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MY FRIENDSHIP WITH THE NECHLUDOFFS
At this period, indeed, my friendship with Dimitri hung by a
hair. I had been criticising him too long not to have discovered
faults in his character, for it is only in first youth that we
love passionately and therefore love only perfect people. As soon
as the mists engendered by love of this kind begin to dissolve,
and to be penetrated by the clear beams of reason, we see the
object of our adoration in his true shape, and with all his
virtues and failings exposed. Some of those failings strike us
with the exaggerated force of the unexpected, and combine with
the instinct for novelty and the hope that perfection may yet be
found in a fellow-man to induce us not only to feel coldness, but
even aversion, towards the late object of our adoration.
Consequently, desiring it no longer, we usually cast it from us,
and pass onwards to seek fresh perfection. For the circumstance
that that was not what occurred with respect to my own relation
to Dimitri, I was indebted to his stubborn, punctilious, and more
critical than impulsive attachment to myself--a tie which I felt
ashamed to break. Moreover, our strange vow of frankness bound us
together. We were afraid that, if we parted, we should leave in
one another's power all the incriminatory moral secrets of which
we had made mutual confession. At the same time, our rule of
frankness had long ceased to be faithfully observed, but, on the
contrary, proved a frequent cause of constraint, and brought
about strange relations between us.
Almost every time that winter that I went upstairs to Dimitri's
room, I used to find there a University friend of his named
Bezobiedoff, with whom he appeared to be very much taken up.
Bezobiedoff was a small, slight fellow, with a face pitted over
with smallpox, freckled, effeminate hands, and a huge flaxen
moustache much in need of the comb. He was invariably dirty,
shabby, uncouth, and uninteresting. To me, Dimitri's relations
with him were as unintelligible as his relations with Lubov
Sergievna, and the only reason he could have had for choosing
such a man for his associate was that in the whole University
there was no worse-looking student than Bezobiedoff. Yet that
alone would have been sufficient to make Dimitri extend him his
friendship, and, as a matter of fact, in all his intercourse with
this fellow he seemed to be saying proudly: "I care nothing who a
man may be. In my eyes every one is equal. I like him, and
therefore he is a desirable acquaintance." Nevertheless I could
not imagine how he could bring himself to do it, nor how the
wretched Bezobiedoff ever contrived to maintain his awkward
position. To me the friendship seemed a most distasteful one.
One night, I went up to Dimitri's room to try and get him to come
down for an evening's talk in his mother's drawing-room, where we
could also listen to Varenika's reading and singing, but
Bezobiedoff had forestalled me there, and Dimitri answered me
curtly that he could not come down, since, as I could see for
myself, he had a visitor with him.
"Besides," he added, "what is the fun of sitting there? We had
much better stay HERE and talk."
I scarcely relished the prospect of spending a couple of hours in
Bezobiedoff's company, yet could not make up my mind to go down
alone; wherefore, cursing my friend's vagaries, I seated myself
in a rocking-chair, and began rocking myself silently to and fro.
I felt vexed with them both for depriving me of the pleasures of
the drawing-room, and my only hope as I listened irritably to
their conversation was that Bezobiedoff would soon take his
departure. "A nice guest indeed to be sitting with!" I thought to
myself when a footman brought in tea and Dimitri had five times
to beg Bezobiedoff to have a cup, for the reason that the bashful
guest thought it incumbent upon him always to refuse it at first
and to say, "No, help yourself." I could see that Dimitri had to
put some restraint upon himself as he resumed the conversation.
He tried to inveigle me also into it, but I remained glum and
"I do not mean to let my face give any one the suspicion that I
am bored" was my mental remark to Dimitri as I sat quietly
rocking myself to and fro with measured beat. Yet, as the moments
passed, I found myself--not without a certain satisfaction--
growing more and more inwardly hostile to my friend. "What a fool
he is!" I reflected. "He might be spending the evening agreeably
with his charming family, yet he goes on sitting with this
brute!--will go on doing so, too, until it is too late to go down
to the drawing-room!" Here I glanced at him over the back of my
chair, and thought the general look of his attitude and
appearance so offensive and repellant that at the moment I could
gladly have offered him some insult, even a most serious one.
