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Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian author, essayist and philosopher wrote the epic novel War and Peace (1865-69),

 

لئو تولستوی   Leo Tolstoy

Man in connection with the general life of humanity appears subject to laws which determine that life. But the same man apart from that connection appears to be free. How should the past life of nations and of humanity be regarded—as the result of the free, or as the result of the constrained, activity of man? That is a question for history. (Epilogue 2, Ch. VIII)

 

Anonymously narrated, the novel is set during the Napoleonic wars, the era which forms the backdrop of Tolstoy’s painstakingly detailed depiction of early 19th century Tsarist Russia under Alexander I: her archetypes and anti-heroes. Through his masterful development of characters Pierre, Andrew, Natasha, Nicholas, Mary and the rest, War and Peace examines the absurdity, hypocrisy, and shallowness of war and aristocratic society. It all comes to a climax during the Battle of Borodino. Initially Tolstoy’s friends including Ivan S. Turgenev and Gustave Flaubert decided that the novels’ ‘formlessness’ weakened the overall potential for its success, but they were soon proved wrong. Almost one hundred years after his death, in January of 2007, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1878) and War and Peace were placed on Time magazine’s ten greatest novels of all time, first and third place respectively.


Childhood: days of idyll,
Moscow and Kazan University

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born on 28 August 1828 into a long line of Russian nobility. He was the fourth child of Countess Maria Volkonsky (who Tolstoy does not remember, as she died after giving birth to his sister Mariya in 1830) and Count Nicolay Ilyich Tolstoy (1797-1837) a Lieutenant Colonel who was awarded the order of St. Vladimir for his service. At the age of sixteen he had fathered a son with a servant girl, Leo’s half-brother Mishenka. When Count Tolstoy resigned from his last post with the Military Orphanage, a marriage was arranged between him and Maria Volkonsky. After her death the Count’s distant cousin Tatyana Aleksandrovna Yergolskaya ‘Aunt Tatyana’, who already lived with them helped him in running the household, raising the children and overseeing their tutoring. Leo’s paternal grandfather Count Ilya Andreyevich Tolstoy (d.1820) had been an overly generous and trusting man; by the time Leo was born the Tolstoy fortunes had dwindled and the newlyweds settled at the Volkonsky family estate ‘Yasnaya Polyana’ (meaning ‘Clear Glade’) located in Tula Region, Shchekino District of central Russia. Leo’s maternal great grandfather Prince Nikolas Sergeyevich Volkonsky had established it in the early 1800s; upon his death his daughter Countess Volkonsky inherited it. It is now preserved as a State Memorial and National Preserve.

 

From Leo’s Introduction to biographer Paul Birukoff’s Leo Tolstoy: Childhood and Early Manhood (1906) we gather the very clear and fond memories he has of his early years and his loved ones: my father never humbled himself before any one, nor altered his brisk, merry, and often chaffing tone. Count Tolstoy was a gentle, easy going man. Quick to tell a joke, he was reluctant to mete out corporal punishment that was so common at the time to the hundreds of serfs on their estate. He disliked wolf-baiting and fox-hunting, preferring to ride in the fields and forests, or walking with his children and their pack of romping greyhounds. Leo recounts outings with his siblings, friends, and paternal grandmother Pelageya Nikolayevna Tolstoy (d.1838) to pick hazelnuts; she seemed a dreamy magical figure to him. Sometimes he spent the evening in her bedroom while their blind story-teller Lev Stepanovich narrated lengthy, enchanting tales.

Leo greatly admired his oldest brother Nikolay ‘Koko’ (1823-1860). In recollecting their childhood Leo revered him, along with his mother, as saintly in their modesty, humility, and unwillingness to condemn or judge others. His other siblings were Sergey (b.1826), Dmitriy (1827-1855) and Mariya (b1830). The Tolstoy House was a bustling household, often with extended family members and friends visiting for dinner or staying for days at a time. The children and adults played Patience, the piano, put on plays, sang Russian and Gypsy folk songs and read stories and poetry aloud. A voracious reader, Leo would visit his father in his study as he read and smoked his pipe. Sometimes the Count would have young Leo recite memorised passages from Alexander Pushkin. The family home still contains the library of over twenty thousand books in over thirty languages. When not indoors, there was no shortage of outdoor activities for the children: tobogganing in winter, horseback riding, playing in the orchards, forests, formal gardens, greenhouses and bathing in the large pond which Leo loved to do all his life.

Days in the country however were to come to an end when, in 1836, the Tolstoys moved to Moscow so that the boys could attend school. The following summer Count Tolstoy died suddenly. He was buried at Tula. Leo had a hard time accepting this inevitability of life; the loss of his father was a profound experience to such a young boy and as he watched his beloved grandmother Pelageya (who died two years later) suffer through her grief, he had his first spiritual questionings. His father’s sister, Countess Aleksandra Osten Saken ‘Aunt Aline’ became the children’s guardian and Nikolay and Sergey stayed with her in Moscow while Leo and his sister Mariya and Dmitriy moved back to Yasnaya Polyana to live with Aunt Tatyana.

When Aunt Aline died in 1841, Leo, now aged thirteen traveled with his brothers to Kazan where their next guardians lived, Aunt and Uncle Yushkof. Despite the pall of death, loss of innocence and upheavals in living arrangements, Leo started preparations for the entrance examinations to Kazan University, wanting to enter the faculty of Oriental languages. He studied Arabic, Turkish, Latin, German, English, and French, and geography, history, and religion. He also began in earnest studying the literary works of English, Russian and French authors including Charles Dickens, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Mikhail Lermontov, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Laurence Sterne, Friedrich Schiller, and Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire.

 

Boyhood: military service and first writings

In 1844, at the age of sixteen and the end of what Tolstoy says was his childhood, and the beginning of his youth, he entered the University of Kazan to study Turco-Arabic literature. While he did not graduate beyond the second year (he would later attempt to study law) this period of his life also corresponded with his coming out into society. He and his brothers moved out of their uncle’s home and secured their own rooms. No longer the provincial, there were balls and galas to attend and other such manly pursuits as drinking, gambling and visiting brothels. Tolstoy did not have much success as a student, but he would become a polyglot with at least some working knowledge of a dozen languages. He did not respond to the universities’ conventional system of learning and left in 1847 without obtaining his degree.

Back at Yasnya Polyana and during the next few years Tolstoy agonized about what next to do with his life. He expressed his aspirations, confusion and disappointments in his diary and correspondence with his brothers and friends. He attempted to set the estates’ affairs in order but again was caught up in the life of a young nobleman, travelling between the estate and Moscow and St. Petersburg. He was addicted to gambling, racking up huge debts and having to sell possessions to pay them off including parts of his estate. He would go on drinking binges, associating with various characters of ill-repute that his Aunt Tatyana repeatedly warned him about. To her and a few other confidantes he often confessed his remorse when sober and wrote in his diary; I am living a completely brutish life….I have abandoned almost all my occupations and have greatly fallen in spirit. (ibid, Ch. VI) He took to wearing peasant clothes including a style of blouse that would later be named after him, ‘tolstovkas’. He again attempted university exams in the hope that he would obtain a position with the government, but also pondered the alternative, to serve in the army.

When his brother Nikolay, who was now an officer in the Caucasian army, came to visit Yasnya Polyana for a short while, Tolstoy seized the opportunity to change his life. In the spring of 1851 they left for the Caucasus region at the southern edge of Russia. The unglamorous nomadic life they led, travelling through or staying in Cossack and Caucasian villages, meeting the simple folk who populated them, exalting in the mountainous vistas, and meeting the hardy souls who traversed and defended these regions left their indelible mark on Tolstoy. Having long corresponded with his Aunts, he now turned his pen to writing fiction. The first novel of his autobiographical trilogy Childhood (1852) was published in the magazine Sovremennik which would serialise many more of his works. It was highly lauded and Tolstoy was encouraged to continue with Boyhood (1854) and Youth (1857), although, after his religious conversion he admitted that the series was insincere and a clumsy confusion of truth with fiction (ibid, Introduction).

In 1854, during the Crimean War Tolstoy transferred to Wallachia to fight against the French, British and Ottoman Empire to defend Sevastapol. The battle inspired Sevastopol Sketches written between 1855 and 1856, published in three installments in The Contemporary magazine. In 1855 he left the army, the same year he heard about his brother Dmitry’s illness. He arrived at his beside just before he succumbed to tuberculosis, the same disease to take his brother Nikolay’s life on 20 September 1860. Again Tolstoy was in limbo, torn between his ‘unrestrained passions’ and setting forth a realistic plan for his life. He had tried unsuccessfully to educate the hundreds of muzhiks or peasants who tended his fields, founding a school for the children in the family estate’s Kuzminsky House, but it proved to be frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful. He set off on travels throughout Western Europe. By this time Childhood had been translated to English and Tolstoy was a well-known author, enjoying a Counts’ life as a bachelor. When he was unable to pay a gambling debt of 1,000 rubles to publisher Katkov, incurred while playing billiards with him, Tolstoy relinquished his unfinished manuscript of The Cossacks which was printed as-is in the January 1863 issue of the magazine The Russian Messenger. Again Tolstoy vacillated between bouts of sobriety and debauch;

I put men to death in war, I fought duels to slay others. I lost at cards, wasted the substance wrung from the sweat of peasants, punished the latter cruelly, rioted with loose women, and deceived men. Lying, robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, and murder, all were committed by me, not one crime omitted, and yet I was not the less considered by my equals to be a comparatively moral man. Such was my life for ten years. (ibid, Ch. VI)

At times in these dark days he turned to the figure of his mother and all the good she represented and to which he aspired, for;

Such was the figure of my mother in my imagination. She appeared to me a creature so elevated, pure, and spiritual that often in the middle period of my life, during my struggle with overwhelming temptations, I prayed to her soul, begging her to aid me, and this prayer always helped me much. (ibid, Introduction)

But times were to change and things were soon to rapidly settle: Tolstoy fell in love.

 

Youth: marriage, children, War and Peace and Anna Karenina

In September of 1862, at the age of thirty four, Tolstoy married the sister of one of his friends, nineteen year old Sofia ‘Sonya’ Andreyevna Behrs (b.1844). Their children were: Sergey (b.1863), Tatiana (b.1864), Ilya (b.1866), Leo (b.1869), Marya ‘Masha’ (1871-1906), Petya (1872-1873), Nicholas (1874-1875), unnamed daughter who died shortly after birth in 1875, Andrey (b.1877), Alexis (1881-1886), Alexandra ‘Sasha’ (b.1884), and Ivan (1888-1895).

Wanting her to understand everything about him before they married, Tolstoy had given Sonya his diaries to read. Even though she consented to marriage it took her some time to get over the initial shock of their content. However, the tension and jealousy they sparked between them never clearly dissipated. In other matters Countess Tolstoy proved helpful to her husband’s writing career: she organised his rough notes, copied out drafts, and assisted with his correspondence and business affairs of the estate. Thus Tolstoy plunged into his writing: he started War and Peace in 1862 and its six volumes were published between 1863 and 1869. Listless and depressed even though it was met with much enthusiasm, Tolstoy travelled to Samara in the steppes where he bought land and built an estate he could stay at in the summer.

He started writing his next epic Anna Karenina with the opening line that gloomily alluded to his own life Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way in 1873. The first chapters appeared in the Russian Herald in 1876. The same year it was published in its entirety, 1878, Count Tolstoy suffered the most intense bout of self-doubt and spiritual introspection yet; he became depressed and suicidal; his usually rational outlook on life became muddled with what he thought was a morally upright life as husband and father. He harshly examined his motives and criticised himself for his egotistical family cares….concern for the increase of wealth, the attainment of literary success, and the enjoyment of every kind of pleasure (ibid, Intro.).

So Tolstoy wrote his Confessions (1879) and began the last period of my awakening to the truth which has given me the highest well-being in life and joyous peace in view of approaching death. (ibid) A number of his non-fiction articles and novels outlining his ideology and harshly criticising the government and church followed including “The Census in Moscow”, A Criticism of Dogmatic Theology (1880), A Short Exposition of the Gospels (1881), What I Believe (1882), What Then Must We Do? (1886), and On Life and Death (1892). The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886), his drama The Power of Darkness (1888), The Kreutzer Sonata (1890), Father Sergius (written between 1890-98), Hadji Murad (written between 1896 and 1904), The Young Czar (1894), What Is Art? (1897), The Forged Coupon (1904), Diary of Alexander I (1905), and The Law of Love and the Law of Violence (1908) were also written around this time. With the publication of Resurrection (1901) Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church; but his popularity with the public was unwavering. Tolstoy the author now had a large following of disciples devoted to ‘Tolstoyism’.

 

Conversion and Last Years

Tolstoy’s main follower was a wealthy army officer, Vladimir Chertkov (1854-1910). Sonya would soon be caught in a bitter battle with him for her husband’s private diaries. Having embraced the pacifist doctrine of non-resistance as per the teachings of Jesus outlined in the gospels, Tolstoy gave up meat, tobacco, alcohol and preached chastity. He wrote The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), titled after Luke’s Gospel in the New Testament. When Mahatma Gandhi read it he was profoundly moved and wrote to Tolstoy regarding the Passive Resistance movement. They started a correspondence and soon became friends. Tolstoy wrote “A Letter to a Hindu” in 1908. Admiring their ideals of a simple life of hard work, living off the land and following the teachings of Jesus, Tolstoy offered his friendship and moral and financial support to the Doukhobors. A Christian sect persecuted in Russia, many Tolstoyans assisted them in their mass emigration to Canada in 1899. Tolstoy was involved with many other causes including appealing to the Tsar to avoid civil war at all costs. In 1902 he moved back to Yasnya Polyana.

In January of 1903, as he writes in his diary, Tolstoy still struggled with his identity: where he had come from and who he had become;

I am now suffering the torments of hell: I am calling to mind all the infamies of my former life—these reminiscences do not pass away and they poison my existence. Generally people regret that the individuality does not retain memory after death. What a happiness that it does not! What an anguish it would be if I remembered in this life all the evil, all that is painful to the conscience, committed by me in a previous life….What a happiness that reminiscences disappear with death and that there only remains consciousness

The ruminations were prompted by his friend Paul Biryukov asking him for his assistance in penning his biography. His literary executor Chertkov would write The Last Days of Leo Tolstoy (1911). For as the last days of Tolstoy were playing out, he still at times agonised over his self-worth and regretted his actions from decades earlier. Having renounced his ancestral claim to his estate and all of his worldly goods, all in his family but his youngest daughter Alexandra scorned him. He was intent on starting a new life and did so on 28 October 1910, making it as far as the stationmaster’s home at the Astapovo train station. Leo Tolstoy died there of pneumonia on 20 November 1910. Although he wanted no ceremony or ritual, thousands showed up to pay their respects. He was buried in a simple wooden coffin near Nikolay’s ‘place of the little green stick’ by the ravine in the Stary Zakaz Wood on the Yasnya Polyana estate; returned to that place of idylls where Nikolay told him one could find the secret to happiness and the end to all suffering.

Biography written by C. D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2007. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

 

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 3:24 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 7


It was indeed cold outside, but Albert, heated by the liquor he had drunk and by the dispute, did not feel it. On reaching the street he looked round and rubbed his hands joyfully.

The street was empty, but the long row of lamps still burned with ruddy light; the sky was clear and starry. "There now!" he said, addressing the lighted window of Delesov's lodging, thrusting his hands into his trouser pockets under his cape, and stooping forward. He went with heavy, uncertain steps down the street to the right. He felt an unusual weight in his legs and stomach, something made a noise in his head, and some invisible force was throwing him from side to side, but he still went on in the direction of Anna Ivanovna's house.

Strange, incoherent thoughts passed through his mind. Now he remembered his last altercation with Zakhar, then for some reason the sea and his first arrival in Russia by steamboat, then a happy night he had passed with a friend in a small shop he was passing, then suddenly a familiar motif began singing itself in his imagination, and he remembered the object of his passion and the dreadful night in the theatre.

Despite their incoherence all these memories presented themselves so clearly to his mind that, closing his eyes, he did not know which was the more real: what he was doing, or what he was thinking. He did not realize or feel how his legs were moving, how he swayed and bumped against the wall, how he looked around him, or passed from street to street. He realized and felt only the things that, intermingling and fantastically following one another, rose in his imagination.

Passing along the Little Morskaya Street, Albert stumbled and fell. Coming to his senses for a moment he saw an immense and splendid building before him and went on. In the sky no stars, nor moon, nor dawn, were visible, nor were there any street lamps, but everything was clearly outlined. In the windows of the building that towered at the end of the street lights were shining, but those lights quivered like reflections. The building stood out nearer and nearer and clearer and clearer before him. But the lights disappeared directly he entered the wide portals. All was dark within. Solitary footsteps resounded under the vaulted ceiling, and some shadows slit rapidly away as he approached.

"Why have I come here?" thought he; but some irresistible force drew him on into the depths of the immense hall. There was some kind of platform, around which some small people stood silently.

"Who is going to speak?" asked Albert. No one replied, except that someone pointed to the platform. A tall thin man with bristly hair and wearing a parti-coloured dressing-gown was already standing there, and Albert immediately recognized his friend Petrov.

"How strange that he should be here!" thought he.

"No, brothers!" Petrov was saying, pointing to someone. "You did not understand a man living among you; you have not understood him! He is not a mercenary artist, not a mechanical performer, not a lunatic or a lost man. He is a genius - a great musical genius who has perisheed among you unnoticed and unappreciated!"

Albert at once understood of whom his friend was speaking, but not wishing to embarrass him he modestly lowered his head.

"The holy fire that we all serve has consumed him like a blade of straw!" the voice went on, "but he has fulfilled all that God implanted in him and should therefore be called a great man. You could despise, torment, humiliate him," the voice continued, growing louder and louder - "but he was, is, and will be, immeasurably higher than you all. He is happy, he is kind. He loves or despises all alike, but serves only that which was implanted in him from above. He loves but one thing - beauty, the one indubitable blessing in the world. Yes, such is the man! Fall prostrate before him, all of you! On your knees!" he cried aloud.

But another voice came mildly from the opposite corner of the hall: "I do not wish to bow my knees before him," said the voice, which Albert immediately recognized as Delesov's. "Wherein is he great? Why should we bow before him? Did he behave honourably and justly? Has he been of any use to society? Don't we know how he borrowed money and did not return it, and how he carried away his fellow-artist's violin and pawned it? ..."

("Oh God, how does he know all that?" thought Albert, hanging his head still lower.)

"Do we not know how he flattered the most insignificant people, flattered them for the sake of money?" Delesov continued - "Don't we know how he was expelled from the theatre? And how Anna Ivanovna wanted to send him to the police?"

("O God! That is all true, but defend me, Thou who alone knowest why I did it!" muttered Albert.)

"Cease, for shame!" Petrov's voice began again. "What right have you to accuse him? Have you lived his life? Have you experienced his rapture? ("True, true!" whispered Albert.)

"Art is the highest manifestation of power in man. It is given to a few of the elect, and raises the chosen one to such a height as turns the head and makes it difficult for him to remain sane. In Art, as in every struggle, there are heroes who have devoted themselves entirely to its service and have perished without having reached the goal."

Petrov stopped, and Albert raised his head and cried out: "True, true!" but his voice died away without a sound.

"It does not concern you," said the artist Petrov, turning to him severely. "Yes, humiliate and despise him," he continued, "but yet he is the best and happiest of you all."

Albert, who had listened to these words with rapture in his soul, could not restrain himself, and went up to his friend wishing to kiss him.

"Go away! I do not know you!" Petrov said, "Go your way, or you won't get there."

"Just see how the drink's got hold of you! You won't get there," shouted a policeman at the crossroad.

Albert stopped, collected his strength and, trying not to stagger, turned into the side street.

Only a few more steps were left to Anna Ivanovna's door. From the hall of her house the light fell on the snow in the courtyard, and sledges and carriages stood at the gate.

Holding onto the banister with his numbed hands, he ran up the steps and rang. The sleepy face of a maid appeared in the opening of the doorway, and she looked angrily at Albert.

"You can't!" she cried. "The orders are not to let you in," and she lammed the door to.

The sound of music and of women's voices reached the steps. Albert sat down, leaned his head against the wall, and closed his eyes. Immediately a throng of disconnected but kindred visions beset him with renewed force, engulfed him in their waves, and bore him away into the free and beautiful realm of dreams.

"Yes, he was the best and happiest!" ran involuntarily through his imagination.

The sounds of a polka came through the door. These sounds also told him that he was the best and happiest. The bells in the nearest church rang out for early service, and these bells also said:

"Yes, he is the best and happiest!" ...

"I will go back to the hall," thought Albert. "Petrov must tell me much more."

But there was no one in the hall now, and instead of the artist Petrov, Albert himself stood on the platform and played on the violin all that the voice had said before. But the violin was of strange construction; it was made of glass and it had to be held in both hands and slowly pressed to the breast to make it produce sounds. The sounds were the most delicate and delightful Albert had ever heard. The closer he pressed the violin to his breast the more joyful and tender he felt. The louder the sounds grew the faster the shadows dispersed and the brighter the walls of the hall were lit up by transparent light. But it was necessary to play the violin very warily so as not to break it. He played the glass instrument very carefully and well. He played such things as he felt no one would ever hear again.

He was beginning to grow tired when another distant, muffled sound distracted his attention. It was the sound of a bell, but it spoke words:

"Yes," said the bell, droning somewhere high up and far away, "he seems to you pitiful, you despise him, yet he is the best and happiest of men! No one will ever again play that instrument."

These familiar words suddenly seemed so wise, so new, and so true to Albert that he stopped playing and, trying not to move, raised his arms and eyes to heaven. He felt that he was beautiful and happy. Although there was no one else in the hall he expanded his chest and stood on the platform with head proudly erect so that all might see him.

Suddenly someone's hand lightly touched his shoulder; he turned and saw a woman in the faint light. She looked at him sadly and shook her head deprecatingly. He immediately realized that what he was doing was bad, and felt ashamed of himself.

"Whither?" he asked her.

She again gave him a long fixed look and sadly inclined her head. It was she - none other than she whom he loved, and her garments were the same; on her full white neck a string of pearls, and her superb arms bare to above the elbow. She took his hand and led him out of the hall.

"The exit is on the other side," said Albert, but without replying she smiled and led him out.

At the threshold of the hall Albert saw the moon and some water. But the water was not below as it usually is, nor was the moon a white circle in one place up above as it usually is. Moon and water were together and everywhere - above, below, at the sides, and all around them both. Albert threw himself with her into the moon and the water, and realized that he could now embrace her, whom he loved more than anything in the world. He embraced her and felt unutterable happiness.

"Is this not a dream?" he asked himself. But no! It was more than reality: it was reality and recollection combined. Then he felt that the unutterable bliss he had at that moment enjoyed had passed and would never return.

"What am I weeping for?" he asked her.

She looked at him silently and sadly. Albert understood what she meant by that.

"But how can it be, since I am alive?" he muttered.

Without replying or moving she looked straight before her.

"This is terrible! How can I explain to her that I am alive?" he thought with horror. "O Lord! I am alive, do understand me!" he whispered.

"He is the best and happiest!" a voice was saying.

But something was pressing more and more heavily on Albert. Whether it was the moon and the water, her embraces, or his tears, he did not know, but he felt he would not be able to say all that was necessary, and that soon all would be over.

Two visitors, leaving Anna Ivanovna's house, stumbled over Albert, who lay stretched out on the threshold. One of them went back and called the hostess.

"Why, this is inhuman!" he said. "You might let a man freeze like that!"

"Ah, that is Albert! I'm sick to death of him!" replied the hostess.

"Annushka, lay him down somewhere in a room," she said to the maid.

"But I am alive - why bury me?" muttered Albert, as they carried him insensible into the room.

THE END.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:58 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 6


The next day was a holiday.

Delesov was already awake and sitting in his drawing-room drinking coffee and reading a book. Albert had not yet stirred in the next room.

Zakhar cautiously opened the door and looked into the dining-room.

"Would you believe it, sir? He is asleep on the bare sofa! He wouldn't have anything spread on it, really. Like a little child. Truly an artist."

Towards noon groaning and coughing were heard through the door.

Zakhar again went into the dining-room, and Delesov could hear his kindly voice and Albert's weak, entreating one.

"Well?" he asked, when Zakhar returned.

"He's fretting, sir, won't wash, and seems gloomy. He keeps asking for a drink."

"No. Having taken this matter up I must show character," said Delesov to himself.

He ordered that no wine should be given to Albert and resumed his book, but involuntarily listened to what was going on in the dining-room. There was no sound of movement there and an occasional deep cough and spitting was all that could be heard. Two hours passed. Having dressed, Delesov decided to look in at his visitor before going out. Albert was sitting motionless at the window, his head resting on his hand. He looked round. His face was yellow, wrinkled, and not merely sad but profoundly miserable. He tried to smile by way of greeting, but his face took on a still more sorrowful expression. He seemed ready to cry. He rose with difficulty and bowed.

"If I might just have a glass of simple vodka!" he said with a look of entreaty. "I am so weak - please!"

"Coffee will do you more good. Have some of that instead."

Albert's face suddenly lost its childlike expression; he looked coldly, dim- eyed, out of the window, and sank feebly onto his chair.

"Or would you like some lunch?"

"No thank you, I have no appetite."

"If you wish to play the violin you will not disturb me," said Delesov, laying the violin on the table.

Albert looked at the violin with a contemptuous smile.

"No," he said. "I am too weak, I can't play," and he pushed the instrument away from him.

After that, whatever Delesov might say, offering to go for a walk with him, and to the theatre in the evening, he only bowed humbly and remained stubbornly silent. Delesov went out, paid several calls, dined with friends, and before going to the theatre returned home to change and to see what the musician was doing. Albert was sitting in the dark hall, leaning his head in his hands and looking at the heated stove. He was neatly dressed, washed, and his hair was brushed; but his eyes were dim and lifeless, and his whole figure expressed weakness and exhaustion even more than in the morning.

"Have you dined, Mr. Albert?" asked Delesov.

Albert made an affirmative gesture with his head and, after a frightened look at Delesov, lowered his eyes. Delesov felt uncomfortable.

"I spoke to the director of the theatre about you today," he said, also lowering his eyes. "He will be very glad to receive you if you will let him hear you." "Thank you, I cannot play!" muttered Albert under his breath, and went into his room, shutting the door behind him very softly.

A few minutes later the door-knob was turned just as gently, and he came out of the room with the violin. With a rapid and hostile glance at Delesov he placed the violin on a chair and disappeared again.

Delesov shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

"What more am I to do? In what am I to blame?" he thought.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

"Well, how is the musician?" was his first question when he returned home late that evening.

"Bad!" said Zakhar, briefly and clearly. "He has been sighing and coughing and says nothing, except that he started begging for vodka four or five times. At last I gave him one glass - or else we might finish him off, sir. Just like the clerk ... "

"Has he not played the violin?"

"Didn't even touch it. I took it to him a couple of times, but he just took it up gently and brought it out again," Zakhar answered with a smile. "So your orders are not to give him any drink?"

"No, we'll wait another day and see what happens. And what's he doing now?" "He has locked himself up in the drawing-room."

Delesov went into his study and chose several French books and a German Bible. "Put these books in his room tomorrow, and see that you don't let him out," he said to Zakhar.

Next morning Zakhar informed his master that the musician had not slept all night: he had paced up and down the rooms, and had been into the pantry, trying to open the cupboard and the door, but he (Zakhar) had taken care to lock everything up. He said that while he pretended to be asleep he had heard Albert in the dark muttering something to himself and waving his arms about.

Albert grew gloomier and more taciturn every day. He seemed to be afraid of Delesov, and when their eyes met his face expressed sickly fear. He did not touch the books or the violin, and did not reply to questions put to him. On the third day of the musician's stay Delesov returned home late, tired and upset. He had been driving about all day attending to a matter that had promised to be very simple and easy but, as often happens, in spite of strenuous efforts he had been quite unable to advance a single step with it. Besides that he had called in at his club and had lost at whist. He was in bad spirits.

"Well, let him go his way!" he said to Zakhar, who told him of Albert's sad plight. "Tomorrow I'll get a definite answer out of him, whether he wants to stay here and follow my advice, or not. If not, he needn't! It seems to me that I have done all I could."

"There now, try doing good to people!" he thought to himself. "I put myself out for him, I keep that dirty creature in my house, so that I can't receive a visitor in the morning. I bustle and run about, and he looks on me as if I were a villain who for his own pleasure has locked him up in a cage. And above all, he won't take a single step to help himself. They are all like that." (The "they" referred to people in general, and especially to those with whom he had had business that day.) "And what is the matter with him now? What is he thinking about and pining for? Pining for the debauchery from which I have dragged him? For the humiliation in which he was? For the destitution from which I have saved him? Evidently he has fallen so low that it hurts him to see a decent life ..."

"No, it was a childish act," Delesov concluded. "How can I improve others, when God knows whether I can manage myself?" He thought of letting Albert go at once, but after a little reflection put it off till the next day.

During the night he was roused by the sound of a table falling in the hall, and the sound of voices and footsteps. He lit a candle and listened in surprise.

"Wait a bit. I'll tell my master," Zakhar was saying; Albert's voice muttered something incoherently and heatedly.

Delesov jumped up and ran into the hall with the candle.

Zakhar stood against the front door in his night attire, and Albert, with his hat and cloak on, was pushing him aside and shouting in a tearful voice:

"You can't keep me here! I have a passport [Note: To be free to go from place to place it was necessary to have a properly stamped passport from the police.], and have taken nothing of yours. You may search me. I shall go to the chief of police!..."

"Excuse me, sir!" Zakhar said, addressing his master while continuing to guard the door with his back. "He got up during the night, found the key in my overcoat pocket, and drank a whole decanter of liqueur vodka. Is that right? And now he wants to go away. You ordered me not to let him out, so I dare not let him go."

On seeing Delesov Albert made for Zakhar still more excitedly.

"No one dare hold me! No one has a right to!" he shouted, raising his voice more and more.

"Step aside, Zakhar!" said Delesov. I can't and don't want to keep you, but I advise you to stay till the morning," he said to Albert.

"No one can keep me! I'll go to the chief of police!" Albert cried louder and louder, addressing himself to Zakhar alone and not looking at Delesov.

"Help!" he suddenly screamed in a furious voice.

"What are you screaming like that for? Nobody is keeping you!" said Zakhar, opening the door.

Albert stopped shouting. "You didn't succeed, did you? Wanted to do for me - did you!" he muttered to himself, putting on his galoshes. Without taking leave, and continuing to mutter incoherently, he went out. Zakhar held a light for him as far as the gate, and then came back.

"Well, God be thanked, sir!" he said to his master. "Who knows what might happen? As it is I must count the silver plate..."

Delesov merely shook his head and did not reply. He vividly recalled the first two evenings he had spent with the musician, and recalled the last sad days which by his fault Albert had spent there, and above all he recalled that sweet, mixed feeling of surprise, affection and pity, which that strange man had aroused in him at first sight, and he felt sorry for him. "And what will become of him now?" he thought. Without money, without warm clothing, alone in the middle of the night..." He was about to send Zakhar after him, but it was too late.

"Is it cold outside?" he inquired.

"A hard frost, sir," replied Zakhar. "I forgot to inform you, but we shall have to buy more wood for fuel before the spring."

"How is that? You said that we should have some left over."

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:57 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 5


"Do you want to sleep already?" asked Albert with a smile. "And I have been at Anna Ivanovna's and had a very pleasant evening. We had music, and laughed, and there was delightful company. Let me have a glass of something," he added, taking hold of a water-bottle that stood on a little table, "- but not water."

Albert was just the same as he had been the previous evening: the same beautiful smile in his eyes and on his lips, the same bright inspired forehead, and the same feeble limbs. Zakhar's paletot fitted him well, and the clean wide unstarched collar of the nightshirt encircled his thin white neck picturesquely, giving him a particularly childlike and innocent look. He sat down on Delesov's bed and looked at him silently with a happy and grateful smile. Delesov looked into his eyes, and again suddenly felt himself captivated by that smile. He no longer wanted to sleep, he forgot that it was his duty to be stern: on the contrary he wished to make merry, to hear music, and to chat amicably with Albert till morning. He told Zakhar to bring a bottle of wine, some cigarettes, and the violin.

"There, that's splendid!" said Albert. "It's still early, and we'll have some music. I'll play for you as much as you like."

Zakhar, with evident pleasure, brought a bottle of Lafitte, two tumblers, some mild cigarettes such as Albert smoked, and the violin. But instead of going to bed as his master told him to, he himself lit a cigar and sat down in the adjoining room.

"Let us have a talk," said Delesov to the musician, who was about to take up the violin.

Albert submissively sat down on the bed and again smiled joyfully.

"Oh yes!" said he, suddenly striking his forehead with his hand and assuming an anxiously inquisitive expression. (A change of expression always preceded anything he was about to say.) "Allow me to ask- " he made a slight pause - "that gentleman who was there with you last night - you called him N - , isn't he the son of the celebrated N - ?"

"His own son," Delesov answered, not at all understanding how that could interest Albert.

"Exactly!" said Albert with a self-satisfied smile. "I noticed at once something particularly aristocratic in his manner. I love aristocrats: there is something particularly beautiful and elegant in an aristocrat. And that officer who dances so well?" he asked. "I liked him very much too: he is so merry and so fine. Isn't he Adjutant N.N.?"

"Which one?" asked Delesov.

"The one who bumped against me when we were dancing. He must be an excellent fellow."

"No, he's a shallow fellow," Delesov replied.

"Oh, no!" Albert warmly defended him. "There is something very, very pleasant about him. He is a capital musician," he added. "He played something there out of an opera. It's a long time since I took such a liking to anyone."

"Yes, he plays well, but I don't like his playing," said Delesov, wishing to get his companion to talk about music. "He does not understand classical music - Donizetti and Bellini, you know, are not music. You think so too, no doubt?"

"Oh, no, no, excuse me!" began Albert with a gentle, pleading look. "The old music is music, and the new music is music. There are extraordinary beauties in the new music too. Sonnambula, and the finale of Lucia, and Chopin, and Robert! [Note: Sonnambula, opera by Bellini, produced in 1831. Lucia di Lammermoor, opera by Donizetti, produced in 1835. Robert the Devil, opera by Meyerbeer, produced in 1831; or possibly the allusion may be to Roberto Devereux, by Donizetti.] I often think - " he paused, evidently collecting his thoughts - "that if Beethoven were alive he would weep with joy listening to Sonnambula for the first time when Viardot and Rubini were here. [Note: Pauline Viardot-Garcia, the celebrated operatic singer with whom Turgenev had a close friendship for many years. Rubini, an Italian tenor who had great success in Russia in the 'forties of the last century.] It was like this ... " he said, and his eyes glistened as he made a gesture with both arms as though tearing something out of his breast. "A little more and it would have been impossible to bear it."

"And what do you think of the opera at the present time?" asked Delesov.

"Bosio is good, very good," [Note: Angidina Bosio, an Italian singer, who was in Petersburg in 1856-9.] he said, "extraordinarily exquisite, but she does not touch one here," pointing to his sunken chest. "A singer needs passion, and she has none. She gives pleasure but does not torment."

"How about Lablache?" [Note: Luigi Lablache. He was regarded as the chief basso of modern times.]

"I heard him in Paris in the Barbier de Seville. He was unique then, but now he is old: he cannot be an artist, he is old."

"Well, what if he is old? He is still good in morceaux d'ensemble," said Delesov, who was in the habit of saying that of Lablache.

"How 'what if he is old?'" rejoined Albert severely. "He should not be old. An artist should not be old. Much is needed for art, but above all, fire!" said he with glittering eyes and stretching both arms upwards.

And a terrible inner fire really seemed to burn in his whole body.

"O my God!" he suddenly exclaimed. "Don't you know Petrov, the artist?"

"No, I don't," Delesov replied, smiling.

"How I should like you to make his acquaintance! You would enjoy talks with him. How well he understands art, too! I used often to meet him at Anna Ivanovna's, but now she is angry with him for some reason. I should very much like you to know him. He has great talent, great talent!"

"Does he paint now?" Delesov asked.

"I don't know, I think not, but he was an Academy artist. What ideas he has! It's wonderful when he talks sometimes. Oh, Petrov has great talent, only he leads a very gay life ... that's a pity," Albert added with a smile. After that he got off the bed, took the violin, and began tuning it.

"Is it long since you were at the opera?" Delesov asked.

Albert looked round and sighed.

"Ah, I can't go there any more!" he said. "I will tell you!" And clutching his head he again sat down beside Delesov and muttered almost in a whisper: "I can't go there. I can't play there - I have nothing - nothing! No clothes, no home, no violin. It is a miserable life! A miserable life!" he repeated several times. And why should I go there? What for? No need!" he said, smiling. "Ah! Don Juan ... "

He struck his head with his hand.

"Then let us go there together sometime," said Delesov.

Without answering, Albert jumped up, seized the violin, and began playing the finale of the first act of Don Juan, telling the story of the opera in his own words.

Delesov felt the hair stir on his head as Albert played the voice of the dying commandant.

"No!" said Albert, putting down the violin. "I cannot play today. I have had too much to drink."

But after that he went up to the table, filled a tumbler with wine, drank it at a gulp, and again sat down on Delesov's bed.

Delesov looked at Albert, not taking his eyes off him. Occasionally Albert smiled, and so did Delesov. They were both silent; but their looks and smiles created more and more affectionate relations between them. Delesov felt himself growing fonder of the man, and experienced an incomprehensible joy.

"Have you ever been in love?" he suddenly asked.

Albert thought for a few seconds, and then a sad smile lit up his face. He leaned over to Delesov and looked attentively in his eyes.

"Why have you asked me that?" he whispered. "I will tell you everything, because I like you," he continued, after looking at him for a while and then glancing round. "I won't deceive you, but will tell you everything from the beginning, just as it happened." He stopped, his eyes wild and strangely fixed. "You know that my mind is weak," he suddenly said. "Yes, yes," he went on. "Anna Ivanovna is sure to have told you. She tells everybody that I am mad! That is not true; she says it as a joke, she is a kindly woman, and I have really not been quite well for some time."

He stopped again and gazed with fixed wide-open eyes at the dark doorway. "You asked whether I have been in love? ... Yes, I have been in love," he whispered, lifting his brows. "It happened long ago, when I still had my job in the theatre. I used to play second violin at the Opera, and she used to have the lower-tier box next the stage, on the left."

He got up and leaned over to Delesov's ear.

"No, why should I name her?" he said. "You no doubt know her - everybody knows her. I kept silent and only looked at her; I knew I was a poor artist, and she an aristocratic lady. I knew that very well. I only looked at her and planned nothing..."

Albert reflected, trying to remember.

How it happened I don't remember; but I was once called in to accompany her on the violin. ... but what was I, a poor artist?" he said, shaking his head and smiling. "But no, I can't tell it..." he added, clutching head. "How happy I was!"

"Yes? And did you often go to her house?" Delesov asked.

"Once! Once only...but it was my own fault. I was mad! I was a poor artist, and she an aristocratic lady. I ought not to have said anything to her. But I went mad and acted like a fool. Since then all has been over for me. Petrov told the truth, that it would have been better for me to have seen her only at the theatre..."

"What was it you did?" asked Delesov.

"Ah, wait! Wait! I can't speak of that!"

With his face hidden in his hands he remained silent for some time.

"I came late to the orchestra. Petrov and I had been drinking that evening, and I was distracted. She was sitting in her box talking to a general. I don't know who that general was. She sat at the very edge of the box, with her arm on the ledge; she had on a white dress and pearls round her neck. She talked to him and looked at me. She looked at me twice. Her hair was done like this. I was not playing, but stood near the basses and looked at her. Then for the first time I felt strange. She smiled at the general and looked at me. I felt she was speaking about me, and I suddenly saw that I was not in the orchestra, but in the box beside her and holding her arm, just there.... How was that?" Albert asked after a short silence.

"That was vivid imagination," said Delesov.

"No, no! ... but I don't know how to tell it," Albert replied, frowning. "Even then I was poor and had no lodging, and when I went to the theatre I sometimes stayed the night there."

"What, at the theatre? In that dark, empty place?"

"Oh, I am not afraid of such nonsense. Wait a bit.... When they had all gone away I would go to the box where she had been sitting and sleep there. That was my one delight. What nights I spent there! But once it began again. Many things appeared to me in the night, but I can't tell you much." Albert glanced at Delesov with downcast eyes. "What was it?" he asked.

"It is strange!" said Delesov.

"No, wait, wait!" he continued, whispering in Delesov's ear. "I kissed her hand, wept there beside her, and talked much with her. I inhaled the scent of her perfume and heard her voice. She told me much in one night. Then I took my violin and played softly; and I played splendidly. But I felt frightened. I am not afraid of those foolish things and don't believe in them, but I was afraid for my head," he said, touching his forehead with an amiable smile. "I was frightened for my poor wits. It seemed to me that something had happened to my head. Perhaps it's nothing. What do you think?"

Both were silent for some minutes.

"Und wenn die Wolken sie verhullen Die Sonne bleibt doch ewig klar." ["And even if the clouds do hide it,The sun remains for ever clear."]

Albert sand with a soft smile. "Is not that so?" he added.

"Ich auch habe gelebt und genossen..." ["I, too, have lived and enjoyed."]

"Ah, how well old Petrov would have explained it all to you!"

Delesov looked silently and in terror at the pale and agitated face of his companion."Do you know the "Juristen-Waltzer?" Albert suddenly exclaimed, and without awaiting an answer he jumped up, seized the violin, and began to play the merry waltz tune, forgetting himself completely, and evidently imagining that a whole orchestra was playing with him. He smiled, swayed, shifted his feet, and played superbly.

"Eh! Enough of merrymaking!" he said when he had finished, and flourished the violin.

"I am going," he said, after sitting silently for a while - "won't you come with me?"

"Where to?" Delesov asked in surprise.

"Let's go to Anna Ivanovna's again. It's gay there - noise, people, music!"

At first Delesov almost consented, but bethinking himself he tried to persuade Albert not to go that night.

"Only for a moment."

"No, really, you'd better not!"

Albert sighed and put down the violin.

"So, I must stay here?"

And looking again at the table (there was no wine left) he said goodnight and left the room.

Delesov rang.

"See that you don't let Mr. Albert go anywhere without my permission," he said to Zakhar.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:56 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 4


Next morning when he was awakened to go to his office, Delesov with a feeling of unpleasant surprise saw around him his old screen, his old valet, and his watch lying on the small side-table. "But what did I expect to see if not what is always around me?" he asked himself. Then he remembered the musician's black eyes and happy smile, the motif of Melancolie, and all the strange experiences of the previous night passed through his mind.

He had no time however to consider whether he had acted well or badly by taking the musician into his house. While dressing he mapped out the day, took his papers, gave the necessary household orders, and hurriedly put on his overcoat and overshoes.

Passing the dining-room door he looked in. Albert, after tossing about, had sunk his face in the pillow, and lay in his dirty ragged shirt, dead asleep on the leather sofa where he had been deposited unconscious the night before. "There's something wrong!" thought Delesov involuntarily.

"Please go to Boryuzovski and ask him to lend me a violin for a couple of days," he said to his manservant. "When he wakes up, give him coffee and let him have some underclothing and old clothes of mine. In general, make him comfortable - please!"

On returning late in the evening Delesov was surprised not to find Albert.

"Where is he?" he asked his man.

"He went away immediately after dinner," replied the servant. "He took the violin and went away. He promised to be back in an hour, but he's not here yet."

"Tut, tut! How provoking!" muttered Delesov. "Why did you let him go, Zakhar?"

Zakhar was a Petersburg valet who had been in Delesov's service for eight years. Delesov, being a lonely bachelor, could not help confiding his ntentions to him, and liked to know his opinions about all his undertakings.

"How could I dare not to let him?" Zakhar replied, toying with the fob of his watch. "If you had told me to keep him in I might have amused him at home. But you only spoke to me about clothes."

"Pshaw! How provoking! Well, and what was he doing here without me?"

Zakhar smiled.

"One can well call him an 'artist', sir. [Note: In addition to its proper meaning, the word "artist" was used in Russian to denote a thief, or a man dextrous at anything, good or bad.] As soon as he woke he asked for Madeira, and then he amused himself with the cook and with the neighbours manservant. He is so funny. However, he is good-natured. I gave him tea and brought him dinner. He would not eat anything himself, but kept inviting me to do so. But when it comes to playing the violin, even Izler has few artists like him. One may well befriend such a man. When he played Down the Little Mother Volga to us it was as if a man were weeping. It was too beautiful. Even the servants from all the flats came to our back entrance to hear him."

"Well, and did you get him dressed?" his master interrupted him.

"Of course. I gave him a night-shirt of yours and put my own paletot on him. A man like that is worth helping - he really is a dear fellow!" Zakhar smiled.

"He kept asking me what your rank is, whether you have influential acquaintances, and how many serfs you own."

"Well, all right, but now he must be found, and in future don't let him have anything to drink, or it'll be worse for him."

"That's true," Zakhar interjected. "He is evidently feeble; our old master had a clerk like that..."

But Delesov who had long known the story of the clerk who took hopelessly to drink, did not let Zakhar finish, and telling him to get everything ready for the night, sent him out to find Albert and bring him back.

He then went to bed and put out the light, but could not fall asleep for a long time, thinking about Albert. "Though it may seem strange to many of my acquaintances," he thought, "yet one so seldom does anything for others that one ought to thank God when such an opportunity presents itself, and I will not miss it. I will do anything - positively anything in my power - to help him. He may not be mad at all, but only under the influence of drink. It won't cost me very much. Where there's enough for one there's enough for two. Let him live with me awhile, then we'll find him a place or arrange a concert for him and pull him out of the shallows, and then see what happens."

He experienced a pleasant feeling of self-satisfaction after this reflection. "Really I'm not altogether a bed fellow," he thought. "Not at all bad even - when I compare myself with others."

He was already falling asleep when the sound of opening doors and of footsteps in the hall roused him.

"Well, I'll be stricter with him," he thought, "that will be best; and I must do it."

He rang.

"Have you brought him back?" he asked when Zakhar entered.

"A pitiable man, sir," said Zakhar, shaking his head significantly and closing his eyes.

"Is he drunk?"

"He is very weak."

"And has he the violin?"

"I've brought it back. The lady gave it me."

"Well, please don't let him in here now. Put him to bed, and tomorrow be sure not to let him leave the house on any account."

But before Zakhar was out of the room Albert entered it.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:55 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 3


Something strange occurred with everyone present and something strange was felt in the dead silence that followed Albert's playing. It was as if each would have liked to express what all this meant, but was unable to do so. What did it mean - this bright hot room, brilliant women, the dawn in the windows, excitement in the blood, and the pure impression left by sounds that had flowed past? But no one even tried to say what it all meant: on the contrary everyone, unable to dwell in those regions which the new impression had revealed to them, rebelled against it.

"He really plays well, you know!" said the officer.

"Wonderfully!" replied Delesov, stealthily wiping his cheek with his sleeve.

"However, it's time for us to be going," said the man who was lying on the sofa, having somewhat recovered. "We must give him something. Let's make a collection."

Meanwhile Albert sat alone on a sofa in the next room. Leaning his elbows on his bony knees he stroked his face and ruffled his hair with his moist and dirty hands, smiling happily to himself.

They made a good collection, which Delesov offered to hand to Albert.

Moreover it had occurred to Delesov, on whom the music had made an unusual and powerful impression, to be of use to this man. It occurred to him to take him home, dress him, get him a place somewhere, and in general rescue him for his sordid condition.

"Well, are you tired?" he asked, coming up to him.

Albert smiled.

"You have real talent. You ought to study music seriously and give public performances."

"I'd like to have something to drink," said Albert, as if just awake.

Delesov brought some wine, and the musician eagerly drank two glasses.

"What excellent wine!" he said.

"What a delightful thing that Melancolie is!" said Delesov.

"Oh, yes, yes!" replied Albert with a smile - "but excuse me: I don't know with whom I have the honour of speaking, maybe you are a count, or a prince: could you, perhaps, lend me a little money?" He paused a little "I have nothing ... I am a poor man. I couldn't pay it back."

Delesov flushed: he felt awkward, and hastily handed the musician the money that had been collected.

"Thank you very much!" said Albert, seizing the money. "Now let's have some music. I'll play for you as much as you like - only let me have a drink of something, a drink..." he added rising.

Delesov brought him some more wine and asked him to sit beside him.

"Excuse me if I am frank with you," he said, "your talent interests me so much. It seems to me you are not in good circumstances."

Albert looked now at Delesov and now at his hostess who had entered the room.

"Allow me to offer you my services," continued Delesov. "If you are in need of anything I should be glad if you would stay with me for a time. I am living alone and could perhaps be of use to you."

Albert smiled and made no reply.

"Why don't you thank him?" said the hostess. "Of course it is a godsend for you. Only I should not advise you to," she continued, turning to Delesov and shaking her head disapprovingly.

"I am very grateful to you!" said Albert, pressing Delesov's hand with his own moist ones - "Only let us have some music now, please."

But the other visitors were preparing to leave, and despite Albert's endeavours to persuade them to stay they went out into the hall. Albert took leave of the hostess, put on his shabby broad-brimmed hat and old summer cloak, which was his only winter clothing, and went out into the porch with Delesov.

When Delesov had seated himself with his new acquaintance in his carriage, and became aware of the unpleasant odour of drunkenness and uncleanness which emanated so strongly from the musician, he began to repent of his action and blamed himself for childish softheartedness and imprudence. Besides, everything Albert said was so stupid and trivial, and the fresh air suddenly made him so disgustingly drunk that Delesov was repelled. "What am I to do with him?" he thought.

When they had driven for a quarter of an hour Albert grew silent, his hat fell down at his feet, and he himself tumbled into a corner of the carriage and began to snore. The wheels continued to creak monotonously over the frozen snow; the feeble light of dawn hardly penetrated the frozen windows.

Delesov turned and looked at his companion. The long body covered by the cloak lay lifelessly beside him. The long head with its big black nose seemed to sway on that body, but looking closer Delesov saw that what he had taken for nose and face was hair, and that the real face hung lower. He stooped and was able to distinguish Albert's features. Then the beauty of the forehead and calmly closed lips struck him again.

Under the influence of tired nerves, restlessness from lack of sleep at that hour of the morning, and of the music he had heard, Delesov, looking at that face, let himself again be carried back to the blissful world into which he had glanced that night; he again recalled the happy and magnanimous days of his youth and no longer repented of what he had done. At that moment he was sincerely and warmly attached to Albert, and firmly resolved to be of use to him.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:54 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 2


Albert meanwhile, paying no attention to anyone, pressed the violin to his shoulder and paced slowly up and down by the piano tuning it. His lips took on an impassive expression, his eyes could not be seen, but his narrow bony back, his long white neck, his crooked legs and shaggy black head, presented a queer - but for some reason not at all ridiculous - spectacle. Having tuned the violin he briskly struck a chord, and throwing back his head turned to the pianist who was preparing to accompany him.

"Melancolie G-dur!" he said, addressing the pianist with a gesture of command. Then, as if begging forgiveness for that gesture, he smiled meekly, and glanced around at the audience with that same smile. Having pushed back his hair with the hand in which he held the bow, he stopped at the corner of the piano, and with a smooth and easy movement drew the bow across the strings. A clear melodious sound was borne through the room and complete silence ensued.

After that first note the theme flowed freely and elegantly, suddenly illumining the inner world of every listener with an unexpectedly clear and tranquilizing light. Not one false or exaggerated sound impaired the acquiescence of the listeners: the notes were all clear, elegant, and significant. Everyone silently followed their development with tremulous expectation. From the state of dullness, noisy distraction and mental torpor in which they had been, these people were suddenly and imperceptibly carried into another quite different world that they had forgotten.

Now a calm contemplation of the past arose in their souls, now an impassioned memory of some past happiness, now a boundless desire for power and splendour, now a feeling of resignation, of unsatisfied love and sadness. Sounds now tenderly sad, now vehemently despairing, mingled freely, flowing and flowing one after the other so elegantly, so strongly, and so unconsciously, that the sounds themselves were not noticed, but there flowed of itself into the soul a beautiful torrent of poetry, long familiar but only now expressed. At each note Albert grew taller and taller. He was far from appearing misshapen or strange. Pressing the violin with his chin and listening to his notes with an expression of passionate attention, he convulsively moved his feet. Now he straightened himself to his full height, now he strenuously bent his back. His left arm seemed to have become set in the bent position to which he had strained it and only the bony fingers moved convulsively: the right arm moved smoothly, elegantly, and almost imperceptibly. His face shone with uninterrupted, ecstatic joy; his eyes burnt with a bright, dry brilliance, his nostrils expanded, his red lips opened with delight.

Sometimes his head bent closer to the violin, his eyes closed, and his face, half covered by his hair, lit up with a smile of mild rapture. Sometimes he drew himself up rapidly, advancing one foot, and his clear brow and the beaming look he cast round the room gleamed with pride, dignity, and a consciousness of power. Once the pianist blundered and struck a wrong chord. Physical suffering was apparent in the whole face and figure of the musician. He paused for an instant and stamping his foot with an expression of childish anger, cried: "Moll, ce moll!" The Pianist recovered himself. Albert closed his eyes, smiled, and again forgetting himself, the others, and the whole world, gave himself up rapturously to his task.

All who were in the room preserved a submissive silence while Albert was playing, and seemed to live and breathe only in his music.

The merry officer sat motionless on a chair by a window, directing a lifeless gaze upon the floor and breathing slowly and heavily. The girls sat in complete silence along the walls, and only occasionally threw approving and bewildered glances at one another. The hostess's fat smiling face expanded with pleasure. The pianist riveted his eyes on Albert's face and, with a fear of blundering which expressed itself in his whole taut figure, tried to keep up with him. One of the visitors who had drunk more than the others lay prone on the sofa, trying not to move for fear of betraying his agitation. Delesov experienced an unaccustomed sensation. It was as if a cold circle, now expanding, now contracting, held his head in a vice. The roots of his hair became sensitive, cold shivers ran up his spine, something rising higher and higher in his throat pricked his nose and palate as if with fine needles, and tears involuntarily wetted his cheeks. He shook himself, tried to restrain them and wipe them unperceived, but others rose and ran down his cheeks. By some strange concatenation of impressions the first sounds of Albert's violin carried Delesov back to his early youth. Now no longer very young, tired of life and exhausted, he suddenly felt himself a self-satisfied, good-looking, blissfully foolish and unconsciously happy lad of seventeen.

He remembered his first love - for his cousin in a little pink dress;; remembered his first declaration of love made in a linden avenue; remembered the warmth and incomprehensible delight of a spontaneous kiss, and the magic and undivined mystery of the Nature that then surrounded him. In the memories that returned to him she shone out amid a mist of vague hopes, uncomprehended desires, and questioning faith in the possibility of impossible happiness. All the unappreciated moments of that time arose before him one after another, not as insignificant moments of a fleeting present, but as arrested, growing, reproachful images of the past. He contemplated them with joy, and wept - wept not because the time was past that he might have spent better (if he had it again he would not have undertaken to employ it better), but merely because it was past and would never return. Memories rose up of themselves, and Albert's violin repeated again and again: "For you that time of vigour, love, and happiness has passed for ever, and will not return. Weep for it, shed all your tears, die weeping for that time - that is the best happiness left for you."

Towards the end of the last variation Albert's face grew red, his eyes burnt and glowed, and large drops of perspiration ran down his cheeks. The veins of his forehead swelled up, his whole body came more and more into motion, his pale lips no longer closed, and his whole figure expressed ecstatic eagerness for enjoyment.

Passionately swaying his whole body and tossing back his hair he lowered the violin, and with a smile of proud dignity and happiness surveyed the audience. Then his back sagged, his head hung down, his lips closed, his eyes grew dim, and he timidly glanced round as if ashamed of himself, and made his way stumblingly into the other room.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:53 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 1


Five wealthy young men had come, after two in the morning, to amuse themselves at a small Petersburg party.

Much champagne had been drunk, most of the men were very young, the girls were pretty, the piano and violin indefatigably played one polka after another, and dancing and noise went on unceasingly: yet for some reason it was dull and awkward, and, as often happens, everybody felt that it was all unnecessary and was not the thing.

Several times they tried to get things going, but forced merriment was worse even than boredom.

One of the five young men, more dissatisfied than the others with himself, with the others, and with the whole evening, rose with a feeling of disgust, found his had, and went out quietly, intending to go home.

There was no one in the ante-room, but in the adjoining room he heard two voices disputing. The young man stopped to listen.

"You can't, there are guests there," said a woman's voice.

"Let me in, please. I'm all right!" a man's weak voice entreated.

"No, I won't let you in without Madame's permission," said the woman. "Where are you going? Ah! What a man you are!"

The door burst open and a strange figure of a man appeared on the threshold. The servant on seeing a visitor no longer protested, and the strange figure, bowing timidly, entered the room, swaying on his bent legs. He was of medium height, with a narrow, stooping back, and long tangled hair. He wore a short overcoat, and narrow torn trousers over a pair of rough uncleaned boots. A necktie, twisted into a cord, was fastened round his long white neck. A dirty shirt showed from under his coat and hung over his thin hands.

Yet despite the extreme emaciation of his body, his face was white and delicate, and freshness and colour played on his cheeks above his scanty black beard and whiskers. His unkempt hair, thrown back, revealed a rather low and extremely clear forehead. His dark languid eyes looked softly, imploringly, and yet with dignity, before him. Their expression corresponded alluringly with that of the fresh lips, curved at the corners, which showed from under his thin moustache.

Having advanced a few steps he stopped, turned to the young man, and smiled. He seemed to smile with difficulty, but when the smile lit up his face the young man - without knowing why - smiled too.

"Who is that?" he whispered to the servant, when the strange figure had passed into the room from which came the sounds of a dance.

"A crazy musician from the theatre," replied the maid. "He comes sometimes to see the mistress."

"Where have you been, Delesov?" someone just then called out, and the young man, who was named Delesov, returned to the ballroom.

The musician was standing at the door and, looking at the dancers, showed by his smile, his look, and the tapping of his foot, the satisfaction the spectacle afforded him.

"Come in and dance yourself," said one of the visitors to him. The musician bowed and looked inquiringly at the hostess.

"Go, go ... Why not, when the gentlemen ask you to?" she said.

The thin, weak limbs of the musician suddenly came into active motion, and winking, smiling, and twitching, he began to prance awkwardly and heavily about the room. In the middle of the quadrille a merry officer, who danced very vivaciously and well, accidentally bumped into the musician with his back. The latter's weak and weary legs did not maintain their balance and after a few stumbling steps aside, he fell full length on the floor. Notwithstanding the dull thud produced by his fall, at first nearly everyone burst out laughing. But the musician did not get up. The visitors grew silent and even the piano ceased. Delesov and the hostess were the first to run up to the fallen man. He was lying on his elbow, staring with dull eyes at the floor. When they lifted him and seated him on a chair, he brushed the hair back from his forehead with a quick movement of his bony hand and began to smile without answering their questions.

"Mr. Albert! Mr. Albert!" said the hostess. "Have you hurt yourself? Where? There now, I said you ought not to dance. He is so weak," she continued, addressing her guests, " - he can hardly walk. How could he dance?"

"Who is he?" they asked her.

"A poor man - an artist. A very good fellow, but pitiable, as you see."

She said this unembarrassed by the presence of the musician. He suddenly came to himself and, as if afraid of something, shrank into a heap and pushed those around him away.

"It's all nothing!" he suddenly said, rising from his chair with an obvious effort.

And to show that he was not at all hurt he went into the middle of the room and tried to jump about, but staggered and would have fallen down again had someone not supported him.

Everyone felt awkward, and looking at him they all became silent.

The musician's eyes again grew dim, and evidently oblivious of everyone he began rubbing his knee with his hand. Suddenly he raised his head, advanced a trembling leg, threw back his hair with the same heedless movement as before, and going up to the violinist took his violin from him.

"It's nothing!" he said once more, flourishing the violin. "Gentlemen, let's have some music!"

"What a strange person!" the visitors remarked to one another.

"Perhaps a fine talent is perishing in this unfortunate creature," said one of the guests.

"Yes, he's pitiable, pitiable!" said a third.

"What a beautiful face! ... There is something extraordinary about him," said Delesov. "Let us see ... "

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:53 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1903)

A LEGEND.


THIS is a legend current among the South American Indians.

God, say they, at first made men so that they had no need to work: they needed neither houses, nor clothes, nor food, and they all lived till they were a hundred, and did not know what illness was.

When, after some time, God looked to see how people were living, he saw that instead of being happy in their life, they had quarrelled with one another, and, each caring for himself, had brought matters to such a pass that far from enjoying life, they cursed it.

Then God said to himself: 'This comes of their living separately, each for himself.' And to change this state of things, God so arranged matters that it became impossible for people to live without working. To avoid suffering from cold and hunger, they were now obliged to build dwellings, and to dig the ground, and to grow and gather fruits and grain.

'Work will bring them together,' thought God.

'They cannot make their tools, prepare and transport their timber, build their houses, sow and gather their harvests, spin and weave, and make their clothes, each one alone by himself.'

'It will make them understand that the more heartily they work together, the more they will have and the better they will live; and this will unite them.'

Time passed on, and again God came to see how men were living, and whether they were now happy.

But he found them living worse than before. They worked together (that they could not help doing), but not all together, being broken up into little groups. And each group tried to snatch work from other groups, and they hindered one another, wasting time and strength in their struggles, so that things went ill with them all.

Having seen that this, too, was not well, God decided so as to arrange things that man should not know the time of his death, but might die at any moment; and he announced this to them.

'Knowing that each of them may die at any moment,' thought God, 'they will not, by grasping at gains that may last so short a time, spoil the hours of life allotted to them.'

But it turned out otherwise. When God returned to see how people were living, he saw that their life was as bad as ever.

Those who were strongest, availing themselves of the fact that men might die at any time, subdued those who were weaker, killing some and threatening others with death. And it came about that the strongest and their descendants did no work, and suffered from the weariness of idleness, while those who were weaker had to work beyond their strength, and suffered from lack of rest. Each set of men feared and hated the other. And the life of man became yet more unhappy.

Having seen all this, God, to mend matters, decided to make use of one last means; he sent all kinds of sickness among men. God thought that when all men were exposed to sickness they would understand that those who are well should have pity on those who are sick, and should help them, that when they themselves fall ill those who are well might in turn help them.

And again God went away, but when He came back to see how men lived now that they were subject to sicknesses, he saw that their life was worse even than before. The very sickness that in God's purpose should have united men, had divided them more than ever. Those men who were strong enough to make others work, forced them also to wait on them in times of sickness; but they did not, in their turn, look after others who were ill. And those who were forced to work for others and to look after them when sick, were so worn with work that they had no time to look after their own sick, but left them without attendance. That the sight of sick folk might not disturb the pleasures of the wealthy, houses were arranged in which these poor people suffered and died, far from those whose sympathy might have cheered them, and in the arms of hired people who nursed them without compassion, or even with disgust. Moreover, people considered many of the illnesses infectious, and, fearing to catch them, not only avoided the sick, but even separated themselves from those who attended the sick.

Then God said to Himself: 'If even this means will not bring men to understand wherein their happiness lies, let them be taught by suffering.' And God left men to themselves.

And, left to themselves, men lived long before they understood that they all ought to, and might be, happy. Only in the very latest times have a few of them begun to understand that work ought not to be a bugbear to some and like galley-slavery for others, but should be a common and happy occupation, uniting all men. They have begun to understand that with death constantly threatening each of us, the only reasonable business of every man is to spend the years, months, hours, and minutes, allotted him -- in unity and love. They have begun to understand that sickness, far from dividing men, should, on the contrary, give opportunity for loving union with one another.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:40 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1903)

(In this story Tolstoy has used the names of real people.

Esarhaddon (or Assur-akhi-iddina) is mentioned three times in the Bible ( 2 Kings xix. 37; Isaiah xxxvii. 38, and Ezra iv. 2), and is also alluded to in 2 Chron. xxiii. 11, as, 'the King of Assyria, which took Manasseh in chains, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.' His son Assur-bani-pal, whom he promoted to power before his own death, is once mentioned in the Bible, under the name of Asnapper ( Ezra iv. 10). Of Lailie history does not tell us much; but in Ernest A. Budge's History of Esarhaddon we read: 'A King, called Lailie, asked that the gods which Esarhaddon had captured from him might be restored. His request was granted, and Esarhaddon said, "I spoke to him of brotherhood, and entrusted to him the sovereignty of the districts of Bazu.")


THE Assyrian King, Esarhaddon, had conquered the kingdom of King Lailie, had destroyed and burnt the towns, taken all the inhabitants captive to his own country, slaughtered the warriors, beheaded some chieftains and impaled or flayed others, and had confined King Lailie himself in a cage.

As he lay on his bed one night, King Esarhaddon was thinking how he should execute Lailie, when suddenly he heard a rustling near his bed, and opening his eyes saw an old man with a long grey bead and mild eyes.

'You wish to execute Lailie?' asked the old man.

'Yes,' answered the King. 'But I cannot make up my mind how to do it.'

'But you are Lailie,' said the old man.

'That's not true,' replied the King. 'Lailie is Lailie, and I am I.'

'You and Lailie are one,' said the old man. 'You only imagine you are not Lailie, and that Lailie is not you.'

'What do you mean by that?' said the King. 'Here am I, lying on a soft bed; around me are obedient men-slaves and women-slaves, and to-morrow I shall feast with my friends as I did to-day; whereas Lailie is sitting like a bird in a cage, and to-morrow he will be impaled, and with his tongue hanging out will struggle till he dies, and his body will be torn in pieces by dogs.'

'You cannot destroy his life,' said the old man.

'And how about the fourteen thousand warriors I killed, with whose bodies I built a mound?' said the King. 'I am alive, but they no longer exist. Does not that prove that I can destroy life?'

'How do you know they no longer exist?'

'Because I no longer see them. And, above all, they were tormented, but I was not. It was ill for them, but well for me.'

'That, also, only seems so to you. You tortured yourself, but not them.'

'I do not understand,' said the King.

'Do you wish to understand?'

'Yes, I do.'

'Then come here,' said the old man, pointing to a large font full of water.

The King rose and approached the font.

'Strip, and enter the font.'

Esarhaddon did as the old man bade him.

'As soon as I begin to pour this water over you,' said the old man, filling a pitcher with the water, 'dip down your head.'

The old man tilted the pitcher over the King's head and the King bent his head till it was under water.

And as soon as King Esarhaddon was under the water he felt that he was no longer Esarhaddon, but some one else. And, feeling himself to be that other man, he saw himself lying on a rich bed, beside a beautiful woman. He had never seen her before, but he knew she was his wife. The woman raised herself and said to him:

'Dear husband, Lailie! You were wearied by yesterday's work and have slept longer than usual, and I have guarded your rest, and have not roused you. But now the Princes await you in the Great Hall. Dress and go out to them.'

And Esarhaddon -- understanding from these words that he was Lailie, and not feeling at all surprised at this, but only wondering that he did not know it before -- rose, dressed, and went into the Great Hall where the Princes awaited him.

The Princes greeted Lailie, their King, bowing to the ground, and then they rose, and at his word sat down before him; and the eldest of the Princes began to speak, saying that it was impossible longer to endure the insults of the wicked King Esarhaddon, and that they must make war on him. But Lailie disagreed, and gave orders that envoys shall be sent to remonstrate with King Esarhaddon; and he dismissed the Princes from the audience. Afterwards he appointed men of note to act as ambassadors, and impressed on them what they were to say to King Esarhaddon. Having finished this business, Esarhaddon -- feeling himself to be Lailie -- rode out to hunt wild asses. The hunt was successful. He killed two wild asses himself, and having returned home, feasted with his friends, and witnessed a dance of slave girls. The next day he went to the Court, where he was awaited by petitioners suitors, and prisoners brought for trial; and there as usual he decided the cases submitted to him. Having finished this business, he again rode out to his favourite amusement: the hunt. And again he was successful: this time killing with his own hand an old lioness, and capturing her two cubs. After the hunt he again feasted with his friends, and was entertained with music and dances, and the night he spent with the wife whom he loved.

So, dividing his time between kingly duties and pleasures, he lived for days and weeks, awaiting the return of the ambassadors he had sent to that King Esarhaddon who used to be himself. Not till a month had passed did the ambassadors return, and they returned with their noses and ears cut off.

King Esarhaddon had ordered them to tell Lailie that what had been done to them -- the ambassadors -- would be done to King Lailie himself also, unless he sent immediately a tribute of silver, gold, and cypress-wood, and came himself to pay homage to King Esarhaddon.

Lailie, formerly Esarhaddon, again assembled the Princes, and took counsel with them as to what he should do. They all with one accord said that war must be made against Esarhaddon, without waiting for him to attack them. The King agreed; and taking his place at the head of the army, started on the campaign. The campaign lasts seven days. Each day the King rode round the army to rouse the courage of his warriors. On the eighth day his army met that of Esarhaddon in a broad valley through which a river flowed. Lailie's army fought bravely, but Lailie, formerly Esarhaddon, saw the enemy swarming down from the mountains like ants, over-running the valley and overwhelming his army; and, in his chariot, he flung himself into the midst of the battle, hewing and felling the enemy. But the warriors of Lailie were but as hundreds, while those of Esarhaddon were as thousands; and Lailie felt himself wounded and taken prisoner. Nine days he journeyed with other captives, bound, and guarded by the warriors of Esarhaddon. On the tenth day he reached Nineveh, and was placed in a cage. Lailie suffered not so much from hunger and from his wound as from shame and impotent rage. He felt how powerless he was to avenge himself on his enemy for all he was suffering. All he could do was to deprive his enemies of the pleasure of seeing his sufferings; and he firmly resolved to endure courageously without a murmur, all they could do to him. For twenty days he sat in his cage, awaiting execution. He saw his relatives and friends led out to death; he heard the groans of those who were executed: some had their hands and feet cut off, others were flayed alive, but he showed neither disquietude, nor pity, nor fear. He saw the wife he loved, bound, and led by two black eunuchs. He knew she was being taken as a slave to Esarhaddon. That, too, he bore without a murmur. But one of the guards placed to watch him said, 'I pity you, Lailie; you were a king, but what are you now?' And hearing these words, Lailie remembered all he had lost. He clutched the bars of his cage, and, wishing to kill himself, beat his head against them. But he had not the strength to do so and, groaning in despair, he fell upon the floor of his cage.

At last two executioners opened his cage door, and having strapped his arms tight behind him, led him to the place of execution, which was soaked with blood. Lailie saw a sharp stake dripping with blood, from which the corpse of one of his friends had just been torn, and he understood that this had been done that the stake might serve for his own execution. They stripped Lailie of his clothes. He was startled at the leanness of his once strong, handsome body. The two executioners seized that body by its lean thighs; they lifted him up and were about to let him fall upon the stake.

'This is death, destruction!' thought Lailie, and, forgetful of his resolve to remain bravely calm to the end, he sobbed and prayed for mercy. But no one listened to him.

'But this cannot be,' thought he. 'Surely I am asleep. It is a dream.' And he made an effort to rouse himself, and did indeed awake, to find himself neither Esarhaddon nor Lailie -- but some kind of an animal. He was astonished that he was an animal, and astonished, also, at not having known this before.

He was grazing in a valley, tearing the tender grass with his teeth, and brushing away flies with his long tail. Around him was frolicking a long-legged, dark-gray ass-colt, striped down its back. Kicking up its hind legs, the colt galloped full speed to Esarhaddon, and poking him under the stomach with its smooth little muzzle, searched for the teat, and, finding it, quieted down, swallowing regularly. Esarhaddon understood that he was a she-ass, the colt's mother, and this neither surprised nor grieved him, but rather gave him pleasure. He experienced a glad feeling of simultaneous life in himself and in his offspring.

But suddenly something flew near with a whistling sound and hit him in the side, and with its sharp point entered his skin and flesh. Feeling a burning pain, Esarhaddon -- who was at the same time the ass -- tore the udder from the colt's teeth, and laying back his ears galloped to the herd from which he had strayed. The colt kept up with him, galloping by his side. They had already nearly reached the herd, which had started off, when another arrow in full flight struck the colt's neck. It pierced the skin and quivered in its flesh. The colt sobbed piteously and fell upon its knees. Esarhaddon could not abandon it, and remained standing over it. The colt rose, tottered on its long, thin legs, and again fell. A fearful two-legged being -- a man -- ran up and cut its throat.

'This cannot be; it is still a dream! thought Esarhaddon, and made a last effort to awake. 'Surely I am not Lailie, nor the ass, but Esarhaddon!'

He cried out, and at the same instant lifted his head out of the font. . . . The old man was standing by him, pouring over his head the last drops from the pitcher.

'Oh, how terribly I have suffered! And for how long!' said Esarhaddon.

'Long?' replied the old man, 'you have only dipped your head under water and lifted it again; see, the water is not yet all out of the pitcher. Do you now understand?'

Esarhaddon did not reply, but only looked at the old man with terror.

'Do you now understand,' continued the old man, 'that Lailie is you, and the warriors you put to death were you also? And not the warriors only, but the animals which you slew when hunting and ate at your feasts were also you. You thought life dwelt in you alone but I have drawn aside the veil of delusion, and have let you see that by doing evil to others you have done it to yourself also. Life is one in them all, and yours is but a portion of this same common life. And only in that one part of life that is yours, can you make life better or worse -- increasing or decreasing it. You can only improve life in yourself by destroying the barriers that divide your life from that of others, and by considering others as yourself, and loving them. By so doing you increase your share of life. You injure your life when you think of it as the only life, and try to add to its welfare at the expense of other lives. By so doing you only lessen it. To destroy the life that dwells in others is beyond your power. The life of those you have slain has vanished from your eyes, but is not destroyed. You thought to lengthen your own life and to shorten theirs, but you cannot do this. Life knows neither time nor space. The life of a moment, and the life of a thousand years: your life and the life of all the visible and invisible beings in the world, are equal. To destroy life, or to alter it, is impossible; for life is the one thing that exists. All else, but seems to us to be.'

Having said this the old man vanished.

Next morning King Esarhaddon gave orders that Lailie and all the prisoners should be set at liberty and that the executions should cease.

On the third day he called his son Assur-bani-pal, and gave the kingdom over into his hands; and he himself went into the desert to think over all he had learnt. Afterwards he went about as a wanderer through the towns and villages, preaching to the people that all life is one, and that when men wish to harm others, they really do evil to themselves.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:40 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1897)

(TOLSTOY'S ADAPTATION OF A STORY BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT. )


NEAR the borders of France and Italy, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, lies a tiny little kingdom called Monaco. Many a small country town can boast more inhabitants than this kingdom, for there are only about seven thousand of them all told, and if all the land in the kingdom were divided there would not be an acre for each inhabitant. But in this toy kingdom there is a real kinglet; and he has a palace, and courtiers, and ministers, and a bishop, and generals, and an army.

It is not a large army, only sixty men in all, but still it is an army. There were also taxes in this kingdom as elsewhere: a tax on tobacco, and on wine and spirits and a poll-tax. But though the people there drink and smoke as people do in other countries, there are so few of them that the King would have been hard put to it to feed his courtiers and officials and to keep himself, if he had not found a new and special source of revenue. This special revenue comes from a gaming house, where people play roulette. People play, and whether they win or lose the keeper always gets a percentage on the turnover; and out of his profits he pays a large sum to the King. The reason he pays so much is that it is the only such gambling establishment left in Europe. Some of the little German Sovereigns used to keep gaming houses of the same kind, but some years ago they were forbidden to do so. The reason they were stopped was because these gaming houses did so much harm. A man would come and try his luck, then he would risk all he had and lose it, then he would even risk money that did not belong to him and lose that too, and then, in despair, he would drown or shoot himself. So the Germans forbade their rulers to make money in this way; but there was no one to stop the King of Monaco, and he remained with a monopoly of the business.

So now every one who wants to gamble goes to Monaco. Whether they win or lose, the King gains by it. 'You can't earn stone palaces by honest labour,' as the proverb says; and the Kinglet of Monaco knows it is a dirty business, but what is he to do? He has to live; and to draw a revenue from drink and from tobacco is also not a nice thing. So he lives and reigns, and rakes in the money, and holds his court with all the ceremony of a real king.

He has his coronation, his levees; he rewards, sentences, and pardons, and he also has his reviews, councils, laws, and courts of justice: just like other kings, only all on a smaller scale.

Now it happened a few years ago that a murder was committed in this toy King's domains. The people of that kingdom are peaceable, and such a thing had not happened before. The judges assembled with much ceremony and tried the case in the most judicial manner. There were judges, and prosecutors, and jurymen, and barristers. They argued and judged, and at last they condemned the criminal to have his head cut off as the law directs. So far so good. Next they submitted the sentence to the King. The King read the sentence and confirmed it. 'If the fellow must be executed, execute him.'

There was only one hitch in the matter; and that was that they had neither a guillotine for cutting heads off, nor an executioner. The Ministers considered the matter, and decided to address an inquiry to the French Government, asking whether the French could not lend them a machine and an expert to cut off the criminal's head; and if so, would the French kindly inform them what the cost would be. The letter was sent. A week later the reply came: a machine and an expert could be supplied, and the cost would be 16,000 francs. This was laid before the King. He thought it over. Sixteen thousand francs! 'The wretch is not worth the money,' said he. 'Can't it be done, somehow, cheaper? Why 16,000 francs is more than two francs a head on the whole population. The people won't stand it, and it may cause a riot!'

So a Council was called to consider what could be done; and it was decided to send a similar inquiry to the King of Italy. The French Government is republican, and has no proper respect for kings; but the King of Italy was a brother monarch, and might be induced to do the thing cheaper. So the letter was written, and a prompt reply was received.

The Italian Government wrote that they would have pleasure in supplying both a machine and an expert; and the whole cost would be 12,000 francs, including travelling expenses. This was cheaper, but still it seemed too much. The rascal was really not worth the money. It would still mean nearly two francs more per head on the taxes. Another Council was called. They discussed and considered how it could be done with less expense. Could not one of the soldiers perhaps be got to do it in a rough and homely fashion? The General was called and was asked: 'Can't you find us a soldier who would cut the man's head off? In war they don't mind killing people. In fact, that is what they are trained for.' So the General talked it over with the soldiers to see whether one of them would not undertake the job. But none of the soldiers would do it. 'No,' they said, 'we don't know how to do it; it is not a thing we have been taught.'

What was to be done? Again the Ministers considered and reconsidered. They assembled a Commission, and a Committee, and a Sub-Committee, and at last they decided that the best thing would be to alter the death sentence to one of imprisonment for life. This would enable the King to show his mercy, and it would come cheaper.

The King agreed to this, and so the matter was arranged. The only hitch now was that there was no suitable prison for a man sentenced for life. There was a small lock-up where people were sometimes kept temporarily, but there was no strong prison fit for permanent use. However, they managed to find a place that would do, and they put the young fellow there and placed a guard over him. The guard had to watch the criminal, and had also to fetch his food from the palace kitchen.

The prisoner remained there month after month till a year had passed. But when a year had passed, the Kinglet, looking over the account of his income and expenditure one day, noticed a new item of expenditure. This was for the keep of the criminal; nor was it a small item either. There was a special guard, and there was also the man's food. It came to more than 600 francs a year. And the worst of it was that the fellow was still young and healthy, and might live for fifty years. When one came to reckon it up, the matter was serious. It would never do. So the King summoned his Ministers and said to them:

'You must find some cheaper way of dealing with this rascal. The present plan is too expensive.' And the Ministers met and considered and reconsidered, till one of them said: 'Gentlemen, in my opinion we must dismiss the guard.' 'But then,' rejoined another Minister, 'the fellow will run away.' 'Well,' said the first speaker, 'let him run away, and be hanged to him!' So they reported the result of their deliberations to the Kinglet, and he agreed with them. The guard was dismissed, and they waited to see what would happen. All that happened was that at dinner-time the criminal came out, and, not finding his guard, he went to the King's kitchen to fetch his own dinner. He took what was given him, returned to the prison, shut the door on himself, and stayed inside. Next day the same thing occurred. He went for his food at the proper time; but as for running away, he did not show the least sign of it! What was to be done? They considered the matter again.

'We shall have to tell him straight out,' said they 'that we do not want to keep him.' So the Minister of Justice had him brought before him.

'Why do you not run away?' said the Minister. 'There is no guard to keep you. You can go where you like, and the King will not mind.'

'I daresay the King would not mind,' replied the man, 'but I have nowhere to go. What can I do? You have ruined my character by your sentence, and people will turn their backs on me. Besides, I have got out of the way of working. You have treated me badly. It is not fair. In the first place, when once you sentenced me to death you ought to have executed me; but you did not do it. That is one thing. I did not complain about that. Then you sentenced me to imprisonment for life and put a guard to bring me my food; but after a time you took him away again and I had to fetch my own food. Again I did not complain. But now you actually want me to go away! I can't agree to that. You may do as you like, but I won't go away!'

What was to be done? Once more the Council was summoned. What course could they adopt? The man would not go. They reflected and considered. The only way to get rid of him was to offer him a pension. And so they reported to the King. 'There is nothing else for it,' said they; 'we must get rid of him somehow.' The sum fixed was 600 francs, and this was announced to the prisoner.

'Well,' said he, 'I don't mind, so long as you undertake to pay it regularly. On that condition I am willing to go.'

So the matter was settled. He received one-third of his annuity in advance, and left the King's dominions. It was only a quarter of an hour by rail; and he emigrated, and settled just across the frontier, where he bought a bit of land, started market-gardening, and now lives comfortably. He always goes at the proper time to draw his pension. Having received it, he goes to the gaming tables, stakes two or three francs, sometimes wins and sometimes loses, and then returns home. He lives peaceably and well.

It is a good thing that he did not commit his crime in a country where they do not grudge expense to cut a man's head off, or to keeping him in prison for life.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:39 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1891)

(A FOLK-TALE LONG CURRENT IN THE REGION OF THE VOLGA)


EMELYÁN WAS a labourer and worked for a master. Crossing the meadows one day on his way to work, he nearly trod on a frog that jumped right in front of him, but he just managed to avoid it. Suddenly he heard some one calling to him from behind.

Emelyán looked round and saw a lovely lassie, who said to him: 'Why don't you get married, Emelyán?'

'How can I marry, my lass?' said he. 'I have but the clothes I stand up in, nothing more, and no one would have me for a husband.'

'Take me for a wife,' said she.

Emelyán liked the maid. 'I should be glad to,' said he, 'but where and how could we live?'

'Why trouble about that?' said the girl. 'One only has to work more and sleep less, and one can clothe and feed oneself anywhere.'

'Very well then, let us marry,' said Emelyán. 'Where shall we go to?'

'Let us go to town.'

So Emelyán and the lass went to town, and she took him to a small hut on the very edge of the town, and they married and began housekeeping.

One day the King, driving through the town, passed by Emelyán's hut. Emelyán's wife came out to see the King. The King noticed her and was quite surprised.

'Where did such a beauty come from?' said he and stopping his carriage he called Emelyán's wife and asked her: 'Who are you?'

'The peasant Emelyán's wife,' said she.

'Why did you, who are such a beauty, marry a peasant?' said the King. 'You ought to be a queen!'

'Thank you for your kind words,' said she, 'but a peasant husband is good enough for me.'

The King talked to her awhile and then drove on. He returned to the palace, but could not get Emelyán's wife out of his head. All night he did not sleep, but kept thinking how to get her for himself. He could think of no way of doing it, so he called his servants and told them they must find a way.

The King's servants said: 'Command Emelyán to come to the palace to work, and we will work him so hard that he will die. His wife will be left a widow, and then you can take her for yourself.'

The King followed their advice. He sent an order that Emelyán should come to the palace as a workman and that he should live at the palace, and his wife with him.

The messengers came to Emelyán and gave him the King's message. His wife said, 'Go, Emelyán; work all day, but come back home at night.'

So Emelyán went, and when he got to the palace the King's steward asked him, 'Why have you come alone, without your wife?'

'Why should I drag her about?' said Emelyán. 'She has a house to live in.'

At the King's palace they gave Emelyán work enough for two. He began the job not hoping to finish it; but when evening came, lo and behold! it was all done. The steward saw that it was finished, and set him four times as much for next day.

Emelyán went home. Everything there was swept and tidy; the oven was heated, his supper was cooked and ready, and his wife sat by the table sewing and waiting for his return. She greeted him, laid the table, gave him to eat and drink, and then began to ask him about his work.

'Ah!' said he, 'it's a bad business: they give me tasks beyond my strength, and want to kill me with work.'

'Don't fret about the work,' said she, 'don't look either before or behind to see how much you have done or how much there is left to do; only keep on working and all will be right.'

So Emelyán lay down and slept. Next morning he went to work again and worked without once looking round. And, lo and behold! by the evening it was all done, and before dark he came home for the night.

Again and again they increased Emelyán's work, but he always got through it in good time and went back to his hut to sleep. A week passed, and the King's servants saw they could not crush him with rough work so they tried giving him work that required skill. But this, also, was of no avail. Carpentering, and masonry, and roofing, whatever they set him to do, Emelyán had it ready in time, and went home to his wife at night. So a second week passed.

Then the King called his servants and said: 'Am I to feed you for nothing? Two weeks have gone, and I don't see that you have done anything. You were going to tire Emelyán out with work, but I see from my windows how he goes home every evening -- singing cheerfully! Do you mean to make a fool of me?'

The King's servants began to excuse themselves. 'We tried our best to wear him out with rough work,' they said, 'but nothing was too hard for him; he cleared it all off as though he had swept it away with a broom. There was no tiring him out. Then we set him to tasks needing skill, which we did not think he was clever enough to do, but he managed them all. No matter what one sets him, he does it all, no one knows how. Either he or his wife must know some spell that helps them. We ourselves are sick of him, and wish to find a task he cannot master. We have now thought of setting him to build a cathedral in a single day. Send for Emelyán, and order him to build a cathedral in front of the palace in a single day. Then, if he does not do it, let his head be cut off for disobedience.'

The King sent for Emelyán. 'Listen to my command,' said he: 'build me a new cathedral on the square in front of my palace, and have it ready by to-morrow evening. If you have it ready I will reward you, but if not I will have your head cut off.'

When Emelyán heard the King's command he turned away and went home. 'My end is near,' thought he. And coming to his wife, he said: 'Get ready, wife we must fly from here, or I shall be lost by no fault of my own.'

'What has frightened you so?' said she, 'and why should we run away?'

'How can I help being frightened? The King has ordered me, to-morrow, in a single day, to build him a cathedral. If I fail he will cut my head off. There is only one thing to be done: we must fly while there is yet time.'

But his wife would not hear of it. 'The King has many soldiers,' said she. 'They would catch us anywhere. We cannot escape from him, but must obey him as long as strength holds out.'

'How can I obey him when the task is beyond my strength?'

'Eh, goodman, don't be downhearted. Eat your supper now, and go to sleep. Rise early in the morning and all will get done.'

So Emelyán lay down and slept. His wife roused him early next day. 'Go quickly,' said she, 'and finish the cathedral. Here are nails and a hammer; there is still enough work there for a day.'

Emelyán went into the town, reached the palace square, and there stood a large cathedral not quite finished. Emelyán set to work to do what was needed, and by the evening all was ready.

When the King awoke he looked out from his palace, and saw the cathedral, and Emelyán going about driving in nails here and there. And the King was not pleased to have the cathedral -- he was annoyed at not being able to condemn Emelyán and take his wife. Again he called his servants. 'Emelyán has done this task also,' said the King, 'and there is no excuse for putting him to death. Even this work was not too hard for him. You must find a more cunning plan, or I will cut off your heads as well as his.'

