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Chapter 30

  • A FORTNIGHT later, in the same room, Nejdanov sat bending over his three- legged table, writing to his friend Silin by the dim light of a tallow candle.
  • (It was long past midnight. Muddy garments lay scattered on the sofa, on th_loor, just where they had been thrown off. A fine drizzly rain pattere_gainst the window-panes and a strong, warm wind moaned about the roof of th_ouse.)
  • MY DEAR VLADIMIR,—I am writing to you without giving my address and will sen_his letter by a messenger to a distant posting- station as my being here is _ecret, and to disclose it might mean the ruin not of myself alone. It i_nough for you to know that for the last two weeks I have been living in _arge factory together with Mariana. We ran away from the Sipiagins on the da_n which I last wrote to you. A friend has given us shelter here. Fo_onvenience sake I will call him Vassily. He is the chief here and a_xcellent man. Our stay is only of a temporary nature; we will move on whe_he time for action comes. But, however, judging by events so far, the time i_ardly likely ever to come! Vladimir, I am horribly miserable. I must tell yo_efore everything that although Mariana and I ran away together, we have s_ar been living like brother and sister. She loves me and told me she would b_ine if I feel I have the right to ask it of her.
  • Vladimir, I do not feel that I have the right! She trusts me, believes in m_onour—I cannot deceive her. I know that I never loved nor will ever love an_ne more than her (of that I am convinced), but for all that, how can I unit_er fate forever with mine? A living being to a corpse? Well, if not _omplete corpse, at any rate, a half-dead creature. Where would one'_onscience be? I can hear you say that if passion was strong enough th_onscience would be silent. But that is just the point; I am a corpse, a_onest, well-meaning corpse if you like, but a corpse nevertheless. Please d_ot say that I always exaggerate. Everything I have told you is absolutel_rue. Mariana is very reserved and is at present wrapped up in her activitie_n which she believes, and I?
  • Well, enough of love and personal happiness and all that. It is now _ortnight since I have been going among "the people," and really it would b_mpossible to imagine anything more stupid than they are. Of course the faul_ies probably more in me than in the work itself. I am not a fanatic. I am no_ne of those who regenerate themselves by contact with the people and do no_ay them on my aching bosom like a flannel bandage—I want to influence them.
  • But how? How can it be done? When I am among them I find myself listening al_he time, taking things in, but when it comes to saying anything—I am at _oss for a word! I feel that I am no good, a bad actor in a part that does no_uit him. Conscientiousness or scepticism are absolutely of no use, nor is _itiful sort of humour directed against oneself. It is worse than useless! _ind it disgusting to look at the filthy rags I carry about on me, th_asquerade as Vassily calls it! They say you must first learn the language o_he people, their habits and customs, but rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, I say!
  • You have only to BELIEVE in what you say and say what you like! I onc_appened to hear a sectarian prophet delivering a sermon. Goodness only know_hat arrant nonsense he talked, a sort of gorgeous mix-up of ecclesiastica_earning, interspersed with peasant expressions, not even in decent Russian, but in some outlandish dialect, but he took one by storm with hi_nthusiasm—went straight to the heart. There he stood with flashing eyes, th_oice deep and firm, with clenched fist—as though he were made of iron! No on_nderstood what he was saying, but everyone bowed down before him and followe_im. But when I begin to speak, I seem like a culprit begging for forgiveness.
  • I ought to join the sectarians, although their wisdom is not great … but the_ave faith, faith!
  • Mariana too has faith. She works from morning until night with Tatiana—_easant woman here, as good as can be and not by any means stupid; she says, by the way, that we want to become simplified and calls us simple souls.
  • Mariana is about working with this woman from morning until night, scarcel_itting down for a moment, just like a regular ant! She is delighted that he_ands are turning red and rough, and in the midst of these humble occupation_s looking forward to the scaffold! She has even attempted to discard shoes; went out somewhere barefoot and came back barefoot. I heard her washing he_eet for a long time afterwards and then saw her come out, treadin_autiously; they were evidently sore, poor thing, but her face was radian_ith smiles as though she had found a treasure or been illuminated by the sun.
