'Neighbours' constitute one of the most serious drawbacks of life in the
country. I knew a country gentleman of the Vologodsky district, who used
on every suitable occasion to repeat the following words, 'Thank God, I
have no neighbours,' and I confess I could not help envying that happy
mortal. My own little place is situated in one of the most thickly
peopled provinces of Russia. I am surrounded by a vast number of dear
neighbours, from highly respectable and highly respected country
gentlemen, attired in ample frockcoats and still more ample waistcoats,
down to regular loafers, wearing jackets with long sleeves and a
so-called shooting-bag on their back. In this crowd of gentlefolks I
chanced, however, to discover one very pleasant fellow. He had served in
the army, had retired and settled for good and all in the country.
According to his story, he had served for two years in the B------
regiment. But I am totally unable to comprehend how that man could have
performed any sort of duty, not merely for two years, but even for two
days. He was born 'for a life of peace and country calm,' that is to
say, for lazy, careless vegetation, which, I note parenthetically, is
not without great and inexhaustible charms. He possessed a very fair
property, and without giving too much thought to its management, spent
about ten thousand roubles a year, had obtained an excellent cook--my
friend was fond of good fare--and ordered too from Moscow all the newest
French books and magazines. In Russian he read nothing but the reports
of his bailiff, and that with great difficulty. He used, when he did not
go out shooting, to wear a dressing-gown from morning till dinner-time
and at dinner. He would look through plans of some sort, or go round to
the stables or to the threshing barn, and joke with the peasant women,
who, to be sure, in his presence wielded their flails in leisurely
fashion. After dinner my friend would dress very carefully before the
looking-glass, and drive off to see some neighbour possessed of two or
three pretty daughters. He would flirt serenely and unconcernedly with
one of them, play blind-man's-buff with them, return home rather late
and promptly fall into a heroic sleep. He could never be bored, for he
never gave himself up to complete inactivity; and in the choice of
occupations he was not difficult to please, and was amused like a child
with the smallest trifle. On the other hand, he cherished no particular
attachment to life, and at times, when he chanced to get a glimpse of
the track of a wolf or a fox, he would let his horse go at full gallop
over such ravines that to this day I cannot understand how it was he did
not break his neck a hundred times over. He belonged to that class of
persons who inspire in one the idea that they do not know their own
value, that under their appearance of indifference strong and violent
passions lie concealed. But he would have laughed in one's face if he
could have guessed that one cherished such an opinion of him. And indeed
I must own I believe myself that even supposing my friend had had in
youth some strong impulse, however vague, towards what is so sweetly
called 'higher things,' that impulse had long, long ago died out. He was
rather stout and enjoyed superb health. In our day one cannot help
liking people who think little about themselves, because they are
exceedingly rare... and my friend had almost forgotten his own
personality. I fancy, though, that I have said too much about him
already, and my prolixity is the more uncalled for as he is not the hero
of my story. His name was Piotr Fedorovitch Lutchinov.
One autumn day there were five of us, ardent sportsmen, gathered
together at Piotr Fedorovitch's. We had spent the whole morning out, had
run down a couple of foxes and a number of hares, and had returned home
in that supremely agreeable frame of mind which comes over every
well-regulated person after a successful day's shooting. It grew dusk.
The wind was frolicking over the dark fields and noisily swinging the
bare tops of the birches and lime-trees round Lutchinov's house. We
reached the house, got off our horses.... On the steps I stood still and
looked round: long storm-clouds were creeping heavily over the grey sky;
a dark-brown bush was writhing in the wind, and murmuring plaintively;
the yellow grass helplessly and forlornly bowed down to the earth;
flocks of thrushes were fluttering in the mountain-ashes among the
bright, flame-coloured clusters of berries. Among the light brittle
twigs of the birch-trees blue-tits hopped whistling. In the village
there was the hoarse barking of dogs. I felt melancholy... but it was
with a genuine sense of comfort that I walked into the dining-room. The
shutters were closed; on a round table, covered with a tablecloth of
dazzling whiteness, amid cut-glass decanters of red wine, there were
eight lighted candles in silver candlesticks; a fire glowed cheerfully
on the hearth, and an old and very stately-looking butler, with a huge
bald head, wearing an English dress, stood before another table on which
was pleasingly conspicuous a large soup-tureen, encircled by light
savoury-smelling steam. In the hall we passed by another venerable man,
engaged in icing champagne--'according to the strictest rules of the
art.' The dinner was, as is usual in such cases, exceedingly pleasant.
We laughed and talked of the incidents of the day's shooting, and
recalled with enthusiasm two glorious 'runs.' After dining pretty
heartily, we settled comfortably into ample arm-chairs round the fire; a
huge silver bowl made its appearance on the table, and in a few minutes
the white flame of the burning rum announced our host's agreeable
intention 'to concoct a punch.' Piotr Fedoritch was a man of some taste;
he was aware, for instance, that nothing has so fatal an influence on
the fancy as the cold, steady, pedantic light of a lamp, and so he gave
orders that only two candles should be left in the room. Strange
half-shadows quivered on the walls, thrown by the fanciful play of the
fire in the hearth and the flame of the punch... a soft, exceedingly
agreeable sense of soothing comfort replaced in our hearts the somewhat
boisterous gaiety that had reigned at dinner.
Conversations have their destinies, like books, as the Latin proverb
says, like everything in the world. Our conversation that evening was
particularly many-sided and lively. From details it passed to rather
serious general questions, and lightly and casually came back to the
daily incidents of life.... After chatting a good deal, we suddenly all
sank into silence. At such times they say an angel of peace is flying
I cannot say why my companions were silent, but I held my tongue because
my eyes had suddenly come to rest on three dusty portraits in black
wooden frames. The colours were rubbed and cracked in places, but one
could still make out the faces. The portrait in the centre was that of a
young woman in a white gown with lace ruffles, her hair done up high, in
the style of the eighties of last century. On her right, upon a
perfectly black background, there stood out the full, round face of a
good-natured country gentleman of five-and-twenty, with a broad, low
brow, a thick nose, and a good-humoured smile. The French powdered
coiffure was utterly out of keeping with the expression of his Slavonic
face. The artist had portrayed him wearing a long loose coat of crimson
colour with large paste buttons; in his hand he was holding some
unlikely-looking flower. The third portrait, which was the work of some
other more skilful hand, represented a man of thirty, in the green
uniform, with red facings, of the time of Catherine, in a white shirt,
with a fine cambric cravat. One hand leaned on a gold-headed cane, the
other lay on his shirt front. His dark, thinnish face was full of
insolent haughtiness. The fine long eyebrows almost grew together over
the pitch-black eyes, about the thin, scarcely discernible lips played
an evil smile.
'Why do you keep staring at those faces?' Piotr Fedoritch asked me.
'Oh, I don't know!' I answered, looking at him.
'Would you care to hear a whole story about those three persons?'
'Oh, please tell it,' we all responded with one voice.