So his servants planned that Emelyán should be ordered to make a river round the palace, with ships sailing on it. And the King sent for Emelyán and set him this new task.

'If,' said he, 'you could build a cathedral in one night, you can also do this. To-morrow all must be ready. If not, I will have your head off.'

Emelyán was more downcast than before, and returned to his wife sad at heart.

'Why are you so sad?' said his wife. 'Has the King set you a fresh task?'

Emelyán told her about it. 'We must fly,' said he.

But his wife replied: 'There is no escaping the soldiers; they will catch us wherever we go. There is nothing for it but to obey.'

'How can I do it?' groaned Emelyán.

'Eh! eh! goodman,' said she, 'don't be downhearted. Eat your supper now, and go to sleep. Rise early, and all will get done in good time.'

So Emelyán lay down and slept. In the morning his wife woke him. 'Go,' said she 'to the palace -- all is ready. Only, near the wharf in front of the palace, there is a mound left; take a spade and level it.

When the King awoke he saw a river where there had not been one; ships were sailing up and down, and Emelyán was levelling a mound with a spade. The King wondered, but was pleased neither with the river nor with the ships, so vexed was he at not being able to condemn Emelyán. 'There is no task,' thought he, 'that he cannot manage. What is to be done?' And he called his servants and again asked their advice.

'Find some task,' said he, 'which Emelyán cannot compass. For whatever we plan he fulfils, and I cannot take his wife from him.'

The King's servants thought and thought, and at last devised a plan. They came to the King and said: 'Send for Emelyán and say to him: "Go to there, don't know where," and bring back "that, don't know what." Then he will not be able to escape you. No matter where he goes, you can say that he has not gone to the right place, and no matter what he brings, you can say it is not the right thing. Then you can have him beheaded and can take his wife.'

The King was pleased. 'That is well thought of,' said he. So the King sent for Emelyán and said to him: 'Go to "there, don't know where," and bring back "that, don't know what." If you fail to bring it, I will have you beheaded.'

Emelyán returned to his wife and told her what the King had said. His wife became thoughtful.

'Well,' said she, 'they have taught the King how to catch you. Now we must act warily.' So she sat and thought, and at last said to her husband: 'You must go far, to our Grandam -- the old peasant woman, the mother of soldiers -- and you must ask her aid. If she helps you to anything, go straight to the palace with it, I shall be there: I cannot escape them now. They will take me by force, but it will not be for long. If you do everything as Grandam directs, you will soon save me.'

So the wife got her husband ready for the journey. She gave him a wallet, and also a spindle. 'Give her this,' said she. 'By this token she will know that you are my husband.' And his wife showed him his road.

Emelyán set off. He left the town behind, and came to where some soldiers were being drilled. Emelyán stood and watched them. After drill the soldiers sat down to rest. Then Emelyán went up to them and asked: 'Do you know, brothers, the way to "there, don't know where?" and how I can get "that, don't know what?"'

The soldiers listened to him with surprise. 'Who sent you on this errand?' said they

'The King,' said he.

'We ourselves,' said they, 'from the day we became soldiers, go we "don't know where," and never yet have we got there; and we seek we "don't know what," and cannot find it. We cannot help you.'

Emelyán sat a while with the soldiers and then went on again. He trudged many a mile, and at last came to a wood. In the wood was a hut, and in the hut sat an old, old woman, the mother of peasant soldiers, spinning flax and weeping. And as she spun she did not put her fingers to her mouth to wet them with spittle, but to her eyes to wet them with tears. When the old woman saw Emelyán she cried out at him: 'Why have you come here?' Then Emelyán gave her the spindle, and said his wife had sent it.

The old woman softened at once, and began to question him. And Emelyán told her his whole life: how he married the lass; how they went to live in the town; how he had worked, and what he had done at the palace; how he built the cathedral, and made a river with ships on it, and how the King had now told him to go to 'there, don't know where, and bring back 'that, don't know what.'

The Grandam listened to the end, and ceased weeping. She muttered to herself: 'The time has surely come,' and said to him: 'All right, my lad. Sit down now, and I will give you something to eat.'

Emelyán ate, and then the Grandam told him what to do. 'Here,' said she, 'is a ball of thread; roll it before you, and follow where it goes. You must go far till you come right to the sea. When you get there you will see a great city. Enter the city and ask for a night's lodging at the furthest house. There look out for what you are seeking.'

'How shall I know it when I see it, Granny?' said he.

'When you see something men obey more than father or mother, that is it. Seize that, and take it to the King. When you bring it to the King, he will say it is not right, and you must answer: "If it is not the right thing it must be smashed," and you must beat it, and carry it to the river, break it in pieces, and throw it into the water. Then you will get your wife back and my tears will be dried.'

Emelyán bade farewell to the Grandam and began rolling his ball before him. It rolled and rolled until at last it reached the sea. By the sea stood a great city, and at the further end of the city was a big house. There Emelyán begged for a night's lodging, and was granted it. He lay down to sleep, and in the morning awoke and heard a father rousing his son to go and cut wood for the fire. But the son did not obey. 'It is too early,' said he, 'there is time enough.' Then Emelyán heard the mother say, 'Go, my son, your father's bones ache; would you have him go himself? It is time to be up!'

But the son only murmured some words and fell asleep again. Hardly was he asleep when something thundered and rattled in the street. Up jumped the son and quickly putting on his clothes ran out into the street. Up jumped Emelyán, too, and ran after him to see what it was that a son obeys more than father or mother. What he saw was a man walking along the street carrying, tied to his stomach, a thing which he beat with sticks, and that it was that rattled and thundered so, and that the son had obeyed. Emelyán ran up and had a look at it. He saw it was round, like a small tub, with a skin stretched over both ends, and he asked what it was called.

He was told, 'A drum.'

'And is it empty?'

'Yes, it is empty.'

Emelyán was surprised. He asked them to give the thing to him, but they would not. So Emelyán left off asking, and followed the drummer. All day he followed, and when the drummer at last lay down to sleep, Emelyán snatched the drum from him and ran away with it.

He ran and ran, till at last he got back to his own town. He went to see his wife, but she was not at home. The day after he went away, the King had taken her. So Emelyán went to the palace, and sent in a message to the King: 'He has returned who went to "there, don't know where," and he has brought with him "that, don't know what."'

They told the King, and the King said he was to come again next day.

But Emelyán said, 'Tell the King I am here to-day, and have brought what the King wanted. Let him come out to me, or I will go in to him!'

The King came out. 'Where have you been?' said he.

Emelyán told him.

'That's not the right place,' said the King. 'What have you brought?'

Emelyán pointed to the drum, but the King did not look at it.

'That is not it.'

'If it is not the right thing,' said Emelyán, 'it must be smashed, and may the devil take it!'

And Emelyán left the palace, carrying the drum and beating it. And as he beat it all the King's army ran out to follow Emelyán, and they saluted him and waited his commands.

The King, from his window, began to shout at his army telling them not to follow Emelyán. They did not listen to what he said, but all followed Emelyán.

When the King saw that, he gave orders that Emelyán's wife should be taken back to him, and he sent to ask Emelyán to give him the drum.

'It can't be done,' said Emelyán. 'I was told to smash it and to throw the splinters into the river.'

So Emelyán went down to the river carrying the drum, and the soldiers followed him. When he reached the river bank Emelyán smashed the drum to splinters, and threw the splinters into the stream. And then all the soldiers ran away.

Emelyán took his wife and went home with her. And after that the King ceased to trouble him; and so they lived happily ever after.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:39 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1886)

'And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.'- Luke xxiii. 42, 43.


THERE was once a man who lived for seventy years in the world, and lived in sin all that time. He fell ill but even then did not repent. Only at the last moment, as he was dying, he wept and said:

'Lord! forgive me, as Thou forgavest the thief upon the cross.'

And as he said these words, his soul left his body. And the soul of the sinner, feeling love towards God and faith in His mercy, went to the gates of heaven and knocked, praying to be let into the heavenly kingdom.

Then a voice spoke from within the gate:

'What man is it that knocks at the gates of Paradise and what deeds did he do during his life?'

And the voice of the Accuser replied, recounting all the man's evil deeds, and not a single good one.

And the voice from within the gates answered:

'Sinners cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Go hence!'

Then the man said:

'Lord, I hear thy voice, but cannot see thy face, nor do I know thy name.'

The voice answered:

'I am Peter, the Apostle.'

And the sinner replied:

'Have pity on me, Apostle Peter! Remember man's weakness, and God's mercy. Wert not thou a disciple of Christ? Didst not thou hear his teaching from his own lips, and hadst thou not his example before thee? Remember then how, when he sorrowed and was grieved in spirit, and three times asked thee to keep awake and pray, thou didst sleep, because thine eyes were heavy, and three times he found thee sleeping. So it was with me. Remember, also, how thou didst promise to be faithful unto death, and yet didst thrice deny him, when he was taken before Caiaphas. So it was with me. And remember, too, how when the cock crowed thou didst go out and didst weep bitterly. So it is with me. Thou canst not refuse to let me in.'

And the voice behind the gates was silent.

Then the sinner stood a little while, and again began to knock, and to ask to be let into the kingdom of heaven.

And he heard another voice behind the gates, which said:

'Who is this man, and how did he live on earth?'

And the voice of the Accuser again repeated all the sinner's evil deeds, and not a single good one.

And the voice from behind the gates replied:

'Go hence! Such sinners cannot live with us in Paradise.' Then the sinner said:

'Lord, I hear thy voice, but I see thee not, nor do I know thy name.'

And the voice answered:

'I am David; king and prophet.'

The sinner did not despair, nor did he leave the gates of Paradise, but said:

Have pity on me, King David! Remember man's weakness, and God's mercy. God loved thee and exalted thee among men. Thou hadst all: a kingdom, and honour, and riches, and wives, and children; but thou sawest from thy house-top the wife of a poor man, and sin entered into thee, and thou tookest the wife of Uriah, and didst slay him with the sword of the Ammonites. Thou, a rich man, didst take from the poor man his one ewe lamb, and didst kill him. I have done likewise. Remember, then, how thou didst repent, and how thou saidst, "I acknowledge my transgressions: my sin is ever before me?" I have done the same. Thou canst not refuse to let me in.'

And the voice from within the gates was silent.

The sinner having stood a little while, began knocking again, and asking to be let into the kingdom of heaven. And a third voice was heard within the gates, saying:

'Who is this man, and how has he spent his life on earth?'

And the voice of the Accuser replied for the third time, recounting the sinner's evil deeds, and not mentioning one good deed.

And the voice within the gates said:

'Depart hence! Sinners cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.'

And the sinner said:

'Thy voice I hear, but thy face I see not, neither do I know thy name.'

Then the voice replied:

'I am John the Divine, the beloved disciple of Christ.'

And the sinner rejoiced and said:

'Now surely I shall be allowed to enter. Peter and David must let me in, because they know man's weakness and God's mercy; and thou wilt let me in, because thou lovest much. Was it not thou, John the Divine who wrote that God is Love, and that he who loves not, knows not God? And in thine old age didst thou not say unto men: "Brethren, love one another." How, then, canst thou look on me with hatred, and drive me away? Either thou must renounce what thou hast said, or loving me, must let me enter the kingdom of heaven.'

And the gates of Paradise opened, and John embraced the repentant sinner and took him into the kingdom of heaven.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:38 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1886)

'Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil.'- Matthew. v. 38, 39.

'Vengeance is mine; I will repay.'- Romans. xii. 19.


A SON WAS BORN to a poor peasant. He was glad and went to his neighbour to ask him to stand godfather to the boy. The neighbour refused -- he did not like standing godfather to a poor man's child. The peasant asked another neighbour, but he too refused, and after that the poor father went to every house in the village, but found no one willing to be godfather to his son. So he set off to another village, and on the way he met a man who stopped and said:

'Good-day, my good man; where are you off to?'

'God has given me a child,' said the peasant, 'to rejoice my eyes in youth, to comfort my old age, and to pray for my soul after death. But I am poor, and no one in our village will stand godfather to him, so I am now on my way to seek a godfather for him elsewhere.'

'Let me be godfather,' said the stranger.

The peasant was glad, and thanked him, but added: 'And whom shall I ask to be godmother?'

'Go to the town,' replied the stranger, 'and, in the square, you will see a stone house with shop-windows in the front. At the entrance you will find the tradesman to whom it belongs. Ask him to let his daughter stand godmother to your child.'

The peasant hesitated.

'How can I ask a rich tradesman?' said he. 'He will despise me, and will not let his daughter come.'

'Don't trouble about that. Go and ask. Get everything ready by to-morrow morning, and I will come to the christening.'

The poor peasant returned home, and then drove to the town to find the tradesman. He had hardly taken his horse into the yard, when the tradesman himself came out.

'What do you want?' said he.

'Why, sir,' said the peasant, 'you see God has given me a son to rejoice my eyes in youth, to comfort my old age, and to pray for my soul after death. Be so kind as to let your daughter stand godmother to him.

'And when is the christening?' said the tradesman.

'To-morrow morning.'

'Very well. Go in peace. She shall be with you at Mass to-morrow morning.'

The next day the godmother came, and the godfather also, and the infant was baptized. Immediately after the christening the godfather went away. They did not know who he was, and never saw him again.


II


The child grew up to be a joy to his parents. He was strong, willing to work, clever and obedient. When he was ten years old his parents sent him to school to learn to read and write. What others learnt in five years, he learnt in one, and soon there was nothing more they could teach him.

Easter came round, and the boy went to see his godmother, to give her his Easter greeting.

'Father and mother,' said he when he got home again, 'where does my godfather live? I should like to give him my Easter greeting, too.'

And his father answered:

'We know nothing about your godfather, dear son. We often regret it ourselves. Since the day you were christened we have never seen him, nor had any news of him. We do not know where he lives, or even whether he is still alive.'

The son bowed to his parents.

'Father and mother,' said he, 'let me go and look for my godfather. I must find him and give him my Easter greeting.

So his father and mother let him go, and the boy set off to find his godfather.


III


The boy left the house and set out along the road. He had been walking for several hours when he met a stranger who stopped him and said:

'Good-day to you, my boy. Where are you going?'

And the boy answered:

'I went to see my godmother and to give her my Easter greeting, and when I got home I asked my parents where my godfather lives, that I might go and greet him also. They told me they did not know. They said he went away as soon as I was christened, and they know nothing about him, not even if he be still alive. But I wished to see my godfather, and so I have set out to look for him.'

Then the stranger said: 'I am your godfather.'

The boy was glad to hear this. After kissing his godfather three times for an Easter greeting, he asked him:

'Which way are you going now, godfather? If you are coming our way, please come to our house; but if you are going home, I will go with you.'

'I have no time now,' replied his godfather, 'to come to your house. I have business in several villages; but I shall return home again to-morrow. Come and see me then.'

'But how shall I find you, godfather?'

'When you leave home, go straight towards the rising sun, and you will come to a forest; going through the forest you will come to a glade. When you reach this glade sit down and rest awhile, and look around you and see what happens. On the further side of the forest you will find a garden, and in it a house with a golden roof. That is my home. Go up to the gate, and I will myself be there to meet you.'

And having said this the godfather disappeared from his godson's sight.


IV


The boy did as his godfather had told him. He walked eastward until he reached a forest, and there he came to a glade, and in the midst of the glade he saw a pine tree to a branch of which was tied a rope supporting a heavy log of oak. Close under this log stood a wooden trough filled with honey. Hardly had the boy had time to wonder why the honey was placed there, and why the log hung above it, when he heard a crackling in the wood, and saw some bears approaching; a she-bear, followed by a yearling and three tiny cubs. The she-bear, sniffing the air, went straight to the trough, the cubs following her. She thrust her muzzle into the honey, and called the cubs to do the same. They scampered up and began to eat. As they did so, the log, which the she-bear had moved aside with her head, swung away a little and, returning, gave the cubs a push. Seeing this the she-bear shoved the log away with her paw. It swung further out and returned more forcibly, striking one cub on the back and another on the head. The cubs ran away howling with pain, and the mother, with a growl, caught the log in her fore paws and, raising it above her head flung it away. The log flew high in the air and the yearling, rushing to the trough, pushed his muzzle into the honey and began to suck noisily. The others also drew near, but they had not reached the trough when the log, flying back, struck the yearling on the head and killed him. The mother growled louder than before and, seizing the log, flung it from her with all her might. It flew higher than the branch it was tied to; so high that the rope slackened; and the she-bear returned to the trough, and the little cubs after her. The log flew higher and higher, then stopped, and began to fall. The nearer it came the faster it swung, and at last, at full speed, it crashed down on her head. The she-bear rolled over, her legs jerked and she died! The cubs ran away into the forest.

The boy watched all this in surprise, and then continued his way. Leaving the forest, he came upon a large garden in the midst of which stood a lofty palace with a golden roof. At the gate stood his godfather, smiling. He welcomed his godson, and led him through the gateway into the garden. The boy had never dreamed of such beauty and delight as surrounded him in that place.

Then his godfather led him into the palace, which was even more beautiful inside than outside. The godfather showed the boy through all the rooms: each brighter and finer than the other, but at last they came to one door that was sealed up.

'You see this door,' said he. 'It is not locked, but only sealed. It can be opened, but I forbid you to open it. You may live here, and go where you please and enjoy all the delights of the place. My only command is -- do not open that door! But should you ever do so, remember what you saw in the forest.'

Having said this the godfather went away. The godson remained in the palace, and life there was so bright and joyful that he thought he had only been there three hours, when he had really lived there thirty years. When thirty years had gone by, the godson happened to be passing the sealed door one day, and he wondered why his godfather had forbidden him to enter that room.

'I'll just look in and see what is there,' thought he, and he gave the door a push. The seals gave way, the door opened, and the godson entering saw a hall more lofty and beautiful than all the others, and in the midst of it a throne. He wandered about the hall for a while, and then mounted the steps and seated himself upon the throne. As he sat there he noticed a sceptre leaning against the throne, and took it in his hand. Hardly had he done so when the four walls of the hall suddenly disappeared. The godson looked around, and saw the whole world, and all that men were doing in it. He looked in front, and saw the sea with ships sailing on it. He looked to the right, and saw where strange heathen people lived. He looked to the left, and saw where men who were Christians, but not Russians, lived. He looked round, and on the fourth side, he saw Russian people, like himself.

'I will look,' said he, 'and see what is happening at home, and whether the harvest is good.'

He looked towards his father's fields and saw the sheaves standing in stooks. He began counting them to see whether there was much corn, when he noticed a peasant driving in a cart. It was night, and the godson thought it was his father coming to cart the corn by night. But as he looked he recognized Vasíly Koudryashóf, the thief, driving into the field and beginning to load the sheaves on to his cart. This made the godson angry, and he called out:

'Father, the sheaves are being stolen from our field!'

His father, who was out with the horses in the night-pasture, woke up.

'I dreamt the sheaves were being stolen,' said he. 'I will just ride down and see.'

So he got on a horse and rode out to the field. Finding Vasíly there, he called together other peasants to help him, and Vasíly was beaten, bound, and taken to prison.

Then the godson looked at the town, where his godmother lived. He saw that she was now married to a tradesman. She lay asleep, and her husband rose and went to his mistress. The godson shouted to her:

'Get up, get up, your husband has taken to evil ways.'

The godmother jumped up and dressed, and finding out where her husband was, she shamed and beat his mistress, and drove him away.

Then the godson looked for his mother, and saw her lying asleep in her cottage. And a thief crept into the cottage and began to break open the chest in which she kept her things. The mother awoke and screamed, and the robber seizing an axe, swung it over his head to kill her.

The godson could not refrain from hurling the sceptre at the robber. It struck him upon the temple, and killed him on the spot.


VI


As soon as the godson had killed the robber, the walls closed and the hall became just as it had been before.

Then the door opened and the godfather entered, and coming up to his godson he took him by the hand and led him down from the throne.

'You have not obeyed my command,' said he. 'You did one wrong thing, when you opened the forbidden door; another, when you mounted the throne and took my sceptre into your hands; and you have now done a third wrong, which has much increased the evil in the world. Had you sat here an hour longer, you would have ruined half mankind.'

Then the godfather led his godson back to the throne, and took the sceptre in his hand; and again the walls fell asunder and all things became visible. And the godfather said:

'See what you have done to your father. Vasíly has now been a year in prison, and has come out having learnt every kind of wickedness, and has become quite incorrigible. See, he has stolen two of your father's horses, and he is now setting fire to his barn. All this you have brought upon your father.'

The godson saw his father's barn breaking into flames, but his godfather shut off the sight from him, and told him to look another way.

'Here is your godmother's husband,' he said. 'It is a year since he left his wife, and now he goes after other women. His former mistress has sunk to still lower depths. Sorrow has driven his wife to drink. That's what you have done to your godmother.'

The godfather shut off this also, and showed the godson his father's house. There he saw his mother weeping for her sins, repenting, and saying:

'It would have been better had the robber killed me that night. I should not have sinned so heavily.'

'That,' said the godfather, 'is what you have done to your mother.'

He shut this off also, and pointed downwards; and the godson saw two warders holding the robber in front of a prison-house.

And the godfather said:

'This man had murdered ten men. He should have expiated his sins himself, but by killing him you have taken his sins on yourself. Now you must answer for all his sins. That is what you have done to yourself. The she-bear pushed the log aside once, and disturbed her cubs; she pushed it again, and killed her yearling; she pushed it a third time, and was killed herself. You have done the same. Now I give you thirty years to go into the world and atone for the robber's sins. If you do not atone for them, you will have to take his place.'

'How am I to atone for his sins?' asked the godson.

And the godfather answered:

'When you have rid the world of as much evil as you have brought into it, you will have atoned both for your own sins and for those of the robber.'

'How can I destroy evil in the world?' the godson asked.

'Go out,' replied the godfather, 'and walk straight towards the rising sun. After a time you will come to a field with some men in it. Notice what they are doing, and teach them what you know. Then go on and note what you see. On the fourth day you will come to a forest. In the midst of the forest is a cell and in the cell lives a hermit. Tell him all that has happened. He will teach you what to do. When you have done all he tells you, you will have atoned for your own and the robber's sins.'

And, having said this, the godfather led his godson out of the gate.


VII


The godson went his way, and as he went he thought: How am I to destroy evil in the world? Evil is destroyed by banishing evil men, keeping them in prison, or putting them to death. How then am I to destroy evil without taking the sins of others upon myself?'

The godson pondered over it for a long time, but could come to no conclusion. He went on until he came to a field where corn was growing thick and good and ready for the reapers. The godson saw that a little calf had got in among the corn. Some men who were at hand saw it, and mounting their horses they chased it backwards and forwards through the corn. Each time the calf was about to come out of the corn some one rode up and the calf got frightened and turned back again, and they all galloped after it, trampling down the corn. On the road stood a woman crying.

'They will chase my calf to death,' she said.

And the godson said to the peasants:

'What are you doing? Come out of the cornfield all of you, and let the woman call her calf.'

The men did so; and the woman came to the edge of the cornfield and called to the calf. 'Come along browney, come along,' said she. The calf pricked up its ears, listened a while, and then ran towards the woman of its own accord, and hid its head in her skirts, almost knocking her over. The men were glad the woman was glad, and so was the little calf.

The godson went on, and he thought:

'Now I see that evil spreads evil. The more people try to drive away evil, the more the evil grows. Evil, it seems, cannot be destroyed by evil; but in what way it can be destroyed, I do not know. The calf obeyed its mistress and so all went well; but if it had not obeyed her, how could we have got it out of the field?'

The godson pondered again, but came to no conclusion, and continued his way.


VIII


He went on until he came to a village. At the furthest end he stopped and asked leave to stay the night. The woman of the house was there alone, house-cleaning, and she let him in. The godson entered, and taking his seat upon the brick oven he watched what the woman was doing. He saw her finish scrubbing the room and begin scrubbing the table. Having done this, she began wiping the table with a dirty cloth. She wiped it from side to side -- but it did not come clean. The soiled cloth left streaks of dirt. Then she wiped it the other way. The first streaks disappeared, but others came in their place. Then she wiped it from one end to the other, but again the same thing happened. The soiled cloth messed the table; when one streak was wiped off another was left on. The godson watched for awhile in silence, and then said:

'What are you doing, mistress?'

'Don't you see I'm cleaning up for the holiday. Only I can't manage this table, it won't come clean. I'm quite tired out.'

'You should rinse your cloth,' said the godson, 'before you wipe the table with it.'

The woman did so, and soon had the table clean.

'Thank you for telling me,' said she.

In the morning he took leave of the woman and went on his way. After walking a good while, he came to the edge of a forest. There he saw some peasants who were making wheel-rims of bent wood. Coming nearer, the godson saw that the men were going round and round, but could not bend the wood.

He stood and looked on, and noticed that the block, to which the piece of wood was fastened, was not fixed, but as the men moved round it went round too. Then the godson said:

'What are you doing, friends?'

'Why, don't you see, we are making wheel rims. We have twice steamed the wood, and are quite tired out, but the wood will not bend.'

'You should fix the block, friends,' said the godson, 'or else it goes round when you do.'

The peasants took his advice and fixed the block, and then the work went on merrily.

The godson spent the night with them, and then went on. He walked all day and all night, and just before dawn he came upon some drovers encamped for the night, and lay down beside them. He saw that they had got all their cattle settled, and were trying to light a fire. They had taken dry twigs and lighted them, but before the twigs had time to burn up, they smothered them with damp brushwood. The brushwood hissed and the fire smouldered and went out. Then the drovers brought more dry wood, lit it, and again put on the brushwood -- and again the fire went out. They struggled with it for a long time, but could not get the fire to burn. Then the godson said:

'Do not be in such a hurry to put on the brushwood. Let the dry wood burn up properly before you put any on. When the fire is well alight you can put on as much as you please.'

The drovers followed his advice. They let the fire burn up fiercely before adding the brushwood, which then flared up so that they soon had a roaring fire.

The godson remained with them for a while, and then continued his way. He went on, wondering what the three things he had seen might mean; but he could not fathom them.


IX


The godson walked the whole of that day, and in the evening came to another forest. There he found a hermit's cell, at which he knocked.

'Who is there?' asked a voice from within.

'A great sinner,' replied the godson. I must atone for another's sins as well as for my own.

The hermit hearing this came out.

'What sins are those that you have to bear for another?'

The godson told him everything: about his godfather; about the she-bear with the cubs; about the throne in the sealed room; about the commands his godfather had given him, as well as about the peasants he had seen trampling down the corn, and the calf that ran out when its mistress called it.

'I have seen that one cannot destroy evil by evil,' said he, 'but I cannot understand how it is to be destroyed. Teach me how it can be done.

'Tell me,' replied the hermit, 'what else you have seen on your way.'

The godson told him about the woman washing the table, and the men making cart-wheels, and the drovers fighting their fire.

The hermit listened to it all, and then went back to his cell and brought out an old jagged axe.

'Come with me,' said he.

When they had gone some way, the hermit pointed to a tree.

'Cut it down,' he said.

The godson felled the tree.

'Now chop it into three,' said the hermit.

The godson chopped the tree into three pieces. Then the hermit went back to his cell, and brought out some blazing sticks.

'Burn those three logs,' said he.

So the godson made a fire, and burnt the three logs till only three charred stumps remained.

'Now plant them half in the ground, like this.'

The godson did so.

'You see that river at the foot of the hill. Bring water from there in your mouth, and water these stumps. Water this stump, as you taught the woman: this one as you taught the wheel-wrights: and this one, as you taught the drovers. When all three have taken root and from these charred stumps apple-trees have sprung you will know how to destroy evil in men, and will have atoned for all your sins.'

Having said this, the hermit returned to his cell. The godson pondered for a long time, but could not understand what the hermit meant. Nevertheless he set to work to do as he had been told.

The godson went down to the river, filled his mouth with water, and returning, emptied it on to one of the charred stumps. This he did again and again, and watered all three-stumps. When he was hungry and quite tired out, he went to the cell to ask the old hermit for some food. He opened the door, and there upon a bench he saw the old man lying dead. The godson looked round for food, and he found some dried bread and ate a little of it. Then he took a spade and set to work to dig the hermit's grave. During the night he carried water and watered the stumps, and in the day he dug the grave. He had hardly finished the grave and was about to bury the corpse, when some people from the village came, bringing food for the old man.

The people heard that the old hermit was dead, and that he had given the godson his blessing, and left him in his place. So they buried the old man, gave the bread they had brought to the godson, and promising to bring him some more, they went away.

The godson remained in the old man's place. There he lived, eating the food people brought him, and doing as he had been told: carrying water from the river in his mouth and watering the charred stumps.

He lived thus for a year, and many people visited him. His fame spread abroad, as a holy man who lived in the forest and brought water from the bottom of a hill in his mouth to water charred stumps for the salvation of his soul. People flocked to see him. Rich merchants drove up bringing him presents, but he kept only the barest necessaries for himself, and gave the rest away to the poor.

And so the godson lived: carrying water in his mouth and watering the stumps half the day, and resting and receiving people the other half. And he began to think that this was the way he had been told to live, in order to destroy evil and atone for his sins.

He spent two years in this manner, not omitting for a single day to water the stumps. But still not one of them sprouted.

One day, as he sat in his cell, he heard a man ride past, singing as he went. The godson came out to see what sort of a man it was. He saw a strong young fellow, well dressed, and mounted on a handsome, well-saddled horse.

The godson stopped him, and asked him who he was, and where he was going.

'I am a robber,' the man answered, drawing rein. 'I ride about the highways killing people; and the more I kill, the merrier are the songs I sing.'

The godson was horror-struck, and thought:

'How can the evil be destroyed in such a man as this? It is easy to speak to those who come to me of their own accord and confess their sins. But this one boasts of the evil he does.'

So he said nothing, and turned away, thinking: 'What am I to do now? This robber may take to riding about here, and he will frighten away the people. They will leave off coming to me. It will be a loss to them, and I shall not know how to live.'

So the godson turned back, and said to the robber:

'People come to me here, not to boast of their sins, but to repent, and to pray for forgiveness. Repent of your sins, if you fear God; but if there is no repentance in your heart, then go away and never come here again. Do not trouble me, and do not frighten people away from me. If you do not hearken, God will punish you.'

The robber laughed:

'I am not afraid of God, and I will not listen to you. You are not my master,' said he. 'You live by your piety, and I by my robbery. We all must live. You may teach the old women who come to you, but you have nothing to teach me. And because you have reminded me of God, I will kill two more men tomorrow. I would kill you, but I do not want to soil my hands just now. See that in future you keep out of my way!'

Having uttered this threat, the robber rode away. He did not come again, and the godson lived in peace, as before, for eight more years.


XI


One night the godson watered his stumps, and, after returning to his cell, he sat down to rest, and watched the footpath, wondering if some one would soon come. But no one came at all that day. He sat alone till evening, feeling lonely and dull, and he thought about his past life. Ho remembered how the robber had reproached him for living by his piety; and he reflected on his way of life. 'I am not living as the hermit commanded me to,' thought he. 'The hermit laid a penance upon me, and I have made both a living and fame out of it; and have been so tempted by it, that now I feel dull when people do not come to me; and when they do come, I only rejoice because they praise my holiness. That is not how one should live. I have been led astray by love of praise. I have not atoned for my past sins, but have added fresh ones. I will go to another part of the forest where people will not find me; and I will live so as to atone for my old sins and commit no fresh ones.'

Having come to this conclusion the godson filled a bag with dried bread and, taking a spade, left the cell and started for a ravine he knew of in a lonely spot, where he could dig himself a cave and hide from the people.

As he was going along with his bag and his spade he saw the robber riding towards him. The godson was frightened, and started to run away, but the robber overtook him.

'Where are you going?' asked the robber.

The godson told him he wished to get away from the people and live somewhere where no one would come to him. This surprised the robber.

'What will you live on, if people do not come to see you?' asked he.

The godson had not even thought of this, but the robber's question reminded him that food would be necessary.

'On what God pleases to give me,' he replied.

The robber said nothing, and rode away.

'Why did I not say anything to him about his way of life?' thought the godson. 'He might repent now. To-day he seems in a gentler mood, and has not threatened to kill me.' And he shouted to the robber:

'You have still to repent of your sins. You cannot escape from God.'

The robber turned his horse, and drawing a knife from his girdle threatened the hermit with it. The latter was alarmed, and ran away further into the forest.

The robber did not follow him, but only shouted:

'Twice I have let you off, old man, but next time you come in my way I will kill you!'

Having said this, he rode away. In the evening when the godson went to water his stumps -- one of them was sprouting! A little apple tree was growing out of it.


XII


After hiding himself from everybody, the godson lived all alone. When his supply of bread was exhausted, he thought: 'Now I must go and look for some roots to eat.' He had not gone far, however, before he saw a bag of dried bread hanging on a branch. He took it down, and as long as it lasted he lived upon that.

When he had eaten it all, he found another bagful on the same branch. So he lived on, his only trouble being his fear of the robber. Whenever he heard the robber passing he hid thinking:

'He may kill me before I have had time to atone for my sins.'

In this way he lived for ten more years. The one apple-tree continued to grow, but the other two stumps remained exactly as they were.

One morning the godson rose early and went to his work. By the time he had thoroughly moistened the ground round the stumps, he was tired out and sat down to rest. As he sat there he thought to himself:

'I have sinned, and have become afraid of death. It may be God's will that I should redeem my sins by death.'

Hardly had this thought crossed his mind when he heard the robber riding up, swearing at something. When the godson heard this, he thought:

'No evil and no good can befall me from any one but from God.'

And he went to meet the robber. He saw the robber was not alone, but behind him on the saddle sat another man, gagged, and bound hand and foot. The man was doing nothing, but the robber was abusing him violently. The godson went up and stood in front of the horse.

'Where are you taking this man?' he asked.

'Into the forest,' replied the robber. 'He is a merchant's son, and will not tell me where his father's money is hidden. I am going to flog him till he tells me.'

And the robber spurred on his horse, but the godson caught hold of his bridle, and would not let him pass.

'Let this man go!' he said.

The robber grew angry, and raised his arm to strike.

'Would you like a taste of what I am going to give this man? Have I not promised to kill you? Let go!'

The godson was not afraid.

'You shall not go,' said he. 'I do not fear you. I fear no one but God, and He wills that I should not let you pass. Set this man free!'

The robber frowned, and snatching out his knife, cut the ropes with which the merchant's son was bound, and set him free.

'Get away both of you,' he said, 'and beware hour you cross my path again.'

The merchant's son jumped down and ran away. The robber was about to ride on, but the godson stopped him again, and again spoke to him about giving up his evil life. The robber heard him to the end in silence, and then rode away without a word.

The next morning the godson went to water his stumps and lo! the second stump was sprouting. A second young apple-tree had begun to grow.


XIII


Another ten years had gone by. The godson was sitting quietly one day, desiring nothing, fearing nothing, and with a heart full of joy.

'What blessings God showers on men!' thought he. 'Yet how needlessly they torment themselves. What prevents them from living happily?'

And remembering all the evil in men, and the troubles they bring upon themselves, his heart filled with pity.

'It is wrong of me to live as I do,' he said to himself. 'I must go and teach others what I have myself learnt.'

Hardly had he thought this, when he heard the robber approaching. He let him pass, thinking:

'It is no good talking to him, he will not understand.'

That was his first thought, but ho changed his mind and went out into the road. He saw that the robber was gloomy, and was riding with downcast eyes. The godson looked at him, pitied him, and running up to him laid his hand upon his knee.

'Brother, dear,' said he, 'have some pity on your own soul! In you lives the spirit of God. You suffer, and torment others, and lay up more and more suffering for the future. Yet God loves you, and has prepared such blessings for you. Do not ruin yourself utterly. Change your life!'

The robber frowned and turned away.

'Leave me alone!' said he.

But the godson held the robber still faster, and began to weep.

Then the robber lifted his eyes and looked at the godson. He looked at him for a long time, and alighting from his horse, fell on his knees at the godson's feet.

'You have overcome me, old man,' said he. 'For twenty years I have resisted you, but now you have conquered me. Do what you will with me, for I have no more power over myself. When you first tried to persuade me, it only angered me more. Only when you hid yourself from men did I begin to consider your words: for I saw then that you asked nothing of them for yourself. Since that day I have brought food for you, hanging it upon the tree.'

Then the godson remembered that the woman got her table clean only after she had rinsed her cloth. In the same way, it was only when he ceased caring about himself, and cleansed his own heart, that he was able to cleanse the hearts of others.

The robber went on.

'When I saw that you did not fear death, my heart turned.'

Then the godson remembered that the wheel-wrights could not bend the rims until they had fixed their block. So, not till he had cast away the fear of death and made his life fast in God, could he subdue this man's unruly heart.

'But my heart did not quite melt,' continued the robber, 'until you pitied me and wept for me.'

The godson, full of joy, led the robber to the place where the stumps were. And when they got there, they saw that from the third stump an apple-tree had begun to sprout. And the godson remembered that the drovers had not been able to light the damp wood until the fire had burnt up well. So it was only when his own heart burnt warmly, that another's heart had been kindled by it.

And the godson was full of joy that he had at last atoned for his sins.

He told all this to the robber, and died. The robber buried him, and lived as the godson had commanded him, teaching to others what the godson had taught him.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:30 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1886)

ONE DAY SOME children found, in a ravine, a thing shaped like a grain of corn, with a groove down the middle, but as large as a hen's egg. A traveller passing by saw the thing, bought it from the children for a penny, and taking it to town sold it to the King as a curiosity.

The King called together his wise men, and told them to find out what the thing was. The wise men pondered and pondered and could not make head or tail of it, till one day, when the thing was lying on a window-sill, a hen flew in and pecked at it till she made a hole in it, and then every one saw that it was a grain of corn. The wise men went to the King and said:

'It is a grain of corn.'

At this the King was much surprised; and he ordered the learned men to find out when and where such corn had grown. The learned men pondered again, and searched in their books, but could find nothing about it. So they returned to the King and said:

'We can give you no answer. There is nothing about it in our books. You will have to ask the peasants; perhaps some of them may have heard from their fathers when and where grain grew to such a size.'

So the King gave orders that some very old peasant should be brought before him; and his servants found such a man and brought him to the King. Old and bent, ashy pale and toothless, he just managed with the help of two crutches to totter into the King's presence.

The King showed him the grain, but the old man could hardly see it; he took it, however, and felt it with his hands. The King questioned him, saying:

'Can you tell us, old man, where such grain as this grew? Have you ever bought such corn, or sown such in your fields?'

The old man was so deaf that he could hardly hear what the King said, and only understood with great difficulty.

'No!' he answered at last, 'I never sowed nor reaped any like it in my fields, nor did I ever buy any such. When we bought corn, the grains were always as small as they are now. But you might ask my father. He may have heard where such grain grew.'

So the King sent for the old man's father, and he was found and brought before the King. He came walking with one crutch. The King showed him the grain, and the old peasant, who was still able to see, took a good look at it. And the King asked him:

'Can you not tell us, old man, where corn like this used to grow? Have you ever bought any like it, or sown any in your fields?'

Though the old man was rather hard of hearing, he still heard better than his son had done.

'No,' he said, 'I never sowed nor reaped any grain like this in my field. As to buying, I never bought any, for in my time money was not yet in use. Every one grew his own corn, and when there was any need we shared with one another. I do not know where corn like this grew. Ours was larger and yielded more flour than present-day grain, but I never saw any like this. I have, however, heard my father say that in his time the grain grew larger and yielded more flour than ours. You had better ask him.'

So the King sent for this old man's father, and they found him too, and brought him before the King. He entered walking easily and without crutches: his eye was clear, his hearing good, and he spoke distinctly. The King showed him the grain, and the old grandfather looked at it, and turned it about in his hand.

'It is long since I saw such a fine grain,' said he, and he bit a piece off and tasted it.

'It's the very same kind,' he added.

'Tell me, grandfather,' said the King, 'when and where was such corn grown? Have you ever bought any like it, or sown any in your fields?'

And the old man replied:

'Corn like this used to grow everywhere in my time. I lived on corn like this in my young days, and fed others on it. It was grain like this that we used to sow and reap and thrash.'

And the King asked:

'Tell me, grandfather, did you buy it anywhere, or did you grow it all yourself?'

The old man smiled.

'In my time,' he answered, 'no one ever thought of such a sin as buying or selling bread; and we knew nothing of money. Each man had corn enough of his own.'

'Then tell me, grandfather,' asked the King, 'where was your field, where did you grow corn like this?'

And the grandfather answered:

'My field was God's earth. Wherever I ploughed, there was my field. Land was free. It was a thing no man called his own. Labour was the only thing men called their own.'

'Answer me two more questions,' said the King. 'The first is, Why did the earth bear such grain then and has ceased to do so now? And the second is, Why your grandson walks with two crutches, your son with one, and you yourself with none? Your eyes are bright, your teeth sound, and your speech clear and pleasant to the ear. How have these things come about?'

And the old man answered:

'These things are so, because men have ceased to live by their own labour, and have taken to depending on the labour of others. In the old time, men lived according to God's law. They had what was their own, and coveted not what others had produced.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:29 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1886)

A POOR peasant set out early one morning to plough, taking with him for his breakfast a crust of bread. He got his plough ready, wrapped the bread in his coat, put it under a bush, and set to work. After a while when his horse was tired and he was hungry, the peasant fixed the plough, let the horse loose to graze and went to get his coat and his breakfast.

He lifted the coat, but the bread was gone! He looked and looked, turned the coat over, shook it out -- but the bread was gone. The peasant could not make this out at all.

'That's strange,' thought he; 'I saw no one, but all the same some one has been here and has taken the bread!'

It was an imp who had stolen the bread while the peasant was ploughing, and at that moment he was sitting behind the bush, waiting to hear the peasant swear and call on the Devil.

The peasant was sorry to lose his breakfast, but 'It can't be helped,' said he. 'After all, I shan't die of hunger! No doubt whoever took the bread needed it. May it do him good!'

And he went to the well, had a drink of water, and rested a bit. Then he caught his horse, harnessed it, and began ploughing again.

The imp was crestfallen at not having made the peasant sin, and he went to report what had happened to the Devil, his master.

He came to the Devil and told how he had taken the peasant's bread, and how the peasant instead of cursing had said, 'May it do him good!'

The Devil was angry, and replied: 'If the man got the better of you, it was your own fault -- you don't understand your business! If the peasants, and their wives after them, take to that sort of thing, it will be all up with us. The matter can't be left like that! Go back at once,' said he, 'and put things right. If in three years you don't get the better of that peasant, I'll have you ducked in holy water!'

The imp was frightened. He scampered back to earth, thinking how he could redeem his fault. He thought and thought, and at last hit upon a good plan.

He turned himself into a labouring man, and went and took service with the poor peasant. The first year he advised the peasant to sow corn in a marshy place. The peasant took his advice, and sowed in the marsh. The year turned out a very dry one, and the crops of the other peasants were all scorched by the sun, but the poor peasant's corn grew thick and tall and full-eared. Not only had he grain enough to last him for the whole year, but he had much left over besides.

The next year the imp advised the peasant to sow on the hill; and it turned out a wet summer. Other people's corn was beaten down and rotted and the ears did not fill; but the peasant's crop, up on the hill, was a fine one. He had more grain left over than before, so that he did not know what to do with it all.

Then the imp showed the peasant how he could mash the grain and distil spirit from it; and the peasant made strong drink, and began to drink it himself and to give it to his friends.

So the imp went to the Devil, his master, and boasted that he had made up for his failure. The Devil said that he would come and see for himself how the case stood.

He came to the peasant's house, and saw that the peasant had invited his well-to-do neighbours and was treating them to drink. His wife was offering the drink to the guests, and as she handed it round she tumbled against the table and spilt a glassful.

The peasant was angry, and scolded his wife: 'What do you mean, you slut? Do you think it's ditchwater, you cripple, that you must go pouring good stuff like that over the floor?'

The imp nudged the Devil, his master, with his elbow: 'See,' said he, 'that's the man who did not grudge his last crust!'

The peasant, still railing at his wife, began to carry the drink round himself. Just then a poor peasant returning from work came in uninvited. He greeted the company, sat down, and saw that they were drinking. Tired with his day's work he felt that he too would like a drop. He sat and sat, and his mouth kept watering, but the host instead of offering him any only muttered: 'I can't find drink for every one who comes along.'

This pleased the Devil; but the imp chuckled and said, 'Wait a bit, there's more to come yet!'

The rich peasants drank, and their host drank too. And they began to make false, oily speeches to one another.

The Devil listened and listened, and praised the imp.

'If,' said he, 'the drink makes them so foxy that they begin to cheat each other, they will soon all be in our hands.'

'Wait for what's coming,' said the imp. 'Let them have another glass all round. Now they are like foxes, wagging their tails and trying to get round one another; but presently you will see them like savage wolves.'

The peasants had another glass each, and their talk became wilder and rougher. Instead of oily speeches they began to abuse and snarl at one another. Soon they took to fighting, and punched one another's noses. And the host joined in the fight, and he too got well beaten.

The Devil looked on and was much pleased at all this. 'This is first-rate!' said he.

But the imp replied: 'Wait a bit -- the best is yet to come. Wait till they have had a third glass. Now they are raging like wolves, but let them have one more glass, and they will be like swine.'

The peasants had their third glass, and became quite like brutes. They muttered and shouted, not knowing why, and not listening to one another.

Then the party began to break up. Some went alone, some in twos, and some in threes, all staggering down the street. The host went out to speed his guests, but he fell on his nose into a puddle, smeared himself from top to toe, and lay there grunting like a hog.

This pleased the Devil still more.

'Well,' said he, 'you have hit on a first-rate drink, and have quite made up for your blunder about the bread. But now tell me how this drink is made. You must first have put in fox's blood: that was what made the peasants sly as foxes. Then, I suppose, you added wolf's blood: that is what made them fierce like wolves. And you must have finished off with swine's blood, to make them behave like swine.'

'No,' said the imp, 'that was not the way I did it. All I did was to see that the peasant had more corn than he needed. The blood of the beasts is always in man; but as long as he has only enough corn for his needs, it is kept in bounds. While that was the case, the peasant did not grudge his last crust. But when he had corn left over, he looked for ways of getting pleasure out of it. And I showed him a pleasure -- drinking! And when he began to turn God's good gifts into spirits for his own pleasure -- the fox's, wolf's and swine's blood in him all came out. If only he goes on drinking, he will always be a beast!'

The Devil praised the imp, forgave him for his former blunder, and advanced him to a post of high honour.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:29 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1886)

AN OLD LEGEND CURRENT IN THE VOLGA DISTRICT


'And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.' -- Matt. vi. 7, 8.


A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

'Do not let me disturb you, friends,' said the Bishop. 'I came to hear what this good man was saying.'

'The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,' replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

'What hermits?' asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. 'Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?'

'Why, that little island you can just see over there,' answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. 'That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.'

'Where is the island?' asked the Bishop. 'I see nothing.'

'There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.'

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.

'I cannot see it,' he said. 'But who are the hermits that live there?'

'They are holy men,' answered the fisherman. 'I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.'

And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.

'And what are they like?' asked the Bishop.

'One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest's cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel's from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.'

'And did they speak to you?' asked the Bishop.

'For the most part they did everything in silence and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: "Have mercy upon us," and smiled.'

While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.

'There, now you can see it plainly, if your Grace will please to look,' said the tradesman, pointing with his hand.

The Bishop looked, and now he really saw a dark streak -- which was the island. Having looked at it a while, he left the prow of the vessel, and going to the stern, asked the helmsman:

'What island is that?'

'That one,' replied the man, 'has no name. There are many such in this sea.'

'Is it true that there are hermits who live there for the salvation of their souls?'

'So it is said, your Grace, but I don't know if it's true. Fishermen say they have seen them; but of course they may only be spinning yarns.'

'I should like to land on the island and see these men,' said the Bishop. 'How could I manage it?'

'The ship cannot get close to the island,' replied the helmsman, 'but you might be rowed there in a boat. You had better speak to the captain.'

The captain was sent for and came.

'I should like to see these hermits,' said the Bishop. 'Could I not be rowed ashore?'

The captain tried to dissuade him.

'Of course it could be done,' said he, 'but we should lose much time. And if I might venture to say so to your Grace, the old men are not worth your pains. I have heard say that they are foolish old fellows, who understand nothing, and never speak a word, any more than the fish in the sea.'

'I wish to see them,' said the Bishop, 'and I will pay you for your trouble and loss of time. Please let me have a boat.'

There was no help for it; so the order was given. The sailors trimmed the sails, the steersman put up the helm, and the ship's course was set for the island. A chair was placed at the prow for the Bishop, and he sat there, looking ahead. The passengers all collected at the prow, and gazed at the island. Those who had the sharpest eyes could presently make out the rocks on it, and then a mud hut was seen. At last one man saw the hermits themselves. The captain brought a telescope and, after looking through it, handed it to the Bishop.

'It's right enough. There are three men standing on the shore. There, a little to the right of that big rock.'

The Bishop took the telescope, got it into position, and he saw the three men: a tall one, a shorter one, and one very small and bent, standing on the shore and holding each other by the hand.

The captain turned to the Bishop.

'The vessel can get no nearer in than this, your Grace. If you wish to go ashore, we must ask you to go in the boat, while we anchor here.'

The cable was quickly let out, the anchor cast, and the sails furled. There was a jerk, and the vessel shook. Then a boat having been lowered, the oarsmen jumped in, and the Bishop descended the ladder and took his seat. The men pulled at their oars, and the boat moved rapidly towards the island. When they came within a stone's throw they saw three old men: a tall one with only a mat tied round his waist: a shorter one in a tattered peasant coat, and a very old one bent with age and wearing an old cassock -- all three standing hand in hand.

The oarsmen pulled in to the shore, and held on with the boathook while the Bishop got out.

The old men bowed to him, and he gave them his benediction, at which they bowed still lower. Then the Bishop began to speak to them.

'I have heard,' he said, 'that you, godly men, live here saving your own souls, and praying to our Lord Christ for your fellow men. I, an unworthy servant of Christ, am called, by God's mercy, to keep and teach His flock. I wished to see you, servants of God, and to do what I can to teach you, also.'

The old men looked at each other smiling, but remained silent.

'Tell me,' said the Bishop, 'what you are doing to save your souls, and how you serve God on this island.'

The second hermit sighed, and looked at the oldest, the very ancient one. The latter smiled, and said:

'We do not know how to serve God. We only serve and support ourselves, servant of God.'

'But how do you pray to God?' asked the Bishop.

'We pray in this way,' replied the hermit. 'Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.'

And when the old man said this, all three raised their eyes to heaven, and repeated:

'Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!'

The Bishop smiled.

'You have evidently heard something about the Holy Trinity,' said he. 'But you do not pray aright. You have won my affection, godly men. I see you wish to please the Lord, but you do not know how to serve Him. That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.'

And the Bishop began explaining to the hermits how God had revealed Himself to men; telling them of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

'God the Son came down on earth,' said he, 'to save men, and this is how He taught us all to pray. Listen and repeat after me: "Our Father."'

And the first old man repeated after him, 'Our Father,' and the second said, 'Our Father,' and the third said, 'Our Father.'

'Which art in heaven,' continued the Bishop.

The first hermit repeated, 'Which art in heaven,' but the second blundered over the words, and the tall hermit could not say them properly. His hair had grown over his mouth so that he could not speak plainly. The very old hermit, having no teeth, also mumbled indistinctly.

The Bishop repeated the words again, and the old men repeated them after him. The Bishop sat down on a stone, and the old men stood before him, watching his mouth, and repeating the words as he uttered them. And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.

The Bishop did not leave off till he had taught them the whole of the Lord's prayer so that they could not only repeat it after him, but could say it by themselves. The middle one was the first to know it, and to repeat the whole of it alone. The Bishop made him say it again and again, and at last the others could say it too.

It was getting dark, and the moon was appearing over the water, before the Bishop rose to return to the vessel. When he took leave of the old men, they all bowed down to the ground before him. He raised them, and kissed each of them, telling them to pray as he had taught them. Then he got into the boat and returned to the ship.

And as he sat in the boat and was rowed to the ship he could hear the three voices of the hermits loudly repeating the Lord's prayer. As the boat drew near the vessel their voices could no longer be heard, but they could still be seen in the moonlight, standing as he had left them on the shore, the shortest in the middle, the tallest on the right, the middle one on the left. As soon as the Bishop had reached the vessel and got on board, the anchor was weighed and the sails unfurled. The wind filled them, and the ship sailed away, and the Bishop took a seat in the stern and watched the island they had left. For a time he could still see the hermits, but presently they disappeared from sight, though the island was still visible. At last it too vanished, and only the sea was to be seen, rippling in the moonlight.

The pilgrims lay down to sleep, and all was quiet on deck. The Bishop did not wish to sleep, but sat alone at the stern, gazing at the sea where the island was no longer visible, and thinking of the good old men. He thought how pleased they had been to learn the Lord's prayer; and he thanked God for having sent him to teach and help such godly men.

So the Bishop sat, thinking, and gazing at the sea where the island had disappeared. And the moonlight flickered before his eyes, sparkling, now here, now there, upon the waves. Suddenly he saw something white and shining, on the bright path which the moon cast across the sea. Was it a seagull, or the little gleaming sail of some small boat? The Bishop fixed his eyes on it, wondering.

'It must be a boat sailing after us,' thought he 'but it is overtaking us very rapidly. It was far, far away a minute ago, but now it is much nearer. It cannot be a boat, for I can see no sail; but whatever it may be, it is following us, and catching us up.'

And he could not make out what it was. Not a boat, nor a bird, nor a fish! It was too large for a man, and besides a man could not be out there in the midst of the sea. The Bishop rose, and said to the helmsman:

'Look there, what is that, my friend? What is it?' the Bishop repeated, though he could now see plainly what it was -- the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not morning.

The steersman looked and let go the helm in terror.

'Oh Lord! The hermits are running after us on the water as though it were dry land!'

The passengers hearing him, jumped up, and crowded to the stern. They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:

'We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.'

The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship's side, said:

'Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.

And the Bishop bowed low before the old men; and they turned and went back across the sea. And a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:28 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1885)


THERE ONCE LIVED, in the Government of Oufá a Bashkír named Ilyás. His father, who died a year after he had found his son a wife, did not leave him much property. Ilyás then had only seven mares, two cows, and about a score of sheep. He was a good manager, however, and soon began to acquire more. He and his wife worked from morn till night; rising earlier than others and going later to bed; and his possessions increased year by year. Living in this way, Ilyás little by little acquired great wealth. At the end of thirty-five years he had 200 horses, 150 head of cattle, and 1,200 sheep. Hired labourers tended his flocks and herds, and hired women milked his mares and cows, and made kumiss (Kumiss (or more properly koumys) is a fermented drink prepared from mare's milk), butter and cheese. Ilyás had abundance of everything, and every one in the district envied him. They said of him:

'Ilyás is a fortunate man: he has plenty of everything. This world must be a pleasant place for him.'

People of position heard of Ilyás and sought his acquaintance. Visitors came to him from afar; and he welcomed every one, and gave them food and drink. Whoever might come, there was always kumiss, tea, sherbet, and mutton to set before them. Whenever visitors arrived a sheep would be killed, or sometimes two; and if many guests came he would even slaughter a mare for them.

Ilyás had three children: two sons and a daughter; and he married them all off. While he was poor, his sons worked with him, and looked after the flocks and herds themselves; but when he grew rich they got spoiled and one of them took to drink. The eldest was killed in a brawl; and the younger, who had married a self-willed woman, ceased to obey his father, and they could not live together any more.

So they parted, and Ilyás gave his son a house and some of the cattle; and this diminished his wealth. Soon after that, a disease broke out among Ilyás's sheep, and many died. Then followed a bad harvest, and the hay crop failed; and many cattle died that winter. Then the Kirghíz captured his best herd of horses; and Ilyás's property dwindled away. It became smaller and smaller, while at the same time his strength grew less; till, by the time he was seventy years old, he had begun to sell his furs, carpets, saddles, and tents. At last he had to part with his remaining cattle, and found himself face to face with want. Before he knew how it had happened, he had lost everything, and in their old age he and his wife had to go into service. Ilyás had nothing left, except the clothes on his back, a fur cloak, a cup, his indoor shoes and overshoes, and his wife, Sham-Shemagi, who also was old by this time. The son who had parted from him had gone into a far country, and his daughter was dead, so that there was no one to help the old couple.

Their neighbour, Muhammad-Shah, took pity on them. Muhammad-Shah was neither rich nor poor, but lived comfortably, and was a good man. He remembered Ilyás's hospitality, and pitying him, said:

'Come and live with me, Ilyás, you and your old woman. In summer you can work in my melon-garden as much as your strength allows, and in winter feed my cattle; and Sham-Shemagi shall milk my mares and make kumiss. I will feed and clothe you both. When you need anything, tell me, and you shall have it.'

Ilyás thanked his neighbour, and he and his wife took service with Muhammad-Shah as labourers. At first the position seemed hard to them, but they got used to it, and lived on, working as much as their strength allowed.

Muhammad-Shah found it was to his advantage to keep such people, because, having been masters themselves, they knew how to manage and were not lazy, but did all the work they could. Yet it grieved Muhammad-Shah to see people brought so low who had been of such high standing.

It happened once that some of Muhammad-Shah's relatives came from a great distance to visit him, and a Mullah came too. Muhammad-Shah told Ilyás to catch a sheep and kill it. Ilyás skinned the sheep, and boiled it, and sent it in to the guests. The guests ate the mutton, had some tea, and then began drinking kumiss. As they were sitting with their host on down cushions on a carpet, conversing and sipping kumiss from their cups, Ilyás, having finished his work passed by the open door. Muhammad-Shah, seeing him pass, said to one of the guests:

'Did you notice that old man who passed just now?'

'Yes,' said the visitor, 'what is there remarkable about him?'

'Only this -- that he was once the richest man among us,' replied the host. 'His name is Ilyás. You may have heard of him.'

'Of course I have heard of him,' the guest answered 'I never saw him before, but his fame has spread far and wide.'

'Yes, and now he has nothing left,' said Muhammad-Shah, 'and he lives with me as my labourer, and his old woman is here too -- she milks the mares.'

The guest was astonished: he clicked with his tongue, shook his head, and said:

'Fortune turns like a wheel. One man it lifts, another it sets down! Does not the old man grieve over all he has lost?'

'Who can tell. He lives quietly and peacefully, and works well.'

'May I speak to him?' asked the guest. 'I should like to ask him about his life.'

'Why not?' replied the master, and he called from the kibítka (A kibitk is a movable dwelling, made up of detachable wooden frames, forming a round, and covered over with felt) in which they were sitting:

'Babay;' (which in the Bashkir tongue means 'Grandfather ') 'come in and have a cup of kumiss with us, and call your wife here also.'

Ilyás entered with his wife; and after exchanging greetings with his master and the guests, he repeated a prayer, and seated himself near the door. His wife passed in behind the curtain and sat down with her mistress.

A Cap of kumiss was handed to Ilyás; he wished the guests and his master good health, bowed, drank a little, and put down the cup.

'Well, Daddy,' said the guest who had wished to speak to him, 'I suppose you feel rather sad at the sight of us. It must remind you of your former prosperity, and of your present sorrows.'

Ilyás smiled, and said:

'If I were to tell you what is happiness and what is misfortune, you would not believe me. You had better ask my wife. She is a woman, and what is in her heart is on her tongue. She will tell you the whole truth.'

The guest turned towards the curtain.

'Well, Granny,' he cried, 'tell me how your former happiness compares with your present misfortune.'

And Sham-Shemagi answered from behind the curtain:

'This is what I think about it: My old man and I lived for fifty years seeking happiness and not finding it; and it is only now, these last two years, since we had nothing left and have lived as labourers, that we have found real happiness, and we wish for nothing better than our present lot.'

The guests were astonished, and so was the master; he even rose and drew the curtain back, so as to see the old woman's face. There she stood with her arms folded, looking at her old husband, and smiling; and he smiled back at her. The old woman went on:

'I speak the truth and do not jest. For half a century we sought for happiness, and as long as we were rich we never found it. Now that we have nothing left, and have taken service as labourers, we have found such happiness that we want nothing better.'

'But in what does your happiness consist?' asked the guest.

'Why, in this,' she replied, 'when we were rich my husband and I had so many cares that we had no time to talk to one another, or to think of our souls, or to pray to God. Now we had visitors, and had to consider what food to set before them, and what presents to give them, lest they should speak ill of us. When they left, we had to look after our labourers who were always trying to shirk work and get the best food, while we wanted to get all we could out of them. So we sinned. Then we were in fear lest a wolf should kill a foal or a calf, or thieves steal our horses. We lay awake at night, worrying lest the ewes should overlie their lambs, and we got up again and again to see that all was well. One thing attended to, another care would spring up: how, for instance, to get enough fodder for the winter. And besides that, my old man and I used to disagree. He would say we must do so and so, and I would differ from him; and then we disputed -- sinning again. So we passed from one trouble to another, from one sin to another, and found no happiness.'

'Well, and now?'

'Now, when my husband and I wake in the morning, we always have a loving word for one another and we live peacefully, having nothing to quarrel about. We have no care but how best to serve our master. We work as much as our strength allows and do it with a will, that our master may not lose but profit by us. When we come in, dinner or supper is ready and there is kumiss to drink. We have fuel to burn when it is cold and we have our fur cloak. And we have time to talk, time to think of our souls, and time to pray. For fifty years we sought happiness, but only now at last have we found it.'

The guests laughed.

But Ilyás said:

'Do not laugh, friends. It is not a matter for jesting -- it is the truth of life. We also were foolish at first, and wept at the loss of our wealth; but now God has shown us the truth, and we tell it, not for our own consolation, but for your good.'

And the Mullah said:

'That is a wise speech. Ilyás has spoken the exact truth. The same is said in Holy Writ.'

And the guests ceased laughing and became thoughtful.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:27 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1885)

IT WAS AN EARLY EASTER. Sledging was only just over; snow still lay in the yards; and water ran in streams down the village street.

Two little girls from different houses happened to meet in a lane between two homesteads, where the dirty water after running through the farm-yards had formed a large puddle. One girl was very small, the other a little bigger. Their mothers had dressed them both in new frocks. The little one wore a blue frock the other a yellow print, and both had red kerchiefs on their heads. They had just come from church when they met, and first they showed each other their finery, and then they began to play. Soon the fancy took them to splash about in the water, and the smaller one was going to step into the puddle, shoes and all, when the elder checked her:

'Don't go in so, Malásha,' said she, 'your mother will scold you. I will take off my shoes and stockings, and you take off yours.'

They did so, and then, picking up their skirts, began walking towards each other through the puddle. The water came up to Malásha's ankles, and she said:

'It is deep, Akoúlya, I'm afraid!'

'Come on,' replied the other. 'Don't be frightened. It won't get any deeper.'

When they got near one another, Akoúlya said:

'Mind, Malásha, don't splash. Walk carefully!'

She had hardly said this, when Malásha plumped down her foot so that the water splashed right on to Akoúlya's frock. The frock was splashed, and so were Akoúlya's eyes and nose. When she saw the stains on her frock, she was angry and ran after Malásha to strike her. Malásha was frightened, and seeing that she had got herself into trouble, she scrambled out of the puddle, and prepared to run home. Just then Akoúlya's mother happened to be passing, and seeing that her daughter's skirt was splashed, and her sleeves dirty, she said:

'You naughty, dirty girl, what have you been doing?'

'Malásha did it on purpose,' replied the girl.

At this Akoúlya's mother seized Malásha, and struck her on the back of her neck. Malásha began to howl so that she could be heard all down the street. Her mother came out.

'What are you beating my girl for?' said she; and began scolding her neighbour. One word led to another and they had an angry quarrel. The men came out and a crowd collected in the street, every one shouting and no one listening. They all went on quarrelling, till one gave another a push, and the affair had very nearly come to blows, when Akoúlya's old grandmother, stepping in among them, tried to calm them.

'What are you thinking of, friends? Is it right to behave so? On a day like this, too! It is a time for rejoicing, and not for such folly as this.'

They would not listen to the old woman and nearly knocked her off her feet. And she would not have been able to quiet the crowd, if it had not been for Akoúlya and Malásha themselves. While the women were abusing each other, Akoúlya had wiped the mud off her frock, and gone back to the puddle. She took a stone and began scraping away the earth in front of the puddle to make a channel through which the water could run out into the street. Presently Malásha joined her, and with a chip of wood helped her dig the channel. Just as the men were beginning to fight, the water from the little girls' channel ran streaming into the street towards the very place where the old woman was trying to pacify the men. The girls followed it; one running each side of the little stream.

'Catch it, Malásha! Catch it!' shouted Akoúlya; while Malásha could not speak for laughing.

Highly delighted, and watching the chip float along on their stream, the little girls ran straight into the group of men; and the old woman, seeing them, said to the men:

'Are you not ashamed of yourselves? To go fighting on account of these lassies, when they themselves have forgotten all about it, and are playing happily together. Dear little souls! They are wiser than you!'

The men looked at the little girls, and were ashamed, and, laughing at themselves, went back each to his own home.

'Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.'

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:26 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1885)

THERE LIVED IN OLDEN TIMES a good and kindly man. He had this world's goods in abundance, and many slaves to serve him. And the slaves prided themselves on their master, saying:

'There is no better lord than ours under the sun. He feeds and clothes us well, and gives us work suited to our strength. He bears no malice and never speaks a harsh word to any one. He is not like other masters, who treat their slaves worse than cattle: punishing them whether they deserve it or not, and never giving them a friendly word. He wishes us well, does good, and speaks kindly to us. We do not wish for a better life.'

Thus the slaves praised their lord, and the Devil, seeing it, was vexed that slaves should live in such love and harmony with their master. So getting one of them, whose name was Aleb, into his power, the Devil ordered him to tempt the other slaves. And one day, when they were all sitting together resting and talking of their master's goodness, Aleb raised his voice, and said:

'It is stupid to make so much of our master's goodness. The Devil himself would be kind to you, if you did what he wanted. We serve our master well, and humour him in all things. As soon as he thinks of anything, we do it: foreseeing all his wishes. What can he do but be kind to us? Just try how it will be if, instead of humouring him, we do him some harm instead. He will act like any one else, and will repay evil for evil, as the worst of masters do.

The other slaves began denying what Aleb had said and at last bet with him. Aleb undertook to make their master angry. If he failed, he was to lose his holiday garment; but if he succeeded, the other slaves were to give him theirs. Moreover, they promised to defend him against the master, and to set him free if he should be put in chains or imprisoned. Having arranged this bet, Aleb agreed to make his master angry next morning.

Aleb was a shepherd, and had in his charge a number of valuable, pure-bred sheep, of which his master was very fond. Next morning, when the master brought some visitors into the inclosure to show them the valuable sheep, Aleb winked at his companions, as if to say:

'See, now, how angry I will make him.'

All the other slaves assembled, looking in at the gates or over the fence, and the Devil climbed a tree near by to see how his servant would do his work. The master walked about the inclosure, showing his guests the ewes and lambs, and presently he wished to show them his finest ram.

'All the rams are valuable,' said he, 'but I have one with closely twisted horns, which is priceless. I prize him as the apple of my eye.'

Startled by the strangers, the sheep rushed about the inclosure, so that the visitors could not get a good look at the ram. As soon as it stood still, Aleb startled the sheep as if by accident, and they all got mixed up again. The visitors could not make out which was the priceless ram. At last the master got tired of it.

'Aleb, dear friend,' he said, 'pray catch our best ram for me, the one with the tightly twisted horns. Catch him very carefully, and hold him still for a moment.'

Scarcely had the master said this, when Aleb rushed in among the sheep like a lion, and clutched the priceless ram. Holding him fast by the wool, he seized the left hind leg with one hand, and, before his master's eyes, lifted it and jerked it so that it snapped like a dry branch. He had broken the ram's leg and it fell bleating on to its knees. Then Aleb seized the right hind leg, while the left twisted round and hung quite limp. The visitors and the slaves exclaimed in dismay, and the Devil, sitting up in the tree, rejoiced that Aleb had done his task so cleverly. The master looked as black as thunder, frowned, bent his head, and did not say a word. The visitors and the slaves were silent, too, waiting to see what would follow. After remaining silent for a while, the master shook himself as if to throw off some burden. Then he lifted his head, and raising his eyes heavenward, remained so for a short time. Presently the wrinkles passed from his face, and he looked down at Aleb with a smile saying:

'Oh, Aleb, Aleb! Your master bade you anger me; but my master is stronger than yours. I am not angry with you, but I will make your master angry. You are afraid that I shall punish you, and you have been wishing for your freedom. Know, then, Aleb, that I shall not punish you; but, as you wish to be free, here, before my guests, I set you free. Go where you like, and take your holiday garment with you!'

And the kind master returned with his guests to the house; but the Devil, grinding his teeth, fell down from the tree, and sank through the ground.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:26 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1885)


IN A CERTAIN TOWN there lived a cobbler, Martin Avdéiteh by name. He had a tiny room in a basement, the one window of which looked out on to the street. Through it one could only see the feet of those who passed by, but Martin recognized the people by their boots. He had lived long in the place and had many acquaintances. There was hardly a pair of boots in the neighbourhood that had not been once or twice through his hands, so he often saw his own handiwork through the window. Some he had re-soled, some patched, some stitched up, and to some he had even put fresh uppers. He had plenty to do, for he worked well, used good material, did not charge too much, and could be relied on. If he could do a job by the day required, he undertook it; if not, he told the truth and gave no false promises; so he was well known and never short of work.

Martin had always been a good man; but in his old age he began to think more about his soul and to draw nearer to God. While he still worked for a master, before he set up on his own account, his wife had died, leaving him with a three-year old son. None of his elder children had lived, they had all died in infancy. At first Martin thought of sending his little son to his sister's in the country, but then he felt sorry to part with the boy, thinking: 'It would be hard for my little Kapitón to have to grow up in a strange family; I will keep him with me.'

Martin left his master and went into lodgings with his little son. But he had no luck with his children. No sooner had the boy reached an age when he could help his father and be a support as well as a joy to him, than he fell ill and, after being laid up for a week with a burning fever, died. Martin buried his son, and gave way to despair so great and overwhelming that he murmured against God. In his sorrow he prayed again and again that he too might die, reproaching God for having taken the son he loved, his only son while he, old as he was, remained alive. After that Martin left off going to church.

One day an old man from Martin's native village who had been a pilgrim for the last eight years, called in on his way from Tróitsa Monastery. Martin opened his heart to him, and told him of his sorrow.

'I no longer even wish to live, holy man,' he said. 'All I ask of God is that I soon may die. I am now quite without hope in the world.'

The old man replied: 'You have no right to say such things, Martin. We cannot judge God's ways. Not our reasoning, but God's will, decides. If God willed that your son should die and you should live, it must be best so. As to your despair -- that comes because you wish to live for your own happiness.'

'What else should one live for?' asked Martin.

'For God, Martin,' said the old man. 'He gives you life, and you must live for Him. When you have learnt to live for Him, you will grieve no more, and all will seem easy to you.'

Martin was silent awhile, and then asked: 'But how is one to live for God?'

The old man answered: 'How one may live for God has been shown us by Christ. Can you read? Then buy the Gospels, and read them: there you will see how God would have you live. You have it all there.'

These words sank deep into Martin's heart, and that same day he went and bought himself a Testament in large print, and began to read.

At first he meant only to read on holidays, but having once begun he found it made his heart so light that he read every day. Sometimes he was so absorbed in his reading that the oil in his lamp burnt out before he could tear himself away from the book. He continued to read every night, and the more he read the more clearly he understood what God required of him, and how he might live for God. And his heart grew lighter and lighter. Before, when he went to bed he used to lie with a heavy heart, moaning as he thought of his little Kapitón; but now he only repeated again and again: 'Glory to Thee, glory to Thee, O Lord! Thy will be done!'

From that time Martin's whole life changed. Formerly, on holidays he used to go and have tea at the public house, and did not even refuse a glass or two of vódka. Sometimes, after having had a drop with a friend, he left the public house not drunk, but rather merry, and would say foolish things: shout at a man, or abuse him. Now, all that sort of thing passed away from him. His life became peaceful and joyful. He sat down to his work in the morning, and when he had finished his day's work he took the lamp down from the wall, stood it on the table, fetched his book from the shelf, opened it, and sat down to read. The more he read the better he understood, and the clearer and happier he felt in his mind.

It happened once that Martin sat up late, absorbed in his book. He was reading Luke's Gospel; and in the sixth chapter he came upon the verses:

'To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloke withhold not thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.'

He also read the verses where our Lord says:

'And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth, against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.'

When Martin read these words his soul was glad within him. He took off his spectacles and laid them on the book, and leaning his elbows on the table pondered over what he had read. He tried his own life by the standard of those words, asking himself:

'Is my house built on the rock, or on sand? If it stands on the rock, it is well. It seems easy enough while one sits here alone, and one thinks one has done all that God commands; but as soon as I cease to be on my guard, I sin again. Still I will persevere. It brings such joy. Help me, O Lord!'

He thought all this, and was about to go to bed, but was loth to leave his book. So he went on reading the seventh chapter -- about the centurion, the widow's son, and the answer to John's disciples -- and he came to the part where a rich Pharisee invited the Lord to his house; and he read how the woman who was a sinner, anointed his feet and washed them with her tears, and how he justified her. Coming to the forty-fourth verse, he read:

'And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment.'

He read these verses and thought: 'He gave no water for his feet, gave no kiss, his head with oil he did not anoint. . . .' And Martin took off his spectacles once more, laid them on his book, and pondered.

'He must have been like me, that Pharisee. He too thought only of himself -- how to get a cup of tea, how to keep warm and comfortable; never a thought of his guest. He took care of himself, but for his guest he cared nothing at all. Yet who was the guest? The Lord himself! If he came to me, should I behave like that?'

Then Martin laid his head upon both his arms and, before he was aware of it, he fell asleep.

'Martin!' he suddenly heard a voice, as if some one had breathed the word above his ear.

He started from his sleep. 'Who's there?' he asked.

He turned round and looked at the door; no one was there. He called again. Then he heard quite distinctly: 'Martin, Martin! Look out into the street to-morrow, for I shall come.'

Martin roused himself, rose from his chair and rubbed his eyes, but did not know whether he had heard these words in a dream or awake. He put out the lamp and lay down to sleep.

Next morning he rose before daylight, and after saying his prayers he lit the fire and prepared his cabbage soup and buckwheat porridge. Then he lit the samovár, put on his apron, and sat down by the window to his work. As he sat working Martin thought over what had happened the night before. At times it seemed to him like a dream, and at times he thought that he had really heard the voice. 'Such things have happened before now,' thought he.

So he sat by the window, looking out into the street more than he worked, and whenever any one passed in unfamiliar boots he would stoop and look up, so as to see not the feet only but the face of the passer-by as well. A house-porter passed in new felt boots; then a water-carrier. Presently an old soldier of Nicholas' reign came near the window spade in hand. Martin knew him by his boots, which were shabby old felt ones, goloshed with leather. The old man was called Stepániteh: a neighbouring tradesman kept him in his house for charity, and his duty was to help the house-porter. He began to clear away the snow before Martin's window. Martin glanced at him and then went on with his work.

'I must be growing crazy with age,' said Martin, laughing at his fancy. 'Stepánitch comes to clear away the snow, and I must needs imagine it's Christ coming to visit me. Old dotard that I am!'

Yet after he had made a dozen stitches he felt drawn to look out of the window again. He saw that Stepánitch had leaned his spade against the wall, and was either resting himself or trying to get warm. The man was old and broken down, and had evidently not enough strength even to clear away the snow.

'What if I called him in and gave him some tea?' thought Martin. 'The samovár is just on the boil.'

He stuck his awl in its place, and rose; and putting the samovár on the table, made tea. Then he tapped the window with his fingers. Stepánitch turned and came to the window. Martin beckoned to him to come in, and went himself to open the door.

'Come in,' he said, 'and warm yourself a bit. I'm sure you must be cold.'

'May God bless you!' Stepánitch answered. 'My bones do ache to be sure.' He came in, first shaking off the snow, and lest he should leave marks on the floor he began wiping his feet; but as he did so he tottered and nearly fell.

'Don't trouble to wipe your feet,' said Martin 'I'll wipe up the floor -- it's all in the day's work. Come, friend, sit down and have some tea.'

Filling two tumblers, he passed one to his visitor, and pouring his own out into the saucer, began to blow on it.

Stepániteh emptied his glass, and, turning it upside down, put the remains of his piece of sugar on the top. He began to express his thanks, but it was plain that he would be glad of some more.

'Have another glass,' said Martin, refilling the visitor's tumbler and his own. But while he drank his tea Martin kept looking out into the street.

'Are you expecting any one?' asked the visitor.

'Am I expecting any one? Well, now, I'm ashamed to tell you. It isn't that I really expect any one; but I heard something last night which I can't get out of my mind Whether it was a vision, or only a fancy, I can't tell. You see, friend, last night I was reading the Gospel, about Christ the Lord, how he suffered, and how he walked on earth. You have heard tell of it, I dare say.'

'I have heard tell of it,' answered Stepánitch; 'but I'm an ignorant man and not able to read.'

'Well, you see, I was reading of how he walked on earth. I came to that part, you know, where he went to a Pharisee who did not receive him well. Well, friend, as I read about it, I thought now that man did not receive Christ the Lord with proper honour. Suppose such a thing could happen to such a man as myself, I thought, what would I not do to receive him! But that man gave him no reception at all. Well, friend, as I was thinking of this, I began to doze, and as I dozed I heard some one call me by name. I got up, and thought I heard some one whispering, "Expect me; I will come to-morrow." This happened twice over. And to tell you the truth, it sank so into my mind that, though I am ashamed of it myself, I keep on expecting him, the dear Lord!'

Stepánitch shook his head in silence, finished his tumbler and laid it on its side; but Martin stood it up again and refilled it for him.

'Here drink another glass, bless you! And I was thinking too, how he walked on earth and despised no one, but went mostly among common folk. He went with plain people, and chose his disciples from among the likes of us, from workmen like us, sinners that we are. "He who raises himself," he said, "shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be raised." "You call me Lord," he said, "and I will wash your feet." "He who would be first," he said, "let him be the servant of all; because," he said, "blessed are the poor, the humble, the meek, and the merciful."'

Stepánitch forgot his tea. He was an old man easily moved to tears, and as he sat and listened the tears ran down his cheeks.

'Come, drink some more,' said Martin. But Stepánitch crossed himself, thanked him, moved away his tumbler, and rose.

'Thank you, Martin Avdéitch,' he said, 'you have given me food and comfort both for soul and body.'

'You're very welcome. Come again another time. I am glad to have a guest,' said Martin.

Stepánitch went away; and Martin poured out the last of the tea and drank it up. Then he put away the tea things and sat down to his work, stitching the back seam of a boot. And as he stitched he kept looking out of the window, waiting for Christ, and thinking about him and his doings. And his head was full of Christ's sayings.

Two soldiers went by: one in Government boots the other in boots of his own; then the master of a neighbouring house, in shining goloshes; then a baker carrying a basket. All these passed on. Then a woman came up in worsted stockings and peasant-made shoes. She passed the window, but stopped by the wall. Martin glanced up at her through the window, and saw that she was a stranger, poorly dressed, and with a baby in her arms. She stopped by the wall with her back to the wind, trying to wrap the baby up though she had hardly anything to wrap it in. The woman had only summer clothes on, and even they were shabby and worn. Through the window Martin heard the baby crying, and the woman trying to soothe it, but unable to do so. Martin rose and going out of the door and up the steps he called to her.

'My dear, I say, my dear!'

The woman heard, and turned round.

'Why do you stand out there with the baby in the cold? Come inside. You can wrap him up better in a warm place. Come this way!'

The woman was surprised to see an old man in an apron, with spectacles on his nose, calling to her, but she followed him in.

They went down the steps, entered the little room, and the old man led her to the bed.

'There, sit down, my dear, near the stove. Warm yourself, and feed the baby.'

'Haven't any milk. I have eaten nothing myself since early morning,' said the woman, but still she took the baby to her breast.

Martin shook his head. He brought out a basin and some bread. Then he opened the oven door and poured some cabbage soup into the basin. He took out the porridge pot also but the porridge was not yet ready, so he spread a cloth on the table and served only the soup and bread.

'Sit down and eat, my dear, and I'll mind the baby. Why, bless me, I've had children of my own; I know how to manage them.'

The woman crossed herself, and sitting down at the table began to eat, while Martin put the baby on the bed and sat down by it. He chucked and chucked, but having no teeth he could not do it well and the baby continued to cry. Then Martin tried poking at him with his finger; he drove his finger straight at the baby's mouth and then quickly drew it back, and did this again and again. He did not let the baby take his finger in its mouth, because it was all black with cobbler's wax. But the baby first grew quiet watching the finger, and then began to laugh. And Martin felt quite pleased.

The woman sat eating and talking, and told him who she was, and where she had been.

'I'm a soldier's wife,' said she. 'They sent my husband somewhere, far away, eight months ago, and I have heard nothing of him since. I had a place as cook till my baby was born, but then they would not keep me with a child. For three months now I have been struggling, unable to find a place, and I've had to sell all I had for food. I tried to go as a wet-nurse, but no one would have me; they said I was too starved-looking and thin. Now I have just been to see a tradesman's wife (a woman from our village is in service with her) and she has promised to take me. I thought it was all settled at last, but she tells me not to come till next week. It is far to her place, and I am fagged out, and baby is quite starved, poor mite. Fortunately our landlady has pity on us, and lets us lodge free, else I don't know what we should do.'

Martin sighed. 'Haven't you any warmer clothing?' he asked.

'How could I get warm clothing?' said she. 'Why I pawned my last shawl for sixpence yesterday.'

Then the woman came and took the child, and Martin got up. He went and looked among some things that were hanging on the wall, and brought back an old cloak.

'Here,' he said, 'though it's a worn-out old thing, it will do to wrap him up in.'

The woman looked at the cloak, then at the old man, and taking it, burst into tears. Martin turned away, and groping under the bed brought out a small trunk. He fumbled about in it, and again sat down opposite the woman. And the woman said:

'The Lord bless you, friend. Surely Christ must have sent me to your window, else the child would have frozen. It was mild when I started, but now see how cold it has turned. Surely it must have been Christ who made you look out of your window and take pity on me, poor wretch!'

Martin smiled and said; 'It is quite true; it was he made me do it. It was no mere chance made me look out.'

And he told the woman his dream, and how he had heard the Lord's voice promising to visit him that day.

'Who knows? All things are possible,' said the woman. And she got up and threw the cloak over her shoulders, wrapping it round herself and round the baby. Then she bowed, and thanked Martin once more.

'Take this for Christ's sake,' said Martin, and gave her sixpence to get her shawl out of pawn. The woman crossed herself, and Martin did the same, and then he saw her out.

After the woman had gone, Martin ate some cabbage soup, cleared the things away, and sat down to work again. He sat and worked, but did not forget the window, and every time a shadow fell on it he looked up at once to see who was passing. People he knew and strangers passed by, but no one remarkable.

After a while Martin saw an apple-woman stop just in front of his window. She had a large basket, but there did not seem to be many apples left in it; she had evidently sold most of her stock. On her back she had a sack full of chips, which she was taking home. No doubt she had gathered them at some place where building was going on. The sack evidently hurt her, and she wanted to shift it from one shoulder to the other, so she put it down on the footpath and, placing her basket on a post, began to shake down the chips in the sack. While she was doing this a boy in a tattered cap ran up, snatched an apple out of the basket, and tried to slip away; but the old woman noticed it, and turning, caught the boy by his sleeve. He began to struggle, trying to free himself, but the old woman held on with both hands, knocked his cap off his head, and seized hold of his hair. The boy screamed and the old woman scolded. Martin dropped his awl, not waiting to stick it in its place, and rushed out of the door. Stumbling up the steps, and dropping his spectacles in his hurry, he ran out into the street. The old woman was pulling the boy's hair and scolding him, and threatening to take him to the police. The lad was struggling and protesting, saying, 'I did not take it. What are you beating me for? Let me go!'

Martin separated them. He took the boy by the hand and said, 'Let him go, Granny. Forgive him for Christ's sake.'

'I'll pay him out, so that he won't forget it for a year! I'll take the rascal to the police!'

Martin began entreating the old woman.

'Let him go, Granny. He won't do it again. Let him go for Christ's sake!'

The old woman let go, and the boy wished to run away, but Martin stopped him

'Ask the Granny's forgiveness!' said he. 'And don't do it another time. I saw you take the apple.'

The boy began to cry and to beg pardon.

'That's right. And now here's an apple for you, and Martin took an apple from the basket and gave it to the boy, saying, 'I will pay you, Granny.'

'You will spoil them that way, the young rascals,' said the old woman. 'He ought to be whipped so that he should remember it for a week.'

'Oh, Granny, Granny,' said Martin, 'that's our way -- but it's not God's way. If he should be whipped for stealing an apple, what should be done to us for our sins?'

The old woman was silent.

And Martin told her the parable of the lord who forgave his servant a large debt, and how the servant went out and seized his debtor by the throat. The old woman listened to it all, and the boy, too, stood by and listened.

'God bids us forgive,' said Martin, 'or else we shall not be forgiven. Forgive every one; and a thoughtless youngster most of all.'

The old woman wagged her head and sighed.

'It's true enough,' said she, 'but they are getting terribly spoilt.'

'Then we old ones must show them better ways,' Martin replied.

'That's just what I say,' said the old woman. 'I have had seven of them myself, and only one daughter is left.' And the old woman began to tell how and where she was living with her daughter, and how many grandchildren she had. 'There now,' she said, 'I have but little strength left, yet I work hard for the sake of my grandchildren; and nice children they are, too. No one comes out to meet me but the children. Little Annie, now, won't leave me for any one. "It's grandmother, dear grandmother, darling grandmother."' And the old woman completely softened at the thought.

'Of course, it was only his childishness, God help him,' said she, referring to the boy.

As the old woman was about to hoist her sack on her back, the lad sprang forward to her, saying, 'Let me carry it for you, Granny. I'm going that way.'

The old woman nodded her head, and put the sack on the boy's back, and they went down the street together, the old woman quite forgetting to ask Martin to pay for the apple. Martin stood and watched them as they went along talking to each other.

When they were out of sight Martin went back to the house. Having found his spectacles unbroken on the steps, he picked up his awl and sat down again to work. He worked a little, but could soon not see to pass the bristle through the holes in the leather; and presently he noticed the lamplighter passing on his way to light the street lamps.

'Seems it's time to light up,' thought he. So he trimmed his lamp, hung it up, and sat down again to work. He finished off one boot and, turning it about, examined it. It was all right. Then he gathered his tools together, swept up the cuttings, put away the bristles and the thread and the awls, and, taking down the lamp, placed it on the table. Then he took the Gospels from the shelf. He meant to open them at the place he had marked the day before with a bit of morocco, but the book opened at another place. As Martin opened it, his yesterday's dream came back to his mind, and no sooner had he thought of it than he seemed to hear footsteps, as though some one were moving behind him. Martin turned round, and it seemed to him as if people were standing in the dark corner, but he could not make out who they were. And a voice whispered in his ear: 'Martin, Martin, don't you know me?'

'Who is it?' muttered Martin.

'It is I,' said the voice. And out of the dark corner stepped Stepánitch, who smiled and vanishing like a cloud was seen no more.

'It is I,' said the voice again. And out of the darkness stepped the woman with the baby in her arms and the woman smiled and the baby laughed, and they too vanished.

'It is I,' said the voice once more. And the old woman and the boy with the apple stepped out and both smiled, and then they too vanished.

