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Poor Folk

by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

August, 2000  [Etext #2302]

The Project Gutenberg Etext of Poor Folk, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Poor Folk

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Translated by

CJ Hogarth

April 8th

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--How happy I was last night--how
immeasurably, how impossibly happy! That was because for once in
your life you had relented so far as to obey my wishes. At about
eight o'clock I awoke from sleep (you know, my beloved one, that
I always like to sleep for a short hour after my work is done)--I
awoke, I say, and, lighting a candle, prepared my paper to write,
and trimmed my pen. Then suddenly, for some reason or another, I
raised my eyes--and felt my very heart leap within me! For you
had understood what I wanted, you had understood what my heart
was craving for. Yes, I perceived that a corner of the curtain in
your window had been looped up and fastened to the cornice as I
had suggested should be done; and it seemed to me that your dear
face was glimmering at the window, and that you were looking at
me from out of the darkness of your room, and that you were
thinking of me. Yet how vexed I felt that I could not distinguish
your sweet face clearly! For there was a time when you and I
could see one another without any difficulty at all. Ah me, but
old age is not always a blessing, my beloved one! At this very
moment everything is standing awry to my eyes, for a man needs
only to work late overnight in his writing of something or other
for, in the morning, his eyes to be red, and the tears to be
gushing from them in a way that makes him ashamed to be seen
before strangers. However, I was able to picture to myself your
beaming smile, my angel--your kind, bright smile; and in my heart
there lurked just such a feeling as on the occasion when I first
kissed you, my little Barbara. Do you remember that, my darling?
Yet somehow you seemed to be threatening me with your tiny
finger. Was it so, little wanton? You must write and tell me
about it in your next letter.

But what think you of the plan of the curtain, Barbara? It is a
charming one, is it not? No matter whether I be at work, or about
to retire to rest, or just awaking from sleep, it enables me to
know that you are thinking of me, and remembering me--that you
are both well and happy. Then when you lower the curtain, it
means that it is time that I, Makar Alexievitch, should go to
bed; and when again you raise the curtain, it means that you are
saying to me, "Good morning," and asking me how I am, and whether
I have slept well. "As for myself," adds the curtain, "I am
altogether in good health and spirits, glory be to God!" Yes, my
heart's delight, you see how easy a plan it was to devise, and
how much writing it will save us! It is a clever plan, is it not?
And it was my own invention, too! Am I not cunning in such
matters, Barbara Alexievna?

Well, next let me tell you, dearest, that last night I slept
better and more soundly than I had ever hoped to do, and that I
am the more delighted at the fact in that, as you know, I had
just settled into a new lodging--a circumstance only too apt to
keep one from sleeping! This morning, too, I arose (joyous and
full of love) at cockcrow. How good seemed everything at that
hour, my darling! When I opened my window I could see the sun
shining, and hear the birds singing, and smell the air laden with
scents of spring. In short, all nature was awaking to life again.
Everything was in consonance with my mood; everything seemed fair
and spring-like. Moreover, I had a fancy that I should fare well
today. But my whole thoughts were bent upon you. "Surely,"
thought I, "we mortals who dwell in pain and sorrow might with
reason envy the birds of heaven which know not either!" And my
other thoughts were similar to these. In short, I gave myself up
to fantastic comparisons. A little book which I have says the
same kind of thing in a variety of ways. For instance, it says
that one may have many, many fancies, my Barbara--that as soon as
the spring comes on, one's thoughts become uniformly pleasant and
sportive and witty, for the reason that, at that season, the mind
inclines readily to tenderness, and the world takes on a more
roseate hue. From that little book of mine I have culled the
following passage, and written it down for you to see. In
particular does the author express a longing similar to my own,
where he writes:

"Why am I not a bird free to seek its quest?"

And he has written much else, God bless him!

But tell me, my love--where did you go for your walk this
morning? Even before I had started for the office you had taken
flight from your room, and passed through the courtyard--yes,
looking as vernal-like as a bird in spring. What rapture it gave
me to see you! Ah, little Barbara, little Barbara, you must never
give way to grief, for tears are of no avail, nor sorrow. I know
this well--I know it of my own experience. So do you rest quietly
until you have regained your health a little. But how is our good
Thedora? What a kind heart she has! You write that she is now
living with you, and that you are satisfied with what she does.
True, you say that she is inclined to grumble, but do not mind
that, Barbara. God bless her, for she is an excellent soul!

But what sort of an abode have I lighted upon, Barbara Alexievna?
What sort of a tenement, do you think, is this? Formerly, as you
know, I used to live in absolute stillness--so much so that if a
fly took wing it could plainly be heard buzzing. Here, however,
all is turmoil and shouting and clatter. The PLAN of the tenement
you know already. Imagine a long corridor, quite dark, and by no
means clean. To the right a dead wall, and to the left a row of
doors stretching as far as the line of rooms extends. These rooms
are tenanted by different people--by one, by two, or by three
lodgers as the case may be, but in this arrangement there is no
sort of system, and the place is a perfect Noah's Ark. Most of
the lodgers are respectable, educated, and even bookish people.
In particular they include a tchinovnik (one of the literary
staff in some government department), who is so well-read that he
can expound Homer or any other author--in fact, ANYTHING, such a
man of talent is he! Also, there are a couple of officers (for
ever playing cards), a midshipman, and an English tutor. But, to
amuse you, dearest, let me describe these people more
categorically in my next letter, and tell you in detail about
their lives. As for our landlady, she is a dirty little old woman
who always walks about in a dressing-gown and slippers, and never
ceases to shout at Theresa. I myself live in the kitchen--or,
rather, in a small room which forms part of the kitchen. The
latter is a very large, bright, clean, cheerful apartment with
three windows in it, and a partition-wall which, running outwards
from the front wall, makes a sort of little den, a sort of extra
room, for myself. Everything in this den is comfortable and
convenient, and I have, as I say, a window to myself. So much for
a description of my dwelling-place. Do not think, dearest, that
in all this there is any hidden intention. The fact that I live
in the kitchen merely means that I live behind the partition wall
in that apartment--that I live quite alone, and spend my time in
a quiet fashion compounded of trifles. For furniture I have
provided myself with a bed, a table, a chest of drawers, and two
small chairs. Also, I have suspended an ikon. True, better rooms
MAY exist in the world than this--much better rooms; yet COMFORT
is the chief thing. In fact, I have made all my arrangements for
comfort's sake alone; so do not for a moment imagine that I had
any other end in view. And since your window happens to be just
opposite to mine, and since the courtyard between us is narrow
and I can see you as you pass,--why, the result is that this
miserable wretch will be able to live at once more happily and
with less outlay. The dearest room in this house costs, with
board, thirty-five roubles--more than my purse could well afford;
whereas MY room costs only twenty-four, though formerly I used to
pay thirty, and so had to deny myself many things (I could drink
tea but seldom, and never could indulge in tea and sugar as I do
now). But, somehow, I do not like having to go without tea, for
everyone else here is respectable, and the fact makes me ashamed.
After all, one drinks tea largely to please one's fellow men,
Barbara, and to give oneself tone and an air of gentility
(though, of myself, I care little about such things, for I am not
a man of the finicking sort). Yet think you that, when all things
needful--boots and the rest--have been paid for, much will
remain? Yet I ought not to grumble at my salary,--I am quite
satisfied with it; it is sufficient. It has sufficed me now for
some years, and, in addition, I receive certain gratuities.

Well good-bye, my darling. I have bought you two little pots of
geraniums--quite cheap little pots, too--as a present. Perhaps
you would also like some mignonette? Mignonette it shall be if
only you will write to inform me of everything in detail. Also,
do not misunderstand the fact that I have taken this room, my
dearest. Convenience and nothing else, has made me do so. The
snugness of the place has caught my fancy. Also. I shall be able
to save money here, and to hoard it against the future. Already I
have saved a little money as a beginning. Nor must you despise me
because I am such an insignificant old fellow that a fly could
break me with its wing. True, I am not a swashbuckler; but
perhaps there may also abide in me the spirit which should
pertain to every man who is at once resigned and sure of himself.
Good-bye, then, again, my angel. I have now covered close upon a
whole two sheets of notepaper, though I ought long ago to have
been starting for the office. I kiss your hands, and remain ever
your devoted slave, your faithful friend,


P.S.--One thing I beg of you above all things--and that is, that
you will answer this letter as FULLY as possible. With the letter
I send you a packet of bonbons. Eat them for your health's sake,
nor, for the love of God, feel any uneasiness about me. Once
more, dearest one, good-bye.

 April 8th

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Do you know, must quarrel with
you. Yes, good Makar Alexievitch, I really cannot accept your
presents, for I know what they must have cost you--I know to what
privations and self-denial they must have led. How many times
have I not told you that I stand in need of NOTHING, of
absolutely NOTHING, as well as that I shall never be in a
position to recompense you for all the kindly acts with which you
have loaded me? Why, for instance, have you sent me geraniums? A
little sprig of balsam would not have mattered so much-- but
geraniums! Only have I to let fall an unguarded word--for
example, about geraniums--and at once you buy me some! How much
they must have cost you! Yet what a charm there is in them, with
their flaming petals! Wherever did you get these beautiful
plants? I have set them in my window as the most conspicuous
place possible, while on the floor I have placed a bench for my
other flowers to stand on (since you are good enough to enrich me
with such presents). Unfortunately, Thedora, who, with her
sweeping and polishing, makes a perfect sanctuary of my room, is
not over-pleased at the arrangement. But why have you sent me
also bonbons? Your letter tells me that something special is
afoot with you, for I find in it so much about paradise and
spring and sweet odours and the songs of birds. Surely, thought I
to myself when I received it, this is as good as poetry! Indeed,
verses are the only thing that your letter lacks, Makar
Alexievitch. And what tender feelings I can read in it--what
roseate-coloured fancies! To the curtain, however, I had never
given a thought. The fact is that when I moved the flower-pots,
it LOOPED ITSELF up. There now!

Ah, Makar Alexievitch, you neither speak of nor give any account
of what you have spent upon me. You hope thereby to deceive me,
to make it seem as though the cost always falls upon you alone,
and that there is nothing to conceal. Yet I KNOW that for my sake
you deny yourself necessaries. For instance, what has made you go
and take the room which you have done, where you will be worried
and disturbed, and where you have neither elbow-space nor
comfort--you who love solitude, and never like to have any one
near you? To judge from your salary, I should think that you
might well live in greater ease than that. Also, Thedora tells me
that your circumstances used to be much more affluent than they
are at present. Do you wish, then, to persuade me that your whole
existence has been passed in loneliness and want and gloom, with
never a cheering word to help you, nor a seat in a friend's
chimney-corner? Ah, kind comrade, how my heart aches for you! But
do not overtask your health, Makar Alexievitch. For instance, you
say that your eyes are over-weak for you to go on writing in your
office by candle-light. Then why do so? I am sure that your
official superiors do not need to be convinced of your diligence!

Once more I implore you not to waste so much money upon me. I
know how much you love me, but I also know that you are not rich.
. . . This morning I too rose in good spirits. Thedora had long
been at work; and it was time that I too should bestir myself.
Indeed I was yearning to do so, so I went out for some silk, and
then sat down to my labours. All the morning I felt light-hearted
and cheerful. Yet now my thoughts are once more dark and sad--
once more my heart is ready to sink.

Ah, what is going to become of me? What will be my fate? To have
to be so uncertain as to the future, to have to be unable to
foretell what is going to happen, distresses me deeply. Even to
look back at the past is horrible, for it contains sorrow that
breaks my very heart at the thought of it. Yes, a whole century
in tears could I spend because of the wicked people who have
wrecked my life!

But dusk is coming on, and I must set to work again. Much else
should I have liked to write to you, but time is lacking, and I
must hasten. Of course, to write this letter is a pleasure
enough, and could never be wearisome; but why do you not come to
see me in person? Why do you not, Makar Alexievitch? You live so
close to me, and at least SOME of your time is your own. I pray
you, come. I have just seen Theresa. She was looking so ill, and
I felt so sorry for her, that I gave her twenty kopecks. I am
almost falling asleep. Write to me in fullest detail, both
concerning your mode of life, and concerning the people who live
with you, and concerning how you fare with them. I should so like
to know! Yes, you must write again. Tonight I have purposely
looped the curtain up. Go to bed early, for, last night, I saw
your candle burning until nearly midnight. Goodbye! I am now
feeling sad and weary. Ah that I should have to spend such days
as this one has been. Again good-bye.--Your friend,


 April 8th

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--To think that a day like this
should have fallen to my miserable lot! Surely you are making fun
of an old man? ... However, it was my own fault--my own fault
entirely. One ought not to grow old holding a lock of Cupid's
hair in one's hand. Naturally one is misunderstood.... Yet man is
sometimes a very strange being. By all the Saints, he will talk
of doing things, yet leave them undone, and remain looking the
kind of fool from whom may the Lord preserve us! . . . Nay, I am
not angry, my beloved; I am only vexed to think that I should
have written to you in such stupid, flowery phraseology. Today I
went hopping and skipping to the office, for my heart was under
your influence, and my soul was keeping holiday, as it were. Yes,
everything seemed to be going well with me. Then I betook myself
to my work. But with what result? I gazed around at the old
familiar objects, at the old familiar grey and gloomy objects.
They looked just the same as before. Yet WERE those the same
inkstains, the same tables and chairs, that I had hitherto known?
Yes, they WERE the same, exactly the same; so why should I have
gone off riding on Pegasus' back? Whence had that mood arisen? It
had arisen from the fact that a certain sun had beamed upon me,
and turned the sky to blue. But why so? Why is it, sometimes,
that sweet odours seem to be blowing through a courtyard where
nothing of the sort can be? They must be born of my foolish
fancy, for a man may stray so far into sentiment as to forget his
immediate surroundings, and to give way to the superfluity of
fond ardour with which his heart is charged. On the other hand,
as I walked home from the office at nightfall my feet seemed to
lag, and my head to be aching. Also, a cold wind seemed to be
blowing down my back (enraptured with the spring, I had gone out
clad only in a thin overcoat). Yet you have misunderstood my
sentiments, dearest. They are altogether different to what you
suppose. It is a purely paternal feeling that I have for you. I
stand towards you in the position of a relative who is bound to
watch over your lonely orphanhood. This I say in all sincerity,
and with a single purpose, as any kinsman might do. For, after
all, I AM a distant kinsman of yours--the seventh drop of water
in the pudding, as the proverb has it--yet still a kinsman, and
at the present time your nearest relative and protector, seeing
that where you had the right to look for help and protection, you
found only treachery and insult. As for poetry, I may say that I
consider it unbecoming for a man of my years to devote his
faculties to the making of verses. Poetry is rubbish. Even boys
at school ought to be whipped for writing it.

Why do you write thus about "comfort" and "peace" and the rest? I
am not a fastidious man, nor one who requires much. Never in my
life have I been so comfortable as now. Why, then, should I
complain in my old age? I have enough to eat, I am well dressed
and booted. Also, I have my diversions. You see, I am not of
noble blood. My father himself was not a gentleman; he and his
family had to live even more plainly than I do. Nor am I a
milksop. Nevertheless, to speak frankly, I do not like my present
abode so much as I used to like my old one. Somehow the latter
seemed more cosy, dearest. Of course, this room is a good one
enough; in fact, in SOME respects it is the more cheerful and
interesting of the two. I have nothing to say against it--no. Yet
I miss the room that used to be so familiar to me. Old lodgers
like myself soon grow as attached to our chattels as to a
kinsman. My old room was such a snug little place! True, its
walls resembled those of any other room--I am not speaking of
that; the point is that the recollection of them seems to haunt
my mind with sadness. Curious that recollections should be so
mournful! Even what in that room used to vex me and inconvenience
me now looms in a purified light, and figures in my imagination
as a thing to be desired. We used to live there so quietly--I and
an old landlady who is now dead. How my heart aches to remember
her, for she was a good woman, and never overcharged for her
rooms. Her whole time was spent in making patchwork quilts with
knitting-needles that were an arshin [An ell.] long. Oftentimes
we shared the same candle and board. Also she had a
granddaughter, Masha--a girl who was then a mere baby, but must
now be a girl of thirteen. This little piece of mischief, how she
used to make us laugh the day long! We lived together, a happy
family of three. Often of a long winter's evening we would first
have tea at the big round table, and then betake ourselves to our
work; the while that, to amuse the child and to keep her out of
mischief, the old lady would set herself to tell stories. What
stories they were!--though stories less suitable for a child than
for a grown-up, educated person. My word! Why, I myself have sat
listening to them, as I smoked my pipe, until I have forgotten
about work altogether. And then, as the story grew grimmer, the
little child, our little bag of mischief, would grow thoughtful
in proportion, and clasp her rosy cheeks in her tiny hands, and,
hiding her face, press closer to the old landlady. Ah, how I
loved to see her at those moments! As one gazed at her one would
fail to notice how the candle was flickering, or how the storm
was swishing the snow about the courtyard. Yes, that was a goodly
life, my Barbara, and we lived it for nearly twenty years. . . .
How my tongue does carry me away! Maybe the subject does not
interest you, and I myself find it a not over-easy subject to
recall--especially at the present time.

Darkness is falling, and Theresa is busying herself with
something or another. My head and my back are aching, and even my
thoughts seem to be in pain, so strangely do they occur. Yes, my
heart is sad today, Barbara.... What is it you have written to
me? ---"Why do you not come in PERSON to see me?" Dear one, what
would people say? I should have but to cross the courtyard for
people to begin noticing us, and asking themselves questions.
Gossip and scandal would arise, and there would be read into the
affair quite another meaning than the real one. No, little angel,
it were better that I should see you tomorrow at Vespers. That
will be the better plan, and less hurtful to us both. Nor must
you chide me, beloved, because I have written you a letter like
this (reading it through, I see it to be all odds and ends); for
I am an old man now, dear Barbara, and an uneducated one. Little
learning had I in my youth, and things refuse to fix themselves
in my brain when I try to learn them anew. No, I am not skilled
in letter-writing, Barbara, and, without being told so, or any
one laughing at me for it, I know that, whenever I try to
describe anything with more than ordinary distinctness, I fall
into the mistake of talking sheer rubbish. . . . I saw you at
your window today--yes, I saw you as you were drawing down the
blind! Good-bye, goodbye, little Barbara, and may God keep you!
Good-bye, my own Barbara Alexievna!--Your sincere friend,


P.S.--Do not think that I could write to you in a satirical vein,
for I am too old to show my teeth to no purpose, and people would
laugh at me, and quote our Russian proverb: "Who diggeth a pit
for another one, the same shall fall into it himself."

 April 9th

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Are not you, my friend and
benefactor, just a little ashamed to repine and give way to such
despondency? And surely you are not offended with me? Ah! Though
often thoughtless in my speech, I never should have imagined that
you would take my words as a jest at your expense. Rest assured
that NEVER should I make sport of your years or of your
character. Only my own levity is at fault; still more, the fact
that I am so weary of life.

What will such a feeling not engender? To tell you the truth, I
had supposed that YOU were jesting in your letter; wherefore, my
heart was feeling heavy at the thought that you could feel so
displeased with me. Kind comrade and helper, you will be doing me
an injustice if for a single moment you ever suspect that I am
lacking in feeling or in gratitude towards you. My heart, believe
me, is able to appraise at its true worth all that you have done
for me by protecting me from my enemies, and from hatred and
persecution. Never shall I cease to pray to God for you; and,
should my prayers ever reach Him and be received of Heaven, then
assuredly fortune will smile upon you!

Today I am not well. By turns I shiver and flush with heat, and
Thedora is greatly disturbed about me. . . . Do not scruple to
come and see me, Makar Alexievitch. How can it concern other
people what you do? You and I are well enough acquainted with
each other, and one's own affairs are one's own affairs. Goodbye,
Makar Alexievitch, for I have come to the end of all I had to
say, and am feeling too unwell to write more. Again I beg of you
not to be angry with me, but to rest assured of my constant
respect and attachment.--Your humble, devoted servant,


April 12th

tell me what ails you. Every one of your letters fills me with
alarm. On the other hand, in every letter I urge you to be more
careful of yourself, and to wrap up yourself warmly, and to avoid
going out in bad weather, and to be in all things prudent. Yet
you go and disobey me! Ah, little angel, you are a perfect child!
I know well that you are as weak as a blade of grass, and that,
no matter what wind blows upon you, you are ready to fade. But
you must be careful of yourself, dearest; you MUST look after
yourself better; you MUST avoid all risks, lest you plunge your
friends into desolation and despair.

Dearest, you also express a wish to learn the details of my daily
life and surroundings. That wish I hasten to satisfy. Let me
begin at the beginning, since, by doing so, I shall explain
things more systematically. In the first place, on entering this
house, one passes into a very bare hall, and thence along a
passage to a mean staircase. The reception room, however, is
bright, clean, and spacious, and is lined with redwood and metal-
work. But the scullery you would not care to see; it is greasy,
dirty, and odoriferous, while the stairs are in rags, and the
walls so covered with filth that the hand sticks fast wherever it
touches them. Also, on each landing there is a medley of boxes,
chairs, and dilapidated wardrobes; while the windows have had
most of their panes shattered, and everywhere stand washtubs
filled with dirt, litter, eggshells, and fish-bladders. The smell
is abominable. In short, the house is not a nice one.

As to the disposition of the rooms, I have described it to you
already. True, they are convenient enough, yet every one of them
has an ATMOSPHERE. I do not mean that they smell badly so much as
that each of them seems to contain something which gives forth a
rank, sickly-sweet odour. At first the impression is an
unpleasant one, but a couple of minutes will suffice to dissipate
it, for the reason that EVERYTHING here smells--people's clothes,
hands, and everything else--and one grows accustomed to the
rankness. Canaries, however, soon die in this house. A naval
officer here has just bought his fifth. Birds cannot live long in
such an air. Every morning, when fish or beef is being cooked,
and washing and scrubbing are in progress, the house is filled
with steam. Always, too, the kitchen is full of linen hanging out
to dry; and since my room adjoins that apartment, the smell from
the clothes causes me not a little annoyance. However, one can
grow used to anything.

From earliest dawn the house is astir as its inmates rise, walk
about, and stamp their feet. That is to say, everyone who has to
go to work then gets out of bed. First of all, tea is partaken
of. Most of the tea-urns belong to the landlady; and since there
are not very many of them, we have to wait our turn. Anyone who
fails to do so will find his teapot emptied and put away. On the
first occasion, that was what happened to myself. Well, is there
anything else to tell you? Already I have made the acquaintance
of the company here. The naval officer took the initiative in
calling upon me, and his frankness was such that he told me all
about his father, his mother, his sister (who is married to a
lawyer of Tula), and the town of Kronstadt. Also, he promised me
his patronage, and asked me to come and take tea with him. I kept
the appointment in a room where card-playing is continually in
progress; and, after tea had been drunk, efforts were made to
induce me to gamble. Whether or not my refusal seemed to the
company ridiculous I cannot say, but at all events my companions
played the whole evening, and were playing when I left. The dust
and smoke in the room made my eyes ache. I declined, as I say, to
play cards, and was, therefore, requested to discourse on
philosophy, after which no one spoke to me at all--a result which
I did not regret. In fact, I have no intention of going there
again, since every one is for gambling, and for nothing but
gambling. Even the literary tchinovnik gives such parties in his
room--though, in his case, everything is done delicately and with
a certain refinement, so that the thing has something of a
retiring and innocent air.

In passing, I may tell you that our landlady is NOT a nice woman.
In fact, she is a regular beldame. You have seen her once, so
what do you think of her? She is as lanky as a plucked chicken in
consumption, and, with Phaldoni (her servant), constitutes the
entire staff of the establishment. Whether or not Phaldoni has
any other name I do not know, but at least he answers to this
one, and every one calls him by it. A red-haired, swine-jowled,
snub-nosed, crooked lout, he is for ever wrangling with Theresa,
until the pair nearly come to blows. In short, life is not overly
pleasant in this place. Never at any time is the household wholly
at rest, for always there are people sitting up to play cards.
Sometimes, too, certain things are done of which it would be
shameful for me to speak. In particular, hardened though I am, it
astonishes me that men WITH FAMILIES should care to live in this
Sodom. For example, there is a family of poor folk who have
rented from the landlady a room which does not adjoin the other
rooms, but is set apart in a corner by itself. Yet what quiet
people they are! Not a sound is to be heard from them. The
father--he is called Gorshkov--is a little grey-headed tchinovnik
who, seven years ago, was dismissed from public service, and now
walks about in a coat so dirty and ragged that it hurts one to
see it. Indeed it is a worse coat even than mine! Also, he is so
thin and frail (at times I meet him in the corridor) that his
knees quake under him, his hands and head are tremulous with some
disease (God only knows what!), and he so fears and distrusts
everybody that he always walks alone. Reserved though I myself
am, he is even worse. As for his family, it consists of a wife
and three children. The eldest of the latter--a boy--is as frail
as his father, while the mother--a woman who, formerly, must have
been good looking, and still has a striking aspect in spite of
her pallor--goes about in the sorriest of rags. Also I have heard
that they are in debt to our landlady, as well as that she is not
overly kind to them. Moreover, I have heard that Gorshkov lost
his post through some unpleasantness or other--through a legal
suit or process of which I could not exactly tell you the nature.
Yes, they certainly are poor--Oh, my God, how poor! At the same
time, never a sound comes from their room. It is as though not a
soul were living in it. Never does one hear even the children--
which is an unusual thing, seeing that children are ever ready to
sport and play, and if they fail to do so it is a bad sign. One
evening when I chanced to be passing the door of their room, and
all was quiet in the house, I heard through the door a sob, and
then a whisper, and then another sob, as though somebody within
were weeping, and with such subdued bitterness that it tore my
heart to hear the sound. In fact, the thought of these poor
people never left me all night, and quite prevented me from

Well, good-bye, my little Barbara, my little friend beyond price.
I have described to you everything to the best of my ability. All
today you have been in my thoughts; all today my heart has been
yearning for you. I happen to know, dearest one, that you lack a
warm cloak. To me too, these St. Petersburg springs, with their
winds and their snow showers, spell death. Good heavens, how the
breezes bite one! Do not be angry, beloved, that I should write
like this. Style I have not. Would that I had! I write just what
wanders into my brain, in the hope that I may cheer you up a
little. Of course, had I had a good education, things might have
been different; but, as things were, I could not have one. Never
did I learn even to do simple sums!--Your faithful and
unchangeable friend,


 April 25th

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Today I met my cousin Sasha. To
see her going to wrack and ruin shocked me terribly. Moreover, it
has reached me, through a side wind, that she has been making
inquiry for me, and dogging my footsteps, under the pretext that
she wishes to pardon me, to forget the past, and to renew our
acquaintance. Well, among other things she told me that, whereas
you are not a kinsman of mine, that she is my nearest relative;
that you have no right whatever to enter into family relations
with us; and that it is wrong and shameful for me to be living
upon your earnings and charity. Also, she said that I must have
forgotten all that she did for me, though thereby she saved both
myself and my mother from starvation, and gave us food and drink;
that for two and a half years we caused her great loss; and,
above all things, that she excused us what we owed her. Even my
poor mother she did not spare. Would that she, my dead parent,
could know how I am being treated! But God knows all about it. .
. . Also, Anna declared that it was solely through my own fault
that my fortunes declined after she had bettered them; that she
is in no way responsible for what then happened; and that I have
but myself to blame for having been either unable or unwilling to
defend my honour. Great God! WHO, then, has been at fault?
According to Anna, Hospodin [Mr.] Bwikov was only right when he
declined to marry a woman who-- But need I say it? It is cruel to
hear such lies as hers. What is to become of me I do not know. I
tremble and sob and weep. Indeed, even to write this letter has
cost me two hours. At least it might have been thought that Anna
would have confessed HER share in the past. Yet see what she
says! ... For the love of God do not be anxious about me, my
friend, my only benefactor. Thedora is over apt to exaggerate
matters. I am not REALLY ill. I have merely caught a little cold.
I caught it last night while I was walking to Bolkovo, to hear
Mass sung for my mother. Ah, mother, my poor mother! Could you
but rise from the grave and learn what is being done to your

B. D.

 May 20th

MY DEAREST LITTLE BARBARA,--I am sending you a few grapes, which
are good for a convalescent person, and strongly recommended by
doctors for the allayment of fever. Also, you were saying the
other day that you would like some roses; wherefore, I now send
you a bunch. Are you at all able to eat, my darling?--for that is
the chief point which ought to be seen to. Let us thank God that
the past and all its unhappiness are gone! Yes, let us give
thanks to Heaven for that much! As for books, I cannot get hold
of any, except for a book which, written in excellent style, is,
I believe, to be had here. At all events, people keep praising it
very much, and I have begged the loan of it for myself. Should
you too like to read it? In this respect, indeed, I feel nervous,
for the reason that it is so difficult to divine what your taste
in books may be, despite my knowledge of your character. Probably
you would like poetry--the poetry of sentiment and of love
making? Well, I will send you a book of MY OWN poems. Already I
have copied out part of the manuscript.

Everything with me is going well; so pray do not be anxious on my
account, beloved. What Thedora told you about me was sheer
rubbish. Tell her from me that she has not been speaking the
truth. Yes, do not fail to give this mischief-maker my message.
It is not the case that I have gone and sold a new uniform. Why
should I do so, seeing that I have forty roubles of salary still
to come to me? Do not be uneasy, my darling. Thedora is a
vindictive woman--merely a vindictive woman. We shall yet see
better days. Only do you get well, my angel--only do you get
well, for the love of God, lest you grieve an old man. Also, who
told you that I was looking thin? Slanders again--nothing but
slanders! I am as healthy as could be, and have grown so fat that
I am ashamed to be so sleek of paunch. Would that you were
equally healthy! . . . Now goodbye, my angel. I kiss every one of
your tiny fingers, and remain ever your constant friend,


P.S.--But what is this, dearest one, that you have written to me?
Why do you place me upon such a pedestal? Moreover, how could I
come and visit you frequently? How, I repeat? Of course, I might
avail myself of the cover of night; but, alas! the season of the
year is what it is, and includes no night time to speak of. In
fact, although, throughout your illness and delirium, I scarcely
left your side for a moment, I cannot think how I contrived to do
the many things that I did. Later, I ceased to visit you at all,
for the reason that people were beginning to notice things, and
to ask me questions. Yet, even so, a scandal has arisen. Theresa
I trust thoroughly, for she is not a talkative woman; but
consider how it will be when the truth comes out in its entirety!
What THEN will folk not say and think? Nevertheless, be of good
cheer, my beloved, and regain your health. When you have done so
we will contrive to arrange a rendezvous out of doors.

