Now for something quite different.
I keep declaring: “something different, something different,” yet I keep on scribbling of nothing but myself. Yet I have announced a thousand times already that I don’t want to describe myself at all, and I firmly meant not to do so when I began my story: I quite understand that I’m not of the slightest interest to the reader. I am describing and want to describe other people, not myself, and if I keep coming in it’s only a lamentable mistake, because I can’t avoid it, however much I should like to. What I regret most is that I describe my own adventures with such heat; by doing so I give ground for supposing that I am still the same as I was. The reader will remember, however, that I have exclaimed more than once, “Oh, if one could only change the past and begin all over again!” I could not have uttered that exclamation if I were not radically changed and had not become an entirely different man now; that is quite evident. And no one can imagine how sick I am of these apologies and prefaces, which I am continually forced to squeeze into the very middle of my narrative!
After nine days’ unconsciousness I came to myself, regenerated but not reformed; my regeneration was a stupid one, however, of course, if the word is taken in the wide sense, and perhaps if it had happened now it would have been different. The idea, or rather the feeling, that possessed me was, as it had been a thousand times before, the desire to get away altogether, but this time I meant to go away, not as in the past, when I had so often considered the project and been incapable of carrying it out. I didn’t want to revenge myself on anyone, and I give my word of honour that I did not, though I had been insulted by all of them. I meant to go away without loathing, without cursing, and never to return, but I wanted to do this by my own effort, and by real effort unassisted by any one of them, or by anyone in the whole world; yet I was almost on the point of being reconciled with every one! I record this absorbing dream not as a thought, but as an overwhelming sensation. I did not care to formulate it as long as I was in bed. Sick and helpless I lay in Versilov’s room, which they had given up to me; I recognized, with a pang, how abjectly helpless I was.
What was tossing on the bed was not a man but a feeble straw, and this impotence was not only through illness — and how degrading I felt it! And so from the very depth of my being, from all the forces in me, a protest began to rise, and I was choking with a feeling of infinitely exaggerated pride and defiance. Indeed, I can’t remember any time in my whole life when I was so full of arrogant feeling as I was during the early days of my convalescence, that is, while I was tossing like a weak straw on my bed.
But for the time I held my peace, and even made up my mind not to think of anything! I kept peeping at their faces, trying to guess from them all I wanted to know. It was evident that they too did not want to ask questions or be inquisitive, but talked of something irrelevant. This pleased me and at the same time mortified me; I won’t attempt to explain the contradiction. I did not see Liza so often as my mother, though she came in to see me every day, and indeed twice a day. From fragments of their talk and from their whole air I gathered that Liza had a great deal on her hands and that she was indeed often absent from home on business of her own: the very fact that she could have “business of her own” was something like a grievance to me; but all these were morbid, purely physical, sensations, which are not worth describing. Tatyana Pavlovna came, too, almost daily to see me, and though she was by no means tender with me, she did not abuse me as usual, which annoyed me extremely — so much so that I said to her openly: “You know, Tatyana Pavlovna, when you’re not scolding you are very tedious.” “Well, then, I won’t come and see you,” she blurted out, and went away. And I was pleased that I had got rid of one of them, at least.
Most of all I worried my mother; I was irritable with her. I developed a terrific appetite and grumbled very much that the meals were late (and they never were late). Mother did not know how to satisfy me. Once she brought some soup, and began, as usual, feeding me with it herself, and I kept grumbling as I ate it. And suddenly I felt vexed that I was grumbling: “She is perhaps the only one I love, and I am tormenting her.” But I was none the less ill-humoured, and I suddenly began to cry from ill-humour; and she, poor darling, thought I was crying from tenderness, stooped down and began kissing me. I restrained myself and endured it, but at that instant I positively hated her. But I always loved my mother, and at that very time I loved her and did not hate her at all, but it happened as it always does — that the one you love best you treat worst.
