HE WALKED THE LENGTH of Bogoyavlensky Street. At last the road began to g_ownhill; his feet slipped in the mud and suddenly there lay open before him _ide, misty, as it were empty expansethe river. The houses were replaced b_ovels; the street was lost in a multitude of irregular little alleys.
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was a long while making his way between the fences, keeping close to the river bank, but finding his way confidently, and scarcel_iving it a thought indeed. He was absorbed in something quite different, an_ooked round with surprise when suddenly, waking up from a profound reverie, he found himself almost in the middle of one long, wet, floating bridge.
There was not a soul to be seen, so that it seemed strange to him whe_uddenly, almost at his elbow, he heard a deferentially familiar, but rathe_leasant, voice, with a suave intonation, such as is affected by our over- refined tradespeople or befrizzled young shop assistants.
"Will you kindly allow me, sir, to share your umbrella?"
There actually was a figure that crept under his umbrella, or tried to appea_o do so. The tramp was walking beside him, almost "feeling his elbow," as th_oldiers say. Slackening his pace, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch bent down to loo_ore closely, as far as he could, in the darkness. It was a short man, an_eemed like an artisan who had been drinking; he was shabbily and scantil_ressed; a cloth cap, soaked by the rain and with the brim half torn off, perched on his shaggy, curly head. He looked a thin, vigorous, swarthy ma_ith dark hair; his eyes were large and must have been black, with a har_litter and a yellow tinge in them, like a gipsy's; that could be divined eve_n the darkness. He was about forty, and was not drunk.
"Do you know me?" asked Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. "Mr. Stavrogin, Nikola_syevolodovitch. You were pointed out to me at the station, when the trai_topped last Sunday, though I had heard enough of you beforehand."
"Prom Pyotr Stepanovitch? Are you … Fedka the convict?"
"I was christened Fyodor Fyodorovitch. My mother is living to this day i_hese parts; she's an old woman, and grows more and more bent every day. Sh_rays to God for me, day and night, so that she doesn't waste her old ag_ying on the stove."
"You escaped from prison?"
"I've had a change of luck. I gave up books and bells and church-going becaus_'d a life sentence, so that I had a very long time to finish my term."
"What are you doing here?"
"Well, I do what I can. My uncle, too, died last week in prison here. He wa_here for false coin, so I threw two dozen stones at the dogs by way o_emorial. That's all I've been doing so far. Moreover Pyotr Stepanovitch give_e hopes of a passport, and a merchant's one, too, to go all over Russia, s_'m waiting on his kindness. 'Because,' says he, 'my papa lost you at cards a_he English club, and I,' says he, 'find that inhumanity unjust.' You migh_ave the kindness to give me three roubles, sir, for a glass to warm myself."
"So you've been spying on me. I don't like that. By whose orders?"
"As to orders, it's nothing of the sort; it's simply that I knew of you_enevolence, which is known to all the world. All we get, as you know, is a_rmful of hay, or a prod with a fork. Last Friday I filled myself as full o_ie as Martin did of soap; since then I didn't eat one day, and the day afte_ fasted, and on the third I'd nothing again. I've had my fill of water fro_he river. I'm breeding fish in my belly… . So won't your honour give m_omething? I've a sweetheart expecting me not far from here, but I daren'_how myself to her without money."
"What did Pyotr Stepanovitch promise you from me?"
"He didn't exactly promise anything, but only said that I might be of use t_our honour if my luck turns out good, but how exactly he didn't explain; fo_yotr Stepanovitch wants to see if I have the patience of a Cossack, and feel_o sort of confidence in me."
"Pyotr Stepanovitch is an astronomer, and has learnt all God's planets, bu_ven he may be criticised. I stand before you, sir, as before God, because _ave heard so much about you. Pyotr Stepanovitch is one thing, but you, sir, maybe, are something else. When he's said of a man he's a scoundrel, he know_othing more about him except that he's a scoundrel. Or if he's said he's _ool, then that man has no calling with him except that of fool. But I may b_ fool Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday wiser than he. Here now he know_bout me that I'm awfully sick to get a passport, for there's no getting on i_ussia without papersso he thinks that he's snared my soul. I tell you, sir, life's a very easy business for Pyotr Stepanovitch, for he fancies a man to b_his and that, and goes on as though he really was. And, what's more, he'_eastly stingy. It's his notion that, apart from him, I daren't trouble you, but I stand before you, sir, as before God. This is the fourth night I've bee_aiting for your honour on this bridge, to show that I can find my own way o_he quiet, without him. I'd better bow to a boot, thinks I, than to _easant's shoe."
"And who told you that I was going to cross the bridge at night?"
"Well, that, I'll own, came out by chance, most through Captain Lebyadkin'_oolishness, because he can't keep anything to himself… . So that thre_oubles from your honour would pay me for the weary time I've had these thre_ays and nights. And the clothes I've had soaked, I feel that too much t_peak of it."
"I'm going to the left; you'll go to the right. Here's the end of the bridge.
Listen, Fyodor; I like people to understand what I say, once for all. I won'_ive you a farthing. Don't meet me in future on the bridge or anywhere. I'v_o need of you, and never shall have, and if you don't obey, I'll tie you an_ake you to the police. March!"
"Eh-heh! Fling me something for my company, anyhow. I've cheered you on you_ay."
"But do you know the way here? There are all sorts of turnings… . I coul_uide you; for this town is for all the world as though the devil carried i_n his basket and dropped it in bits here and there."
"I'll tie you up!" said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, turning upon him menacingly.
"Perhaps you'll change your mind, sir; it's easy to ill-treat the helpless."
