town picnics for the circle in which the Kirsánofs and Beaumonts lived. Pólozof was greatly delighted at such invasion of guests, and how could he help it? The part of host belonged to him, and it was not deprived of its patriarchal worshipfulness.


The two families each lived according to the style that best pleased them. On ordinary days there was much noise in one apartment, much quiet in the other. They met like kinsfolks; some days they met as often as ten times, and each time for only a minute or two; sometimes for a whole day one of the apartments would be empty, and its inhabitants would be found in the other part. All this was according to circumstances. And when there were gatherings of guests, it was again as it happened; sometimes the doors between the apartments would be locked, because the doors which opened from the parlor of one apartment into the reception-room of the other were generally locked; but the doors between the rooms occupied by Viéra Pavlovna and Katerina Vasílyevna were constantly open. And so, sometimes the doors connecting the reception-rooms were locked; that was when the company was small. But if the party was large, these doors were opened, and the guests would not know whether they were at Viéra Pavlovna's or Katerina Vasílyevna's; and the khozyáïkas themselves could hardly distinguish. The young people, when they wanted to take a rest, generally found themselves in Katerina Vasílyevna's rooms; but when they did not come to rest, they would be with Viéra Pavlovna. But the young people could not be considered as guests, they are so intimate, and Viéra Pavlovna, without any ceremony, would drive them off to see Katerina Vasílyevna.

"I am tired of you boys! Go to Kátenka; she never gets tired of you. Why are you always quieter with her than with me? here I am older than she is."

"Don't you trouble yourself; we like her better than we do you."

"Kátenka, why do they like you better than they do me?"

"Because I scold them less than you do."

"Da! Katerina Vasílyevna treats us like men, and so we behave like men when we are with her."

Not bad was the effect of the game which was repeated very often last winter in the home circle, when the young folks and their intimate friends alone used to gather; the pianos from the two apartments were brought together; the young folks would cast lots, and divide into two choirs, making their benefactresses sit one at the one, the other at the other, grand piano, facing each other; each choir would stand near its prima donna, and at one and the same time they would sing: Viéra Pavlovna with her choir, "La Donna é Mobíle"; and Katerina Vasílyevna with her choir would sing "Long cast off by Thee"; or Viéra Pavlovna with her choir would sing Lizette's Song from Béranger; and Katerina Vasílyevna, "Eramushkás' Song." This winter something became popular: the former prima donnas, with the aid of all, adapted to their own liking "the discussion of two Grecian philosophers about the beautiful." It began this way: Katerina Vasílyevna would lift her eyes to heaven, and sighing languishingly, would say, "Divine Schiller, the rapture of my soul!" Viéra Pavlovna would answer with dignity. "But the prunella shoes from Koralof's shop are just beautiful!" and she would thrust out her foot. Whoever of the young folks laugh at such a discussion would be put into the corner; at the end of the discussion there would remain two or three people out of ten or twelve, who were not in the corner. But an immeasurable excitement would be aroused if they managed to inveigle Beaumont into this game, and get him into the corner.

What else? The sewing shops, continuing to agree, continued to exist. Now there are three of them. Katerina Vasílyevna has arranged hers long ago. Now she very often takes Viéra Pavlovna's place in the shop, and soon she will have to take her place entirely. This year—forgive her—she will pass her examinations as a doctor; and then she will have no time at all to occupy herself in the shop.

"It is a pity that there is no chance for these sewing unions to develop as they might have been developed," says Viéra Pavlovna sometimes. Katerina Vasílyevna does not answer a word, only her eyes flash with indignation.

"What a quick temper you have, Kátya. You are worse than I," says Viéra Pavlovna. "It is good that your father has something; it is very good."

"Yes, Viérotchka; it is good. I have less anxiety for my son." (You see, she has a son.)

"However, Kátya, I don't know what you make me think of. We will always live quietly and peacefully, won't we?"

Katerina Vasílyevna makes no reply.

"Yes, Kátya; say yes for my sake."

Katerina Vasílyevna laughs.

"It does not depend on my yes or no; and so for your satisfaction, I will say yes, we will always live peacefully."

