But I waked up next morning feeling fresher and in better heart. I unconsciously reproached myself, indeed, with perfect sincerity, for a certain levity, and, as it were, superciliousness, with which it seemed to me, recalling it, I had listened to some parts of his “confession” the evening before. Supposing it had been to some extent muddled, and some revelations had been, as it were, a little delirious and incoherent, he had not, of course, prepared to deliver a speech when he invited me the day before. He had simply done me a great honour in turning to me, as his one friend at such a moment, and I shall never forget his doing it. On the contrary, his confession was “touching,” though people may laugh at me for saying so, and if there were glimpses from time to time of something cynical, or even something that seemed ridiculous, I was not so narrow as to be unable to understand and accept realism, which did not, however, detract from the ideal. The great point was now that I understood the man, and I even felt, and was almost vexed at feeling, that it had all turned out to be so simple: I had always in my heart set that man on a supreme pinnacle, in the clouds, and had insisted on shrouding his life in mystery, so that I had naturally wished not to fit the key to it so easily.
In his meeting WITH HER, however, and in the sufferings he had endured for two years, there was much that was complex. “He did not want to live under the yoke of fate; he wanted to be free, and not a slave to fate; through his bondage to fate he had been forced to hurt mother, who was still waiting for him at Königsberg . . . .” Besides, I looked upon him in any case as a preacher: he cherished in his heart the golden age, and knew all about the future of atheism; and then the meeting with HER had shattered everything, distorted everything! Oh, I was not a traitor to her, but still I was on his side. Mother, for instance, I reflected, would have been no hindrance, nor would marriage with her be so indeed. That I understood; that was something utterly different from his meeting with THAT WOMAN. Mother, it is true, would not have given him peace either, but that was all the better: one cannot judge of such men as of others, and their life must always be different; and that’s not unseemly at all; on the contrary, it would be unseemly if they settled down and became altogether like other ordinary people. His praises of the nobility, and his words: “Je mourrai gentilhomme,” did not disconcert me in the least; I understood what sort of gentilhomme he was; he was a man ready to abandon everything, and to become the champion of political rights for all, and the leading Russian thought of a universal harmony of ideas. And even though all this might be nonsense, that is “the universal harmony of ideas” (which is of course inconceivable), yet the very fact that he had all his life bowed down to an idea, and not to the stupid golden calf, was good. My God! why, conceiving “my idea,” had I, I myself — could I— have been bowing down to the golden calf, could I have been aiming only at money, then? I swear that all I wanted was the idea! I swear I would not have had one chair, one sofa upholstered in velvet, and I would have eaten the same plate of soup as now, if I had had millions. I dressed and hurried off impatiently to see him. I may add that in regard to his outburst yesterday about the “document,” I was ever so much more at ease in my mind than I had been the day before. To begin with, I hoped to have it out with him, and besides, what was there in Lambert’s having wormed his way in to him, and having talked to him of something? But what rejoiced me most was an extraordinary sensation: it came from the thought that “he no longer loved HER”; I put absolute faith in it, and felt as if some one had lifted a fearful weight off my heart. I recall a conjecture that flashed upon me at the time: that the unseemliness and senselessness of his last violent outbreak, on hearing about Büring, and the sending of that insulting letter, that that final crisis might be taken as a sign and augury of a change in his feeling, and an approaching return to sanity; it must be as it is in illness, I thought, and, in fact, he is bound to reach the opposite extreme, it is a pathological episode, and nothing more.
This thought made me happy.
“And let her arrange her life as she pleases, let her marry her Büring as much as she likes, so long as he, my father, my friend, loves her no longer,” I exclaimed.
I had, however, certain secret feelings of my own, on which I do not care to enlarge in my notes here.
That’s enough. And now, without further reflections, I will give an account of the awful event that followed, and how the facts worked together to bring it about.
At ten o’clock, just as I was getting ready to go out, to see him of course, Darya Onisimovna appeared. I asked her joyfully: “whether she came from him?” and heard with vexation that she did not come from him, but from Anna Andreyevna, and that she, Darya Onisimovna, “had left the lodging as soon as it was light.”
“Why, the same where you were yesterday. You know, the lodging where you were yesterday, where the baby is; it is taken in my name now, and Tatyana Pavlovna pays the rent . . . .”
“Oh, well, that’s nothing to me!” I interrupted with annoyance. “Is he at home, anyway? Shall I find him?”
And to my surprise I heard from her that he had gone out even before she had; so she had gone out as soon as it was light, and he had gone out even earlier.
“Then has he come back yet?”