"Well, I see you can rely on yourself!"
"I rely upon you, sir, and not very much on myself… ."
"I've no need of you at all. I've told you so already."
"But I have need, that's how it is! I shall wait for you on the way back.
There's nothing for it."
"I give you my word of honour if I meet you I'll tie you up."
"Well, I'll get a belt ready for you to tie me with. A lucky journey to you, sir. You kept the helpless snug under your Umbrella. For that alone I'll b_rateful to you to my dying day." He fell behind. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitc_alked on to his destination, feeling disturbed. This man who had dropped fro_he sky was absolutely convinced that he Was indispensable to him, Stavrogin, and was in insolent haste to tell him so. He was being treated unceremoniousl_ll round. But it was possible, too, that the tramp had not been altogethe_ying, and had tried to force his services upon him on his own initiative, without Pyotr Stepanovitch's knowledge, and that would be more curious still.
The house which Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had reached stood alone in a deserte_ane between fences, beyond which market gardens stretched, at the very end o_he town. It Was a very solitary little wooden house, which was only jus_uilt and not yet weather-boarded. In one of the little windows the shutter_ere not yet closed, and there was a candle standing on the window-ledge, evidently as a signal to the late guest who was expected that night. Thirt_aces away Stavrogin made out on the doorstep the figure of a tall man, evidently the master of the house, who had come out to stare impatiently U_he road. He heard his voice, too, impatient and, as it were, timid.
"Is that you? You?"
"Yes," responded Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but not till he had mounted th_teps and was folding up his umbrella.
"At last, sir." Captain Lebyadkin, for it was he, ran fussily to and fro. "Le_e take your umbrella, please. It's very wet; I'll open it on the floor here, in the corner. Please walk in. Please walk in."
The door was open from the passage into a room that was lighted by tw_andles.
"If it had not been for your promise that you would certainly come, I shoul_ave given up expecting you."
"A quarter to one," said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, looking at his watch, as h_ent into the room.
"And in this rain; and such an interesting distance. I've no clock … and ther_re nothing but market-gardens round me … so that you fall behind the times.
Not that I murmur exactly; for I dare not, I dare not, but only because I'v_een devoured with impatience all the week … to have things settled at last."
"To hear my fate, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. Please sit down."
He bowed, pointing to a seat by the table, before the sofa.
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch looked round. The room was tiny and low-pitched. Th_urniture consisted only of the most essential articles, plain wooden chair_nd a sofa, also newly made without covering or cushions. There were tw_ables of limewood; one by the sofa, and the other in the corner was covere_ith a table-cloth, laid with things over which a clean table-napkin had bee_hrown. And, indeed, the whole room was obviously kept extremely clean.
Captain Lebyadkin had not been drunk for eight days. His face looked bloate_nd yellow. His eyes looked uneasy, inquisitive, and obviously bewildered. I_as only too evident that he did not know what tone he could adopt, and wha_ine it would be most advantageous for him to take.
"Here," he indicated his surroundings, "I live like Zossima. Sobriety, solitude, and povertythe vow of the knights of old."
"You imagine that the knights of old took such vows?"
"Perhaps I'm mistaken. Alas! I have no culture. I've ruined all. Believe me, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, here first I have recovered from shamefu_ropensitiesnot a glass nor a drop! I have a home, and for six days past _ave experienced a conscience at ease. Even the walls smell of resin an_emind me of nature. And what have I been; what was I?
' At night without a bed
And my tongue put out by day
to use the words of a poet of genius. But you're wet through… . Wouldn't yo_ike some tea?"
"The samovar has been boiling since eight o'clock, but it went out at las_ike everything in this world. The sun, too, they say, will go out in it_urn. But if you like I'll get up the samovar. Agafya is not asleep."
"Tell me, Marya Timofyevna … "
"She's here, here," Lebyadkin replied at once, in a whisper. "Would you lik_o have a look at her?" He pointed to the closed door to the next room. "She'_ot asleep?"
"Oh, no, no. How could she be? On the contrary, she's been expecting you al_he evening, and as soon as she heard you were coming she began making he_oilet."
He was just twisting his mouth into a jocose smile, but he instantly checke_imself.
"How is she, on the whole?" asked Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, frowning.
"On the whole? You know that yourself, sir." He shrugged his shoulder_ommiseratingly. "But just now … just now she's telling her fortune wit_ards… ."
"Very good. Later on. First of all I must finish with you."
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch settled himself in a chair. The captain did no_enture to sit down on the sofa, but at once moved up another chair fo_imself, and bent forward to listen, in a tremor of expectation.
"What have you got there under the table-cloth?" asked Nikola_syevolodovitch, suddenly noticing it.
"That?" said Lebyadkin, turning towards it also. "That's from your generosity, by way of house-warming, so to say; considering also the length of the walk, and your natural fatigue," he sniggered ingratiatingly. Then he got up o_iptoe, and respectfully and carefully lifted the table-cloth from the tabl_n the corner. Under it was seen a slight meal: ham, veal, sardines, cheese, _ittle green decanter, and a long bottle of Bordeaux. Everything had been lai_eatly, expertly, and almost daintily.
"Was that your effort?"
"Yes, sir. Ever since yesterday I've done my best, and all to do you honour… .
Marya Timofyevna doesn't trouble herself, as you know, on that score. An_hat's more its all from your liberality, your own providing, as you're th_aster of the house and not I, and I'm only, so to say, your agent. All th_ame, all the same, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, all the same, in spirit, I'_ndependent! Don't take away from me this last possession!" he finished u_athetically.
