I had not ‘forgotten’ Liza; mother was mistaken. The keen-sighted mother saw that there was something like coolness between brother and sister, but it was rather jealousy than lack of love. In view of what followed, I will explain in a couple of words. Ever since Prince Sergay’s arrest, poor Liza had shown a sort of conceited pride, an unapproachable haughtiness, almost unendurable; but every one in the house knew the truth and understood how she was suffering, and if at first I scowled and was sulky at her manner with us, it was simply owing to my petty irritability, increased tenfold by illness — that is how I explain it now. I had not ceased to love Liza; on the contrary, I loved her more than ever, only I did not want to be the first to make advances, though I understood that nothing would have induced her either to make the first advances.
As soon as all the facts came out about Prince Sergay, that is, immediately after his arrest, Liza made haste at once to take up an attitude to us, and to every one else, that would not admit of the possibility of sympathy or any sort of consolation and excuses for Prince Sergay. On the contrary, she seemed continually priding herself on her luckless lover’s action as though it were the loftiest heroism, though she tried to avoid all discussion of the subject. She seemed every moment to be telling us all (though I repeat that she did not utter a word), ‘None of you would do the same — you would not give yourself up at the dictates of honour and duty, none of you have such a pure and delicate conscience! And as for his misdeeds, who has not evil actions upon his conscience? Only every one conceals them, and this man preferred facing ruin to remaining ignoble in his own eyes.’ This seemed to be expressed by every gesture Liza made. I don’t know, but I think in her place I should have behaved almost in the same way. I don’t know either whether those were the thoughts in her heart, in fact I privately suspect that they were not. With the other, clear part of her reason, she must have seen through the insignificance of her ‘hero,’ for who will not agree now that that unhappy man, noble-hearted in his own way as he was, was at the same time an absolutely insignificant person? This very haughtiness and as it were antagonism towards us all, this constant suspiciousness that we were thinking differently of him, made one surmise that in the secret recesses of her heart a very different judgment of her unhappy friend had perhaps been formed. But I hasten to add, however, that in my eyes she was at least half right; it was more pardonable for her than for any of us to hesitate in drawing the final conclusion. I will admit with my whole heart that even now, when all is over, I don’t know at all how to judge the unhappy man who was such a problem to us all.
Home was beginning to be almost a little hell on account of her. Liza whose love was so intense was bound to suffer terribly. It was characteristic of her to prefer to suffer in silence. Her character was like mine, proud and domineering, and I thought then, and I think now that it was that that made her love Prince Sergay, just because he had no will at all, and that from the first word, from the first hour, he was utterly in subjection to her. This comes about of itself, in the heart, without any preliminary calculation; but such a love, the love of the strong woman for the weak man, is sometimes incomparably more intense and more agonizing than the love of equal characters, because the stronger unconsciously undertakes responsibility for the weaker. That is what I think at any rate.
All the family from the first surrounded her with the tenderest care, especially mother; but Liza was not softened, she did not respond to sympathy, and seemed to repulse every sort of help. At first she did talk to mother, but every day she became more reluctant to speak, more abrupt and even more harsh. She asked Versilov’s advice at first, but soon afterwards she chose Vassin for her counsellor and helper, as I learned afterwards with surprise . . . .
She went to see Vassin every day; she went to the law courts, too, by Prince Sergay’s instructions; she went to the lawyers, to the crown prosecutor; she came in the end to being absent from home for whole days together. Twice a day, of course, she visited Prince Sergay, who was in prison, in the division for noblemen, but these interviews, as I was fully convinced later, were very distressing to Liza. Of course no third person can judge of the relations of two lovers. But I know that Prince Sergay was always wounding her deeply, and by what do you suppose? Strange to say, by his continual jealousy. Of that, however, I will speak later; but I will add one thought on the subject: it would be hard to decide which of them tormented the other more. Though with us she prided herself on her hero, Liza perhaps behaved quite differently alone with him; I suspect so indeed from various facts, of which, however, I will also speak later.
And so, as regards my feeling and my attitude towards Liza, any external change there was was only simulated, a jealous deception on both sides, but we had never loved each other more than at that time. I must add, too, that though Liza showed surprise and interest when Makar Ivanovitch first arrived, she had since for some reason begun to treat him almost disdainfully, even contemptuously. She seemed intentionally to take not the slightest notice of him.