 June 1st

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--So eager am I to do something that
will please and divert you in return for your care, for your
ceaseless efforts on my behalf--in short, for your love for me--
that I have decided to beguile a leisure hour for you by delving
into my locker, and extracting thence the manuscript which I send
you herewith. I began it during the happier period of my life,
and have continued it at intervals since. So often have you asked
me about my former existence--about my mother, about Pokrovski,
about my sojourn with Anna Thedorovna, about my more recent
misfortunes; so often have you expressed an earnest desire to
read the manuscript in which (God knows why) I have recorded
certain incidents of my life, that I feel no doubt but that the
sending of it will give you sincere pleasure. Yet somehow I feel
depressed when I read it, for I seem now to have grown twice as
old as I was when I penned its concluding lines. Ah, Makar
Alexievitch, how weary I am--how this insomnia tortures me!
Convalescence is indeed a hard thing to bear!

B. D.


UP to the age of fourteen, when my father died, my childhood was
the happiest period of my life. It began very far away from here-
in the depths of the province of Tula, where my father filled the
position of steward on the vast estates of the Prince P--. Our
house was situated in one of the Prince's villages, and we lived
a quiet, obscure, but happy, life. A gay little child was I--my
one idea being ceaselessly to run about the fields and the woods
and the garden. No one ever gave me a thought, for my father was
always occupied with business affairs, and my mother with her
housekeeping. Nor did any one ever give me any lessons--a
circumstance for which I was not sorry. At earliest dawn I would
hie me to a pond or a copse, or to a hay or a harvest field,
where the sun could warm me, and I could roam wherever I liked,
and scratch my hands with bushes, and tear my clothes in pieces.
For this I used to get blamed afterwards, but I did not care.

Had it befallen me never to quit that village--had it befallen me
to remain for ever in that spot--I should always have been happy;
but fate ordained that I should leave my birthplace even before
my girlhood had come to an end. In short, I was only twelve years
old when we removed to St. Petersburg. Ah! how it hurts me to
recall the mournful gatherings before our departure, and to
recall how bitterly I wept when the time came for us to say
farewell to all that I had held so dear! I remember throwing
myself upon my father's neck, and beseeching him with tears to
stay in the country a little longer; but he bid me be silent, and
my mother, adding her tears to mine, explained that business
matters compelled us to go. As a matter of fact, old Prince P--
had just died, and his heirs had dismissed my father from his
post; whereupon, since he had a little money privately invested
in St. Petersburg, he bethought him that his personal presence in
the capital was necessary for the due management of his affairs.
It was my mother who told me this. Consequently we settled here
in St. Petersburg, and did not again move until my father died.

How difficult I found it to grow accustomed to my new life! At
the time of our removal to St. Petersburg it was autumn--a season
when, in the country, the weather is clear and keen and bright,
all agricultural labour has come to an end, the great sheaves of
corn are safely garnered in the byre, and the birds are flying
hither and thither in clamorous flocks. Yes, at that season the
country is joyous and fair, but here in St. Petersburg, at the
time when we reached the city, we encountered nothing but rain,
bitter autumn frosts, dull skies, ugliness, and crowds of
strangers who looked hostile, discontented, and disposed to take
offence. However, we managed to settle down--though I remember
that in our new home there was much noise and confusion as we set
the establishment in order. After this my father was seldom at
home, and my mother had few spare moments; wherefore, I found
myself forgotten.

The first morning after our arrival, when I awoke from sleep, how
sad I felt! I could see that our windows looked out upon a drab
space of wall, and that the street below was littered with filth.
Passers-by were few, and as they walked they kept muffling
themselves up against the cold.

Then there ensued days when dullness and depression reigned
supreme. Scarcely a relative or an acquaintance did we possess in
St. Petersburg, and even Anna Thedorovna and my father had come
to loggerheads with one another, owing to the fact that he owed
her money. In fact, our only visitors were business callers, and
as a rule these came but to wrangle, to argue, and to raise a
disturbance. Such visits would make my father look very
discontented, and seem out of temper. For hours and hours he
would pace the room with a frown on his face and a brooding
silence on his lips. Even my mother did not dare address him at
these times, while, for my own part, I used to sit reading
quietly and humbly in a corner--not venturing to make a movement
of any sort.

Three months after our arrival in St. Petersburg I was sent to a
boarding-school. Here I found myself thrown among strange people;
here everything was grim and uninviting, with teachers
continually shouting at me, and my fellow-pupils for ever holding
me up to derision, and myself constantly feeling awkward and
uncouth. How strict, how exacting was the system! Appointed hours
for everything, a common table, ever-insistent teachers! These
things simply worried and tortured me. Never from the first could
I sleep, but used to weep many a chill, weary night away. In the
evenings everyone would have to repeat or to learn her lessons.
As I crouched over a dialogue or a vocabulary, without daring
even to stir, how my thoughts would turn to the chimney-corner at
home, to my father, to my mother, to my old nurse, to the tales
which the latter had been used to tell! How sad it all was! The
memory of the merest trifle at home would please me, and I would
think and think how nice things used to be at home. Once more I
would be sitting in our little parlour at tea with my parents--in
the familiar little parlour where everything was snug and warm!
How ardently, how convulsively I would seem to be embracing my
mother! Thus I would ponder, until at length tears of sorrow
would softly gush forth and choke my bosom, and drive the lessons
out of my head. For I never could master the tasks of the morrow;
no matter how much my mistress and fellow-pupils might gird at
me, no matter how much I might repeat my lessons over and over to
myself, knowledge never came with the morning. Consequently, I
used to be ordered the kneeling punishment, and given only one
meal in the day. How dull and dispirited I used to feel! From the
first my fellow-pupils used to tease and deride and mock me
whenever I was saying my lessons. Also, they used to pinch me as
we were on our way to dinner or tea, and to make groundless
complaints of me to the head mistress. On the other hand, how
heavenly it seemed when, on Saturday evening, my old nurse
arrived to fetch me! How I would embrace the old woman in
transports of joy! After dressing me, and wrapping me up, she
would find that she could scarcely keep pace with me on the way
home, so full was I of chatter and tales about one thing and
another. Then, when I had arrived home merry and lighthearted,
how fervently I would embrace my parents, as though I had not
seen them for ten years. Such a fussing would there be--such a
talking and a telling of tales! To everyone I would run with a
greeting, and laugh, and giggle, and scamper about, and skip for
very joy. True, my father and I used to have grave conversations
about lessons and teachers and the French language and grammar;
yet we were all very happy and contented together. Even now it
thrills me to think of those moments. For my father's sake I
tried hard to learn my lessons, for I could see that he was
spending his last kopeck upon me, and himself subsisting God
knows how. Every day he grew more morose and discontented and
irritable; every day his character kept changing for the worse.
He had suffered an influx of debts, nor were his business affairs
prospering. As for my mother, she was afraid even to say a word,
or to weep aloud, for fear of still further angering him.
Gradually she sickened, grew thinner and thinner, and became
taken with a painful cough. Whenever I reached home from school I
would find every one low-spirited, and my mother shedding silent
tears, and my father raging. Bickering and high words would
arise, during which my father was wont to declare that, though he
no longer derived the smallest pleasure or relaxation from life,
and had spent his last coin upon my education, I had not yet
mastered the French language. In short, everything began to go
wrong, to turn to unhappiness; and for that circumstance, my
father took vengeance upon myself and my mother. How he could
treat my poor mother so I cannot understand. It used to rend my
heart to see her, so hollow were her cheeks becoming, so sunken
her eyes, so hectic her face. But it was chiefly around myself
that the disputes raged. Though beginning only with some trifle,
they would soon go on to God knows what. Frequently, even I
myself did not know to what they related. Anything and everything
would enter into them, for my father would say that I was an
utter dunce at the French language; that the head mistress of my
school was a stupid, common sort of women who cared nothing for
morals; that he (my father) had not yet succeeded in obtaining
another post; that Lamonde's "Grammar" was a wretched book--even
a worse one than Zapolski's; that a great deal of money had been
squandered upon me; that it was clear that I was wasting my time
in repeating dialogues and vocabularies; that I alone was at
fault, and that I must answer for everything. Yet this did not
arise from any WANT OF LOVE for me on the part of my father, but
rather from the fact that he was incapable of putting himself in
my own and my mother's place. It came of a defect of character.

All these cares and worries and disappointments tortured my poor
father until he became moody and distrustful. Next he began to
neglect his health. with the result that, catching a chill, he
died, after a short illness, so suddenly and unexpectedly that
for a few days we were almost beside ourselves with the shock --
my mother, in particular, lying for a while in such a state of
torpor that I had fears for her reason. The instant my father was
dead creditors seemed to spring up out of the ground, and to
assail us en masse. Everything that we possessed had to be
surrendered to them, including a little house which my father had
bought six months after our arrival in St. Petersburg. How
matters were finally settled I do not know, but we found
ourselves roofless, shelterless, and without a copper. My mother
was grievously ill, and of means of subsistence we had none.
Before us there loomed only ruin, sheer ruin. At the time I was
fourteen years old. Soon afterwards Anna Thedorovna came to see
us, saying that she was a lady of property and our relative; and
this my mother confirmed--though, true, she added that Anna was
only a very DISTANT relative. Anna had never taken the least
notice of us during my father's lifetime, yet now she entered our
presence with tears in her eyes, and an assurance that she meant
to better our fortunes. Having condoled with us on our loss and
destitute position, she added that my father had been to blame
for everything, in that he had lived beyond his means, and taken
upon himself more than he was able to perform. Also, she
expressed a wish to draw closer to us, and to forget old scores;
and when my mother explained that, for her own part, she
harboured no resentment against Anna, the latter burst into
tears, and, hurrying my mother away to church, then and there
ordered Mass to be said for the "dear departed," as she called my
father. In this manner she effected a solemn reconciliation with
my mother.

Next, after long negotiations and vacillations, coupled with much
vivid description of our destitute position, our desolation, and
our helplessness, Anna invited us to pay her (as she expressed
it) a "return visit." For this my mother duly thanked her, and
considered the invitation for a while; after which, seeing that
there was nothing else to be done, she informed Anna Thedorovna
that she was prepared, gratefully, to accept her offer. Ah, how I
remember the morning when we removed to Vassilievski Island! [A
quarter of St. Petersburg.] It was a clear, dry, frosty morning
in autumn. My mother could not restrain her tears, and I too felt
depressed. Nay, my very heart seemed to be breaking under a
strange, undefined load of sorrow. How terrible it all seemed! .
. .


AT first--that is to say, until my mother and myself grew used to
our new abode--we found living at Anna Thedorovna's both strange
and disagreeable. The house was her own, and contained five
rooms, three of which she shared with my orphaned cousin, Sasha
(whom she had brought up from babyhood); a fourth was occupied by
my mother and myself; and the fifth was rented of Anna by a poor
student named Pokrovski. Although Anna lived in good style--in
far better style than might have been expected--her means and her
avocation were conjectural. Never was she at rest; never was she
not busy with some mysterious something or other. Also, she
possessed a wide and varied circle of friends. The stream of
callers was perpetual--although God only knows who they were, or
what their business was. No sooner did my mother hear the door-
bell ring than off she would carry me to our own apartment. This
greatly displeased Anna, who used again and again to assure my
mother that we were too proud for our station in life. In fact,
she would sulk for hours about it. At the time I could not
understand these reproaches, and it was not until long afterwards
that I learned--or rather, I guessed--why eventually my mother
declared that she could not go on living with Anna. Yes, Anna was
a bad woman. Never did she let us alone. As to the exact motive
why she had asked us to come and share her house with her I am
still in the dark. At first she was not altogether unkind to us
but, later, she revealed to us her real character--as soon, that
is to say, as she saw that we were at her mercy, and had nowhere
else to go. Yes, in early days she was quite kind to me--even
offensively so, but afterwards, I had to suffer as much as my
mother. Constantly did Anna reproach us; constantly did she
remind us of her benefactions, and introduce us to her friends as
poor relatives of hers whom, out of goodness of heart and for the
love of Christ, she had received into her bosom. At table, also,
she would watch every mouthful that we took; and, if our appetite
failed, immediately she would begin as before, and reiterate that
we were over-dainty, that we must not assume that riches would
mean happiness, and that we had better go and live by ourselves.
Moreover, she never ceased to inveigh against my father--saying
that he had sought to be better than other people, and thereby
had brought himself to a bad end; that he had left his wife and
daughter destitute; and that, but for the fact that we had
happened to meet with a kind and sympathetic Christian soul, God
alone knew where we should have laid our heads, save in the
street. What did that woman not say? To hear her was not so much
galling as disgusting. From time to time my mother would burst
into tears, her health grew worse from day to day, and her body
was becoming sheer skin and bone. All the while, too, we had to
work--to work from morning till night, for we had contrived to
obtain some employment as occasional sempstresses. This, however,
did not please Anna, who used to tell us that there was no room
in her house for a modiste's establishment. Yet we had to get
clothes to wear, to provide for unforeseen expenses, and to have
a little money at our disposal in case we should some day wish to
remove elsewhere. Unfortunately, the strain undermined my
mother's health, and she became gradually weaker. Sickness, like
a cankerworm, was gnawing at her life, and dragging her towards
the tomb. Well could I see what she was enduring, what she was
suffering. Yes, it all lay open to my eyes.

Day succeeded day, and each day was like the last one. We lived a
life as quiet as though we had been in the country. Anna herself
grew quieter in proportion as she came to realise the extent of
her power over us. In nothing did we dare to thwart her. From her
portion of the house our apartment was divided by a corridor,
while next to us (as mentioned above) dwelt a certain Pokrovski,
who was engaged in teaching Sasha the French and German
languages, as well as history and geography--"all the sciences,"
as Anna used to say. In return for these services he received
free board and lodging. As for Sasha, she was a clever, but rude
and uncouth, girl of thirteen. On one occasion Anna remarked to
my mother that it might be as well if I also were to take some
lessons, seeing that my education had been neglected at school;
and, my mother joyfully assenting, I joined Sasha for a year in
studying under this Pokrovski.

The latter was a poor--a very poor--young man whose health would
not permit of his undertaking the regular university course.
Indeed, it was only for form's sake that we called him "The
Student." He lived in such a quiet, humble, retiring fashion that
never a sound reached us from his room. Also, his exterior was
peculiar--he moved and walked awkwardly, and uttered his words in
such a strange manner that at first I could never look at him
without laughing. Sasha was for ever playing tricks upon him--
more especially when he was giving us our lessons. But
unfortunately, he was of a temperament as excitable as herself.
Indeed, he was so irritable that the least trifle would send him
into a frenzy, and set him shouting at us, and complaining of our
conduct. Sometimes he would even rush away to his room before
school hours were over, and sit there for days over his books, of
which he had a store that was both rare and valuable. In
addition, he acted as teacher at another establishment, and
received payment for his services there; and, whenever he had
received his fees for this extra work, he would hasten off and
purchase more books.

In time I got to know and like him better, for in reality he was
a good, worthy fellow--more so than any of the people with whom
we otherwise came in contact. My mother in particular had a great
respect for him, and, after herself, he was my best friend. But
at first I was just an overgrown hoyden, and joined Sasha in
playing the fool. For hours we would devise tricks to anger and
distract him, for he looked extremely ridiculous when he was
angry, and so diverted us the more (ashamed though I am now to
admit it). But once, when we had driven him nearly to tears, I
heard him say to himself under his breath, "What cruel children!"
and instantly I repented--I began to feel sad and ashamed and
sorry for him. I reddened to my ears, and begged him, almost with
tears, not to mind us, nor to take offence at our stupid jests.
Nevertheless, without finishing the lesson, he closed his book,
and departed to his own room. All that day I felt torn with
remorse. To think that we two children had forced him, the poor,
the unhappy one, to remember his hard lot! And at night I could
not sleep for grief and regret. Remorse is said to bring relief
to the soul, but it is not so. How far my grief was internally
connected with my conceit I do not know, but at least I did not
wish him to think me a baby, seeing that I had now reached the
age of fifteen years. Therefore, from that day onwards I began to
torture my imagination with devising a thousand schemes which
should compel Pokrovski to alter his opinion of me. At the same
time, being yet shy and reserved by nature, I ended by finding
that, in my present position, I could make up my mind to nothing
but vague dreams (and such dreams I had). However, I ceased to
join Sasha in playing the fool, while Pokrovski, for his part,
ceased to lose his temper with us so much. Unfortunately this was
not enough to satisfy my self-esteem.

At this point, I must say a few words about the strangest, the
most interesting, the most pitiable human being that I have ever
come across. I speak of him now--at this particular point in
these memoirs--for the reason that hitherto I had paid him no
attention whatever, and began to do so now only because
everything connected with Pokrovski had suddenly become of
absorbing interest in my eyes.

Sometimes there came to the house a ragged, poorly-dressed, grey-
headed, awkward, amorphous--in short, a very strange-looking--
little old man. At first glance it might have been thought that
he was perpetually ashamed of something--that he had on his
conscience something which always made him, as it were, bristle
up and then shrink into himself. Such curious starts and grimaces
did he indulge in that one was forced to conclude that he was
scarcely in his right mind. On arriving, he would halt for a
while by the window in the hall, as though afraid to enter;
until, should any one happen to pass in or out of the door--
whether Sasha or myself or one of the servants (to the latter he
always resorted the most readily, as being the most nearly akin
to his own class)--he would begin to gesticulate and to beckon to
that person, and to make various signs. Then, should the person
in question nod to him, or call him by name (the recognised token
that no other visitor was present, and that he might enter
freely), he would open the door gently, give a smile of
satisfaction as he rubbed his hands together, and proceed on
tiptoe to young Pokrovski's room. This old fellow was none other
than Pokrovski's father.

Later I came to know his story in detail. Formerly a civil
servant, he had possessed no additional means, and so had
occupied a very low and insignificant position in the service.
Then, after his first wife (mother of the younger Pokrovski) had
died, the widower bethought him of marrying a second time, and
took to himself a tradesman's daughter, who soon assumed the
reins over everything, and brought the home to rack and ruin, so
that the old man was worse off than before. But to the younger
Pokrovski, fate proved kinder, for a landowner named Bwikov, who
had formerly known the lad's father and been his benefactor, took
the boy under his protection, and sent him to school. Another
reason why this Bwikov took an interest in young Pokrovski was
that he had known the lad's dead mother, who, while still a
serving-maid, had been befriended by Anna Thedorovna, and
subsequently married to the elder Pokrovski. At the wedding
Bwikov, actuated by his friendship for Anna, conferred upon the
young bride a dowry of five thousand roubles; but whither that
money had since disappeared I cannot say. It was from Anna's lips
that I heard the story, for the student Pokrovski was never prone
to talk about his family affairs. His mother was said to have
been very good-looking; wherefore, it is the more mysterious why
she should have made so poor a match. She died when young--only
four years after her espousal.

From school the young Pokrovski advanced to a gymnasium,
[Secondary school.] and thence to the University, where Bwikov,
who frequently visited the capital, continued to accord the youth
his protection. Gradually, however, ill health put an end to the
young man's university course; whereupon Bwikov introduced and
personally recommended him to Anna Thedorovna, and he came to
lodge with her on condition that he taught Sasha whatever might
be required of him.

Grief at the harshness of his wife led the elder Pokrovski to
plunge into dissipation, and to remain in an almost permanent
condition of drunkenness. Constantly his wife beat him, or sent
him to sit in the kitchen-- with the result that in time, he
became so inured to blows and neglect, that he ceased to
complain. Still not greatly advanced in years, he had
nevertheless endangered his reason through evil courses--his only
sign of decent human feeling being his love for his son. The
latter was said to resemble his dead mother as one pea may
resemble another. What recollections, therefore, of the kind
helpmeet of former days may not have moved the breast of the poor
broken old man to this boundless affection for the boy? Of naught
else could the father ever speak but of his son, and never did he
fail to visit him twice a week. To come oftener he did not dare,
for the reason that the younger Pokrovski did not like these
visits of his father's. In fact, there can be no doubt that the
youth's greatest fault was his lack of filial respect. Yet the
father was certainly rather a difficult person to deal with, for,
in the first place, he was extremely inquisitive, while, in the
second place, his long-winded conversation and questions--
questions of the most vapid and senseless order conceivable--
always prevented the son from working. Likewise, the old man
occasionally arrived there drunk. Gradually, however, the son was
weaning his parent from his vicious ways and everlasting
inquisitiveness, and teaching the old man to look upon him, his
son, as an oracle, and never to speak without that son's

On the subject of his Petinka, as he called him, the poor old man
could never sufficiently rhapsodise and dilate. Yet when he
arrived to see his son he almost invariably had on his face a
downcast, timid expression that was probably due to uncertainty
concerning the way in which he would be received. For a long time
he would hesitate to enter, and if I happened to be there he
would question me for twenty minutes or so as to whether his
Petinka was in good health, as well as to the sort of mood he was
in, whether he was engaged on matters of importance, what
precisely he was doing (writing or meditating), and so on. Then,
when I had sufficiently encouraged and reassured the old man, he
would make up his mind to enter, and quietly and cautiously open
the door. Next, he would protrude his head through the chink, and
if he saw that his son was not angry, but threw him a nod, he
would glide noiselessly into the room, take off his scarf, and
hang up his hat (the latter perennially in a bad state of repair,
full of holes, and with a smashed brim)--the whole being done
without a word or a sound of any kind. Next, the old man would
seat himself warily on a chair, and, never removing his eyes from
his son, follow his every movement, as though seeking to gauge
Petinka's state of mind. On the other hand, if the son was not in
good spirits, the father would make a note of the fact, and at
once get up, saying that he had "only called for a minute or
two," that, "having been out for a long walk, and happening at
the moment to be passing," he had "looked in for a moment's
rest." Then silently and humbly the old man would resume his hat
and scarf; softly he would open the door, and noiselessly depart
with a forced smile on his face--the better to bear the
disappointment which was seething in his breast, the better to
help him not to show it to his son.

On the other hand, whenever the son received his father civilly
the old man would be struck dumb with joy. Satisfaction would
beam in his face, in his every gesture, in his every movement.
And if the son deigned to engage in conversation with him, the
old man always rose a little from his chair, and answered softly,
sympathetically, with something like reverence, while strenuously
endeavouring to make use of the most recherche (that is to say,
the most ridiculous) expressions. But, alas! He had not the gift
of words. Always he grew confused, and turned red in the face;
never did he know what to do with his hands or with himself.
Likewise, whenever he had returned an answer of any kind, he
would go on repeating the same in a whisper, as though he were
seeking to justify what he had just said. And if he happened to
have returned a good answer, he would begin to preen himself, and
to straighten his waistcoat, frockcoat and tie, and to assume an
air of conscious dignity. Indeed, on these occasions he would
feel so encouraged, he would carry his daring to such a pitch,
that, rising softly from his chair, he would approach the
bookshelves, take thence a book, and read over to himself some
passage or another. All this he would do with an air of feigned
indifference and sangfroid, as though he were free ALWAYS to use
his son's books, and his son's kindness were no rarity at all.
Yet on one occasion I saw the poor old fellow actually turn pale
on being told by his son not to touch the books. Abashed and
confused, he, in his awkward hurry, replaced the volume wrong
side uppermost; whereupon, with a supreme effort to recover
himself, he turned it round with a smile and a blush, as though
he were at a loss how to view his own misdemeanour. Gradually, as
already said, the younger Pokrovski weaned his father from his
dissipated ways by giving him a small coin whenever, on three
successive occasions, he (the father) arrived sober. Sometimes,
also, the younger man would buy the older one shoes, or a tie, or
a waistcoat; whereafter, the old man would be as proud of his
acquisition as a peacock. Not infrequently, also, the old man
would step in to visit ourselves, and bring Sasha and myself
gingerbread birds or apples, while talking unceasingly of
Petinka. Always he would beg of us to pay attention to our
lessons, on the plea that Petinka was a good son, an exemplary
son, a son who was in twofold measure a man of learning; after
which he would wink at us so quizzingly with his left eye, and
twist himself about in such amusing fashion, that we were forced
to burst out laughing. My mother had a great liking for him, but
he detested Anna Thedorovna--although in her presence he would be
quieter than water and lowlier than the earth.

Soon after this I ceased to take lessons of Pokrovski. Even now
he thought me a child, a raw schoolgirl, as much as he did Sasha;
and this hurt me extremely, seeing that I had done so much to
expiate my former behaviour. Of my efforts in this direction no
notice had been taken, and the fact continued to anger me more
and more. Scarcely ever did I address a word to my tutor between
school hours, for I simply could not bring myself to do it. If I
made the attempt I only grew red and confused, and rushed away to
weep in a corner. How it would all have ended I do not know, had
not a curious incident helped to bring about a rapprochement. One
evening, when my mother was sitting in Anna Thedorovna's room, I
crept on tiptoe to Pokrovski's apartment, in the belief that he
was not at home. Some strange impulse moved me to do so. True, we
had lived cheek by jowl with one another; yet never once had I
caught a glimpse of his abode. Consequently my heart beat loudly-
- so loudly, indeed, that it seemed almost to be bursting from my
breast. On entering the room I glanced around me with tense
interest. The apartment was very poorly furnished, and bore few
traces of orderliness. On table and chairs there lay heaps of
books; everywhere were books and papers. Then a strange thought
entered my head, as well as, with the thought, an unpleasant
feeling of irritation. It seemed to me that my friendship, my
heart's affection, meant little to him, for HE was well-educated,
whereas I was stupid, and had learned nothing, and had read not a
single book. So I stood looking wistfully at the long bookshelves
where they groaned under their weight of volumes. I felt filled
with grief, disappointment, and a sort of frenzy. I felt that I
MUST read those books, and decided to do so--to read them one by
one, and with all possible speed. Probably the idea was that, by
learning whatsoever HE knew, I should render myself more worthy
of his friendship. So, I made a rush towards the bookcase nearest
me, and, without stopping further to consider matters, seized
hold of the first dusty tome upon which my hands chanced to
alight, and, reddening and growing pale by turns, and trembling
with fear and excitement, clasped the stolen book to my breast
with the intention of reading it by candle light while my mother
lay asleep at night.

But how vexed I felt when, on returning to our own room, and
hastily turning the pages, only an old, battered worm-eaten Latin
work greeted my eyes! Without loss of time I retraced my steps.
Just when I was about to replace the book I heard a noise in the
corridor outside, and the sound of footsteps approaching.
Fumblingly I hastened to complete what I was about, but the
tiresome book had become so tightly wedged into its row that, on
being pulled out, it caused its fellows to close up too compactly
to leave any place for their comrade. To insert the book was
beyond my strength; yet still I kept pushing and pushing at the
row. At last the rusty nail which supported the shelf (the thing
seemed to have been waiting on purpose for that moment!) broke
off short; with the result that the shelf descended with a crash,
and the books piled themselves in a heap on the floor! Then the
door of the room opened, and Pokrovski entered!

I must here remark that he never could bear to have his
possessions tampered with. Woe to the person, in particular, who
touched his books! Judge, therefore, of my horror when books
small and great, books of every possible shape and size and
thickness, came tumbling from the shelf, and flew and sprang over
the table, and under the chairs, and about the whole room. I
would have turned and fled, but it was too late. "All is over!"
thought I. "All is over! I am ruined, I am undone! Here have I
been playing the fool like a ten-year-old child! What a stupid
girl I am! The monstrous fool!"

Indeed, Pokrovski was very angry. "What? Have you not done
enough?" he cried. "Are you not ashamed to be for ever indulging
in such pranks? Are you NEVER going to grow sensible?" With that
he darted forward to pick up the books, while I bent down to help

"You need not, you need not!" he went on. "You would have done
far better not to have entered without an invitation."

Next, a little mollified by my humble demeanour, he resumed in
his usual tutorial tone--the tone which he had adopted in his
new- found role of preceptor:

"When are you going to grow steadier and more thoughtful?
Consider yourself for a moment. You are no longer a child, a
little girl, but a maiden of fifteen."

Then, with a desire (probably) to satisfy himself that I was no
longer a being of tender years, he threw me a glance--but
straightway reddened to his very ears. This I could not
understand, but stood gazing at him in astonishment. Presently,
he straightened himself a little, approached me with a sort of
confused expression, and haltingly said something--probably it
was an apology for not having before perceived that I was now a
grown-up young person. But the next moment I understood. What I
did I hardly know, save that, in my dismay and confusion, I
blushed even more hotly than he had done and, covering my face
with my hands, rushed from the room.

What to do with myself for shame I could not think. The one
thought in my head was that he had surprised me in his room. For
three whole days I found myself unable to raise my eyes to his,
but blushed always to the point of weeping. The strangest and
most confused of thoughts kept entering my brain. One of them--
the most extravagant--was that I should dearly like to go to
Pokrovski, and to explain to him the situation, and to make full
confession, and to tell him everything without concealment, and
to assure him that I had not acted foolishly as a minx, but
honestly and of set purpose. In fact, I DID make up my mind to
take this course, but lacked the necessary courage to do it. If I
had done so, what a figure I should have cut! Even now I am
ashamed to think of it.