  • Yes, Mariana is a brick! But when I try to talk to her of my feelings, _ertain shame comes over me somehow, as though I were violating something tha_as not my own, and then that glance … Oh, that awful devoted, irresistibl_lance! "Take me," it seems to say, "BUT REMEMBER… ." Enough of this! Is ther_ot something higher and better in this world? In other words, put on you_ilthy coat and go among the people… Oh, yes, I am just going.
  • How I loathe this irritability, sensitiveness, impressionable- ness, fastidiousness, inherited from my aristocratic father! What right had he t_ring me into this world, endowed with qualities quite unsuited to the spher_n which I must live? To create a bird and throw it in the water? An aestheti_midst filth! A democrat, a lover of the people, yet the very smell of thei_ilthy vodka makes me feel sick!
  • But it's too bad blaming my father. He was not responsible for my becoming _emocrat.
  • Yes, Vladimir, I am in a bad plight. Grey, depressing thoughts are continuall_aunting me. Can it be, you will be asking me, that I have not met wit_nything consoling, any good living personality, however ignorant he might no_e? How shall I tell you? I have run across someone—a decent clever chap, bu_nfortunately, however hard I may try to get nearer him, he has no need o_ither me or my pamphlets—that is the root of the matter! Pavel, a factoryhan_ere (he is Vassily's right hand, a clever fellow with his head screwed on th_ight way, a future "head," I think I wrote to you about him), well this Pave_as a friend, a peasant called Elizar, also a smart chap, as free an_ourageous as one would wish, but as soon as we get together there seems _ead wall between us! His face spells one big "No!" Then there was another ma_ ran across—he was a rather quarrelsome type by the way. "Don't you try t_et around me, sir," he said. "What I want to know is would you give up you_and now, or not?" "But I'm not a gentleman," I remonstrated. " Bless you!" h_xclaimed, "you a common man and no more sense than that! Leave me alone, please!
  • Another thing I've noticed is that if anyone listens to you readily and take_our pamphlets at once, he is sure to be of an undesirable, brainless sort. O_ou may chance upon some frightfully talkative individual who can do nothin_ut keep on repeating some favourite expression. One such nearly drove me mad; everything with him was "production." No matter what you said to him he cam_ut with his "production," damn him! Just one more remark.
  • Do you remember some time ago there used to be a great deal of talk about
  • "superfluous" people— Hamlets? Such "superfluous people" are now to be me_ith among the peasants! They have their own characteristics of course and ar_or the most part inclined to consumption. They are interesting types and com_o us readily, but as far as the cause is concerned they are ineffective, lik_ll other Hamlets. Well, what can one do? Start a secret printing press? Ther_re pamphlets enough as it is, some that say," Cross yourself and take up th_atchet," and others that say simply, "Take up the hatchet" without th_rossing. Or should one write novels of peasant life with plenty of padding?
  • They wouldn't get published, you know. Perhaps it might be better to take u_he hatchet after all? But against whom, with whom, and what for? So that ou_tate soldier may shoot us down with the state rifle? It would only be _omplicated form of suicide! It would be better to make an end of yourself—yo_ould at any rate know when and how, and choose the spot to aim at.
  • I am beginning to think that if some war were to break out, some people'_ar—I would go and take part in it, not so as to free others (free other_hile one's own are groaning under the yoke!!), but to make an end of myself.
  • Our friend Vassily, who gave us shelter here, is a lucky man. He belongs t_ur camp, but is so calm and quiet. He doesn't want to hurry over things. _hould have quarrelled with another, but I can't with him. The secret lies no_n his convictions, but in the man himself. Vassily has a character that yo_an't kindle, but he's all right nevertheless. He is with us a good deal, wit_ariana. What surprises me is that although I love her and she loves me (I se_ou smiling at this, but the fact remains!) we have nothing to talk about, while she is constantly discussing and arguing with him and listening too. _m not jealous of him; he is trying to find a place for her somewhere, at an_ate, she keeps on asking him to do so, but it makes me feel bitter to look a_hem both. And would you believe it—I have only to drop a hint about marryin_nd she would agree at once and the priest Zosim would put in an appearance,
  • "Isaiah, rejoice!" and the rest of it. But this would not make it any easie_or me and NOTHING WOULD BE CHANGED BY IT … Whatever you do, there is no wa_ut of it! Life has cut me short, my dear Vladimir, as our little drunke_ailor used to say, you remember, when he used to complain about his wife.
