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"But if one admits the possibility of the supernatural, the
possibility of its participation in real life, then allow me to ask
what becomes of common sense?" Anton Stepanitch pronounced and he
folded his arms over his stomach.
Anton Stepanitch had the grade of a civil councillor, served in some
incomprehensible department and, speaking emphatically and stiffly in
a bass voice, enjoyed universal respect. He had not long before, in
the words of those who envied him, "had the Stanislav stuck on to
"That's perfectly true," observed Skvorevitch.
"No one will dispute that," added Kinarevitch.
"I am of the same opinion," the master of the house, Finoplentov,
chimed in from the corner in falsetto.
"Well, I must confess, I cannot agree, for something supernatural has
happened to me myself," said a bald, corpulent middle-aged gentleman
of medium height, who had till then sat silent behind the stove. The
eyes of all in the room turned to him with curiosity and surprise, and
there was a silence.
The man was a Kaluga landowner of small means who had lately come to
Petersburg. He had once served in the Hussars, had lost money at
cards, had resigned his commission and had settled in the country. The
recent economic reforms had reduced his income and he had come to the
capital to look out for a suitable berth. He had no qualifications and
no connections, but he confidently relied on the friendship of an old
comrade who had suddenly, for no visible reason, become a person of
importance, and whom he had once helped in thrashing a card sharper.
Moreover, he reckoned on his luck--and it did not fail him: a few days
after his arrival in town he received the post of superintendent of
government warehouses, a profitable and even honourable position,
which did not call for conspicuous abilities: the warehouses
themselves had only a hypothetical existence and indeed it was not
very precisely known with what they were to be filled--but they had
been invented with a view to government economy.
Anton Stepanitch was the first to break the silence.
"What, my dear sir," he began, "do you seriously maintain that
something supernatural has happened to you? I mean to say, something
inconsistent with the laws of nature?"
"I do maintain it," replied the gentleman addressed as "My dear sir,"
whose name was Porfiry Kapitonitch.
"Inconsistent with the laws of nature!" Anton Stepanitch repeated
angrily; apparently he liked the phrase.
"Just so ... yes; it was precisely what you say."
"That's amazing! What do you think of it,
gentlemen?" Anton Stepanitch tried to give
his features an ironical expression, but without
effect--or to speak more accurately, merely
with the effect of suggesting that the dignified
civil councillor had detected an unpleasant
smell. "Might we trouble you, dear sir," he
went on, addressing the Kaluga landowner, "to
give us the details of so interesting an incident?"
"Certainly, why not?" answered the landowner and, moving in a
free-and-easy way to the middle of the room, he spoke as follows:
"I have, gentlemen, as you are probably aware, or perhaps are not
aware, a small estate in the Kozelsky district. In old days I used to
get something out of it, though now, of course, I have nothing to look
forward to but unpleasantness. But enough of politics. Well, in that
district I have a little place: the usual kitchen garden, a little
pond with carp in it, farm buildings of a sort and a little lodge for
my own sinful person ... I am a bachelor. Well, one day--some six
years ago--I came home rather late; I had had a game of cards at a
neighbour's and I was--I beg you to note--the least little bit
elevated, as they say; I undressed, got into bed and put out the
candle. And only fancy, gentlemen: as soon as I put out the candle
there was something moving under my bed! I wondered whether it was a
rat; no, it was not a rat: it moved about, scratched on the floor and
scratched itself.... At last it flapped its ears!
"There was no mistake about it; it was a dog. But where could a dog
have come from? I did not keep one; could some stray dog have run in,
I wondered. I called my servant; Filka was his name. He came in with a
"'How's this,' I said, 'Filka, my lad? Is that how you look after
things? A dog has got under my bed?' 'What dog?' said he. 'How do I
know,' said I, 'that's your business--to save your master from
disturbance.' My Filka bent down, and began moving the candle under
the bed. 'But there's no dog here,' said he. I bent down, too; there
certainly was no dog there. What a queer thing!--I glanced at Filka
and he was smiling. 'You stupid,' I said to him, 'why are you
grinning. When you opened the door the dog must have whisked out into
the passage. And you, gaping idiot, saw nothing because you are always
asleep. You don't suppose I am drunk, do you?' He would have answered,
but I sent him out, curled up and that night heard nothing more.