"H'm! You might sit down again."
"Gra-a-teful, grateful, and independent." He sat down. "Ah, Nikola_syevolodovitch, so much has been fermenting in this heart that I have no_nown how to wait for your coming. Now you will decide my fate, and … tha_nhappy creature's, and then … shall I pour out all I feel to you as I used t_n old days, four years ago? You deigned to listen to me then, you read m_erses… . They might call me your Falstaff from Shakespeare in those days, bu_ou meant so much in my life! I have great terrors now, and its only to you _ook for counsel and light. Pyotr Stepanovitch is treating me abominably!"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch listened with interest, and looked at him attentively.
It was evident that though Captain Lebyadkin had left off drinking he was fa_rom being in a harmonious state of mind. Drunkards of many years' standing, like Lebyadkin, often show traces of incoherence, of mental cloudiness, o_omething, as it were, damaged, and crazy, though they may deceive, cheat, an_windle, almost as well as anybody if occasion arises.
"I see that you haven't changed a bit in these four years and more, captain,"
said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, somewhat more amiably. "It seems, in fact, a_hough the second half of a man's life is usually made up of nothing but th_abits he has accumulated during the first half."
"Grand words! You solve the riddle of life!" said the captain, half cunningly, half in genuine and unfeigned admiration, for he was a great lover of words.
"Of all your sayings, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, I remember one thing above all; you were in Petersburg when you said it: 'One must really be a great man to b_ble to make a stand even against common sense.' That was it."
"Yes, and a fool as well."
"A fool as well, maybe. But you've been scattering clever sayings all you_ife, while they … Imagine Liputin, imagine Pyotr Stepanovitch saying anythin_ike that! Oh, how cruelly Pyotr Stepanovitch has treated me!"
"But how about yourself, captain? What can you say of your behaviour?"
"Drunkenness, and the multitude of my enemies. But now that's all over, al_ver, and I have a new skin, like a snake. Do you know, Nikola_syevolodovitch, I am making my will; in fact, I've made it already?"
"That's interesting. What are you leaving, and to whom?"
"To my fatherland, to humanity, and to the students. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, I read in the paper the biography of an American. He left all his vast fortun_o factories and to the exact sciences, and his skeleton to the students o_he academy there, and his skin to be made into a drum, so that the America_ational hymn might be beaten upon it day and night. Alas! we are pigmies i_ind compared with the soaring thought of the States of North America. Russi_s the play of nature but not of mind. If I were to try leaving my skin for _rum, for instance, to the Akmolinsky infantry regiment, in which I had th_onour of beginning my service, on condition of beating the Russian nationa_ymn upon it every day, in face of the regiment, they'd take it for liberalis_nd prohibit my skin … and so I confine myself to the students. I want t_eave my skeleton to the academy, but on the condition though, on th_ondition that a label should be stuck on the forehead for ever and ever, wit_he words: 'A repentant free-thinker.' There now!"
The captain spoke excitedly, and genuinely believed, of course, that there wa_omething fine in the American will, but he was cunning too, and very anxiou_o entertain Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, with whom he had played the part of _uffoon for a long time in the past. But the latter did not even smile, on th_ontrary, he asked, as it were, suspiciously:
"So you intend to publish your will in your lifetime and get rewarded for it?"
"And what if I do, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch? What if I do?" said Lebyadkin, watching him carefully. "What sort of luck have I had? I've given up writin_oetry, and at one time even you were amused by my verses, Nikola_syevolodovitch. Do you remember our reading them over a bottle? But it's al_ver with my pen. I've written only one poem, like Gogol's 'The Last Story.'
Do you remember he proclaimed to Russia that it broke spontaneously from hi_osom? It's the same with me; I've sung my last and it's over."
"What sort of poem?"
"'In case she were to break her leg.' "
That was all the captain was waiting for. He had an unbounded admiration fo_is own poems, but, through a certain cunning duplicity, he was pleased, too, that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch always made merry over his poems, and sometime_aughed at them immoderately. In this way he killed two birds with one stone, satisfying at once his poetical aspirations and his desire to be of service; but now he had a third special and very ticklish object in view. Bringing hi_erses on the scene, the captain thought to exculpate himself on one poin_bout which, for some reason, he always felt himself most apprehensive, an_ost guilty.
"' In case of her breaking her leg.' That is, of her riding on horseback. It'_ fantasy, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, a wild fancy, but the fancy of a poet. On_ay I was struck by meeting a lady on horseback, and asked myself the vita_uestion, 'What would happen then?' That is, in case of accident. All he_ollowers turn away, all her suitors are gone. A pretty kettle of fish. Onl_he poet remains faithful, with his heart shattered in his breast, Nikola_syevolodovitch. Even a louse may be in love, and is not forbidden by law. An_et the lady was offended by the letter and the verses. I'm told that even yo_ere angry. Were you? I wouldn't believe in anything so grievous. Whom could _arm simply by imagination? Besides, I swear on my honour, Liputin kep_aying, 'Send it, send it,' every man, however humble, has a right to send _etter! And so I sent it."
"You offered yourself as a suitor, I understand."
"Enemies, enemies, enemies?"
"Repeat the verses," said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sternly.
"Ravings, ravings, more than anything."
However, he drew himself up, stretched out his hand, and began:
"With broken limbs my beauteous queen
Is twice as charming as before,
And, deep in love as I have been,
To-day I love her even more."
"Come, that's enough," said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, a wave of his hand.
"I dream of Petersburg," cried Lebyadkin, passing quickly to another subject, as though there had been no mention of verses.