Having inwardly vowed “to be silent,” as I explained in the previous chapter, I expected, of course theoretically, that is in my dreams, to keep my word. Oh, with Versilov, for instance, I would have sooner begun talking of zoology or of the Roman Emperors, than of HER for example, or of that most important line in his letter to her, in which he informed her that ‘the document was not burnt but in existence’— a line on which I began pondering to myself again as soon as I had begun to recover and come to my senses after my fever. But alas! from the first steps towards practice, and almost before the first steps, I realized how difficult and impossible it was to stick to such resolutions: the day after my first acquaintance with Makar Ivanovitch, I was fearfully excited by an unexpected circumstance.
I was excited by an unexpected visit from Darya Onisimovna, the mother of the dead girl, Olya. From my mother I had heard that she had come once or twice during my illness, and that she was very much concerned about my condition. Whether “that good woman,” as my mother always called her when she spoke of her, had come entirely on my account, or whether she had come to visit my mother in accordance with an established custom, I did not ask. Mother usually told me all the news of the household to entertain me when she came with my soup to feed me (before I could feed myself): I always tried to appear uninterested in these domestic details, and so I did not ask about Darya Onisimovna; in fact, I said nothing about her at all.
It was about eleven o’clock; I was just meaning to get out of bed and install myself in the armchair by the table, when she came in. I purposely remained in bed. Mother was very busy upstairs and did not come down, so that we were left alone. She sat down on a chair by the wall facing me, smiled and said not a word. I foresaw this pause, and her entrance altogether made an irritating impression on me. Without even nodding to her, I looked her straight in the face, but she too looked straight at me.
“Are you dull in your flat now the prince has gone?” I asked, suddenly losing patience.
“No, I am not in that flat now. Through Anna Andreyevna I am looking after his honour’s baby now.”
“Andrey Petrovitch’s,” she brought out in a confidential whisper, glancing round towards the door.
“Why, but there’s Tatyana Pavlovna . . . .”
“Yes, Tatyana Pavlovna, and Anna Andreyevna, both of them, and Lizaveta Makarovna also, and your mamma . . . all of them. They all take an interest; Tatyana Pavlovna and Anna Andreyevna are great friends now.”
A piece of news! She grew much livelier as she talked. I looked at her with hatred.
“You are much livelier than when you came to see me last.”
“I think, you’ve grown stouter?”
She looked strangely at me:
“I have grown very fond of her, very.”
“Fond of whom?”
“Why, Anna Andreyevna. Very fond. Such a noble young lady, and with such judgment . . . .”
“You don’t say so! What about her, how are things now?”
“She is very quiet, very.”
“She was always quiet.”
“If you’ve come here with scandal,” I cried suddenly, unable to restrain myself, “let me tell you that I won’t have anything to do with it, I have decided to drop . . . everything, every one. . . . I don’t care — I am going away! . . .”
I ceased suddenly, for I realized what I was doing. I felt it degrading to explain my new projects to her. She heard me without surprise and without emotion. But again a pause followed, again she got up, went to the door and peeped into the next room. Having assured herself that there was no one there, and we were alone, she returned with great composure and sat down in the same place as before.
“You did that prettily!” I laughed suddenly.
“You are keeping on your lodging at the clerk’s?” she asked suddenly, bending a little towards me, and dropping her voice as though this question were the chief object for which she had come.
“Lodging? I don’t know. Perhaps I shall give it up. How do I know?”
“They are anxiously expecting you: the man’s very impatient to see you, and his wife too. Andrey Petrovitch assured them you’d come back for certain.”
“But what is it to you?”
“Anna Andreyevna wanted to know, too; she was very glad to learn that you were staying.”
“How does she know so positively that I shall certainly stay on at that lodging?”
I wanted to add, “And what is it to her,” but I refrained from asking through pride.
“And M. Lambert said the same thing, too.”
“M. Lambert, he declared most positively to Andrey Petrovitch that you would remain, and he assured Anna Andreyevna of it, too.”
I felt shaken all over. What marvels! Then Lambert already knew Versilov, Lambert had found his way to Versilov — Lambert and Anna Andreyevna — he had found his way to her too! I felt overcome with fever, but I kept silent. My soul was flooded with a terrible rush of pride, pride or I don’t know what. But I suddenly said to myself at that moment, “If I ask for one word in explanation, I shall be involved in that world again, and I shall never have done with it.” There was a glow of hate in my heart. I resolutely made up my mind to be mute, and to lie without moving; she was silent too, for a full minute.
“What of Prince Nikolay Ivanovitch?” I asked suddenly, as though I had taken leave of my senses. The fact is, I asked simply to change the subject, and again I chanced to ask the leading question; like a madman I plunged back again into that world from which I had just before, with such a shudder, resolved to flee.