“No, he’s certainly not back yet, and perhaps he won’t come back at all,” she declared, turning upon me the same sharp and furtive eye, and keeping it fixed on me, as she had done on the occasion I have described, when she visited me as I lay ill in bed. What infuriated me most was that their mysteries and imbecilities should be forced on me again, and that these people could not get on without secrets and intrigues.
“Why do you say: ‘he will certainly not come back’? What do you mean by that? He has gone to see mother, that’s all!”
“I d — don’t know.”
“And what have you come for?”
She told me that she had just come from Anna Andreyevna, who had sent her for me, and urgently expected me at once, or else it would be “too late.” These last enigmatic words finally exasperated me:
“Why too late? I don’t want to come and I’m not coming! I won’t let them take possession of me again! I don’t care a damn for Lambert, you can tell her so, and if she sends Lambert to me, I’ll kick him out, you can tell her so!”
Darya Onisimovna was awfully alarmed.
“Oh no,” she said, taking a step towards me, clasping her hands as though she were beseeching me. “Don’t be so hasty. There’s something very important the matter, very important to yourself, to them, too, to Andrey Petrovitch, to your mamma, to every one. . . . Go and see Anna Andreyevna at once, she can’t wait any longer . . . I assure you, on my honour . . . and afterwards you can make your decision.”
I looked at her with surprise and repulsion.
“Nonsense, it will be nothing, I’m not coming!” I shouted obstinately and vindictively: “Now everything’s different! Though how could you understand that? Good-bye, Darya Onisimovna, I won’t go on purpose, I won’t question you on purpose. You simply bother me. I don’t want to know anything about your mysteries.”
As she did not go away, however, but still stood waiting, I snatched up my fur coat and cap, and went out myself, leaving her in the middle of the room. There were no letters or papers in my room, and I never used to lock my door when I went out. But before I had reached the front door my landlord ran after me downstairs, without his hat, and not in full uniform.
“Arkady Makarovitch! Arkady Makarovitch!”
“Have you no instructions to leave?”
He looked at me with eyes like gimlets, in evident uneasiness:
“About your room, for instance?”
“What about my room? Why, I sent you the rent when it was due?”
“Oh no, sir, I was not thinking of the money,” he said with a broad smile, his eyes still piercing into me like pins.
“Why, what on earth’s the matter with you all?” I shouted at last, growing almost savage. “What do you want too?”
He waited for a few seconds longer, still seeming to expect something from me.
“Well, then, you will give instructions later . . . if you are not in the humour now,” he muttered, grinning more broadly than ever; “you go on and I’ll see to it.”
He ran back upstairs. Of course all this might well make one reflect. I purposely avoid omitting a single detail in all that petty tomfoolery, for every little detail helped to make up the final situation and had its place in it, a fact of which the reader will be convinced. But that they really did bother me was true. If I was upset and irritated, it was at hearing again in their words that tone of intrigue and mystery of which I was so sick, and which so brought back the past. But to continue.
It turned out that Versilov was not at home, and it appeared that he really had gone out as soon as it was light. “To mother’s, of course”: I stuck obstinately to my idea. I did not question the nurse, rather a stupid peasant woman, and there was no one else in the lodging. I ran to mother’s and I must admit I was so anxious that I took a sledge half-way. HE HAD NOT BEEN AT MOTHER’S SINCE THE EVENING BEFORE. There was no one with mother except Tatyana Pavlovna and Liza. Liza began getting ready to go out as soon as I went in.
They were all sitting upstairs, in my “coffin.” In the drawing room Makar Ivanovitch was laid out on the table, and an old man was reading the psalter over him in an even, monotonous voice. For the future I am not going to describe anything more that does not relate to the matter in hand. I will only say that the coffin, which they had already made, was standing in the middle of the room, and was not a plain one, though it was black; it was upholstered in velvet, and the pall was of an expensive sumptuousness that was not in keeping with the character of a monk, or with the convictions of the dead man; but such was the special desire of my mother and Tatyana Pavlovna, who arranged the matter together.
I had not of course expected to find them cheerful; but the peculiar overwhelming distress mixed with uneasiness and anxiety, which I read in their eyes, struck me at once, and I instantly concluded that “sorrow for the dead was certainly not the only cause.” All this, I repeat, I remember perfectly.
In spite of everything I embraced mother tenderly and at once asked about HIM. A gleam of tremulous curiosity came into mother’s eyes at once. I made haste to mention that we had spent the whole evening together, till late at night, but that to-day he had been away from home since early morning, though at parting last night he had asked me to come as early as I could this morning. Mother made no answer, and Tatyana Pavlovna, seizing a favourable moment, shook her finger at me meaningly.