The only person I hated in those days was the doctor. He was a young man with a conceited air, who talked abruptly and even rudely, as though all these scientific people had only yesterday discovered something special, when in reality nothing special had happened; but the “mediocrity,” the man in the street, is always like that. I restrained myself for a long time, but at last I suddenly broke out and informed him before every one that he was hanging about unnecessarily, that I should get better just as well without him; that, though he looked like a scientific man, he was filled with nothing but conventional ideas and did not even understand that medicine had never cured anyone; that, in fact, he was in all probability grossly ill-educated, “like all the specialists who had become so high and mighty among us of late years.” The doctor was very much offended (showing by that very fact that he was that sort of person); however, he still came as before. I told Versilov at last that if the doctor did not give up coming, that I should say something to him ten times as disagreeable. Versilov only observed that it was impossible to say anything even twice as disagreeable as I had said, let alone ten times. I was pleased at his saying that.
He was a man, though! I am speaking of Versilov. He, he was the sole cause of it all, and, strange to say, he was the only one towards whom I did not feel resentful. It was not only his manner to me that won me over. I imagine that we felt at that time that we owed each other many explanations . . . and for that very reason it would be our best course never to explain. It’s extremely pleasant in such situations to have to do with a man of intelligence: I have mentioned already, in the second part of my story, that he told me briefly and clearly of Prince Sergay’s letter to me about Zerstchikov, about what he, Prince Sergay, had said to the latter, and so on. As I had made up my mind to keep quiet, I only asked him two or three brief questions; he answered them clearly and exactly but entirely without superfluous words and, what was best of all, without feeling. I was afraid of superfluous feeling at that time.
I said nothing about Lambert, but the reader will readily understand that I thought a great deal about him. In my delirium I spoke more than once about Lambert; but, recovering from my delirium and looking about me, I quickly reflected that everything about Lambert remained a secret, and that every one, even Versilov, knew nothing about him. Then I was relieved and my fears passed away; but I was mistaken, as I found out later to my astonishment. He had come to the house during my illness, but Versilov said nothing to me about it, and I concluded that Lambert had lost all trace of me for ever. Nevertheless, I often thought of him; what is more, I thought of him not only without repulsion, not only with curiosity, but even with sympathy, as though foreseeing from him something new, some means of escape in harmony with my new feelings and plans. In short, I made up my mind to think over Lambert as soon as I should be ready to think over anything. I will note one strange fact: I had entirely forgotten where he lived and in what street it had all happened. The room, Alphonsine, the lap-dog, the corridor, all I remembered, so that I could have sketched them at once; but where it had all happened — that is, in what street and in what house — I had utterly forgotten. And, what is strangest of all, I only realized this three or four days after I had regained complete consciousness, when I had been occupied with the thought of Lambert for a long time.
These, then, were my first sensations on my resurrection. I have noted only what was most on the surface, and most probably I was not able to detect what was most important. In reality, perhaps, what was really most important was even then taking shape and becoming defined in my heart; I was not, of course, always vexed and resentful simply at my broth’s not being brought me. Oh, I remember how sad I was then and how depressed, especially at moments when I had remained a long while alone. As ill-luck would have it, they soon saw that I was dreary with them and that their sympathy irritated me, and they began more and more often to leave me alone — a superfluous delicacy of perception on their part.
On the fourth day of consciousness I was lying in my bed at three o’clock in the afternoon, and there was no one with me. It was a bright day, and I knew that at four o’clock, when the sun would set, its slanting red rays would fall on the corner of my wall, and throw a patch of glaring light upon it. I knew that from the days before, and that that would certainly happen in an hour’s time, and above all, that I knew of this beforehand, as certainly as twice two make four, exasperated me to fury. I turned round impulsively and suddenly, in the midst of the profound stillness, I clearly distinguished the words: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.” The words were pronounced in a half-whisper, and were followed by a deep-drawn sigh, and then everything was still again. I raised my head quickly.