“His honour is at Tsarskoe Syelo. He is rather poorly; and as the hot days have begun in town, they all advised him to move to their house at Tsarskoe for the sake of the air.”
I made no answer.
“Madame and Anna Andreyevna visit him there twice a week, they go together.”
Anna Andreyevna and Madame (that is SHE) were friends then! They go together! I did not speak.
“They have become so friendly, and Anna Andreyevna speaks so highly of Katerina Nikolaevna . . . .”
I still remained silent.
“And Katerina Nikolaevna is in a whirl of society again; it’s one fête after another; she is making quite a stir; they say all the gentlemen at court are in love with her . . . and everything’s over with M. Büring, and there’s to be no wedding; so everybody declares . . . it’s been off ever since THEN.”
That is since Versilov’s letter. I trembled all over, but I did not utter a word.
“Anna Andreyevna is so sorry about Prince Sergay, and Katerina Nikolaevna too, and they all say that he will be acquitted and that Stebelkov will be condemned . . . .”
I looked at her with hatred. She got up and suddenly bent down to me.
“Anna Andreyevna particularly told me to find out how you are,” she said quite in a whisper; “and she particularly begged you to go and see her as soon as you begin to go out; good-bye. Make haste and get well and I’ll tell her . . . .”
She went away. I sat on the edge of the bed, a cold sweat came out on my forehead, but I did not feel terror: the incredible and grotesque news about Lambert and his machinations did not, for instance, fill me with horror in the least, as might have been expected from the dread, perhaps unaccountable, with which during my illness and the early days of my convalescence I recalled my meeting with him on that night. On the contrary, in that first moment of confusion, as I sat on the bed after Darya Onisimovna had gone, my mind did not dwell on Lambert, but . . . more than all I thought about the news of HER, of her rupture with Büring, and of her success in society, of her fêtes, of her triumphs, of the “stir” she was making. “She’s making quite a stir,” Darya Onisimovna’s phrase, was ringing in my ears. And I suddenly felt that I had not the strength to struggle out of that whirlpool; I had known how to control myself, to hold my tongue and not to question Darya Onisimovna after her tales of marvels! An overwhelming thirst for that life, for THEIR life, took possession of my whole spirit and . . . and another blissful thirst which I felt as a keen joy and an intense pain. My thoughts were in a whirl; but I let them whirl. . . . “Why be reasonable,” I felt. “Even mother kept Lambert’s coming a secret,” I thought, in incoherent snatches. “Versilov must have told her not to speak of it. . . . I would rather die than ask Versilov about Lambert!”
“Versilov,” the thought flashed upon me again. “Versilov and Lambert. Oh, what a lot that’s new among them! Bravo, Versilov! He frightened the German Büring with that letter; he libelled her, la calomnie . . . il en reste tonjours quelque chose, and the German courtier was afraid of the scandal. Ha! ha! it’s a lesson for her.”
“Lambert . . . surely Lambert hasn’t found his way to her? To be sure he has! Why shouldn’t she have an intrigue with him?”
At this point I suddenly gave up pondering on this senseless tangle, and sank back in despair with my head on my pillow. “But it shall not be,” I exclaimed with sudden determination. I jumped out of bed, put on my slippers and dressing-gown, and went straight to Makar Ivanovitch’s room, as though there were in it a talisman to repel all enticements, a means of salvation, and an anchor to which I could cling.
It may really have been that I was feeling this at the time with my whole soul; else why should I have leaped up with such a sudden and irresistible impulse and rushed in to Makar Ivanovitch in such a state of mind?
But to my surprise I found other people — my mother and the doctor — with Makar Ivanovitch. As I had for some reason imagined I should find the old man alone, as he had been yesterday, I stopped short in the doorway in blank amazement. Before I had time to frown, Versilov came in followed by Liza. . . . So they had all met for some reason in Makar Ivanovitch’s room “just when they were not wanted!”
“I have come to ask how you are,” I said, going straight up to Makar Ivanovitch.
“Thank you, my dear, I was expecting you; I knew you would come; I was thinking of you in the night.”
He looked into my face caressingly, and I saw that perhaps he liked me best of them all, but I could not help seeing instantly that, though his face was cheerful, his illness had made progress in the night. The doctor had only just been examining him very seriously. I learned afterwards that the doctor (the same young man with whom I had quarrelled had been treating Makar Ivanovitch ever since he arrived) had been very attentive to the patient and had diagnosed a complication of various diseases in him — but I don’t know their medical terms. Makar Ivanovitch, as I observed from the first glance, was on the warmest, friendliest terms with him; I disliked that at that instant; but I was of course in a very bad mood at the moment.