And Martin's soul grew glad. He crossed himself put on his spectacles, and began reading the Gospel just where it had opened; and at the top of the page he read

'I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.'

And at the bottom of the page he read

'Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren even these least, ye did it unto me' (Matt. xxv).

And Martin understood that his dream had come true; and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, and he had welcomed him.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:25 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1885)

'The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. . . . But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers.'
-- John iv. 19-21, 23.


THERE were once two old men who decided to go on a pilgrimage to worship God at Jerusalem. One of them was a well-to-do peasant named Efím Tarásitch Shevélef. The other, Elisha Bódrof, was not so well off.

Efím was a staid man, serious and firm. He neither drank nor smoked nor took snuff, and had never used bad language in his life. He had twice served as village Elder, and when he left office his accounts were in good order. He had a large family: two sons and a married grandson, all living with him. He was hale, long-bearded and erect, and it was only when he was past sixty that a little grey began to show itself in his beard.

Elisha was neither rich nor poor. He had formerly gone out carpentering, but now that he was growing old he stayed at home and kept bees. One of his sons had gone away to find work, the other was living at home. Elisha was a kindly and cheerful old man. It is true he drank sometimes, and he took snuff, and was fond of singing, but he was a peaceable man, and lived on good terms with his family and with his neighbours. He was short and dark, with a curly beard, and, like his patron saint Elisha, he was quite bald-headed.

The two old men had taken a vow long since and had arranged to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem together: but Efím could never spare the time; he always had so much business on hand; as soon as one thing was finished he started another. First he had to arrange his grandson's marriage; then to wait for his youngest son's return from the army, and after that he began building a new hut.

One holiday the two old men met outside the hut and, sitting down on some timber, began to talk.

'Well,' asked Elisha, 'when are we to fulfil our vow?'

Efím made a wry face.

'We must wait,' he said. 'This year has turned out a hard one for me. I started building this hut thinking it would cost me something over a hundred roubles, but now it's getting on for three hundred and it's still not finished. We shall have to wait tin the summer. In summer, God willing, we will go without fail.'

'It seems to me we ought not to put it off, but should go at once,' said Elisha. 'Spring is the best time.'

'The time's right enough, but what about my building? How can I leave that?'

'As if you had no one to leave in charge! Your son can look after it.'

'But how? My eldest son is not trustworthy -- he sometimes takes a glass too much.'

'Ah, neighbour, when we die they'll get on without us. Let your son begin now to get some experience.'

'That's true enough, but somehow when one begins a thing one likes to see it done.'

'Eh, friend, we can never get through all we have to do. The other day the women-folk at home were washing and house cleaning for Easter. Here something needed doing, there something else, and they could not get everything done. So my eldest daughter-in-law, who's a sensible woman, says: 'We may be thankful the holiday comes without waiting for us, or however hard we worked we should never be ready for it.'

Efím became thoughtful.

'I've spent a lot of money on this building,' he said 'and one can't start on the journey with empty pockets. We shall want a hundred roubles apiece -- and it's no small sum.'

Elisha laughed.

'Now, come, come, old friend!' he said, 'you have ten times as much as I, and yet you talk about money. Only say when we are to start, and though I have nothing now I shall have enough by then.'

Efím also smiled.

'Dear me, I did not know you were so rich!' said he. 'Why, where will you get it from?'

'I can scrape some together at home, and if that's not enough, I'll sell half a score of hives to my neighbour. He's long been wanting to buy them.'

'If they swarm well this year, you'll regret it.'

'Regret it! Not I, neighbour! I never regretted anything in my life, except my sins. There's nothing more precious than the soul.'

'That's so; still it's not right to neglect things at home.'

'But what if our souls are neglected? That's worse. We took the vow, so let us go! Now, seriously, let us go!'


II


Elisha succeeded in persuading his comrade. In the morning, after thinking it well over, Efím came to Elisha.

'You are right,' said he, 'let us go. Life and death are in God's hands. We must go now, while we are still alive and have the strength.'

A week later the old men were ready to start. Efím had money enough at hand. He took a hundred roubles himself, and left two hundred with his wife.

Elisha, too, got ready. He sold ten hives to his neighbour, with any new swarms that might come from them before the summer. He took seventy roubles for the lot. The rest of the hundred roubles he scraped together from the other members of his household, fairly clearing them all out. His wife gave him all she had been saving up for her funeral; and his daughter-in-law also gave him what she had.

Efím gave his eldest son definite orders about every thing: when and how much grass to mow, where to cart the manure, and how to finish off and roof the cottage. He thought out everything, and gave his orders accordingly. Elisha, on the other hand, only explained to his wife that she was to keep separate the swarms from the hives he had sold, and to be sure to let the neighbour have them all, without any tricks. As to household affairs, he did not even mention them.

'You will see what to do and how to do it, as the needs arise,' he said. 'You are the masters, and will know how to do what's best for yourselves.'

So the old men got ready. Their people baked them cakes, and made bags for them, and cut them linen for leg-bands (Worn by Russian peasants instead of stockings) They put on new leather shoes, and took with them spare shoes of platted bark. Their families went with them to the end of the village and there took leave of them, and the old men started on their pilgrimage.

Elisha left home in a cheerful mood, and as soon as he was out of the village forgot all his home affairs. His only care was how to please his comrade, how to avoid saying a rude word to any one, how to get to his destination and home again in peace and love. Walking along the road, Elisha would either whisper some prayer to himself or go over in his mind such of the lives of the saints as he was able to remember. When he came across any one on the road, or turned in anywhere for the night, he tried to behave as gently as possible and to say a godly word. So he journeyed on, rejoicing. One thing only he could not do, he could not give up taking snuff. Though he had left his snuff-box behind, he hankered after it. Then a man he met on the road gave him some snuff; and every now and then he would lag behind (not to lead his comrade into temptation) and would take a pinch of snuff.

Efím too walked well and firmly; doing no wrong and speaking no vain words, but his heart was not so light. Household cares weighed on his mind. He kept worrying about what was going on at home. Had he not forgotten to give his son this or that order? Would his son do things properly? If he happened to see potatoes being planted or manure carted, as he went along, he wondered if his son was doing as he had been told. And he almost wanted to turn back and show him how to do things, or even do them himself.


III


The old men had been walking for five weeks, they had worn out their home-made bark shoes, and had to begin buying new ones when they reached Little Russia (Little Russia is situated in the south-western part of Russia, and consists of the Governments of Kief, Poltava, Tchernigof, and part of Kharkof and Kherson) From the time they left home they had had to pay for their food and for their night's lodging, but when they reached Little Russia the people vied with one another in asking them into their huts. They took them in and fed them, and would accept no payment; and more than that, they put bread or even cakes into their bags for them to eat on the road.

The old men travelled some five hundred miles in this manner free of expense, but after they had crossed the next province, they came to a district where the harvest had failed. The peasants still gave them free lodging at night, but no longer fed them for nothing. Sometimes, even, they could get no bread: they offered to pay for it, but there was none to be had. The people said the harvest had completely failed the year before. Those who had been rich were ruined and had had to sell all they possessed; those of moderate means were left destitute, and those of the poor who had not left those parts, wandered about begging, or starved at home in utter want. In the winter they had had to eat husks and goosefoot.

One night the old men stopped in a small village; they bought fifteen pounds of bread, slept there, and started before sunrise, to get well on their way before the heat of the day. When they had gone some eight miles, on coming to a stream they sat down, and, filling a bowl with water, they steeped some bread in it, and ate it. Then they changed their leg-bands, and rested for a while. Elisha took out his snuff-box. Efím shook his head at him.

'How is it you don't give up that nasty habit?' said he.

Elisha waved his hand. 'The evil habit is stronger than I,' he said.

Presently they got up and went on. After walking for nearly another eight miles, they came to a large village and passed right through it. It had now grown hot. Elisha was tired out and wanted to rest and have a drink, but Efím did not stop. Efím was the better walker of the two, and Elisha found it hard to keep up with him.

'If I could only have a drink,' said he.

'Well, have a drink,' said Efím. 'I don't want any.'

Elisha stopped.

'You go on,' he said, 'but I'll just run in to the little hut there. I will catch you up in a moment.'

'All right,' said Efím, and he went on along the high road alone, while Elisha turned back to the hut.

It was a small hut plastered with clay, the bottom a dark colour, the top whitewashed; but the clay had crumbled away. Evidently it was long since it had been re-plastered, and the thatch was off the roof on one side. The entrance to the hut was through the yard. Elisha entered the yard, and saw, lying close to a bank of earth that ran round the hut, a gaunt, beardless man with his shirt tucked into his trousers, as is the custom in Little Russia (In Great Russia the peasants let their shirt hang outside their trousers). The man must have lain down in the shade, but the sun had come round and now shone full on him. Though not asleep, he still lay there. Elisha called to him, and asked for a drink, but the man gave no answer.

'He is either ill or unfriendly,' thought Elisha; and going to the door he heard a child crying in the hut. He took hold of the ring that served as a door-handle, and knocked with it.

'Hey, masters!' he called. No answer. He knocked again with his staff.

'Hey, Christians!' Nothing stirred.

'Hey, servants of God!' Still no reply.

Elisha was about to turn away, when he thought ho heard a groan the other side of the door.

'Dear me, some misfortune must have happened to the people? I had better have a look.'

And Elisha entered the hut.


IV


Elisha turned the ring; the door was not fastened. He opened it and went along up the narrow passage. The door into the dwelling-room was open. To the left was a brick oven; in front against the wall was an icon-stand (An icon (properly ikón) is a representation of God, Christ, an angel, or a saint, usually painted, enamelled, or embossed) and a table before it, by the table was a bench on which sat an old woman, bareheaded and wearing only a single garment. There she sat with her head resting on the table, and near her was a thin, wax-coloured boy, with a protruding stomach. He was asking for something, pulling at her sleeve, and crying bitterly. Elisha entered. The air in the hut was very foul. He looked round, and saw a woman lying on the floor behind the oven: she lay flat on the ground with her eyes closed and her throat rattling, now stretching out a leg, now dragging it in, tossing from side to side; and the foul smell came from her. Evidently she could do nothing for herself and no one had been attending to her needs. The old woman lifted her head, and saw the stranger.

'What do you want?' said she.' What do you want man? We have nothing.'

Elisha understood her, though she spoke in the Little-Russian dialect.

'I came in for a drink of water, servant of God,' he said.

'There's no one -- no one -- we have nothing to fetch it in. Go your way.'

Then Elisha asked:

'Is there no one among you, then, well enough to attend to that woman?'

'No, we have no one. My son is dying outside, and we are dying in here.'

The little boy had ceased crying when he saw the stranger, but when the old woman began to speak, he began again, and clutching hold of her sleeve cried:

'Bread, Granny, bread.'

Elisha was about to question the old woman, when the man staggered into the hut. He came along the passage, clinging to the wall, but as he was entering the dwelling-room he fell in the corner near the threshold, and without trying to get up again to reach the bench, he began to speak in broken words. He brought out a word at a time, stopping to draw breath, and gasping.

'Illness has seized us . . . ,' said he, 'and famine. He is dying . . . of hunger.'

And he motioned towards the boy, and began to sob.

Elisha jerked up the sack behind his shoulder and pulling the straps off his arms, put it on the floor. Then he lifted it on to the bench, and untied the strings. Having opened the sack, he took out a loaf of bread, and, cutting off a piece with his knife, handed it to the man. The man would not take it, but pointed to the little boy and to a little girl crouching behind the oven, as if to say:

'Give it to them.'

Elisha held it out to the boy. When the boy smelt bread, he stretched out his arms, and seizing the slice with both his little hands, bit into it so that his nose disappeared in the chunk. The little girl came out from behind the oven and fixed her eyes on the bread. Elisha gave her also a slice. Then he cut off another piece and gave it to the old woman, and she too began munching it.

'If only some water could be brought,' she said, 'their mouths are parched. I tried to fetch some water yesterday -- or was it to-day -- I can't remember, but I fell down and could go no further, and the pail has remained there, unless some one has taken it.'

Elisha asked where the well was. The old woman told him. Elisha went out, found the pail, brought some water, and gave the people a drink. The children and the old woman ate some more bread with the water, but the man would not eat.

'I cannot eat,' he said.

All this time the younger woman did not show any consciousness, but continued to toss from side to side. Presently Elisha went to the village shop and bought some millet, salt, flour, and oil. He found an axe, chopped some wood, and made a fire. The little girl came and helped him. Then he boiled some soup, and gave the starving people a meal.


The man ate a little, the old woman had some too, and the little girl and boy licked the bowl clean, and then curled up and fell fast asleep in one another's arms.

The man and the old woman then began telling Elisha how they had sunk to their present state.

'We were poor enough before?' said they, 'but when the crops failed, what we gathered hardly lasted us through the autumn. We had nothing left by the time winter came, and had to beg from the neighbours and from any one we could. At first they gave, then they began to refuse. Some would have been glad enough to help us, but had nothing to give. And we were ashamed of asking: we were in debt all round, and owed money, and flour, and bread.'

'I went to look for work,' the man said, 'but could find none. Everywhere people were offering to work merely for their own keep. One day you'd get a short job, and then you might spend two days looking for work. Then the old woman and the girl went begging, further away. But they got very little; bread was so scarce. Still we scraped food together somehow, and hoped to struggle through till next harvest, but towards spring people ceased to give anything. And then this illness seized us. Things became worse and worse. One day we might have something to eat, and then nothing for two days. We began eating grass. Whether it was the grass, or what, made my wife ill, I don't know. She could not keep on her legs, and I had no strength left, and there was nothing to help us to recovery.'

'I struggled on alone for a while,' said the old woman, 'but at last I broke down too for want of food, and grew quite weak. The girl also grew weak and timid. I told her to go to the neighbours -- she would not leave the hut, but crept into a corner and sat there. The day before yesterday a neighbour looked in, but seeing that we were ill and hungry she turned away and left us. Her husband has had to go away, and she has nothing for her own little ones to eat. And so we lay, waiting for death.'

Having heard their story, Elisha gave up the thought of overtaking his comrade that day, and remained with them all night. In the morning he got up and began doing the housework, just as if it were his own home. He kneaded the bread with the old woman's help, and lit the fire. Then he went with the little girl to the neighbours to get the most necessary things, for there was nothing in the hut: everything had been sold for bread -- cooking utensils, clothing, and all. So Elisha began replacing what was necessary, making some things himself, and buying some. He remained there one day, then another, and then a third. The little boy picked up strength and, whenever Elisha sat down, crept along the bench and nestled up to him. The little girl brightened up and helped in all the work, running after Elisha and calling,

'Daddy, daddy.'

The old woman grew stronger, and managed to go out to see a neighbour. The man too improved, and was able to get about, holding on to the wall. Only the wife could not get up, but even she regained consciousness on the third day, and asked for food.

'Well,' thought Elisha, 'I never expected to waste so much time on the way. Now I must be getting on.'


VI


The fourth day was the feast day after the summer fast, and Elisha thought:

'I will stay and break the fast with these people. I'll go and buy them something, and keep the feast with them, and to-morrow evening I will start.'

So Elisha went into the village, bought milk, wheat-flour and dripping, and helped the old woman to boil and bake for the morrow. On the feast day Elisha went to church, and then broke the fast with his friends at the hut. That day the wife got up, and managed to move about a bit. The husband had shaved and put on a clean shirt, which the old woman had washed for him; and he went to beg for mercy of a rich peasant in the village to whom his ploughland and meadow were mortgaged. He went to beg the rich peasant to grant him the use of the meadow and field till after the harvest; but in the evening he came back very sad, and began to weep. The rich peasant had shown no mercy, but had said: 'Bring me the money.'

Elisha again grew thoughtful. 'How are they to live now?' thought he to himself. 'Other people will go haymaking, but there will be nothing for these to mow, their grass land is mortgaged. The rye will ripen. Others will reap (and what a fine crop mother-earth is giving this year), but they have nothing to look forward to. Their three acres are pledged to the rich peasant. When I am gone, they'll drift back into the state I found them in.'

Elisha was in two minds, but finally decided not to leave that evening, but to wait until the morrow. He went out into the yard to sleep. He said his prayers, and lay down; but he could not sleep. On the one hand he felt he ought to be going, for he had spent too much time and money as it was; on the other hand he felt sorry for the people.

'There seems to be no end to it, he said. 'First I only meant to bring them a little water and give them each a slice of bread: and just see where it has landed me. It's a case of redeeming the meadow and the cornfield. And when I have done that, I shall have to buy a cow for them, and a horse for the man to cart his sheaves. A nice coil you've got yourself into, brother Elisha! You've slipped your cables and lost your reckoning!'

Elisha got up, lifted his coat which he had been using for a pillow, unfolded it, got out his snuff-box and took a pinch, thinking that it might perhaps clear his thoughts.

But no! He thought and thought, and came to no conclusion. He ought to be going; and yet pity held him back. He did not know what to do. He refolded his coat and put it under his head again. He lay thus for a long time, till the cocks had already crowed once: then he was quite drowsy. And suddenly it seemed as if some one had roused him. He saw that he was dressed for the journey, with the sack on his back and the staff in his hand, and the gate stood ajar so that he could just squeeze through. He was about to pass out, when his sack caught against the fence on one side: he tried to free it, but then his leg-band caught on the other side and came undone. He pulled at the sack, and saw that it had not caught on the fence, but that the little girl was holding it and crying,

'Bread, daddy, bread!'

He looked at his foot, and there was the tiny boy holding him by the leg-band, while the master of the hut and the old woman were looking at him through the window.

Elisha awoke, and said to himself in an audible voice:

'To-morrow I will redeem their cornfield, and will buy them a horse, and flour to last till the harvest, and a cow for the little ones; or else while I go to seek the Lord beyond the sea, I may lose Him in myself.'

Then Elisha fell asleep, and slept till morning. He awoke early, and going to the rich peasant, redeemed both the cornfield and the meadow land. He bought a scythe (for that also had been sold) and brought it back with him. Then he sent the man to mow, and himself went into the village. He heard that there was a horse and cart for sale at the public-house, and he struck a bargain with the owner, and bought them. Then he bought a sack of flour, put it in the cart, and went to see about a cow. As he was going along he overtook two women talking as they went. Though they spake the Little-Russian dialect, he understood what they were saying.

'At first, it seems, they did not know him; they thought he was just an ordinary man. He came in to ask for a drink of water, and then he remained. Just think of the things he has bought for them! Why they say he bought a horse and cart for them at the publican's, only this morning! There are not many such men in the world. It's worth while going to have a look at him.'

Elisha heard and understood that he was being praised, and he did not go to buy the cow, but returned to the inn, paid for the horse, harnessed it, drove up to the hut, and got out. The people in the hut were astonished when they saw the horse. They thought it might be for them, but dared not ask. The man came out to open the gate.

'Where did you get a horse from, grandfather,' he asked.

'Why, I bought it,' said Elisha. 'It was going cheap. Go and cut some grass and put it in the manger for it to eat during the night. And take in the sack.'

The man unharnessed the horse, and carried the sack into the barn. Then he mowed some grass and put it in the manger. Everybody lay down to sleep. Elisha went outside and lay by the roadside. That evening he took his bag out with him. When every one was asleep, he got up, packed and fastened his bag, wrapped the linen bands round his legs, put on his shoes and coat, and set off to follow Efím.


VII


When Elisha had walked rather more than three miles it began to grow light. He sat down under a tree, opened his bag, counted his money, and found he had only seventeen roubles and twenty kopeks left.

'Well,' thought he, 'it is no use trying to cross the sea with this. If I beg my way it may be worse than not going at all. Friend Efím will get to Jerusalem without me, and will place a candle at the shrines in my name. As for me, I'm afraid I shall never fulfil my vow in this life. I must be thankful it was made to a merciful Master, and to one who pardons sinners.'

Elisha rose, jerked his bag well up on his shoulders, and turned back. Not wishing to be recognized by any one, he made a circuit to avoid the village, and walked briskly homeward. Coming from home the way had seemed difficult to him, and he had found it hard to keep up with Efím, but now on his return journey, God helped him to get over the ground so that he hardly felt fatigue. Walking seemed like child's play. He went along swinging his staff, and did his forty to fifty miles a day.

When Elisha reached home the harvest was over. His family were delighted to see him again, and all wanted to know what had happened: Why and how he had been left behind? And why he had returned without reaching Jerusalem? But Elisha did not tell them.

'It was not God's will that I should get there,' said he. 'I lost my money on the way, and lagged behind my companion. Forgive me, for the Lord's sake!'

Elisha gave his old wife what money he had left. Then he questioned them about home affairs. Everything was going on well; all the work had been done, nothing neglected, and all were living in peace and concord.

Efím's family heard of his return the same day, and came for news of their old man; and to them Elisha gave the same answers.

'Efím is a fast walker. We parted three days before St. Peter's day, and I meant to catch him up again, but all sorts of things happened. I lost my money, and had no means to get any further, so I turned back.'

The folks were astonished that so sensible a man should have acted so foolishly: should have started and not got to his destination, and should have squandered all his money. They wondered at it for a while, and then forgot all about it, and Elisha forgot it too. He set to work again on his homestead. With his son's help he cut wood for fuel for the winter. He and the women threshed the corn. Then he mended the thatch on the outhouses, put the bees under cover, and handed over to his neighbour the ten hives he had sold him in spring, and all the swarms that had come from them. His wife tried not to tell how many swarms there had been from these hives, but Elisha knew well enough from which there had been swarms and from which not. And instead of ten, he handed over seventeen swarms to his neighbour. Having got everything ready for the winter, Elisha sent his son away to find work, while he himself took to platting shoes of bark, and hollowing out logs for hives.


VIII


All that day while Elisha stopped behind in the hut with the sick people, Efím waited for him. He only went on a little way before he sat down. He waited and waited, had a nap, woke up again, and again sat waiting; but his comrade did not come. He gazed till his eyes ached. The sun was already sinking behind a tree, and still no Elisha was to be seen.

'Perhaps he has passed me,' thought Efím, 'or perhaps some one gave him a lift and he drove by while I slept, and did not see me. But how could he help seeing me? One can see so far here in the steppe. Shall I go back? Suppose he is on in front, we shall then miss each other completely and it will be still worse. I had better go on, and we shall be sure to meet where we put up for the night.'

He came to a village, and told the watchman, if an old man of a certain description came along, to bring him to the hut where Efím stopped. But Elisha did not turn up that night. Efím went on, asking all he met whether they had not seen a little, bald-headed, old man? No one had seen such a traveller. Efím wondered, but went on alone, saying:

'We shall be sure to meet in Odessa, or on board the ship,' and he did not trouble more about it.

On the way, he came across a pilgrim wearing a priest's coat, with long hair and a skull-cap such as priests wear. This pilgrim had been to Mount Athos, and was now going to Jerusalem for the second time. They both stopped at the same place one night, and, having met, they travelled on together.

They got safely to Odessa, and there had to wait three days for a ship. Many pilgrims from many different parts were in the same case. Again Efím asked about Elisha, but no one had seen him.

Efím got himself a foreign passport, which cost him five roubles. He paid forty roubles for a return ticket to Jerusalem, and bought a supply of bread and herrings for the voyage.

The pilgrim began explaining to Efím how he might get on to the ship without paying his fare; but Efím would not listen. 'No, I came prepared to pay, and I shall pay,' said he.

The ship was freighted, and the pilgrims went on board, Efím and his new comrade among them. The anchors were weighed, and the ship put out to sea.

All day they sailed smoothly, but towards night a wind arose, rain came on, and the vessel tossed about and shipped water. The people were frightened: the women wailed and screamed, and some of the weaker men ran about the ship looking for shelter. Efím too was frightened, but he would not show it, and remained at the place on deck where he had settled down when first he came on board, beside some old men from Tambóf. There they sat silent, all night and all next day, holding on to their sacks. On the third day it grew calm, and on the fifth day they anchored at Constantinople. Some of the pilgrims went on shore to visit the Church of St. Sophia, now held by the Turks. Efím remained on the ship, and only bought some white bread. They lay there for twenty-four hours, and then put to sea again. At Smyrna they stopped again; and at Alexandria; but at last they arrived safely at Jaffa, where all the pilgrims had to disembark. From there still it was more than forty miles by road to Jerusalem. When disembarking the people were again much frightened. The ship was high, and the people were dropped into boats, which rocked so much that it was easy to miss them and fall into the water. A couple of men did get a wetting, but at last all were safely landed.

They went on on foot, and at noon on the third day reached Jerusalem. They stopped outside the town, at the Russian inn, where their passports were indorsed. Then, after dinner, Efím visited the Holy Places with his companion, the pilgrim. It was not the time when they could be admitted to the Holy Sepulchre, but they went to the Patriarchate. All the pilgrims assembled there. The women were separated from the men, who were all told to sit in a circle, barefoot. Then a monk came in with a towel to wash their feet. He washed, wiped, and then kissed their feet, and did this to every one in the circle. Efím's feet were washed and kissed, with the rest. He stood through vespers and matins, prayed, placed candles at the shrines, handed in booklets inscribed with his parents, names, that they might be mentioned in the church prayers. Here at the Patriarchate food and wine were given them. Next morning they went to the cell of Mary of Egypt, where she had lived doing penance. Here too they placed candles and had prayers read. From there they went to Abraham's Monastery, and saw the place where Abraham intended to slay his son as an offering to God. Then they visited the spot where Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, and the Church of James, the Lord's brother. The pilgrim showed Efím all these places, and told him how much money to give at each place. At mid-day they returned to the inn and had dinner. As they were preparing to lie down and rest, the pilgrim cried out, and began to search his clothes, feeling them all over.

'My purse has been stolen, there were twenty-three roubles in it,' said he, 'two ten-rouble notes and the rest in change.'

He sighed and lamented a great deal, but as there was no help for it, they lay down to sleep.


IX


As Efím lay there, he was assailed by temptation.

'No one has stolen any money from this pilgrim,' thought he, 'I do not believe he had any. He gave none away anywhere, though he made me give, and even borrowed a rouble of me.'

This thought had no sooner crossed his mind, than Efím rebuked himself, saying: 'What right have I to judge a man? It is a sin. I will think no more about it.' But as soon as his thoughts began to wander, they turned again to the pilgrim: how interested he seemed to be in money, and how unlikely it sounded when he declared that his purse had been stolen.

'He never had any money,' thought Efím. 'It's all an invention.'

Towards evening they got up, and went to midnight Mass at the great Church of the Resurrection, where the Lord's Sepulchre is. The pilgrim kept close to Efím and went with him everywhere. They came to the Church; a great many pilgrims were there; some Russians and some of other nationalities: Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Syrians. Efím entered the Holy Gates with the crowd. A monk led them past the Turkish sentinels, to the place where the Saviour was taken down from the cross and anointed, and where candles were burning in nine great candlesticks. The monk showed and explained everything. Efím offered a candle there. Then the monk led Efím to the right, up the steps to Golgotha, to the place where the cross had stood. Efím prayed there. Then they showed him the cleft where the ground had been rent asunder to its nethermost depths; then the place where Christ's hands and feet were nailed to the cross; then Adam's tomb, where the blood of Christ had dripped on to Adam's bones. Then they showed him the stone on which Christ sat when the crown of thorns was placed on His head; then the post to which Christ was bound when He was scourged. Then Efím saw the stone with two holes for Christ's feet. They were going to show him something else, but there was a stir in the crowd, and the people all hurried to the church of the Lord's Sepulchre itself. The Latin Mass had just finished there, and the Russian Mass was beginning. And Efím went with the crowd to the tomb cut in the rock.

He tried to get rid of the pilgrim, against whom he was still sinning in his mind, but the pilgrim would not leave him, but went with him to the Mass at the Holy Sepulchre. They tried to get to the front, but were too late. There was such a crowd that it was impossible to move either backwards or forwards. Efím stood looking in front of him, praying, and every now and then feeling for his purse. He was in two minds: sometimes he thought that the pilgrim was deceiving him, and then again he thought that if the pilgrim spoke the truth and his purse had really been stolen, the same thing might happen to himself.


Efím stood there gazing into the little chapel in which was the Holy Sepulchre itself with thirty-six lamps burning above it. As he stood looking over the people's heads, he saw something that surprised him. Just beneath the lamps in which the sacred fire burns and in front of every one, Efím saw an old man in a grey coat, whose bald, shining head was just like Elisha Bódrof.

'It is like him,' thought Efím, 'but it cannot be Elisha. He could not have got ahead of me. The ship before ours started a week sooner. He could not have caught that; and he was not on ours, for I saw every pilgrim on board.'

Hardly had Efím thought this, when the little old man began to pray, and bowed three times: once forwards to God, then once on each side -- to the brethren. And as he turned his head to the right, Efím recognized him. It was Elisha Bódrof himself with his dark, curly beard turning grey at the cheeks, with his brows, his eyes and nose, and his expression of face. Yes, it was he!

Efím was very pleased to have found his comrade again, and wondered how Elisha had got ahead of him.

'Well done, Elisha!' thought he. 'See how he has pushed ahead. He must have come across some one who showed him the way. When we get out, I will find him, get rid of this fellow in the skull-cap, and keep to Elisha. Perhaps he will show me how to get to the front also.'

Efím kept looking out, so as not to lose sight of Elisha. But when the Mass was over, the crowd began to sway, pushing forward to kiss the tomb, and pushed Efím aside. He was again seized with fear lest his purse should be stolen. Pressing it with his hand, he began elbowing through the crowd, anxious only to get out. When he reached the open, he went about for a long time searching for Elisha both outside and in the Church itself. In the cells of the Church he saw many people of all kinds, eating, and drinking wine, and reading and sleeping there. But Elisha was nowhere to be seen. So Efím returned to the inn without having found his comrade. That evening the pilgrim in the skull-cap did not turn up. He had gone off without repaying the rouble, and Efím was left alone.

The next day Efím went to the Holy Sepulchre again, with an old man from Tambóf, whom he had met on the ship. He tried to get to the front, but was again pressed back; so he stood by a pillar and prayed. He looked before him, and there in the foremost place under the lamps, close to the very Sepulchre of the Lord, stood Elisha, with his arms spread out like a priest at the altar, and with his bald head all shining.

'Well, now,' thought Efím, 'I won't lose him!'

He pushed forward to the front, but when he got there, there was no Elisha: he had evidently gone away.

Again on the third day Efím looked, and saw at the Sepulchre, in the holiest place, Elisha standing in the sight of all men, his arms outspread, and his eyes gazing upwards as if he saw something above. And his bald head was all shining.

'Well, this time,' thought Efím, 'he shall not escape me! I will go and stand at the door, then we can't miss one another!'

Efím went out and stood by the door till past noon. Every one had passed out, but still Elisha did not appear.

Efím remained six weeks in Jerusalem, and went everywhere: to Bethlehem, and to Bethany, and to the Jordan. He had a new shirt sealed at the Holy Sepulchre for his burial, and he took a bottle of water from the Jordan, and some holy earth, and bought candles that had been lit at the sacred flame. In eight places he inscribed names to be prayed for, and he spent all his money, except just enough to get home with. Then he started homeward. He walked to Jaffa, sailed thence to Odessa, and walked home from there on foot.


XI


Efím travelled the same road he had come by; and as he drew nearer home his former anxiety returned as to how affairs were getting on in his absence. 'Much water flows away in a year,' the proverb says. It takes a lifetime to build up a homestead, but not long to ruin it, thought he. And he wondered how his son had managed without him, what sort of spring they were having, how the cattle had wintered, and whether the cottage was well finished. When Efím came to the district where he had parted from Elisha the summer before, he could hardly believe that the people living there were the same. The year before they had been starving, but now they were living in comfort. The harvest had been good, and the people had recovered and had forgotten their former misery.

One evening Efím reached the very place where Elisha had remained behind; and as he entered the village, a little girl in a white smock ran out of a hut.

Daddy, daddy, come to our house!'

Efím meant to pass on, but the little girl would not let him. She took hold of his coat, laughing, and pulled him towards the hut, where a woman with a small boy came out into the porch and beckoned to him.

'Come in, grandfather,' she said. 'Have supper and spend the night with us.'

So Efím went in.

'I may as well ask about Elisha,' he thought. 'I fancy this is the very hut he went to for a drink of water.'

The woman helped him off with the bag he carried, and gave him water to wash his face. Then she made him sit down to table, and set milk, curd-cakes and porridge before him. Efím thanked her, and praised her for her kindness to a pilgrim. The woman shook her head.

'We have good reason to welcome pilgrims,' she said. 'It was a pilgrim who showed us what life is. We were living forgetful of God, and God punished us almost to death. We reached such a pass last summer, that we all lay ill and helpless with nothing to eat. And we should have died, but that God sent an old man to help us -- just such a one as you. He came in one day to ask for a drink of water, saw the state we were in, took pity on us, and remained with us. He gave us food and drink, and set us on our feet again; and he redeemed our land, and bought a cart and horse and gave them to us.'

Here the old woman entering the hut, interrupted the younger one and said:

'We don't know whether it was a man, or an angel from God. He loved us all, pitied us all, and went away without telling us his name, so that we don't even know whom to pray for. I can see it all before me now! There I lay waiting for death, when in comes a bald-headed old man. He was not anything much to look at, and he asked for a drink of water. I, sinner that I am, thought to myself: "What does he come prowling about here for?" And just think what he did! As soon as he saw us, he let down his bag, on this very spot, and untied it.'

Here the little girl joined in.

'No, Granny,' said she, 'first he put it down here in the middle of the hut, and then he lifted it on to the bench.'

And they began discussing and recalling all he had said and done, where he sat and slept, and what he had said to each of them.

At night the peasant himself came home on his horse, and he too began to tell about Elisha and how he had lived with them.

'Had he not come we should all have died in our sins. We were dying in despair, murmuring against God and man. But he set us on our feet again; and through him we learned to know God, and to believe that there is good in man. May the Lord bless him! We used to live like animals; he made human beings of us.

After giving Efím food and drink, they showed him where he was to sleep; and lay down to sleep themselves.

But though Efím lay down, he could not sleep. He could not get Elisha out of his mind, but remembered how he had seen him three times at Jerusalem, standing in the foremost place.

'So that is how he got ahead of me,' thought Efím. 'God may or may not have accepted my pilgrimage but He has certainly accepted his!'

Next morning Efím bade farewell to the people, who put some patties in his sack before they went to their work, and he continued his journey.


XII


Efím had been away just a year, and it was spring again when he reached home one evening. His son was not at home, but had gone to the public-house and when he came back, he had had a drop too much. Efím began questioning him. Everything showed that the young fellow had been unsteady during his father's absence. The money had all been wrongly spent, and the work had been neglected. The father began to upbraid the son; and the son answered rudely.

'Why didn't you stay and look after it yourself?' he said. 'You go off, taking the money with you and now you demand it of me!'

The old man grew angry, and struck his son.

In the morning Efím went to the village Elder to complain of his son's conduct. As he was passing Elisha's house, his friend's wife greeted him from the porch.

'How do you do, neighbour,' she said. 'How do you do, dear friend? Did you get to Jerusalem safely?'

Efím stopped.

'Yes, thank God,' he said. 'I have been there. I lost sight of your old man, but I hear he got home safely.'

The old woman was fond of talking:

'Yes, neighbour, he has come back,' said she. 'He's been back a long time. Soon after Assumption, I think it was, he returned. And we were glad the Lord had sent him back to us! We were dull without him. We can't expect much work from him any more, his years for work are past; but still he is the head of the household and it's more cheerful when he's at home. And how glad our lad was! He said, "It's like being without sunlight, when father's away!" It was dull without him, dear friend. We're fond of him, and take good care of him.'

'Is he at home now?'

'He is, dear friend. He is with his bees. He is hiving the swarms. He says they are swarming well this year. The Lord has given such strength to the bees that my husband doesn't remember the like. "The Lord is not rewarding us according to our sins," he says. Come in, dear neighbour, he will be so glad to see you again.'

Efím passed through the passage into the yard and to the apiary, to see Elisha. There was Elisha in his grey coat, without any face-net or gloves, standing, under the birch trees, looking upwards, his arms stretched out and his bald head shining, as Efím had seen him at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem: and above him the sunlight shone through the birches as the flames of fire had done in the holy place, and the golden bees flew round his head like a halo, and did not sting him.

Efím stopped. The old woman called to her husband.

'Here's your friend come,' she cried.

Elisha looked round with a pleased face, and came towards Efím, gently picking bees out of his own beard.

'Good day, neighbour, good-day, dear friend. Did you get there safely?'

'My feet walked there, and I have brought you some water from the river Jordan. You must come to my house for it. But whether the Lord accepted my efforts. . . .'

'Well the Lord be thanked! May Christ bless you!' said Elisha.

Efím was silent for a while, and then added:

'My feet have been there, but whether my soul, or another's, has been there more truly . . .'

'That's God's business, neighbour, God's business,' interrupted Elisha.

'On my return journey I stopped at the hut where you remained behind. . . .'

Elisha was alarmed, and said hurriedly:

'God's business, neighbour, God's business! Come into the cottage, I'll give you some of our honey.' And Elisha changed the conversation, and talked of home affairs.

Efím sighed, and did not speak to Elisha of the people in the hut, nor of how he had seen him in Jerusalem. But he now understood that the best way to keep one's vows to God and to do His will, is for each man while he lives to show love and do good to others.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:25 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1885.)

'Then came Peter, and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would make a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat saying, Pay what thou owest.

So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.'
- Matthew. xviii. 21-35.


THERE once lived in a village a peasant named Iván Stcherbakóf. He was comfortably off, in the prime of life, the best worker in the village, and had three sons all able to work. The eldest was married, the second about to marry, and the third was a big lad who could mind the horses and was already beginning to plough. Ivan's wife was an able and thrifty woman, and they were fortunate in having a quiet, hard-working daughter-in-law. There was nothing to prevent Iván and his family from living happily. They had only one idle mouth to feed; that was Iván's old father, who suffered from asthma and had been lying ill on the top of the brick oven for seven years. Iván had all he needed: three horses and a colt, a cow with a calf, and fifteen sheep. The women made all the clothing for the family, besides helping in the fields, and the men tilled the land. They always had grain enough of their own to last over beyond the next harvest and sold enough oats to pay the taxes and meet their other needs. So Iván and his children might have lived quite comfortably had it not been for a feud between him and his next-door neighbour, Limping Gabriel, the son of Gordéy Ivánof.

As long as old Gordéy was alive and Iván's father was still able to manage the household, the peasants lived as neighbours should. If the women of either house happened to want a sieve or a tub, or the men required a sack, or if a cart-wheel got broken and could not be mended at once, they used to send to the other house, and helped each other in neighbourly fashion. When a calf strayed into the neighbour's thrashing-ground they would just drive it out, and only say, 'Don't let it get in again; our grain is lying there.' And such things as locking up the barns and outhouses, hiding things from one another, or backbiting were never thought of in those days.

That was in the fathers' time. When the sons came to be at the head of the families, everything changed.

It all began about a trifle.

Iván's daughter-in-law had a hen that began laying rather early in the season, and she started collecting its eggs for Easter. Every day she went to the cart-shed, and found an egg in the cart; but one day the hen, probably frightened by the children, flew across the fence into the neighbour's yard and laid its egg there. The woman heard the cackling, but said to herself: 'I have no time now; I must tidy up for Sunday. I'll fetch the egg later on.' In the evening she went to the cart, but found no egg there. She went and asked her mother-in-law and brother-in-law whether they had taken the egg. 'No,' they had not; but her youngest brother-in-law, Tarás, said: 'Your Biddy laid its egg in the neighbour's yard. It was there she was cackling, and she flew back across the fence from there.'

The woman went and looked at the hen. There she was on the perch with the other birds, her eyes just closing ready to go to sleep. The woman wished she could have asked the hen and got an answer from her.

Then she went to the neighbour's, and Gabriel's mother came out to meet her.

'What do you want, young woman?'

'Why, Granny, you see, my hen flew across this morning. Did she not lay an egg here?'

'We never saw anything of it. The Lord be thanked, our own hens started laying long ago. We collect our own eggs and have no need of other people's! And we don't go looking for eggs in other people's yards, lass!'

The young woman was offended, and said more than she should have done. Her neighbour answered back with interest, and the women began abusing each other. Ivan's wife, who had been to fetch water, happening to pass just then, joined in too. Gabriel's wife rushed out, and began reproaching the young woman with things that had really happened and with other things that never had happened at all. Then a general uproar commenced, all shouting at once, trying to get out two words at a time, and not choice words either.

'You're this!' and 'You're that!' 'You're a thief!' and 'You're a slut!' and 'You're starving your old father-in-law to death!' and 'You're a good-for-nothing!' and so on.

'And you've made a hole in the sieve I lent you, you jade! And it's our yoke you're carrying your pails on -- you just give back our yoke!'

Then they caught hold of the yoke, and spilt the water, snatched off one another's shawls, and began fighting. Gabriel, returning from the fields, stopped to take his wife's part. Out rushed Iván and his son and joined in with the rest. Iván was a strong fellow, he scattered the whole lot of them, and pulled a handful of hair out of Gabriel's beard. People came to see what was the matter, and the fighters were separated with difficulty.

That was how it all began.

Gabriel wrapped the hair torn from his beard in a paper, and went to the District Court to have the law of Iván. 'I didn't grow my beard,' said he, 'for pockmarked Iván to pull it out!' And his wife went bragging to the neighbours, saying they'd have Iván condemned and sent to Siberia. And so the feud grew.

The old man, from where he lay on the top of the oven, tried from the very first to persuade them to make peace, but they would not listen. He told them, 'It's a stupid thing you are after, children, picking quarrels about such a paltry matter. Just think! The whole thing began about an egg. The children may have taken it -- well, what matter? What's the value of one egg? God sends enough for all! And suppose your neighbour did say an unkind word -- put it right; show her how to say a better one! If there has been a fight -- well, such things will happen; we're all sinners, but make it up, and let there be an end of it! If you nurse your anger it will be worse for you yourselves.'

But the younger folk would not listen to the old man. They thought his words were mere senseless dotage. Iván would not humble himself before his neighbour.

'I never pulled his beard,' he said, 'he pulled the hair out himself. But his son has burst all the fastenings on my shirt, and torn it. . . . Look at it!'

And Iván also went to law. They were tried by the Justice of the Peace and by the District Court. While all this was going on, the coupling-pin of Gabriel's cart disappeared. Gabriel's womenfolk accused Ivan's son of having taken it. They said: 'We saw him in the night go past our window, towards the cart; and a neighbour says he saw him at the pub, offering the pin to the landlord.'

So they went to law about that. And at home not a day passed without a quarrel or even a fight. The children, too, abused one another, having learnt to do so from their elders; and when the women happened to meet by the river-side, where they went to rinse the clothes, their arms did not do as much wringing as their tongues did nagging, and every word was a bad one.

At first the peasants only slandered one another; but afterwards they began in real earnest to snatch anything that lay handy, and the children followed their example. Life became harder and harder for them. Iván Stcherbakóf and Limping Gabriel kept suing one another at the Village Assembly, and at the District Court, and before the Justice of the Peace until all the judges were tired of them. Now Gabriel got Iván fined or imprisoned; then Iván did as much to Gabriel; and the more they spited each other the angrier they grew -- like dogs that attack one another and get more and more furious the longer they fight. You strike one dog from behind, and it thinks it's the other dog biting him, and gets still fiercer. So these peasants: they went to law, and one or other of them was fined or locked up, but that only made them more and more angry with each other. 'Wait a bit,' they said, 'and I'll make you pay for it.' And so it went on for six years. Only the old man lying on the top of the oven kept telling them again and again: 'Children, what are you doing? Stop all this paying back; keep to your work, and don't bear malice -- it will be better for you. The more you bear malice, the worse it will be.'

But they would not listen to him.

In the seventh year, at a wedding, Ivan's daughter-in-law held Gabriel up to shame, accusing him of having been caught horse-stealing. Gabriel was tipsy, and unable to contain his anger, gave the woman such a blow that she was laid up for a week; and she was pregnant at the time. Iván was delighted. He went to the magistrate to lodge a complaint. 'Now I'll get rid of my neighbour! He won't escape imprisonment, or exile to Siberia.' But Ivan's wish was not fulfilled. The magistrate dismissed the case. The woman was examined, but she was up and about and showed no sign of any injury. Then Ivan went to the Justice of the Peace, but he referred the business to the District Court. Ivan bestirred himself: treated the clerk and the Elder of the District Court to a gallon of liquor and got Gabriel condemned to be flogged. The sentence was read out to Gabriel by the clerk: 'The Court decrees that the peasant Gabriel Gordéyef shall receive twenty lashes with a birch rod at the District Court.'

Ivan too heard the sentence read, and looked at Gabriel to see how he would take it. Gabriel grew as pale as a sheet, and turned round and went out into the passage. Ivan followed him, meaning to see to the horse, and he overheard Gabriel say, 'Very well! He will have my back flogged: that will make it burn; but something of his may burn worse than that!'

Hearing these words, Ivan at once went back into the Court, and said: 'Upright judges! He threatens to set my house on fire! Listen: he said it in the presence of witnesses!'

Gabriel was recalled. 'Is it true that you said this?'

'I haven't said anything. Flog me, since you have the power. It seems that I alone am to suffer, and all for being in the right, while he is allowed to do as he likes.'

Gabriel wished to say something more, but his lips and his cheeks quivered, and he turned towards the wall. Even the officials were frightened by his looks. 'He may do some mischief to himself or to his neighbour,' thought they.

Then the old Judge said: 'Look here, my men; you'd better be reasonable and make it up. Was it right of you, friend Gabriel, to strike a pregnant woman? It was lucky it passed off so well, but think what might have happened! Was it right? You had better confess and beg his pardon, and he will forgive you, and we will alter the sentence.'

The clerk heard these words, and remarked: 'That's impossible under Statute 117. An agreement between the parties not having been arrived at, a decision of the Court has been pronounced and must be executed.'

But the Judge would not listen to the clerk.

'Keep your tongue still, my friend,' said he. 'The first of all laws is to obey God, Who loves peace.' And the Judge began again to persuade the peasants, but could not succeed. Gabriel would not listen to him.

'I shall be fifty next year,' said he, 'and have a married son, and have never been flogged in my life, and now that pockmarked Ivan has had me condemned to be flogged, and am I to go and ask his forgiveness? No; I've borne enough. . . . Ivan shall have cause to remember me!'

Again Gabriel's voice quivered, and he could say no more, but turned round and went out.

It was seven miles from the Court to the village, and it was getting late when Ivan reached home. He unharnessed his horse, put it up for the night, and entered the cottage. No one was there. The women had already gone to drive the cattle in, and the young fellows were not yet back from the fields. Iván went in, and sat down, thinking. He remembered how Gabriel had listened to the sentence, and how pale he had become, and how he had turned to the wall; and Ivan's heart grew heavy. He thought how he himself would feel if he were sentenced, and he pitied Gabriel. Then he heard his old father up on the oven cough, and saw him sit up, lower his legs, and scramble down. The old man dragged himself slowly to a seat, and sat down. He was quite tired out with the exertion, and coughed a long time till he had cleared his throat. Then, leaning against the table, he said: 'Well, has he been condemned?'

'Yes, to twenty strokes with the rods,' answered Iván.

The old man shook his head.

'A bad business,' said he. 'You are doing wrong, Iván! Ah! it's very bad -- not for him so much as for yourself! . . . Well, they'll flog him: but will that do you any good?'

'He'll not do it again,' said Iván.

'What is it he'll not do again? What has he done worse than you?'

'Why, think of the harm he has done me!' said Iván. 'He nearly killed my wife, and now he's threatening to burn us up. Am I to thank him for it?'

The old man sighed, and said: 'You go about the wide world, Iván, while I am lying on the oven all these years, so you think you see everything, and that I see nothing. . . . Ah, lad! It's you that don't see; malice blinds you. Others' sins are before your eyes, but your own are behind your back. "He's acted badly!" What a thing to say! If he were the only one to act badly, how could strife exist? Is strife among men ever bred by one alone? Strife is always between two. His badness you see, but your own you don't. If he were bad, but you were good, there would be no strife. Who pulled the hair out of his beard? Who spoilt his haystack? Who dragged him to the law court? Yet you put it all on him! You live a bad life yourself, that's what is wrong! It's not the way I used to live, lad, and it's not the way I taught you. Is that the way his old father and I used to live? How did we live? Why, as neighbours should! If he happened to run out of flour, one of the women would come across: "Uncle Trol, we want some flour." "Go to the barn, dear," I'd say: "take what you need." If he'd no one to take his horses to pasture, "Go, Iván," I'd say, "and look after his horses." And if I was short of anything, I'd go to him. "Uncle Gordéy," I'd say, "I want so-and-so!" "Take it Uncle Trol!" That's how it was between us, and we had an easy time of it. But now? . . . That soldier the other day was telling us about the fight at Plevna (A town in Bulgaria, the scene of fierce and prolonged fighting between the Turks and the Russians in the war of 1877). . Why, there's war between you worse than at Plevna! Is that living? . . . What a sin it is! You are a man and master of the house; it's you who will have to answer. What are you teaching the women and the children? To snarl and snap? Why, the other day your Taráska -- that greenhorn -- was swearing at neighbour Irena, calling her names; and his mother listened and laughed. Is that right? It is you will have to answer. Think of your soul. Is this all as it should be? You throw a word at me, and I give you two in return; you give me a blow, and I give you two. No, lad! Christ, when He walked on earth, taught us fools something very different. . . . If you get a hard word from any one, keep silent, and his own conscience will accuse him. That is what our Lord taught. If you get a slap, turn the other cheek. "Here, beat me, if that's what I deserve!" And his own conscience will rebuke him. He will soften, and will listen to you. That's the way He taught us, not to be proud! . . . Why don't you speak? Isn't it as I say?'

Iván sat silent and listened.

The old man coughed, and having with difficulty cleared his throat, began again: 'You think Christ taught us wrong? Why, it's all for our own good. Just think of your earthly life; are you better off, or worse, since this Plevna began among you? Just reckon up what you've spent on all this law business -- what the driving backwards and forwards and your food on the way have cost you! What fine fellows your sons have grown; you might live and get on well; but now your means are lessening. And why? All because of this folly; because of your pride. You ought to be ploughing with your lads, and do the sowing yourself; but the fiend carries you off to the judge, or to some pettifogger or other. The ploughing is not done in time, nor the sowing, and mother earth can't bear properly. Why did the oats fail this year? When did you sow them? When you came back from town! And what did you gain? A burden for your own shoulders. . . . Eh, lad, think of your own business! Work with your boys in the field and at home, and if some one offends you, forgive him, as God wished you to. Then life will be easy, and your heart will always be light.'

Iván remained silent.

'Iván, my boy, hear your old father! Go and harness the roan, and go at once to the Government office; put an end to all this affair there; and in the morning go and make it up with Gabriel in God's name, and invite him to your house for to-morrow's holiday' (it was the eve of the Virgin's Nativity). 'Have tea ready, and get a bottle of vódka and put an end to this wicked business, so that there should not be any more of it in future, and tell the women and children to do the same.'

Iván sighed, and thought, 'What he says is true,' and his heart grew lighter. Only he did not know how, now, to begin to put matters right.

But again the old man began, as if he had guessed what was in Ivan's mind.

'Go, Iván, don't put it off! Put out the fire before it spreads, or it will be too late.'

The old man was going to say more, but before he could do so the women came in, chattering like magpies. The news that Gabriel was sentenced to be flogged, and of his threat to set fire to the house, had already reached them. They had heard all about it and added to it something of their own, and had again had a row, in the pasture, with the women of Gabriel's household. They began telling how Gabriel's daughter-in-law threatened a fresh action: Gabriel had got the right side of the examining magistrate, who would now turn the whole affair upside down; and the schoolmaster was writing out another petition, to the Tsar himself this time, about Iván; and everything was in the petition -- all about the coupling-pin and the kitchen-garden -- so that half of Ivan's homestead would be theirs soon. Iván heard what they were saying, and his heart grew cold again, and he gave up the thought of making peace with Gabriel.

In a farmstead there is always plenty for the master to do. Iván did not stop to talk to the women, but went out to the threshing-floor and to the barn. By the time he had tidied up there, the sun had set and the young fellows had returned from the field. They had been ploughing the field for the winter crops with two horses. Iván met them, questioned them about their work, helped to put everything in its place, set a torn horse-collar aside to be mended, and was going to put away some stakes under the barn, but it had grown quite dusk, so he decided to leave them where they were till next day. Then he gave the cattle their food, opened the gate, let out the horses. Tarás was to take to pasture for the night, and again closed the gate and barred it. 'Now,' thought he, 'I'll have my supper, and then to bed.' He took the horse-collar and entered the hut. By this time he had forgotten about Gabriel and about what his old father had been saying to him. But, just as he took hold of the door-handle to enter the passage, he heard his neighbour on the other side of the fence cursing somebody in a hoarse voice: 'What the devil is he good for?' Gabriel was saying. 'He's only fit to be killed!' At these words all Ivan's former bitterness towards his neighbour re-awoke. He stood listening while Gabriel scolded, and, when he stopped, Iván went into the hut.

There was a light inside; his daughter-in-law sat spinning, his wife was getting supper ready, his eldest son was making straps for bark shoes, his second sat near the table with a book, and Tarás was getting ready to go out to pasture the horses for the night. Everything in the hut would have been pleasant and bright, but for that plague -- a bad neighbour!

Iván entered, sullen and cross; threw the cat down from the bench, and scolded the women for putting the slop-pail in the wrong place. He felt despondent, and sat down, frowning, to mend the horse-collar. Gabriel's words kept ringing in his ears: his threat at the law court, and what he had just been shouting in a hoarse voice about some one who was 'only fit to be killed.'

His wife gave Tarás his supper, and, having eaten it, Tarás put on an old sheepskin and another coat, tied a sash round his waist, took some bread with him, and went out to the horses. His eldest brother was going to see him off, but Iván himself rose instead, and went out into the porch. It had grown quite dark outside, clouds had gathered, and the wind had risen. Iván went down the steps, helped his boy to mount, started the foal after him, and stood listening while Tarás rode down the village and was there joined by other lads with their horses. Iván waited until they were all out of hearing. As he stood there by the gate he could not get Gabriel's words out of his head: 'Mind that something of yours does not burn worse!'

'He is desperate,' thought Iván. 'Everything is dry, and it's windy weather besides. He'll come up at the back somewhere, set fire to something, and be off. He'll burn the place and escape scot free, the villain! . . . There now, if one could but catch him in the act, he'd not get off then!' And the thought fixed itself so firmly in his mind that he did not go up the steps but went out into the street and round the corner. I'll just walk round the buildings; who can tell what he's after?' And Iván, stepping softly, passed out of the gate. As soon as he reached the corner, he looked round along the fence, and seemed to see something suddenly move at the opposite corner, as if some one had come out and disappeared again. Iván stopped, and stood quietly, listening and looking. Everything was still; only the leaves of the willows fluttered in the wind, and the straws of the thatch rustled. At first it seemed pitch dark, but, when his eyes had grown used to the darkness, he could see the far corner, and a plough that lay there, and the eaves. He looked a while, but saw no one.

'I suppose it was a mistake,' thought Iván; 'but still I will go round,' and Iván went stealthily along by the shed. Iván stepped so softly in his bark shoes that he did not hear his own footsteps. As he reached the far corner, something seemed to flare up for a moment near the plough and to vanish again. Iván felt as if struck to the heart; and he stopped. Hardly had he stopped, when something flared up more brightly in the same place, and he clearly saw a man with a cap on his head, crouching down, with his back towards him, lighting a bunch of straw he held in his hand. Iván's heart fluttered within him like a bird. Straining every nerve, he approached with great strides, hardly feeling his legs under him. 'Ah,' thought Iván, 'now he won't escape! I'll catch him in the act!'

Iván was still some distance off, when suddenly he saw a bright light, but not in the same place as before, and not a small flame. The thatch had flared up at the eaves, the flames were reaching up to the roof, and, standing beneath it, Gabriel's whole figure was clearly visible.

Like a hawk swooping down on a lark, Iván rushed at Limping Gabriel. 'Now I'll have him; he shan't escape me!' thought Iván. But Gabriel must have heard his steps, and (however he managed it) glancing round, he scuttled away past the barn like a hare.

'You shan't escape!' shouted Iván, darting after him.

Just as he was going to seize Gabriel, the latter dodged him; but Iván managed to catch the skirt of Gabriel's coat. It tore right off, and Iván fell down. He recovered his feet, and shouting, 'Help! Seize him! Thieves! Murder!' ran on again. But meanwhile Gabriel had reached his own gate. There Iván overtook him and was about to seize him, when something struck Iván a stunning blow, as though a stone had hit his temple, quite deafening him. It was Gabriel who, seizing an oak wedge that lay near the gate, had struck out with all his might.

Iván was stunned; sparks flew before his eyes, then all grew dark and he staggered. When he came to his senses Gabriel was no longer there: it was as light as day, and from the side where his homestead was something roared and crackled like an engine at work. Iván turned round and saw that his back shed was all ablaze, and the side shed had also caught fire, and flames and smoke and bits of burning straw mixed with the smoke, were being driven towards his hut.

'What is this, friends? . . .' cried Iván, lifting his arms and striking his thighs.' Why, all I had to do was just to snatch it out from under the eaves and trample on it! What is this, friends? . . .' he kept repeating. He wished to shout, but his breath failed him; his voice was gone. He wanted to run, but his legs would not obey him, and got in each other's way. He moved slowly, but again staggered and again his breath failed. He stood still till he had regained breath, and then went on. Before he had got round the back shed to reach the fire, the side shed was also all ablaze; and the corner of the hut and the covered gateway had caught fire as well. The flames were leaping out of the hut, and it was impossible to get into the yard. A large crowd had collected, but nothing could be done. The neighbours were carrying their belongings out of their own houses, and driving the cattle out of their own sheds. After Ivan's house, Gabriel's also caught fire, then, the wind rising, the flames spread to the other side of the street and half the village was burnt down.

At Ivan's house they barely managed to save his old father; and the family escaped in what they had on; everything else, except the horses that had been driven out to pasture for the night, was lost; all the cattle, the fowls on their perches, the carts, ploughs, and harrows, the women's trunks with their clothes, and the grain in the granaries -- all were burnt up!

At Gabriel's, the cattle were driven out, and a few things saved from his house.

The fire lasted all night. Iván stood in front of his homestead and kept repeating, 'What is this? . . . Friends! . . . One need only have pulled it out and trampled on it!' But when the roof fell in, Iván rushed into the burning place, and seizing a charred beam, tried to drag it out. The women saw him, and called him back; but he pulled out the beam, and was going in again for another when he lost his footing and fell among the flames. Then his son made his way in after him and dragged him out. Iván had singed his hair and beard and burnt his clothes and scorched his hands, but he felt nothing. 'His grief has stupefied him,' said the people. The fire was burning itself out, but Iván still stood repeating: 'Friends! . . . What is this? . . . One need only have pulled it out!'

In the morning the village Elder's son came to fetch Iván.

'Daddy Iván, your father is dying! He has sent for you to say good-bye.'

Iván had forgotten about his father, and did not understand what was being said to him.

'What father?' he said. 'Whom has he sent for?'

'He sent for you, to say good-bye; he is dying in our cottage! Come along, daddy Iván,' said the Elder's son, pulling him by the arm; and Iván followed the lad.

When he was being carried out of the hut, some burning straw had fallen on to the old man and burnt him, and he had been taken to the village Elder's in the farther part of the village, which the fire did not reach.

When Iván came to his father, there was only the Elder's wife in the hut, besides some little children on the top of the oven. All the rest were still at the fire. The old man, who was lying on a bench holding a wax candle (Wax candles are much used in the services of the Russian Church, and it is usual to place one in the hand of a dying man, especially when he receives unction) in his hand, kept turning his eyes towards the door. When his son entered, he moved a little. The old woman went up to him and told him that his son had come. He asked to have him brought nearer. Iván came closer.

'What did I tell you, Iván?' began the old man 'Who has burnt down the village?'

'It was he, father!' Iván answered. 'I caught him in the act. I saw him shove the firebrand into the thatch. I might have pulled away the burning straw and stamped it out, and then nothing would have happened.'

'Iván,' said the old man, 'I am dying, and you in your turn will have to face death. Whose is the sin?'

Iván gazed at his father in silence, unable to utter a word.

'Now, before God, say whose is the sin? What did I tell you?'

Only then Iván came to his senses and understood it all. He sniffed and said, 'Mine, father!' And he fell on his knees before his father, saying, 'Forgive me, father; I am guilty before you and before God.'

The old man moved his hands, changed the candle from his right hand to his left, and tried to lift his right hand to his forehead to cross himself, but could not do it, and stopped.

'Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!' said he, and again he turned his eyes towards his son.

'Iván! I say, Iván!'

'What, father?'

'What must you do now?'

Iván was weeping.

'I don't know how we are to live now, father!' he said.

The old man closed his eyes, moved his lips as if to gather strength, and opening his eyes again, said: 'You'll manage. If you obey God's will, you'll manage!' He paused, then smiled, and said: 'Mind, Iván! Don't tell who started the fire! Hide another man's sin, and God will forgive two of yours!' And the old man took the candle in both hands and, folding them on his breast, sighed, stretched out, and died.

Iván did not say anything against Gabriel, and no one knew what had caused the fire.

And Ivan's anger against Gabriel passed away, and Gabriel wondered that Iván did not tell anybody. At first Gabriel felt afraid, but after awhile he got used to it. The men left off quarrelling, and then their families left off also. While rebuilding their huts, both families lived in one house; and when the village was rebuilt and they might have moved farther apart, Iván and Gabriel built next to each other, and remained neighbours as before.

They lived as good neighbours should. Iván Stcherbakóf remembered his old father's command to obey God's law, and quench a fire at the first spark; and if any one does him an injury he now tries not to revenge himself, but rather to set matters right again; and if any one gives him a bad word, instead of giving a worse in return, he tries to teach the other not to use evil words; and so he teaches his womenfolk and children. And Iván Stcherbakóf has got on his feet again, and now lives better even than he did before.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:23 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(Written c.1872)

[The adventure here narrated is one that happened to Tolstoy himself in 1858. More than twenty years later he gave up hunting, on humanitarian grounds.]


WE were out on a bear-hunting expedition. My comrade had shot at a bear, but only gave him a flesh-wound. There were traces of blood on the snow, but the bear had got away.

We all collected in a group in the forest, to decide whether we ought to go after the bear at once, or wait two or three days till he should settle down again. We asked the peasant bear-drivers whether it would be possible to get round the bear that day.

'No. It's impossible,' said an old bear-driver. 'You must let the bear quiet down. In five days' time it will be possible to surround him; but if you followed him now, you would only frighten him away, and he would not settle down.'

But a young bear-driver began disputing with the old man, saying that it was quite possible to get round the bear now.

'On such snow as this,' said he, 'he won't go far, for he is a fat bear. He will settle down before evening; or, if not, I can overtake him on snowshoes.'

The comrade I was with was against following up the bear, and advised waiting. But I said:

'We need not argue. You do as you like, but I will follow up the track with Damian. If we get round the bear, all right. If not, we lose nothing. It is still early, and there is nothing else for us to do to-day.'

So it was arranged.

The others went back to the sledges, and returned to the village. Damian and I took some bread, and remained behind in the forest.

When they had all left us, Damian and I examined our guns, and after tucking the skirts of our warm coats into our belts, we started off, following the bear's tracks.

The weather was fine, frosty and calm; but it was hard work snow-shoeing. The snow was deep and soft: it had not caked together at all in the forest, and fresh snow had fallen the day before, so that our snow-shoes sank six inches deep in the snow, and sometimes more.

The bear's tracks were visible from a distance, and we could see how he had been going; sometimes sinking in up to his belly and ploughing up the snow as he went. At first, while under large trees, we kept in sight of his track; but when it turned into a thicket of small firs, Damian stopped.

'We must leave the trail now,' said he. 'He has probably settled somewhere here. You can see by the snow that he has been squatting down. Let us leave the track and go round; but we must go quietly. Don't shout or cough, or we shall frighten him away.'

Leaving the track, therefore, we turned off to the left. But when we had gone about five hundred yards, there were the bear's traces again right before us. We followed them, and they brought us out on to the road. There we stopped, examining the road to see which way the bear had gone. Here and there in the snow were prints of the bear's paw, claws and all, and here and there the marks of a peasant's bark shoes. The bear had evidently gone towards the village.

As we followed the road, Damian said:

'It's no use watching the road now. We shall see where he has turned off, to right or left, by the marks in the soft snow at the side. He must have turned off somewhere; for he won't have gone on to the village.'

We went along the road for nearly a mile, and then saw, ahead of us, the bear's track turning off the road. We examined it. How strange! It was a bear's track right enough, only not going from the road into the forest, but from the forest on to the road! The toes were pointing towards the road.

'This must be another bear,' I said.

Damian looked at it, and considered a while.

'No,' said he. 'It's the same one. He's been playing tricks, and walked backwards when he left the road.'

We followed the track, and found it really was so! The bear had gone some ten steps backwards, and then, behind a fir tree, had turned round and gone straight ahead. Damian stopped and said:

'Now, we are sure to get round him. There is a marsh ahead of us, and he must have settled down there. Let us go round it.'

We began to make our way round, through a fir thicket. I was tired out by this time, and it had become still more difficult to get along. Now I glided on to juniper bushes and caught my snow-shoes in them, now a tiny fir tree appeared between my feet, or, from want of practise, my snow-shoes slipped off; and now I came upon a stump or a log hidden by the snow. I was getting very tired, and was drenched with perspiration; and I took off my fur cloak. And there was Damian all the time, gliding along as if in a boat, his snowshoes moving as if of their own accord, never catching against anything, nor slipping off. He even took my fur and slung it over his shoulder, and still kept urging me on.

We went on for two more miles, and came out on the other side of the marsh. I was lagging behind. My snow-shoes kept slipping off, and my feet stumbled. Suddenly Damian, who was ahead of me, stopped and waved his arm. When I came up to him, he bent down, pointing with his hand, and whispered:

'Do you see the magpie chattering above that undergrowth? It scents the bear from afar. That is where he must be.'

We turned off and went on for more than another half-mile, and presently we came on to the old track again. We had, therefore, been right round the bear who was now within the track we had left. We stopped, and I took off my cap and loosened all my clothes. I was as hot as in a steam bath, and as wet as a drowned rat. Damian too was flushed, and wiped his face with his sleeve.

'Well, sir,' he said, 'we have done our job, and now we must have a rest.'

The evening glow already showed red through the forest. We took off our snow-shoes and sat down on them, and got some bread and salt out of our bags. First I ate some snow, and then some bread; and the bread tasted so good, that I thought I had never in my life had any like it before. We sat there resting until it began to grow dusk, and then I asked Damian if it was far to the village.

'Yes,' he said. 'It must be about eight miles. We will go on there to-night, but now we must rest. Put on your fur coat, sir, or you'll be catching cold.'

Damian flattened down the snow, and breaking off some fir branches made a bed of them. We lay down side by side, resting our heads on our arms. I do not remember how I fell asleep. Two hours later I woke up, hearing something crack.

I had slept so soundly that I did not know where I was. I looked around me. How wonderful! I was in some sort of a hall, all glittering and white with gleaming pillars, and when I looked up I saw, through delicate white tracery, a vault, raven black and studded with coloured lights. After a good look, I remembered that we were in the forest, and that what I took for a hall and pillars, were trees covered with snow and hoar-frost, and the coloured lights were stars twinkling between the branches.

Hoar-frost had settled in the night; all the twigs were thick with it, Damian was covered with it, it was on my fur coat, and it dropped down from the trees. I woke Damian, and we put on our snowshoes and started. It was very quiet in the forest. No sound was heard but that of our snow-shoes pushing through the soft snow; except when now and then a tree, cracked by the frost, made the forest resound. Only once we heard the sound of a living creature. Something rustled close to us, and then rushed away. I felt sure it was the bear, but when we went to the spot whence the sound had come, we found the footmarks of hares, and saw several young aspen trees with their bark gnawed. We had startled some hares while they were feeding.

We came out on the road, and followed it, dragging our snow-shoes behind us. It was easy walking now. Our snow-shoes clattered as they slid behind us from side to side of the hard-trodden road. The snow creaked under our boots, and the cold hoar-frost settled on our faces like down. Seen through the branches, the stars seemed to be running to meet us, now twinkling, now vanishing, as if the whole sky were on the move.

I found my comrade sleeping, but woke him up, and related how we had got round the bear. After telling our peasant host to collect beaters for the morning, we had supper and lay down to sleep.

I was so tired that I could have slept on till midday, if my comrade had not roused me. I jumped up, and saw that he was already dressed, and busy doing something to his gun.

'Where is Damian?' said I.

'In the forest, long ago. He has already been over the tracks you made, and been back here, and now he has gone to look after the beaters.'

I washed and dressed, and loaded my guns; and then we got into a sledge, and started.

The sharp frost still continued. It was quiet, and the sun could not be seen. There was a thick mist above us, and hoar-frost still covered everything.

After driving about two miles along the road, as we came near the forest, we saw a cloud of smoke rising from a hollow, and presently reached a group of peasants, both men and women, armed with cudgels.

We got out and went up to them. The men sat roasting potatoes, and laughing and talking with the women.

Damian was there too; and when we arrived the people got up, and Damian led them away to place them in the circle we had made the day before. They went along in single file, men and women, thirty in all. The snow was so deep that we could only see them from their waists upwards. They turned into the forest, and my friend and I followed in their track.

Though they had trodden a path, walking was difficult, but, on the other hand, it was impossible to fall: it was like walking between two walls of snow.

We went on in this way for nearly half a mile, when all at once we saw Damian coming from another direction -- running towards us on his snowshoes, and beckoning us to join him. We went towards him, and he showed us where to stand. I took my place, and looked round me.

To my left were tall fir trees, between the trunks of which I could see a good way, and, like a black patch just visible behind the trees, I could see a beater. In front of me was a thicket of young firs, about as high as a man, their branches weighed down and stuck together with snow. Through this copse ran a path thickly covered with snow, and leading straight up to where I stood. The thicket stretched away to the right of me, and ended in a small glade, where I could see Damian placing my comrade.

I examined both my guns, and considered where I had better stand. Three steps behind me was a tall fir.

'That's where I'll stand,' thought I, 'and then I can lean my second gun against the tree'; and I moved towards the tree, sinking up to my knees in the snow at each step. I trod the snow down, and made a clearance about a yard square, to stand on. One gun I kept in my hand; the other, ready cocked, I placed leaning up against the tree. Then I unsheathed and replaced my dagger, to make sure that I could draw it easily in case of need.

Just as I had finished these preparations, I heard Damian shouting in the forest:

'He's up! He's up!'

And as soon as Damian shouted, the peasants round the circle all replied in their different voices.

'Up, up, up! Ou! Ou! Ou!' shouted the men.

'Ay! Ay! Ay!' screamed the women in high. pitched tones.

The bear was inside the circle, and as Damian drove him on, the people all round kept shouting. Only my friend and I stood silent and motionless, waiting for the bear to come towards us. As I stood gazing and listening, my heart beat violently. I trembled, holding my gun fast.

'Now now,' I thought. 'He will come suddenly. I shall aim, fire, and he will drop -- '

Suddenly, to my left, but at a distance, I heard something falling on the snow. I looked between the tall fir trees, and, some fifty paces off, behind the trunks, saw something big and black. I took aim and waited, thinking:

'Won't he come any nearer?'

As I waited I saw him move his ears, turn, and go back; and then I caught a glimpse of the whole of him in profile. He was an immense brute. In my excitement, I fired, and heard my bullet go 'flop' against a tree. Peering through the smoke, I saw my bear scampering back into the circle, and disappearing among the trees.

'Well,' thought I. 'My chance is lost. He won't come back to me. Either my comrade will shoot him, or he will escape through the line of beaters. In any case he won't give me another chance.'

I reloaded my gun, however, and again stood listening. The peasants were shouting all round, but to the right, not far from where my comrade stood, I heard a woman screaming in a frenzied voice: 'Here he is! Here he is! Come here, come here! Oh! Oh! Ay! Ay!'

Evidently she could see the bear. I had given up expecting him, and was looking to the right at my comrade. All at once I saw Damian with a stick in his hand, and without his snow-shoes, running along a footpath towards my friend. He crouched down beside him, pointing his stick as if aiming at something, and then I saw my friend raise his gun and aim in the same direction. Crack! He fired.

'There,' thought I. 'He has killed him.'

But I saw that my comrade did not run towards the bear. Evidently he had missed him, or the shot had not taken full effect.

'The bear will get away,' I thought. 'He will go back, but he won't come a second time towards me. -- But what is that?'

Something was coming towards me like a whirlwind, snorting as it came; and I saw the snow flying up quite near me. I glanced straight before me, and there was the bear, rushing along the path through the thicket right at me, evidently beside himself with fear. He was hardly half a dozen paces off, and I could see the whole of him -- his black chest and enormous head with a reddish patch. There he was, blundering straight at me, and scattering the snow about as he came. I could see by his eyes that he did not see me, but, mad with fear, was rushing blindly along; and his path led him straight at the tree under which I was standing. I raised my gun and fired. He was almost upon me now, and I saw that I had missed. My bullet had gone past him, and he did not even hear me fire, but still came headlong towards me. I lowered my gun, and fired again, almost touching his head. Crack! I had hit, but not killed him!

He raised his head, and laying his ears back, came at me, showing his teeth.

I snatched at my other gun, but almost before I had touched it, he had down at me and, knocking me over into the snow, had passed right over me.

'Thank goodness, he has left me,' thought I.

I tried to rise, but something pressed me down, and prevented my getting up. The bear's rush had carried him past me, but he had turned back, and had fallen on me with the whole weight of his body. I felt something heavy weighing me down, and something warm above my face, and I realized that he was drawing my whole face into his mouth. My nose was already in it, and I felt the heat of it, and smelt his blood. He was pressing my shoulders down with his paws so that I could not move: all I could do was to draw my head down towards my chest away from his mouth, trying to free my nose and eyes, while he tried to get his teeth into them. Then I felt that he had seized my forehead just under the hair with the teeth of his lower jaw, and the flesh below my eyes with his upper jaw, and was closing his teeth. It was as if my face were being cut with knives. I struggled to get away, while he made haste to close his jaws like a dog gnawing. I managed to twist my face away, but he began drawing it again into his mouth.

'Now,' thought I, 'my end has come!'

Then I felt the weight lifted, and looking up, I saw that he was no longer there. He had jumped off me and run away.

When my comrade and Damian had seen the bear knock me down and begin worrying me, they rushed to the rescue. My comrade, in his haste, blundered, and instead of following the trodden path, ran into the deep snow and fell down. While he was struggling out of the snow, the bear was gnawing at me. But Damian just as he was, without a gun, and with only a stick in his hand, rushed along the path shouting:

'He's eating the master! He's eating the master!'

And as he ran, he called to the bear:

'Oh you idiot! What are you doing? Leave off! Leave off!'

The bear obeyed him, and leaving me ran away. When I rose, there was as much blood on the snow as if a sheep had been killed, and the flesh hung in rags above my eyes, though in my excitement I felt no pain.

My comrade had come up by this time, and the other people collected round: they looked at my wound, and put snow on it. But I, forgetting about my wounds, only asked:

'Where's the bear? Which way has he gone?'

Suddenly I heard:

'Here he is! Here he is!'

And we saw the bear again running at us. We seized our guns, but before any one had time to fire he had run past. He had grown ferocious, and wanted to gnaw me again, but seeing so many people he took fright. We saw by his track that his head was bleeding and we wanted to follow him up; but, as my wounds had become very painful, we went, instead, to the town to find a doctor.

The doctor stitched up my wounds with silk, and they soon began to heal.

A month later we went to hunt that bear again, but I did not get a chance of finishing him. He would not come out of the circle, but went round and round growling in a terrible voice.

Damian killed him. The bear's lower jaw had been broken, and one of his teeth knocked out by my bullet.

He was a huge creature, and had splendid black fur.

I had him stuffed, and he now lies in my room. The wounds on my forehead healed up so that the scars can scarcely be seen

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:3 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(Written in 1870.)

AN officer named Zhílin was serving in the army in the Caucasus.

One day he received a letter from home. It was from his mother, who wrote: ‘I am getting old, and should like to see my dear son once more before I die. Come and say good-bye to me and bury me, and then, if God pleases, return to service again with my blessing. But I have found a girl for you, who is sensible and good and has some property. If you can love her, you might marry her and remain at home.’

Zhílin thought it over. It was quite true, the old lady was failing fast and he might not have another chance to see her alive. He had better go, and, if the girl was nice, why not marry her?

So he went to his Colonel, obtained leave of absence, said good-bye to his comrades, stood the soldiers four pailfuls of vódka as a farewell treat, and got ready to go.

It was a time of war in the Caucasus. The roads were not safe by night or day. If ever a Russian ventured to ride or walk any distance away from his fort, the Tartars killed him or carried him off to the hills. So it had been arranged that twice every week a body of soldiers should march from one fortress to the next to convoy travellers from point to point.

It was summer. At daybreak the baggage-train got ready under shelter of the fortress; the soldiers marched out; and all started along the road. Zhílin was on horseback, and a cart with his things went with the baggage-train. They had sixteen miles to go. The baggage-train moved slowly; sometimes the soldiers stopped, or perhaps a wheel would come off one of the carts, or a horse refuse to go on, and then everybody had to wait.

When by the sun it was already past noon, they had not gone half the way. It was dusty and hot, the sun was scorching and there was no shelter anywhere: a bare plain all round—not a tree, not a bush, by the road.

Zhílin rode on in front, and stopped, waiting for the baggage to overtake him. Then he heard the signal-horn sounded behind him: the company had again stopped. So he began to think: ‘Hadn’t I better ride on by myself? My horse is a good one: if the Tartars do attack me, I can gallop away. Perhaps, however, it would be wiser to wait.’

As he sat considering, Kostílin, an officer carrying a gun, rode up to him and said:

‘Come along, Zhílin, let’s go on by ourselves. It’s dreadful; I am famished, and the heat is terrible. My shirt is wringing wet.’

Kostílin was a stout, heavy man, and the perspiration was running down his red face. Zhílin thought awhile, and then asked: ‘Is your gun loaded?’

‘Yes it is.’

‘Well, then, let’s go, but on condition that we keep together.’

So they rode forward along the road across the plain, talking, but keeping a look-out on both sides. They could see afar all round. But after crossing the plain the road ran through a valley between two hills, and Zhílin said: ‘We had better climb that hill and have a look round, or the Tartars may be on us before we know it.’

But Kostílin answered: ‘What’s the use? Let us go on.’

Zhílin, however, would not agree.

‘No,’ he said; ‘you can wait here if you like, but I’ll go and look round.’ And he turned his horse to the left, up the hill. Zhílin’s horse was a hunter, and carried him up the hillside as if it had wings. (He had bought it for a hundred roubles as a colt out of a herd, and had broken it in himself.) Hardly had he reached the top of the hill, when he saw some thirty Tartars not much more than a hundred yards ahead of him. As soon as he caught sight of them he turned round but the Tartars had also seen him, and rushed after him at full gallop, getting their guns out as they went. Down galloped Zhílin as fast as the horse’s legs could go, shouting to Kostílin: ‘Get your gun ready!’

And, in thought, he said to his horse: ‘Get me well out of this, my pet; don’t stumble, for if you do it’s all up. Once I reach the gun, they shan’t take me prisoner.’

But, instead of waiting, Kostílin, as soon as he caught sight of the Tartars, turned back towards the fortress at full speed, whipping his horse now on one side now on the other, and its switching tail was all that could be seen of him in the dust.

Zhílin saw it was a bad look-out; the gun was gone, and what could he do with nothing but his sword? He turned his horse towards the escort, thinking to escape, but there were six Tartars rushing to cut him off. His horse was a good one, but theirs were still better; and besides, they were across his path. He tried to rein in his horse and to turn another way, but it was going so fast it could not stop, and dashed on straight towards the Tartars. He saw a red-bearded Tartar on a grey horse, with his gun raised, come at him, yelling and showing his teeth.

‘Ah,’ thought Zhílin, ‘I know you, devils that you are. If you take me alive, you’ll put me in a pit and flog me. I will not be taken alive!’

Zhílin, though not a big fellow, was brave. He drew his sword and dashed at the red-bearded Tartar thinking: ‘Either I’ll ride him down, or disable him with my sword.’

He was still a horse’s length away from him, when he was fired at from behind, and his horse was hit. It fell to the ground with all its weight, pinning Zhílin to the earth.

He tried to rise, but two ill-savoured Tartars were already sitting on him and binding his hands behind his back. He made an effort and flung them off, but three others jumped from their horses and began beating his head with the butts of their guns. His eyes grew dim, and he fell back. The Tartars seized him, and, taking spare girths from their saddles, twisted his hands behind him and tied them with a Tartar knot. They knocked his cap off, pulled off his boots, searched him all over, tore his clothes, and took his money and his watch.

Zhílin looked round at his horse. There it lay on its side, poor thing, just as it had fallen; struggling, its legs in the air, unable to touch the ground. There was a hole in its head, and black blood was pouring out, turning the dust to mud for a couple of feet around.

One of the Tartars went up to the horse and began taking the saddle off, it still kicked, so he drew a dagger and cut its windpipe. A whistling sound came from its throat, the horse gave one plunge, and all was over.

The Tartars took the saddle and trappings. The red-bearded Tartar mounted his horse, and the others lifted Zhílin into the saddle behind him. To prevent his falling off, they strapped him to the Tartar’s girdle; and then they all rode away to the hills.

So there sat Zhílin, swaying from side to side, his head striking against the Tartar’s stinking back. He could see nothing but that muscular back and sinewy neck, with its closely shaven, bluish nape. Zhílin’s head was wounded: the blood had dried over his eyes, and he could neither shift his position on the saddle nor wipe the blood off. His arms were bound so tightly that his collar-bones ached.

They rode up and down hills for a long way. Then they reached a river which they forded, and came to a hard road leading across a valley.

Zhílin tried to see where they were going, but his eyelids were stuck together with blood, and he could not turn.

Twilight began to fall; they crossed another river and rode up a stony hillside. There was a smell of smoke here, and dogs were barking. They had reached an Aoul (a Tartar village). The Tartars got off their horses; Tartar children came and stood round Zhílin, shrieking with pleasure and throwing stones at him.

The Tartar drove the children away, took Zhílin off the horse, and called his man. A Nogáy with high cheek-bones, and nothing on but a shirt (and that so torn that his breast was all bare), answered the call. The Tartar gave him an order. He went and fetched shackles: two blocks of oak with iron rings attached, and a clasp and lock fixed to one of the rings.

They untied Zhílin’s arms, fastened the shackles on his leg, and dragged him to a barn, where they pushed him in and locked the door.

Zhílin fell on a heap of manure. He lay still awhile then groped about to find a soft place, and settled down.

II

That night Zhílin hardly slept at all. It was the time of year when the nights are short, and daylight soon showed itself through a chink in the wall. He rose, scratched to make the chink bigger, and peeped out.

Through the hole he saw a road leading down-hill; to the right was a Tartar hut with two trees near it, a black dog lay on the threshold, and a goat and kids were moving about wagging their tails. Then he saw a young Tartar woman in a long, loose, bright-coloured gown, with trousers and high boots showing from under it. She had a coat thrown over her head, on which she carried a large metal jug filled with water. She was leading by the hand a small, closely-shaven Tartar boy, who wore nothing but a shirt; and as she went along balancing herself, the muscles of her back quivered. This woman carried the water into the hut, and, soon after, the red-bearded Tartar of yesterday came out dressed in a silk tunic, with a silver-hilted dagger hanging by his side, shoes on his bare feet, and a tall black sheepskin cap set far back on his head. He came out, stretched himself, and stroked his red beard. He stood awhile, gave an order to his servant, and went away.

Then two lads rode past from watering their horses. The horses’ noses were wet. Some other closely-shaven boys ran out, without any trousers, and wearing nothing but their shirts. They crowded together, came to the barn, picked up a twig, and began pushing it in at the chink. Zhílin gave a shout, and the boys shrieked and scampered off, their little bare knees gleaming as they ran.

Zhílin was very thirsty: his throat was parched, and he thought: ‘If only they would come and so much as look at me!’

Then he heard some one unlocking the barn. The red-bearded Tartar entered, and with him was another a smaller man, dark, with bright black eyes, red cheeks and a short beard. He had a merry face, and was always laughing. This man was even more richly dressed than the other. He wore a blue silk tunic trimmed with gold, a large silver dagger in his belt, red morocco slippers worked with silver, and over these a pair of thick shoes, and he had a white sheepskin cap on his head.

The red-bearded Tartar entered, muttered something as if he were annoyed, and stood leaning against the doorpost, playing with his dagger, and glaring askance at Zhílin, like a wolf. The dark one, quick and lively and moving as if on springs, came straight up to Zhílin, squatted down in front of him, slapped him on the shoulder, and began to talk very fast in his own language. His teeth showed, and he kept winking, clicking his tongue, and repeating, ‘Good Russ, good Russ.’

Zhílin could not understand a word, but said, ‘Drink! give me water to drink!’

The dark man only laughed. ‘Good Russ,’ he said, and went on talking in his own tongue.

Zhílin made signs with lips and hands that he wanted something to drink.

The dark man understood, and laughed. Then he looked out of the door, and called to some one: ‘Dina!’

A little girl came running in: she was about thirteen, slight, thin, and like the dark Tartar in face. Evidently she was his daughter. She, too, had clear black eyes, and her face was good-looking. She had on a long blue gown with wide sleeves, and no girdle. The hem of her gown, the front, and the sleeves, were trimmed with red. She wore trousers and slippers, and over the slippers stouter shoes with high heels. Round her neck she had a necklace made of Russian silver coins. She was bareheaded, and her black hair was plaited with a ribbon and ornamented with gilt braid and silver coins.

Her father gave an order, and she ran away and returned with a metal jug. She handed the water to Zhílin and sat down, crouching so that her knees were as high as her head, and there she sat with wide open eyes watching Zhílin drink, as though he were a wild animal.

When Zhílin handed the empty jug back to her, she gave such a sudden jump back, like a wild goat, that it made her father laugh. He sent her away for something else. She took the jug, ran out, and brought back some unleavened bread on a round board, and once more sat down, crouching, and looking on with staring eves.

Then the Tartars went away and again locked the door.

After a while the Nogáy came and said: ‘Ayda, the master, Ayda!’

He, too, knew no Russian. All Zhílin could make out was that he was told to go somewhere.

Zhílin followed the Nógay, but limped, for the shackles dragged his feet so that he could hardly step at all. On getting out of the barn he saw a Tartar village of about ten houses, and a Tartar church with a small tower. Three horses stood saddled before one of the houses; little boys were holding them by the reins. The dark Tartar came out of this house, beckoning with his hand for Zhílin to follow him. Then he laughed, said something in his own language, and returned into the house.

Zhílin entered. The room was a good one: the walls smoothly plastered with clay. Near the front wall lay a pile of bright-coloured feather beds; the side walls were covered with rich carpets used as hangings, and on these were fastened guns, pistols and swords, all inlaid with silver. Close to one of the walls was a small stove on a level with the earthen floor. The floor itself was as clean as a thrashing-ground. A large space in one corner was spread over with felt, on which were rugs, and on these rugs were cushions stuffed with down. And on these cushions sat five Tartars, the dark one, the red-haired one, and three guests. They were wearing their indoor slippers, and each had a cushion behind his back. Before them were standing millet cakes on a round board, melted butter in a bowl and a jug of buza, or Tartar beer. They ate both cakes and butter with their hands.