And indeed they all live peacefully. They live harmoniously and cordially and quietly and happily and gayly and actively. But it does not follow from this that my story is at end. All four of them are as yet young, active; and if their lives are arranged harmoniously and cordially, beautifully and solidly, still it has not ceased to be interesting: far from it; and I have a good many things yet to tell about them; and I vouch for it that the continuation of my story about them will be much more interesting than what I have related till now.


They live gayly and cordially; they work and they rest; they enjoy life; and look forward to the future if not without thought, yet with a firm and substantial assurance that the further they go, the better it will be. Thus passed with them the time of the third year and last year; and thus the present year is passing, and the winter of the present year is almost passed; the snow has begun to melt, and Viéra Pavlovna inquired, "There will be one more frosty day yet, won't there, so that we can have another winter picnic?"

And nobody could answer her; but one day passes after another, growing warmer and warmer, and every day the probability of a winter picnic grew less. But lo! at last, when hope was lost, a snow-storm came such as we have in midwinter, without warmth, but with a fine gentle frost: the sky became bright. "It will be a splendid evening—picnic! the picnic,—hurry up; don't stop for the rest—a little one without formality."

Two sleighs dashed away that evening. One was filled with talk and jokes, but the other was really beyond control. As soon as they left town, they sang with all their voices, and this was what they sang:—

"From the gate the maiden went,
From the gate of maple bent,
Hurried from the new-made gate,
With its new-made checkered grate.
'Angry is my bátiushka.
Has no mercy on his daughter;
Will not let me wander late,
With the young lad gayly wait;
Yet I do not heed my sire,
But will sport to heart's content.'"[9]

The idea of singing such a song! Is that all? Some of the time they go slow and drop a quarter of a verst behind, and then suddenly they catch up with the others, and race; they dash by with shouts and screams of laughter, and after they have passed them, they fling snowballs at the gay but not riotous sleigh. The more decorous sleighful, after two or three such insults, determined to defend themselves. They let the riotous sleigh get ahead of them, they collected handfuls of new-fallen snow as secretly as possible, so that the riotous sleigh might not discover them. When the riotous sleigh slowed up again and fell behind, the decorous sleigh was creeping along stealthily, and gave no sign that they had procured weapons; and when the riotous sleigh bore down upon them again with shouts and shrieks, the decorous sleigh offered most unexpectedly a brave defence. But what does this mean? The riotous sleigh turns out to the right, even across gutters; they don't care for anything; they dash by a distance of a few rods.[10] "Yes, she must have suspected something; she has taken the reins herself; she is standing up and driving," says the decorous sleigh. "No, no, we'll catch up with them and pay them back." It is a desperate race. Will they overtake them or not? "We shall," says the decorous sleigh with enthusiasm. "No," it cries in despair; then, with new enthusiasm says, "Yes, we shall."

"They are gaining on us," says the riotous sleigh in despair. "They won't catch up with us," it says in enthusiasm. "Will they catch us or not?"

In the decorous sleigh were seated the Kirsánofs and Beaumonts; in the riotous sleigh were four young men and one lady, and it was she who was the ringleader in the riotous sleigh.

"Your health, mesdames and messieurs. We are very glad to see you again," she says from the platform of the factory stairs.—"Gentlemen, help the ladies out of the sleighs," she adds, addressing her companions.

Hurry up! hurry up into the parlors! The cold has reddened all their cheeks.

"How do you do, you dear old man?"[11]

"He isn't an old man at all, Katerina Vasílyevna. What made you tell me that he was old? He will be flirting with me next thing. Will you do it, you dear little old man?" asks the lady of the riotous sleigh.

"I will," says Pólozof, delighted because she gently caressed his gray whiskers.

"Children, will you let him flirt with me?"

"Of course we will," says one of the young men.

"No, no!" say the three others.

But why is the lady of the riotous sleigh dressed all in black? Is it mourning or caprice?

"O dear me, I am tired!" she said, throwing herself on the Turkish divan which occupied the whole length of the side of the parlor. "Children, more cushions! Not for me alone, but I think the other ladies are tired."

"Yes; you have tired us all out! "says Katerina Vasílyevna.

