: THE DECEMBRISTS
: Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori
This happened not long ago, in the reign of Alexander II., in our days
of civilization, progress, questions, regeneration of Russia, and so
forth, and so forth; at a time when the victorious Russian army was
returning from Sevastopol, surrendered to the enemy; when all of Russia
celebrated the annihilation of the Black Sea fleet, and white-stoned
Moscow received and congratulated with this happy event
of the crews of that fleet, offering them a good Russian cup of vodka,
and bread and salt, according to the good Russian custom, and bowing
down to their feet. It was that time when Russia, in the person of
far-sighted virgin politicians, lamented the shattered dream of a Te
Deum in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, and the loss of two great men, so
painful for the country, who had perished during the war (one, who had
been carried away by the desire to celebrate the Te Deum in the
above-mentioned cathedral at the earliest time possible, and who fell in
the fields of Wallachia, but who, at least, left two squadrons of
hussars in the same fields, and the other, an unappreciated man, who had
distributed tea, other people's money, and bed-sheets to the wounded,
without stealing any of these things); that time, when on all sides, in
all branches of human activities, great men--generals, administrators,
economists, writers, orators, and simply great men, without any especial
calling or purpose--sprang up in Russia like mushrooms; that time, when,
at the jubilee of a Moscow actor, there appeared the public opinion,
confirmed by a toast, which began to rebuke all the criminals,--when
menacing commissions galloped south from St. Petersburg, to convict and
punish the evil-doers of the commissariat,--when in all the cities
dinners with speeches were given to the heroes of Sevastopol, and when
to them, with arms and legs torn off, toasts were drunk, on meeting them
on the bridges and on the highways; that time, when oratorical talents
developed so rapidly in the nation that a certain dram-shopkeeper
everywhere and upon all occasions wrote and printed and recited by rote
at dinners such strong speeches, that the guardians of the peace had to
take repressive measures against the dram-shopkeeper's eloquence,--when
in the very English club a special room was set aside for the discussion
of public matters,--when periodicals sprang up under the most
diversified standards,--periodicals that evolved European principles on
a European basis, but with a Russian world conception, and periodicals
on an exclusively Russian basis, but with a European world
conception,--when suddenly there appeared so many periodicals that all
names seemed to be exhausted,--"The Messenger," and "The Word," and "The
Speaker," and "The Observer," and "The Star," and "The Eagle," and many
more, and, in spite of it, there appeared ever new names; that time,
when the constellation of philosophic writers made its appearance to
prove that science was national, and not national, and non-national, and
so forth, and the constellation of artistic writers, who described a
grove, and the sunrise, and a storm, and the love of a Russian maiden,
and the indolence of a certain official, and the bad conduct of many
officials; that time, when on all sides appeared questions (as in the
year '56 they called every concourse of circumstances, of which no one
could make any sense), questions of cadet corps, universities,
censorship, oral judicature, finance, banking, police, emancipation, and
many more:--everybody tried to discover ever new questions, everybody
tried to solve them, wrote, read, spoke, made projects, wanted to mend
everything, destroy, change, and all Russians, like one man, were in
That is a state of affairs which has been twice repeated in the Russia
of the nineteenth century,--the first time, when in the year '12 we
repulsed Napoleon I., and the second time, when in the year '56 we were
repulsed by Napoleon III. Great, unforgettable time of the regeneration
of the Russian people! Like the Frenchman who said that he has not lived
who has not lived through the great French Revolution, I venture to say
that he who has not lived through the year '56 in Russia does not know
what life is. The writer of these lines not only lived through that
time, but was one of the actors of that period. Not only did he pass
several weeks in one of the blindages of Sevastopol, but he also wrote a
work on the Crimean War, which brought him great fame, and in which he
described clearly and minutely how the soldiers fired their guns from
the bastions, how the wounds were dressed at the ambulance, and how they
buried people in the cemetery. Having achieved these deeds, the writer
of these lines arrived in the centre of the empire,--a rocket
establishment,--where he cut the laurels for his deeds. He saw the
transports of the two capitals and of the whole nation, and experienced
in his person to what extent Russia knew how to reward real deserts. The
mighty of this world sought his friendship, pressed his hands, gave him
dinners, urged him to come to their houses, and, in order to learn the
details of the war from him, informed him of their own sentimentalities.
Consequently the writer of these lines can appreciate that great and
memorable time. But that is another matter.
At that very time, two vehicles on wheels and a sleigh were standing at
the entrance of the best Moscow hotel. A young man ran through the door,
to find out about quarters. In one of the vehicles sat an old man with
two ladies. He was talking about the condition of Blacksmith Bridge in
the days of the French. It was the continuation of a conversation
started as they entered Moscow, and now the old man with the white
beard, in his unbuttoned fur coat, calmly continued his conversation in
the vehicle, as though he intended to stay in it overnight. His wife and
daughter listened to him, but kept looking at the door with some
impatience. The young man emerged from the door with the porter and room
"Well, Sergyey," asked the mother, thrusting her emaciated face out into
the glare of the lamplight.
Either because it was his habit, or because he did not wish the porter
to take him for a lackey on account of the short fur coat which he wore,
Sergyey replied in French that there were rooms to be had, and opened
the carriage door. The old man looked for a moment at his son, and again
turned to the dark corner of the vehicle, as though nothing else
"There was no theatre then."
"Pierre!" said his wife, lifting her cloak; but he continued:
"Madame Chalme was in Tverskaya Street--"
Deep in the vehicle could be heard a youthful, sonorous laugh.
"Papa, step out! You are forgetting where we are."
The old man only then seemed to recall that they had arrived, and looked
"Do step out!"
He pulled his cap down, and submissively passed through the door. The
porter took him under his arm, but, seeing that the old man was walking
well, he at once offered his services to the lady. Judging from the
sable cloak, and from the time it took for her to emerge, and from the
way she pressed down on his arm, and from the way she, leaning on her
son's arm, walked straight toward the porch, without looking to either
side, Natalya Nikolaevna, his wife, seemed to the porter to be an
important personage. He did not even separate the young lady from the
maids, who climbed out from the other vehicle; like them, she carried a
bundle and a pipe, and walked behind. He recognized her only by her
laughing and by her calling the old man father.
"Not that way, father,--to the right!" she said, taking hold of the
sleeve of his sheepskin coat. "To the right."
On the staircase there resounded, through the noise of the steps, the
doors, and the heavy breathing of the elderly lady, the same laughter
which had been heard in the vehicle, and about which any one who heard
it thought: "How excellently she laughs,--I just envy her."