Piotr Fedoritch got up, took a candle, carried it to the portraits, and
in the tone of a showman at a wild beast show, 'Gentlemen!' he boomed,
'this lady was the adopted child of my great-grandfather, Olga Ivanovna
N.N., called Lutchinov, who died forty years ago unmarried. This
gentleman,' he pointed to the portrait of a man in uniform, 'served as a
lieutenant in the Guards, Vassily Ivanovitch Lutchinov, expired by the
will of God in the year seventeen hundred and ninety. And this
gentleman, to whom I have not the honour of being related, is a certain
Pavel Afanasiitch Rogatchov, serving nowhere, as far as I'm aware....
Kindly take note of the hole in his breast, just on the spot where the
heart should be. That hole, you see, a regular three-sided hole, would
be hardly likely to have come there by chance.... Now, 'he went on in
his usual voice, 'kindly seat yourselves, arm yourselves with patience,
Gentlemen! (he began) I come of a rather old family. I am not proud of
my descent, seeing that my ancestors were all fearful prodigals. Though
that reproach cannot indeed be made against my great-grandfather, Ivan
Andreevitch Lutchinov; on the contrary, he had the character of being
excessively careful, even miserly--at any rate, in the latter years of
his life. He spent his youth in Petersburg, and lived through the reign
of Elizabeth. In Petersburg he married, and had by his wife, my
great-grandmother, four children, three sons, Vassily, Ivan, and Pavel,
my grandfather, and one daughter, Natalia. In addition, Ivan Andreevitch
took into his family the daughter of a distant relation, a nameless and
destitute orphan--Olga Ivanovna, of whom I spoke just now. My
great-grandfather's serfs were probably aware of his existence, for they
used (when nothing particularly unlucky occurred) to send him a trifling
rent, but they had never seen his face. The village of Lutchinovka,
deprived of the bodily presence of its lord, was flourishing
exceedingly, when all of a sudden one fine morning a cumbrous old family
coach drove into the village and stopped before the elder's hut. The
peasants, alarmed at such an unheard-of occurrence, ran up and saw their
master and mistress and all their young ones, except the eldest,
Vassily, who was left behind in Petersburg. From that memorable day down
to the very day of his death, Ivan Andreevitch never left Lutchinovka.
He built himself a house, the very house in which I have the pleasure of
conversing with you at this moment. He built a church too, and began
living the life of a country gentleman. Ivan Andreevitch was a man of
immense height, thin, silent, and very deliberate in all his movements.
He never wore a dressing-gown, and no one but his valet had ever seen
him without powder. Ivan Andreevitch usually walked with his hands
clasped behind his back, turning his head at each step. Every day he
used to walk in a long avenue of lime-trees, which he had planted with
his own hand; and before his death he had the pleasure of enjoying the
shade of those trees. Ivan Andreevitch was exceedingly sparing of his
words; a proof of his taciturnity is to be found in the remarkable fact
that in the course of twenty years he had not said a single word to his
wife, Anna Pavlovna. His relations with Anna Pavlovna altogether were of
a very curious sort. She directed the whole management of the household;
at dinner she always sat beside her husband--he would mercilessly have
chastised any one who had dared to say a disrespectful word to her--and
yet he never spoke to her, never touched her hand. Anna Pavlovna was a
pale, broken-spirited woman, completely crushed. She prayed every day on
her knees in church, and she never smiled. There was a rumour that they
had formerly, that is, before they came into the country, lived on very
cordial terms with one another. They did say too that Anna Pavlovna had
been untrue to her matrimonial vows; that her conduct had come to her
husband's knowledge.... Be that as it may, any way Ivan Andreevitch,
even when dying, was not reconciled to her. During his last illness, she
never left him; but he seemed not to notice her. One night, Anna
Pavlovna was sitting in Ivan Andreevitch's bedroom--he suffered from
sleeplessness--a lamp was burning before the holy picture. My
grandfather's servant, Yuditch, of whom I shall have to say a few words
later, went out of the room. Anna Pavlovna got up, crossed the room, and
sobbing flung herself on her knees at her husband's bedside, tried to
say something--stretched out her hands... Ivan Andreevitch looked at
her, and in a faint voice, but resolutely, called, 'Boy!' The servant
went in; Anna Pavlovna hurriedly rose, and went back, tottering, to her
Ivan Andreevitch's children were exceedingly afraid of him. They grew up
in the country, and were witnesses of Ivan Andreevitch's strange
treatment of his wife. They all loved Anna Pavlovna passionately, but
did not dare to show their love. She seemed of herself to hold aloof
from them.... You remember my grandfather, gentlemen; to the day of his
death he always walked on tiptoe, and spoke in a whisper... such is the
force of habit! My grandfather and his brother, Ivan Ivanovitch, were
simple, good-hearted people, quiet and depressed. My grand'tante Natalia
married, as you are aware, a coarse, dull-witted man, and all her life
she cherished an unutterable, slavish, sheep-like passion for him. But
their brother Vassily was not of that sort. I believe I said that Ivan
Andreevitch had left him in Petersburg. He was then twelve. His father
confided him to the care of a distant kinsman, a man no longer young, a
bachelor, and a terrible Voltairean.
Vassily grew up and went into the army. He was not tall, but was
well-built and exceedingly elegant; he spoke French excellently, and was
renowned for his skilful swordsmanship. He was considered one of the
most brilliant young men of the beginning of the reign of Catherine. My
father used often to tell me that he had known more than one old lady
who could not refer to Vassily Ivanovitch Lutchinov without heartfelt
emotion. Picture to yourselves a man endowed with exceptional strength
of will, passionate and calculating, persevering and daring, reserved in
the extreme, and--according to the testimony of all his
contemporaries--fascinatingly, captivatingly attractive. He had no
conscience, no heart, no principle, though no one could have called him
positively a bad-hearted man. He was vain, but knew how to disguise his
vanity, and passionately cherished his independence. When Vassily
Ivanovitch would half close his black eyes, smiling affectionately, when
he wanted to fascinate any one, they say it was impossible to resist him;
and even people, thoroughly convinced of the coldness and hardness of
his heart, were more than once vanquished by the bewitching power of his
personal influence. He served his own interests devotedly, and made
other people, too, work for his advantage; and he was always successful
in everything, because he never lost his head, never disdained using
flattery as a means, and well understood how to use it.
Ten years after Ivan Andreevitch had settled in the country, he came for
a four months' visit to Lutchinovka, a brilliant officer of the Guards,
and in that time succeeded positively in turning the head of the grim
old man, his father. Strange to say, Ivan Andreevitch listened with
enjoyment to his son's stories of some of his _conquests_. His
brothers were speechless in his presence, and admired him as a being of
a higher order. And Anna Pavlovna herself became almost fonder of him
than any of her other children who were so sincerely devoted to her.