"The race with you over the rough road broke me all up!" says Viéra Pavlovna.

"It was a good thing that there was only one more visit to the factory," added Katerina Vasílyevna.

They both settled themselves on the divan among the cushions, in weariness.

"You weren't sharp enough! you can't have had much practice in racing. You ought to have stood up as I did; then the ups and downs amount to nothing."

"Even we are rather tired." says Beaumont to Kirsánof. They sat down by their wives. Kirsánof threw his arm around Viéra Pavlovna. Beaumont took Katerina Vasílyevna's hand. It was an idyllic picture. It is pleasant to see happy unions. But a shadow crossed the face of the lady in mourning for one moment, so that none except one of her young companions noticed it. He went to the window and began to study the arabesques made by the frost on the glass.

"Mesdames, your stories are very interesting, but I can't hear what you say; all I know is that they are very pathetic but that they end happily; I like that! But where is my dear little old man?"

"He is busy about the house; he is getting lunch ready; this always amuses him," said Katerina Vasílyevna.

"Well, in that case, God be with him! Tell me your story, please, but briefly; I like to be told things in few words."

"I shall relate very briefly." says Viéra Pavlovna; let me begin. When it is the others' turn, let them tell theirs. But I will tell you beforehand that there are secrets at the end of my story."

"Well, then we'll drive out these gentlemen. Or perhaps it would be better to drive them out now!"

"No; now they can listen."

Viéra Pavlovna began her story.


"Ha! ha! ha! This sweet Julie, I love her dearly!" and she throws herself down on her knees and she carries on and behaves herself terribly. She is lovely!"


Bravo, Viéra Pavlovna! "I am going to jump out of the window! Bravo, gentlemen!" The lady in mourning clapped her hands. At this command the young people applauded deafeningly, with shouts of "hurrah!" and "bravo!"


"What's got into you? What's got into you?" said Katerina Vasílyevna, in affright two or three minutes later.

"No, it's nothing much! it'll pass. Give me a glass of water! Don't bother yourself; Mosolof is bringing me some. Thank you, Mosolof!" She took the water brought her by her young companion who had been standing by the window. "Do you see how I have taught him? He knows everything beforehand. Now I feel all well again. Go ahead, please; I'm listening!"

"No, but I am tired," she said, five minutes later, calmly getting up from the divan. "I must have a nap for an hour or so. You see I am going without any ceremony. Come, Mosolof, let us find the dear little old man; he will give me a place."

"Excuse me, why shouldn't I do it?" asked Katerina Vasílyevna.

"Is it worth while to trouble you?"

"Are you going to give us up entirely?" asked one of the young men, taking a tragical pose. "If we had foreseen it, we should have brought daggers with us. But now we have nothing to stab ourselves with."

"When lunch is ready, we will take the forks for daggers!" shouted another, with the enthusiasm of unexpected salvation.

"Oh, no, I do not want the hope of our fatherland should be prematurely destroyed," said the lady in mourning, in the same excess of enthusiasm. "Be consoled, my children!—Mosolof, put the small cushion on the table."

Mosolof put the cushion on the table. The lady in mourning was standing by the table, in a graceful position, and slowly dropped her hand to the cushion.

The young folks kissed her hand.

Katerina Vasílyevna went to find a room for the weary guest.

"Poor girl!" said the three young men, who had been with her in the shop, with one accord, when she left the parlor.

"She is a brave woman!" said the three young men.

"I should say she was," said Mosolof, with a sense of satisfaction.

"Have you known her long?"

"Three years."

"Do you know her well?"

"Yes.—Don't be disturbed," he added, addressing those who were in the sleigh; "it's only because she is tired."

Viéra Pavlovna exchanged significant glances with her husband and Beaumont, and shook her head.

"It's absurd to say she is tired," said Kirsánof.

"I assure you she is tired, that's all. She will fall asleep, and it will all pass," repeated Mosolof, in a calm and indifferent tone."

In ten minutes Katerina Vasílyevna came back.

"How is she?" asked six voices. Mosolof did not ask.

"She went to bed and shut her eyes, and now she must be asleep."

"I told you so," said Mosolof; "it's a mere trifle."