“Yes, Alexandr Semyonovitch, how is our dear invalid today,” inquired Versilov. If I had not been so agitated, it would have been most interesting to me to watch Versilov’s attitude to this old man; I had wondered about it the day before. What struck me most of all now was the extremely soft and pleasant expression in Versilov’s face, there was something perfectly sincere in it. I have noted already, I believe, that Versilov’s face became wonderfully beautiful as soon as it became ever so little kindly.
“Why, we keep quarrelling,” answered the doctor.
“With Makar Ivanovitch? I don’t believe it; it’s impossible to quarrel with him.”
“But he won’t obey; he doesn’t sleep at night . . . .”
“Come give over, Alexandr Semyonovitch, that’s enough scolding,” said Makar Ivanovitch laughing. “Well, Andrey Petrovitch, how have they treated our good lady? Here she’s been sighing and moaning all the morning, she’s worrying,” he added, indicating mother.
“Ach, Andrey Petrovitch,” cried my mother, who was really very uneasy; “do make haste and tell us, don’t keep us in suspense; how has it been settled for her, poor thing?”
“They have found her guilty and sentenced her!”
“Ach!” cried my mother.
“But not to Siberia, don’t distress yourself — to a fine of fifteen roubles, that’s all; it was a farce!”
He sat down, the doctor sat down too; they were talking of Tatyana Pavlovna; I knew nothing yet of what had happened. I sat down on Makar Ivanovitch’s left, and Liza sat opposite me on the right; she evidently had some special sorrow of her own to-day, with which she had come to my mother; there was a look of uneasiness and irritation in her face. At that moment we exchanged glances, and I thought to myself, “we are both disgraced, and I must make the first advances.” My heart was suddenly softened to her. Versilov meanwhile had begun describing what had happened that morning.
It seemed that Tatyana Pavlovna had had to appear before the justice of the peace that morning, on a charge brought against her by her cook. The whole affair was utterly absurd; I have mentioned already that the ill-tempered cook would sometimes, when she was sulky, refuse to speak, and would not say a word to her mistress for a whole week at a time. I mentioned, too, Tatyana’s weakness in regard to her, how she put up with anything from her and absolutely refused to get rid of her. All these whimsical caprices of old maiden ladies are, in my eyes, utterly beneath contempt and so undeserving of attention. And I only mention this story here because this cook is destined to play a leading and momentous part in the sequel of my story.
So Tatyana Pavlovna, driven out of all patience by the obstinate Finnish woman, who had refused to answer a word for several days, had suddenly at last struck her, a thing she had never done before. Even then the cook did not utter the slightest sound, but the same day she communicated the fact to a discharged midshipman called Osyetrov, who earned a precarious existence by undertaking cases of various sorts and of course, by getting up such cases as this for the courts. It had ended in Tatyana Pavlovna’s being summoned before the justice of the peace, and when the case was tried Versilov had for some reason appeared as a witness.
Versilov described all this with extraordinary gaiety and humour, so that even mother laughed; he even mimicked Tatyana Pavlovna and the midshipman and the cook. The cook had from the very beginning announced to the court that she wanted a money fine, “For if they put my mistress in prison, whom am I going to cook for?” In answer to the judge, Tatyana Pavlovna answered with immense condescension, not even deigning to defend herself; on the contrary, she had concluded with the words, “I did beat her and I shall do it again,” whereupon she was promptly fined three roubles for her impudent answer. The midshipman, a lean lanky young man, would have begun with a long speech in defence of his client, but broke down disgracefully to the amusement of the whole court.
The hearing was soon over, and Tatyana Pavlovna was condemned to pay fifteen roubles to the injured Marya.
Tatyana Pavlovna promptly drew out her purse, and proceeded on the spot to pay the money, whereupon the midshipman at once approached her, and was putting out his hand to take it, but Tatyana Pavlovna thrust aside his hand, almost with a blow, and turned to Marya. “Don’t you trouble, madam, you needn’t put yourself out, put it down in our accounts, I’ll settle with this fellow.” “See, Marya, what a lanky fellow you’ve picked out for yourself,” said Tatyana Pavlovna, pointing to the midshipman, hugely delighted that Marya had spoken to her at last.
“He is a lanky one to be sure,” Marya answered slily. “Did you order cutlets with peas? I did not hear this morning, I was in a hurry to get here.” “Oh no, with cabbage, Marya, and please don’t burn it to a cinder, as you did yesterday.” “No, I’ll do my best to-day, madam, let me have your hand,” and she kissed her mistress’s hand in token of reconciliation; she entertained the whole court in fact.