  • I have a feeling that it can't go on somehow, that something is preparing.
  • Have I not again and again said that the time has come for action? Well, s_ere we are in the thick of it.
  • I can't remember if I told you anything about another friend of mine—_elative of the Sipiagins. He will get himself into such a mess that it won'_e easy for him to get out of it.
  • I quite meant finishing this letter and am still going on. It seems to me tha_othing matters and yet I scribble verses. I don't read them to Mariana an_he is not very anxious to hear them, but you have sometimes praised my poo_ttempts and most of all you'll keep them to yourself. I have been struck by _ommon phenomenon in Russia… But, however, let the verses speak fo_hemselves-
  • SLEEP
  • After long absence I return to my native land, Finding no striking chang_here. The same dead, senseless stagnation; crumbling houses, crumbling walls, And the same filth, dirt, poverty, and misery. Unchanged the servile glance, now insolent, now dejected. Free have our people become, and the free ar_angs as before like a whip unused. All, all as before. In one thing only ma_e equal Europe, Asia, and the World! Never before has such a fearful slee_ppressed our land.
  • All are asleep, on all sides are they; Through town and country, in carts an_n sledges, By day or night, sitting or standing, The merchant and th_fficial, and the sentinel at his post In biting snow and burning heat—al_leep. The judged ones doze, and the judge snores, And peasants plough an_eap like dead men, Father, mother, children; all are asleep. He who beats, and he who is beaten. Alone the tavern of the tsar ne'er closes a relentles_ye. So, grasping tight in hand the bottle, His brow at the Pole and his hee_n the Caucasus, Holy Russia, our fatherland, lies in eternal sleep.
  • I am sorry, Vladimir. I never meant to write you such a melancholy lette_ithout a few cheering words at the end. (You will no doubt tumble across som_efects in the lines!) When shall I write to you again? Shall I ever write?
  • But whatever happens to me I am sure you will never forget,
  • Your devoted friend,
  • A. N.
  • P.S.—Our people are asleep… But I have a feeling that if anything does wak_hem, it will not be what we think.
  • After writing the last line, Nejdanov flung down the pen. "Well, now you mus_ry and sleep and forget all this nonsense, scribbler!" he exclaimed, and la_own on the bed. But it was long before he fell asleep.
  • The next morning Mariana woke him passing through his room on her way t_atiana. He had scarcely dressed when she came back. She seemed excited, he_ace expressing delight and anxiety at the same time.
  • "Do you know, Aliosha, they say that in the province of T., quite near here, it has already begun!"
  • "What? What has begun? Who said so?"
  • "Pavel. They say the peasants are rising, refusing to pay taxes, collecting i_obs."
  • "Have you heard that yourself?"
  • "Tatiana told me. But here is Pavel himself. You had better ask him."
  • Pavel came in and confirmed what Mariana had said.
  • "There is certainly some disturbance in T.," he began, shaking his beard an_crewing up his bright black eyes. "Sergai Mihailovitch must have had a han_n it. He hasn't been home for five days."
  • Nejdanov took his cap.
  • "Where are you off to?" Mariana asked.
  • "Why there of course," he replied, not raising his eyes and frowning, "I a_oing to T."
  • "Then I will come with you. You'll take me, won't you? Just let me get _hawl."
  • "It's not a woman's work," Nejdanov said irritably with his eyes still fixe_n the floor.
  • "No, no! You do well to go, or Markelov would think you a coward … but I'_oming with you."
  • "I am not a coward," Nejdanov observed gloomily.
  • "I meant to say that he would have thought us both cowards. I am coming wit_ou."
  • Mariana went into her own room to get a shawl, while Pavel gave an inward ha, ha, and quickly vanished. He ran to warn Solomin.
  • Mariana had not yet appeared, when Solomin came into Nejdanov's room. Th_atter was standing with his face to the window, his forehead resting on th_alm of his hand and his elbow on the window-pane. Solomin touched him on th_houlder. He turned around quickly; dishevelled and unwashed, Nejdanov had _trange wild look. Solomin, too, had changed during the last days. His fac_as yellow and drawn and his upper front teeth showed slightly— he, too, seemed agitated as far as it was possible for his well- balanced temperamen_o be so.
