A vital question; or, What is to be done?/Part Fourth

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A vital question; or, What is to be done?  (1886)  by Nikolay Chernyshevsky, translated by Nathan Haskell Dole and Simon S. Skidelsky
Part Fourth.




Berlin, July 20, 1856.

Much Esteemed Lady, Viéra Pavlovna,—

My close relationship with the late Dmitri Sergéitch Lopukhóf gives me the hope that you will kindly include in the number of your acquaintances a person who is an absolute stranger to you, but who deeply respects you. At all events, I venture to think that you will not accuse me of imposing upon you. By entering into correspondence with you, I only fulfil the desire of the late Dmitri Sergéitch, and those tidings which I am going to impart about him you can look upon as absolutely true, because I shall speak of his thoughts in his own language as though he were speaking himself. And here are his words about a matter, the explanation of which is the aim of my letter.

"The thoughts which brought the conclusion so disturbing to the people nearest to me [I am quoting Dmitri Sergéitch's original words, as I said before] gradually grew in my mind, and my mind was changed several times before it received its ultimate development. The circumstance which caused these thoughts came under my observation in an entirely unexpected way, only at the moment when she [Dmitri Sergéitch means you] with fear told me about a dream which horrified her. The dream appeared to me very significant; and, as a man who was accustomed to look upon the state of her feelings from without, I understood at that very moment that an episode was beginning in her life which, within a longer or shorter time, would change our relations. But a man tries till the very last to preserve the situation to which he has become accustomed. In the depths of our nature lies a conservative element from which we yield only out of necessity. This, according to my opinion, contains the explanation of my first supposition. I wanted to think, and I succeeded in thinking, that this episode might pass away after some time, and then our former relations would be restored. She wanted to avoid the very episode, by kindling the warmest friendship. This deceived me, and for several days I did not think it impossible for her hope to be realized. Soon I became convinced, however, that to hope for this would be in vain. The reason for this lies in my own character.

"I do not intend to stain my character by saying this. This is my idea of it:—

"To a man who spends his life as he ought, his time is divided into three parts,—labor, enjoyment, and rest or recreation. Enjoyment needs rest as much as labor does. In labor and in enjoyment, the general nature of a man takes precedence over his other personal peculiarities; in work, we act under the predominating external stimulus of rational necessities; in enjoyment, under the predominating stimulus of other necessities also common to the whole human race. Rest or recreation is an element in which a person seeks restorement of strength after this stimulus which exhausts the reserves of life materials—an element which is brought into life by the person himself. Here a person wants to give himself up to his own peculiarities, to his own individual comfort. In labor, and in enjoyment, people are drawn to people by a general mighty power, which is more influential than their personal peculiarities, by the calculation of profit in labor; in enjoyment, by equal demands of the organism. Rest is different. This is not a thing that belongs to that general power which softens down personal peculiarities. Rest is more of a personal thing; here nature demands for itself more room; here a person becomes more individualized, and the character of a person shows itself from the kind of rest which appears more agreeable and more easy for him.

"In this regard people are divided into two categories. For those of the one, rest or recreation is more agreeable than the society of others. Everybody must have seclusion. For them it must be an exception; as a rule, life must be spent with others. This class is far more numerous than the other, which must have the contrary. While alone they feel much more comfortable than in the society of others. This difference is noticed by the common opinion, which is expressed by the words, 'a social man and a reserved man.' I belong to those who are not social; she to those who are social. That is the whole secret of our history. It is apparently clear that in this cause there is nothing reprehensible in either one of us; nor is the fact reprehensible that neither one of us had the strength to remove the cause. Against his own nature man is weak.

"It is very hard for any one to understand the nature of others. Every one measures the characters of everybody else by his own peculiarities. Whatever I do not want, according to my opinions, others will not want; so we are led to think by our individuality. Exceedingly noticeable signs are required to make me realize the contrary; and, on the other hand, whatever affords me comfort and ease I must think that others like. The naturalness of this arrangement of ideas is my excuse, in the fact that I recognized too late the difference between my nature and hers. The mistake was greatly aided by the fact that after we came to live together, she placed me too high. There was never any equality between us; but she showed me a great respect. My style of life seemed to her exemplary; she took for a universal human feature any peculiarity of mine, and for a time she was drawn away by it. There was another cause, a stronger one still.

"Among uncultured people the sanctity of the inner life is but very little respected. Every one of the family, particularly among the elders, will thrust his paw, without any ceremony, into the very depths of your soul. The trouble is not in the fact that your secrets are interfered with. Secrets of greater or less importance you are careful to hide or to watch; and then, not all have them. A great many have absolutely nothing to hide from nearest friends; but every one wants that, in his inner life, there should be a little corner where nobody has a right to enter, just as every one wants to have his own separate room for himself alone. Uncultured people regard neither of these things; if you have a separate room, everybody goes to it, not from a desire to act the spy or to impose upon you, but simply because there is no thought that this may disturb you. That may occur to them only in case there has been some disturbance between you, when you might have no desire to see them appearing before you quite unexpectedly. They do not understand that they may disturb you, even though you may be kindly inclined to them. The sanctity of the threshold over which no one has a right to step, without the permission of the person living on the other side, is recognized only in one room; that is the room belonging to the head of the family, because the head of the family can turn everybody out of his room who enters without asking permission. Into all the others, everybody who is older or contemporary with them enters without asking. The same which is true in regard to the room can be applied to your inner life. Into it everybody intrudes without any necessity, even without any thought, in search of any amusement, and, more often than not, simply to 'scratch his tongue on your soul.' A girl has two every-day dresses, one white and one pink. She puts on the pink one; and here comes a chance for some one to rub tongue over her soul. 'You put on the pink dress, Aniuta; what for?' Aniuta herself does not know why she put it on. It was necessary to put on some kind of a dress; and then, again, if she had put on the white one, it would have amounted to the same thing. So mámenka (or 'sister') says, 'But you would have done better to put on the white one.' But why it would be better, the one who gives the advice does not herself know; she simply rubs her tongue. 'You don't look very happy to-day, Aniuta; what's the matter?' Aniuta is neither happy nor unhappy; however, why shouldn't they ask after what they neither see nor don't see? 'I don't know; there's nothing the matter that I know of.' 'No? you seem to be rather unhappy.' Two minutes pass. 'Aniuta, you had better sit down at the piano and play us a tune'; there is no reason why. And so it goes the whole day. Your soul is like a street, on which everybody who sits at the window is looking, not for the sake of seeing anything in particular,—no, they even know that they will see nothing useful and nothing curious,—but simply because they have nothing else to do. But it's all the same; so, then, why not look? For a street, of course it makes no difference; but people have no pleasure at all from people walking over them.

"Naturally, this imposition, without any aim or idea whatever, must bring a reaction; and as soon as a person places himself in such a situation that he can have seclusion, he for some time finds pleasure in such seclusion, though by nature he may be inclined to sociability and not to seclusion.

"She, in this regard till she was married, was placed in a singularly hard position; they walked on her; they intruded into her very soul, not simply because they had nothing else to do, accidentally, occasionally, and only out of indelicacy, but systematically, without cessation, every minute, too coarsely, too impudently, they pushed their way in like savages, and with mean intentions, they forced themselves, not simply with unceremonious hands, but with very hard and very dirty hands, and therefore the reaction was very strong.

"Therefore my mistake should not be severely judged. Several months, and maybe a year, I was not mistaken; seclusion was really necessary and pleasant for her, and during this time I formed an opinion about her character; this strong, temporary demand of hers corresponded with my constant demand, and is it to be wondered at that I took a temporary phenomenon for a constant feature of her character? And everybody is so much tempted to judge of others by his own standard; the mistake was very great: I do not blame myself for it, but I want to put myself in the right light; that means, I feel that others will not be as indulgent to me as I am towards myself. To modify their condemnation, I must say a few words more about that side of my character, which is entirely strange to her, and to a good many other people, and, which without explanations, may not be rightly understood.

"My only idea of rest is seclusion. To be with others means to occupy my mind with something,—to work or to enjoy myself. I feel myself entirely at liberty only when I am alone by myself. How shall I name it? Why is it? With some it comes from reserve; with others from bashfulness; with still others from a melancholy and thoughtful disposition; and with a fourth class from a lack of sympathy with others; but it seems to me that there is nothing of the kind in me. I am frank and straightforward; I am always ready to be gay, and I am never melancholy. To observe people is pleasant for me, but this is connected in my mind with the idea of work or enjoyment, and that is something which demands rest after it; that is,—in my way of looking at it,—seclusion. So far as I can understand, it is a peculiar development in me, a drawing towards independence and freedom.

"And thus the strength of the reaction against her former, too troublesome situation in her family compelled her for a time to adopt a style of life which did not correspond to her constant disposition. Respect towards me kept alive in her this temporary disposition longer than it would have been by itself; but I long before had formed my opinion of her character; I took this temporary feature to be a constant one, and thus I was at ease, and that is the whole story. On my side, it was a mistake, but there was very little that was blameworthy in this mistake; on her part, there was absolutely nothing: but how much suffering did it not cause her! And what a catastrophe it brought upon me!

"After her fear, caused by the terrible dream, disclosed to me the state of her feelings, it was too late to correct my fault; but if I had, we had noticed it before; then, maybe, by constant efforts over ourselves, she and I might have succeeded in bringing our relations into a situation forever satisfactory for us both. Could we? I do not know, but I think that, even if we had succeeded, it would not have been particularly advantageous. Let us suppose that we had remodelled our characters sufficiently for our relations to each other to be free from all burdensomeness, but then the remodelling of characters is only good when it is directed against some bad side; but those sides which she and I would have had to remodel had nothing bad in them. Why should sociability be better or worse than a disposition to seclusion, or vice versa? But the remodelling of a character is, at all events, the forcing of it, the breaking of it; and in the breaking of a thing there is a great deal that is lost; in the forcing of a thing much energy is wasted. The result which she and I, maybe, only maybe, not surely, had reached was not worth the loss. We both would have partly spoiled our individuality, would both have destroyed the freshness of our lives. For what end? Only for the sake of preserving certain places in certain rooms. It would have been quite a different thing if we had had children; then it would have been necessary to think deeply as to the change in their fate if we separated. If the change would be for the worse, then the removal of the cause would have been worth the most desperate efforts, and the result would have been happiness; for we should have accomplished what was necessary for the preservation of the greatest happiness of those whom we loved, and such a result would have compensated for all our efforts; but, as it was, what rational end was to be gained?

"Therefore, as it happened, my mistake apparently led to something better; owing to it, both of us had less breaking of our natures to endure. It brought a great deal of worriment; but if it had not happened, surely there would have been a great deal more, and moreover, the result would have been far more unsatisfactory."

Such were Dmitri Sergéitch's words. From the energy with which he expressed himself so far, you can easily see that he, as he himself said, felt something embarrassing in it and unprofitable to himself. He straightway added:—

"I feel that I shall not be entirely justified in the opinion of those who review this matter without any sympathy for me; but I am sure of her sympathy. She will judge about me even more kindly than I myself, and I consider myself entirely in the right. Such is my opinion of the time until she had the dream."

And now I am going to tell you how he felt and what he intended to do after you had the dream which revealed to him the unsatisfactory nature of your relations.

"I said [these again are Dmitri Sergéitch's own words] that from the first words about her terrible dream, I understood the unavoidableness of some episode different from our former relations. I expected it would have a mighty power, for it was impossible otherwise, from the energy of her nature and by the former state of her dissatisfaction, which had already acquired great strength from a too prolonged restraint. Still, the expectation at first appeared in a form very easy and profitable for me. I reasoned thus: she will be drawn away for a time by a passionate love for somebody else; a year or two will pass and she will return to her old allegiance. I am a very decent man. Her chances of finding another man like me are rare (I speak about myself just exactly as I think; I have no hypocritical fashion of depreciating myself). A feeling of love satisfied will lose a portion of its force; she will see that though one part of her nature is less satisfied by living with me, yet in the general sum of existence life with me will be easier and freer than with any other, and everything will be restored to its former state. I, taught by experience, shall be more attentive to her. She will acquire new respect for me; she will be more warmly attached to me than before, and we shall live more happily than ever.

"But (and this thing, though the explanation of it is very embarrassing for me, must nevertheless be said), but how did the prospect of our relationship being renewed appear to me? Did it make me happy? Of course it did! But did it bring only happiness? No; it appeared to me as a burden, a pleasant burden, but still a burden. 'I love her very, very dearly, and I shall easily break myself in, so as better to attend to her; this will afford me pleasure, but still my life will be trying.' Thus it came over me, after I regained my calmness after the first impression; and I saw that I was not mistaken. She allowed me to experience this when she wanted me to act so as to preserve her love. A month in which I satisfied this desire of hers was the most burdensome month of my life. There was no pain in it—such a word would hardly apply to the idea; it would be absurd here, as far as positive sensations are concerned. I experienced nothing but pleasure while pleasing her, but it was tiresome to me. Here is where the mystery lies, that her attempt to retain her love for me remained a failure. I was tired while pleasing her.

"At first sight it may seem strange why I did not feel tired of giving up numberless evenings to the students, for whom, of course, I would not put myself out seriously, and why I felt such a degree of weariness when I gave up only a few evenings to a woman whom I loved more than myself; for whom I would be ready not only to die, but to endure every imaginable torture. This may seem strange, but only for one who cannot appreciate my motives in having intimate relations with the young men to whom I devoted so much time. In the first place, I had no personal relations with these young people. When I was sitting with them I did not feel that I was in the presence of people, but I saw only several abstract types who were only exchanging thoughts. My talk with them varied but little from my own contemplations when alone. Here only one part of my nature was occupied, and the very one which less than all others demanded rest,—thought. Everything else was sleeping; and besides, our talk had a practical, useful aim,—the aiding the development of intellectual life, nobility, and energy in my young friends. This was work; but it was such an easy work that it was good for the restoration of strength, expended by other kinds of labor; it did not weary, but refreshed, and yet it was labor. Therefore my own person had no demands for taking rest. There I expected to get benefit, but not peace; here I allowed all the other parts of my being to sleep, except thought. But my thought acted without any mixture of personal relations towards people with whom I was speaking; therefore I felt as much liberty as though I had been alone. These conversations, I may say, did not take me out of my seclusion. Here there was nothing analogous to those relations in which the whole man takes part.

"I know how embarrassing it is to use the word 'weariness,' but my conscience does not allow me to keep it back. Yes, with all my love to her, I felt a great deal easier after I became convinced that, between her and me, relations could not comfortably be arranged as they had been before. I gradually became convinced of this about the time that she began to notice that the fulfilling of this desire was going to be tiresome to me. Then the future appeared to me under a new form, which was more agreeable to me. After we saw that it would be impossible for us to remain in our former relations, I began to think how soon it would be possible—I must again use an embarrassing expression—to get rid of it—to free myself from a situation which had become burdensome to me. Here lies the secret of what must seem magnanimity to the man who might be willing to be blinded by acknowledgment of the outward appearances, or even to one who would be so shortsighted as not to see the whole depth of the motives. Yes, I simply wanted to get rid of an embarrassing situation. As I am not hypocritical enough to deny what is good in me, I shall also not deny that one of my motives was the desire for her good; but this was only a secondary motive, a very strong one, to be sure, yet it fell far behind the first, the main one, in strength; that is, the desire of getting free from weariness was the real prompter. Under its influence I began carefully to examine into her mode of life, and easily perceived that in the change of her feelings, which was the result of the change in her way of living, the main part was played by Aleksandr Matvéitch in his appearance and disappearance. This brought me to think about him: I understood the reasons of his strange behavior, to which before I had paid no attention, and after that my thoughts received a new form, which, as I have said already, was agreeable to me. After I saw that she had not only the desire for passionate love itself, although she was, as yet, unconscious of it herself; that this feeling was directed towards one who was absolutely worthy, and generally speaking, was absolutely able to fill my place; that this man also loved her passionately,—then I became extremely glad. It is true, however, that the first impression was very cruel; every important change carries with it some pain. I saw now that I could not, conscientiously speaking, look upon myself as a man necessary for her, and I had become accustomed to this, and to tell the truth, it had been pleasant to me. Consequently, the severance of this relation unavoidably had to have its painful side; but only for the first part of the time, and not for long, this feeling predominated over the other feelings, which were joyful in their nature. Now I was assured of her happiness, and calm in the contemplation of her fate: this was a source of great happiness. But it would be vain to think that this constituted the main source of pleasure; no, personal feeling was once more much more important. I saw that I became entirely free from compulsion. My words do not imply that the life of a bachelor would be easier or happier for me than family life; no, if man and wife are not compelled to any kind of restraint for the sake of pleasing each other; if they are content with each other without making effort; if they satisfy each other without thinking of the satisfaction, then, the closer the relations between them are, the freer and easier it is for both of them: but the relation between her and me was not of this kind; therefore to separate meant freedom for me.

"From this can be seen that I have acted for my own interests, after I decided not to interfere with her happiness. There was a lofty side to my action; but the motive power towards it was the inclination of my own nature to better myself alone. Therefore I had strength to act, and, I may say, I acted well. Not to drift this way and that, not to make unnecessary confusion and disturbance for others, not to be false to my duty,—this was easy, when the duty is the inclination of your own nature.