"But the next night--only fancy--the thing was repeated. As soon as I
blew out the candle, he scratched himself and flapped his ears again.
Again I called Filka; again he looked under the bed--again there was
nothing! I sent him away, blew out the candle--and, damn it all, the
dog was there again and it was a dog right enough: one could hear it
breathing, biting its coat, looking for fleas.... It was so
distinct--'Filka,' I said, 'come here without the candle!' He came in.
'Well, now,' I said, 'do you hear?' 'Yes,' he said. I could not see
him, but I felt that the fellow was scared. 'What do you make of it?'
said I. 'What do you bid me make of it, Porfiry Kapitonitch? It's
sorcery!' 'You are a foolish fellow,' I said, 'hold your tongue with
your sorcery....' And our voices quavered like a bird's and we were
trembling in the dark as though we were in a fever. I lighted a
candle, no dog, no sound, only us two, as white as chalk. So I kept a
candle burning till morning and I assure you, gentlemen, you may
believe me or you may not, but from that night for six weeks the same
thing was repeated. In the end I actually got used to it and began
putting out the candle, because I couldn't get to sleep in the light.
'Let him fidget,' I thought, 'he doesn't do me any harm.'"
"Well, I see you are not one of the chicken-hearted brigade," Anton
Stepanitch interrupted in a half-contemptuous, half-condescending
tone! "One can see the Hussar at once!"
"I shouldn't be afraid of you in any case," Porfiry Kapitonitch
observed, and for an instant he really did look like a Hussar.
"But listen to the rest. A neighbour came to see me, the very one with
whom I used to play cards. He dined with me on what luck provided and
dropped some fifty roubles for his visit; night came on, it was time
for him to be off. But I had my own idea. 'Stay the night with me,' I
said, 'Vassily Vassilitch; tomorrow, please God, you will win it
back.' Vassily Vassilitch considered and stayed. I had a bed put up
for him in my room.... Well, we went to bed, smoked, chatted--about
the fair sex for the most part, as is only suitable in bachelor
company--we laughed, of course; I saw Vassily Vassilitch put out his
candle and turn his back towards me: as much as to say: 'Good night.'
I waited a little, then I, too, put out my candle. And, only fancy, I
had hardly time to wonder what sort of trick would be played this
time, when the sweet creature was moving again. And moving was not
all; it came out from under the bed, walked across the room, tapped on
the floor with its paws, shook its ears and all of a sudden pushed
against the very chair that was close by Vassily Vassilitch's bed.
'Porfiry Kapitonitch,' said the latter, and in such an unconcerned
voice, you know, 'I did not know you had a dog. What sort is it, a
setter?' 'I haven't a dog,' I said, 'and never have had one!' 'You
haven't? Why, what's this?' 'What's _this_?' said I, 'why, light
the candle and then you will see for yourself.' 'Isn't it a dog?'
'No.' Vassily Vassilitch turned over in bed. 'But you are joking, dash
it all.' 'No, I am not joking.' I heard him go strike, strike, with a
match, while the creature persisted in scratching its ribs. The light
flared up ... and, hey presto! not a trace remained! Vassily
Vassilitch looked at me and I looked at him. 'What trick is this?' he
said. 'It's a trick,' I said, 'that, if you were to set Socrates
himself on one side and Frederick the Great on the other, even they
could not make it out.' And then I told him all about it. Didn't my
Vassily Vassilitch jump out of bed! As though he had been scalded! He
couldn't get into his boots. 'Horses,' he cried, 'horses!' I began
trying to persuade him, but it was no use! He positively gasped! 'I
won't stay,' he said, 'not a minute! You must be a man under a curse!
