“I had to go twenty-five versts by carriage and eight hours by train. By carriage it was a very pleasant journey. The coolness of autumn was accompanied by a brilliant sun. You know the weather when the wheels imprint themselves upon the dirty road. The road was level, and the light strong, and the air strengthening. The tarantass was comfortable. As I looked at the horses, the fields, and the people whom we passed, I forgot where I was going. Sometimes it seemed to me that I was travelling without an object — simply promenading — and that I should go on thus to the end of the world. And I was happy when I so forgot myself. But when I remembered where I was going, I said to myself: ‘I shall see later. Don’t think about it.’
“When half way, an incident happened to distract me still further. The tarantass, though new, broke down, and had to be repaired. The delays in looking for a telegue, the repairs, the payment, the tea in the inn, the conversation with the dvornik, all served to amuse me. Toward nightfall all was ready, and I started off again. By night the journey was still pleasanter than by day. The moon in its first quarter, a slight frost, the road still in good condition, the horses, the sprightly coachman, all served to put me in good spirits. I scarcely thought of what awaited me, and was gay perhaps because of the very thing that awaited me, and because I was about to say farewell to the joys of life.
“But this tranquil state, the power of conquering my preoccupation, all ended with the carriage drive. Scarcely had I entered the cars, when the other thing began. Those eight hours on the rail were so terrible to me that I shall never forget them in my life. Was it because on entering the car I had a vivid imagination of having already arrived, or because the railway acts upon people in such an exciting fashion? At any rate, after boarding the train I could no longer control my imagination, which incessantly, with extraordinary vivacity, drew pictures before my eyes, each more cynical than its predecessor, which kindled my jealousy. And always the same things about what was happening at home during my absence. I burned with indignation, with rage, and with a peculiar feeling which steeped me in humiliation, as I contemplated these pictures. And I could not tear myself out of this condition. I could not help looking at them, I could not efface them, I could not keep from evoking them.
“The more I looked at these imaginary pictures, the more I believed in their reality, forgetting that they had no serious foundation. The vivacity of these images seemed to prove to me that my imaginations were a reality. One would have said that a demon, against my will, was inventing and breathing into me the most terrible fictions. A conversation which dated a long time back, with the brother of Troukhatchevsky, I remembered at that moment, in a sort of ecstasy, and it tore my heart as I connected it with the musician and my wife. Yes, it was very long ago. The brother of Troukhatchevsky, answering my questions as to whether he frequented disreputable houses, said that a respectable man does not go where he may contract a disease, in a low and unclean spot, when one can find an honest woman. And here he, his brother, the musician, had found the honest woman. ‘It is true that she is no longer in her early youth. She has lost a tooth on one side, and her face is slightly bloated,’ thought I for Troukhatchevsky. ‘But what is to be done? One must profit by what one has.’
“‘Yes, he is bound to take her for his mistress,’ said I to myself again; ‘and besides, she is not dangerous.’
“‘No, it is not possible’ I rejoined in fright. ‘Nothing, nothing of the kind has happened, and there is no reason to suppose there has. Did she not tell me that the very idea that I could be jealous of her because of him was humiliating to her?’ ‘Yes, but she lied,’ I cried, and all began over again.
“There were only two travellers in my compartment: an old woman with her husband, neither of them very talkative; and even they got out at one of the stations, leaving me all alone. I was like a beast in a cage. Now I jumped up and approached the window, now I began to walk back and forth, staggering as if I hoped to make the train go faster by my efforts, and the car with its seats and its windows trembled continually, as ours does now.”
And Posdnicheff rose abruptly, took a few steps, and sat down again.
“Oh, I am afraid, I am afraid of railway carriages. Fear seizes me. I sat down again, and I said to myself: ‘I must think of something else. For instance, of the inn keeper at whose house I took tea.’ And then, in my imagination arose the dvornik, with his long beard, and his grandson, a little fellow of the same age as my little Basile. My little Basile! My little Basile! He will see the musician kiss his mother! What thoughts will pass through his poor soul! But what does that matter to her! She loves.
“And again it all began, the circle of the same thoughts. I suffered so much that at last I did not know what to do with myself, and an idea passed through my head that pleased me much, — to get out upon the rails, throw myself under the cars, and thus finish everything. One thing prevented me from doing so. It was pity! It was pity for myself, evoking at the same time a hatred for her, for him, but not so much for him. Toward him I felt a strange sentiment of my humiliation and his victory, but toward her a terrible hatred.
“‘But I cannot kill myself and leave her free. She must suffer, she must understand at least that I have suffered,’ said I to myself.
“At a station I saw people drinking at the lunch counter, and directly I went to swallow a glass of vodki. Beside me stood a Jew, drinking also. He began to talk to me, and I, in order not to be left alone in my compartment, went with him into his third-class, dirty, full of smoke, and covered with peelings and sunflower seeds. There I sat down beside the Jew, and, as it seemed, he told many anecdotes.
“First I listened to him, but I did not understand what he said. He noticed it, and exacted my attention to his person. Then I rose and entered my own compartment.
“‘I must consider,’ said I to myself, ‘whether what I think is true, whether there is any reason to torment myself.’ I sat down, wishing to reflect quietly; but directly, instead of the peaceful reflections, the same thing began again. Instead of the reasoning, the pictures.
“‘How many times have I tormented myself in this way,’ I thought (I recalled previous and similar fits of jealousy), ‘and then seen it end in nothing at all? It is the same now. Perhaps, yes, surely, I shall find her quietly sleeping. She will awaken, she will be glad, and in her words and looks I shall see that nothing has happened, that all this is vain. Ah, if it would only so turn out!’ ‘But no, that has happened too often! Now the end has come,’ a voice said to me.
“And again it all began. Ah, what torture! It is not to a hospital filled with syphilitic patients that I would take a young man to deprive him of the desire for women, but into my soul, to show him the demon which tore it. The frightful part was that I recognized in myself an indisputable right to the body of my wife, as if her body were entirely mine. And at the same time I felt that I could not possess this body, that it was not mine, that she could do with it as she liked, and that she liked to do with it as I did not like. And I was powerless against him and against her. He, like the Vanka of the song, would sing, before mounting the gallows, how he would kiss her sweet lips, etc., and he would even have the best of it before death. With her it was still worse. If she HAD NOT DONE IT, she had the desire, she wished to do it, and I knew that she did. That was worse yet. It would be better if she had already done it, to relieve me of my uncertainty.
“In short, I could not say what I desired. I desired that she might not want what she MUST want. It was complete madness.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00