The dark man jumped up and ordered Zhílin to be placed on one side, not on the carpet but on the bare ground, then he sat down on the carpet again, and offered millet cakes and buza to his guests. The servant made Zhílin sit down, after which he took off his own overshoes, put them by the door where the other shoes were standing, and sat down nearer to his masters on the felt, watching them as they ate, and licking his lips.

The Tartars ate as much as they wanted, and a woman dressed in the same way as the girl—in a long gown and trousers, with a kerchief on her head— came and took away what was left, and brought a handsome basin, and an ewer with a narrow spout. The Tartars washed their hands, folded them, went down on their knees, blew to the four quarters, and said their prayers. After they had talked for a while, one of the guests turned to Zhílin and began to speak in Russian.

‘You were captured by Kazi-Mohammed,’ he said, and pointed at the red-bearded Tartar. ‘And Kazi-Mohammed has given you to Abdul Murat,’ pointing at the dark one. ‘Abdul Murat is now your master.’

Zhílin was silent. Then Abdul Murat began to talk, laughing, pointing to Zhílin, and repeating, ‘Soldier Russ, good Russ.’

The interpreter said, ‘He orders you to write home and tell them to send a ransom, and as soon as the money comes he will set you free.’

Zhílin thought for a moment, and said, ‘How much ransom does he want?’

The Tartars talked awhile, and then the interpreter said, ‘Three thousand roubles.’

‘No,’ said Zhílin,’ I can’t pay so much.’

Abdul jumped up and, waving his arms, talked to Zhílin’ thinking, as before, that he would understand. The interpreter translated: ‘How much will you give?’

Zhílin considered, and said, ‘Five hundred roubles.’ At this the Tartars began speaking very quickly, all together. Abdul began to shout at the red-bearded one, and jabbered so fast that the spittle spurted out of his mouth. The red-bearded one only screwed up his eyes and clicked his tongue.

They quietened down after a while, and the interpreter said, ‘Five hundred roubles is not enough for the master. He paid two hundred for you himself. Kazi-Mohammed was in debt to him, and he took you in payment. Three thousand roubles! Less than that won’t do. If you refuse to write, you will be put into a pit and flogged with a whip!’

‘Eh!’ thought Zhílin, ‘the more one fears them the worse it will be.’

So he sprang to his feet, and said, ‘You tell that dog that if he tries to frighten me I will not write at all, and he will get nothing. I never was afraid of you dogs, and never will be!’

The interpreter translated, and again they all began to talk at once.

They jabbered for a long time, and then the dark man jumped up, came to Zhílin, and said: ‘Dzhigit Russ, dzhigit Russ!’ (Dzhigit in their language means ‘brave.’) And he laughed, and said something to the interpreter, who translated: ‘One thousand roubles will satisfy him.’

Zhílin stuck to it: ‘I will not give more than five hundred. And if you kill me you’ll get nothing at all.’

The Tartars talked awhile, then sent the servant out to fetch something, and kept looking, now at Zhílin, now at the door. The servant returned, followed by a stout, bare-footed, tattered man, who also had his leg shackled.

Zhílin gasped with surprise: it was Kostílin. He, too, had been taken. They were put side by side, and began to tell each other what had occurred. While they talked, the Tartars looked on in silence. Zhílin related what had happened to him; and Kostílin told how his horse had stopped, his gun missed fire, and this same Abdul had overtaken and captured him.

Abdul jumped up, pointed to Kostílin, and said something. The interpreter translated that they both now belonged to one master, and the one who first paid the ransom would be set free first.

‘There now,’ he said to Zhílin, ‘you get angry, but your comrade here is gentle; he has written home, and they will send five thousand roubles. So he will be well fed and well treated.’

Zhílin replied: ‘My comrade can do as he likes; maybe he is rich, I am not. It must be as I said. Kill me, if you like—you will gain nothing by it; but I will not write for more than five hundred roubles.’

They were silent. Suddenly up sprang Abdul, brought a little box, took out a pen, ink, and a bit of paper, gave them to Zhílin, slapped him on the shoulder, and made a sign that he should write. He had agreed to take five hundred roubles.

‘Wait a bit!’ said Zhílin to the interpreter; ‘tell him that he must feed us properly, give us proper clothes and boots, and let us be together. It will be more cheerful for us. And he must have these shackles taken off our feet,’ and Zhílin looked at his master and laughed.

The master also laughed, heard the interpreter, and said: ‘I will give them the best of clothes: a cloak and boots fit to be married in. I will feed them like princes; and if they like they can live together in the barn. But I can’t take off the shackles, or they will run away. They shall be taken off, however, at night.’ And he jumped up and slapped Zhílin on the shoulder, exclaiming: ‘You good, I good!’

Zhílin wrote the letter, but addressed it wrongly, so that it should not reach its destination, thinking to himself: ‘I’ll run away!’

Zhílin and Kostílin were taken back to the barn and given some maize straw, a jug of water, some bread, two old cloaks, and some worn-out military boots— evidently taken from the corpses of Russian soldiers, At night their shackles were taken off their feet, and they were locked up in the barn.

III

Zhílin and his friend lived in this way for a whole month. The master always laughed and said: ‘You, Iván, good! I, Abdul, good!’ But he fed them badly giving them nothing but unleavened bread of millet-flour baked into flat cakes, or sometimes only unbaked dough.

Kostílin wrote home a second time, and did nothing but mope and wait for the money to arrive. He would sit for days together in the barn sleeping, or counting the days till a letter could come.

Zhílin knew his letter would reach no one, and he did not write another. He thought: ‘Where could my mother get enough money to ransom me? As it is she lived chiefly on what I sent her. If she had to raise five hundred roubles, she would be quite ruined. With God’s help I’ll manage to escape!’

So he kept on the look-out, planning how to run away.

He would walk about the Aoul whistling; or would sit working, modelling dolls of clay, or weaving baskets out of twigs: for Zhílin was clever with his hands.

Once he modelled a doll with a nose and hands and feet and with a Tartar gown on, and put it up on the roof. When the Tartar women came out to fetch water, the master’s daughter, Dina, saw the doll and called the women, who put down their jugs and stood looking and laughing. Zhílin took down the doll and held it out to them. They laughed, but dared not take it. He put down the doll and went into the barn, waiting to see what would happen.

Dina ran up to the doll, looked round, seized it, and ran away.

In the morning, at daybreak, he looked out. Dina came out of the house and sat down on the threshold with the doll, which she had dressed up in bits of red stuff, and she rocked it like a baby, singing a Tartar lullaby. An old woman came out and scolded her, and snatching the doll away she broke it to bits, and sent Dina about her business.

But Zhílin made another doll, better than the first, and gave it to Dina. Once Dina brought a little jug, put it on the ground, sat down gazing at him, and laughed, pointing to the jug.

‘What pleases her so?’ wondered Zhílin. He took the jug thinking it was water, but it turned out to be milk. He drank the milk and said: ‘That’s good!’

How pleased Dina was! ‘Good, Iván, good!’ said she, and she jumped up and clapped her hands. Then, seizing the jug, she ran away. After that, she stealthily brought him some milk every day.

The Tartars make a kind of cheese out of goat’s milk, which they dry on the roofs of their houses; and sometimes, on the sly, she brought him some of this cheese. And once, when Abdul had killed a sheep she brought Zhílin a bit of mutton in her sleeve. She would just throw the things down and run away.

One day there was a heavy storm, and the rain fell in torrents for a whole hour. All the streams became turbid. At the ford, the water rose till it was seven feet high, and the current was so strong that it rolled the stones about. Rivulets flowed everywhere, and the rumbling in the hills never ceased. When the storm was over, the water ran in streams down the village street. Zhílin got his master to lend him a knife, and with it he shaped a small cylinder, and cutting some little boards, he made a wheel to which he fixed two dolls, one on each side. The little girls brought him some bits of stuff, and he dressed the dolls, one as a peasant, the other as a peasant woman. Then he fastened them in their places, and set the wheel so that the stream should work it. The wheel began to turn and the dolls danced.

The whole village collected round. Little boys and girls, Tartar men and women, all came and clicked their tongues.

‘Ah, Russ! Ah, Iván!’

Abdul had a Russian clock, which was broken. He called Zhílin and showed it to him, clicking his tongue.

‘Give it me, I’ll mend it for you,’ said Zhílin.

He took it to pieces with the knife, sorted the pieces, and put them together again, so that the clock went all right.

The master was delighted, and made him a present of one of his old tunics which was all in holes. Zhílin had to accept it. He could, at any rate, use it as a coverlet at night.

After that Zhílin’s fame spread; and Tartars came from distant villages, bringing him now the lock of a gun or of a pistol, now a watch, to mend. His master gave him some tools—pincers, gimlets, and a file.

One day a Tartar fell ill, and they came to Zhílin saying, ‘Come and heal him!’ Zhílin knew nothing about doctoring, but he went to look, and thought to himself, ‘Perhaps he will get well anyway.’

He returned to the barn, mixed some water with sand, and then in the presence of the Tartars whispered some words over it and gave it to the sick man to drink. Luckily for him, the Tartar recovered.

Zhílin began to pick up their language a little, and some of the Tartars grew familiar with him. When they wanted him, they would call: ‘Iván! Iván!’ Others, however, still looked at him askance, as at a wild beast.

The red-bearded Tartar disliked Zhílin. Whenever he saw him he frowned and turned away, or swore at him. There was also an old man there who did not live in the Aoul, but used to come up from the foot of the hill. Zhílin only saw him when he passed on his way to the Mosque. He was short, and had a white cloth wound round his hat. His beard and moustaches were clipped, and white as snow; and his face was wrinkled and brick-red. His nose was hooked like a hawk’s, his grey eyes looked cruel, and he had no teeth except two tusks. He would pass, with his turban on his head, leaning on his staff, and glaring round him like a wolf. If he saw Zhílin he would snort with anger and turn away.

Once Zhílin descended the hill to see where the old man lived. He went down along the pathway and came to a little garden surrounded by a stone wall; and behind the wall he saw cherry and apricot trees, and a hut with a flat roof. He came closer, and saw hives made of plaited straw, and bees flying about and humming. The old man was kneeling, busy doing something with a hive. Zhílin stretched to look, and his shackles rattled. The old man turned round, and, giving a yell, snatched a pistol from his belt and shot at Zhílin, who just managed to shelter himself behind the stone wall.

The old man went to Zhílin’s master to complain. The master called Zhílin, and said with a laugh, ‘Why did you go to the old man’s house?’

‘I did him no harm,’ replied Zhílin. ‘I only wanted to see how he lived.’

The master repeated what Zhílin said.

But the old man was in a rage; he hissed and jabbered, showing his tusks, and shaking his fists at Zhílin.

Zhílin could not understand all, but he gathered that the old man was telling Abdul he ought not to keep Russians in the Aoul, but ought to kill them. At last the old man went away.

Zhílin asked the master who the old man was.

‘He is a great man!’ said the master. ‘He was the bravest of our fellows; he killed many Russians and was at one time very rich. He had three wives and eight sons, and they all lived in one village. Then the Russians came and destroyed the village, and killed seven of his sons. Only one son was left, and he gave himself up to the Russians. The old man also went and gave himself up, and lived among the Russians for three months. At the end of that time he found his son, killed him with his own hands, and then escaped. After that he left off fighting, and went to Mecca to pray to God; that is why he wears a turban. One who has been to Mecca is called “Hadji,” and wears a turban. He does not like you fellows. He tells me to kill you. But I can’t kill you. I have paid money for you and, besides, I have grown fond of you, Iván. Far from killing you, I would not even let you go if I had not promised.’ And he laughed, saying in Russian, ‘You, Iván, good; I, Abdul, good!’

IV

Zhílin lived in this way for a month. During the day he sauntered about the Aoul or busied himself with some handicraft, but at night, when all was silent in the Aoul, he dug at the floor of the barn. It was no easy task digging, because of the stones; but he worked away at them with his file, and at last had made a hole under the wall large enough to get through.

‘If only I could get to know the lay of the land,’ thought he, ‘and which way to go! But none of the Tartars will tell me.’

So he chose a day when the master was away from home, and set off after dinner to climb the hill beyond the village, and to look around. But before leaving home the master always gave orders to his son to watch Zhílin, and not to lose sight of him. So the lad ran after Zhílin, shouting: ‘Don’t go! Father does not allow it. I’ll call the neighbours if you won’t come back.’

Zhílin tried to persuade him, and said: ‘I’m not going far; I only want to climb that hill. I want to find a herb—to cure sick people with. You come with me if you like. How can I run away with these shackles on? To-morrow I’ll make a bow and arrows for you.’

So he persuaded the lad, and they went. To look at the hill, it did not seem far to the top; but it was hard walking with shackles on his leg. Zhílin went on and on, but it was all he could do to reach the top. There he sat down and noted how the land lay. To the south, beyond the barn, was a valley in which a herd of horses was pasturing and at the bottom of the valley one could see another Aoul. Beyond that was a still steeper hill, and another hill beyond that. Between the hills, in the blue distance, were forests, and still further off were mountains, rising higher and higher. The highest of them were covered with snow, white as sugar; and one snowy peak towered above all the rest. To the east and to the west were other such hills, and here and there smoke rose from Aouls in the ravines. ‘Ah,’ thought he, ‘all that is Tartar country.’ And he turned towards the Russian side. At his feet he saw a river, and the Aoul he lived in, surrounded by little gardens. He could see women, like tiny dolls, sitting by the river rinsing clothes. Beyond the Aoul was a hill, lower than the one to the south, and beyond it two other hills well wooded; and between these, a smooth bluish plain, and far, far across the plain something that looked like a cloud of smoke. Zhílin tried to remember where the sun used to rise and set when he was living in the fort, and he saw that there was no mistake: the Russian fort must be in that plain. Between those two hills he would have to make his way when he escaped.

The sun was beginning to set. The white, snowy mountains turned red, and the dark hills turned darker; mists rose from the ravine, and the valley, where he supposed the Russian fort to be, seemed on fire with the sunset glow. Zhílin looked carefully. Something seemed to be quivering in the valley like smoke from a chimney, and he felt sure the Russian fortress was there.

It had grown late. The Mullah’s cry was heard. The herds were being driven home, the cows were lowing, and the lad kept saying, ‘Come home!’ But Zhílin did not feel inclined to go away.

At last, however, they went back. ‘Well,’ thought Zhílin, ‘now that I know the way, it is time to escape.’ He thought of running away that night. The nights were dark—the moon had waned. But as ill-luck would have it, the Tartars returned home that evening. They generally came back driving cattle before them and in good spirits. But this time they had no cattle. All they brought home was the dead body of a Tartar —the red one’s brother—who had been killed. They came back looking sullen, and they all gathered together for the burial. Zhílin also came out to see it.

They wrapped the body in a piece of linen, without any coffin, and carried it out of the village, and laid it on the grass under some plane-trees. The Mullah and the old men came. They wound clothes round their caps, took off their shoes, and squatted on their heels, side by side, near the corpse.

The Mullah was in front: behind him in a row were three old men in turbans, and behind them again the other Tartars. All cast down their eyes and sat in silence. This continued a long time, until the Mullah raised his head and said: ‘Allah!’ (which means God). He said that one word, and they all cast down their eyes again, and were again silent for a long time. They sat quite still, not moving or making any sound.

Again the Mullah lifted his head and said, ‘Allah!’ and they all repeated: ‘Allah! Allah!’ and were again silent.

The dead body lay immovable on the grass, and they sat as still as if they too were dead. Not one of them moved. There was no sound but that of the leaves of the plane-trees stirring in the breeze. Then the Mullah repeated a prayer, and they all rose. They lifted the body and carried it in their arms to a hole in the ground. It was not an ordinary hole, but was hollowed out under the ground like a vault. They took the body under the arms and by the legs, bent it, and let it gently down, pushing it under the earth in a sitting posture, with the hands folded in front.

The Nogáy brought some green rushes, which they stuffed into the hole, and, quickly covering it with earth, they smoothed the ground, and set an upright stone at the head of the grave. Then they trod the earth down, and again sat in a row before the grave, keeping silence for a long time.

At last they rose, said ‘Allah! Allah! Allah!’ and sighed.

The red-bearded Tartar gave money to the old men; then he too rose, took a whip, struck himself with it three times on the forehead, and went home.

The next morning Zhílin saw the red Tartar, followed by three others, leading a mare out of the village. When they were beyond the village, the red-bearded Tartar took off his tunic and turned up his sleeves, showing his stout arms. Then he drew a dagger and sharpened it on a whetstone. The other Tartars raised the mare’s head, and he cut her throat, threw her down and began skinning her, loosening the hide with his big hands. Women and girls came and began to wash the entrails and the inwards. The mare was cut up, the pieces taken into the hut, and the whole village collected at the red Tartar’s hut for a funeral feast.

For three days they went on eating the flesh of the mare, drinking buza, and praying for the dead man. All the Tartars were at home. On the fourth day at dinner-time Zhílin saw them preparing to go away. Horses were brought out, they got ready, and some ten of them (the red one among them) rode away; but Abdul stayed at home. It was new moon, and the nights were still dark.

‘Ah!’ thought Zhílin, ‘to-night is the time to escape.’ And he told Kostílin; but Kostílin’s heart failed him.

‘How can we escape?’ he said. ‘We don’t even know the way.’

‘I know the way,’ said Zhílin.

‘Even if you do’’ said Kostílin, ‘we can’t reach the fort in one night.’

‘If we can’t,’ said Zhílin, ‘we’ll sleep in the forest. See here, I have saved some cheeses. What’s the good of sitting and moping here? If they send your ransom —well and good; but suppose they don’t manage to collect it? The Tartars are angry now, because the Russians have killed one of their men. They are talking of killing us.’

Kostílin thought it over.

‘Well, let’s go,’ said he.

Zhílin crept into the hole, widened it so that Kostílin might also get through, and then they both sat waiting till all should be quiet in the Aoul.

As soon as all was quiet, Zhílin crept under the wall, got out, and whispered to Kostílin, ‘Come!’ Kostílin crept out, but in so doing he caught a stone with his foot and made a noise. The master had a very vicious watch-dog, a spotted one called Oulyashin. Zhílin had been careful to feed him for some time before. Oulyashin heard the noise and began to bark and jump, and the other dogs did the same. Zhílin gave a slight whistle, and threw him a bit of cheese. Oulyashin knew Zhílin, wagged his tail, and stopped barking.

But the master had heard the dog, and shouted to him from his hut, ‘Hayt, hayt, Oulyashin!’

Zhílin, however, scratched Oulyashin behind the ears, and the dog was quiet, and rubbed against his legs, wagging his tail

They sat hidden behind a corner for awhile. All became silent again, only a sheep coughed inside a shed, and the water rippled over the stones in the hollow. It was dark, the stars were high overhead, and the new moon showed red as it set, horns upward, behind the hill. In the valleys the fog was white as milk.

Zhílin rose and said to his companion, ‘Well, friend, come along!’

They started; but they had only gone a few steps when they heard the Mullah crying from the roof, ‘Allah, Beshmillah! Ilrahman!’ That meant that the people would be going to the Mosque. So they sat down again, hiding behind a wall, and waited a long time till the people had passed. At last all was quiet again.

‘Now then! May God be with us!’ They crossed themselves, and started once more. They passed through a yard and went down the hillside to the river, crossed the river, and went along the valley.

The mist was thick, but only near the ground; overhead the stars shone quite brightly. Zhílin directed their course by the stars. It was cool in the mist, and easy walking, only their boots were uncomfortable, being worn out and trodden down. Zhílin took his off, threw them away, and went barefoot, jumping from stone to stone, and guiding his course by the stars. Kostílin began to lag behind.

‘Walk slower,’ he said, ‘these confounded boots have quite blistered my feet.’

‘Take them off!’ said Zhílin. ‘It will be easier walking without them.’

Kostílin went barefoot, but got on still worse. The stones cut his feet and he kept lagging behind. Zhílin said: ‘If your feet get cut, they’ll heal again; but if the Tartars catch us and kill us, it will be worse!’

Kostílin did not reply, but went on, groaning all the time.

Their way lay through the valley for a long time. Then, to the right, they heard dogs barking. Zhílin stopped, looked about, and began climbing the hill feeling with his hands.

‘Ah!’ said he, ‘we have gone wrong, and have come too far to the right. Here is another Aoul, one I saw from the hill. We must turn back and go up that hill to the left. There must be a wood there.’

But Kostílin said: ‘Wait a minute! Let me get breath. My feet are all cut and bleeding.’

‘Never mind, friend! They’ll heal again. You should spring more lightly. Like this!’

And Zhílin ran back and turned to the left up the hill towards the wood.

Kostílin still lagged behind, and groaned. Zhílin only said ‘Hush!’ and went on and on.

They went up the hill and found a wood as Zhílin had said. They entered the wood and forced their way through the brambles, which tore their clothes. At last they came to a path and followed it.

‘Stop!’ They heard the tramp of hoofs on the path, and waited, listening. It sounded like the tramping of a horse’s feet, but then ceased. They moved on, and again they heard the tramping. When they paused, it also stopped. Zhílin crept nearer to it, and saw something standing on the path where it was not quite so dark. It looked like a horse, and yet not quite like one, and on it was something queer, not like a man. He heard it snorting. ‘What can it be?’ Zhílin gave a low whistle, and off it dashed from the path into the thicket, and the woods were filled with the noise of crackling, as if a hurricane were sweeping through, breaking the branches.

Kostílin was so frightened that he sank to the ground. But Zhílin laughed and said: ‘It’s a stag. Don’t you hear him breaking the branches with his antlers? We were afraid of him, and he is afraid of us.’

They went on. The Great Bear was already setting. It was near morning, and they did not know whether they were going the right way or not. Zhílin thought it was the way he had been brought by the Tartars, and that they were still some seven miles from the Russian fort; but he had nothing certain to go by, and at night one easily mistakes the way. After a time they came to a clearing. Kostílin sat down and said: ‘Do as you like, I can go no farther! My feet won’t carry me.’

Zhílin tried to persuade him.

‘No I shall never get there, I can’t!’

Zhílin grew angry, and spoke roughly to him.

‘Well, then, I shall go on alone. Good-bye!’

Kostílin jumped up and followed. They went another three miles. The mist in the wood had settled down still more densely; they could not see a yard before them, and the stars had grown dim.

Suddenly they heard the sound of a horse’s hoofs in front of them. They heard its shoes strike the stones. Zhílin lay down flat, and listened with his ear to the ground.

‘Yes, so it is! A horseman is coming towards us.’

They ran off the path, crouched among the bushes and waited. Zhílin crept to the road, looked, and saw a Tartar on horseback driving a cow and humming to himself. The Tartar rode past. Zhílin returned to Kostílin.

‘God has led him past us; get up and let’s go on!’

Kostílin tried to rise, but fell back again.

‘I can’t; on my word I can’t! I have no strength left.’

He was heavy and stout, and had been perspiring freely. Chilled by the mist, and with his feet all bleeding, he had grown quite limp.

Zhílin tried to lift him, when suddenly Kostílin screamed out: ‘Oh, how it hurts!’

Zhílin’s heart sank.

‘What are you shouting for? The Tartar is still near; he’ll have heard you!’ And he thought to himself, ‘He is really quite done up. What am I to do with him? It won’t do to desert a comrade.’

‘Well, then, get up, and climb up on my back. I’ll carry you if you really can’t walk.’

He helped Kostílin up, and put his arms under his thighs. Then he went out on to the path, carrying him.

‘Only, for the love of heaven,’ said Zhílin, ‘don’t throttle me with your hands! Hold on to my shoulders.’

Zhílin found his load heavy; his feet, too, were bleeding, and he was tired out. Now and then he stooped to balance Kostílin better, jerking him up so that he should sit higher, and then went on again.

The Tartar must, however, really have heard Kostílin scream. Zhílin suddenly heard some one galloping behind and shouting in the Tartar tongue. He darted in among the bushes. The Tartar seized his gun and fired, but did not hit them, shouted in his own language, and galloped off along the road.

‘Well, now we are lost, friend!’ said Zhílin. ‘That dog will gather the Tartars together to hunt us down. Unless we can get a couple of miles away from here we are lost!’ And he thought to himself, ‘Why the devil did I saddle myself with this block? I should have got away long ago had I been alone.’

‘Go on alone,’ said Kostílin. ‘Why should you perish because of me?’

‘No I won’t go. It won’t do to desert a comrade.’

Again he took Kostílin on his shoulders and staggered on. They went on in that way for another half-mile or more. They were still in the forest, and could not see the end of it. But the mist was already dispersing, and clouds seemed to be gathering, the stars were no longer to be seen. Zhílin was quite done up. They came to a spring walled in with stones by the side of the path. Zhílin stopped and set Kostílin down.

‘Let me have a rest and a drink,’ said he, ‘and let us eat some of the cheese. It can’t be much farther now.’

But hardly had he lain down to get a drink, when he heard the sound of horses’ feet behind him. Again they darted to the right among the bushes, and lay down under a steep slope.

They heard Tartar voices. The Tartars stopped at the very spot where they had turned off the path. The Tartars talked a bit, and then seemed to be setting a dog on the scent. There was a sound of crackling twigs, and a strange dog appeared from behind the bushes. It stopped, and began to bark.

Then the Tartars, also strangers, came climbing down, seized Zhílin and Kostílin, bound them, put them on horses, and rode away with them.

When they had ridden about two miles, they met Abdul, their owner, with two other Tartars following him. After talking with the strangers, he put Zhílin and Kostílin on two of his own horses and took them back to the Aoul.

Abdul did not laugh now, and did not say a word to them.

They were back at the Aoul by daybreak, and were set down in the street. The children came crowding round, throwing stones, shrieking, and beating them with whips.

The Tartars gathered together in a circle, and the old man from the foot of the hill was also there. They began discussing, and Zhílin heard them considering what should be done with him and Kostílin. Some said they ought to be sent farther into the mountains; but the old man said: ‘They must be killed!’

Abdul disputed with him, saying: ‘I gave money for them, and I must get ransom for them.’ But the old man said: ‘They will pay you nothing, but will only bring misfortune. It is a sin to feed Russians. Kill them, and have done with it!’

They dispersed. When they had gone, the master came up to Zhílin and said: ‘If the money for your ransom is not sent within a fortnight, I will flog you; and if you try to run away again, I’ll kill you like a dog! Write a letter, and write properly!’

Paper was brought to them, and they wrote the letters. Shackles were put on their feet, and they were taken behind the Mosque to a deep pit about twelve feet square, into which they were let down.

VI

Life was now very hard for them. Their shackles were never taken off, and they were not let out into the fresh air. Unbaked dough was thrown to them as if they were dogs, and water was let down in a can.

It was wet and close in the pit, and there was a horrible stench. Kostílin grew quite ill, his body became swollen and he ached all over, and moaned or slept all the time. Zhílin, too, grew downcast; he saw it was a bad look-out, and could think of no way of escape.

He tried to make a tunnel, but there was nowhere to put the earth. His master noticed it, and threatened to kill him.

He was sitting on the floor of the pit one day, thinking of freedom and feeling very downhearted, when suddenly a cake fell into his lap, then another, and then a shower of cherries. He looked up, and there was Dina. She looked at him, laughed, and ran away. And Zhílin thought: ‘Might not Dina help me?’

He cleared out a little place in the pit, scraped up some clay, and began modelling toys. He made men, horses, and dogs, thinking, ‘When Dina comes I’ll throw them up to her.’

But Dina did not come next day. Zhílin heard the tramp of horses; some men rode past, and the Tartars gathered in council near the Mosque. They shouted and argued; the word ‘Russians’ was repeated several times. He could hear the voice of the old man. Though he could not distinguish what was said, he guessed that Russian troops were somewhere near, and that the Tartars, afraid they might come into the Aoul, did not know what to do with their prisoners.

After talking awhile, they went away. Suddenly he heard a rustling overhead, and saw Dina crouching at the edge of the pit, her knees higher than her head, and bending over so that the coins of her plait dangled above the pit. Her eyes gleamed like stars. She drew two cheeses out of her sleeve and threw them to him. Zhílin took them and said, ‘Why did you not come before? I have made some toys for you. Here, catch!’ And he began throwing the toys up, one by one.

But she shook her head and would not look at them.

‘I don’t want any,’ she said. She sat silent for awhile, and then went on, ‘Iván, they want to kill you!’ And she pointed to her own throat.

‘Who wants to kill me?’

‘Father; the old men say he must. But I am sorry for you!’

Zhílin answered: ‘Well, if you are sorry for me, bring me a long pole.’

She shook her head, as much as to say, ‘I can’t!’

He clasped his hands and prayed her: ‘Dina, please do! Dear Dina, I beg of you!’

‘I can’t!’ she said, ‘they would see me bringing it. They’re all at home.’ And she went away.

So when evening came Zhílin still sat looking up now and then, and wondering what would happen. The stars were there, but the moon had not yet risen. The Mullah’s voice was heard; then all was silent. Zhílin was beginning to doze, thinking: ‘The girl will be afraid to do it!’

Suddenly he felt clay falling on his head. He looked up, and saw a long pole poking into the opposite wall of the pit. It kept poking about for a time, and then it came down, sliding into the pit. Zhílin was glad indeed. He took hold of it and lowered it. It was a strong pole, one that he had seen before on the roof of his master’s hut.

He looked up. The stars were shining high in the sky, and just above the pit Dina’s eyes gleamed in the dark like a cat’s. She stooped with her face close to the edge of the pit, and whispered, ‘Iván! Iván!’ waving her hand in front of her face to show that he should speak low.

‘What?’ said Zhílin.

‘All but two have gone away.’

Then Zhílin said, ‘Well, Kostílin, come; let us have one last try; I’ll help you up.’

But Kostílin would not hear of it.

‘No,’ said he, ‘It’s clear I can’t get away from here. How can I go, when I have hardly strength to turn round?’

‘Well, good-bye, then! Don’t think ill of me!’ and they kissed each other. Zhílin seized the pole, told Dina to hold on, and began to climb. He slipped once or twice; the shackles hindered him. Kostílin helped him, and he managed to get to the top. Dina with her little hands, pulled with all her might at his shirt, laughing.

Zhílin drew out the pole and said, ‘Put it back in its place, Dina, or they’ll notice, and you will be beaten.’

She dragged the pole away, and Zhílin went down the hill. When he had gone down the steep incline, he took a sharp stone and tried to wrench the lock off the shackles. But it was a strong lock and he could not manage to break it, and besides, it was difficult to get at. Then he heard some one running down the hill, springing lightly. He thought: ‘Surely, that’s Dina again.’

Dina came, took a stone and said, ‘Let me try.’

She knelt down and tried to wrench the lock off, but her little hands were as slender as little twigs, and she had not the strength. She threw the stone away and began to cry. Then Zhílin set to work again at the lock, and Dina squatted beside him with her hand on his shoulder.

Zhílin looked round and saw a red light to the left behind the hill. The moon was just rising. ‘Ah!’ he thought, ‘before the moon has risen I must have passed the valley and be in the forest.’ So he rose and threw away the stone. Shackles or no, he must go on.

‘Good-bye, Dina dear!’ he said. ‘I shall never forget you!’

Dina seized hold of him and felt about with her hands for a place to put some cheeses she had brought. He took them from her.

‘Thank you, my little one. Who will make dolls for you when I am gone?’ And he stroked her head.

Dina burst into tears hiding her face in her hands. Then she ran up the hill like a young goat, the coins in her plait clinking against her back.

Zhílin crossed himself took the lock of his shackles in his hand to prevent its clattering, and went along the road, dragging his shackled leg, and looking towards the place where the moon was about to rise. He now knew the way. If he went straight he would have to walk nearly six miles. If only he could reach the wood before the moon had quite risen! He crossed the river; the light behind the hill was growing whiter. Still looking at it, he went along the valley. The moon was not yet visible. The light became brighter, and one side of the valley was growing lighter and lighter, and shadows were drawing in towards the foot of the hill, creeping nearer and nearer to him.

Zhílin went on, keeping in the shade. He was hurrying, but the moon was moving still faster; the tops of the hills on the right were already lit up. As he got near the wood the white moon appeared from behind the hills, and it became light as day. One could see all the leaves on the trees. It was light on the hill, but silent, as if nothing were alive; no sound could be heard but the gurgling of the river below.

Zhílin reached the wood without meeting any one, chose a dark spot, and sat down to rest.

He rested and ate one of the cheeses. Then he found a stone and set to work again to knock off the shackles. He knocked his hands sore, but could not break the lock. He rose and went along the road. After walking the greater part of a mile he was quite done up, and his feet were aching. He had to stop every ten steps. ‘There is nothing else for it,’ thought he. ‘I must drag on as long as I have any strength left. If I sit down, I shan’t be able to rise again. I can’t reach the fortress; but when day breaks I’ll lie down in the forest, remain there all day, and go on again at night.’

He went on all night. Two Tartars on horseback passed him; but he heard them a long way off, and hid behind a tree.

The moon began to grow paler, the dew to fall. It was getting near dawn, and Zhílin had not reached the end of the forest. ‘Well,’ thought he, ‘I’ll walk another thirty steps, and then turn in among the trees and sit down.’

He walked another thirty steps, and saw that he was at the end of the forest. He went to the edge; it was now quite light, and straight before him was the plain and the fortress. To the left, quite close at the foot of the slope, a fire was dying out, and the smoke from it spread round. There were men gathered about the fire.

He looked intently, and saw guns glistening. They were soldiers—Cossacks!

Zhílin was filled with joy. He collected his remaining strength and set off down the hill, saying to himself: ‘God forbid that any mounted Tartar should see me now, in the open field! Near as I am, I could not get there in time.’

Hardly had he said this when, a couple of hundred yards off, on a hillock to the left, he saw three Tartars.

They saw him also and made a rush. His heart sank. He waved his hands, and shouted with all his might, ‘Brothers, brothers! Help!’

The Cossacks heard him, and a party of them on horseback darted to cut across the Tartars’ path. The Cossacks were far and the Tartars were near; but Zhílin, too, made a last effort. Lifting the shackles with his hand, he ran towards the Cossacks, hardly knowing what he was doing, crossing himself and shouting, ‘Brothers! Brothers! Brothers!’

There were some fifteen Cossacks. The Tartars were frightened, and stopped before reaching him. Zhilin staggered up to the Cossacks.

They surrounded him and began questioning him. ‘Who are you? What are you? Where from?

But Zhílin was quite beside himself, and could only weep and repeat, ‘Brothers! Brothers!’

Then the soldiers came running up and crowded round Zhílin—one giving him bread, another buckwheat, a third vódka: one wrapping a cloak round him, another breaking his shackles.

The officers recognized him, and rode with him to the fortress. The soldiers were glad to see him back, and his comrades all gathered round him.

Zhílin told them all that had happened to him.

‘That’s the way I went home and got married!’ said he. ‘No. It seems plain that fate was against it!’

So he went on serving in the Caucasus. A month passed before Kostílin was released, after paying five thousand roubles ransom. He was almost dead when they brought him back.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:3 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

I

An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country.
The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a
peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking,
the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how
comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine
clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and
how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments.

The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a
tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant.

"I would not change my way of life for yours," said she. "We may
live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in
better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you
need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb,
'Loss and gain are brothers twain.' It often happens that people who
are wealthy one day are begging their bread the next. Our way is
safer. Though a peasant's life is not a fat one, it is a long one.
We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat."

The elder sister said sneeringly:

"Enough? Yes, if you like to share with the pigs and the calves!
What do you know of elegance or manners! However much your good man
may slave, you will die as you are living-on a dung heap-and your
children the same."

"Well, what of that?" replied the younger. "Of course our work is
rough and coarse. But, on the other hand, it is sure; and we need
not bow to any one. But you, in your towns, are surrounded by
temptations; today all may be right, but tomorrow the Evil One may
tempt your husband with cards, wine, or women, and all will go to
ruin. Don't such things happen often enough?"

Pahom, the master of the house, was lying on the top of the oven,
and he listened to the women's chatter.

"It is perfectly true," thought he. "Busy as we are from childhood
tilling Mother Earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense
settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven't land
enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself!"

The women finished their tea, chatted a while about dress, and then
cleared away the tea-things and lay down to sleep.

But the Devil had been sitting behind the oven, and had heard all
that was said. He was pleased that the peasant's wife had led her
husband into boasting, and that he had said that if he had plenty of
land he would not fear the Devil himself.

"All right," thought the Devil. "We will have a tussle. I'll give you
land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power."


II

Close to the village there lived a lady, a small landowner, who had
an estate of about three hundred acres. She had always lived on
good terms with the peasants, until she engaged as her steward an
old soldier, who took to burdening the people with fines. However
careful Pahom tried to be, it happened again and again that now a
horse of his got among the lady's oats, now a cow strayed into her
garden, now his calves found their way into her meadows-and he
always had to pay a fine.

Pahom paid, but grumbled, and, going home in a temper, was rough
with his family. All through that summer Pahom had much trouble
because of this steward; and he was even glad when winter came and
the cattle had to be stabled. Though he grudged the fodder when
they could no longer graze on the pasture-land, at least he was free
from anxiety about them.

In the winter the news got about that the lady was going to sell her
land, and that the keeper of the inn on the high road was bargaining
for it. When the peasants heard this they were very much alarmed.

"Well," thought they, "if the innkeeper gets the land he will worry us
with fines worse than the lady's steward. We all depend on that estate."

So the peasants went on behalf of their Commune, and asked the lady
not to sell the land to the innkeeper; offering her a better price
for it themselves. The lady agreed to let them have it. Then the
peasants tried to arrange for the Commune to buy the whole estate,
so that it might be held by all in common. They met twice to
discuss it, but could not settle the matter; the Evil One sowed
discord among them, and they could not agree. So they decided to
buy the land individually, each according to his means; and the lady
agreed to this plan as she had to the other.

Presently Pahom heard that a neighbor of his was buying fifty acres,
and that the lady had consented to accept one half in cash and to
wait a year for the other half. Pahom felt envious.

"Look at that," thought he, "the land is all being sold, and I shall
get none of it." So he spoke to his wife.

"Other people are buying," said he, "and we must also buy twenty
acres or so. Life is becoming impossible. That steward is simply
crushing us with his fines."

So they put their heads together and considered how they could
manage to buy it. They had one hundred roubles laid by. They sold
a colt, and one half of their bees; hired out one of their sons as a
laborer, and took his wages in advance; borrowed the rest from a
brother-in-law, and so scraped together half the purchase money.

Having done this, Pahom chose out a farm of forty acres, some of it
wooded, and went to the lady to bargain for it. They came to an
agreement, and he shook hands with her upon it, and paid her a
deposit in advance. Then they went to town and signed the deeds; he
paying half the price down, and undertaking to pay the remainder
within two years.

So now Pahom had land of his own. He borrowed seed, and sowed it on
the land he had bought. The harvest was a good one, and within a
year he had managed to pay off his debts both to the lady and to his
brother-in-law. So he became a landowner, ploughing and sowing his
own land, making hay on his own land, cutting his own trees, and
feeding his cattle on his own pasture. When he went out to plough
his fields, or to look at his growing corn, or at his grass meadows,
his heart would fill with joy. The grass that grew and the flowers
that bloomed there, seemed to him unlike any that grew elsewhere.
Formerly, when he had passed by that land, it had appeared the same
as any other land, but now it seemed quite different.


III

So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if
the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his corn-
fields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they
still went on: now the Communal herdsmen would let the village cows
stray into his meadows; then horses from the night pasture would get
among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave
their owners, and for a long time he forbore from prosecuting any
one. But at last he lost patience and complained to the District
Court. He knew it was the peasants' want of land, and no evil
intent on their part, that caused the trouble; but he thought:

"I cannot go on overlooking it, or they will destroy all I have.
They must be taught a lesson."

So he had them up, gave them one lesson, and then another, and two
or three of the peasants were fined. After a time Pahom's
neighbours began to bear him a grudge for this, and would now and
then let their cattle on his land on purpose. One peasant even got
into Pahom's wood at night and cut down five young lime trees for
their bark. Pahom passing through the wood one day noticed
something white. He came nearer, and saw the stripped trunks lying
on the ground, and close by stood the stumps, where the tree had
been. Pahom was furious.

"If he had only cut one here and there it would have been bad enough,"
thought Pahom, "but the rascal has actually cut down a whole clump.
If I could only find out who did this, I would pay him out."

He racked his brains as to who it could be. Finally he decided: "It
must be Simon-no one else could have done it." Se he went to
Simon's homestead to have a look around, but he found nothing, and
only had an angry scene. However' he now felt more certain than
ever that Simon had done it, and he lodged a complaint. Simon was
summoned. The case was tried, and re-tried, and at the end of it
all Simon was acquitted, there being no evidence against him. Pahom
felt still more aggrieved, and let his anger loose upon the Elder
and the Judges.

"You let thieves grease your palms," said he. "If you were honest
folk yourselves, you would not let a thief go free."

So Pahom quarrelled with the Judges and with his neighbors. Threats
to burn his building began to be uttered. So though Pahom had more
land, his place in the Commune was much worse than before.

About this time a rumor got about that many people were moving to
new parts.

"There's no need for me to leave my land," thought Pahom. "But some
of the others might leave our village, and then there would be more
room for us. I would take over their land myself, and make my
estate a bit bigger. I could then live more at ease. As it is, I
am still too cramped to be comfortable."

One day Pahom was sitting at home, when a peasant passing through
the village, happened to call in. He was allowed to stay the night,
and supper was given him. Pahom had a talk with this peasant and
asked him where he came from. The stranger answered that he came
from beyond the Volga, where he had been working. One word led to
another, and the man went on to say that many people were settling
in those parts. He told how some people from his village had
settled there. They had joined the Commune, and had had twenty-five
acres per man granted them. The land was so good, he said, that the
rye sown on it grew as high as a horse, and so thick that five cuts
of a sickle made a sheaf. One peasant, he said, had brought nothing
with him but his bare hands, and now he had six horses and two cows
of his own.

Pahom's heart kindled with desire. He thought:

"Why should I suffer in this narrow hole, if one can live so well
elsewhere? I will sell my land and my homestead here, and with the
money I will start afresh over there and get everything new. In
this crowded place one is always having trouble. But I must first
go and find out all about it myself."

Towards summer he got ready and started. He went down the Volga on
a steamer to Samara, then walked another three hundred miles on
foot, and at last reached the place. It was just as the stranger
had said. The peasants had plenty of land: every man had twenty-
five acres of Communal land given him for his use, and any one who
had money could buy, besides, at fifty-cents an acre as much good
freehold land as he wanted.

Having found out all he wished to know, Pahom returned home as
autumn came on, and began selling off his belongings. He sold his
land at a profit, sold his homestead and all his cattle, and
withdrew from membership of the Commune. He only waited till the
spring, and then started with his family for the new settlement.


IV

As soon as Pahom and his family arrived at their new abode, he
applied for admission into the Commune of a large village. He stood
treat to the Elders, and obtained the necessary documents. Five
shares of Communal land were given him for his own and his sons'
use: that is to say--125 acres (not altogether, but in different
fields) besides the use of the Communal pasture. Pahom put up the
buildings he needed, and bought cattle. Of the Communal land alone
he had three times as much as at his former home, and the land was
good corn-land. He was ten times better off than he had been. He
had plenty of arable land and pasturage, and could keep as many head
of cattle as he liked.

At first, in the bustle of building and settling down, Pahom was
pleased with it all, but when he got used to it he began to think
that even here he had not enough land. The first year, he sowed
wheat on his share of the Communal land, and had a good crop. He
wanted to go on sowing wheat, but had not enough Communal land for
the purpose, and what he had already used was not available; for in
those parts wheat is only sown on virgin soil or on fallow land. It
is sown for one or two years, and then the land lies fallow till it
is again overgrown with prairie grass. There were many who wanted
such land, and there was not enough for all; so that people
quarrelled about it. Those who were better off, wanted it for
growing wheat, and those who were poor, wanted it to let to dealers,
so that they might raise money to pay their taxes. Pahom wanted to
sow more wheat; so he rented land from a dealer for a year. He
sowed much wheat and had a fine crop, but the land was too far from
the village--the wheat had to be carted more than ten miles. After
a time Pahom noticed that some peasant-dealers were living on
separate farms, and were growing wealthy; and he thought:

"If I were to buy some freehold land, and have a homestead on it, it
would be a different thing, altogether. Then it would all be nice
and compact."

The question of buying freehold land recurred to him again and again.

He went on in the same way for three years; renting land and sowing
wheat. The seasons turned out well and the crops were good, so that
he began to lay money by. He might have gone on living contentedly,
but he grew tired of having to rent other people's land every year,
and having to scramble for it. Wherever there was good land to be
had, the peasants would rush for it and it was taken up at once, so
that unless you were sharp about it you got none. It happened in
the third year that he and a dealer together rented a piece of
pasture land from some peasants; and they had already ploughed it
up, when there was some dispute, and the peasants went to law about
it, and things fell out so that the labor was all lost.
"If it were my own land," thought Pahom, "I should be independent,
and there would not be all this unpleasantness."

So Pahom began looking out for land which he could buy; and he came
across a peasant who had bought thirteen hundred acres, but having
got into difficulties was willing to sell again cheap. Pahom
bargained and haggled with him, and at last they settled the price
at 1,500 roubles, part in cash and part to be paid later. They had
all but clinched the matter, when a passing dealer happened to stop
at Pahom's one day to get a feed for his horse. He drank tea with
Pahom, and they had a talk. The dealer said that he was just
returning from the land of the Bashkirs, far away, where he had
bought thirteen thousand acres of land all for 1,000 roubles. Pahom
questioned him further, and the tradesman said:

"All one need do is to make friends with the chiefs. I gave away
about one hundred roubles' worth of dressing-gowns and carpets,
besides a case of tea, and I gave wine to those who would drink it;
and I got the land for less than two cents an acre. And he showed
Pahom the title-deeds, saying:

"The land lies near a river, and the whole prairie is virgin soil."

Pahom plied him with questions, and the tradesman said:

"There is more land there than you could cover if you walked a year,
and it all belongs to the Bashkirs. They are as simple as sheep,
and land can be got almost for nothing."

"There now," thought Pahom, "with my one thousand roubles, why
should I get only thirteen hundred acres, and saddle myself with a
debt besides. If I take it out there, I can get more than ten times
as much for the money."


V

Pahom inquired how to get to the place, and as soon as the tradesman
had left him, he prepared to go there himself. He left his wife to
look after the homestead, and started on his journey taking his man
with him. They stopped at a town on their way, and bought a case of
tea, some wine, and other presents, as the tradesman had advised.
On and on they went until they had gone more than three hundred
miles, and on the seventh day they came to a place where the
Bashkirs had pitched their tents. It was all just as the tradesman
had said. The people lived on the steppes, by a river, in felt-
covered tents. They neither tilled the ground, nor ate bread.
Their cattle and horses grazed in herds on the steppe. The colts
were tethered behind the tents, and the mares were driven to them
twice a day. The mares were milked, and from the milk kumiss was
made. It was the women who prepared kumiss, and they also made
cheese. As far as the men were concerned, drinking kumiss and tea,
eating mutton, and playing on their pipes, was all they cared about.
They were all stout and merry, and all the summer long they never
thought of doing any work. They were quite ignorant, and knew no
Russian, but were good-natured enough.

As soon as they saw Pahom, they came out of their tents and gathered
round their visitor. An interpreter was found, and Pahom told them
he had come about some land. The Bashkirs seemed very glad; they
took Pahom and led him into one of the best tents, where they made
him sit on some down cushions placed on a carpet, while they sat
round him. They gave him tea and kumiss, and had a sheep killed,
and gave him mutton to eat. Pahom took presents out of his cart and
distributed them among the Bashkirs, and divided amongst them the
tea. The Bashkirs were delighted. They talked a great deal among
themselves, and then told the interpreter to translate.

"They wish to tell you," said the interpreter, "that they like you,
and that it is our custom to do all we can to please a guest and to
repay him for his gifts. You have given us presents, now tell us
which of the things we possess please you best, that we may present
them to you."

"What pleases me best here," answered Pahom, "is your land. Our
land is crowded, and the soil is exhausted; but you have plenty of
land and it is good land. I never saw the like of it."

The interpreter translated. The Bashkirs talked among themselves
for a while. Pahom could not understand what they were saying, but
saw that they were much amused, and that they shouted and laughed.
Then they were silent and looked at Pahom while the interpreter said:

"They wish me to tell you that in return for your presents they will
gladly give you as much land as you want. You have only to point it
out with your hand and it is yours."

The Bashkirs talked again for a while and began to dispute. Pahom
asked what they were disputing about, and the interpreter told him
that some of them thought they ought to ask their Chief about the
land and not act in his absence, while others thought there was no
need to wait for his return.


VI

While the Bashkirs were disputing, a man in a large fox-fur cap
appeared on the scene. They all became silent and rose to their
feet. The interpreter said, "This is our Chief himself."

Pahom immediately fetched the best dressing-gown and five pounds of
tea, and offered these to the Chief. The Chief accepted them, and
seated himself in the place of honour. The Bashkirs at once began
telling him something. The Chief listened for a while, then made a
sign with his head for them to be silent, and addressing himself to
Pahom, said in Russian:

"Well, let it be so. Choose whatever piece of land you like; we
have plenty of it."

"How can I take as much as I like?" thought Pahom. "I must get a
deed to make it secure, or else they may say, 'It is yours,' and
afterwards may take it away again."

"Thank you for your kind words," he said aloud. "You have much
land, and I only want a little. But I should like to be sure which
bit is mine. Could it not be measured and made over to me? Life and
death are in God's hands. You good people give it to me, but your
children might wish to take it away again."

"You are quite right," said the Chief. "We will make it over to you."

"I heard that a dealer had been here," continued Pahom, "and that
you gave him a little land, too, and signed title-deeds to that
effect. I should like to have it done in the same way."

The Chief understood.

"Yes," replied he, "that can be done quite easily. We have a scribe,
and we will go to town with you and have the deed properly sealed."

"And what will be the price?" asked Pahom.

"Our price is always the same: one thousand roubles a day."

Pahom did not understand.

"A day? What measure is that? How many acres would that be?"

"We do not know how to reckon it out," said the Chief. "We sell it
by the day. As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is
yours, and the price is one thousand roubles a day."

Pahom was surprised.

"But in a day you can get round a large tract of land," he said.

The Chief laughed.

"It will all be yours!" said he. "But there is one condition: If
you don't return on the same day to the spot whence you started,
your money is lost."

"But how am I to mark the way that I have gone?"

"Why, we shall go to any spot you like, and stay there. You must
start from that spot and make your round, taking a spade with you.
Wherever you think necessary, make a mark. At every turning, dig a
hole and pile up the turf; then afterwards we will go round with a
plough from hole to hole. You may make as large a circuit as you
please, but before the sun sets you must return to the place you
started from. All the land you cover will be yours."

Pahom was delighted. It-was decided to start early next morning.
They talked a while, and after drinking some more kumiss and eating
some more mutton, they had tea again, and then the night came on.
They gave Pahom a feather-bed to sleep on, and the Bashkirs
dispersed for the night, promising to assemble the next morning at
daybreak and ride out before sunrise to the appointed spot.


VII

Pahom lay on the feather-bed, but could not sleep. He kept thinking
about the land.

"What a large tract I will mark off!" thought he. "I can easily go
thirty-five miles in a day. The days are long now, and within a
circuit of thirty-five miles what a lot of land there will be! I
will sell the poorer land, or let it to peasants, but I'll pick out
the best and farm it. I will buy two ox-teams, and hire two more
laborers. About a hundred and fifty acres shall be plough-land, and
I will pasture cattle on the rest."

Pahom lay awake all night, and dozed off only just before dawn.
Hardly were his eyes closed when he had a dream. He thought he was
lying in that same tent, and heard somebody chuckling outside. He
wondered who it could be, and rose and went out, and he saw the
Bashkir Chief sitting in front of the tent holding his side and
rolling about with laughter. Going nearer to the Chief, Pahom
asked: "What are you laughing at?" But he saw that it was no longer
the Chief, but the dealer who had recently stopped at his house and
had told him about the land. Just as Pahom was going to ask, "Have
you been here long?" he saw that it was not the dealer, but the
peasant who had come up from the Volga, long ago, to Pahom's old
home. Then he saw that it was not the peasant either, but the Devil
himself with hoofs and horns, sitting there and chuckling, and
before him lay a man barefoot, prostrate on the ground, with only
trousers and a shirt on. And Pahom dreamt that he looked more
attentively to see what sort of a man it was lying there, and he saw
that the man was dead, and that it was himself! He awoke horror-struck.

"What things one does dream," thought he.

Looking round he saw through the open door that the dawn was breaking.

"It's time to wake them up," thought he. "We ought to be starting."

He got up, roused his man (who was sleeping in his cart), bade him
harness; and went to call the Bashkirs.

"It's time to go to the steppe to measure the land," he said.

The Bashkirs rose and assembled, and the Chief came, too. Then they
began drinking kumiss again, and offered Pahom some tea, but he
would not wait.

"If we are to go, let us go. It is high time," said he.


VIII

The Bashkirs got ready and they all started: some mounted on horses,
and some in carts. Pahom drove in his own small cart with his
servant, and took a spade with him. When they reached the steppe,
the morning red was beginning to kindle. They ascended a hillock
(called by the Bashkirs a shikhan) and dismounting from their carts
and their horses, gathered in one spot. The Chief came up to Pahom
and stretched out his arm towards the plain:

"See," said he, "all this, as far as your eye can reach, is ours.
You may have any part of it you like."

Pahom's eyes glistened: it was all virgin soil, as flat as the palm
of your hand, as black as the seed of a poppy, and in the hollows
different kinds of grasses grew breast high.

The Chief took off his fox-fur cap, placed it on the ground and said:

"This will be the mark. Start from here, and return here again.
All the land you go round shall be yours."

Pahom took out his money and put it on the cap. Then he took off
his outer coat, remaining in his sleeveless under coat. He
unfastened his girdle and tied it tight below his stomach, put a
little bag of bread into the breast of his coat, and tying a flask
of water to his girdle, he drew up the tops of his boots, took the
spade from his man, and stood ready to start. He considered for
some moments which way he had better go--it was tempting everywhere.

"No matter," he concluded, "I will go towards the rising sun."

He turned his face to the east, stretched himself, and waited for
the sun to appear above the rim.

"I must lose no time," he thought, "and it is easier walking while
it is still cool."

The sun's rays had hardly flashed above the horizon, before Pahom,
carrying the spade over his shoulder, went down into the steppe.

Pahom started walking neither slowly nor quickly. After having gone
a thousand yards he stopped, dug a hole and placed pieces of turf
one on another to make it more visible. Then he went on; and now
that he had walked off his stiffness he quickened his pace. After a
while he dug another hole.

Pahom looked back. The hillock could be distinctly seen in the
sunlight, with the people on it, and the glittering tires of the
cartwheels. At a rough guess Pahom concluded that he had walked
three miles. It was growing warmer; he took off his under-coat,
flung it across his shoulder, and went on again. It had grown quite
warm now; he looked at the sun, it was time to think of breakfast.

"The first shift is done, but there are four in a day, and it is too
soon yet to turn. But I will just take off my boots," said he to himself.

He sat down, took off his boots, stuck them into his girdle, and went on.
It was easy walking now.

"I will go on for another three miles," thought he, "and then turn
to the left. The spot is so fine, that it would be a pity to lose
it. The further one goes, the better the land seems."

He went straight on a for a while, and when he looked round, the
hillock was scarcely visible and the people on it looked like black
ants, and he could just see something glistening there in the sun.

"Ah," thought Pahom, "I have gone far enough in this direction, it
is time to turn. Besides I am in a regular sweat, and very thirsty."

He stopped, dug a large hole, and heaped up pieces of turf. Next he
untied his flask, had a drink, and then turned sharply to the left.
He went on and on; the grass was high, and it was very hot.

Pahom began to grow tired: he looked at the sun and saw that it was noon.

"Well," he thought, "I must have a rest."

He sat down, and ate some bread and drank some water; but he did not
lie down, thinking that if he did he might fall asleep. After
sitting a little while, he went on again. At first he walked
easily: the food had strengthened him; but it had become terribly
hot, and he felt sleepy; still he went on, thinking: "An hour to
suffer, a life-time to live."

He went a long way in this direction also, and was about to turn to
the left again, when he perceived a damp hollow: "It would be a pity
to leave that out," he thought. "Flax would do well there." So he
went on past the hollow, and dug a hole on the other side of it
before he turned the corner. Pahom looked towards the hillock. The
heat made the air hazy: it seemed to be quivering, and through the
haze the people on the hillock could scarcely be seen.

"Ah!" thought Pahom, "I have made the sides too long; I must make
this one shorter." And he went along the third side, stepping
faster. He looked at the sun: it was nearly half way to the
horizon, and he had not yet done two miles of the third side of the
square. He was still ten miles from the goal.

"No," he thought, "though it will make my land lopsided, I must
hurry back in a straight line now. I might go too far, and as it is
I have a great deal of land."

So Pahom hurriedly dug a hole, and turned straight towards the hillock.


IX

Pahom went straight towards the hillock, but he now walked with
difficulty. He was done up with the heat, his bare feet were cut
and bruised, and his legs began to fail. He longed to rest, but it
was impossible if he meant to get back before sunset. The sun waits
for no man, and it was sinking lower and lower.

"Oh dear," he thought, "if only I have not blundered trying for too
much! What if I am too late?"

He looked towards the hillock and at the sun. He was still far from
his goal, and the sun was already near the rim. Pahom walked on and
on; it was very hard walking, but he went quicker and quicker. He
pressed on, but was still far from the place. He began running,
threw away his coat, his boots, his flask, and his cap, and kept
only the spade which he used as a support.

"What shall I do," he thought again, "I have grasped too much, and
ruined the whole affair. I can't get there before the sun sets."

And this fear made him still more breathless. Pahom went on
running, his soaking shirt and trousers stuck to him, and his mouth
was parched. His breast was working like a blacksmith's bellows,
his heart was beating like a hammer, and his legs were giving way as
if they did not belong to him. Pahom was seized with terror lest he
should die of the strain.

Though afraid of death, he could not stop. "After having run all
that way they will call me a fool if I stop now," thought he. And
he ran on and on, and drew near and heard the Bashkirs yelling and
shouting to him, and their cries inflamed his heart still more. He
gathered his last strength and ran on.

The sun was close to the rim, and cloaked in mist looked large, and
red as blood. Now, yes now, it was about to set! The sun was quite
low, but he was also quite near his aim. Pahom could already see
the people on the hillock waving their arms to hurry him up. He
could see the fox-fur cap on the ground, and the money on it, and
the Chief sitting on the ground holding his sides. And Pahom
remembered his dream.

"There is plenty of land," thought he, "but will God let me live on
it? I have lost my life, I have lost my life! I shall never reach
that spot!"

Pahom looked at the sun, which had reached the earth: one side of it
had already disappeared. With all his remaining strength he rushed
on, bending his body forward so that his legs could hardly follow
fast enough to keep him from falling. Just as he reached the
hillock it suddenly grew dark. He looked up--the sun had already
set. He gave a cry: "All my labor has been in vain," thought he,
and was about to stop, but he heard the Bashkirs still shouting, and
remembered that though to him, from below, the sun seemed to have
set, they on the hillock could still see it. He took a long breath
and ran up the hillock. It was still light there. He reached the
top and saw the cap. Before it sat the Chief laughing and holding
his sides. Again Pahom remembered his dream, and he uttered a cry:
his legs gave way beneath him, he fell forward and reached the cap
with his hands.

"Ah, what a fine fellow!" exclaimed the Chief. "He has gained
much land!"

Pahom's servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw
that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead!

The Bashkirs clicked their tongues to show their pity.

His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for
Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to
his heels was all he needed.


Footnotes:

 
1.  One hundred kopeks make a rouble. The kopek is worth about
half a cent.
2.  A non-intoxicating drink usually made from rye-malt and rye-flour.
3.  The brick oven in a Russian peasant's hut is usually built so
as to leave a flat top, large enough to lie on, for those who want
to sleep in a warm place.
4.  120 "desyatins." The "desyatina" is properly 2.7 acres; but in
this story round numbers are used.
5.  Three roubles per "desyatina."
6.  Five "kopeks" for a "desyatina."
[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 2:1 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(After Bernardin de Saint-Pierre)

In the town of Surat, in India, was a coffee-house where many travellers
and foreigners from all parts of the world met and conversed.

One day a learned Persian theologian visited this coffee-house. He
was a man who had spent his life studying the nature of the Deity,
and reading and writing books upon the subject. He had thought,
read, and written so much about God, that eventually he lost his
wits, became quite confused, and ceased even to believe in the
existence of a God. The Shah, hearing of this, had banished him
from Persia.

After having argued all his life about the First Cause, this
unfortunate theologian had ended by quite perplexing himself, and
instead of understanding that he had lost his own reason, he began
to think that there was no higher Reason controlling the universe.

This man had an African slave who followed him everywhere. When the
theologian entered the coffee-house, the slave remained outside, near
the door, sitting on a stone in the glare of the sun, and driving
away the flies that buzzed around him. The Persian having settled
down on a divan in the coffee-house, ordered himself a cup of opium.
When he had drunk it and the opium had begun to quicken the workings
of his brain, he addressed his slave through the open door:

"Tell me, wretched slave," said he, "do you think there is a God, or not?"

"Of course there is," said the slave, and immediately drew from under
his girdle a small idol of wood.

"There," said he, "that is the God who has guarded me from the day
of my birth. Every one in our country worships the fetish tree,
from the wood of which this God was made."

This conversation between the theologian and his slave was listened
to with surprise by the other guests in the coffee-house. They
were astonished at the master's question, and yet more so at the
slave's reply.

One of them, a Brahmin, on hearing the words spoken by the slave,
turned to him and said:

"Miserable fool! Is it possible you believe that God can be carried
under a man's girdle? There is one God--Brahma, and he is greater
than the whole world, for he created it. Brahma is the One, the
mighty God, and in His honour are built the temples on the Ganges'
banks, where his true priests, the Brahmins, worship him. They know
the true God, and none but they. A thousand score of years have
passed, and yet through revolution after revolution these priests
have held their sway, because Brahma, the one true God, has
protected them."

So spoke the Brahmin, thinking to convince every one; but a Jewish
broker who was present replied to him, and said:

"No! the temple of the true God is not in India. Neither does God
protect the Brahmin caste. The true God is not the God of the
Brahmins, but of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. None does He protect
but His chosen people, the Israelites. From the commencement of the
world, our nation has been beloved of Him, and ours alone. If we
are now scattered over the whole earth, it is but to try us; for God
has promised that He will one day gather His people together in
Jerusalem. Then, with the Temple of Jerusalem--the wonder of the
ancient world--restored to its splendor, shall Israel be
established a ruler over all nations."

So spoke the Jew, and burst into tears. He wished to say more, but
an Italian missionary who was there interrupted him.

"What you are saying is untrue," said he to the Jew. "You attribute
injustice to God. He cannot love your nation above the rest. Nay
rather, even if it be true that of old He favored the Israelites, it
is now nineteen hundred years since they angered Him, and caused Him
to destroy their nation and scatter them over the earth, so that
their faith makes no converts and has died out except here and
there. God shows preference to no nation, but calls all who wish to
be saved to the bosom of the Catholic Church of Rome, the one outside
whose borders no salvation can be found."

So spoke the Italian. But a Protestant minister, who happened to be
present, growing pale, turned to the Catholic missionary and exclaimed:

"How can you say that salvation belongs to your religion? Those only
will be saved, who serve God according to the Gospel, in spirit and
in truth, as bidden by the word of Christ."

Then a Turk, an office-holder in the custom-house at Surat, who was
sitting in the coffee-house smoking a pipe, turned with an air of
superiority to both the Christians.

"Your belief in your Roman religion is vain," said he. "It was
superseded twelve hundred years ago by the true faith: that of
Mohammed! You cannot but observe how the true Mohammed faith
continues to spread both in Europe and Asia, and even in the
enlightened country of China. You say yourselves that God has
rejected the Jews; and, as a proof, you quote the fact that the Jews
are humiliated and their faith does not spread. Confess then the
truth of Mohammedanism, for it is triumphant and spreads far and
wide. None will be saved but the followers of Mohammed, God's
latest prophet; and of them, only the followers of Omar, and not of
Ali, for the latter are false to the faith."

To this the Persian theologian, who was of the sect of Ali, wished
to reply; but by this time a great dispute had arisen among all the
strangers of different faiths and creeds present. There were
Abyssinian Christians, Llamas from Thibet, Ismailians and
Fireworshippers. They all argued about the nature of God, and how
He should be worshipped. Each of them asserted that in his country
alone was the true God known and rightly worshipped.

Every one argued and shouted, except a Chinaman, a student of
Confucius, who sat quietly in one corner of the coffee-house, not
joining in the dispute. He sat there drinking tea and listening to
what the others said, but did not speak himself.

The Turk noticed him sitting there, and appealed to him, saying:

"You can confirm what I say, my good Chinaman. You hold your peace, but
if you spoke I know you would uphold my opinion. Traders from your
country, who come to me for assistance, tell me that though many religions
have been introduced into China, you Chinese consider Mohammedanism the
best of all, and adopt it willingly. Confirm, then, my words, and tell
us your opinion of the true God and of His prophet."

"Yes, yes," said the rest, turning to the Chinaman, "let us hear what
you think on the subject."

The Chinaman, the student of Confucius, closed his eyes, and thought
a while. Then he opened them again, and drawing his hands out of
the wide sleeves of his garment, and folding them on his breast, he
spoke as follows, in a calm and quiet voice.

Sirs, it seems to me that it is chiefly pride that prevents men
agreeing with one another on matters of faith. If you care to
listen to me, I will tell you a story which will explain this by an
example.

I came here from China on an English steamer which had been round the
world. We stopped for fresh water, and landed on the east coast of the
island of Sumatra. It was midday, and some of us, having landed, sat
in the shade of some cocoanut palms by the seashore, not far from a
native village. We were a party of men of different nationalities.

As we sat there, a blind man approached us. We learned afterwards
that he had gone blind from gazing too long and too persistently at
the sun, trying to find out what it is, in order to seize its light.

He strove a long time to accomplish this, constantly looking at the
sun; but the only result was that his eyes were injured by its
brightness, and he became blind.

Then he said to himself:

"The light of the sun is not a liquid; for if it were a liquid it
would be possible to pour it from one vessel into another, and it
would be moved, like water, by the wind. Neither is it fire; for if
it were fire, water would extinguish it. Neither is light a spirit,
for it is seen by the eye; nor is it matter, for it cannot be moved.
Therefore, as the light of the sun is neither liquid, nor fire, nor
spirit, nor matter, it is--nothing!"

So he argued, and, as a result of always looking at the sun and
always thinking about it, he lost both his sight and his reason.
And when he went quite blind, he became fully convinced that the sun
did not exist.

With this blind man came a slave, who after placing his master in
the shade of a cocoanut tree, picked up a cocoanut from the ground,
and began making it into a night-light. He twisted a wick from the
fibre of the cocoanut: squeezed oil from the nut in the shell, and
soaked the wick in it.

As the slave sat doing this, the blind man sighed and said to him:

"Well, slave, was I not right when I told you there is no sun? Do
you not see how dark it is? Yet people say there is a sun. . . . But
if so, what is it?"

"I do not know what the sun is," said the slave. "That is no
business of mine. But I know what light is. Here I have made a
night-light, by the help of which I can serve you and find anything
I want in the hut."

And the slave picked up the cocoanut shell, saying:

"This is my sun."

A lame man with crutches, who was sitting near by, heard these
words, and laughed:

"You have evidently been blind all your life," said he to the blind
man, "not to know what the sun is. I will tell you what it is. The
sun is a ball of fire, which rises every morning out of the sea and
goes down again among the mountains of our island each evening. We
have all seen this, and if you had had your eyesight you too would
have seen it."

A fisherman, who had been listening to the conversation said:

"It is plain enough that you have never been beyond your own island.
If you were not lame, and if you had been out as I have in a
fishing-boat, you would know that the sun does not set among the
mountains of our island, but as it rises from the ocean every
morning so it sets again in the sea every night. What I am telling
you is true, for I see it every day with my own eyes."

Then an Indian who was of our party, interrupted him by saying:

"I am astonished that a reasonable man should talk such nonsense.
How can a ball of fire possibly descend into the water and not be
extinguished? The sun is not a ball of fire at all, it is the Deity
named Deva, who rides for ever in a chariot round the golden
mountain, Meru. Sometimes the evil serpents Ragu and Ketu attack
Deva and swallow him: and then the earth is dark. But our priests
pray that the Deity may be released, and then he is set free. Only
such ignorant men as you, who have never been beyond their own
island, can imagine that the sun shines for their country alone."

Then the master of an Egyptian vessel, who was present, spoke in his turn.

"No," said he, "you also are wrong. The sun is not a Deity, and does
not move only round India and its golden mountain. I have sailed much
on the Black Sea, and along the coasts of Arabia, and have been to
Madagascar and to the Philippines. The sun lights the whole earth,
and not India alone. It does not circle round one mountain, but rises
far in the East, beyond the Isles of Japan, and sets far, far away in
the West, beyond the islands of England. That is why the Japanese call
their country 'Nippon,' that is, 'the birth of the sun.' I know this
well, for I have myself seen much, and heard more from my grandfather,
who sailed to the very ends of the sea."

He would have gone on, but an English sailor from our ship
interrupted him.

"There is no country," he said "where people know so much about the
sun's movements as in England. The sun, as every one in England
knows, rises nowhere and sets nowhere. It is always moving round
the earth. We can be sure of this for we have just been round the
world ourselves, and nowhere knocked up against the sun. Wherever
we went, the sun showed itself in the morning and hid itself at
night, just as it does here."

And the Englishman took a stick and, drawing circles on the sand,
tried to explain how the sun moves in the heavens and goes round the
world. But he was unable to explain it clearly, and pointing to the
ship's pilot said:

"This man knows more about it than I do. He can explain it properly."

The pilot, who was an intelligent man, had listened in silence to
the talk till he was asked to speak. Now every one turned to him,
and he said:

"You are all misleading one another, and are yourselves deceived.
The sun does not go round the earth, but the earth goes round the
sun, revolving as it goes, and turning towards the sun in the course
of each twenty-four hours, not only Japan, and the Philippines, and
Sumatra where we now are, but Africa, and Europe, and America, and
many lands besides. The sun does not shine for some one mountain,
or for some one island, or for some one sea, nor even for one earth
alone, but for other planets as well as our earth. If you would
only look up at the heavens, instead of at the ground beneath your
own feet, you might all understand this, and would then no longer
suppose that the sun shines for you, or for your country alone."

Thus spoke the wise pilot, who had voyaged much about the world, and
had gazed much upon the heavens above.

"So on matters of faith," continued the Chinaman, the student of
Confucius, "it is pride that causes error and discord among men. As
with the sun, so it is with God. Each man wants to have a special
God of his own, or at least a special God for his native land. Each
nation wishes to confine in its own temples Him, whom the world
cannot contain.

"Can any temple compare with that which God Himself has built to
unite all men in one faith and one religion?

"All human temples are built on the model of this temple, which is
God's own world. Every temple has its fonts, its vaulted roof, its
lamps, its pictures or sculptures, its inscriptions, its books of
the law, its offerings, its altars and its priests. But in what
temple is there such a font as the ocean; such a vault as that of
the heavens; such lamps as the sun, moon, and stars; or any figures
to be compared with living, loving, mutually-helpful men? Where are
there any records of God's goodness so easy to understand as the
blessings which God has strewn abroad for man's happiness? Where is
there any book of the law so clear to each man as that written in
his heart? What sacrifices equal the self-denials which loving men
and women make for one another? And what altar can be compared with
the heart of a good man, on which God Himself accepts the sacrifice?

"The higher a man's conception of God, the better will he know Him.
And the better he knows God, the nearer will he draw to Him,
imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man.

"Therefore, let him who sees the sun's whole light filling the world,
refrain from blaming or despising the superstitious man, who in his own
idol sees one ray of that same light. Let him not despise even the
unbeliever who is blind and cannot see the sun at all."

So spoke the Chinaman, the student of Confucius; and all who were
present in the coffee-house were silent, and disputed no more as to
whose faith was the best.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:59 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right
time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to
listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what
was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything
he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed
throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one
who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and
who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was
the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his
questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right
time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days,
months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only
thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time.
Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the
right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be
absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was
going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said
that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it
was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for
every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who
would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not
wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to
decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide
that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only
magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right
time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said,
the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the
priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the
most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation:
some replied that the most important thing in the world was science.
Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was
religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them,
and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right
answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely
renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received
none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before
reaching the hermit's cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving
his body-guard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front
of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging.
The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into
the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: "I have come to you, wise hermit,
to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the
right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and
to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest?
And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?"

The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat
on his hand and recommenced digging.

"You are tired," said the King, "let me take the spade and work
awhile for you."

"Thanks!" said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he
sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his
questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out
his hand for the spade, and said:

"Now rest awhile-and let me work a bit."

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One
hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees,
and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:

"I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can
give me none, tell me so, and I will return home."

"Here comes some one running," said the hermit, "let us see who it is."

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the
wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood
was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell
fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit
unfastened the man's clothing. There was a large wound in his
stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with
his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood
would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the
bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound.
When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for
something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to
him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the
King, with the hermit's help, carried the wounded man into the hut
and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes
and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the
work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also
fell asleep--so soundly that he slept all through the short summer
night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could
remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on
the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

"Forgive me!" said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw
that the King was awake and was looking at him.

"I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for," said the King.

"You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who
swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother
and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the
hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day
passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find
you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and
wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had
you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved
my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your
most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!"

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily,
and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him,
but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend
him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the
porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished
once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit
was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been
dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

"For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man."

"You have already been answered!" said the hermit, still crouching
on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

"How answered? What do you mean?" asked the King.

"Do you not see," replied the hermit. "If you had not pitied my
weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone
your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have
repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time
was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important
man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards
when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were
attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would
have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most
important man, and what you did for him was your most important
business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important--
Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when
we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are,
for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one
else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for
that purpose alone was man sent into this life!"

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:58 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love
the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death." --1 "Epistle
St. John" iii. 14.

"Whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need,
and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God
abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither
with the tongue; but in deed and truth." --iii. 17-18.

"Love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and
knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
-iv. 7-8.

"No man hath beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God
abideth in us." --iv. 12.

"God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God
abideth in him." --iv. 16.

"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for
he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love
God whom he hath not seen?" --iv. 20.

A shoemaker named Simon, who had neither house nor land of his own,
lived with his wife and children in a peasant's hut, and earned his
living by his work. Work was cheap, but bread was dear, and what he
earned he spent for food. The man and his wife had but one
sheepskin coat between them for winter wear, and even that was torn
to tatters, and this was the second year he had been wanting to buy
sheep-skins for a new coat. Before winter Simon saved up a little
money: a three-rouble note lay hidden in his wife's box, and five
roubles and twenty kopeks were owed him by customers in the village.

So one morning he prepared to go to the village to buy the sheep-
skins. He put on over his shirt his wife's wadded nankeen jacket,
and over that he put his own cloth coat. He took the three-rouble
note in his pocket, cut himself a stick to serve as a staff, and
started off after breakfast. "I'll collect the five roubles that
are due to me," thought he, "add the three I have got, and that will
be enough to buy sheep-skins for the winter coat."

He came to the village and called at a peasant's hut, but the man
was not at home. The peasant's wife promised that the money should
be paid next week, but she would not pay it herself. Then Simon
called on another peasant, but this one swore he had no money, and
would only pay twenty kopeks which he owed for a pair of boots Simon
had mended. Simon then tried to buy the sheep-skins on credit, but
the dealer would not trust him.

"Bring your money," said he, "then you may have your pick of the
skins. We know what debt-collecting is like." So all the business
the shoemaker did was to get the twenty kopeks for boots he had
mended, and to take a pair of felt boots a peasant gave him to sole
with leather.

Simon felt downhearted. He spent the twenty kopeks on vodka, and
started homewards without having bought any skins. In the morning
he had felt the frost; but now, after drinking the vodka, he felt
warm, even without a sheep-skin coat. He trudged along, striking
his stick on the frozen earth with one hand, swinging the felt boots
with the other, and talking to himself.


I

"I'm quite warm," said he, "though I have no sheep-skin coat. I've
had a drop, and it runs through all my veins. I need no sheep-
skins. I go along and don't worry about anything. That's the sort
of man I am! What do I care? I can live without sheep-skins. I
don't need them. My wife will fret, to be sure. And, true enough,
it is a shame; one works all day long, and then does not get paid.
Stop a bit! If you don't bring that money along, sure enough I'll
skin you, blessed if I don't. How's that? He pays twenty kopeks at
a time! What can I do with twenty kopeks? Drink it-that's all one
can do! Hard up, he says he is! So he may be--but what about me?
You have a house, and cattle, and everything; I've only what I stand
up in! You have corn of your own growing; I have to buy every grain.
Do what I will, I must spend three roubles every week for bread
alone. I come home and find the bread all used up, and I have to
fork out another rouble and a half. So just pay up what you owe,
and no nonsense about it!"

By this time he had nearly reached the shrine at the bend of the
road. Looking up, he saw something whitish behind the shrine. The
daylight was fading, and the shoemaker peered at the thing without
being able to make out what it was. "There was no white stone here
before. Can it be an ox? It's not like an ox. It has a head like a
man, but it's too white; and what could a man be doing there?"

He came closer, so that it was clearly visible. To his surprise it
really was a man, alive or dead, sitting naked, leaning motionless
against the shrine. Terror seized the shoemaker, and he thought,
"Some one has killed him, stripped him, and left him there. If I
meddle I shall surely get into trouble."

So the shoemaker went on. He passed in front of the shrine so that
he could not see the man. When he had gone some way, he looked
back, and saw that the man was no longer leaning against the shrine,
but was moving as if looking towards him. The shoemaker felt more
frightened than before, and thought, "Shall I go back to him, or
shall I go on? If I go near him something dreadful may happen. Who
knows who the fellow is? He has not come here for any good. If I go
near him he may jump up and throttle me, and there will be no
getting away. Or if not, he'd still be a burden on one's hands.
What could I do with a naked man? I couldn't give him my last
clothes. Heaven only help me to get away!"

So the shoemaker hurried on, leaving the shrine behind him-when
suddenly his conscience smote him, and he stopped in the road.

"What are you doing, Simon?" said he to himself. "The man may be
dying of want, and you slip past afraid. Have you grown so rich as
to be afraid of robbers? Ah, Simon, shame on you!"

So he turned back and went up to the man.


II

Simon approached the stranger, looked at him, and saw that he was a
young man, fit, with no bruises on his body, only evidently freezing
and frightened, and he sat there leaning back without looking up at
Simon, as if too faint to lift his eyes. Simon went close to him,
and then the man seemed to wake up. Turning his head, he opened his
eyes and looked into Simon's face. That one look was enough to make
Simon fond of the man. He threw the felt boots on the ground, undid
his sash, laid it on the boots, and took off his cloth coat.

"It's not a time for talking," said he. "Come, put this coat on at
once!" And Simon took the man by the elbows and helped him to rise.
As he stood there, Simon saw that his body was clean and in good
condition, his hands and feet shapely, and his face good and kind.
He threw his coat over the man's shoulders, but the latter could not
find the sleeves. Simon guided his arms into them, and drawing the
coat well on, wrapped it closely about him, tying the sash round the
man's waist.

Simon even took off his torn cap to put it on the man's head, but
then his own head felt cold, and he thought: "I'm quite bald, while
he has long curly hair." So he put his cap on his own head again.
"It will be better to give him something for his feet," thought he;
and he made the man sit down, and helped him to put on the felt
boots, saying, "There, friend, now move about and warm yourself.
Other matters can be settled later on. Can you walk?"

The man stood up and looked kindly at Simon, but could not say a
word.

"Why don't you speak?" said Simon. "It's too cold to stay here, we
must be getting home. There now, take my stick, and if you're
feeling weak, lean on that. Now step out!"

The man started walking, and moved easily, not lagging behind.

As they went along, Simon asked him, "And where do you belong to?"
"I'm not from these parts."

"I thought as much. I know the folks hereabouts. But, how did you
come to be there by the shrine ?"

"I cannot tell."

"Has some one been ill-treating you?"

"No one has ill-treated me. God has punished me."

"Of course God rules all. Still, you'll have to find food and
shelter somewhere. Where do you want to go to?"

"It is all the same to me."


Simon was amazed. The man did not look like a rogue, and he spoke
gently, but yet he gave no account of himself. Still Simon thought,
"Who knows what may have happened?" And he said to the stranger:
"Well then, come home with me, and at least warm yourself awhile."

So Simon walked towards his home, and the stranger kept up with him,
walking at his side. The wind had risen and Simon felt it cold
under his shirt. He was getting over his tipsiness by now, and
began to feel the frost. He went along sniffling and wrapping his
wife's coat round him, and he thought to himself: "There now--talk
about sheep-skins! I went out for sheep-skins and come home without
even a coat to my back, and what is more, I'm bringing a naked man
along with me. Matryona won't be pleased!" And when he thought of
his wife he felt sad; but when he looked at the stranger and
remembered how he had looked up at him at the shrine, his heart was
glad.


III

Simon's wife had everything ready early that day. She had cut wood,
brought water, fed the children, eaten her own meal, and now she sat
thinking. She wondered when she ought to make bread: now or
tomorrow? There was still a large piece left.

"If Simon has had some dinner in town," thought she, "and does not
eat much for supper, the bread will last out another day."

She weighed the piece of bread in her hand again and again, and
thought: "I won't make any more today. We have only enough flour
left to bake one batch; We can manage to make this last out till
Friday."

So Matryona put away the bread, and sat down at the table to patch
her husband's shirt. While she worked she thought how her husband
was buying skins for a winter coat.

"If only the dealer does not cheat him. My good man is much too
simple; he cheats nobody, but any child can take him in. Eight
roubles is a lot of money--he should get a good coat at that price.
Not tanned skins, but still a proper winter coat. How difficult it
was last winter to get on without a warm coat. I could neither get
down to the river, nor go out anywhere. When he went out he put on
all we had, and there was nothing left for me. He did not start
very early today, but still it's time he was back. I only hope he
has not gone on the spree!"

Hardly had Matryona thought this, when steps were heard on the
threshold, and some one entered. Matryona stuck her needle into her
work and went out into the passage. There she saw two men: Simon,
and with him a man without a hat, and wearing felt boots.

Matryona noticed at once that her husband smelt of spirits. "There
now, he has been drinking," thought she. And when she saw that he
was coatless, had only her jacket on, brought no parcel, stood there
silent, and seemed ashamed, her heart was ready to break with
disappointment. "He has drunk the money," thought she, "and has
been on the spree with some good-for-nothing fellow whom he has
brought home with him."

Matryona let them pass into the hut, followed them in, and saw that
the stranger was a young, slight man, wearing her husband's coat.
There was no shirt to be seen under it, and he had no hat. Having
entered, he stood, neither moving, nor raising his eyes, and
Matryona thought: "He must be a bad man--he's afraid."

Matryona frowned, and stood beside the oven looking to see what they
would do.

Simon took off his cap and sat down on the bench as if things were
all right.

"Come, Matryona; if supper is ready, let us have some."

Matryona muttered something to herself and did not move, but stayed
where she was, by the oven. She looked first at the one and then at
the other of them, and only shook her head. Simon saw that his wife
was annoyed, but tried to pass it off. Pretending not to notice
anything, he took the stranger by the arm.

"Sit down, friend," said he, "and let us have some supper."

The stranger sat down on the bench.

"Haven't you cooked anything for us?" said Simon.

Matryona's anger boiled over. "I've cooked, but not for you. It
seems to me you have drunk your wits away. You went to buy a sheep-
skin coat, but come home without so much as the coat you had on, and
bring a naked vagabond home with you. I have no supper for
drunkards like you."

"That's enough, Matryona. Don't wag your tongue without reason.
You had better ask what sort of man--"

"And you tell me what you've done with the money?"

Simon found the pocket of the jacket, drew out the three-rouble
note, and unfolded it.

"Here is the money. Trifonof did not pay, but promises to pay soon."

Matryona got still more angry; he had bought no sheep-skins, but had
put his only coat on some naked fellow and had even brought him to
their house.

She snatched up the note from the table, took it to put away in
safety, and said: "I have no supper for you. We can't feed all the
naked drunkards in the world."

"There now, Matryona, hold your tongue a bit. First hear what a man
has to say-"

"Much wisdom I shall hear from a drunken fool. I was right in not
wanting to marry you-a drunkard. The linen my mother gave me you
drank; and now you've been to buy a coat-and have drunk it, too!"

Simon tried to explain to his wife that he had only spent twenty
kopeks; tried to tell how he had found the man--but Matryona would
not let him get a word in. She talked nineteen to the dozen, and
dragged in things that had happened ten years before.

Matryona talked and talked, and at last she flew at Simon and seized
him by the sleeve.

"Give me my jacket. It is the only one I have, and you must needs
take it from me and wear it yourself. Give it here, you mangy dog,
and may the devil take you."

Simon began to pull off the jacket, and turned a sleeve of it inside
out; Matryona seized the jacket and it burst its seams, She snatched
it up, threw it over her head and went to the door. She meant to go
out, but stopped undecided--she wanted to work off her anger, but
she also wanted to learn what sort of a man the stranger was.


IV

Matryona stopped and said: "If he were a good man he would not be
naked. Why, he hasn't even a shirt on him. If he were all right,
you would say where you came across the fellow."

"That's just what I am trying to tell you," said Simon. "As I came
to the shrine I saw him sitting all naked and frozen. It isn't
quite the weather to sit about naked! God sent me to him, or he
would have perished. What was I to do? How do we know what may have
happened to him? So I took him, clothed him, and brought him along.
Don't be so angry, Matryona. It is a sin. Remember, we all must
die one day."

Angry words rose to Matryona's lips, but she looked at the stranger
and was silent. He sat on the edge of the bench, motionless, his
hands folded on his knees, his head drooping on his breast, his eyes
closed, and his brows knit as if in pain. Matryona was silent: and
Simon said: "Matryona, have you no love of God?"

Matryona heard these words, and as she looked at the stranger,
suddenly her heart softened towards him. She came back from the
door, and going to the oven she got out the supper. Setting a cup
on the table, she poured out some kvas. Then she brought out the
last piece of bread, and set out a knife and spoons.

"Eat, if you want to," said she.

Simon drew the stranger to the table.

"Take your place, young man," said he.

Simon cut the bread, crumbled it into the broth, and they began to
eat. Matryona sat at the corner of the table resting her head on
her hand and looking at the stranger.

And Matryona was touched with pity for the stranger, and began to
feel fond of him. And at once the stranger's face lit up; his brows
were no longer bent, he raised his eyes and smiled at Matryona.

When they had finished supper, the woman cleared away the things and
began questioning the stranger. "Where are you from?" said she.

"I am not from these parts."

"But how did you come to be on the road?"

"I may not tell."

"Did some one rob you?"

"God punished me."

"And you were lying there naked?"

"Yes, naked and freezing. Simon saw me and had pity on me. He took
off his coat, put it on me and brought me here. And you have fed
me, given me drink, and shown pity on me. God will reward you!"

Matryona rose, took from the window Simon's old shirt she had been
patching, and gave it to the stranger. She also brought out a pair
of trousers for him.

"There," said she, "I see you have no shirt. Put this on, and lie
down where you please, in the loft or on the oven ."