Horses.' However, I prevailed upon him. Only his bed was dragged into
another room and nightlights were lighted everywhere. At our tea in
the morning he had regained his equanimity; he began to give me
advice. 'You should try being away from home for a few days, Porfiry
Kapitonitch,' he said, 'perhaps this abomination would leave you.' And
I must tell you: my neighbour was a man of immense intellect. He
managed his mother-in-law wonderfully: he fastened an I. O. U. upon
her; he must have chosen a sentimental moment! She became as soft as
silk, she gave him an authorisation for the management of all her
estate--what more would you have? You know it is something to get the
better of one's mother-in-law. Eh! You can judge for yourselves.
However, he took leave of me in some displeasure; I'd stripped him of
a hundred roubles again. He actually abused me. 'You are ungrateful.'
he said, 'you have no feeling'; but how was I to blame? Well, be that
as it may, I considered his advice. That very day I drove off to the
town and put up at an inn, kept by an old man I knew, a Dissenter. He
was a worthy old fellow, though a little morose from living in
solitude, all his family were dead. But he disliked tobacco and had
the greatest loathing for dogs; I believe he would have been torn to
pieces rather than consent to let a dog into his room. 'For how can
one?' he would say, 'the Queen of Heaven herself is graciously pleased
to be on my wall there, and is an unclean dog to put his infidel nose
there?' Of course, it was lack of education! However, to my thinking,
whatever wisdom a man has he had better stick to that."
"I see you are a great philosopher," Anton Stepanitch interrupted a
second time with the same sarcastic smile.
This time Porfiry Kapitonitch actually frowned.
"How much I know of philosophy I cannot tell," he observed, tugging
grimly at his moustache, "but I would be glad to give you a lesson in
We all simply stared at Anton Stepanitch. Every one of us expected a
haughty reply, or at least a glance like a flash of lightning.... But
the civil councillor turned his contemptuous smile into one of
indifference, then yawned, swung his foot and--that was all!
"Well, I stayed at that old fellow's," Porfiry Kapitonitch went on.
"He gave me a little room, not one of the best, as we were old
friends; his own was close by, the other side of the partition--and
that was just what I wanted. The tortures I faced that night! A little
room, a regular oven, stuffiness, flies, and such sticky ones; in the
corner an extraordinarily big shrine with ancient ikons, with dingy
setting in relief on them. It fairly reeked of oil and some other
stuff, too; there were two featherbeds on the beds. If you moved the
pillow a black beetle would run from under it.... I had drunk an
incredible quantity of tea, feeling so dreary--it was simply dreadful!
I got into bed; there was no possibility of sleeping--and, the other
side of the partition, my host was sighing, clearing his throat,
repeating his prayers. However, he subsided at last. I heard him begin
to snore, but only faintly, in the old-fashioned polite way. I had put
my candle out long ago, but the little lamp was burning before the
ikons.... That prevented it, I suppose. So I got up softly with bare
feet, climbed up to the lamp, and blew it out.... Nothing happened.
'Oho!' I thought, 'so it doesn't come off in other people's houses.'