"I dream of regeneration… . Benefactor! May I reckon that you won't refuse th_eans for the journey? I've been waiting for you all the week as my sunshine."
"I'll do nothing of the sort. I've scarcely any money left. And why should _ive you money?"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch seemed suddenly angry. Dryly and briefly h_ecapitulated all the captain's misdeeds; his drunkenness, his lying, hi_quandering of the money meant for Marya Timofyevna, his having taken her fro_he nunnery, his insolent letters threatening to publish the secret, the wa_e had behaved about Darya Pavlovna, and so on, and so on. The captain heaved, gesticulated, began to reply, but every time Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch stoppe_im. peremptorily.
"And listen," he observed at last, "you keep writing about 'family disgrace.'
What disgrace is it to you that your sister is the lawful wife of _tavrogin?"
"But marriage in secret, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitcha fatal secret. I receiv_oney from you, and I'm suddenly asked the question, 'What's that money for?'
My hands are tied; I cannot answer to the detriment of my sister, to th_etriment of the family honour."
The captain raised his voice. He liked that subject and reckoned boldly upo_t. Alas! he did not realise what a blow was in store for him.
Calmly and exactly, as though he were speaking of the most everyda_rrangement, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch informed him that in a few days, perhap_ven to-morrow or the day after, he intended to make his marriage know_verywhere, "to the police as well as to local society." And so the questio_f family honour would be settled once for all, and with it the question o_ubsidy. The captain's eyes were ready to drop out of his head; he positivel_ould not take it in. It had to be explained to him.
"But she is … crazy."
"I shall make suitable arrangements."
"But … how about your mother?"
"Well, she must do as she likes."
"But will you take your wife to your house?"
"Perhaps so. But that is absolutely nothing to do with you and no concern o_ours."
"No concern of mine!" cried the captain. "What about me then?"
"Well, certainly you won't come into my house."
"But, you know, I'm a relation."
"One does one's best to escape from such relations. Why should I go on givin_ou money then? Judge for yourself."
"Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, this is impossible. Yo_ill think better of it, perhaps? You don't want to lay hands upon… . Wha_ill people think? What will the world say?"
"Much I care for your world. I married your sister when the fancy took me, after a drunken dinner, for a bet, and now I'll make it public … since tha_muses me now."
He said this with a peculiar irritability, so that Lebyadkin began with horro_o believe him.
"But me, me? What about me? I'm what matters most! … Perhaps you're joking, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch?"
"No, I'm not joking."
"As you will, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but I don't believe you… . Then I'l_ake proceedings."
"You're fearfully stupid, captain."
"Maybe, but this is all that's left me," said the captain, losing his hea_ompletely. "In old days we used to get free quarters, anyway, for the wor_he did in the 'corners.' But what will happen now if you throw me ove_ltogether?"
"But you want to go to Petersburg to try a new career. By the way, is it tru_hat I hear, that you mean to go and give information, in the hope o_btaining a pardon, by betraying all the others?"
The captain stood gaping with wide-open eyes, and made no answer.
"Listen, captain," Stavrogin began suddenly, with great earnestness, bendin_own to the table. Until then he had been talking, as it were, ambiguously, s_hat Lebyadkin, who had wide experience in playing the part of buffoon, was u_o the last moment a trifle uncertain whether his patron were really angry o_imply putting it on; whether he really had the wild intention of making hi_arriage public, or whether he were only playing. Now Nikola_syevolodovitch's stern expression was so convincing that a shiver ran dow_he captain's back.
"Listen, and tell the truth, Lebyadkin. Have you betrayed anything yet, o_ot? Have you succeeded in doing anything really? Have you sent a letter t_omebody in your foolishness?"
"No, I haven't … and I haven't thought of doing it," said the captain, lookin_ixedly at him.
"That's a lie, that you haven't thought of doing it. That's what you're askin_o go to Petersburg for. If you haven't written, have you blabbed to anybod_ere? Speak the truth. I've heard something."
"When I was drunk, to Liputin. Liputin's a traitor. I opened my heart to him,"
whispered the poor captain.
"That's all very well, but there's no need to be an ass. If you had an ide_ou should have kept it to yourself. Sensible people hold their tongue_owadays; they don't go chattering."
"Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch!" said the captain, quaking. "You've had nothing t_o with it yourself; it's not you I've … "
"Yes. You wouldn't have ventured to kill the goose that laid your golde_ggs."
"Judge for yourself, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, judge for yourself," and, i_espair, with tears, the captain began hurriedly relating the story of hi_ife for the last four years. It was the most stupid story of a fool, draw_nto matters that did not concern him, and in his drunkenness and debaucher_nable, till the last minute, to grasp their importance. He said that befor_e left Petersburg 'he had been drawn in, at first simply through friendship, like a regular student, although he wasn't a student,' and knowing nothin_bout it, 'without being guilty of anything,' he had scattered various paper_n staircases, left them by dozens at doors, on bell-handles, had thrust the_n as though they were newspapers, taken them to the theatre, put them i_eople's hats, and slipped them into pockets. Afterwards he had taken mone_rom them, 'for what means had I? 'He had distributed all sorts of rubbis_hrough the districts of two provinces. "Oh, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch!" h_xclaimed, "what revolted me most was that this was utterly opposed to civic, and still more to patriotic laws. They suddenly printed that men were to g_ut with pitchforks, and to remember that those who went out poor in th_orning might go home rich at night. Only think of it! It made me shudder, an_et I distributed it. Or suddenly five or six lines addressed to the whole o_ussia, apropos of nothing, 'Make haste and lock up the churches, abolish God, do away with marriage, destroy the right of inheritance, take up your knives,"
that's all, and God knows what it means. tell you, I almost got caught wit_his five-line leaflet. The officers in the regiment gave me a thrashing, but, bless them for it, let me go. And last year I was almost caught when I passe_ff French counterfeit notes for fifty roubles on Korovayev, but, thank God, Korovayev fell into the pond when he was drunk, and was drowned in the nick o_ime, and they didn't succeed in tracking me. Here, at Virginsky's, _roclaimed the freedom of the communistic wife. In June I was distributin_anifestoes again in X district. They say they will make me do it again… .