The stranger took off the coat, put on the shirt, and lay down in

the loft. Matryona put out the candle, took the coat, and climbed
to where her husband lay.

Matryona drew the skirts of the coat over her and lay down, but
could not sleep; she could not get the stranger out of her mind.

When she remembered that he had eaten their last piece of bread and
that there was none for tomorrow, and thought of the shirt and
trousers she had given away, she felt grieved; but when she
remembered how he had smiled, her heart was glad.

Long did Matryona lie awake, and she noticed that Simon also was
awake--he drew the coat towards him.

"Simon!"

"Well?"

"You have had the last of the bread, and I have not put any to rise.
I don't know what we shall do tomorrow. Perhaps I can borrow some
of neighbor Martha."

"If we're alive we shall find something to eat."

The woman lay still awhile, and then said, "He seems a good man, but
why does he not tell us who he is?"

"I suppose he has his reasons."

"Simon!"

"Well?"

"We give; but why does nobody give us anything?"

Simon did not know what to say; so he only said, "Let us stop
talking," and turned over and went to sleep.


V

In the morning Simon awoke. The children were still asleep; his
wife had gone to the neighbor's to borrow some bread. The stranger
alone was sitting on the bench, dressed in the old shirt and
trousers, and looking upwards. His face was brighter than it had
been the day before.

Simon said to him, "Well, friend; the belly wants bread, and the naked
body clothes. One has to work for a living What work do you know?"

"I do not know any."

This surprised Simon, but he said, "Men who want to learn can
learn anything."

"Men work, and I will work also."

"What is your name?"

"Michael."

"Well, Michael, if you don't wish to talk about yourself, that is
your own affair; but you'll have to earn a living for yourself. If
you will work as I tell you, I will give you food and shelter."

"May God reward you! I will learn. Show me what to do."

Simon took yarn, put it round his thumb and began to twist it.

"It is easy enough--see!"

Michael watched him, put some yarn round his own thumb in the same
way, caught the knack, and twisted the yarn also.

Then Simon showed him how to wax the thread. This also Michael
mastered. Next Simon showed him how to twist the bristle in, and
how to sew, and this, too, Michael learned at once.

Whatever Simon showed him he understood at once, and after three
days he worked as if he had sewn boots all his life. He worked
without stopping, and ate little. When work was over he sat
silently, looking upwards. He hardly went into the street, spoke
only when necessary, and neither joked nor laughed. They never saw
him smile, except that first evening when Matryona gave them supper.


VI

Day by day and week by week the year went round. Michael lived and
worked with Simon. His fame spread till people said that no one
sewed boots so neatly and strongly as Simon's workman, Michael; and
from all the district round people came to Simon for their boots,
and he began to be well off.

One winter day, as Simon and Michael sat working, a carriage on
sledge-runners, with three horses and with bells, drove up to the
hut. They looked out of the window; the carriage stopped at their
door, a fine servant jumped down from the box and opened the door.
A gentleman in a fur coat got out and walked up to Simon's hut. Up
jumped Matryona and opened the door wide. The gentleman stooped to
enter the hut, and when he drew himself up again his head nearly
reached the ceiling, and he seemed quite to fill his end of the room.

Simon rose, bowed, and looked at the gentleman with astonishment.
He had never seen any one like him. Simon himself was lean, Michael
was thin, and Matryona was dry as a bone, but this man was like some
one from another world: red-faced, burly, with a neck like a bull's,
and looking altogether as if he were cast in iron.

The gentleman puffed, threw off his fur coat, sat down on the bench,
and said, "Which of you is the master bootmaker?"

"I am, your Excellency," said Simon, coming forward.

Then the gentleman shouted to his lad, "Hey, Fedka, bring the leather!"

The servant ran in, bringing a parcel. The gentleman took the
parcel and put it on the table.

"Untie it," said he. The lad untied it.

The gentleman pointed to the leather.

"Look here, shoemaker," said he, "do you see this leather?"

"Yes, your honor."

"But do you know what sort of leather it is?"

Simon felt the leather and said, "It is good leather."

"Good, indeed! Why, you fool, you never saw such leather before in
your life. It's German, and cost twenty roubles."

Simon was frightened, and said, "Where should I ever see leather
like that?"

"Just so! Now, can you make it into boots for me?"

"Yes, your Excellency, I can."

Then the gentleman shouted at him: "You can, can you? Well, remember
whom you are to make them for, and what the leather is. You must
make me boots that will wear for a year, neither losing shape nor
coming unsown. If you can do it, take the leather and cut it up;
but if you can't, say so. I warn you now if your boots become
unsewn or lose shape within a year, I will have you put in prison.
If they don't burst or lose shape for a year I will pay you ten
roubles for your work."

Simon was frightened, and did not know what to say. He glanced at
Michael and nudging him with his elbow, whispered: "Shall I take
the work?"

Michael nodded his head as if to say, "Yes, take it."

Simon did as Michael advised, and undertook to make boots that would
not lose shape or split for a whole year.

Calling his servant, the gentleman told him to pull the boot off his
left leg, which he stretched out.

"Take my measure!" said he.

Simon stitched a paper measure seventeen inches long, smoothed it
out, knelt down, wiped his hand well on his apron so as not to soil
the gentleman's sock, and began to measure. He measured the sole,
and round the instep, and began to measure the calf of the leg, but
the paper was too short. The calf of the leg was as thick as a beam.

"Mind you don't make it too tight in the leg."

Simon stitched on another strip of paper. The gentleman twitched
his toes about in his sock, looking round at those in the hut, and
as he did so he noticed Michael.

"Whom have you there?" asked he.

"That is my workman. He will sew the boots."

"Mind," said the gentleman to Michael, "remember to make them so
that they will last me a year."

Simon also looked at Michael, and saw that Michael was not looking
at the gentleman, but was gazing into the corner behind the
gentleman, as if he saw some one there. Michael looked and looked,
and suddenly he smiled, and his face became brighter.

"What are you grinning at, you fool?" thundered the gentleman.
"You had better look to it that the boots are ready in time."

"They shall be ready in good time," said Michael.

"Mind it is so," said the gentleman, and he put on his boots and his
fur coat, wrapped the latter round him, and went to the door. But
he forgot to stoop, and struck his head against the lintel.

He swore and rubbed his head. Then he took his seat in the carriage
and drove away.

When he had gone, Simon said: "There's a figure of a man for you!
You could not kill him with a mallet. He almost knocked out the
lintel, but little harm it did him."

And Matryona said: "Living as he does, how should he not grow
strong? Death itself can't touch such a rock as that."


VII

Then Simon said to Michael: "Well, we have taken the work, but we
must see we don't get into trouble over it. The leather is dear,
and the gentleman hot-tempered. We must make no mistakes. Come,
your eye is truer and your hands have become nimbler than mine, so
you take this measure and cut out the boots. I will finish off the
sewing of the vamps."

Michael did as he was told. He took the leather, spread it out on
the table, folded it in two, took a knife and began to cut out.

Matryona came and watched him cutting, and was surprised to see how
he was doing it. Matryona was accustomed to seeing boots made, and
she looked and saw that Michael was not cutting the leather for
boots, but was cutting it round.

She wished to say something, but she thought to herself: "Perhaps I
do not understand how gentleman's boots should be made. I suppose
Michael knows more about it--and I won't interfere."

When Michael had cut up the leather, he took a thread and began to
sew not with two ends, as boots are sewn, but with a single end, as
for soft slippers.

Again Matryona wondered, but again she did not interfere. Michael
sewed on steadily till noon. Then Simon rose for dinner, looked
around, and saw that Michael had made slippers out of the
gentleman's leather.

"Ah," groaned Simon, and he thought, "How is it that Michael, who
has been with me a whole year and never made a mistake before,
should do such a dreadful thing? The gentleman ordered high boots,
welted, with whole fronts, and Michael has made soft slippers with
single soles, and has wasted the leather. What am I to say to the
gentleman? I can never replace leather such as this."

And he said to Michael, "What are you doing, friend? You have ruined me!
You know the gentleman ordered high boots, but see what you have made!"

Hardly had he begun to rebuke Michael, when "rat-tat" went the iron
ring that hung at the door. Some one was knocking. They looked out
of the window; a man had come on horseback, and was fastening his
horse. They opened the door, and the servant who had been with the
gentleman came in.

"Good day," said he.

Good day," replied Simon. "What can we do for you?"

"My mistress has sent me about the boots."

"What about the boots?"

"Why, my master no longer needs them. He is dead."

"Is it possible?"

"He did not live to get home after leaving you, but died in the
carriage. When we reached home and the servants came to help him
alight, he rolled over like a sack. He was dead already, and so
stiff that he could hardly be got out of the carriage. My mistress
sent me here, saying: 'Tell the bootmaker that the gentleman who
ordered boots of him and left the leather for them no longer needs
the boots, but that he must quickly make soft slippers for the
corpse. Wait till they are ready, and bring them back with you.'
That is why I have come."

Michael gathered up the remnants of the leather; rolled them up,
took the soft slippers he had made, slapped them together, wiped
them down with his apron, and handed them and the roll of leather to
the servant, who took them and said: "Good-bye, masters, and good
day to you!"


VIII

Another year passed, and another, and Michael was now living his
sixth year with Simon. He lived as before. He went nowhere, only
spoke when necessary, and had only smiled twice in all those years--
once when Matryona gave him food, and a second time when the
gentleman was in their hut. Simon was more than pleased with his
workman. He never now asked him where he came from, and only feared
lest Michael should go away.

They were all at home one day. Matryona was putting iron pots in
the oven; the children were running along the benches and looking
out of the window; Simon was sewing at one window, and Michael was
fastening on a heel at the other.

One of the boys ran along the bench to Michael, leant on his
shoulder, and looked out of the window.

"Look, Uncle Michael! There is a lady with little girls! She seems
to be coming here. And one of the girls is lame."

When the boy said that, Michael dropped his work, turned to the
window, and looked out into the street.

Simon was surprised. Michael never used to look out into the
street, but now he pressed against the window, staring at something.
Simon also looked out, and saw that a well-dressed woman was really
coming to his hut, leading by the hand two little girls in fur coats
and woolen shawls. The girls could hardly be told one from the
other, except that one of them was crippled in her left leg and
walked with a limp.

The woman stepped into the porch and entered the passage. Feeling
about for the entrance she found the latch, which she lifted, and
opened the door. She let the two girls go in first, and followed
them into the hut.

"Good day, good folk!"

"Pray come in," said Simon. "What can we do for you?"

The woman sat down by the table. The two little girls pressed close
to her knees, afraid of the people in the hut.

"I want leather shoes made for these two little girls for spring."

"We can do that. We never have made such small shoes, but we can
make them; either welted or turnover shoes, linen lined. My man,
Michael, is a master at the work."

Simon glanced at Michael and saw that he had left his work and was
sitting with his eyes fixed on the little girls. Simon was
surprised. It was true the girls were pretty, with black eyes,
plump, and rosy-cheeked, and they wore nice kerchiefs and fur coats,
but still Simon could not understand why Michael should look at them
like that--just as if he had known them before. He was puzzled,
but went on talking with the woman, and arranging the price. Having
fixed it, he prepared the measure. The woman lifted the lame girl
on to her lap and said: "Take two measures from this little girl.
Make one shoe for the lame foot and three for the sound one. They
both have the same size feet. They are twins."

Simon took the measure and, speaking of the lame girl, said: "How
did it happen to her? She is such a pretty girl. Was she born so?"

"No, her mother crushed her leg."

Then Matryona joined in. She wondered who this woman was, and whose
the children were, so she said: "Are not you their mother then?"

"No, my good woman; I am neither their mother nor any relation to
them. They were quite strangers to me, but I adopted them."

"They are not your children and yet you are so fond of them?"

"How can I help being fond of them? I fed them both at my own
breasts. I had a child of my own, but God took him. I was not so
fond of him as I now am of them."

"Then whose children are they?"


IX

The woman, having begun talking, told them the whole story.

"It is about six years since their parents died, both in one week:
their father was buried on the Tuesday, and their mother died on the
Friday. These orphans were born three days after their father's
death, and their mother did not live another day. My husband and I
were then living as peasants in the village. We were neighbors of
theirs, our yard being next to theirs. Their father was a lonely
man; a wood-cutter in the forest. When felling trees one day, they
let one fall on him. It fell across his body and crushed his bowels
out. They hardly got him home before his soul went to God; and that
same week his wife gave birth to twins--these little girls. She
was poor and alone; she had no one, young or old, with her. Alone
she gave them birth, and alone she met her death."

"The next morning I went to see her, but when I entered the hut,
she, poor thing, was already stark and cold. In dying she had
rolled on to this child and crushed her leg. The village folk came
to the hut, washed the body, laid her out, made a coffin, and buried
her. They were good folk. The babies were left alone. What was to
be done with them? I was the only woman there who had a baby at the
time. I was nursing my first-born--eight weeks old. So I took
them for a time. The peasants came together, and thought and
thought what to do with them; and at last they said to me: "For the
present, Mary, you had better keep the girls, and later on we will
arrange what to do for them." So I nursed the sound one at my
breast, but at first I did not feed this crippled one. I did not
suppose she would live. But then I thought to myself, why should
the poor innocent suffer? I pitied her, and began to feed her. And
so I fed my own boy and these two--the three of them--at my own
breast. I was young and strong, and had good food, and God gave me
so much milk that at times it even overflowed. I used sometimes to
feed two at a time, while the third was waiting. When one had
enough I nursed the third. And God so ordered it that these grew
up, while my own was buried before he was two years old. And I had
no more children, though we prospered. Now my husband is working
for the corn merchant at the mill. The pay is good, and we are well
off. But I have no children of my own, and how lonely I should be
without these little girls! How can I help loving them! They are the
joy of my life!"

She pressed the lame little girl to her with one hand, while with
the other she wiped the tears from her cheeks.

And Matryona sighed, and said: "The proverb is true that says, 'One
may live without father or mother, but one cannot live without God.'"

So they talked together, when suddenly the whole hut was lighted up
as though by summer lightning from the corner where Michael sat.
They all looked towards him and saw him sitting, his hands folded on
his knees, gazing upwards and smiling.


X

The woman went away with the girls. Michael rose from the bench,
put down his work, and took off his apron. Then, bowing low to
Simon and his wife, he said: "Farewell, masters. God has forgiven
me. I ask your forgiveness, too, for anything done amiss."

And they saw that a light shone from Michael. And Simon rose, bowed
down to Michael, and said: "I see, Michael, that you are no common
man, and I can neither keep you nor question you. Only tell me
this: how is it that when I found you and brought you home, you were
gloomy, and when my wife gave you food you smiled at her and became
brighter? Then when the gentleman came to order the boots, you
smiled again and became brighter still? And now, when this woman
brought the little girls, you smiled a third time, and have become
as bright as day? Tell me, Michael, why does your face shine so, and
why did you smile those three times?"

And Michael answered: "Light shines from me because I have been
punished, but now God has pardoned me. And I smiled three times,
because God sent me to learn three truths, and I have learnt them.
One I learnt when your wife pitied me, and that is why I smiled the
first time. The second I learnt when the rich man ordered the boots,
and then I smiled again. And now, when I saw those little girls,
I learn the third and last truth, and I smiled the third time."

And Simon said, "Tell me, Michael, what did God punish you for? and
what were the three truths? that I, too, may know them."

And Michael answered: "God punished me for disobeying Him. I was an
angel in heaven and disobeyed God. God sent me to fetch a woman's
soul. I flew to earth, and saw a sick woman lying alone, who had
just given birth to twin girls. They moved feebly at their mother's
side, but she could not lift them to her breast. When she saw me,
she understood that God had sent me for her soul, and she wept and
said: 'Angel of God! My husband has just been buried, killed by a
falling tree. I have neither sister, nor aunt, nor mother: no one
to care for my orphans. Do not take my soul! Let me nurse my babes,
feed them, and set them on their feet before I die. Children cannot
live without father or mother.' And I hearkened to her. I placed
one child at her breast and gave the other into her arms, and
returned to the Lord in heaven. I flew to the Lord, and said: 'I
could not take the soul of the mother. Her husband was killed by a
tree; the woman has twins, and prays that her soul may not be taken.
She says: "Let me nurse and feed my children, and set them on their
feet. Children cannot live without father or mother." I have not
taken her soul.' And God said: 'Go-take the mother's soul, and learn
three truths: Learn What dwells in man, What is not given to man,
and What men live by. When thou has learnt these things, thou shalt
return to heaven.' So I flew again to earth and took the mother's
soul. The babes dropped from her breasts. Her body rolled over on
the bed and crushed one babe, twisting its leg. I rose above the
village, wishing to take her soul to God; but a wind seized me, and
my wings drooped and dropped off. Her soul rose alone to God, while
I fell to earth by the roadside."


XI

And Simon and Matryona understood who it was that had lived with
them, and whom they had clothed and fed. And they wept with awe and
with joy. And the angel said: "I was alone in the field, naked. I
had never known human needs, cold and hunger, till I became a man.
I was famished, frozen, and did not know what to do. I saw, near
the field I was in, a shrine built for God, and I went to it hoping
to find shelter. But the shrine was locked, and I could not enter.
So I sat down behind the shrine to shelter myself at least from the
wind. Evening drew on. I was hungry, frozen, and in pain.
Suddenly I heard a man coming along the road. He carried a pair of
boots, and was talking to himself. For the first time since I
became a man I saw the mortal face of a man, and his face seemed
terrible to me and I turned from it. And I heard the man talking to
himself of how to cover his body from the cold in winter, and how to
feed wife and children. And I thought: "I am perishing of cold and
hunger, and here is a man thinking only of how to clothe himself and
his wife, and how to get bread for themselves. He cannot help me.
When the man saw me he frowned and became still more terrible, and
passed me by on the other side. I despaired; but suddenly I heard
him coming back. I looked up, and did not recognize the same man;
before, I had seen death in his face; but now he was alive, and I
recognized in him the presence of God. He came up to me, clothed
me, took me with him, and brought me to his home. I entered the
house; a woman came to meet us and began to speak. The woman was
still more terrible than the man had been; the spirit of death came
from her mouth; I could not breathe for the stench of death that
spread around her. She wished to drive me out into the cold, and I
knew that if she did so she would die. Suddenly her husband spoke
to her of God, and the woman changed at once. And when she brought
me food and looked at me, I glanced at her and saw that death no
longer dwelt in her; she had become alive, and in her, too, I saw God.

"Then I remembered the first lesson God had set me: 'Learn what
dwells in man.' And I understood that in man dwells Love! I was glad
that God had already begun to show me what He had promised, and I
smiled for the first time. But I had not yet learnt all. I did not
yet know What is not given to man, and What men live by.

"I lived with you, and a year passed. A man came to order boots
that should wear for a year without losing shape or cracking. I
looked at him, and suddenly, behind his shoulder, I saw my comrade--
the angel of death. None but me saw that angel; but I knew him, and
knew that before the sun set he would take that rich man's soul.
And I thought to myself, 'The man is making preparations for a year,
and does not know that he will die before evening.' And I remembered
God's second saying, 'Learn what is not given to man.'

"What dwells in man I already knew. Now I learnt what is not given
him. It is not given to man to know his own needs. And I smiled
for the second time. I was glad to have seen my comrade angel--
glad also that God had revealed to me the second saying.

"But I still did not know all. I did not know What men live by.
And I lived on, waiting till God should reveal to me the last
lesson. In the sixth year came the girl-twins with the woman; and I
recognized the girls, and heard how they had been kept alive.
Having heard the story, I thought, 'Their mother besought me for the
children's sake, and I believed her when she said that children
cannot live without father or mother; but a stranger has nursed
them, and has brought them up.' And when the woman showed her love
for the children that were not her own, and wept over them, I saw in
her the living God and understood What men live by. And I knew that
God had revealed to me the last lesson, and had forgiven my sin.
And then I smiled for the third time."


XII

And the angel's body was bared, and he was clothed in light so that
eye could not look on him; and his voice grew louder, as though it
came not from him but from heaven above. And the angel said:

"I have learnt that all men live not by care for themselves but by love.

"It was not given to the mother to know what her children needed for
their life. Nor was it given to the rich man to know what he himself
needed. Nor is it given to any man to know whether, when evening
comes, he will need boots for his body or slippers for his corpse.

"I remained alive when I was a man, not by care of myself, but
because love was present in a passer-by, and because he and his wife
pitied and loved me. The orphans remained alive not because of
their mother's care, but because there was love in the heart of a
woman, a stranger to them, who pitied and loved them. And all men
live not by the thought they spend on their own welfare, but because
love exists in man.

"I knew before that God gave life to men and desires that they
should live; now I understood more than that.

"I understood that God does not wish men to live apart, and
therefore he does not reveal to them what each one needs for
himself; but he wishes them to live united, and therefore reveals to
each of them what is necessary for all.

"I have now understood that though it seems to men that they live by
care for themselves, in truth it is love alone by which they live.
He who has love, is in God, and God is in him, for God is love."

And the angel sang praise to God, so that the hut trembled at his
voice. The roof opened, and a column of fire rose from earth to
heaven. Simon and his wife and children fell to the ground. Wings
appeared upon the angel's shoulders, and he rose into the heavens.

And when Simon came to himself the hut stood as before, and there
was no one in it but his own family.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:57 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

THE young Tsar had just ascended the throne. For five weeks he had
worked without ceasing, in the way that Tsars are accustomed to work. He
had been attending to reports, signing papers, receiving ambassadors and
high officials who came to be presented to him, and reviewing troops. He
was tired, and as a traveller exhausted by heat and thirst longs for a
draught of water and for rest, so he longed for a respite of just one
day at least from receptions, from speeches, from parades--a few free
hours to spend like an ordinary human being with his young, clever, and
beautiful wife, to whom he had been married only a month before.

It was Christmas Eve. The young Tsar had arranged to have a complete
rest that evening. The night before he had worked till very late at
documents which his ministers of state had left for him to examine.
In the morning he was present at the Te Deum, and then at a military
service. In the afternoon he received official visitors; and later he
had been obliged to listen to the reports of three ministers of state,
and had given his assent to many important matters. In his conference
with the Minister of Finance he had agreed to an increase of duties
on imported goods, which should in the future add many millions to the
State revenues. Then he sanctioned the sale of brandy by the Crown in
various parts of the country, and signed a decree permitting the sale of
alcohol in villages having markets. This was also calculated to increase
the principal revenue to the State, which was derived from the sale of
spirits. He had also approved of the issuing of a new gold loan required
for a financial negotiation. The Minister of justice having reported on
the complicated case of the succession of the Baron Snyders, the young
Tsar confirmed the decision by his signature; and also approved the new
rules relating to the application of Article 1830 of the penal code,
providing for the punishment of tramps. In his conference with the
Minister of the Interior he ratified the order concerning the collection
of taxes in arrears, signed the order settling what measures should be
taken in regard to the persecution of religious dissenters, and also one
providing for the continuance of martial law in those provinces where it
had already been established. With the Minister of War he arranged for
the nomination of a new Corps Commander for the raising of recruits, and
for punishment of breach of discipline. These things kept him occupied
till dinner-time, and even then his freedom was not complete. A number
of high officials had been invited to dinner, and he was obliged to talk
to them: not in the way he felt disposed to do, but according to what
he was expected to say. At last the tiresome dinner was over, and the
guests departed.

The young Tsar heaved a sigh of relief, stretched himself and retired to
his apartments to take off his uniform with the decorations on it, and
to don the jacket he used to wear before his accession to the throne.
His young wife had also retired to take off her dinner-dress, remarking
that she would join him presently.

When he had passed the row of footmen who were standing erect before
him, and reached his room; when he had thrown off his heavy uniform and
put on his jacket, the young Tsar felt glad to be free from work;
and his heart was filled with a tender emotion which sprang from the
consciousness of his freedom, of his joyous, robust young life, and of
his love. He threw himself on the sofa, stretched out his legs upon it,
leaned his head on his hand, fixed his gaze on the dull glass shade of
the lamp, and then a sensation which he had not experienced since his
childhood,--the pleasure of going to sleep, and a drowsiness that was
irresistible--suddenly came over him.

"My wife will be here presently and will find me asleep. No, I must not
go to sleep," he thought. He let his elbow drop down, laid his cheek in
the palm of his hand, made himself comfortable, and was so utterly happy
that he only felt a desire not to be aroused from this delightful state.

And then what happens to all of us every day happened to him--he fell
asleep without knowing himself when or how. He passed from one state
into another without his will having any share in it, without even
desiring it, and without regretting the state out of which he had
passed. He fell into a heavy sleep which was like death. How long he had
slept he did not know, but he was suddenly aroused by the soft touch of
a hand upon his shoulder.

"It is my darling, it is she," he thought. "What a shame to have dozed
off!"

But it was not she. Before his eyes, which were wide open and blinking
at the light, she, that charming and beautiful creature whom he was
expecting, did not stand, but HE stood. Who HE was the young Tsar did
not know, but somehow it did not strike him that he was a stranger whom
he had never seen before. It seemed as if he had known him for a long
time and was fond of him, and as if he trusted him as he would trust
himself. He had expected his beloved wife, but in her stead that man
whom he had never seen before had come. Yet to the young Tsar, who
was far from feeling regret or astonishment, it seemed not only a most
natural, but also a necessary thing to happen.

"Come!" said the stranger.

"Yes, let us go," said the young Tsar, not knowing where he was to go,
but quite aware that he could not help submitting to the command of the
stranger. "But how shall we go?" he asked.

"In this way."

The stranger laid his hand on the Tsar's head, and the Tsar for a moment
lost consciousness. He could not tell whether he had been unconscious a
long or a short time, but when he recovered his senses he found himself
in a strange place. The first thing he was aware of was a strong and
stifling smell of sewage. The place in which he stood was a broad
passage lit by the red glow of two dim lamps. Running along one side of
the passage was a thick wall with windows protected by iron gratings.
On the other side were doors secured with locks. In the passage stood
a soldier, leaning up against the wall, asleep. Through the doors the
young Tsar heard the muffled sound of living human beings: not of one
alone, but of many. HE was standing at the side of the young Tsar, and
pressing his shoulder slightly with his soft hand, pushed him to the
first door, unmindful of the sentry. The young Tsar felt he could not
do otherwise than yield, and approached the door. To his amazement
the sentry looked straight at him, evidently without seeing him, as
he neither straightened himself up nor saluted, but yawned loudly and,
lifting his hand, scratched the back of his neck. The door had a small
hole, and in obedience to the pressure of the hand that pushed him,
the young Tsar approached a step nearer and put his eye to the small
opening. Close to the door, the foul smell that stifled him was
stronger, and the young Tsar hesitated to go nearer, but the hand
pushed him on. He leaned forward, put his eye close to the opening, and
suddenly ceased to perceive the odour. The sight he saw deadened his
sense of smell. In a large room, about ten yards long and six yards
wide, there walked unceasingly from one end to the other, six men in
long grey coats, some in felt boots, some barefoot. There were over
twenty men in all in the room, but in that first moment the young Tsar
only saw those who were walking with quick, even, silent steps. It was a
horrid sight to watch the continual, quick, aimless movements of the men
who passed and overtook each other, turning sharply when they reached
the wall, never looking at one another, and evidently concentrated each
on his own thoughts. The young Tsar had observed a similar sight one
day when he was watching a tiger in a menagerie pacing rapidly with
noiseless tread from one end of his cage to the other, waving its tail,
silently turning when it reached the bars, and looking at nobody. Of
these men one, apparently a young peasant, with curly hair, would have
been handsome were it not for the unnatural pallor of his face, and the
concentrated, wicked, scarcely human, look in his eyes. Another was a
Jew, hairy and gloomy. The third was a lean old man, bald, with a beard
that had been shaven and had since grown like bristles. The fourth
was extraordinarily heavily built, with well-developed muscles, a low
receding forehead and a flat nose. The fifth was hardly more than a boy,
long, thin, obviously consumptive. The sixth was small and dark, with
nervous, convulsive movements. He walked as if he were skipping,
and muttered continuously to himself. They were all walking rapidly
backwards and forwards past the hole through which the young Tsar was
looking. He watched their faces and their gait with keen interest.
Having examined them closely, he presently became aware of a number of
other men at the back of the room, standing round, or lying on the shelf
that served as a bed. Standing close to the door he also saw the pail
which caused such an unbearable stench. On the shelf about ten men,
entirely covered with their cloaks, were sleeping. A red-haired man with
a huge beard was sitting sideways on the shelf, with his shirt off. He
was examining it, lifting it up to the light, and evidently catching
the vermin on it. Another man, aged and white as snow, stood with his
profile turned towards the door. He was praying, crossing himself, and
bowing low, apparently so absorbed in his devotions as to be oblivious
of all around him.

"I see--this is a prison," thought the young Tsar. "They certainly
deserve pity. It is a dreadful life. But it cannot be helped. It is
their own fault."

But this thought had hardly come into his head before HE, who was his
guide, replied to it.

"They are all here under lock and key by your order. They have all been
sentenced in your name. But far from meriting their present condition
which is due to your human judgment, the greater part of them are far
better than you or those who were their judges and who keep them here.
This one"--he pointed to the handsome, curly-headed fellow--"is a
murderer. I do not consider him more guilty than those who kill in
war or in duelling, and are rewarded for their deeds. He had neither
education nor moral guidance, and his life had been cast among
thieves and drunkards. This lessens his guilt, but he has done wrong,
nevertheless, in being a murderer. He killed a merchant, to rob him.
The other man, the Jew, is a thief, one of a gang of thieves. That
uncommonly strong fellow is a horse-stealer, and guilty also, but
compared with others not as culpable. Look!"--and suddenly the young
Tsar found himself in an open field on a vast frontier. On the right
were potato fields; the plants had been rooted out, and were lying in
heaps, blackened by the frost; in alternate streaks were rows of winter
corn. In the distance a little village with its tiled roofs was visible;
on the left were fields of winter corn, and fields of stubble. No one
was to be seen on any side, save a black human figure in front at the
border-line, a gun slung on his back, and at his feet a dog. On the spot
where the young Tsar stood, sitting beside him, almost at his feet, was
a young Russian soldier with a green band on his cap, and with his
rifle slung over his shoulders, who was rolling up a paper to make a
cigarette. The soldier was obviously unaware of the presence of the
young Tsar and his companion, and had not heard them. He did now turn
round when the Tsar, who was standing directly over the soldier,
asked, "Where are we?" "On the Prussian frontier," his guide answered.
Suddenly, far away in front of them, a shot was fired. The soldier
jumped to his feet, and seeing two men running, bent low to the ground,
hastily put his tobacco into his pocket, and ran after one of them.
"Stop, or I'll shoot!" cried the soldier. The fugitive, without
stopping, turned his head and called out something evidently abusive or
blasphemous.

"Damn you!" shouted the soldier, who put one foot a little forward and
stopped, after which, bending his head over his rifle, and raising his
right hand, he rapidly adjusted something, took aim, and, pointing the
gun in the direction of the fugitive, probably fired, although no sound
was heard. "Smokeless powder, no doubt," thought the young Tsar, and
looking after the fleeing man saw him take a few hurried steps, and
bending lower and lower, fall to the ground and crawl on his hands and
knees. At last he remained lying and did not move. The other fugitive,
who was ahead of him, turned round and ran back to the man who was lying
on the ground. He did something for him and then resumed his flight.

"What does all this mean?" asked the Tsar.

"These are the guards on the frontier, enforcing the revenue laws. That
man was killed to protect the revenues of the State."

"Has he actually been killed?"

The guide again laid his hand upon the head of the young Tsar, and again
the Tsar lost consciousness. When he had recovered his senses he found
himself in a small room--the customs office. The dead body of a man,
with a thin grizzled beard, an aquiline nose, and big eyes with the
eyelids closed, was lying on the floor. His arms were thrown asunder,
his feet bare, and his thick, dirty toes were turned up at right angles
and stuck out straight. He had a wound in his side, and on his ragged
cloth jacket, as well as on his blue shirt, were stains of clotted
blood, which had turned black save for a few red spots here and there.
A woman stood close to the wall, so wrapped up in shawls that her face
could scarcely be seen. Motionless she gazed at the aquiline nose, the
upturned feet, and the protruding eyeballs; sobbing and sighing, and
drying her tears at long, regular intervals. A pretty girl of thirteen
was standing at her mother's side, with her eyes and mouth wide open.
A boy of eight clung to his mother's skirt, and looked intensely at his
dead father without blinking.

From a door near them an official, an officer, a doctor, and a clerk
with documents, entered. After them came a soldier, the one who had shot
the man. He stepped briskly along behind his superiors, but the instant
he saw the corpse he went suddenly pale, and quivered; and dropping his
head stood still. When the official asked him whether that was the man
who was escaping across the frontier, and at whom he had fired, he
was unable to answer. His lips trembled, and his face twitched. "The
s--s--s--" he began, but could not get out the words which he wanted to
say. "The same, your excellency." The officials looked at each other and
wrote something down.

"You see the beneficial results of that same system!"

In a room of sumptuous vulgarity two men sat drinking wine. One of them
was old and grey, the other a young Jew. The young Jew was holding a
roll of bank-notes in his hand, and was bargaining with the old man. He
was buying smuggled goods.

"You've got 'em cheap," he said, smiling.

"Yes--but the risk--"

"This is indeed terrible," said the young Tsar; "but it cannot be
avoided. Such proceedings are necessary."

His companion made no response, saying merely, "Let us move on," and
laid his hand again on the head of the Tsar. When the Tsar recovered
consciousness, he was standing in a small room lit by a shaded lamp. A
woman was sitting at the table sewing. A boy of eight was bending over
the table, drawing, with his feet doubled up under him in the armchair.
A student was reading aloud. The father and daughter of the family
entered the room noisily.

"You signed the order concerning the sale of spirits," said the guide to
the Tsar.

"Well?" said the woman.

"He's not likely to live."

"What's the matter with him?"

"They've kept him drunk all the time."

"It's not possible!" exclaimed the wife.

"It's true. And the boy's only nine years old, that Vania Moroshkine."

"What did you do to try to save him?" asked the wife.

"I tried everything that could be done. I gave him an emetic and put a
mustard-plaster on him. He has every symptom of delirium tremens."

"It's no wonder--the whole family are drunkards. Annisia is only a
little better than the rest, and even she is generally more or less
drunk," said the daughter.

"And what about your temperance society?" the student asked his sister.

"What can we do when they are given every opportunity of drinking?
Father tried to have the public-house shut up, but the law is against
him. And, besides, when I was trying to convince Vasily Ermiline that it
was disgraceful to keep a public-house and ruin the people with drink,
he answered very haughtily, and indeed got the better of me before the
crowd: 'But I have a license with the Imperial eagle on it. If there was
anything wrong in my business, the Tsar wouldn't have issued a decree
authorising it.' Isn't it terrible? The whole village has been drunk
for the last three days. And as for feast-days, it is simply horrible to
think of! It has been proved conclusively that alcohol does no good in
any case, but invariably does harm, and it has been demonstrated to be
an absolute poison. Then, ninety-nine per cent. of the crimes in the
world are committed through its influence. We all know how the standard
of morality and the general welfare improved at once in all the
countries where drinking has been suppressed--like Sweden and Finland,
and we know that it can be suppressed by exercising a moral influence
over the masses. But in our country the class which could exert that
influence--the Government, the Tsar and his officials--simply encourage
drink. Their main revenues are drawn from the continual drunkenness of
the people. They drink themselves--they are always drinking the health
of somebody: 'Gentlemen, the Regiment!' The preachers drink, the bishops
drink--"

Again the guide touched the head of the young Tsar, who again lost
consciousness. This time he found himself in a peasant's cottage.
The peasant--a man of forty, with red face and blood-shot eyes--was
furiously striking the face of an old man, who tried in vain to protect
himself from the blows. The younger peasant seized the beard of the old
man and held it fast.

"For shame! To strike your father--!"

"I don't care, I'll kill him! Let them send me to Siberia, I don't
care!"

The women were screaming. Drunken officials rushed into the cottage and
separated father and son. The father had an arm broken and the son's
beard was torn out. In the doorway a drunken girl was making violent
love to an old besotted peasant.

"They are beasts!" said the young Tsar.

Another touch of his guide's hand and the young Tsar awoke in a new
place. It was the office of the justice of the peace. A fat, bald-headed
man, with a double chin and a chain round his neck, had just risen from
his seat, and was reading the sentence in a loud voice, while a crowd
of peasants stood behind the grating. There was a woman in rags in the
crowd who did not rise. The guard gave her a push.

"Asleep! I tell you to stand up!" The woman rose.

"According to the decree of his Imperial Majesty--" the judge began
reading the sentence. The case concerned that very woman. She had taken
away half a bundle of oats as she was passing the thrashing-floor of
a landowner. The justice of the peace sentenced her to two months'
imprisonment. The landowner whose oats had been stolen was among the
audience. When the judge adjourned the court the landowner approached,
and shook hands, and the judge entered into conversation with him. The
next case was about a stolen samovar. Then there was a trial about
some timber which had been cut, to the detriment of the landowner. Some
peasants were being tried for having assaulted the constable of the
district.

When the young Tsar again lost consciousness, he awoke to find himself
in the middle of a village, where he saw hungry, half-frozen children
and the wife of the man who had assaulted the constable broken down from
overwork.

Then came a new scene. In Siberia, a tramp is being flogged with the
lash, the direct result of an order issued by the Minister of justice.
Again oblivion, and another scene. The family of a Jewish watchmaker
is evicted for being too poor. The children are crying, and the Jew,
Isaaks, is greatly distressed. At last they come to an arrangement, and
he is allowed to stay on in the lodgings.

The chief of police takes a bribe. The governor of the province also
secretly accepts a bribe. Taxes are being collected. In the village,
while a cow is sold for payment, the police inspector is bribed by a
factory owner, who thus escapes taxes altogether. And again a village
court scene, and a sentence carried into execution--the lash!

"Ilia Vasilievich, could you not spare me that?"

"No."

The peasant burst into tears. "Well, of course, Christ suffered, and He
bids us suffer too."

Then other scenes. The Stundists--a sect--being broken up and dispersed;
the clergy refusing first to marry, then to bury a Protestant. Orders
given concerning the passage of the Imperial railway train. Soldiers
kept sitting in the mud--cold, hungry, and cursing. Decrees issued
relating to the educational institutions of the Empress Mary Department.
Corruption rampant in the foundling homes. An undeserved monument.
Thieving among the clergy. The reinforcement of the political police.
A woman being searched. A prison for convicts who are sentenced to be
deported. A man being hanged for murdering a shop assistant.

Then the result of military discipline: soldiers wearing uniform and
scoffing at it. A gipsy encampment. The son of a millionaire exempted
from military duty, while the only support of a large family is forced
to serve. The university: a teacher relieved of military service, while
the most gifted musicians are compelled to perform it. Soldiers and
their debauchery--and the spreading of disease.

Then a soldier who has made an attempt to desert. He is being tried.
Another is on trial for striking an officer who has insulted his mother.
He is put to death. Others, again, are tried for having refused to
shoot. The runaway soldier sent to a disciplinary battalion and flogged
to death. Another, who is guiltless, flogged, and his wounds sprinkled
with salt till he dies. One of the superior officers stealing money
belonging to the soldiers. Nothing but drunkenness, debauchery,
gambling, and arrogance on the part of the authorities.

What is the general condition of the people: the children are
half-starving and degenerate; the houses are full of vermin; an
everlasting dull round of labour, of submission, and of sadness. On the
other hand: ministers, governors of provinces, covetous, ambitious, full
of vanity, and anxious to inspire fear.

"But where are men with human feelings?"

"I will show you where they are."

Here is the cell of a woman in solitary confinement at Schlusselburg.
She is going mad. Here is another woman--a girl--indisposed, violated
by soldiers. A man in exile, alone, embittered, half-dead. A prison for
convicts condemned to hard labour, and women flogged. They are many.

Tens of thousands of the best people. Some shut up in prisons, others
ruined by false education, by the vain desire to bring them up as we
wish. But not succeeding in this, whatever might have been is ruined
as well, for it is made impossible. It is as if we were trying to make
buckwheat out of corn sprouts by splitting the ears. One may spoil the
corn, but one could never change it to buckwheat. Thus all the youth of
the world, the entire younger generation, is being ruined.

But woe to those who destroy one of these little ones, woe to you if you
destroy even one of them. On your soul, however, are hosts of them,
who have been ruined in your name, all of those over whom your power
extends.

"But what can I do?" exclaimed the Tsar in despair. "I do not wish to
torture, to flog, to corrupt, to kill any one! I only want the welfare
of all. Just as I yearn for happiness myself, so I want the world to be
happy as well. Am I actually responsible for everything that is done
in my name? What can I do? What am I to do to rid myself of such a
responsibility? What can I do? I do not admit that the responsibility
for all this is mine. If I felt myself responsible for one-hundredth
part of it, I would shoot myself on the spot. It would not be possible
to live if that were true. But how can I put an end, to all this evil?
It is bound up with the very existence of the State. I am the head of
the State! What am I to do? Kill myself? Or abdicate? But that would
mean renouncing my duty. O God, O God, God, help me!" He burst into
tears and awoke.

"How glad I am that it was only a dream," was his first thought. But
when he began to recollect what he had seen in his dream, and to compare
it with actuality, he realised that the problem propounded to him in
dream remained just as important and as insoluble now that he was
awake. For the first time the young Tsar became aware of the heavy
responsibility weighing on him, and was aghast. His thoughts no longer
turned to the young Queen and to the happiness he had anticipated for
that evening, but became centred on the unanswerable question which hung
over him: "What was to be done?"

In a state of great agitation he arose and went into the next room. An
old courtier, a co-worker and friend of his father's, was standing there
in the middle of the room in conversation with the young Queen, who
was on her way to join her husband. The young Tsar approached them, and
addressing his conversation principally to the old courtier, told him
what he had seen in his dream and what doubts the dream had left in his
mind.

"That is a noble idea. It proves the rare nobility of your spirit," said
the old man. "But forgive me for speaking frankly--you are too kind
to be an emperor, and you exaggerate your responsibility. In the first
place, the state of things is not as you imagine it to be. The people
are not poor. They are well-to-do. Those who are poor are poor through
their own fault. Only the guilty are punished, and if an unavoidable
mistake does sometimes occur, it is like a thunderbolt--an accident, or
the will of God. You have but one responsibility: to fulfil your task
courageously and to retain the power that is given to you. You wish the
best for your people and God sees that. As for the errors which you have
committed unwittingly, you can pray for forgiveness, and God will guide
you and pardon you. All the more because you have done nothing that
demands forgiveness, and there never have been and never will be men
possessed of such extraordinary qualities as you and your father.
Therefore all we implore you to do is to live, and to reward our endless
devotion and love with your favour, and every one, save scoundrels who
deserve no happiness, will be happy."

"What do you think about that?" the young Tsar asked his wife.

"I have a different opinion," said the clever young woman, who had been
brought up in a free country. "I am glad you had that dream, and I agree
with you that there are grave responsibilities resting upon you. I have
often thought about it with great anxiety, and I think there is a simple
means of casting off a part of the responsibility you are unable to
bear, if not all of it. A large proportion of the power which is
too heavy for you, you should delegate to the people, to its
representatives, reserving for yourself only the supreme control, that
is, the general direction of the affairs of State."


The Queen had hardly ceased to expound her views, when the old courtier
began eagerly to refute her arguments, and they started a polite but
very heated discussion.

For a time the young Tsar followed their arguments, but presently he
ceased to be aware of what they said, listening only to the voice of him
who had been his guide in the dream, and who was now speaking audibly in
his heart.

"You are not only the Tsar," said the voice, "but more. You are a human
being, who only yesterday came into this world, and will perchance
to-morrow depart out of it. Apart from your duties as a Tsar, of which
that old man is now speaking, you have more immediate duties not by any
means to be disregarded; human duties, not the duties of a Tsar towards
his subjects, which are only accidental, but an eternal duty, the duty
of a man in his relation to God, the duty toward your own soul, which is
to save it, and also, to serve God in establishing his kingdom on earth.
You are not to be guarded in your actions either by what has been or
what will be, but only by what it is your own duty to do."

*****

He opened his eyes--his wife was awakening him. Which of the three
courses the young Tsar chose, will be told in fifty years.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:55 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

I

MINE is a strange and wonderful lot! The chances are that there is not a
single wretched beggar suffering under the luxury and oppression of the
rich who feels anything like as keenly as I do either the injustice,
the cruelty, and the horror of their oppression of and contempt for
the poor; or the grinding humiliation and misery which befall the great
majority of the workers, the real producers of all that makes life
possible. I have felt this for a long time, and as the years have
passed by the feeling has grown and grown, until recently it reached its
climax. Although I feel all this so vividly, I still live on amid the
depravity and sins of rich society; and I cannot leave it, because I
have neither the knowledge nor the strength to do so. I cannot. I do
not know how to change my life so that my physical needs--food, sleep,
clothing, my going to and fro--may be satisfied without a sense of shame
and wrongdoing in the position which I fill.

There was a time when I tried to change my position, which was not in
harmony with my conscience; but the conditions created by the past, by
my family and its claims upon me, were so complicated that they would
not let me out of their grasp, or rather, I did not know how to free
myself. I had not the strength. Now that I am over eighty and have
become feeble, I have given up trying to free myself; and, strange to
say, as my feebleness increases I realise more and more strongly the
wrongfulness of my position, and it grows more and more intolerable to
me.

It has occurred to me that I do not occupy this position for nothing:
that Providence intended that I should lay bare the truth of my
feelings, so that I might atone for all that causes my suffering, and
might perhaps open the eyes of those--or at least of some of those--who
are still blind to what I see so clearly, and thus might lighten
the burden of that vast majority who, under existing conditions, are
subjected to bodily and spiritual suffering by those who deceive them
and also deceive themselves. Indeed, it may be that the position which
I occupy gives me special facilities for revealing the artificial and
criminal relations which exist between men--for telling the whole truth
in regard to that position without confusing the issue by attempting to
vindicate myself, and without rousing the envy of the rich and feelings
of oppression in the hearts of the poor and downtrodden. I am so
placed that I not only have no desire to vindicate myself; but, on the
contrary, I find it necessary to make an effort lest I should exaggerate
the wickedness of the great among whom I live, of whose society I am
ashamed, whose attitude towards their fellow-men I detest with my whole
soul, though I find it impossible to separate my lot from theirs. But
I must also avoid the error of those democrats and others who, in
defending the oppressed and the enslaved, do not see their failings and
mistakes, and who do not make sufficient allowance for the difficulties
created, the mistakes inherited from the past, which in a degree lessens
the responsibility of the upper classes.

Free from desire for self-vindication, free from fear of an emancipated
people, free from that envy and hatred which the oppressed feel for
their oppressors, I am in the best possible position to see the truth
and to tell it. Perhaps that is why Providence placed me in such a
position. I will do my best to turn it to account.


II

Alexander Ivanovich Volgin, a bachelor and a clerk in a Moscow bank at a
salary of eight thousand roubles a year, a man much respected in his own
set, was staying in a country-house. His host was a wealthy landowner,
owning some twenty-five hundred acres, and had married his guest's
cousin. Volgin, tired after an evening spent in playing vint* for small
stakes with [* A game of cards similar to auction bridge.] members
of the family, went to his room and placed his watch, silver
cigarette-case, pocket-book, big leather purse, and pocket-brush and
comb on a small table covered with a white cloth, and then, taking off
his coat, waistcoat, shirt, trousers, and underclothes, his silk socks
and English boots, put on his nightshirt and dressing-gown. His watch
pointed to midnight. Volgin smoked a cigarette, lay on his face for
about five minutes reviewing the day's impressions; then, blowing
out his candle, he turned over on his side and fell asleep about one
o'clock, in spite of a good deal of restlessness. Awaking next morning
at eight he put on his slippers and dressing-gown, and rang the bell.

The old butler, Stephen, the father of a family and the grandfather of
six grandchildren, who had served in that house for thirty years,
entered the room hurriedly, with bent legs, carrying in the newly
blackened boots which Volgin had taken off the night before, a
well-brushed suit, and a clean shirt. The guest thanked him, and then
asked what the weather was like (the blinds were drawn so that the sun
should not prevent any one from sleeping till eleven o'clock if he were
so inclined), and whether his hosts had slept well. He glanced at his
watch--it was still early--and began to wash and dress. His water was
ready, and everything on the washing-stand and dressing-table was ready
for use and properly laid out--his soap, his tooth and hair brushes, his
nail scissors and files. He washed his hands and face in a leisurely
fashion, cleaned and manicured his nails, pushed back the skin with the
towel, and sponged his stout white body from head to foot. Then he began
to brush his hair. Standing in front of the mirror, he first brushed his
curly beard, which was beginning to turn grey, with two English brushes,
parting it down the middle. Then he combed his hair, which was already
showing signs of getting thin, with a large tortoise-shell comb. Putting
on his underlinen, his socks, his boots, his trousers--which were held
up by elegant braces--and his waistcoat, he sat down coatless in an easy
chair to rest after dressing, lit a cigarette, and began to think where
he should go for a walk that morning--to the park or to Littleports
(what a funny name for a wood!). He thought he would go to Littleports.
Then he must answer Simon Nicholaevich's letter; but there was time
enough for that. Getting up with an air of resolution, he took out his
watch. It was already five minutes to nine. He put his watch into his
waistcoat pocket, and his purse--with all that was left of the hundred
and eighty roubles he had taken for his journey, and for the incidental
expenses of his fortnight's stay with his cousin--and then he
placed into his trouser pocket his cigarette-case and electric
cigarette-lighter, and two clean handkerchiefs into his coat pockets,
and went out of the room, leaving as usual the mess and confusion which
he had made to be cleared up by Stephen, an old man of over fifty.
Stephen expected Volgin to "remunerate" him, as he said, being so
accustomed to the work that he did not feel the slightest repugnance for
it. Glancing at a mirror, and feeling satisfied with his appearance,
Volgin went into the dining-room.

There, thanks to the efforts of the housekeeper, the footman, and
under-butler--the latter had risen at dawn in order to run home to
sharpen his son's scythe--breakfast was ready. On a spotless white cloth
stood a boiling, shiny, silver samovar (at least it looked like silver),
a coffee-pot, hot milk, cream, butter, and all sorts of fancy white
bread and biscuits. The only persons at table were the second son of the
house, his tutor (a student), and the secretary. The host, who was an
active member of the Zemstvo and a great farmer, had already left the
house, having gone at eight o'clock to attend to his work. Volgin, while
drinking his coffee, talked to the student and the secretary about
the weather, and yesterday's vint, and discussed Theodorite's peculiar
behaviour the night before, as he had been very rude to his father
without the slightest cause. Theodorite was the grown-up son of the
house, and a ne'er-do-well. His name was Theodore, but some one had
once called him Theodorite either as a joke or to tease him; and, as it
seemed funny, the name stuck to him, although his doings were no longer
in the least amusing. So it was now. He had been to the university, but
left it in his second year, and joined a regiment of horse guards; but
he gave that up also, and was now living in the country, doing nothing,
finding fault, and feeling discontented with everything. Theodorite
was still in bed: so were the other members of the household--Anna
Mikhailovna, its mistress; her sister, the widow of a general; and a
landscape painter who lived with the family.

Volgin took his panama hat from the hall table (it had cost twenty
roubles) and his cane with its carved ivory handle, and went out.
Crossing the veranda, gay with flowers, he walked through the flower
garden, in the centre of which was a raised round bed, with rings of
red, white, and blue flowers, and the initials of the mistress of the
house done in carpet bedding in the centre. Leaving the flower garden
Volgin entered the avenue of lime trees, hundreds of years old, which
peasant girls were tidying and sweeping with spades and brooms. The
gardener was busy measuring, and a boy was bringing something in a
cart. Passing these Volgin went into the park of at least a hundred
and twenty-five acres, filled with fine old trees, and intersected by
a network of well-kept walks. Smoking as he strolled Volgin took his
favourite path past the summer-house into the fields beyond. It was
pleasant in the park, but it was still nicer in the fields. On the right
some women who were digging potatoes formed a mass of bright red and
white colour; on the left were wheat fields, meadows, and grazing
cattle; and in the foreground, slightly to the right, were the dark,
dark oaks of Littleports. Volgin took a deep breath, and felt glad that
he was alive, especially here in his cousin's home, where he was so
thoroughly enjoying the rest from his work at the bank.

"Lucky people to live in the country," he thought. "True, what with his
farming and his Zemstvo, the owner of the estate has very little peace
even in the country, but that is his own lookout." Volgin shook his
head, lit another cigarette, and, stepping out firmly with his powerful
feet clad in his thick English boots, began to think of the heavy
winter's work in the bank that was in front of him. "I shall be there
every day from ten to two, sometimes even till five. And the board
meetings . . . And private interviews with clients. . . . Then the Duma.
Whereas here. . . . It is delightful. It may be a little dull, but it is
not for long." He smiled. After a stroll in Littleports he turned back,
going straight across a fallow field which was being ploughed. A herd of
cows, calves, sheep, and pigs, which belonged to the village community,
was grazing there. The shortest way to the park was to pass through the
herd. He frightened the sheep, which ran away one after another, and
were followed by the pigs, of which two little ones stared solemnly at
him. The shepherd boy called to the sheep and cracked his whip. "How far
behind Europe we are," thought Volgin, recalling his frequent holidays
abroad. "You would not find a single cow like that anywhere in Europe."
Then, wanting to find out where the path which branched off from the
one he was on led to and who was the owner of the herd, he called to the
boy.

"Whose herd is it?"

The boy was so filled with wonder, verging on terror, when he gazed
at the hat, the well-brushed beard, and above all the gold-rimmed
eyeglasses, that he could not reply at once. When Volgin repeated his
question the boy pulled himself together, and said, "Ours." "But whose
is 'ours'?" said Volgin, shaking his head and smiling. The boy was
wearing shoes of plaited birch bark, bands of linen round his legs, a
dirty, unbleached shirt ragged at the shoulder, and a cap the peak of
which had been torn.

"Whose is 'ours'?"

"The Pirogov village herd."

"How old are you?

"I don't know."

"Can you read?"

"No, I can't."

"Didn't you go to school?"

"Yes, I did."

"Couldn't you learn to read?"

"No."

"Where does that path lead?"

The boy told him, and Volgin went on towards the house, thinking how
he would chaff Nicholas Petrovich about the deplorable condition of the
village schools in spite of all his efforts.

On approaching the house Volgin looked at his watch, and saw that it was
already past eleven. He remembered that Nicholas Petrovich was going to
drive to the nearest town, and that he had meant to give him a letter
to post to Moscow; but the letter was not written. The letter was a very
important one to a friend, asking him to bid for him for a picture
of the Madonna which was to be offered for sale at an auction. As he
reached the house he saw at the door four big, well-fed, well-groomed,
thoroughbred horses harnessed to a carriage, the black lacquer of which
glistened in the sun. The coachman was seated on the box in a kaftan,
with a silver belt, and the horses were jingling their silver bells from
time to time.

A bare-headed, barefooted peasant in a ragged kaftan stood at the front
door. He bowed. Volgin asked what he wanted.

"I have come to see Nicholas Petrovich."

"What about?"

"Because I am in distress--my horse has died."

Volgin began to question him. The peasant told him how he was situated.
He had five children, and this had been his only horse. Now it was gone.
He wept.

"What are you going to do?"

"To beg." And he knelt down, and remained kneeling in spite of Volgin's
expostulations.

"What is your name?"

"Mitri Sudarikov," answered the peasant, still kneeling.

Volgin took three roubles from his purse and gave them to the peasant,
who showed his gratitude by touching the ground with his forehead, and
then went into the house. His host was standing in the hall.

"Where is your letter?" he asked, approaching Volgin; "I am just off."

"I'm awfully sorry, I'll write it this minute, if you will let me.
I forgot all about it. It's so pleasant here that one can forget
anything."

"All right, but do be quick. The horses have already been standing a
quarter of an hour, and the flies are biting viciously. Can you wait,
Arsenty?" he asked the coachman.

"Why not?" said the coachman, thinking to himself, "why do they order
the horses when they aren't ready? The rush the grooms and I had--just
to stand here and feed the flies."

"Directly, directly," Volgin went towards his room, but turned back to
ask Nicholas Petrovich about the begging peasant.

"Did you see him?--He's a drunkard, but still he is to be pitied. Do be
quick!"

Volgin got out his case, with all the requisites for writing, wrote the
letter, made out a cheque for a hundred and eighty roubles, and, sealing
down the envelope, took it to Nicholas Petrovich.

"Good-bye."

Volgin read the newspapers till luncheon. He only read the Liberal
papers: The Russian Gazette, Speech, sometimes The Russian Word--but he
would not touch The New Times, to which his host subscribed.

While he was scanning at his ease the political news, the Tsar's doings,
the doings of President, and ministers and decisions in the Duma,
and was just about to pass on to the general news, theatres, science,
murders and cholera, he heard the luncheon bell ring.

Thanks to the efforts of upwards of ten human beings--counting
laundresses, gardeners, cooks, kitchen-maids, butlers and footmen--the
table was sumptuously laid for eight, with silver waterjugs, decanters,
kvass, wine, mineral waters, cut glass, and fine table linen, while
two men-servants were continually hurrying to and fro, bringing in and
serving, and then clearing away the hors d'oeuvre and the various hot
and cold courses.

The hostess talked incessantly about everything that she had been doing,
thinking, and saying; and she evidently considered that everything that
she thought, said, or did was perfect, and that it would please every
one except those who were fools. Volgin felt and knew that everything
she said was stupid, but it would never do to let it be seen, and so he
kept up the conversation. Theodorite was glum and silent; the student
occasionally exchanged a few words with the widow. Now and again there
was a pause in the conversation, and then Theodorite interposed, and
every one became miserably depressed. At such moments the hostess
ordered some dish that had not been served, and the footman hurried off
to the kitchen, or to the housekeeper, and hurried back again. Nobody
felt inclined either to talk or to eat. But they all forced themselves
to eat and to talk, and so luncheon went on.

The peasant who had been begging because his horse had died was named
Mitri Sudarikov. He had spent the whole day before he went to the squire
over his dead horse. First of all he went to the knacker, Sanin, who
lived in a village near. The knacker was out, but he waited for him, and
it was dinner-time when he had finished bargaining over the price of the
skin. Then he borrowed a neighbour's horse to take his own to a field
to be buried, as it is forbidden to bury dead animals near a village.
Adrian would not lend his horse because he was getting in his potatoes,
but Stephen took pity on Mitri and gave way to his persuasion. He even
lent a hand in lifting the dead horse into the cart. Mitri tore off the
shoes from the forelegs and gave them to his wife. One was broken, but
the other one was whole. While he was digging the grave with a spade
which was very blunt, the knacker appeared and took off the skin; and
the carcass was then thrown into the hole and covered up. Mitri felt
tired, and went into Matrena's hut, where he drank half a bottle of
vodka with Sanin to console himself. Then he went home, quarrelled with
his wife, and lay down to sleep on the hay. He did not undress, but
slept just as he was, with a ragged coat for a coverlet. His wife was
in the hut with the girls--there were four of them, and the youngest was
only five weeks old. Mitri woke up before dawn as usual. He groaned
as the memory of the day before broke in upon him--how the horse had
struggled and struggled, and then fallen down. Now there was no horse,
and all he had was the price of the skin, four roubles and eighty
kopeks. Getting up he arranged the linen bands on his legs, and went
through the yard into the hut. His wife was putting straw into the stove
with one hand, with the other she was holding a baby girl to her breast,
which was hanging out of her dirty chemise.

Mitri crossed himself three times, turning towards the corner in which
the ikons hung, and repeated some utterly meaningless words, which he
called prayers, to the Trinity and the Virgin, the Creed and our Father.

"Isn't there any water?"

"The girl's gone for it. I've got some tea. Will you go up to the
squire?"

"Yes, I'd better." The smoke from the stove made him cough. He took a
rag off the wooden bench and went into the porch. The girl had just come
back with the water. Mitri filled his mouth with water from the pail and
squirted it out on his hands, took some more in his mouth to wash his
face, dried himself with the rag, then parted and smoothed his curly
hair with his fingers and went out. A little girl of about ten, with
nothing on but a dirty shirt, came towards him. "Good-morning, Uncle
Mitri," she said; "you are to come and thrash." "All right, I'll come,"
replied Mitri. He understood that he was expected to return the help
given the week before by Kumushkir, a man as poor as he was himself,
when he was thrashing his own corn with a horse-driven machine.

"Tell them I'll come--I'll come at lunch time. I've got to go to
Ugrumi." Mitri went back to the hut, and changing his birch-bark shoes
and the linen bands on his legs, started off to see the squire. After
he had got three roubles from Volgin, and the same sum from Nicholas
Petrovich, he returned to his house, gave the money to his wife, and
went to his neighbour's. The thrashing machine was humming, and the
driver was shouting. The lean horses were going slowly round him,
straining at their traces. The driver was shouting to them in a
monotone, "Now, there, my dears." Some women were unbinding sheaves,
others were raking up the scattered straw and ears, and others again
were gathering great armfuls of corn and handing them to the men to feed
the machine. The work was in full swing. In the kitchen garden, which
Mitri had to pass, a girl, clad only in a long shirt, was digging
potatoes which she put into a basket.

"Where's your grandfather?" asked Mitri. "He's in the barn." Mitri went
to the barn and set to work at once. The old man of eighty knew of
Mitri's trouble. After greeting him, he gave him his place to feed the
machine.

Mitri took off his ragged coat, laid it out of the way near the fence,
and then began to work vigorously, raking the corn together and throwing
it into the machine. The work went on without interruption until the
dinner-hour. The cocks had crowed two or three times, but no one paid
any attention to them; not because the workers did not believe them, but
because they were scarcely heard for the noise of the work and the talk
about it. At last the whistle of the squire's steam thrasher sounded
three miles away, and then the owner came into the barn. He was
a straight old man of eighty. "It's time to stop," he said; "it's
dinner-time." Those at work seemed to redouble their efforts. In a
moment the straw was cleared away; the grain that had been thrashed was
separated from the chaff and brought in, and then the workers went into
the hut.

The hut was smoke-begrimed, as its stove had no chimney, but it had been
tidied up, and benches stood round the table, making room for all those
who had been working, of whom there were nine, not counting the owners.
Bread, soup, boiled potatoes, and kvass were placed on the table.

An old one-armed beggar, with a bag slung over his shoulder, came in
with a crutch during the meal.

"Peace be to this house. A good appetite to you. For Christ's sake give
me something."

"God will give it to you," said the mistress, already an old woman, and
the daughter-in-law of the master. "Don't be angry with us." An old
man, who was still standing near the door, said, "Give him some bread,
Martha. How can you?"

"I am only wondering whether we shall have enough." "Oh, it is wrong,
Martha. God tells us to help the poor. Cut him a slice."

Martha obeyed. The beggar went away. The man in charge of the
thrashing-machine got up, said grace, thanked his hosts, and went away
to rest.

Mitri did not lie down, but ran to the shop to buy some tobacco. He was
longing for a smoke. While he smoked he chatted to a man from Demensk,
asking the price of cattle, as he saw that he would not be able to
manage without selling a cow. When he returned to the others, they were
already back at work again; and so it went on till the evening.

Among these downtrodden, duped, and defrauded men, who are becoming
demoralised by overwork, and being gradually done to death by
underfeeding, there are men living who consider themselves Christians;
and others so enlightened that they feel no further need for
Christianity or for any religion, so superior do they appear in their
own esteem. And yet their hideous, lazy lives are supported by the
degrading, excessive labour of these slaves, not to mention the labour
of millions of other slaves, toiling in factories to produce samovars,
silver, carriages, machines, and the like for their use. They live among
these horrors, seeing them and yet not seeing them, although often
kind at heart--old men and women, young men and maidens, mothers and
children--poor children who are being vitiated and trained into moral
blindness.

Here is a bachelor grown old, the owner of thousands of acres, who has
lived a life of idleness, greed, and over-indulgence, who reads The
New Times, and is astonished that the government can be so unwise as to
permit Jews to enter the university. There is his guest, formerly the
governor of a province, now a senator with a big salary, who reads with
satisfaction that a congress of lawyers has passed a resolution in favor
of capital punishment. Their political enemy, N. P., reads a liberal
paper, and cannot understand the blindness of the government in allowing
the union of Russian men to exist.

Here is a kind, gentle mother of a little girl reading a story to her
about Fox, a dog that lamed some rabbits. And here is this little girl.
During her walks she sees other children, barefooted, hungry, hunting
for green apples that have fallen from the trees; and, so accustomed is
she to the sight, that these children do not seem to her to be children
such as she is, but only part of the usual surroundings--the familiar
landscape.

Why is this?

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:54 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

"As a daughter she no longer exists for me. Can't you understand? She
simply doesn't exist. Still, I cannot possibly leave her to the charity
of strangers. I will arrange things so that she can live as she pleases,
but I do not wish to hear of her. Who would ever have thought . . . the
horror of it, the horror of it."

He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and raised his eyes. These
words were spoken by Prince Michael Ivanovich to his brother Peter, who
was governor of a province in Central Russia. Prince Peter was a man of
fifty, Michael's junior by ten years.

On discovering that his daughter, who had left his house a year before,
had settled here with her child, the elder brother had come from St.
Petersburg to the provincial town, where the above conversation took
place.

Prince Michael Ivanovich was a tall, handsome, white-haired, fresh
coloured man, proud and attractive in appearance and bearing. His family
consisted of a vulgar, irritable wife, who wrangled with him continually
over every petty detail, a son, a ne'er-do-well, spendthrift and
roue--yet a "gentleman," according to his father's code, two daughters,
of whom the elder had married well, and was living in St. Petersburg;
and the younger, Lisa--his favourite, who had disappeared from home a
year before. Only a short while ago he had found her with her child in
this provincial town.

Prince Peter wanted to ask his brother how, and under what
circumstances, Lisa had left home, and who could possibly be the father
of her child. But he could not make up his mind to inquire.

That very morning, when his wife had attempted to condole with her
brother-in-law, Prince Peter had observed a look of pain on his
brother's face. The look had at once been masked by an expression of
unapproachable pride, and he had begun to question her about their flat,
and the price she paid. At luncheon, before the family and guests, he
had been witty and sarcastic as usual. Towards every one, excepting the
children, whom he treated with almost reverent tenderness, he adopted an
attitude of distant hauteur. And yet it was so natural to him that every
one somehow acknowledged his right to be haughty.

In the evening his brother arranged a game of whist. When he retired to
the room which had been made ready for him, and was just beginning to
take out his artificial teeth, some one tapped lightly on the door with
two fingers.

"Who is that?"

"C'est moi, Michael."

Prince Michael Ivanovich recognised the voice of his sister-in-law,
frowned, replaced his teeth, and said to himself, "What does she want?"
Aloud he said, "Entrez."

His sister-in-law was a quiet, gentle creature, who bowed in submission
to her husband's will. But to many she seemed a crank, and some did not
hesitate to call her a fool. She was pretty, but her hair was always
carelessly dressed, and she herself was untidy and absent-minded. She
had, also, the strangest, most unaristocratic ideas, by no means fitting
in the wife of a high official. These ideas she would express most
unexpectedly, to everybody's astonishment, her husband's no less than
her friends'.

"Fous pouvez me renvoyer, mais je ne m'en irai pas, je vous le dis
d'avance," she began, in her characteristic, indifferent way.

"Dieu preserve," answered her brother-in-law, with his usual somewhat
exaggerated politeness, and brought forward a chair for her.

"Ca ne vous derange pas?" she asked, taking out a cigarette. "I'm
not going to say anything unpleasant, Michael. I only wanted to say
something about Lisochka."

Michael Ivanovich sighed--the word pained him; but mastering himself at
once, he answered with a tired smile. "Our conversation can only be
on one subject, and that is the subject you wish to discuss." He spoke
without looking at her, and avoided even naming the subject. But his
plump, pretty little sister-in-law was unabashed. She continued to
regard him with the same gentle, imploring look in her blue eyes,
sighing even more deeply.

"Michael, mon bon ami, have pity on her. She is only human."

"I never doubted that," said Michael Ivanovich with a bitter smile.

"She is your daughter."

"She was--but my dear Aline, why talk about this?"

"Michael, dear, won't you see her? I only wanted to say, that the one
who is to blame--"

Prince Michael Ivanovich flushed; his face became cruel.

"For heaven's sake, let us stop. I have suffered enough. I have now but
one desire, and that is to put her in such a position that she will
be independent of others, and that she shall have no further need of
communicating with me. Then she can live her own life, and my family and
I need know nothing more about her. That is all I can do."

"Michael, you say nothing but 'I'! She, too, is 'I.'"

"No doubt; but, dear Aline, please let us drop the matter. I feel it too
deeply."

Alexandra Dmitrievna remained silent for a few moments, shaking her
head. "And Masha, your wife, thinks as you do?"

"Yes, quite."

Alexandra Dmitrievna made an inarticulate sound.

"Brisons la dessus et bonne nuit," said he. But she did not go. She
stood silent a moment. Then,--"Peter tells me you intend to leave the
money with the woman where she lives. Have you the address?"

"I have."

"Don't leave it with the woman, Michael! Go yourself. Just see how she
lives. If you don't want to see her, you need not. HE isn't there; there
is no one there."

Michael Ivanovich shuddered violently.

"Why do you torture me so? It's a sin against hospitality!"

Alexandra Dmitrievna rose, and almost in tears, being touched by her own
pleading, said, "She is so miserable, but she is such a dear."

He got up, and stood waiting for her to finish. She held out her hand.

"Michael, you do wrong," said she, and left him.

For a long while after she had gone Michael Ivanovich walked to and fro
on the square of carpet. He frowned and shivered, and exclaimed, "Oh,
oh!" And then the sound of his own voice frightened him, and he was
silent.

His wounded pride tortured him. His daughter--his--brought up in the
house of her mother, the famous Avdotia Borisovna, whom the Empress
honoured with her visits, and acquaintance with whom was an honour for
all the world! His daughter--; and he had lived his life as a knight of
old, knowing neither fear nor blame. The fact that he had a natural son
born of a Frenchwoman, whom he had settled abroad, did not lower his
own self-esteem. And now this daughter, for whom he had not only done
everything that a father could and should do; this daughter to whom he
had given a splendid education and every opportunity to make a match in
the best Russian society--this daughter to whom he had not only given
all that a girl could desire, but whom he had really LOVED; whom he had
admired, been proud of--this daughter had repaid him with such disgrace,
that he was ashamed and could not face the eyes of men!

He recalled the time when she was not merely his child, and a member of
his family, but his darling, his joy and his pride. He saw her again, a
little thing of eight or nine, bright, intelligent, lively, impetuous,
graceful, with brilliant black eyes and flowing auburn hair. He
remembered how she used to jump up on his knees and hug him, and tickle
his neck; and how she would laugh, regardless of his protests, and
continue to tickle him, and kiss his lips, his eyes, and his cheeks.
He was naturally opposed to all demonstration, but this impetuous love
moved him, and he often submitted to her petting. He remembered also how
sweet it was to caress her. To remember all this, when that sweet child
had become what she now was, a creature of whom he could not think
without loathing.

He also recalled the time when she was growing into womanhood, and the
curious feeling of fear and anger that he experienced when he became
aware that men regarded her as a woman. He thought of his jealous love
when she came coquettishly to him dressed for a ball, and knowing that
she was pretty. He dreaded the passionate glances which fell upon her,
that she not only did not understand but rejoiced in. "Yes," thought he,
"that superstition of woman's purity! Quite the contrary, they do not
know shame--they lack this sense." He remembered how, quite inexplicably
to him, she had refused two very good suitors. She had become more and
more fascinated by her own success in the round of gaieties she lived
in.

But this success could not last long. A year passed, then two, then
three. She was a familiar figure, beautiful--but her first youth had
passed, and she had become somehow part of the ball-room furniture.
Michael Ivanovich remembered how he had realised that she was on the
road to spinsterhood, and desired but one thing for her. He must get her
married off as quickly as possible, perhaps not quite so well as might
have been arranged earlier, but still a respectable match.

But it seemed to him she had behaved with a pride that bordered on
insolence. Remembering this, his anger rose more and more fiercely
against her. To think of her refusing so many decent men, only to end in
this disgrace. "Oh, oh!" he groaned again.

Then stopping, he lit a cigarette, and tried to think of other things.
He would send her money, without ever letting her see him. But memories
came again. He remembered--it was not so very long ago, for she was more
than twenty then--her beginning a flirtation with a boy of fourteen,
a cadet of the Corps of Pages who had been staying with them in
the country. She had driven the boy half crazy; he had wept in his
distraction. Then how she had rebuked her father severely, coldly, and
even rudely, when, to put an end to this stupid affair, he had sent the
boy away. She seemed somehow to consider herself insulted. Since then
father and daughter had drifted into undisguised hostility.

"I was right," he said to himself. "She is a wicked and shameless
woman."

And then, as a last ghastly memory, there was the letter from Moscow,
in which she wrote that she could not return home; that she was a
miserable, abandoned woman, asking only to be forgiven and forgotten.
Then the horrid recollection of the scene with his wife came to him;
their surmises and their suspicions, which became a certainty. The
calamity had happened in Finland, where they had let her visit her aunt;
and the culprit was an insignificant Swede, a student, an empty-headed,
worthless creature--and married.

All this came back to him now as he paced backwards and forwards on the
bedroom carpet, recollecting his former love for her, his pride in
her. He recoiled with terror before the incomprehensible fact of
her downfall, and he hated her for the agony she was causing him. He
remembered the conversation with his sister-in-law, and tried to imagine
how he might forgive her. But as soon as the thought of "him" arose,
there surged up in his heart horror, disgust, and wounded pride. He
groaned aloud, and tried to think of something else.

"No, it is impossible; I will hand over the money to Peter to give her
monthly. And as for me, I have no longer a daughter."

And again a curious feeling overpowered him: a mixture of self-pity
at the recollection of his love for her, and of fury against her for
causing him this anguish.

II

DURING the last year Lisa had without doubt lived through more than in
all the preceding twenty-five. Suddenly she had realised the emptiness
of her whole life. It rose before her, base and sordid--this life at
home and among the rich set in St. Petersburg--this animal existence
that never sounded the depths, but only touched the shallows of life.

It was well enough for a year or two, or perhaps even three. But when it
went on for seven or eight years, with its parties, balls, concerts, and
suppers; with its costumes and coiffures to display the charms of the
body; with its adorers old and young, all alike seemingly possessed of
some unaccountable right to have everything, to laugh at everything; and
with its summer months spent in the same way, everything yielding but a
superficial pleasure, even music and reading merely touching upon life's
problems, but never solving them--all this holding out no promise of
change, and losing its charm more and more--she began to despair. She
had desperate moods when she longed to die.

Her friends directed her thoughts to charity. On the one hand, she
saw poverty which was real and repulsive, and a sham poverty even more
repulsive and pitiable; on the other, she saw the terrible indifference
of the lady patronesses who came in carriages and gowns worth thousands.
Life became to her more and more unbearable. She yearned for something
real, for life itself--not this playing at living, not this skimming
life of its cream. Of real life there was none. The best of her memories
was her love for the little cadet Koko. That had been a good, honest,
straight-forward impulse, and now there was nothing like it. There could
not be. She grew more and more depressed, and in this gloomy mood she
went to visit an aunt in Finland. The fresh scenery and surroundings,
the people strangely different to her own, appealed to her at any rate
as a new experience.

How and when it all began she could not clearly remember. Her aunt had
another guest, a Swede. He talked of his work, his people, the latest
Swedish novel. Somehow, she herself did not know how that terrible
fascination of glances and smiles began, the meaning of which cannot be
put into words.

These smiles and glances seemed to reveal to each, not only the soul of
the other, but some vital and universal mystery. Every word they spoke
was invested by these smiles with a profound and wonderful significance.
Music, too, when they were listening together, or when they sang duets,
became full of the same deep meaning. So, also, the words in the books
they read aloud. Sometimes they would argue, but the moment their
eyes met, or a smile flashed between them, the discussion remained
far behind. They soared beyond it to some higher plane consecrated to
themselves.

How it had come about, how and when the devil, who had seized hold of
them both, first appeared behind these smiles and glances, she could not
say. But, when terror first seized her, the invisible threads that bound
them were already so interwoven that she had no power to tear herself
free. She could only count on him and on his honour. She hoped that he
would not make use of his power; yet all the while she vaguely desired
it.

Her weakness was the greater, because she had nothing to support her in
the struggle. She was weary of society life and she had no affection for
her mother. Her father, so she thought, had cast her away from him, and
she longed passionately to live and to have done with play. Love, the
perfect love of a woman for a man, held the promise of life for her. Her
strong, passionate nature, too, was dragging her thither. In the
tall, strong figure of this man, with his fair hair and light upturned
moustache, under which shone a smile attractive and compelling, she saw
the promise of that life for which she longed. And then the smiles and
glances, the hope of something so incredibly beautiful, led, as they
were bound to lead, to that which she feared but unconsciously awaited.

Suddenly all that was beautiful, joyous, spiritual, and full of promise
for the future, became animal and sordid, sad and despairing.

She looked into his eyes and tried to smile, pretending that she feared
nothing, that everything was as it should be; but deep down in her soul
she knew it was all over. She understood that she had not found in him
what she had sought; that which she had once known in herself and in
Koko. She told him that he must write to her father asking her hand in
marriage. This he promised to do; but when she met him next he said it
was impossible for him to write just then. She saw something vague and
furtive in his eyes, and her distrust of him grew. The following day he
wrote to her, telling her that he was already married, though his wife
had left him long since; that he knew she would despise him for the
wrong he had done her, and implored her forgiveness. She made him come
to see her. She said she loved him; that she felt herself bound to him
for ever whether he was married or not, and would never leave him. The
next time they met he told her that he and his parents were so poor that
he could only offer her the meanest existence. She answered that she
needed nothing, and was ready to go with him at once wherever he wished.
He endeavoured to dissuade her, advising her to wait; and so she waited.
But to live on with this secret, with occasional meetings, and merely
corresponding with him, all hidden from her family, was agonising,
and she insisted again that he must take her away. At first, when she
returned to St. Petersburg, he wrote promising to come, and then letters
ceased and she knew no more of him.

She tried to lead her old life, but it was impossible. She fell ill,
and the efforts of the doctors were unavailing; in her hopelessness she
resolved to kill herself. But how was she to do this, so that her death
might seem natural? She really desired to take her life, and imagined
that she had irrevocably decided on the step. So, obtaining some poison,
she poured it into a glass, and in another instant would have drunk it,
had not her sister's little son of five at that very moment run in to
show her a toy his grandmother had given him. She caressed the child,
and, suddenly stopping short, burst into tears.

The thought overpowered her that she, too, might have been a mother had
he not been married, and this vision of motherhood made her look into
her own soul for the first time. She began to think not of what others
would say of her, but of her own life. To kill oneself because of
what the world might say was easy; but the moment she saw her own life
dissociated from the world, to take that life was out of the question.
She threw away the poison, and ceased to think of suicide.

Then her life within began. It was real life, and despite the torture of
it, had the possibility been given her, she would not have turned back
from it. She began to pray, but there was no comfort in prayer; and
her suffering was less for herself than for her father, whose grief she
foresaw and understood.

Thus months dragged along, and then something happened which entirely
transformed her life. One day, when she was at work upon a quilt, she
suddenly experienced a strange sensation. No--it seemed impossible.
Motionless she sat with her work in hand. Was it possible that this
was IT. Forgetting everything, his baseness and deceit, her mother's
querulousness, and her father's sorrow, she smiled. She shuddered at
the recollection that she was on the point of killing it, together with
herself.

She now directed all her thoughts to getting away--somewhere where she
could bear her child--and become a miserable, pitiful mother, but a
mother withal. Somehow she planned and arranged it all, leaving her home
and settling in a distant provincial town, where no one could find
her, and where she thought she would be far from her people. But,
unfortunately, her father's brother received an appointment there,
a thing she could not possibly foresee. For four months she had been
living in the house of a midwife--one Maria Ivanovna; and, on learning
that her uncle had come to the town, she was preparing to fly to a still
remoter hiding-place.

III

MICHAEL IVANOVICH awoke early next morning. He entered his brother's
study, and handed him the cheque, filled in for a sum which he asked
him to pay in monthly instalments to his daughter. He inquired when the
express left for St. Petersburg. The train left at seven in the evening,
giving him time for an early dinner before leaving. He breakfasted with
his sister-in-law, who refrained from mentioning the subject which was
so painful to him, but only looked at him timidly; and after breakfast
he went out for his regular morning walk.

Alexandra Dmitrievna followed him into the hall.

"Go into the public gardens, Michael--it is very charming there, and
quite near to Everything," said she, meeting his sombre looks with a
pathetic glance.

Michael Ivanovich followed her advice and went to the public gardens,
which were so near to Everything, and meditated with annoyance on the
stupidity, the obstinacy, and heartlessness of women.

"She is not in the very least sorry for me," he thought of his
sister-in-law. "She cannot even understand my sorrow. And what of her?"
He was thinking of his daughter. "She knows what all this means to
me--the torture. What a blow in one's old age! My days will be shortened
by it! But I'd rather have it over than endure this agony. And all
that 'pour les beaux yeux d'un chenapan'--oh!" he moaned; and a wave of
hatred and fury arose in him as he thought of what would be said in the
town when every one knew. (And no doubt every one knew already.) Such a
feeling of rage possessed him that he would have liked to beat it into
her head, and make her understand what she had done. These women never
understand. "It is quite near Everything," suddenly came to his mind,
and getting out his notebook, he found her address. Vera Ivanovna
Silvestrova, Kukonskaya Street, Abromov's house. She was living under
this name. He left the gardens and called a cab.

"Whom do you wish to see, sir?" asked the midwife, Maria Ivanovna, when
he stepped on the narrow landing of the steep, stuffy staircase.

"Does Madame Silvestrova live here?"

"Vera Ivanovna? Yes; please come in. She has gone out; she's gone to the
shop round the corner. But she'll be back in a minute."

Michael Ivanovich followed the stout figure of Maria Ivanovna into
a tiny parlour, and from the next room came the screams of a baby,
sounding cross and peevish, which filled him with disgust. They cut him
like a knife.

Maria Ivanovna apologised, and went into the room, and he could hear her
soothing the child. The child became quiet, and she returned.

"That is her baby; she'll be back in a minute. You are a friend of hers,
I suppose?"

"Yes--a friend--but I think I had better come back later on," said
Michael Ivanovich, preparing to go. It was too unbearable, this
preparation to meet her, and any explanation seemed impossible.

He had just turned to leave, when he heard quick, light steps on the
stairs, and he recognised Lisa's voice.

"Maria Ivanovna--has he been crying while I've been gone--I was--"

Then she saw her father. The parcel she was carrying fell from her
hands.

"Father!" she cried, and stopped in the doorway, white and trembling.

He remained motionless, staring at her. She had grown so thin. Her eyes
were larger, her nose sharper, her hands worn and bony. He neither
knew what to do, nor what to say. He forgot all his grief about his
dishonour. He only felt sorrow, infinite sorrow for her; sorrow for her
thinness, and for her miserable rough clothing; and most of all, for her
pitiful face and imploring eyes.

"Father--forgive," she said, moving towards him.

"Forgive--forgive me," he murmured; and he began to sob like a child,
kissing her face and hands, and wetting them with his tears.

In his pity for her he understood himself. And when he saw himself as he
was, he realised how he had wronged her, how guilty he had been in his
pride, in his coldness, even in his anger towards her. He was glad that
it was he who was guilty, and that he had nothing to forgive, but that
he himself needed forgiveness. She took him to her tiny room, and told
him how she lived; but she did not show him the child, nor did she
mention the past, knowing how painful it would be to him.

He told her that she must live differently.

"Yes; if I could only live in the country," said she.

"We will talk it over," he said. Suddenly the child began to wail and
to scream. She opened her eyes very wide; and, not taking them from her
father's face, remained hesitating and motionless.

"Well--I suppose you must feed him," said Michael Ivanovich, and frowned
with the obvious effort.

She got up, and suddenly the wild idea seized her to show him whom she
loved so deeply the thing she now loved best of all in the world. But
first she looked at her father's face. Would he be angry or not? His
face revealed no anger, only suffering.

"Yes, go, go," said he; "God bless you. Yes. I'll come again to-morrow,
and we will decide. Good-bye, my darling--good-bye." Again he found it
hard to swallow the lump in his throat.

When Michael Ivanovich returned to his brother's house, Alexandra
Dmitrievna immediately rushed to him.

"Well?"

"Well? Nothing."

"Have you seen?" she asked, guessing from his expression that something
had happened.

"Yes," he answered shortly, and began to cry. "I'm getting old and
stupid," said he, mastering his emotion.

"No; you are growing wise--very wise."

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:52 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

ALYOSHA was the younger brother. He was called the Pot, because his
mother had once sent him with a pot of milk to the deacon's wife, and he
had stumbled against something and broken it. His mother had beaten him,
and the children had teased him. Since then he was nicknamed the Pot.
Alyosha was a tiny, thin little fellow, with ears like wings, and a huge
nose. "Alyosha has a nose that looks like a dog on a hill!" the children
used to call after him. Alyosha went to the village school, but was not
good at lessons; besides, there was so little time to learn. His elder
brother was in town, working for a merchant, so Alyosha had to help his
father from a very early age. When he was no more than six he used to
go out with the girls to watch the cows and sheep in the pasture, and
a little later he looked after the horses by day and by night. And at
twelve years of age he had already begun to plough and to drive the
cart. The skill was there though the strength was not. He was always
cheerful. Whenever the children made fun of him, he would either laugh
or be silent. When his father scolded him he would stand mute and listen
attentively, and as soon as the scolding was over would smile and go
on with his work. Alyosha was nineteen when his brother was taken as a
soldier. So his father placed him with the merchant as a yard-porter.
He was given his brother's old boots, his father's old coat and cap,
and was taken to town. Alyosha was delighted with his clothes, but the
merchant was not impressed by his appearance.

"I thought you would bring me a man in Simeon's place," he said,
scanning Alyosha; "and you've brought me THIS! What's the good of him?"

"He can do everything; look after horses and drive. He's a good one
to work. He looks rather thin, but he's tough enough. And he's very
willing."

"He looks it. All right; we'll see what we can do with him."

So Alyosha remained at the merchant's.

The family was not a large one. It consisted of the merchant's wife:
her old mother: a married son poorly educated who was in his father's
business: another son, a learned one who had finished school and entered
the University, but having been expelled, was living at home: and a
daughter who still went to school.

They did not take to Alyosha at first. He was uncouth, badly dressed,
and had no manner, but they soon got used to him. Alyosha worked even
better than his brother had done; he was really very willing. They sent
him on all sorts of errands, but he did everything quickly and readily,
going from one task to another without stopping. And so here, just as at
home, all the work was put upon his shoulders. The more he did, the more
he was given to do. His mistress, her old mother, the son, the daughter,
the clerk, and the cook--all ordered him about, and sent him from one
place to another.

"Alyosha, do this! Alyosha, do that! What! have you forgotten, Alyosha?
Mind you don't forget, Alyosha!" was heard from morning till night. And
Alyosha ran here, looked after this and that, forgot nothing, found time
for everything, and was always cheerful.

His brother's old boots were soon worn out, and his master scolded
him for going about in tatters with his toes sticking out. He ordered
another pair to be bought for him in the market. Alyosha was delighted
with his new boots, but was angry with his feet when they ached at the
end of the day after so much running about. And then he was afraid that
his father would be annoyed when he came to town for his wages, to find
that his master had deducted the cost of the boots.