Their son, Sergyey, had attended to all the material conditions on the
road, and, though he lacked knowledge of the matter, he had attended to
it with the energy and self-satisfying activity which are characteristic
of twenty-five years of age. Some twenty times, and apparently for no
important reason, he ran down to the sleigh in his greatcoat, and ran
up-stairs again, shivering in the cold and taking two or three steps at
a time with his long, youthful legs. Natalya Nikolaevna asked him not to
catch a cold, but he said that it was all right, and continued to give
orders, slamming doors, and walking, and, when it seemed that only the
servants and peasants had to be attended to, he several times walked
through all the rooms, leaving the drawing-room by one door, and coming
in through another, as though he were looking for something else to do.
"Well, papa, will you be driven to the bath-house? Shall I find out?" he
His papa was deep in thought and, it seemed, was not at all conscious of
where he was. He did not answer at once. He heard the words, but did not
comprehend them. Suddenly he comprehended.
"Yes, yes, yes. Find out, if you please, at Stone Bridge."
The head of the family walked through the rooms with hasty, agitated
steps, and seated himself in a chair.
"Now we must decide what to do, how to arrange matters," he said. "Help
along, children, lively! Like good fellows, drag things around, put them
up, and to-morrow we shall send Serezha with a note to sister Marya
Ivanovna, to the Nikitins, or we shall go there ourselves. Am I right,
Natasha? But now, fix things!"
"To-morrow is Sunday. I hope, Pierre, that first of all you will go to
mass," said his wife, kneeling in front of a trunk and opening it.
"That is so, it is Sunday! We shall by all means all of us go to the
Cathedral of the Assumption. Thus will our return begin. O Lord! When I
think of the day when I was for the last time in the Cathedral of the
Assumption! Do you remember, Natasha? But that is another matter."
And the head of the family rose quickly from the chair, on which he had
just seated himself.
"Now we must settle down!"
And without doing anything, he kept walking from one room to another.
"Well, shall we drink tea? Or are you tired, and do you want to rest?"
"Yes, yes," replied his wife, taking something out from the trunk. "You
wanted to go to the bath-house, did you not?"
"Yes--in my day it was near Stone Bridge. Serezha, go and find out
whether there is still a bath-house near Stone Bridge. This room here
Serezha and I shall occupy. Serezha! Will you be comfortable here?"
But Serezha had gone to find out about the bath-house.
"No, that will not do," he continued. "You will not have a straight
passage to the drawing-room. What do you think, Natasha?"
"Calm yourself, Pierre, everything will come out all right," Natasha
said, from another room, where peasants were bringing in things.
But Pierre was still under the influence of that ecstatic mood which the
arrival had evoked in him.
"Look there,--don't mix up Serezha's things! You have thrown his
snow-shoes down in the drawing-room." And he himself picked them up and
with great care, as though the whole future order of the quarters
depended upon it, leaned them against the door-post and tried to make
them stand there. But the snow-shoes did not stick to it, and, the
moment Pierre walked away from them, fell with a racket across the door.
Natalya Nikolaevna frowned and shuddered, but, seeing the cause of the
fall, she said:
"Sonya, darling, pick them up!"
"Pick them up, darling," repeated the husband, "and I will go to the
landlord, or else you will never get done. I must talk things over with
"You had better send for him, Pierre. Why should you trouble yourself?"
"Sonya, bring him here, what do you call him? M. Cavalier, if you
please. Tell him that we want to speak about everything."
"Chevalier, papa," said Sonya, ready to go out.
Natalya Nikolaevna, who was giving her commands in a soft voice, and was
softly stepping from room to room, now with a box, now with a pipe, now
with a pillow, imperceptibly finding places for a mountain of baggage,
in passing Sonya, had time to whisper to her:
"Do not go yourself, but send a man!"
While a man went to call the landlord, Pierre used his leisure, under
the pretext of aiding his consort, in crushing a garment of hers and in
stumbling against an empty box. Steadying himself with his hand against
the wall, the Decembrist looked around with a smile; but Sonya was
looking at him with such smiling eyes that she seemed to be waiting for
permission to laugh. He readily granted her that permission, and himself
burst out into such a good-natured laugh that all those who were in the
room, his wife, the maids, and the peasants, laughed with him. This
laughter animated the old man still more. He discovered that the divan
in the room for his wife and daughter was not standing very conveniently
for them, although they affirmed the opposite, and asked him to calm
himself. Just as he was trying with his own hands to help a peasant to
change the position of that piece of furniture, the landlord, a
Frenchman, entered the room.
"You sent for me," the landlord asked sternly and, in proof of his
indifference, if not contempt, slowly drew out his handkerchief, slowly
unfolded it, and slowly cleared his nose.
"Yes, my dear sir," said Peter Ivanovich, stepping up toward him, "you
see, we do not know ourselves how long we are going to stay here, I and
my wife--" and Peter Ivanovich, who had the weakness of seeing a
neighbour in every man, began to expound his plans and affairs to him.
M. Chevalier did not share that view of people and was not interested in
the information communicated to him by Peter Ivanovich, but the good
French which Peter Ivanovich spoke (the French language, as is known, is
something like rank in Russia) and his lordly manner somewhat raised the
landlord's opinion about the newcomers.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
This question did not embarrass Peter Ivanovich. He expressed his desire
to have rooms, tea, a samovar, supper, dinner, food for the servants, in
short, all those things for which hotels exist, and when M. Chevalier,
marvelling at the innocence of the old man, who apparently imagined that
he was in the Trukhmen steppe, or supposed that all these things would
be given him without pay, informed him that he could have all those
things, Peter Ivanovich was in ecstasy.
"Now that is nice! Very nice! And so we shall get things all fixed.
Well, then please--" but he felt embarrassed to be speaking all the time
about himself, and he began to ask M. Chevalier about his family and his
business. When Sergyey Petrovich returned to the room, he did not seem
to approve of his father's address; he observed the landlord's
dissatisfaction, and reminded his father of the bath. But Peter
Ivanovich was interested in the question of how a French hotel could be
run in Moscow in the year '56, and of how Madame Chevalier passed her
time. Finally the landlord himself bowed and asked him whether he was
not pleased to order anything.
"We will have tea, Natasha. Yes? Tea, then, if you please! We will have
some other talks, my dear monsieur! What a charming man!"
"And the bath, papa?"
"Oh, yes, then we shall have no tea."
Thus the only result from the conversation with the newly arrived guests
was taken from the landlord. But Peter Ivanovich was now proud and happy
of his arrangements. The drivers, who came to ask a pourboire, vexed
him, because Serezha had no change, and Peter Ivanovich was on the point
of sending once more for the landlord, but the happy thought that
others, too, ought to be happy on that evening helped him out of that
predicament. He took two three-rouble bills, and, sticking one bill into
the hand of one of the drivers, he said, "This is for you" (Peter
Ivanovich was in the habit of saying "you" to all without exception,
unless to a member of his family); "and this is for you," he said,
transferring the other bill from the palm of his hand to that of the
driver, in some such manner as people do when paying a doctor for a
visit. After attending to all these things, he was taken to the
Sonya, who was sitting on the divan, put her hand under her head and
burst out laughing.