Pyotr Stepanovitch suddenly gave me to understand that I must obey; he's bee_hreatening me a long time. How he treated me that Sunday! Nikola_syevolodovitch, I am a slave, I am a worm, but not a God, which is where _iffer from Derzhavin.* But I've no income, no income!"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch heard it all with curiosity.
"A great deal of that I had heard nothing of," he said. "Of course, anythin_ay have happened to you… , Listen," he said, after a minute's thought. "I_ou like, you can tell them, you know whom, that Liputin was lying, and tha_ou were only pretending to give information to frighten me, supposing that I, too, was compromised, and that you might get more money out of me that way… .
Do you understand?"
"Dear Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, is it possible that there's such a dange_anging over me I I've been longing for you to come, to ask you."
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch laughed.
"They certainly wouldn't let you go to Petersburg, even if I were to give yo_oney for the journey.*… But it's time for me to see Marya Timofyevna." And h_ot up from his chair.
"Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, but how about Marya Timofyevna?"
"Why, as I told you."
"Can it be true?"
"You still don't believe it?"
"Will you really cast me off like an old worn-out shoe?"
"I'll see," laughed Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. "Come, let me go."
"Wouldn't you like me to stand on the steps … for fear I might by chanc_verhear something … for the rooms are small?"
"That's as well. Stand on the steps. Take my umbrella."
"Your umbrella… . Am I worth it?" said the captain over-sweetly.
*The reference is to a poem of Derzhavin's.
" Anyone is worthy of an umbrella."
"At one stroke you define the minimum of human rights… ."
But he was by now muttering mechanically. He was too much crushed by what h_ad learned, and was completely thrown out of his reckoning. And yet almost a_oon as he had gone out on to the steps and had put up the umbrella, there hi_hallow and cunning brain caught again the ever-present, comforting idea tha_e was being cheated and deceived, and if so they were afraid of him, an_here was no need for him to be afraid.
"If they're lying and deceiving me, what's at the bottom of it?" was th_hought that gnawed at his mind. The public announcement of the marriag_eemed to him absurd. "It's true that with such a wonder-worker anything ma_ome to pass; he lives to do harm. But what if he's afraid himself, since th_nsult of Sunday, and afraid as he's never been before? And so he's in a hurr_o declare that he'll announce it himself, from fear that I should announc_t. Eh, don't blunder, Lebyadkin! And why does he come on the sly, at night, if he means to make it public himself? And if he's afraid, it means that he'_fraid now, at this moment, for these few days… . Eh, don't make a mistake, Lebyadkin!
"He scares me with Pyotr Stepanovitch. Oy, I'm frightened, I'm frightened!
Yes, this is what's so frightening! And what induced me to blab to Liputin.
Goodness knows what these devils are up to. I never can make head or tail o_t. Now they are all astir again as they were five years ago. To whom could _ive information, indeed? 'Haven't I written to anyone in my foolishness?'
H'm! So then I might write as though through foolishness? Isn't he giving me _int? 'You're going to Petersburg on purpose.' The sly rogue. I've scarcel_reamed of it, and he guesses my dreams. As though he were putting me up t_oing himself. It's one or the other of two games he's up to. Either he'_fraid because he's been up to some pranks himself … or he's not afraid fo_imself, but is simply egging me on to give them all away! Ach, it's terrible, Lebyadkin! Ach, you must not make a blunder!"
He was so absorbed in thought that he forgot to listen. It was not easy t_ear either. The door was a solid one, and they were talking in a very lo_oice. Nothing reached the captain but indistinct sounds. He positively spa_n disgust, and went out again, lost in thought, to whistle on the steps.
Marya Timofyevna's room was twice as large as the one occupied by the captain, and furnished in the same rough style; but the table in front of the sofa wa_overed with a gay-coloured table-cloth, and on it a lamp was burning. Ther_as a handsome carpet on the floor. The bed was screened off by a gree_urtain, which ran the length of the room, and besides the sofa there stood b_he table a large, soft easy chair, in which Marya Timofyevna never sat, however. In the corner there was an ikon as there had been in her old room, and a little lamp was burning before it, and on the table were all he_ndispensable properties. The pack of cards, the little looking-glass, th_ong-book, even a milk loaf. Besides these there were two books with coloure_icturesone, extracts from a popular book of travels, published for juvenil_eading, the other a collection of very light, edifying tales, for the mos_art about the days of chivalry, intended for Christmas presents or schoo_eading. She had, too, an album of photographs of various sorts.
Marya Timofyevna was, of course, expecting the visitor, as the captain ha_nnounced. But when Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went in, she was asleep, hal_eclining on the sofa, propped on a woolwork cushion. Her visitor closed th_oor after him noiselessly, and, standing still, scrutinised the sleepin_igure.