A few days later, my mother suddenly fell dangerously ill. For
two days past she had not left her bed, while during the third
night of her illness she became seized with fever and delirium. I
also had not closed my eyes during the previous night, but now
waited upon my mother, sat by her bed, brought her drink at
intervals, and gave her medicine at duly appointed hours. The
next night I suffered terribly. Every now and then sleep would
cause me to nod, and objects grow dim before my eyes. Also, my
head was turning dizzy, and I could have fainted for very
weariness. Yet always my mother's feeble moans recalled me to
myself as I started, momentarily awoke, and then again felt
drowsiness overcoming me. What torture it was! I do not know, I
cannot clearly remember, but I think that, during a moment when
wakefulness was thus contending with slumber, a strange dream, a
horrible vision, visited my overwrought brain, and I awoke in
terror. The room was nearly in darkness, for the candle was
flickering, and throwing stray beams of light which suddenly
illuminated the room, danced for a moment on the walls, and then
disappeared. Somehow I felt afraid--a sort of horror had come
upon me--my imagination had been over-excited by the evil dream
which I had experienced, and a feeling of oppression was crushing
my heart.... I leapt from the chair, and involuntarily uttered a
cry--a cry wrung from me by the terrible, torturing sensation
that was upon me. Presently the door opened, and Pokrovski

I remember that I was in his arms when I recovered my senses.
Carefully seating me on a bench, he handed me a glass of water,
and then asked me a few questions--though how I answered them I
do not know. "You yourself are ill," he said as he took my hand.
"You yourself are VERY ill. You are feverish, and I can see that
you are knocking yourself out through your neglect of your own
health. Take a little rest. Lie down and go to sleep. Yes, lie
down, lie down," he continued without giving me time to protest.
Indeed, fatigue had so exhausted my strength that my eyes were
closing from very weakness. So I lay down on the bench with the
intention of sleeping for half an hour only; but, I slept till
morning. Pokrovski then awoke me, saying that it was time for me
to go and give my mother her medicine.

When the next evening, about eight o'clock, I had rested a little
and was preparing to spend the night in a chair beside my mother
(fixedly meaning not to go to sleep this time), Pokrovski
suddenly knocked at the door. I opened it, and he informed me
that, since, possibly, I might find the time wearisome, he had
brought me a few books to read. I accepted the books, but do not,
even now, know what books they were, nor whether I looked into
them, despite the fact that I never closed my eyes the whole
night long. The truth was that a strange feeling of excitement
was preventing me from sleeping, and I could not rest long in any
one spot, but had to keep rising from my chair, and walking about
the room. Throughout my whole being there seemed to be diffused a
kind of elation--of elation at Pokrovski's attentions, at the
thought that he was anxious and uneasy about me. Until dawn I
pondered and dreamed; and though I felt sure Pokrovski would not
again visit us that night, I gave myself up to fancies concerning
what he might do the following evening.

That evening, when everyone else in the house had retired to
rest, Pokrovski opened his door, and opened a conversation from
the threshold of his room. Although, at this distance of time, I
cannot remember a word of what we said to one another, I remember
that I blushed, grew confused, felt vexed with myself, and
awaited with impatience the end of the conversation although I
myself had been longing for the meeting to take place, and had
spent the day in dreaming of it, and devising a string of
suitable questions and replies. Yes, that evening saw the first
strand in our friendship knitted; and each subsequent night of my
mother's illness we spent several hours together. Little by
little I overcame his reserve, but found that each of these
conversations left me filled with a sense of vexation at myself.
At the same time, I could see with secret joy and a sense of
proud elation that I was leading him to forget his tiresome
books. At last the conversation turned jestingly upon the
upsetting of the shelf. The moment was a peculiar one, for it
came upon me just when I was in the right mood for self-
revelation and candour. In my ardour, my curious phase of
exaltation, I found myself led to make a full confession of the
fact that I had become wishful to learn, to KNOW, something,
since I had felt hurt at being taken for a chit, a mere baby. . .
. I repeat that that night I was in a very strange frame of mind.
My heart was inclined to be tender, and there were tears standing
in my eyes. Nothing did I conceal as I told him about my
friendship for him, about my desire to love him, about my scheme
for living in sympathy with him and comforting him, and making
his life easier. In return he threw me a look of confusion
mingled with astonishment, and said nothing. Then suddenly I
began to feel terribly pained and disappointed, for I conceived
that he had failed to understand me, or even that he might be
laughing at me. Bursting into tears like a child, I sobbed, and
could not stop myself, for I had fallen into a kind of fit;
whereupon he seized my hand, kissed it, and clasped it to his
breast--saying various things, meanwhile, to comfort me, for he
was labouring under a strong emotion. Exactly what he said I do
not remember--I merely wept and laughed by turns, and blushed,
and found myself unable to speak a word for joy. Yet, for all my
agitation, I noticed that about him there still lingered an air
of constraint and uneasiness. Evidently, he was lost in wonder at
my enthusiasm and raptures--at my curiously ardent, unexpected,
consuming friendship. It may be that at first he was amazed, but
that afterwards he accepted my devotion and words of invitation
and expressions of interest with the same simple frankness as I
had offered them, and responded to them with an interest, a
friendliness, a devotion equal to my own, even as a friend or a
brother would do. How happy, how warm was the feeling in my
heart! Nothing had I concealed or repressed. No, I had bared all
to his sight, and each day would see him draw nearer to me.

Truly I could not say what we did not talk about during those
painful, yet rapturous, hours when, by the trembling light of a
lamp, and almost at the very bedside of my poor sick mother, we
kept midnight tryst. Whatsoever first came into our heads we
spoke of--whatsoever came riven from our hearts, whatsoever
seemed to call for utterance, found voice. And almost always we
were happy. What a grievous, yet joyous, period it was--a period
grievous and joyous at the same time! To this day it both hurts
and delights me to recall it. Joyous or bitter though it was, its
memories are yet painful. At least they seem so to me, though a
certain sweetness assuaged the pain. So, whenever I am feeling
heartsick and oppressed and jaded and sad those memories return
to freshen and revive me, even as drops of evening dew return to
freshen and revive, after a sultry day, the poor faded flower
which has long been drooping in the noontide heat.

My mother grew better, but still I continued to spend the nights
on a chair by her bedside. Often, too, Pokrovski would give me
books. At first I read them merely so as to avoid going to sleep,
but afterwards I examined them with more attention, and
subsequently with actual avidity, for they opened up to me a new,
an unexpected, an unknown, an unfamiliar world. New thoughts,
added to new impressions, would come pouring into my heart in a
rich flood; and the more emotion, the more pain and labour, it
cost me to assimilate these new impressions, the dearer did they
become to me, and the more gratefully did they stir my soul to
its very depths. Crowding into my heart without giving it time
even to breathe, they would cause my whole being to become lost
in a wondrous chaos. Yet this spiritual ferment was not
sufficiently strong wholly to undo me. For that I was too
fanciful, and the fact saved me.

With the passing of my mother's illness the midnight meetings and
long conversations between myself and Pokrovski came to an end.
Only occasionally did we exchange a few words with one another--
words, for the most part, that were of little purport or
substance, yet words to which it delighted me to apportion their
several meanings, their peculiar secret values. My life had now
become full-- I was happy; I was quietly, restfully happy. Thus
did several weeks elapse....

One day the elder Pokrovski came to see us, and chattered in a
brisk, cheerful, garrulous sort of way. He laughed, launched out
into witticisms, and, finally, resolved the riddle of his
transports by informing us that in a week's time it would be his
Petinka's birthday, when, in honour of the occasion, he (the
father) meant to don a new jacket (as well as new shoes which his
wife was going to buy for him), and to come and pay a visit to
his son. In short, the old man was perfectly happy, and gossiped
about whatsoever first entered his head.

My lover's birthday! Thenceforward, I could not rest by night or
day. Whatever might happen, it was my fixed intention to remind
Pokrovski of our friendship by giving him a present. But what
sort of present? Finally, I decided to give him books. I knew
that he had long wanted to possess a complete set of Pushkin's
works, in the latest edition; so, I decided to buy Pushkin. My
private fund consisted of thirty roubles, earned by handiwork,
and designed eventually to procure me a new dress, but at once I
dispatched our cook, old Matrena, to ascertain the price of such
an edition. Horrors! The price of the eleven volumes, added to
extra outlay upon the binding, would amount to at least SIXTY
roubles! Where was the money to come from? I thought and thought,
yet could not decide. I did not like to resort to my mother. Of
course she would help me, but in that case every one in the house
would become aware of my gift, and the gift itself would assume
the guise of a recompense--of payment for Pokrovski's labours on
my behalf during the past year; whereas, I wished to present the
gift ALONE, and without the knowledge of anyone. For the trouble
that he had taken with me I wished to be his perpetual debtor--to
make him no payment at all save my friendship. At length, I
thought of a way out of the difficulty.

I knew that of the hucksters in the Gostinni Dvor one could
sometimes buy a book--even one that had been little used and was
almost entirely new--for a half of its price, provided that one
haggled sufficiently over it; wherefore I determined to repair
thither. It so happened that, next day, both Anna Thedorovna and
ourselves were in want of sundry articles; and since my mother
was unwell and Anna lazy, the execution of the commissions
devolved upon me, and I set forth with Matrena.

Luckily, I soon chanced upon a set of Pushkin, handsomely bound,
and set myself to bargain for it. At first more was demanded than
would have been asked of me in a shop; but afterwards--though not
without a great deal of trouble on my part, and several feints at
departing--I induced the dealer to lower his price, and to limit
his demands to ten roubles in silver. How I rejoiced that I had
engaged in this bargaining! Poor Matrena could not imagine what
had come to me, nor why I so desired to buy books. But, oh horror
of horrors! As soon as ever the dealer caught sight of my capital
of thirty roubles in notes, he refused to let the Pushkin go for
less than the sum he had first named; and though, in answer to my
prayers and protestations, he eventually yielded a little, he did
so only to the tune of two-and-a-half roubles more than I
possessed, while swearing that he was making the concession for
my sake alone, since I was "a sweet young lady," and that he
would have done so for no one else in the world. To think that
only two-and-a-half roubles should still be wanting! I could have
wept with vexation. Suddenly an unlooked-for circumstance
occurred to help me in my distress.

Not far away, near another table that was heaped with books, I
perceived the elder Pokrovski, and a crowd of four or five
hucksters plaguing him nearly out of his senses. Each of these
fellows was proffering the old man his own particular wares; and
while there was nothing that they did not submit for his
approval, there was nothing that he wished to buy. The poor old
fellow had the air of a man who is receiving a thrashing. What to
make of what he was being offered him he did not know.
Approaching him, I inquired what he happened to be doing there;
whereat the old man was delighted, since he liked me (it may be)
no less than he did Petinka.

"I am buying some books, Barbara Alexievna," said he, "I am
buying them for my Petinka. It will be his birthday soon, and
since he likes books I thought I would get him some. "

The old man always expressed himself in a very roundabout sort of
fashion, and on the present occasion he was doubly, terribly
confused. Of no matter what book he asked the price, it was sure
to be one, two, or three roubles. The larger books he could not
afford at all; he could only look at them wistfully, fumble their
leaves with his finger, turn over the volumes in his hands, and
then replace them. "No, no, that is too dear," he would mutter
under his breath. "I must go and try somewhere else." Then again
he would fall to examining copy-books, collections of poems, and
almanacs of the cheaper order.

"Why should you buy things like those?" I asked him. "They are
such rubbish!"

"No, no!" he replied. " See what nice books they are! Yes, they
ARE nice books!" Yet these last words he uttered so lingeringly
that I could see he was ready to weep with vexation at finding
the better sorts of books so expensive. Already a little tear was
trickling down his pale cheeks and red nose. I inquired whether
he had much money on him; whereupon the poor old fellow pulled
out his entire stock, wrapped in a piece of dirty newspaper, and
consisting of a few small silver coins, with twenty kopecks in
copper. At once I seized the lot, and, dragging him off to my
huckster, said: " Look here. These eleven volumes of Pushkin are
priced at thirty-two-and-a-half roubles, and I have only thirty
roubles. Let us add to them these two-and- a-half roubles of
yours, and buy the books together, and make them our joint gift."
The old man was overjoyed, and pulled out his money en masse;
whereupon the huckster loaded him with our common library.
Stuffing it into his pockets, as well as filling both arms with
it, he departed homewards with his prize, after giving me his
word to bring me the books privately on the morrow.

Next day the old man came to see his son, and sat with him, as
usual, for about an hour; after which he visited ourselves,
wearing on his face the most comical, the most mysterious
expression conceivable. Smiling broadly with satisfaction at the
thought that he was the possessor of a secret, he informed me
that he had stealthily brought the books to our rooms, and hidden
them in a corner of the kitchen, under Matrena's care. Next, by a
natural transition, the conversation passed to the coming fete-
day; whereupon, the old man proceeded to hold forth extensively
on the subject of gifts. The further he delved into his thesis,
and the more he expounded it, the clearer could I see that on his
mind there was something which he could not, dared not, divulge.
So I waited and kept silent. The mysterious exaltation, the
repressed satisfaction which I had hitherto discerned in his
antics and grimaces and left-eyed winks gradually disappeared,
and he began to grow momentarily more anxious and uneasy. At
length he could contain himself no longer.

"Listen, Barbara Alexievna," he said timidly. "Listen to what I
have got to say to you. When his birthday is come, do you take
TEN of the books, and give them to him yourself--that is, FOR
yourself, as being YOUR share of the gift. Then I will take the
eleventh book, and give it to him MYSELF, as being my gift. If we
do that, you will have a present for him and I shall have one--
both of us alike."

"Why do you not want us to present our gifts together, Zachar
Petrovitch?" I asked him.

"Oh, very well," he replied. "Very well, Barbara Alexievna. Only-
only, I thought that--"

The old man broke off in confusion, while his face flushed with
the exertion of thus expressing himself. For a moment or two he
sat glued to his seat.

"You see," he went on, "I play the fool too much. I am forever
playing the fool, and cannot help myself, though I know that it
is wrong to do so. At home it is often cold, and sometimes there
are other troubles as well, and it all makes me depressed. Well,
whenever that happens, I indulge a little, and occasionally drink
too much. Now, Petinka does not like that; he loses his temper
about it, Barbara Alexievna, and scolds me, and reads me
lectures. So I want by my gift to show him that I am mending my
ways, and beginning to conduct myself better. For a long time
past, I have been saving up to buy him a book--yes, for a long
time past I have been saving up for it, since it is seldom that I
have any money, unless Petinka happens to give me some. He knows
that, and, consequently, as soon as ever he perceives the use to
which I have put his money, he will understand that it is for his
sake alone that I have acted."

My heart ached for the old man. Seeing him looking at me with
such anxiety, I made up my mind without delay.

"I tell you what," I said. "Do you give him all the books."

"ALL?" he ejaculated. "ALL the books?"

"Yes, all of them."

"As my own gift?"  "Yes, as your own gift."

"As my gift alone?"

"Yes, as your gift alone."

Surely I had spoken clearly enough, yet the old man seemed hardly
to understand me.

"Well," said he after reflection, "that certainly would be
splendid--certainly it would be most splendid. But what about
yourself, Barbara Alexievna?"

"Oh, I shall give your son nothing."

"What?" he cried in dismay. "Are you going to give Petinka
nothing--do you WISH to give him nothing?" So put about was the
old fellow with what I had said, that he seemed almost ready to
renounce his own proposal if only I would give his son something.
What a kind heart he had! I hastened to assure him that I should
certainly have a gift of some sort ready, since my one wish was
to avoid spoiling his pleasure.

"Provided that your son is pleased," I added, "and that you are
pleased, I shall be equally pleased, for in my secret heart I
shall feel as though I had presented the gift."

This fully reassured the old man. He stopped with us another
couple of hours, yet could not sit still for a moment, but kept
jumping up from his seat, laughing, cracking jokes with Sasha,
bestowing stealthy kisses upon myself, pinching my hands, and
making silent grimaces at Anna Thedorovna. At length, she turned
him out of the house. In short, his transports of joy exceeded
anything that I had yet beheld.

On the festal day he arrived exactly at eleven o'clock, direct
from Mass. He was dressed in a carefully mended frockcoat, a new
waistcoat, and a pair of new shoes, while in his arms he carried
our pile of books. Next we all sat down to coffee (the day being
Sunday) in Anna Thedorovna's parlour. The old man led off the
meal by saying that Pushkin was a magnificent poet. Thereafter,
with a return to shamefacedness and confusion, he passed suddenly
to the statement that a man ought to conduct himself properly;
that, should he not do so, it might be taken as a sign that he
was in some way overindulging himself; and that evil tendencies
of this sort led to the man's ruin and degradation. Then the
orator sketched for our benefit some terrible instances of such
incontinence, and concluded by informing us that for some time
past he had been mending his own ways, and conducting himself in
exemplary fashion, for the reason that he had perceived the
justice of his son's precepts, and had laid them to heart so well
that he, the father, had really changed for the better: in proof
whereof, he now begged to present to the said son some books for
which he had long been setting aside his savings.

As I listened to the old man I could not help laughing and crying
in a breath. Certainly he knew how to lie when the occasion
required! The books were transferred to his son's room, and
arranged upon a shelf, where Pokrovski at once guessed the truth
about them. Then the old man was invited to dinner and we all
spent a merry day together at cards and forfeits. Sasha was full
of life, and I rivalled her, while Pokrovski paid me numerous
attentions, and kept seeking an occasion to speak to me alone.
But to allow this to happen I refused. Yes, taken all in all, it
was the happiest day that I had known for four years.

But now only grievous, painful memories come to my recollection,
for I must enter upon the story of my darker experiences. It may
be that that is why my pen begins to move more slowly, and seems
as though it were going altogether to refuse to write. The same
reason may account for my having undertaken so lovingly and
enthusiastically a recounting of even the smallest details of my
younger, happier days. But alas! those days did not last long,
and were succeeded by a period of black sorrow which will close
only God knows when!

My misfortunes began with the illness and death of Pokrovski, who
was taken worse two months after what I have last recorded in
these memoirs. During those two months he worked hard to procure
himself a livelihood since hitherto he had had no assured
position. Like all consumptives, he never--not even up to his
last moment--altogether abandoned the hope of being able to enjoy
a long life. A post as tutor fell in his way, but he had never
liked the profession; while for him to become a civil servant was
out of the question, owing to his weak state of health. Moreover,
in the latter capacity he would have had to have waited a long
time for his first instalment of salary. Again, he always looked
at the darker side of things, for his character was gradually
being warped, and his health undermined by his illness, though he
never noticed it. Then autumn came on, and daily he went out to
business--that is to say, to apply for and to canvass for posts--
clad only in a light jacket; with the result that, after repeated
soakings with rain, he had to take to his bed, and never again
left it. He died in mid-autumn at the close of the month of

Throughout his illness I scarcely ever left his room, but waited
on him hand and foot. Often he could not sleep for several nights
at a time. Often, too, he was unconscious, or else in a delirium;
and at such times he would talk of all sorts of things--of his
work, of his books, of his father, of myself. At such times I
learned much which I had not hitherto known or divined about his
affairs. During the early part of his illness everyone in the
house looked askance at me, and Anna Thedorovna would nod her
head in a meaning manner; but, I always looked them straight in
the face, and gradually they ceased to take any notice of my
concern for Pokrovski. At all events my mother ceased to trouble
her head about it.

Sometimes Pokrovski would know who I was, but not often, for more
usually he was unconscious. Sometimes, too, he would talk all
night with some unknown person, in dim, mysterious language that
caused his gasping voice to echo hoarsely through the narrow room
as through a sepulchre; and at such times, I found the situation
a strange one. During his last night he was especially
lightheaded, for then he was in terrible agony, and kept rambling
in his speech until my soul was torn with pity. Everyone in the
house was alarmed, and Anna Thedorovna fell to praying that God
might soon take him. When the doctor had been summoned, the
verdict was that the patient would die with the morning.

That night the elder Pokrovski spent in the corridor, at the door
of his son's room. Though given a mattress to lie upon, he spent
his time in running in and out of the apartment. So broken with
grief was he that he presented a dreadful spectacle, and appeared
to have lost both perception and feeling. His head trembled with
agony, and his body quivered from head to foot as at times he
murmured to himself something which he appeared to be debating.
Every moment I expected to see him go out of his mind. Just
before dawn he succumbed to the stress of mental agony, and fell
asleep on his mattress like a man who has been beaten; but by
eight o'clock the son was at the point of death, and I ran to
wake the father. The dying man was quite conscious, and bid us
all farewell. Somehow I could not weep, though my heart seemed to
be breaking.

The last moments were the most harassing and heartbreaking of
all. For some time past Pokrovski had been asking for something
with his failing tongue, but I had been unable to distinguish his
words. Yet my heart had been bursting with grief. Then for an
hour he had lain quieter, except that he had looked sadly in my
direction, and striven to make some sign with his death-cold
hands. At last he again essayed his piteous request in a hoarse,
deep voice, but the words issued in so many inarticulate sounds,
and once more I failed to divine his meaning. By turns I brought
each member of the household to his bedside, and gave him
something to drink, but he only shook his head sorrowfully.
Finally, I understood what it was he wanted. He was asking me to
draw aside the curtain from the window, and to open the
casements. Probably he wished to take his last look at the
daylight and the sun and all God's world. I pulled back the
curtain, but the opening day was as dull and mournful--looking as
though it had been the fast-flickering life of the poor invalid.
Of sunshine there was none. Clouds overlaid the sky as with a
shroud of mist, and everything looked sad, rainy, and threatening
under a fine drizzle which was beating against the window-panes,
and streaking their dull, dark surfaces with runlets of cold,
dirty moisture. Only a scanty modicum of daylight entered to war
with the trembling rays of the ikon lamp. The dying man threw me
a wistful look, and nodded. The next moment he had passed away.

The funeral was arranged for by Anna Thedorovna. A plain coffin
was bought, and a broken-down hearse hired; while, as security
for this outlay, she seized the dead man's books and other
articles. Nevertheless, the old man disputed the books with her,
and, raising an uproar, carried off as many of them as he could--
stuffing his pockets full, and even filling his hat. Indeed, he
spent the next three days with them thus, and refused to let them
leave his sight even when it was time for him to go to church.
Throughout he acted like a man bereft of sense and memory. With
quaint assiduity he busied himself about the bier--now
straightening the candlestick on the dead man's breast, now
snuffing and lighting the other candles. Clearly his thoughts
were powerless to remain long fixed on any subject. Neither my
mother nor Anna Thedorovna were present at the requiem, for the
former was ill and the latter was at loggerheads with the old
man. Only myself and the father were there. During the service a
sort of panic, a sort of premonition of the future, came over me,
and I could hardly hold myself upright. At length the coffin had
received its burden and was screwed down; after which the bearers
placed it upon a bier, and set out. I accompanied the cortege
only to the end of the street. Here the driver broke into a trot,
and the old man started to run behind the hearse--sobbing loudly,
but with the motion of his running ever and anon causing the sobs
to quaver and become broken off. Next he lost his hat, the poor
old fellow, yet would not stop to pick it up, even though the
rain was beating upon his head, and a wind was rising and the
sleet kept stinging and lashing his face. It seemed as though he
were impervious to the cruel elements as he ran from one side of
the hearse to the other--the skirts of his old greatcoat flapping
about him like a pair of wings. From every pocket of the garment
protruded books, while in his hand he carried a specially large
volume, which he hugged closely to his breast. The passers-by
uncovered their heads and crossed themselves as the cortege
passed, and some of them, having done so, remained staring in
amazement at the poor old man. Every now and then a book would
slip from one of his pockets and fall into the mud; whereupon
somebody, stopping him, would direct his attention to his loss,
and he would stop, pick up the book, and again set off in pursuit
of the hearse. At the corner of the street he was joined by a
ragged old woman; until at length the hearse turned a corner, and
became hidden from my eyes. Then I went home, and threw myself,
in a transport of grief, upon my mother's breast--clasping her in
my arms, kissing her amid a storm of sobs and tears, and clinging
to her form as though in my embraces I were holding my last
friend on earth, that I might preserve her from death. Yet
already death was standing over her....

June 11th

How I thank you for our walk to the Islands yesterday, Makar
Alexievitch! How fresh and pleasant, how full of verdure, was
everything! And I had not seen anything green for such a long
time! During my illness I used to think that I should never get
better, that I was certainly going to die. Judge, then, how I
felt yesterday! True, I may have seemed to you a little sad, and
you must not be angry with me for that. Happy and light-hearted
though I was, there were moments, even at the height of my
felicity, when, for some unknown reason, depression came sweeping
over my soul. I kept weeping about trifles, yet could not say why
I was grieved. The truth is that I am unwell--so much so, that I
look at everything from the gloomy point of view. The pale, clear
sky, the setting sun, the evening stillness--ah, somehow I felt
disposed to grieve and feel hurt at these things; my heart seemed
to be over-charged, and to be calling for tears to relieve it.
But why should I write this to you? It is difficult for my heart
to express itself; still more difficult for it to forego self-
expression. Yet possibly you may understand me. Tears and
laughter! . . . How good you are, Makar Alexievitch! Yesterday
you looked into my eyes as though you could read in them all that
I was feeling--as though you were rejoicing at my happiness.
Whether it were a group of shrubs or an alleyway or a vista of
water that we were passing, you would halt before me, and stand
gazing at my face as though you were showing me possessions of
your own. It told me how kind is your nature, and I love you for
it. Today I am again unwell, for yesterday I wetted my feet, and
took a chill. Thedora also is unwell; both of us are ailing. Do
not forget me. Come and see me as often as you can.--Your own,


 June 12th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--I had supposed that you meant to
describe our doings of the other day in verse; yet from you there
has arrived only a single sheet of writing. Nevertheless, I must
say that, little though you have put into your letter, that
little is not expressed with rare beauty and grace. Nature, your
descriptions of rural scenes, your analysis of your own feelings-
-the whole is beautifully written. Alas, I have no such talent!
Though I may fill a score of pages, nothing comes of it-- I might
as well never have put pen to paper. Yes, this I know from

You say, my darling, that I am kind and good, that I could not
harm my fellow-men, that I have power to comprehend the goodness
of God (as expressed in nature's handiwork), and so on. It may
all be so, my dearest one--it may all be exactly as you say.
Indeed, I think that you are right. But if so, the reason is that
when one reads such a letter as you have just sent me, one's
heart involuntarily softens, and affords entrance to thoughts of
a graver and weightier order. Listen, my darling; I have
something to tell you, my beloved one.

I will begin from the time when I was seventeen years old and
first entered the service--though I shall soon have completed my
thirtieth year of official activity. I may say that at first I
was much pleased with my new uniform; and, as I grew older, I
grew in mind, and fell to studying my fellow-men. Likewise I may
say that I lived an upright life--so much so that at last I
incurred persecution. This you may not believe, but it is true.
To think that men so cruel should exist! For though, dearest one,
I am dull and of no account, I have feelings like everyone else.
Consequently, would you believe it, Barbara, when I tell you what
these cruel fellows did to me? I feel ashamed to tell it you--and
all because I was of a quiet, peaceful, good-natured disposition!

Things began with "this or that, Makar Alexievitch, is your
fault." Then it went on to "I need hardly say that the fault is
wholly Makar Alexievitch's." Finally it became "OF COURSE Makar
Alexievitch is to blame." Do you see the sequence of things, my
darling? Every mistake was attributed to me, until "Makar
Alexievitch" became a byword in our department. Also, while
making of me a proverb, these fellows could not give me a smile
or a civil word. They found fault with my boots, with my uniform,
with my hair, with my figure. None of these things were to their
taste: everything had to be changed. And so it has been from that
day to this. True, I have now grown used to it, for I can grow
accustomed to anything (being, as you know, a man of peaceable
disposition, like all men of small stature)-- yet why should
these things be? Whom have I harmed? Whom have I ever supplanted?
Whom have I ever traduced to his superiors? No, the fault is that
more than once I have asked for an increase of salary. But have I
ever CABALLED for it? No, you would be wrong in thinking so, my
dearest one. HOW could I ever have done so? You yourself have had
many opportunities of seeing how incapable I am of deceit or

Why then, should this have fallen to my lot? . . . However, since
you think me worthy of respect, my darling, I do not care, for
you are far and away the best person in the world. . . . What do
you consider to be the greatest social virtue? In private
conversation Evstafi Ivanovitch once told me that the greatest
social virtue might be considered to be an ability to get money
to spend. Also, my comrades used jestingly (yes, I know only
jestingly) to propound the ethical maxim that a man ought never
to let himself become a burden upon anyone. Well, I am a burden
upon no one. It is my own crust of bread that I eat; and though
that crust is but a poor one, and sometimes actually a maggoty
one, it has at least been EARNED, and therefore, is being put to
a right and lawful use. What therefore, ought I to do? I know
that I can earn but little by my labours as a copyist; yet even
of that little I am proud, for it has entailed WORK, and has
wrung sweat from my brow. What harm is there in being a copyist?
"He is only an amanuensis," people say of me. But what is there
so disgraceful in that? My writing is at least legible, neat, and
pleasant to look upon--and his Excellency is satisfied with it.
Indeed, I transcribe many important documents. At the same time,
I know that my writing lacks STYLE, which is why I have never
risen in the service. Even to you, my dear one, I write simply
and without tricks, but just as a thought may happen to enter my
head. Yes, I know all this; but if everyone were to become a fine
writer, who would there be left to act as copyists? . . .
Whatsoever questions I may put to you in my letters, dearest, I
pray you to answer them. I am sure that you need me, that I can
be of use to you; and, since that is so, I must not allow myself
to be distracted by any trifle. Even if I be likened to a rat, I
do not care, provided that that particular rat be wanted by you,
and be of use in the world, and be retained in its position, and
receive its reward. But what a rat it is!