"I left for Riazan. After some time she called me back, saying that my presence would not interfere with her. But I saw that it would still interfere. So far as I can understand, there were two reasons for it. It was hard for her to see a man to whom she was exceedingly indebted, according to her idea. She was mistaken in this respect; she was not in the least indebted to me, because I acted much more for my own interests than hers. But it appeared to her different, and she felt a very deep gratefulness to me. This feeling was hard. There is a pleasant side to it; but it predominates only when the feeling is not too strong. When it is strong it is valid. The second cause—this, again, is a rather embarrassing thing to explain, but I must say what I think—I find the second cause in the fact that her relations to society were abnormal and unpleasant; it was hard for her to endure the fact that society would not acknowledge formally her right to occupy such a position. And so I saw that my existence near her would be trying for her. I shall not hide that, in this new discovery, there was a side that was incomparably harder for me to endure that all feeling which I had experienced in the former stages of the case. I had preserved towards her a very strong inclination. I wanted to remain a very close and intimate friend of hers; I hoped that this would be so. And after I saw that this could not be, I was greatly grieved; and here there was no compensation for this grief in personal calculations of any sort whatever. I may say that here my final decision was adopted exclusively, because of my attachment to her, only for the desire of making her better, exclusively from unselfish motives. Consequently, never before, even in our happiest time, did my relations toward her afford me such deep inward satisfaction as this decision. Here I acted under the action of what I frankly call nobility, or, to use a more suitable term, noble calculation,—a calculation in which the general law of humanity acts exclusively by itself, without borrowing support from individual peculiarities. And here I learned what a great pleasure it is to feel yourself acting like a noble man; that is, as every man ought to act, not Ivan or Peter, but every man, every one, without distinction of names. What a lofty delight it is to feel yourself simply a man—not Ivan, not Peter, but a man,—simply and purely a man! This feeling is too strong. Ordinary natures like mine cannot endure too often an elevation to the height of this feeling; but happy is the one who has had the chance to experience it.

"There is no need of explaining that side of my mode of action which would have been most unreasonable in transactions with other people, but which here is very obviously justified by the character of the person to whom I yield. At the time when I left for Riazan, there had not a word passed between her and Aleksandr Matvéitch; at the time which I made my final decision there had not a word passed between him and me, or between her and me, on this subject. But I knew him very well; I had no need of studying his thoughts for the sake of learning them."

I am giving you Dmitri Sergéitch's words, with liberal exactness, as I have already said.

I am an entire stranger to you; but the correspondence into which I enter with you, fulfilling the desire of the late Dmitri Sergéitch, bears such an intimate character that, in all probability, it will be interesting for you to learn who this strange correspondent is, who is so initiated into the inner life of the late Dmitri Sergéitch. I used to be a medical student, and I have nothing more to tell you about myself. During the last few years I have lived in Petersburg. Several days ago I decided to travel, and to create for myself a new career abroad. I left Petersburg on the second day after you learned about Dmitri Sergéitch's catastrophe. On a certain occasion I had no documents in my possession, and I had to take the papers belonging to a stranger, with which I was furnished by one of our common friends. He gave them to me on the condition that I should fulfil certain of his commissions on the way. If you happen to see Mr. Rakhmétof, be kind enough to tell him that all his commissions have been fulfilled as he desired. Now I suppose I shall have to set out on my travels through Germany, observing the customs. I have several hundred rubles, and I want to have a good time. When I shall get tired of idleness, I shall look out for something, no matter what. When? wherever chance may lead. I am as free as a bird, and I can be as unconcerned as a bird; such a situation delights me.

It is very probable that you may like to honor me with an answer, but I do not know where I shall be in a week from now: maybe in England, and maybe in Prague. I can go wherever fancy may lead me, and where it will lead me I know not; and therefore send your letters to the following address: Berlin, Friedrich Strasse 20, Agentur von H. Schmeidler. Your envelope should contain another envelope on which, in place of any address, you will write the cypher 12,345; that will show Schmeidler's agency that it should be forwarded to me.

Accept, honored lady, the assurance of deep respect from a man who is an entire stranger to you, who is endlessly devoted to you, and who signs himself,

A Former Medical Student.

Honored Sir, Aleksandr Matvéitch,—

According to the desire of the late Dmitri Sergéitch, I must send you the assurance that for him the best circumstance seemed the fact that he was compelled to leave his place to you. With those relations which brought about this change, relations which gradually formed, in the course of three years, from the time when you almost ceased coming to his house, and therefore were formed without your aid, exclusively from the lack of correspondence between the characters of the two people whom you afterwards tried in vain to reconcile; with such relations, the final scene which came was unavoidable. Evidently Dmitri Sergéitch could not feel right in blaming you; of course this explanation is unnecessary; however, merely for form's sake, he authorized me to make it. Thus it had to be either one way or the other: either you or he had to take the place which he could not fill, and which another could take only because Dmitri Sergéitch could not fill it; and the fact that you took this place, according to the opinion of the late Dmitri Sergéitch makes the best result that could be devised. I press your hand.

A Former Medical Student.

"Ah! I know."

What is that? A familiar voice. I turn around; there he is! He, himself, the sapient reader, who was not long ago banished in disgrace for not knowing A from B,[1] in regard to the artistic, but here he is again and again with his former shrewdness. Again he knows something!

"Ah! I know who wrote it—"

But I hastily seize the first thing that comes most convenient for my purpose. I seize a napkin, because after I copied the former student's letter, I sat down to breakfast, and so I seize the napkin, and stuff it in his mouth, "Well, keep what you know to yourself; why do you shout it all over town?"


Petersburg, Aug. 25, 1856.

Dear Sir,—

You will understand what a degree of happiness your letter gave me. With all my soul I thank you for it. Your intimacy with the late Dmitri Sergéitch gives me the right to regard you as my friend. Allow me to use this appellation. In every word which you quoted can be seen Dmitri Sergéitch's character. He was constantly seeking for the most secret causes of his actions, and he took pleasure in ascribing them to his theory of egotism. By the way, this is the common custom of all our society. My Aleksandr is also fond of analyzing his motives in exactly the same spirit. If you had only heard how he explained his behavior towards me and Dmitri Sergéitch in the course of three years, you would learn, if his words were to be taken literally, that he did everything through egotistical calculation for his own pleasure. And I long ago learned this custom; it interests Aleksandr and me a trifle less than it interested Dmitri Sergéitch. We agree with him entirely; but he has a stronger drawing towards it. Yes, if one were to hear us, all three of us would be taken to be such egotists as the world has never seen. And maybe this is true; maybe there never were such egotists. What think you? Yes; it seems likely.

But besides this characteristic, common to us three, in Dmitri Sergéitch's words there is another, which belongs exclusively to his situation. Apparently the aim of his explanations was to give me peace. Not that his words lack sincerity,—no, he would never say what he does not think,—but he brings out too strongly only that element of the truth which can calm me. My friend, I am very grateful for it; but I, too, am an egoistka. I shall tell you that he vainly worried over my peace of mind. We justify ourselves much easier than we are justified by others; and I, to tell the truth, do not consider myself in any way blameworthy before him. I will say further, I do not even feel that I owe him any gratefulness. I prize his nobility, oh, how deeply! but I know that he was noble, not for my sake, but his own. For I, when I was not false to him, was not false, not for his sake, but for myself; not because falsity would be injurious to him, but to myself.

I said that I did not blame myself, just as he did. But, just as he did, I feel an inclination to justify myself. According to his words, which were very just, this means: I have a presentiment that others will not be as lenient as I am towards myself, in exempting me from the blame of certain parts of my behavior. I do not feel any desire whatsoever to justify myself for that part of the affair in which he justified himself; and, on the contrary, I want to justify myself for that part in which he had no need for giving justification. In all that happened until I had my dream there was nothing for which anybody will blame me, I am convinced. But afterwards, was not I the cause of the affair taking such a melodramatic course, and brought about such a terrible catastrophe? Ought I not to have looked much more rationally on that change of relations which was unavoidable, after my dream had for the first time revealed to me and Dmitri Sergéitch his situation and mine? The very evening of the day on which Dmitri Sergéitch committed suicide, I had a long talk with the formidable Rakhmétof—and what a kind, tender-hearted man he is! He told me God-knows-what horrible things about Dmitri Sergéitch. But if I repeated them in a friendly tone to Dmitri Sergéitch, instead of in the harsh, as it were, unfriendly, tone which Rakhmétof used,—well, they may be true. I suspect that Dmitri Sergéitch understood well what Rakhmétof was going to say to me, and that this formed a part of his calculation. Yes, at that time it was necessary for me to listen to it; it calmed me greatly; and whoever might have arranged for that talk, I acknowledge my gratitude for it to you, my friend. But even the formidable Rakhmétof had to acknowledge that, in the last part of the affair, Dmitri Sergéitch acted finely. Rakhmétof blamed him only for the first half, and for this he was justifying himself. I am going to justify myself, though nobody has told me that I was to blame for it. But for every one of us—I am speaking about you and our friends, about all our circle—there is a severer than even Rakhmétof, and this is our own conscience.

Yes, I comprehend, my friend, that it would have been far easier for all concerned if I had looked at the matter more simply, and had not given to it a too tragical importance. According to Dmitri Sergéitch's view, it should have been put this way more strongly; although there would have been no need of having recourse to a conclusion so theatrical and trying for all of us, yet he was led to it only by the superfluous vehemence of my anxiety. I understand how it must have seemed so to him, although he did not charge you to put that view of it before me. So much the more I appreciate his kind disposition towards me, that it was not diminished even though he held such an opinion. But just listen a moment, my friend. It is not entirely just; it is not by any means unjust; it was not from my fault; it was not from my superfluous anxiety that the absolute necessity came upon Dmitri Sergéitch of examining into what he himself frequently called a trying situation. True, if I had not attributed an excessive importance to the change in our relations, it might have been possible to escape the difficulty without the journey to Riazan; but he said that it was not trying for him, and so there would not have been still greater misfortunes arising from my exalted views. Only the necessity of making way with himself was trying for Dmitri Sergéitch. He explained the unavoidableness of this decision of his by two reasons: I was suffering from an excessive feeling of gratitude towards him; I was suffering because I could not enter into those relations with Aleksandr which are demanded by the conditions of society. In reality, I was not thoroughly at ease; I was oppressed by the situation, until he made way with himself; but he did not suspect the essential reason. The thought that his appearance oppressed me with an excessive burden of gratitude was not absolutely true. A person is very much inclined to seek for reasons which may lighten a trying situation, and at the time when Dmitri Sergéitch saw the necessity of making way with himself, this reason for it was no longer in existence. My gratitude to him had long before been modified to such a degree that it became a pleasant feeling; and only this reason was connected with my previous exalted view of the matter. The other reason which Dmitri Sergéitch adduced,—the desire to give to my relations with Aleksandr a character such as is recognized,—that reason had nothing to do with my view of the matter; it resulted from the ideas of society. I was powerless over it. But Dmitri Sergéitch was entirely mistaken in thinking that his presence would have been hard for me on account of that reason. No; it might have been arranged otherwise even without the necessity of his committing suicide, if it had been necessary and had been satisfactory to me. Our position had that rare peculiarity that all the three persons who were concerned in it were of equal strength. If Dmitri Sergéitch had felt that Aleksandr were his superior in intellect, culture, or character; if, while yielding his place to Aleksandr, he would through a superiority of mental strength; if his refusal had not been from good will, instead of the yielding of a stronger to a weaker,—then, of course, I should have had no cause to be burdened. Likewise, if I had been in intellect or character much stronger than Dmitri Sergéitch; if until my relations with Aleksandr had received their full development he had been what has been well characterized by a story over which you will remember we were at one time all greatly amused—the story of how two gentlemen met in the foyer of the opera, engaged in conversation with each other, took a fancy to each other, and wanted to get better acquainted. "I am Lieutenant So-and-so," says the one, introducing himself; "And I am the husband of Madame Tedesco," said the other, introducing himself. If Dmitri Sergéitch had been the husband of Madame Tedesco, then, of course, there would have been no necessity of his committing suicide. He would have been under such subjection and humiliation; and if he had been a noble man, he would see in the fact of his humiliation nothing offensive to himself, and all would be well. But Dmitri's relation towards me and Aleksandr was in no respect analogous. He was not a hair's breadth lower or weaker than either of us, and we knew it and he knew it. His concession was not the result of weakness. Oh, not at all. It was merely the result of his good will. Wasn't that so, my friend? You cannot deny it. Therefore, in what situation did I find myself placed! And this, my friend, contains the whole essence of the matter. I saw myself in a situation of dependence on his good will, and so my situation was trying to me, and therefore he saw himself compelled to the heroic decision of putting himself out of the way. Yes, my friend, the cause of my feeling, which compelled him to it, lay much deeper than his explanation given in your letter. The overwhelming weight of gratefulness was no longer in existence. To satisfy the claims of society would have been easy in the way that Dmitri Sergéitch suggested. Yes; the claims of society would never affect me living in my own little circle, which is entirely free from such claims; but I was still dependent upon Dmitri Sergéitch. My situation had as its foundation only his good will, and that was not self-existent, and that was the reason why it was hard for me. Now, judge you: could this cause be removed by this view of a change in our relations, or by the other. The importance lay not in my views of it, but in the fact that Dmitri Sergéitch was a man of independence, who acted according to his own will, though it was a good will. Yes, my friend, you know and you approve of my feeling. I do not want to be dependent upon the good will of any one, no matter who it may be, though it were a man most devoted to me, though I respected him, though I might trust him as I do myself, though I absolutely knew that he would always rejoice to do whatever I needed, that my happiness was as dear to him as to myself. Yes, my friend, I do not need your assurance; I know that you approve of it.

But after all, why all this talk, this self-analysis, which reveals the most hidden motives of feelings which could not be penetrated by any one? Yet, with me as with Dmitri Sergéitch, this self-confession is made for my own benefit, so that I might say, "I am not to blame here; the matter depended on something that was beyond my control." I make this remark because Dmitri Sergéitch was fond of such remarks. I want to praise myself before you, my friend.

But enough of this.[2] You felt so much sympathy for me that you did not grudge spending several hours' time in writing your long letter—and oh, how precious it was to me! I see from this letter how diplomatically I have learned to write—in a style like Dmitri Sergéitch's or yours; yes, from this, and only from this, I see how interesting it will be for you to know what happened to me after Dmitri Sergéitch took leave from me, on his way to Moscow, with the intention of returning and disappearing. After his return from Riazan he saw that I was disturbed. This disturbance was manifested only on his return. While he was staying in Riazan, I, to tell you the truth, did not think about him much; no, not as much as you might suppose, judging by what he saw after his return. But when he left for Moscow, I saw that he had something particular in view. It was noticeable that he wound up his business in Petersburg; it was evident that for a week he was waiting for their final issue in order to go, and then—how could it happen otherwise? During the last days I noticed the melancholy in his face—that face which was so clever at hiding mysteries; I anticipated that something decisive was in prospect, and when he took his place in the car, I felt so sad, so sad! On the next day I was melancholy; on the third day I got up still more oppressed, and suddenly Masha brought me a letter. What a tormenting moment it was, what a tormenting hour, what a tormenting day, you can imagine!

And so, my friend, now more than before, I know my attachment to Dmitri Sergéitch. I myself did not realize that it was so powerful. Yes, my friend, I now know its strength. You, too, know, because you must certainly know that on that very day I decided to give up Aleksandr. All day I felt that my life was ruined—poisoned forever. Can you imagine my childish exultation when I saw my kind friend's note, which entirely changed the current of my thoughts (you see how careful my expressions are; I want you to be satisfied with me, my friend). You know all this, because Rakhmétof went to escort me to the train. Dmitri Sergéitch and he were right in saying that it was necessary for me to leave Petersburg for the accomplishment of the effect, for the sake of which Dmitri Sergéitch did not scruple to leave me all day a prey to the most terrible tortures: how thankful I am to him for this unmercifulness! He and Rakhmétof were also right in advising Aleksandr not to come to me, nor to escort me. But I had no necessity of going to Moscow; it was only necessary for me to go as far as Moscow, so I stopped at Novgorod. A few days later Aleksandr came there, and brought the documents in regard to Dmitri Sergéitch's suicide. We were married a week after the suicide, and we lived a month on the railroad in Tchudof, so that Aleksandr might be enabled to go three or four times a week to the hospital. Yesterday we returned to Petersburg, and here is the reason that I have been so long answering your letter: it lay in Masha's drawer, and she had entirely forgotten about it. And you must have thought—God knows what—at not having received an answer during all this time.

I salute you, dear friend, yours,

Viéra Kirsánova.

I press your hand, my dear. But please don't write any compliments to me, else I shall pour out before you my whole soul, and a perfect flood of enconiums on your nobleness, which would be the worst thing imaginable, and do you know what I think? Does it not prove the presence of a pretty good amount of stupidity, both in you and in me, by writing each other only a few lines. It seems as though it proved that both of us felt ourselves embarrassed. However, on my part, it is excusable; but what excuse have you? But the next time we shall be able to argue freely, and I shall write you a heap of news.


Aleksandr Kirsánof.


These letters, absolutely sincere, were really somewhat warped, as Viéra Pavlovna herself noticed. Both correspondents of course were trying to diminish for each other the strength of the heavy shocks which they experienced. Oh, these people are shrewd! I have often heard from them—that is, from them and people of their stamp—such things as made me laugh in spite of their pathetical assurances that, such and such a thing was easy to endure. Of course I laughed when the assurances were made before me who was a stranger to them and talking with them in tête-à-tête. And when the very same thing was said to a man who had to listen to it, then I used to admit that such and such things were really trifles. An honorable man is a most amusing creature. I always used to laugh at all the honorable men with whom I was acquainted. A most amusing creature, even to the point of absurdity! Here, let us take these letters. I am partially used to tricks of this sort, even while entertaining friendship with such gentlemen and ladies. Well (nu), but what effect can they have on a man who is inexperienced and as yet unspoiled, as, for instance, the sapient reader?

The sapient reader already is clearing his mouth of the napkin, and, while shaking his head, says:—


"You are a fine fellow! You have hit it!" I reply in praise of him. "Well [nu], make me happy with another little word!"

"Yes, the author himself is an immoral man," declares the sapient reader. "Just see what things he approves of!"