"Oh, how nice it is, mamma! Oh, how nice!"
Then she placed her feet on the divan, stretched herself, adjusted
herself, and fell into the sound, calm sleep of a healthy girl of
eighteen years of age, after six weeks on the road. Natalya Nikolaevna,
who was still busy taking out things in her sleeping-room, heard, no
doubt with her maternal ear, that Sonya was not stirring, and went out
to take a look at her. She took a pillow and, raising the girl's
reddened, dishevelled head with her large white hand, placed her on the
pillow. Sonya drew a deep, deep sigh, shrugged her shoulders, and put
her head on the pillow, without saying "Merci," as though that had all
been done of its own accord.
"Not on that bed, not on that, Gavrilovna, Katya," Natalya Nikolaevna
immediately turned to the maids who were making a bed, and with one
hand, as though in passing, she adjusted the straying hair of her
daughter. Without stopping and without hurrying, Natalya Nikolaevna
dressed herself, and upon the arrival of her husband and her son
everything was ready: the trunks were no longer in the rooms; in
Pierre's sleeping-room everything was arranged as it had been for
several decades in Irkutsk: the morning-gown, the pipe, the
tobacco-pouch, the sugared water, the Gospel, which he read at night,
and even the image stuck to the rich wall-paper in the rooms of
Chevalier, who never used such adornments, but on that evening they
appeared in all the rooms of the third division of the hotel.
Having dressed herself, Natalya Nikolaevna adjusted her collar and
cuffs, which, in spite of the journey, were still clean, combed herself,
and seated herself opposite the table. Her beautiful black eyes gazed
somewhere into the distance: she looked and rested herself. She seemed
to be resting, not from the unpacking alone, nor from the road, nor from
the oppressive years,--she seemed to be resting from her whole life, and
the distance into which she was gazing, and in which she saw living and
beloved faces, was that rest which she was wishing for. Whether it was
an act of love, which she had done for her husband, or the love which
she had experienced for her children when they were young, or whether it
was a heavy loss, or a peculiarity of her character,--everyone who
looked at that woman could not help seeing that nothing could be
expected from her, that she had long ago given all of herself to life,
and that nothing was left of her. All that there was left was something
worthy of respect, something beautiful and sad, as a reminiscence, as
the moonlight. She could not be imagined otherwise than surrounded by
all the comforts of life. It was impossible for her ever to be hungry,
or to eat eagerly, or to have on soiled clothes, or to stumble, or to
forget to clear her nose. It was a physical impossibility. Why it was
so, I do not know, but every motion of hers was dignity, grace,
gentleness toward all those who could enjoy her sight.
"Sie pflegen und weben
Himmlische Rosen ins irdische Leben."
She knew those verses and loved them, but was not guided by them. All
her nature was an expression of that thought; all her life was this one
unconscious weaving of invisible roses in the lives of those with whom
she came in contact. She had followed her husband to Siberia only
because she loved him; she had not thought what she could do for him,
and instinctively had done everything. She had made his bed, had put
away his things, had prepared his dinner and his tea, and, above all,
had always been where he was, and no woman could have given more
happiness to her husband.
In the drawing-room the samovar was boiling on the round table. Natalya
Nikolaevna sat near it. Sonya wrinkled her face and smiled under her
mother's hand, which was tickling her, when father and son, with
wrinkled finger-tips and glossy cheeks and foreheads (the father's bald
spot was particularly glistening), with fluffy white and black hair, and
with beaming countenances, entered the room.
"It has grown brighter since you have come in," said Natalya Nikolaevna.
"O Lord, how white you are!"
She had been saying that each Saturday, for several decades, and each
Saturday Pierre experienced bashfulness and delight, whenever he heard
that. They seated themselves at the table; there was an odour of tea and
of the pipe, and there were heard the voices of the parents, the
children, and the servants, who received their cups in the same room.
They recalled everything funny that had happened on the road, admired
Sonya's hair-dressing, and laughed. Geographically they were all
transferred a distance of five thousand versts, into an entirely
different, strange milieu, but morally they were that evening still at
home, just such as the peculiar, long, solitary family life had made
them to be. It will not be so to-morrow. Peter Ivanovich seated himself
near the samovar, and lighted his pipe. He was not in a cheerful mood.
"So here we are," he said, "and I am glad that we shall not see any one
to-night; this is the last evening we shall pass with the family," and
he washed these words down with a large mouthful of tea.
"Why the last, Pierre?"
"Why? Because the eaglets have learned to fly, and they have to make
their own nests, and from here they will fly each in a different
"What nonsense!" said Sonya, taking his glass from him, and smiling at
him, as she smiled at everything. "The old nest is good enough!"
"The old nest is a sad nest; the old man did not know how to make
it,--he was caught in a cage, and in the cage he reared his young ones,
and was let out only when his wings no longer would hold him up. No, the
eaglets must make their nests higher up, more auspiciously, nearer to
the sun; that is what they are his children for, that his example might
serve them; but the old one will look on, so long as he is not blind,
and will listen, when he becomes blind-- Pour in some rum, more,
"We shall see who is going to leave," replied Sonya, casting a cursory
glance at her mother, as though she felt uneasy speaking in her
presence. "We shall see who is going to leave," she continued. "I am not
afraid for myself, neither am I for Serezha." (Serezha was walking up
and down in the room, thinking of how clothes would be ordered for him
to-morrow, and wondering whether he had better go to the tailor, or send
for him; he was not interested in Sonya's conversation with his father.)
Sonya began to laugh.
"What is the matter? What?" asked her father.
"You are younger than we, papa. Much younger, indeed," she said, again
bursting out into a laugh.
"Indeed!" said the old man, and his austere wrinkles formed themselves
into a gentle, and yet contemptuous, smile.
Natalya Nikolaevna bent away from the samovar which prevented her seeing
"Sonya is right. You are still sixteen years old, Pierre. Serezha is
younger in feelings, but you are younger in soul. I can foresee what he
will do, but you will astound me yet."
Whether he recognized the justice of this remark, or was flattered by
it, he did not know what reply to make, and only smoked in silence,
drank his tea, and beamed with his eyes. But Serezha, with
characteristic egoism of youth, interested in what was said about him,
entered into the conversation and affirmed that he was really old, that
his arrival in Moscow and the new life, which was opening before him,
did not gladden him in the least, and that he calmly reflected on the
future and looked forward toward it.
"Still, it is the last evening," repeated Peter Ivanovich. "It will not
be again to-morrow."
And he poured a little more rum into his glass. He sat for a long time
at the tea-table, with an expression as though he wished to say many
things, but had no hearers. He moved up the rum toward him, but his
daughter softly carried away the bottle.