“Ah, what a woman!” said mother, shaking her head, very much pleased with the news and Andrey Petrovitch’s account of it, though she looked uneasily on the sly at Liza.
“She has been a self-willed lady from her childhood,” smiled Makar Ivanovitch.
“Spleen and idleness,” opined the doctor.
“Is it I am self-willed? Is it I am spleen and idleness?” asked Tatyana Pavlovna, coming in upon us suddenly, evidently very well pleased with herself. “It’s not for you to talk nonsense, Alexandr Semyonovitch; when you were ten years old, you knew whether I was idle, and you’ve been treating yourself for spleen for the last year and have not been able to cure yourself, so you ought to be ashamed; well, you’ve picked me to pieces enough; thanks for troubling to come to the court, Andrey Petrovitch. Well, how are you, Makarushka; it’s only you I’ve come to see, not this fellow,” she pointed to me, but at once gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder; I had never before seen her in such a good humour. “Well, how is he?” turning suddenly to the doctor and frowning anxiously.
“Why, he won’t lie in bed, and he only tires himself out sitting up like this.”
“Why, I only sit up like this a little, with company,” Makar Ivanovitch murmured with a face of entreaty, like a child’s.
“Yes, we like this, we like this; we like a little gossip when our friends gather round us; I know Makarushka,” said Tatyana Pavlovna.
“Yes you’re a quick one, you are! And there’s no getting over you; wait a bit, let me speak: I’ll lie down, darling, I’ll obey, but you know, to my thinking, ‘If you take to your bed, you may never get up,’ that’s what I’ve got at the back of my head, friend.”
“To be sure I knew that was it, peasant superstitions: ‘If I take to my bed,’ they say, ‘ten to one I shan’t get up,’ that’s what the peasants very often fear, and they would rather keep on their legs when they’re ill than go to a hospital. As for you, Makar Ivanovitch, you’re simply home-sick for freedom, and the open road — that’s all that’s the matter with you, you’ve got out of the habit of staying long in one place. Why, you’re what’s called a pilgrim, aren’t you? And tramping is almost a passion in our peasantry. I’ve noticed it more than once in them, our peasants are tramps before everything.”
“Then Makar is a tramp according to you?” Tatyana Pavlovna caught him up.
“Oh, I did not mean that, I used the word in a general sense. Well yes, a religious tramp, though he is a holy man, yet he is a tramp. In a good respectful sense, but a tramp. . . . I speak from the medical point of view . . . .”
“I assure you,” I addressed the doctor suddenly: “that you and I and all the rest here are more like tramps than this old man from whom you and I ought to learn, too, because he has a firm footing in life, while we all of us have no firm standpoint at all. . . . But how should you understand that, though!”
I spoke very cuttingly, it seemed, but I had come in feeling upset. I don’t know why I went on sitting there, and felt as though I were beside myself.
“What are you saying?” said Tatyana Pavlovna, looking at me suspiciously. “How did you find him, Makar Ivanovitch?” she asked, pointing her finger at me.
“God bless him, he’s a sharp one,” said the old man, with a serious air, but at the words “sharp one” almost every one laughed. I controlled myself somehow; the doctor laughed more than anyone. It was rather unlucky that I did not know at the time of a previous compact between them. Versilov, the doctor, and Tatyana Pavlovna had agreed three days before to do all they could to distract mother from brooding and apprehension on account of Makar Ivanovitch, whose illness was far more dangerous and hopeless than I had any suspicion of then. That’s why they were all making jokes, and trying to laugh. Only the doctor was stupid, and did not know how to make jokes naturally: that was the cause of all that followed. If I had known of their agreement at that time, I should not have done what I did. Liza knew nothing either.
I sat listening with half my mind; they talked and laughed and all the time my head was full of Darya Onisimovna, and her news, and I could not shake off the thought of her; I kept picturing how she had sat and looked, and had cautiously got up, and peeped into the next room. At last they all suddenly laughed. Tatyana Pavlovna, I don’t in the least know why, called the doctor an infidel: “Why, all you doctors are infidels!”
“Makar Ivanovitch!” said the doctor, very stupidly pretending to be offended and to be appealing to him as an umpire, “am I an infidel?”
“You an infidel? No you are not an infidel,” the old man answered sedately, looking at him instantly. “No, thank God!” he said, shaking his head: “you are a merry-hearted man.”
“And if a man’s merry-hearted, he’s not an infidel?” the doctor observed ironically.
“That’s in its own way an idea,” observed Versilov; he was not laughing, however.