“Good-bye, brother,” Liza blurted out, going quickly out of the room. I ran after her, of course, but she stopped short at the outer door.
“I thought you would guess you must come with me,” she said in a rapid whisper.
“Liza, what’s the matter?”
“I don’t know what, but a great deal, no doubt the last chapter of ‘the same old story.’ He has not come, but they have heard something about him. They won’t tell you, you needn’t trouble yourself, and you won’t ask, if you are sensible; but mother’s shattered. I’ve not asked about anything either. Good-bye.”
She opened the door.
“And, Liza, about you, yourself, have you nothing to tell me?” I dashed after her into the entry. Her terribly exhausted and despairing face pierced my heart. She looked at me, not simply with anger, but with a sort of exasperated fury, laughed bitterly, and waved me off.
“If only he were dead I should thank God!” she flung up at me from the stairs, and was gone. She said this of Prince Sergay, and he, at that very time, was lying delirious and unconscious.
I went upstairs, sad but excited. “The same old story! What same old story?” I thought defiantly, and I had suddenly an irresistible impulse to tell them at least a part of the impression left upon me by his last night’s confession, and the confession too. “They’re thinking some evil of him now, so let them know all about it!” floated though my mind.
I remember that I succeeded very cleverly in beginning to tell them my story. Instantly their faces betrayed an intense curiosity. This time Tatyana Pavlovna positively fixed me with her eyes; but mother showed more reserve; she was very grave, but the glimmer of a faint, beautiful, though utterly hopeless smile came into her face, and scarcely left it all the time I was talking. I told the story well, of course, though I knew that it would be almost beyond their comprehension. To my surprise Tatyana Pavlovna did not attack me, did not insist on minute details, or try to pick holes as she usually did as soon as I began telling anything. She only pinched up her lips and screwed up her eyes, as though making an effort to get to the bottom of it. At times I positively fancied that they understood it all, though that could hardly have been so. . . . I spoke for instance of his convictions, but principally of his enthusiasm last night, his enthusiastic feeling for mother, his love for mother and how he had kissed her portrait. . . . Hearing this they exchanged a rapid silent glance with each other, and mother flushed all over, though both continued silent. Then . . . then I could not of course BEFORE MOTHER touch on the principal point, that is his meeting with HER and all the rest of it, above all HER letter to him the day before, and his moral resurrection after getting that letter; and that indeed was the chief point, so that all his feeling, with which I had hoped to please mother so much, naturally remained inexplicable, though of course that was not my fault; I had told all that could be told extremely well. I ended in complete confusion; their silence was still unbroken and I began to feel very uncomfortable with them.
“Most likely he’s come back now, and may be at my lodgings waiting for me,” I said, and got up to go.
“Go and see! go and see!” Tatyana Pavlovna urged me resolutely.
“Have you been downstairs?” mother asked me, in a sort of half whisper, as she said good-bye.
“Yes, I have been, and I bowed down and prayed for him. What a peaceful, serene face he has, mother! Thank you, mother, for not sparing expense over his coffin. At first I thought it strange, but I thought, at once, that I should have done the same.”
“Will you come to the church to-morrow?” she asked, and her lips trembled.
“What do you mean, mother?” I asked in surprise. “I shall come to the requiem service to-day, and I shall come again; and . . . besides, to-morrow is your birthday, mother darling! To think that he died only thee days before!”
I went away painfully surprised: how could she ask such questions, whether I were coming to the funeral service in the church? “If that’s what they think of me, what must they think of HIM?”
I knew that Tatyana Pavlovna would run after me and I purposely waited at the outer door of the flat; but she pushed me out on to the stairs and closed the door behind her.
“Tatyana Pavlovna, don’t you expect Andrey Petrovitch today or to-morrow, then? I am alarmed . . . .”
“Hold your tongue. Much it matters your being alarmed. Tell me, tell me what you kept back when you were telling us about that rigmarole last night!”
I didn’t think it necessary to conceal it, and feeling almost irritated with Versilov I told her all about Katerina Nikolaevna’s letter to him the day before and of the effect of the letter, that is of his resurrection into a new life. To my amazement the fact of the letter did not surprise her in the least, and I guessed that she knew of it already.
“But you are lying.”
“No, I’m not.”
“I dare say,” she smiled malignantly, as though meditating: “risen again, has he, so that’s the latest, is it? But is it true that he kissed her portrait?”