"No, my precious,[3] you are mistaken. There are many things that I do not approve of here. Possibly I do not approve of any of it, if you desire to hear the truth. All this is too much idealized, too ecstatic! Life is much simpler."

"Then you must be still more immoral, must you not?" demands the sapient reader, opening wide eyes of astonishment at the incomprehensible degree of immorality to which humanity has fallen in my personage!

"Much more immoral," I say, uncertain whether the sapient reader will accept it as truth or will ridicule it.

This correspondence lasted for three or four months,—actively on the part of Kirsánof, but carelessly and briefly on the part of their correspondent. Afterwards he entirely ceased to answer their letters, and it could be seen by all that his sole idea was to impart to Viéra Pavlovna and her husband thoughts of Lopukhóf, which made up the long letter which he wrote first, and after fulfilling this obligation he considered the further correspondence unnecessary. After two or three of Kirsánof's letters remained unanswered, he understood it so and ceased to write.


Viéra Pavlovna is resting on her soft lounge, expecting her husband home to dinner from the hospital. To-day she has been busying herself very little in the kitchen over the sweet additions to dinner. She wanted to lie down even sooner, so as to rest, because she worked very hard this morning; and it had been so for a long time, and it will be so for a long time to come: she has had much to do in the mornings. Here she is trying to establish another union shop in another part of the town. Viéra Pavlovna Lopukhóva lived on the Vasilyevsky Island; Viéra Pavlovna Kirsánova lives on Syérgievskaïa Street, because her husband had to have an apartment near the Vinborgsky Side. Mrs. Mertsálova proved to be very capable in her management of the shop on the Vasilyevsky Island; and that was not to be wondered at, for she and the members of the union had been very good friends. After Viéra Pavlovna returned to Petersburg, she saw that, though she had to be at the shop, it was only for short visits; that if she continued to go there every day, it was simply because she was drawn there by her attachment, and that her friends liked to have her come. Perhaps for some time her calls did not prove to be useless, since Mertsálova at times found it necessary to consult with her. But it took so little time and becomes continually more and more rare, and soon Mertsálova will gain so much experience that she will cease to need Viéra Pavlovna. Yes, even the first time after her return to Petersburg that she was at the shop on the Vasilyevsky Island, she was more like a loving friend than an important factor. What had she to do? It is evident what. It was necessary for her to start another shop in the new neighborhood where she lived, at the other end of the city.

And so the new shop is established in one of the short streets which runs between Basséinaïa and Syérgievskaïa streets. There was much less bother with it than with the former. The five girls who formed the fundamental staff came over from the old shop, while new girls took their places. The balance of the force was selected from among the good acquaintances of those seamstresses who worked in the other shop, and that shows that everything was more than half prepared. The aim and order of the shop were well known to all the members of the union, and new girls entered the shop with the desire that the arrangement so slowly developed in the other shop should be immediately begun. Oh, yes, now the arrangement progresses tenfold quicker than before, and there is three times less worriment. But still there is a great deal of work, and Viéra Pavlovna is just as tired to-day as she was yesterday and the day before, as she was two months ago, only two months, though half a year has passed since her marriage. Well, it was necessary for her to enjoy a wedding festival, and she enjoyed it long, but afterwards she gave herself up to work.

Yes, she has been working hard to-day, and now she is resting, and she is thinking about many things, and, above all, about the present; it is full of all good! It is so full of life that she has scarcely time to have recollections. Recollections will come later, oh, much later; and not even in ten years, nor, perhaps, in a score of years, but later. Now it is not time for them, and it will not be for many years to come. But still she has a few even now; seldom, to be sure. Here, for example, she recollects something which seldom comes to her mind. Here is what she recollects:—


"Mílenki, I am going with thee."

"But you have not your things ready."

"Mílenki mine, then I will go with you to-morrow, if you do not want to take me to-day."

"Think it over; consider it. Wait for my letter; it will reach you to-morrow."

Here she returns home. How did she feel when she went home with Masha? How did she feel and think all the long way from the Moscow railway station to the Middle Prospekt? She herself does not know, so shocked was she by the abrupt turn in the affair. Twenty-four hours have not passed—no, in two hours it will be a full day—since he found her letter in his room, and now he is already gone. How quick! how sudden! At two o'clock she had not anticipated anything of the sort. He waited until she, wearied by the excitement of the morning, could not longer resist the power of sleep, came in, said a few words, and in these few words there was an almost incomprehensible preface to what he meant; and in what brief words he said what he meant! He said: "I have not seen my old folks for a long time. I am going to see them, and they will be glad to have me come." That was all, and he left immediately; and she hastened after him, though, when he came in, he asked her to promise not to do it. She hastened after him; but where was he? "Masha, where is he? where is he?"

Masha, who was still putting away the things after the departure of the guests, says, "Dmitri Sergéitch has gone out. He said, after he came out from your room, 'I am going to take a walk.'" And she had to go to bed; and how could she go to sleep? But she did not know that this was going to take place on the very morning which was now beginning to dawn. He said that they would have abundant time to talk everything over. And she had barely time to open her eyes before it was time to go to the railway station. Yes, all this had flashed by her eyes, as though nothing of the sort had happened to her, as though some one had told her of something that happened to some one else. Only now, while returning home from the railway station, she came to herself, and began to think, "What is the matter with me, and what is going to happen to me?"

Yes, she is going to Riazan. She is going; it is impossible not to go. But this letter; what will be in that letter? No; why wait for the letter before deciding? She knows what it will contain: still she must postpone her decision till the letter comes. Why postpone it? She will go; yes, she will go! She thinks about it one hour; she thinks two; she thinks three, four hours. But Masha was getting hungry, and for the third time has summoned her to dinner; and this time she commands her, rather than summons her. Well, this is another recollection. "Poor Masha! how I compelled her to get hungry!"

"Why did you wait for me, Masha! Why did not you have your dinner long ago, without waiting for me?"

"How could I, Viéra Pavlovna?"

And she thinks again for one hour, two hours. "I am going; yes, I am going to-morrow. I shall only wait for the letter because he asked me to. But whatever may be written in it,—and I know what will be in it,—it does not make any difference what it says, I shall go."

On this she thinks an hour, two hours. Yes, she deliberates over it an hour; but does she deliberate over it two hours? No, though she thinks about it; but she thinks five little words more, "He does not wish it." And more and more she deliberates over these five little words. And here the sun is already setting; but she still thinks the same thoughts, and, above all, the five little words; and suddenly, just at the very instant that the indefatigable Masha was demanding that Viéra Pavlovna should come out to tea, at that very moment, out from those five little words arise six little words, "I do not wish it either." How well the indefatigable Masha acted in coming in! She drove away these six new little words. But even the beneficent Masha did not long succeed in driving away these six little words. At first they did not dare to appear by themselves; they sent in their place a refutation of themselves, "But I must go." And they sent them for the sake of returning themselves, under the cover of this refutation. At one instant appeared with them their carrier, "He does not wish it"; and at that very instant these five little words changed into the six little words, "I do not wish it either."

And she goes over these thoughts for half an hour; and in half an hour these five little words, the six little words, begin to work over, according to their own will, even the former words, the most important words of all. And from the three words, most important of all, "I shall go," grow four words, not the same as before, though they are the same, "But shall I go?" Thus it is that words grow, and transform themselves. But here comes Masha again. "I gave him a silver ruble, Viéra Pavlovna; here it is written, 'If he brings it at nine o'clock, give him a silver ruble; but if later, give him half a ruble.' The conductor brought it, Viéra Pavlovna. He came down on the evening train. He said, 'I did as I promised; to make it quicker, I took an izvoshchik.'"

The letter is from him! Yes, she knows what is in the letter; "Don't go." But still she means to go. She does not want to listen to this letter,-to him; she intends to go; she is going. No, there is something different in the letter; here is something to which it is impossible not to listen: "I am going to Riazan, but not directly to Riazan. I have a great deal to do for the factory on the way. Besides Moscow, where I shall have to stay a week, I shall have to stop at two towns this side of Moscow, and three on the other side before I reach Riazan. How long I shall stay at my various halting-points I cannot tell you, for the very reason, that among other things, I shall have to receive money from our mercantile correspondents, and you know, my dear friend"—yes; it was in the letter. "My dear friend was used several times in the letter that I might see that he felt towards me as before; that he had no ill towards me," thinks Viéra Pavlovna. "At that time I kissed those words my dear friend; yes, it was so: 'My dear friend, you know that, when it is necessary to receive money, you are often compelled to stay several days, when you intended to stay only a few hours; and so I really do not know when I shall be able to reach Riazan; by all probability, not very soon.'"

She remembers this letter almost word for word. What does it mean? Yes, he has entirely deprived her of the possibility of clinging to him, so as to preserve her relations to him. What is left for her to do? And her former words, "I must go to him," change into the words, "No, I must not see him," and this him, does not refer to the one of whom she was just thinking. These words change all her former words, and she thinks one hour; she thinks two, "I must not see him"; and how and when did they succeed in changing? but they have already changed into the words: "Shall I really ever want to see him again? No!" and when she falls asleep these words have changed into other words, "Shall I really ever see him?" and where is the answer? Where is he gone? And these again change, yes, they grew into the words, "Shall I never see him again?" And when she falls asleep at daybreak she falls asleep with these same words, "Shall I really never see him again?"

And when she wakes late in the morning already, instead of all other words, only five words are wrestling with two, "I shall not see him; I shall see him"[4]; and thus passes the whole morning. Everything is forgotten; everything is forgotten in this struggle, and the more powerful word no tries to conquer the little word yes; it tackles it; it clutches it. "I shall not see him"; and the little word glances aside and vanishes, glances aside and vanishes. "Yes, I shall see him." Everything is forgotten; everything is forgotten in the effort of the stronger word no to conquer the smaller one yes. Yes, and it does conquer, and it calls to its aid other little words, so that the former little word may have no refuge. "No, I shall not see him; no, I shall not see him!" Yes, now the stronger words hold firmly in their grasp the little word yes, which has no refuge from them; they press it between them: "No, I shall not see—no, I shall see him—no, I shall not see him!" But what is she doing now? Her bonnet was already on her head; instinctively she looked at the mirror to see if her hair is in order; yes, in the mirror she saw that her bonnet is on straight, and from these words, which have grown together so firmly, one remained, and to this a new one was added, "No return! no return!"

"Masha, don't expect me back to dinner! I shall not dine at home to-day."

"Aleksandr Matvéitch has not returned yet from the hospital," calmly replied Stepan; and how could he help speaking calmly with a phlegmatic lady? In her appearance there is nothing out of the ordinary; not very long ago she used to be here.

"I did not think he was; it's all right; I will wait; you need not tell him that I am here."

She unfolds some newspaper or other—yes, she can read; she sees that she can read; yes, as long as there is "no return"; as long as the decision is made, she feels herself quite calm. Of course she can read little; she scarcely read at all; she looked at the room; she began to put it in order, as though she were its khzoyáïka. Of course she did not arrange it much, scarcely at all: but how calm she feels, and she can read, and she can occupy herself with something. She noticed that the ashes had not been emptied from the ash-tray, and that the table-cloth needed adjustment, and that the chair was out of its place. She is sitting and thinking: "There is no return—no choice! A new life is beginning." She thinks an hour, two hours: "A new life is beginning. How surprised he will be! how happy he will be! A new life is beginning! how happy we are!"

A tinkling bell! she flushed a little, and smiled; steps—the door opens!

"Viéra Pavlovna!"

"My love [drūg moï], I could not live without thee. How long thou didst love me, and said not a word. How noble thou art! How noble he is, Sasha!"

"Tell me, Viérotchka, how it happened."

"I told him that I could not live without thee: on the very next evening he had already gone; I wanted to follow him; I talked all day yesterday about following him, but now thou seest that I have been here a long time."

"But how thin thou hast grown these past two weeks, Viérotchka! How pale thy hands are!"

He kisses her hands.

"Yes, my dear, this has been a hard struggle. Now I can appreciate how much you suffered, so as not to disturb my peace. How could you be so self-possessed as to hide it from me? How thou must have suffered!"

"No, Viérotchka; it was not an easy task."

He still kisses her hands, looking at them, and suddenly she burst into laughter.

"Akh! how inattentive I am to you. You are tired, Sasha; you must be hungry."

She frees herself from him, and runs away.

"Where are you going, Viérotchka?"

But she answers never a word, but goes to the kitchen, and hurriedly, gayly, says to Stepan: "Hurry up; let us have dinner for two! hurry up—where are the plates and things! Let me have them; I will set the table myself, and you bring the victuals. Aleksandr is so tired from his hospital that we must give him something to eat."

She comes back with the plates, and the knives, forks, and spoons rattle on the plates.

Stepan puts the soup on the table. At dinner she relates how it all happened. Stepan comes in with the last dish.

"Stepan, seems to me that we shall not leave you any dinner."

"Yes, Viéra Pavlovna; I shall have to buy something for myself in the little grocery store."

"That's all right, Stepan; henceforth you must know that you must prepare for two besides yourself."

And after she remembers all this, Viéra Pavlovna smiles and "now how prosaic our story is!"

Tea was not over when we heard a terrible ringing of the bell, and in came a couple of students, and in their excitement they did not even notice her.

"Aleksandr Matvéitch, there is an interesting subject," say they, all out of breath; "it was brought just now—a very rare complication; it's very interesting, Aleksandr Matvéitch, and immediate help is wanted. Every moment is precious; we even took an izvoshchik to come here."

"Make haste, my dear," she says; and here for the first time the students notice her. They bow to her, and at that very moment they hurry away their professor with them. His preparations did not take very long; he was still in his army coat, and she hurried him away. "Will you come right to me afterwards?" she asked, as she said good by.


Long she waits for him through the evening; here it is ten o'clock, and he hasn't come yet; now it is eleven; now there is no use waiting; still what can be the reason? She, of course, did not worry at all. Nothing could have happened to him; but it shows how long he was detained by the interesting subject, and is the poor interesting subject alive now, and does Sasha succeed in saving him? Yes, Sasha was detained very long. He came in the next morning at ten o'clock. He stayed till four at the hospital.

"It was a very hard and interesting case, Viérotchka."

"Did you save him?"


"How did you get up so early?"

"I didn't go to bed at all."

"You didn't go to bed? So as not to be late coming to see me? You didn't sleep all night? You impious fellow! Please go right home and sleep clear till dinner-time without fail; so that I shall find you sleeping when I come."

In two minutes he was already sent off.

Those were our two first interviews. But this second dinner goes with proper dignity. They tell each other their stories sensibly; they laugh, they think, and they pity each other. To each of them it seems that the other has suffered the more. In a week and a half a little datcha on the Kamennoï Ostrof is rented, and they move there.


Viéra Pavlovna does not very often recollect the past days of their present love. Yes, in the present there is so much life that there is little recollection; but whenever she recalls the past,—as sometimes, at first, of course, only sometimes, but afterwards more frequently,—at every recollection she feels a dissatisfaction, at first, weak and like a flash, indefinite. At whom? at what? and then it appears to her. At whom? She is dissatisfied with herself. For what? And now she sees from what part of her character arises her dissatisfaction. Yes; she is very proud. But is it only in her past that she is dissatisfied with herself? At first, yes; but then she begins to observe that the dissatisfaction with herself is connected with the present also. And what a strange peculiarity could be noticed in this feeling, after it became clear to her, as though she, Viéra Pavlovna Kirsánova, did not feel a personal dissatisfaction, but as though the dissatisfaction of thousands and millions were not reflected in her; and as though she were not dissatisfied with herself personally, but as though these thousands and millions were dissatisfied with her. But who are these thousands and millions? Why are they dissatisfied with themselves? If I had lived alone by myself as before, she thought to herself, that then, by all probability, this feeling would not have been made manifest so quickly to her. But now she is constantly with her husband. They both think together all the time, and the thought about him interferes with every other thought. This assisted greatly in the evolution of this feeling. He could not directly explain this puzzle to her; as long as this feeling was obscure in her own mind, it was still darker for him. For him it was hard to think how it is possible to feel dissatisfaction which should not interfere with your personal satisfaction, which does not in the least bear upon personality. This was strange to him, a hundred-fold darker than for her; but still it helped her a great deal that she was constantly thinking about her husband and constantly thinking with him. She began to notice that whenever this dissatisfaction came to her, it was always accompanied by comparisons. It consisted in the fact that she compares herself with her husband, and here flashed before her a real word expressing her thought, "a difference, an insulting difference." Now she understands.


"Sasha, how lovely this N. N. is (Viéra Pavlovna named the officer with whom she wanted to become acquainted with Tambulik and Bosio in her dream); he brought me a new poem, which is not soon going to be published," said Viéra Pavlovna at dinner. "Shall we set ourselves to reading it right after dinner? Yes? I have been waiting for you, and I am going to read it all with you, Sasha. And I have been longing to read it."

"What poem is it?"

"Now you shall hear. Let us see if he succeeded in this thing. N. N. says that he—I mean the author—is pretty well satisfied with it."

And so they settle themselves comfortably in her room, and she begins to read:—

"Oi! full, full the little basket is
With brocades and calicoes!
Sweetheart, pity! what a task it is
For the young lad as he goes!"[5]

"Now I see," said Kirsánof, after listening to a score or so of stanzas; "this is a new style with him; but it is evidently his. Nekrásof's?[6] Yes? I am very grateful to you for waiting for me."

"You ought to be," replied Viéra Pavlovna. Twice they read the little poem over, which, owing to their acquaintance with one of the author's acquaintances, came into their hands three years before it was published.

"Do you know what verses affected me the most?" asked Viéra Pavlovna, after she had read several times with her husband certain parts of the poem. "These verses are not from the main part of the poem, but oh! my thoughts are greatly drawn to them. When Katya was waiting for the return of her bridegroom, she was very melancholy:—

'Had I only time for worrying
I should die, thou heartless one!
Harvest time, and time is hurrying;
Scores of things must now be done!