Enough of this, dearest one. I ought not to have spoken of it,
but I lost my temper. Still, it is pleasant to speak the truth
sometimes. Goodbye, my own, my darling, my sweet little
comforter! I will come to you soon--yes, I will certainly come to
you. Until I do so, do not fret yourself. With me I shall be
bringing a book. Once more goodbye.--Your heartfelt well-wisher,


 June 20th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--I am writing to you post-haste--I
am hurrying my utmost to get my work finished in time. What do
you suppose is the reason for this? It is because an opportunity
has occurred for you to make a splendid purchase. Thedora tells
me that a retired civil servant of her acquaintance has a uniform
to sell--one cut to regulation pattern and in good repair, as
well as likely to go very cheap. Now, DO not tell me that you
have not got the money, for I know from your own lips that you
HAVE. Use that money, I pray you, and do not hoard it. See what
terrible garments you walk about in! They are shameful--they are
patched all over! In fact, you have nothing new whatever. That
this is so, I know for certain, and I care not WHAT you tell me
about it. So listen to me for once, and buy this uniform. Do it
for MY sake. Do it to show that you really love me.

You have sent me some linen as a gift. But listen to me, Makar
Alexievitch. You are simply ruining yourself. Is it a jest that
you should spend so much money, such a terrible amount of money,
upon me? How you love to play the spendthrift! I tell you that I
do not need it, that such expenditure is unnecessary. I know, I
am CERTAIN, that you love me-- therefore, it is useless to remind
me of the fact with gifts. Nor do I like receiving them, since I
know how much they must have cost you.  No-- put your money to a
better use. I beg, I beseech of you, to do so. Also, you ask me
to send you a continuation of my memoirs--to conclude them. But I
know not how I contrived even to write as much of them as I did;
and now I have not the strength to write further of my past, nor
the desire to give it a single thought. Such recollections are
terrible to me. Most difficult of all is it for me to speak of my
poor mother, who left her destitute daughter a prey to villains.
My heart runs blood whenever I think of it; it is so fresh in my
memory that I cannot dismiss it from my thoughts, nor rest for
its insistence, although a year has now elapsed since the events
took place. But all this you know.

Also, I have told you what Anna Thedorovna is now intending. She
accuses me of ingratitude, and denies the accusations made
against herself with regard to Monsieur Bwikov. Also, she keeps
sending for me, and telling me that I have taken to evil courses,
but that if I will return to her, she will smooth over matters
with Bwikov, and force him to confess his fault. Also, she says
that he desires to give me a dowry. Away with them all! I am
quite happy here with you and good Thedora, whose devotion to me
reminds me of my old nurse, long since dead. Distant kinsman
though you may be, I pray you always to defend my honour. Other
people I do not wish to know, and would gladly forget if I could.
. . . What are they wanting with me now? Thedora declares it all
to be a trick, and says that in time they will leave me alone.
God grant it be so!

B. D.

June 21st.

MY OWN, MY DARLING,--I wish to write to you, yet know not where
to begin. Things are as strange as though we were actually living
together. Also I would add that never in my life have I passed
such happy days as I am spending at present. 'Tis as though God
had blessed me with a home and a family of my own! Yes, you are
my little daughter, beloved. But why mention the four sorry
roubles that I sent you? You needed them; I know that from
Thedora herself, and it will always be a particular pleasure to
me to gratify you in anything. It will always be my one happiness
in life. Pray, therefore, leave me that happiness, and do not
seek to cross me in it. Things are not as you suppose. I have now
reached the sunshine since, in the first place, I am living so
close to you as almost to be with you (which is a great
consolation to my mind), while, in the second place, a neighbour
of mine named Rataziaev (the retired official who gives the
literary parties) has today invited me to tea. This evening,
therefore, there will be a gathering at which we shall discuss
literature! Think of that my darling! Well, goodbye now. I have
written this without any definite aim in my mind, but solely to
assure you of my welfare. Through Theresa I have received your
message that you need an embroidered cloak to wear, so I will go
and purchase one. Yes, tomorrow I mean to purchase that
embroidered cloak, and so give myself the pleasure of having
satisfied one of your wants. I know where to go for such a
garment. For the time being I remain your sincere friend,


June 22nd.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I have to tell you that a sad
event has happened in this house--an event to excite one's utmost
pity. This morning, about five o'clock, one of Gorshkov's
children died of scarlatina, or something of the kind. I have
been to pay the parents a visit of condolence, and found them
living in the direst poverty and disorder. Nor is that
surprising, seeing that the family lives in a single room, with
only a screen to divide it for decency's sake. Already the coffin
was standing in their midst--a plain but decent shell which had
been bought ready-made. The child, they told me, had been a boy
of nine, and full of promise. What a pitiful spectacle! Though
not weeping, the mother, poor woman, looked broken with grief.
After all, to have one burden the less on their shoulders may
prove a relief, though there are still two children left--a babe
at the breast and a little girl of six! How painful to see these
suffering children, and to be unable to help them! The father,
clad in an old, dirty frockcoat, was seated on a dilapidated
chair. Down his cheeks there were coursing tears--though less
through grief than owing to a long-standing affliction of the
eyes. He was so thin, too! Always he reddens in the face when he
is addressed, and becomes too confused to answer. A little girl,
his daughter, was leaning against the coffin--her face looking so
worn and thoughtful, poor mite! Do you know, I cannot bear to see
a child look thoughtful. On the floor there lay a rag doll, but
she was not playing with it as, motionless, she stood there with
her finger to her lips. Even a bon-bon which the landlady had
given her she was not eating. Is it not all sad, sad, Barbara?


 June 25th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--I return you your book. In my
opinion it is a worthless one, and I would rather not have it in
my possession. Why do you save up your money to buy such trash?
Except in jest, do such books really please you? However, you
have now promised to send me something else to read. I will share
the cost of it. Now, farewell until we meet again. I have nothing
more to say.

B. D.

 June 26th.

MY DEAR LITTLE BARBARA--To tell you the truth, I myself have not
read the book of which you speak. That is to say, though I began
to read it, I soon saw that it was nonsense, and written only to
make people laugh. "However," thought I, "it is at least a
CHEERFUL work, and so may please Barbara." That is why I sent it

Rataziaev has now promised to give me something really literary
to read; so you shall soon have your book, my darling. He is a
man who reflects; he is a clever fellow, as well as himself a
writer--such a writer! His pen glides along with ease, and in
such a style (even when he is writing the most ordinary, the most
insignificant of articles) that I have often remarked upon the
fact, both to Phaldoni and to Theresa. Often, too, I go to spend
an evening with him. He reads aloud to us until five o'clock in
the morning, and we listen to him. It is a revelation of things
rather than a reading. It is charming, it is like a bouquet of
flowers--there is a bouquet of flowers in every line of each
page. Besides, he is such an approachable, courteous, kind-
hearted fellow! What am I compared with him? Why, nothing, simply
nothing! He is a man of reputation, whereas I--well, I do not
exist at all. Yet he condescends to my level. At this very moment
I am copying out a document for him. But you must not think that
he finds any DIFFICULTY in condescending to me, who am only a
copyist. No, you must not believe the base gossip that you may
hear. I do copying work for him simply in order to please myself,
as well as that he may notice me--a thing that always gives me
pleasure. I appreciate the delicacy of his position. He is a
good--a very good--man, and an unapproachable writer.

What a splendid thing is literature, Barbara--what a splendid
thing! This I learnt before I had known Rataziaev even for three
days. It strengthens and instructs the heart of man. . . . No
matter what there be in the world, you will find it all written
down in Rataziaev's works. And so well written down, too!
Literature is a sort of picture--a sort of picture or mirror. It
connotes at once passion, expression, fine criticism, good
learning, and a document. Yes, I have learned this from Rataziaev
himself. I can assure you, Barbara, that if only you could be
sitting among us, and listening to the talk (while, with the rest
of us, you smoked a pipe), and were to hear those present begin
to argue and dispute concerning different matters, you would feel
of as little account among them as I do; for I myself figure
there only as a blockhead, and feel ashamed, since it takes me a
whole evening to think of a single word to interpolate--and even
then the word will not come! In a case like that a man regrets
that, as the proverb has it, he should have reached man's estate
but not man's understanding. . . . What do I do in my spare time?
I sleep like a fool, though I would far rather be occupied with
something else--say, with eating or writing, since the one is
useful to oneself, and the other is beneficial to one's fellows.
You should see how much money these fellows contrive to save! How
much, for instance, does not Rataziaev lay by? A few days'
writing, I am told, can earn him as much as three hundred
roubles! Indeed, if a man be a writer of short stories or
anything else that is interesting, he can sometimes pocket five
hundred roubles, or a thousand, at a time! Think of it, Barbara!
Rataziaev has by him a small manuscript of verses, and for it he
is asking--what do you think? Seven thousand roubles! Why, one
could buy a whole house for that sum! He has even refused five
thousand for a manuscript, and on that occasion I reasoned with
him, and advised him to accept the five thousand. But it was of
no use. "For," said he, "they will soon offer me seven thousand,"
and kept to his point, for he is a man of some determination.

Suppose, now, that I were to give you an extract from "Passion in
Italy" (as another work of his is called). Read this, dearest
Barbara, and judge for yourself:

"Vladimir started, for in his veins the lust of passion had
welled until it had reached boiling point.

"'Countess,' he cried, 'do you know how terrible is this
adoration of mine, how infinite this madness? No! My fancies have
not deceived me--I love you ecstatically, diabolically, as a
madman might! All the blood that is in your husband's body could
never quench the furious, surging rapture that is in my soul! No
puny obstacle could thwart the all-destroying, infernal flame
which is eating into my exhausted breast! 0h Zinaida, my

"'Vladimir!' she whispered, almost beside herself, as she sank
upon his bosom.

"'My Zinaida!' cried the enraptured Smileski once more.

"His breath was coming in sharp, broken pants. The lamp of love
was burning brightly on the altar of passion, and searing the
hearts of the two unfortunate sufferers.

"'Vladimir!' again she whispered in her intoxication, while her
bosom heaved, her cheeks glowed, and her eyes flashed fire.

"Thus was a new and dread union consummated.

"Half an hour later the aged Count entered his wife's boudoir.

"'How now, my love?' said he. 'Surely it is for some welcome
guest beyond the common that you have had the samovar [Tea-urn.]
thus prepared?' And he smote her lightly on the cheek."

What think you of THAT, Barbara? True, it is a little too
outspoken--there can be no doubt of that; yet how grand it is,
how splendid! With your permission I will also quote you an
extract from Rataziaev's story, Ermak and Zuleika:

"'You love me, Zuleika? Say again that you love me, you love me!'

"'I DO love you, Ermak,' whispered Zuleika.

"'Then by heaven and earth I thank you! By heaven and earth you
have made me happy! You have given me all, all that my tortured
soul has for immemorial years been seeking! 'Tis for this that
you have led me hither, my guiding star--'tis for this that you
have conducted me to the Girdle of Stone! To all the world will I
now show my Zuleika, and no man, demon or monster of Hell, shall
bid me nay! Oh, if men would but understand the mysterious
passions of her tender heart, and see the poem which lurks in
each of her little tears! Suffer me to dry those tears with my
kisses! Suffer me to drink of those heavenly drops, 0h being who
art not of this earth!'

"'Ermak,' said Zuleika, 'the world is cruel, and men are unjust.
But LET them drive us from their midst--let them judge us, my
beloved Ermak! What has a poor maiden who was reared amid the
snows of Siberia to do with their cold, icy, self-sufficient
world? Men cannot understand me, my darling, my sweetheart.'

"'Is that so? Then shall the sword of the Cossacks sing and
whistle over their heads!' cried Ermak with a furious look in his

What must Ermak have felt when he learnt that his Zuleika had
been murdered, Barbara?--that, taking advantages of the cover of
night, the blind old Kouchoum had, in Ermak's absence, broken
into the latter's tent, and stabbed his own daughter in mistake
for the man who had robbed him of sceptre and crown?

"'Oh that I had a stone whereon to whet my sword!' cried Ermak in
the madness of his wrath as he strove to sharpen his steel blade
upon the enchanted rock. 'I would have his blood, his blood! I
would tear him limb from limb, the villain!'"

Then Ermak, unable to survive the loss of his Zuleika, throws
himself into the Irtisch, and the tale comes to an end.

Here, again, is another short extract--this time written in a
more comical vein, to make people laugh:

"Do you know Ivan Prokofievitch Zheltopuzh? He is the man who
took a piece out of Prokofi Ivanovitch's leg. Ivan's character is
one of the rugged order, and therefore, one that is rather
lacking in virtue. Yet he has a passionate relish for radishes
and honey. Once he also possessed a friend named Pelagea
Antonovna. Do you know Pelagea Antonovna? She is the woman who
always puts on her petticoat wrong side outwards."

What humour, Barbara--what purest humour! We rocked with laughter
when he read it aloud to us. Yes, that is the kind of man he is.
Possibly the passage is a trifle over-frolicsome, but at least it
is harmless, and contains no freethought or liberal ideas. In
passing, I may say that Rataziaev is not only a supreme writer,
but also a man of upright life--which is more than can be said
for most writers.

What, do you think, is an idea that sometimes enters my head? In
fact, what if I myself were to write something? How if suddenly a
book were to make its appearance in the world bearing the title
of "The Poetical Works of Makar Dievushkin"? What THEN, my angel?
How should you view, should you receive, such an event? I may say
of myself that never, after my book had appeared, should I have
the hardihood to show my face on the Nevski Prospect; for would
it not be too dreadful to hear every one saying, "Here comes the
literateur and poet, Dievushkin--yes, it is Dievushkin himself"?
What, in such a case, should I do with my feet (for I may tell
you that almost always my shoes are patched, or have just been
resoled, and therefore look anything but becoming)? To think that
the great writer Dievushkin should walk about in patched
footgear! If a duchess or a countess should recognise me, what
would she say, poor woman? Perhaps, though, she would not notice
my shoes at all, since it may reasonably be supposed that
countesses do not greatly occupy themselves with footgear,
especially with the footgear of civil service officials (footgear
may differ from footgear, it must be remembered). Besides, I
should find that the countess had heard all about me, for my
friends would have betrayed me to her--Rataziaev among the first
of them, seeing that he often goes to visit Countess V., and
practically lives at her house. She is said to be a woman of
great intellect and wit. An artful dog, that Rataziaev!

But enough of this. I write this sort of thing both to amuse
myself and to divert your thoughts. Goodbye now, my angel. This
is a long epistle that I am sending you, but the reason is that
today I feel in good spirits after dining at Rataziaev's. There I
came across a novel which I hardly know how to describe to you.
Do not think the worse of me on that account, even though I bring
you another book instead (for I certainly mean to bring one). The
novel in question was one of Paul de Kock's, and not a novel for
you to read. No, no! Such a work is unfit for your eyes. In fact,
it is said to have greatly offended the critics of St.
Petersburg. Also, I am sending you a pound of bonbons--bought
specially for yourself. Each time that you eat one, beloved,
remember the sender. Only, do not bite the iced ones, but suck
them gently, lest they make your teeth ache. Perhaps, too, you
like comfits? Well, write and tell me if it is so. Goodbye,
goodbye. Christ watch over you, my darling!--Always your faithful


June 27th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--Thedora tells me that, should I
wish, there are some people who will be glad to help me by
obtaining me an excellent post as governess in a certain house.
What think you, my friend? Shall I go or not? Of course, I should
then cease to be a burden to you, and the post appears to be a
comfortable one. On the other hand, the idea of entering a
strange house appals me. The people in it are landed gentry, and
they will begin to ask me questions, and to busy themselves about
me. What answers shall I then return? You see, I am now so unused
to society--so shy! I like to live in a corner to which I have
long grown used. Yes, the place with which one is familiar is
always the best. Even if for companion one has but sorrow, that
place will still be the best.... God alone knows what duties the
post will entail. Perhaps I shall merely be required to act as
nursemaid; and in any case, I hear that the governess there has
been changed three times in two years. For God's sake, Makar
Alexievitch, advise me whether to go or not. Why do you never
come near me now? Do let my eyes have an occasional sight of you.
Mass on Sundays is almost the only time when we see one another.
How retiring you have become! So also have I, even though, in a
way, I am your kinswoman. You must have ceased to love me, Makar
Alexievitch. I spend many a weary hour because of it. Sometimes,
when dusk is falling, I find myself lonely--oh, so lonely!
Thedora has gone out somewhere, and I sit here and think, and
think, and think. I remember all the past, its joys and its
sorrows. It passes before my eyes in detail, it glimmers at me as
out of a mist; and as it does so, well-known faces appear, which
seem actually to be present with me in this room! Most frequently
of all, I see my mother. Ah, the dreams that come to me! I feel
that my health is breaking, so weak am I. When this morning I
arose, sickness took me until I vomited and vomited. Yes, I feel,
I know, that death is approaching. Who will bury me when it has
come? Who will visit my tomb? Who will sorrow for me? And now it
is in a strange place, in the house of a stranger, that I may
have to die! Yes, in a corner which I do not know! ... My God,
how sad a thing is life! ... Why do you send me comfits to eat?
Whence do you get the money to buy them? Ah, for God's sake keep
the money, keep the money. Thedora has sold a carpet which I have
made. She got fifty roubles for it, which is very good--I had
expected less. Of the fifty roubles I shall give Thedora three,
and with the remainder make myself a plain, warm dress. Also, I
am going to make you a waistcoat--to make it myself, and out of
good material.

Also, Thedora has brought me a book--"The Stories of Bielkin"--
which I will forward you, if you would care to read it. Only, do
not soil it, nor yet retain it, for it does not belong to me. It
is by Pushkin. Two years ago I read these stories with my mother,
and it would hurt me to read them again. If you yourself have any
books, pray let me have them--so long as they have not been
obtained from Rataziaev. Probably he will be giving you one of
his own works when he has had one printed. How is it that his
compositions please you so much, Makar Alexievitch? I think them
SUCH rubbish!

--Now goodbye. How I have been chattering on! When feeling sad, I
always like to talk of something, for it acts upon me like
medicine--I begin to feel easier as soon as I have uttered what
is preying upon my heart. Good bye, good-bye, my friend--Your own

B. D.

June 28th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--Away with melancholy! Really,
beloved, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! How can you allow
such thoughts to enter your head? Really and truly you are quite
well; really and truly you are, my darling. Why, you are blooming
--simply blooming. True, I see a certain touch of pallor in your
face, but still you are blooming. A fig for dreams and visions!
Yes, for shame, dearest! Drive away those fancies; try to despise
them. Why do I sleep so well? Why am I never ailing? Look at ME,
beloved. I live well, I sleep peacefully, I retain my health, I
can ruffle it with my juniors. In fact, it is a pleasure to see
me. Come, come, then, sweetheart! Let us have no more of this. I
know that that little head of yours is capable of any fancy--that
all too easily you take to dreaming and repining; but for my
sake, cease to do so.

Are you to go to these people, you ask me? Never! No, no, again
no! How could you think of doing such a thing as taking a
journey? I will not allow it--I intend to combat your intention
with all my might. I will sell my frockcoat, and walk the streets
in my shirt sleeves, rather than let you be in want. But no,
Barbara. I know you, I know you. This is merely a trick, merely a
trick. And probably Thedora alone is to blame for it. She appears
to be a foolish old woman, and to be able to persuade you to do
anything. Do not believe her, my dearest. I am sure that you know
what is what, as well as SHE does. Eh, sweetheart? She is a
stupid, quarrelsome, rubbish-talking old woman who brought her
late husband to the grave. Probably she has been plaguing you as
much as she did him. No, no, dearest; you must not take this
step. What should I do then? What would there be left for ME to
do? Pray put the idea out of your head. What is it you lack here?
I cannot feel sufficiently overjoyed to be near you, while, for
your part, you love me well, and can live your life here as
quietly as you wish. Read or sew, whichever you like--or read and
do not sew. Only, do not desert me. Try, yourself, to imagine how
things would seem after you had gone. Here am I sending you
books, and later we will go for a walk. Come, come, then, my
Barbara! Summon to your aid your reason, and cease to babble of

As soon as I can I will come and see you, and then you shall tell
me the whole story. This will not do, sweetheart; this certainly
will not do. Of course, I know that I am not an educated man, and
have received but a sorry schooling, and have had no inclination
for it, and think too much of Rataziaev, if you will; but he is
my friend, and therefore, I must put in a word or two for him.
Yes, he is a splendid writer. Again and again I assert that he
writes magnificently. I do not agree with you about his works,
and never shall. He writes too ornately, too laconically, with
too great a wealth of imagery and imagination. Perhaps you have
read him without insight, Barbara? Or perhaps you were out of
spirits at the time, or angry with Thedora about something, or
worried about some mischance? Ah, but you should read him
sympathetically, and, best of all, at a time when you are feeling
happy and contented and pleasantly disposed-- for instance, when
you have a bonbon or two in your mouth. Yes, that is the way to
read Rataziaev. I do not dispute (indeed, who would do so?) that
better writers than he exist--even far better; but they are good,
and he is good too--they write well, and he writes well. It is
chiefly for his own sake that he writes, and he is to be approved
for so doing.

Now goodbye, dearest. More I cannot write, for I must hurry away
to business. Be of good cheer, and the Lord God watch over you!--
Your faithful friend,


P.S--Thank you so much for the book, darling! I will read it
through, this volume of Pushkin, and tonight come to you.

MY DEAR MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH--No, no, my friend, I must not go on
living near you. I have been thinking the matter over, and come
to the conclusion that I should be doing very wrong to refuse so
good a post. I should at least have an assured crust of bread; I
might at least set to work to earn my employers' favour, and even
try to change my character if required to do so. Of course it is
a sad and sorry thing to have to live among strangers, and to be
forced to seek their patronage, and to conceal and constrain
one's own personality-- but God will help me. I must not remain
forever a recluse, for similar chances have come my way before. I
remember how, when a little girl at school, I used to go home on
Sundays and spend the time in frisking and dancing about.
Sometimes my mother would chide me for so doing, but I did not
care, for my heart was too joyous, and my spirits too buoyant,
for that. Yet as the evening of Sunday came on, a sadness as of
death would overtake me, for at nine o'clock I had to return to
school, where everything was cold and strange and severe--where
the governesses, on Mondays, lost their tempers, and nipped my
ears, and made me cry. On such occasions I would retire to a
corner and weep alone; concealing my tears lest I should be
called lazy. Yet it was not because I had to study that I used to
weep, and in time I grew more used to things, and, after my
schooldays were over, shed tears only when I was parting with
friends. . . .

It is not right for me to live in dependence upon you. The
thought tortures me. I tell you this frankly, for the reason that
frankness with you has become a habit. Cannot I see that daily,
at earliest dawn, Thedora rises to do washing and scrubbing, and
remains working at it until late at night, even though her poor
old bones must be aching for want of rest? Cannot I also see that
YOU are ruining yourself for me, and hoarding your last kopeck
that you may spend it on my behalf? You ought not so to act, my
friend, even though you write that you would rather sell your all
than let me want for anything. I believe in you, my friend--I
entirely believe in your good heart; but, you say that to me now
(when, perhaps, you have received some unexpected sum or
gratuity) and there is still the future to be thought of. You
yourself know that I am always ailing--that I cannot work as you
do, glad though I should be of any work if I could get it; so
what else is there for me to do? To sit and repine as I watch you
and Thedora? But how would that be of any use to you? AM I
necessary to you, comrade of mine? HAVE I ever done you any good?
Though I am bound to you with my whole soul, and love you dearly
and strongly and wholeheartedly, a bitter fate has ordained that
that love should be all that I have to give--that I should be
unable, by creating for you subsistence, to repay you for all
your kindness. Do not, therefore, detain me longer, but think the
matter out, and give me your opinion on it. In expectation of
which I remain your sweetheart,

B. D.

July 1st.

Rubbish, rubbish, Barbara!--What you say is sheer rubbish. Stay
here, rather, and put such thoughts out of your head. None of
what you suppose is true. I can see for myself that it is not.
Whatsoever you lack here, you have but to ask me for it. Here you
love and are loved, and we might easily be happy and contented
together. What could you want more? What have you to do with
strangers? You cannot possibly know what strangers are like. I
know it, though, and could have told you if you had asked me.
There is a stranger whom I know, and whose bread I have eaten. He
is a cruel man, Barbara--a man so bad that he would be unworthy
of your little heart, and would soon tear it to pieces with his
railings and reproaches and black looks. On the other hand, you
are safe and well here--you are as safe as though you were
sheltered in a nest. Besides, you would, as it were, leave me
with my head gone. For what should I have to do when you were
gone? What could I, an old man, find to do? Are you not necessary
to me? Are you not useful to me? Eh? Surely you do not think that
you are not useful? You are of great use to me, Barbara, for you
exercise a beneficial influence upon my life. Even at this
moment, as I think of you, I feel cheered, for always I can write
letters to you, and put into them what I am feeling, and receive
from you detailed answers.... I have bought you a wardrobe, and
also procured you a bonnet; so you see that you have only to give
me a commission for it to be executed. . . . No-- in what way are
you not useful? What should I do if I were deserted in my old
age? What would become of me? Perhaps you never thought of that,
Barbara--perhaps you never said to yourself, "How could HE get on
without me?" You see, I have grown so accustomed to you. What
else would it end in, if you were to go away? Why, in my hiking
to the Neva's bank and doing away with myself. Ah, Barbara,
darling, I can see that you want me to be taken away to the
Volkovo Cemetery in a broken-down old hearse, with some poor
outcast of the streets to accompany my coffin as chief mourner,
and the gravediggers to heap my body with clay, and depart and
leave me there. How wrong of you, how wrong of you, my beloved!
Yes, by heavens, how wrong of you! I am returning you your book,
little friend; and ,if you were to ask of me my opinion of it, I
should say that never before in my life had I read a book so
splendid. I keep wondering how I have hitherto contrived to
remain such an owl. For what have I ever done? From what wilds
did I spring into existence? I KNOW nothing--I know simply
NOTHING. My ignorance is complete. Frankly, I am not an educated
man, for until now I have read scarcely a single book--only "A
Portrait of Man" (a clever enough work in its way), "The Boy Who
Could Play Many Tunes Upon Bells", and "Ivik's Storks". That is
all. But now I have also read "The Station Overseer" in your
little volume; and it is wonderful to think that one may live and
yet be ignorant of the fact that under one's very nose there may
be a book in which one's whole life is described as in a picture.
Never should I have guessed that, as soon as ever one begins to
read such a book, it sets one on both to remember and to consider
and to foretell events. Another reason why I liked this book so
much is that, though, in the case of other works (however clever
they be), one may read them, yet remember not a word of them (for
I am a man naturally dull of comprehension, and unable to read
works of any great importance),--although, as I say, one may read
such works, one reads such a book as YOURS as easily as though it
had been written by oneself, and had taken possession of one's
heart, and turned it inside out for inspection, and were
describing it in detail as a matter of perfect simplicity. Why, I
might almost have written the book myself! Why not, indeed? I can
feel just as the people in the book do, and find myself in
positions precisely similar to those of, say, the character
Samson Virin. In fact, how many good-hearted wretches like Virin
are there not walking about amongst us? How easily, too, it is
all described! I assure you, my darling, that I almost shed tears
when I read that Virin so took to drink as to lose his memory,
become morose, and spend whole days over his liquor; as also that
he choked with grief and wept bitterly when, rubbing his eyes
with his dirty hand, he bethought him of his wandering lamb, his
daughter Dunasha! How natural, how natural! You should read the
book for yourself. The thing is actually alive. Even I can see
that; even I can realise that it is a picture cut from the very
life around me. In it I see our own Theresa (to go no further)
and the poor Tchinovnik--who is just such a man as this Samson
Virin, except for his surname of Gorshkov. The book describes
just what might happen to ourselves--to myself in particular.
Even a count who lives in the Nevski Prospect or in Naberezhnaia
Street might have a similar experience, though he might APPEAR to
be different, owing to the fact that his life is cast on a higher
plane. Yes, just the same things might happen to him--just the
same things. . . . Here you are wishing to go away and leave us;
yet, be careful lest it would not be I who had to pay the penalty
of your doing so. For you might ruin both yourself and me. For
the love of God, put away these thoughts from you, my darling,
and do not torture me in vain. How could you, my poor little
unfledged nestling, find yourself food, and defend yourself from
misfortune, and ward off the wiles of evil men? Think better of
it, Barbara, and pay no more heed to foolish advice and calumny,
but read your book again, and read it with attention. It may do
you much good.

I have spoken of Rataziaev's "The Station Overseer". However, the
author has told me that the work is old-fashioned, since,
nowadays, books are issued with illustrations and embellishments
of different sorts (though I could not make out all that he
said). Pushkin he adjudges a splendid poet, and one who has done
honour to Holy Russia. Read your book again, Barbara, and follow
my advice, and make an old man happy. The Lord God Himself will
reward you. Yes, He will surely reward you.--Your faithful


MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Today Thedora came to me with
fifteen roubles in silver. How glad was the poor woman when I
gave her three of them! I am writing to you in great haste, for I
am busy cutting out a waistcoat to send to you--buff, with a
pattern of flowers. Also I am sending you a book of stories; some
of which I have read myself, particularly one called "The Cloak."
. . . You invite me to go to the theatre with you. But will it
not cost too much? Of course we might sit in the gallery. It is a
long time (indeed I cannot remember when I last did so) since I
visited a theatre! Yet I cannot help fearing that such an
amusement is beyond our means. Thedora keeps nodding her head,
and saying that you have taken to living above your income. I
myself divine the same thing by the amount which you have spent
upon me. Take care, dear friend, that misfortune does not come of
it, for Thedora has also informed me of certain rumours
concerning your inability to meet your landlady's bills. In fact,
I am very anxious about you. Now, goodbye, for I must hasten away
to see about another matter--about the changing of the ribands on
my bonnet.

P.S--Do you know, if we go to the theatre, I think that I shall
wear my new hat and black mantilla. Will that not look nice?