“Yes, Tatyana Pavlovna.”
“Did he kiss it with feeling, he wasn’t putting it on?”
“Putting it on, as though he ever did! For shame, Tatyana Pavlovna; you’ve a coarse soul, a woman’s soul.”
I said this with heat; but she did not seem to hear me; she seemed to be pondering something again, in spite of the terrible chilliness of the stairs. I had on my fur coat, but she was in her indoor dress.
“I might have asked you to do something, the only pity is you’re so stupid,” she said with contempt and apparent vexation. “Listen, go to Anna Andreyevna’s, and see what’s going on there. . . . But no, don’t go; a booby’s always a booby! Go along, quick march, why do you stand like a post?”
“And I’m not going to Anna Andreyevna’s. Anna Andreyevna sent to ask me herself.”
“She did? Darya Onisimovna?” she turned to me quickly; she had been on the point of going away, and had already opened the door, but she shut it again with a slam.
“Nothing will induce me to go to Anna Andreyevna’s,” I repeated with spiteful enjoyment; “I won’t go because I’ve just been called a booby, though I’ve never been so sharp-sighted as to-day. I see all you’re doing, it’s as clear as day, but I’m not going to Anna Andreyevna all the same!”
“I know it,” she exclaimed, but again pursuing her own thoughts, and taking no notice of my words at all. “They will devour her now completely, and draw her into a deadly noose.”
“Then whom do you mean? Surely not Katerina Nikolaevna? What sort of deadly noose?”
I was terribly frightened, a vague but terrible idea set my whole heart quivering. Tatyana Pavlovna looked at me searchingly.
“What are you up to there?” she asked suddenly. “What are you meddling in there? I’ve heard something about you too, you’d better look out!”
“Listen, Tatyana Pavlovna, I’ll tell you a terrible secret, only not just now, there’s not time now, but to-morrow, when we’re alone; but in return you tell me the whole truth, how and what you mean by a deadly noose, for I am all in a tremble . . . .”
“Much I care for your trembling,” she exclaimed. “What’s this other secret you want to tell to-morrow? Why, you know nothing whatever!” she transfixed me with a questioning look. “Why, you swore then that Kraft had burnt the letter, didn’t you?”
“Tatyana Pavlovna, I tell you again, don’t torment me,” I persisted in my turn, not answering her question, for I was beside myself. “Take care, Tatyana Pavlovna, that your hiding this from me may not lead to something worse . . . why, yesterday he was absolutely turning over a new leaf!”
“Go along, you idiot! you are like a love-sick sparrow yourself, I’ll be bound; father and son in love with the same idol! Foo, horrid creatures!”
She vanished, slamming the door indignantly. Furious at the impudent, shameless cynicism of these last words, a cynicism of which only a woman would have been capable, I ran away, deeply insulted. But I won’t describe my vague sensations as I have vowed to keep to facts which will explain everything now; on my way of course, I called in at his lodging, and heard from the nurse that he had not been home at all.
“And isn’t he coming at all?”
Facts, facts! . . . But will the reader understand? I remember how these facts overwhelmed me and prevented me from thinking clearly, so that by the end of the day my head was in a perfect whirl. And so I think I must say two or three words by way of introduction.
The question that tormented me was this: if he really had gone through a spiritual change and had ceased to love her, in that case where should he have been now? The answer was: first of all with me whom he had embraced the evening before, and next with mother, whose portrait he had kissed. And yet, in spite of these natural alternatives, he had suddenly, “as soon as it was light,” left home and gone off somewhere, and Darya Onisimovna had for some reason babbled of his not being likely to return. What’s more, Liza had hinted at the “last chapter” of some “same old story,” and of mother’s having some news of him, and the latest news, too; moreover, they undoubtedly knew of Katerina Nikolaevna’s letter, too (I noticed that), and yet they did not believe in “his resurrection into a new life” though they had listened to me attentively. Mother was crushed, and Tatyana Pavlovna had been diabolically sarcastic at the word “resurrection.” But if all this was so, it must mean that some revulsion of feeling had come over him again in the night, another crisis, and this — after yesterday’s enthusiasm, emotion, pathos! So all his “resurrection” had burst like a soap-bubble, and he, perhaps, was rushing about somewhere again now, in the same frenzy as he had been after hearing the news of Buring! There was the question, too, what would become of mother, of me, of all of us, and . . . and, finally, what would become of HER? What was the deadly noose Tatyana had babbled of when she was sending me to Anna Andreyevna? So that “deadly noose” was there, at Anna Andreyevna’s! Why at Anna Andreyevna’s? Of course I should run to Anna Andreyevna’s; I had said that I wouldn’t go on purpose, only in annoyance; I would run there at once, but what was it Tatyana had said about the “document”? And hadn’t he himself said to me the evening before: “Burn the document”?