"Still, I am sorry for her," said Katerina Vasílyevna. "We will watch her by turns: you and I, Viérotchka, and Charlie and Sasha."

"Don't let this interfere with our fun," said Mosolof. "We can dance, and shout, and sing; she sleeps very sound."

If she sleeps, if it is a mere trifle, then what does it mean? The disturbing impression caused for quarter of an hour, by the lady in mourning, vanished and was forgotten,—not absolutely, but almost. The party, even in her absence, little by little took the character of all the similar parties which had been held during the winter, and it became gay. Gay, but not without restraint. At least, the ladies half a dozen times exchanged looks of serious solemnity. Twice Viéra Pavlovna whispered stealthily, "Sasha, suppose something of this sort should happen to me?"

Kirsánof, the first time, could not find an answer. But the second time he succeeded. "No, Viéra, nothing of this sort could happen to you."

"Cannot? Are you sure?"


And Katerina Vasílyevna twice whispered to her husband stealthily, "Charlie, this could not happen to me, could it?"

The first time Beaumont only smiled, not gayly and not reassuringly; the second time he also succeeded in saying, "By all probability, it could not."

And these were only occasional echoes, and then only at first. But for the most part the evening was spent gayly; in half an hour it was quite gay. They talked, played, sang. "She is sound asleep," says Mosolof, and he takes the lead. And really, it was impossible to disturb her. The room where she was lying down was a long way from the parlor, separated by three rooms, a corridor, and a flight of stairs, and then another room. It was at the further side of the apartment.

And so the evening was a great success. The young folks, as usual, either joined the others, or were by themselves. Beaumont joined them a couple of times; a couple of times Viéra Pavlovna would draw him from them and their serious conversation.

They talked a great deal; but there was, after all, very little serious discussion.

All were sitting together.

"Well, what was the result? Was it good or bad?" asked one of the young men, who had taken the tragical attitude.

"She is rather worse than better," said Viéra Pavlovna.

"What do you mean, Viérotchka?" asked Katerina Vasílyevna.

"At all events, it is unavoidable in life," said Beaumont.

"It is an inevitable fate," said Kirsánof, in affirmation.

"It is an excellently bad thing; consequently, it is excellent," said the one who asked.

The other three young fellows nodded their heads, and said, "Bravo, Nikítin!"

The young folks were by themselves.

"I did not know him, Nikítin; but you knew him, didn't you? "asked Mosolof.

"I was a little boy then, but I saw him."

"But how does it seem to you now, as you look back? do they tell the truth? Would he accept her friendship?"


"And haven't you seen him since?"

"No. However, Beaumont was at that time in America."

"Really! Karl Yakovlich, come here just a moment. Did you meet in America that Russian of whom we are speaking?"


"It should be time for him to come back."


"What an idea came into my head," said Nikítin; "he would make a nice match for her."

"Gentlemen, some of you come and sing with me," said Viéra Pavlovna.—"So two of you want to come? So much the better!"

Mosolof and Nikítin stayed behind.

"I can show you an interesting thing, Nikítin," said Mosolof.—"What do you think—is she sleeping?"


"Only don't tell! You can tell her after you get better acquainted with her; but nobody else. She would not like it."

The windows of the apartment were low.

"This window, you see, is near the fire." Mosolof looked.

"That's it; do you see?"

The lady in mourning had moved her chair to the table, and was sitting down: with her left elbow she leaned on the table, the palm of her hand supported her drooping head, hiding her cheek and part of her hair. Her right hand was resting on the table, and her fingers were drumming mechanically, as though she were playing some tune. The lady's face had a fixed expression of melancholy, sorrowful but still more stern. Her eyebrows were lifting and drooping, lifting, drooping.

"Is it always so, Mosolof?"

"You see. However, let us come away, else we'll catch cold. It's already quarter-past ten."

"What a heartless fellow you are!" said Nikítin, looking keenly into his comrade's eyes as they passed by the lamp in the entry.

"You are getting sentimental, little brother. Is this your experience?"

Lunch was ready.

"What splendid vodka this is," said Nikítin; "how strong it is! It takes away your breath."

"Ekh! little winch! your eyes are already red," said Mosolof. All began to make fun of Nikítin in the same way.