  • "Markelov could not control himself after all," he began. "This may turn ou_adly both for him and for others."
  • "I want to go and see what's going on there," Nejdanov observed.
  • "And I too," Mariana added as she appeared in the doorway.
  • Solomin turned to her quickly.
  • "I would not advise you to go, Mariana. You may give yourself away—and us, without meaning to, and without the slightest necessity. Let Nejdanov go an_ee how the land lies, if he wants to— and the sooner he's back the better!
  • But why should you go?"
  • "I don't want to be parted from him."
  • "You will be in his way."
  • Mariana looked at Nejdanov. He was standing motionless with a set sulle_xpression on his face.
  • "But supposing there should be danger?" she asked.
  • Solomin smiled.
  • "Don't be afraid … when there's danger I will let you go."
  • Mariana took off her shawl without a word and sat down. Solomin then turned t_ejdanov.
  • "It would be a good thing for you to look about a little, Alexai. I dare sa_hey exaggerate. Only do be careful. But, however, you will not be goin_lone. Come back as quickly as you can. Will you promise? Nejdanov? Will yo_romise?"
  • "Yes."
  • "For certain?
  • "I suppose so, since everybody here obeys you, including Mariana."
  • Nejdanov went out without saying goodbye. Pavel appeared from somewhere out o_he darkness and ran down the stairs before him with a great clatter of hi_ob-nailed boots. Was HE then to accompany Nejdanov?
  • Solomin sat down beside Mariana.
  • "You heard Nejdanov's last word?"
  • "Yes. He is annoyed that I listen to you more than to him. But it's quit_rue. I love him and listen to you. He is dear to me… and you are near to me.
  • Solomin stroked her hand gently.
  • "This is a very unpleasant business," he observed at last. "If Markelov i_ixed up in it then he's a lost man."
  • Mariana shuddered.
  • "Lost?"
  • "Yes. He doesn't do things by halves—and won't hide things for the sake o_thers."
  • "Lost! " Mariana whispered again as the tears rolled down her cheeks. "Oh, Vassily Fedotitch! I feel so sorry for him. But what makes you think that h_on't succeed? Why must he inevitably be lost?"
  • "Because in such enterprises the first always perish even if they come of_ictorious. And in this thing not only the first and second, but the tenth an_wentieth will perish—"
  • "Then we shall never live to see it?
  • "What you have in your mind—never. We shall never see it with our eyes; wit_hese living eyes of ours. But with our spiritual … but that is anothe_atter. We may see it in that way now; there is nothing to hinder us."
  • "Then why do you—"
  • "What?"
  • "Why do you follow this road?"
  • "Because there is no other. I mean that my aims are the same as Markelov's—bu_ur paths are different."
  • "Poor Sergai Mihailovitch!" Mariana exclaimed sadly. Solomin passed his han_autiously over hers.
  • "There, there, we know nothing as yet. We'll see what news Pavel brings back.
  • In our calling one must be brave. The English have a proverb 'Never say die.'
  • A very good proverb, I think, much better than our Russian, 'When troubl_nocks, open the gates wide!' We mustn't meet trouble half way."
  • Solomin stood up.
  • "And the place you were going to find me?" Mariana asked suddenly. The tear_ere still shining on her cheeks, but there was no sadness in her eyes.
  • Solomin sat down again.
  • "Are you in such a great hurry to get away from here?
  • "Oh, no! Only I wanted to do something useful."
  • "You are useful here, Mariana. Don't leave us yet, wait a little longer. Wha_s it?" Solomin asked of Tatiana who was just coming in.
  • "Some sort of female is asking for Alexai Dmitritch," Tatiana replied, laughing and gesticulating with her hands.
  • "I said that there was no such person living here, that we did not know him a_ll, when she—"
  • "Who is she? "
  • "Why the female of course. She wrote her name on this piece of paper and aske_e to bring it here and let her in, saying that if Alexai Dmitritch was reall_ot at home, she could wait for him."
  • On the paper was written in large letters "Mashurina."
  • "Show her in," Solomin said. "You don't mind my asking her in here, Mariana, do you? She is also one of us."
  • "Not at all."
  • A few moments later Mashurina appeared in the doorway, in the same dress i_hich we saw her at the beginning of the first chapter.