These were my thoughts, this was what strangled me, too, in a deadly noose; but what I wanted most of all was HIM. With him I could have decided everything — I felt that; we should have understood each other in two words! I should have gripped his hands, pressed them; I should have found burning words in my heart — this was the dream that haunted me. Oh, I would have calmed his frenzy. . . . But where was he? Where was he?
And, as though this were not enough, Lambert must needs turn up at such a moment, when I was so excited! When I was only a few steps from my door I met him; he uttered a yell of delight on seeing me, and seized me by the arm.
“I’ve been to see you thr-r-ree times already. . . . Enfin! come and have lunch.”
“Stay, have you been to my rooms; was Andrey Petrovitch there?”
“No, there was no one there. Dr-r-rop them all! You’re a fool, you were cross yesterday; you were drunk, and I’ve something important to tell you; I heard a splendid piece of news this morning, about what we were discussing yesterday . . . .”
“Lambert,” I interrupted hurriedly, breathing hard and unconsciously declaiming a little. “I am only stopping with you now to finish with you for good. I told you yesterday, but you still won’t understand. Lambert, you’re a baby and as stupid as a Frenchman. You persist in thinking that it’s the same as it was at Touchard’s, and that I’m as stupid as at Touchard’s. . . . But I’m not so silly as I was at Touchard’s. . . . I was drunk yesterday, but not from wine, but because I was excited; and if I seemed to agree with the stuff you talked, it was because I pretended, so as to find out what you were driving at. I deceived you, and you were delighted and believed it and went on talking nonsense. Let me tell you that marrying her is such nonsense that it wouldn’t take in a schoolboy in the first form. How could you imagine I should believe it? Did you believe it? You believed it because you have never been in aristocratic society, and don’t know how things are done among decent people. Things aren’t done so simply in aristocratic society, and it’s not possible for her so simply to go and get married. . . . Now I will tell you plainly what it is you want: you mean to entice me, so as to make me drunk, and to get me to give up the document, and to join you in some scoundrelly plot against Katerina Nikolaevna! So I tell you it’s nonsense! I’ll never come to you. And you may as well know that to-morrow or the day after that letter will be in her own hands, for it belongs to her, for it was written by her, and I’ll give it to her myself, and if you care to know where, I can tell you that through Tatyana Pavlovna, her friend, I shall give it at Tatyana Pavlovna’s, and in Tatyana Pavlovna’s presence, and I’ll take nothing from her for giving it her. And now be off and keep away from me for ever, or else . . . or else, I shan’t treat you so civilly next time, Lambert . . . .”
As I finished I was in a slight shudder all over. A very serious thing and the nastiest habit in life, which vitiates everything in all one does, is . . . is showing off. Some evil spirit prompted me to work myself up with Lambert, till rapping out the words with relish, and raising my voice higher and higher, in my heat I ended up by dragging in the quite unnecessary detail, that I should return the document through Tatyana Pavlovna, and in her lodging! But I had such a longing to crush him! When I burst out so directly about the letter, and suddenly saw his stupid alarm, I immediately felt a desire to overwhelm him by giving him precise details. And this womanish, boastful babbling was afterwards the cause of terrible misfortunes, for that detail about Tatyana Pavlovna and her lodging was naturally caught up and retained by a scoundrel who had a practical mind for little things; in more exalted and important matters he was useless and unintelligent, but for such trifles he had a keen sense, nevertheless. If I had held my tongue about Tatyana Pavlovna, great disasters would not have occurred. Yet when he heard what I said, for the first minute he was terribly upset.
“Listen,” he muttered. “Alphonsine . . . Alphonsine will sing. . . . Alphonsine has been to see HER; listen. I have a letter, almost a letter, in which Mme. Ahmakov writes of you; the pock-marked fellow got it for me, do you remember him — and you will see, you will see, come along!”
“You are lying; show me the letter!”
“It’s at home, Alphonsine has got it; come along!”