 July 7th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA--SO much for yesterday! Yes,
dearest, we have both been caught playing the fool, for I have
become thoroughly bitten with the actress of whom I spoke. Last
night I listened to her with all my ears, although, strangely
enough, it was practically my first sight of her, seeing that
only once before had I been to the theatre. In those days I lived
cheek by jowl with a party of five young men--a most noisy crew-
and one night I accompanied them, willy-nilly, to the theatre,
though I held myself decently aloof from their doings, and only
assisted them for company's sake. How those fellows talked to me
of this actress! Every night when the theatre was open, the
entire band of them (they always seemed to possess the requisite
money) would betake themselves to that place of entertainment,
where they ascended to the gallery, and clapped their hands, and
repeatedly recalled the actress in question. In fact, they went
simply mad over her. Even after we had returned home they would
give me no rest, but would go on talking about her all night, and
calling her their Glasha, and declaring themselves to be in love
with "the canary-bird of their hearts." My defenseless self, too,
they would plague about the woman, for I was as young as they.
What a figure I must have cut with them on the fourth tier of the
gallery! Yet, I never got a sight of more than just a corner of
the curtain, but had to content myself with listening. She had a
fine, resounding, mellow voice like a nightingale's, and we all
of us used to clap our hands loudly, and to shout at the top of
our lungs. In short, we came very near to being ejected. On the
first occasion I went home walking as in a mist, with a single
rouble left in my pocket, and an interval of ten clear days
confronting me before next pay-day. Yet, what think you, dearest?
The very next day, before going to work, I called at a French
perfumer's, and spent my whole remaining capital on some eau-de-
Cologne and scented soap! Why I did so I do not know. Nor did I
dine at home that day, but kept walking and walking past her
windows (she lived in a fourth-storey flat on the Nevski
Prospect). At length I returned to my own lodging, but only to
rest a short hour before again setting off to the Nevski Prospect
and resuming my vigil before her windows. For a month and a half
I kept this up--dangling in her train. Sometimes I would hire
cabs, and discharge them in view of her abode; until at length I
had entirely ruined myself, and got into debt. Then I fell out of
love with her--I grew weary of the pursuit. . . . You see,
therefore, to what depths an actress can reduce a decent man. In
those days I was young. Yes, in those days I was VERY young.

M. D.

 July 8th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--The book which I received from you
on the 6th of this month I now hasten to return, while at the
same time hastening also to explain matters to you in this
accompanying letter. What a misfortune, my beloved, that you
should have brought me to such a pass! Our lots in life are
apportioned by the Almighty according to our human deserts. To
such a one He assigns a life in a general's epaulets or as a
privy councillor--to such a one, I say, He assigns a life of
command; whereas to another one, He allots only a life of
unmurmuring toil and suffering. These things are calculated
according to a man's CAPACITY. One man may be capable of one
thing, and another of another, and their several capacities are
ordered by the Lord God himself. I have now been thirty years in
the public service, and have fulfilled my duties irreproachably,
remained abstemious, and never been detected in any unbecoming
behaviour. As a citizen, I may confess--I confess it freely--I
have been guilty of certain shortcomings; yet those shortcomings
have been combined with certain virtues. I am respected by my
superiors, and even his Excellency has had no fault to find with
me; and though I have never been shown any special marks of
favour, I know that every one finds me at least satisfactory.
Also, my writing is sufficiently legible and clear. Neither too
rounded nor too fine, it is a running hand, yet always suitable.
Of our staff only Ivan Prokofievitch writes a similar hand. Thus
have I lived till the grey hairs of my old age; yet I can think
of no serious fault committed. Of course, no one is free from
MINOR faults. Everyone has some of them, and you among the rest,
my beloved. But in grave or in audacious offences never have I
been detected, nor in infringements of regulations, nor in
breaches of the public peace. No, never! This you surely know,
even as the author of your book must have known it. Yes, he also
must have known it when he sat down to write. I had not expected
this of you, my Barbara. I should never have expected it.

What? In future I am not to go on living peacefully in my little
corner, poor though that corner be I am not to go on living, as
the proverb has it, without muddying the water, or hurting any
one, or forgetting the fear of the Lord God and of oneself? I am
not to see, forsooth, that no man does me an injury, or breaks
into my home--I am not to take care that all shall go well with
me, or that I have clothes to wear, or that my shoes do not
require mending, or that I be given work to do, or that I possess
sufficient meat and drink? Is it nothing that, where the pavement
is rotten, I have to walk on tiptoe to save my boots? If I write
to you overmuch concerning myself, is it concerning ANOTHER man,
rather, that I ought to write--concerning HIS wants, concerning
HIS lack of tea to drink (and all the world needs tea)? Has it
ever been my custom to pry into other men's mouths, to see what
is being put into them? Have I ever been known to offend any one
in that respect? No, no, beloved! Why should I desire to insult
other folks when they are not molesting ME? Let me give you an
example of what I mean. A man may go on slaving and slaving in
the public service, and earn the respect of his superiors (for
what it is worth), and then, for no visible reason at all, find
himself made a fool of. Of course he may break out now and then
(I am not now referring only to drunkenness), and (for example)
buy himself a new pair of shoes, and take pleasure in seeing his
feet looking well and smartly shod. Yes, I myself have known what
it is to feel like that (I write this in good faith). Yet I am
nonetheless astonished that Thedor Thedorovitch should neglect
what is being said about him, and take no steps to defend
himself. True, he is only a subordinate official, and sometimes
loves to rate and scold; yet why should he not do so--why should
he not indulge in a little vituperation when he feels like it?
Suppose it to be NECESSARY, for FORM'S sake, to scold, and to set
everyone right, and to shower around abuse (for, between
ourselves, Barbara, our friend cannot get on WITHOUT abuse--so
much so that every one humours him, and does things behind his
back)? Well, since officials differ in rank, and every official
demands that he shall be allowed to abuse his fellow officials in
proportion to his rank, it follows that the TONE also of official
abuse should become divided into ranks, and thus accord with the
natural order of things. All the world is built upon the system
that each one of us shall have to yield precedence to some other
one, as well as to enjoy a certain power of abusing his fellows.
Without such a provision the world could not get on at all, and
simple chaos would ensue. Yet I am surprised that our Thedor
should continue to overlook insults of the kind that he endures.

Why do I do my official work at all? Why is that necessary? Will
my doing of it lead anyone who reads it to give me a greatcoat,
or to buy me a new pair of shoes? No, Barbara. Men only read the
documents, and then require me to write more. Sometimes a man
will hide himself away, and not show his face abroad, for the
mere reason that, though he has done nothing to be ashamed of, he
dreads the gossip and slandering which are everywhere to be
encountered. If his civic and family life have to do with
literature, everything will be printed and read and laughed over
and discussed; until at length, he hardly dare show his face in
the street at all, seeing that he will have been described by
report as recognisable through his gait alone! Then, when he has
amended his ways, and grown gentler (even though he still
continues to be loaded with official work), he will come to be
accounted a virtuous, decent citizen who has deserved well of his
comrades, rendered obedience to his superiors, wished noone any
evil, preserved the fear of God in his heart, and died lamented.
Yet would it not be better, instead of letting the poor fellow
die, to give him a cloak while yet he is ALIVE--to give it to
this same Thedor Thedorovitch (that is to say, to myself)? Yes,
'twere far better if, on hearing the tale of his subordinate's
virtues, the chief of the department were to call the deserving
man into his office, and then and there to promote him, and to
grant him an increase of salary. Thus vice would be punished,
virtue would prevail, and the staff of that department would live
in peace together. Here we have an example from everyday,
commonplace life. How, therefore, could you bring yourself to
send me that book, my beloved? It is a badly conceived work,
Barbara, and also unreal, for the reason that in creation such a
Tchinovnik does not exist. No, again I protest against it, little
Barbara; again I protest.--Your most humble, devoted servant,

M. D.

July 27th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Your latest conduct and letters
had frightened me, and left me thunderstruck and plunged in
doubt, until what you have said about Thedor explained the
situation. Why despair and go into such frenzies, Makar
Alexievitch? Your explanations only partially satisfy me. Perhaps
I did wrong to insist upon accepting a good situation when it was
offered me, seeing that from my last experience in that way I
derived a shock which was anything but a matter for jesting. You
say also that your love for me has compelled you to hide yourself
in retirement. Now, how much I am indebted to you I realised when
you told me that you were spending for my benefit the sum which
you are always reported to have laid by at your bankers; but, now
that I have learnED that you never possessed such a fund, but
that, on hearing of my destitute plight, and being moved by it,
you decided to spend upon me the whole of your salary--even to
forestall it--and when I had fallen ill, actually to sell your
clothes--when I learnED all this I found myself placed in the
harassing position of not knowing how to accept it all, nor what
to think of it. Ah, Makar Alexievitch! You ought to have stopped
at your first acts of charity--acts inspired by sympathy and the
love of kinsfolk, rather than have continued to squander your
means upon what was unnecessary. Yes, you have betrayed our
friendship, Makar Alexievitch, in that you have not been open
with me; and, now that I see that your last coin has been spent
upon dresses and bon-bons and excursions and books and visits to
the theatre for me, I weep bitter tears for my unpardonable
improvidence in having accepted these things without giving so
much as a thought to your welfare. Yes, all that you have done to
give me pleasure has become converted into a source of grief, and
left behind it only useless regret. Of late I have remarked that
you were looking depressed; and though I felt fearful that
something unfortunate was impending, what has happened would
otherwise never have entered my head. To think that your better
sense should so play you false, Makar Alexievitch! What will
people think of you, and say of you? Who will want to know you?
You whom, like everyone else, I have valued for your goodness of
heart and modesty and good sense--YOU, I say, have now given way
to an unpleasant vice of which you seem never before to have been
guilty. What were my feelings when Thedora informed me that you
had been discovered drunk in the street, and taken home by the
police? Why, I felt petrified with astonishment--although, in
view of the fact that you had failed me for four days, I had been
expecting some such extraordinary occurrence. Also, have you
thought what your superiors will say of you when they come to
learn the true reason of your absence? You say that everyone is
laughing at you, that every one has learnED of the bond which
exists between us, and that your neighbours habitually refer to
me with a sneer. Pay no attention to this, Makar Alexievitch; for
the love of God, be comforted. Also, the incident between you and
the officers has much alarmed me, although I had heard certain
rumours concerning it. Pray explain to me what it means. You
write, too, that you have been afraid to be open with me, for the
reason that your confessions might lose you my friendship. Also,
you say that you are in despair at the thought of being unable to
help me in my illness, owing to the fact that you have sold
everything which might have maintained me, and preserved me in
sickness, as well as that you have borrowed as much as it is
possible for you to borrow, and are daily experiencing
unpleasantness with your landlady. Well, in failing to reveal all
this to me you chose the worse course. Now, however, I know all.
You have forced me to recognise that I have been the cause of
your unhappy plight, as well as that my own conduct has brought
upon myself a twofold measure of sorrow. The fact leaves me
thunderstruck, Makar Alexievitch. Ah, friend, an infectious
disease is indeed a misfortune, for now we poor and miserable
folk must perforce keep apart from one another, lest the
infection be increased. Yes, I have brought upon you calamities
which never before in your humble, solitary life you had
experienced. This tortures and exhausts me more than I can tell
to think of.

Write to me quite frankly. Tell me how you came to embark upon
such a course of conduct. Comfort, oh, comfort me if you can. It
is not self-love that prompts me to speak of my own comforting,
but my friendship and love for you, which will never fade from my
heart. Goodbye. I await your answer with impatience. You have
thought but poorly of me, Makar Alexievitch.--Your friend and


 July 28th.

MY PRICELESS BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--What am I to say to you, now
that all is over, and we are gradually returning to our old
position? You say that you are anxious as to what will be thought
of me. Let me tell you that the dearest thing in life to me is my
self-respect; wherefore, in informing you of my misfortunes and
misconduct, I would add that none of my superiors know of my
doings, nor ever will know of them, and that therefore, I still
enjoy a measure of respect in that quarter. Only one thing do I
fear-- I fear gossip. Garrulous though my landlady be, she said
but little when, with the aid of your ten roubles, I today paid
her part of her account; and as for the rest of my companions,
they do not matter at all. So long as I have not borrowed money
from them, I need pay them no attention. To conclude my
explanations, let me tell you that I value your respect for me
above everything in the world, and have found it my greatest
comfort during this temporary distress of mine. Thank God, the
first shock of things has abated, now that you have agreed not to
look upon me as faithless and an egotist simply because I have
deceived you. I wish to hold you to myself, for the reason that I
cannot bear to part with you, and love you as my guardian angel.
. . . I have now returned to work, and am applying myself
diligently to my duties. Also, yesterday Evstafi Ivanovitch
exchanged a word or two with me. Yet I will not conceal from you
the fact that my debts are crushing me down, and that my wardrobe
is in a sorry state. At the same time, these things do not REALLY
matter and I would bid you not despair about them. Send me,
however, another half-rouble if you can (though that half-rouble
will stab me to the heart--stab me with the thought that it is
not I who am helping you, but YOU who are helping ME). Thedora
has done well to get those fifteen roubles for you. At the
moment, fool of an old man that I am, I have no hope of acquiring
any more money; but as soon as ever I do so, I will write to you
and let you know all about it. What chiefly worries me is the
fear of gossip. Goodbye, little angel. I kiss your hands, and
beseech you to regain your health. If this is not a detailed
letter, the reason is that I must soon be starting for the
office, in order that, by strict application to duty, I may make
amends for the past. Further information concerning my doings (as
well as concerning that affair with the officers) must be
deferred until tonight.--Your affectionate and respectful friend,


 July 28th.

DEAREST LITTLE BARBARA,--It is YOU who have committed a fault--
and one which must weigh heavily upon your conscience. Indeed,
your last letter has amazed and confounded me,--so much so that,
on once more looking into the recesses of my heart, I perceive
that I was perfectly right in what I did. Of course I am not now
referring to my debauch (no, indeed!), but to the fact that I
love you, and to the fact that it is unwise of me to love you--
very unwise. You know not how matters stand, my darling. You know
not why I am BOUND to love you. Otherwise you would not say all
that you do. Yet I am persuaded that it is your head rather than
your heart that is speaking. I am certain that your heart thinks
very differently.

What occurred that night between myself and those officers I
scarcely know, I scarcely remember. You must bear in mind that
for some time past I have been in terrible distress--that for a
whole month I have been, so to speak, hanging by a single thread.
Indeed, my position has been most pitiable. Though I hid myself
from you, my landlady was forever shouting and railing at me.
This would not have mattered a jot--the horrible old woman might
have shouted as much as she pleased--had it not been that, in the
first place, there was the disgrace of it, and, in the second
place, she had somehow learned of our connection, and kept
proclaiming it to the household until I felt perfectly deafened,
and had to stop my ears. The point, however, is that other people
did not stop their ears, but, on the contrary, pricked them.
Indeed, I am at a loss what to do.

Really this wretched rabble has driven me to extremities. It all
began with my hearing a strange rumour from Thedora--namely, that
an unworthy suitor had been to visit you, and had insulted you
with an improper proposal. That he had insulted you deeply I knew
from my own feelings, for I felt insulted in an equal degree.
Upon that, my angel, I went to pieces, and, losing all self-
control, plunged headlong. Bursting into an unspeakable frenzy, I
was at once going to call upon this villain of a seducer--though
what to do next I knew not, seeing that I was fearful of giving
you offence. Ah, what a night of sorrow it was, and what a time
of gloom, rain, and sleet! Next, I was returning home, but found
myself unable to stand upon my feet. Then Emelia Ilyitch happened
to come by. He also is a tchinovnik--or rather, was a tchinovnik,
since he was turned out of the service some time ago. What he was
doing there at that moment I do not know; I only know that I went
with him. . . . Surely it cannot give you pleasure to read of the
misfortunes of your friend--of his sorrows, and of the
temptations which he experienced? . . . On the evening of the
third day Emelia urged me to go and see the officer of whom I
have spoken, and whose address I had learned from our dvornik.
More strictly speaking, I had noticed him when, on a previous
occasion, he had come to play cards here, and I had followed him
home. Of course I now see that I did wrong, but I felt beside
myself when I heard them telling him stories about me. Exactly
what happened next I cannot remember. I only remember that
several other officers were present as well as he. Or it may be
that I saw everything double--God alone knows. Also, I cannot
exactly remember what I said. I only remember that in my fury I
said a great deal. Then they turned me out of the room, and threw
me down the staircase--pushed me down it, that is to say. How I
got home you know. That is all. Of course, later I blamed myself,
and my pride underwent a fall; but no extraneous person except
yourself knows of the affair, and in any case it does not matter.
Perhaps the affair is as you imagine it to have been, Barbara?
One thing I know for certain, and that is that last year one of
our lodgers, Aksenti Osipovitch, took a similar liberty with
Peter Petrovitch, yet kept the fact secret, an absolute secret.
He called him into his room (I happened to be looking through a
crack in the partition-wall), and had an explanation with him in
the way that a gentleman should--noone except myself being a
witness of the scene; whereas, in my own case, I had no
explanation at all. After the scene was over, nothing further
transpired between Aksenti Osipovitch and Peter Petrovitch, for
the reason that the latter was so desirous of getting on in life
that he held his tongue. As a result, they bow and shake hands
whenever they meet. . . . I will not dispute the fact that I have
erred most grievously--that I should never dare to dispute, or
that I have fallen greatly in my own estimation; but, I think I
was fated from birth so to do--and one cannot escape fate, my
beloved. Here, therefore, is a detailed explanation of my
misfortunes and sorrows, written for you to read whenever you may
find it convenient. I am far from well, beloved, and have lost
all my gaiety of disposition, but I send you this letter as a
token of my love, devotion, and respect, Oh dear lady of my
affections.-- Your humble servant,


 July 29th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I have read your two letters, and
they make my heart ache. See here, dear friend of mine. You pass
over certain things in silence, and write about a PORTION only of
your misfortunes. Can it be that the letters are the outcome of a
mental disorder? . . . Come and see me, for God's sake. Come
today, direct from the office, and dine with us as you have done
before. As to how you are living now, or as to what settlement
you have made with your landlady, I know not, for you write
nothing concerning those two points, and seem purposely to have
left them unmentioned. Au revoir, my friend. Come to me today
without fail. You would do better ALWAYS to dine here. Thedora is
an excellent cook. Goodbye --Your own,


 August 1st.

MY DARLING BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Thank God that He has sent you a
chance of repaying my good with good. I believe in so doing, as
well as in the sweetness of your angelic heart. Therefore, I will
not reproach you. Only I pray you, do not again blame me because
in the decline of my life I have played the spendthrift. It was
such a sin, was it not?--such a thing to do? And even if you
would still have it that the sin was there, remember, little
friend, what it costs me to hear such words fall from your lips.
Do not be vexed with me for saying this, for my heart is
fainting. Poor people are subject to fancies--this is a provision
of nature. I myself have had reason to know this. The poor man is
exacting. He cannot see God's world as it is, but eyes each
passer-by askance, and looks around him uneasily in order that he
may listen to every word that is being uttered. May not people be
talking of him? How is it that he is so unsightly? What is he
feeling at all? What sort of figure is he cutting on the one side
or on the other? It is matter of common knowledge, my Barbara,
that the poor man ranks lower than a rag, and will never earn the
respect of any one. Yes, write about him as you like--let
scribblers say what they choose about him-- he will ever remain
as he was. And why is this? It is because, from his very nature,
the poor man has to wear his feelings on his sleeve, so that
nothing about him is sacred, and as for his self-respect--! Well,
Emelia told me the other day that once, when he had to collect
subscriptions, official sanction was demanded for every single
coin, since people thought that it would be no use paying their
money to a poor man. Nowadays charity is strangely administered.
Perhaps it has always been so. Either folk do not know how to
administer it, or they are adept in the art--one of the two.
Perhaps you did not know this, so I beg to tell it you. And how
comes it that the poor man knows, is so conscious of it all? The
answer is--by experience. He knows because any day he may see a
gentleman enter a restaurant and ask himself, "What shall I have
to eat today? I will have such and such a dish," while all the
time the poor man will have nothing to eat that day but gruel.
There are men, too--wretched busybodies--who walk about merely to
see if they can find some wretched tchinovnik or broken-down
official who has got toes projecting from his boots or his hair
uncut! And when they have found such a one they make a report of
the circumstance, and their rubbish gets entered on the file....
But what does it matter to you if my hair lacks the shears? If
you will forgive me what may seem to you a piece of rudeness, I
declare that the poor man is ashamed of such things with the
sensitiveness of a young girl. YOU, for instance, would not care
(pray pardon my bluntness) to unrobe yourself before the public
eye; and in the same way, the poor man does not like to be pried
at or questioned concerning his family relations, and so forth. A
man of honour and self-respect such as I am finds it painful and
grievous to have to consort with men who would deprive him of

Today I sat before my colleagues like a bear's cub or a plucked
sparrow, so that I fairly burned with shame. Yes, it hurt me
terribly, Barbara. Naturally one blushes when one can see one's
naked toes projecting through one's boots, and one's buttons
hanging by a single thread! As though on purpose, I seemed, on
this occasion, to be peculiarly dishevelled. No wonder that my
spirits fell. When I was talking on business matters to Stepan
Karlovitch, he suddenly exclaimed, for no apparent reason, "Ah,
poor old Makar Alexievitch!" and then left the rest unfinished.
But I knew what he had in his mind, and blushed so hotly that
even the bald patch on my head grew red. Of course the whole
thing is nothing, but it worries me, and leads to anxious
thoughts. What can these fellows know about me? God send that
they know nothing! But I confess that I suspect, I strongly
suspect, one of my colleagues. Let them only betray me! They
would betray one's private life for a groat, for they hold
nothing sacred.

I have an idea who is at the bottom of it all. It is Rataziaev.
Probably he knows someone in our department to whom he has
recounted the story with additions. Or perhaps he has spread it
abroad in his own department, and thence, it has crept and
crawled into ours. Everyone here knows it, down to the last
detail, for I have seen them point at you with their fingers
through the window. Oh yes, I have seen them do it. Yesterday,
when I stepped across to dine with you, the whole crew were
hanging out of the window to watch me, and the landlady exclaimed
that the devil was in young people, and called you certain
unbecoming names. But this is as nothing compared with
Rataziaev's foul intention to place us in his books, and to
describe us in a satire. He himself has declared that he is going
to do so, and other people say the same. In fact, I know not what
to think, nor what to decide. It is no use concealing the fact
that you and I have sinned against the Lord God.... You were
going to send me a book of some sort, to divert my mind--were you
not, dearest? What book, though, could now divert me? Only such
books as have never existed on earth. Novels are rubbish, and
written for fools and for the idle. Believe me, dearest, I know
it through long experience. Even should they vaunt Shakespeare to
you, I tell you that Shakespeare is rubbish, and proper only for
lampoons--Your own,


August 2nd.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--Do not disquiet yourself. God will
grant that all shall turn out well. Thedora has obtained a
quantity of work, both for me and herself, and we are setting
about it with a will. Perhaps it will put us straight again.
Thedora suspects my late misfortunes to be connected with Anna
Thedorovna; but I do not care--I feel extraordinarily cheerful
today. So you are thinking of borrowing more money? If so, may
God preserve you, for you will assuredly be ruined when the time
comes for repayment! You had far better come and live with us
here for a little while. Yes, come and take up your abode here,
and pay no attention whatever to what your landlady says. As for
the rest of your enemies and ill-wishers, I am certain that it is
with vain imaginings that you are vexing yourself. . . . In
passing, let me tell you that your style differs greatly from
letter to letter. Goodbye until we meet again. I await your
coming with impatience--Your own,

B. D.

August 3rd.

MY ANGEL, BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to inform you, 0h light of
my life, that my hopes are rising again. But, little daughter of
mine--do you really mean it when you say that I am to indulge in
no more borrowings? Why, I could not do without them. Things
would go badly with us both if I did so. You are ailing.
Consequently, I tell you roundly that I MUST borrow, and that I
must continue to do so.

Also, I may tell you that my seat in the office is now next to
that of a certain Emelia Ivanovitch. He is not the Emelia whom
you know, but a man who, like myself, is a privy councillor, as
well as represents, with myself, the senior and oldest official
in our department. Likewise he is a good, disinterested soul, and
one that is not over-talkative, though a true bear in appearance
and demeanour. Industrious, and possessed of a handwriting purely
English, his caligraphy is, it must be confessed, even worse than
my own. Yes, he is a good soul. At the same time, we have never
been intimate with one another. We have done no more than
exchange greetings on meeting or parting, borrow one another's
penknife if we needed one, and, in short, observe such bare
civilities as convention demands. Well, today he said to me,
"Makar Alexievitch, what makes you look so thoughtful?" and
inasmuch as I could see that he wished me well, I told him all--
or, rather, I did not tell him EVERYTHING, for that I do to no
man (I have not the heart to do it); I told him just a few
scattered details concerning my financial straits. "Then you
ought to borrow," said he. "You ought to obtain a loan of Peter
Petrovitch, who does a little in that way. I myself once borrowed
some money of him, and he charged me fair and light interest."
Well, Barbara, my heart leapt within me at these words. I kept
thinking and thinking, --if only God would put it into the mind
of Peter Petrovitch to be my benefactor by advancing me a loan!"
I calculated that with its aid I might both repay my landlady and
assist yourself and get rid of my surroundings (where I can
hardly sit down to table without the rascals making jokes about
me). Sometimes his Excellency passes our desk in the office. He
glances at me, and cannot but perceive how poorly I am dressed.
Now, neatness and cleanliness are two of his strongest points.
Even though he says nothing, I feel ready to die with shame when
he approaches. Well, hardening my heart, and putting my
diffidence into my ragged pocket, I approached Peter Petrovitch,
and halted before him more dead than alive. Yet I was hopeful,
and though, as it turned out, he was busily engaged in talking to
Thedosei Ivanovitch, I walked up to him from behind, and plucked
at his sleeve. He looked away from me, but I recited my speech
about thirty roubles, et cetera, et cetera, of which, at first,
he failed to catch the meaning. Even when I had explained matters
to him more fully, he only burst out laughing, and said nothing.
Again I addressed to him my request; whereupon, asking me what
security I could give, he again buried himself in his papers, and
went on writing without deigning me even a second glance. Dismay
seized me. "Peter Petrovitch," I said, "I can offer you no
security," but to this I added an explanation that some salary
would, in time, be due to me, which I would make over to him, and
account the loan my first debt. At that moment someone called him
away, and I had to wait a little. On returning, he began to mend
his pen as though he had not even noticed that I was there. But I
was for myself this time. "Peter Petrovitch," I continued, "can
you not do ANYTHING?" Still he maintained silence, and seemed not
to have heard me. I waited and waited. At length I determined to
make a final attempt, and plucked him by the sleeve. He muttered
something, and, his pen mended, set about his writing. There was
nothing for me to do but to depart. He and the rest of them are
worthy fellows, dearest--that I do not doubt-- but they are also
proud, very proud. What have I to do with them? Yet I thought I
would write and tell you all about it. Meanwhile Emelia
Ivanovitch had been encouraging me with nods and smiles. He is a
good soul, and has promised to recommend me to a friend of his
who lives in Viborskaia Street and lends money. Emelia declares
that this friend will certainly lend me a little; so tomorrow,
beloved, I am going to call upon the gentleman in question. . . .
What do you think about it? It would be a pity not to obtain a
loan. My landlady is on the point of turning me out of doors, and
has refused to allow me any more board. Also, my boots are
wearing through, and have lost every button--and I do not possess
another pair! Could anyone in a government office display greater
shabbiness? It is dreadful, my Barbara--it is simply dreadful!


 August 4th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--For God's sake borrow some money
as soon as you can. I would not ask this help of you were it not
for the situation in which I am placed. Thedora and myself cannot
remain any longer in our present lodgings, for we have been
subjected to great unpleasantness, and you cannot imagine my
state of agitation and dismay. The reason is that this morning we
received a visit from an elderly--almost an old--man whose breast
was studded with orders. Greatly surprised, I asked him what he
wanted (for at the moment Thedora had gone out shopping);
whereupon he began to question me as to my mode of life and
occupation, and then, without waiting for an answer, informed me
that he was uncle to the officer of whom you have spoken; that he
was very angry with his nephew for the way in which the latter
had behaved, especially with regard to his slandering of me right
and left; and that he, the uncle, was ready to protect me from
the young spendthrift's insolence. Also, he advised me to have
nothing to say to young fellows of that stamp, and added that he
sympathised with me as though he were my own father, and would
gladly help me in any way he could. At this I blushed in some
confusion, but did not greatly hasten to thank him. Next, he took
me forcibly by the hand, and, tapping my cheek, said that I was
very good-looking, and that he greatly liked the dimples in my
face (God only knows what he meant!). Finally he tried to kiss
me, on the plea that he was an old man, the brute! At this moment
Thedora returned; whereupon, in some confusion, he repeated that
he felt a great respect for my modesty and virtue, and that he
much wished to become acquainted with me; after which he took
Thedora aside, and tried, on some pretext or another, to give her
money (though of course she declined it). At last he took himself
off--again reiterating his assurances, and saying that he
intended to return with some earrings as a present; that he
advised me to change my lodgings; and, that he could recommend me
a splendid flat which he had in his mind's eye as likely to cost
me nothing. Yes, he also declared that he greatly liked me for my
purity and good sense; that I must beware of dissolute young men;
and that he knew Anna Thedorovna, who had charged him to inform
me that she would shortly be visiting me in person. Upon that, I
understood all. What I did next I scarcely know, for I had never
before found myself in such a position; but I believe that I
broke all restraints, and made the old man feel thoroughly
ashamed of himself--Thedora helping me in the task, and well-nigh
turning him neck and crop out of the tenement. Neither of us
doubt that this is Anna Thedorovna's work-- for how otherwise
could the old man have got to know about us?

Now, therefore, Makar Alexievitch, I turn to you for help. Do
not, for God's sake, leave me in this plight. Borrow all the
money that you can get, for I have not the wherewithal to leave
these lodgings, yet cannot possibly remain in them any longer. At
all events, this is Thedora's advice. She and I need at least
twenty-five roubles, which I will repay you out of what I earn by
my work, while Thedora shall get me additional work from day to
day, so that, if there be heavy interest to pay on the loan, you
shall not be troubled with the extra burden. Nay, I will make
over to you all that I possess if only you will continue to help
me. Truly, I grieve to have to trouble you when you yourself are
so hardly situated, but my hopes rest upon you, and upon you
alone. Goodbye, Makar Alexievitch. Think of me, and may God speed
you on your errand!