"But I had no sooner got into bed than there was a commotion again. He
was scraping on the floor and scratching himself and shaking his
ears ... the usual thing, in fact. Very good! I lay still and waited to
see what would happen. I heard the old man wake up. 'Sir,' he said,
'hey, sir.' 'What is it?' 'Did you put out the lamp?' But without
waiting for my answer, he burst out all at once. 'What's that? What's
that, a dog? A dog! Ah, you vile heretic!' 'Wait a bit, old man, before
you scold,' I said. 'You had better come here yourself. Things are
happening,' I said, 'that may well make you wonder.' The old man
stirred behind the partition and came in to me, with a candle, a very,
very thin one, made of yellow wax; I was surprised when I looked at
him! He looked bristling all over, with hairy ears and eyes as fierce
as a weasel's; he had on a white woollen night cap, a beard to his
waist, white; too, and a waistcoat with copper buttons on it over his
shirt and fur boots on his feet and he smelt of juniper. In this
attire he approached the ikons, crossed himself three times with his
two fingers crossed, lighted the lamp, crossed himself again and,
turning to me, just grunted: 'Explain!' And thereupon, without delay,
I told him all that had happened. The old man listened to my account
and did not drop one word, simply shook his head. Then he sat down on
my bed and still said nothing. He scratched his chest, the back of his
head and so on and said nothing. 'Well,' I said, 'Fedul Ivanitch, what
do you think? Is it some devil's sorcery or what?' The old man looked
at me. 'What an idea! Devil's sorcery! A tobacco-smoker like you might
well have that at home, but not here. Only think what holiness there
is here! Sorcery, indeed!' 'And if it is not sorcery, what is it,
then?' The old man was silent again; again he scratched himself and
said at last, but in a muffled voice, for his moustache was all over
his mouth: 'You go to the town of Belyov. There is no one who can help
you but one man. And that man lives in Belyov. He is one of our
people. If he is willing to help you, you are lucky; if he is not,
nothing can be done.' 'And how am I to find this man?' I said. 'I can
direct you about that,' he answered; 'but how can it be sorcery? It is
an apparition, or rather an indication; but you cannot comprehend it,
it is beyond your understanding. Lie down to sleep now with the
blessing of our Lord Christ; I will burn incense and in the morning we
will converse. Morning, you know, brings wisdom.'
"Well, we did converse in the morning, only I was almost stifled by
that incense. And this was the counsel the old man gave me: that when
I reached Belyov I should go into the market place and ask in the
second shop on the right for one Prohoritch, and when I had found
Prohoritch, put into his hand a writing and the writing consisted of a
scrap of paper, on which stood the following words: 'In the name of
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen. To Sergey Prohorovitch
Pervushin. Trust this man. Feduly Ivanitch.' And below, 'Send the
cabbages, for God's sake.'
"I thanked the old man and without further discussion ordered my
carriage and drove to Belyov. For I reflected, that though I suffered
no harm from my nocturnal visitor, yet it was uncanny and in fact not
quite the thing for a nobleman and an officer--what do you think?"
"And did you really go to Belyov?" murmured Finoplentov.
"Straight to Belyov. I went into the market place and asked at the
second shop on the right for Prohoritch. 'Is there such a person?' I
asked. 'Yes,' they told me. 'And where does he live?' 'By the Oka,
beyond the market gardens.' 'In whose house?' 'In his own.' I went to
the Oka, found his house, though it was really not a house but simply
a hovel. I saw a man wearing a blue patched coat and a ragged cap,
well ... he looked like a working-man, he was standing with his back
to me, digging among his cabbages. I went up to him. 'Are you so and
so?' I said. He turned round and, I tell you the truth, I have never
seen such piercing eyes in my life. Yet the whole face was shrunk up
like a little fist with a little wedge-shaped beard and sunken lips.
He was an old man. 'I am so and so,' he said. 'What are you
_needing_?' 'Why, this is what I am _needing_,' I said, and
put the writing in his hand. He looked at me intently and said: 'Come
indoors, I can't read without spectacles.'
"Well, I went with him into his hut--and a hut it certainly was: poor,
bare, crooked; only just holding together. On the wall there was an
ikon of old workmanship as black as a coal; only the whites of the
eyes gleamed in the faces. He took some round spectacles in iron
frames out of a little table, put them on his nose, read the writing
and looked at me again through the spectacles. 'You have need of me?'