'Though it often to the maiden comes
That she suffers and must sigh,
Still the hay-cart heavy laden comes,
Still the sickle burns the rye.

'She must thresh with all her might alas!—
Thresh the grain the morning through;
Spread the flax at gloomy night, alas!
On the meadows wet with dew.'[7]

These verses are not the principal ones in that episode: they are only a preface to the fact how this lovely Katya is dreaming about her life with Vanja; but my thoughts are greatly drawn to them."

"Yes, that is a perfect picture,—one of the very best in the poem. But they do not hold the best place in it, so they must have corresponded very closely to the thoughts which occupied you. What are these thoughts?"

"They are these, Sasha. You and I have often said that the organization of woman is almost higher than that of man, and that therefore woman may force man to take second rank in intellectual life, when the rough force which predominates at the present time shall pass. We both have come to this conclusion by observation of life; you meet more women in life than men who are intellectual by nature. So it seems to us both. You confirmed this by various facts drawn from anatomy and physiology."

"What offensive things you are speaking about man, and you say a great deal more than I do about it, Viérotchka. It is insulting to me! It is good that the time which you predict is very far off, else I should entirely change my opinion, so as not to go into the second rank. However, Viérotchka, this is only a probability; science has not collected enough data to settle this question positively."

"Of course, my dear. We said that until this time the facts of history point to a different conclusion, though it is very probable, as we observe private life and the arrangement of the organism, woman has until lately played such a trifling part in intellectual life, because the predominating force deprived her of the means of culture and the motives for reaching development. This explanation is sufficient. But here is another similar case. If woman is measured by her physical strength, her organism is much weaker; but her organism is stronger. Isn't that so?"

"This is much less dubious than the question as to the natural endowment of intellectual strength. Yes, a woman's organism offers a much stronger resistance to material forces of destruction,—climate, weather, and unhealthy food. Medicine and physiology have occupied themselves very little with the detailed investigation of this; but statistics have given an indisputable general answer that the average length of woman's life is more than man's. From this it can be seen that woman's organism is stronger."

"So much the more strikingly can it be seen that the style of woman's life is generally far less healthful than man's!"

"There is another important consideration by which the clearness of the result is made more manifest, and that is offered by physiology. Full maturity is reached rather sooner by woman than by man. Let us suppose that a woman's growth ends at twenty and a man's at twenty-five,—approximately in our climate and in our race. Let us suppose also, approximately, that the same proportion of women reach the age of seventy as of men who reach the age of sixty-five. If we consider the difference in the periods of growth, the preponderance of strength in woman's organism will appear much more strikingly even than statistics grant, which, do not take into consideration the difference in the periods of maturity. Seventy years means three and a half times twenty years. Sixty-five should be divided by twenty-five: how much will it be? Yes, it will go two and a half times, with a remainder—that is, two and three-fifths. Therefore a woman lives three and a half periods of her full development as easily as a man lives only two and a half periods of his. And by this proportion is measured the strength of her organism."

"Indeed, there is a greater difference than I had believed."

"Yes, but I mentioned this only for example; I took round numbers, and depended on my memory. However, the conclusion is exactly as I said. Statistics show that woman's organism is stronger. You got your conclusions only from the tables of life averages. But if the physiological facts are added to the statistical, the difference will be still greater."

"That is so, Sasha; just consider what I was thinking, and now it comes over me more strongly still. I was thinking, if a woman's organism resists more powerfully the destructive impressions of matter, then it is altogether likely that woman should have greater strength in bearing mental shocks. But in reality we see that she is different."

"Yes, this is likely. Of course, so far this is only a supposition; this has not been studied; no special facts have been gathered. But really, your conclusion results so closely from the fact which is already undisputed that it is hard to distrust it. The strength of the organism is too closely connected with the strength of the nerves. In all likelihood woman's nerves are more elastic, have a stronger structure; and if that is so, then they must more easily and firmly endure shocks and painful feelings. But in reality we see many examples of the contrary. A woman very often suffers torments over what a man bears easily. The analysis of the cause by which we see in real life such phenomena, contradicting what we ought to expect from the structure itself of her organism, has not yet been made with sufficient accuracy. But one of these causes is evident; it pervades all historical phenomena, and all the sides of our actual existence. This is a strength of prejudice, a bad habit, a false expectation, a false fear. If a man thinks, 'I can't,' then he really can't. It is constantly drummed into women's ears, 'You are weak,' and so they feel that they are weak, and they really become weak. We have seen examples where people, absolutely healthy, have drooped till they really died, from the one idea that they were bound to grow weak and die. But there are examples which affect whole masses, nations, humanity in general. One of the most remarkable of these is the history of war. In the Middle Ages, the infantry imagined that it could not stand against cavalry—and really it could not. Whole armies of infantry were driven about, like flocks of sheep, by a few hundred men on horseback. Till that time, when the continent first beheld the English infantry, consisting of proud, independent gentry, without fear, who were not accustomed to yield to any one without a fight, such an idea was not known. As soon as these people, who had no tradition that it was necessary to yield to cavalry, entered France, the cavalry, which even excelled them in numbers, was beaten by them at every engagement. You remember the remarkable victories gained by the small army of English infantry over the French cavalry at Cressy, at Poictiers, and at Agincourt. The very same history was repeated when the Swedish infantry took it into their heads that they had no reason to look upon themselves as weaker than the feudal cavalry. The Austrian, and afterwards the Burgundian, cavalry, superior in numbers, began to suffer defeats at every engagement; then all the other cavalry tried to battle with them, and all of them were defeated. Then all said, 'Yes, the infantry seems to be stronger than cavalry.' Of course it was stronger. But whole centuries have passed considering that the infantry was weak compared with cavalry, simply because they looked upon themselves as weak."

"Yes, Sasha, this is true. We are weak because we regard ourselves as weak; but it seems to me that there is still another cause. I want to speak about myself and you. Tell me, my dear, did I change much in those two weeks that you did not see me? You were too much worried then. It may have seemed to you more than it really was, or, in fact, the change was great. How does it seem to you now?"

"Yes, you really were very thin and pale then."

"Now, you see, my dear, I have learned that this is the very thing that touches my pride. You see, you love me very dearly. Why didn't the struggle show itself in you in such evident signs as it did in me? For nobody saw you become pale or thin in those months when you were separated from me. How did you bear it so easily?"

"This is why the verses interested you so much, where Katya overcomes her melancholy by work. You want to know whether I have experienced the truth of this remark, in regard to myself. Yes: it is absolutely true. I kept up the struggle easily, because I had no time to spend over it. Always, when I paid attention to it, I suffered keenly; but every-day necessities compelled me, for the large part of the time, to forget about it. I had to attend to my patients; to get ready for my lectures. At that time, not by my own will either, I freed myself from my thoughts. Those days when I had a good many leisure hours I felt that my strength was failing me. It seems to me that if I had remained a week a prey to my thoughts, I should have lost my mind."

"It is so, my dear; and I at last came to understand that in this lay the whole secret of the difference between me and you. You must have such activity that you can postpone it, that you cannot refuse it; then a person is incomparably firmer."

"But you had a great deal of activity then, and the same thing is true now."

"Akh, Sasha, are they things of such imperative importance? I devote myself to them as much as I please, and when I please. Whenever it seems good to me, I can devote less time to them, or put them off entirely. At a time when my mind is disturbed, it takes a special effort of the will, and only in that way can I compel myself to attend to them. There is no support in the necessity of them. For example, I busy myself with my household duties,[8] and I spend a great deal of time in them; but nine-tenths of this time I spend in this way only because I want to. With a good servant, shouldn't I spend just as much time, even though there was less necessity to work? And who feels the necessity of wasting double time for the sake of the slight improvement over what he, with a less expenditure of time which might be my own? The only necessity upon me is my own will. When the mind is at ease, you give yourself up to these things; but when your mind is disturbed, you neglect them, because you can manage without them. You are apt to give up the less important for more important things. As soon as your feelings get greatly stirred up, they drive away the thoughts about other things. I give lessons, which are things of somewhat more importance; I cannot give them up at the dictate of my will. But this is not the point. I give them closer attention at one time than at another; if during the lesson my mind wanders somewhat, the lesson may go only a little worse than before, because teaching is very easy, and does not absorb the mind. And, after all, do I really make my living by my lessons? does my position depend on them? do they afford me the principal means for living as I do? No; these means were afforded me by Dmitri's work, now by yours. Giving lessons flatters my feeling of independence; and really they are not unprofitable. Still, there is no vital necessity upon me for keeping them up. At that time I tried to drive away my tormenting thoughts by giving myself up to the shop more than usual; but again I did it more from the impulse of my will. You see, I understood that my presence at the shop was needed only for an hour or an hour and a half; that if I stayed there longer, I adopt an artificial occupation, that may be useful, but is not indispensable for the business. And then, again, this very thing, can it serve as a support for such ordinary mortals as we? Rakhmétof belongs to a different species. They take hold of common affairs in such a way that the necessity of it fills their existence; for them it even forms a substitute for personal existence. But for us, Sasha, this is unattainable. We are not eagles, like him; we can live only in our personal lives. Is the shop my personal life? This affair is not my affair, but others'. I occupy myself with it, not for my own sake, but for theirs. Let us admit that it is for my own satisfaction; but can those such as we—not eagles—bother themselves about others when they are themselves in trouble? Can they give themselves up to their convictions when they are tormented by their feelings? No; a personal interest, an unavoidable necessity on which your life depends, is required; a necessity which for my own self, for my style of life, my means of life, for my whole situation in life, for my entire fate, would be more powerful than all my drawings towards passion. Only such a stimulus can serve as a support in battle with passion; only such a thing cannot be conquered by passion, but by itself overwhelms passions; only such a thing gives strength and rest. I want such a stimulus."

"You are right, my dear, you are right," said Kirsánof, kissing his wife, whose eyes were flashing with enthusiasm. "You are right; and I never thought of it before, though it is so evident; I had not noticed it. Yes, Viérotchka, no one else can think for another. Whoever wants to enjoy life must think for himself, look out for himself; no one else is going to do it for him. But what necessity do you feel upon you now? Are you going to fall in love with some one else, Viérotchka?"

Viéra Pavlovna laughed heartily, and for some time neither of them could say a word from laughing.

"Yes, now we both can appreciate that," she said finally. "Now I can be perfectly sure, and so can you, that nothing of the sort can possibly happen. But seriously, do you know how it seems to me, my dear? If my love for Dmitri was not the love of a fully developed woman, neither did he love me in the sense of the word as we understand it. His feeling for me was a combination of a very warm attachment to me as a friend, with occasional outbursts of passion towards me as a woman. He felt a personal friendship for me, for me particularly; but these outbursts were only the attraction towards woman; they had no personal relation to me. No, that was not love. Was he much concerned with thoughts about me? No; they did not interest him. No, on his side, as well as on mine, there was no real love."

"You are unjust to him, Viérotchka."

"No, Sasha; this is so. In talk between you and me there is no use in flattering him. Both of us know how highly we prize him. We also know that, no matter how he protested that it was easy for him, in reality it was not easy. You may also declare that it was an easy matter to struggle with your passion. All this is well, and it is not put on; but such keen assurances must not be taken in the literal sense of the word."


"Sasha, let us finish talking about what we left yesterday. It is necessary; for I have made up my mind to go with you: and you must know why," said Viéra Pavlovna, the next morning.

"With me? You are going with me?"

"Certainly. You asked me, Sasha, why I wanted to do something on which my life could depend, in real earnest, which I could hold as dear as you hold your profession; which would be just as imperative upon me, which would demand all my attention, just as yours does you! My dear, I must have such a thing, for I am proud. It has been a burden and a shame upon me for a long time, when I remembered that my struggle with my feeling reflected itself upon me so plainly, that it was so unendurable for me. You know that I do not mean the difficulty of it—for your struggle was just as hard for you; that depends on the strength of the feeling, and I must not be sorry now that it was very hard, for that would be equivalent to saying that I was sorry that the feeling was strong. No! but why didn't I have as firm a support against its strength as you had? I want to have such a support. But this only brought me to think; but the real necessity is, of course, at the present time; and it is this: I want to be your equal in all things; that is the main thing. I have found something. After we parted yesterday, I thought for a long time about it; I thought about it all yesterday morning, while you were away; and yesterday I wanted to consult you like a good fellow, but you disappointed my hope by your resistance. Now it is too late for your advice; I have already made up my mind. Yes, Sasha, you will have a great deal of trouble on account of me. My dear, how happy I shall be if I find I have the ability for it."

Yes; now Viéra Pavlovna has found a sphere of activity in which she could not have succeeded before. Her Aleksandr's hand was always in hers, and so it was easy for her to go ahead. Lopukhóf placed no restriction upon her, nor did she upon him; and that was all. No, of course there was more; far more. She was sure, always sure, that in whatever case necessity compelled her to take his hand, his hand and his life were at her service. And just as his life was always at her service, so he would not grudge stretching out his hand to help her; that is, in important circumstances; in critical moments his hand was as ready and as reliable as Kirsánof's, and he proved it very satisfactorily by his marriage, when he sacrificed for her sake, all his expectations for a scientific career, which at that time was so attractive to him; and he was not afraid even to run the risk of starvation. Yes; when there was an important matter, his hand was ready. But, as a general thing, his hand held aloof from her. Viéra Pavlovna was starting her sewing union; if his aid had been needed for anything, he would have given it ungrudgingly. But why was it that he did almost nothing at all? He did not interfere; he approved; he was glad, and that was all. She lived her life; he lived his. But now it is different. Kirsánof did not even wait to be asked to take part in anything that she was doing. He was as much interested as she was in all her every-day life, just as she was in his. It was quite a different relation from that with her first husband, and so she felt drawn to new activity, and therefore thoughts arose in her, and began to assume practical shape, which before were known to her only theoretically, and did not, in reality, touch her inner life; what it is impossible to do, you do not think of seriously.

Here follow the thoughts which now stirred in Viéra Pavlovna's mind, and served as motives to activity.


"Almost all the channels of civilized life are closed to us by law."[9] A good many are closed to us practically—almost all paths of public activity—even those which are not closed to us by legal hindrances. Out of all the spheres of life we are compelled to content ourselves with only one—the sphere of domestic life—to be members of a family; and that is all. Besides this, what occupations are open for us? Scarcely more than to become governesses; and besides, perhaps to give private lessons which men do not care to deprive us of. There is scarcely room enough for us in this narrow path; we interfere with each other, because too many of us crowd into it; it scarcely affords us any independence, because there are too many of us who offer our services; not one is needed, for the very reason that we are too many. Who has any regard for a governess? If you merely hint that you want a governess, they flock to you by the tens and hundreds, each trying to get the place away from the others.

"No; as long as women do not strive to branch out in different ways, women cannot expect to have any independence in life. Of course it is hard to break out a new path. But my position in this respect is very advantageous, and I should be ashamed if I did not avail myself of it. We are not ready for serious occupations. I do not know how far a leader may be needed to prepare for this change. But I know that to whatever degree I may need his help every day, he is here at my side. And this will be no burden to him; it will be as pleasant to him as to me.

"Custom has shut us out of these paths of independent activity which are not closed to us by law. But out of all these paths from which we are shut by custom, I can select the one that I want, if I can only make up my mind to meet the first resistance of custom. One of them is far more convenient to me than the others. My husband is a doctor. He devotes all his leisure time to me. With such a husband, it is an easy matter for me to try to be a doctor.

"It would be a very striking thing if there should spring up at last a class of women doctors. They would be very useful for all women. It is much easier for a woman to talk with a woman than with a man. How much suffering, death, and misfortune would be removed. I must try it."[10]


Viéra Pavlovna finished her conversation with her husband by putting on her bonnet, and going with him to the hospital to put her nerves to the test, to find if she could bear the sight of blood, or be able to study anatomy. With Kirsánof's position in the hospital, of course there could be no obstacle to her experiment.

I, without the least sense of shame, have seriously compromised Viéra Pavlovna on the side of sentiment. For example, I have not concealed the fact that she dined every day, and for the most part with good appetite, and, moreover, twice a day drank tea. But I have reached such an occurrence that, in spite of all the shameless degradation of my conceptions, I am overtaken by fear; and I wonder, would it not be better to hide this thing? What will be thought of a woman who gave herself up to medicine? What coarse nerves she must have! What an unfeeling heart! She is not a woman, but a butcher. But, considering that I do not represent the characters of my story as ideals of perfection, I become calmer. Let folks judge as they please about the heartlessness of Viéra Pavlovna's nature. What business is it of mine? If she is coarse, let her be coarse.

And so I say in cold blood that she found a great difference between idle observation of things and active work in them for her own benefit and the benefit of others.

I remember that when I was a boy, twelve years old, I who had never seen fire was frightened by being wakened by the loud noise of a fire alarm. The whole sky became red and fiery; over all the city, which was a large provincial town, flew great burning cinders. Over all the city there was a great tumult, running to and fro, shrieks. I breathed as though I had been in a fever. Fortunately I succeeded in getting to the fire, availing myself of the chance that all the domestics were in a great state of excitement. The fire was along the shore; that is, simply the bank, because what kind of a shore could there be? The bank was filled with wood and with wooden posts. Such boys as I were taking hold and carrying off things from the burning houses. I joined them. What became of my fear? I worked very energetically till we were told, "That'll do; the danger is over"; and from that time I understood that if you have any fear of a great fire, you must run to it and work, and you will not fear at all.

Whoever works has no time to fear, or to feel disgust or squeamishness. And so Viéra Pavlovna gave herself up to medicine; and she was one of the first women whom I knew to enter this new field of activity. After this she really began to feel herself a different person. Her thought was, "In a few years I shall actually stand on my feet." This is a great thought. There can be no full happiness without full independence. Poor women, how few among you have this happiness!