The captain had been romancing when he told Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch she ha_een dressing herself up. She was wearing the same dark dress as on Sunday a_arvara Petrovna's. Her hair was done up in the same little close knot at th_ack of her head; her long thin neck was exposed in the same way. The blac_hawl Varvara Petrovna had given her lay carefully folded on the sofa. She wa_oarsely rouged and powdered as before. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch did not stan_here more than a minute. She suddenly waked up, as though she were consciou_f his eyes fixed upon her; she opened her eyes, and quickly drew herself up.
But something strange must have happened to her visitor: he remained standin_t the same place by the door. With a fixed and searching glance he looke_utely and persistently into her face. Perhaps that look was too grim, perhap_here was an expression of aversion in it, even a malignant enjoyment of he_rightif it were not a fancy left by her dreams; but suddenly, after almost _oment of expectation, the poor woman's face wore a look of absolute terror; it twitched convulsively; she lifted her trembling hands and suddenly burs_nto tears, exactly like a frightened child; in another moment she would hav_creamed. But Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch pulled himself together; his fac_hanged in one instant, and he went up to the table with the most cordial an_miable smile.
"I'm sorry, Marya Timofyevna, I frightened you coming in suddenly when yo_ere asleep," he said, holding out his hand to her.
The sound of his caressing words produced their effect. Her fear vanished, although she still looked at him with dismay, evidently trying to understan_omething. She held out her hands timorously also. At last a shy smile rose t_er lips.
"How do you do, prince?" she whispered, looking at him strangely.
"You must have had a bad dream," he went on, with a still more friendly an_ordial smile.
"But how do you know that I was dreaming about that?" And again she bega_rembling, and started back, putting up her hand as though to protect herself, on the point of crying again. "Calm yourself. That's enough. What are yo_fraid of? Surely you know me?" said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, trying to sooth_er; but it was long before he could succeed. She gazed at him dumbly with th_ame look of agonising perplexity, with a painful idea in her poor brain, an_he still seemed to be trying to reach some conclusion. At one moment sh_ropped her eyes, then suddenly scrutinised him in a rapid comprehensiv_lance. At last, though not reassured, she seemed to come to a conclusion.
"Sit down beside me, please, that I may look at you thoroughly later on," sh_rought out with more firmness, evidently with a new object. "But don't b_neasy, I won't look at you now. I'll look down. Don't you look at me eithe_ill I ask you to. Sit down," she added, with positive impatience.
A new sensation was obviously growing stronger and stronger in her.
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sat down and waited. Rather a long silence followed.
"H'm! It all seems so strange to me," she suddenly muttered almos_isdainfully. "Of course I was depressed by bad dreams, but why have I dream_f you looking like that?"
"Come, let's have done with dreams," he said impatiently, turning to her i_pite of her prohibition, and perhaps the same expression gleamed for a momen_n his eyes again. He saw that she several times wanted, very much in fact, t_ook at him again, but that she obstinately controlled herself and kept he_yes cast down.
"Listen, prince," she raised her voice suddenly, "listen prince… ."
"Why do you turn away? Why don't you look at me? What's the object of thi_arce?" he cried, losing patience.
But she seemed not to hear him.
"Listen, prince," she repeated for the third time in a resolute voice, with _isagreeable, fussy expression. "When you told me in the carriage that ou_arriage was going to be made public, I was alarmed at there being an end t_he mystery. Now I don't know. I've been thinking it all over, and I se_learly that I'm not fit for it at all. I know how to dress, and I coul_eceive guests, perhaps. There's nothing much in asking people to have a cu_f tea, especially when there are footmen. But what will people say though? _aw a great deal that Sunday morning in that house. That pretty young lad_ooked at me all the time, especially after you came in. It was you came in, wasn't it? Her mother's simply an absurd worldly old woman. My Lebyadki_istinguished himself too. I kept looking at the ceiling to keep fro_aughing; the ceiling there is finely painted. His mother ought to be a_bbess. I'm afraid of her, though she did give me a black shawl. Of course, they must all have come to strange conclusions about me. I wasn't vexed, but _at there, thinking what relation am I to them? Of course, from a countess on_oesn't expect any but spiritual qualities; for the domestic ones she's go_lenty of footmen; and also a little worldly coquetry, so as to be able t_ntertain foreign travellers. But yet that Sunday they did look upon me a_opeless. Only Dasha's an angel. I'm awfully afraid they may wound him by som_areless allusion to me."
"Don't be afraid, and don't be uneasy," said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, making _ry face.
"However, that doesn't matter to me, if he is a little ashamed of me, fo_here will always be more pity than shame, though it differs with people, o_ourse. He knows, to be sure, that I ought rather to pity them than they me."
"You seem to be very much offended with them, Marya Timofyevna?"
"I? Oh, no," she smiled with simple-hearted mirth. "Not at all. I looked a_ou all, then. You were all angry, you were all quarrelling. They mee_ogether, and they don't know how to laugh from their hearts. So much wealt_nd so little gaiety. It all disgusts me. Though I feel for no one now excep_yself."
"I've heard that you've had a hard life with your brother without me?"
"Who told you that? It's nonsense. It's much worse now. Now my dreams are no_ood, and my dreams are bad, because you've come. What have you come for, I'_ike to know. Tell me please?"
"Wouldn't you like to go back into the nunnery?"
"I knew they'd suggest the nunnery again. Your nunnery is a fine marvel fo_e! And why should I go to it? What should I go for now? I'm all alone in th_orld now. It's too late for me to begin a third life."
"You seem very angry about something. Surely you're not afraid that I've lef_ff loving you?"
"I'm not troubling about you at all. I'm afraid that I may leave off lovin_omebody."
She laughed contemptuously.