Vassily Ivanovitch had come down into the country primarily to visit his
people, but also with the second object of getting as much money as
possible from his father. He lived sumptuously in the glare of publicity
in Petersburg, and had made a mass of debts. He had no easy task to get
round his father's miserliness, and though Ivan Andreevitch gave him on
this one visit probably far more money than he gave all his other
children together during twenty years spent under his roof, Vassily
followed the well-known Russian rule, 'Get what you can!'
Ivan Andreevitch had a servant called Yuditch, just such another tall,
thin, taciturn person as his master. They say that this man Yuditch was
partly responsible for Ivan Andreevitch's strange behaviour with Anna
Pavlovna; they say he discovered my great-grandmother's guilty intrigue
with one of my great-grandfather's dearest friends. Most likely Yuditch
deeply regretted his ill-timed jealousy, for it would be difficult to
conceive a more kind-hearted man. His memory is held in veneration by
all my house-serfs to this day. My great-grandfather put unbounded
confidence in Yuditch. In those days landowners used to have money, but
did not put it into the keeping of banks, they kept it themselves in
chests, under their floors, and so on. Ivan Andreevitch kept all his
money in a great wrought-iron coffer, which stood under the head of his
bed. The key of this coffer was intrusted to Yuditch. Every evening as
he went to bed Ivan Andreevitch used to bid him open the coffer in his
presence, used to tap in turn each of the tightly filled bags with a
stick, and every Saturday he would untie the bags with Yuditch, and
carefully count over the money. Vassily heard of all these doings, and
burned with eagerness to overhaul the sacred coffer. In the course of
five or six days he had _softened_ Yuditch, that is, he had worked
on the old man till, as they say, he worshipped the ground his young
master trod on. Having thus duly prepared him, Vassily put on a careworn
and gloomy air, for a long while refused to answer Yuditch's questions,
and at last told him that he had lost at play, and should make an end of
himself if he could not get money somehow. Yuditch broke into sobs,
flung himself on his knees before him, begged him to think of God, not
to be his own ruin. Vassily locked himself in his room without uttering
a word. A little while after he heard some one cautiously knocking at
his door; he opened it, and saw in the doorway Yuditch pale and
trembling, with the key in his hand. Vassily took in the whole position
at a glance. At first, for a long while, he refused to take it. With
tears Yuditch repeated, 'Take it, your honour, graciously take it!'...
Vassily at last agreed. This took place on Monday. The idea occurred to
Vassily to replace the money taken out with broken bits of crockery. He
reckoned on Ivan Andreevitch's tapping the bags with his stick, and not
noticing the hardly perceptible difference in the sound, and by Saturday
he hoped to obtain and to replace the sum in the coffer. As he planned,
so he did. His father did not, in fact, notice anything. But by Saturday
Vassily had not procured the money; he had hoped to win the sum from a
rich neighbour at cards, and instead of that, he lost it all. Meantime,
Saturday had come; it came at last to the turn of the bags filled with
broken crocks. Picture, gentlemen, the amazement of Ivan Andreevitch!
'What does this mean?' he thundered. Yuditch was silent.
'You stole the money?'
'Then some one took the key from you?'
'I didn't give the key to any one.'
'Not to any one? Well then, you are the thief. Confess!'
'I am not a thief, Ivan Andreevitch.'
'Where the devil did these potsherds come from then? So you're deceiving
me! For the last time I tell you--confess!' Yuditch bowed his head and
folded his hands behind his back.
'Hi, lads!' shrieked Ivan Andreevitch in a voice of frenzy. 'A stick!'
'What, beat... me?' murmured Yuditch.
'Yes, indeed! Are you any better than the rest? You are a thief! O
Yuditch! I never expected such dishonesty of you!'
'I have grown grey in your service, Ivan Andreevitch,' Yuditch
articulated with effort.
'What have I to do with your grey hairs? Damn you and your service!'
The servants came in.
'Take him, do, and give it him thoroughly.' Ivan Andreevitch's lips were
white and twitching. He walked up and down the room like a wild beast in
a small cage.
The servants did not dare to carry out his orders.
'Why are you standing still, children of Ham? Am I to undertake him
Yuditch was moving towards the door....
'Stay!' screamed Ivan Andreevitch. 'Yuditch, for the last time I tell
you, I beg you, Yuditch, confess!'
'I can't!' moaned Yuditch.
'Then take him, the sly old fox! Flog him to death! His blood be on my
head!' thundered the infuriated old man. The flogging began.... The door
suddenly opened, and Vassily came in. He was almost paler than his
father, his hands were shaking, his upper lip was lifted, and laid bare
a row of even, white teeth.
'I am to blame,' he said in a thick but resolute voice. 'I took the
The servants stopped.
'You! what? you, Vaska! without Yuditch's consent?'
'No!' said Yuditch, 'with my consent. I gave Vassily Ivanovitch the key
of my own accord. Your honour, Vassily Ivanovitch! why does your honour
'So this is the thief!' shrieked Ivan Andreevitch. 'Thanks, Vassily,
thanks! But, Yuditch, I'm not going to forgive you anyway. Why didn't
you tell me all about it directly? Hey, you there! why are you standing
still? do you too resist my authority? Ah, I'll settle things with you,
my pretty gentleman!' he added, turning to Vassily.
The servants were again laying hands on Yuditch....
'Don't touch him!' murmured Vassily through his teeth. The men did not
heed him. 'Back!' he shrieked and rushed upon them.... They stepped
'Ah! mutiny!' moaned Ivan Andreevitch, and, raising his stick, he
approached his son. Vassily leaped back, snatched at the handle of his
sword, and bared it to half its length. Every one was trembling. Anna
Pavlovna, attracted by the noise, showed herself at the door, pale and
A terrible change passed over the face of Ivan Andreevitch. He tottered,
dropped the stick, and sank heavily into an arm-chair, hiding his face
in both hands. No one stirred, all stood rooted to the spot, Vassily
like the rest. He clutched the steel sword-handle convulsively, and his
eyes glittered with a weary, evil light....
'Go, all of you... all, out,' Ivan Andreevitch brought out in a low
voice, not taking his hands from his face.
The whole crowd went out. Vassily stood still in the doorway, then
suddenly tossed his head, embraced Yuditch, kissed his mother's hand...
and two hours later he had left the place. He went back to Petersburg.
In the evening of the same day Yuditch was sitting on the steps of the
house serfs' hut. The servants were all round him, sympathising with him
and bitterly reproaching their young master.
'That's enough, lads,' he said to them at last, 'give over... why do you
abuse him? He himself, the young master, I dare say is not very happy at
In consequence of this incident, Vassily never saw his father again.
Ivan Andreevitch died without him, and died probably with such a load of
sorrow on his heart as God grant none of us may ever know. Vassily
Ivanovitch, meanwhile, went into the world, enjoyed himself in his own
way, and squandered money recklessly. How he got hold of the money, I
cannot tell for certain. He had obtained a French servant, a very smart
and intelligent fellow, Bourcier, by name. This man was passionately
attached to him and aided him in all his numerous manoeuvres. I do not
intend to relate in detail all the exploits of my grand-uncle; he was
possessed of such unbounded daring, such serpent-like resource, such
inconceivable wiliness, such a fine and ready wit, that I must own I can
understand the complete sway that unprincipled person exercised even
over the noblest natures.