I had before, that is the previous day, and even the day before that, noticed something special in our three rooms downstairs. In the little room beyond the dining-room where mother and Liza were accustomed to sleep, there was evidently now some one else. I had more than once heard sounds, both by day and by night, but only for brief moments, and complete stillness followed immediately and lasted for several hours, so that I took no notice of the sounds. The thought had occurred to me the evening before that Versilov was in there, especially as he soon afterwards came in to me, though I knew for a fact from their conversation that during my illness Versilov had been sleeping out in another lodging. I had known for some time past that mother and Liza had moved into my former “coffin” upstairs (to make it quieter for me, I imagined) and I had even once wondered how the two of them could have possibly fitted themselves into it. And now it suddenly appeared that there was some person living in their old room, and that that person was not Versilov. With an ease which I had not the least expected (for I had till then imagined I was quite helpless) I dropped my feet over the bed, slipped them into slippers, threw on a grey astrachan dressing-gown which lay close at hand (Versilov had sacrificed it for my benefit), and made my way through the parlour to what had been mother’s bedroom. What I saw there completely astounded me; I had never expected anything of the kind, and I stood still in the doorway petrified. There was sitting there a very grey-headed old man, with a big and very white beard, and it was clear that he had been sitting there for a long time. He was not sitting on the bed but on mother’s little bench, resting his back against the bed. He held himself so upright, however, that he hardly seemed to need a support for his back, though he was evidently ill. He had over his shirt a short jacket lined with fur. His knees were covered with mother’s plaid, and on his feet were slippers. He was, it could be discerned, tall, broad-shouldered, and of a hale appearance, in spite of his invalid state, though he was somewhat thin and looked ill. He had rather a long face and thick but not very long hair; he looked about seventy. On a little table, within reach, lay three or four books and a pair of silver-rimmed spectacles. Though I had not the slightest idea of meeting him, I guessed instantly who he was, though I was still unable to imagine how he could have been sitting all those days, almost beside me, so quietly that till that time I had heard nothing of him.
He did not stir on seeing me, he looked intently at me in silence, just as I did at him, the only difference being that I stared at him with the greatest astonishment, and he looked at me without the slightest. Scrutinizing me, on the contrary, from head to foot during those five or ten seconds of silence, he suddenly smiled and even laughed a gentle noiseless laugh, and though the laugh was soon over, traces of its serene gaiety remained upon his face and above all in his eyes, which were very blue, luminous and large, though they were surrounded by innumerable wrinkles, and the eyelids were swollen and drooping. This laugh of his was what had most effect on me.
I consider that in the majority of cases people are revolting to look at when they are laughing. As a rule something vulgar, something as it were degrading, comes to the surface when a man laughs, though he is almost unconscious of the impression he is making in his mirth, as little in fact as anyone knows what he looks like when he is asleep. One person’s face will look intelligent asleep, while another man, intelligent in waking life, will look stupid and ridiculous when he is sleeping. I don’t know what this is due to: I only mean to say that people laughing, like people asleep, have no idea what they look like. The vast majority of people don’t know how to laugh at all. It is not a matter of knowing how, though: it’s a gift and it cannot be cultivated. One can only cultivate it, perhaps, by training oneself to be different, by developing and improving and by struggling against the evil instincts of one’s character: then a man’s laugh might very likely change for the better. A man will sometimes give himself away completely by his laugh, and you suddenly know him through and through. Even an unmistakably intelligent laugh will sometimes be repulsive. What is most essential in laughter is sincerity, and where is one to find sincerity? A good laugh must be free from malice, and people are constantly laughing maliciously. A sincere laugh free from malice is gaiety, and where does one find gaiety nowadays? People don’t know how to be gay (Versilov made this observation about gaiety and I remember it). A man’s gaiety is what most betrays the whole man from head to foot. Sometimes one will be for a long time unable to read a character, but if the man begins to laugh his whole character will suddenly lie open before you. It is only the loftiest and happiest natures whose gaiety is infectious, that is, good-hearted and irresistible. I am not talking of intellectual development, but of character, of the whole man. And so if you want to see into a man and to understand his soul, don’t concentrate your attention on the way he talks or is silent, on his tears, or the emotion he displays over exalted ideas; you will see through him better when he laughs. If a man has a good laugh, it means that he is a good man. Take note of every shade; a man’s laugh must never, for instance, strike you as stupid, however gay and good-humoured be may be. If you notice the slightest trace of stupidity in his laughter, you may be sure that that man is of limited intelligence, though he is continually dropping ideas wherever he goes. Even if his laugh is not stupid, but the man himself strikes you as being ever so little ridiculous when he laughs, you may be sure that the man is deficient in personal dignity, to some extent anyway. Or if the laughter though infectious, strikes you for some reason as vulgar, you may be sure that that man’s nature is vulgar, and all the generous and lofty qualities you have observed in him before are either intentionally assumed or unconsciously borrowed and that the man is certain to deteriorate, to go in for the profitable, and to cast off his noble ideas without regret as the errors and enthusiasm of youth.