When M. Chevalier, who had been up-stairs to look after his guests,
returned to his room and gave the benefit of his observations on the
newcomers to his life companion, in laces and a silk garment, who in
Parisian fashion was sitting back of the counter, several habitual
visitors of the establishment were sitting in the room. Serezha, who had
been down-stairs, had taken notice of that room and of its visitors. If
you have been in Moscow, you have, no doubt, noticed that room yourself.
If you, a modest man who do not know Moscow, have missed a dinner to
which you are invited, or have made a mistake in your calculations,
imagining that the hospitable Muscovites would invite you to dinner, or
simply wish to dine in the best restaurant, you enter the lackeys' room.
Three or four lackeys jump up: one of them takes off your fur coat and
congratulates you on the occasion of the New Year, or of the
Butter-week, or of your arrival, or simply remarks that you have not
called for a long while, though you have never been in that
You enter, and the first thing that strikes your eyes is a table set, as
you in the first moment imagine, with an endless quantity of palatable
dishes. But that is only an optical illusion, for the greater part of
that table is occupied by pheasants in feather, raw lobsters, boxes with
perfume and pomatum, and bottles with cosmetics and candy. Only at the
very edge, if you look well, will you find the vodka and a piece of
bread with butter and sardines, under a wire globe, which is quite
useless in Moscow in the month of December, even though it is precisely
such as those which are used in Paris. Then, beyond the table, you see
the room, where behind a counter sits a Frenchwoman, of extremely
repulsive exterior, but wearing the cleanest of gloves and a most
exquisite, fashionable gown. Near the Frenchwoman you will see an
officer in unbuttoned uniform, taking a dram of vodka, a civilian
reading a newspaper, and somebody's military or civilian legs lying on a
velvet chair, and you will hear French conversation, and more or less
sincere, loud laughter.
If you wish to know what is going on in that room, I should advise you
not to enter within, but only to look in, as though merely passing by to
take a sandwich. Otherwise you will feel ill at ease from the
interrogative silence and glances, and you will certainly take your tail
between your legs and skulk away to one of the tables in the large hall,
or to the winter garden. Nobody will keep you from doing so. These
tables are for everybody, and there, in your solitude, you may call Dey
a garcon and order as many truffles as you please. The room with the
Frenchwoman, however, exists for the select, golden Moscow youth, and it
is not so easy to find your way among the select as you imagine.
On returning to this room, M. Chevalier told his wife that the gentleman
from Siberia was dull, but that his son and daughter were fine people,
such as could be raised only in Siberia.
"You ought just to see the daughter! She is a little rose-bush!"
"Oh, this old man is fond of fresh-looking women," said one of the
guests, who was smoking a cigar. (The conversation, of course, was
carried on in French, but I render it in Russian, as I shall continue to
do in this story.)
"Oh, I am very fond of them!" replied M. Chevalier. "Women are my
passion. Do you not believe me?"
"Do you hear, Madame Chevalier?" shouted a stout officer of Cossacks,
who owed a big bill in the institution and was fond of chatting with the
"He shares my taste," said M. Chevalier, patting the stout man on his
"And is this Siberian young lady really pretty?"
M. Chevalier folded his fingers and kissed them.
After that the conversation between the guests became confidential and
very jolly. They were talking about the stout officer; he smiled as he
listened to what they were saying about him.
"How can one have such perverted taste!" cried one, through the
laughter. "Mlle. Clarisse! You know, Strugov prefers such of the women
as have chicken calves."
Though Mlle. Clarisse did not understand the salt of that remark, she
behind her counter burst out into a laughter as silvery as her bad
teeth and advanced years permitted.
"Has the Siberian lady turned him to such thoughts?" and she laughed
more heartily still. M. Chevalier himself roared with laughter, as he
"Ce vieux coquin," patting the officer of Cossacks on his head and
"But who are they, those Siberians? Mining proprietors or merchants?"
one of the gentlemen asked, during a pause in the laughter.
"Nikita, ask ze passport from ze chentleman zat as come," said M.
"We, Alexander, ze Autocrat--" M. Chevalier began to read the passport,
which had been brought in the meantime, but the officer of Cossacks tore
it out of his hands, and his face expressed surprise.
"Guess who it is," he said, "for you all know him by reputation."
"How can we guess? Show it to us! Well, Abdel Kader, ha, ha, ha! Well,
Cagliostro-- Well, Peter III.--ha, ha, ha, ha!"
"Well, read it!"
The officer of Cossacks unfolded the paper and read the name of him who
once had been Prince Peter Ivanovich, and the family name which
everybody knows and pronounces with a certain respect and pleasure, when
speaking of a person bearing that name, as of a near and familiar
person. We shall call him Labazov. The officer of Cossacks had a dim
recollection that this Peter Labazov had been something important in the
year '25, and that he had been sent to hard labour,--but what he had
been famous for, he did not exactly know. But of the others not one knew
anything about him, and they replied:
"Oh, yes, the famous prince," just as they would have said, "Of course,
he is famous!" about Shakespeare, who had written the "Aeneid." But they
recognized him from the explanations of the stout officer, who told
them that he was a brother of Prince Ivan, an uncle of the Chikins, of
Countess Prut, in short, the well-known--
"He must be very rich, if he is a brother of Prince Ivan," remarked one
of the young men, "if the fortune has been returned to him. It has been
returned to some."
"What a lot of exiles are returning nowadays!" remarked another.
"Really, fewer seem to have been sent away, than are returning now.
Zhikinski, tell us that story of the 18th!" he turned to an officer of
sharp-shooters, who had the reputation of being a good story-teller.
"Do tell it!"
"In the first place, it is a true story, and happened here, at
Chevalier's, in the large hall. Three Decembrists came to have their
dinner. They were sitting at one table, eating, drinking, talking.
Opposite them sat down a gentleman of respectable mien, of about the
same age, and he listened to their talking about Siberia. He asked them
something, they exchanged a few words, began to converse, and it turned
out that he, too, was from Siberia.
"'And do you know Nerchinsk?'
"'Indeed I do, I lived there.'
"'And do you know Tatyana Ivanovna?'
"'Of course I do!'
"'Permit me to ask you,--were you, too, exiled?'
"'Yes, I had the misfortune to suffer, and you?'
"'We are all exiles of the 14th of December. It is strange that we
should not know you, if you, too, were exiled for the 14th. Permit me to
know your name!'
"'Also for the 14th?'
"'No, for the 18th.'
"'For the 18th?'
"'For the 18th of September, for a gold watch. I was falsely accused of
having stolen it, and I suffered, though innocent.'"
All of them rolled in laughter, except the story-teller, who with a most
serious face looked at the outstretched hearers and swore that it was a
Soon after the story one of the young men got up and went to the club.