'I certainly have,' I answered. 'Well,' said he, 'if you have, tell it
and we will listen.' And, only fancy, he sat down and took a checked
handkerchief out of his pocket, and spread it out on his knee, and the
handkerchief was full of holes, and he looked at me with as much
dignity as though he were a senator or a minister, and he did not
ask me to sit down. And what was still stranger, I felt all at once
awe-stricken, so awe-stricken ... my soul sank into my heels. He
pierced me through with his eyes and that's the fact! I pulled myself
together, however, and told him all my story. He was silent for a
space, shrank into himself, chewed his lips and then questioned me
just like a senator again, majestically, without haste. 'What is your
name?' he asked. 'Your age? What were your parents? Are you single or
married?' Then again he munched his lips, frowned, held up his finger
and spoke: 'Bow down to the holy ikon, to the honourable Saints
Zossima and Savvaty of Solovki.' I bowed down to the earth and did not
get up in a hurry; I felt such awe for the man and such submission
that I believe that whatever he had told me to do I should have done
it on the spot! ... I see you are grinning, gentlemen, but I was in no
laughing mood then, I assure you. 'Get up, sir,' said he at last. 'I
can help you. This is not sent you as a chastisement, but as a
warning; it is for your protection; someone is praying for your
welfare. Go to the market now and buy a young dog and keep it by you
day and night. Your visions will leave you and, moreover, that dog
will be of use to you.'
"I felt as though light dawned upon me, all at once; how those words
delighted me. I bowed down to Prohoritch and would have gone away,
when I bethought me that I could not go away without rewarding him. I
got a three rouble note out of my pocket. But he thrust my hand away
and said, 'Give it to our chapel, or to the poor; the service I have
done you is not to be paid for.' I bowed down to him again almost to
the ground, and set off straight for the market! And only fancy: as
soon as I drew near the shops, lo and behold, a man in a frieze
overcoat comes sauntering towards me carrying under his arm a two
months' old setter puppy with a reddish brown coat, white lips and
white forepaws. 'Stay,' I said to the man in the overcoat, 'what will
you sell it for?' 'For two roubles.' Take three!' The man looked at me
in amazement, thought the gentleman had gone out of his wits, but I
flung the notes in his face, took the pup under my arm and made for my
carriage! The coachman quickly had the horses harnessed and that
evening I reached home. The puppy sat inside my coat all the way and
did not stir; and I kept calling him, 'Little Trésor! Little Trésor!'
I gave him food and drink at once. I had some straw brought in,
settled him and whisked into bed! I blew out the candle: it was dark.
'Well, now begin,' said I. There was silence. 'Begin,' said I, 'you so
and so!'... Not a sound, as though to mock me. Well, I began to feel
so set up that I fell to calling it all sorts of names. But still
there was not a sound! I could only hear the puppy panting! Filka,' I
cried, 'Filka! Come here, you stupid!' He came in. 'Do you hear the
dog?' 'No, sir,' said he, 'I hear nothing,' and he laughed. 'And you
won't hear it ever again,' said I. 'Here's half a rouble for vodka!'
'Let me kiss your hand,' said the foolish fellow, and he stooped down
to me in the darkness.... It was a great relief, I must tell you."
"And was that how it all ended?" asked Anton Stepanitch, this time
"The apparitions ended certainly and I was not disturbed in any way,
but wait a bit, the whole business was not over yet. My Trésor grew,
he turned into a fine fellow. He was heavy, with flopping ears and
overhanging lip and a thick tail; a regular sporting dog. And he was
extremely attached to me, too. The shooting in our district is poor,
however, as I had set up a dog, I got a gun, too. I took to sauntering
round the neighbourhood with my Trésor: sometimes one would hit a hare
(and didn't he go after that hare, upon my soul), sometimes a quail,
or a duck. But the great thing was that Trésor was never a step away
from me. Where I went, he went; I even took him to the bath with me, I
did really! One lady actually tried to get me turned out of her
drawing-room on account of Trésor, but I made such an uproar! The
windows I broke! Well, one day ... it was in summer ... and I must
tell you there was a drought at the time such as nobody remembered.