And thus a year passes; and another year will pass, and still another since her marriage to Kirsánof; and thus all of Viéra Pavlovna's days will pass as they pass now, a year after the wedding, as they have passed since the wedding: and a good many years will pass; and they will all pass in this way unless something extraordinary happens. Who knows what the future will bring forth? But till the time that I am writing these lines nothing extraordinary has happened; and Viéra Pavlovna's days are passing just as they passed a year or two years after her marriage to Kersáuof.

After this terrible compromising circumstance that Viéra Pavlovna made up her mind to study medicine, and found herself capable of doing so, I can speak without fear of everything else; all that remains cannot injure her so much in the estimation of the public. And I must say that now, on Syergievskaïa Street as before on Vasilyevsky Island, Viéra Pavlovna's meals were constituted as follows: tea in the morning, dinner, and tea in the evening. Yes; she has preserved the unpoetical peculiarities of dining every day, and taking tea twice a day, and finds it agreeable; and, generally speaking, she preserves all her unpoetical and ungraceful and far from high-toned peculiarities.

And many other details remain in this new time of contentment just as they were in the former time of contentment; they kept the rule for the division of the rooms into neutral and private; the rule also remained in force that they should not enter each other's private rooms without permission; and another, that a question should not be repeated if the first time it was met by the words, "Do not ask me." It was agreed between them, that such an answer best allows no thinking about the question propounded, and that thus it is more speedily forgotten; this agreement was made because they were sure that if it deserved an answer, there would be need of repeating; everything would be explained without the need of asking, and what one keeps silent is surely nothing interesting. All this was left during this new peaceful time, as it used to be in the old peaceful time, only at this peaceful time everything has changed to a certain degree, or rather it has not changed, but yet it is not as it used to be in the former time; and their life is different.

For example, there is a strict distinction made between the neutral and the private rooms, but the permission for admittance into the private rooms has been decided for good and all once at a certain hour in the day. This was arranged because two out of three of their meals were taken each day in the private rooms. A custom has been made of drinking morning tea in her room, and evening tea in his room. The evening tea is conducted without any ceremony; the old servant, Stepan, brings into Aleksandr's room the samovar and the tea service, and that is all. But at morning tea they arrange it differently. Stepan puts the samovar and the tea service on the table in that neutral room, which is nearest Viéra Pavlovna's room, and tells Aleksandr Matvéitch that the samovar is ready; that is, he tells Aleksandr Matvéitch in his room. But supposing he does not find him? Then Stepan takes no trouble about finding him; they must know for themselves that it is tea-time. And, in accordance with this custom they made a rule, that in the morning Viéra Pavlovna expects her husband without asking permission.

After she wakes up she lies comfortably in her warm little bed; she is too lazy to rise. She thinks and she does not think, and she half dreams and she does not dream at all; to think means for her to plan something about the day or the days to come, something about the household,[11] about the shop, about her acquaintances, about her plans for spending the day; this, of course, is not dreaming; but besides all this, there are two other objects, and three years after their marriage still a third appears, which she holds in her arms; that is Mítya; the name Mítya is of course in honor of their friend Dmitri; but the two other objects—one was a sweet thought about her occupation, which is going to give her full independence of life, and the second thought is Sasha! This thought it is impossible to call a special thought, because it forms the basis of all that she thinks, because he takes part in all her life, and this thought which is not a special thought but a constant thought remains alone in her heart. Now you yourselves see that often the moments pass without Viéra Pavlovna having time to take a bath. (This was very conveniently arranged; it cost them a great deal of trouble; it was necessary to introduce a faucet into her room, with water from the kitchen boiler, and to take a great deal of wood for this luxury; but, however, they could afford it, and so they allowed it.) Yes, very often Viéra Pavlovna has time to take a bath and to lie down again comfortably until Sasha should come and take upon himself the duty of attending to the morning tea.

Yes, it could not be otherwise; Sasha is perfectly right when he declared that this must be arranged so because to drink morning tea, that is, tea mostly made of cream warmed with a very small dose of very strong tea, and to drink it in her bed, is wonderfully agreeable. Sasha goes for the tea service: yes, this happens oftener than his coming in directly with the tea service, and he makes himself busy, and she still takes her ease, and after she drinks the tea she still reclines, not in her little bed, but on her little sofa. She reclines till ten or eleven o'clock, till Sasha has to leave for the hospital or the clinic or to his medical lecture, and with his last cup Sasha takes a cigar, and either one of them reminds the other, "Now let us go to work"; or, "That's enough; now let us go to work." What work? Whatever happens—lessons or reviews, in Viéra Pavlovna's course of study. Sasha is her instructor in the study of medicine, but his aid is still more essential for the preparation of those subjects in the gymnasium course in which it was necessary for her to pass the examination, the study of which would be too tedious by herself; the most terrible thing of all was mathematics; yes, the Latin was if anything more tedious; but it can't be helped, she must endure the tediousness of it; not very long, however. In the examination which serves in place of the gymnasium certificate[12] there is very little required in the medical school; for instance, I cannot guarantee that Viéra Pavlovna will ever reach such a perfection in the Latin language as to translate two lines of Cornelius Nepos, but she is already able to explain such phrases as she finds in medical books, because this knowledge is indispensable, though it is not very deep. No—but we have said enough about this. I see already that I am irreconcilably compromising Viéra Pavlovna; probably, the sapi——.



"A blue stocking! an extreme case of blue stocking! I can't endure a blue stocking. A blue stocking is dull and tedious!" cries the sapient reader, losing his temper, and not without reason.

After all, what warm friends the sapient reader and I have become! He insulted me once; twice I took him by the throat and put him out, and yet we cannot help exchanging our inmost thoughts; it comes from a secret drawing of heart to heart. What can you do about it?

"O sapient reader!" I say to him, "you are right; the blue stocking is really dull and tedious, and it is beyond endurance to put up with him. You have fathomed it! But you have not guessed who the blue stocking is! Now you shall soon see as plain as in a mirror. The blue stocking, with an unreasonable affectation, talks with great self-satisfaction about literary and scientific matters of which he does not know beans, and speaks not because he is interested, but because he wants to show off wits (which nature never endowed him with), lofty aspirations (of which he has as much as the chair on which he is sitting), and education (of which he has as much as a parrot). Do you see whose rough physiognomy or chastened figure is in the mirror? 'Tis your own, my friend! Yes, no matter how long a beard you may grow, or how closely shaven you may be, still you are, undoubtedly, indisputably, the original blue stocking, and that was the reason I twice took you by the throat and put you out—simply for the reason that I cannot bear blue stockings, who among our brethren, the men, are ten times as numerous as among women.

"And those with a live purpose who occupy themselves with anything, no matter what, no matter how they may be dressed, whether they wear a woman's dress or a man's, these are simply people who attend to their own affairs, and that's all there is of it."


The talk about Blue Stockings, so useful for the sapient reader, who was shown to be one, took me away from my description of Viéra Pavlovna's manner of spending her days. Now that when—when—whenever you please; from the time that she moved from Syergievskaïa Street till this moment. But however, what is the use of spinning out this description? To give a general idea, that change which began to take place in the way Viéra Pavlovna spent her evenings, after her renewal of Kirsánof's acquaintance while she still lived with Vasilyevsky Ostrof, is entirely developed now that the Kirsánofs, from the centre of a rather extensive number of young families, living just as harmoniously and happily as they themselves do, and agreeing with them also in their sentiments, and that music and singing, the opera and poetry, and all sorts of amusements and dances, fill all the free evenings of this circle of families; because every evening there is some gathering at one house or another, or some other arrangement for spending the evening for people of various tastes. As a general thing, at these gatherings, or whenever any other way of spending the time is devised, at least half the circle is present, and the Kirsánofs, as well as their friends, spend half their evenings in this social way. But there is no need of going into details here; it is understood, of course. But there is one thing about which, unfortunately, it is necessary to be very explicit for the sake of a very large number who would not otherwise understand. All of us, even if we have not ourselves experienced such a thing, but have only read about it, know how different for a boy or girl is an evening which is simply a party and an evening on which his dear or her dear comes to see her or him; between an opera which we merely see and an opera which we see sitting next him or her with whom we are in love. There is a very great difference. This is well known; but what is experienced by very few is that the charm which love gives to everything is not necessarily, as is common according to the present state of things, a transitory phenomenon in a person's life; that this bright light of life does not necessarily illumine alone the epoch of searching and attaining, or, let us name the epoch thus: the epoch of attention, of wooing. No, this epoch, according to the present state of things, is only the morning star, gentle, beautiful, but the harbinger of a day which has incomparably more light and warmth than its harbinger; a light and warmth, and particularly a warmth, which grow more and more even beyond the noon, and still keeps growing. It used to be different. After the loving pair were united, quickly the poetry of love vanished. Now, among those whom we call the people of the present, it is quite different. They, after being united by love, become brightened and warmed more and more by the poetry of it the longer they live together, until late evening, when the care of growing children may partially divert their thoughts from themselves. Then care is more sweet than personal enjoyment; it becomes more absorbing, but till that time it keeps on growing. What people used to know as honeymoons, the people of the present generation keep for long years.

Why is this so? This is a secret; I may tell you though. It is a grand secret; it is good to avail oneself of it, and it does not take great skill to do so. All that is required is a pure heart and an honest soul, and the present idea of the rights of a human being with regard to the freedom of the one with whom you live. That is all. There is no further secret about it. Look upon your wife as you looked upon your bride; know that she has the right to tell you any moment, "I am dissatisfied with you; leave me." Look upon her so, and nine years after your marriage she will inspire in you the same poetical feeling as she did when she was a bride—no, more poetical, more ideal, in the proper sense of the word. Acknowledge her liberty as openly and formally and without any circumlocutions, just as you acknowledge the freedom of your friends, to feel or not to feel friendship towards you, and then in ten years, in twenty years, after your wedding, you will be as much in love with her as when you were a bridegroom. So live husbands and wives of the new dispensation. It is much to be desired. And for that very reason, that they are honest towards each other, they love each other ten years after marriage more warmly and poetically than on the wedding-day, and just for the very reason that during these ten years neither he nor she gave each other a dissembling kiss or said one hypocritical word. "A lie has never passed his lips," was said about somebody in a certain book; "There is no hypocrisy in his heart" was said about somebody, maybe in the very same book. They read the book and think, "What a wonderful moral height is ascribed to him!" When they wrote the book they thought, "Here we are describing a man who will fill every one with surprise." They know not who wrote the book, do not realize who is going to read it; but the people of the new dispensation do not receive among the number of their acquaintances anybody who does not possess such a soul, and they have no lack of such a soul, and they have no lack of such acquaintance, and they look upon their acquaintances as nothing more than people of the new dispensation, good, but ordinary people.

One thing calls for pity: at the present time, to every one man of the new dispensation there are a dozen or more antediluvians. This, however, is natural. In an antediluvian world you expect an antediluvian population.


"And so here we have been living together three years" (before, it used to be said a year, two years, and later it will be said four years, and so on), "and yet we are still like lovers, who see each other rarely and secretly. Where did people get the idea that love grows weak, when there is nothing to hinder people from belonging wholly to each other? These people did not know true love. They felt only an erotic selfishness, or an erotic fancy. Real love begins only when people begin to live together."

"Do you notice that in me?"

"I notice in you something that is much more interesting. In three years you will forget that you have studied medicine, and in three years you will forget to read, and from all your senses, which are needful for intellectual life, you will use only one,—that of sight; and sight, too, will forget to see anything else but me."

Such conversations do not last long, and are not frequent; but still, occasionally, they have such conversations.

"Yes, it grows stronger every year."

"In the nature of man does attachment grow weaker? does it fail to be developed by time? When does friendship become stronger and firmer? in a week, or a year, or twenty years after it began? It is only necessary that people should choose the right friends; that they should be suited to each other."

These conversations take place, but they are not frequent. They are brief, and not frequent. In fact, what reason have they to talk about this subject very often?

But this kind come oftener and last longer:—

"Sasha, how greatly your love supports me! Through it I am becoming independent; I am getting rid of all dependence upon anybody, even upon you. But what has my love brought to you?"

"For me? not less than for you! It is a constant, powerful, healthy stimulus of the nerves; it essentially develops the nervous system!" ("Coarse materialism!" declare the sapient reader and I together.) "And therefore the intellectual and moral strength grow in me from my love."

"Yes, Sasha, I hear from everybody—I myself am a bad witness in the case; my eyes are blinded—but everybody sees the same thing; your eyes are growing brighter, your views become clearer and keener."

"Viérotchka, why should I praise or not praise myself before you? We are one. But this must really be reflected in the eyes. My mind has become far stronger; when I make conclusions from observations, or a general examination of the facts, I finish now in an hour what used to take me several hours. And I can grasp with my mind many more facts than before, and the conclusions drawn from them are broader and fuller. Viérotchka, if I had the slightest germ of genius with this feeling, I should become a great genius. If I had been endowed by nature with the power of creating something new in science, with this feeling I should have the power of reorganizing science. But I was born merely to be a rough laborer, a swarthy little toiler, who works over little special questions. Such I was before I knew you; now you know I am different. More is expected of me; it is supposed that I am going to reorganize the most important branch of science, the whole teaching about the functions of the nervous system; and I feel that I am going to fulfil this expectation. At the age of twenty-four a man's views are wider and bolder and more original, than when he reaches the age of twenty-nine, and the same is true at the age of thirty and thirty-two, and so on; but then it was not true of me as it is now, and I feel that I am still progressing, while without you I should long ago have ceased to grow. Yes, and I did cease to grow the last two or three years before we began to live together. You brought back to me the freshness of my early youth, the power of going vastly further than where I should have stopped, if it had not been for you. And the energy of work, Viérotchka, does that signify little! An immense stimulus of strength is brought into labor when your whole life is so inclined. You know how the energy of intellectual labor is simulated by a glass of coffee; what they afford others for an hour after, which follows a reaction proportionate to these outward and transitory stimuli, this I find constantly; my nerves are constantly attuned to finer, more vital energies." ("Again coarse materialism!" we remark, etc.)

These conversations are more frequent and longer.

"He who has not experienced how love stimulates all the powers of a man knows not what real love is."

"Love consists in elevating others, and in being elevated."

"He who has no stimulus to activity without it finds such stimulus in love; and if a man has a stimulus, love gives him strength to use it to advantage."

"Only he loves who helps a lovely woman to rise to independence."

"Only he loves whose mind grows brighter and hands grow stronger from love."

And the following conversations are very frequent:—

"My dear, I am reading Boccaccio now" ("What immorality!" we remark with the sapient reader—"a woman reading Boccaccio; only he and I have a right to read it." But I, apart from him, also make this remark, "A woman will hear more veiled nastiness from the sapient reader in five minutes than she will find in all Boccaccio, and she will not hear from him a single fresh, bright, pure thought, while Boccaccio has hosts of them!"); "you are right, my dear; he has great talent. Some of his stories I think can be put in the same rank with the best of Shakespeare's dramas, from their depth and keenness of psychological analysis."

"But how do you like the comical stories, in which he is so unceremonious?"

"Some of them are amusing, but for the most part they are dull, like any other coarse farce."

"But that may be forgiven him, for he lived five hundred years before us; what seems to us too vile, too cheap, was not then considered out of the way."

"Just as all our habits and all our style will seem dirty to those who will live much less than five hundred years after us—but this is not interesting. I was speaking about those splendid stories of his in which he seriously pictures a passionate, lofty love. In those more than in others his talent lies; but this is what I wanted to say, Sasha: he draws very admirable and powerful pictures of love, but I should judge that he did not understand that tenderness of love which we see nowadays. Love was not felt at that time so keenly, though they say that was the period when love was most fully enjoyed. No, how could it be? They did not enjoy it half so deeply as we do. Their feelings were too superficial; their raptures were too feeble and too transitory."

"The strength of sensation is proportionate to the depth of the organism from which it takes its rise. If it is stirred exclusively by an outward object, by an outward motive, then it is transitory, and develops only one special side of its life. He who drinks only because he is given a glass understands only very little the taste of wine; it affords him very little pleasure. Enjoyment is vastly stronger when its root is in the imagination; but this is still very weak in comparison to when the root of the relations which are connected with the enjoyment finds its soil in the very depth of the moral life."

"I am very glad that I gave up before it was too late, that unprofitable way of living. It is true; it is important for the circulation of the blood not to be checked by any hindrances. But why after all should we care if the complexion of the skin does become more tender? It must be so. And how delighted we are at trifles! Trifles, but how you feel them in your feet! The stocking must be put on smooth, and should not be too light; the seam gets in the proper place, and the hurt vanishes.

"It does not pass so quick! I wore corsets only three years; I gave them up before we were married. But it is a fact they still confine the waist too much even without corsets. Isn't it likely that this deformity will also pass like the pain in the foot? It is likely: even now it is going out of fashion somewhat; it will pass. How glad I am! What a horrible cut of dresses. It is full time that the Russian women had better sense. The dress ought to be wide from the very shoulders, just as the Greeks used to be dressed! How the cut of our dresses ruins our figures! But this line is beginning to be normal in me, and how glad I am!"

"How lovely you are, Viérotchka!"

"How happy I am, Sasha!"

And sweet discourses.
Like rivers of bliss
Spreading and flowing;
His smile and his kiss![13]



And Viéra Pavlovna dreams a dream as though:—

A voice familiar to her—oh, how familiar to her!—from afar, then nearer, nearer.

Wie herrlich leuchtet
Mir die Natur
Wie glänzet die Sonne
Wie lacht die Flur.