He passed through the halls which were filled with tables at which old
men were playing whist; turned into the "infernal region," where the
famous "Puchin" had begun his game against the "company;" stood for
awhile near one of the billiard-tables, where, holding on to the
cushion, a distinguished old man was fumbling around and with difficulty
striking a ball; looked into the library, where a general, holding a
newspaper a distance away from him, was reading it slowly above his
glasses, and a registered young man turned the leaves of one periodical
after another, trying to make no noise; and finally seated himself on a
divan in the billiard-room, near some young people who were playing
pyramids, and who were as much gilded as he was.
It was a day of dinners, and there were there many gentlemen who always
frequented the club. Among them was Ivan Vavilovich Pakhtin. He was a
man of about forty years of age, of medium stature, fair-complexioned,
with broad shoulders and hips, with a bare head, and a glossy, happy,
clean-shaven face. He was not playing at pyramids, but had just sat down
beside Prince D----, with whom he was on "thou" terms, and had accepted
a glass of champagne which had been offered to him. He had located
himself so comfortably after the dinner, having quietly unbuckled his
trousers at the back, that it looked as though he could sit there all
his life, smoking a cigar, drinking champagne, and feeling the proximity
of princes, counts, and the children of ministers. The news of the
arrival of the Labazovs interfered with his calm.
"Where are you going, Pakhtin," said a minister's son, having noticed
during the game that Pakhtin had got up, pulled his waistcoat down, and
emptied his champagne in a large gulp.
"Syevernikov has invited me," said Pakhtin, feeling a restlessness in
his legs. "Well, will you go there?"
"Anastasya, Anastasya, please unlock the door for me." That was a
well-known gipsy-song, which was in vogue at that time.
"Perhaps. And you?"
"Where shall I, an old married man, go?"
Pakhtin, smiling, went to the glass hall, to join Syevernikov. He was
fond of having his last word appear to be a joke. And so it came out at
that time, too.
"Well, how is the countess's health?" he asked, walking over to
Syevernikov, who had not called him at all, but who, according to
Pakhtin's surmise, should more than any one else learn of the arrival of
the Labazovs. Syevernikov had somehow been mixed up with the affair of
the 14th, and was a friend of the Decembrists. The countess's health was
much better, and Pakhtin was very glad to hear it.
"Do you know, Labazov has arrived; he is staying at Chevaliers."
"You don't say so! We are old friends. How glad I am! How glad! The poor
old fellow must have grown old. His wife wrote to my wife--"
But Syevernikov did not finish saying what it was she had written,
because his partners, who were playing without trumps, had made some
mistake. While speaking with Ivan Pavlovich, he kept an eye on them, and
now he leaned forward with his whole body against the table, and,
thumping it with his hands, he tried to prove that they ought to have
played from the seven. Ivan Pavlovich got up and, going up to another
table, in the middle of a conversation informed another worthy gentleman
of his bit of news, again got up, and repeated the same at a third
table. The worthy gentlemen were all glad to hear of the arrival of the
Labazovs, so that, upon returning to the billiard-room, Ivan Pavlovich,
who at first had had his misgivings about whether he had to rejoice in
the return of the Labazovs, or not, no longer started with an
introduction about the ball, about an article in the Messenger, about
health, or weather, but approached everybody directly with the
enthusiastic announcement of the safe return of the famous Decembrist.
The old man, who was still vainly endeavouring to hit the white ball
with his cue, would, in Pakhtin's opinion, be very much delighted to
hear the news. He went up to him.
"Are you playing well, your Excellency?" he said, just as the old man
stuck his cue into the marker's red waistcoat, wishing to indicate that
it had to be chalked.
"Your Excellency" was not said, as you might think, from a desire of
being subservient (no, that was not the fashion in '56). Ivan Pavlovich
was in the habit of calling the old man by his name and patronymic, but
this was said partly as a joke on men who spoke that way, partly in
order to hint that he knew full well to whom he was talking, and yet was
taking liberties, and partly in truth: altogether it was a very delicate
"I have just learned that Peter Labazov has returned. Straight from
Siberia, with his whole family."
These words Pakhtin pronounced just as the old man again missed his
ball, for such was his bad luck.
"If he has returned as cracked as he went away, there is no cause for
rejoicing," gruffly said the old man, who was irritated by his
This statement vexed Ivan Pavlovich, and again he was at a loss whether
there was any cause for rejoicing at Labazov's return, and, in order
fully to settle his doubt, he directed his steps to a room, where
generally assembled the clever people, who knew the meaning and value of
each thing, and, in short, knew everything. Ivan Pavlovich was on the
same footing of friendship with the frequenters of the intellectual room
as with the gilded youths and with the dignitaries. It is true, he had
no special place of his own in the intellectual room, but nobody was
surprised to see him enter and seat himself on a divan. They were just
discussing in what year and upon what occasion there had taken place a
quarrel between two Russian journalists. Waiting for a moment of
silence, Ivan Pavlovich communicated his bit of news, not as something
joyous, nor as an unimportant event, but as though part of the
conversation. But immediately, from the way the "intellectuals" (I use
the word "intellectuals" as a name for the frequenters of the
"intellectual" room) received the news and began to discuss it, Ivan
Pavlovich understood that it belonged there, and that only there would
it receive such an elaboration as to enable him to carry it farther and
savoir a quoi s'en tenir.
"Labazov was the only one who was wanting," said one of the
intellectuals; "now all the living Decembrists have returned to Russia."
"He was one of the herd of the famous--" said Pakhtin, still with an
inquisitive glance, prepared to make that quotation both jocular and
"Indeed, Labazov was one of the most remarkable men of that time," began
an intellectual. "In 1819 he was an ensign of the Semenovski regiment,
and was sent abroad with messages to Duke Z----. Then he returned and in
the year '24 was received in the First Masonic lodge. The Masons of that
time used all to gather at the house of D---- and at his house. He was
very rich. Prince Zh----, Fedor D----, Ivan P----, those were his
nearest friends. Then his uncle, Prince Visarion, to remove the young
man from that society, took him to Moscow."
"Pardon me, Nikolay Stepanovich," another intellectual interrupted him,
"it seems to me that that happened in the year '23, because Visarion
Labazov was appointed a commander of the Third Corps in '24, and was
then in Warsaw. He had offered him an adjutantship, and after his
refusal, he was removed. However, pardon me for interrupting you."
"Not at all. Proceed!"
"Proceed! You ought to know that better than I, and, besides, your
memory and knowledge have been sufficiently attested here."
"In Moscow he against his uncle's will left the army," continued the one
whose memory and knowledge had been attested, "and there he gathered
around him a second society, of which he was the progenitor and the
heart, if it be possible so to express it. He was rich, handsome,
clever, educated; they say he was exceedingly amiable. My aunt used to
tell me that she did not know a more bewitching man. Here he married
Miss Krinski, a few months before the revolt broke out."
"The daughter of Nikolay Krinski, the one of Borodino fame, you know,"
somebody interrupted him.