"I must have done him some great wrong," she added suddenly, as it were t_erself, "only I don't know what I've done wrong; that's always what trouble_e. Always, always, for the last five years. I've been afraid day and nigh_hat I've done him some wrong. I've prayed and prayed and always thought o_he great wrong I'd done him. And now it turns out it wag true."
"What's turned out?"
"I'm only afraid whether there's something on his side," she went on, no_nswering his question, not hearing it in fact. "And then, again, he couldn'_et on with such horrid people. The countess would have liked to eat me, though she did make me sit in the carriage beside her. They're all in th_lot. Surely he's not betrayed me?" (Her chin and lips were twitching.) "Tel_e, have you read about Grishka Otrepyev, how he was cursed in seve_athedrals?"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch did not speak.
"But I'll turn round now and look at you." She seemed to decide suddenly. "Yo_urn to me, too, and look at me, but more attentively. I want to make sure fo_he last time."
"I've been looking at you for a long time."
"H'm!" said Marya Timofyevna, looking at him intently. "You've grown muc_atter."
She wanted to say something more, but suddenly, for the third time, the sam_error instantly distorted her face, and again she drew back, putting her han_p before her.
"What's the matter with you?" cried Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, almost enraged.
But her panic lasted only one instant, her face worked with a sort of strang_mile, suspicious and unpleasant.
"I beg you, prince, get up and come in," she brought out suddenly, in a firm, emphatic voice.
"Come in? Where am I to come in?"
"I've been fancying for five years how he would come in. Get up and go out o_he door into the other room. I'll sit as though I weren't expecting anything, and I'll take up a book, and suddenly you'll come in after five years'
travelling. I want to see what it will be like."
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch ground his teeth, and muttered something to himself.
"Enough," he said, striking the table with his open hand. "I beg you to liste_o me, Marya Timofyevna. Do me the favour to concentrate all your attention i_ou can. You're not altogether mad, you know!" he broke out impatiently.
"Tomorrow I shall make our marriage public. You never will live in a palace, get that out of your head. Do you want to live with me for the rest of you_ife, only very far away from here? In the mountains in Switzerland, there's _lace there… . Don't be afraid. I'll never abandon you or put you in _adhouse. I shall have money enough to live without asking anyone's help. Yo_hall have a servant, you shall do no work at all. Everything you want that'_ossible shall be got for you. You shall pray, go where you like, and do wha_ou like. I won't touch you. I won't go away from the place myself at all. I_ou like, I won't speak to you all my life, or if you like, you can tell m_our stories every evening as you used to do in Petersburg in the corners.
I'll read aloud to you if you like. But it must be all your life in the sam_lace, and that place is a gloomy one. Will you? Are you ready? You won'_egret it, torment me with tears and curses, will you?"
She listened with extreme curiosity, and for a long time she was silent, thinking.
"It all seems incredible to me," she said at last, ironically an_isdainfully. "I might live for forty years in those mountains," she laughed.
"What of it? Let's live forty years then … " said Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, scowling.
"H'm! I won't come for anything."
"Not even with me?"
"And what are you that I should go with you? I'm to sit on a mountain besid_im for forty years on enda pretty story! And upon my word, how long-sufferin_eople have become nowadays! No, it cannot be that a falcon has become an owl.
My prince is not like that!" she said, raising her head proudly an_riumphantly.
Light seemed to dawn upon him.
"What makes you call me a prince, and … for whom do you take me?" he aske_uickly.
"Why, aren't you the prince?"
"I never have been one."
"So yourself, yourself, you tell me straight to my face that you're not th_rince?"
"I tell you I never have been."
"Good Lord!" she cried, clasping her hands. "I was ready to expect anythin_rom his enemies, but such insolence, never! Is he alive?" she shrieked in _renzy, turning upon Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. "Have you killed him? Confess!"
"Whom do you take me for?" he cried, jumping up from his chair with _istorted face; but it was not easy now to frighten her. She was triumphant.
"Who can tell who you are and where you've sprung from? Only my heart, m_eart had misgivings all these five years, of all the intrigues. And I've bee_itting here wondering what blind owl was making up to me? No, my dear, you'r_ poor actor, worse than Lebyadkin even. Give my humble greetings to th_ountess and tell her to send some one better than you. Has she hired you, tell me? Have they given you a place in her kitchen out of charity? I se_hrough your deception. I understand you all, every one of you."
He seized her firmly above the elbow; she laughed in his face.
"You're like him, very like, perhaps you're a relationyou're a sly lot! Onl_ine is a bright falcon and a prince, and you're an owl, and a shopman! Min_ill bow down to God if it pleases him, and won't if it doesn't. And Shatushka (he's my dear, my darling!) slapped you on the cheeks, my Lebyadkin told me.
And what were you afraid of then, when you came in? Who had frightened yo_hen? When I saw your mean face after I'd fallen down and you picked me upi_as like a worm crawling into my heart. It's not he, I thought, not he! M_alcon would never have been ashamed of me before a fashionable young lady. O_eavens! That alone kept me happy for those five years that my falcon wa_iving somewhere beyond the mountains, soaring, gazing at the sun… . Tell me, you impostor, have you got much by it I Did you need a big bribe to consent? _ouldn't have given you a farthing. Ha ha ha! Ha ha! … "
"Ugh, idiot!" snarled Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, still holding her tight by th_rm.
"Go away, impostor!" she shouted peremptorily. "I'm the wife of my prince; I'_ot afraid of your knife!"
"Yes, knife, you've a knife in your pocket. You thought I was asleep but I sa_t. When you came in just now you took out your knife!"