“It’s a great idea,” I could not help exclaiming, struck by the thought.
The doctor looked round inquiringly.
“These learned people, these same professors” (probably they had been talking about professors just before), began Makar Ivanovitch, looking down: “at the beginning, ough, I was frightened of them. I was in terror in their presence, for I dreaded an infidel more than anything. I have only one soul, I used to think; what if I lose it, I shan’t be able to find another; but, afterwards, I plucked up heart. ‘After all,’ I thought, ‘they are not gods but just the same as we are, men of like passions with ourselves.’ And my curiosity was great. ‘I shall find out,’ I thought, ‘what this infidelity is like.’ But afterwards even that curiosity passed over.”
He paused, though he meant to go on, still with the same gentle sedate smile. There are simple souls who put complete trust in every, one, and have no suspicion of mockery. Such people are always of limited intelligence, for they are always ready to display all that is precious in their hearts to every newcomer. But in Makar Ivanovitch I fancied there was something else, and the impulse that led him to speak was different, and not only the innocence of simplicity: one caught glimpses as it were of the missionary in him. I even caught, with pleasure, some sly glances he bent upon the doctor, and even perhaps on Versilov. The conversation was evidently a continuation of a previous discussion between them the week before, but unluckily the fatal phrase which had so electrified me the day before cropped up in it again, and led me to an outburst which I regret to this day.
“I am afraid of the unbeliever, even now perhaps,” the old man went on with concentrated intensity; “only, friend Alexandr Semyonovitch, I tell you what, I’ve never met an infidel, but I have met worldly men; that’s what one must call them. They are of all sorts, big and little, ignorant and learned, and even some of the humblest class, but it’s all vanity. They read and argue all their lives, filling themselves with the sweetness of books, while they remain in perplexity and can come to no conclusion. Some quite let themselves go, and give up taking notice of themselves. Some grow harder than a stone and their hearts are full of wandering dreams; others become heartless and frivolous, and all they can do is to mock and jeer. Another will, out of books, gather some flowers, and those according to his own fancy; but he still is full of vanity, and there is no decision in him. And then again: there is a great deal of dreariness. The small man is in want, he has no bread and naught to keep his babes alive with, he sleeps on rough straw, and all the time his heart is light and merry; he is coarse and sinful, yet his heart is light. But the great man drinks too much, and eats too much, and sits on a pile of gold, yet there is nothing in his heart but gloom. Some have been through all the sciences, and are still depressed, and I fancy that the more intellect a man has, the greater his dreariness. And then again: they have been teaching ever since the world began, and to what good purpose have they taught, that the world might be fairer and merrier, and the abode of every sort of joy? And another thing I must tell you: they have no seemliness, they don’t even want it at all; all are ruined, but they boast of their own destruction; but to return to the one Truth, they never think; and to live without God is naught but torment. And it seems that we curse that whereby we are enlightened and know it not ourselves: and what’s the sense of it? It’s impossible to be a man and not bow down to something; such a man could not bear the burden of himself, nor could there be such a man. If he rejects God, then he bows down to an idol — fashioned of wood, or of gold, or of thought. They are all idolaters and not infidels, that is how we ought to describe them — though we can’t say there are no infidels. There are men who are downright infidels, only they are far more terrible than those others, for they come with God’s name on their lips. I have heard of them more than once, but I have not met them at all. There are such, friend, and I fancy, too, that there are bound to be.”
“There are, Makar Ivanovitch,” Versilov agreed suddenly: “there are such, ‘and there are bound to be.’”
“There certainly are, and ‘there are certainly bound to be,’” I burst out hotly, and impulsively, I don’t know why; but I was carried away by Versilov’s tone, and fascinated by a sort of idea in the words “there are bound to be.” The conversation was an absolute surprise to me. But at that minute something happened also quite unexpected.
It was a very bright day; by the doctor’s orders Makar Ivanovitch’s blind was as a rule not drawn up all day; but there was a curtain over the window now, instead of the blind, so that the upper part of the window was not covered; this was because the old man was miserable at not seeing the sun at all when he had the blind, and as we were sitting there the sun’s rays fell suddenly full upon Makar Ivanovitch’s face. At first, absorbed in conversation, he took no notice of it, but mechanically as he talked he several times turned his head on one side, because the bright sunlight hurt and irritated his bad eyes. Mother, standing beside him, glanced several times uneasily towards the window; all that was wanted was to screen the window completely with something, but to avoid interrupting the conversation she thought it better to try and move the bench on which Makar Ivanovitch was sitting a little to the right. It did not need to be moved more than six or at the most eight inches. She had bent down several times and taken hold of the bench, but could not move it; the bench with Makar Ivanovitch sitting on it would not move. Feeling her efforts unconsciously, in the heat of conversation, Makar Ivanovitch several times tried to get up, but his legs would not obey him. But mother went on straining all her strength to move it, and at last all this exasperated Liza horribly. I noticed several angry irritated looks from her, but for the first moment I did not know to what to ascribe them, besides I was carried away by the conversation. And I suddenly heard her almost shout sharply to Makar Ivanovitch:
“Do get up, if it’s ever so little: you see how hard it is for mother.”