"Well, yes. Her immense fortune he still possesses, but his own paternal
estate passed over to his younger brother, Prince Ivan, who is now
Ober-Hof-Kaffermeister" (he gave him some such name) "and was a
"The best thing is what he did for his brother," continued the narrator.
"When he was arrested, there was one thing which he succeeded in
destroying, and that was his brother's letters and documents."
"Was his brother mixed up in it, too?"
The narrator did not say "Yes," but compressed his lips and gave a
"Then, during all the inquests Peter Labazov kept denying everything
which concerned his brother, and so suffered more than the rest. But the
best part of it is that Prince Ivan got all the property, and never sent
a penny to his brother."
"They say that Peter Labazov himself declined it," remarked one of the
"Yes; but he declined it only because Prince Ivan wrote him before the
coronation, excusing himself and saying that if he had not taken it, it
would have been confiscated, and that he had children and debts, and
that now he was unable to return it to him. Peter Labazov replied to him
in two lines: 'Neither I nor my heirs have any right, nor can have any
right, to the property legally appropriated by you.' That was all. How
was that? And Prince Ivan swallowed it, and in delight locked up that
document with the notes in a safe, and showed it to no one."
One of the peculiarities of the intellectual room was that its visitors
knew, whenever they wanted to know, everything that was taking place in
the world, no matter how secret the event might have been.
"Still it is a question," said a new interlocutor, "whether it was just
to deprive the children of Prince Ivan of the property, with which they
have grown up and have been educated, and to which they thought they had
Thus the conversation was transferred to an abstract sphere, which did
not interest Pakhtin.
He felt the necessity of communicating the news to fresh people, and so
he rose and, speaking to the right and to the left, walked from one hall
to another. One of his fellow officers stopped him to give him the news
of Labazov's arrival.
"Who does not know that?" replied Ivan Pavlovich, with a calm smile,
turning to the exit. The news had had time to complete its circle, and
was again returning to him.
There was nothing else to do in the club, and he went to an evening
party. It was not a special entertainment, but a salon where guests were
received any evening. There were there eight ladies, and one old
colonel, and all found it terribly dull. Pakhtin's firm gait alone and
his smiling face cheered the ladies and maidens. And the news was the
more appropriate, since the old Countess Fuks and her daughter were
present in the salon. When Pakhtin told nearly word for word what he had
heard in the intellectual room, Madame Fuks, shaking her head and
marvelling at her old age, began to recall how she used to go out
together with Natasha Krinski, the present Princess Labazov.
"Her marriage is a very romantic story, and all that happened under my
eyes. Natasha was almost engaged to Myatlin, who was later killed in a
duel with Debras. Just then Prince Peter arrived in Moscow, fell in love
with her, and proposed to her. But her father, who wanted Myatlin very
much,--they were, in general, afraid of Labazov because he was a
Mason,--refused him. The young man continued to see her at balls,
everywhere, and became friendly with Myatlin, whom he begged to decline.
Myatlin agreed to do so, and he persuaded her to elope. She, too,
agreed, but the last repentance----" (the conversation was taking place
in French), "and she went to her father and said that everything was
ready for the elopement, and she could leave him, but hoped for his
magnanimity. And, indeed, her father forgave her,--everybody begged for
her,--and gave his consent. Thus the wedding was celebrated, and it was
a jolly wedding! Who of us thought that a year later she would follow
him to Siberia! She, an only daughter, the most beautiful, the richest
woman of that time. Emperor Alexander always used to notice her at
balls, and had danced with her so often. Countess G---- gave a bal
costume,--I remember it as though it were to-day,--and she was a
Neapolitan maid, oh, so charming! Whenever he came to Moscow, he used to
ask, 'que fait la belle Napolitaine?' And suddenly this woman, in such
a condition (she bore a child on the way), did not stop for a moment to
think, without preparing anything, without collecting her things, just
as she was, when they took him, followed him a distance of five thousand
"Oh, what a remarkable woman!" said the hostess.
"Both he and she were remarkable people," said another lady. "I have
been told,--I don't know whether it is true,--that wherever they worked
in the mines in Siberia, or whatever it is called, the convicts, who
were with them, improved in their presence."
"But she has never worked in the mines," Pakhtin corrected her.
How much that year '56 meant! Three years before no one had been
thinking of the Labazovs, and if any one recalled them, it was with that
unaccountable feeling of dread with which one speaks of one lately dead;
but now they vividly recalled all the former relations, all the
beautiful qualities, and each lady was making a plan for getting the
monopoly of the Labazovs, in order to treat the other guests to them.
"Their son and their daughter have come with them," said Pakhtin.
"If they are only as handsome as their mother used to be," said Countess
Fuks. "Still, their father, too, was very, very handsome."
"How could they educate their children there?" asked the hostess.
"They say, nicely. They say that the young man is as nice, as amiable,
and as cultured as though he had been brought up in Paris."
"I predict great success to that young person," said a homely spinster.
"All those Siberian ladies have something pleasantly trivial about them,
which everybody, however, likes."
"Yes, yes," said another spinster.
"Here we have another rich prospective bride," said a third spinster.
The old colonel, of German origin, who had come to Moscow three years
before, in order to marry a rich girl, decided as quickly as possible,
before the young people knew anything about it, to present himself and
propose. But the spinsters and ladies thought almost the same about the
"No doubt that is the one I am destined to marry," thought a spinster
who had been going out for eight years.
"No doubt it was for the best that that stupid officer of the Chevalier
Guards did not propose to me. I should certainly have been unhappy."
"Well, they will again grow yellow with envy, if this one, too, falls in
love with me," thought a young and pretty lady.
We hear much about the provincialism of small towns,--but there is
nothing worse than the provincialism of the upper classes. There are no
new persons there, and society is prepared to receive all kinds of new
persons, if they should make their appearance; but they are rarely, very
rarely, recognized as belonging to their circle and accepted, as was the
case with the Labazovs, and the sensation produced by them is stronger
than in a provincial town.
"This is Moscow, white-stoned Mother Moscow," said Peter Ivanovich,
rubbing his eyes in the morning, and listening to the tolling of the
bells which was proceeding from Gazette Lane. Nothing so vividly
resurrects the past as sounds, and these sounds of the Moscow bells,
combined with the sight of a white wall opposite the window, and with
the rumbling of wheels, so vividly reminded him not only of the Moscow
which he had known thirty-five years before, but also of the Moscow with
the Kremlin, with the palaces, with Ivan the bell, and so forth, which
he had been carrying in his heart, that he experienced a childish joy at
being a Russian, and in Moscow.
There appeared the Bukhara morning-gown, wide open over the broad chest
with its chintz shirt, the pipe with its amber, the lackey with soft
manners, tea, the odour of tobacco; a loud male voice was heard in
Chevalier's apartments; there resounded the morning kisses, and the
voices of daughter and son, and the Decembrist was as much at home as in
Irkutsk, and as he would have been in New York or in Paris.