He was lying and talking wildly, of course, trembling for fear I should run away from him; but I suddenly abandoned him in the middle of the street, and when he seemed disposed to follow me I stood still and shook my fist at him. But he already stood hesitating, and let me get away; perhaps a new plan had dawned upon him. But the meetings and surprises in store for me were not yet over. . . . And when I remember the whole of that disastrous day, it always seems as though all those surprises and unforeseen accidents were somehow conspiring together and were showered on my head from some accursed horn of plenty. I had scarcely opened the door of my lodging when in the entry I jostled against a tall young man, of dignified and elegant exterior with a long pale face, wearing a magnificent fur coat. He had a pince-nez on his nose; but as soon as he saw me he took it off (evidently as a mark of politeness), and courteously lifting his top-hat, but without stopping, however, said to me with an elegant smile: “Hullo, bonsoir,” and passing me went downstairs. We recognized each other at once, though I had only once seen him for a moment in Moscow. It was Anna Andreyevna’s brother, the young kammer-junker, Versilov’s son, and consequently almost my brother. He was accompanied by my landlady. (The landlord was not yet back from his office.) As soon as he had gone, I simply pounced on her:
“What has he been doing here? Has he been in my room?”
“He’s not been in your room at all. He came to see me . . .” she snapped out briefly and dryly, and returned to her room.
“No, you can’t put me off like that,” I cried. “Kindly answer me; why did he come?”
“My goodness! Am I always to tell you why people come to see me? We may have our own interests to consider, mayn’t we? The young man may have wanted to borrow money; he found out an address from me. Perhaps I promised it him last time . . . .”
“Last time? When?”
“Oh my goodness, why it’s not the first time he’s been!”
She went away. The chief thing I gathered was the change of tone. They had begun to be rude to me. It was clear that this was another secret; secrets were accumulating with every step, with every hour. For the first time young Versilov had come with his sister, with Anna Andreyevna, when I was ill; I remember that perfectly, as well as Anna Andreyevna’s amazing words the day before, that, perhaps, the old prince would stay at my rooms. . . . But all this was so mixed up and so monstrous that I could scarcely gather anything from it. Clapping my hands to my forehead, and not even sitting down to rest, I ran to Anna Andreyevna’s; it appeared that she was not at home, and I received from the porter the information that “she had gone to Tsarskoe; and might, perhaps, not be back till about this time to-morrow.”
She was at Tsarskoe, and no doubt with the old prince, and her brother was examining my lodgings! “No, that shall not be,” I cried, gnashing my teeth; “and if there really is some ‘deadly noose’ I will defend ‘the poor woman’!”
From Anna Andreyevna’s I did not return home, for there suddenly flashed upon my feverish brain the thought of the restaurant on the canal side, where Andrey Petrovitch had the habit of going in his gloomy hours. Delighted at this conjecture, I instantly ran thither; it was by now four o’clock and was already beginning to get dark. In the restaurant I was told that he had been there, stayed a little while and had gone away, but, perhaps, he would come back. I suddenly determined to wait for him, and ordered dinner; there was a hope any how.
I ate my dinner, ate, indeed, more than I wanted, so as to have a right to stay as long as possible, and I stayed, I believe, four hours. I won’t describe my disappointment and feverish impatience, everything within me seemed shaking and quivering. That organ, those diners — oh, all the dreariness of it is stamped upon my soul, perhaps for the rest of my life! I won’t describe the ideas that whirled in my head like a crowd of dry leaves in autumn after a hurricane; it really was something like that, and I confess that I felt at times that my reason was beginning to desert me.
But what worried me till it was a positive pain (in a side-current, of course, besides my chief torment) was a persistent poisonous impression, persistent as a venomous autumn fly, which one does not think about but which whirls about one, pesters one, and suddenly bites one painfully; it was only a reminiscence, an incident of which I had never spoken to anyone in the world before. This was what it was, since it seems I must tell this, too.
When it was settled that I was to leave Moscow and come to Petersburg, I received instructions through Nikolay Semyonovitch to wait for money to be sent me for the journey. From whom the money was coming I did not ask; I knew it was from Versilov, and as I dreamed day and night of my meeting with him, making exalted plans about it while my heart almost swooned within me, I had quite given up speaking about him aloud even to Marie Ivanovna. I remember that I had money of my own, but I proceeded to wait expectantly for the money to come by post.
Suddenly, however, Nikolay Semyonovitch, returning home, informed me (as usual briefly and without going off into explanations) that I was to go next day to Myasnitsky, at eleven o’clock in the morning, to Prince V.‘s flat, and that there Andrey Petrovitch’s son, the kammer-junker, Versilov, who had just arrived from Petersburg and was staying with his schoolfellow, Prince V., would hand over to me a sum of money for my journey. On the face of it the arrangement was simple enough: Andrey Petrovitch might well send the money by his son rather than by post; but the news crushed me and filled me with alarm. I had no doubt that Versilov wished to bring his son, my brother, and me together; this threw a light upon the intentions and feelings of the man of whom I dreamed; but a question of the utmost magnitude presented itself to me: how should I, and how must I behave at this utterly unexpected interview, and how could I best keep up my dignity?