And Viéra Pavlovna sees that it is so, absolutely so. . . . The cornfield shines with golden hues. The meadow is decked with flowers; hundreds, thousands of blossoms are waving on the copse encircling the meadow, and the forest which rises behind the copse grows green, and whispers and gleams with flowers; fragrance is wafted from the cornfield, from the meadow, from the copse, from the flowers that fill the forest. Little birds are flying from twig to twig, and thousands of voices come forth from the branches with the fragrance; and beyond the cornfield, the meadow, the copse, the forest, are other cornfields shining in gold, other meadows decked with flowers, other copses thick with blossoms, stretching away to the distant mountains covered with forests, gleaming in the sun, and on their summits, here and there, bright, silvery, golden, purple, translucent clouds, changing and casting on the horizon their brilliant blue shadows; the sun mounts on high; it rejoices, and nature rejoices; it pours forth light and warmth, fragrance and song, love and tenderness, into the heart; a song of joy and tenderness poureth forth; of love and goodness from the heart: "Oh, earth! oh, sun! oh, happiness! oh, joy! oh, love! oh, love so golden-beautiful, like morning clouds on yonder heights!"

"O Erd'! O Sonne!
O Glück! O Lust!
O Lieb! O Liebe,
So golden Schön
Wie Morgenwolken
Auf jenen Höhn!"

"Now dost thou know me? Dost thou know that I am beautiful? But thou dost not know yet; none of you yet know me in all my beauty. Look at the past, the present, and the future! Listen and look:—

Wohl perlet in Glase der purpurne Wein
Wohl glänzen die Augen der Gäste."

At the foot of the mountain, at the edge of the forest, amid the blooming copse, surrounded by lofty trees, a palace is built.

"Let us go there."

They go, they fly.

A magnificent festival. The wine is foaming in the glasses; the eyes of the guests gleam bright. A noise and a whispering undertone, laughter, and a secret, silent pressing of hands, and now and then a stealthy, inaudible kiss.—"A song! a song! without song joy is not complete!" And the poet rises. His face and mind are lighted by inspiration; nature whispers to her secrets; history reveals her significance; and the life of thousands' of years passes by in his song like a series of pictures.


The poet's words resound, and a picture appears.

The tents of nomads. Around the tents are grazing sheep, horses, camels. Afar lies the forest, olives, and fig-trees. Still further, further, at the edge of the horizon, towards the north-west, is a double chain of lofty mountains. The summits of the mountains are covered with snow; their slopes are covered with cedars. But the shepherds are straighter than the cedars; their wives are straighter than the palm-trees, and their days are free from care in this soft, idle existence. They have one concern,—love; all their lives pass, day by day, in caresses and songs of love.

"No," says the shining one; "this is not about me; I did not exist then. Yonder woman was a slave. Where there is no equality I am not found. That tsaritsa was Astarte. Lo, there she is!"

A beautiful woman. On her hands and feet are heavy golden bracelets; a heavy necklace of pearls and corals with golden links upon her neck. Her hair is moistened with myrrh. Her face betrays sensuality and servility. Her eyes are fall of voluptuousness and insipidity.

"Be obedient to thy lord; sweeten his idleness during the intervals of his forays; thou must love him because he bought thee; and if thou dost not love him, he will kill thee," says she to a woman who lies before her in the dust.

"Thou seest that it is not I," says the beauty.


Again resound the inspired words of the poet. A new picture arises:—

A city. At the distance, towards the north and east, are the mountains; towards the east and south, and further to the west, the sea. A wonderful city. The houses there are small, mean in their outward show. But how many wonderful temples are there! especially on the hill, where the steps, with gates of wondrous grandeur, lead. The whole height is filled with temples and public edifices, any one of which alone would now be sufficient to increase the glory and fame of the finest of our capitals. Thousands of statues decorate these temples and the city everywhere,—statues, one of which alone would be sufficient to make the museum where it was placed the first museum of the world. And how beautiful the people are, as they come crowding into the squares, into the streets! Each of these young youths, each of these young girls, could serve as a model for a statue. Indeed, it is an active, lively, joyous people, a people whose life is bright and beautiful. These houses, which are not luxurious to look upon, what riches of beauty and lofty power of enjoyment they show within! With everything of furnishing or household ware one might fall in love. And all these people are so beautiful; they have such solid understanding of beauty; they live for love; they serve the beautiful. Here comes an exile back to the city whose power he destroyed; he returns to rule, and all know it. Why is not one hand raised against him? On the chariot with him goes a woman of marvellous beauty, even in a city of beautiful women, pointing him to the people, begging the people to accept him, assuring the people that she supports him. And bowing low before her beauty, the people entrust their fate to Peisistratos, their favorite. Here is a court; the judges are stern old men,—the people may be drawn away, but they yield not to impulses. The Areopagos is famous for its merciless severity, by its implacable honesty. Gods and goddesses came before it to ask decision in their cases. And here a woman must appear before them, whom all consider guilty of horrible crimes; she must die, the destroyer of Athens; each of the judges has already decided in his soul; Aspasia appears before them, she who is doomed, and they all kneel down before her on the earth, and they say, "Thou shalt not be judged. Thou art too beautiful. Isn't this the kingdom of beauty? isn't this the kingdom of love?"

"No," says the radiant one; "at that time I was not in existence. They bowed to a woman, but they did not consider her their equal. They subjected themselves to her only as to a source of enjoyment; human dignity they did not acknowledge in her. Where respect to a woman is not the same as to man, I am not to be found. That tsaritsa was called Aphrodite. Here she is."

That tsaritsa has no adornments whatsoever. She is so beautiful that her admirers did not wish her to wear any dress. Her wonderful lines must not be hidden from delighted eyes.

What does she say to a woman who is almost as beautiful as she is, who throws frankincense upon her altars?

"Be a source of enjoyment for mankind. He is thy master. Thou livest not for thyself, but for him."

And in her eyes there is only the tenderness of physical enjoyment. Her bearing is haughty; in her face there is pride, but pride only in its physical beauty. And to what a life a woman was doomed during her reign! Man locked his wife in the gynecium, so that no one but him, her master, might enjoy her beauty, which belonged to him alone. She had no liberty. There were other women who called themselves free, but they sold the enjoyment of their beauty, they sold their liberty. No, they had no liberty. This tsaritsa was half a slave. Where there is no liberty there is no happiness, there I am not found.


Again resound the poet's words. A new picture appears:—

Before the castle, an arena. Around is an amphitheatre, with a shining host of spectators. On the arena are knights. Over the arena, on the balcony of the castle, sits a maiden. She has her scarf in her hands. Whosoever conquers shall get the scarf and the kiss of her hand. The knights fight to the death. Toggenburg is victorious. "Knight, I love thee like a sister. Ask no other sort of love. My heart does not beat faster when you come; it beats not faster when you depart. My fate is decided," says he, and departs for Palestine. And throughout all Christendom the glory of his doughty deeds is spread. But he cannot live without seeing the tsaritsa of his soul. He returns; he has not found forgetfulness in battles. "Do not rap at the door, O knight; she is now in the nunnery." He builds for himself a little hut, from the window of which, unseen by her, he can see her when she opens the window of her cell. And all his life is one longing for her to appear at the window, beautiful as the sun. He has no other life than to see the tsaritsa of his soul. There was no other life in life, for life was dead in him; and as life was ebbing away, he sat still at the window of his hut and thought one thought alone, "Shall I ever see her again?"

"Tbis is not all about me," says the radiant one. "He loved her as long as he did not touch her. If she had become his wife, she would have become his slave; she would have been obliged to tremble before him; he would have locked her up; he would have ceased to love her. He would have gone out hunting; he would have gone to the war; he would have caroused with his comrades; he would have seduced the daughters of his vassals; his wife would have been cast aside, locked up, despised. When once a man had enjoyed a woman, then he ceased to love her from that time forth. No, I was not there, then. That tsaritsa was called 'Chastity.' Here she is."

Modest, humble, tender, beautiful,—more beautiful than Astarte; more beautiful than Aphrodite herself, but melancholy, gloomy, sorrowful. Before her they bowed their knees; they bring her bouquets of roses. She says: "My soul is sad with deathly sorrow. A dagger is plunged into my heart. Be ye also sorrowful. Ye are unfortunate. The earth is a vale of sorrow."

"No, no! I was not in existence then," says the radiant one.


"No, those tsaritsas did not resemble me. They are all still reigning, but the kingdoms are crumbling. With the birth of each of them the reign of her predecessor began to crumble. I was born only when the kingdom of the last began to crumble. And since I was born, their kingdom began to crumble more rapidly; and soon they will vanish entirely; the successor of each could not take the place left by the others, since the others still existed. I shall take the place of all of them; they shall vanish; I shall remain the mistress of the world. But they had to reign before me; without their reign, mine could not come.

"People used to be like beasts. They ceased to be like beasts when man began to value the beauty of woman. But woman's physical strength is less than man's; and man then was rude. Everything then was decided by strength. Man took unto himself that wife, whose beauty he began to value. She became his property, his chattel. That was Astarte's reign.

"When he became further developed, he began to value her beauty more than before, and he began to worship her beauty. But her conscience was not yet developed. He valued in her only beauty. She could get her ideas from him alone. He said he only was a man, while she was not. She saw in herself only a beautiful, beautiful object, belonging to him; she did not look upon her as belonging to humanity. That was the reign of Aphrodite.

"But here the consciousness that she, too, was a human being, began to awake in her. What grief must have seized her at the very faintest appearance of this thought, that she was an independent human being! For she was not recognized as such. A man did not want her in any other relation than that of slave. And she said, 'I do not want to be your friend on this condition.' Then his passion compelled him to implore her and to humiliate himself, and he forgot that he did not look upon her as a human being, and he loved her, the resistant, the unapproachable, the virtuous maiden. But as soon as she put trust in his prayers, as soon as he touched her,—woe to her! She was in his clutches; his hands were stronger than her hands, and he made her his slave, and despised her. Woe to her! This was the sorrowful reign of the virgin.

"But ages past: my sister—dost thou know her? The one that before I appeared, did her work for thee. She always existed, she was before all, she was in existence as soon as man came upon earth, and she always worked untiringly. Hard was her task, slow her success, but she worked, worked, and her success increased. Man became more rational, woman more and more firmly recognized her equality with man, and the time came when I was born.

"This was not long ago; Oh, far from long ago. Do you know who first recognized that I was born, and told it to others? It was Rousseau, in his 'Nouvelle Eloïse.' From it, from him, people for the first time heard of me.

"Since then my kingdom has been spreading. But I am not yet tsaritsa over many. But it spreads rapidly, and you can foresee the time when I shall reign over all the earth. Only then people will perfectly appreciate how beautiful I am. Now, those who acknowledge my power, are not yet able to obey my will. They are girt about by a throng opposed to all my will. The throng would tear them in pieces, would poison their lives, if they confessed and fulfilled my will. And I must have happiness; I desire that there should be no suffering, and I tell them, 'Don't do that which will bring torment upon you; fulfil my will only so far as it will not cause yourselves harm.'"

"But can I know thee perfectly?"

"Yes, thou canst. Thy position is very fortunate. Thou hast naught to fear. Thou canst do whatsoe'er thou pleasest; and if thou wishest to know all my will, from my will no harm will come to thee: thou must not desire, and thou wilt not desire, anything on account of which ignorant people may torment thee. Thou art now perfectly content with what thou hast. Thou dost not desire, and thou wilt not desire, anything or anybody else. I can declare myself to thee entirely."

"Reveal to me thy name; thou hast told me the names of the former tsaritsas, but thy own name thou hast never declared to me."

"Dost thou want me to tell thee my name? Look at me, hearken to me."


"Look at me, hearken to me! Dost thou recognize my voice? Dost thou know my face? Hast thou ever seen my face?"

No; she had never seen her face, had ne'er seen it in her life. Yet how did it seem to her as though she had seen it? It is a year since she was speaking with him, since he looked upon her, kissed her, and now she sees her so often, this radiant beauty; and the radiant one does not hide from her, neither does she hide from him; she appears to her in all her radiant beauty.

"No, I have never seen thee; I have never seen thy face: thou didst appear to me; I saw thee; but thou wert girt with brightness. I could not see thee; I only saw that thou wert more beautiful than all. Thy voice, I hear it, but I hear only that thy voice is more beautiful than all."

"Look; for thy sake at this moment, I shall diminish the brightness of my aureole, and my voice shall sound for thee at this moment without the enchanting power which I always lend to it; for one moment I cease to be a tsaritsa. Hast thou seen? hast thou heard? hast thou learned? That will suffice; again am I tsaritsa, and tsaritsa I shall be for all time to come."

She was again girt about with the ineffable brightness of her halo, and again her voice is inexpressibly intoxicating. But for that moment when she ceased to be the tsaritsa, so as to declare herself unto thee, was it really so? Did Viéra Pavlovna really see this countenance? really hear this voice?

"Yes," says the tsarita, "thou hast wanted to know who I am; now thou knowest. Thou hast wanted to hear my name; I have no name different from the one to whom I appear; my name is her name. Thou hast seen who I am. No, there is nothing loftier than man; there is nothing loftier than woman. I am the one to whom I appear, who loves and is loved."

Yes, Viéra Pavlovna saw. It was herself; it was herself, but a goddess. The goddess' countenance is her own countenance, her living countenance, the features of which are so far from perfection; every day she sees more than one face more beautiful than hers. This was her own face, kindled with the brightness of love; more beautiful than all ideals left to us by sculptors of the ancient time, and by the great artists of the great age of art. Yes, it is she herself, but kindled by the brightness of life; it is she, more beautiful than whom are hundreds of faces in Petersburg, which is so poor in beauty. She is more beautiful than the Aphrodite of the Louvre, more beautiful than all the beauties of the past.

"Thou seest thyself in the mirror just as thou art without me. In me thou seest thyself just as the one who loves thee, sees thee. For his sake thou and I art one; for him there is no one more beautiful than thou; for him all ideals grow obscure in thy presence. Is it not so?"

"Yes! oh, yes!"


"Now, thou knowest who I am; know what I am. I have all the enjoyment of sense which Astarte had; she is the original mother[14] of all of the rest of us tsaritsas who succeeded her. I have the rapture at the sight of beauty no less than Aphrodite had; I have the reverence for purity which 'Chastity' possessed.

"But in me it is not as it was in them, but fuller, loftier, keener. The virtue possessed by 'Chastity' is combined in me with the quality which distinguished Astarte and that which distinguished Aphrodite. And while I combine in me these other powers, each of them becomes greater and better from the union. But more, far more power is given to each of these qualities by that new power which I have, and which none of the former tsaritsas had. This new power in me serves to distinguish me from them,—the equal rights of those who love, equality in the relations between them as men,—and from this new power it comes that there is far more beauty in me than in them.

"When a man recognizes the equal rights of a woman with himself, he ceases to regard her as his personal property. Then she loves him as he loves her, only because she wants to love; but if she does not want to love, he has no right over her, as she has none over him. Therefore in me is freedom.

"Aside from equal rights and freedom, all that in me, which was also possessed by the former tsaritsas, gets a new character, a loftier charm, a charm which had not been known until I appeared, and in comparison with which all else which was known till I came is nothing.

"Till I appeared, people had no idea of perfect enjoyment of freedom, because, without free inclinations on both sides, no one who loves can have a keen rapture. Till I appeared, people had no idea of the full enjoyment in the contemplation of beauty, because if beauty is revealed not by a free inclination, there can be no keen rapture in its contemplation. Without free inclination, both enjoyment and rapture are dull, in comparison with what they are in me. My chastity is purer than that 'Chastity' which spoke only of the purity of the body; I possess purity of heart. I am free, because there is no deceit in me, no hypocrisy. I shall say not a word which does not express what I feel; I shall give no kiss which is not from the heart. But all that which is new in me, which gives a loftier charm to all that was in the former tsaritsas, that in itself constitutes in me a charm which is loftier than all else. A master is embarrassed before his servant; a servant before his master. Only in the presence of his equals is a man entirely at his ease. With a lower nature one feels dull; only with an equal is there happiness. Therefore, till I appeared, man did not know full happiness or love. All that he felt before I came is not worthy of being called happiness; it was only a momentary excitement. And woman! how pitiful woman was before I appeared! She was then an abject, servile person. She was in fear; until I came, she knew too little what love is. Where there is fear there can be no love.

"Therefore, if you want to express in one word what I am, this word is "Equal Rights."[15] Without it enjoyment of the body, delight in beauty, are tedious, gloomy, wretched; without it there is no purity of heart; there is fallacious purity of body. From it, as from equality, originates my freedom, without which I were not.

"I have told all things to thee, and thou canst tell them to others, all things that I am now. But my kingdom now is small. I must guard those who are under my allegiance from the slander of those who do not know me; I cannot yet express all my will to all people, to all men. I shall express it to all, when my kingdom shall embrace all men, when all men shall be beautiful in body and pure in heart. Then I shall show them all my beauty. But thou! thy fate is specially fortunate. I shall not disturb thee, I shall not harm thee, by telling thee what I shall be when not a few, as now, but all, shall be worthy of recognizing me as their tsaritsa. To thee alone I shall tell the secrets of my fortune. Swear that thou will be silent, and listen."




"Oh, my love! now I know all thy will. I know that it will come to pass, but how will it come to pass? How will people live then?

"I by myself cannot tell thee that. For this I must have the aid of my older sister, the one who appeared to thee long ago. She is my mistress and my servant. I can only be what she makes me; but she is working for me. Sister, come to my aid."

The sister of her sisters, the bride of her bridegrooms. "Good morning, sister," she says to the tsaritsa. "Thou, too, art here, sister?" she says to Viéra Pavlovna. "Thou wishest to see how men are going to live when this adopted tsaritsa of mine shall reign over all. Behold!"