The air was full of smoke or haze. There was a smell of burning, the
sun was like a molten bullet, and as for the dust there was no getting
it out of one's nose and throat. People walked with their mouths wide
open like crows. I got weary of sitting at home in complete
deshabille, with shutters closed; and luckily the heat was beginning
to abate a little.... So I went off, gentlemen, to see a lady, a
neighbour of mine. She lived about three-quarters of a mile away--and
she certainly was a benevolent lady. She was still young and blooming
and of most prepossessing appearance; but she was of rather uncertain
temper. Though that is no harm in the fair sex; it even gives me
pleasure.... Well, I reached her door, and I did feel that I had had a
hot time of it getting there! Well, I thought, Nimfodora Semyonovna
will regale me now with bilberry water and other cooling drinks--and I
had already taken hold of the doorhandle when all at once there was
the tramping of feet and shrieking, and shouting of boys from round
the corner of a hut in the courtyard.... I looked round. Good heavens!
A huge reddish beast was rushing straight towards me; at the first
glance I did not recognise it as a dog: its jaws were open, its eyes
were bloodshot, its coat was bristling.... I had not time to take
breath before the monster bounded up the steps, stood upon its hind
legs and made straight for my chest--it was a position! I was numb
with terror and could not lift my arms. I was completely stupefied....
I could see nothing but the terrible white tusks just before my nose,
the red tongue all covered with white foam. But at the same instant,
another dark body was whisking before me like a ball--it was my
darling Trésor defending me; and he hung like a leech on the brute's
throat! The creature wheezed, grated its teeth and staggered back. I
instantly flung open the door and got into the hall.... I stood hardly
knowing what I was doing with my whole weight on the door, and heard a
desperate battle going on outside. I began shouting and calling for
help; everyone in the house was terribly upset. Nimfodora Semyonovna
ran out with her hair down, the voices in the yard grew louder--and
all at once I heard: 'Hold the gate, hold it, fasten it!' I opened the
door--just a crack, and looked out: the monster was no longer on the
steps, the servants were rushing about the yard in confusion waving
their hands and picking up bits of wood from the ground; they were
quite crazy. 'To the village, it has run off to the village,' shrieked
a peasant woman in a cap of extraordinary size poking her head out of
a dormer window. I went out of the house.
"'Where is my Trésor?' I asked and at once I saw my saviour. He was
coming from the gate limping, covered with wounds and with blood....
'What's the meaning of it?' I asked the servants who were dashing
about the yard as though possessed. 'A mad dog!' they answered, 'the
count's; it's been hanging about here since yesterday.'
"We had a neighbour, a count, who bred very fierce foreign dogs. My
knees shook; I rushed to a looking-glass and looked to see whether I
had been bitten. No, thank God, there was nothing to be seen; only my
countenance naturally looked green; while Nimfodora Semyonovna was
lying on the sofa and cackling like a hen. Well, that one could quite
understand, in the first place nerves, in the second sensibility. She
came to herself at last, though, and asked me whether I were alive. I
answered that I was and that Trésor had saved me. 'Ah,' she said,
'what a noble creature! and so the mad dog has strangled him?' 'No,' I
said, 'it has not strangled him, but has wounded him seriously.' 'Oh,'
she said, 'in that case he must be shot this minute!' 'Oh, no,' I
said, 'I won't agree to that. I shall try to cure him....' At that
moment Trésor began scratching at the door. I was about to go and open
it for him. 'Oh,' she said, 'what are you doing, why, it will bite us
all.' 'Upon my word,' I said, 'the poison does not act so quickly.'