Next day, exactly at eleven o’clock, I turned up at Prince V.‘s flat, which, as I was able to judge, was splendidly furnished, though it was a bachelor’s establishment. I was kept waiting in the hall where there were several lackeys in livery. And from the next room came sounds of loud talk and laughter: Prince V. had other visitors besides the kammer-junker. I told the footman to announce me, and, I fancy, in rather haughty terms. Anyway, he looked at me strangely, and, as I fancied, not so respectfully as he should have done. To my amazement he was a very long time in announcing me, five minutes, and all the while the same laughter, and the same sounds of conversation reached me.
I waited standing, knowing that it would be impossible and unseemly for me, “just as much a gentleman,” to sit down in a hall where there were footmen. My pride would have prevented me under any circumstances from entering the drawing-room without a special invitation; over-fastidious pride perhaps it was, but that was only fitting. To my amazement the two lackeys who were left in the hall had the impertinence to sit down. I turned away to avoid noticing it, and yet I could not help quivering all over, and suddenly turning and stepping up to one of the footmen, I ORDERED him to go “at once” and take in my name again. In spite of my stern expression and extreme excitement, the lackey looked at me lazily, without getting up, and the other one answered for him:
“It’s been taken in, don’t disturb yourself.”
I made up my mind to wait only another minute or possibly even less, and then TO GO. I was very well-dressed: my suit and overcoat were new anyway, and my linen was perfectly fresh, Marie Ivanovna had seen to that with a special view to the occasion. But I learned for a fact, much later, when I was in Petersburg, that these lackeys had heard the evening before from young Versilov’s valet that “the young gentleman’s bastard brother, a student, was coming.” I know this now for a fact.
The minute passed. It’s a strange sensation when one decides and cannot decide. “Shall I go or not, shall I go or not?” I repeated to myself every second, almost in a fever, and suddenly the lackey who had taken my name returned. Between his fingers he held fluttering four red notes — forty roubles!
“Here, sir, will you please take forty roubles!”
I boiled over. This was such an insult! All the night before I had been dreaming of the meeting Versilov had arranged between us two brothers; I had spent the whole night in feverish visions of the demeanour I ought to adopt, that I might not discredit — not discredit the whole cycle of ideas which I had worked out in my solitude, and which might have made me feel proud in any circle. I dreamed of how proud, gentlemanly, and sad, perhaps, I would be even in Prince V.‘s society, and how in that way I should be admitted into that circle — oh, I’m not sparing myself, and so be it, for it’s just such details that I ought to record! And then — to be given forty roubles by a lackey in the hall, and after being kept ten minutes waiting, and not even in an envelope, not even on a salver, but straight from the lackey’s fingers!
I shouted so violently at the lackey that he started and stepped back; I told him he must go back at once and “his master must bring the money himself”— in fact, my request was, of course, incoherent and incomprehensible to the man. But I shouted so that he went. To make things worse my shouting was heard in the room, and the talk and laughter suddenly subsided.
Almost at the same time I heard footsteps, dignified, quiet, unhurried, and a tall figure of a handsome and haughty-looking young man (he seemed to me then even thinner and paler than when I met him to-day) appeared in the doorway a yard from the door leading into the passage. He was wearing a magnificent red silk dressing-gown and slippers, and had a pince-nez on his nose. Without uttering a word he fixed me with his pince-nez and proceeded to stare at me. I took one step towards him like a wild beast, and began glaring at him defiantly. But he only scrutinized me for a moment, ten seconds at the utmost; suddenly I detected on his lips a scarcely perceptible, but most malignant smile — what made it so malignant was that it was scarcely perceptible: he turned round without a word and went back into the room, just as deliberately, just as quietly and smoothly as he had come. Oh, these insolent fellows are trained by their mothers from childhood to be insolent! I lost my head of course. . . . Oh, why did I lose my head!
Almost at that moment the same lackey reappeared with the same notes in his hand.
“Be so good as to take this, it is sent you from Petersburg, but his honour can’t see you: ‘perhaps another time, when he’s more at leisure.’” I felt that these last words were his own addition. But I was still overwhelmed with confusion. I took the money and walked to the door, I took it simply because I was confused, I ought not to have taken it; but the lackey, no doubt wanting to mortify me further, ventured upon a regular flunkey’s impertinence; he flung the door extra wide open before me, and pronounced with exaggerated emphasis and dignity, as I went out:
“This way, if you please!”