Soon after his father's death, in spite of his wiliness, Vassily
Ivanovitch was challenged by an injured husband. He fought a duel,
seriously wounded his opponent, and was forced to leave the capital; he
was banished to his estate, and forbidden to leave it. Vassily
Ivanovitch was thirty years old. You may easily imagine, gentlemen, with
what feelings he left the brilliant life in the capital that he was used
to, and came into the country. They say that he got out of the hooded
cart several times on the road, flung himself face downwards in the snow
and cried. No one in Lutchinovka would have known him as the gay and
charming Vassily Ivanovitch they had seen before. He did not talk to any
one; went out shooting from morning to night; endured his mother's timid
caresses with undisguised impatience, and was merciless in his ridicule
of his brothers, and of their wives (they were both married by that
I have not so far, I think, told you anything about Olga Ivanovna. She
had been brought as a tiny baby to Lutchinovka; she all but died on the
road. Olga Ivanovna was brought up, as they say, in the fear of God and
her betters. It must be admitted that Ivan Andreevitch and Anna Pavlovna
both treated her as a daughter. But there lay hid in her soul a faint
spark of that fire which burned so fiercely in Vassily Ivanovitch. While
Ivan Andreevitch's own children did not dare even to wonder about the
cause of the strange, dumb feud between their parents, Olga was from her
earliest years disturbed and tormented by Anna Pavlovna's position. Like
Vassily, she loved independence; any restriction fretted her. She was
devoted with her whole soul to her benefactress; old Lutchinov she
detested, and more than once, sitting at table, she shot such black
looks at him, that even the servant handing the dishes felt
uncomfortable. Ivan Andreevitch never noticed these glances, for he
never took the slightest notice of his family.
At first Anna Pavlovna had tried to eradicate this hatred, but some bold
questions of Olga's forced her to complete silence. The children of Ivan
Andreevitch adored Olga, and the old lady too was fond of her, but not
with a very ardent affection.
Long continued grieving had crushed all cheerfulness and every strong
feeling in that poor woman; nothing is so clear a proof of Vassily's
captivating charm as that he had made even his mother love him
passionately. Demonstrations of tenderness on the part of children were
not in the spirit of the age, and so it is not to be wondered at that
Olga did not dare to express her devotion, though she always kissed Anna
Pavlovna's hand with special reverence, when she said good-night to her.
Twenty years later, Russian girls began to read romances of the class of
_The Adventures of Marquis Glagol, Fanfan and Lolotta, Alexey or the
Cottage in the Forest_; they began to play the clavichord and to sing
songs in the style of the once very well-known:
'Men like butterflies in sunshine
Flutter round us opening blossoms,' etc.
But in the seventies of last century (Olga Ivanovna was born in 1757)
our country beauties had no notion of such accomplishments. It is
difficult for us now to form a clear conception of the Russian miss of
those days. We can indeed judge from our grandmothers of the degree of
culture of girls of noble family in the time of Catherine; but how is
one to distinguish what they had gradually gained in the course of their
long lives from what they were in the days of their youth?
Olga Ivanovna spoke French a little, but with a strong Russian accent:
in her day there was as yet no talk of French emigrants. In fact, with
all her fine qualities, she was still pretty much of a savage, and I
dare say in the simplicity of her heart, she had more than once
chastised some luckless servant girl with her own hands....
Some time before Vassily Ivanovitch's arrival, Olga Ivanovna had been
betrothed to a neighbour, Pavel Afanasievitch Rogatchov, a very
good-natured and straightforward fellow. Nature had forgotten to put any
spice of ill-temper into his composition. His own serfs did not obey
him, and would sometimes all go off, down to the least of them, and
leave poor Rogatchov without any dinner... but nothing could trouble the
peace of his soul. From his childhood he had been stout and indolent,
had never been in the government service, and was fond of going to
church and singing in the choir. Look, gentlemen, at this round,
good-natured face; glance at this mild, beaming smile... don't you
really feel it reassuring, yourselves? His father used at long intervals
to drive over to Lutchinovka, and on holidays used to bring with him his
Pavlusha, whom the little Lutchinovs teased in every possible way.
Pavlusha grew up, began driving over to call on Ivan Andreevitch on his
own account, fell in love with Olga Ivanovna, and offered her his hand
and heart--not to her personally, but to her benefactors. Her
benefactors gave their consent. They never even thought of asking Olga
Ivanovna whether she liked Rogatchov. In those days, in the words of my
grandmother, 'such refinements were not the thing.' Olga soon got used
to her betrothed, however; it was impossible not to feel fond of such a
gentle and amiable creature. Rogatchov had received no education
whatever; his French consisted of the one word _bonjour_, and he
secretly considered even that word improper. But some jocose person had
taught him the following lines, as a French song: 'Sonitchka, Sonitchka!
Ke-voole-voo-de-mwa--I adore you--me-je-ne-pyoo-pa....' This supposed
song he always used to hum to himself when he felt in good spirits. His
father was also a man of incredible good-nature, always wore a long
nankin coat, and whatever was said to him he responded with a smile.
From the time of Pavel Afanasievitch's betrothal, both the Rogatchovs,
father and son, had been tremendously busy. They had been having their
house entirely transformed adding various 'galleries,' talking in a
friendly way with the workmen, encouraging them with drinks. They had
not yet completed all these additions by the winter; they put off the
wedding till the summer. In the summer Ivan Andreevitch died; the
wedding was deferred till the following spring. In the winter Vassily
Ivanovitch arrived. Rogatchov was presented to him; he received him
coldly and contemptuously, and as time went on, he, so alarmed him by
his haughty behaviour that poor Rogatchov trembled like a leaf at the
very sight of him, was tongue-tied and smiled nervously. Vassily once
almost annihilated him altogether--by making him a bet, that he,
Rogatchov, was not able to stop smiling. Poor Pavel Afanasievitch almost
cried with, embarrassment, but--actually!--a smile, a stupid, nervous
smile refused to leave his perspiring face! Vassily toyed deliberately
with the ends of his neckerchief, and looked at him with supreme
contempt. Pavel Afanasievitch's father heard too of Vassily's presence,
and after an interval of a few days--'for the sake of greater
formality'--he sallied off to Lutchinovka with the object of
'felicitating our honoured guest on his advent to the halls of his
ancestors.' Afanasey Lukitch was famed all over the countryside for his
eloquence--that is to say, for his capacity for enunciating without
faltering a rather long and complicated speech, with a sprinkling of
bookish phrases in it. Alas! on this occasion he did not sustain his
reputation; he was even more disconcerted than his son, Pavel
Afanasievitch; he mumbled something quite inarticulate, and though he
had never been used to taking vodka, he at once drained a glass 'to
carry things off'--he found Vassily at lunch,--tried at least to clear
his throat with some dignity, and did not succeed in making the
slightest sound. On their way home, Pavel Afanasievitch whispered to his
parent, 'Well, father?' Afanasey Lukitch responded angrily also in a
whisper, 'Don't speak of it!'