In the winter Alyosha used to get up before daybreak. He would chop the
wood, sweep the yard, feed the cows and horses, light the stoves, clean
the boots, prepare the samovars and polish them afterwards; or the clerk
would get him to bring up the goods; or the cook would set him to knead
the bread and clean the saucepans. Then he was sent to town on various
errands, to bring the daughter home from school, or to get some olive
oil for the old mother. "Why the devil have you been so long?" first
one, then another, would say to him. Why should they go? Alyosha can go.
"Alyosha! Alyosha!" And Alyosha ran here and there. He breakfasted in
snatches while he was working, and rarely managed to get his dinner at
the proper hour. The cook used to scold him for being late, but she was
sorry for him all the same, and would keep something hot for his dinner
and supper.

At holiday times there was more work than ever, but Alyosha liked
holidays because everybody gave him a tip. Not much certainly, but it
would amount up to about sixty kopeks [1s 2d]--his very own money. For
Alyosha never set eyes on his wages. His father used to come and take
them from the merchant, and only scold Alyosha for wearing out his
boots.

When he had saved up two roubles [4s], by the advice of the cook he
bought himself a red knitted jacket, and was so happy when he put it
on, that he couldn't close his mouth for joy. Alyosha was not talkative;
when he spoke at all, he spoke abruptly, with his head turned away.
When told to do anything, or asked if he could do it, he would say yes
without the smallest hesitation, and set to work at once.

Alyosha did not know any prayer; and had forgotten what his mother
had taught him. But he prayed just the same, every morning and every
evening, prayed with his hands, crossing himself.

He lived like this for about a year and a half, and towards the end of
the second year a most startling thing happened to him. He discovered
one day, to his great surprise, that, in addition to the relation of
usefulness existing between people, there was also another, a peculiar
relation of quite a different character. Instead of a man being wanted
to clean boots, and go on errands and harness horses, he is not wanted
to be of any service at all, but another human being wants to serve him
and pet him. Suddenly Alyosha felt he was such a man.

He made this discovery through the cook Ustinia. She was young, had no
parents, and worked as hard as Alyosha. He felt for the first time in
his life that he--not his services, but he himself--was necessary to
another human being. When his mother used to be sorry for him, he had
taken no notice of her. It had seemed to him quite natural, as though
he were feeling sorry for himself. But here was Ustinia, a perfect
stranger, and sorry for him. She would save him some hot porridge, and
sit watching him, her chin propped on her bare arm, with the sleeve
rolled up, while he was eating it. When he looked at her she would begin
to laugh, and he would laugh too.

This was such a new, strange thing to him that it frightened Alyosha.
He feared that it might interfere with his work. But he was pleased,
nevertheless, and when he glanced at the trousers that Ustinia had
mended for him, he would shake his head and smile. He would often
think of her while at work, or when running on errands. "A fine girl,
Ustinia!" he sometimes exclaimed.

Ustinia used to help him whenever she could, and he helped her. She told
him all about her life; how she had lost her parents; how her aunt had
taken her in and found a place for her in the town; how the merchant's
son had tried to take liberties with her, and how she had rebuffed him.
She liked to talk, and Alyosha liked to listen to her. He had heard
that peasants who came up to work in the towns frequently got married
to servant girls. On one occasion she asked him if his parents intended
marrying him soon. He said that he did not know; that he did not want to
marry any of the village girls.

"Have you taken a fancy to some one, then?"

"I would marry you, if you'd be willing."

"Get along with you, Alyosha the Pot; but you've found your tongue,
haven't you?" she exclaimed, slapping him on the back with a towel she
held in her hand. "Why shouldn't I?"

At Shrovetide Alyosha's father came to town for his wages. It had come
to the ears of the merchant's wife that Alyosha wanted to marry Ustinia,
and she disapproved of it. "What will be the use of her with a baby?"
she thought, and informed her husband.

The merchant gave the old man Alyosha's wages.

"How is my lad getting on?" he asked. "I told you he was willing."

"That's all right, as far as it goes, but he's taken some sort of
nonsense into his head. He wants to marry our cook. Now I don't approve
of married servants. We won't have them in the house."

"Well, now, who would have thought the fool would think of such a
thing?" the old man exclaimed. "But don't you worry. I'll soon settle
that."

He went into the kitchen, and sat down at the table waiting for his son.
Alyosha was out on an errand, and came back breathless.

"I thought you had some sense in you; but what's this you've taken into
your head?" his father began.

"I? Nothing."

"How, nothing? They tell me you want to get married. You shall get
married when the time comes. I'll find you a decent wife, not some town
hussy."

His father talked and talked, while Alyosha stood still and sighed. When
his father had quite finished, Alyosha smiled.

"All right. I'll drop it."

"Now that's what I call sense."

When he was left alone with Ustinia he told her what his father had
said. (She had listened at the door.)

"It's no good; it can't come off. Did you hear? He was angry--won't have
it at any price."

Ustinia cried into her apron.

Alyosha shook his head.

"What's to be done? We must do as we're told."

"Well, are you going to give up that nonsense, as your father told you?"
his mistress asked, as he was putting up the shutters in the evening.

"To be sure we are," Alyosha replied with a smile, and then burst into
tears.

From that day Alyosha went about his work as usual, and no longer talked
to Ustinia about their getting married. One day in Lent the clerk told
him to clear the snow from the roof. Alyosha climbed on to the roof and
swept away all the snow; and, while he was still raking out some frozen
lumps from the gutter, his foot slipped and he fell over. Unfortunately
he did not fall on the snow, but on a piece of iron over the door.
Ustinia came running up, together with the merchant's daughter.

"Have you hurt yourself, Alyosha?"

"Ah! no, it's nothing."

But he could not raise himself when he tried to, and began to smile.

He was taken into the lodge. The doctor arrived, examined him, and asked
where he felt the pain.

"I feel it all over," he said. "But it doesn't matter. I'm only afraid
master will be annoyed. Father ought to be told."

Alyosha lay in bed for two days, and on the third day they sent for the
priest.

"Are you really going to die?" Ustinia asked.

"Of course I am. You can't go on living for ever. You must go when the
time comes." Alyosha spoke rapidly as usual. "Thank you, Ustinia. You've
been very good to me. What a lucky thing they didn't let us marry! Where
should we have been now? It's much better as it is."

When the priest came, he prayed with his bands and with his heart. "As
it is good here when you obey and do no harm to others, so it will be
there," was the thought within it.

He spoke very little; he only said he was thirsty, and he seemed full of
wonder at something.

He lay in wonderment, then stretched himself, and died.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:48 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1887)


I


In a large city, on Christmas eve in the biting cold, I see a young child, still quite young, six years old, perhaps even less; yet too young to be sent on the street begging, but assuredly destined to be sent in a year or two.

This child awakes one morning in a damp and frosty cellar. He is wrapped in a kind of squalid dressing-gown and is shivering. His breath issues from between his lips in white vapor; he is seated on a trunk; to pass the time he blows the breath from his mouth, and amuses himself in seeing it escape. But he is very hungry. Several times since morning he has drawn near the bed covered with a straw mattress as thin as gauze, where his mother lies sick, her head resting on a bundle of rags instead of a pillow.

How did she come there? She came probably from a strange city and has fallen ill. The proprietress of the miserable lodging was arrested two days ago, and carried to the police station; it is a holiday to-day, and the other tenants have gone out. However, one of them has remained in bed for the last twenty-four hours, stupid with drink, not having waited for the holiday.

From another corner issue the complaints of an old woman of eighty years, laid up with rheumatism. This old woman was formerly a children's nurse somewhere; now she is dying all alone. She whines, moans, and growls at the little boy, who begins to be afraid to come near the corner where she lies with the death rattle in her throat. He has found something to drink in the hallway, but he has not been able to lay his hand on the smallest crust of bread, and for the tenth time he comes to wake his mother. He finishes by getting frightened in this darkness.

The evening is already late, and no one comes to kindle the fire. He finds, by feeling around, his mother's face, and is astonished that she no longer moves and that she has become as cold as the wall.

"It is so cold!" he thinks.

He remains some time without moving, his hand resting on the shoulder of the corpse. Then he begins to blow in his fingers to warm them, and, happening to find his little cap on the bed, he looks softly for the door, and issues forth from the underground lodging.

He would have gone out sooner had he not been afraid of the big dog that barks all the day up there on the landing before their neighbor's door.

Oh! what a city! never before had he seen anything like it. Down yonder from where he came, the nights are much darker. There is only one lamp for the whole street; little low wooden houses, closed with shutters; in the street from the time it grows dark, no one; every one shut up at home: only a crowd of dogs that howl, hundreds, thousands of dogs, that howl and bark all the night. But then, it used to be so warm there! And he got something to eat. Here, ah! how good it would be to have something to eat! What a noise here, what an uproar! What a great light, and what a crowd of people! What horses, and what carriages! And the cold, the cold! The bodies of the tired horses smoke with frost and their burning nostrils puff white clouds; their shoes ring on the pavement through the soft snow. And how every body hustles every body else! "Ah! how I would like to eat a little piece of something. That is what makes my fingers ache so."



II


A policeman just passes by, and turns his head so as not to see the child.

"Here is another street. Oh! how wide it is! I shall be crushed to death here, I know; how they all shout, how they run, how they roll along! And the light, and the light! And that, what is that? Oh! what a big window pane! And behind the pane, a room, and in the room a tree that goes up to the ceiling; it is the Christmas tree. And what lights under the tree! Such papers of gold, and such apples! And all around dolls and little hobby-horses. There are little children well-dressed, nice, and clean; they are laughing and playing, eating and drinking things. There is a little girl going to dance with the little boy. How pretty she is! And there is music. I can hear it through the glass."

The child looks, admires, and even laughs. He feels no longer any pain in his fingers or feet. The fingers of his hand have become all red, he cannot bend them any more, and it hurts him to move them. But all at once, he feels that his fingers ache; he begins to cry, and goes away. He perceives through another window another room, and again trees and cakes of all sorts on the table, red almonds and yellow ones. Four beautiful ladies are sitting down, and when any body comes he is given some cake: and the door opens every minute, and many gentlemen enter. The little fellow crept forward, opened the door of a sudden, and went in. Oh! what a noise was made when they saw him, what confusion! Immediately a lady arose, put a kopeck in his hand, and opened herself the street door for him. How frightened he was!



III


The kopeck has fallen from his hands, and rings on the steps of the stairs. He was not able to tighten his little fingers enough to hold the coin. The child went out running, and walked fast, fast. Where was he going? He did not know. And he runs, runs, and blows in his hands. He is troubled. He feels so lonely, so frightened! And suddenly, what is that again! A crowd of people stand there and admire.

"A window! behind the pane, three pretty dolls attired in wee red and yellow dresses, and just exactly as though they were alive! And that little old man sitting down, who seems to play the fiddle. There are two others, too, standing up, who play on tiny violins, keeping time with their heads to the music. They look at each other and their lips move. And they really speak? Only they cannot be heard through the glass."

And the child first thinks that they are living, and when he comprehends that they are only dolls, he begins to laugh. Never had he seen such dolls before, and he didn't know that there were any like that! He would like to cry, but those dolls are just too funny!


IV


Suddenly he feels himself seized by the coat. A big rough boy stands near him, who gives him a blow of his fist on the head, snatches his cap, and trips him up.

The child falls. At the same time there is a shout; he remains a moment paralyzed with fear. Then he springs up with a bound and runs, runs, darts under a gateway somewhere and hides himself in a court-yard behind a pile of wood. He cowers and shivers in his fright; he can hardly breathe.

And suddenly he feels quite comfortable. His little hands and feet don't hurt any more; he is warm, warm as though near a stove, and all his body trembles.

"Ah! I am going asleep! how nice it is to have a sleep! I shall stay a little while and then I will go and see the dolls again," thought the little fellow, and he smiled at the recollection of the dolls. "They looked just as though they were alive!"

Then he hears his mother's song. "Mamma, I am going to sleep. Ah! how nice it is here for sleeping!"

"Come to my house, little boy, to see the Christmas tree," said a soft voice.

He thought at first it was his mother; but no, it was not she.

Then who is calling him? He does not see. But some one stoops over him, and folds him in his arms in the darkness: and he stretches out his hand and--all at once--oh! what light! Oh! what a Christmas tree! No, it is not a Christmas tree; he has never seen the like of it!

Where is he now? All is resplendent, all is radiant, and dolls all around; but no, not dolls, little boys, little girls; only they are very bright. All of them circle round him; they fly. They hug him, they take him and carry him away, and he is flying too. And he sees his mother looking at him and laughing joyfully.

"Mamma! mamma! ah! how nice it is here!" cries her little boy to her.

And again he embraces the children, and would like very much to tell them about the dolls behind the window pane. "Who are you, little girls?" he asks, laughing and fondling them.

It is the Christmas tree at Jesus's.

At Jesus's, that day, there is always a Christmas tree for little children that have none themselves.

And he learned that all these little boys and girls were children like himself, who had died like him. Some had died of cold in the baskets abandoned at the doors of the public functionaries of St. Petersburg; others had died out at nurse in the foul hovels of the Tchaukhnas; others of hunger at the dry breasts of their mothers during the famine. All were here now, all little angels now, all with Jesus, and He Himself among them, spreading his hands over them, blessing them and their sinful mothers.

And the mothers of these children are there too, apart, weeping; each recognizes her son or her daughter, and the children fly towards them, embrace them, wipe away the tears with their little hands, and beg them not to weep.

And below on the earth, the concierge in the morning found the wee corpse of the child, who had taken refuge in the courtyard. Stiff and frozen behind the pile of wood it lay.

The mother was found too. She died before him; both are reunited in Heaven in the Lord's house.


THE END.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:29 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1877)


Translated by Constance Garnett.


~

Chapter I


I am a ridiculous person. Now they call me a madman. That would be a promotion if it were not that I remain as ridiculous in their eyes as before. But now I do not resent it, they are all dear to me now, even when they laugh at me - and, indeed, it is just then that they are particularly dear to me. I could join in their laughter--not exactly at myself, but through affection for them, if I did not feel so sad as I look at them. Sad because they do not know the truth and I do know it. Oh, how hard it is to be the only one who knows the truth! But they won't understand that. No, they won't understand it.

In old days I used to be miserable at seeming ridiculous. Not seeming, but being. I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps, from the hour I was born. Perhaps from the time I was seven years old I knew I was ridiculous. Afterwards I went to school, studied at the university, and, do you know, the more I learned, the more thoroughly I understood that I was ridiculous. So that it seemed in the end as though all the sciences I studied at the university existed only to prove and make evident to me as I went more deeply into them that I was ridiculous. It was the same with life as it was with science. With every year the same consciousness of the ridiculous figure I cut in every relation grew and strengthened. Everyone always laughed at me. But not one of them knew or guessed that if there were one man on earth who knew better than anybody else that I was absurd, it was myself, and what I resented most of all was that they did not know that. But that was my own fault; I was so proud that nothing would have ever induced me to tell it to anyone. This pride grew in me with the years; and if it had happened that I allowed myself to confess to anyone that I was ridiculous, I believe that I should have blown out my brains the same evening. Oh, how I suffered in my early youth from the fear that I might give way and confess it to my schoolfellows. But since I grew to manhood, I have for some unknown reason become calmer, though I realised my awful characteristic more fully every year. I say 'unknown', for to this day I cannot tell why it was. Perhaps it was owing to the terrible misery that was growing in my soul through something which was of more consequence than anything else about me: that something was the conviction that had come upon me that nothing in the world mattered. I had long had an inkling of it, but the full realisation came last year almost suddenly. I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing. At first I fancied that many things had existed in the past, but afterwards I guessed that there never had been anything in the past either, but that it had only seemed so for some reason. Little by little I guessed that there would be nothing in the future either. Then I left off being angry with people and almost ceased to notice them. Indeed this showed itself even in the pettiest trifles: I used, for instance, to knock against people in the street. And not so much from being lost in thought: what had I to think about? I had almost given up thinking by that time; nothing mattered to me. If at least I had solved my problems! Oh, I had not settled one of them, and how many there were! But I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared.

And it was after that that I found out the truth. I learnt the truth last November--on the third of November, to be precise-- and I remember every instant since. It was a gloomy evening, one of the gloomiest possible evenings. I was going home at about eleven o'clock, and I remember that I thought that the evening could not be gloomier. Even physically. Rain had been falling all day, and it had been a cold, gloomy, almost menacing rain, with, I remember, an unmistakable spite against mankind. Suddenly between ten and eleven it had stopped, and was followed by a horrible dampness, colder and damper than the rain, and a sort of steam was rising from everything, from every stone in the street, and from every by-lane if one looked down it as far as one could. A thought suddenly occurred to me, that if all the street lamps had been put out it would have been less cheerless, that the gas made one's heart sadder because it lighted it all up. I had had scarcely any dinner that day, and had been spending the evening with an engineer, and two other friends had been there also. I sat silent--I fancy I bored them. They talked of something rousing and suddenly they got excited over it. But they did not really care, I could see that, and only made a show of being excited. I suddenly said as much to them. "My friends," I said, "you really do not care one way or the other." They were not offended, but they laughed at me. That was because I spoke without any not of reproach, simply because it did not matter to me. They saw it did not, and it amused them.

As I was thinking about the gas lamps in the street I looked up at the sky. The sky was horribly dark, but one could distinctly see tattered clouds, and between them fathomless black patches. Suddenly I noticed in one of these patches a star, and began watching it intently. That was because that star had given me an idea: I decided to kill myself that night. I had firmly determined to do so two months before, and poor as I was, I bought a splendid revolver that very day, and loaded it. But two months had passed and it was still lying in my drawer; I was so utterly indifferent that I wanted to seize a moment when I would not be so indifferent--why, I don't know. And so for two months every night that I came home I thought I would shoot myself. I kept waiting for the right moment. And so now this star gave me a thought. I made up my mind that it should certainly be that night. And why the star gave me the thought I don't know.

And just as I was looking at the sky, this little girl took me by the elbow. The street was empty, and there was scarcely anyone to be seen. A cabman was sleeping in the distance in his cab. It was a child of eight with a kerchief on her head, wearing nothing but a wretched little dress all soaked with rain, but I noticed her wet broken shoes and I recall them now. They caught my eye particularly. She suddenly pulled me by the elbow and called me. She was not weeping, but was spasmodically crying out some words which could not utter properly, because she was shivering and shuddering all over. She was in terror about something, and kept crying, "Mammy, mammy!" I turned facing her, I did not say a word and went on; but she ran, pulling at me, and there was that note in her voice which in frightened children means despair. I know that sound. Though she did not articulate the words, I understood that her mother was dying, or that something of the sort was happening to them, and that she had run out to call someone, to find something to help her mother. I did not go with her; on the contrary, I had an impulse to drive her away. I told her first to go to a policeman. But clasping her hands, she ran beside me sobbing and gasping, and would not leave me. Then I stamped my foot and shouted at her. She called out "Sir! sir! . . ." but suddenly abandoned me and rushed headlong across the road. Some other passerby appeared there, and she evidently flew from me to him.

I mounted up to my fifth storey. I have a room in a flat where there are other lodgers. My room is small and poor, with a garret window in the shape of a semicircle. I have a sofa covered with American leather, a table with books on it, two chairs and a comfortable arm-chair, as old as old can be, but of the good old-fashioned shape. I sat down, lighted the candle, and began thinking. In the room next to mine, through the partition wall, a perfect Bedlam was going on. It had been going on for the last three days. A retired captain lived there, and he had half a dozen visitors, gentlemen of doubtful reputation, drinking vodka and playing stoss with old cards. The night before there had been a fight, and I know that two of them had been for a long time engaged in dragging each other about by the hair. The landlady wanted to complain, but she was in abject terror of the captain. There was only one other lodger in the flat, a thin little regimental lady, on a visit to Petersburg, with three little children who had been taken ill since they came into the lodgings. Both she and her children were in mortal fear of the captain, and lay trembling and crossing themselves all night, and the youngest child had a sort of fit from fright. That captain, I know for a fact, sometimes stops people in the Nevsky Prospect and begs. They won't take him into the service, but strange to say (that's why I am telling this), all this month that the captain has been here his behavior has caused me no annoyance. I have, of course, tried to avoid his acquaintance from the very beginning, and he, too, was bored with me from the first; but I never care how much they shout the other side of the partition nor how many of them there are in there: I sit up all night and forget them so completely that I do not even hear them. I stay awake till daybreak, and have been going on like that for the last year. I sit up all night in my arm-chair at the table, doing nothing. I only read by day. I sit--don't even think; ideas of a sort wander through my mind and I let them come and go as they will. A whole candle is burnt every night. I sat down quietly at the table, took out the revolver and put it down before me. When I had put it down I asked myself, I remember, "Is that so?" and answered with complete conviction, "It is." That is, I shall shoot myself. I knew that I should shoot myself that night for certain, but how much longer I should go on sitting at the table I did not know. And no doubt I should have shot myself if it had not been for that little girl.




Chapter II


You see, though nothing mattered to me, I could feel pain, for instance. If anyone had stuck me it would have hurt me. It was the same morally: if anything very pathetic happened, I should have felt pity just as I used to do in old days when there were things in life that did matter to me. I had felt pity that evening. I should have certainly helped a child. Why, then, had I not helped the little girl? Because of an idea that occurred to me at the time: when she was calling and pulling at me, a question suddenly arose before me and I could not settle it. The question was an idle one, but I was vexed. I was vexed at the reflection that if I were going to make an end of myself that night, nothing in life ought to have mattered to me. Why was it that all at once I did not feel a strange pang, quite incongruous in my position. Really I do not know better how to convey my fleeting sensation at the moment, but the sensation persisted at home when I was sitting at the table, and I was very much irritated as I had not been for a long time past. One reflection followed another. I saw clearly that so long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions. So be it. But if I am going to kill myself, in two hours, say, what is the little girl to me and what have I to do with shame or with anything else in the world? I shall turn into nothing, absolutely nothing. And can it really be true that the consciousness that I shall completely cease to exist immediately and so everything else will cease to exist, does not in the least affect my feeling of pity for the child nor the feeling of shame after a contemptible action? I stamped and shouted at the unhappy child as though to say--not only I feel no pity, but even if I behave inhumanly and contemptibly, I am free to, for in another two hours everything will be extinguished. Do you believe that that was why I shouted that? I am almost convinced of it now. I seemed clear to me that life and the world somehow depended upon me now. I may almost say that the world now seemed created for me alone: if I shot myself the world would cease to be at least for me. I say nothing of its being likely that nothing will exist for anyone when I am gone, and that as soon as my consciousness is extinguished the whole world will vanish too and become void like a phantom, as a mere appurtenance of my consciousness, for possibly all this world and all these people are only me myself.

I remember that as I sat and reflected, I turned all these new questions that swarmed one after another quite the other way, and thought of something quite new. For instance, a strange reflection suddenly occurred to me, that if I had lived before on the moon or on Mars and there had committed the most disgraceful and dishonourable action and had there been put to such shame and ignominy as one can only conceive and realise in dreams, in nightmares, and if, finding myself afterwards on earth, I were able to retain the memory of what I had done on the other planet and at the same time knew that I should never, under any circumstances, return there, then looking from the earth to the moon--should I care or not? Should I feel shame for that action or not? These were idle and superfluous questions for the revolver was already lying before me, and I knew in every fibre of my being that it would happen for certain, but they excited me and I raged. I could not die now without having first settled something. In short, the child had saved me, for I put off my pistol shot for the sake of these questions. Meanwhile the clamour had begun to subside in the captain's room: they had finished their game, were settling down to sleep, and meanwhile were grumbling and languidly winding up their quarrels. At that point, I suddenly fell asleep in my chair at the table--a thing which had never happened to me before. I dropped asleep quite unawares.

Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some parts are presented with appalling vividness, with details worked up with the elaborate finish of jewellery, while others one gallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as, for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to be spurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensible things happen to it! My brother died five years ago, for instance. I sometimes dream of him; he takes part in my affairs, we are very much interested, and yet all through my dream I quite know and remember that my brother is dead and buried. How is it that I am not surprised that, though he is dead, he is here beside me and working with me? Why is it that my reason fully accepts it? But enough. I will begin about my dream. Yes, I dreamed a dream, my dream of the third of November. They tease me now, telling me it was only a dream. But does it matter whether it was a dream or reality, if the dream made known to me the truth? If once one has recognized the truth and seen it, you know that it is the truth and that there is no other and there cannot be, whether you are asleep or awake. Let it be a dream, so be it, but that real life of which you make so much I had meant to extinguish by suicide, and my dream, my dream--oh, it revealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full of power!

Listen.




Chapter III


I have mentioned that I dropped asleep unawares and even seemed to be still reflecting on the same subjects. I suddenly dreamt that I picked up the revolver and aimed it straight at my heart--my heart, and not my head; and I had determined beforehand to fire at my head, at my right temple. After aiming at my chest I waited a second or two, and suddenly my candle, my table, and the wall in front of me began moving and heaving. I made haste to pull the trigger.

In dreams you sometimes fall from a height, or are stabbed, or beaten, but you never feel pain unless, perhaps, you really bruise yourself against the bedstead, then you feel pain and almost always wake up from it. It was the same in my dream. I did not feel any pain, but it seemed as though with my shot everything within me was shaken and everything was suddenly dimmed, and it grew horribly black around me. I seemed to be blinded, and it benumbed, and I was lying on something hard, stretched on my back; I saw nothing, and could not make the slightest movement. People were walking and shouting around me, the captain bawled, the landlady shrieked--and suddenly another break and I was being carried in a closed coffin. And I felt how the coffin was shaking and reflected upon it, and for the first time the idea struck me that I was dead, utterly dead, I knew it and had no doubt of it, I could neither see nor move and yet I was feeling and reflecting. But I was soon reconciled to the position, and as one usually does in a dream, accepted the facts without disputing them.

And now I was buried in the earth. They all went away, I was left alone, utterly alone. I did not move. Whenever before I had imagined being buried the one sensation I associated with the grave was that of damp and cold. So now I felt that I was very cold, especially the tips of my toes, but I felt nothing else.

I lay still, strange to say I expected nothing, accepting without dispute that a dead man had nothing to expect. But it was damp. I don't know how long a time passed--whether an hour or several days, or many days. But all at once a drop of water fell on my closed left eye, making its way through the coffin lid; it was followed a minute later by a second, then a minute later by a third--and so on, regularly every minute. There was a sudden glow of profound indignation in my heart, and I suddenly felt in it a pang of physical pain. "That's my wound," I thought; "that's the bullet . . ." And drop after drop every minute kept falling on my closed eyelid. And all at once, not with my voice, but with my entire being, I called upon the power that was responsible for all that was happening to me:

"Whoever you may be, if you exist, and if anything more rational that what is happening here is possible, suffer it to be here now. But if you are revenging yourself upon me for my senseless suicide by the hideousness and absurdity of this subsequent existence, then let me tell you that no torture could ever equal the contempt which I shall go on dumbly feeling, though my martyrdom may last a million years!"

I made this appeal and held my peace. There was a full minute of unbroken silence and again another drop fell, but I knew with infinite unshakable certainty that everything would change immediately. And behold my grave suddenly was rent asunder, that is, I don't know whether it was opened or dug up, but I was caught up by some dark and unknown being and we found ourselves in space. I suddenly regained my sight. It was the dead of night, and never, never had there been such darkness. We were flying through space far away from the earth. I did not question the being who was taking me; I was proud and waited. I assured myself that I was not afraid, and was thrilled with ecstasy at the thought that I was not afraid. I do not know how long we were flying, I cannot imagine; it happened as it always does in dreams when you skip over space and time, and the laws of thought and existence, and only pause upon the points for which the heart yearns. I remember that I suddenly saw in the darkness a star. "Is that Sirius?" I asked impulsively, though I had not meant to ask questions.

"No, that is the star you saw between the clouds when you were coming home," the being who was carrying me replied.

I knew that it had something like a human face. Strange to say, I did not like that being, in fact I felt an intense aversion for it. I had expected complete non-existence, and that was why I had put a bullet through my heart. And here I was in the hands of a creature not human, of course, but yet living, existing. "And so there is life beyond the grave," I thought with the strange frivolity one has in dreams. But in its inmost depth my heart remained unchanged. "And if I have got to exist again," I thought, "and live once more under the control of some irresistible power, I won't be vanquished and humiliated."

"You know that I am afraid of you and despise me for that," I said suddenly to my companion, unable to refrain from the humiliating question which implied a confession, and feeling my humiliation stab my heart as with a pin. He did not answer my question, but all at once I felt that he was not even despising me, but was laughing at me and had no compassion for me, and that our journey had an unknown and mysterious object that concerned me only. Fear was growing in my heart. Something was mutely and painfully communicated to me from my silent companion, and permeated my whole being. We were flying through dark, unknown space. I had for some time lost sight of the constellations familiar to my eyes. I knew that there were stars in the heavenly spaces the light of which took thousands or millions of years to reach the earth. Perhaps we were already flying through those spaces. I expected something with a terrible anguish that tortured my heart. And suddenly I was thrilled by a familiar feeling that stirred me to the depths: I suddenly caught sight of our sun! I knew that it could not be our sun, that gave life to our earth, and that we were an infinite distance from our sun, but for some reason I knew in my whole being that it was a sun exactly like ours, a duplicate of it. A sweet, thrilling feeling resounded with ecstasy in my heart: the kindred power of the same light which had given me light stirred an echo in my heart and awakened it, and I had a sensation of life, the old life of the past for the first time since I had been in the grave.

"But if that is the sun, if that is exactly the same as our sun," I cried, "where is the earth?"

And my companion pointed to a star twinkling in the distance with an emerald light. We were flying straight towards it.

"And are such repetitions possible in the universe? Can that be the law of Nature? . . . And if that is an earth there, can it be just the same earth as ours . . . just the same, as poor, as unhappy, but precious and beloved for ever, arousing in the most ungrateful of her children the same poignant love for her that we feel for our earth?" I cried out, shaken by irresistible, ecstatic love for the old familiar earth which I had left. The image of the poor child whom I had repulsed flashed through my mind.

"You shall see it all," answered my companion, and there was a note of sorrow in his voice.

But we were rapidly approaching the planet. It was growing before my eyes; I could already distinguish the ocean, the outline of Europe; and suddenly a feeling of a great and holy jealousy glowed in my heart.

"How can it be repeated and what for? I love and can love only that earth which I have left, stained with my blood, when, in my ingratitude, I quenched my life with a bullet in my heart. But I have never, never ceased to love that earth, and perhaps on the very night I parted from it I loved it more than ever. Is there suffering upon this new earth? On our earth we can only love with suffering and through suffering. We cannot love otherwise, and we know of no other sort of love. I want suffering in order to love. I long, I thirst, this very instant, to kiss with tears the earth that I have left, and I don't want, I won't accept life on any other!"

But my companion had already left me. I suddenly, quite without noticing how, found myself on this other earth, in the bright light of a sunny day, fair as paradise. I believe I was standing on one of the islands that make up on our globe the Greek archipelago, or on the coast of the mainland facing that archipelago. Oh, everything was exactly as it is with us, only everything seemed to have a festive radiance, the splendour of some great, holy triumph attained at last. The caressing sea, green as emerald, splashed softly upon the shore and kissed it with manifest, almost conscious love. The tall, lovely trees stood in all the glory of their blossom, and their innumerable leaves greeted me, I am certain, with their soft, caressing rustle and seemed to articulate words of love. The grass glowed with bright and fragrant flowers. Birds were flying in flocks in the air, and perched fearlessly on my shoulders and arms and joyfully struck me with their darling, fluttering wings. And at last I saw and knew the people of this happy land. That came to me of themselves, they surrounded me, kissed me. The children of the sun, the children of their sun--oh, how beautiful they were! Never had I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find, some remote faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes of these happy people shone with a clear brightness. Their faces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of a serenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the first glance at them, I understood it all! It was the earth untarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had not sinned. They lived just in such a paradise as that in which, according to all the legends of mankind, our first parents lived before they sinned; the only difference was that all this earth was the same paradise. These people, laughing joyfully, thronged round me and caressed me; they took me home with them, and each of them tried to reassure me. Oh, they asked me no questions, but they seemed, I fancied, to know everything without asking, and they wanted to make haste to smoothe away the signs of suffering from my face.




Chapter IV


And do you know what? Well, granted that it was only a dream, yet the sensation of the love of those innocent and beautiful people has remained with me for ever, and I feel as though their love is still flowing out to me from over there. I have seen them myself, have known them and been convinced; I loved them, I suffered for them afterwards. Oh, I understood at once even at the time that in many things I could not understand them at all; as an up-to-date Russian progressive and contemptible Petersburger, it struck me as inexplicable that, knowing so much, they had, for instance, no science like our. But I soon realised that their knowledge was gained and fostered by intuitions different from those of us on earth, and that their aspirations, too, were quite different. They desired nothing and were at peace; they did not aspire to knowledge of life as we aspire to understand it, because their lives were full. But their knowledge was higher and deeper than ours; for our science seeks to explain what life is, aspires to understand it in order to teach others how to love, while they without science knew how to live; and that I understood, but I could not understand their knowledge. They showed me their trees, and I could not understand the intense love with which they looked at them; it was as though they were talking with creatures like themselves. And perhaps I shall not be mistaken if I say that they conversed with them. Yes, they had found their language, and I am convinced that the trees understood them. They looked at all Nature like that--at the animals who lived in peace with them and did not attack them, but loved them, conquered by their love. They pointed to the stars and told me something about them which I could not understand, but I am convinced that they were somehow in touch with the stars, not only in thought, but by some living channel. Oh, these people did not persist in trying to make me understand them, they loved me without that, but I knew that they would never understand me, and so I hardly spoke to them about our earth. I only kissed in their presence the earth on which they lived and mutely worshipped them themselves. And they saw that and let me worship them without being abashed at my adoration, for they themselves loved much. They were not unhappy on my account when at times I kissed their feet with tears, joyfully conscious of the love with which they would respond to mine. At times I asked myself with wonder how it was they were able never to offend a creature like me, and never once to arouse a feeling of jealousy or envy in me? Often I wondered how it could be that, boastful and untruthful as I was, I never talked to them of what I knew--of which, of course, they had no notion--that I was never tempted to do so by a desire to astonish or even to benefit them.

They were as gay and sportive as children. They wandered about their lovely woods and copses, they sang their lovely songs; their fair was light--the fruits of their trees, the honey from their woods, and the milk of the animals who loved them. The work they did for food and raiment was brief and not labourious. They loved and begot children, but I never noticed in them the impulse of that cruel sensuality which overcomes almost every man on this earth, all and each, and is the source of almost every sin of mankind on earth. They rejoiced at the arrival of children as new beings to share their happiness. There was no quarrelling, no jealousy among them, and they did not even know what the words meant. Their children were the children of all, for they all made up one family. There was scarcely any illness among them, though there was death; but their old people died peacefully, as though falling asleep, giving blessings and smiles to those who surrounded them to take their last farewell with bright and lovely smiles. I never saw grief or tears on those occasions, but only love, which reached the point of ecstasy, but a calm ecstasy, made perfect and contemplative. One might think that they were still in contact with the departed after death, and that their earthly union was not cut short by death. They scarcely understood me when I questioned them about immortality, but evidently they were so convinced of it without reasoning that it was not for them a question at all. They had no temples, but they had a real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with the whole of the universe; they had no creed, but they had a certain knowledge that when their earthly joy had reached the limits of earthly nature, then there would come for them, for the living and for the dead, a still greater fullness of contact with the whole of the universe. They looked forward to that moment with joy, but without haste, not pining for it, but seeming to have a foretaste of it in their hearts, of which they talked to one another.

In the evening before going to sleep they liked singing in musical and harmonious chorus. In those songs they expressed all the sensations that the parting day had given them, sang its glories and took leave of it. They sang the praises of nature, of the sea, of the woods. They liked making songs about one another, and praised each other like children; they were the simplest songs, but they sprang from their hearts and went to one's heart. And not only in their songs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing but admire one another. It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling.

Some of their songs, solemn and rapturous, I scarcely understood at all. Though I understood the words I could never fathom their full significance. It remained, as it were, beyond the grasp of my mind, yet my heart unconsciously absorbed it more and more. I often told them that I had had a presentiment of it long before, that this joy and glory had come to me on our earth in the form of a yearning melancholy that at times approached insufferable sorrow; that I had had a foreknowledge of them all and of their glory in the dreams of my heart and the visions of my mind; that often on our earth I could not look at the setting sun without tears. . . that in my hatred for the men of our earth there was always a yearning anguish: why could I not hate them without loving them? why could I not help forgiving them? and in my love for them there was a yearning grief: why could I not love them without hating them? They listened to me, and I saw they could not conceive what I was saying, but I did not regret that I had spoken to them of it: I knew that they understood the intensity of my yearning anguish over those whom I had left. But when they looked at me with their sweet eyes full of love, when I felt that in their presence my heart, too, became as innocent and just as theirs, the feeling of the fullness of life took my breath away, and I worshipped them in silence.

Oh, everyone laughs in my face now, and assures me that one cannot dream of such details as I am telling now, that I only dreamed or felt one sensation that arose in my heart in delirium and made up the details myself when I woke up. And when I told them that perhaps it really was so, my God, how they shouted with laughter in my face, and what mirth I caused! Oh, yes, of course I was overcome by the mere sensation of my dream, and that was all that was preserved in my cruelly wounded heart; but the actual forms and images of my dream, that is, the very ones I really saw at the very time of my dream, were filled with such harmony, were so lovely and enchanting and were so actual, that on awakening I was, of course, incapable of clothing them in our poor language, so that they were bound to become blurred in my mind; and so perhaps I really was forced afterwards to make up the details, and so of course to distort them in my passionate desire to convey some at least of them as quickly as I could. But on the other hand, how can I help believing that it was all true? It was perhaps a thousand times brighter, happier and more joyful than I describe it. Granted that I dreamed it, yet it must have been real. You know, I will tell you a secret: perhaps it was not a dream at all! For then something happened so awful, something so horribly true, that it could not have been imagined in a dream. My heart may have originated the dream, but would my heart alone have been capable of originating the awful event which happened to me afterwards? How could I alone have invented it or imagined it in my dream? Could my petty heart and fickle, trivial mind have risen to such a revelation of truth? Oh, judge for yourselves: hitherto I have concealed it, but now I will tell the truth. The fact is that I . . . corrupted them all!




Chapter V


Yes, yes, it ended in my corrupting them all! How it could come to pass I do not know, but I remember it clearly. The dream embraced thousands of years and left in me only a sense of the whole. I only know that I was the cause of their sin and downfall. Like a vile trichina, like a germ of the plague infecting whole kingdoms, so I contaminated all this earth, so happy and sinless before my coming. They learnt to lie, grew fond of lying, and discovered the charm of falsehood. Oh, at first perhaps it began innocently, with a jest, coquetry, with amorous play, perhaps indeed with a germ, but that germ of falsity made its way into their hearts and pleased them. Then sensuality was soon begotten, sensuality begot jealousy, jealousy--cruelty . . . Oh, I don't know, I don't remember; but soon, very soon the first blood was shed. They marvelled and were horrified, and began to be split up and divided. They formed into unions, but it was against one another. Reproaches, upbraidings followed. They came to know shame, and shame brought them to virtue. The conception of honour sprang up, and every union began waving its flags. They began torturing animals, and the animals withdrew from them into the forests and became hostile to them. They began to struggle for separation, for isolation, for individuality, for mine and thine. They began to talk in different languages. They became acquainted with sorrow and loved sorrow; they thirsted for suffering, and said that truth could only be attained through suffering. Then science appeared. As they became wicked they began talking of brotherhood and humanitarianism, and understood those ideas. As they became criminal, they invented justice and drew up whole legal codes in order to observe it, and to ensure their being kept, set up a guillotine. They hardly remembered what they had lost, in fact refused to believe that they had ever been happy and innocent. They even laughed at the possibility o this happiness in the past, and called it a dream. They could not even imagine it in definite form and shape, but, strange and wonderful to relate, though they lost all faith in their past happiness and called it a legend, they so longed to be happy and innocent once more that they succumbed to this desire like children, made an idol of it, set up temples and worshipped their own idea, their own desire; though at the same time they fully believed that it was unattainable and could not be realised, yet they bowed down to it and adored it with tears! Nevertheless, if it could have happened that they had returned to the innocent and happy condition which they had lost, and if someone had shown it to them again and had asked them whether they wanted to go back to it, they would certainly have refused. They answered me:

"We may be deceitful, wicked and unjust, we know it and weep over it, we grieve over it; we torment and punish ourselves more perhaps than that merciful Judge Who will judge us and whose Name we know not. But we have science, and by the means of it we shall find the truth and we shall arrive at it consciously. Knowledge is higher than feeling, the consciousness of life is higher than life. Science will give us wisdom, wisdom will reveal the laws, and the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness."

That is what they said, and after saying such things everyone began to love himself better than anyone else, and indeed they could not do otherwise. All became so jealous of the rights of their own personality that they did their very utmost to curtail and destroy them in others, and made that the chief thing in their lives. Slavery followed, even voluntary slavery; the weak eagerly submitted to the strong, on condition that the latter aided them to subdue the still weaker. Then there were saints who came to these people, weeping, and talked to them of their pride, of their loss of harmony and due proportion, of their loss of shame. They were laughed at or pelted with stones. Holy blood was shed on the threshold of the temples. Then there arose men who began to think how to bring all people together again, so that everybody, while still loving himself best of all, might not interfere with others, and all might live together in something like a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over this idea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believed that science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservation would force men at last to unite into a harmonious and rational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, 'the wise' endeavoured to exterminate as rapidly as possible all who were 'not wise' and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph. But the instinct of self-preservation grew rapidly weaker; there arose men, haughty and sensual, who demanded all or nothing. In order to obtain everything they resorted to crime, and if they did not succeed--to suicide. There arose religions with a cult of non-existence and self-destruction for the sake of the everlasting peace of annihilation. At last these people grew weary of their meaningless toil, and signs of suffering came into their faces, and then they proclaimed that suffering was a beauty, for in suffering alone was there meaning. They glorified suffering in their songs. I moved about among them, wringing my hands and weeping over them, but I loved them perhaps more than in old days when there was no suffering in their faces and when they were innocent and so lovely. I loved the earth they had polluted even more than when it had been a paradise, if only because sorrow had come to it. Alas! I always loved sorrow and tribulation, but only for myself, for myself; but I wept over them, pitying them. I stretched out my hands to them in despair, blaming, cursing and despising myself. I told them that all this was my doing, mine alone; that it was I had brought them corruption, contamination and falsity. I besought them to crucify me, I taught them how to make a cross. I could not kill myself, I had not the strength, but I wanted to suffer at their hands. I yearned for suffering, I longed that my blood should be drained to the last drop in these agonies. But they only laughed at me, and began at last to look upon me as crazy. They justified me, they declared that they had only got what they wanted themselves, and that all that now was could not have been otherwise. At last they declared to me that I was becoming dangerous and that they should lock me up in a madhouse if I did not hold my tongue. Then such grief took possession of my soul that my heart was wrung, and I felt as though I were dying; and then . . . then I awoke.

It was morning, that is, it was not yet daylight, but about six o'clock. I woke up in the same arm-chair; my candle had burnt out; everyone was asleep in the captain's room, and there was a stillness all round, rare in our flat. First of all I leapt up in great amazement: nothing like this had ever happened to me before, not even in the most trivial detail; I had never, for instance, fallen asleep like this in my arm-chair. While I was standing and coming to myself I suddenly caught sight of my revolver lying loaded, ready - but instantly I thrust it away! Oh, now, life, life! I lifted up my hands and called upon eternal truth, not with words, but with tears; ecstasy, immeasurable ecstasy flooded my soul. Yes, life and spreading the good tidings! Oh, I at that moment resolved to spread the tidings, and resolved it, of course, for my whole life. I go to spread the tidings, I want to spread the tidings--of what? Of the truth, for I have seen it, have seen it with my own eyes, have seen it in all its glory.

And since then I have been preaching! Moreover I love all those who laugh at me more than any of the rest. Why that is so I do not know and cannot explain, but so be it. I am told that I am vague and confused, and if I am vague and confused now, what shall I be later on? It is true indeed: I am vague and confused, and perhaps as time goes on I shall be more so. And of course I shall make many blunders before I find out how to preach, that is, find out what words to say, what things to do, for it is a very difficult task. I see all that as clear as daylight, but, listen, who does not make mistakes? An yet, you know, all are making for the same goal, all are striving in the same direction anyway, from the sage to the lowest robber, only by different roads. It is an old truth, but this is what is new: I cannot go far wrong. For I have seen the truth; I have seen and I know that people can be beautiful and happy without losing the power of living on earth. I will not and cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of mankind. And it is just this faith of mine that they laugh at. But how can I help believing it? I have seen the truth--it is not as though I had invented it with my mind, I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled my soul for ever. I have seen it in such full perfection that I cannot believe that it is impossible for people to have it. And so how can I go wrong? I shall make some slips no doubt, and shall perhaps talk in second-hand language, but not for long: the living image of what I saw will always be with me and will always correct and guide me. Oh, I am full of courage and freshness, and I will go on and on if it were for a thousand years! Do you know, at first I meant to conceal the fact that I corrupted them, but that was a mistake--that was my first mistake! But truth whispered to me that I was lying, and preserved me and corrected me. But how establish paradise--I don't know, because I do not know how to put it into words. After my dream I lost command of words. All the chief words, anyway, the most necessary ones. But never mind, I shall go and I shall keep talking, I won't leave off, for anyway I have seen it with my own eyes, though I cannot describe what I saw. But the scoffers do not understand that. It was a dream, they say, delirium, hallucination. Oh! As though that meant so much! And they are so proud! A dream! What is a dream? And is not our life a dream? I will say more. Suppose that this paradise will never come to pass (that I understand), yet I shall go on preaching it. And yet how simple it is: in one day, in one hour everything could be arranged at once! The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothing else is wanted--you will find out at once how to arrange it all. And yet it's an old truth which has been told and retold a billion times--but it has not formed part of our lives! The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness--that is what one must contend against. And I shall. If only everyone wants it, it can be arranged at once.

And I tracked down that little girl . . . and I shall go on and on!


THE END.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:28 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

An Extraordinary Incident

(1865)

Translated by Constance Garnett

~

A true story of how a gentleman of a certain age and of respectable appearance was swallowed alive by the crocodile in the Arcade, and of the consequences that followed.


Oh Lambert! Ou est Lambert?

As-tu vu Lambert?


Chapter I


On the thirteenth of January of this present year, 1865, at half-past twelve in the day, Elena Ivanovna, the wife of my cultured friend Ivan Matveitch, who is a colleague in the same department, and may be said to be a distant relation of mine, too, expressed the desire to see the crocodile now on view at a fixed charge in the Arcade. As Ivan Matveitch had already in his pocket his ticket for a tour abroad (not so much for the sake of his health as for the improvement of his mind), and was consequently free from his official duties and had nothing whatever to do that morning, he offered no objection to his wife's irresistible fancy, but was positively aflame with curiosity himself.

"A capital idea!" he said, with the utmost satisfaction. "We'll have a look at the crocodile! On the eve of visiting Europe it is as well to acquaint ourselves on the spot with its indigenous inhabitants." And with these words, taking his wife's arm, he set off with her at once for the Arcade. I joined them, as I usually do, being an intimate friend of the family. I have never seen Ivan Matveitch in a more agreeable frame of mind than he was on that memorable morning-how true it is that we know not beforehand the fate that awaits us! On entering the Arcade he was at once full of admiration for the splendours of the building and, when we reached the shop in which the monster lately arrived in Petersburg was being exhibited, he volunteered to pay the quarter-rouble for me to the crocodile owner--a thing which had never happened before. Walking into a little room, we observed that besides the crocodile there were in it parrots of the species known as cockatoo, and also a group of monkeys in a special case in a recess. Near the entrance, along the left wall stood a big tin tank that looked like a bath covered with a thin iron grating, filled with water to the depth of two inches. In this shallow pool was kept a huge crocodile, which lay like a log absolutely motionless and apparently deprived of all its faculties by our damp climate, so inhospitable to foreign visitors. This monster at first aroused no special interest in any one of us.

"So this is the crocodile!" said Elena Ivanovna, with a pathetic cadence of regret. "Why, I thought it was ... something different."

Most probably she thought it was made of diamonds. The owner of the crocodile, a German, came out and looked at us with an air of extraordinary pride.

"He has a right to be," Ivan Matveitch whispered to me, "he knows he is the only man in Russia exhibiting a crocodile”.

This quite nonsensical observation I ascribe also to the extremely good-humoured mood which had overtaken Ivan Matveitch, who was on other occasions of rather envious disposition.

"I fancy your crocodile is not alive," said Elena Ivanovna, piqued by the irresponsive stolidity of the proprietor, and addressing him with a charming smile in order to soften his churlishness--a manoeuvre so typically feminine.

"Oh, no, madam," the latter replied in broken Russian; and instantly moving the grating half off the tank, he poked the monster's head with a stick.

Then the treacherous monster, to show that it was alive, faintly stirred its paws and tail, raised its snout and emitted something like a prolonged snuffle.

"Come, don't be cross, Karlchen," said the German caressingly, gratified in his vanity.

"How horrid that crocodile is! I am really frightened," Elena Ivanovna twittered, still more coquettishly. "I know I shall dream of him now."

"But he won't bite you if you do dream of him," the German retorted gallantly, and was the first to laugh at his own jest, but none of us responded.

"Come, Semyon Semyonitch," said Elena Ivanovna, addressing me exclusively, "let us go and look at the monkeys. I am awfully fond of monkeys; they are such darlings . . . and the crocodile is horrid."

"Oh, don't be afraid, my dear!" Ivan Matveitch called after us, gallantly displaying his manly courage to his wife. "This drowsy denizen of the realms of the Pharaohs will do us no harm." And he remained by the tank. What is more, he took his glove and began tickling the crocodile's nose with it, wishing, as he said afterwards, to induce him to snort. The proprietor showed his politeness to a lady by following Elena Ivanovna to the case of monkeys.

So everything was going well, and nothing could have been foreseen. Elena Ivanovna was quite skittish in her raptures over the monkeys, and seemed completely taken up with them. With shrieks of delight she was continually turning to me, as though determined not to notice the proprietor, and kept gushing with laughter at the resemblance she detected between these monkeys and her intimate friends and acquaintances. I, too, was amused, for the resemblance was unmistakable. The German did not know whether to laugh or not, and so at last was reduced to frowning. And it was at that moment that a terrible, I may say unnatural, scream set the room vibrating. Not knowing what to think, for the first moment I stood still, numb with horror, but, noticing that Elena Ivanovna was screaming too, I quickly turned round--and what did I behold! I saw--oh, heavens!--I saw the luckless Ivan Matveitch in the terrible jaws of the crocodile, held by them round the waist, lifted horizontally in the air and desperately kicking. Then--one moment, and no trace remained of him. But I must describe it in detail, for I stood all the while motionless, and had time to watch the whole process taking place before me with an attention and interest such as I never remember to have felt before. "What," I thought at that critical moment, "what if all that had happened to me instead of to Ivan Matveitch--how unpleasant it would have been for me!"

But to return to my story. The crocodile began by turning the unhappy Ivan Matveitch in his terrible jaws so that he could swallow his legs first; then bringing up Ivan Matveitch, who kept trying to jump out and clutching at the sides of the tank, sucked him down again as far as his waist. Then bringing him up again, gulped him down, and so again and again. In this way Ivan Matveitch was visibly disappearing before our eyes. At last, with a final gulp, the crocodile swallowed my cultured friend entirely, this time leaving no trace of him. From the outside of the crocodile we could see the protuberances of Ivan Matveitch's figure as he passed down the inside of the monster. I was on the point of screaming again when destiny played another treacherous trick upon us. The crocodile made a tremendous effort, probably oppressed by the magnitude of the object he had swallowed, once more opened his terrible jaws, and with a final hiccup he suddenly let the head of Ivan Matveitch pop out for a second, with an expression of despair on his face. In that brief instant the spectacles dropped off his nose to the bottom of the tank. It seemed as though that despairing countenance had only popped out to cast one last look on the objects around it, to take its last farewell of all earthly pleasures. But it had not time to carry out its intention; the crocodile made another effort, gave a gulp and instantly it vanished again--this time for ever. This appearance and disappearance of a still living human head was so horrible, but all the same--either from its rapidity and unexpectedness or from the dropping of the spectacles--there was something so comic about it that I suddenly quite unexpectedly exploded with laughter. But pulling myself together and realising that to laugh at such a moment was not the thing for an old family friend, I turned at once to Elena Ivanovna and said with a sympathetic air:

"Now it's all over with our friend Ivan Matveitch!"

I cannot even attempt to describe how violent was the agitation of Elena Ivanovna during the whole process. After the first scream she seemed rooted to the spot, and stared at the catastrophe with apparent indifference, though her eyes looked as though they were starting out of her head; then she suddenly went off into a heart-rending wail, but I seized her hands. At this instant the proprietor, too, who had at first been also petrified by horror, suddenly elapsed his hands and cried, gazing upwards:

"Oh, my crocodile! Oh, mein allerliebster Karlchen! Mutter, Mutter, Mutter!"

A door at the rear of the room opened at this cry, and the Mutter, a rosy-cheeked, elderly but dishevelled woman in a cap made her appearance, and rushed with a shriek to her German.

A perfect Bedlam followed. Elena Ivanovna kept shrieking out the same phrase, as though in a frenzy, "Flay him! flay him!" apparently entreating them--probably in a moment of oblivion--to flay somebody for something. The proprietor and Mutter took no notice whatever of either of us; they were both bellowing like calves over the crocodile.

"He did for himself! He will burst himself at once, for he did swallow a ganz official!" cried the proprietor.

"Unser Karlchen, unser allerliebster Karlchen wird sterben," howled his wife.

"We are bereaved and without bread!" chimed in the proprietor.

"Flay him! flay him! flay him!" clamoured Elena Ivanovna, clutching at the German's coat.

"He did tease the crocodile. For what did your man tease the crocodile?" cried the German, pulling away from her. "You will, if Karlchen wird burst, therefore pay, das war mein Sohn, das war mein einziger Sohn."

I must own I was intensely indignant at the sight of such egoism in the German and the cold-heartedness of his dishevelled Mutter; at the same time Elena Ivanovna's reiterated shriek of "Flay him! flay him!" troubled me even more and absorbed at last my whole attention, positively alarming me. I may as well say straight of that I entirely misunderstood this strange exclamation: it seemed to me that Elena Ivanovna had for the moment taken leave of her senses, but nevertheless wishing to avenge the loss of her beloved Ivan Matveitch, was demanding by way of compensation that the crocodile should be severely thrashed, while she was meaning something quite different. Looking round at the door, not without embarrassment, I began to entreat Elena Ivanovna to calm herself, and above all not to use the shocking word 'flay'. For such a reactionary desire here, in the midst of the Arcade and of the most cultured society, not two paces from the hall where at this very minute Mr. Lavrov was perhaps delivering a public lecture, was not only impossible but unthinkable, and might at any moment bring upon us the hisses of culture and the caricatures of Mr. Stepanov. To my horror I was immediately proved to be correct in my alarmed suspicions: the curtain that divided the crocodile room from the little entry where the quarter-roubles were taken suddenly parted, and in the opening there appeared a figure with moustaches and beard, carrying a cap, with the upper part of its body bent a long way forward, though the feet were scrupulously held beyond the threshold of the crocodile room in order to avoid the necessity of paying the entrance money.

"Such a reactionary desire, madam," said the stranger, trying to avoid falling over in our direction and to remain standing outside the room, "does no credit to your development, and is conditioned by lack of phosphorus in your brain. You will be promptly held up to shame in the Chronicle of Progress and in our satirical prints..."

But he could not complete his remarks; the proprietor coming to himself, and seeing with horror that a man was talking in the crocodile room without having paid entrance money, rushed furiously at the progressive stranger and turned him out with a punch from each fist. For a moment both vanished from our sight behind a curtain, and only then I grasped that the whole uproar was about nothing. Elena Ivanovna turned out quite innocent; she had, as I have mentioned already, no idea whatever of subjecting the crocodile to a degrading corporal punishment, and had simply expressed the desire that he should be opened and her husband released from his interior.

"What! You wish that my crocodile be perished!" the proprietor yelled, running in again. "No! let your husband be perished first, before my crocodile! . . . Mein Vater showed crocodile, mein Grossvater showed crocodile, mein Sohn will show crocodile, and I will show crocodile! All will show crocodile! I am known to ganz Europa, and you are not known to ganz Europa, and you must pay me a Strafe!"

"Ja, ja," put in the vindictive German woman, "we shall not let you go, Strafe, since Karlchen is burst!"

"And, indeed, it's useless to flay the creature," I added calmly, anxious to get Elena Ivanovna away home as quickly as possible, "as our dear Ivan Matveitch is by now probably soaring somewhere in the empyrean."

"My dear"--we suddenly heard, to our intense amazement, the voice of Ivan Matveitch--"my dear, my advice is to apply direct to the superintendent's office, as without the assistance of the police the German will never be made to see reason."

These words, uttered with firmness and aplomb, and expressing an exceptional presence of mind, for the first minute so astounded us that we could not believe our ears. But, of course, we ran at once to the crocodile's tank, and with equal reverence and incredulity listened to the unhappy captive. His voice was muffled, thin and even squeaky, as though it came from a considerable distance. It reminded one of a jocose person who, covering his mouth with a pillow, shouts from an adjoining room, trying to mimic the sound of two peasants calling to one another in a deserted plain or across a wide ravine--a performance to which I once had the pleasure of listening in a friend's house at Christmas.

"lvan Matveitch, my dear, and so you are alive!" faltered Elena Ivanovna.

"Alive and well," answered Ivan Matveitch, "and, thanks to the Almighty, swallowed without any damage whatever. I am only uneasy as to the view my superiors may take of the incident; for after getting a permit to go abroad I've got into a crocodile, which seems anything but clever."

"But, my dear, don't trouble your head about being clever; first of all we must somehow excavate you from where you are," Elena Ivanovna interrupted.

"Excavate!" cried the proprietor. "I will not let my crocodile be excavated. Now the Public will come many more, and I will funfzig kopecks ask and Karlchen will cease to burst."

"Gott sei Dank!" put in his wife.

"They are right," Ivan Matveitch observed tranquilly; "the principles of economics before everything."

"My dear! I will fly at once to the authorities and lodge a complaint, for I feel that we cannot settle this mess by ourselves."

"I think so too." observed Ivan Matveitch; "but in our age of industrial crisis it is not easy to rip open the belly of a crocodile without economic compensation, and meanwhile the inevitable question presents itself: What will the German take for his crocodile? And with it another: How will it be paid? For, as you know, I have no means . . ."

"Perhaps out of your salary . . ." I observed timidly, but the proprietor interrupted me at once.

"I will not the crocodile sell; I will for three thousand the crocodile sell! I will for four thousand the crocodile sell! Now the Public will come very many. I will for five thousand the crocodile sell!"

In fact he gave himself insufferable airs. Covetousness and a revolting greed gleamed joyfully in his eyes.

"I am going!" I cried indignantly.

"And I! I too! I shall go to Andrey Osipitch himself. I will soften him with my tears," whined Elena Ivanovna.

"Don't do that, my dear," Ivan Matveitch hastened to interpose. He had long been jealous of Andrey Osipitch on his wife's account, and he knew she would enjoy going to weep before a gentleman of refinement, for tears suited her. "And I don't advise you to do so either, my friend," he added, addressing me. "It's no good plunging headlong in that slap-dash way; there's no knowing what it may lead to. You had much better go to-day to Timofey Semyonitch, as though to pay an ordinary visit; he is an old-fashioned and by no means brilliant man, but he is trustworthy, and what matters most of all, he is straightforward. Give him my greetings and describe the circumstances of the case. And since I owe him seven roubles over our last game of cards, take the opportunity to pay him the money; that will soften the stern old man. In any case his advice may serve as a guide for us. And meanwhile take Elena Ivanovna home.... Calm yourself, my dear," he continued, addressing her. "I am weary of these outcries and feminine squabblings, and should like a nap. It's soft and warm in here, though I have hardly had time to look round in this unexpected haven."

"Look round! Why, is it light in there?" cried Elena Ivanovna in a tone of relief.

"I am surrounded by impenetrable night," answered the poor captive, "but I can feel and, so to speak, have a look round with my hands.... Good-bye; set your mind at rest and don't deny yourself recreation and diversion. Till to-morrow! And you, Semyon Semyonitch, come to me in the evening, and as you are absent-minded and may forget it, tie a knot in your handkerchief."

I confess I was glad to get away, for I was overtired and somewhat bored. Hastening to offer my arm to the disconsolate Elena Ivanovna, whose charms were only enhanced by her agitation, I hurriedly led her out of the crocodile room.

"The charge will be another quarter-rouble in the evening," the proprietor called after us.

"Oh, dear, how greedy they are!" said Elena Ivanovna, looking at herself in every mirror on the walls of the Arcade, and evidently aware that she was looking prettier than usual.

"The principles of economics," I answered with some emotion, proud that passers-by should see the lady on my arm.

"The principles of economics," she drawled in a touching little voice. "I did not in the least understand what Ivan Matveitch said about those horrid economics just now."

"I will explain to you," I answered, and began at once telling her of the beneficial effects of the introduction of foreign capital into our country, upon which I had read an article in the Petersburg News and the Voice that morning.

"How strange it is," she interrupted, after listening for some time. "But do leave off, you horrid man. What nonsense you are talking.... Tell me, do I look purple?"

"You look perfect, and not purple!" I observed, seizing the opportunity to pay her a compliment.

"Naughty man!" she said complacently. "Poor Ivan Matveitch," she added a minute later, putting her little head on one side coquettishly. "I am really sorry for him. Oh, dear!" she cried suddenly, "how is he going to have his dinner . . . and ... and ... what will he do ... if he wants anything?"

"An unforeseen question," I answered, perplexed in my turn. To tell the truth, it had not entered my head, so much more practical are women than we men in the solution of the problems of daily life!

"Poor dear! How could he have got into such a mess . . . nothing to amuse him, and in the dark How vexing it is that I have no photograph of him. And so now I am a sort of widow," she added, with a seductive smile, evidently interested in her new position. "Hm! ... I am sorry for him, though."

It was, in short, the expression of the very natural and intelligible grief of a young and interesting wife for the loss of her husband. I took her home at last, soothed her, and after dining with her and drinking a cup of aromatic coffee, set off at six o'clock to Timofey Semyonitch, calculating that at that hour all married people of settled habits would be sitting or lying down at home.

Having written this first chapter in a style appropriate to the incident recorded, I intended to proceed in a language more natural though less elevated, and I beg to forewarn the reader of the fact.




Chapter II


The venerable Timofey Semyonitch met me rather nervously, as though somewhat embarrassed. He led me to his tiny study and shut the door carefully, "that the children may not hinder us," he added with evident uneasiness. There he made me sit down on a chair by the writing-table, sat down himself in an easy chair, wrapped round him the skirts of his old wadded dressing-gown, and assumed an official and even severe air, in readiness for anything, though he was not my chief nor Ivan Matveitch's, and had hitherto been reckoned as a colleague and even a friend.

"First of all," he said, "take note that I am not a person in authority, but just such a subordinate official as you and Ivan Matveitch.... I have nothing to do with it, and do not intend to mix myself up in the affair."

I was surprised to find that he apparently knew all about it already. In spite of that I told him the whole story over in detail. I spoke with positive excitement, for I was at that moment fulfilling the obligations of a true friend. He listened without special surprise, but with evident signs of suspicion.

"Only fancy," he said, "I always believed that this would be sure to happen to him."

"Why, Timofey Semyonitch? It is a very unusual incident in itself . . ."

"I admit it. But Ivan Matveitch's whole career in the service was leading up to this end. He was flighty-conceited indeed. It was always 'progress' and ideas of all sorts, and this is what progress brings people to!"

"But this is a most unusual incident and cannot possibly serve as a general rule for all progressives."

"Yes, indeed it can. You see, it's the effect of over-education, I assure you. For over-education leads people to poke their noses into all sorts of places, especially where they are not invited. Though perhaps you know best," he added, as though offended. "I am an old man and not of much education. I began as a soldier's son, and this year has been the jubilee of my service."

"Oh, no, Timofey Semyonitch, not at all. On the contrary, Ivan Matveitch is eager for your advice; he is eager for your guidance. He implores it, so to say, with tears."

"So to say, with tears! Hm! Those are crocodile's tears and one cannot quite believe in them. Tell me, what possessed him to want to go abroad? And how could he afford to go? Why, he has no private means!"

"He had saved the money from his last bonus," I answered plaintively. "He only wanted to go for three months--to Switzerland . . . to the land of William Tell."

"William Tell? Hm!"

"He wanted to meet the spring at Naples, to see the museums, the customs, the animals . . ."

"Hm! The animals! I think it was simply from pride. What animals? Animals, indeed! Haven't we animals enough? We have museums, menageries, camels. There are bears quite close to Petersburg! And here he's got inside a crocodile himself..."

"Oh, come, Timofey Semyonitch! The man is in trouble, the man appeals to you as to a friend, as to an older relation, craves for advice--and you reproach him. Have pity at least on the unfortunate Elena Ivanovna!"

"You are speaking of his wife? A charming little lady," said Timofey Semyonitch, visibly softening and taking a pinch of snuff with relish. "Particularly prepossessing. And so plump, and always putting her pretty little head on one side. Very agreeable. Andrey Osipitch was speaking of her only the other day."

"Speaking of her?"

"Yes, and in very flattering terms. Such a bust, he said, such eyes, such hair . . . .A sugar-plum, he said, not a lady--and then he laughed. He is still a young man, of course," Timofey Semyonitch blew his nose with a loud noise. "And yet, young though he is, what a career he is making for himself."

"That's quite a different thing, Timofey Semyonitch."

"Of course, of course."

"Well, what do You say then, Timofey Semyonitch?"

"Why, what can I do?"

"Give advice, guidance, as a man of experience, a relative! What are we to do? What steps are we to take? Go to the authorities and ... "

"To the authorities? Certainly not." Timofey Semyonitch replied hurriedly. "If you ask my advice, you had better, above all, hush the matter up and act, so to speak, as a private person. It is a suspicious incident, quite unheard of. Unheard of, above all; there is no precedent for it, and it is far from creditable. . . . And so discretion above all. . . . Let him lie there a bit. We must wait and see .... "

"But how can we wait and see, Timofey Semyonitch? What if he is stifled there?"

"Why should he be? I think you told me that he made himself fairly comfortable there?"

I told him the whole story over again. Timofey Semyonitch pondered.

"Hm!" he said, twisting his snuff-box in his hands. "To my mind it's really a good thing he should lie there a bit, instead of going abroad. Let him reflect at his leisure. Of course he mustn't be stifled, and so he must take measures to preserve his health, avoiding a cough, for instance, and so on.... And as for the German, it's my personal opinion he is within his rights, and even more so than the other side, because it was the other party who got into his crocodile without asking permission, and not he who got into Ivan Matveitch's crocodile without asking permission, though, so far as I recollect, the latter has no crocodile. And a crocodile is private property, and so it is impossible to slit him open without compensation."

"For the saving of human life, Timofey Semyonitch."

"Oh, well, that's a matter for the police. You must go to them."

"But Ivan Matveitch may be needed in the department. He may be asked for."

"Ivan Matveitch needed? Ha-ha! Besides, he is on leave, so that we may ignore him--let him inspect the countries of Europe! It will be a different matter if he doesn't turn up when his leave is over. Then we shall ask for him and make inquiries."

"Three months! Timofey Semyonitch, for pity's sake!"

"It's his own fault. Nobody thrust him there. At this rate we should have to get a nurse to look after him at government expense, and that is not allowed for in the regulations. But the chief point is that the crocodile is private property, so that the principles of economics apply in this question. And the principles of economics are paramount. Only the other evening, at Luke Andreitch's, Ignaty Prokofyitch was saying so. Do you know Ignaty Prokofyitch? A capitalist, in a big way of business, and he speaks so fluently. 'We need industrial development,' he said; 'there is very little development among us. We must create it. We must create capital, so we must create a middle-class, the so-called bourgeoisie. And as we haven't capital we must attract it from abroad. We must, in the first place, give facilities to foreign companies to buy up lands in Russia as is done now abroad. The communal holding of land is poison, is ruin.' And, you know, he spoke with such heat; well, that's all right for him--a wealthy man, and not in the service. 'With the communal system,' he said, 'there will be no improvement in industrial development or agriculture. Foreign companies,' he said, 'must as far as possible buy up the whole of our land in big lots, and then split it up, split it up, split it up, in the smallest parts possible'--and do you know he pronounced the words 'split it up' with such determination--'and then sell it as private property. Or rather, not sell it, but simply let it. When,' he said, 'all the land is in the hands of foreign companies they can fix any rent they like. And so the peasant will work three times as much for his daily bread and he can be turned out at pleasure. So that he will feel it, will be submissive and industrious, and will work three times as much for the same wages. But as it is, with the commune, what does he care? He knows he won't die of hunger, so he is lazy and drunken. And meanwhile money will be attracted into Russia, capital will be created and the bourgeoisie will spring up. The English political and literary paper, The Times, in an article the other day on our finances stated that the reason our financial position was so unsatisfactory was that we had no middle-class, no big fortunes, no accommodating proletariat.' Ignaty Prokofyitch speaks well. He is an orator. He wants to lay a report on the subject before the authorities, and then to get it published in the News. That's something very different from verses like Ivan Matveitch's . . ."

"But how about Ivan Matveitch?" I put in, after letting the old man babble on.

Timofey Semyonitch was sometimes fond of talking and showing that he was not behind the times, but knew all about things.

"How about Ivan Matveitch? Why, I am coming to that. Here we are, anxious to bring foreign capital into the country--and only consider: as soon as the capital of a foreigner, who has been attracted to Petersburg, has been doubled through Ivan Matvcitch, instead of protecting the foreign capitalist, we are proposing to rip open the belly of his original capital--the crocodile. Is it consistent? To my mind, Ivan Matveitch, as the true son of his fatherland, ought to rejoice and to be proud that through him the value of a foreign crocodile has been doubled and possibly even trebled. That's just what is wanted to attract capital. If one man succeeds, mind you, another will come with a crocodile, and a third will bring two or three of them at once, and capital will grow up about them--there you have a bourgeoisie. It must be encouraged."

"Upon my word, Timofey Semyonitch!" I cried, "you are demanding almost supernatural self-sacrifice from poor Ivan Matveitch."

"I demand nothing, and I beg you, before everything--as I have said already--to remember that I am not a person in authority and so cannot demand anything of anyone. I am speaking as a son of the fatherland, that is, not as the Son of the Fatherland, but as a son of the fatherland. Again, what possessed him to get into the crocodile? A respectable man, a man of good grade in the service, lawfully married--and then to behave like that! Is it consistent?"

"But it was an accident."

"Who knows? And where is the money to compensate the owner to come from?"

"Perhaps out of his salary, Timofey Semyonitch?"

"Would that be enough?"

"No, it wouldn't, Timofey Semyonitch," I answered sadly. "The proprietor was at first alarmed that the crocodile would burst, but as soon as he was sure that it was all right, he began to bluster and was delighted to think that he could double the charge for entry."

"Treble and quadruple perhaps! The public will simply stampede the place now, and crocodile owners are smart people. Besides, it's not Lent yet, and people are keen on diversions, and so I say again, the great thing is that Ivan Matveitch should preserve his incognito, don't let him be in a hurry. Let everybody know, perhaps, that he is in the crocodile, but don't let them be officially informed of it. Ivan Matveitch is in particularly favourable circumstances for that, for he is reckoned to be abroad. It will be said he is in the crocodile, and we will refuse to believe it. That is how it can be managed. The great thing is that he should wait; and why should he be in a hurry?"

"Well, but if ..."

"Don't worry, he has a good constitution."

"Well, and afterwards, when he has waited?"

"Well, I won't conceal from you that the case is exceptional in the highest degree. One doesn't know what to think of it, and the worst of it is there is no precedent. If we had a precedent we might have something to go by. But as it is, what is one to say? It will certainly take time to settle it."

A happy thought flashed upon my mind.

"Cannot we arrange," I said, "that, if he is destined to remain in the entrails of the monster and it is the will of Providence that he should remain alive, he should send in a petition to be reckoned as still serving?"

"Hm! ... Possibly as on leave and without salary ...

"But couldn't it be with salary?"

"On what grounds?"

"As sent on a special commission."

"What commission and where?"

"Why, into the entrails, the entrails of the crocodile. So to speak, for exploration, for investigation of the facts on the spot. It would, of course, be a novelty, but that is progressive and would at the same time show zeal for enlightenment."

Timofey Semyonitch thought a little.

"To send a special official," he said at last, "to the inside of a crocodile to conduct a special inquiry is, in my personal opinion, an absurdity. It is not in the regulations. And what sort of special inquiry could there be there?"

"The scientific study of nature on the spot, in the living subject. The natural sciences are all the fashion nowadays, botany. . . . He could live there and report his observations. ... For instance, concerning digestion or simply habits. For the sake of accumulating facts."

"You mean as statistics. Well, I am no great authority on that subject, indeed I am no philosopher at all. You say 'facts'-we are overwhelmed with facts as it is, and don't know what to do with them. Besides, statistics are a danger."

"In what way?"

"They are a danger. Moreover, you will admit he will report facts, so to speak, lying like a log. And, can one do one's official duties lying like a log? That would be another novelty and a dangerous one; and again, there is no precedent for it. If we had any sort of precedent for it, then, to my thinking, he might have been given the job."

"But no live crocodiles have been brought over hitherto, Timofey Semyonitch."

"Hm ... yes," he reflected again. "Your objection is a just one, if you like, and might indeed serve as a ground for carrying the matter further; but consider again, that if with the arrival of living crocodiles government clerks begin to disappear, and then on the ground that they are warm and comfortable there, expect to receive the official sanction for their position, and then take their ease there ... you must admit it would be a bad example. We should have everyone trying to go the same way to get a salary for nothing."

"Do your best for him, Timofey Semyonitch. By the way, Ivan Matveitch asked me to give you seven roubles he had lost to you at cards."

"Ah, he lost that the other day at Nikifor Nikiforitch's. I remember. And how gay and amusing he was--and now!"

The old man was genuinely touched.

"Intercede for him, Timofey Semyonitch!"

"I will do my best. I will speak in my own name, as a private person, as though I were asking for information. And meanwhile, you find out indirectly, unofficially, how much would the proprietor consent to take for his crocodile?"

Timofey Semyonitch was visibly more friendly.

"Certainly," I answered. "And I will come back to you at once to report."

"And his wife . . . is she alone now? Is she depressed?"

"You should call on her, Timofey Semyonitch."

"I will. I thought of doing so before; it's a good opportunity.... And what on earth possessed him to go and look at the crocodile. Though, indeed, I should like to see it myself."

"Go and see the poor fellow, Timofey Semyonitch."

"I will. Of course, I don't want to raise his hopes by doing so. I shall go as a private person.... Well, good-bye, I am going to Nikifor Nikiforitch's again; shall you be there?"

"No, I am going to see the poor prisoner."

"Yes, now he is a prisoner! ... Ah, that's what comes of thoughtlessness!"

I said good-bye to the old man. Ideas of all kinds were straying through my mind. A good-natured and most honest man, Timofey Semyonitch, yet, as I left him, I felt pleased at the thought that he had celebrated his fiftieth year of service, and that Timofey Semyonitchs are now a rarity among us. I flew at once, of course, to the Arcade to tell poor Ivan Matveitch all the news. And, indeed, I was moved by curiosity to know how he was getting on in the crocodile and how it was possible to live in a crocodile. And, indeed, was it possible to live in a crocodile at all? At times it really seemed to me as though it were all an outlandish, monstrous dream, especially as an outlandish monster was the chief figure in it.




Chapter III


And yet it was not a dream, but actual, indubitable fact. Should I be telling the story if it were not? But to continue.

It was late, about nine o'clock, before I reached the Arcade, and I had to go into the crocodile room by the back entrance, for the German had closed the shop earlier than usual that evening. Now in the seclusion of domesticity he was walking about in a greasy old frock-coat, but he seemed three times as pleased as he had been in the morning. It was evidently that he had no apprehensions now, and that the public had been coming "many more". The Mutter came out later, evidently to keep an eye on me. The German and the Mutter frequently whispered together. Although the shop was closed he charged me a quarter rouble. What unnecessary exactitude!

"You will every time pay; the public will one rouble, and you one quarter pay; for you are the good friend of your good friend; and I a friend respect . . ."

"Are you alive, are you alive, my cultured friend?" I cried, as I approached the crocodile, expecting my words to reach Ivan Matveitch from a distance and to flatter his vanity.

"Alive and well," he answered, as though from a long way off or from under the bed, though I was standing close beside him. "Alive and well; but of that later. . . . How are things going?"

As though purposely not hearing the question, I was just beginning with sympathetic haste to question him how he was, what it was like in the crocodile, and what, in fact, there was inside a crocodile. Both friendship and common civility demanded this. But with capricious annoyance he interrupted me.

"How are things going?" he shouted, in a shrill and on this occasion particularly revolting voice, addressing me peremptorily as usual.

I described to him my whole conversation with Timofey Semyonitch down to the smallest detail. As I told my story I tried to show my resentment in my voice.

"The old man is right," Ivan Matveitch pronounced as abruptly as usual in his conversation with me. "I like practical people, and can't endure sentimental milk-sops. I am ready to admit, however, that your idea about a special commission is not altogether absurd. I certainly have a great deal to report, both from a scientific and from an ethical point of view. But now all this has taken a new and unexpected aspect, and it is not worth while to trouble about mere salary. Listen attentively. Are you sitting down?"

"No, I am standing up."

"Sit down on the floor if there is nothing else, and listen attentively.

Resentfully I took a chair and put it down on the floor with a bang, in my anger.

"Listen," he began dictatorially. "The public came to-day in masses. There was no room left in the evening, and the police came in to keep order. At eight o'clock, that is, earlier than usual, the proprietor thought it necessary to close the shop and end the exhibition to count the money he had taken and prepare for to-morrow more conveniently. So I know there will be a regular fair to-morrow. So we may assume that all the most cultivated people in the capital, the ladies of the best society, the foreign ambassadors, the leading lawyers and so on, will all be present. What's more, people will be flowing here from the remotest provinces of our vast and interesting empire. The upshot of it is that I am the cynosure of all eyes, and though hidden to sight, I am eminent. I shall teach the idle crowd. Taught by experience, I shall be an example of greatness and resignation to fate! I shall be, so to say, a pulpit from which to instruct mankind. The mere biological details I can furnish about the monster I am inhabiting are of priceless value. And so, far from repining at what has happened, I confidently hope for the most brilliant of careers."

"You won't find it wearisome?" I asked sarcastically.

What irritated me more than anything was the extreme pomposity of his language. Nevertheless, it all rather disconcerted me. "What on earth, what, can this frivolous blockhead find to be so cocky about?" I muttered to myself. "He ought to be crying instead of being cocky."

"No!" he answered my observation sharply, "for I am full of great ideas, only now can I at leisure ponder over the amelioration of the lot of humanity. Truth and light will come forth now from the crocodile. I shall certainly develop a new economic theory of my own and I shall be proud of it--which I have hitherto been prevented from doing by my official duties and by trivial distractions. I shall refute everything and be a new Fourier. By the way, did you give Timofey Semyonitch the seven roubles?"

"Yes, out of my own pocket," I answered, trying to emphasise that fact in my voice.

"We will settle it," he answered superciliously. "I confidently expect my salary to be raised, for who should get a rise if not I? I am of the utmost service now. But to business, My wife?"

"You are, I suppose, inquiring after Elena Ivanovna?"

"My wife?" he shouted, this time in a positive squeal.

There was no help for it! Meekly, though gnashing my teeth, I told him how I had left Elena Ivanovna. He did not even hear me out.

"I have special plans in regard to her," he began impatiently. "If I am celebrated here, I wish her to be celebrated there. Savants, poets, philosophers, foreign mineralogists, statesmen, after conversing in the morning with me, will visit her salon in the evening. From next week onwards she must have an 'At Home' every evening. With my salary doubled, we shall have the means for entertaining, and as the entertainment must not go beyond tea and hired footmen--that's settled. Both here and there they will talk of me. I have long thirsted for an opportunity for being talked about, but could not attain it, fettered by my humble position and low grade in the service. And now all this has been attained by a simple gulp on the part of the crocodile. Every word of mine will be listened to, every utterance will be thought over, repeated, printed. And I'll teach them what I am worth! They shall understand at last what abilities they have allowed to vanish in the entrails of a monster. 'This man might have been Foreign Minister or might have ruled a kingdom,' some will say. 'And that man did not rule a kingdom,' others will say. In what way am I inferior to a Garnier-Pagesishky or whatever they are called? My wife must be a worthy second--I have brains, she has beauty and charm. 'She is beautiful, and that is why she is his wife,' some will say. 'She is beautiful because she is his wife,' others will amend. To be ready for anything let Elena Ivanovna buy to-morrow the Encyclopedia edited by Andrey Kraevsky, that she may be able to converse on any topic. Above all, let her be sure to read the political leader in the Petersburg News, comparing it every day with the Voice. I imagine that the proprietor will consent to take me sometimes with the crocodile to my wife's brilliant salon. I will be in a tank in the middle of the magnificent drawing-room, and I will scintillate with witticisms which I will prepare in the morning. To the statesman I will impart my projects; to the poet I will speak in rhyme; with the ladies I can be amusing and charming without impropriety, since I shall be no danger to their husbands' peace of mind. To all the rest I shall serve as a pattern of resignation to fate and the will of Providence. I shall make my wife a brilliant literary lady; I shall bring her forward and explain her to the public; as my wife she must be full of the most striking virtues; and if they are right in calling Andrey Alexandrovitch our Russian Alfred de Musset, they will be still more right in calling her our Russian Yevgenia Tour."

I must confess that, although this wild nonsense was rather in Ivan Matveitch's habitual style, it did occur to me that he was in a fever and delirious. It was the same, everyday Ivan Matveitch, but magnified twenty times.

"My friend," I asked him, "are you hoping for a long life? Tell me, in fact, are you well? How do you eat, how do you sleep, how do you breathe? I am your friend, and you must admit that the incident is most unnatural, and consequently my curiosity is most natural."

"Idle curiosity and nothing else," he pronounced sententiously, "but you shall be satisfied. You ask how I am managing in the entrails of the monster? To begin with, the crocodile, to my amusement, turns out to be perfectly empty. His inside consists of a sort of huge empty sack made of gutta-percha, like the elastic goods sold in the Gorohovy Street, in the Morskaya, and, if I am not mistaken, in the Voznesensky Prospect. Otherwise, if you think of it, how could I find room?"

"Is it possible?" I cried, in a surprise that may well be understood. "Can the crocodile be perfectly empty?"

"Perfectly," Ivan Matveitch maintained sternly and impressively. "And in all probability, it is so constructed by the laws of Nature. The crocodile possesses nothing but jaws furnished with sharp teeth, and besides the jaws, a tail of considerable length--that is all, properly speaking. The middle part between these two extremities is an empty space enclosed by something of the nature of gutta-percha, probably really gutta-percha."

"But the ribs, the stomach, the intestines, the liver, the heart?" I interrupted quite angrily.

"There is nothing, absolutely nothing of all that, and probably there never has been. All that is the idle fancy of frivolous travellers. As one inflates an air-cushion, I am now with my person inflating the crocodile. He is incredibly elastic. Indeed, you might, as the friend of the family, get in with me if you were generous and self-sacrificing enough--and even with you here there would be room to spare. I even think that in the last resort I might send for Elena Ivanovna. However, this void, hollow formation of the crocodile is quite in keeping with the teachings of natural science. If, for instance, one had to construct a new crocodile, the question would naturally present itself. What is the fundamental characteristic of the crocodile? The answer is clear: to swallow human beings. How is one, in constructing the crocodile, to secure that he should swallow people? The answer is clearer still: construct him hollow. It was settled by physics long ago that Nature abhors a vacuum. Hence the inside of the crocodile must be hollow so that it may abhor the vacuum, and consequently swallow and so fill itself with anything it can come across. And that is the sole rational cause why every crocodile swallows men. It is not the same in the constitution of man: the emptier a man's head is, for instance, the less he feels the thirst to fill it, and that is the one exception to the general rule. It is all as clear as day to me now. I have deduced it by my own observation and experience, being, so to say, in the very bowels of Nature, in its retort, listening to the throbbing of its pulse. Even etymology supports me, for the very word crocodile means voracity. Crocodile--crocodillo--is evidently an Italian word, dating perhaps from the Egyptian Pharaohs, and evidently derived from the French verb croquer, which means to eat, to devour, in general to absorb nourishment. All these remarks I intend to deliver as my first lecture in Elena Ivanovna's salon when they take me there in the tank."

"My friend, oughtn't you at least to take some purgative?" I cried involuntarily.

"He is in a fever, a fever, he is feverish!" I repeated to myself in alarm.

"Nonsense!" he answered contemptuously. "Besides, in my present position it would be most inconvenient. I knew, though, you would be sure to talk of taking medicine."

"But, my friend, how . . . how do you take food now? Have you dined to-day?"

"No, but I am not hungry, and most likely I shall never take food again. And that, too, is quite natural; filling the whole interior of the crocodile I make him feel always full. Now he need not be fed for some years. On the other hand, nourished by me, he will naturally impart to me all the vital juices of his body; it is the same as with some accomplished coquettes who embed themselves and their whole persons for the night in raw steak, and then, after their morning bath, are fresh, supple, buxom and fascinating. In that way nourishing the crocodile, I myself obtain nourishment from him, consequently we mutually nourish one another. But as it is difficult even for a crocodile to digest a man like me, he must, no doubt, be conscious of a certain weight in his stomach--an organ which he does not, however, possess--and that is why, to avoid causing the creature suffering, I do not often turn over, and although I could turn over I do not do so from humanitarian motives. This is the one drawback of my present position, and in an allegorical sense Timofey Semyonitch was right in saying I was lying like a log. But I will prove that even lying like a log--nay, that only lying like a log--one can revolutionise the lot of mankind. All the great ideas and movements of our newspapers and magazines have evidently been the work of men who were lying like logs; that is why they call them divorced from the realities of life--but what does it matter, their saying that! I am constructing now a complete system of my own, and you wouldn't believe how easy it is! You have only to creep into a secluded corner or into a crocodile, to shut your eyes, and you immediately devise a perfect millennium for mankind. When you went away this afternoon I set to work at once and have already invented three systems, now I am preparing the fourth. It is true that at first one must refute everything that has gone before, but from the crocodile it is so easy to refute it; besides, it all becomes clearer, seen from the inside of the crocodile. There are some drawbacks, though small ones, in my position, however; it is somewhat damp here and covered with a sort of slime; moreover, there is rather a smell of India-rubber exactly like the smell of my old galoshes. That is all, there are no other drawbacks."

"Ivan Matveitch," I interrupted, "all this is a miracle in which I can scarcely believe. And can you, can you intend never to dine again?"

"What trivial nonsense you are troubling about, you thoughtless, frivolous creature! I talk to you about great ideas, and you . . . Understand that I am sufficiently nourished by the great ideas which light up the darkness in which I am enveloped. The good-natured proprietor has, however, after consulting the kindly Mutter, decided with her that they will every morning insert into the monster's jaws a bent metal tube, something like a whistle pipe, by means of which I can absorb coffee or broth with bread soaked in it. The pipe has already been bespoken in the neighbourhood, but I think this is superfluous luxury. I hope to live at least a thousand years, if it is true that crocodiles live so long, which, by the way--good thing I thought of it--you had better look up in some natural history to-morrow and tell me, for I may have been mistaken and have mixed it up with some excavated monster. There is only one reflection rather troubles me: as I am dressed in cloth and have boots on, the crocodile can obviously not digest me. Besides, I am alive, and so am opposing the process of digestion with my whole will power; for you can understand that I do not wish to be turned into what all nourishment turns into, for that would be too humiliating for me. But there is one thing I am afraid of: in a thousand years the cloth of my coat, unfortunately of Russian make, may decay, and then, left without clothing, I might perhaps, in spite of my indignation, begin to be digested; and though by day nothing would induce me to allow it, at night, in my sleep, when a man's will deserts him, I may be overtaken by the humiliating destiny of a potato, a pancake, or veal. Such an idea reduces me to fury. This alone is an argument for the revision of the tariff and the encouragement of the importation of English cloth, which is stronger and so will withstand Nature longer when one is swallowed by a crocodile. At the first opportunity I will impart this idea to some statesman and at the same time to the political writers on our Petersburg dailies. Let them publish it abroad. I trust this will not be the only idea they will borrow from me. I foresee that every morning a regular crowd of them, provided with quarter roubles from the editorial office, will be flocking round me to seize my ideas on the telegrams of the previous day. In brief, the future presents itself to me in the rosiest light."

"Fever, fever!" I whispered to myself.

"My friend, and freedom?" I asked, wishing to learn his views thoroughly. "You are, so to speak, in prison, while every man has a right to the enjoyment of freedom."

"You are a fool," he answered. "Savages love independence, wise men love order; and if there is no order.

"Ivan Matveitch, spare me, please!"

"Hold your tongue and listen!" he squealed, vexed at my interrupting him. "Never has my spirit soared as now. In my narrow refuge there is only one thing that I dread-the literary criticisms of the monthlies and the loss of our satirical papers. I am afraid that thoughtless visitors, stupid and envious people and nihilists in general, may turn me into ridicule. But I will take measures. I am impatiently awaiting the response of the public to-morrow, and especially the opinion of the newspapers. You must tell me about the papers to-morrow."

"Very good; to-morrow I will bring a perfect pile of papers with me."

"To-morrow it is too soon to expect reports in the newspapers, for it will take four days for it to be advertised. But from to-day come to me every evening by the back way through the yard. I am intending to employ you as my secretary. You shall read the newspapers and magazines to me, and I will dictate to you my ideas and give you commissions. Be particularly careful not to forget the foreign telegrams. Let all the European telegrams be here every day. But enough; most likely you are sleepy by now. Go home, and do not think of what I said just now about criticisms: I am not afraid of it, for the critics themselves are in a critical position. One has only to be wise and virtuous and one will certainly get on to a pedestal. If not Socrates, then Diogenes, or perhaps both of them together-that is my future role among mankind."

So frivolously and boastfully did Ivan Matveitch hasten to express himself before me, like feverish weak-willed women who, as we are told by the proverb, cannot keep a secret. All that he told me about the crocodile struck me as most suspicious. How was it possible that the crocodile was absolutely hollow? I don't mind betting that he was bragging from vanity and partly to humiliate me. It is true that he was an invalid and one must make allowances for invalids; but I must frankly confess, I never could endure Ivan Matveitch. I have been trying all my life, from a child up, to escape from his tutelage and have not been able to! A thousand times over I have been tempted to break with him altogether, and every time I have been drawn to him again, as though I were still hoping to prove something to him or to revenge myself on him. A strange thing, this friendship! I can positively assert that nine-tenths of my friendship for him was made up of malice. On this occasion, however, we parted with genuine feeling.

"Your friend a very clever man!" the German said to me in an undertone as he moved to see me out; he had been listening all the time attentively to our conversation.

"Apropos," I said, "while I think of it: how much would you ask for your crocodile in case anyone wanted to buy it?"

Ivan Matveitch, who heard the question, was waiting with curiosity for the answer; it was evident that he did not want the German to ask too little; anyway, he cleared his throat in a peculiar way on hearing my question.

At first the German would not listen--was positively angry.

"No one will dare my own crocodile to buy!" he cried furiously, and turned as red as a boiled lobster. "Me not want to sell the crocodile! I would not for the crocodile a million thalers take. I took a hundred and thirty thalers from the public to-day, and I shall to-morrow ten thousand take, and then a hundred thousand every day I shall take. I will not him sell."

Ivan Matveitch positively chuckled with satisfaction. Controlling myself--for I felt it was a duty to my friend--I hinted coolly and reasonably to the crazy German that his calculations were not quite correct, that if he makes a hundred thousand every day, all Petersburg will have visited him in four days, and then there will be no one left to bring him roubles, that life and death are in God's hands, that the crocodile may burst or Ivan Matveitch may fall ill and die, and so on and so on.

The German grew pensive.

"I will him drops from the chemist's get," he said, after pondering, "and will save your friend that he die not."

"Drops are all very well," I answered, "but consider, too, that the thing may get into the law courts. Ivan Matveitch's wife may demand the restitution of her lawful spouse. You are intending to get rich, but do you intend to give Elena Ivanovna a pension?"

"No, me not intend," said the German in stern decision.

"No, we not intend," said the Mutter, with positive malignancy.

"And so would it not be better for you to accept something now, at once, a secure and solid though moderate sum, than to leave things to chance? I ought to tell you that I am inquiring simply from curiosity."

The German drew the Mutter aside to consult with her in a corner where there stood a case with the largest and ugliest monkey of his collection.

"Well, you will see!" said Ivan Matveitch.

As for me, I was at that moment burning with the desire, first, to give the German a thrashing, next, to give the Mutter an even sounder one, and, thirdly, to give Ivan Matveitch the soundest thrashing of all for his boundless vanity. But all this paled beside the answer of the rapacious German.

After consultation with the Mutter he demanded for his crocodile fifty thousand roubles in bonds of the last Russian loan with lottery voucher attached, a brick house in Gorohovy Street with a chemist's shop attached, and in addition the rank of Russian colonel.

"You see!" Ivan Matveitch cried triumphantly. "I told you so! Apart from this last senseless desire for the rank of a colonel, he is perfectly right, for he fully understands the present value of the monster he is exhibiting. The economic principle before everything!"

"Upon my word!" I cried furiously to the German. "But what should you be made a colonel for? What exploit have you performed? What service have you done? In what way have you gained military glory? You are really crazy!"

"Crazy!" cried the German, offended. "No, a person very sensible, but you very stupid! I have a colonel deserved for that I have a crocodile shown and in him a live Hofrath sitting! And a Russian can a crocodile not show and a live Hofrath in him sitting! Me extremely clever man and much wish colonel to be!"

"Well, good-bye, then, Ivan Matveitch!" I cried, shaking with fury, and I went out of the crocodile room almost at a run.

I felt that in another minute I could not have answered for myself. The unnatural expectations of these two blockheads were insupportable. The cold air refreshed me and somewhat moderated my indignation. At last, after spitting vigorously fifteen times on each side, I took a cab, got home, undressed and flung myself into bed. What vexed me more than anything was my having become his secretary. Now I was to die of boredom there every evening, doing the duty of a true friend! I was ready to beat myself for it, and I did, in fact, after putting out the candle and pulling up the bedclothes, punch myself several times on the head and various parts of my body. That somewhat relieved me, and at last I fell asleep fairly soundly, in fact, for I was very tired. All night long I could dream of nothing but monkeys, but towards morning I dreamt of Elena Ivanovna.




Chapter IV


The monkeys I dreamed about, I suppose, because they were shut up in the case at the German's; but Elena Ivanovna was a different story.

I may as well say at once, I loved the lady, but I make haste--post-haste--to make a qualification. I loved her as a father, neither more nor less. I judge that because I often felt an irresistible desire to kiss her little head or her rosy cheek. And though I never carried out this inclination, I would not have refused even to kiss her lips. And not merely her lips, but her teeth, which always gleamed so charmingly like two rows of pretty, well-matched pearls when she laughed. She laughed extraordinarily often. Ivan Matveitch in demonstrative moments used to call her his "darling absurdity"--a name extremely happy and appropriate. She was a perfect sugarplum, and that was all one could say of her. Therefore I am utterly at a loss to understand what possessed Ivan Matveitch to imagine his wife as a Russian Yevgenia Tour? Anyway, my dream, with the exception of the monkeys, left a most pleasant impression upon me, and going over all the incidents of the previous day as I drank my morning cup of tea, I resolved to go and see Elena Ivanovna at once on my way to the office--which, indeed, I was bound to do as the friend of the family.

In a tiny little room out of the bedroom--the so-called little drawing-room, though their big drawing-room was little too--Elena Ivanovna was sitting, in some half-transparent morning wrapper, on a smart little sofa before a little tea-table, drinking coffee out of a little cup in which she was dipping a minute biscuit. She was ravishingly pretty, but struck me as being at the same time rather pensive.

"Ah, that's you, naughty man!" she said, greeting me with an absent-minded smile. "Sit down, feather-head, have some coffee. Well, what were you doing yesterday? Were you at the masquerade?"

"Why, were you? I don't go, you know. Besides, yesterday I was visiting our captive--I sighed and assumed a pious expression as I took the coffee.

"Whom? . . . What captive? . . . Oh, yes! Poor fellow! Well, how is he--bored? Do you know . . . I wanted to ask you ... I suppose I can ask for a divorce now?"

"A divorce!" I cried in indignation and almost spilled the coffee. "It's that swarthy fellow," I thought to myself bitterly.

There was a certain swarthy gentleman with little moustaches who was something in the architectural fine, and who came far too often to see them, and was extremely skilful in amusing Elena Ivanovna. I must confess I hated him and there was no doubt that he had succeeded in seeing Elena Ivanovna yesterday either at the masquerade or even here, and putting all sorts of nonsense into her head.

"Why," Elena Ivanovna rattled off hurriedly, as though it were a lesson she had learnt, "if he is going to stay on in the crocodile, perhaps not come back all his life, while I sit waiting for him here! A husband ought to live at home, and not in a crocodile. . . ."

"But this was an unforeseen occurrence," I was beginning, in very comprehensible agitation.

"Oh, no, don't talk to me, I won't listen, I won't listen," she cried, suddenly getting quite cross. "You are always against me, you wretch! There's no doing anything with you, you will never give me any advice! Other people tell me that I can get a divorce because Ivan Matveitch will not get his salary now."

"Elena Ivanovna! is it you I hear!" I exclaimed pathetically. "What villain could have put such an idea into your head? And divorce on such a trivial ground as a salary is quite impossible. And poor Ivan Matveitch, poor Ivan Matveitch is, so to speak, burning with love for you even in the bowels of the monster. What's more, he is melting away with love like a lump of sugar. Yesterday while you were enjoying yourself at the masquerade, he was saying that he might in the last resort send for you as his lawful spouse to join him in the entrails of the monster, especially as it appears the crocodile is exceedingly roomy, not only able to accommodate two but even three persons. . . ."

And then I told her all that interesting part of my conversation the night before with Ivan Matveitch.

"What, what!" she cried, in surprise. "You want me to get into the monster too, to be with Ivan Matveitch? What an idea! And how am I to get in there, in my hat and crinoline? Heavens, what foolishness! And what should I look like while I was getting into it, and very likely there would be someone there to see me! It's absurd! And what should I have to eat there? And . . . and . . . and what should I do there when ... Oh, my goodness, what will they think of next? ... And what should I have to amuse me there? ... You say there's a smell of gutta-percha? And what should I do if we quarrelled--should we have to go on staying there side by side? Foo, how horrid!"

"I agree, I agree with all those arguments, my sweet Elena Ivanovna," I interrupted, striving to express myself with that natural enthusiasm which always overtakes a man when he feels the truth is on his side. "But one thing you have not appreciated in all this, you have not realised that he cannot live without you if he is inviting you there; that is a proof of love, passionate, faithful, ardent love. . . . You have thought too little of his love, dear Elena Ivanovna!"

"I won't, I won't, I won't hear anything about it!" waving me off with her pretty little hand with glistening pink nails that had just been washed and polished. "Horrid man! You will reduce me to tears! Get into it yourself, if you like the prospect. You are his friend, get in and keep him company, and spend your life discussing some tedious science. . . ."

"You are wrong to laugh at this suggestion"--I checked the frivolous woman with dignity--"lvan Matveitch has invited me as it is. You, of course, are summoned there by duty; for me, it would be an act of generosity. But when Ivan Matveitch described to me last night the elasticity of the crocodile, he hinted very plainly that there would be room not only for you two, but for me also as a friend of the family, especially if I wished to join you, and therefore . . ."

"How so, the three of us?" cried Elena Ivanovna, looking at me in surprise. "Why, how should we ... are we going to be all three there together? Ha-ha-ha! How silly you both are! Ha-ha-ha l I shall certainly pinch you all the time, you wretch! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!"

And falling back on the sofa, she laughed until she cried. All this--the tears and the laughter-were so fascinating that I could not resist rushing eagerly to kiss her hand, which she did not oppose, though she did pinch my cars lightly as a sign of reconciliation.

Then we both grew very cheerful, and I described to her in detail all Ivan Matveitch's plans. The thought of her evening receptions and her salon pleased her very much.

"Only I should need a great many new dresses," she observed, "and so Ivan Matveitch must send me as much of his salary as possible and as soon as possible. Only ... only I don't know about that," she added thoughtfully. "How can he be brought here in the tank? That's very absurd. I don't want my husband to be carried about in a tank. I should feel quite ashamed for my visitors to see it.... I don't want that, no, I don't."

"By the way, while I think of it, was Timofey Semyonitch here yesterday?"

"Oh, yes, he was; he came to comfort me, and do you know, we played cards all the time. He played for sweetmeats, and if I lost he was to kiss my hands. What a wretch he is! And only fancy, he almost came to the masquerade with me, really!"

"He was carried away by his feelings!" I observed. "And who would not be with you, you charmer?"

"Oh, get along with your compliments! Stay, I'll give you a pinch as a parting present. I've learnt to pinch awfully well lately. Well, what do you say to that? By the way, you say Ivan Matveitch spoke several times of me yesterday?"

"N-no, not exactly.... I must say he is thinking more now of the fate of humanity, and wants . . ."

"Oh, let him! You needn't go on! I am sure it's fearfully boring. I'll go and see him some time. I shall certainly go tomorrow. Only not to-day; I've got a headache, and besides, there will be such a lot of people there to-day.... They'll say, 'That's his wife,' and I shall feel ashamed.... Good-bye. You will be ... there this evening, won't you?"

"To see him, yes. He asked me to go and take him the papers."

"That's capital. Go and read to him. But don't come and see me to-day. I am not well, and perhaps I may go and see someone. Good-bye, you naughty man."

"It's that swarthy fellow is going to see her this evening," I thought.

At the office, of course, I gave no sign of being consumed by these cares and anxieties. But soon I noticed some of the most progressive papers seemed to be passing particularly rapidly from hand to hand among my colleagues, and were being read with an extremely serious expression of face. The first one that reached me was the News-sheet, a paper of no particular party but humanitarian in general, for which it was regarded with contempt among us, though it was read. Not without surprise I read in it the following paragraph:


"Yesterday strange rumours were circulating among the spacious ways and sumptuous buildings of our vast metropolis. A certain well-known bon-vivant of the highest society, probably weary of the cuisine at Borel's and at the X. Club, went into the Arcade, into the place where an immense crocodile recently brought to the metropolis is being exhibited, and insisted on its being prepared for his dinner. After bargaining with the proprietor he at once set to work to devour him (that is, not the proprietor, a very meek and punctilious German, but his crocodile), cutting juicy morsels with his penknife from the living animal, and swallowing them with extraordinary rapidity. By degrees the whole crocodile disappeared into the vast recesses of his stomach, so that he was even on the point of attacking an ichneumon, a constant companion of the crocodile, probably imagining that the latter would be as savoury. We are by no means opposed to that new article of diet with which foreign gourmands have long been familiar. We have, indeed, predicted that it would come. English lords and travellers make up regular parties for catching crocodiles in Egypt, and consume the back of the monster cooked like beef-steak, with mustard, onions and potatoes. The French followed in the train of Lesseps prefer the paws baked in hot ashes, which they do, however, in opposition to the English, who laugh at them. Probably both ways would be appreciated among us. For our part, we are delighted at a new branch of industry, of which our great and varied fatherland stands pre-eminently in need. Probably before a year is out crocodiles will be brought in hundreds to replace this first one, lost in the stomach of a Petersburg gourmand. And why should not the crocodile be acclimatised among us in Russia? If the water of the Neva is too cold for these interesting strangers, there are ponds in the capital and rivers and lakes outside it. Why not breed crocodiles at Pargolovo, for instance, or at Pavlovsk, in the Presnensky Ponds and in Samoteka in Moscow? While providing agreeable, wholesome nourishment for our fastidious gourmands, they might at the same time entertain the ladies who walk about these ponds and instruct the children in natural history. The crocodile skin might be used for making jewel-cases, boxes, cigar-cases, pocket-books, and possibly more than one thousand saved up in the greasy notes that are peculiarly beloved of merchants might be laid by in crocodile skin. We hope to return more than once to this interesting topic."


Though I had foreseen something of the sort, yet the reckless inaccuracy of the paragraph overwhelmed me. Finding no one with whom to share my impression, I turned to Prohor Savvitch who was sitting opposite to me, and noticed that the latter had been watching me for some time, while in his hand he held the Voice as though he were on the point of passing it to me. Without a word he took the News-sheet from me, and as he handed me the Voice he drew a line with his nail against an article to which he probably wished to call my attention. This Prohor Savvitch was a very queer man: a taciturn old bachelor, he was not on intimate terms with any of us, scarcely spoke to anyone in the office, always had an opinion of his own about everything, but could not bear to impart it to anyone. He lived alone. Hardly anyone among us had ever been in his lodging.

This was what I read in the Voice.


"Everyone knows that we are progressive and humanitarian and want to be on a level with Europe in this respect. But in spite of all our exertions and the efforts of our paper we are still far from maturity, as may be judged from the shocking incident which took place yesterday in the Arcade and which we predicted long ago. A foreigner arrives in the capital bringing with him a crocodile which he begins exhibiting in the Arcade. We immediately hasten to welcome a new branch of useful industry such as our powerful and varied fatherland stands in great need of. Suddenly yesterday at four o'clock in the afternoon a gentleman of exceptional stoutness enters the foreigner's shop in an intoxicated condition, pays his entrance money, and immediately without any warning leaps into the jaws of the crocodile, who was forced, of course, to swallow him, if only from an instinct of self-preservation, to avoid being crushed. Tumbling into the inside of the crocodile, the stranger at once dropped asleep. Neither the shouts of the foreign proprietor, nor the lamentations of his terrified family, nor threats to send for the police made the slightest impression. Within the crocodile was heard nothing but laughter and a promise to flay him (sic), though the poor mammal, compelled to swallow such a mass, was vainly shedding tears. An uninvited guest is worse than a Tartar. But in spite of the proverb the insolent visitor would not leave. We do not know how to explain such barbarous incidents which prove our lack of culture and disgrace us in the eyes of foreigners. The recklessness of the Russian temperament has found a fresh outlet. It may be asked what was the object of the uninvited visitor? A warm and comfortable abode? But there are many excellent houses in the capital with very cheap and comfortable lodgings, with the Neva water laid on, and a staircase lighted by gas, frequently with a hall-porter maintained by the proprietor. We would call our readers' attention to the barbarous treatment of domestic animals: it is difficult, of course, for the crocodile to digest such a mass all at once, and now he lies swollen out to the size of a mountain, awaiting death in insufferable agonies. In Europe persons guilty of inhumanity towards domestic animals have long been punished by law. But in spite of our European enlightenment, in spite of our European pavements, in spite of the European architecture of our houses, we are still far from shaking off our time-honoured traditions.

"Though the houses are new, the conventions are old."

And, indeed, the houses are not new, at least the staircases in them are not. We have more than once in our paper alluded to the fact that in the Petersburg Side in the house of the merchant Lukyanov the steps of the wooden staircase have decayed, fallen away, and have long been a danger for Afimya Skapidarov, a soldier's wife who works in the house, and is often obliged to go up the stairs with water or armfuls of wood. At last our predictions have come true: yesterday evening at half-past eight Afimya Skapidarov fell down with a basin of soup and broke her leg. We do not know whether Lukyanov will mend his staircase now, Russians are often wise after the event, but the victim of Russian carelessness has by now been taken to the hospital. In the same way we shall never cease to maintain that the house-porters who clear away the mud from the wooden pavement in the Viborgsky Side ought not to spatter the legs of passers-by, but should throw the mud up into heaps as is done in Europe," and so on, and so on.

"What's this?" I asked in some perplexity, looking at Prohor Savvitch. "What's the meaning of it?"

"How do you mean?"

"Why, upon my word! Instead of pitying Ivan Matveitch, they pity the crocodile!"

"What of it? They have pity even for a beast, a mammal. We must be up to Europe, mustn't we? They have a very warm feeling for crocodiles there too. He-he-he!"

Saying this, queer old Prohor Savvitch dived into his papers and would not utter another word.

I stuffed the Voice and the News-sheet into my pocket and collected as many old copies of the newspapers as I could find for Ivan Matveitch's diversion in the evening, and though the evening was far off, yet on this occasion I slipped away from the office early to go to the Arcade and look, if only from a distance, at what was going on there, and to listen to the various remarks and currents of opinion. I foresaw that there would be a regular crush there, and turned up the collar of my coat to meet it. I somehow felt rather shy--so unaccustomed are we to publicity. But I feel that I have no right to report my own prosaic feelings when faced with this remarkable and original incident.


THE END.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 1:26 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

a bobok is a small bean

Translated by Constance Garnett.

--

SEMYON ARDALYONOVITCH said to me all of a sudden the day before yesterday: "Why, will you ever be sober, Ivan Ivano- vitch? Tell me that, pray."

A strange requirement. I did not resent it, I am a timid man; but here they have actually made me out mad. An artist painted my portrait as it happened: "After all, you are a literary man," he said. I submitted, he exhibited it. I read: "Go and look at that morbid face suggesting insanity."

It may be so, but think of putting it so bluntly into print. In print everything ought to be decorous; there ought to be ideals, while instead of that . . .

Say it indirectly, at least; that's what you have style for. But no, he doesn't care to do it indirectly. Nowadays humour and a fine style have disappeared, and abuse is accepted as wit. I do not resent it: but God knows I am not enough of a literary man to go out of my mind. I have written a novel, it has not been published. I have written articles - they have been refused. Those articles I took about from one editor to another; everywhere they refused them: you have no salt they told me. "What sort of salt do you want?" I asked with a sneer. "Attic salt?"

They did not even understand, for the most part I translate from the French for the booksellers. I write advertisements for shopkeepers too: "Unique opportunity! Fine tea, from our own plantations . . ." I made a nice little sum over a panegyric on his deceased excellency Pyotr Matveyitch. I compiled the "Art of pleasing the ladies", a commission from a bookseller. I have brought out some six little works of this kind in the course of my life. I am thinking of making a collection of the bons mots of Voltaire, but am afraid it may seem a little flat to our people. Voltaire's no good now; nowadays we want a cudgel, not Voltaire. We knock each other's last teeth out nowadays. Well, so that's the whole extent of my literary activity. Though indeed I do send round letters to the editors gratis and fully signed. I give them all sorts of counsels and admonitions, criticise and point out the true path. The letter I sent last week to an editor's office was the fortieth I had sent in the last two years. I have wasted four roubles over stamps alone for them. My temper is at the bottom of it all.

I believe that the artist who painted me did so not for the sake of literature, but for the sake of two symmetrical warts on my forehead, a natural phenomenon, he would say. They have no ideas, so now they are out for phenomena. And didn't he succeed in getting my warts in his portrait - to the life. That is what they call realism.

And as to madness, a great many people were put down as mad among us last year. And in such language! "With such original talent ....... and yet, after all, it appears" . . . "how- ever, one ought to have foreseen it long ago." That is rather artful; so that from the point of view of pure art one may really commend it. Well, but after all, these so-called madmen have turned out cleverer than ever. So it seems the critics can call them mad, but they cannot produce anyone better.

The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool - a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognise that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it. And they have so muddled things up that there is no telling a fool from a wise man. They have done that on purpose.

I remember a witty Spaniard saying when, two hundred and fifty years ago, the French built their first madhouses: "They have shut up all their fools in a house apart, to make sure that they are wise men themselves." Just so: you don't show your own wisdom by shutting someone else in a madhouse. "K. has gone out of his mind, means that we are sane now." No, it doesn't mean that yet.

Hang it though, why am I maundering on? I go on grumbling and grumbling. Even my maidservant is sick of me. Yester- day a friend came to see me. "Your style is changing," he said; "it is choppy: you chop and chop - and then a parenthesis, then a parenthesis in the parenthesis, then you stick in some- thing else in brackets, then you begin chopping and chopping again."

The friend is right. Something strange is happening to me. My character is changing and my head aches. I am beginning to see and hear strange things, not voices exactly, but as though someone beside me were muttering, "bobok, bobok, bobok!"

What's the meaning of this bobok? I must divert my mind.

I went out in search of diversion, I hit upon a funeral. A distant relation - a collegiate counsellor, however. A widow and five daughters, all marriageable young ladies. What must it come to even to keep them in slippers. Their father managed it, but now there is only a little pension. They will have to eat humble pie. They have always received me ungraciously. And indeed I should not have gone to the funeral now had it not been for a peculiar circumstance. I followed the procession to the cemetery with the rest; they were stuck-up and held aloof from me. My uniform was certainly rather shabby. It's five- and-twenty years, I believe, since I was at the cemetery; what a wretched place!

To begin with the smell. There were fifteen hearses, with palls varying in expensiveness; there were actually two cata- falques. One was a general's and one some lady's. There were many mourners, a great deal of feigned mourning and a great deal of open gaiety. The clergy have nothing to complain of; it brings them a good income. But the smell, the smell. I should not like to be one of the clergy here.

I kept glancing at the faces of the dead cautiously, distrust- ing my impressionability. Some had a mild expression, some looked unpleasant. As a rule the smiles were disagreeable, and in some cases very much so. I don't like them; they haunt one's dreams.

During the service I went out of the church into the air: it was a grey day, but dry. It was cold too, but then it was October. I walked about among the tombs. They are of different grades. The third grade cost thirty roubles; it's decent and not so very dear. The first two grades are tombs in the church and under the porch; they cost a pretty penny. On this occasion they were burying in tombs of the third grade six persons, among them the general and the lady.

I looked into the graves - and it was horrible: water and such water! Absolutely green, and ... but there, why talk of it! The gravedigger was baling it out every minute. I went out while the service was going on and strolled outside the gates. Close by was an almshouse, and a little further off there was a restaurant. It was not a bad little restaurant: there was lunch and everything. There were lots of the mourners here. I noticed a great deal of gaiety and genuine heartiness. I had something to eat and drink.

Then I took part in the bearing of the coffin from the church to the grave. Why is it that corpses in their coffins are so heavy? They say it is due to some sort of inertia, that the body is no longer directed by its owner . . . or some nonsense of that sort, in opposition to the laws of mechanics and common sense. I don't like to hear people who have nothing but a general education venture to solve the problems that require special knowledge; and with us that's done continually. Civilians love to pass opinions about subjects that are the province of the soldier and even of the field-marshal; while men who have been educated as engineers prefer discussing philosophy and political economy.

I did not go to the requiem service. I have some pride, and if I am only received owing to some special necessity, why force myself on their dinners, even if it be a funeral dinner. The only thing I don't understand is why I stayed at the cemetery; I sat on a tombstone and sank into appropriate reflections.

I began with the Moscow exhibition and ended with reflect- ing upon astonishment in the abstract. My deductions about astonishment were these:

"To be surprised at everything is stupid of course, and to be astonished at nothing is a great deal more becoming and for some reason accepted as good form. But that is not really true. To my mind to be astonished at nothing is much more stupid than to be astonished at everything. And, moreover, to be astonished at nothing is almost the same as feeling respect for nothing. And indeed a stupid man is incapable of feeling respect."

"But what I desire most of all is to feel respect. I thirst to feel respect," one of my acquaintances said to me the other day.

He thirsts to feel respect! Goodness, I thought, what would happen to you if you dared to print that nowadays? At that point I sank into forgetfulness. I don't like reading the epitaphs of tombstones: they are everlastingly the same. An unfinished sandwich was lying on the tombstone near me; stupid and inappropriate. I threw it on the ground, as it was not bread but only a sandwich. Though I believe it is not a sin to throw bread on the earth, but only on the floor. I must look it up in Suvorin's calendar.

I suppose I sat there a long time-too long a time, in fact; I must have lain down on a long stone which was of the shape of a marble coffin. And how it happened I don't know, but I began to hear things of all sorts being said. At first I did not pay attention to it, but treated it with contempt. But the con- versation went on. I heard muffled sounds as though the speakers' mouths were covered with a pillow, and at the same time they were distinct and very near. I came to myself, sat up and began listening attentively.

"Your Excellency, it's utterly impossible. You led hearts, I return your lead, and here you play the seven of diamonds. You ought to have given me a hint about diamonds."

"What, play by hard and fast rules? Where is the charm of that?"

"You must, your Excellency. One can't do anything with- out something to go upon. We must play with dummy, let one hand not be turned up."

"Well, you won't find a dummy here."

What conceited words! And it was queer and unexpected. One was such a ponderous, dignified voice, the other softly suave; I should not have believed it if I had not heard it myself. I had not been to the requiem dinner, I believe. And yet how could they be playing preference here and what general was this? That the sounds came from under the tombstones of that there could be no doubt. I bent down and read on the tomb:

"Here lies the body of Major-General Pervoyedov . . . a cavalier of such and such orders." Hm! "Passed away in August of this year ... fifty-seven.... Rest, beloved ashes, till the joyful dawn!"

Hm, dash it, it really is a general! There was no monument on the grave from which the obsequious voice came, there was only a tombstone. He must have been a fresh arrival. From his voice he was a lower court councillor.

"Oh-ho-ho-ho!" I heard in a new voice a dozen yards from the general's resting-place, coming from quite a fresh grave. The voice belonged to a man and a plebeian, mawkish with its affectation of religious fervour. "Oh-ho-ho-ho!"

"Oh, here he is hiccupping again!" cried the haughty and disdainful voice of an irritated lady, apparently of the highest society. "It is an affliction to be by this shopkeeper!"

"I didn't hiccup; why, I've had nothing to eat. It's simply my nature. Really, madam, you don't seem able to get rid of your caprices here."

"Then why did you come and lie down here?"

"They put me here, my wife and little children put me here, I did not lie down here of myself. The mystery of death! And I would not have lain down beside you not for any money; I lie here as befitting my fortune, judging by the price. For we can always do that - pay for a tomb of the third grade."

"You made money, I suppose? You fleeced people?"

"Fleece you, indeed! We haven't seen the colour of your money since January. There's a little bill against you at the shop."

"Well, that's really stupid; to try and recover debts here is too stupid, to my thinking! Go to the surface. Ask my niece - she is my heiress."

"There's no asking anyone now, and no going anywhere. We have both reached our limit and, before the judgment-seat of God, are equal in our sins."

"In our sins," the lady mimicked him contemptuously. "Don't dare to speak to me."

"Oh-ho-ho-ho!"

"You see, the shopkeeper obeys the lady, your Excellency."

"Why shouldn't he?"

"Why, your Excellency, because, as we all know, things are different here."

"Different? How?"

"We are dead, so to speak, your Excellency."

"Oh, yes! But still . . ."

Well, this is an entertainment, it is a fine show, I must say! If it has come to this down here, what can one expect on the surface? But what a queer business! I went on listening, how- ever, though with extreme indignation.

"Yes, I should like a taste of life! Yes, you know . . . I should like a taste of fife." I heard a new voice suddenly somewhere in the space between the general and the irritable lady.

"Do you hear, your Excellency, our friend is at the same game again. For three days at a time he says nothing, and then he bursts out with 'I should like a taste of life, yes, a taste of life!' And with such appetite, he-he!"

"And such frivolity."

"It gets hold of him, your Excellency, and do you know, he is growing sleepy, quite sleepy - he has been here since April; and then all of a sudden 'I should like a taste of life!'"

"It is rather dull, though," observed his Excellency.

"It is, your Excellency. Shall we tease Avdotya Ignatyevna again, he-he?"

"No, spare me, please. I can't endure that quarrelsome virago."

"And I can't endure either of you," cried the virago disdain- fully. "You are both of you bores and can't tell me anything ideal. I know one little story about you, your Excellency- don't turn up your nose, please - how a manservant swept you out from under a married couple's bed one morning."

"Nasty woman," the general muttered through his teeth.

"Avdotya Ignatycvna, ma'am," the shopkeeper wailed suddenly again, "my dear lady, don't be angry, but tell me, am I going through the ordeal by torment now, or is it some- thing else?"

"Ah, he is at it again, as I expected! For there's a smell from him which means he is turning round!"

"I am not turning round, ma'am, and there's no particular smell from me, for I've kept my body whole as it should be, while you're regularly high. For the smell is really horrible even for a place like this. I don't speak of it, merely from politeness."

"Ah, you horrid, insulting wretch. He positively stinks and talks about me."

"Oh-ho-ho-ho! If only the time for my requiem would come quickly: I should hear their tearful voices over my head, my wife's lament and my children's soft weeping! . . ."

"Well, that's a thing to fret for! They'll stuff themselves with funeral rice and go home.... Oh, I wish somebody would wake up!"

"Avdotya Ignatyevna," said the insinuating government clerk, "wait a bit, the new arrivals will speak."

"And are there any young people among them?"

"Yes, there are, Avdotya Ignatyevna. There are some not more than lads."

"Oh, how welcome that would be!"

"Haven't they begun yet?" inquired his Excellency.

"Even those who came the day before yesterday haven't awakened yet, your Excellency. As you know, they sometimes don't speak for a week. It's a good job that to-day and yester- day and the day before they brought a whole lot. As it is, they are all last year's for seventy feet round."

"Yes, it will be interesting."

"Yes, your Excellency, they buried Tarasevitch, the privy councillor, to-day. I knew it from the voices. I know his nephew, he helped to lower the coffin just now."

"Hm, where is he, then?"

"Five steps from you, your Excellency, on the left. . . . Almost at your feet. You should make his acquaintance, your Excellency."

"Hm, no - it's not for me to make advances."

"Oh, he will begin of himself, your Excellency. He will be flattered. Leave it to me, your Excellency, and I . . ."

"Oh, oh! . . . What is happening to me?" croaked the frightened voice of a new arrival.

"A new arrival, your Excellency, a new arrival, thank God! And how quick he's been! Sometimes they don't say a word for a week."

"Oh, I believe it's a young man!" Avdotya Ignatyevna cried shrilly.

"I. . . I . . . it was a complication, and so sudden!" faltered the young man again. "Only the evening before, Schultz said to me, 'There's a complication,' and I died suddenly before morning. Oh! oh!"

"Well, there's no help for it, young man," the general observed graciously, evidently pleased at a new arrival. "You must be comforted. You are kindly welcome to our Vale of Jehoshaphat, so to call it. We are kind-hearted people, you will come to know us and appreciate us. Major-General Vassili Vassilitch Pervoyedov, at your service."

"Oh, no, no! Certainly not! I was at Schultz's; I had a complication, you know, at first it was my chest and a cough, and then I caught a cold: my lungs and influenza . . . and all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly . . . the worst of all was its being so unexpected."

"You say it began with the chest," the government clerk put in suavely, as though he wished to reassure the new arrival.

"Yes, my chest and catarrh and then no catarrh, but still the chest, and I couldn't breathe ... and you know. . . "

"l know, I know. But if it was the chest you ought to have gone to Ecke and not to Schultz."

"You know, I kept meaning to go to Botkin's, and all at once . . ."

"Botkin is quite prohibitive," observed the general.

"Oh, no, he is not forbidding at all; I've heard he is so attentive and foretells everything beforehand."

"His Excellency was referring to his fees," the government clerk corrected him.

"Oh, not at all, he only asks three roubles, and he makes such an examination, and gives you a prescription . . .and I was very anxious to see him, for I have been told . . . Well, gentlemen, had I better go to Ecke or to Botkin?"

"What? To whom?" The general's corpse shook with agreeable laughter. The government clerk echoed it in falsetto.

"Dear boy, dear, delightful boy, how I love you!" Avdotya Ignatyevna squealed ecstatically. "I wish they had put some- one like you next to me."

No, that was too much! And these were the dead of our times! Still, I ought to listen to more and not be in too great a hurry to draw conclusions. That snivelling new arrival - I remember him just now in his coffin - had the expression of a frightened chicken, the most revolting expression in the world! However, let us wait and see.

But what happened next was such a Bedlam that I could not keep it all in my memory. For a great many woke up at once; an official - a civil councillor - woke up, and began discussing at once the project of a new sub-committee in a government department and of the probable transfer of various func- tionaries in connection with the sub-committee - which very greatly interested the general. I must confess I learnt a great deal that was new myself, so much so that I marvelled at the channels by which one may sometimes in the metropolis learn government news. Then an engineer half woke up, but for a long time muttered absolute nonsense, so that our friends left off worrying him and let him lie till he was ready. At last the distinguished lady who had been buried in the morning under the catafalque showed symptoms of the reanimation of the tomb. Lebeziatnikov (for the obsequious lower court councillor whom I detested and who lay beside General Pervoyedov was called, it appears, Lebeziatnikov) became much excited, and surprised that they were all waking up so soon this time. I must own I was surprised too; though some of those who woke had been buried for three days, as, for instance, a very young girl of sixteen who kept giggling ... giggling in a horrible and predatory way.

"Your Excellency, privy councillor Tarasevitch is waking!" Lebeziatnikov announced with extreme fussiness.

"Eh? What?" the privy councillor, waking up suddenly mumbled, with a lisp of disgust. There was a note of ill- humoured peremptoriness in the sound of his voice.

I listened with curiosity - for during the last few days I had heard something about Tarasevitch - shocking and upsetting in the extreme.

"It's I, your Excellency, so far only I."

"What is your petition? What do you want?"

"Merely to inquire after your Excellency's health; in these unaccustomed surroundings everyone feels at first, as it were, oppressed. General Pervoyedov wishes to have the honour of making your Excellency's acquaintance, and hopes . . ."

"I've never heard of him."

"Surely, your Excellency! General Pervoyedov, Vassili Vassilitch . . ."

"Are you General Pervoyedov?"

"No, your Excellency, I am only the lower court councillor Lebeziatnikov, at your service, but General Pervoyedov..."

"Nonsense! And I beg you to leave me alone."

"Let him be." General Pervoyedov at last himself checked with dignity the disgusting officiousness of his sycophant in the grave.

"He is not fully awake, your Excellency, you must consider that; it's the novelty of it all. When he is fully awake he will take it differently."

"Let him be," repeated the general.

"Vassili Vassilitch! Hey, your Excellency!" a perfectly new voice shouted loudly and aggressively from close beside Avdotya Ignatyevna. It was a voice of gentlemanly insolence, with the languid pronunciation now fashionable and an arrogant drawl. "I've been watching you all for the last two hours. Do you remember me, Vassili Vassilitch? My name is Klinevitch, we met at the Volokonskys' where you, too, were received as a guest, I am sure I don't know why."

"What, Count Pyotr Petrovitch? . . . Can it be really you . . . and at such an early age? How sorry I am to hear it."

"Oh, I am sorry myself, though I really don't mind, and I want to amuse myself as far as I can everywhere. And I am not a count but a baron, only a baron. We are only a set of scurvy barons, risen from being flunkeys, but why I don't know and I don't care. I am only a scoundrel of the pseudo-aristo- cratic society, and I am regarded as 'a charming polisson'. My father is a wretched little general, and my mother was at one time received en haut lieu. With the help of the Jew Zifel I forged fifty thousand rouble notes last year and then I informed against him, while Julic Charpentier de Lusignan carried off the money to Bordeaux. And only fancy, I was engaged to be married - to a girl still at school, three months under sixteen, with a dowry of ninety thousand. Avdotya Ignatyevna, do you remember how you seduced me fifteen years ago when I was a boy of fourteen in the Corps des Pages?"

"Ah, that's you, you rascal! Well, you are a godsend, any- way, for here. . . ."

"You were mistaken in suspecting your neighbour, the business gentleman, of unpleasant fragrance.... I said nothing, but I laughed. The stench came from me: they had to bury me in a nailed-up coffin."

"Ugh, you horrid creature! Still, I am glad you are here; you can't imagine the lack of life and wit here."

"Quite so, quite so, and I intend to start here something original. Your Excellency - I don't mean you, Pervoyedov - your Excellency the other one, Tarasevitch, the privy councillor! Answer! I am Klinevitch, who took you to Mlle. Furie in Lent, do you hear?"

"I do, Klinevitch, and I am delighted, and trust me.

"I wouldn't trust you with a halfpenny, and I don't care. I simply want to kiss you, dear old man, but luckily I can't. Do you know, gentlemen, what this Grand-pere's little game was? He died three or four days ago, and would you believe it, he left a deficit of four hundred thousand government money from the fund for widows and orphans. He was the sole person in control of it for some reason, so that his accounts were not audited for the last eight years. I can fancy what long faces they all have now, and what they call him. It's a delectable thought, isn't it? I have been wondering for the last year how a wretched old man of seventy, gouty and rheumatic, succeeded in preserving the physical energy for his debaucheries - and now the riddle is solved! Those widows and orphans - the very thought of them must have egged him on! I knew about it long ago, I was the only one who did know; it was Julie told me, and as soon as I discovered it, I attacked him in a friendly way at once in Easter week: 'Give me twenty-five thousand, if you don't they'll look into your accounts to-morrow.' And just fancy, he had only thirteen thousand left then, so it seems it was very apropos his dying now. Grand-pere, Grand-pere; do you hear?"

"Cher Klinevitch, I quite agree with you, and there was no need for you . . . to go into such details. Life is so full of suffering and torment and so little to make up for it ... that I wanted at last to be at rest, and so far as I can see I hope to get all I can from here too."

"I bet that he has already sniffed Katiche Berestoy!"

"Who? What Katiche?" There was a rapacious quiver in the old man's voice.

"A-ah, what Katiche? Why, here on the left, five paces from me and ten from you. She has been here for five days, and if only you knew, Grand-pere, what a little wretch she is! Of good family and breeding and a monster, a regular monster! I did not introduce her to anyone there, I was the only one who knew her.... Katiche, answer!"

"He-he-he!" the girl responded with a jangling laugh, in which there was a note of something as sharp as the prick of a needle. "He-he-he!"

"And a little blonde?" the Grand-pere faltered, drawling out the syllables.

"He-he-he!"

"I . . . have long . . . I have long," the old man faltered breathlessly, "cherished the dream of a little fair thing of fifteen and just in such surroundings."

"Ach, the monster!" cried Avdotya Ignatyevna.

"Enough!" Klinevitch decided. "I see there is excellent material. We shall soon arrange things better. The great thing is to spend the rest of our time cheerfully; but what time? Hey, you, government clerk, Lebeziatnikov or whatever it is, I hear that's your name!"

"Semyon Yevseitch Lebeziatnikov, lower court councillor, at your service, very, very, very much delighted to meet you."

"I don't care whether you are delighted or not, but you seem to know everything here. Tell me first of all how it is we can talk? I've been wondering ever since yesterday. We are dead and yet we are talking and seem to be moving - and yet we are not talking and not moving. What jugglery is this?"

"If you want an explanation, baron, Platon Nikolaevitch could give you one better than I."

"What Platon Nikolaevitch is that? To the point. Don't beat about the bush."

"Platon Nikolaevitch is our home-grown philosopher, scientist and Master of Arts. He has brought out several philosophical works, but for the last three months he has been getting quite drowsy, and there is no stirring him up now. Once a week he mutters something utterly irrelevant."

"To the point, to the point!"

"He explains all this by the simplest fact, namely, that when we were living on the surface we mistakenly thought that death there was death. The body revives, as it were, here, the remains of life are concentrated, but only in consciousness. I don't know how to express it, but life goes on, as it were, by inertia. In his opinion everything is concentrated somewhere in con- sciousness and goes on for two or three months ... sometimes even for half a year.... There is one here, for instance, who is almost completely decomposed, but once every six weeks he suddenly utters one word, quite senseless of course, about some bobok, 'Bobok, bobok,' but you see that an imper- ceptible speck of life is still warm within him."

"It's rather stupid. Well, and how is it I have no sense of smell and yet I feel there's a stench?"

"That ... he-he ... Well, on that point our philosopher is a bit foggy. It's apropos of smell, he said, that the stench one perceives here is, so to speak, moral - he-he! It's the stench of the soul, he says, that in these two or three months it may have time to recover itself ... and this is, so to speak, the last mercy.... Only, I think, baron, that these are mystic ravings very excusable in his position ...

"Enough; all the rest of it, I am sure, is nonsense. The great thing is that we have two or three months more of life and then - bobok! I propose to spend these two months as agreeably as possible, and so to arrange everything on a new basis. Gentle- men! I propose to cast aside all shame."

"Ah, let us cast aside all shame, let us!" many voices could be heard saying; and strange to say, several new voices were audible, which must have belonged to others newly awakened. The engineer, now fully awake, boomed out his agreement with peculiar delight. The girl Katiche giggled gleefully.

"Oh, how I long to cast off all shame!" Avdotya Ignatyevna exclaimed rapturously.

"I say, if Avdotya Ignatyevna wants to cast off all shame..."

"No, no, no, Klinevitch, I was ashamed up there all the same, but here I should like to cast off shame, I should like it awfully."

"I understand, Klinevitch," boomed the engineer, "that you want to rearrange life here on new and rational principles."

"Oh, I don't care a hang about that! For that we'll wait for Kudeyarov who was brought here yesterday. When he wakes he'll tell you all about it. He is such a personality, such a titanic personality! To-morrow they'll bring along another natural scientist, I believe, an officer for certain, and three or four days later a journalist, and, I believe, his editor with him. But deuce take them all, there will be a little group of us any- way, and things will arrange themselves. Though meanwhile I don't want us to be telling lies. That's all I care about, for that is one thing that matters. One cannot exist on the surface with- out lying, for life and lying are synonymous, but here we will amuse ourselves by not lying. Hang it all, the grave has some value after all! We'll all tell our stories aloud, and we won't be ashamed of anything. First of all I'll tell you about myself. I am one of the predatory kind, you know. All that was bound and held in check by rotten cords up there on the surface. Away with cords and let us spend these two months in shame- less truthfulness! Let us strip and be naked!"

"Let us be naked, let us be naked!" cried all the voices.

"I long to be naked, I long to be," Avdotya Ignatyevna shrilled.

"Ah ... ah, I see we shall have fun here; I don't want Ecke after all."

"No, I tell you. Give me a taste of life!"

"He-he-he!" giggled Katiche.

"The great thing is that no one can interfere with us, and though I see Pervoyedov is in a temper, he can't reach me with his hand. Grand-Pere, do you agree?"

"I fully agree, fully, and with the utmost satisfaction, but on condition that Katiche is the first to give us her biography."

"I protest! I protest with all my heart!" General Pervoyedov brought out firmly.

"Your Excellency!" the scoundrel Lebeziatnikov persuaded him in a murmur of fussy excitement, "your Excellency, it will be to our advantage to agree. Here, you see, there's this girl's ... and all their little affairs."

"There's the girl, it's true, but ..."

"It's to our advantage, your Excellency, upon my word it is! If only as an experiment, let us try it. . ."

"Even in the grave they won't let us rest in peace."

"In the first place, General, you were playing preference in the grave, and in the second we don't care a hang about you," drawled Klinevitch.

"Sir, I beg you not to forget yourself."

"What? Why, you can't get at me, and I can tease you from here as though you were Julie's lapdog. And another thing, gentlemen, how is he a general here? He was a general there, but here is mere refuse."

"No, not mere refuse.... Even here..."

"Here you will rot in the grave and six brass buttons will be all that will be left of you."

"Bravo, Klinevitch, ha-ha-ha!" roared voices.

"I have served my sovereign.... I have the sword . . ."

"Your sword is only fit to prick mice, and you never drew it even for that."

"That makes no difference; I formed a part of the whole."

"There are all sorts of parts in a whole."

"Bravo, Klinevitch, bravo! Ha-ha-ha!"

"I don't understand what the sword stands for," boomed the engineer.

"We shall run away from the Prussians like mice, they'll crush us to powder!" cried a voice in the distance that was unfamiliar to me, that was positively spluttering with glee.

"The sword, sir, is an honour," the general cried, but only I heard him. There arose a prolonged and furious roar, clamour, and hubbub, and only the hysterically impatient squeals of Avdotya Ignatyevna were audible.

"But do let us make haste! Ah, when are we going to begin to cast off all shame!"

"Oh-ho-ho! . . . The soul does in truth pass through torments!" exclaimed the voice of the plebeian, "and . . ."

And here I suddenly sneezed. It happened suddenly and unintentionally, but the effect was striking: all became as silent as one expects it to be in a churchyard, it all vanished like a dream. A real silence of the tomb set in. I don't believe they were ashamed on account of my presence: they had made up their minds to cast off all shame! I waited five minutes - not a word, not a sound. It cannot be supposed that they were afraid of my informing the police; for what could the police do to them? I must conclude that they had some secret un- known to the living, which they carefully concealed from every mortal.

"Well, my dears," I thought, "I shall visit you again." And with those words, I left the cemetery.

No, that I cannot admit; no, I really cannot! The bobok case does not trouble me (so that is what the bobok signified!)

Depravity in such a place, depravity of the last aspirations, depravity of sodden and rotten corpses - and not even sparing the last moments of consciousness! Those moments have been granted, vouchsafed to them, and ... and, worst of all, in such a place! No, that I cannot admit.

I shall go to other tombs, I shall listen everywhere. Certainly one ought to listen everywhere and not merely at one spot in order to form an idea. Perhaps one may come across some- thing reassuring.

But I shall certainly go back to those. They promised their biographies and anecdotes of all sorts. Tfoo! But I shall go, I shall certainly go; it is a question of conscience!

I shall take it to the Citizen; the editor there has had his portrait exhibited too. Maybe he will print it.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 0:46 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1880)

[The following is an extract from M. Dostoevsky's celebrated
novel, The Brothers Karamazof, the last publication from the pen
of the great Russian novelist, who died a few months ago, just as
the concluding chapters appeared in print. Dostoevsky is
beginning to be recognized as one of the ablest and profoundest
among Russian writers. His characters are invariably typical
portraits drawn from various classes of Russian society,
strikingly life-like and realistic to the highest degree. The
following extract is a cutting satire on modern theology
generally and the Roman Catholic religion in particular. The idea
is that Christ revisits earth, coming to Spain at the period of
the Inquisition, and is at once arrested as a heretic by the
Grand Inquisitor. One of the three brothers of the story, Ivan, a
rank materialist and an atheist of the new school, is supposed to
throw this conception into the form of a poem, which he describes
to Alyosha--the youngest of the brothers, a young Christian
mystic brought up by a "saint" in a monastery--as follows:

(--Ed. Theosophist, Nov., 1881)]

"Quite impossible, as you see, to start without an introduction,"
laughed Ivan. "Well, then, I mean to place the event described in
the poem in the sixteenth century, an age--as you must have been
told at school--when it was the great fashion among poets to
make the denizens and powers of higher worlds descend on earth
and mix freely with mortals... In France all the notaries'
clerks, and the monks in the cloisters as well, used to give
grand performances, dramatic plays in which long scenes were
enacted by the Madonna, the angels, the saints, Christ, and even
by God Himself. In those days, everything was very artless and
primitive. An instance of it may be found in Victor Hugo's drama,
Notre Dame de Paris, where, at the Municipal Hall, a play called
Le Bon Jugement de la Tres-sainte et Graceuse Vierge Marie, is
enacted in honour of Louis XI, in which the Virgin appears
personally to pronounce her 'good judgment.' In Moscow, during
the prepetrean period, performances of nearly the same character,
chosen especially from the Old Testament, were also in great
favour. Apart from such plays, the world was overflooded with
mystical writings, 'verses'--the heroes of which were always
selected from the ranks of angels, saints and other heavenly
citizens answering to the devotional purposes of the age. The
recluses of our monasteries, like the Roman Catholic monks,
passed their time in translating, copying, and even producing
original compositions upon such subjects, and that, remember,
during the Tarter period!... In this connection, I am reminded of
a poem compiled in a convent--a translation from the Greek, of
course--called, 'The Travels of the Mother of God among the
Damned,' with fitting illustrations and a boldness of conception
inferior nowise to that of Dante. The 'Mother of God' visits
hell, in company with the archangel Michael as her cicerone to
guide her through the legions of the 'damned.' She sees them all,
and is witness to their multifarious tortures. Among the many
other exceedingly remarkably varieties of torments--every
category of sinners having its own--there is one especially
worthy of notice, namely a class of the 'damned' sentenced to
gradually sink in a burning lake of brimstone and fire. Those
whose sins cause them to sink so low that they no longer can rise
to the surface are for ever forgotten by God, i.e., they fade out
from the omniscient memory, says the poem--an expression, by the
way, of an extraordinary profundity of thought, when closely
analysed. The Virgin is terribly shocked, and falling down upon
her knees in tears before the throne of God, begs that all she
has seen in hell--all, all without exception, should have their
sentences remitted to them. Her dialogue with God is colossally
interesting. She supplicates, she will not leave Him. And when
God, pointing to the pierced hands and feet of her Son, cries,
'How can I forgive His executioners?' She then commands that all
the saints, martyrs, angels and archangels, should prostrate
themselves with her before the Immutable and Changeless One and
implore Him to change His wrath into mercy and--forgive them
all. The poem closes upon her obtaining from God a compromise, a
kind of yearly respite of tortures between Good Friday and
Trinity, a chorus of the 'damned' singing loud praises to God
from their 'bottomless pit,' thanking and telling Him:

Thou art right, O Lord, very right,
Thou hast condemned us justly.

"My poem is of the same character.

"In it, it is Christ who appears on the scene. True, He says
nothing, but only appears and passes out of sight. Fifteen
centuries have elapsed since He left the world with the distinct
promise to return 'with power and great glory'; fifteen long
centuries since His prophet cried, 'Prepare ye the way of the
Lord!' since He Himself had foretold, while yet on earth, 'Of
that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven
but my Father only.' But Christendom expects Him still. ...

"It waits for Him with the same old faith and the same emotion;
aye, with a far greater faith, for fifteen centuries have rolled
away since the last sign from heaven was sent to man,

And blind faith remained alone
To lull the trusting heart,
As heav'n would send a sign no more.

"True, again, we have all heard of miracles being wrought ever
since the 'age of miracles' passed away to return no more. We
had, and still have, our saints credited with performing the most
miraculous cures; and, if we can believe their biographers, there
have been those among them who have been personally visited by
the Queen of Heaven. But Satan sleepeth not, and the first germs
of doubt, and ever-increasing unbelief in such wonders, already
had begun to sprout in Christendom as early as the sixteenth
century. It was just at that time that a new and terrible heresy
first made its appearance in the north of Germany.* [*Luther's
reform] A great star 'shining as it were a lamp... fell upon the
fountains waters'... and 'they were made bitter.' This 'heresy'
blasphemously denied 'miracles.' But those who had remained
faithful believed all the more ardently, the tears of mankind
ascended to Him as heretofore, and the Christian world was
expecting Him as confidently as ever; they loved Him and hoped in
Him, thirsted and hungered to suffer and die for Him just as many
of them had done before.... So many centuries had weak, trusting
humanity implored Him, crying with ardent faith and fervour: 'How
long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not come!' So many long
centuries hath it vainly appealed to Him, that at last, in His
inexhaustible compassion, He consenteth to answer the prayer....
He decideth that once more, if it were but for one short hour,
the people--His long-suffering, tortured, fatally sinful, his
loving and child-like, trusting people--shall behold Him again.
The scene of action is placed by me in Spain, at Seville, during
that terrible period of the Inquisition, when, for the greater
glory of God, stakes were flaming all over the country.

Burning wicked heretics,
In grand auto-da-fes.

"This particular visit has, of course, nothing to do with the
promised Advent, when, according to the programme, 'after the
tribulation of those days,' He will appear 'coming in the clouds
of heaven.' For, that 'coming of the Son of Man,' as we are
informed, will take place as suddenly 'as the lightning cometh
out of the east and shineth even unto the west.' No; this once,
He desired to come unknown, and appear among His children, just
when the bones of the heretics, sentenced to be burnt alive, had
commenced crackling at the flaming stakes. Owing to His limitless
mercy, He mixes once more with mortals and in the same form in
which He was wont to appear fifteen centuries ago. He descends,
just at the very moment when before king, courtiers, knights,
cardinals, and the fairest dames of court, before the whole
population of Seville, upwards of a hundred wicked heretics are
being roasted, in a magnificent auto-da-fe ad majorem Dei
gloriam, by the order of the powerful Cardinal Grand Inquisitor.

"He comes silently and unannounced; yet all--how strange--yea,
all recognize Him, at once! The population rushes towards Him as
if propelled by some irresistible force; it surrounds, throngs,
and presses around, it follows Him.... Silently, and with a smile
of boundless compassion upon His lips, He crosses the dense
crowd, and moves softly on. The Sun of Love burns in His heart,
and warm rays of Light, Wisdom and Power beam forth from His
eyes, and pour down their waves upon the swarming multitudes of
the rabble assembled around, making their hearts vibrate with
returning love. He extends His hands over their heads, blesses
them, and from mere contact with Him, aye, even with His
garments, a healing power goes forth. An old man, blind from his
birth, cries, 'Lord, heal me, that I may see Thee!' and the
scales falling off the closed eyes, the blind man beholds Him...
The crowd weeps for joy, and kisses the ground upon which He
treads. Children strew flowers along His path and sing to Him,
'Hosanna!' It is He, it is Himself, they say to each other, it
must be He, it can be none other but He! He pauses at the portal
of the old cathedral, just as a wee white coffin is carried in,
with tears and great lamentations. The lid is off, and in the
coffin lies the body of a fair-child, seven years old, the only
child of an eminent citizen of the city. The little corpse lies
buried in flowers. 'He will raise the child to life!' confidently
shouts the crowd to the weeping mother. The officiating priest
who had come to meet the funeral procession, looks perplexed, and
frowns. A loud cry is suddenly heard, and the bereaved mother
prostrates herself at His feet. 'If it be Thou, then bring back
my child to life!' she cries beseechingly. The procession halts,
and the little coffin is gently lowered at his feet. Divine
compassion beams forth from His eyes, and as He looks at the
child, His lips are heard to whisper once more, 'Talitha Cumi' -
and 'straightway the damsel arose.' The child rises in her
coffin. Her little hands still hold the nosegay of white roses
which after death was placed in them, and, looking round with
large astonished eyes she smiles sweetly .... The crowd is
violently excited. A terrible commotion rages among them, the
populace shouts and loudly weeps, when suddenly, before the
cathedral door, appears the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor himself....
He is tall, gaunt-looking old man of nearly four-score years and
ten, with a stern, withered face, and deeply sunken eyes, from
the cavity of which glitter two fiery sparks. He has laid aside
his gorgeous cardinal's robes in which he had appeared before the
people at the auto da-fe of the enemies of the Romish Church, and
is now clad in his old, rough, monkish cassock. His sullen
assistants and slaves of the 'holy guard' are following at a
distance. He pauses before the crowd and observes. He has seen
all. He has witnessed the placing of the little coffin at His
feet, the calling back to life. And now, his dark, grim face has
grown still darker; his bushy grey eyebrows nearly meet, and his
sunken eye flashes with sinister light. Slowly raising his
finger, he commands his minions to arrest Him....

"Such is his power over the well-disciplined, submissive and now
trembling people, that the thick crowds immediately give way, and
scattering before the guard, amid dead silence and without one
breath of protest, allow them to lay their sacrilegious hands
upon the stranger and lead Him away.... That same populace, like
one man, now bows its head to the ground before the old
Inquisitor, who blesses it and slowly moves onward. The guards
conduct their prisoner to the ancient building of the Holy
Tribunal; pushing Him into a narrow, gloomy, vaulted prison-cell,
they lock Him in and retire....

"The day wanes, and night--a dark, hot breathless Spanish night
--creeps on and settles upon the city of Seville. The air smells
of laurels and orange blossoms. In the Cimmerian darkness of the
old Tribunal Hall the iron door of the cell is suddenly thrown
open, and the Grand Inquisitor, holding a dark lantern, slowly
stalks into the dungeon. He is alone, and, as the heavy door
closes behind him, he pauses at the threshold, and, for a minute
or two, silently and gloomily scrutinizes the Face before him. At
last approaching with measured steps, he sets his lantern down
upon the table and addresses Him in these words:

"'It is Thou! ... Thou!' ... Receiving no reply, he rapidly
continues: 'Nay, answer not; be silent! ... And what couldst Thou
say? ... I know but too well Thy answer.... Besides, Thou hast no
right to add one syllable to that which was already uttered by
Thee before.... Why shouldst Thou now return, to impede us in our
work? For Thou hast come but for that only, and Thou knowest it
well. But art Thou as well aware of what awaits Thee in the
morning? I do not know, nor do I care to know who thou mayest be:
be it Thou or only thine image, to-morrow I will condemn and burn
Thee on the stake, as the most wicked of all the heretics; and
that same people, who to-day were kissing Thy feet, to-morrow at
one bend of my finger, will rush to add fuel to Thy funeral
pile... Wert Thou aware of this?' he adds, speaking as if in
solemn thought, and never for one instant taking his piercing
glance off the meek Face before him."....

"I can hardly realize the situation described--what is all
this, Ivan?" suddenly interrupted Alyosha, who had remained
silently listening to his brother. "Is this an extravagant fancy,
or some mistake of the old man, an impossible quid pro quo?"

"Let it be the latter, if you like," laughed Ivan, "since modern
realism has so perverted your taste that you feel unable to
realize anything from the world of fancy.... Let it be a quid pro
quo, if you so choose it. Again, the Inquisitor is ninety years
old, and he might have easily gone mad with his one idee fixe of
power; or, it might have as well been a delirious vision, called
forth by dying fancy, overheated by the auto-da-fe of the hundred
heretics in that forenoon.... But what matters for the poem,
whether it was a quid pro quo or an uncontrollable fancy? The
question is, that the old man has to open his heart; that he must
give out his thought at last; and that the hour has come when he
does speak it out, and says loudly that which for ninety years he
has kept secret within his own breast."

"And his prisoner, does He never reply? Does He keep silent,
looking at him, without saying a word?"

"Of course; and it could not well be otherwise," again retorted
Ivan. "The Grand Inquisitor begins from his very first words by
telling Him that He has no right to add one syllable to that which
He had said before. To make the situation clear at once, the above
preliminary monologue is intended to convey to the reader the very
fundamental idea which underlies Roman Catholicism--as well as I
can convey it, his words mean, in short: 'Everything was given
over by Thee to the Pope, and everything now rests with him alone;
Thou hast no business to return and thus hinder us in our work.'
In this sense the Jesuits not only talk but write likewise.

"'Hast thou the right to divulge to us a single one of the
mysteries of that world whence Thou comest?' enquires of Him my
old Inquisitor, and forthwith answers for Him. 'Nay, Thou has no
such right. For, that would be adding to that which was already
said by Thee before; hence depriving people of that freedom for
which Thou hast so stoutly stood up while yet on earth....
Anything new that Thou would now proclaim would have to be
regarded as an attempt to interfere with that freedom of choice,
as it would come as a new and a miraculous revelation superseding
the old revelation of fifteen hundred years ago, when Thou didst
so repeatedly tell the people: "The truth shall make you free."
Behold then, Thy "free" people now!' adds the old man with sombre
irony. 'Yea!... it has cost us dearly.' he continues, sternly
looking at his victim. 'But we have at last accomplished our
task, and--in Thy name.... For fifteen long centuries we had to
toil and suffer owing to that "freedom": but now we have
prevailed and our work is done, and well and strongly it is done.
....Believest not Thou it is so very strong? ... And why should
Thou look at me so meekly as if I were not worthy even of Thy
indignation?... Know then, that now, and only now, Thy people
feel fully sure and satisfied of their freedom; and that only
since they have themselves and of their own free will delivered
that freedom unto our hands by placing it submissively at our
feet. But then, that is what we have done. Is it that which Thou
has striven for? Is this the kind of "freedom" Thou has promised
them?'"

"Now again, I do not understand," interrupted Alyosha. "Does the
old man mock and laugh?"

"Not in the least. He seriously regards it as a great service
done by himself, his brother monks and Jesuits, to humanity, to
have conquered and subjected unto their authority that freedom,
and boasts that it was done but for the good of the world. 'For
only now,' he says (speaking of the Inquisition) 'has it become
possible to us, for the first time, to give a serious thought to
human happiness. Man is born a rebel, and can rebels be ever
happy?... Thou has been fairly warned of it, but evidently to no
use, since Thou hast rejected the only means which could make
mankind happy; fortunately at Thy departure Thou hast delivered
the task to us.... Thou has promised, ratifying the pledge by Thy
own words, in words giving us the right to bind and unbind... and
surely, Thou couldst not think of depriving us of it now!'"

"But what can he mean by the words, 'Thou has been fairly
warned'?" asked Alexis.

"These words give the key to what the old man has to say for his
justification... But listen--

"'The terrible and wise spirit, the spirit of self annihilation
and non-being,' goes on the Inquisitor, 'the great spirit of
negation conversed with Thee in the wilderness, and we are told
that he "tempted" Thee... Was it so? And if it were so, then it is
impossible to utter anything more truthful than what is contained
in his three offers, which Thou didst reject, and which are
usually called "temptations." Yea; if ever there was on earth a
genuine striking wonder produced, it was on that day of Thy three
temptations, and it is precisely in these three short sentences
that the marvelous miracle is contained. If it were possible that
they should vanish and disappear for ever, without leaving any
trace, from the record and from the memory of man, and that it
should become necessary again to devise, invent, and make them
reappear in Thy history once more, thinkest Thou that all the
world's sages, all the legislators, initiates, philosophers and
thinkers, if called upon to frame three questions which should,
like these, besides answering the magnitude of the event, express
in three short sentences the whole future history of this our
world and of mankind--dost Thou believe, I ask Thee, that all
their combined efforts could ever create anything equal in power
and depth of thought to the three propositions offered Thee by the
powerful and all-wise spirit in the wilderness? Judging of them by
their marvelous aptness alone, one can at once perceive that they
emanated not from a finite, terrestrial intellect, but indeed,
from the Eternal and the Absolute. In these three offers we find,
blended into one and foretold to us, the complete subsequent
history of man; we are shown three images, so to say, uniting in
them all the future axiomatic, insoluble problems and
contradictions of human nature, the world over. In those days, the
wondrous wisdom contained in them was not made so apparent as it
is now, for futurity remained still veiled; but now, when fifteen
centuries have elapsed, we see that everything in these three
questions is so marvelously foreseen and foretold, that to add to,
or to take away from, the prophecy one jot, would be absolutely
impossible!

"'Decide then thyself.' sternly proceeded the Inquisitor, 'which
of ye twain was right: Thou who didst reject, or he who offered?
Remember the subtle meaning of question the first, which runs
thus: Wouldst Thou go into the world empty-handed? Would Thou
venture thither with Thy vague and undefined promise of freedom,
which men, dull and unruly as they are by nature, are unable so
much as to understand, which they avoid and fear?--for never was
there anything more unbearable to the human race than personal
freedom! Dost Thou see these stones in the desolate and glaring
wilderness? Command that these stones be made bread--and mankind
will run after Thee, obedient and grateful like a herd of cattle.
But even then it will be ever diffident and trembling, lest Thou
should take away Thy hand, and they lose thereby their bread!
Thou didst refuse to accept the offer for fear of depriving men
of their free choice; for where is there freedom of choice where
men are bribed with bread? Man shall not live by bread alone--
was Thine answer. Thou knewest not, it seems, that it was
precisely in the name of that earthly bread that the terrestrial
spirit would one day rise against, struggle with, and finally
conquer Thee, followed by the hungry multitudes shouting: "Who is
like unto that Beast, who maketh fire come down from heaven upon
the earth!" Knowest Thou not that, but a few centuries hence, and
the whole of mankind will have proclaimed in its wisdom and
through its mouthpiece, Science, that there is no more crime,
hence no more sin on earth, but only hungry people? "Feed us
first and then command us to be virtuous!" will be the words
written upon the banner lifted against Thee--a banner which
shall destroy Thy Church to its very foundations, and in the
place of Thy Temple shall raise once more the terrible Tower of
Babel; and though its building be left unfinished, as was that of
the first one, yet the fact will remain recorded that Thou
couldst, but wouldst not, prevent the attempt to build that new
tower by accepting the offer, and thus saving mankind a
millennium of useless suffering on earth. And it is to us that
the people will return again. They will search for us catacombs,
as we shall once more be persecuted and martyred--and they will
begin crying unto us: "Feed us, for they who promised us the fire
from heaven have deceived us!" It is then that we will finish
building their tower for them. For they alone who feed them shall
finish it, and we shall feed them in Thy name, and lying to them
that it is in that name. Oh, never, never, will they learn to
feed themselves without our help! No science will ever give them
bread so long as they remain free, so long as they refuse to lay
that freedom at our feet, and say: "Enslave, but feed us!" That
day must come when men will understand that freedom and daily
bread enough to satisfy all are unthinkable and can never be had
together, as men will never be able to fairly divide the two
among themselves. And they will also learn that they can never be
free, for they are weak, vicious, miserable nonentities born
wicked and rebellious. Thou has promised to them the bread of
life, the bread of heaven; but I ask Thee again, can that bread
ever equal in the sight of the weak and the vicious, the ever
ungrateful human race, their daily bread on earth? And even
supposing that thousands and tens of thousands follow Thee in the
name of, and for the sake of, Thy heavenly bread, what will
become of the millions and hundreds of millions of human beings
to weak to scorn the earthly for the sake of Thy heavenly bread?
Or is it but those tens of thousands chosen among the great and
the mighty, that are so dear to Thee, while the remaining
millions, innumerable as the grains of sand in the seas, the weak
and the loving, have to be used as material for the former? No,
no! In our sight and for our purpose the weak and the lowly are
the more dear to us. True, they are vicious and rebellious, but
we will force them into obedience, and it is they who will admire
us the most. They will regard us as gods, and feel grateful to
those who have consented to lead the masses and bear their burden
of freedom by ruling over them--so terrible will that freedom at
last appear to men! Then we will tell them that it is in
obedience to Thy will and in Thy name that we rule over them. We
will deceive them once more and lie to them once again--for
never, never more will we allow Thee to come among us. In this
deception we will find our suffering, for we must needs lie
eternally, and never cease to lie!

"Such is the secret meaning of "temptation" the first, and that
is what Thou didst reject in the wilderness for the sake of that
freedom which Thou didst prize above all. Meanwhile Thy tempter's
offer contained another great world-mystery. By accepting the
"bread," Thou wouldst have satisfied and answered a universal
craving, a ceaseless longing alive in the heart of every
individual human being, lurking in the breast of collective
mankind, that most perplexing problem--"whom or what shall we
worship?" There exists no greater or more painful anxiety for a
man who has freed himself from all religious bias, than how he
shall soonest find a new object or idea to worship. But man seeks
to bow before that only which is recognized by the greater
majority, if not by all his fellow-men, as having a right to be
worshipped; whose rights are so unquestionable that men agree
unanimously to bow down to it. For the chief concern of these
miserable creatures is not to find and worship the idol of their
own choice, but to discover that which all others will believe
in, and consent to bow down to in a mass. It is that instinctive
need of having a worship in common that is the chief suffering of
every man, the chief concern of mankind from the beginning of
times. It is for that universality of religious worship that
people destroyed each other by sword. Creating gods unto
themselves, they forwith began appealing to each other: "Abandon
your deities, come and bow down to ours, or death to ye and your
idols!" And so will they do till the end of this world; they will
do so even then, when all the gods themselves have disappeared,
for then men will prostrate themselves before and worship some
idea. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not be ignorant of, that
mysterious fundamental principle in human nature, and still thou
hast rejected the only absolute banner offered Thee, to which all
the nations would remain true, and before which all would have
bowed--the banner of earthly bread, rejected in the name of
freedom and of "bread in the kingdom of God"! Behold, then, what
Thou hast done furthermore for that "freedom's" sake! I repeat to
Thee, man has no greater anxiety in life than to find some one to
whom he can make over that gift of freedom with which the
unfortunate creature is born. But he alone will prove capable of
silencing and quieting their consciences, that shall succeed in
possessing himself of the freedom of men. With "daily bread" an
irresistible power was offered Thee: show a man "bread" and he
will follow Thee, for what can he resist less than the attraction
of bread? But if, at the same time, another succeed in possessing
himself of his conscience--oh! then even Thy bread will be
forgotten, and man will follow him who seduced his conscience. So
far Thou wert right. For the mystery of human being does not
solely rest in the desire to live, but in the problem--for what
should one live at all? Without a clear perception of his reasons
for living, man will never consent to live, and will rather
destroy himself than tarry on earth, though he be surrounded with
bread. This is the truth. But what has happened? Instead of
getting hold of man's freedom, Thou has enlarged it still more!
Hast Thou again forgotten that to man rest and even death are
preferable to a free choice between the knowledge of Good and
Evil? Nothing seems more seductive in his eyes than freedom of
conscience, and nothing proves more painful. And behold! instead
of laying a firm foundation whereon to rest once for all man's
conscience, Thou hast chosen to stir up in him all that is
abnormal, mysterious, and indefinite, all that is beyond human
strength, and has acted as if Thou never hadst any love for him,
and yet Thou wert He who came to "lay down His life for His
friends!" Thou hast burdened man's soul with anxieties hitherto
unknown to him. Thirsting for human love freely given, seeking to
enable man, seduced and charmed by Thee, to follow Thy path of
his own free-will, instead of the old and wise law which held him
in subjection, Thou hast given him the right henceforth to choose
and freely decide what is good and bad for him, guided but by
Thine image in his heart. But hast Thou never dreamt of the
probability, nay, of the certainty, of that same man one day
rejected finally, and controverting even Thine image and Thy
truth, once he would find himself laden with such a terrible
burden as freedom of choice? That a time would surely come when
men would exclaim that Truth and Light cannot be in Thee, for no
one could have left them in a greater perplexity and mental
suffering than Thou has done, lading them with so many cares and
insoluble problems. Thus, it is Thyself who hast laid the
foundation for the destruction of Thine own kingdom and no one
but Thou is to be blamed for it.

"'Meantime, every chance of success was offered Thee. There are
three Powers, three unique Forces upon earth, capable of
conquering for ever by charming the conscience of these weak
rebels--men--for their own good; and these Forces are: Miracle,
Mystery and Authority. Thou hast rejected all the three, and thus
wert the first to set them an example. When the terrible and all-
wise spirit placed Thee on a pinnacle of the temple and said unto
Thee, "If Thou be the son of God, cast Thyself down, for it is
written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in
their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash
Thy foot against a stone!"--for thus Thy faith in Thy father
should have been made evident, Thou didst refuse to accept his
suggestion and didst not follow it. Oh, undoubtedly, Thou didst
act in this with all the magnificent pride of a god, but then men
--that weak and rebel race--are they also gods, to understand
Thy refusal? Of course, Thou didst well know that by taking one
single step forward, by making the slightest motion to throw
Thyself down, Thou wouldst have tempted "the Lord Thy God," lost
suddenly all faith in Him, and dashed Thyself to atoms against
that same earth which Thou camest to save, and thus wouldst have
allowed the wise spirit which tempted Thee to triumph and
rejoice. But, then, how many such as Thee are to be found on this
globe, I ask Thee? Couldst Thou ever for a moment imagine that
men would have the same strength to resist such a temptation? Is
human nature calculated to reject miracle, and trust, during the
most terrible moments in life, when the most momentous, painful
and perplexing problems struggle within man's soul, to the free
decisions of his heart for the true solution? Oh, Thou knewest
well that that action of Thine would remain recorded in books for
ages to come, reaching to the confines of the globe, and Thy hope
was, that following Thy example, man would remain true to his
God, without needing any miracle to keep his faith alive! But
Thou knewest not, it seems, that no sooner would man reject
miracle than he would reject God likewise, for he seeketh less
God than "a sign" from Him. And thus, as it is beyond the power
of man to remain without miracles, so, rather than live without,
he will create for himself new wonders of his own making; and he
will bow to and worship the soothsayer's miracles, the old
witch's sorcery, were he a rebel, a heretic, and an atheist a
hundred times over. Thy refusal to come down from the cross when
people, mocking and wagging their heads were saying to Thee--
"Save Thyself if Thou be the son of God, and we will believe in
Thee," was due to the same determination--not to enslave man
through miracle, but to obtain faith in Thee freely and apart
from any miraculous influence. Thou thirstest for free and
uninfluenced love, and refuses the passionate adoration of the
slave before a Potency which would have subjected his will once
for ever. Thou judgest of men too highly here, again, for though
rebels they be, they are born slaves and nothing more. Behold,
and judge of them once more, now that fifteen centuries have
elapsed since that moment. Look at them, whom Thou didst try to
elevate unto Thee! I swear man is weaker and lower than Thou hast
ever imagined him to be! Can he ever do that which Thou art said
to have accomplished? By valuing him so highly Thou hast acted as
if there were no love for him in Thine heart, for Thou hast
demanded of him more than he could ever give--Thou, who lovest
him more than Thyself! Hadst Thou esteemed him less, less wouldst
Thou have demanded of him, and that would have been more like
love, for his burden would have been made thereby lighter. Man is
weak and cowardly. What matters it, if he now riots and rebels
throughout the world against our will and power, and prides
himself upon that rebellion? It is but the petty pride and vanity
of a school-boy. It is the rioting of little children, getting up
a mutiny in the class-room and driving their schoolmaster out of
it. But it will not last long, and when the day of their triumph
is over, they will have to pay dearly for it. They will destroy
the temples and raze them to the ground, flooding the earth with
blood. But the foolish children will have to learn some day that,
rebels though they be and riotous from nature, they are too weak
to maintain the spirit of mutiny for any length of time. Suffused
with idiotic tears, they will confess that He who created them
rebellious undoubtedly did so but to mock them. They will
pronounce these words in despair, and such blasphemous utterances
will but add to their misery--for human nature cannot endure
blasphemy, and takes her own revenge in the end.

"'And thus, after all Thou has suffered for mankind and its
freedom, the present fate of men may be summed up in three words:
Unrest, Confusion, Misery! Thy great prophet John records in his
vision, that he saw, during the first resurrection of the chosen
servants of God--"the number of them which were sealed" in their
foreheads, "twelve thousand" of every tribe. But were they,
indeed, as many? Then they must have been gods, not men. They had
shared Thy Cross for long years, suffered scores of years' hunger
and thirst in dreary wildernesses and deserts, feeding upon
locusts and roots--and of these children of free love for Thee,
and self-sacrifice in Thy name, Thou mayest well feel proud. But
remember that these are but a few thousands--of gods, not men;
and how about all others? And why should the weakest be held
guilty for not being able to endure what the strongest have
endured? Why should a soul incapable of containing such terrible
gifts be punished for its weakness? Didst Thou really come to,
and for, the "elect" alone? If so, then the mystery will remain
for ever mysterious to our finite minds. And if a mystery, then
were we right to proclaim it as one, and preach it, teaching them
that neither their freely given love to Thee nor freedom of
conscience were essential, but only that incomprehensible mystery
which they must blindly obey even against the dictates of their
conscience. Thus did we. We corrected and improved Thy teaching
and based it upon "Miracle, Mystery, and Authority." And men
rejoiced at finding themselves led once more like a herd of
cattle, and at finding their hearts at last delivered of the
terrible burden laid upon them by Thee, which caused them so much
suffering. Tell me, were we right in doing as we did. Did not we
show our great love for humanity, by realizing in such a humble
spirit its helplessness, by so mercifully lightening its great
burden, and by permitting and remitting for its weak nature every
sin, provided it be committed with our authorization? For what,
then, hast Thou come again to trouble us in our work? And why
lookest Thou at me so penetratingly with Thy meek eyes, and in
such a silence? Rather shouldst Thou feel wroth, for I need not
Thy love, I reject it, and love Thee not, myself. Why should I
conceal the truth from Thee? I know but too well with whom I am
now talking! What I had to say was known to Thee before, I read
it in Thine eye. How should I conceal from Thee our secret? If
perchance Thou wouldst hear it from my own lips, then listen: We
are not with Thee, but with him, and that is our secret! For
centuries have we abandoned Thee to follow him, yes--eight
centuries. Eight hundred years now since we accepted from him the
gift rejected by Thee with indignation; that last gift which he
offered Thee from the high mountain when, showing all the
kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, he saith unto Thee:
"All these things will I give Thee, if Thou will fall down and
worship me!" We took Rome from him and the glaive of Caesar, and
declared ourselves alone the kings of this earth, its sole kings,
though our work is not yet fully accomplished. But who is to
blame for it? Our work is but in its incipient stage, but it is
nevertheless started. We may have long to wait until its
culmination, and mankind have to suffer much, but we shall reach
the goal some day, and become sole Caesars, and then will be the
time to think of universal happiness for men.

"'Thou couldst accept the glaive of Caesar Thyself; why didst
Thou reject the offer? By accepting from the powerful spirit his
third offer Thou would have realized every aspiration man seeketh
for himself on earth; man would have found a constant object for
worship; one to deliver his conscience up to, and one that should
unite all together into one common and harmonious ant-hill; for
an innate necessity for universal union constitutes the third and
final affliction of mankind. Humanity as a whole has ever aspired
to unite itself universally. Many were, the great nations with
great histories, but the greater they were, the more unhappy they
felt, as they felt the stronger necessity of a universal union
among men. Great conquerors, like Timoor and Tchengis-Khan,
passed like a cyclone upon the face of the earth in their efforts
to conquer the universe, but even they, albeit unconsciously,
expressed the same aspiration towards universal and common union.
In accepting the kingdom of the world and Caesar's purple, one
would found a universal kingdom and secure to mankind eternal
peace. And who can rule mankind better than those who have
possessed themselves of man's conscience, and hold in their hand
man's daily bread? Having accepted Caesar's glaive and purple, we
had, of course, but to deny Thee, to henceforth follow him alone.
Oh, centuries of intellectual riot and rebellious free thought
are yet before us, and their science will end by anthropophagy,
for having begun to build their Babylonian tower without our help
they will have to end by anthropophagy. But it is precisely at
that time that the Beast will crawl up to us in full submission,
and lick the soles of our feet, and sprinkle them with tears of
blood and we shall sit upon the scarlet-colored Beast, and
lifting up high the golden cup "full of abomination and
filthiness," shall show written upon it the word "Mystery"! But
it is only then that men will see the beginning of a kingdom of
peace and happiness. Thou art proud of Thine own elect, but Thou
has none other but these elect, and we--we will give rest to
all. But that is not the end. Many are those among thine elect
and the laborers of Thy vineyard, who, tired of waiting for Thy
coming, already have carried and will yet carry, the great fervor
of their hearts and their spiritual strength into another field,
and will end by lifting up against Thee Thine own banner of
freedom. But it is Thyself Thou hast to thank. Under our rule and
sway all will be happy, and will neither rebel nor destroy each
other as they did while under Thy free banner. Oh, we will take
good care to prove to them that they will become absolutely free
only when they have abjured their freedom in our favor and submit
to us absolutely. Thinkest Thou we shall be right or still lying?
They will convince themselves of our rightness, for they will see
what a depth of degrading slavery and strife that liberty of
Thine has led them into. Liberty, Freedom of Thought and
Conscience, and Science will lead them into such impassable
chasms, place them face to face before such wonders and insoluble
mysteries, that some of them--more rebellious and ferocious than
the rest--will destroy themselves; others--rebellious but weak
--will destroy each other; while the remainder, weak, helpless
and miserable, will crawl back to our feet and cry: "'Yes; right
were ye, oh Fathers of Jesus; ye alone are in possession of His
mystery, and we return to you, praying that ye save us from
ourselves!" Receiving their bread from us, they will clearly see
that we take the bread from them, the bread made by their own
hands, but to give it back to them in equal shares and that
without any miracle; and having ascertained that, though we have
not changed stones into bread, yet bread they have, while every
other bread turned verily in their own hands into stones, they
will be only to glad to have it so. Until that day, they will
never be happy. And who is it that helped the most to blind them,
tell me? Who separated the flock and scattered it over ways
unknown if it be not Thee? But we will gather the sheep once more
and subject them to our will for ever. We will prove to them
their own weakness and make them humble again, whilst with Thee
they have learnt but pride, for Thou hast made more of them than
they ever were worth. We will give them that quiet, humble
happiness, which alone benefits such weak, foolish creatures as
they are, and having once had proved to them their weakness, they
will become timid and obedient, and gather around us as chickens
around their hen. They will wonder at and feel a superstitious
admiration for us, and feel proud to be led by men so powerful
and wise that a handful of them can subject a flock a thousand
millions strong. Gradually men will begin to fear us. They will
nervously dread our slightest anger, their intellects will
weaken, their eyes become as easily accessible to tears as those
of children and women; but we will teach them an easy transition
from grief and tears to laughter, childish joy and mirthful song.
Yes; we will make them work like slaves, but during their
recreation hours they shall have an innocent child-like life,
full of play and merry laughter. We will even permit them sin,
for, weak and helpless, they will feel the more love for us for
permitting them to indulge in it. We will tell them that every
kind of sin will be remitted to them, so long as it is done with
our permission; that we take all these sins upon ourselves, for
we so love the world, that we are even willing to sacrifice our
souls for its satisfaction. And, appearing before them in the
light of their scapegoats and redeemers, we shall be adored the
more for it. They will have no secrets from us. It will rest with
us to permit them to live with their wives and concubines, or to
forbid them, to have children or remain childless, either way
depending on the degree of their obedience to us; and they will
submit most joyfully to us the most agonizing secrets of their
souls--all, all will they lay down at our feet, and we will
authorize and remit them all in Thy name, and they will believe
us and accept our mediation with rapture, as it will deliver them
from their greatest anxiety and torture--that of having to
decide freely for themselves. And all will be happy, all except
the one or two hundred thousands of their rulers. For it is but
we, we the keepers of the great Mystery who will be miserable.
There will be thousands of millions of happy infants, and one
hundred thousand martyrs who have taken upon themselves the curse
of knowledge of good and evil. Peaceable will be their end, and
peacefully will they die, in Thy name, to find behind the portals
of the grave--but death. But we will keep the secret inviolate,
and deceive them for their own good with the mirage of life
eternal in Thy kingdom. For, were there really anything like life
beyond the grave, surely it would never fall to the lot of such
as they! People tell us and prophesy of Thy coming and triumphing
once more on earth; of Thy appearing with the army of Thy elect,
with Thy proud and mighty ones; but we will answer Thee that they
have saved but themselves while we have saved all. We are also
threatened with the great disgrace which awaits the whore,
"Babylon the great, the mother of harlots"--who sits upon the
Beast, holding in her hands the Mystery, the word written upon
her forehead; and we are told that the weak ones, the lambs shall
rebel against her and shall make her desolate and naked. But then
will I arise, and point out to Thee the thousands of millions of
happy infants free from any sin. And we who have taken their sins
upon us, for their own good, shall stand before Thee and say:
"Judge us if Thou canst and darest!" Know then that I fear Thee
not. Know that I too have lived in the dreary wilderness, where I
fed upon locusts and roots, that I too have blessed freedom with
which thou hast blessed men, and that I too have once prepared to
join the ranks of Thy elect, the proud and the mighty. But I
awoke from my delusion and refused since then to serve insanity.
I returned to join the legion of those who corrected Thy
mistakes. I left the proud and returned to the really humble, and
for their own happiness. What I now tell thee will come to pass,
and our kingdom shall be built, I tell Thee not later than
to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock which at one simple
motion of my hand will rush to add burning coals to Thy stake, on
which I will burn Thee for having dared to come and trouble us in
our work. For, if there ever was one who deserved more than any
of the others our inquisitorial fires--it is Thee! To-morrow I
will burn Thee. Dixi'."

Ivan paused. He had entered into the situation and had spoken
with great animation, but now he suddenly burst out laughing.

"But all that is absurd!" suddenly exclaimed Alyosha, who had
hitherto listened perplexed and agitated but in profound silence.
"Your poem is a glorification of Christ, not an accusation, as
you, perhaps, meant to be. And who will believe you when you
speak of 'freedom'? Is it thus that we Christians must understand
it? It is Rome (not all Rome, for that would be unjust), but the
worst of the Roman Catholics, the Inquisitors and Jesuits, that
you have been exposing! Your Inquisitor is an impossible
character. What are these sins they are taking upon themselves?
Who are those keepers of mystery who took upon themselves a curse
for the good of mankind? Who ever met them? We all know the
Jesuits, and no one has a good word to say in their favor; but
when were they as you depict them? Never, never! The Jesuits are
merely a Romish army making ready for their future temporal
kingdom, with a mitred emperor--a Roman high priest at their
head. That is their ideal and object, without any mystery or
elevated suffering. The most prosaic thirsting for power, for the
sake of the mean and earthly pleasures of life, a desire to
enslave their fellow-men, something like our late system of
serfs, with themselves at the head as landed proprietors--that
is all that they can be accused of. They may not believe in God,
that is also possible, but your suffering Inquisitor is simply--
a fancy!"

"Hold, hold!" interrupted Ivan, smiling. "Do not be so excited. A
fancy, you say; be it so! Of course, it is a fancy. But stop. Do
you really imagine that all this Catholic movement during the
last centuries is naught but a desire for power for the mere
purpose of 'mean pleasures'? Is this what your Father Paissiy
taught you?"

"No, no, quite the reverse, for Father Paissiy once told me
something very similar to what you yourself say, though, of
course, not that--something quite different," suddenly added
Alexis, blushing.

"A precious piece of information, notwithstanding your 'not
that.' I ask you, why should the Inquisitors and the Jesuits of
your imagination live but for the attainment of 'mean material
pleasures?' Why should there not be found among them one single
genuine martyr suffering under a great and holy idea and loving
humanity with all his heart? Now let us suppose that among all
these Jesuits thirsting and hungering but after 'mean material
pleasures' there may be one, just one like my old Inquisitor, who
had himself fed upon roots in the wilderness, suffered the
tortures of damnation while trying to conquer flesh, in order to
become free and perfect, but who had never ceased to love
humanity, and who one day prophetically beheld the truth; who saw
as plain as he could see that the bulk of humanity could never be
happy under the old system, that it was not for them that the
great Idealist had come and died and dreamt of His Universal
Harmony. Having realized that truth, he returned into the world
and joined--intelligent and practical people. Is this so
impossible?"

"Joined whom? What intelligent and practical people?" exclaimed
Alyosha quite excited. "Why should they be more intelligent than
other men, and what secrets and mysteries can they have? They
have neither. Atheism and infidelity is all the secret they have.
Your Inquisitor does not believe in God, and that is all the
Mystery there is in it!"

"It may be so. You have guessed rightly there. And it is so, and
that is his whole secret; but is this not the acutest sufferings
for such a man as he, who killed all his young life in asceticism
in the desert, and yet could not cure himself of his love towards
his fellowmen? Toward the end of his life he becomes convinced
that it is only by following the advice of the great and terrible
spirit that the fate of these millions of weak rebels, these
'half-finished samples of humanity created in mockery' can be
made tolerable. And once convinced of it, he sees as clearly
that to achieve that object, one must follow blindly the guidance
of the wise spirit, the fearful spirit of death and destruction,
hence accept a system of lies and deception and lead humanity
consciously this time toward death and destruction, and moreover,
be deceiving them all the while in order to prevent them from
realizing where they are being led, and so force the miserable
blind men to feel happy, at least while here on earth. And note
this: a wholesale deception in the name of Him, in whose ideal
the old man had so passionately, so fervently, believed during
nearly his whole life! Is this no suffering? And were such a
solitary exception found amidst, and at the head of, that army
'that thirsts for power but for the sake of the mean pleasures of
life,' think you one such man would not suffice to bring on a
tragedy? Moreover, one single man like my Inquisitor as a
principal leader, would prove sufficient to discover the real
guiding idea of the Romish system with all its armies of Jesuits,
the greatest and chiefest conviction that the solitary type
described in my poem has at no time ever disappeared from among
the chief leaders of that movement. Who knows but that terrible
old man, loving humanity so stubbornly and in such an original
way, exists even in our days in the shape of a whole host of such
solitary exceptions, whose existence is not due to mere chance,
but to a well-defined association born of mutual consent, to a
secret league, organized several centuries back, in order to
guard the Mystery from the indiscreet eyes of the miserable and
weak people, and only in view of their own happiness? And so it
is; it cannot be otherwise. I suspect that even Masons have some
such Mystery underlying the basis of their organization, and that
it is just the reason why the Roman Catholic clergy hate them so,
dreading to find in them rivals, competition, the dismemberment
of the unity of the idea, for the realization of which one flock
and one Shepherd are needed. However, in defending my idea, I
look like an author whose production is unable to stand
criticism. Enough of this."

"You are, perhaps, a Mason yourself!" exclaimed Alyosha. "You do
not believe in God," he added, with a note of profound sadness in
his voice. But suddenly remarking that his brother was looking at
him with mockery, "How do you mean then to bring your poem to a
close?" he unexpectedly enquired, casting his eyes downward, "or
does it break off here?"

"My intention is to end it with the following scene: Having
disburdened his heart, the Inquisitor waits for some time to hear
his prisoner speak in His turn. His silence weighs upon him. He
has seen that his captive has been attentively listening to him
all the time, with His eyes fixed penetratingly and softly on the
face of his jailer, and evidently bent upon not replying to him.
The old man longs to hear His voice, to hear Him reply; better
words of bitterness and scorn than His silence. Suddenly He
rises; slowly and silently approaching the Inquisitor, He bends
towards him and softly kisses the bloodless, four-score and-ten-
year-old lips. That is all the answer. The Grand Inquisitor
shudders. There is a convulsive twitch at the corner of his
mouth. He goes to the door, opens it, and addressing Him, 'Go,'
he says, 'go, and return no more... do not come again... never,
never!' and--lets Him out into the dark night. The prisoner
vanishes."

"And the old man?"

"The kiss burns his heart, but the old man remains firm in his
own ideas and unbelief."

"And you, together with him? You too!" despairingly exclaimed
Alyosha, while Ivan burst into a still louder fit of laughter.


THE END.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 0:34 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

(1848)

The other day I saw a wedding... But no! I would rather tell you about
a Christmas tree. The wedding was superb. I liked it immensely. But
the other incident was still finer. I don't know why it is that the
sight of the wedding reminded me of the Christmas tree. This is the
way it happened:

Exactly five years ago, on New Year's Eve, I was invited to a
children's ball by a man high up in the business world, who had his
connections, his circle of acquaintances, and his intrigues. So it
seemed as though the children's ball was merely a pretext for the
parents to come together and discuss matters of interest to
themselves, quite innocently and casually.

I was an outsider, and, as I had no special matters to air, I was able
to spend the evening independently of the others. There was another
gentleman present who like myself had just stumbled upon this affair
of domestic bliss. He was the first to attract my attention. His
appearance was not that of a man of birth or high family. He was tall,
rather thin, very serious, and well dressed. Apparently he had no
heart for the family festivities. The instant he went off into a
corner by himself the smile disappeared from his face, and his thick
dark brows knitted into a frown. He knew no one except the host and
showed every sign of being bored to death, though bravely sustaining
the role of thorough enjoyment to the end. Later I learned that he was
a provincial, had come to the capital on some important, brain-racking
business, had brought a letter of recommendation to our host, and our
host had taken him under his protection, not at all _con amore_. It
was merely out of politeness that he had invited him to the children's
ball.

They did not play cards with him, they did not offer him cigars. No
one entered into conversation with him. Possibly they recognised the
bird by its feathers from a distance. Thus, my gentleman, not knowing
what to do with his hands, was compelled to spend the evening stroking
his whiskers. His whiskers were really fine, but he stroked them so
assiduously that one got the feeling that the whiskers had come into
the world first and afterwards the man in order to stroke them.

There was another guest who interested me. But he was of quite a
different order. He was a personage. They called him Julian
Mastakovich. At first glance one could tell he was an honoured guest
and stood in the same relation to the host as the host to the
gentleman of the whiskers. The host and hostess said no end of amiable
things to him, were most attentive, wining him, hovering over him,
bringing guests up to be introduced, but never leading him to any one
else. I noticed tears glisten in our host's eyes when Julian
Mastakovich remarked that he had rarely spent such a pleasant evening.
Somehow I began to feel uncomfortable in this personage's presence.
So, after amusing myself with the children, five of whom, remarkably
well-fed young persons, were our host's, I went into a little
sitting-room, entirely unoccupied, and seated myself at the end that
was a conservatory and took up almost half the room.

The children were charming. They absolutely refused to resemble their
elders, notwithstanding the efforts of mothers and governesses. In a
jiffy they had denuded the Christmas tree down to the very last sweet
and had already succeeded in breaking half of their playthings before
they even found out which belonged to whom.

One of them was a particularly handsome little lad, dark-eyed,
curly-haired, who stubbornly persisted in aiming at me with his wooden
gun. But the child that attracted the greatest attention was his
sister, a girl of about eleven, lovely as a Cupid. She was quiet and
thoughtful, with large, full, dreamy eyes. The children had somehow
offended her, and she left them and walked into the same room that I
had withdrawn into. There she seated herself with her doll in a
corner.

"Her father is an immensely wealthy business man," the guests informed
each other in tones of awe. "Three hundred thousand rubles set aside
for her dowry already."

As I turned to look at the group from which I heard this news item
issuing, my glance met Julian Mastakovich's. He stood listening to the
insipid chatter in an attitude of concentrated attention, with his
hands behind his back and his head inclined to one side.

All the while I was quite lost in admiration of the shrewdness our
host displayed in the dispensing of the gifts. The little maid of the
many-rubied dowry received the handsomest doll, and the rest of the
gifts were graded in value according to the diminishing scale of the
parents' stations in life. The last child, a tiny chap of ten, thin,
red-haired, freckled, came into possession of a small book of nature
stories without illustrations or even head and tail pieces. He was the
governess's child. She was a poor widow, and her little boy, clad in a
sorry-looking little nankeen jacket, looked thoroughly crushed and
intimidated. He took the book of nature stories and circled slowly
about the children's toys. He would have given anything to play with
them. But he did not dare to. You could tell he already knew his
place.

I like to observe children. It is fascinating to watch the
individuality in them struggling for self-assertion. I could see that
the other children's things had tremendous charm for the red-haired
boy, especially a toy theatre, in which he was so anxious to take a
part that he resolved to fawn upon the other children. He smiled and
began to play with them. His one and only apple he handed over to a
puffy urchin whose pockets were already crammed with sweets, and he
even carried another youngster pickaback--all simply that he might be
allowed to stay with the theatre.

But in a few moments an impudent young person fell on him and gave him
a pummelling. He did not dare even to cry. The governess came and told
him to leave off interfering with the other children's games, and he
crept away to the same room the little girl and I were in. She let him
sit down beside her, and the two set themselves busily dressing the
expensive doll.

Almost half an hour passed, and I was nearly dozing off, as I sat
there in the conservatory half listening to the chatter of the
red-haired boy and the dowered beauty, when Julian Mastakovich entered
suddenly. He had slipped out of the drawing-room under cover of a
noisy scene among the children. From my secluded corner it had not
escaped my notice that a few moments before he had been eagerly
conversing with the rich girl's father, to whom he had only just been
introduced.

He stood still for a while reflecting and mumbling to himself, as if
counting something on his fingers.

"Three hundred--three hundred--eleven--twelve--thirteen--sixteen--in
five years! Let's say four per cent--five times twelve--sixty, and on
these sixty----. Let us assume that in five years it will amount
to--well, four hundred. Hm--hm! But the shrewd old fox isn't likely to
be satisfied with four per cent. He gets eight or even ten, perhaps.
Let's suppose five hundred, five hundred thousand, at least, that's
sure. Anything above that for pocket money--hm--"

He blew his nose and was about to leave the room when he spied the
girl and stood still. I, behind the plants, escaped his notice. He
seemed to me to be quivering with excitement. It must have been his
calculations that upset him so. He rubbed his hands and danced from
place to place, and kept getting more and more excited. Finally,
however, he conquered his emotions and came to a standstill. He cast a
determined look at the future bride and wanted to move toward her, but
glanced about first. Then, as if with a guilty conscience, he stepped
over to the child on tip-toe, smiling, and bent down and kissed her
head.

His coming was so unexpected that she uttered a shriek of alarm.

"What are you doing here, dear child?" he whispered, looking around
and pinching her cheek.

"We're playing."

"What, with him?" said Julian Mastakovich with a look askance at the
governess's child. "You should go into the drawing-room, my lad," he
said to him.

The boy remained silent and looked up at the man with wide-open eyes.
Julian Mastakovich glanced round again cautiously and bent down over
the girl.

"What have you got, a doll, my dear?"

"Yes, sir." The child quailed a little, and her brow wrinkled.

"A doll? And do you know, my dear, what dolls are made of?"

"No, sir," she said weakly, and lowered her head.

"Out of rags, my dear. You, boy, you go back to the drawing-room, to
the children," said Julian Mastakovich looking at the boy sternly.

The two children frowned. They caught hold of each other and would not
part.

"And do you know why they gave you the doll?" asked Julian
Mastakovich, dropping his voice lower and lower.

"No."

"Because you were a good, very good little girl the whole week."

Saying which, Julian Mastakovich was seized with a paroxysm of
agitation. He looked round and said in a tone faint, almost inaudible
with excitement and impatience:

"If I come to visit your parents will you love me, my dear?"

He tried to kiss the sweet little creature, but the red-haired boy saw
that she was on the verge of tears, and he caught her hand and sobbed
out loud in sympathy. That enraged the man.

"Go away! Go away! Go back to the other room, to your playmates."

"I don't want him to. I don't want him to! You go away!" cried the
girl. "Let him alone! Let him alone!" She was almost weeping.

There was a sound of footsteps in the doorway. Julian Mastakovich
started and straightened up his respectable body. The red-haired boy
was even more alarmed. He let go the girl's hand, sidled along the
wall, and escaped through the drawing-room into the dining-room.

Not to attract attention, Julian Mastakovich also made for the
dining-room. He was red as a lobster. The sight of himself in a mirror
seemed to embarrass him. Presumably he was annoyed at his own ardour
and impatience. Without due respect to his importance and dignity, his
calculations had lured and pricked him to the greedy eagerness of a
boy, who makes straight for his object--though this was not as yet an
object; it only would be so in five years' time. I followed the worthy
man into the dining-room, where I witnessed a remarkable play.

Julian Mastakovich, all flushed with vexation, venom in his look,
began to threaten the red-haired boy. The red-haired boy retreated
farther and farther until there was no place left for him to retreat
to, and he did not know where to turn in his fright.

"Get out of here! What are you doing here? Get out, I say, you
good-for-nothing! Stealing fruit, are you? Oh, so, stealing fruit! Get
out, you freckle face, go to your likes!"

The frightened child, as a last desperate resort, crawled quickly
under the table. His persecutor, completely infuriated, pulled out his
large linen handkerchief and used it as a lash to drive the boy out of
his position.

Here I must remark that Julian Mastakovich was a somewhat corpulent
man, heavy, well-fed, puffy-cheeked, with a paunch and ankles as round
as nuts. He perspired and puffed and panted. So strong was his dislike
(or was it jealousy?) of the child that he actually began to carry on
like a madman.

I laughed heartily. Julian Mastakovich turned. He was utterly confused
and for a moment, apparently, quite oblivious of his immense
importance. At that moment our host appeared in the doorway opposite.
The boy crawled out from under the table and wiped his knees and
elbows. Julian Mastakovich hastened to carry his handkerchief, which
he had been dangling by the corner, to his nose. Our host looked at
the three of us rather suspiciously. But, like a man who knows the
world and can readily adjust himself, he seized upon the opportunity
to lay hold of his very valuable guest and get what he wanted out of
him.

"Here's the boy I was talking to you about," he said, indicating the
red-haired child. "I took the liberty of presuming on your goodness in
his behalf."

"Oh," replied Julian Mastakovich, still not quite master of himself.

"He's my governess's son," our host continued in a beseeching tone.
"She's a poor creature, the widow of an honest official. That's why,
if it were possible for you--"

"Impossible, impossible!" Julian Mastakovich cried hastily. "You must
excuse me, Philip Alexeyevich, I really cannot. I've made inquiries.
There are no vacancies, and there is a waiting list of ten who have a
greater right--I'm sorry."

"Too bad," said our host. "He's a quiet, unobtrusive child."

"A very naughty little rascal, I should say," said Julian Mastakovich,
wryly. "Go away, boy. Why are you here still? Be off with you to the
other children."

Unable to control himself, he gave me a sidelong glance. Nor could I
control myself. I laughed straight in his face. He turned away and
asked our host, in tones quite audible to me, who that odd young
fellow was. They whispered to each other and left the room,
disregarding me.

I shook with laughter. Then I, too, went to the drawing-room. There
the great man, already surrounded by the fathers and mothers and the
host and the hostess, had begun to talk eagerly with a lady to whom he
had just been introduced. The lady held the rich little girl's hand.
Julian Mastakovich went into fulsome praise of her. He waxed ecstatic
over the dear child's beauty, her talents, her grace, her excellent
breeding, plainly laying himself out to flatter the mother, who
listened scarcely able to restrain tears of joy, while the father
showed his delight by a gratified smile.

The joy was contagious. Everybody shared in it. Even the children were
obliged to stop playing so as not to disturb the conversation. The
atmosphere was surcharged with awe. I heard the mother of the
important little girl, touched to her profoundest depths, ask Julian
Mastakovich in the choicest language of courtesy, whether he would
honour them by coming to see them. I heard Julian Mastakovich accept
the invitation with unfeigned enthusiasm. Then the guests scattered
decorously to different parts of the room, and I heard them, with
veneration in their tones, extol the business man, the business man's
wife, the business man's daughter, and, especially, Julian
Mastakovich.

"Is he married?" I asked out loud of an acquaintance of mine standing
beside Julian Mastakovich.

Julian Mastakovich gave me a venomous look.

"No," answered my acquaintance, profoundly shocked by
my--intentional--indiscretion.

* * * * *

Not long ago I passed the Church of----. I was struck by the concourse
of people gathered there to witness a wedding. It was a dreary day. A
drizzling rain was beginning to come down. I made my way through the
throng into the church. The bridegroom was a round, well-fed,
pot-bellied little man, very much dressed up. He ran and fussed about
and gave orders and arranged things. Finally word was passed that the
bride was coming. I pushed through the crowd, and I beheld a
marvellous beauty whose first spring was scarcely commencing. But the
beauty was pale and sad. She looked distracted. It seemed to me even
that her eyes were red from recent weeping. The classic severity of
every line of her face imparted a peculiar significance and solemnity
to her beauty. But through that severity and solemnity, through the
sadness, shone the innocence of a child. There was something
inexpressibly naïve, unsettled and young in her features, which,
without words, seemed to plead for mercy.

They said she was just sixteen years old. I looked at the bridegroom
carefully. Suddenly I recognised Julian Mastakovich, whom I had not
seen again in all those five years. Then I looked at the bride
again.--Good God! I made my way, as quickly as I could, out of the
church. I heard gossiping in the crowd about the bride's wealth--about
her dowry of five hundred thousand rubles--so and so much for pocket
money.

"Then his calculations were correct," I thought, as I pressed out into
the street.

[ بیست و چهارم آذر 1386 ] [ 0:29 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]
ترجمه جدید دکتر صالح حسینی با نام «زیر کوه آتشفشان» به بازار آمد.

مشخصات کتاب:

نویسنده: مالکولم لاوری

ترجمه: دکتر صالح حسینی

انتشارات نیلوفر

سال انتشار: تابستان ۱۳۸۶

قیمت روی جلد: ۶۵۰۰ تومان


در این رمان طرح کلی داستان محور اصلی نیست. کاربرد شیوه ی باز گشت به گذشته، تک گوییهای درونی طولانی و استفاده از نماد به نحوی برجسته، از ویژگیهای کار اوست اما کتاب متأثر از سنتی است که با اولیس آغاز شد. فرض بر این است که تا سال ۱۹۴۷ دیگر فهم و هضم رمان اولیس برای همه ی خوانندگان روشنفکر و نیز ناشرانی که آن را چاپ کرده اند، آسان شده باشد اما کافی است فقط متن نامه هایی را که بین لاوری و ناشرش رد و بدل شده بخوانید تا بفهمید که چگونه در فهم اهداف هنری او قصور شده است.

چه بسا که تا پیش از پایان قرن بیستم، رمان زیر کوه آتشفشان به عنوان یکی از چند شاهکار بس معتبر این قرن قلمداد شود.

آنتونی برجیس، ۹۹ رمان برگزیده ی معاصر

[ بیست و سوم آذر 1386 ] [ 23:59 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

Chapter 15


PART III
CHAPTER I
Raskolnikov got up, and sat down on the sofa. He waved his hand weakly to Razumihin to cut short the flow of warm and incoherent consolations he was addressing to his mother and sister, took them both by the hand and for a minute or two gazed from one to the other without speaking. His mother was alarmed by his expression. It revealed an emotion agonisingly poignant, and at the same time something immovable, almost insane. Pulcheria Alexandrovna began to cry.

Avdotya Romanovna was pale; her hand trembled in her brother's.

"Go home . . . with him," he said in a broken voice, pointing to Razumihin, "good-bye till to-morrow; to-morrow everything . . . Is it long since you arrived?"

"This evening, Rodya," answered Pulcheria Alexandrovna, "the train was awfully late. But, Rodya, nothing would induce me to leave you now! I will spend the night here, near you . . ."

"Don't torture me!" he said with a gesture of irritation.

"I will stay with him," cried Razumihin, "I won't leave him for a moment. Bother all my visitors! Let them rage to their hearts' content! My uncle is presiding there."

"How, how can I thank you!" Pulcheria Alexandrovna was beginning, once more pressing Razumihin's hands, but Raskolnikov interrupted her again.

"I can't have it! I can't have it!" he repeated irritably, "don't worry me! Enough, go away . . . I can't stand it!"

"Come, mamma, come out of the room at least for a minute," Dounia whispered in dismay; "we are distressing him, that's evident."

"Mayn't I look at him after three years?" wept Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

"Stay," he stopped them again, "you keep interrupting me, and my ideas get muddled. . . . Have you seen Luzhin?"

"No, Rodya, but he knows already of our arrival. We have heard, Rodya, that Pyotr Petrovitch was so kind as to visit you today," Pulcheria Alexandrovna added somewhat timidly.

"Yes . . . he was so kind . . . Dounia, I promised Luzhin I'd throw him downstairs and told him to go to hell. . . ."

"Rodya, what are you saying! Surely, you don't mean to tell us . . ." Pulcheria Alexandrovna began in alarm, but she stopped, looking at Dounia.

Avdotya Romanovna was looking attentively at her brother, waiting for what would come next. Both of them had heard of the quarrel from Nastasya, so far as she had succeeded in understanding and reporting it, and were in painful perplexity and suspense.

"Dounia," Raskolnikov continued with an effort, "I don't want that marriage, so at the first opportunity to-morrow you must refuse Luzhin, so that we may never hear his name again."

"Good Heavens!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

"Brother, think what you are saying!" Avdotya Romanovna began impetuously, but immediately checked herself. "You are not fit to talk now, perhaps; you are tired," she added gently.

"You think I am delirious? No . . . You are marrying Luzhin for /my/ sake. But I won't accept the sacrifice. And so write a letter before to-morrow, to refuse him . . . Let me read it in the morning and that will be the end of it!"

"That I can't do!" the girl cried, offended, "what right have you . . ."

"Dounia, you are hasty, too, be quiet, to-morrow . . . Don't you see. ." the mother interposed in dismay. "Better come away!"

"He is raving," Razumihin cried tipsily, "or how would he dare! To-morrow all this nonsense will be over . . . to-day he certainly did drive him away. That was so. And Luzhin got angry, too. . . . He made speeches here, wanted to show off his learning and he went out crest- fallen. . . ."

"Then it's true?" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

"Good-bye till to-morrow, brother," said Dounia compassionately--"let us go, mother . . . Good-bye, Rodya."

"Do you hear, sister," he repeated after them, making a last effort, "I am not delirious; this marriage is--an infamy. Let me act like a scoundrel, but you mustn't . . . one is enough . . . and though I am a scoundrel, I wouldn't own such a sister. It's me or Luzhin! Go now. . . ."

"But you're out of your mind! Despot!" roared Razumihin; but Raskolnikov did not and perhaps could not answer. He lay down on the sofa, and turned to the wall, utterly exhausted. Avdotya Romanovna looked with interest at Razumihin; her black eyes flashed; Razumihin positively started at her glance.

Pulcheria Alexandrovna stood overwhelmed.

"Nothing would induce me to go," she whispered in despair to Razumihin. "I will stay somewhere here . . . escort Dounia home."

"You'll spoil everything," Razumihin answered in the same whisper, losing patience--"come out on to the stairs, anyway. Nastasya, show a light! I assure you," he went on in a half whisper on the stairs- "that he was almost beating the doctor and me this afternoon! Do you understand? The doctor himself! Even he gave way and left him, so as not to irritate him. I remained downstairs on guard, but he dressed at once and slipped off. And he will slip off again if you irritate him, at this time of night, and will do himself some mischief. . . ."

"What are you saying?"

"And Avdotya Romanovna can't possibly be left in those lodgings without you. Just think where you are staying! That blackguard Pyotr Petrovitch couldn't find you better lodgings . . . But you know I've had a little to drink, and that's what makes me . . . swear; don't mind it. . . ."

"But I'll go to the landlady here," Pulcheria Alexandrovna insisted, "Ill beseech her to find some corner for Dounia and me for the night. I can't leave him like that, I cannot!"

This conversation took place on the landing just before the landlady's door. Nastasya lighted them from a step below. Razumihin was in extraordinary excitement. Half an hour earlier, while he was bringing Raskolnikov home, he had indeed talked too freely, but he was aware of it himself, and his head was clear in spite of the vast quantities he had imbibed. Now he was in a state bordering on ecstasy, and all that he had drunk seemed to fly to his head with redoubled effect. He stood with the two ladies, seizing both by their hands, persuading them, and giving them reasons with astonishing plainness of speech, and at almost every word he uttered, probably to emphasise his arguments, he squeezed their hands painfully as in a vise. He stared at Avdotya Romanovna without the least regard for good manners. They sometimes pulled their hands out of his huge bony paws, but far from noticing what was the matter, he drew them all the closer to him. If they'd told him to jump head foremost from the staircase, he would have done it without thought or hesitation in their service. Though Pulcheria Alexandrovna felt that the young man was really too eccentric and pinched her hand too much, in her anxiety over her Rodya she looked on his presence as providential, and was unwilling to notice all his peculiarities. But though Avdotya Romanovna shared her anxiety, and was not of timorous disposition, she could not see the glowing light in his eyes without wonder and almost alarm. It was only the unbounded confidence inspired by Nastasya's account of her brother's queer friend, which prevented her from trying to run away from him, and to persuade her mother to do the same. She realised, too, that even running away was perhaps impossible now. Ten minutes later, however, she was considerably reassured; it was characteristic of Razumihin that he showed his true nature at once, whatever mood he might be in, so that people quickly saw the sort of man they had to deal with.

"You can't go to the landlady, that's perfect nonsense!" he cried. "If you stay, though you are his mother, you'll drive him to a frenzy, and then goodness knows what will happen! Listen, I'll tell you what I'll do: Nastasya will stay with him now, and I'll conduct you both home, you can't be in the streets alone; Petersburg is an awful place in that way. . . . But no matter! Then I'll run straight back here and a quarter of an hour later, on my word of honour, I'll bring you news how he is, whether he is asleep, and all that. Then, listen! Then I'll run home in a twinkling--I've a lot of friends there, all drunk--I'll fetch Zossimov--that's the doctor who is looking after him, he is there, too, but he is not drunk; he is not drunk, he is never drunk! I'll drag him to Rodya, and then to you, so that you'll get two reports in the hour--from the doctor, you understand, from the doctor himself, that's a very different thing from my account of him! If there's anything wrong, I swear I'll bring you here myself, but, if it's all right, you go to bed. And I'll spend the night here, in the passage, he won't hear me, and I'll tell Zossimov to sleep at the landlady's, to be at hand. Which is better for him: you or the doctor? So come home then! But the landlady is out of the question; it's all right for me, but it's out of the question for you: she wouldn't take you, for she's . . . for she's a fool . . . She'd be jealous on my account of Avdotya Romanovna and of you, too, if you want to know. . of Avdotya Romanovna certainly. She is an absolutely, absolutely unaccountable character! But I am a fool, too! . . . No matter! Come along! Do you trust me? Come, do you trust me or not?"

"Let us go, mother," said Avdotya Romanovna, "he will certainly do what he has promised. He has saved Rodya already, and if the doctor really will consent to spend the night here, what could be better?"

"You see, you . . . you . . . understand me, because you are an angel!" Razumihin cried in ecstasy, "let us go! Nastasya! Fly upstairs and sit with him with a light; I'll come in a quarter of an hour."

Though Pulcheria Alexandrovna was not perfectly convinced, she made no further resistance. Razumihin gave an arm to each and drew them down the stairs. He still made her uneasy, as though he was competent and good-natured, was he capable of carrying out his promise? He seemed in such a condition. . . .

"Ah, I see you think I am in such a condition!" Razumihin broke in upon her thoughts, guessing them, as he strolled along the pavement with huge steps, so that the two ladies could hardly keep up with him, a fact he did not observe, however. "Nonsense! That is . . . I am drunk like a fool, but that's not it; I am not drunk from wine. It's seeing you has turned my head . . . But don't mind me! Don't take any notice: I am talking nonsense, I am not worthy of you. . . . I am utterly unworthy of you! The minute I've taken you home, I'll pour a couple of pailfuls of water over my head in the gutter here, and then I shall be all right. . . . If only you knew how I love you both! Don't laugh, and don't be angry! You may be angry with anyone, but not with me! I am his friend, and therefore I am your friend, too, I want to be . . . I had a presentiment . . . Last year there was a moment. . though it wasn't a presentiment really, for you seem to have fallen from heaven. And I expect I shan't sleep all night . . . Zossimov was afraid a little time ago that he would go mad . . . that's why he mustn't be irritated."

"What do you say?" cried the mother.

"Did the doctor really say that?" asked Avdotya Romanovna, alarmed.

"Yes, but it's not so, not a bit of it. He gave him some medicine, a powder, I saw it, and then your coming here. . . . Ah! It would have been better if you had come to-morrow. It's a good thing we went away. And in an hour Zossimov himself will report to you about everything. He is not drunk! And I shan't be drunk. . . . And what made me get so tight? Because they got me into an argument, damn them! I've sworn never to argue! They talk such trash! I almost came to blows! I've left my uncle to preside. Would you believe, they insist on complete absence of individualism and that's just what they relish! Not to be themselves, to be as unlike themselves as they can. That's what they regard as the highest point of progress. If only their nonsense were their own, but as it is . . ."

"Listen!" Pulcheria Alexandrovna interrupted timidly, but it only added fuel to the flames.

"What do you think?" shouted Razumihin, louder than ever, "you think I am attacking them for talking nonsense? Not a bit! I like them to talk nonsense. That's man's one privilege over all creation. Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen. And a fine thing, too, in its way; but we can't even make mistakes on our own account! Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I'll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's. In the first case you are a man, in the second you're no better than a bird. Truth won't escape you, but life can be cramped. There have been examples. And what are we doing now? In science, development, thought, invention, ideals, aims, liberalism, judgment, experience and everything, everything, everything, we are still in the preparatory class at school. We prefer to live on other people's ideas, it's what we are used to! Am I right, am I right?" cried Razumihin, pressing and shaking the two ladies' hands.

"Oh, mercy, I do not know," cried poor Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

"Yes, yes . . . though I don't agree with you in everything," added Avdotya Romanovna earnestly and at once uttered a cry, for he squeezed her hand so painfully.

"Yes, you say yes . . . well after that you . . . you . . ." he cried in a transport, "you are a fount of goodness, purity, sense . . . and perfection. Give me your hand . . . you give me yours, too! I want to kiss your hands here at once, on my knees . . ." and he fell on his knees on the pavement, fortunately at that time deserted.

"Leave off, I entreat you, what are you doing?" Pulcheria Alexandrovna cried, greatly distressed.

"Get up, get up!" said Dounia laughing, though she, too, was upset.

"Not for anything till you let me kiss your hands! That's it! Enough! I get up and we'll go on! I am a luckless fool, I am unworthy of you and drunk . . . and I am ashamed. . . . I am not worthy to love you, but to do homage to you is the duty of every man who is not a perfect beast! And I've done homage. . . . Here are your lodgings, and for that alone Rodya was right in driving your Pyotr Petrovitch away.. . How dare he! how dare he put you in such lodgings! It's a scandal! Do you know the sort of people they take in here? And you his betrothed! You are his betrothed? Yes? Well, then, I'll tell you, your /fiancé/ is a scoundrel."

"Excuse me, Mr. Razumihin, you are forgetting . . ." Pulcheria Alexandrovna was beginning.

"Yes, yes, you are right, I did forget myself, I am ashamed of it," Razumihin made haste to apologise. "But . . . but you can't be angry with me for speaking so! For I speak sincerely and not because . . . hm, hm! That would be disgraceful; in fact not because I'm in . . . hm! Well, anyway, I won't say why, I daren't. . . . But we all saw to-day when he came in that that man is not of our sort. Not because he had his hair curled at the barber's, not because he was in such a hurry to show his wit, but because he is a spy, a speculator, because he is a skin-flint and a buffoon. That's evident. Do you think him clever? No, he is a fool, a fool. And is he a match for you? Good heavens! Do you see, ladies?" he stopped suddenly on the way upstairs to their rooms, "though all my friends there are drunk, yet they are all honest, and though we do talk a lot of trash, and I do, too, yet we shall talk our way to the truth at last, for we are on the right path, while Pyotr Petrovitch . . . is not on the right path. Though I've been calling them all sorts of names just now, I do respect them all . . . though I don't respect Zametov, I like him, for he is a puppy, and that bullock Zossimov, because he is an honest man and knows his work. But enough, it's all said and forgiven. Is it forgiven? Well, then, let's go on. I know this corridor, I've been here, there was a scandal here at Number 3. . . . Where are you here? Which number? eight? Well, lock yourselves in for the night, then. Don't let anybody in. In a quarter of an hour I'll come back with news, and half an hour later I'll bring Zossimov, you'll see! Good- bye, I'll run."

"Good heavens, Dounia, what is going to happen?" said Pulcheria Alexandrovna, addressing her daughter with anxiety and dismay.

"Don't worry yourself, mother," said Dounia, taking off her hat and cape. "God has sent this gentleman to our aid, though he has come from a drinking party. We can depend on him, I assure you. And all that he has done for Rodya. . . ."

"Ah. Dounia, goodness knows whether he will come! How could I bring myself to leave Rodya? . . . And how different, how different I had fancied our meeting! How sullen he was, as though not pleased to see us. . . ."

Tears came into her eyes.

"No, it's not that, mother. You didn't see, you were crying all the time. He is quite unhinged by serious illness--that's the reason."

"Ah, that illness! What will happen, what will happen? And how he talked to you, Dounia!" said the mother, looking timidly at her daughter, trying to read her thoughts and, already half consoled by Dounia's standing up for her brother, which meant that she had already forgiven him. "I am sure he will think better of it to-morrow," she added, probing her further.

"And I am sure that he will say the same to-morrow . . . about that," Avdotya Romanovna said finally. And, of course, there was no going beyond that, for this was a point which Pulcheria Alexandrovna was afraid to discuss. Dounia went up and kissed her mother. The latter warmly embraced her without speaking. Then she sat down to wait anxiously for Razumihin's return, timidly watching her daughter who walked up and down the room with her arms folded, lost in thought. This walking up and down when she was thinking was a habit of Avdotya Romanovna's and the mother was always afraid to break in on her daughter's mood at such moments.

Razumihin, of course, was ridiculous in his sudden drunken infatuation for Avdotya Romanovna. Yet apart from his eccentric condition, many people would have thought it justified if they had seen Avdotya Romanovna, especially at that moment when she was walking to and fro with folded arms, pensive and melancholy. Avdotya Romanovna was remarkably good looking; she was tall, strikingly well-proportioned, strong and self-reliant--the latter quality was apparent in every gesture, though it did not in the least detract from the grace and softness of her movements. In face she resembled her brother, but she might be described as really beautiful. Her hair was dark brown, a little lighter than her brother's; there was a proud light in her almost black eyes and yet at times a look of extraordinary kindness. She was pale, but it was a healthy pallor; her face was radiant with freshness and vigour. Her mouth was rather small; the full red lower lip projected a little as did her chin; it was the only irregularity in her beautiful face, but it gave it a peculiarly individual and almost haughty expression. Her face was always more serious and thoughtful than gay; but how well smiles, how well youthful, lighthearted, irresponsible, laughter suited her face! It was natural enough that a warm, open, simple-hearted, honest giant like Razumihin, who had never seen anyone like her and was not quite sober at the time, should lose his head immediately. Besides, as chance would have it, he saw Dounia for the first time transfigured by her love for her brother and her joy at meeting him. Afterwards he saw her lower lip quiver with indignation at her brother's insolent, cruel and ungrateful words--and his fate was sealed.

He had spoken the truth, moreover, when he blurted out in his drunken talk on the stairs that Praskovya Pavlovna, Raskolnikov's eccentric landlady, would be jealous of Pulcheria Alexandrovna as well as of Avdotya Romanovna on his account. Although Pulcheria Alexandrovna was forty-three, her face still retained traces of her former beauty; she looked much younger than her age, indeed, which is almost always the case with women who retain serenity of spirit, sensitiveness and pure sincere warmth of heart to old age. We may add in parenthesis that to preserve all this is the only means of retaining beauty to old age. Her hair had begun to grow grey and thin, there had long been little crow's foot wrinkles round her eyes, her cheeks were hollow and sunken from anxiety and grief, and yet it was a handsome face. She was Dounia over again, twenty years older, but without the projecting underlip. Pulcheria Alexandrovna was emotional, but not sentimental, timid and yielding, but only to a certain point. She could give way and accept a great deal even of what was contrary to her convictions, but there was a certain barrier fixed by honesty, principle and the deepest convictions which nothing would induce her to cross.

Exactly twenty minutes after Razumihin's departure, there came two subdued but hurried knocks at the door: he had come back.

"I won't come in, I haven't time," he hastened to say when the door was opened. "He sleeps like a top, soundly, quietly, and God grant he may sleep ten hours. Nastasya's with him; I told her not to leave till I came. Now I am fetching Zossimov, he will report to you and then you'd better turn in; I can see you are too tired to do anything. . . ."

And he ran off down the corridor.

"What a very competent and . . . devoted young man!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna exceedingly delighted.

"He seems a splendid person!" Avdotya Romanovna replied with some warmth, resuming her walk up and down the room.

It was nearly an hour later when they heard footsteps in the corridor and another knock at the door. Both women waited this time completely relying on Razumihin's promise; he actually had succeeded in bringing Zossimov. Zossimov had agreed at once to desert the drinking party to go to Raskolnikov's, but he came reluctantly and with the greatest suspicion to see the ladies, mistrusting Razumihin in his exhilarated condition. But his vanity was at once reassured and flattered; he saw that they were really expecting him as an oracle. He stayed just ten minutes and succeeded in completely convincing and comforting Pulcheria Alexandrovna. He spoke with marked sympathy, but with the reserve and extreme seriousness of a young doctor at an important consultation. He did not utter a word on any other subject and did not display the slightest desire to enter into more personal relations with the two ladies. Remarking at his first entrance the dazzling beauty of Avdotya Romanovna, he endeavoured not to notice her at all during his visit and addressed himself solely to Pulcheria Alexandrovna. All this gave him extraordinary inward satisfaction. He declared that he thought the invalid at this moment going on very satisfactorily. According to his observations the patient's illness was due partly to his unfortunate material surroundings during the last few months, but it had partly also a moral origin, "was, so to speak, the product of several material and moral influences, anxieties, apprehensions, troubles, certain ideas . . . and so on." Noticing stealthily that Avdotya Romanovna was following his words with close attention, Zossimov allowed himself to enlarge on this theme. On Pulcheria Alexandrovna's anxiously and timidly inquiring as to "some suspicion of insanity," he replied with a composed and candid smile that his words had been exaggerated; that certainly the patient had some fixed idea, something approaching a monomania--he, Zossimov, was now particularly studying this interesting branch of medicine--but that it must be recollected that until to-day the patient had been in delirium and . . . and that no doubt the presence of his family would have a favourable effect on his recovery and distract his mind, "if only all fresh shocks can be avoided," he added significantly. Then he got up, took leave with an impressive and affable bow, while blessings, warm gratitude, and entreaties were showered upon him, and Avdotya Romanovna spontaneously offered her hand to him. He went out exceedingly pleased with his visit and still more so with himself.

"We'll talk to-morrow; go to bed at once!" Razumihin said in conclusion, following Zossimov out. "I'll be with you to-morrow morning as early as possible with my report."

"That's a fetching little girl, Avdotya Romanovna," remarked Zossimov, almost licking his lips as they both came out into the street.

"Fetching? You said fetching?" roared Razumihin and he flew at Zossimov and seized him by the throat. "If you ever dare. . . . Do you understand? Do you understand?" he shouted, shaking him by the collar and squeezing him against the wall. "Do you hear?"

"Let me go, you drunken devil," said Zossimov, struggling and when he had let him go, he stared at him and went off into a sudden guffaw. Razumihin stood facing him in gloomy and earnest reflection.

"Of course, I am an ass," he observed, sombre as a storm cloud, "but still . . . you are another."

"No, brother, not at all such another. I am not dreaming of any folly."

They walked along in silence and only when they were close to Raskolnikov's lodgings, Razumihin broke the silence in considerable anxiety.

"Listen," he said, "you're a first-rate fellow, but among your other failings, you're a loose fish, that I know, and a dirty one, too. You are a feeble, nervous wretch, and a mass of whims, you're getting fat and lazy and can't deny yourself anything--and I call that dirty because it leads one straight into the dirt. You've let yourself get so slack that I don't know how it is you are still a good, even a devoted doctor. You--a doctor--sleep on a feather bed and get up at night to your patients! In another three or four years you won't get up for your patients . . . But hang it all, that's not the point!. . You are going to spend to-night in the landlady's flat here. (Hard work I've had to persuade her!) And I'll be in the kitchen. So here's a chance for you to get to know her better. . . . It's not as you think! There's not a trace of anything of the sort, brother . . .!"

"But I don't think!"

"Here you have modesty, brother, silence, bashfulness, a savage virtue. . and yet she's sighing and melting like wax, simply melting! Save me from her, by all that's unholy! She's most prepossessing . . . I'll repay you, I'll do anything. . . ."

Zossimov laughed more violently than ever.

"Well, you are smitten! But what am I to do with her?"

"It won't be much trouble, I assure you. Talk any rot you like to her, as long as you sit by her and talk. You're a doctor, too; try curing her of something. I swear you won't regret it. She has a piano, and you know, I strum a little. I have a song there, a genuine Russian one: 'I shed hot tears.' She likes the genuine article--and well, it all began with that song; Now you're a regular performer, a /maître/, a Rubinstein. . . . I assure you, you won't regret it!"

"But have you made her some promise? Something signed? A promise of marriage, perhaps?"

"Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of the kind! Besides she is not that sort at all. . . . Tchebarov tried that. . . ."

"Well then, drop her!"

"But I can't drop her like that!"

"Why can't you?"

"Well, I can't, that's all about it! There's an element of attraction here, brother."

"Then why have you fascinated her?"

"I haven't fascinated her; perhaps I was fascinated myself in my folly. But she won't care a straw whether it's you or I, so long as somebody sits beside her, sighing. . . . I can't explain the position, brother . . . look here, you are good at mathematics, and working at it now . . . begin teaching her the integral calculus; upon my soul, I'm not joking, I'm in earnest, it'll be just the same to her. She will gaze at you and sigh for a whole year together. I talked to her once for two days at a time about the Prussian House of Lords (for one must talk of something)--she just sighed and perspired! And you mustn't talk of love--she's bashful to hysterics--but just let her see you can't tear yourself away--that's enough. It's fearfully comfortable; you're quite at home, you can read, sit, lie about, write. You may even venture on a kiss, if you're careful."

"But what do I want with her?"

"Ach, I can't make you understand! You see, you are made for each other! I have often been reminded of you! . . . You'll come to it in the end! So does it matter whether it's sooner or later? There's the feather-bed element here, brother--ach! and not only that! There's an attraction here--here you have the end of the world, an anchorage, a quiet haven, the navel of the earth, the three fishes that are the foundation of the world, the essence of pancakes, of savoury fish- pies, of the evening samovar, of soft sighs and warm shawls, and hot stoves to sleep on--as snug as though you were dead, and yet you're alive--the advantages of both at once! Well, hang it, brother, what stuff I'm talking, it's bedtime! Listen. I sometimes wake up at night; so I'll go in and look at him. But there's no need, it's all right. Don't you worry yourself, yet if you like, you might just look in once, too. But if you notice anything--delirium or fever--wake me at once. But there can't be. . . ."

[ بیست و دوم آذر 1386 ] [ 6:17 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

       گرامر نظام یک زبان را تشکیل می دهد. مردم گاهی اوقات فکر می کنند گرامر مجموعه "قاعده های یک زبان است". اگر ما در تعریف گرامر از واژه ی "قاعده" استفاده کنیم، بدین معنی است که اول قواعد زبان را ایجاد کنیم و سپس به آن زبان صحبت کنیم، مثل یک بازی جدید. در حالی که زبان ها بدین صورت به وجود نیامده اند. زبان از زمانی به وجود آمد که انسان صداهایی را از خود تولید می کرد که منجر به ساختن کلمات، عبارات و جملات شد. هیچ زبان عامیانه ای ثابت نیست. همه ی زبان ها به مرور زمان تغییر می کنند. چیزی که ما به عنوان «گرامر» می شناسیم انعکاس ساده ی یک زبان در یک زمان خاص می باشد. آیا ما برای یادگیری یک زبان باید گرامر بخوانیم؟ کوتاه ترین جواب ممکن «نه» است. بسیاری از مردم دنیا به زبان محلی و بومی خودشان صحبت می کنند بدون اینکه نیازی به مطالعه ی گرامر آن زبان داشته باشند. بچه ها شروع به حرف زدن می کنند بدون اینکه حتی کلمه «گرامر» را بلد باشند. اما اگر شما در یادگیری یک زبان خارجی جدی باشید، جواب بلند تر «بله» می باشد؛ گرامر می تواند در یادگیری سریع و مؤثر یک زبان به یاری شما برسد. مهم این است که گرامر را مثل یک دوست تجسم کنید که می تواند شما را یاری کند. زمانی که شما معنی و مفهوم گرامر (یا نظام) یک زبان را فهمیدید، قادر به شناخت بسیاری از مسائل خواهید بود بدون اینکه نیازی به سؤال پرسیدن از معلم شوید و یا به کتاب مراجعه کنید. پس گرامر را همانند یک چیز خوب در نظر بگیرید، چیزی مثبت و چیزی که شما می توانید با آن راه خودتان را پیدا کنید_مثل یک تابلوی راهنما یا مثل یک نقشه.

ترجمه: جمال پاریاب

[ بیست و یکم آذر 1386 ] [ 4:42 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

 

یکی از بارزترین خصوصیات ما انسان ها این است که: هر یک از ما، در نقطه ای از زمان، با مسئله ای که ممکن است هزاران نفر دیگر با آن برخورد کرده باشد، روبرو شویم.

این امر در مورد تلاش کردن برای رسیدن به اهداف فردی نیز صدق می کند. به هر حال این امکان وجود دارد که موانع بسیار زیادی بر سر راه شما برای رسیدن به موفقیت وجود داشته باشد اما باید مطمئن باشید که در هر یک از این موارد، روش ها و تکنیک هایی برای فائق آمدن و رسیدن به موفقیت وجود دارد؛ چرا که در گذشته تعداد بسیار زیادی از انسان های دیگر با آنها مواجه شده و بر آنها فائق آمده اند. به همین دلیل شما می توانید از شکست ها و پیروز های افراد دیگر درس بگیرید. زمانی که ما از موانع رایج و متداول بر سر راه رسیدن به اهداف و آرمان های زندگی صحبت می کنیم، باید از هر گونه تصور شخصی که امکان پدید آمدن برای هیچ کس دیگر را ندارد، فاکتور بگیریم. به جای آن باید سعی کنیم تا اطلاعاتی را در مورد عکس العمل های پویاتر یاد بگیریم و ببینیم که چگونه میتوانیم آنها را در زندگی خود به کار بندیم.

احساس در هم شکستگی

گاهی اوقات این احساس به شما دست می دهد که اهداف و آرزوهایتان آنقدر از شما دور هستند که هیچ گاه قادر نخواهید بود به آنها دست پیدا کنید. زمانی که یک چنین شرایطی برایتان بوجود می آید، شما عمیقاً در فکر فرو می روید، و تمام آرزوها و آمالتان در هم شکسته می شوند. واکنشی که بیشتر افراد در یک چنین شرایطی از خود نشان می دهند، چیزی نیست جز تسلیم شدن در برابر شرایط.

راه حل: موانع معدودی بر سر راه رسیدن به هدف وجود دارند که اگر بخواهیم آنها را دسته بندی کنیم باید این حس را در گروه جزئی ترین موانع بگنجانیم. این احساس عموماً به این دلیل ایجاد می شود که شما نمی دانید از کجا باید شروع کنید؛ که به سبب بی ارادگی و نداشتن طرح و برنامه مناسب ایجاد می شود. هیچ گونه راه حل جادویی برای این مطلب وجود ندارد. فقط باید بنشینید، لیستی از تمام کارهایی که باید انجام دهید، تهیه کنید، و بعد هم شروع کنید به انجام دادن آنها. به هر تقدیر در حال حاضر در عصر تکنولوژی هستیم و اصلاً درست نیست که شما یک چنین مسئله ای را بهانه کنید که نمی دانید از کجا باید شروع کنید و چه کارهایی را باید انجام دهید. اساساً موانع بزرگتری در کمین نشسته اند. اگر شما نتوانید این مورد پیش پا افتاده را از میان بردارید، در دردسر بزرگی گیر خواهید کرد.

فقدان سازماندهی و برنامه ریزی

مجدداً باید اشاره کنم که این مانع نیز مانند مورد قبلی از جمله مسائل پیش پا افتاده محسوب می شود. به عنوان مثال اگر کسی از شما پرسید که: "چرا دو مرتبه تحصیلاتت را ادامه نمی دهی تا بتوانی مدرک بگیری؟" و شما در پاسخ به او جواب داید: "هنوز نتوانسته ام برنامه هایم را سازماندهی کنم" نباید از او انتظار داشته باشید که شما را درک کرده و کمکتان کند.

راه حل: نداشتن برنامه ریزی و عدم توانایی در سازماندهی امور به موجب عادات بد موجود در زندگی ایجاد می شود. عادت های بد، یک شبه بوجود نمی آیند، به همین دلیل نباید انتظار داشته باشید که یک شبه هم از میان بروند. به هر حال این مورد مسئله ای است که نیازمند زمان می باشد. اگر عادت ندارید که تمام کارهای را سر موقع خود انجام دهید و عموماً از انجام دادن کارهای کوچک شانه خالی می کنید، باید تلاش کنید که زمانبندی خود را فشرده تر کرده و روی ساعت کارهایتان را انجام دهید. به جای اینکه دائماً شکایت کنید که: "خدای من چقدر ساعت ها و لحظات زود می گذرند" به خودتان بگویید: "خوب باید بنشینم و تمام کارهایی را که باید انجام دهم روی کاغذ بنویسم" و یا "پیش از اینکه هر کاری انجام دهم، ابتدا باید این کار نیمه تمام خود را به پایان برسانم". عادات نامناسب خود را با نگاهی موشکافانه بیاید و سپس با بهره گیری از یک برنامه متناسب آنرا از زندگی خود حذف کنید.

کمبود مهارت

شاید گاهی اوقات ملزم به انجام کاری باشید که نیازمند بهرمندی از تکنیک و مهارت های خاصی باشد. اگر قادر به انجام آن نباشید، معمولاً در ناامیدی فرو رفته و قدری احساس ناکارامدی و عدم توانایی لازم در انجام امور مختلف به شما دست خواهد داد. این امر به عنوان یک مانع محسوب شده و حس ناکامی شدیدی را در شما بوجود می آور و باعث می شود که به طور کلی از آرزوهایتان دست بکشید.

راه حل: در گام اول باید به خاطر داشته باشید که اگر احساس می کنید که دانش کافی برای انجام کاری راندارید، نباید ناراحت شده و احساس ناکامی و ناامیدی در وجودتان مستولی شود. در گذشته در یک چنین شرایطی مردم به کتابخانه ها مراجعه می کردند، اما اکنون با پیشرفت تکنولوژی می توانید سری به اینترنت بزنید و ازمراجع بسیار زیادی که در اختیارتان قرار گرفته بهرمند شوید. مانند زمانی که ماشین خود را به یک تعمیرگاه می برید و از تعمیرگاه درخواست می کنید تا مشکل خودروی شما را رفع کند، میتوانید سوال خود را به راحتی تایپ کنید و از هزاران گزینه موجود که برای کمک به شما در دسترس می باشند، کمک بگیرید. جمع آوری اطلاعات و افزایش دانش در زمینه ای که در کارهای خود به آن نیاز پیدا خواهید کرد در وهله اول اعتماد به نفستان را افزایش داده و سپس روند فائق آمدن شما به این مانع در راه رسیدن به اهدافتان را نیز تسریع می بخشد.

تردید نسبت به توانایی های فردی

شک کردن به توانایی های فردی مسئله ای است که به هر حال در زندگی هر انسانی رخ خواهد داد. شاید تنها گروهی از انسانهایی که از این مطلب رنج نمی برند ناپلئونیک الفاها هستند که اصلاً تصور نمی کنند که یک چنین حسی وجود دارد و انسان ها دارای محدودیت هایی نیز هستند.

راه حل: در اکثر توصیه ها اینطور بیان شده که در زمان بروز یک چنین شرایطی باید به کسی مراجعه کنید که به شما ایمان داشته باشد و بتواند توانایی هایتان  را در ذهنتان مجسم کرده و به مشا اعتماد به نفس بدهد. همانطور که مشاهده می کنیددر تیتر آمده تردید و شک داشتن "فردی"، پس برای غلبه بر آن باید از درون خودتان شروع کنید. در غیراینصورت مثل این است که بر روی یک سوراخی که در هر لحظه در حال گسترده تر شدن است یک تکه آدامس چسبانده باشید، با این کار تنها برای مدت زمان کوتاهی می توانید جلوی نشت آب را بگیرید. زمانی که خودتان را در اوج شک و تردید می یابید، باید از آن شک به عنوان دست مایه ای برای رسیدن به هدف خود استفاده کنید. واقعاً معنی این عبارت چیست: "من شاید آنقدر ها هم به این هدف نیاز نداشته باشم." گاهی اوقات هم این شک و تردید ها بسیار مفید بوده و شما را به درجه یقین نائل می سازند و به منزله ی یک محرک خوب برای رساندن شما به موفقیت به شمار خواهند رفت.

ترس از شکست

از نظر روانشناسی این یک حس کاملاً طبیعی است، البته در حد نرمال؛ به هرحال همه افراد شکست را در اندازه ها و حد و حدود مختلفی در زندگی خود تجربه کرده اند. گاهی اوقات ممکن است به دلیل خطاهای محاسباتی، اشتباهات ذهنی، خطاهای سهوی، ایجاد شوند و گاهی هم اطلاً ربطی به نحوه ی انجام دادن کارها توسط شما ندارند. به عنوان مثال اگر شما یک هنرمند باشید اما در روز مصاحبه آن قسمتی را که از پیش بر روی آن تمرین کرده اید را از شما نپرسند، آیا اسم این مورد را شکست میگذرید؟

راه حل: این یک تصور غلط است که بگوییم هیچ کس دوست ندارد شکست بخورد. بد نیست زندگی نامه افرادی مانند آلبرت انیشتن و توماس ادیوسن را بخوانید. آیا فکر میکنید که این افراد عاشق شکست خوردن بودند؟ آیا عمداً شکست می خوردند؟ آیا مازوخیست شکست داشتند؟ البته که نه! اما به هر حال آنقدر شکست می خوردند تا به این نتیجه برسند که راههایی را که انتخاب کرده بودند، اشتباه بوده و به این نتیجه برسند که راه درست کدام است. جیمز جویس خطاها و اشتباهات ما را به "راهروی اکتشاف" تشبیه کرده است. بنابراین از اشتباهاتتان درس بگیرید و از آنها نترسید.

ترس از موفقیت

بر اساس اظهارات مربی اسلوب زندگی "تی کان" این ترس زمانی بوجود می آید که شما چیز جدیدی را بوجود آورده و در زندگی خود تغیر بسیار عظیمی را قائل می شوید. در این حالت به جایی می رسید که میتواند تغییر شگرفی را در آینده ی زندگی خود ایجاد کند. او معتقد است که بیشتر افراد در راه پیدا کردن راهی هستند که هر طور شده بتوانند راهی را پیدا کنند که به واسطه آن شکست هایی را در گذشته بر آنها متحمل شده است را جبران نمایند، و هیچ گاه به این فکر نیستند که موقعیت هایی را که ممکن است در آینده برایشان بوجود بیایید را مورد تحلیل و بررسی قرار دهند. این فاکتور نا معلوم خود می تواند به منزله نوعی منبع ترس در آینده محسوب شود.

راه حل: ترس از موفیت خود می تواند به عنوان نوی مانع فردی بر سر راه هر گونه تغییری محسوب شده و اعتماد به نفس فرد را تا حد بسیار زیادی کاهش دهد. از خودتان بپرسید که چه چیز خاصی در زندگیتان وجود دارد که با آنکه شما را ازاهدافتان دورمی کند، باز هم دوست دارید همانطور باقی بماند و تغییر نکند؟ به عبارت یگر از خودتان بپرسید برای چه به آن چسبیده اید؛ باید این توانایی را داشته باشید که شکست را در آغوش بگیرید. برای رسیدن به موفقیت باید به خودتان اجازه دهید که شکست را به بستر خود عوت کرده و با آن هم آغوش شوید.

عدم وجود حس الزام و اضطرار

نمونه ی بارز این مورد را می توان با مثالی در مورد ورزشکاران المپیک پی گرفت. تشکیلات برگزاری مراسم المپیک هیچ گاه یک مسابقه را کنسل نمی کنند تنها به این دلیل که یکی از ورزشکاران احساس نمی کند که ضرورتی دارد در ساعتی خاص، در یک مسابقه شرکت کند. بیشتر ما از مهلت های فیکس خوشمان نمی آید. گاهی اوقات برخی از افراد هستند که مهلت های سریع الوقوعی را برای خود درست می کنند و از سوی دیگر افراد دیگری نیزهستند که برای خوشان هیچ گونه محدودیت زمانی قائل نمی شوند. به هر حال اگر هیچ مهلت پایانی وجود نداشته باشد، افرادتنبل و بی انگیزه شده و هیچ گاه گامی به جلوبر نمی دارند.

راه حل: اولین راه حل موثر ترین شیوه است: پل ها را بسوزانید و تمام جلیقه های نجات را از میان برارید. اگر هدف برایتان اهمیت داشته باشد، دیگر نیازی به چتر نجات ایمنی نخواهید داشت. اجازه دهید صادق باشیم؛ به عنوان مثال اجازه دهید بگوییم که شاید شما دلتان بخواهد هنرمند موسیقی شوید، اما اگر هیچ گاه برای رسیدن به هدفتان تلاش نکنید آنوقت در حالی که بنای ساختمان شده اید، باید احساس کنید که از استعدادهایتان در مسیر درست استفاده نکرده اید. شاید علاقه ای به انجام این کار نداشه باشید، اما التزام های موجود در زندگی شما را مجبور می کنند که انجامشان دهید.

اگر حس الزام به انجام امور را زنده نگه ندارید، با این کار هم حس اضطرار از بین میرود و در وهله ی بعد هم آرزوهایتان پایمال خواهند شد.

غلبه بر موانع

نهایتاً باید گفت که هیچگونه افتخاری بدون تقبل ریسک بوجود نخواهد آمد. در ادامه ی مثال بالا باید اظهار داشت که برای فائق آمدن به موانع موجود بر سر راه شما و اهدافتان باید به طور کاملاً قاطعانه به خودتان بگویید: "یا در موسیقی موفق می شوم یا شکست می خورم" چرا که حس شما باید این باشد: ترجیح می دهم در رسیدن به آرزوهایم شکست بخورم تا در رسیدن به چیزهایی که نمی خواهم موفق شوم.

 

منبع: مردمان

[ بیست و یکم آذر 1386 ] [ 4:37 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]

"--AND you say that a man cannot, of himself, understand what is good
and evil; that it is all environment, that the environment swamps the
man. But I believe it is all chance. Take my own case . . ."

Thus spoke our excellent friend, Ivan Vasilievich, after a conversation
between us on the impossibility of improving individual character
without a change of the conditions under which men live. Nobody had
actually said that one could not of oneself understand good and evil;
but it was a habit of Ivan Vasilievich to answer in this way the
thoughts aroused in his own mind by conversation, and to illustrate
those thoughts by relating incidents in his own life. He often quite
forgot the reason for his story in telling it; but he always told it
with great sincerity and feeling.

He did so now.

"Take my own case. My whole life was moulded, not by environment, but by
something quite different."

"By what, then?" we asked.

"Oh, that is a long story. I should have to tell you about a great many
things to make you understand."

"Well, tell us then."

Ivan Vasilievich thought a little, and shook his head.

"My whole life," he said, "was changed in one night, or, rather,
morning."

"Why, what happened?" one of us asked.

"What happened was that I was very much in love. I have been in love
many times, but this was the most serious of all. It is a thing of
the past; she has married daughters now. It was Varinka B----." Ivan
Vasilievich mentioned her surname. "Even at fifty she is remarkably
handsome; but in her youth, at eighteen, she was exquisite--tall,
slender, graceful, and stately. Yes, stately is the word; she held
herself very erect, by instinct as it were; and carried her head high,
and that together with her beauty and height gave her a queenly air in
spite of being thin, even bony one might say. It might indeed have
been deterring had it not been for her smile, which was always gay and
cordial, and for the charming light in her eyes and for her youthful
sweetness."

"What an entrancing description you give, Ivan Vasilievich!"

"Description, indeed! I could not possibly describe her so that you
could appreciate her. But that does not matter; what I am going to
tell you happened in the forties. I was at that time a student in a
provincial university. I don't know whether it was a good thing or no,
but we had no political clubs, no theories in our universities then.
We were simply young and spent our time as young men do, studying and
amusing ourselves. I was a very gay, lively, careless fellow, and had
plenty of money too. I had a fine horse, and used to go tobogganing
with the young ladies. Skating had not yet come into fashion. I went to
drinking parties with my comrades--in those days we drank nothing but
champagne--if we had no champagne we drank nothing at all. We never
drank vodka, as they do now. Evening parties and balls were my favourite
amusements. I danced well, and was not an ugly fellow."

"Come, there is no need to be modest," interrupted a lady near him.
"We have seen your photograph. Not ugly, indeed! You were a handsome
fellow."

"Handsome, if you like. That does not matter. When my love for her was
at its strongest, on the last day of the carnival, I was at a ball at
the provincial marshal's, a good-natured old man, rich and hospitable,
and a court chamberlain. The guests were welcomed by his wife, who was
as good-natured as himself. She was dressed in puce-coloured velvet, and
had a diamond diadem on her forehead, and her plump, old white shoulders
and bosom were bare like the portraits of Empress Elizabeth, the
daughter of Peter the Great.

"It was a delightful ball. It was a splendid room, with a gallery for
the orchestra, which was famous at the time, and consisted of serfs
belonging to a musical landowner. The refreshments were magnificent, and
the champagne flowed in rivers. Though I was fond of champagne I did not
drink that night, because without it I was drunk with love. But I made
up for it by dancing waltzes and polkas till I was ready to drop--of
course, whenever possible, with Varinka. She wore a white dress with a
pink sash, white shoes, and white kid gloves, which did not quite reach
to her thin pointed elbows. A disgusting engineer named Anisimov robbed
me of the mazurka with her--to this day I cannot forgive him. He asked
her for the dance the minute she arrived, while I had driven to the
hair-dresser's to get a pair of gloves, and was late. So I did not dance
the mazurka with her, but with a German girl to whom I had previously
paid a little attention; but I am afraid I did not behave very politely
to her that evening. I hardly spoke or looked at her, and saw nothing
but the tall, slender figure in a white dress, with a pink sash, a
flushed, beaming, dimpled face, and sweet, kind eyes. I was not alone;
they were all looking at her with admiration, the men and women alike,
although she outshone all of them. They could not help admiring her.

"Although I was not nominally her partner for the mazurka, I did as a
matter of fact dance nearly the whole time with her. She always came
forward boldly the whole length of the room to pick me out. I flew to
meet her without waiting to be chosen, and she thanked me with a smile
for my intuition. When I was brought up to her with somebody else, and
she guessed wrongly, she took the other man's hand with a shrug of her
slim shoulders, and smiled at me regretfully.

"Whenever there was a waltz figure in the mazurka, I waltzed with
her for a long time, and breathing fast and smiling, she would say,
'Encore'; and I went on waltzing and waltzing, as though unconscious of
any bodily existence."

"Come now, how could you be unconscious of it with your arm round her
waist? You must have been conscious, not only of your own existence, but
of hers," said one of the party.

Ivan Vasilievich cried out, almost shouting in anger: "There you are,
moderns all over! Nowadays you think of nothing but the body. It was
different in our day. The more I was in love the less corporeal was she
in my eyes. Nowadays you think of nothing but the body. It was different
in our day. The more I was in love the less corporeal was she in my
eyes. Nowadays you set legs, ankles, and I don't know what. You undress
the women you are in love with. In my eyes, as Alphonse Karr said--and
he was a good writer--' the one I loved was always draped in robes of
bronze.' We never thought of doing so; we tried to veil her nakedness,
like Noah's good-natured son. Oh, well, you can't understand."

"Don't pay any attention to him. Go on," said one of them.

"Well, I danced for the most part with her, and did not notice how time
was passing. The musicians kept playing the same mazurka tunes over and
over again in desperate exhaustion--you know what it is towards the end
of a ball. Papas and mammas were already getting up from the card-tables
in the drawing-room in expectation of supper, the men-servants were
running to and fro bringing in things. It was nearly three o'clock.
I had to make the most of the last minutes. I chose her again for the
mazurka, and for the hundredth time we danced across the room.

"'The quadrille after supper is mine,' I said, taking her to her place.

"'Of course, if I am not carried off home,' she said, with a smile.

"'I won't give you up,' I said.

"'Give me my fan, anyhow,' she answered.

"'I am so sorry to part with it,' I said, handing her a cheap white fan.

"'Well, here's something to console you,' she said, plucking a feather
out of the fan, and giving it to me.

"I took the feather, and could only express my rapture and gratitude
with my eyes. I was not only pleased and gay, I was happy, delighted;
I was good, I was not myself but some being not of this earth, knowing
nothing of evil. I hid the feather in my glove, and stood there unable
to tear myself away from her.

"'Look, they are urging father to dance,' she said to me, pointing
to the tall, stately figure of her father, a colonel with silver
epaulettes, who was standing in the doorway with some ladies.

"'Varinka, come here!' exclaimed our hostess, the lady with the diamond
ferronniere and with shoulders like Elizabeth, in a loud voice.

"'Varinka went to the door, and I followed her.

"'Persuade your father to dance the mazurka with you, ma chere.--Do,
please, Peter Valdislavovich,' she said, turning to the colonel.

"Varinka's father was a very handsome, well-preserved old man. He had
a good colour, moustaches curled in the style of Nicolas I., and
white whiskers which met the moustaches. His hair was combed on to his
forehead, and a bright smile, like his daughter's, was on his lips and
in his eyes. He was splendidly set up, with a broad military chest, on
which he wore some decorations, and he had powerful shoulders and long
slim legs. He was that ultra-military type produced by the discipline of
Emperor Nicolas I.

"When we approached the door the colonel was just refusing to dance,
saying that he had quite forgotten how; but at that instant he smiled,
swung his arm gracefully around to the left, drew his sword from its
sheath, handed it to an obliging young man who stood near, and smoothed
his suede glove on his right hand.

"'Everything must be done according to rule,' he said with a smile. He
took the hand of his daughter, and stood one-quarter turned, waiting for
the music.

"At the first sound of the mazurka, he stamped one foot smartly, threw
the other forward, and, at first slowly and smoothly, then buoyantly
and impetuously, with stamping of feet and clicking of boots, his tall,
imposing figure moved the length of the room. Varinka swayed gracefully
beside him, rhythmically and easily, making her steps short or long,
with her little feet in their white satin slippers.

"All the people in the room followed every movement of the couple. As
for me I not only admired, I regarded them with enraptured sympathy. I
was particularly impressed with the old gentleman's boots. They were
not the modern pointed affairs, but were made of cheap leather,
squared-toed, and evidently built by the regimental cobbler. In order
that his daughter might dress and go out in society, he did not buy
fashionable boots, but wore home-made ones, I thought, and his square
toes seemed to me most touching. It was obvious that in his time he
had been a good dancer; but now he was too heavy, and his legs had not
spring enough for all the beautiful steps he tried to take. Still, he
contrived to go twice round the room. When at the end, standing with
legs apart, he suddenly clicked his feet together and fell on one
knee, a bit heavily, and she danced gracefully around him, smiling and
adjusting her skirt, the whole room applauded.

"Rising with an effort, he tenderly took his daughter's face between his
hands. He kissed her on the forehead, and brought her to me, under the
impression that I was her partner for the mazurka. I said I was not.
'Well, never mind, just go around the room once with her,' he said,
smiling kindly, as he replaced his sword in the sheath.

"As the contents of a bottle flow readily when the first drop has been
poured, so my love for Varinka seemed to set free the whole force of
loving within me. In surrounding her it embraced the world. I loved
the hostess with her diadem and her shoulders like Elizabeth, and her
husband and her guests and her footmen, and even the engineer Anisimov
who felt peevish towards me. As for Varinka's father, with his home-made
boots and his kind smile, so like her own, I felt a sort of tenderness
for him that was almost rapture.

"After supper I danced the promised quadrille with her, and though I had
been infinitely happy before, I grew still happier every moment.

"We did not speak of love. I neither asked myself nor her whether she
loved me. It was quite enough to know that I loved her. And I had only
one fear--that something might come to interfere with my great joy.

"When I went home, and began to undress for the night, I found it quite
out of the question. I held the little feather out of her fan in my hand,
and one of her gloves which she gave me when I helped her into the
carriage after her mother. Looking at these things, and without closing
my eyes I could see her before me as she was for an instant when she had
to choose between two partners. She tried to guess what kind of person
was represented in me, and I could hear her sweet voice as she said,
'Pride--am I right?' and merrily gave me her hand. At supper she took
the first sip from my glass of champagne, looking at me over the rim
with her caressing glance. But, plainest of all, I could see her as she
danced with her father, gliding along beside him, and looking at the
admiring observers with pride and happiness.

"He and she were united in my mind in one rush of pathetic tenderness.

"I was living then with my brother, who has since died. He disliked
going out, and never went to dances; and besides, he was busy preparing
for his last university examinations, and was leading a very regular
life. He was asleep. I looked at him, his head buried in the pillow and
half covered with the quilt; and I affectionately pitied him, pitied him
for his ignorance of the bliss I was experiencing. Our serf Petrusha
had met me with a candle, ready to undress me, but I sent him away. His
sleepy face and tousled hair seemed to me so touching. Trying not to
make a noise, I went to my room on tiptoe and sat down on my bed. No, I
was too happy; I could not sleep. Besides, it was too hot in the rooms.
Without taking off my uniform, I went quietly into the hall, put on my
overcoat, opened the front door and stepped out into the street.

"It was after four when I had left the ball; going home and stopping
there a while had occupied two hours, so by the time I went out it
was dawn. It was regular carnival weather--foggy, and the road full
of water-soaked snow just melting, and water dripping from the eaves.
Varinka's family lived on the edge of town near a large field, one end
of which was a parade ground: at the other end was a boarding-school for
young ladies. I passed through our empty little street and came to the
main thoroughfare, where I met pedestrians and sledges laden with
wood, the runners grating the road. The horses swung with regular paces
beneath their shining yokes, their backs covered with straw mats
and their heads wet with rain; while the drivers, in enormous boots,
splashed through the mud beside the sledges. All this, the very
horses themselves, seemed to me stimulating and fascinating, full of
suggestion.

"When I approached the field near their house, I saw at one end of it,
in the direction of the parade ground, something very huge and black,
and I heard sounds of fife and drum proceeding from it. My heart had
been full of song, and I had heard in imagination the tune of the
mazurka, but this was very harsh music. It was not pleasant.

"'What can that be?' I thought, and went towards the sound by a slippery
path through the centre of the field. Walking about a hundred paces,
I began to distinguish many black objects through the mist. They were
evidently soldiers. 'It is probably a drill,' I thought.

"So I went along in that direction in company with a blacksmith, who
wore a dirty coat and an apron, and was carrying something. He walked
ahead of me as we approached the place. The soldiers in black uniforms
stood in two rows, facing each other motionless, their guns at rest.
Behind them stood the fifes and drums, incessantly repeating the same
unpleasant tune.

"'What are they doing?' I asked the blacksmith, who halted at my side.

"'A Tartar is being beaten through the ranks for his attempt to desert,'
said the blacksmith in an angry tone, as he looked intently at the far
end of the line.

"I looked in the same direction, and saw between the files something
horrid approaching me. The thing that approached was a man, stripped
to the waist, fastened with cords to the guns of two soldiers who were
leading him. At his side an officer in overcoat and cap was walking,
whose figure had a familiar look. The victim advanced under the blows
that rained upon him from both sides, his whole body plunging, his
feet dragging through the snow. Now he threw himself backward, and the
subalterns who led him thrust him forward. Now he fell forward, and they
pulled him up short; while ever at his side marched the tall officer,
with firm and nervous pace. It was Varinka's father, with his rosy face
and white moustache.

"At each stroke the man, as if amazed, turned his face, grimacing with
pain, towards the side whence the blow came, and showing his white teeth
repeated the same words over and over. But I could only hear what the
words were when he came quite near. He did not speak them, he sobbed
them out,--"'Brothers, have mercy on me! Brothers, have mercy on me!'
But the brothers had, no mercy, and when the procession came close to
me, I saw how a soldier who stood opposite me took a firm step forward
and lifting his stick with a whirr, brought it down upon the man's back.
The man plunged forward, but the subalterns pulled him back, and another
blow came down from the other side, then from this side and then from
the other. The colonel marched beside him, and looking now at his feet
and now at the man, inhaled the air, puffed out his cheeks, and breathed
it out between his protruded lips. When they passed the place where I
stood, I caught a glimpse between the two files of the back of the man
that was being punished. It was something so many-coloured, wet, red,
unnatural, that I could hardly believe it was a human body.

"'My God!"' muttered the blacksmith.

The procession moved farther away. The blows continued to rain upon the
writhing, falling creature; the fifes shrilled and the drums beat, and
the tall imposing figure of the colonel moved along-side the man, just
as before. Then, suddenly, the colonel stopped, and rapidly approached a
man in the ranks.

"'I'll teach you to hit him gently,' I heard his furious voice say.
'Will you pat him like that? Will you?' and I saw how his strong hand
in the suede glove struck the weak, bloodless, terrified soldier for not
bringing down his stick with sufficient strength on the red neck of the
Tartar.

"'Bring new sticks!' he cried, and looking round, he saw me. Assuming
an air of not knowing me, and with a ferocious, angry frown, he hastily
turned away. I felt so utterly ashamed that I didn't know where to look.
It was as if I had been detected in a disgraceful act. I dropped my
eyes, and quickly hurried home. All the way I had the drums beating and
the fifes whistling in my ears. And I heard the words, 'Brothers, have
mercy on me!' or 'Will you pat him? Will you?' My heart was full of
physical disgust that was almost sickness. So much so that I halted
several times on my way, for I had the feeling that I was going to be
really sick from all the horrors that possessed me at that sight. I do
not remember how I got home and got to bed. But the moment I was about
to fall asleep I heard and saw again all that had happened, and I sprang
up.

"'Evidently he knows something I do not know,' I thought about
the colonel. 'If I knew what he knows I should certainly
grasp--understand--what I have just seen, and it would not cause me such
suffering.'

"But however much I thought about it, I could not understand the thing
that the colonel knew. It was evening before I could get to sleep,
and then only after calling on a friend and drinking till I; was quite
drunk.

"Do you think I had come to the conclusion that the deed I had witnessed
was wicked? Oh, no. Since it was done with such assurance, and was
recognised by every one as indispensable, they doubtless knew something
which I did not know. So I thought, and tried to understand. But no
matter, I could never understand it, then or afterwards. And not being
able to grasp it, I could not enter the service as I had intended. I
don't mean only the military service: I did not enter the Civil Service
either. And so I have been of no use whatever, as you can see."

"Yes, we know how useless you've been," said one of us. "Tell us,
rather, how many people would be of any use at all if it hadn't been for
you."

"Oh, that's utter nonsense," said Ivan Vasilievich, with genuine
annoyance.

"Well; and what about the love affair?

"My love? It decreased from that day. When, as often happened, she
looked dreamy and meditative, I instantly recollected the colonel on the
parade ground, and I felt so awkward and uncomfortable that I began to
see her less frequently. So my love came to naught. Yes; such chances
arise, and they alter and direct a man's whole life," he said in summing
up. "And you say . . ."

[ بیست و یکم آذر 1386 ] [ 4:18 ] [ جمال پاریاب ]
 
     "Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye and a
tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not
evil."
--ST. MATTHEW V. 38, 39.

It was in the time of serfdom--many years before Alexander II.'s
liberation of the sixty million serfs in 1862. In those days the people
were ruled by different kinds of lords. There were not a few who,
remembering God, treated their slaves in a humane manner, and not as
beasts of burden, while there were others who were seldom known to
perform a kind or generous action; but the most barbarous and tyrannical
of all were those former serfs who arose from the dirt and became
princes.

It was this latter class who made life literally a burden to those
who were unfortunate enough to come under their rule. Many of them had
arisen from the ranks of the peasantry to become superintendents of
noblemen's estates.

The peasants were obliged to work for their master a certain number of
days each week. There was plenty of land and water and the soil was rich
and fertile, while the meadows and forests were sufficient to supply the
needs of both the peasants and their lord.

There was a certain nobleman who had chosen a superintendent from the
peasantry on one of his other estates. No sooner had the power to govern
been vested in this newly-made official than he began to practice the
most outrageous cruelties upon the poor serfs who had been placed under
his control. Although this man had a wife and two married daughters,
and was making so much money that he could have lived happily without
transgressing in any way against either God or man, yet he was filled
with envy and jealousy and deeply sunk in sin.

Michael Simeonovitch began his persecutions by compelling the peasants
to perform more days of service on the estate every week than the laws
obliged them to work. He established a brick-yard, in which he forced
the men and women to do excessive labor, selling the bricks for his own
profit.

On one occasion the overworked serfs sent a delegation to Moscow
to complain of their treatment to their lord, but they obtained no
satisfaction. When the poor peasants returned disconsolate from the
nobleman their superintendent determined to have revenge for their
boldness in going above him for redress, and their life and that of
their fellow-victims became worse than before.

It happened that among the serfs there were some very treacherous people
who would falsely accuse their fellows of wrong-doing and sow seeds
of discord among the peasantry, whereupon Michael would become greatly
enraged, while his poor subjects began to live in fear of their lives.
When the superintendent passed through the village the people would run
and hide themselves as from a wild beast. Seeing thus the terror which
he had struck to the hearts of the moujiks, Michael's treatment of them
became still more vindictive, so that from over-work and ill-usage the
lot of the poor serfs was indeed a hard one.

There was a time when it was possible for the peasants, when driven to
despair, to devise means whereby they could rid themselves of an inhuman
monster such as Simeonovitch, and so these unfortunate people began to
consider whether something could not be done to relieve THEM of their
intolerable yoke. They would hold little meetings in secret places to
bewail their misery and to confer with one another as to which would
be the best way to act. Now and then the boldest of the gathering would
rise and address his companions in this strain: "How much longer can
we tolerate such a villain to rule over us? Let us make an end of it at
once, for it were better for us to perish than to suffer. It is surely
not a sin to kill such a devil in human form."

It happened once, before the Easter holidays, that one of these meetings
was held in the woods, where Michael had sent the serfs to make a
clearance for their master. At noon they assembled to eat their dinner
and to hold a consultation. "Why can't we leave now?" said one. "Very
soon we shall be reduced to nothing. Already we are almost worked to
death--there being no rest, night or day, either for us or our poor
women. If anything should be done in a way not exactly to please him he
will find fault and perhaps flog some of us to death--as was the case
with poor Simeon, whom he killed not long ago. Only recently Anisim
was tortured in irons till he died. We certainly cannot stand this much
longer." "Yes," said another, "what is the use of waiting? Let us act at
once. Michael will be here this evening, and will be certain to abuse us
shamefully. Let us, then, thrust him from his horse and with one blow of
an axe give him what he deserves, and thus end our misery. We can then
dig a big hole and bury him like a dog, and no one will know what became
of him. Now let us come to an agreement--to stand together as one man
and not to betray one another."

The last speaker was Vasili Minayeff, who, if possible, had more cause
to complain of Michael's cruelty than any of his fellow-serfs. The
superintendent was in the habit of flogging him severely every week, and
he took also Vasili's wife to serve him as cook.

Accordingly, during the evening that followed this meeting in the woods
Michael arrived on the scene on horseback. He began at once to find
fault with the manner in which the work had been done, and to complain
because some lime-trees had been cut down.

"I told you not to cut down any lime-trees!" shouted the enraged
superintendent. "Who did this thing? Tell me at once, or I shall flog
every one of you!"

On investigation, a peasant named Sidor was pointed out as the guilty
one, and his face was roundly slapped. Michael also severely punished
Vasili, because he had not done sufficient work, after which the master
rode safely home.

In the evening the serfs again assembled, and poor Vasili said: "Oh,
what kind of people ARE we, anyway? We are only sparrows, and not men at
all! We agree to stand by each other, but as soon as the time for action
comes we all run and hide. Once a lot of sparrows conspired against a
hawk, but no sooner did the bird of prey appear than they sneaked off in
the grass. Selecting one of the choicest sparrows, the hawk took it away
to eat, after which the others came out crying, 'Twee-twee!' and found
that one was missing. 'Who is killed?' they asked. 'Vanka! Well, he
deserved it.' You, my friends, are acting in just the same manner. When
Michael attacked Sidor you should have stood by your promise. Why didn't
you arise, and with one stroke put an end to him and to our misery?"

The effect of this speech was to make the peasants more firm in their
determination to kill their superintendent. The latter had already given
orders that they should be ready to plough during the Easter holidays,
and to sow the field with oats, whereupon the serfs became stricken
with grief, and gathered in Vasili's house to hold another indignation
meeting. "If he has really forgotten God," they said, "and shall
continue to commit such crimes against us, it is truly necessary that we
should kill him. If not, let us perish, for it can make no difference to
us now."

This despairing programme, however, met with considerable opposition
from a peaceably-inclined man named Peter Mikhayeff. "Brethren," said
he, "you are contemplating a grievous sin. The taking of human life is a
very serious matter. Of course it is easy to end the mortal existence of
a man, but what will become of the souls of those who commit the deed?
If Michael continues to act toward us unjustly God will surely punish
him. But, my friends, we must have patience."

This pacific utterance only served to intensify the anger of Vasili.
Said he: "Peter is forever repeating the same old story, 'It is a sin to
kill any one.' Certainly it is sinful to murder; but we should consider
the kind of man we are dealing with. We all know it is wrong to kill a
good man, but even God would take away the life of such a dog as he is.
It is our duty, if we have any love for mankind, to shoot a dog that
is mad. It is a sin to let him live. If, therefore, we are to suffer at
all, let it be in the interests of the people--and they will thank
us for it. If we remain quiet any longer a flogging will be our only
reward. You are talking nonsense, Mikhayeff. Why don't you think of the
sin we shall be committing if we work during the Easter holidays--for
you will refuse to work then yourself?"

"Well, then," replied Peter, "if they shall send me to plough, I will
go. But I shall not be going of my own free will, and God will know
whose sin it is, and shall punish the offender accordingly. Yet we must
not forget him. Brethren, I am not giving you my own views only. The law
of God is not to return evil for evil; indeed, if you try in this way to
stamp out wickedness it will come upon you all the stronger. It is not
difficult for you to kill the man, but his blood will surely stain your
own soul. You may think you have killed a bad man--that you have gotten
rid of evil--but you will soon find out that the seeds of still greater
wickedness have been planted within you. If you yield to misfortune it
will surely come to you."

As Peter was not without sympathizers among the peasants, the poor serfs
were consequently divided into two groups: the followers of Vasili and
those who held the views of Mikhayeff.

On Easter Sunday no work was done. Toward the evening an elder came to
the peasants from the nobleman's court and said: "Our superintendent,
Michael Simeonovitch, orders you to go to-morrow to plough the field for
the oats." Thus the official went through the village and directed the
men to prepare for work the next day--some by the river and others by
the roadway. The poor people were almost overcome with grief, many
of them shedding tears, but none dared to disobey the orders of their
master.

On the morning of Easter Monday, while the church bells were calling the
inhabitants to religious services, and while every one else was about to
enjoy a holiday, the unfortunate serfs started for the field to plough.
Michael arose rather late and took a walk about the farm. The domestic
servants were through with their work and had dressed themselves for the
day, while Michael's wife and their widowed daughter (who was visiting
them, as was her custom on holidays) had been to church and returned. A
steaming samovar awaited them, and they began to drink tea with Michael,
who, after lighting his pipe, called the elder to him.

"Well," said the superintendent, "have you ordered the moujiks to plough
to-day?"

"Yes, sir, I did," was the reply.

"Have they all gone to the field?"

"Yes, sir; all of them. I directed them myself where to begin."

"That is all very well. You gave the orders, but are they ploughing?
Go at once and see, and you may tell them that I shall be there after
dinner. I shall expect to find one and a half acres done for every
two ploughs, and the work must be well done; otherwise they shall be
severely punished, notwithstanding the holiday."

"I hear, sir, and obey."

The elder started to go, but Michael called him back. After hesitating
for some time, a