“You blackguard,” I roared at him, and I raised my hand, but I did not bring it down; “and your master’s a blackguard, too! Tell him so directly,” I added, and went down the stairs.
“Don’t you dare! if I were to report that to my master, you would be taken, that very minute, with a note to the police station. And don’t you dare threaten me!”
I went down the stairs. It was a grand open staircase, and above I could be watched as I went down the red carpeted stairs. All three lackeys came out and stood looking over the banisters. I made up my mind to keep quiet, of course: to brawl with lackeys was impossible. I walked the whole length of the stairs without increasing my pace; I believe I even moved more slowly.
Oh, there may be philosophers (and shame upon them!) who will say that all this is nonsense, the irritability of a milksop; let them say so, but for me it was a wound — a wound which has not healed to this day, even to the present moment, when I am writing this, when all is over and even avenged. Oh, I swear I am not given to harbouring malice and I am not revengeful. No doubt I always, even before my illness, wanted to revenge myself when I was insulted, but I swear it was only to revenge myself by magnanimity. Let me revenge myself magnanimously, but so that he felt it and understood, and I should have been avenged! And, by the way, I must add: that though I am not revengeful I have a good memory for injuries, in spite of being magnanimous; I wonder whether others are the same? Then, oh, then I went with generous feelings, perhaps absurd, but no matter: better they were absurd and generous, than not absurd but mean, vulgar and mediocre! I never told anyone of that meeting with “my brother,” even Marie Ivanovna, even Liza: that interview was exactly like an insulting slap in the face. And now I came across this gentleman when I least expected to meet him; he smiles to me, takes off his hat and says bonsoir in quite a friendly way. That give one something to think about of course. . . . But the wound was reopened.
After sitting for more than four hours in the restaurant I suddenly rushed away as though I were in a fit, again to Versilov’s of course, and again, of course, I did not find him at home; he had not been to the house at all; the nurse was bored, and she asked me to send Darya Onisimovna; as though I had thoughts for that! I ran to mother’s, but did not go in. Calling Lukerya into the passage I learnt from her that he had not been there either, and that Liza, too, was not at home. I saw that Lukerya, too, would have liked to ask me something, and also, perhaps, to give me some commission; but I had no thoughts for that! There was one last hope left — that he had gone to my lodging; but I had no faith in this.
I have already stated that I was almost out of my mind. And lo, and behold! in my room I found Alphonsine and my landlord. They were coming out, it is true, and in Pyotr Ippolitovitch’s hand was a candle.
“What’s this?” I yelled at the landlord, almost senselessly. “How dare you take that hussy into my room?”
“Tien,” cried Alphonsine “et les amis?”
“Get out,” I roared.
“Mais c’est un ours!” she whisked out into the passage, pretending to be alarmed, and instantly disappeared into the landlady’s room. Pyotr Ippolitovitch, still holding the candle in his hand, came up to me with a severe face.
“Allow me to observe, Arkady Makarovitch, that you are too hasty; with all respect to you, Mademoiselle Alphonsine is not a hussy, but quite the contrary, indeed, is here, not as your visitor, but as my wife’s, with whom she has been for some time past acquainted.”
“And how dared you take her into my room?” I repeated, clutching at my head, which almost suddenly began to ache violently.
“By chance. I went in to shut the window, which I had opened to air the room; and as Alphonsine Karlovna and I were continuing our conversation, she came into your room simply following me.”
“That’s a lie. Alphonsine’s a spy, Lambert’s a spy! Perhaps you’re a spy, too! And Alphonsine came into my room to steal something.”
“That’s as you please. You’ll say one thing to-day, but tomorrow you’ll speak differently. And I’ve let our rooms for some time, and have moved with my wife into the little room so that Alphonsine Karlovna is almost as much a lodger here as you are.”
“You’ve let your rooms to Lambert?” I cried in dismay.
“No, not to Lambert,” he answered with the same broad grin, in which, however, the hesitation I had seen in the morning was replaced by determination. “I imagine that you know to whom and only affect not to know for the sake of appearances, and that’s why you’re angry. Good-night, sir!”
“Yes, yes, leave me, leave me alone!” I waved my hand, almost crying, so that he looked at me in surprise; he went away, however. I fastened the door with the hook and threw myself on my bed with my face in the pillow. And that is how I passed that awful day, the first of those three momentous days with which my story concludes.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07