At last Bezobiedoff rose, but Dimitri could not easily let such a
delightful friend depart, and asked him to stay the night.
Fortunately, Bezobiedoff declined the invitation, and departed.
Having seen him off, Dimitri returned, and, smiling a faintly
complacent smile as he did so, and rubbing his hands together (in
all probability partly because he had sustained his character for
eccentricity, and partly because he had got rid of a bore),
started to pace the room, with an occasional glance at myself. I
felt more offended with him than ever. "How can he go on walking
about the room and grinning like that?" was my inward reflection.
"What are you so angry about?" he asked me suddenly as he halted
in front of my chair.
"I am not in the least angry," I replied (as people always do
answer under such circumstances). "I am merely vexed that you
should play-act to me, and to Bezobiedoff, and to yourself."
"What rubbish!" he retorted. "I never play-act to any one."
"I have in mind our rule of frankness," I replied, "when I tell
you that I am certain you cannot bear this Bezobiedoff any more
than I can. He is an absolute cad, yet for some inexplicable
reason or another it pleases you to masquerade before him."
"Not at all! To begin with, he is a splendid fellow, and--"
"But I tell you it IS so. I also tell you that your friendship
for Lubov Sergievna is founded on the same basis, namely, that
she thinks you a god."
"And I tell you once more that it is not so."
"Oh, I know it for myself," I retorted with the heat of
suppressed anger, and designing to disarm him with my frankness.
"I have told you before, and I repeat it now, that you always
seem to like people who say pleasant things to you, but that, as
soon as ever I come to examine your friendship, I invariably find
that there exists no real attachment between you."
"Oh, but you are wrong," said Dimitri with an angry straightening
of the neck in his collar. "When I like people, neither their
praise nor their blame can make any difference to my opinion of
"Well, dreadful though it may seem to you, I confess that I
myself often used to hate my father when he abused me, and to
wish that he was dead. In the same way, you--"
"Speak for yourself. I am very sorry that you could ever have
"No, no!" I cried as I leapt from my chair and faced him with the
courage of exasperation. "It is for YOURSELF that you ought to
feel sorry--sorry because you never told me a word about this
fellow. You know that was not honourable of you. Nevertheless, I
will tell YOU what I think of you," and, burning to wound him
even more than he had wounded me, I set out to prove to him that
he was incapable of feeling any real affection for anybody, and
that I had the best of grounds (as in very truth I believed I
had) for reproaching him. I took great pleasure in telling him
all this, but at the same time forgot that the only conceivable
purpose of my doing so--to force him to confess to the faults of
which I had accused him--could not possibly be attained at the
present moment, when he was in a rage. Had he, on the other hand,
been in a condition to argue calmly, I should probably never have
said what I did.
The dispute was verging upon an open quarrel when Dimitri
suddenly became silent, and left the room. I pursued him, and
continued what I was saying, but he did not answer. I knew that
his failings included a hasty temper, and that he was now
fighting it down; wherefore I cursed his good resolutions the
more in my heart.
This, then, was what our rule of frankness had brought us to--the
rule that we should "tell one another everything in our minds,
and never discuss one another with a third person!" Many a time
we had exaggerated frankness to the pitch of making mutual
confession of the most shameless thoughts, and of shaming
ourselves by voicing to one another proposals or schemes for
attaining our desires; yet those confessions had not only failed
to draw closer the tie which united us, but had dissipated
sympathy and thrust us further apart, until now pride would not
allow him to expose his feelings even in the smallest detail, and
we employed in our quarrel the very weapons which we had formerly
surrendered to one another--the weapons which could strike the
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