 August 4th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--These unlooked-for blows have
shaken me terribly, and these strange calamities have quite
broken my spirit. Not content with trying to bring you to a bed
of sickness, these lickspittles and pestilent old men are trying
to bring me to the same. And I assure you that they are
succeeding--I assure you that they are. Yet I would rather die
than not help you. If I cannot help you I SHALL die; but, to
enable me to help you, you must flee like a bird out of the nest
where these owls, these birds of prey, are seeking to peck you to
death. How distressed I feel, my dearest! Yet how cruel you
yourself are! Although you are enduring pain and insult, although
you, little nestling, are in agony of spirit, you actually tell
me that it grieves you to disturb me, and that you will work off
your debt to me with the labour of your own hands! In other
words, you, with your weak health, are proposing to kill yourself
in order to relieve me to term of my financial embarrassments!
Stop a moment, and think what you are saying. WHY should you sew,
and work, and torture your poor head with anxiety, and spoil your
beautiful eyes, and ruin your health? Why, indeed? Ah, little
Barbara, little Barbara! Do you not see that I shall never be any
good to you, never any good to you? At all events, I myself see
it. Yet I WILL help you in your distress. I WILL overcome every
difficulty, I WILL get extra work to do, I WILL copy out
manuscripts for authors, I WILL go to the latter and force them
to employ me, I WILL so apply myself to the work that they shall
see that I am a good copyist (and good copyists, I know, are
always in demand). Thus there will be no need for you to exhaust
your strength, nor will I allow you to do so--I will not have you
carry out your disastrous intention. . .  Yes, little angel, I
will certainly borrow some money. I would rather die than not do
so. Merely tell me, my own darling, that I am not to shrink from
heavy interest, and I will not shrink from it, I will not shrink
from it--nay, I will shrink from nothing. I will ask for forty
roubles, to begin with. That will not be much, will it, little
Barbara? Yet will any one trust me even with that sum at the
first asking? Do you think that I am capable of inspiring
confidence at the first glance? Would the mere sight of my face
lead any one to form of me a favourable opinion? Have I ever been
able, remember you, to appear to anyone in a favourable light?
What think you? Personally, I see difficulties in the way, and
feel sick at heart at the mere prospect. However, of those forty
roubles I mean to set aside twenty-five for yourself, two for my
landlady, and the remainder for my own spending. Of course, I
ought to give more than two to my landlady, but you must remember
my necessities, and see for yourself that that is the most that
can be assigned to her. We need say no more about it. For one
rouble I shall buy me a new pair of shoes, for I scarcely know
whether my old ones will take me to the office tomorrow morning.
Also, a new neck-scarf is indispensable, seeing that the old one
has now passed its first year; but, since you have promised to
make of your old apron not only a scarf, but also a shirt-front,
I need think no more of the article in question. So much for
shoes and scarves. Next, for buttons. You yourself will agree
that I cannot do without buttons; nor is there on my garments a
single hem unfrayed. I tremble when I think that some day his
Excellency may perceive my untidiness, and say--well, what will
he NOT say? Yet I shall never hear what he says, for I shall have
expired where I sit--expired of mere shame at the thought of
having been thus exposed. Ah, dearest! . . . Well, my various
necessities will have left me three roubles to go on with. Part
of this sum I shall expend upon a half-pound of tobacco--for I
cannot live without tobacco, and it is nine days since I last put
a pipe into my mouth. To tell the truth, I shall buy the tobacco
without acquainting you with the fact, although I ought not so to
do. The pity of it all is that, while you are depriving yourself
of everything, I keep solacing myself with various amenities--
which is why I am telling you this, that the pangs of conscience
may not torment me. Frankly, I confess that I am in desperate
straits--in such straits as I have never yet known. My landlady
flouts me, and I enjoy the respect of noone; my arrears and debts
are terrible; and in the office, though never have I found the
place exactly a paradise, noone has a single word to say to me.
Yet I hide, I carefully hide, this from every one. I would hide
my person in the same way, were it not that daily I have to
attend the office where I have to be constantly on my guard
against my fellows. Nevertheless, merely to be able to CONFESS
this to you renews my spiritual strength. We must not think of
these things, Barbara, lest the thought of them break our
courage. I write them down merely to warn you NOT to think of
them, nor to torture yourself with bitter imaginings. Yet, my
God, what is to become of us? Stay where you are until I can come
to you; after which I shall not return hither, but simply
disappear. Now I have finished my letter, and must go and shave
myself, inasmuch as, when that is done, one always feels more
decent, as well as consorts more easily with decency. God speed
me! One prayer to Him, and I must be off.


August 5th.

DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH, - You must not despair. Away with
melancholy! I am sending you thirty kopecks in silver, and regret
that I cannot send you more. Buy yourself what you most need
until tomorrow. I myself have almost nothing left, and what I am
going to do I know not. Is it not dreadful, Makar Alexievitch?
Yet do not be downcast--it is no good being that. Thedora
declares that it would not be a bad thing if we were to remain in
this tenement, since if we left it suspicions would arise, and
our enemies might take it into their heads to look for us. On the
other hand, I do not think it would be well for us to remain
here. If I were feeling less sad I would tell you my reason.

What a strange man you are, Makar Alexievitch! You take things so
much to heart that you never know what it is to be happy. I read
your letters attentively, and can see from them that, though you
worry and disturb yourself about me, you never give a thought to
yourself. Yes, every letter tells me that you have a kind heart;
but I tell YOU that that heart is overly kind. So I will give you
a little friendly advice, Makar Alexievitch. I am full of
gratitude towards you--I am indeed full for all that you have
done for me, I am most sensible of your goodness; but, to think
that I should be forced to see that, in spite of your own
troubles (of which I have been the involuntary cause), you live
for me alone--you live but for MY joys and MY sorrows and MY
affection! If you take the affairs of another person so to heart,
and suffer with her to such an extent, I do not wonder that you
yourself are unhappy. Today, when you came to see me after
office-work was done, I felt afraid even to raise my eyes to
yours, for you looked so pale and desperate, and your face had so
fallen in. Yes, you were dreading to have to tell me of your
failure to borrow money--you were dreading to have to grieve and
alarm me; but, when you saw that I came very near to smiling, the
load was, I know, lifted from your heart. So do not be
despondent, do not give way, but allow more rein to your better
sense. I beg and implore this of you, for it will not be long
before you see things take a turn for the better. You will but
spoil your life if you constantly lament another person's sorrow.
Goodbye, dear friend. I beseech you not to be over-anxious about

B. D.

 August 5th.

MY DARLING LITTLE BARBARA,--This is well, this is well, my angel!
So you are of opinion that the fact that I have failed to obtain
any money does not matter? Then I too am reassured, I too am
happy on your account. Also, I am delighted to think that you are
not going to desert your old friend, but intend to remain in your
present lodgings. Indeed, my heart was overcharged with joy when
I read in your letter those kindly words about myself, as well as
a not wholly unmerited recognition of my sentiments. I say this
not out of pride, but because now I know how much you love me to
be thus solicitous for my feelings. How good to think that I may
speak to you of them! You bid me, darling, not be faint-hearted.
Indeed, there is no need for me to be so. Think, for instance, of
the pair of shoes which I shall be wearing to the office
tomorrow! The fact is that over-brooding proves the undoing of a
man--his complete undoing. What has saved me is the fact that it
is not for myself that I am grieving, that I am suffering, but
for YOU. Nor would it matter to me in the least that I should
have to walk through the bitter cold without an overcoat or
boots--I could bear it, I could well endure it, for I am a simple
man in my requirements; but the point is--what would people say,
what would every envious and hostile tongue exclaim, when I was
seen without an overcoat? It is for OTHER folk that one wears an
overcoat and boots. In any case, therefore, I should have needed
boots to maintain my name and reputation; to both of which my
ragged footgear would otherwise have spelled ruin. Yes, it is so,
my beloved, and you may believe an old man who has had many years
of experience, and knows both the world and mankind, rather than
a set of scribblers and daubers.

But I have not yet told you in detail how things have gone with
me today. During the morning I suffered as much agony of spirit
as might have been experienced in a year. 'Twas like this: First
of all, I went out to call upon the gentleman of whom I have
spoken. I started very early, before going to the office. Rain
and sleet were falling, and I hugged myself in my greatcoat as I
walked along. "Lord," thought I, "pardon my offences, and send me
fulfilment of all my desires;" and as I passed a church I crossed
myself, repented of my sins, and reminded myself that I was
unworthy to hold communication with the Lord God. Then I retired
into myself, and tried to look at nothing; and so, walking
without noticing the streets, I proceeded on my way. Everything
had an empty air, and everyone whom I met looked careworn and
preoccupied, and no wonder, for who would choose to walk abroad
at such an early hour, and in such weather? Next a band of ragged
workmen met me, and jostled me boorishly as they passed; upon
which nervousness overtook me, and I felt uneasy, and tried hard
not to think of the money that was my errand. Near the
Voskresenski Bridge my feet began to ache with weariness, until I
could hardly pull myself along; until presently I met with
Ermolaev, a writer in our office, who, stepping aside, halted,
and followed me with his eyes, as though to beg of me a glass of
vodka. "Ah, friend," thought I, "go YOU to your vodka, but what
have I to do with such stuff?" Then, sadly weary, I halted for a
moment's rest, and thereafter dragged myself further on my way.
Purposely I kept looking about me for something upon which to
fasten my thoughts, with which to distract, to encourage myself;
but there was nothing. Not a single idea could I connect with any
given object, while, in addition, my appearance was so draggled
that I felt utterly ashamed of it. At length I perceived from
afar a gabled house that was built of yellow wood. This, I
thought, must be the residence of the Monsieur Markov whom Emelia
Ivanovitch had mentioned to me as ready to lend money on
interest. Half unconscious of what I was doing, I asked a
watchman if he could tell me to whom the house belonged;
whereupon grudgingly, and as though he were vexed at something,
the fellow muttered that it belonged to one Markov. Are ALL
watchmen so unfeeling? Why did this one reply as he did? In any
case I felt disagreeably impressed, for like always answers to
like, and, no matter what position one is in, things invariably
appear to correspond to it. Three times did I pass the house and
walk the length of the street; until the further I walked, the
worse became my state of mind. "No, never, never will he lend me
anything!" I thought to myself, "He does not know me, and my
affairs will seem to him ridiculous, and I shall cut a sorry
figure. However, let fate decide for me. Only, let Heaven send
that I do not afterwards repent me, and eat out my heart with
remorse!" Softly I opened the wicket-gate. Horrors! A great
ragged brute of a watch-dog came flying out at me, and foaming at
the mouth, and nearly jumping out his skin! Curious is it to note
what little, trivial incidents will nearly make a man crazy, and
strike terror to his heart, and annihilate the firm purpose with
which he has armed himself. At all events, I approached the house
more dead than alive, and walked straight into another
catastrophe. That is to say, not noticing the slipperiness of the
threshold, I stumbled against an old woman who was filling milk-
jugs from a pail, and sent the milk flying in every direction!
The foolish old dame gave a start and a cry, and then demanded of
me whither I had been coming, and what it was I wanted; after
which she rated me soundly for my awkwardness. Always have I
found something of the kind befall me when engaged on errands of
this nature. It seems to be my destiny invariably to run into
something. Upon that, the noise and the commotion brought out the
mistress of the house--an old beldame of mean appearance. I
addressed myself directly to her: "Does Monsieur Markov live
here?" was my inquiry. "No," she replied, and then stood looking
at me civilly enough. "But what want you with him?" she
continued; upon which I told her about Emelia Ivanovitch and the
rest of the business. As soon as I had finished, she called her
daughter--a barefooted girl in her teens-- and told her to summon
her father from upstairs. Meanwhile, I was shown into a room
which contained several portraits of generals on the walls and
was furnished with a sofa, a large table, and a few pots of
mignonette and balsam. "Shall I, or shall I not (come weal, come
woe) take myself off?" was my thought as I waited there. Ah, how
I longed to run away! "Yes," I continued, "I had better come
again tomorrow, for the weather may then be better, and I shall
not have upset the milk, and these generals will not be looking
at me so fiercely." In fact, I had actually begun to move towards
the door when Monsieur Markov entered--a grey-headed man with
thievish eyes, and clad in a dirty dressing-gown fastened with a
belt. Greetings over, I stumbled out something about Emelia
Ivanovitch and forty roubles, and then came to a dead halt, for
his eyes told me that my errand had been futile. "No." said he,
"I have no money. Moreover, what security could you offer?" I
admitted that I could offer none, but again added something about
Emelia, as well as about my pressing needs. Markov heard me out,
and then repeated that he had no money. " Ah," thought I, "I
might have known this--I might have foreseen it!" And, to tell
the truth, Barbara, I could have wished that the earth had opened
under my feet, so chilled did I feel as he said what he did, so
numbed did my legs grow as shivers began to run down my back.
Thus I remained gazing at him while he returned my gaze with a
look which said, "Well now, my friend? Why do you not go since
you have no further business to do here?" Somehow I felt
conscience-stricken. "How is it that you are in such need of
money?" was what he appeared to be asking; whereupon ,I opened my
mouth (anything rather than stand there to no purpose at all!)
but found that he was not even listening. "I have no money,"
again he said, "or I would lend you some with pleasure." Several
times I repeated that I myself possessed a little, and that I
would repay any loan from him punctually, most punctually, and
that he might charge me what interest he liked, since I would
meet it without fail. Yes, at that moment I remembered our
misfortunes, our necessities, and I remembered your half-rouble.
"No," said he, "I can lend you nothing without security," and
clinched his assurance with an oath, the robber!

How I contrived to leave the house and, passing through
Viborskaia Street, to reach the Voskresenski Bridge I do not
know. I only remember that I feltterribly weary, cold, and
starved, and that it was ten o'clock before I reached the office.
Arriving, I tried to clean myself up a little, but Sniegirev, the
porter, said that it was impossible for me to do so, and that I
should only spoil the brush, which belonged to the Government.
Thus, my darling, do such fellows rate me lower than the mat on
which they wipe their boots! What is it that will most surely
break me? It is not the want of money, but the LITTLE worries of
life--these whisperings and nods and jeers. Anyday his Excellency
himself may round upon me. Ah, dearest, my golden days are gone.
Today I have spent in reading your letters through; and the
reading of them has made me sad. Goodbye, my own, and may the
Lord watch over you!


P.S.--To conceal my sorrow I would have written this letter half
jestingly; but, the faculty of jesting has not been given me. My
one desire, however, is to afford you pleasure. Soon I will come
and see you, dearest. Without fail I will come and see you.

August 11th.

O Barbara Alexievna, I am undone--we are both of us undone! Both
of us are lost beyond recall! Everything is ruined--my
reputation, my self-respect, all that I have in the world! And
you as much as I. Never shall we retrieve what we have lost. I--
I have brought you to this pass, for I have become an outcast, my
darling. Everywhere I am laughed at and despised. Even my
landlady has taken to abusing me. Today she overwhelmed me with
shrill reproaches, and abased me to the level of a hearth-brush.
And last night, when I was in Rataziaev's rooms, one of his
friends began to read a scribbled note which I had written to
you, and then inadvertently pulled out of my pocket. Oh beloved,
what laughter there arose at the recital! How those scoundrels
mocked and derided you and myself! I walked up to them and
accused Rataziaev of breaking faith. I said that he had played
the traitor. But he only replied that I had been the betrayer in
the case, by indulging in various amours. "You have kept them
very dark though, Mr. Lovelace!" said he-- and now I am known
everywhere by this name of "Lovelace." They know EVERYTHING about
us, my darling, EVERYTHING--both about you and your affairs and
about myself; and when today I was for sending Phaldoni to the
bakeshop for something or other, he refused to go, saying that it
was not his business. "But you MUST go," said I. "I will not," he
replied. "You have not paid my mistress what you owe her, so I am
not bound to run your errands." At such an insult from a raw
peasant I lost my temper, and called him a fool; to which he
retorted in a similar vein. Upon this I thought that he must be
drunk, and told him so; whereupon he replied: "WHAT say you that
I am? Suppose you yourself go and sober up, for I know that the
other day you went to visit a woman, and that you got drunk with
her on two grivenniks." To such a pass have things come! I feel
ashamed to be seen alive. I am, as it were, a man proclaimed; I
am in a worse plight even than a tramp who has lost his passport.
How misfortunes are heaping themselves upon me! I am lost--I am
lost for ever!

M. D.

 August 13th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--It is true that misfortune is
following upon misfortune. I myself scarcely know what to do.
Yet, no matter how you may be fairing, you must not look for help
from me, for only today I burned my left hand with the iron! At
one and the same moment I dropped the iron, made a mistake in my
work, and burned myself! So now I can no longer work. Also, these
three days past, Thedora has been ailing. My anxiety is becoming
positively torturous. Nevertheless, I send you thirty kopecks--
almost the last coins that I have left to me, much as I should
have liked to have helped you more when you are so much in need.
I feel vexed to the point of weeping. Goodbye, dear friend of
mine. You will bring me much comfort if only you will come and
see me today.

B. D.

August 14th.

What is the matter with you, Makar Alexievitch? Surely you cannot
fear the Lord God as you ought to do? You are not only driving me
to distraction but also ruining yourself with this eternal
solicitude for your reputation. You are a man of honour, nobility
of character, and self-respect, as everyone knows; yet, at any
moment, you are ready to die with shame! Surely you should have
more consideration for your grey hairs. No, the fear of God has
departed from you. Thedora has told you that it is out of my
power to render you anymore help. See, therefore, to what a pass
you have brought me! Probably you think it is nothing to me that
you should behave so badly; probably you do not realise what you
have made me suffer. I dare not set foot on the staircase here,
for if I do so I am stared at, and pointed at, and spoken about
in the most horrible manner. Yes, it is even said of me that I am
"united to a drunkard." What a thing to hear! And whenever you
are brought home drunk folk say, "They are carrying in that
tchinovnik." THAT is not the proper way to make me help you. I
swear that I MUST leave this place, and go and get work as a cook
or a laundress. It is impossible for me to stay here. Long ago I
wrote and asked you to come and see me, yet you have not come.
Truly my tears and prayers must mean NOTHING to you, Makar
Alexievitch! Whence, too, did you get the money for your
debauchery? For the love of God be more careful of yourself, or
you will be ruined. How shameful, how abominable of you! So the
landlady would not admit you last night, and you spent the night
on the doorstep? Oh, I know all about it. Yet if only you could
have seen my agony when I heard the news! . . . Come and see me,
Makar Alexievitch, and we will once more be happy together. Yes,
we will read together, and talk of old times, and Thedora shall
tell you of her pilgrimages in former days. For God's sake
beloved, do not ruin both yourself and me. I live for you alone;
it is for your sake alone that I am still here. Be your better
self once more--the self which still can remain firm in the face
of misfortune. Poverty is no crime; always remember that. After
all, why should we despair? Our present difficulties will pass
away, and God will right us. Only be brave. I send you two
grivenniks for the purchase of some tobacco or anything else that
you need; but ,for the love of heaven, do not spend the money
foolishly. Come you and see me soon; come without fail. Perhaps
you may be ashamed to meet me, as you were before, but you NEED
not feel like that--such shame would be misplaced. Only do bring
with you sincere repentance and trust in God, who orders all
things for the best.

B. D.

 August 19th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA, -Yes, I AM ashamed to meet you, my
darling--I AM ashamed. At the same time, what is there in all
this? Why should we not be cheerful again? Why should I mind the
soles of my feet coming through my boots? The sole of one's foot
is a mere bagatelle--it will never be anything but just a base,
dirty sole. And shoes do not matter, either. The Greek sages used
to walk about without them, so why should we coddle ourselves
with such things? Yet why, also, should I be insulted and
despised because of them? Tell Thedora that she is a rubbishy,
tiresome, gabbling old woman, as well as an inexpressibly foolish
one. As for my grey hairs, you are quite wrong about them,
inasmuch as I am not such an old man as you think. Emelia sends
you his greeting. You write that you are in great distress, and
have been weeping. Well, I too am in great distress, and have
been weeping. Nay, nay. I wish you the best of health and
happiness, even as I am well and happy myself, so long as I may
remain, my darling,--Your friend,


August 21st.

feel that I have sinned against you. Yet also I feel, from what
you say, that it is no use for me so to feel. Even before I had
sinned I felt as I do now; but I gave way to despair, and the
more so as recognised my fault. Darling, I am not cruel or
hardhearted. To rend your little soul would be the act of a
blood-thirsty tiger, whereas I have the heart of a sheep. You
yourself know that I am not addicted to bloodthirstiness, and
therefore that I cannot really be guilty of the fault in
question, seeing that neither my mind nor my heart have
participated in it.

Nor can I understand wherein the guilt lies. To me it is all a
mystery. When you sent me those thirty kopecks, and thereafter
those two grivenniks, my heart sank within me as I looked at the
poor little money. To think that though you had burned your hand,
and would soon be hungry, you could write to me that I was to buy
tobacco! What was I to do? Remorselessly to rob you, an orphan,
as any brigand might do? I felt greatly depressed, dearest. That
is to say, persuaded that I should never do any good with my
life, and that I was inferior even to the sole of my own boot, I
took it into my head that it was absurd for me to aspire at all--
rather, that I ought to account myself a disgrace and an
abomination. Once a man has lost his self-respect, and has
decided to abjure his better qualities and human dignity, he
falls headlong, and cannot choose but do so. It is decreed of
fate, and therefore I am not guilty in this respect.

That evening I went out merely to get a breath of fresh air, but
one thing followed another-- the weather was cold, all nature was
looking mournful, and I had fallen in with Emelia. This man had
spent everything that he possessed, and, at the time I met him,
had not for two days tasted a crust of bread. He had tried to
raise money by pawning, but what articles he had for the purpose
had been refused by the pawnbrokers. It was more from sympathy
for a fellow-man than from any liking for the individual that I
yielded. That is how the fault arose, dearest.

He spoke of you, and I mingled my tears with his. Yes, he is a
man of kind, kind heart--a man of deep feeling. I often feel as
he did, dearest, and, in addition, I know how beholden to you I
am. As soon as ever I got to know you I began both to realise
myself and to love you; for until you came into my life I had
been a lonely man--I had been, as it were, asleep rather than
alive. In former days my rascally colleagues used to tell me that
I was unfit even to be seen; in fact, they so disliked me that at
length I began to dislike myself, for, being frequently told that
I was stupid, I began to believe that I really was so. But the
instant that YOU came into my life, you lightened the dark places
in it, you lightened both my heart and my soul. Gradually, I
gained rest of spirit, until I had come to see that I was no
worse than other men, and that, though I had neither style nor
brilliancy nor polish, I was still a MAN as regards my thoughts
and feelings. But now, alas! pursued and scorned of fate, I have
again allowed myself to abjure my own dignity. Oppressed of
misfortune, I have lost my courage. Here is my confession to you,
dearest. With tears I beseech you not to inquire further into the
matter, for my heart is breaking, and life has grown indeed hard
and bitter for me--Beloved, I offer you my respect, and remain
ever your faithful friend,


September 3rd.

The reason why I did not finish my last letter, Makar
Alexievitch, was that I found it so difficult to write. There are
moments when I am glad to be alone--to grieve and repine without
any one to share my sorrow: and those moments are beginning to
come upon me with ever-increasing frequency. Always in my
reminiscences I find something which is inexplicable, yet
strongly attractive-so much so that for hours together I remain
insensible to my surroundings, oblivious of reality. Indeed, in
my present life there is not a single impression that I
encounter--pleasant or the reverse-- which does not recall to my
mind something of a similar nature in the past. More particularly
is this the case with regard to my childhood, my golden
childhood. Yet such moments always leave me depressed. They
render me weak, and exhaust my powers of fancy; with the result
that my health, already not good, grows steadily worse.

However, this morning it is a fine, fresh, cloudless day, such as
we seldom get in autumn. The air has revived me and I greet it
with joy. Yet to think that already the fall of the year has
come! How I used to love the country in autumn! Then but a child,
I was yet a sensitive being who loved autumn evenings better than
autumn mornings. I remember how beside our house, at the foot of
a hill, there lay a large pond, and how the pond--I can see it
even now!--shone with a broad, level surface that was as clear as
crystal. On still evenings this pond would be at rest, and not a
rustle would disturb the trees which grew on its banks and
overhung the motionless expanse of water. How fresh it used to
seem, yet how cold! The dew would be falling upon the turf,
lights would be beginning to shine forth from the huts on the
pond's margin, and the cattle would be wending their way home.
Then quietly I would slip out of the house to look at my beloved
pond, and forget myself in contemplation. Here and there a
fisherman's bundle of brushwood would be burning at the water's
edge, and sending its light far and wide over the surface. Above,
the sky would be of a cold blue colour, save for a fringe of
flame-coloured streaks on the horizon that kept turning ever
paler and paler; and when the moon had come out there would be
wafted through the limpid air the sounds of a frightened bird
fluttering, of a bulrush rubbing against its fellows in the
gentle breeze, and of a fish rising with a splash. Over the dark
water there would gather a thin, transparent mist; and though, in
the distance, night would be looming, and seemingly enveloping
the entire horizon, everything closer at hand would be standing
out as though shaped with a chisel--banks, boats, little islands,
and all. Beside the margin a derelict barrel would be turning
over and over in the water; a switch of laburnum, with yellowing
leaves, would go meandering through the reeds; and a belated gull
would flutter up, dive again into the cold depths, rise once
more, and disappear into the mist. How I would watch and listen
to these things! How strangely good they all would seem! But I
was a mere infant in those days--a mere child.

Yes, truly I loved autumn-tide--the late autumn when the crops
are garnered, and field work is ended, and the evening gatherings
in the huts have begun, and everyone is awaiting winter. Then
does everything become more mysterious, the sky frowns with
clouds, yellow leaves strew the paths at the edge of the naked
forest, and the forest itself turns black and blue--more
especially at eventide when damp fog is spreading and the trees
glimmer in the depths like giants, like formless, weird phantoms.
Perhaps one may be out late, and had got separated from one's
companions. Oh horrors! Suddenly one starts and trembles as one
seems to see a strange-looking being peering from out of the
darkness of a hollow tree, while all the while the wind is
moaning and rattling and howling through the forest--moaning with
a hungry sound as it strips the leaves from the bare boughs, and
whirls them into the air. High over the tree-tops, in a
widespread, trailing, noisy crew, there fly, with resounding
cries, flocks of birds which seem to darken and overlay the very
heavens. Then a strange feeling comes over one, until one seems
to hear the voice of some one whispering: "Run, run, little
child! Do not be out late, for this place will soon have become
dreadful! Run, little child! Run!" And at the words terror will
possess one's soul, and one will rush and rush until one's breath
is spent--until, panting, one has reached home.

At home, however, all will look bright and bustling as we
children are set to shell peas or poppies, and the damp twigs
crackle in the stove, and our mother comes to look fondly at our
work, and our old nurse, Iliana, tells us stories of bygone days,
or terrible legends concerning wizards and dead men. At the
recital we little ones will press closer to one another, yet
smile as we do so; when suddenly, everyone becomes silent. Surely
somebody has knocked at the door? . . . But nay, nay; it is only
the sound of Frolovna's spinning-wheel. What shouts of laughter
arise! Later one will be unable to sleep for fear of the strange
dreams which come to visit one; or, if one falls asleep, one will
soon wake again, and, afraid to stir, lie quaking under the
coverlet until dawn. And in the morning, one will arise as fresh
as a lark and look at the window, and see the fields overlaid
with hoarfrost, and fine icicles hanging from the naked branches,
and the pond covered over with ice as thin as paper, and a white
steam rising from the surface, and birds flying overhead with
cheerful cries. Next, as the sun rises, he throws his glittering
beams everywhere, and melts the thin, glassy ice until the whole
scene has come to look bright and clear and exhilarating; and as
the fire begins to crackle again in the stove, we sit down to the
tea-urn, while, chilled with the night cold, our black dog,
Polkan, will look in at us through the window, and wag his tail
with a cheerful air. Presently, a peasant will pass the window in
his cart bound for the forest to cut firewood, and the whole
party will feel merry and contented together. Abundant grain lies
stored in the byres, and great stacks of wheat are glowing
comfortably in the morning sunlight. Everyone is quiet and happy,
for God has blessed us with a bounteous harvest, and we know that
there will be abundance of food for the wintertide. Yes, the
peasant may rest assured that his family will not want for aught.
Song and dance will arise at night from the village girls, and on
festival days everyone will repair to God's house to thank Him
with grateful tears for what He has done . . . . Ah, a golden
time was my time of childhood! . . .

Carried away by these memories, I could weep like a child.
Everything, everything comes back so clearly to my recollection!
The past stands out so vividly before me! Yet in the present
everything looks dim and dark! How will it all end?--how? Do you
know, I have a feeling, a sort of sure premonition, that I am
going to die this coming autumn; for I feel terribly, oh so
terribly ill! Often do I think of death, yet feel that I should
not like to die here and be laid to rest in the soil of St.
Petersburg. Once more I have had to take to my bed, as I did last
spring, for I have never really recovered. Indeed I feel so
depressed! Thedora has gone out for the day, and I am alone. For
a long while past I have been afraid to be left by myself, for I
keep fancying that there is someone else in the room, and that
that someone is speaking to me. Especially do I fancy this when
I have gone off into a reverie, and then suddenly awoken from it,
and am feeling bewildered. That is why I have made this letter
such a long one; for, when I am writing, the mood passes away.
Goodbye. I have neither time nor paper left for more, and must
close. Of the money which I saved to buy a new dress and hat,
there remains but a single rouble; but, I am glad that you have
been able to pay your landlady two roubles, for they will keep
her tongue quiet for a time. And you must repair your wardrobe.