No matter how much I should like to present to my readers the Decembrist
hero above all foibles, I must confess, for truth's sake, that Peter
Ivanovich took great pains in shaving and combing himself, and in
looking at himself in the mirror. He was dissatisfied with the garments,
which had been made in Siberia with little elegance, and two or three
times he buttoned and unbuttoned his coat.
But Natalya Nikolaevna entered the drawing-room, rustling with her black
moire gown, with mittens and with ribbons in her cap, which, though not
according to the latest fashion, were so arranged that, far from making
her appear ridicule, they made her look distinguee. For this ladies
have a special sixth sense and perspicacity, which cannot be compared to
Sonya, too, was so dressed that, although she was two years behind in
fashion, she could not be reproached in any way. On her mother
everything was dark and simple, and on the daughter bright and
Serezha had just awakened, and so they went by themselves to mass.
Father and mother sat in the back seat, and their daughter was opposite
them. Vasili climbed on the box, and the hired carriage took them to the
Kremlin. When they got out of the carriage, the ladies adjusted their
robes, and Peter Ivanovich took the arm of his Natalya Nikolaevna, and,
throwing back his head, walked up to the door of the church. Many
people, merchants, officers, and everybody else, could not make out what
kind of people they were.
Who was that old man with his old sunburnt, and still unblanched face,
with the large, straight work wrinkles of a peculiar fold, different
from the wrinkles acquired in the English club, with snow-white hair and
beard, with a good, proud glance and energetic movements? Who was that
tall lady with that determined gait, and those weary, dimmed, large,
beautiful eyes? Who was that fresh, stately, strong young lady, neither
fashionable, nor timid? Merchants? No, no merchants. Germans? No, no
Germans. Gentlefolk? No, they are different,--they are distinguished
people. Thus thought those who saw them in church, and for some reason
more readily and cheerfully made way for them than for men in thick
epaulets. Peter Ivanovich bore himself just as majestically as at the
entrance, and prayed quietly, with reserve, and without forgetting
himself. Natalya Nikolaevna glided down on her knees, took out a
handkerchief, and wept much during the cherubical song. Sonya seemed to
be making an effort over herself in order to pray. Devotion did not come
to her, but she did not look around, and diligently made the signs of
Serezha stayed at home, partly because he had overslept himself, partly
because he did not like to stand through a mass, which made his legs
faint,--a matter he was unable to understand, since it was a mere trifle
for him to walk forty miles on snow-shoes, whereas standing through
twelve pericopes was the greatest physical torture for him,--but chiefly
because he felt that more than anything he needed a new suit of clothes.
He dressed himself and went to Blacksmith Bridge. He had plenty of
money. His father had made it a rule, ever since his son had passed his
twenty-first year, to let him have as much money as he wished. It lay
with him to leave his parents entirely without money.
How sorry I am for the 250 roubles which he threw away in Kuntz's shop
of ready-made clothes! Any one of the gentlemen who met Serezha would
have been only too happy to show him around, and would have regarded it
as a piece of happiness to go with him to get his clothes made. But, as
it was, he was a stranger in the crowd, and, making his way in his cap
along Blacksmith Bridge, he went to the end, without looking into the
shops, opened the door, and came out from it in a cinnamon-coloured
half-dress coat, which was tight (though at that time they wore wide
coats), and in loose black trousers (though they wore tight trousers),
and in a flowery atlas waistcoat, which not one of the gentlemen, who
were in Chevalier's special room, would have allowed their lackeys to
wear, and bought a number of other a things; on the other hand, Kuntz
marvelled at the young man's slender waist, the like of which, as he
explained to everybody, he had never seen. Serezha knew that he had a
beautiful waist, and he was very much flattered by the praise of a
stranger, such as Kuntz was.
He came out with 250 roubles less, but was dressed badly, in fact so
badly that his apparel two days later passed over into Vasili's
possession and always remained a disagreeable memory for Serezha.
At home he went down-stairs, seated himself in the large hall, looking
now and then into the sanctum, and ordered a breakfast of such strange
dishes that the servant in the kitchen had to laugh. Then he asked for
a periodical, and pretended to be reading. When the servant, encouraged
by the inexperience of the young man, addressed some questions to him,
Serezha said, "Go to your place!" and blushed. But he said this so
proudly that the servant obeyed. Mother, father, and daughter, upon
returning home, found his clothes excellent.
Do you remember that joyous sensation of childhood, when you were
dressed up for your name-day and taken to mass, and when, upon returning
with a holiday expression in your clothes, upon your countenance, and in
your soul, you found toys and guests at home? You knew that on that day
there would be no classes, that even the grown-ups celebrated on that
day, and that that was a day of exceptions and pleasures for the whole
house; you knew that you alone were the cause of that holiday, and that
you would be forgiven, no matter what you might do, and you were
surprised to see that the people in the streets did not celebrate along
with your home folk, and the sounds were more audible, and the colours
brighter,--in short, a name-day sensation. It was a sensation of that
kind that Peter Ivanovich experienced on his return from church.
Pakhtin's solicitude of the evening before did not pass in vain: instead
of toys Peter Ivanovich found at home several visiting-cards of
distinguished Muscovites, who, in the year '56, regarded it as their
peremptory duty to show every attention possible to a famous exile, whom
they would under no consideration have wished to see three years before.
In the eyes of Chevalier, the porter, and the servants of the hotel, the
appearance of carriages asking for Peter Ivanovich, on that one morning
increased their respect and subserviency tenfold.
All those were name-day toys for Peter Ivanovich. No matter how much
tried in life, how clever a man may be, the expression of respect from
people respected by a large number of men is always agreeable. Peter
Ivanovich felt light of heart when Chevalier, bowing, offered to change
his apartments and asked him to order anything he might need, and
assured him that he regarded Peter Ivanovich's visit as a piece of luck,
and when, examining the visiting-cards and throwing them into a vase, he
called out the names of Count S----, Prince D----, and so forth.
Natalya Nikolaevna said that she would not receive anybody and that she
would go at once to the house of Marya Ivanovna, to which Peter
Ivanovich consented, though he wished very much to talk to some of the
Only one visitor managed to get through before the refusal to meet him.
That was Pakhtin. If this man had been asked why he went away from the
Prechistenka to go to Gazette Lane, he would have been unable to give
any excuse, except that he was fond of everything new and remarkable,
and so had come to see Peter Ivanovich, as something rare. One would
think that, coming to see a stranger for no other reason than that, he
would have been embarrassed. But the contrary was true. Peter Ivanovich
and his son and Sonya Petrovna became embarrassed. Natalya Nikolaevna
was too much of a grande dame to become embarrassed for any reason
whatever. The weary glance of her beautiful black eyes was calmly
lowered on Pakhtin. But Pakhtin was refreshing, self-contented, and
gaily amiable, as always. He was a friend of Marya Ivanovna's.