An edifice; an enormous, enormous edifice, such as can be seen only in the largest capitals—or, no, at the present time there is none such in the world. It stands amid fields of grain, meadows, gardens, and groves. The fields of grain—this is our grain—they are not such as we have now, but rich, rich, abundant, abundant. Is it wheat? Who ever saw such heads? Who ever saw such grain? Only in forcing-houses is it possible to make such heads of wheat, such royal grain! The meadows are our meadows; but such flowers as these are now found only in flower-gardens. Orchards are full of lemon-trees, oranges, peaches, and apricots. How can they grow in the open air? O yes, there are columns around them; they are opened in summer; yes, these orangeries are opened for the summer. Groves; these are our groves—oak and linden, maple and elm; yes, just the same groves as now. Very great care is taken of them. There are sickly trees among them, but the groves are the same: they are the same trees as now. But this edifice! what is it? what style of architecture? There is nothing like it now; no, but there is one that points toward it,—the palace which stands on Sydenham Hill, built of cast-iron and glass—cast-iron and glass, and that is all. No, not all; that is only the integument of an edifice,—the outside walls. But inside of this palace is a real house, a tremendous house! This integument of cast-iron and glass only covers it as by a sheath; it forms around it wide galleries on all the floors. How simple is the architecture of the inward house! What narrow spaces between the windows! and the windows are huge and lofty, the whole height from floor to floor; its stone walls, like rows of pilasters, forming the frame for the windows which open out into the galleries. But what floors and ceilings these are! What are these doors and window-frames made of? What is it? Silver? Platinum? And the furniture is almost all of the same metal; wooden furniture is little more than a caprice here—only for the sake of variety. But what are all the rest of the furniture, the ceilings and floors, made of? "Try to move this chair," says the elder sister. "This metallic furniture is lighter than ours made of walnut. But what is this metal? Akh! I know now. Sasha showed me a little board like this; it was light, like glass; and now ear-rings and brooches are made out of it. Yes, Sasha said that sooner or later aluminum would take the place of wood, or maybe even of stone. But how rich everything is! Everywhere is aluminum and aluminum, and all the spaces between the windows are adorned by large mirrors. And what carpets on the floors! Here in this parlor half of the floor is bare, and so you can see that it is made of aluminum. Here you see that it is unpolished, lest it should be too slippery. Here children are playing, and together with them their elders; and here in this other hall the floor is also bare, for the dancers. And everywhere are tropical trees and flowers; the whole house is a large winter garden."

But who lives in this house which is more magnificent than palaces? "Here live many, very many. Come, we will see." They go to the balcony which corresponds with the upper floor of the gallery. How is it that Viéra Pavlovna did not notice it before? On these fields groups of people are scattered; men and women everywhere, young folks and old together; but the majority are young; a few old men, still less old women; there are more children than old men, but still few. More than half the children are indoors, attending to the housework. They do almost everything in the house; they like it very much. There are a few old women with them; but there are few old men and old women here, because here they grow old very late. "Here is a healthful and peaceful life; it preserves the freshness."

The groups which are working in the fields are almost all singing. What work are they doing? Akh, it is harvest-time. They are getting in the grain. How quick the work goes on! But how can it help going on quickly, and how can they help singing? Almost all the work is done by machines, which are reaping and binding the sheaves, and carrying them away. The men have scarcely more to do than look on, drive and manage the machines, and how well everything is arranged for themselves! It is a hot day, but they of course don't mind it. Over that part of the field where they are working is stretched a huge awning; as the work advances, this also moves. What a fine shadow they have manufactured! How can they help working quickly and gayly? How can they help singing? In such a way I too would become a harvest hand. And all songs, all songs,—unfamiliar ones, new ones; and here they have remembered ours also: I know it:—

"We shall live with thee like nobles;
All these people are our friends;
Whatsoe'er thy soul desireth,
We shall all attain our ends."[17]

But here the work is done, and all go to the edifice. "Let us again go into the hall; let us see how they will dine," says the elder sister. They enter the very largest of the mighty halls. Half of it is occupied with tables; the tables are already laid—how many of them there are! How many people are going to dine here! Yes, a thousand or more: not all are, for those who please dine privately." The old women, the old men, and the children who did not go out into the field got all this ready. "To cook the meals, to keep the house in order, to clean the rooms, this is very easy work for other hands," says the other sister. "Those who are not able to do anything else must do this."

What magnificent dishes! All of aluminum and glass. On the middle aisle are vases of flowers. The dishes are already on the table; the workingmen have come; all sit down at the table, both they and those who got ready the dinner. But who will be the waiters? "When? At dinner-time? Why? There are only five courses: those which must be kept hot are placed where they will not get cold. Do you see these recesses? These are pans filled with boiling water," says the elder sister. "You live comfortably, you like a good table; do you often have such a dinner as this?" "Several times a year. This is an every-day dinner with these people; whoever pleases has a better one, with whatever he may prefer. But then a different account is kept, and whoever does not ask for anything beyond what the rest have, no special account is kept, and all is arranged this way: all which the whole company can afford to enjoy is given without special accounts, but for every special thing or luxury a special account is kept."

"Are these really our people? Is this really our country? I heard their song; they speak Russian."

"Yes, you see not far from here is a river—it is the Oka; these people belong to us; for when I am with you I am a Russian!"

"Did you bring about all this?"

"All this was done for my sake, and I gave the inspiration for the accomplishment of it; I inspired the completion of it, but she, my older sister, is doing this. She is a worker, but I only enjoy the fruits of her work."

"And will all people live this way?"

"Yes," replied the elder sister. "For all an everlasting spring and summer, an everlasting joy! But we have shown you only the end of my half-day—the work and the beginning of their indoor life; now we see them in the evening, a little later."


"The flowers have wilted, and the leaves begin to fall from the trees; the picture grows gloomy; it would be too melancholy to look upon; here it would be gloomy to live," says the elder sister. "I do not like it. The halls are deserted; there is no one in the fields," says the elder sister. "I have arranged this according to my sister, the tsaritsa's desire."

"Is the palace really deserted?"

"Yes, it is cold and damp here. Here, out of two thousand people, only ten or twenty of those originals for whom it seemed a pleasant variety to remain here for the present, in this solitude, in seclusion, to look at the northern autumn. After some time during the winter there will be constant change: small parties will come—lovers of winter sports—to spend several days here in winter fashion."

"But where are they now?"

"Everywhere that is warm and comfortable," says the elder sister. "In summer when there is much work here and it is pleasant, many different guests come here from the south; we were in the house when the whole company consisted of guests like you; but a good many houses are built for the guests in other places; and the guests belonging to different nations and the housekeepers live together, each one selecting the company which best pleases him. But while taking a good many guests in summer as helpers in the work, you, yourself, during seven or eight bad months of your year, leave for the south wherever you please. But you have in the south a special portion where the main portion of you live. That part is called New Russia."

"Is that Odessa and Kherson?"

"That is in your time; but behold where the New Russia is."

Mountains clad in gardens; amid the mountains narrow ravines, wide valleys. "These mountains used to be naked crags," says the elder sister. "Now they are covered with a thick layer of earth, and often amid the garden grow copses of lofty trees, beneath which, on the damp hollows, are plantations of coffee-trees; higher up, date-palms, fig-trees, vineyards mingled with plantations of sugarcane; in the fields grow wheat, but there is more of rice."

"What land is this?"

"Let us for a moment rise a little higher, and you shall see that it is boundless." Far to the northwest are wide rivers, which unite and flow towards those eastern and southern places from which Viéra Pavlovna is looking. Farther, in that same southeasterly direction, she sees long, wide bays; on the south the land stretches far away between these bays, and the long, narrow sea which forms its western boundary. Between the narrow bays and the sea, which opens out towards the west is a narrow isthmus. "But we are in the centre of the desert," says the astonished Viéra Pavlovna.

"Yes, the centre of what used to be a desert, but now, as you see, everything has been changed, all the space from the Green River on the northeast has been turned into a fertile land, just as it was in olden times; and again it has become that zone, extending to the north, which in olden times was said to 'overflow with milk and honey.'

"We are not very far, as you see, from the southern boundary of the cultivated land; the mountainous part of the peninsula remains, as yet, a sandy, fruitless steppe, such as, in your day, the whole peninsula used to be. Every year the people, you Russians, are pushing away the boundary of the desert to the south; others are working in other lands; all have sufficient room, and enough to do to live comfortably and abundantly; yes, from the great northeastern rivers. All the region towards the south, till you come to the great peninsula, is green, and full of flowers; over the whole region stand built grand palaces, as in the north, three versts apart, like numberless, great chessmen on a mighty chessboard. Let us descend to one of them," says the elder sister.

The same kind of grand crystal house, but its columns are white.

"They are made of aluminum," says the elder sister; "because it is hot here, and white becomes less heated in the sun; it is somewhat dearer than cast-iron, but it is better suited to the climate."

But besides, they have devised this plan: at a long distance, around the crystal palace, are placed rows of lofty, thin pillars, and upon them, high over the palace, over the whole dvor, and for half a verst around it is stretched a white awning.

"It is kept ever moistened with water." says the elder sister; "you see from every column a little fountain rises higher than the awning, and scatters its drops around, and therefore it is comfortable to live here for the varying temperature to suit themselves."

"But who likes heat and the bright southern sun?"

"You see at a distance there are tents and pavilions; every one can live as he pleases: I lead the world, and I work with no other end in view."

"So these cities remain for those who like cities?"

"Such people are few. There are less towns than before—almost only those which on the best harbors are needed as centres of communication, and the interchange of commodities with other centres of exchange. But these cities are larger and more beautiful than the former; people go there sometimes for recreation; the greater part of the inhabitants are all the time changing, and they remain there for work but a short time."

"But who wants to live there constantly?"

"They live just as you do in your Petersburgs, Parises, Londons. Whose affair is that? Who is to interfere? Let everybody live as he pleases; but the greatest majority, ninety-nine out of every hundred, live just as I and my sister have showed you, because it is more pleasant, and more profitable to them. But go into the palace; it is quite late; it is time to see them."

"But no, first I want to know how this happened."


"That a fruitless desert became a most fruitful land, where almost all of us spend two-thirds of our year."

"How this happened? Is there anything miraculous in it? This happened not in the course of one year, not in ten; they have been bringing it about gradually. They brought clay from north-east, from the shores of the great river; from the north-west, from the shores of the great sea. They possess a great number of such powerful machines: the clay solidified the sand; they constructed canals; they arranged for irrigation; verdure made its appearance; the atmosphere became more moist; the work went forward step by step, for many versts, but sometimes only a verst a year, just as they are going towards the south; is there anything miraculous in this? They only became intelligent; they used for their own advancement a great many powers and expedients which had been expended before without utility or directly for their injury. It is not in vain that I am laboring and teaching. It was only hard for people to learn what was useful; they were in your time such savages, such ruffians, such barbarians, such idiots, but I kept on teaching them, teaching them; and as soon as they began to comprehend, then it was not hard to fulfil my teachings. I demand nothing difficult; you know it. You are doing some for my sake in my method, even now; is it difficult?"


"Of course not. Remember your shop, your sewing union. Did you have great means? Did you have more than others?"

"No; what means did we have?"

"And yet your seamstresses have tenfold more conveniences, twenty-fold more happiness in life, and they experience a hundred-fold less unpleasantness than others with such small means as you had. You yourself have proved that even in your time people can live very comfortably. It is only necessary to be reasonable, to make a good start, to know how to use your means to the best advantage."

"Yes, yes, I know it."

"Now go and see a little more carefully how these people are living some time after they began to understand what you understood long ago."


They enter a house; again the same sort of enormous, magnificent parlors. A party is in progress, full of gayety and joy. It is three hours since sunset; it is the very tide of joy. How bright the parlor is lighted! With what? no candelabra are to be seen anywhere, nor gas-jets. Akh! it is from here—in the rotunda of the hall is a great pane through which the light falls; of course it must be such—just like sunlight, white, bright, and soft; this is the electric light.[18] There are a thousand people in the hall, but there is room enough for thrice as many. "And there are thrice as many when they have company," says the radiant one, "and sometimes even more."

"What is it? Is it not a ball? Is it a mere every-day gathering?"


At the present day this would have been a court ball, so bright, so magnificent are the costumes of the women. Yes, it is other times, as you can see by the cut of the dresses. There are some ladies in the dress of our time; but it is evident that they wear them for variety's sake, as a joke; yes, they are masquerading, making sport of this kind of dress. Others wear most varied costumes of different eastern and southern cuts, but all of them are more graceful than ours. But the predominating costume seems like the one worn by the Grecian women during the artistic age of Athens, very easy and comfortable; and the men also wear wide and flowing garments without waists,—something like mantles or cloaks,—evidently their every-day house-dress. But how tasteful and beautiful this dress! How soft and exquisitely it outlines the form! how it adds to the grace of the motions! And what an orchestra! There are more than a hundred musicians, both men and women; but above all what a choir!

"No, in all Europe in your day there were not ten such voices as you find here by the hundred, and in every other house it is the same. But the style of life is very different from that of old; it is very healthy, and at the same time very elegant, and therefore the chest becomes broader and the voice better," says the radiant tsaritsa. But the people in the orchestra and in the choir are constantly changing; some leave, and others take their place. Some go to dance, and some from among the dancers release them.

This evening is an every-day, ordinary evening; they dance and enjoy themselves every evening in this way. But did I ever see such energetic joy? And how can their joy help having an energy unknown to ours? They work well in the morning. Whoever has not worked enough does not give his nervous system the zest, and so cannot feel the fulness of the enjoyment. And even now the happiness of the common people, if by chance they succeed in living happy, is more intense, keen, and fresh than ours; but the chances for our common people to be happy are very poor. But here the means of happiness are richer than for us; and the happiness of our common people is disturbed by the remembrance of the inconveniences and deprivations, misfortunes and sufferings in the past, and by the anticipation of similar things to come. Their happiness is a transitory forgetfulness of want and woe. But can want and woe be absolutely forgotten? Do not the sands of the desert spread? Do not the miasmas of the swamp bring contagion upon the small plan of the good land which may have good air between the desert and the swamp?

But here there are no remembrances, no dangers of want and woe; there are only remembrances of free labor with full satisfaction, of abundance, of good, and of enjoyment. Here the expectations of the time to come are the same. What a comparison! And again, the nerves only of our working people are strong, and therefore they are able to endure a great deal of enjoyment; but they are coarse, obtuse; but here the nerves are strong as those of our laborers, and developed, susceptible, just as with us. The preparation for enjoyment, a healthy, keen thirst for it, such as none of our day have, such as is given only by perfect and physical labor, are combined in people here with all the delicacy of sense such as we have. They have all our mental culture together with the physical development of our strong working people. It is comprehensible that their enjoyment, that their pleasure, that their passion, are more lively, keener, wider, and sweeter than with us. Happy people!

No; people now do not know what enjoyment means, because as yet there is no sort of life adapted to it, and there are no such people. Only such people can be fully happy and know all the glory of enjoyment. How they flourish in health and strength! how slender and graceful they are! how full of energy and expression are their features! All of them are joyous and beautiful men and women, living free lives of labor and enjoyment. Happy are they! happy are they!

With a joyous noise half of them meet together in the mighty hall—but where are the other half?

"Where are the others?" asks the radiant tsaritsa; "they are everywhere: some of them are in the theatre, some are actors, some are musicians, others are spectators, just as it may please them; some of them are scattered in the lecture-halls, museums, or in the libraries; some of them are in the alleys of the garden; some in their rooms, or are taking rest in seclusion, or are with their children; but more, more than all, and this is my secret. . . .

"This is my kingdom. Here everything is for me! Labor—the readiness for enjoyment of feelings and strength for me—enjoyment is the readiness for me and rest after me. Here I am the aim of life; here I am the whole of life."


"In my sister, the tsaritsa, lies the loftiest enjoyment of life," says the oldest sister; "but you shall see that every happiness here is suited to every one's special faculty. All live here in the way that it is best for each to live; there is a full volition, a free volition for every one here.

"What you have been shown here will not soon reach its full development as you have just seen it. A good many generations will pass before your presentiment of it will be realized. No, not many generations: my work is now advancing rapidly, more rapidly with every year; but still you will never see the full sway of my sister, at least you have seen it; you know the future. It is bright, it is beautiful. Tell everybody. Here is what is to be! The future is bright and beautiful. Love it! seek to reach it! work for it! bring it nearer to men! transfer from it into the present whatever you may be able to transfer. Your life will be bright, beautiful, rich with happiness and enjoyment, in proportion as you are able to transfer into it the things of the future. Strive to reach it! work for it! bring it nearer to man. Transfer from it into the present all that you are able to transfer."[19]


A year later the new union was in perfect running order. Both shops were closely connected; one shop would give the other orders when there was slack work and the other had time to fill them. A running account was kept between them. Their means proved sufficient to enable them to open a sale-shop on the Nevsky, when once they had knit the bonds between them closer still. The arrangement of this cost Viéra Pavlovna and Mertsálova a great deal of trouble. Although the two unions were friendly, although one often gave receptions to the other, although they often united for picnics out of town, still the idea of the union of accounts of two different shops was a new idea, of which it was necessary to give long and careful explanations. However, the benefit of having their own sale-shop on the Nevsky was evident, and in a few months of labor in joining the two accounts, Viéra Pavlovna succeeded in accomplishing it: on the Nevsky appeared a new sign. "Au Bon Travail: Magasin des Nouveautés." After this sale-shop was opened, the business began to increase more rapidly than before, and the profits were much larger. Mertsálova and Viéra Pavlovna already began to dream that in two years, instead of two shops, there would be four, five, and then soon ten and twenty.

Three months after the sale-shop was opened, one of Kirsánof's friends, or rather one of his acquaintances at the medical school, came to him, told him a great deal about his various medical experiences, and still more about his wonderfully successful cures, which were performed by laying across the chest and abdomen two small bags filled with crashed ice, each of which was wrapped up in four napkins; and, at the conclusion of all, he said that one of his acquaintances wanted to make Kirsánof's acquaintance.