The old man looked at her quickly, instantly grasped her meaning, and hurriedly tried to stand up, but without success; he raised himself a couple of inches and fell back on the bench.
“I can’t, my dearie,” he answered plaintively, looking, as it were, meekly at Liza.
“You can talk by the hour together, but you haven’t the strength to stir an inch!”
“Liza!” cried Tatyana Pavlovna. Makar Ivanovitch made another great effort.
“Take your crutches, they are lying beside you; you can get up with your crutches!” Liza snapped out again.
“To be sure,” said the old man, and he made haste to pick up his crutches.
“He must be lifted!” said Versilov, standing up; the doctor, too, moved, and Tatyana Pavlovna ran up, but before they had time to reach him Makar Ivanovitch, leaning on the crutches, with a tremendous effort, suddenly raised himself and stood up, looking round with a triumphant air.
“There, I have got up!” he said almost with pride, laughing gleefully; “thank you, my dear, you have taught me a lesson, and I thought that my poor legs would not obey me at all . . . .”
But he did not remain standing long; he had hardly finished speaking, when his crutch, on which he was leaning with the whole weight of his body, somehow slipped on the rug, and as his “poor legs” were scarcely any support at all, he fell heavily full length on the floor. I remember it was almost horrible to see. All cried out, and rushed to lift him up, but, thank God, he had broken no bones; he had only knocked his knees with a heavy thud against the floor, but he had succeeded in putting out his right hand and breaking his fall with it. He was picked up and seated on the bed. He was very pale, not from fright, but from the shock. (The doctor had told them that he was suffering more from disease of the heart than anything.) Mother was beside herself with fright, and still pale, trembling all over and still a little bewildered, Makar Ivanovitch turned suddenly to Liza, and almost tenderly, in a soft voice, said to her:
“No, my dearie, my legs really won’t hold me!”
I cannot express what an impression this made on me, at the time. There was not the faintest note of complaint or reproach in the poor old man’s words; on the contrary, it was perfectly evident that he had not noticed anything spiteful in Liza’s words, and had accepted her shout as something quite befitting, that is, that it was quite right to pitch into him for his remissness. All this had a very great effect on Liza too. At the moment when he fell she had rushed forward, like all the rest of us, and stood numb with horror, and miserable, of course, at having caused it all; hearing his words, she almost instantly flushed crimson with shame and remorse.
“That’s enough!” Tatyana Pavlovna commanded suddenly: “this comes of talking too much! It’s time we were off; it’s a bad look-out when the doctor himself begins to chatter!”
“Quite so,” assented Alexandr Semyonovitch who was occupied with the invalid. “I’m to blame, Tatyana Pavlovna; he needs rest.”
But Tatyana Pavlovna did not hear him: she had been for half a minute watching Liza intently.
“Come here, Liza, and kiss me, that is if you care to kiss an old fool like me,” she said unexpectedly.
And she kissed the girl, I don’t know why, but it seemed exactly the right thing to do; so that I almost rushed to kiss Tatyana Pavlovna myself. What was fitting was not to overwhelm Liza with reproach, but to welcome with joy and congratulation the new feeling that must certainly have sprung up in her. But instead of all those feelings, I suddenly stood up and rapped out resolutely:
“Makar Ivanovitch, you used again the word ‘seemliness,’ and I have been worrying about that word yesterday, and all these days . . . in fact, all my life I have been worrying about it, only I didn’t know what it was. This coincidence I look upon as momentous, almost miraculous. . . . I say this in your presence . . .”
But I was instantly checked. I repeat I did not know their compact about mother and Makar Ivanovitch; they considered me, of course judging from my doings in the past, capable of making a scene of any sort.
“Stop him, stop him!” cried Tatyana Pavlovna, utterly infuriated. Mother began trembling. Makar Ivanovitch, seeing the general alarm, was alarmed too.
“Arkady, hush!” Versilov cried sternly.
“For me, my friends,” I said raising my voice: “to see you all beside this babe (I indicated Makar) is unseemly; there is only one saint here — and that is mother, and even she . . .”