"It's only because it choked me, but I can generally drink," said he, in justification. They began to look at their watches. "It's only eleven o'clock; we can count on half an hour more; we shall have time."

In half an hour Katerina Vasílyevna went to wake the lady in mourning. She was met by her on the threshold, stretching herself after her nap.

"Did you sleep well?"


"And how do you feel?"

"Magnificently. I told you it was a mere trifle; I got tired because I fooled too much. Now I shall be more staid."

But, no, she could succeed in being staid. In five minutes she was already charming Pólozof, and ordering round the young men, and was drumming out a march, or something of the sort, with the handles of two forks on the table. Then she was in a hurry to leave; but the others, who had got into a gale from her renewed riot, did not want to go.

"Are the horses ready?" she asked, getting up from the lunch table.

"Not yet. We have just sent to have them put in."

"You good-for-nothings! But if this is so, come, Viéra Pavlovna, sing us something; I have been told that you have a splendid voice."

Viéra Pavlovna sang.

"I shall often ask you to sing," said the lady in mourning.

"Now it's your turn! now it's your turn!" they all cried. But they had hardly time to urge her before she was seated at the piano.

"Well, all right, only I can't sing; but that makes no difference. I don't care for anything. Now, mesdames and messieurs, I am not going to sing for your sake, but for my children. Children, don't you laugh at your ma!" At the same time she struck the chords which lead to the accompaniment. "Children, don't you dare to laugh, for I shall sing with feeling." And, trying to bring out the notes as squeaky as possible, she sang:—

"Moans the dark blue—"

The young people roared with laughter at such an unexpected method, and the rest of the company also laughed. And the songstress herself could not refrain from joining; but, suppressing her merriment, she continued, twice as squeaky as before:—

"Moans the dark blue little pigeon,[12]
Moans all day and moans all night
For his sweetheart—"

But at this word her voice really trembled and choked. "It doesn't go, and it's just as well that it doesn't go. But if this doesn't go, something else will—something better? Listen, children, to your mother's advice: Don't fall in love, and know that you have no right to marry."

Then she sang in a strong, full contralto:—

"In our towns, a host of beauties are;
In each twilight eye there shines a star.
Happy fate regards them all sincerely,

"This but is stupid, children, —

But the brave young fellow loves too dearly.

There's no sense in that,—its perfect nonsense,—but you, why,—

Do not wed her, gallant youth;
Hear my warning words.[13]

"Still more nonsense, children, and maybe this is also nonsense. You can fall in love, you can wed, but it must be only through choice, and without deceiving yourselves, children. I am going to sing to you how I married. It is an old romance, but I am also old. I am sitting on the balcony of our castle, Dalton, for I am Scotch; I am beautiful and pale. Further down is the forest and the river Bringal. To the balcony slowly, stealthily, comes my lover; he is poor, and I am rich; I am the daughter of a baron and a lord, but I love him dearly, and I am singing to him,—

How beauteous Bringal's rugged shore.
Its forests green and tall!
My love and I, we love it more—

Because I know he hides there in the daytime, and every day he changes his retreat, —

Than e'en my father's hall.

However, the father's hall is not so lovely in reality. And so I sing to him, 'I am going with thee.' What do you suppose he answers me?"

Woulds't thou be willing, maiden, tell,
To lose their rank and race?

Because I was high born.

But ere thou yieldest, weigh it well,
What fate thou hast to face!

"'Art thou a huntsman?' I ask. 'No.' 'A poacher?' 'You have almost guessed,' said he;

When we, the sons of night, have met,

—because you know that all of us, children, mesdames and and messieurs, are very wicked people,—

We take a solemn vow.
What once we were we must forget,
Forget what we are now.

"He sings, 'I guessed it long ago.' I say, 'Thou art a brigand.' Well, it is true; he is a brigand. Yes, he is a brigand. Well, gentlemen, he says, 'Don't you see I am a poor match for you?

O maiden, I was born for strife,
In forests dark I wend.'

"Absolutely true; dark forests; so he says, 'Don't go with me.'

How terrible will be my life!

Because in the dark forests are wild beasts.