I am intentionally introducing here this long tirade on the subject of laughter and am sacrificing the continuity of my story for the sake of it, for I consider it one of the most valuable deductions I have drawn from life, and I particularly recommend it to the attention of girls who are ready to accept the man of their choice, but are still hesitating and watching him mistrustfully, unable to make their final decision: and don’t let them jeer at a wretched raw youth for obtruding his moral reflections on marriage, a subject which he knows nothing about. But I only understand that laughter is the surest test of the heart. Look at a baby — some children know how to laugh to perfection; a crying baby is disgusting to me, but a laughing, merry one is a sunbeam from paradise, it is a revelation from the future, when man will become at last as pure and simple-hearted as a child. And, indeed, there was something childlike and incredibly attractive in the momentary laughter of this old man. I went up to him at once.
“Sit down, sit down a bit, you can scarcely stand on your legs, I dare say,” he urged me, motioning me to a seat beside him, and still gazing into my face with the same luminous gaze. I sat down beside him and said:
“I know you, you are Makar Ivanovitch.”
“Yes, darling. It’s very good that you are up. You are young, it is good for you. The old monk looks towards the grave, but the young must live.”
“But are you ill?”
“Yes, dear, chiefly in my legs; my feet brought me as far as the door, and here I’ve sat down and they are swollen. I’ve had it since last Friday when there were degrees” (i.e. when there was a frost) “I used to rub them with ointment you see; the year before last the doctor, Edmond Karlovitch, prescribed it me in Moscow, and the ointment did good, aye, it did good; but now it’s no use. And my chest, too, is choked up. And since yesterday my spine has been bad, as though dogs were gnawing it. . . . I don’t sleep at nights.”
“How is it I haven’t heard you here at all?” I broke in. He looked at me as though considering something.
“Only don’t wake your mother,” he added as though suddenly remembering something. “She has been busy close at hand all night, and as quiet as a mouse; and now I know she is lying down. Ach, it’s bad for a sick monk,” he sighed; “the soul hangs by a thread it seems, yet it still holds on, and still is glad of the light; and it seems, if all life were to begin over again the soul would not shrink even from that; though maybe such a thought is sinful.”
“Such a thought is a dream, and the old monk should take leave with blissful resignation. Again, if one goes to meet death with murmur or repining that is a great sin, but if from the gladness of the spirit one has grown to love life, I fancy God will forgive, even a monk. It’s hard for a man to tell of every sin what is sinful and what is not; therein is mystery passing the mind of man. A monk must be content at all times, and ought to die in the full light of his understanding, in holy peace and blessedness, filled full with days, yearning for his last hour, and rejoicing when he is gathered as the ear of wheat to the sheaf, and has fulfilled his mystery.”
“You keep talking of ‘mystery’; what does it mean ‘having fulfilled his mystery’?” I asked, and looked round towards the door. I was glad that we were alone, and that all around the stillness was unbroken. The setting sun cast a dazzling light on the window. His talk was rather highflown and rambling, but very sincere; there was a sort of intense exaltation in it, as though he really were delighted at my coming. But I noticed unmistakable signs that he was feverish, extremely so in fact. I, too, was ill; I, too, had been in a fever, from the moment I went in to him.