The Rogatchovs began to be less frequent visitors at Lutchinovka. Though
indeed they were not the only people intimidated by Vassily; he awakened
in his own brothers, in their wives, in Anna Pavlovna herself, an
instinctive feeling of uneasiness and discomfort... they tried to avoid
him in every way they could. Vassily must have noticed this, but
apparently had no intention of altering his behaviour to them. Suddenly,
at the beginning of the spring, he became once more the charming,
attractive person they had known of old...
The first symptom of this sudden transformation was Vassily's unexpected
visit to the Rogatchovs. Afanasey Lukitch, in particular, was fairly
disconcerted at the sight of Lutchinov's carriage, but his dismay very
quickly vanished. Never had Vassily been more courteous and delightful.
He took young Rogatchov by the arm, went with him to look at the new
buildings, talked to the carpenters, made some suggestions, with his own
hands chopped a few chips off with the axe, asked to be shown Afanasey
Lukitch's stud horses, himself trotted them out on a halter, and
altogether so affected the good-hearted children of the steppes by his
gracious affability that they both embraced him more than once. At home,
too, Vassily managed, in the course of a few days, to turn every one's
head just as before. He contrived all sorts of laughable games, got hold
of musicians, invited the ladies and gentlemen of the neighbourhood,
told the old ladies the scandals of the town in the most amusing way,
flirted a little with the young ones, invented unheard-of diversions,
fireworks and such things, in short, he put life into every thing and
every one. The melancholy, gloomy house of the Lutchinovs was suddenly
converted into a noisy, brilliant, enchanted palace of which the whole
countryside was talking. This sudden transformation surprised many and
delighted all. All sorts of rumours began to be whispered about.
Sagacious persons opined that Vassily Ivanovitch had till then been
crushed under the weight of some secret trouble, that he saw chances of
returning to the capital... but the true cause of Vassily Ivanovitch's
metamorphosis was guessed by no one.
Olga Ivanovna, gentlemen, was rather pretty; though her beauty consisted
rather in the extraordinary softness and freshness of her shape, in the
quiet grace of her movements than in the strict regularity of her
features. Nature had bestowed on her a certain independence; her
bringing up--she had grown up without father or mother--had developed in
her reserve and determination. Olga did not belong to the class of quiet
and tame-spirited young ladies; but only one feeling had reached its
full possibilities in her as yet--hatred for her benefactor. Other more
feminine passions might indeed flare up in Olga Ivanovna's heart with
abnormal and painful violence... but she had not the cold pride, nor the
intense strength of will, nor the self-centred egoism, without which any
passion passes quickly away.
The first rush of feeling in such half-active, half-passive natures is
sometimes extremely violent; but they give way very quickly, especially
when it is a question of relentless conformity with accepted principles;
they are afraid of consequences.... And yet, gentlemen, I will frankly
confess, women of that sort always make the strongest impression on me.
... (At these words the speaker drank a glass of water. Rubbish!
rubbish! thought I, looking at his round chin; nothing in the world
makes a strong impression on you, my dear fellow!)
Piotr Fedoritch resumed: Gentlemen, I believe in blood, in race. Olga
Ivanovna had more blood than, for instance, her foster sister, Natalia.
How did this blood show itself, do you ask? Why, in everything; in the
lines of her hands, in her lips, in the sound of her voice, in her
glance, in her carriage, in her hair, in the very folds of her gown. In
all these trifles there lay hid something special, though I am bound to
admit that the--how can one express it?--_la distinction_, which
had fallen to Olga Pavlovna's share would not have attracted Vassily's
notice had he met her in Petersburg. But in the country, in the wilds,
she not only caught his attention, she was positively the sole cause of
the transformation of which I have just been speaking.
Consider the position. Vassily Ivanovitch liked to enjoy life; he could
not but be bored in the country; his brothers were good-natured fellows,
but extremely limited people: he had nothing in common with them. His
sister, Natalia, with the assistance of her husband, had brought into
the world in the course of three years no less than four babies; between
her and Vassily was a perfect gulf.... Anna Pavlovna went to church,
prayed, fasted, and was preparing herself for death. There remained only
Olga--a fresh, shy, pretty girl.... Vassily did not notice her at
first... indeed, who does notice a dependant, an orphan girl kept from
charity in the house?... One day, at the very beginning of spring,
Vassily was walking about the garden, and with his cane slashing off the
heads of the dandelions, those stupid yellow flowers, which come out
first in such numbers in the meadows, as soon as they begin to grow
green. He was walking in the garden in front of the house; he lifted his
head, and caught sight of Olga Ivanovna.
She was sitting sideways at the window, dreamily stroking a tabby
kitten, who, purring and blinking, nestled on her lap, and with great
satisfaction held up her little nose into the rather hot spring
sunshine. Olga Ivanovna was wearing a white morning gown, with short
sleeves; her bare, pale-pink, girlish shoulders and arms were a picture
of freshness and health. A little red cap discreetly restrained her
thick, soft, silky curls. Her face was a little flushed; she was only
just awake. Her slender, flexible neck bent forward so charmingly; there
was such seductive negligence, such modesty in the restful pose of her
figure, free from corsets, that Vassily Ivanovitch (a great
connoisseur!) halted involuntarily and peeped in. It suddenly occurred
to him that Olga Ivanovna ought not to be left in her primitive
ignorance; that she might with time be turned into a very sweet and
charming woman. He stole up to the window, stretched up on tiptoe, and
imprinted a silent kiss on Olga Ivanovna's smooth, white arm, a little
below the elbow.
Olga shrieked and jumped up, the kitten put its tail in the air and
leaped into the garden. Vassily Ivanovitch with a smile kept her by the
arm.... Olga flushed all over, to her ears; he began to rally her on her
alarm... invited her to come a walk with him. But Olga Ivanovna became
suddenly conscious of the negligence of her attire, and 'swifter than
the swift red deer' she slipped away into the next room.
The very same day Vassily set off to the Rogatchovs. He was suddenly
happy and light-hearted. Vassily was not in love with Olga, no! the word
'love' is not to be used lightly.... He had found an occupation, had set
himself a task, and rejoiced with the delight of a man of action. He did
not even remember that she was his mother's ward, and another man's
betrothed. He never for one instant deceived himself; he was fully aware
that it was not for her to be his wife.... Possibly there was passion to
excuse him--not a very elevated nor noble passion, truly, but still a
fairly strong and tormenting passion. Of course he was not in love like
a boy; he did not give way to vague ecstasies; he knew very well what he
wanted and what he was striving for.
Vassily was a perfect master of the art of winning over, in the shortest
time, any one however shy or prejudiced against him. Olga soon ceased to
be shy with him. Vassily Ivanovitch led her into a new world. He ordered
a clavichord for her, gave her music lessons (he himself played fairly
well on the flute), read books aloud to her, had long conversations with
her.... The poor child of the steppes soon had her head turned
completely. Vassily dominated her entirely. He knew how to tell her of
what had been till then unknown to her, and to tell her in a language
she could understand. Olga little by little gained courage to express
all her feelings to him: he came to her aid, helped her out with the
words she could not find, did not alarm her, at one moment kept her
back, at another encouraged her confidences.... Vassily busied himself
with her education from no disinterested desire to awaken and develop
her talents. He simply wanted to draw her a little closer to himself;
and he knew too that an innocent, shy, but vain young girl is more
easily seduced through the mind than the heart. Even if Olga had been an
exceptional being, Vassily would never have perceived it, for he treated
her like a child. But as you are aware, gentlemen, there was nothing
specially remarkable in Olga. Vassily tried all he could to work on her
imagination, and often in the evening she left his side with such a
whirl of new images, phrases and ideas in her head that she could not
sleep all night, but lay breathing uneasily and turning her burning
cheeks from side to side on the cool pillows, or got up, went to the
window and gazed fearfully and eagerly into the dark distance. Vassily
filled every moment of her life; she could not think of any one else. As
for Rogatchov, she soon positively ceased to notice his existence.
Vassily had the tact and shrewdness not to talk to Olga in his presence;
but he either made him laugh till he was ready to cry, or arranged some
noisy entertainment, a riding expedition, a boating party by night with
torches and music--he did not in fact let Pavel Afanasievitch have a
chance to think clearly.
But in spite of all Vassily Ivanovitch's tact, Rogatchov dimly felt that
he, Olga's betrothed and future husband, had somehow become as it were
an outsider to her... but in the boundless goodness of his heart, he was
afraid of wounding her by reproaches, though he sincerely loved her and
prized her affection. When left alone with her, he did not know what to
say, and only tried all he could to follow her wishes. Two months passed
by. Every trace of self-reliance, of will, disappeared at last in Olga.
Rogatchov, feeble and tongue-tied, could be no support to her. She had
no wish even to resist the enchantment, and with a sinking heart she
surrendered unconditionally to Vassily....
Olga Ivanovna may very likely then have known something of the bliss of
love; but it was not for long. Though Vassily--for lack of other
occupation--did not drop her, and even attached himself to her and
looked after her fondly, Olga herself was so utterly distraught that she
found no happiness even in love and yet could not tear herself away from
Vassily. She began to be frightened at everything, did not dare to
think, could talk of nothing, gave up reading, and was devoured by
misery. Sometimes Vassily succeeded in carrying her along with him and
making her forget everything and every one. But the very next day he
would find her pale, speechless, with icy hands, and a fixed smile on
her lips.... There followed a time of some difficulty for Vassily; but
no difficulties could dismay him. He concentrated himself like a skilled
gambler. He could not in the least rely upon Olga Ivanovna; she was
continually betraying herself, turning pale, blushing, weeping... her
new part was utterly beyond her powers. Vassily toiled for two: in his
restless and boisterous gaiety, only an experienced observer could have
detected something strained and feverish. He played his brothers,
sisters, the Rogatchovs, the neighbours, like pawns at chess. He was
everlastingly on the alert. Not a single glance, a single movement, was
lost on him, yet he appeared the most heedless of men. Every morning he
faced the fray, and every evening he scored a victory. He was not the
least oppressed by such a fearful strain of activity. He slept four
hours out of the twenty-four, ate very little, and was healthy, fresh,
Meantime the wedding-day was approaching. Vassily succeeded in
persuading Pavel Afanasievitch himself of the necessity of delay. Then
he despatched him to Moscow to make various purchases, while he was
himself in correspondence with friends in Petersburg. He took all this
trouble, not so much from sympathy for Olga Ivanovna, as from a natural
bent and liking for bustle and agitation.... Besides, he was beginning
to be sick of Olga Ivanovna, and more than once after a violent outbreak
of passion for her, he would look at her, as he sometimes did at
Rogatchov. Lutchinov always remained a riddle to every one. In the
coldness of his relentless soul you felt the presence of a strange
almost southern fire, and even in the wildest glow of passion a breath
of icy chill seemed to come from the man.
Before other people he supported Olga Ivanovna as before. But when they
were alone, he played with her like a cat with a mouse, or frightened
her with sophistries, or was wearily, malignantly bored, or again flung
himself at her feet, swept her away, like a straw in a hurricane... and
there was no feigning at such moments in his passion... he really was
One day, rather late in the evening, Vassily was sitting alone in his
room, attentively reading over the last letters he had received from
Petersburg, when suddenly he heard a faint creak at the door, and Olga
Ivanovna's maid, Palashka, came in.
'What do you want?' Vassily asked her rather crossly.
'My mistress begs you to come to her.'
'I can't just now. Go along.... Well what are you standing there for?'
he went on, seeing that Palashka did not go away.
'My mistress told me to say that she very particularly wants to see
you,' she said.
'Why, what's the matter?'
'Would your honour please to see for yourself....'
Vassily got up, angrily flung the letters into a drawer, and went in to
Olga Ivanovna. She was sitting alone in a corner, pale and passive.
'What do you want?' he asked her, not quite politely.
Olga looked at him and closed her eyes.
'What's the matter? what is it, Olga?'
He took her hand.... Olga Ivanovna's hand was cold as ice... She tried
to speak... and her voice died away. The poor woman had no possible
doubt of her condition left her.
Vassily was a little disconcerted. Olga Ivanovna's room was a couple of
steps from Anna Pavlovna's bedroom. Vassily cautiously sat down by Olga,
kissed and chafed her hands, comforted her in whispers. She listened to
him, and silently, faintly, shuddered. In the doorway stood Palashka,
stealthily wiping her eyes. In the next room they heard the heavy, even
ticking of the clock, and the breathing of some one asleep. Olga
Ivanovna's numbness dissolved at last into tears and stifled sobs. Tears
are like a storm; after them one is always calmer. When Olga Ivanovna
had quieted down a little, and only sobbed convulsively at intervals,
like a child, Vassily knelt before her with caresses and tender
promises, soothed her completely, gave her something to drink, put her
to bed, and went away. He did not undress all night; wrote two or three
letters, burnt two or three papers, took out a gold locket containing
the portrait of a black-browed, black-eyed woman with a bold, voluptuous
face, scrutinised her features slowly, and walked up and down the room
Next day, at breakfast, he saw with extreme displeasure poor Olga's red
and swollen eyes and pale, agitated face. After breakfast he proposed a
stroll in the garden to her. Olga followed Vassily, like a submissive
sheep. When two hours afterwards she came in from the garden she quite
broke down; she told Anna Pavlovna she was unwell, and went to lie down
on her bed. During their walk Vassily had, with a suitable show of
remorse, informed her that he was secretly married--he was really as
much a bachelor as I am. Olga Ivanovna did not fall into a swoon--people
don't fall into swoons except on the stage--but she turned all at once
stony, though she herself was so far from hoping to marry Vassily
Ivanovitch that she was even afraid to think about it. Vassily had begun
to explain to her the inevitableness of her parting from him and
marrying Rogatchov. Olga Ivanovna looked at him in dumb horror. Vassily
talked in a cool, business-like, practical way, blamed himself,
expressed his regret, but concluded all his remarks with the following
words: 'There's no going back on the past; we've got to act.'
Olga was utterly overwhelmed; she was filled with terror and shame; a
dull, heavy despair came upon her; she longed for death, and waited in
agony for Vassily's decision.
'We must confess everything to my mother,' he said to her at last.
Olga turned deadly pale; her knees shook under her.
'Don't be afraid, don't be afraid,' repeated Vassily, 'trust to me, I
won't desert you... I will make everything right... rely upon me.'
The poor woman looked at him with love... yes, with love, and deep, but
'I will arrange everything, everything,' Vassily said to her at
parting... and for the last time he kissed her chilly hands....
Next morning--Olga Ivanovna had only just risen from her bed--her door
opened... and Anna Pavlovna appeared in the doorway. She was supported
by Vassily. In silence she got as far as an arm-chair, and in silence
she sat down. Vassily stood at her side. He looked composed; his brows
were knitted and his lips slightly parted. Anna Pavlovna, pale,
indignant, angry, tried to speak, but her voice failed her. Olga
Ivanovna glanced in horror from her benefactress to her lover, with a
terrible sinking at her heart... she fell on her knees with a shriek in
the middle of the room, and hid her face in her hands.
'Then it's true... is it true?' murmured Anna Pavlovna, and bent down to
her.... 'Answer!' she went on harshly, clutching Olga by the arm.
'Mother!' rang out Vassily's brazen voice, 'you promised me not to be
hard on her.'
'I want... confess... confess... is it true? is it true?'
'Mother... remember...' Vassily began deliberately.
This one word moved Anna Pavlovna greatly. She leaned back in her chair,
and burst into sobs.
Olga Ivanovna softly raised her head, and would have flung herself at
the old lady's feet, but Vassily kept her back, raised her from the
ground, and led her to another arm-chair. Anna Pavlovna went on weeping
and muttering disconnected words....
'Come, mother,' began Vassily, 'don't torment yourself, the trouble may
yet be set right.... If Rogatchov...'
Olga Ivanovna shuddered, and drew herself up.
'If Rogatchov,' pursued Vassily, with a meaning glance at Olga Ivanovna,
'imagines that he can disgrace an honourable family with impunity...'
Olga Ivanovna was overcome with horror.
'In my house,' moaned Anna Pavlovna.
'Calm yourself, mother. He took advantage of her innocence, her youth,
he--you wish to say something'--he broke off, seeing that Olga made a
movement towards him....
Olga Ivanovna sank back in her chair.
'I will go at once to Rogatchov. I will make him marry her this very
day. You may be sure I will not let him make a laughing-stock of us....'
'But... Vassily Ivanovitch... you...' whispered Olga.
He gave her a prolonged, cold stare. She sank into silence again.
'Mother, give me your word not to worry her before I return. Look, she
is half dead. And you, too, must rest. Rely upon me; I answer for
everything; in any case, wait till I return. I tell you again, don't
torture her, or yourself, and trust to me.'
He went to the door and stopped. 'Mother,' said he, 'come with me, leave
her alone, I beg of you.'
Anna Pavlovna got up, went up to the holy picture, bowed down to the
ground, and slowly followed her son. Olga Ivanovna, without a word or a
movement, looked after them.
Vassily turned back quickly, snatched her hand, whispered in her ear,
'Rely on me, and don't betray us,' and at once withdrew.... 'Bourcier!'
he called, running swiftly down the stairs, 'Bourcier!'
A quarter of an hour later he was sitting in his carriage with his
That day the elder Rogatchov was not at home. He had gone to the
district town to buy cloth for the liveries of his servants. Pavel
Afanasievitch was sitting in his own room, looking through a collection
of faded butterflies. With lifted eyebrows and protruding lips, he was
carefully, with a pin, turning over the fragile wings of a 'night
sphinx' moth, when he was suddenly aware of a small but heavy hand on
his shoulder. He looked round. Vassily stood before him.
'Good-morning, Vassily Ivanovitch,' he said in some amazement.
Vassily looked at him, and sat down on a chair facing him.
Pavel Afanasievitch was about to smile... but he glanced at Vassily, and
subsided with his mouth open and his hands clasped.
'Tell me, Pavel Afanasievitch,' said Vassily suddenly, 'are you meaning
to dance at your _wedding soon?_'
'I?... soon... of course... for my part... though as you and your sister
... I, for my part, am ready to-morrow even.'
'Very good, very good. You're a very impatient person, Pavel
'Let me tell you,' pursued Vassily Ivanovitch, getting up, 'I know all;
you understand me, and I order you without delay to-morrow to marry
'Excuse me, excuse me,' objected Rogatchov, not rising from his seat;
'you order me. I sought Olga Ivanovna's hand of myself and there's no
need to give me orders.... I confess, Vassily Ivanovitch, I don't quite
'You don't understand me?'
'No, really, I don't understand you.'
'Do you give me your word to marry her to-morrow?'
'Why, mercy on us, Vassily Ivanovitch... haven't you yourself put off
our wedding more than once? Except for you it would have taken place
long ago. And now I have no idea of breaking it off. What is the meaning
of your threats, your insistence?'
Pavel Afanasievitch wiped the sweat off his face.
'Do you give me your word? Say yes or no!' Vassily repeated
'Excuse me... I will... but...'
'Very good. Remember then... She has confessed everything.'
'Who has confessed?'
'Why, what has she confessed?'
'Why, what are you pretending to me for, Pavel Afanasievitch? I'm not a
stranger to you.'
'What am I pretending? I don't understand you, I don't, I positively
don't understand a word. What could Olga Ivanovna confess?'
'What? You are really too much! You know what.'
'May God slay me...'
'No, I'll slay you, if you don't marry her... do you understand?'
'What!...' Pavel Afanasievitch jumped up and stood facing Vassily. 'Olga
Ivanovna... you tell me...'
'You're a clever fellow, you are, I must own'--Vassily with a smile
patted him on the shoulder--'though you do look so innocent.'
'Good God!... You'll send me out of my mind.... What do you mean,
explain, for God's sake!'
Vassily bent down and whispered something in his ear.
Rogatchov cried out, 'What!...!?'
'Olga Ivanovna? Olga?...'
'Yes... your betrothed...'
'My betrothed... Vassily Ivanovitch... she... she... Why, I never wish
to see her again,' cried Pavel Afanasievitch. 'Good-bye to her for ever!
What do you take me for? I'm being duped... I'm being duped... Olga
Ivanovna, how wrong of you, have you no shame?...' (Tears gushed from
his eyes.) 'Thanks, Vassily Ivanovitch, thanks very much... I never
wish to see her again now! no! no! don't speak of her.... Ah, merciful
Heavens! to think I have lived to see this! Oh, very well, very well!'
'That's enough nonsense,' Vassily Ivanovitch observed coldly. 'Remember,
you've given me your word: the wedding's to-morrow.'
'No, that it won't be! Enough of that, Vassily Ivanovitch. I say again,
what do you take me for? You do me too much honour. I'm humbly obliged.
'As you please!' retorted Vassily. 'Get your sword.'
'Sword... what for?'
'What for?... I'll show you what for.'
Vassily drew out his fine, flexible French sword and bent it a little
against the floor.
'You want... to fight... me?'
'But, Vassily Ivanovitch, put yourself in my place! How can I, only
think, after what you have just told me.... I'm a man of honour, Vassily
Ivanovitch, a nobleman.'
'You're a nobleman, you're a man of honour, so you'll be so good as to
fight with me.'
'You are frightened, I think, Mr. Rogatchov.'
'I'm not in the least frightened, Vassily Ivanovitch. You thought you
would frighten me, Vassily Ivanovitch. I'll scare him, you thought, he's
a coward, and he'll agree to anything directly... No, Vassily
Ivanovitch, I am a nobleman as much as you are, though I've not had city
breeding, and you won't succeed in frightening me into anything, excuse
'Very good,' retorted Vassily; 'where is your sword then?'
'Eroshka!' shouted Pavel Afanasievitch. A servant came in.
'Get me the sword--there--you know, in the loft... make haste....'
Eroshka went out. Pavel Afanasievitch suddenly became exceedingly pale,
hurriedly took off his dressing-gown, put on a reddish coat with big
paste buttons... twisted a cravat round his neck... Vassily looked at
him, and twiddled the fingers of his right hand.
'Well, are we to fight then, Pavel Afanasievitch?'
'Let's fight, if we must fight,' replied Rogatchov, and hurriedly
buttoned up his shirt.
'Ay, Pavel Afanasievitch, you take my advice, marry her... what is it to
you... And believe me, I'll...'
'No, Vassily Ivanovitch,' Rogatchov interrupted him. 'You'll kill me or
maim me, I know, but I'm not going to lose my honour; if I'm to die
then I must die.'
Eroshka came in, and trembling, gave Rogatchov a wretched old sword in a
torn leather scabbard. In those days all noblemen wore swords with
powder, but in the steppes they only put on powder twice a year. Eroshka
moved away to the door and burst out crying. Pavel Afanasievitch pushed
him out of the room.
'But, Vassily Ivanovitch,' he observed with some embarrassment, 'I can't
fight with you on the spot: allow me to put off our duel till to-morrow.
My father is not at home, and it would be as well for me to put my
affairs in order to--to be ready for anything.'
'I see you're beginning to feel frightened again, sir.'
'No, no, Vassily Ivanovitch; but consider yourself...'
'Listen!' shouted Lutchinov, 'you drive me out of patience.... Either
give me your word to marry her at once, or fight...or I'll thrash you
with my cane like a coward,--do you understand?'
'Come into the garden,' Rogatchov answered through his teeth.
But all at once the door opened, and the old nurse, Efimovna, utterly
distracted, broke into the room, fell on her knees before Rogatchov, and
clasped his legs....
'My little master!' she wailed, 'my nursling... what is it you are
about? Will you be the death of us poor wretches, your honour? Sure,
he'll kill you, darling! Only you say the word, you say the word, and
we'll make an end of him, the insolent fellow.... Pavel Afanasievitch,
my baby-boy, for the love of God!'
A number of pale, excited faces showed in the door...there was even the
red beard of the village elder...
'Let me go, Efimovna, let me go!' muttered Rogatchov.
'I won't, my own, I won't. What are you about, sir, what are you about?
What'll Afanasey Lukitch say? Why, he'll drive us all out of the light
of day.... Why are you fellows standing still? Take the uninvited guest
in hand and show him out of the house, so that not a trace be left of
'Rogatchov!' Vassily Ivanovitch shouted menacingly.
'You are crazy, Efimovna, you are shaming me, come, come...' said Pavel
Afanasievitch. 'Go away, go away, in God's name, and you others, off
with you, do you hear?...'
Vassily Ivanovitch moved swiftly to the open window, took out a small
silver whistle, blew lightly... Bourcier answered from close by.
Lutchinov turned at once to Pavel Afanasievitch.
'What's to be the end of this farce?'
'Vassily Ivanovitch, I will come to you to-morrow. What can I do with
this crazy old woman?...'
'Oh, I see it's no good wasting words on you,' said Vassily, and he
swiftly raised his cane...
Pavel Afanasievitch broke loose, pushed Efimovna away, snatched up the
sword, and rushed through another door into the garden.
Vassily dashed after him. They ran into a wooden summerhouse, painted
cunningly after the Chinese fashion, shut themselves in, and drew their
swords. Rogatchov had once taken lessons in fencing, but now he was
scarcely capable of drawing a sword properly. The blades crossed.
Vassily was obviously playing with Rogatchov's sword. Pavel
Afanasievitch was breathless and pale, and gazed in consternation into
Meanwhile, screams were heard in the garden; a crowd of people were
running to the summerhouse. Suddenly Rogatchov heard the heart-rending
wail of old age...he recognised the voice of his father. Afanasey
Lukitch, bare-headed, with dishevelled hair, was running in front of
them all, frantically waving his hands....
With a violent and unexpected turn of the blade Vassily sent the sword
flying out of Pavel Afanasievitch's hand.
'Marry her, my boy,' he said to him: 'give over this foolery!'
'I won't marry her,' whispered Rogatchov, and he shut his eyes, and
shook all over.
Afanasey Lukitch began banging at the door of the summerhouse.
'You won't?' shouted Vassily.
Rogatchov shook his head.
'Well, damn you, then!'
Poor Pavel Afanasievitch fell dead: Lutchinov's sword stabbed him to the
heart... The door gave way; old Rogatchov burst into the summerhouse,
but Vassily had already jumped out of window...
Two hours later he went into Olga Ivanovna's room... She rushed in
terror to meet him... He bowed to her in silence; took out his sword and
pierced Pavel Afanasievitch's portrait in the place of the heart. Olga
shrieked and fell unconscious on the floor... Vassily went in to Anna
Pavlovna. He found her in the oratory. 'Mother,' said he, 'we are
avenged.' The poor old woman shuddered and went on praying.
Within a week Vassily had returned to Petersburg, and two years later he
came back stricken with paralysis--tongue-tied. He found neither Anna
Pavlovna nor Olga living, and soon after died himself in the arms of
Yuditch, who fed him like a child, and was the only one who could
understand his incoherent stuttering.