How pitiful my end!

"That is not true, children; it will not be pitiful. But then, he and I have thought, and he has thought, and still I answer as before:—

How beauteous Bringal's rugged shore.
Its forests green and tall!
My love and I, we love it more
Than e'en my father's hail.

"In reality, it was so. Consequently, I must not be sorry. I was told what to expect. Thus you can marry and love, children, without deceit, and know how to make your choice.

The moon climbs the sky
Serenely and brightly.
The soldier lad knightly
To the battle must hie.
His gun is loaded all with care;
And to him says the maiden fair,
My dearest, with courage
Go forth e'en to die.[14]

"With such girls as that you can fall in love, and such you can marry."

("Forget what I told you, Sasha; listen to her," whispers Viéra Pavlovna, and presses her husband's hand, "Why didn't I tell thee this? now I shall tell thee," whispers Katerina Vasílyevna.)

"I allow you to love such, and I bless you, my children.

My dearest, with courage
Go forth e'en to die!

"I have had a perfectly lovely time with you; and where there is enjoyment, you must have something to drink.

Hey! my little ale-house maiden.
Pour me out the mead and wine!

"Mead is simply because you can't lose a word out of the song. Is there any champagne left? is there? Capital! open the bottle.

Hey! my little ale-house maiden.
Pour me out the mead and wine!
So that gay and joyous feelings
May fill full this heart of mine.

"Who is the 'ale-house maiden'? I am the 'ale-house maiden.'

Black as night the maiden's brows are,
Bright as steel her heel!"[15]

She jumped up, rubbed her forehead with her hand and pounded with her heels.

"I have found it out already! Mesdames and messieurs, and you dear little old man, and you, children, help yourselves; your little heads should be gay and happy."

"To the shinkárka's health! to the shinkárka's health!"

"Thank you; I drink to my health, and again she flew to the piano and sang:—

May sorrow vanish in dust!

And it will vanish.

And to our hearts reborn,
Come endless joy like morn!

And it will be so! This is sure.

Gloomy fear shall pass away
Like the shades when sun brings day;
Light and warmth and fragrance rare
Drive out darkness and despair.
Faint corruption's odor grows;
Strong the fragrance of the rose."

  1. Rotmistr, or shtabs-rotmistr, titles taken from the German army; it gives personal, not hereditary, nobility.
  2. "Laid hens for him" in the original.
  3. Beréïtor.
  4. Zhukóvsky was the tutor of Alexsander the Second, and the author of many popular poems; among others, the national hymn, "God save the Tsar." The Gromoboï was the thunderbolt, personified as a horse.
  5. Vot kak.
  6. Literally, to be a noble (dvoryanin).
  7. Dō svidánya.
  8. On Easter Sunday, which comes in Russia twelve days later than in the West, it is the custom among the people, especially among the peasantry, when they meet, to say, "Kristos voskres" (Christ is risen), to which the answer is made, "Voïstinu voskres" (He is risen indeed). It is also permissible to bestow kisses promiscuously, and many avail themselves of this privilege wherever a pretty girl gives them occasion. The Russian peasant believes that Christ is actually on earth during the six weeks of Easter.
  9. Literally: Forth went the young (girl)  Out the new gate,  Out the new, the maple,  Out the grated (gate).  "Own father is stern  And unmerciful to me,  Does not let me divert myself  With a bachelor fellow to sport.  I don't heed (my) father;  I shall amuse the young (fellow)."
  10. Literally: Five sázhens, or about thirty-five feet.
  11. Starikashka, affectionate diminutive of starik.
  12. Golubótchek.
  13. Literally, Many beauties are in our aūls. Stars gleam in the darkness of their eyes. Dearly loves them, enviable fate. But the young man's will is happier. Don't marry, young fellow. Heed me.
  14. Literally: The moon rises  Both quiet and calm.  But the soldier lad  Goes to battle.  He loads his gun,  And the girl tells him,  My dear, boldly  Trust thyself to fate.
  15. These last six lines are in the Malo-Russian dialect; almost every noun a diminutive. The last two lines read literally, And the little shonkárka has black little brows. Hammered little heel-rings (podkivki).