“What is the mystery? Everything is a mystery, dear; in all is God’s mystery. In every tree, in every blade of grass that same mystery lies hid. Whether the tiny bird of the air is singing, or the stars in all their multitudes shine at night in heaven, the mystery is one, ever the same. And the greatest mystery of all is what awaiteth the soul of man in the world beyond. So it is, dear!”
“I don’t know in what sense you . . . I am not speaking, of course, to tease you, and I assure you I believe in God; but all these mysteries have long been discovered by human intelligence, or if they have not yet been discovered they will be, for certain, and probably in a very short time. The botanist knows perfectly well how the tree grows. The psychologist and the anatomist know why the bird sings, or soon will know, and as for the stars, they are not only all counted, but all their motions have been calculated with the greatest exactitude, so that they can predict even a thousand years beforehand the very minute of the appearance of some comet . . . and now even the composition of the most remote star is known. You take a microscope, that is a sort of magnifying glass that magnifies a thousand times, and look through it at a drop of water, and you will see in it a whole new world, a whole world of living creatures, yet this, too, was once a mystery, but it has been revealed by science.”
“I’ve heard about that, darling, I have heard folk tell of it more than once. To be sure, it’s a great and glorious thing; all has been vouchsafed to man by God’s will; not for naught did the Lord breathe into him the breath of life; ‘live and learn.’”
“That’s a commonplace. You’re not antagonistic to science though, not a clerical? though I don’t know whether you’ll understand?”
“No, darling, I did not study science in my youth, and though I am not learned I do not repine at that; if it’s not for me it will be for another. Maybe better so, for every man has his allotted part, for science, dear, is not of use for all. All men are unbridled, each wants to astonish all the world, and I should have perhaps more than all if I had been learned. But now being very unlearned, how can I be puffed up when I know nothing? You, now, are young and clever, you must study — such is the lot ordained you. Understand all things, that when you meet an infidel or an evil-doer you may be able to answer him, and he may not lead you astray with his frantic words, or confound your unripe thoughts. That glass I saw not so long ago.”
He took breath and heaved a sigh. There was no doubt that my coming in was a source of great satisfaction to him. His desire to be communicative was almost morbid. What is more, I am certainly not mistaken in declaring that at moments he looked at me with extraordinary affection; he laid his hand on mine caressingly, stroked me on the shoulder . . . though there were minutes when I must confess he seemed to forget all about me, as though he had been sitting alone, and though he went on talking warmly, it seemed at times as though he were talking to the air.
“In the Gennadiev desert, dear, there lives a man of great understanding. He is of noble birth, and by rank a major, and he has great possessions. When he lived in the world he would not be bound by marriage; he has been withdrawn from the world for nearly ten years, loving still and silent resting-places, and keeping his heart free from worldly vanities. He follows all the monastic rules, but will not become a monk, and he has so many books, dear, as I have never seen in any other man’s possession; he told me himself that his books were worth eight thousand roubles. His name is Pyotr Valerianitch. He has taught me a great deal at different times, and I loved listening to him exceedingly. I said to him once: ‘How is it, sir, that with your great understanding, after living here ten years in monastic obedience, and in complete renunciation of your will, how is it you don’t take honourable vows, so as to be still more perfect,’ and he said to me thereupon, “You talk of my understanding, old man, but perhaps my understanding has held me in bondage and I have not kept it in submission. And you speak of my obedience; maybe I’ve long since lost the right measure for myself. And you talk of the renunciation of my will; I am ready to be deprived of my money on the spot and to give up my rank and to lay all my medals and ribbons on the table, but my pipe of tobacco, though I’ve been struggling for ten years, I can’t do without. What sort of a monk should I be, and how could you glorify the renunciation of my will?’ And I marvelled then at this humility. Well, last year, about St. Peter’s day, I went again to that desert — the Lord led me there — and I saw standing in his cell that very thing, a microscope; he had ordered it for a great sum of money from abroad. ‘Stay,’ said he, ‘old man, I’ll show you a marvellous thing you have never hitherto looked upon; you see a drop of water as pure as a tear; well, look what is in it and you will see that the mechanicians will soon seek out all the mysteries of God and not leave one for either you or me!’ That is what he said, I remember. But I had looked through such a microscope thirty-five years before that, at Alexandr Vladimirovitch Malgasov’s, who was our old master, Andrey Petrovitch’s maternal uncle. It was from him the property came on his death to Andrey Petrovitch. He was a grand gentleman, a great general, and he used to keep a pack of hounds, and I lived many years with him as huntsman; so he, too, set up this microscope; he brought it with him, and he told all the servants to come up one after another, male and female, and look through; he showed them a flea and a louse and the end of a needle, and a hair and a drop of water. And it was diverting, they were afraid to go up and afraid of the master — he was hasty. Some did not know how to look properly, and the elder saw nothing; others were frightened and cried out; the elder Savin Makarov covered his eyes with both hands and cried, ‘Do what you will with me, I won’t go near!’ There was much foolish laughter. I didn’t confess to Pyotr Valerianitch, though, that I had seen this marvel before more than thirty-five years ago, because I saw it was a great pleasure to him showing it; I began, on the contrary, admiring it and marvelling. He waited a bit and asked, ‘Well, old man, what do you say now?’ And I lifted myself up and said to him, ‘The Lord said, Let there be light and there was light,’ and thereupon he said to me all at once, ‘And was there not darkness?’ And he said that so strangely, he did not even laugh. I wondered at him then, and he seemed to be angered and said no more.”
“The fact of the matter is your Pyotr Valerianitch is eating rice and raisins in the monastery, and bowing to the ground, while he does not believe in God, and you hit on the wrong moment, that’s all,” I said. “And what’s more, he is rather an absurd person: I suppose he must have seen that microscope a dozen times before, why should he go off his head when he saw it for the thirteenth? What nervous susceptibility . . . he must have got that from living in a monastery.”
“He was a man of pure life and lofty mind,” the old man pronounced impressively, “and he was not an infidel. There was a cloud over his mind and his heart was not at peace. Very many such men have come nowadays from the ranks of the gentry and learned. And something more I will tell you, a man punishes himself. But you watch them and do not worry them, and before you lie down to sleep at night remember them in your prayers, for such are seeking God. Do you pray at night?”
“No, I regard it as an empty ceremony. I must own, though, that I like your Pyotr Valerianitch. He’s not a man of straw, anyway, but a real person, rather like a man very near and well-known to us both.”
The old man only paid attention to the first part of my answer.
“You’re wrong, my dear, not to pray; it is a good thing, it cheers the heart before sleep, and rising up from sleep and awakening in the night. Let me tell you this. In the summer in July we were hastening to the monastery of Our Lady for the holy festival. The nearer we got to the place the greater the crowd of people, and at last there were almost two hundred of us gathered together, all hastening to kiss the holy and miraculous relics of the two great saints, Aniky and Grigory. We spent the night, brother, in the open country, and I waked up early in the morning when all was still sleeping and the dear sun had not yet peeped out from behind the forest. I lifted up my head, dear, I gazed about me and sighed. Everywhere beauty passing all utterance! All was still, the air was light; the grass grows — Grow, grass of God, the bird sings — Sing, bird of God, the babe cries in the woman’s arms — God be with you, little man; grow and be happy, little babe! And it seemed that only then for the first time in my life I took it all in. . . . I lay down again, I slept so sweetly. Life is sweet, dear! If I were better, I should like to go out again in the spring. And that it’s a mystery makes it only the better; it fills the heart with awe and wonder and that awe maketh glad the heart: ‘All is in Thee my Lord, and I, too, am in Thee; have me in Thy keeping.’ Do not repine, young man; it is even more beautiful because it is a mystery,” he added fervently.
“It’s the more beautiful for being a mystery. . . . I will remember those words. You express yourself very inaccurately, but I understand you. . . . It strikes me that you understand and know a great deal more than you can express; only you seem to be in delirium.” . . . I added abruptly, looking at his feverish eyes and pale face. But he did not seem to hear my words.