"Ah!" said Natalya Nikolaevna.
"Not a friend,--the difference of our years,--but she has always been
kind to me."
Pakhtin was an old admirer of Peter Ivanovich's,--he knew his
companions. He hoped that he could be useful to the newcomers. He would
have appeared the previous evening, but could not find the time, and
begged to be excused, and sat down and talked for a long time.
"Yes, I must tell you, I have found many changes in Russia since then,"
Peter Ivanovich said, in reply to a question.
The moment Peter Ivanovich began to speak, you ought to have seen with
what respectful attention Pakhtin received every word that flew out of
the mouth of the distinguished old man, and how after each sentence, at
times after a word, Pakhtin with a nod, a smile, or a motion of his eyes
gave him to understand that he had received and accepted the memorable
sentence or word.
The weary glance approved of that manoeuvre. Sergyey Petrovich seemed to
be afraid lest his father's conversation should not be weighty enough,
corresponding to the attention of the hearer. Sonya Petrovna, on the
contrary, smiled that imperceptible self-satisfied smile which people
smile who have caught a man's ridiculous side. It seemed to her that
nothing was to be got from him, that he was a "shyushka," as she and her
brother nicknamed a certain class of people.
Peter Ivanovich declared that during his journey he had seen enormous
changes, which gave him pleasure.
"There is no comparison, the masses--the peasants--stand so much higher
now, have so much greater consciousness of their dignity," he said, as
though repeating some old phrases. "I must say that the masses have
always interested me most. I am of the opinion that the strength of
Russia does not lie in us, but in the masses," and so forth.
Peter Ivanovich with characteristic zeal evolved his more or less
original ideas in regard to many important subjects. We shall hear more
of them in fuller form. Pakhtin was melting for joy, and fully agreed
with him in everything.
"You must by all means meet the Aksatovs. Will you permit me to
introduce them to you, prince? You know they have permitted him to
publish his periodical. To-morrow, they say, the first number will
appear. I have also read his remarkable article on the consistency of
the theory of science in the abstract. Remarkably interesting. Another
article, the history of Servia in the eleventh century, of that famous
general Karbovanets, is also very interesting. Altogether an enormous
"Indeed," said Peter Ivanovich. But he was apparently not interested in
all these bits of information; he did not even know the names and merits
of all those men whom Pakhtin quoted as universally known.
But Natalya Nikolaevna, without denying the necessity of knowing all
these men and conditions, remarked in justification of her husband that
Pierre received his periodicals very late. He read entirely too much.
"Papa, shall we not go to aunty?" asked Sonya, upon coming in.
"We shall, but we must have our breakfast. Won't you have anything?"
Pakhtin naturally declined, but Peter Ivanovich, with the hospitality
characteristic of every Russian and of him in particular, insisted that
Pakhtin should eat and drink something. He himself emptied a wine-glass
of vodka and a tumbler of Bordeaux. Pakhtin noticed that as he was
filling his glass, Natalya accidentally turned away from it, and the son
cast a peculiar glance on his father's hands.
After the wine, Peter Ivanovich, in response to Pakhtin's questions
about what his opinion was in respect to the new literature, the new
tendency, the war, the peace (Pakhtin had a knack of uniting the most
diversified subjects into one senseless but smooth conversation), in
response to these questions Peter Ivanovich at once replied with one
general profession de foi, and either under the influence of the wine,
or of the subject of the conversation, he became so excited that tears
appeared in his eyes, and Pakhtin, too, was in ecstasy, and himself
became tearful, and without embarrassment expressed his conviction that
Peter Ivanovich was now in advance of all the foremost men and should
become the head of all the parties. Peter Ivanovich's eyes became
inflamed,--he believed what Pakhtin was telling him,--and he would have
continued talking for a long time, if Sonya Petrovna had not schemed to
get Natalya Nikolaevna to put on her mantilla, and had not come herself
to raise Peter Ivanovich from his seat. He poured out the rest of the
wine into a glass, but Sonya Petrovna drank it.
"What is this?"
"I have not had any yet, papa, pardon."
"Well, let us go to Marya Ivanovna's. You will excuse us, Monsieur
And Peter Ivanovich left the room, carrying his head high. In the
vestibule he met a general, who had come to call on his old
acquaintance. They had not seen each other for thirty-five years. The
general was toothless and bald.
"How fresh you still are!" he said. "Evidently Siberia is better than
St. Petersburg. These are your family,--introduce me to them! What a
fine fellow your son is! So to dinner to-morrow?"
"Yes, yes, by all means."
On the porch they met the famous Chikhaev, another old acquaintance.
"How did you find out that I had arrived?"
"It would be a shame for Moscow if it did not know it. It is a shame
that you were not met at the barrier. Where do you dine? No doubt with
your sister, Marya Ivanovna. Very well, I shall be there myself."
Peter Ivanovich always had the aspect of a proud man for one who could
not through that exterior make out the expression of unspeakable
goodness and impressionableness; but just then even Marya Nikolaevna was
delighted to see his unwonted dignity, and Sonya Petrovna smiled with
her eyes, as she looked at him. They arrived at the house of Marya
Ivanovna. Marya Ivanovna was Peter Ivanovich's godmother and ten years
his senior. She was an old maid.
Her history, why she did not get married, and how she had passed her
youth, I will tell some time later.
She had lived uninterruptedly for forty years in Moscow. She had neither
much intelligence, nor great wealth, and she did not think much of
connections,--on the contrary; and there was not a man who did not
respect her. She was so convinced that everybody ought to respect her
that everybody actually respected her. There were some young liberals
from the university who did not recognize her power, but these gentlemen
made a bold front only in her absence. She needed only to enter the
drawing-room with her royal gait, to say something in her calm manner,
to smile her kindly smile, and they were vanquished. Her society
consisted of everybody. She looked upon all of Moscow as her home folk,
and treated them as such. She had friends mostly among the young people
and clever men, but women she did not like. She had also dependents,
whom our literature has for some reason included with the Hungarian
woman and with generals in one common class for contempt; but Marya
Ivanovna considered it better for Skopin, who had been ruined in cards,
and Madame Byeshev, whom her husband had driven away, to be living with
her than in misery, and so she kept them.
But the two great passions in Marya Ivanovna's present life were her two
brothers. Peter Ivanovich was her idol. Prince Ivan was hateful to her.
She had not known that Peter Ivanovich had arrived; she had attended
mass, and was just finishing her coffee.
At the table sat the vicar of Moscow, Madame Byeshev, and Skopin. Marya
Ivanovna was telling them about young Count V----, the son of P----
Z----, who had returned from Sevastopol, and with whom she was in l