The Devil, by Leo Tolstoy


When he entered the drawing-room everything seemed strange and unnatural to him. He had risen that morning vigorous, determined to fling it all aside, to forget it and not allow himself to think about it. But without noticing how it occurred he had all the morning not merely not interested himself in the work, but tried to avoid it. What had formerly cheered him and been important was now insignificant. Unconsciously he tried to free himself from business. It seemed to him that he had to do so in order to think and to plan. And he freed himself and remained alone. But as soon as he was alone he began to wander about in the garden and the forest. And all those spots were besmirched in his recollection by memories that gripped him. He felt that he was walking in the garden and pretending to himself that he was thinking out something, but that really he was not thinking out anything, but insanely and unreasonably expecting her; expecting that by some miracle she would be aware that he was expecting her, and would come here at once and go somewhere where no one would see them, or would come at night when there would be no moon, and no one, not even she herself, would see — on such a night she would come and he would touch her body. . . .

“There now, talking of breaking off when I wish to,” he said to himself. “Yes, and that is having a clean healthy woman for one’s health sake! No, it seems one can’t play with her like that. I thought I had taken her, but it was she who took me; took me and does not let me go. Why, I thought I was free, but I was not free and was deceiving myself when I married. It was all nonsense -fraud. From the time I had her I experienced a new feeling, the real feeling of a husband. Yes, I ought to have lived with her.

“One of two lives is possible for me: that which I began with Liza: service, estate management, the child, and people’s respect. If that is life, it is necessary that she, Stepanida, should not be there. She must be sent away, as I said, or destroyed so that she shall not exist. And the other life — is this: For me to take her away from her husband, pay him money, disregard the shame and disgrace, and live with her. But in that case it is necessary that Liza should not exist, nor Mimi (the baby). No, that is not so, the baby does not matter, but it is necessary that there should be no Liza — that she should go away — that she should know, curse me, and go away. That she should know that I have exchanged her for a peasant woman, that I am a deceiver and a scoundrel! — No, that is too terrible! It is impossible. But it might happen,” he went on thinking — “it might happen that Liza might fall ill and die. Die, and then everything would be capital.

“Capital! Oh, scoundrel! No, if someone must die it should be Stepanida. If she were to die, how good it would be.

“Yes, that is how men come to poison or kill their wives or lovers. Take a revolver and go and call her, and instead of embracing her, shoot her in the breast and have done with it. “Really she is — a devil. Simply a devil. She has possessed herself of me against my own will.

“Kill? Yes. there are only two ways out: to kill my wife or her. For it is impossible to live like this. [Translator’s footnote: At this place the alternative ending, printed at the end of the story, begins. A.M.] It is impossible! I must consider the matter and look ahead. If things remain as they are what will happen? I shall again be saying to myself that I do not wish it and that I will throw her off, but it will be merely words; in the evening I shall be at her back yard, and she will know it and will come out. And if people know of it and tell my wife, or if I tell her myself — for I can’t lie — I shall not be able to live so. I cannot! People will know. They will all know - - Parasha and the blacksmith. Well, is it possible to live so?

“Impossible! there are only two ways out: to kill my wife, or to kill her. yes, or else . . . Ah, yes, there is a third way: to kill myself,” said he softly, and suddenly a shudder ran over his skin. “Yes, kill myself, then I shall not need to kill them.” He became frightened, for he felt that only that way was possible. He had a revolver. “Shall I really kill myself? It is something I never thought of — how strange it will be . . . ”

He returned to his study and at once opened the cupboard where the revolver lay, but before he had taken it out of its case his wife entered the room.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01