“You are alarming him,” the doctor said emphatically.
“I know I am the enemy to every one in the world” (or something of the sort), I began faltering, but looking round once more, I glared defiantly at Versilov.
“Arkady,” he cried again, “just such a scene has happened once here already between us. I entreat you, restrain yourself now!”
I cannot describe the intense feeling with which he said this. A deep sadness, sincere and complete, was manifest in his face. What was most surprising was that he looked as though he were guilty; as though I were the judge, and he were the criminal. This was the last straw for me.
“Yes,” I shouted to him in reply: “just such a scene we had before, when I buried Versilov, and tore him out of my heart . . . but then there followed a resurrection from the dead . . . but now . . . now there will be no rising again! But . . . but all of you here shall see what I am capable of: you have no idea what I can show you!”
Saying this, I rushed into my room. Versilov ran after me.
I had a relapse; I had a violent attack of fever, and by nightfall was delirious. But I was not all the time in delirium; I had innumerable dreams, shapeless and following one another, in endless succession. One such dream or fragment of a dream I shall remember as long as I live. I will describe it without attempting to explain it; it was prophetic and I cannot leave it out.
I suddenly found myself with my heart full of a grand and proud design, in a large lofty room; I remember the room very well, it was not at Tatyana Pavlovna’s, I may observe, anticipating events. But although I was alone, I felt continually with uneasiness and discomfort that I was not alone at all, that I was awaited, and that something was being expected of me. Somewhere outside the door people were sitting and waiting for what I was going to do. The sensation was unendurable “Oh, if I could only be alone!” And suddenly SHE walked in. She looked at me timidly, she was very much afraid, she looked into my eyes. IN MY HAND I HAD THE LETTER. She smiled to fascinate me, she fawned upon me; I was sorry, but I began to feel repulsion. Suddenly she hid her face in her hands. I flung the letter on the table with unutterable disdain, as much as to say, “You needn’t beg, take it, I want nothing of you! I revenge myself for all your insults by contempt.” I went out of the room, choking with immense pride. But at the door Lambert clutched me in the darkness! “Fool, fool!” he whispered, holding me by the arm with all his might, “she will have to open a high-class boarding-house for wenches in Vassilyevsky Island.” (N.B. — to get her living, if her father, hearing of the letter from me, were to deprive her of her inheritance, and drive her out of the house. I quote what Lambert said, word for word, as I dreamed it.)
“Arkady Makarovitch is in quest of ‘seemliness,’” I heard the low voice of Anna Andreyevna, somewhere close by on the stairs; but there was a note, not of approval, but of insufferable mockery in her words. I returned to the room with Lambert. But, seeing Lambert, SHE began to laugh. My first impression was one of horrible dismay, such dismay that I stopped short and would not go up to her. I stared at her, and could not believe my eyes, as though she had just thrown off a mask: the features were the same, but each feature seemed distorted by an insolence that was beyond all bounds. “The ransom, the ransom, madam!” cried Lambert, and both laughed louder than ever, while my heart went cold. “Oh, can that shameless creature be the woman one glance from whom set my heart glowing with virtue!”
“You see what these proud creatures in their good society are ready to do for money!” cried Lambert. But the shameless creature was not even abashed by that; she laughed at my being so horrified. Oh, she was ready to pay the ransom, that I saw, and . . . and what came over me? I no longer felt pity or disgust; I was thrilled as I had never been before. . . . I was overwhelmed by a new and indescribable feeling, such as I had never known before, and strong as life itself. . . . I could not have gone away now for anything on earth! Oh, how it pleased me that it was so shameful! I clutched her hands; the touch of her hands sent an agonizing thrill through me, and I put my lips to her insolent crimson lips, that invited me, quivering with laughter.
Oh, away with that vile memory? Accursed dream! I swear that until that loathsome dream nothing like that shameful idea had ever been in my mind. There had never been even an unconscious dream of the sort (though I had kept the “letter” sewn up in my pocket, and I sometimes gripped my pocket with a strange smile). How was it all this came to me so complete? It was because I had the soul of a spider! It shows that all this had long ago been hatching in my corrupt heart, and lay latent in my desires, but my waking heart was still ashamed, and my mind dared not consciously picture anything of the sort. But in sleep the soul presented and laid bare all that was hidden in the heart, with the utmost accuracy, in a complete picture and in prophetic form. And was THAT what I had threatened to SHOW them, when I had run out of Makar Ivanovitch’s room that morning? But enough: for the time no more of this! That dream is one of the strangest things that has happened in my life.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07