Kirsánof granted his request; it was pleasant acquaintance; they talked about a good many subjects, among others about the shop. He explained that the shop was opened exclusively for mercantile purposes. They talked about the sign of the shop, whether it was a good thing to put upon the sign the word travail. Kirsánof said that travail meant work, and Au Bon Travail meant a shop that did good work. They discussed the question whether it would not be better to put a proper name on instead of such a device. Kirsánof said that his wife's Russian name would cause a mercantile failure. Finally he devised the following expedient: His wife's name was Viéra; in French Viéra means foi. If on the sign could be put the words A la Bonne Foi, instead of Au Bon Travail, would not that be sufficient? There would be nothing suspicious about "a shop of good faith," and the khozyáïka's name would still be on the sign. After arguing the matter over, they decided that it could be done. Kirsánof, with special eagerness, turned the conversation to questions like this, and he generally succeeded in obtaining his purpose. So that, when he returned home, he was very well content with himself.

But, at all events, Mertsálova and Viéra Pavlovna considerably clipped the wings of their imaginations, and they began to work hard to go ahead with their present enterprise.

Thus, after their superfluous enthusiasm about opening a good many shops had cooled down, the sewing union and the sale-shop still lived, not developing with too great rapidity, but rejoicing in the very fact of existence. Kirsánof's new acquaintance continued to afford him much pleasure. Thus passed two years or more, without any events of special importance.



St. Petersburg, Aug. 29, 1860.

My Dear Paulina,—

I have been so delighted with an absolute novelty which I have lately discovered, and to which I am now devoting all my energies, that I want to describe it to you. I am sure that you too will become interested in it. But the main thing is, you yourself may find it possible to undertake something of the same sort. It is so delightful, my dear.

The thing which I am going to describe to you is a sewing shop, or rather two shops, both arranged on one plan by a woman with whom I became acquainted only two weeks ago, and who is already a real friend. I am now helping her, on condition that she should help me by and by to arrange a similar shop. This Madame Viéra Pavlovna Kirsánova is still young, gay, kind, and—entirely to my taste; that is, she is more like you, Paulina, than your Katya, who is such a queer soul—is an open-hearted, lively lady. After I heard accidentally about her sewing shop, I was told only about one of them. I went directly to her without any introduction or subterfuges, and simply said that I had become interested in her shop. We were drawn to each other from the very first; all the more, because Kirsánof, her husband, I found the very same Doctor Kirsánof who, five years ago, did me, you remember, such magnificent service.

After we talked half an hour, and she saw that I really sympathized with such things, Viéra Pavlovna took me over her shop, the one in which she has an active part (the first one which she established was taken in charge by one of her acquaintances, a very nice young married lady), and I am going to tell you the impressions of my first visit. They were so new and striking, that I took them down at that time in my diary, though I had long before ceased to keep it, but which I have begun again for a special reason, which maybe I will tell you about at some other time. I am very, very glad that I put these impressions on paper, for by this time I should have forgotten a good many impressions which surprised me then; and to-day, only two weeks after, it seems to me the most ordinary thing in the world,—indeed, as though it could not be otherwise. But the more commonplace this thing becomes to me, the more I get attached to it, because it is a very good thing. And so, Paulina, I shall begin the quotation from my diary, adding such particulars as I have since learned.

A sewing shop—what do you think that I saw there? We stopped at the main entrance. Viéra Pavlovna led me up a very nice flight of stairs, such stairs as you often find decorated with Switzers. We went in on the third floor; Viéra Pavlovna rang the bell, and I found myself in a great parlor with a grand piano and handsome furniture—in a word, the parlor seemed like that of a private family spending for their living four or five thousand rubles a year. Is that the shop? Is this one of the rooms occupied by the seamstresses? "Yes. This is the reception room and parlor for evening gatherings; let us go to those rooms where the seamstresses live. They are now in the working rooms, and we shall disturb no one." Here is what I saw as I went from room to room, and Viéra Pavlovna explained to me.

The whole establishment of the shop is composed of three apartments, which open upon one landing and which was made into one apartment after the doors which led between them were taken away. These apartments used to be rented for seven hundred, five hundred and fifty, and four hundred and twenty-five rubles a year, a total of one thousand six hundred and seventy-five rubles. But when they were rented all together on a five years' lease, the landlord agreed to let them have it for twelve hundred and fifty. All in all, there are twenty-one rooms in the shop, two of which are very large, having four windows; one is the reception room, the other the dining-room; in two others, also large ones, the work is carried on. They use the rest for living-rooms. We went through six or seven rooms, in which the girls were living. (I am still referring to my first visit.) These rooms are nicely furnished in mahogany or walnut. Some of them have tall mirrors; in others there are very handsome pier glasses; a good many well-made chairs and sofas. The furniture in each room varies, nearly all of it at bargains for low prices. These rooms in which they live are like the apartments such as middle-class tchinovniks occupy, the families of old natcholniks of departments or young office natcholniks who are on the road to becoming natcholniks of departments. The larger rooms are occupied by three girls; in one, live as many as four, but in the other, only two.

We went into the working rooms, and the girls busy there seemed to be dressed like the daughters, sisters, or young wives of tchinovniks; some wore silk dresses of simple stuffs; some barège, some of muslin. The faces had that softness and freshness which are developed only by comfort. You can imagine how all this surprised me. We stayed quite a while in the working rooms, and I got acquainted here with some of the girls. Viéra Pavlovna told them why I called. The degree of their accomplishments was unequal. Some of them spoke with the language of cultured society, were acquainted with literature like our bariushnas, had a good idea of history and about foreign lands, and about all sorts of things which go to make up the ordinary run of ideas among the young ladies of our society. Two of them were really well read. Some of them who entered the shop recently were less developed, but still you could speak with each of them as with a girl of some culture. As a general thing the degree of development was proportionate to the time the girl had been in the shop.

Viéra Pavlovna attended to various things; occasionally she came back to me, and I talked with the girls, and thus we spent the time till dinner. Dinner every day is composed of three courses. On that day they had rice soup, boiled fish, and veal. After dinner, tea and coffee were brought on. The dinner was so good that I ate with real appetite, and I should consider it no deprivation if I had to eat such dinners always.

But you know that my father even now has a good cook. This was the general impression of my first visit. I was told and I knew that I was going to a shop occupied by sewing girls, that I should see sewing girls, that I should be shown the room of sewing girls, that I should eat dinner with sewing girls; instead of that I saw the apartments of people of moderate means, living together in one establishment; I saw girls of the middle class of tchinovniks, or of the low ranks of the nobility; I ate dinner, not a very grand one, to be sure, but satisfying to me—what about it? How is it possible?

After we got back to Viéra Pavlovna's house, she and her husband explained to me that there was nothing wonderful at all about it. By the way, Kirsánof wrote me as an example a little account of the experiment which has remained between the leaves of my diary. I am going to copy it for you; but first I want to say a few words more.

Instead of poverty, comfort; instead of filth, not only cleanliness, but even some luxury; instead of rudeness, is considerable culture. All this is the result of two causes. On the one hand, the number of the sewing girls is increasing; on the other, a great economy in expenditure.

You see why they get more income; they are working on their own account; they are their own mistresses; and therefore they receive that part which would be kept as profit by the head of the shop. But this is not all; while working for their own benefit and on their own account, they are much more careful in using what they are working upon, and of their time; the work is done more rapidly, and there are less expenses in it.

Naturally there is also a great deal of economy in regard to their living expenses. They buy all things in large quantities; they pay ready cash for everything, and so they get things cheaper than if they bought on credit and at retail. The things are carefully selected because they understand their business; and so everything is bought not only cheaper but also better than poor people generally have a chance to buy.

Besides this, many of their expenses are greatly diminished, or become entirely unnecessary. Think, for instance, to go every day two or three visits to the shop, how much wear and tear comes on the shoes and clothes! I shall give you one little example which can be applied in everything of this sort. Not to have an umbrella means to spoil a dress from the rain. Now listen to what Viéra Pavlovna told me. A simple linen umbrella costs, let us suppose, two rubles. There are twenty-five sewing girls who live in the shop. An umbrella for each would cost fifty rubles; and whoever had no umbrella would lose more than two rubles by the destruction of clothes. But they live together; no one of them leaves the house unless she pleases, and so it happens that in stormy weather only a few go out. So they found that five umbrellas were enough. These umbrellas are nice silk ones; they cost five rubles apiece. All the cost of umbrellas is twenty-five rubles, or a ruble apiece for each girl. You see that each one of them is using a good one instead of a bad one, and at the same time has only a half of the expense. And so it is with a good many trifles which amount to a good deal in the long run. Just as it is with their rent, so it is with the table. For instance, this dinner which I told you about cost five rubles and fifty kopeks, or five rubles and seventy-five kopeks, with bread, but without tea and coffee. At the table were thirty-seven people besides me and Viéra Pavlovna. Of course several children were included in that number. Five rubles and seventy-five kopeks for thirty-seven people makes less than sixteen kopeks[20] apiece, less than five rubles a month. And Viéra Pavlovna says that if a person dines by himself, he can have scarcely anything for this money except bread and such wretched stuff as you find at small stores. At a restaurant, a dinner like this, only not so nicely served, would cost forty kopeks, according to Viéra Pavlovna. For thirty kopeks it would be much worse. This difference can be appreciated; a restaurant keeper, while preparing a dinner for twenty people or less, must support himself on this money, must have a house, and have a servant. But here these extra expenses are entirely done away with, or are greatly diminished. The wages of two old women, who are relations of two of the sewing girls, and that is the whole expense of the kitchen stuff. Now you render the calculation which Kirsánof made for me by way of example, when I called upon them for the first time. After he wrote it, he said:—

"Of course I can't give exact figures, as it would be hard to get at them, because you know each mercantile enterprise, each selling shop, each sewing shop, has its own income and expense account, just as each family has its own degree of economy in incurring expenses with special proportions between their various expenditures. I am giving you the figures only by way of example; but to make the account more impressive, I shall make the figures less than the real profits of our concern, in comparison with the real expenses of almost every commercial enterprise and almost every poor family.

"The receipts of a commercial enterprise from the sale of goods," continued Kirsánof, "is divided into three main portions: one goes for the salary of the employees; the second for the other expenses of the concern, say the rent of the building, lights, materials for works; the third makes the khozyáïn's income. Let us suppose that the receipts are divided in this proportion: for the wages of the employees, half of the receipts; for the other expenses, one-fourth; the last quarter is profit. This means that if the employees receive one hundred rubles, then the other expenses rate fifty rubles; the khozyáïn has also fifty rubles. Now let us see what the employees receive according to our system." Kirsánof began to read his scale of figures:—

They receive their salary ..... 100 rubles
They are themselves employers, and thus they receive the income of the khozyáïn ..... 50 rubles
Their working rooms are joined to their own private rooms, and so they get them at a cheaper rate; they are careful about materials; in this way the saving is greatly increased, I think a full half, but let us say a third part: from the 60 rubles which would go towards this expense they save for their income ..... 16 rubles, 67 kopeks
  166 rubles, 67 kopeks

"Here we have already," continued Kirsánof, "brought it about that our working people receive one hundred and sixty-six rubles and sixty-seven kopeks, when, according to the other order of things, they would have only a hundred rubles. But they gain still more: working for their own benefit, they work more industriously, and therefore more successfully, quicker. Let us suppose that in an ordinary, uninspired work they would succeed in making five things—in our trade, five dresses; now they succeed in making six. This proportion is too small; but let us adopt it. Then, at a time when an ordinary enterprise is earning five rubles, ours earns six:—

From the rapidity of energetic work the receipts and the income are increased one-fifth part of 166 rubles, 67 kopeks, thus ..... 33 rubles, 33 kopeks
Plus the former ..... 100 rubles, 67 kopeks
  200 rubles

"Therefore ours have larger profits than others," continued Kirsánof. "Now, as to the use of this profit. Having double as much means, we can use them to much better advantage. Here is a double profit, as you know. In the first place, from the fact that everything is bought wholesale, let us suppose that from this a third part is gained. Things which at retail and on credit would cost three rubles now cost two. In reality the profit is greater. Let us take, for example, the house: if these rooms were rented singly,[21] there would live in these seventeen rooms—each with its two windows, three and four persons—a total (say) of fifty-five; in two rooms with three windows, six persons each; and in the two with four windows, nine persons each. Twelve and eighteen make thirty, and fifty-five in the little rooms; thus the whole apartment would contain eighty-five people. Each of them would pay three and a half rubles a month, which makes forty-two rubles a year. And so these petty landlords, who make a business of renting out 'corners,' take for such an establishment forty-two multiplied by eighty-five,—3,570 rubles. Our members have this same establishment for 1,250 rubles, almost three times as cheap. So it is in a good many things, almost all, everything. Probably I should not reach the true proportion, if I estimated the saving at one-half; but I shall place it also at a third. And this is not all. With such a mode of life they are freed from the necessity of incurring many expenses, or, rather, they need many less things."

Viérotchka here offered, as an example, shoes and dresses. Let us suppose that from this the quantity of things bought is diminished by one-fourth; instead of four pairs of shoes, three are sufficient, or three dresses are worn as long as four used to be. This proportion is also too small; but see what results these proportions give:—

The cheapness of the things purchased is reckoned as causing a saving of one-third part; that is, suppose that for three things two rubles are spent instead of three; but, according to our system, these three things satisfy as many necessities as in the old system would have been satisfied by not less than four: that is equivalent to saying that for our 200 rubles our seamstresses have as many things as, according to the old system, they got for 300 rubles; and that these things, according to our system, afford them as many comforts as in the old system would have been afforded by a sum of ..... 400 rubles

"Compare the life of a family spending 1,000 rubles a year with the life of a family spending 4,000 rubles a year. Isn't it true that you would find a great difference?" continued Kirsánof. "According to our system, there is just this proportion, if not even larger. With this system there are double receipts, and the profits are used to twice as great advantage. Is it surprising that you found the life of our sewing girls quite different from what seamstresses had according to the old system?"

Here is the marvel which I saw, my dear Paulina, and this is its simple explanation. I am so used to it now that it seems strange to me how it ever did seem strange to me that I did never expect to find such a state of things as I found. Write me, if ever you have the chance of devoting yourself to what I am getting ready to do; that is, the establishment of a sewing shop, or another shop on the same system.

It is so delightful, Paulina!

Yours, K. Pólozova.

P.S. I forgot entirely to speak about the other shop; but no matter; let it go till next time. Now I will only say that the older shop has branched out more, and therefore in all respects higher, than the one which I described to you. In the details of the arrangements there is a great difference between them, because everything is made to suit circumstances.

  1. Aza for glaza, literally, does not recognize a when he has it in his eyes.
  2. Perhaps the sapient reader will heartily agree.
  3. Moï mílashka.
  4. In the original, two words wrestle with one: Nyé uvizhus with uvízhus.
  5. The original metre. The literal translation is as follows: Oi! full, full, the little basket; There is calicoes and brocades. Have pity, my little chilblain. On the young fellow's shoulder.
  6. Nikolaï Alekseyevitch Nekrásof (1821–1878), editor of several periodicals, known as the "people's poet" (naród nui poet).
  7. Literally: I should be ruined, unconsoling one, had I time to worry. Yes, now 'tis harvest, pressing; it is necessary to finish ten things, however often it happens beyond the young woman's endurance. Under the scythe the grass falls: under the reaping-hook the rye burns. With all her strength and might she has threshed in the morning. The flax, she spreads the flax, till the dark little night, over the dewy meadows.
  8. Khozyáïstvo.
  9. Literally, formally.
  10. This argument, which is comparatively familiar to the American public, though even now there is an absurd prejudice in some quarters against women doctors, was absolutely novel in Russia at the time that this book was written. It gave an immense stimulus to the study of medicine by women. As is well known, all the medical schools of Europe, especially Switzerland, draw scores of Russian women to their halls. Viéra Pavlovna was the pioneer.
  11. Khozyáïstvo.
  12. Gémnazitcheski attestat.
  13. Literally: And sweet talk  Like streams of words  His smile  and kiss.
  14. Rodonatchálnitsa.
  15. In Russian, ravnapravnost.
  16. It is probable that Tchernuishevsky hesitated about revealing the secret of the radiant one, not from the fear of shocking the public so much as from the danger of the censor's red pencil. The sky which so soon was covered with black clouds, from which flashed the bolt that deprived the world of a genius, was just at this time comparatively clear, but still there were ominous mutterings of thunder. The theory which Tchernuishevsky hints at, and which is regarded with such terror, proves, when regarded fairly in the face, to be like one of the lions bound, which frightened Bunyan's Christian.
  17. Literally: We shall live with thee like panski (Polish lords); these people are friends to us; whatever to thy soul is pleasant I shall attain it all with them.
  18. Here too Tchernuishevsky shows himself as a prophet. The electric light is now a fact. The day of aluminum is yet to come; when it comes, as come it will, the world will be revolutionized.
  19. Comment on this epic vision is hardly necessary. But those who object to idealized socialism as presented by Tchernuishevsky must be both enchained by selfishness and the slaves of Antichrist. Only he who is selfish can wish that the best that he wishes for should not be shared by all the world; and how many millions and billions of dollars, how many lives of labor and sadness, are wasted every year because each family and each man and woman is trying vainly by himself to do what might be done better, more easily, and more happily by systematic union. The great corporations which pour useless wealth into the hoards of the few monopolists who control them, the great bazaars which are now seen in all our cities, point to what, in the future, will be the physical salvation of the world. The great hotels and flats are but the practical realization of the homes of the men and women of the future. But is Tchernuishevsky after all such a rabid radical? Is not his ideal what all men want when they pray for the coming of the kingdom of Heaven?—not the republic of Heaven, by the way.
  20. Eight cents.
  21. Uglanai. Literally, by corners, referring to the custom of putting a number of people into one room.