'Oh, how can you?' she said. 'Why, you have taken leave of your
senses!' 'Nimfotchka,' I said, 'calm yourself, be reasonable....' But
she suddenly cried, 'Go away at once with your horrid dog.' 'I will
go away,' said I. 'At once,' she said, 'this second! Get along with
you,' she said, 'you villain, and never dare to let me set eyes on you
again. You may go mad yourself!' 'Very good,' said I, 'only let me
have a carriage for I am afraid to go home on foot now.' 'Give him the
carriage, the coach, the chaise, what he likes, only let him be gone
quickly. Oh, what eyes! Oh, what eyes he has!' and with those words
she whisked out of the room and gave a maid who met her a slap in the
face--and I heard her in hysterics again.
"And you may not believe me, gentlemen, but that very day I broke off
all acquaintance with Nimfodora Semyonovna; on mature consideration of
everything, I am bound to add that for that circumstance, too, I shall
owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Trésor to the hour of my death.
"Well, I had the carriage brought round, put my Trésor in and drove
home. When I got home I looked him over and washed his wounds, and
thought I would take him next day as soon as it was light to the wise
man in the Yefremovsky district. And this wise man was an old peasant,
a wonderful man: he would whisper over some water--and some people
made out that he dropped some snake spittle into it--would give it as
a draught, and the trouble would be gone completely. I thought, by the
way, I would be bled myself at Yefremovo: it's a good thing as a
precaution against fright, only not from the arm, of course, but from
"What place is that, the falcon?" Mr. Finoplentov asked with demure
"Why, don't you know? It is here on the fist near the thumb, the spot
on which one shakes the snuff from one's horn, just here. It's the
best place for letting blood. For only consider, the blood from the
arm comes from the vein, but here it is of no consequence. The doctors
don't know that and don't understand it, how should they, the idle
drones, the wretched Germans? It's the blacksmiths who go in for it.
And aren't they skilful! They get a chisel, give it a tap with a
hammer and it's done! ... Well, while I was thinking it over, it got
quite dark, it was time for bed. I went to bed and Trésor, of course,
was close by me. But whether it was from the fight, from the
stuffiness, from the fleas or from my thoughts, I could not get to
sleep, do what I would! I can't describe the depression that came over
me; I sipped water, opened the window and played the 'Kamarinsky' with
Italian variations on the guitar.... No good! I felt I must get out of
the room--and that was all about it! I made up my mind at last: I took
my pillow, my quilt and my sheet and made my way across the garden to
the hayloft; and settled myself there. And how pleasant I felt in
there, gentlemen: it was a still, still night, only from time to time
a breath of air like a woman's hand caressed one's cheek; it was so
fresh; the hay smelt as sweet as tea; among the apple trees' the
grasshoppers were chirping; then all at once came the cry of the
quail--and one felt that he, too, the rogue, was happy, sitting in the
dew with his little lady.... And the sky was magnificent.... The stars
were glowing, or a cloud would float by, white as cotton wool,
At this point in the story Skvorevitch sneezed; Kinarevitch sneezed,
too--he never failed in anything to follow his colleague's example.
Anton Stepanitch looked approvingly at both of them.
"Well," Porfiry Kapitonitch went on, "well, so I lay there and again
could not go to sleep. I fell to musing, and what I thought of most
was the strangeness of it all: how correctly Prohoritch had explained
it as a warning and I wondered why it was to me such marvels had
happened.... I marvelled--particularly because I could make nothing of
it--and Trésor kept whining, as he twisted round in the hay; his
wounds hurt him. And I will tell you what else prevented me from
sleeping--you won't believe it--the moon. It was just facing me, so
big and round and yellow and flat, and it seemed to me that it was
staring at me, it really did. And so insolently, so persistently.... I
put out my tongue at it at last, I really did. What are you so
inquisitive about? I thought. I turned away from it and it seemed to
be creeping into my ear and shining on the back of my head, so that I
felt caught in it as in rain; I opened my eyes and every blade of
grass, every paltry being in the hay, the most flimsy spider's web--all
were standing out as though they were chiselled! As though asking
to be looked at! There was no help for it: I leaned my head on my hand
and began gazing. And I couldn't help it: would you believe it: my
eyes bulged out like a hare's; they opened so wide--as though they did
not know what sleep was! It seemed as though I would devour it all
with my eyes. The doors of the barn were wide open; I could see for
four miles into the open country, distinctly and yet not, as it always
is on a moonlight night. I gazed and gazed without blinking.... And
all at once it seemed as though something were moving, far, far
away ... like a faint glimmer in the distance. A little time passed:
again the shadow stirred--now a little nearer; then again nearer still.
'What can it be?' I wondered, 'a hare, no,' I thought, 'it is bigger
than a hare and its action is not the same.' I looked, and again the
shadow came in sight, and was moving across the grazing meadow (the
meadow looked whitish in the moonlight) like a big blur; it was clear
that it was a wild animal, a fox or a wolf. My heart seemed to stand
still ... though one might wonder why I was frightened. All sorts of
wild creatures run about the fields at night. But curiosity was even
stronger than fear. I sat up, I opened my eyes wide and I turned cold
all over. I felt frozen, as though I had been thrust into the ice, up
to my ears, and why? The Lord only knows! And I saw the shadow growing
and growing, so it was running straight towards the barn. And I began
to realise that it certainly was a wild beast, big, with a huge
head.... He flew like a whirlwind, like a bullet.... Holy saints! what
was it? He stopped all at once, as though he scented something.... Why
it was ... the same mad dog! It was ... it was! Heavens! And I could
not stir, I could not cry out.... It darted to the doors, with
glittering eyes, howled and dashed through the hay straight at me!
"Out of the hay like a lion leapt my Trésor, here he was. They hung on
to each other's jaws and rolled on the ground. What happened then I
don't remember; all I remember is that I flew headlong between them
into the garden, and home and into my bedroom and almost crept under
the bed--why not make a clean breast of it? And what leaps, what
bounds I took in the garden! The _prémiere danseuse_ dancing
before the Emperor Napoleon on his nameday couldn't have kept pace
with me. However, when I had recovered myself a little, I roused the
whole household; I ordered them all to arm themselves, I myself took a
sword and a revolver (I bought that revolver, I must own, soon after
the emancipation, you know, in case anything should happen, but it
turned out the man who sold it was such a rogue--it would be sure to
miss fire twice out of every three shots). Well, I took all this and
so we went, a regular horde of us with stakes and lanterns, to the
barn. We approached and called--there was not a sound; at last we went
into the barn.... And what did we see? My poor Trésor lay dead with
his throat torn open, and of the other, the damned brute, not a trace
to be seen!
"And then, gentlemen, I howled like a calf and I am not ashamed to say
so; I stooped down to the friend who had saved my life twice over and
kissed his head, again and again. And I stayed in that position until
my old housekeeper, Praskovya (she, too, had run in at the uproar),
brought me to my senses. 'How can you, Porfiry Kapitonitch,' she said,
'distress yourself so about a dog? And you will catch cold, too, God
forbid.' (I was very lightly clad.) 'And if this dog has lost his life
in saving you, it may be taken as a great blessing vouchsafed him!'
"Though I did not agree with Praskovya, I went home. And next day a
soldier of the garrison shot the mad dog. And it must have been its
destined end: it was the first time in his life that the soldier had
fired a gun, though he had a medal for service in 1812. So this was
the supernatural incident that happened to me."
The speaker ceased and began filling his pipe. We all looked at each
other in amazement.
"Well, perhaps, you have led a very virtuous life," Mr. Finoplentov
began, "so in recompense ..."
But he broke off at that word, for he saw Porfiry Kapitonitch's cheeks
grow round and flushed while his eyes screwed up--he was on the point
of breaking into a guffaw.
"But if one admits the possibility of the supernatural, the
possibility of its participation in everyday life, so to say," Anton
Stepanitch began again, "then allow me to ask, what becomes of common
None of us found anything to say in reply and we remained in
perplexity as before.
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