“Do you know, dear young man,” he began again, as though going on with what he had been saying before: “Do you know there is a limit to the memory of a man on this earth? The memory of a man is limited to a hundred years. For a hundred years after his death his children or his grandchildren who have seen his face can still remember him, but after that though his memory may still remain, it is only by hearsay, in thought, for all who have seen his living face have gone before. And his grave in the churchyard is overgrown with grass, the stones upon it crumble away, and all men, and even his children’s children, forget him; afterwards they forget even his name, for only a few are kept in the memory of men — and so be it! You may forget me, dear ones, but I love you from the tomb. I hear, my children, your gay voices; I hear your steps on the graves of your kin; live for a while in the sunshine, rejoice and I will pray to God for you, I will come to you in your dreams . . . it is all the same — even in death is love! . . . .”
I was myself in the same feverish state as he was; instead of going away or persuading him to be quiet, or perhaps putting him to bed, for he seemed quite delirious, I suddenly seized his arm and bending down to him and squeezing his hand, I said in an excited whisper, with inward tears:
“I am glad of you. I have been waiting a long time for you, perhaps. I don’t like any of them; there is no ‘seemliness’ in them . . . I won’t follow them, I don’t know where I’m going, I’ll go with you.” . . . But luckily mother suddenly came in, or I don’t know how it would have ended. She came in only just awake and looking agitated; in her hand she had a tablespoon and a glass; seeing us she exclaimed:
“I knew it would be so! I am late with his quinine and he’s all in a fever! I overslept myself, Makar Ivanovitch, darling!”
I got up and went out. She gave him his quinine and put him to bed. I, too, lay down on mine in a state of great excitement. I tossed about pondering on this meeting with intense interest and curiosity. What I expected from it I don’t know. Of course, my reasoning was disconnected, and not thoughts but fragments of thoughts flitted through my brain. I lay with my face to the wall, and suddenly I saw in the corner the patch of glowing light which I had been looking forward to with such curses, and now I remember my whole soul seemed to be leaping for joy, and a new light seemed penetrating to my heart. I remember that sweet moment and I do not want to forget it. It was only an instant of new hope and new strength. . . . I was convalescent then, and therefore such transports may have been the inevitable result of the state of my nerves; but I have faith even now in that bright hope — that is what I wanted to record and to recall. Of course, even then I knew quite well that I should not go on a pilgrimage with Makar Ivanovitch, and that I did not know the nature of the new impulse that had taken hold of me, but I had pronounced one word, though in delirium, “There is no seemliness in their lives!” “Of course,” I thought in a frenzy, “from this minute I am seeking ‘seemliness,’ and they have none of it, and that is why I am leaving them.”
There was a rustle behind me, I turned round: mother stood there bending down to me and looking with timid inquiry into my face. I took her hand.
“Why did you tell me nothing about our dear guest, mother?” I asked suddenly, not knowing I was going to say it. All the uneasiness vanished from her face at once, and there was a flush as it were of joy, but she made me no reply except the words:
“Liza, don’t forget Liza, either; you’ve forgotten Liza.”
She said this in a hurried murmur, flushing crimson, and would have made haste to get away, for above all things she hated displaying her feelings, and in that she was like me, that is reverent and delicate; of course, too, she would not care to begin on the subject of Makar Ivanovitch with me; what we could say to each other with our eyes was quite enough. But though I hated demonstrativeness, I still kept her by her hand; I looked tenderly into her eyes, and laughed softly and tenderly, and with my other hand stroked her dear face, her hollow cheeks. She bent down and pressed her forehead to mine.
“Well, Christ be with you,” she said suddenly, standing up, beaming all over: “get well, I shall count on your doing so. He is ill, very ill. Life is in God’s hands. . . . Ach, what have I said, oh that could not be! . . .”
She went away. All her life, in fear and trembling and reverence, she had honoured her legal husband, the monk, Makar Ivanovitch, who with large-hearted generosity had forgiven her once and for ever.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07