Goodbye once more. I am so tired! Nor can I think why I am
growing so weak--why it is that even the smallest task now
wearies me? Even if work should come my way, how am I to do it?
That is what worries me above all things.

B. D.

 September 5th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA,--Today I have undergone a variety of
experiences. In the first place, my head has been aching, and
towards evening I went out to get a breath of fresh air along the
Fontanka Canal. The weather was dull and damp, and even by six
o'clock, darkness had begun to set in. True, rain was not
actually falling, but only a mist like rain, while the sky was
streaked with masses of trailing cloud. Crowds of people were
hurrying along Naberezhnaia Street, with faces that looked
strange and dejected. There were drunken peasants; snub-nosed old
harridans in slippers; bareheaded artisans; cab drivers; every
species of beggar; boys; a locksmith's apprentice in a striped
smock, with lean, emaciated features which seemed to have been
washed in rancid oil; an ex-soldier who was offering penknives
and copper rings for sale; and so on, and so on. It was the hour
when one would expect to meet no other folk than these. And what
a quantity of boats there were on the canal. It made one wonder
how they could all find room there. On every bridge were old
women selling damp gingerbread or withered apples, and every
woman looked as damp and dirty as her wares. In short, the
Fontanka is a saddening spot for a walk, for there is wet granite
under one's feet, and tall, dingy buildings on either side of
one, and wet mist below and wet mist above. Yes, all was dark and
gloomy there this evening.

By the time I had returned to Gorokhovaia Street darkness had
fallen and the lamps had been lit. However, I did not linger long
in that particular spot, for Gorokhovaia Street is too noisy a
place. But what sumptuous shops and stores it contains!
Everything sparkles and glitters, and the windows are full of
nothing but bright colours and materials and hats of different
shapes. One might think that they were decked merely for display;
but no,--people buy these things, and give them to their wives!
Yes, it IS a sumptuous place. Hordes of German hucksters are
there, as well as quite respectable traders. And the quantities
of carriages which pass along the street! One marvels that the
pavement can support so many splendid vehicles, with windows like
crystal, linings made of silk and velvet, and lacqueys dressed in
epaulets and wearing swords! Into some of them I glanced, and saw
that they contained ladies of various ages. Perhaps they were
princesses and countesses! Probably at that hour such folk would
be hastening to balls and other gatherings. In fact, it was
interesting to be able to look so closely at a princess or a
great lady. They were all very fine. At all events, I had never
before seen such persons as I beheld in those carriages. . . .

Then I thought of you. Ah, my own, my darling, it is often that I
think of you and feel my heart sink. How is it that YOU are so
unfortunate, Barbara? How is it that YOU are so much worse off
than other people? In my eyes you are kind-hearted, beautiful,
and clever-- why, then, has such an evil fate fallen to your lot?
How comes it that you are left desolate--you, so good a human
being! While to others happiness comes without an invitation at
all? Yes, I know--I know it well--that I ought not to say it, for
to do so savours of free-thought; but why should that raven,
Fate, croak out upon the fortunes of one person while she is yet
in her mother's womb, while another person it permits to go forth
in happiness from the home which has reared her? To even an idiot
of an Ivanushka such happiness is sometimes granted. "You, you
fool Ivanushka," says Fate, "shall succeed to your grandfather's
money-bags, and eat, drink, and be merry; whereas YOU (such and
such another one) shall do no more than lick the dish, since that
is all that you are good for." Yes, I know that it is wrong to
hold such opinions, but involuntarily the sin of so doing grows
upon one's soul. Nevertheless, it is you, my darling, who ought
to be riding in one of those carriages. Generals would have come
seeking your favour, and, instead of being clad in a humble
cotton dress, you would have been walking in silken and golden
attire. Then you would not have been thin and wan as now, but
fresh and plump and rosy-cheeked as a figure on a sugar-cake.
Then should I too have been happy--happy if only I could look at
your lighted windows from the street, and watch your shadow--
happy if only I could think that you were well and happy, my
sweet little bird! Yet how are things in reality? Not only have
evil folk brought you to ruin, but there comes also an old rascal
of a libertine to insult you! Just because he struts about in a
frockcoat, and can ogle you through a gold-mounted lorgnette, the
brute thinks that everything will fall into his hands--that you
are bound to listen to his insulting condescension! Out upon him!
But why is this? It is because you are an orphan, it is because
you are unprotected, it is because you have no powerful friend to
afford you the decent support which is your due. WHAT do such
facts matter to a man or to men to whom the insulting of an
orphan is an offence allowed? Such fellows are not men at all,
but mere vermin, no matter what they think themselves to be. Of
that I am certain. Why, an organ-grinder whom I met in
Gorokhovaia Street would inspire more respect than they do, for
at least he walks about all day, and suffers hunger--at least he
looks for a stray, superfluous groat to earn him subsistence, and
is, therefore, a true gentleman, in that he supports himself. To
beg alms he would be ashamed; and, moreover, he works for the
benefit of mankind just as does a factory machine. "So far as in
me lies," says he, "I will give you pleasure." True, he is a
pauper, and nothing but a pauper; but, at least he is an
HONOURABLE pauper. Though tired and hungry, he still goes on
working--working in his own peculiar fashion, yet still doing
honest labour. Yes, many a decent fellow whose labour may be
disproportionate to its utility pulls the forelock to no one, and
begs his bread of no one. I myself resemble that organ-grinder.
That is to say, though not exactly he, I resemble him in this
respect, that I work according to my capabilities, and so far as
in me lies. More could be asked of no one; nor ought I to be
adjudged to do more.

Apropos of the organ-grinder, I may tell you, dearest, that today
I experienced a double misfortune. As I was looking at the
grinder, certain thoughts entered my head and I stood wrapped in
a reverie. Some cabmen also had halted at the spot, as well as a
young girl, with a yet smaller girl who was dressed in rags and
tatters. These people had halted there to listen to the organ-
grinder, who was playing in front of some one's windows. Next, I
caught sight of a little urchin of about ten--a boy who would
have been good-looking but for the fact that his face was pinched
and sickly. Almost barefooted, and clad only in a shirt, he was
standing agape to listen to the music--a pitiful childish figure.
Nearer to the grinder a few more urchins were dancing, but in the
case of this lad his hands and feet looked numbed, and he kept
biting the end of his sleeve and shivering. Also, I noticed that
in his hands he had a paper of some sort. Presently a gentleman
came by, and tossed the grinder a small coin, which fell straight
into a box adorned with a representation of a Frenchman and some
ladies. The instant he heard the rattle of the coin, the boy
started, looked timidly round, and evidently made up his mind
that I had thrown the money; whereupon, he ran to me with his
little hands all shaking, and said in a tremulous voice as he
proffered me his paper: "Pl-please sign this." I turned over the
paper, and saw that there was written on it what is usual under
such circumstances. "Kind friends I am a sick mother with three
hungry children. Pray help me. Though soon I shall be dead, yet,
if you will not forget my little ones in this world, neither will
I forget you in the world that is to come." The thing seemed
clear enough; it was a matter of life and death. Yet what was I
to give the lad? Well, I gave him nothing. But my heart ached for
him. I am certain that, shivering with cold though he was, and
perhaps hungry, the poor lad was not lying. No, no, he was not

The shameful point is that so many mothers take no care of their
children, but send them out, half-clad, into the cold. Perhaps
this lad's mother also was a feckless old woman, and devoid of
character? Or perhaps she had no one to work for her, but was
forced to sit with her legs crossed--a veritable invalid? Or
perhaps she was just an old rogue who was in the habit of sending
out pinched and hungry boys to deceive the public? What would
such a boy learn from begging letters? His heart would soon be
rendered callous, for, as he ran about begging, people would pass
him by and give him nothing. Yes, their hearts would be as stone,
and their replies rough and harsh. "Away with you!" they would
say. "You are seeking but to trick us." He would hear that from
every one, and his heart would grow hard, and he would shiver in
vain with the cold, like some poor little fledgling that has
fallen out of the nest. His hands and feet would be freezing, and
his breath coming with difficulty; until, look you, he would
begin to cough, and disease, like an unclean parasite, would worm
its way into his breast until death itself had overtaken him--
overtaken him in some foetid corner whence there was no chance of
escape. Yes, that is what his life would become.

There are many such cases. Ah, Barbara, it is hard to hear "For
Christ's sake!" and yet pass the suppliant by and give nothing,
or say merely: "May the Lord give unto you!" Of course, SOME
supplications mean nothing (for supplications differ greatly in
character). Occasionally supplications are long, drawn-out and
drawling, stereotyped and mechanical--they are purely begging
supplications. Requests of this kind it is less hard to refuse,
for they are purely professional and of long standing. "The
beggar is overdoing it," one thinks to oneself. "He knows the
trick too well." But there are other supplications which voice a
strange, hoarse, unaccustomed note, like that today when I took
the poor boy's paper. He had been standing by the kerbstone
without speaking to anybody-- save that at last to myself he
said, "For the love of Christ give me a groat!" in a voice so
hoarse and broken that I started, and felt a queer sensation in
my heart, although I did not give him a groat. Indeed, I had not
a groat on me. Rich folk dislike hearing poor people complain of
their poverty. "They disturb us," they say, "and are impertinent
as well. Why should poverty be so impertinent? Why should its
hungry moans prevent us from sleeping?"

To tell you the truth, my darling, I have written the foregoing
not merely to relieve my feelings, but, also, still more, to give
you an example of the excellent style in which I can write. You
yourself will recognise that my style was formed long ago, but of
late such fits of despondency have seized upon me that my style
has begun to correspond to my feelings; and though I know that
such correspondence gains one little, it at least renders one a
certain justice. For not unfrequently it happens that, for some
reason or another, one feels abased, and inclined to value
oneself at nothing, and to account oneself lower than a
dishclout; but this merely arises from the fact that at the time
one is feeling harassed and depressed, like the poor boy who
today asked of me alms. Let me tell you an allegory, dearest, and
do you hearken to it. Often, as I hasten to the office in the
morning, I look around me at the city--I watch it awaking,
getting out of bed, lighting its fires, cooking its breakfast,
and becoming vocal; and at the sight, I begin to feel smaller, as
though some one had dealt me a rap on my inquisitive nose. Yes,
at such times I slink along with a sense of utter humiliation in
my heart. For one would have but to see what is passing within
those great, black, grimy houses of the capital, and to penetrate
within their walls, for one at once to realise what good reason
there is for self-depredation and heart-searching. Of course, you
will note that I am speaking figuratively rather than literally.

Let us look at what is passing within those houses. In some dingy
corner, perhaps, in some damp kennel which is supposed to be a
room, an artisan has just awakened from sleep. All night he has
dreamt--IF such an insignificant fellow is capable of dreaming?--
about the shoes which last night he mechanically cut out. He is a
master-shoemaker, you see, and therefore able to think of nothing
but his one subject of interest. Nearby are some squalling
children and a hungry wife. Nor is he the only man that has to
greet the day in this fashion. Indeed, the incident would be
nothing--it would not be worth writing about, save for another
circumstance. In that same house ANOTHER person--a person of
great wealth-may also have been dreaming of shoes; but, of shoes
of a very different pattern and fashion (in a manner of speaking,
if you understand my metaphor, we are all of us shoemakers).
This, again, would be nothing, were it not that the rich person
has no one to whisper in his ear: "Why dost thou think of such
things? Why dost thou think of thyself alone, and live only for
thyself--thou who art not a shoemaker? THY children are not
ailing. THY wife is not hungry. Look around thee. Can'st thou not
find a subject more fitting for thy thoughts than thy shoes?"
That is what I want to say to you in allegorical language,
Barbara. Maybe it savours a little of free-thought, dearest; but,
such ideas WILL keep arising in my mind and finding utterance in
impetuous speech. Why, therefore, should one not value oneself at
a groat as one listens in fear and trembling to the roar and
turmoil of the city? Maybe you think that I am exaggerating
things--that this is a mere whim of mine, or that I am quoting
from a book? No, no, Barbara. You may rest assured that it is not
so. Exaggeration I abhor, with whims I have nothing to do, and of
quotation I am guiltless.

I arrived home today in a melancholy mood. Sitting down to the
table, I had warmed myself some tea, and was about to drink a
second glass of it, when there entered Gorshkov, the poor lodger.
Already, this morning, I had noticed that he was hovering around
the other lodgers, and also seeming to want to speak to myself.
In passing I may say that his circumstances are infinitely worse
than my own; for, only think of it, he has a wife and children!
Indeed, if I were he, I do not know what I should do. Well, he
entered my room, and bowed to me with the pus standing, as usual,
in drops on his eyelashes, his feet shuffling about, and his
tongue unable, at first, to articulate a word. I motioned him to
a chair (it was a dilapidated enough one, but I had no other),
and asked him to have a glass of tea. To this he demurred--for
quite a long time he demurred, but at length he accepted the
offer. Next, he was for drinking the tea without sugar, and
renewed his excuses, but upon the sugar I insisted. After long
resistance and many refusals, he DID consent to take some, but
only the smallest possible lump; after which, he assured me that
his tea was perfectly sweet. To what depths of humility can
poverty reduce a man! "Well, what is it, my good sir?" I inquired
of him; whereupon he replied: "It is this, Makar Alexievitch. You
have once before been my benefactor. Pray again show me the
charity of God, and assist my unfortunate family. My wife and
children have nothing to eat. To think that a father should have
to say this!" I was about to speak again when he interrupted me.
"You see," he continued, "I am afraid of the other lodgers here.
That is to say, I am not so much afraid of, as ashamed to address
them, for they are a proud, conceited lot of men. Nor would I
have troubled even you, my friend and former benefactor, were it
not that I know that you yourself have experienced misfortune and
are in debt; wherefore, I have ventured to come and make this
request of you, in that I know you not only to be kind-hearted,
but also to be in need, and for that reason the more likely to
sympathise with me in my distress." To this he added an apology
for his awkwardness and presumption. I replied that, glad though
I should have been to serve him, I had nothing, absolutely
nothing, at my disposal. "Ah, Makar Alexievitch," he went on,
"surely it is not much that I am asking of you? My-my wife and
children are starving. C-could you not afford me just a
grivennik? " At that my heart contracted, "How these people put
me to shame!" thought I. But I had only twenty kopecks left, and
upon them I had been counting for meeting my most pressing
requirements. "No, good sir, I cannot," said I. "Well, what you
will," he persisted. "Perhaps ten kopecks?" Well I got out my
cash-box, and gave him the twenty. It was a good deed. To think
that such poverty should exist! Then I had some further talk with
him. "How is it," I asked him, "that, though you are in such
straits, you have hired a room at five roubles?" He replied that
though, when he engaged the room six months ago, he paid three
months' rent in advance, his affairs had subsequently turned out
badly, and never righted themselves since. You see, Barbara, he
was sued at law by a merchant who had defrauded the Treasury in
the matter of a contract. When the fraud was discovered the
merchant was prosecuted, but the transactions in which he had
engaged involved Gorshkov, although the latter had been guilty
only of negligence, want of prudence, and culpable indifference
to the Treasury's interests. True, the affair had taken place
some years ago, but various obstacles had since combined to
thwart Gorshkov. "Of the disgrace put upon me," said he to me, "I
am innocent. True, I to a certain extent disobeyed orders, but
never did I commit theft or embezzlement." Nevertheless the
affair lost him his character. He was dismissed the service, and
though not adjudged capitally guilty, has been unable since to
recover from the merchant a large sum of money which is his by
right, as spared to him (Gorshkov) by the legal tribunal. True,
the tribunal in question did not altogether believe in Gorshkov,
but I do so. The matter is of a nature so complex and crooked
that probably a hundred years would be insufficient to unravel
it; and, though it has now to a certain extent been cleared up,
the merchant still holds the key to the situation. Personally I
side with Gorshkov, and am very sorry for him. Though lacking a
post of any kind, he still refuses to despair, though his
resources are completely exhausted. Yes, it is a tangled affair,
and meanwhile he must live, for, unfortunately, another child
which has been born to him has entailed upon the family fresh
expenses. Also, another of his children recently fell ill and
died-- which meant yet further expense. Lastly, not only is his
wife in bad health, but he himself is suffering from a complaint
of long standing. In short, he has had a very great deal to
undergo. Yet he declares that daily he expects a favourable issue
to his affair--that he has no doubt of it whatever. I am terribly
sorry for him, and said what I could to give him comfort, for he
is a man who has been much bullied and misled. He had come to me
for protection from his troubles, so I did my best to soothe him.
Now, goodbye, my darling. May Christ watch over you and preserve
your health. Dearest one, even to think of you is like medicine
to my ailing soul. Though I suffer for you, I at least suffer
gladly.--Your true friend,


September 9th.

MY DEAREST BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I am beside myself as I take up my
pen, for a most terrible thing has happened. My head is whirling
round. Ah, beloved, how am I to tell you about it all? I had
never foreseen what has happened. But no-- I cannot say that I
had NEVER foreseen it, for my mind DID get an inkling of what was
coming, through my seeing something very similar to it in a

I will tell you the whole story--simply, and as God may put it
into my heart. Today I went to the office as usual, and, upon
arrival, sat down to write. You must know that I had been engaged
on the same sort of work yesterday, and that, while executing it,
I had been approached by Timothei Ivanovitch with an urgent
request for a particular document. "Makar Alexievitch," he had
said, "pray copy this out for me. Copy it as quickly and as
carefully as you can, for it will require to be signed today."
Also let me tell you, dearest, that yesterday I had not been
feeling myself, nor able to look at anything. I had been troubled
with grave depression--my breast had felt chilled, and my head
clouded. All the while I had been thinking of you, my darling.
Well, I set to work upon the copying, and executed it cleanly and
well, except for the fact that, whether the devil confused my
mind, or a mysterious fate so ordained, or the occurrence was
simply bound to happen, I left out a whole line of the document,
and thus made nonsense of it! The work had been given me too late
for signature last night, so it went before his Excellency this
morning. I reached the office at my usual hour, and sat down
beside Emelia Ivanovitch. Here I may remark that for a long time
past I have been feeling twice as shy and diffident as I used to
do; I have been finding it impossible to look people in the face.
Let only a chair creak, and I become more dead than alive. Today,
therefore, I crept humbly to my seat and sat down in such a
crouching posture that Efim Akimovitch (the most touchy man in
the world) said to me sotto voce: "What on earth makes you sit
like that, Makar Alexievitch?" Then he pulled such a grimace that
everyone near us rocked with laughter at my expense. I stopped my
ears, frowned, and sat without moving, for I found this the best
method of putting a stop to such merriment. All at once I heard a
bustle and a commotion and the sound of someone running towards
us. Did my ears deceive me? It was I who was being  summoned in
peremptory tones! My heart started to tremble within me, though I
could not say why. I only know that never in my life before had
it trembled as it did then. Still I clung to my chair- -and at
that moment was hardly myself at all. The voices were coming
nearer and nearer, until they were shouting in my ear:
"Dievushkin! Dievushkin! Where is Dievushkin?" Then at length I
raised my eyes, and saw before me Evstafi Ivanovitch. He said to
me: "Makar Alexievitch, go at once to his Excellency. You have
made a mistake in a document." That was all, but it was enough,
was it not? I felt dead and cold as ice--I felt absolutely
deprived of the power of sensation; but, I rose from my seat and
went whither I had been bidden. Through one room, through two
rooms, through three rooms I passed, until I was conducted into
his Excellency's cabinet itself. Of my thoughts at that moment I
can give no exact account. I merely saw his Excellency standing
before me, with a knot of people around him. I have an idea that
I did not salute him--that I forgot to do so. Indeed, so panic-
stricken was I, that my teeth were chattering and my knees
knocking together. In the first place, I was greatly ashamed of
my appearance (a glance into a mirror on the right had frightened
me with the reflection of myself that it presented), and, in the
second place, I had always been accustomed to comport myself as
though no such person as I existed. Probably his Excellency had
never before known that I was even alive. Of course, he might
have heard, in passing, that there was a man named Dievushkin in
his department; but never for a moment had he had any intercourse
with me.

He began angrily: "What is this you have done, sir? Why are you
not more careful? The document was wanted in a hurry, and you
have gone and spoiled it. What do you think of it?"--the last
being addressed to Evstafi Ivanovitch. More I did not hear,
except for some flying exclamations of "What negligence and
carelessness! How awkward this is!" and so on. I opened my mouth
to say something or other; I tried to beg pardon, but could not.
To attempt to leave the room, I had not the hardihood. Then there
happened something the recollection of which causes the pen to
tremble in my hand with shame. A button of mine--the devil take
it!--a button of mine that was hanging by a single thread
suddenly broke off, and hopped and skipped and rattled and rolled
until it had reached the feet of his Excellency himself--this
amid a profound general silence! THAT was what came of my
intended self-justification and plea for mercy! THAT was the only
answer that I had to return to my chief!

The sequel I shudder to relate. At once his Excellency's
attention became drawn to my figure and costume. I remembered
what I had seen in the mirror, and hastened to pursue the button.
Obstinacy of a sort seized upon me, and I did my best to arrest
the thing, but it slipped away, and kept turning over and over,
so that I could not grasp it, and made a sad spectacle of myself
with my awkwardness. Then there came over me a feeling that my
last remaining strength was about to leave me, and that all, all
was lost--reputation, manhood, everything! In both ears I seemed
to hear the voices of Theresa and Phaldoni. At length, however, I
grasped the button, and, raising and straightening myself, stood
humbly with clasped hands--looking a veritable fool! But no.
First of all I tried to attach the button to the ragged threads,
and smiled each time that it broke away from them, and smiled
again. In the beginning his Excellency had turned away, but now
he threw me another glance, and I heard him say to Evstafi
Ivanovitch: "What on earth is the matter with the fellow? Look at
the figure he cuts! Who to God is he? Ah, beloved, only to hear
that, "Who to God is he? Truly I had made myself a marked man! In
reply to his Excellency Evstafi murmured: "He is no one of any
note, though his character is good. Besides, his salary is
sufficient as the scale goes." "Very well, then; but help him out
of his difficulties somehow," said his Excellency. "Give him a
trifle of salary in advance." "It is all forestalled," was the
reply. "He drew it some time ago. But his record is good. There
is nothing against him." At this I felt as though I were in Hell
fire. I could actually have died! "Well, well," said his
Excellency, "let him copy out the document a second time.
Dievushkin, come here. You are to make another copy of this
paper, and to make it as quickly as possible." With that he
turned to some other officials present, issued to them a few
orders, and the company dispersed. No sooner had they done so
than his Excellency hurriedly pulled out a pocket-book, took
thence a note for a hundred roubles, and, with the words, "Take
this. It is as much as I can afford. Treat it as you like,"
placed the money in my hand! At this, dearest, I started and
trembled, for I was moved to my very soul. What next I did I
hardly know, except that I know that I seized his Excellency by
the hand. But he only grew very red, and then--no, I am not
departing by a hair's-breadth from the truth--it is true-- that
he took this unworthy hand in his, and shook it! Yes, he took
this hand of mine in his, and shook it, as though I had been his
equal, as though I had been a general like himself! "Go now," he
said. "This is all that I can do for you. Make no further
mistakes, and I will overlook your fault."

What I think about it is this: I beg of you and of Thedora, and
had I any children I should beg of them also, to pray ever to God
for his Excellency. I should say to my children: "For your father
you need not pray; but for his Excellency, I bid you pray until
your lives shall end." Yes, dear one--I tell you this in all
solemnity, so hearken well unto my words--that though, during
these cruel days of our adversity, I have nearly died of distress
of soul at the sight of you and your poverty, as well as at the
sight of myself and my abasement and helplessness, I yet care
less for the hundred roubles which his Excellency has given me
than for the fact that he was good enough to take the hand of a
wretched drunkard in his own and press it. By that act he
restored me to myself. By that act he revived my courage, he made
life forever sweet to me. . . . Yes, sure am I that, sinner
though I be before the Almighty, my prayers for the happiness and
prosperity of his Excellency will yet ascend to the Heavenly
Throne! . . .

But, my darling, for the moment I am terribly agitated and
distraught. My heart is beating as though it would burst my
breast, and all my body seems weak. . . . I send you forty-five
roubles in notes. Another twenty I shall give to my landlady, and
the remaining thirty-five I shall keep--twenty for new clothes
and fifteen for actual living expenses. But these experiences of
the morning have shaken me to the core, and I must rest awhile.
It is quiet, very quiet, here. My breath is coming in jerks--deep
down in my breast I can hear it sobbing and trembling. . . . I
will come and see you soon, but at the moment my head is aching
with these various sensations. God sees all things, my darling,
my priceless treasure!--Your steadfast friend,


 September 10th.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I am unspeakably rejoiced at your
good fortune, and fully appreciate the kindness of your superior.
Now, take a rest from your cares. Only do not AGAIN spend money
to no advantage. Live as quietly and as frugally as possible, and
from today begin always to set aside something, lest misfortune
again overtake you. Do not, for God's sake, worry yourself--
Thedora and I will get on somehow. Why have you sent me so much
money? I really do not need it--what I had already would have
been quite sufficient. True, I shall soon be needing further
funds if I am to leave these lodgings, but Thedora is hoping
before long to receive repayment of an old debt. Of course, at
least TWENTY roubles will have to be set aside for indispensable
requirements, but theremainder shall be returned to you. Pray
take care of it, Makar Alexievitch. Now, goodbye. May your life
continue peacefully, and may you preserve your health and
spirits. I would have written to you at greater length had I not
felt so terribly weary. Yesterday I never left my bed. I am glad
that you have promised to come and see me. Yes, you MUST pay me a

B. D.

September 11th.

MY DARLING BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I implore you not to leave me now
that I am once more happy and contented. Disregard what Thedora
says, and I will do anything in the world for you. I will behave
myself better, even if only out of respect for his Excellency,
and guard my every action. Once more we will exchange cheerful
letters with one another, and make mutual confidence of our
thoughts and joys and sorrows (if so be that we shall know any
more sorrows?). Yes, we will live twice as happily and
comfortably as of old. Also, we will exchange books. . . . Angel
of my heart, a great change has taken place in my fortunes--a
change very much for the better. My landlady has become more
accommodating; Theresa has recovered her senses; even Phaldoni
springs to do my bidding. Likewise, I have made my peace with
Rataziaev. He came to see me of his own accord, the moment that
he heard the glad tidings. There can be no doubt that he is a
good fellow, that there is no truth in the slanders that one
hears of him. For one thing, I have discovered that he never had
any intention of putting me and yourself into a book. This he
told me himself, and then read to me his latest work. As for his
calling me "Lovelace," he had intended no rudeness or indecency
thereby. The term is merely one of foreign derivation, meaning a
clever fellow, or, in more literary and elegant language, a
gentleman with whom one must reckon. That is all; it was a mere
harmless jest, my beloved. Only ignorance made me lose my temper,
and I have expressed to him my regret. . . . How beautiful is the
weather today, my little Barbara! True, there was a slight frost
in the early morning, as though scattered through a sieve, but it
was nothing, and the breeze soon freshened the air. I went out to
buy some shoes, and obtained a splendid pair. Then, after a
stroll along the Nevski Prospect, I read "The Daily Bee". This
reminds me that I have forgotten to tell you the most important
thing of all. It happened like this:

This morning I had a talk with Emelia Ivanovitch and Aksenti
Michaelovitch concerning his Excellency. Apparently, I am not the
only person to whom he has acted kindly and been charitable, for
he is known to the whole world for his goodness of heart. In many
quarters his praises are to be heard; in many quarters he has
called forth tears of gratitude. Among other things, he undertook
the care of an orphaned girl, and married her to an official, the
son of a poor widow, and found this man place in a certain
chancellory, and in other ways benefited him. Well, dearest, I
considered it to be my duty to add my mite by publishing abroad
the story of his Excellency's gracious treatment of myself.
Accordingly, I related the whole occurrence to my interlocutors,
and concealed not a single detail. In fact, I put my pride into
my pocket--though why should I feel ashamed of having been elated
by such an occurrence? "Let it only be noised afield," said I to
myself, and it will resound greatly to his Excellency's credit.--
So I expressed myself enthusiastically on the subject and never
faltered. On the contrary, I felt proud to have such a story to
tell. I referred to every one concerned (except to yourself, of
course, dearest)--to my landlady, to Phaldoni, to Rataziaev, to
Markov. I even mentioned the matter of my shoes! Some of those
standing by laughed--in fact every one present did so, but
probably it was my own figure or the incident of my shoes--more
particularly the latter--that excited merriment, for I am sure it
was not meant ill-naturedly. My hearers may have been young men,
or well off; certainly they cannot have been laughing with evil
intent at what I had said. Anything against his Excellency CANNOT
have been in their thoughts. Eh, Barbara?

Even now I cannot wholly collect my faculties, so upset am I by
recent events. . . . Have you any fuel to go on with, Barbara?
You must not expose yourself to cold. Also, you have depressed my
spirits with your fears for the future. Daily I pray to God on
your behalf. Ah, HOW I pray to Him! . . . Likewise, have you any
woollen stockings to wear, and warm clothes generally? Mind you,
if there is anything you need, you must not hurt an old man's
feelings by failing to apply to him for what you require. The bad
times are gone now, and the future is looking bright and fair.