"What are you saying, unhappy creature? What dreams you have!" he exclaimed, pushing her away from him with all his might, so that her head and shoulder_ell painfully against the sofa. He was rushing away; but she at once flew t_vertake him, limping and hopping, and though Lebyadkin, panic-stricken, hel_er back with all his might, she succeeded in shouting after him into th_arkness, shrieking and laughing:
"A curse on you, Grishka Otrepyev!"
"A knife, a knife," he repeated with uncontrollable anger, striding alon_hrough the mud and puddles, without picking his way. It is true that a_oments he had a terrible desire to laugh aloud frantically; but for som_eason he controlled himself and restrained his laughter. He recovered himsel_nly on the bridge, on the spot where Fedka had met him that evening. He foun_he man lying in wait for him again. Seeing Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch he too_ff his cap, grinned gaily, and began babbling briskly and merrily about- something. At first Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch walked on without stopping, an_or. some time did not even listen to the tramp who was pestering him again.
He was suddenly struck by the thought that he had entirely forgotten him, an_ad forgotten him at the very moment when he himself was repeating, "A knife, a knife." He seized the tramp by the collar and gave vent to his pent-up rag_y flinging him violently against the bridge. For one instant the man though_f fighting, but almost at once realising that compared with his adversary, who had fallen upon him unawares, he was no better than a wisp of straw, h_ubsided and was silent, without offering any resistance. Crouching on th_round with his elbows crooked behind his back, the wily tramp calmly waite_or what would happen next, apparently quite incredulous of danger. He wa_ight in his reckoning. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch had already with his left han_aken off his thick scarf to tie his prisoner's arms, but suddenly, for som_eason, he abandoned him, and shoved him away. The man instantly sprang on t_is feet, turned round, and a short, broad boot-knife suddenly gleamed in hi_and.
"Away with that knife; put it away, at once!" Nikolay Vsyevolodovitc_ommanded with an impatient gesture, and the knife vanished as instantaneousl_s it had appeared.
Without speaking again or turning round, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch went on hi_ay. But the persistent vagabond did not leave him even now, though now, it i_rue, he did not chatter, and even respectfully kept his distance, a full ste_ehind.
They crossed the bridge like this and came out on to the river bank, turnin_his time to the left, again into a long deserted back street, which led t_he centre of the town by a shorter way than going through Bogoyavlensk_treet.
"Is it true, as they say, that you robbed a church in the district the othe_ay?" Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch asked suddenly.
"I went in to say my prayers in the first place," the tramp answered, sedatel_nd respectfully as though nothing had happened; more than sedately, in fact, almost with dignity. There was no trace of his former "friendly" familiarity.
All that was to be seen was a serious, business-like man, who had indeed bee_ratuitously insulted, but who was capable of overlooking an insult.
"But when the Lord led me there," he went on, "ech, I thought what a heavenl_bundance! It was all owing to my helpless state, as in our way of lif_here's no doing without assistance. And, now, God be my witness, sir, it wa_y own loss. The Lord punished me for my sins, and what with the censer an_he deacon's halter, I only got twelve roubles altogether. The chin setting o_t. Nikolay of pure silver went for next to nothing. They said it was plated."
"You killed the watchman?"
"That is, I cleared the place out together with that watchman, but afterwards, next morning, by the river, we fell to quarrelling which should carry th_ack. I sinned, I did lighten his load for him."
"Well, you can rob and murder again."
"That's the very advice Pyotr Stepanovitch gives me, in the very same words, for he's uncommonly mean and hard-hearted about helping a fellow-creature. An_hat's more, he hasn't a ha'porth of belief in the Heavenly Creator, who mad_s out of earthly clay; but he says it's all the work of nature even to th_ast beast. He doesn't understand either that with our way of life it'_mpossible for us to get along without friendly assistance. If you begin t_alk to him he looks like a sheep at the water; it makes one wonder. Would yo_elieve, at Captain Lebyadkin's, out yonder, whom your honour's just bee_isiting, when he was living at Filipov's, before you came, the door stoo_pen all night long.He'd be drunk and sleeping like the dead, and his mone_ropping out of his pockets all over the floor. I've chanced to see it with m_wn eyes, for in our way of life it's impossible to live without assistance… ."
"How do you mean with your own eyes? Did you go in at night then?"
"Maybe I did go in, but no one knows of it."
"Why didn't you kill him?"
"Reckoning it out, I steadied myself. For once having learned for sure that _an always get one hundred and fifty roubles, why should I go so far when _an get fifteen hundred roubles, if I only bide my time. For Captain Lebyadkin (I've heard him with my own ears) had great hopes of you when he was drunk; and there isn't a tavern herenot the lowest pot-housewhere he hasn't talke_bout it when he was in that state. So that hearing it from many lips, _egan, too, to rest all my hopes on your excellency. I speak to you, sir, a_o my father, or my own brother; for Pyotr Stepanovitch will never learn tha_rom me, and not a soul in the world. So won't your excellency spare me thre_oubles in your kindness? You might set my mind at rest, so that I might kno_he real truth; for we can't get on without assistance."
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch laughed aloud, and taking out his purse, in which h_ad as much as fifty roubles, in small notes, threw him one note out of th_undle, then a second, a third, a fourth. Fedka flew to catch them in the air.
The notes dropped into the mud, and he snatched them up crying, "Ech! ech!"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch finished by flinging the whole bundle at him, and, still laughing, went on down the street, this time alone. The tramp remaine_rawling on his knees in the mud, looking for the notes which were blown abou_y the wind and soaking in the puddles, and for an hour after his spasmodi_ries of "Ech! ech!" were still to be heard in the darkness.