But what bad times they were, Barbara, even though they be gone,
and can no longer matter! As the years pass on we shall gradually
recover ourselves. How clearly I remember my youth! In those days
I never had a kopeck to spare. Yet, cold and hungry though I was,
I was always light-hearted. In the morning I would walk the
Nevski Prospect, and meet nice-looking people, and be happy all
day. Yes, it was a glorious, a glorious time! It was good to be
alive, especially in St. Petersburg. Yet it is but yesterday that
I was beseeching God with tears to pardon me my sins during the
late sorrowful period--to pardon me my murmurings and evil
thoughts and gambling and drunkenness. And you I remembered in my
prayers, for you alone have encouraged and comforted me, you
alone have given me advice and instruction. I shall never forget
that, dearest. Today I gave each one of your letters a kiss. . .
. Goodbye, beloved. I have been told that there is going to be a
sale of clothing somewhere in this neighbourhood. Once more
goodbye, goodbye, my angel-Yours in heart and soul,


September 15th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I am in terrible distress. I feel
sure that something is about to happen. The matter, my beloved
friend, is that Monsieur Bwikov is again in St. Petersburg, for
Thedora has met him. He was driving along in a drozhki, but, on
meeting Thedora, he ordered the coachman to stop, sprang out, and
inquired of her where she was living; but this she would not tell
him. Next, he said with a smile that he knew quite well who was
living with her (evidently Anna Thedorovna had told him);
whereupon Thedora could hold out no longer, but then and there,
in the street, railed at and abused him--telling him that he was
an immoral man, and the cause of all my misfortunes. To this he
replied that a person who did not possess a groat must surely be
rather badly off; to which Thedora retorted that I could always
either live by the labour of my hands or marry--that it was not
so much a question of my losing posts as of my losing my
happiness, the ruin of which had led almost to my death. In reply
he observed that, though I was still quite young, I seemed to
have lost my wits, and that my "virtue appeared to be under a
cloud" (I quote his exact words). Both I and Thedora had thought
that he does not know where I live; but, last night, just as I
had left the house to make a few purchases in the Gostinni Dvor,
he appeared at our rooms (evidently he had not wanted to find me
at home), and put many questions to Thedora concerning our way of
living. Then, after inspecting my work, he wound up with: "Who is
this tchinovnik friend of yours?" At the moment you happened to
be passing through the courtyard, so Thedora pointed you out, and
the man peered at you, and laughed. Thedora next asked him to
depart--telling him that I was still ill from grief, and that it
would give me great pain to see him there; to which, after a
pause, he replied that he had come because he had had nothing
better to do. Also, he was for giving Thedora twenty-five
roubles, but, of course, she declined them. What does it all
mean? Why has he paid this visit? I cannot understand his getting
to know about me. I am lost in conjecture. Thedora, however, says
that Aksinia, her sister-in-law (who sometimes comes to see her),
is acquainted with a laundress named Nastasia, and that this
woman has a cousin in the position of watchman to a department of
which a certain friend of Anna Thedorovna's nephew forms one of
the staff. Can it be, therefore, that an intrigue has been
hatched through THIS channel? But Thedora may be entirely
mistaken. We hardly know what to think. What if he should come
again? The very thought terrifies me. When Thedora told me of
this last night such terror seized upon me that I almost swooned
away. What can the man be wanting? At all events, I refuse to
know such people. What have they to do with my wretched self? Ah,
how I am haunted with anxiety, for every moment I keep thinking
that Bwikov is at hand! WHAT will become of me? WHAT MORE has
fate in store for me? For Christ's sake come and see me, Makar
Alexievitch! For Christ's sake come and see me soon!

September 18th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Today there took place in this
house a most lamentable, a most mysterious, a most unlooked-for
occurrence. First of all, let me tell you that poor Gorshkov has
been entirely absolved of guilt. The decision has been long in
coming, but this morning he went to hear the final resolution
read. It was entirely in his favour. Any culpability which had
been imputed to him for negligence and irregularity was removed
by the resolution. Likewise, he was authorised to recover of the
merchant a large sum of money. Thus, he stands entirely
justified, and has had his character cleansed from all stain. In
short, he could not have wished for a more complete vindication.
When he arrived home at three o'clock he was looking as white as
a sheet, and his lips were quivering. Yet there was a smile on
his face as he embraced his wife and children. In a body the rest
of us ran to congratulate him, and he was greatly moved by the
act. Bowing to us, he pressed our hands in turn. As he did so I
thought, somehow, that he seemed to have grown taller and
straighter, and that the pus-drops seemed to have disappeared
from his eyelashes. Yet how agitated he was, poor fellow! He
could not rest quietly for two minutes together, but kept picking
up and then dropping whatsoever came to his hand, and bowing and
smiling without intermission, and sitting down and getting up,
and again sitting down, and chattering God only knows what about
his honour and his good name and his little ones. How he did
talk--yes, and weep too! Indeed, few of ourselves could refrain
from tears; although Rataziaev remarked (probably to encourage
Gorshkov) that honour mattered nothing when one had nothing to
eat, and that money was the chief thing in the world, and that
for it alone ought God to be thanked. Then he slapped Gorshkov on
the shoulder, but I thought that Gorshkov somehow seemed hurt at
this. He did not express any open displeasure, but threw
Rataziaev a curious look, and removed his hand from his shoulder.
ONCE upon a time he would not have acted thus; but characters
differ. For example, I myself should have hesitated, at such a
season of rejoicing, to seem proud, even though excessive
deference and civility at such a moment might have been construed
as a lapse both of moral courage and of mental vigour. However,
this is none of my business. All that Gorshkov said was: "Yes,
money IS a good thing, glory be to God!" In fact, the whole time
that we remained in his room he kept repeating to himself: "Glory
be to God, glory be to God!" His wife ordered a richer and more
delicate meal than usual, and the landlady herself cooked it, for
at heart she is not a bad woman. But until the meal was served
Gorshkov could not remain still. He kept entering everyone's room
in turn (whether invited thither or not), and, seating himself
smilingly upon a chair, would sometimes say something, and
sometimes not utter a word, but get up and go out again. In the
naval officer's room he even took a pack of playing-cards into
his hand, and was thereupon invited to make a fourth in a game;
but after losing a few times, as well as making several blunders
in his play, he abandoned the pursuit. "No," said he, "that is
the sort of man that I am--that is all that I am good for," and
departed. Next, encountering myself in the corridor, he took my
hands in his, and gazed into my face with a rather curious air.
Then he pressed my hands again, and moved away still smiling,
smiling, but in an odd, weary sort of manner, much as a corpse
might smile. Meanwhile his wife was weeping for joy, and
everything in their room was decked in holiday guise. Presently
dinner was served, and after they had dined Gorshkov said to his
wife: "See now, dearest, I am going to rest a little while;" and
with that went to bed. Presently he called his little daughter to
his side, and, laying his hand upon the child's head, lay a long
while looking at her. Then he turned to his wife again, and asked
her: "What of Petinka? Where is our Petinka?" whereupon his wife
crossed herself, and replied: "Why, our Petinka is dead!" "Yes,
yes, I know--of course," said her husband. "Petinka is now in the
Kingdom of Heaven." This showed his wife that her husband was not
quite in his right senses--that the recent occurrence had upset
him; so she said: "My dearest, you must sleep awhile." "I will do
so," he replied, "--at once--I am rather--" And he turned over,
and lay silent for a time. Then again he turned round and tried
to say something, but his wife could not hear what it was. "What
do you say?" she inquired, but he made no reply. Then again she
waited a few moments until she thought to herself, "He has gone
to sleep," and departed to spend an hour with the landlady. At
the end of that hour she returned-- only to find that her husband
had not yet awoken, but was still lying motionless. "He is
sleeping very soundly," she reflected as she sat down and began
to work at something or other. Since then she has told us that
when half an hour or so had elapsed she fell  into a reverie.
What she was thinking of she cannot remember, save that she had
forgotten altogether about her husband. Then she awoke with a
curious sort of sensation at her heart. The first thing that
struck her was the deathlike stillness of the room. Glancing at
the bed, she perceived her husband to be lying in the same
position as before. Thereupon she approached him, turned the
coverlet back, and saw that he was stiff and cold-- that he had
died suddenly, as though smitten with a stroke. But of what
precisely he died God only knows. The affair has so terribly
impressed me that even now I cannot fully collect my thoughts. It
would scarcely be believed that a human being could die so
simply--and he such a poor, needy wretch, this Gorshkov! What a
fate, what a fate, to be sure! His wife is plunged in tears and
panic-stricken, while his little daughter has run away somewhere
to hide herself. In their room, however, all is bustle and
confusion, for the doctors are about to make an autopsy on the
corpse. But I cannot tell you things for certain; I only know
that I am most grieved, most grieved. How sad to think that one
never knows what even a day, what even an hour, may bring forth!
One seems to die to so little purpose! .-Your own


September 19th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to let you know that
Rataziaev has found me some work to do for a certain writer--the
latter having submitted to him a large manuscript. Glory be to
God, for this means a large amount of work to do. Yet, though the
copy is wanted in haste, the original is so carelessly written
that I hardly know how to set about my task. Indeed, certain
parts of the manuscript are almost undecipherable. I have agreed
to do the work for forty kopecks a sheet. You see therefore (and
this is my true reason for writing to you), that we shall soon be
receiving money from an extraneous source. Goodbye now, as I must
begin upon my labours.--Your sincere friend,


September 23rd.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--I have not written to you these
three days past for the reason that I have been so worried and

Three days ago Bwikov came again to see me. At the time I was
alone, for Thedora had gone out somewhere. As soon as I opened
the door the sight of him so terrified me that I stood rooted to
the spot, and could feel myself turning pale. Entering with his
usual loud laugh, he took a chair, and sat down. For a long while
I could not collect my thoughts; I just sat where I was, and went
on with my work. Soon his smile faded, for my appearance seemed
somehow to have struck him. You see, of late I have grown thin,
and my eyes and cheeks have fallen in, and my face has become as
white as a sheet; so that anyone who knew me a year ago would
scarcely recognise me now. After a prolonged inspection, Bwikov
seemed to recover his spirits, for he said something to which I
duly replied. Then again he laughed. Thus he sat for a whole
hour- -talking to me the while, and asking me questions about one
thing and another. At length, just before he rose to depart, he
took me by the hand, and said (to quote his exact words):
"Between ourselves, Barbara Alexievna, that kinswoman of yours
and my good friend and acquaintance--I refer to Anna Thedorovna -
is a very bad woman " (he also added a grosser term of
opprobrium). "First of all she led your cousin astray, and then
she ruined yourself. I also have behaved like a villain, but such
is the way of the world." Again he laughed. Next, having remarked
that, though not a master of eloquence, he had always considered
that obligations of gentility obliged him to have with me a clear
and outspoken explanation, he went on to say that he sought my
hand in marriage; that he looked upon it as a duty to restore to
me my honour; that he could offer me riches; that, after
marriage, he would take me to his country seat in the Steppes,
where we would hunt hares; that he intended never to visit St.
Petersburg again, since everything there was horrible, and he had
to entertain a worthless nephew whom he had sworn to disinherit
in favour of a legal heir; and, finally, that it was to obtain
such a legal heir that he was seeking my hand in marriage.
Lastly, he remarked that I seemed to be living in very poor
circumstances (which was not surprising, said he, in view of the
kennel that I inhabited); that I should die if I remained a month
longer in that den; that all lodgings in St. Petersburg were
detestable; and that he would be glad to know if I was in want of

So thunderstruck was I with the proposal that I could only burst
into tears. These tears he interpreted as a sign of gratitude,
for he told me that he had always felt assured of my good sense,
cleverness, and sensibility, but that hitherto he had hesitated
to take this step until he should have learned precisely how I
was getting on. Next he asked me some questions about YOU; saying
that he had heard of you as a man of good principle, and that
since he was unwilling to remain your debtor, would a sum of five
hundred roubles repay you for all you had done for me? To this I
replied that your services to myself had been such as could never
be requited with money; whereupon, he exclaimed that I was
talking rubbish and nonsense; that evidently I was still young
enough to read poetry; that romances of this kind were the
undoing of young girls, that books only corrupted morality, and
that, for his part, he could not abide them. "You ought to live
as long as I have done," he added, "and THEN you will see what
men can be."

With that he requested me to give his proposal my favourable
consideration--saying that he would not like me to take such an
important step unguardedly, since want of thought and impetuosity
often spelt ruin to youthful inexperience, but that he hoped to
receive an answer in the affirmative. "Otherwise," said he, "I
shall have no choice but to marry a certain merchant's daughter
in Moscow, in order that I may keep my vow to deprive my nephew
of the inheritance.--Then he pressed five hundred roubles into my
hand--to buy myself some bonbons, as he phrased it--and wound up
by saying that in the country I should grow as fat as a doughnut
or a cheese rolled in butter; that at the present moment he was
extremely busy; and that, deeply engaged in business though he
had been all day, he had snatched the present opportunity of
paying me a visit. At length he departed.

For a long time I sat plunged in reflection. Great though my
distress of mind was, I soon arrived at a decision.... My friend,
I am going to marry this man; I have no choice but to accept his
proposal. If anyone could save me from this squalor, and restore
to me my good name, and avert from me future poverty and want and
misfortune, he is the man to do it. What else have I to look for
from the future? What more am I to ask of fate? Thedora declares
that one need NEVER lose one's happiness; but what, I ask HER,
can be called happiness under such circumstances as mine? At all
events I see no other road open, dear friend. I see nothing else
to be done. I have worked until I have ruined my health. I cannot
go on working forever. Shall I go out into the world? Nay; I am
worn to a shadow with grief, and become good for nothing. Sickly
by nature, I should merely be a burden upon other folks. Of
course this marriage will not bring me paradise, but what else
does there remain, my friend--what else does there remain? What
other choice is left?

I had not asked your advice earlier for the reason that I wanted
to think the matter over alone. However, the decision which you
have just read is unalterable, and I am about to announce it to
Bwikov himself, who in any case has pressed me for a speedy
reply, owing to the fact (so he says) that his business will not
wait nor allow him to remain here longer, and that therefore, no
trifle must be allowed to stand in its way. God alone knows
whether I shall be happy, but my fate is in His holy, His
inscrutable hand, and I have so decided. Bwikov is said to be
kind-hearted. He will at least respect me, and perhaps I shall be
able to return that respect. What more could be looked for from
such a marriage?

I have now told you all, Makar Alexievitch, and feel sure that
you will understand my despondency. Do not, however, try to
divert me from my intention, for all your efforts will be in
vain. Think for a moment; weigh in your heart for a moment all
that has led me to take this step. At first my anguish was
extreme, but now I am quieter. What awaits me I know not. What
must be must be, and as God may send....

Bwikov has just arrived, so I am leaving this letter unfinished.
Otherwise I had much else to say to you. Bwikov is even now at
the door! ...

September 23rd.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I hasten to reply to you--I hasten
to express to you my extreme astonishment. . . . In passing, I
may mention that yesterday we buried poor Gorshkov. . . .

Yes, Bwikov has acted nobly, and you have no choice but to accept
him. All things are in God's hands. This is so, and must always
be so; and the purposes of the Divine Creator are at once good
and inscrutable, as also is Fate, which is one with Him. . . .

Thedora will share your happiness--for, of course, you will be
happy, and free from want, darling, dearest, sweetest of angels!
But why should the matter be so hurried? Oh, of course--Monsieur
Bwikov's business affairs. Only a man who has no affairs to see
to can afford to disregard such things. I got a glimpse of
Monsieur Bwikov as he was leaving your door. He is a fine-looking
man--a very fine-looking man; though that is not the point that I
should most have noticed had I been quite myself at the time. . .

In the future shall we be able to write letters to one another? I
keep wondering and wondering what has led you to say all that you
have said. To think that just when twenty pages of my copying are
completed THIS has happened! . . . I suppose you will be able to
make many purchases now--to buy shoes and dresses and all sorts
of things? Do you remember the shops in Gorokhovaia Street of
which I used to speak? . . .

But no. You ought not to go out at present--you simply ought not
to, and shall not. Presently, you will he able to buy many, many
things, and to, keep a carriage. Also, at present the weather is
bad. Rain is descending in pailfuls, and it is such a soaking
kind of rain that--that you might catch cold from it, my darling,
and the chill might go to your heart. Why should your fear of
this man lead you to take such risks when all the time I am here
to do your bidding? So Thedora declares great happiness to be
awaiting you, does she? She is a gossiping old woman, and
evidently desires to ruin you.

Shall you be at the all-night Mass this evening, dearest? I
should like to come and see you there. Yes, Bwikov spoke but the
truth when he said that you are a woman of virtue, wit, and good
feeling. Yet I think he would do far better to marry the
merchant's daughter. What think YOU about it? Yes, 'twould be far
better for him. As soon as it grows dark tonight I mean to come
and sit with you for an hour. Tonight twilight will close in
early, so I shall soon be with you. Yes, come what may, I mean to
see you for an hour. At present, I suppose, you are expecting
Bwikov, but I will come as soon as he has gone. So stay at home
until I have arrived, dearest.


September 27th.

DEAR MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH, -Bwikov has just informed me that I must
have at least three dozen linen blouses; so I must go at once and
look for sempstresses to make two out of the three dozen, since
time presses. Indeed, Monsieur Bwikov is quite angry about the
fuss which these fripperies are entailing, seeing that there
remain but five days before the wedding, and we are to depart on
the following day. He keeps rushing about and declaring that no
time ought to be wasted on trifles. I am terribly worried, and
scarcely able to stand on my feet. There is so much to do, and,
perhaps, so much that were better left undone! Moreover, I have
no blond or other lace; so THERE is another item to be purchased,
since Bwikov declares that he cannot have his bride look like a
cook, but, on the contrary, she must "put the noses of the great
ladies out of joint." That is his expression. I wish, therefore,
that you would go to Madame Chiffon's, in Gorokhovaia Street, and
ask her, in the first place, to send me some sempstresses, and,
in the second place, to give herself the trouble of coming in
person, as I am too ill to go out. Our new flat is very cold, and
still in great disorder. Also, Bwikov has an aunt who is at her
last gasp through old age, and may die before our departure. He
himself, however, declares this to be nothing, and says that she
will soon recover. He is not yet living with me, and I have to go
running hither and thither to find him. Only Thedora is acting as
my servant, together with Bwikov's valet, who oversees
everything, but has been absent for the past three days.

Each morning Bwikov goes to business, and loses his temper.
Yesterday he even had some trouble with the police because of his
thrashing the steward of these buildings. . .  I have no one to
send with this letter so I am going to post it. . .  Ah! I had
almost forgotten the most important point--which is that I should
like you to go and tell Madame Chiffon that I wish the blond lace
to be changed in conformity with yesterday's patterns, if she
will be good enough to bring with her a new assortment. Also say
that I have altered my mind about the satin, which I wish to be
tamboured with crochet-work; also, that tambour is to be used
with monograms on the various garments. Do you hear? Tambour, not
smooth work. Do not forget that it is to be tambour. Another
thing I had almost forgotten, which is that the lappets of the
fur cloak must be raised, and the collar bound with lace. Please
tell her these things, Makar Alexievitch.--Your friend,

B. D.

P.S.--I am so ashamed to trouble you with my commissions! This is
the third morning that you will have spent in running about for
my sake. But what else am I to do? The whole place is in
disorder, and I myself am ill. Do not be vexed with me, Makar
Alexievitch. I am feeling so depressed! What is going to become
of me, dear friend, dear, kind, old Makar Alexievitch? I dread to
look forward into the future. Somehow I feel apprehensive; I am
living, as it were, in a mist. Yet, for God's sake, forget none
of my commissions. I am so afraid lest you should make a mistake!
Remember that everything is to be tambour work, not smooth.

September 27th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--I have carefully fulfilled your
commissions. Madame Chiffon informs me that she herself had
thought of using tambour work as being more suitable (though I
did not quite take in all she said). Also, she has informed me
that, since you have given certain directions in writing, she has
followed them (though again I do not clearly remember all that
she said--I only remember that she said a very great deal, for
she is a most tiresome old woman). These observations she will
soon be repeating to you in person. For myself, I feel absolutely
exhausted, and have not been to the office today. . .

Do not despair about the future, dearest. To save you trouble I
would visit every shop in St. Petersburg. You write that you dare
not look forward into the future. But by tonight, at seven
o'clock, you will have learned all, for Madame Chiffon will have
arrived in person to see you. Hope on, and everything will order
itself for the best. Of course, I am referring only to these
accursed gewgaws, to these frills and fripperies! Ah me, ah me,
how glad I shall be to see you, my angel! Yes, how glad I shall
be! Twice already today I have passed the gates of your abode.
Unfortunately, this Bwikov is a man of such choler that--Well,
things are as they are.


September 28th.

MY DEAREST MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--For God's sake go to the
jeweller's, and tell him that, after all, he need not make the
pearl and emerald earrings. Monsieur Bwikov says that they will
cost him too much, that they will burn a veritable hole in his
pocket. In fact, he has lost his temper again, and declares that
he is being robbed. Yesterday he added that, had he but known,
but foreseen, these expenses, he would never have married. Also,
he says that, as things are, he intends only to have a plain
wedding, and then to depart. "You must not look for any dancing
or festivity or entertainment of guests, for our gala times are
still in the air." Such were his words. God knows I do not want
such things, but none the less Bwikov has forbidden them. I made
him no answer on the subject, for he is a man all too easily
irritated. What, what is going to become ofme?

B. D.

September 28th.

MY BELOVED BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--All is well as regards the
jeweller. Unfortunately, I have also to say that I myself have
fallen ill, and cannot rise from bed. Just when so many things
need to be done, I have gone and caught a chill, the devil take
it! Also I have to tell you that, to complete my misfortunes, his
Excellency has been pleased to become stricter. Today he railed
at and scolded Emelia Ivanovitch until the poor fellow was quite
put about. That is the sum of my news.

No--there is something else concerning which I should like to
write to you, but am afraid to obtrude upon your notice. I am a
simple, dull fellow who writes down whatsoever first comes into
his head--Your friend,


September 29th.

MY OWN BARBARA ALEXIEVNA,--Today, dearest, I saw Thedora, who
informed me that you are to be married tomorrow, and on the
following day to go away--for which purpose Bwikov has ordered a

Well, of the incident of his Excellency, I have already told you.
Also I have verified the bill from the shop in Gorokhovaia
Street. It is correct, but very long. Why is Monsieur Bwikov so
out of humour with you? Nay, but you must be of good cheer, my
darling. I am so, and shall always be so, so long as you are
happy. I should have come to the church tomorrow, but, alas,
shall be prevented from doing so by the pain in my loins. Also, I
would have written an account of the ceremony, but that there
will be no one to report to me the details. . . .

Yes, you have been a very good friend to Thedora, dearest. You
have acted kindly, very kindly, towards her. For every such deed
God will bless you. Good deeds never go unrewarded, nor does
virtue ever fail to win the crown of divine justice, be it early
or be it late. Much else should I have liked to write to you.
Every hour, every minute I could occupy in writing. Indeed I
could write to you forever! Only your book, "The Stories of
Bielkin", is left to me. Do not deprive me of it, I pray you, but
suffer me to keep it. It is not so much because I wish to read
the book for its own sake, as because winter is coming on, when
the evenings will be long and dreary, and one will want to read
at least SOMETHING.

Do you know, I am going to move from my present quarters into
your old ones, which I intend to rent from Thedora; for I could
never part with that good old woman. Moreover, she is such a
splendid worker. Yesterday I inspected your empty room in detail,
and inspected your embroidery-frame, with the work still hanging
on it. It had been left untouched in its corner. Next, I
inspected the work itself, of which there still remained a few
remnants, and saw that you had used one of my letters for a spool
upon which to wind your thread. Also, on the table I found a
scrap of paper which had written on it, "My dearest Makar
Alexievitch I hasten to--" that was all. Evidently, someone had
interrupted you at an interesting point. Lastly, behind a screen
there was your little bed. . . . Oh darling of darlings!!! . . .
Well, goodbye now, goodbye now, but for God's sake send me
something in answer to this letter!


September 3Oth.

MY BELOVED MAKAR ALEXIEVITCH,--All is over! The die is cast! What
my lot may have in store I know not, but I am submissive to the
will of God. Tomorrow, then, we depart. For the last time, I take
my leave of you, my friend beyond price, my benefactor, my dear
one! Do not grieve for me, but try to live happily. Think of me
sometimes, and may the blessing of Almighty God light upon you!
For myself, I shall often have you in remembrance, and recall you
in my prayers. Thus our time together has come to an end. Little
comfort in my new life shall I derive from memories of the past.
The more, therefore, shall I cherish the recollection of you, and
the dearer will you ever be to my heart. Here, you have been my
only friend; here, you alone have loved me. Yes, I have seen all,
I have known all--I have throughout known how well you love me. A
single smile of mine, a single stroke from my pen, has been able
to make you happy. . . . But now you must forget me. . . . How
lonely you will be! Why should you stay here at all, kind,
inestimable, but solitary, friend of mine?

To your care I entrust the book, the embroidery frame, and the
letter upon which I had begun. When you look upon the few words
which the letter contains you will be able mentally to read in
thought all that you would have liked further to hear or receive
from me--all that I would so gladly have written, but can never
now write. Think sometimes of your poor little Barbara who loved
you so well. All your letters I have left behind me in the top
drawer of Thedora's chest of drawers. . . You write that you are
ill, but Monsieur Bwikov will not let me leave the house today;
so that I can only write to you. Also, I will write again before
long. That is a promise. Yet God only knows when I shall be able
to do so. . . .

Now we must bid one another forever farewell, my friend, my
beloved, my own! Yes, it must be forever! Ah, how at this moment
I could embrace you! Goodbye, dear friend--goodbye, goodbye! May
you ever rest well and happy! To the end I shall keep you in my
prayers. How my heart is aching under its load of sorrow! . . .
Monsieur Bwikov is just calling for me. . . .--Your ever loving


P.S.--My heart is full! It is full to bursting of tears! Sorrow
has me in its grip, and is tearing me to pieces. Goodbye. My God,
what grief! Do not, do not forget your poor Barbara!

en route, you are now just about to depart! Would that they had
torn my heart out of my breast rather than have taken you away
from me! How could you allow it? You weep, yet you go! And only
this moment I have received from you a letter stained with your
tears! It must be that you are departing unwillingly; it must be
that you are being abducted against your will; it must be that
you are sorry for me; it must be that--that you LOVE me! . . .

Yet how will it fare with you now? Your heart will soon have
become chilled and sick and depressed. Grief will soon have
sucked away its life; grief will soon have rent it in twain! Yes,
you will die where you be, and be laid to rest in the cold, moist
earth where there is no one to bewail you. Monsieur Bwikov will
only be hunting hares! . . .

Ah, my darling, my darling! WHY did you come to this decision?
How could you bring yourself to take such a step? What have you
done, have you done, have you done? Soon they will be carrying
you away to the tomb; soon your beauty will have become defiled,
my angel. Ah, dearest one, you are as weak as a feather. And
where have I been all this time? What have I been thinking of? I
have treated you merely as a forward child whose head was aching.
Fool that I was, I neither saw nor understood. I have behaved as
though, right or wrong, the matter was in no way my concern. Yes,
I have been running about after fripperies! . . . Ah, but I WILL
leave my bed. Tomorrow I WILL rise sound and well, and be once
more myself. . . .

Dearest, I could throw myself under the wheels of a passing
vehicle rather than that you should go like this. By what right
is it being done? . . . I will go with you; I will run behind
your carriage if you will not take me--yes, I will run, and run
so long as the power is in me, and until my breath shall have
failed. Do you know whither you are going? Perhaps you will not
know, and will have to ask me? Before you there lie the Steppes,
my darling--only the Steppes, the naked Steppes, the Steppes that
are as bare as the palm of my hand. THERE there live only
heartless old women and rude peasants and drunkards. THERE the
trees have already shed their leaves. THERE there abide but rain
and cold. Why should you go thither? True, Monsieur Bwikov will
have his diversions in that country--he will be able to hunt the
hare; but what of yourself? Do you wish to become a mere estate
lady? Nay; look at yourself, my seraph of heaven. Are you in any
way fitted for such a role? How could you play it? To whom should
I write letters? To whom should I send these missives? Whom
should I call "my darling"? To whom should I apply that name of
endearment? Where, too, could I find you?

When you are gone, Barbara, I shall die--for certain I shall die,
for my heart cannot bear this misery. I love you as I love the
light of God; I love you as my own daughter; to you I have
devoted my love in its entirety; only for you have I lived at
all; only because you were near me have I worked and copied
manuscripts and committed my views to paper under the guise of
friendly letters.

Perhaps you did not know all this, but it has been so. How, then,
my beloved, could you bring yourself to leave me? Nay, you MUST
not go--it is impossible, it is sheerly, it is utterly,
impossible. The rain will fall upon you, and you are weak, and
will catch cold. The floods will stop your carriage. No sooner
will it have passed the city barriers than it will break down,
purposely break down. Here, in St. Petersburg, they are bad
builders of carriages. Yes, I know well these carriage-builders.
They are jerry-builders who can fashion a toy, but nothing that
is durable. Yes, I swear they can make nothing that is durable. . . .
All that I can do is to go upon my knees before Monsieur Bwikov,
and to tell him all, to tell him all. Do you also tell
him all, dearest, and reason with him. Tell him that you MUST
remain here, and must not go. Ah, why did he not marry that
merchant's daughter in Moscow? Let him go and marry her now. She
would suit him far better and for reasons which I well know. Then
I could keep you. For what is he to you, this Monsieur Bwikov?
Why has he suddenly become so dear to your heart? Is it because he
can buy you gewgaws? What are THEY? What use are THEY? They are
so much rubbish. One should consider human life rather than mere

Nevertheless, as soon as I have received my next instalment of
salary I mean to buy you a new cloak. I mean to buy it at a shop
with which I am acquainted. Only, you must wait until my next
installment is due, my angel of a Barbara. Ah, God, my God! To
think that you are going away into the Steppes with Monsieur
Bwikov--that you are going away never to return! . . . Nay, nay,
but you SHALL write to me. You SHALL write me a letter as soon as
you have started, even if it be your last letter of all, my
dearest. Yet will it be your last letter? How has it come about
so suddenly, so irrevocably, that this letter should be your
last? Nay, nay; I will write, and you shall write--yes, NOW, when
at length I am beginning to improve my style. Style? I do not
know what I am writing. I never do know what I am writing. I
could not possibly know, for I never read over what I have
written, nor correct its orthography. At the present moment, I am
writing merely for the sake of writing, and to put as much as
possible into this last letter of mine. . . .

Ah, dearest, my pet, my own darling!...

End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Poor Folk, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky