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university of 
Connecticut 



I 



BOOK 89 1.73.T844E v. 10 с 1 
TURGENEV # NOVELS OF IVAN 
TURGENEV 



3 T153 OOEOlDbT Ц 



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THE NOVELS OF 
IVAN TURGENEV 

VOLUME X. 



THE NOVELS OF 
IVAN TURGENEV 

i. Rtuiin. 

ii. A House of Gentlefolk. 
iii. On the Eve. 
iv. Fathers and Children. 
V. Smoke. 
vi. & vii. Virgin Soil. 2 Vols. 
viii. & ix. A Sportsman* s Sketches. 2 Vols. 
X. Dream Tales and Prose Poems. 

NEW YORK 
MAC MILL AN AND CO. 



DREAM TALES 

AND PROSE POEMS 



BY 

IVAN TURGENEV 

Translated from the Russian 
By CONSTANCE GARNETT 



MACMILLAN AND CO, 

^897 



эч^^з 



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81Г73 



V,f(3 



A^l rights reserved. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



CLARA MILITCH, I 

PHANTOMS, 103 

THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE, .... 159 

THE DREAM, 199 

POEMS IN PROSE 237 jPiv\J 



CLARA MILITCH 



CLARA MILITCH 



In the spring of 1878 there was living in 
Moscow, in a small wooden house in Shabo- 
lovka, a young man of five-and-twenty, called 
Yakov Aratov. With him lived his father's 
sister, an elderly maiden lady, over fifty, 
Platonida Ivanovna. She took charge of 
his house, and looked after his household 
expenditure, a task for which Aratov was 
utterly unfit. Other relations he had none. 
A few years previously, his father, a provincial 
gentleman of small property, had moved to 
Moscow together with him and Platonida 
Ivanovna, whom he always, however, called 
Platosha; her nephew, too, used the same 
name. On leaving the country-place where 
they had always lived up till then, the elder 
Aratov settled in the old capital, with the 
object of putting his son to the university, for 
which he had himself prepared him ; he bought 
for a trifle a little house in one of the outlying^ 
3 



DREAM TALES 

Streets, and established himself in it, with all 
his books and scientific odds and ends. And 
of books and odds and ends he had many — 
for he was a man of some considerable learn- 
ing . . . 'an out-and-out eccentric,' as his 
neighbours said of him. He positively passed 
among them for a sorcerer ; he had even been 
given the title of an ' insectivist' He studied 
chemistry, mineralogy, entomology, botany, and 
medicine ; he doctored patients gratis with 
herbs and metallic powders of his own inven- 
tion, after the method of Paracelsus. These 
same powders were the means of his bringing 
to the grave his pretty, young, too delicate wife, 
whom he passionately loved, and by whom he 
had an only son. With the same powders he 
fairly ruined his son's health too, in the hope 
and intention of strengthening it, as he detected 
anaemia and a tendency to consumption in his 
constitution inherited from his mother. The 
name of ' sorcerer ' had been given him partly 
because he regarded himself as a descend- 
ant — not in the direct line, of course — of the 
great Bruce, in honour of whom he had 
called his son Yakov, the Russian form of 
James. 

He was what is called a most good-natured 
man, but of melancholy temperament, pottering, 
and timid, with a bent for everything mysterious 
4 



CLARA MILITCH 

and occult. ... A half-whispered ah ! was his 
habitual exclamation ; he even died with this 
exclamation on his lips, two years after his 
removal to Moscow. 

His son, Yakov, was in appearance unlike his 
father, who had been plain, clumsy, and awk- 
ward ; he took more after his mother. He had 
the same delicate pretty features, the same soft 
ash-coloured hair, the same little aquiline nose, 
the same pouting childish lips, and great green- 
ish-grey languishing eyes, with soft eyelashes. 
But in character he was like his father ; and 
the face, so unlike the father's face, wore the 
father's expression ; and he had the triangular- 
shaped hands and hollow chest of the old 
Aratov, who ought, however, hardfly to be called 
old, since he never reached his fiftieth year. 
Before his death, Yakov had already entered 
the university in the faculty of physics and 
mathematics ; he did not, however, complete 
his course ; not through laziness, but because, 
according to his notions, you could learn no 
more in the university than you could studying 
alone at home ; and he did not go in for a 
diploma because he had no idea of entering the 
government service. He was shy with his 
fellow-students, made friends with scarcely any 
one, especially held aloof from women, and 
lived in great solitude, buried in books. He 
5 



DREAM TALES 

held aloof from women, though he had a heart 
of the tenderest, and was fascinated by beauty. 
. . . He had even obtained a sumptuous 
English keepsake, and (oh shame !) gloated 
adoringly over its ' elegantly engraved ' repre- 
sentations of the various ravishing Gulnaras 
and Medoras. . . . But his innate modesty 
always kept him in check. In the house he 
used to work in what had been his father's 
study, it was also his bedroom, and his bed 
was the very one in which his father had 
breathed his last. 

The mainstay of his whole existence, his 
unfailing friend and companion, was his aunt 
Platosha, with whom he exchanged barely a 
dozen words in the day, but without whom he 
could not stir hand or foot She was a long- 
faced, long-toothed creature, with pale eyes, and 
a pale face, with an invariable expression, half 
of dejection, half of anxious dismay. For ever 
garbed in a grey dress and a grey shawl, she 
wandered about the house like a spirit, with 
noiseless steps, sighed, murmured prayers — 
especially one favourite one, consisting of three 
words only, ' Lord, succour us ! ' — and looked 
after the house with much good sense, taking 
care of every halfpenny, and buying everything 
herself. Her nephew she adored ; she was in a 
perpetual fidget over his health — afraid of 
6 



CLARA MILITCH 

everything — not for herself but for him ; and 
directly she fancied the slightest thing wrong, 
she would steal in softly, and set a cup of herb 
tea on his writing-table, or stroke him on the 
spine with her hands, soft as wadding. Yakov 
was not annoyed by these attentions — though 
the herb tea he left untouched — he merely 
nodded his head approvingly. However, his 
health was really nothing to boast of He was 
very impressionable, nervous, fanciful, suffered 
from palpitations of the heart, and sometimes 
from asthma ; like his father, he believed that 
there are in nature and in the soul of man, 
mysteries which may sometimes be divined, but 
to which one can never penetrate ; he believed 
in the existence of certain powers and influences, 
sometimes beneficent, but more often malignant, 
. . . and he believed too in science, in its dig- 
nity and importance. Of late he had taken a 
great fancy to photography. The smell of the 
chemicals used in this pursuit was a source of 
great uneasiness to his old aunt — not on her own 
account again, but on Yasha's, on account of 
his chest ; but for all the softness of his temper, 
there was not a little obstinacy in his composi- 
tion, and he persisted in his favourite pursuit. 
Platosha gave in, and only sighed more than 
ever, and murmured, ' Lord, succour us ! ' when- 
ever she saw his fingers stained with iodine. 
7 



DREAM TALES 

Yakov, as we have already related, had held 
aloof from his fellow-students ; with one of 
them he had, however, become fairly intimate, 
and saw him frequently, even after the fellow- 
student had left the university and entered the 
service, in a position involving little responsi- 
bility. He had, in his own words, got on 
to the building of the Church of our Saviour, 
though, of course, he knew nothing whatever of 
architecture. Strange to say, this one solitary 
friend of Aratov's, by name Kupfer, a German, 
so far Russianised that he did not know one 
word of German, and even fell foul of * the 
Germans,' this friend had apparently nothing in 
common with him. He was a black-haired, 
red-cheeked young man, very jovial, talkative, 
and devoted to the feminine society Aratov so 
assiduously avoided. It is true Kupfer both 
lunched and dined with him pretty often, and 
even, being a man of small means, used to 
borrow trifling sums of him ; but this was not 
what induced the free and easy German to fre- 
quent the humble little house in Shabolovka so 
diligently. The spiritual purity, the idealism 
of Yakov pleased him, possibly as a contrast to 
what he was seeing and meeting every day ; or 
possibly this very attachment to the youthful 
idealist betrayed him of German blood after all. 
Yakov liked Kupfer's simple-hearted frankness ; 



CLARA MILITCH 

and besides that, his accounts of the theatres, 
concerts, and balls, where he was always in at- 
tendance — of the unknown world altogether, into 
which Yakov could not make up his mind to 
enter — secretly interested and even excited the 
young hermit, without, however, arousing any 
desire to learn all this by his own experience. 
And Platosha made Kupfer welcome ; it is true 
she thought him at times excessively uncere- 
monious, but instinctively perceiving and real- 
ising that he was sincerely attached to her 
precious Yasha, she not only put up with the 
noisy guest, but felt kindly towards him. 



II 



At the time with which our story is concerned, 
there was in Moscow a certain widow, a Geor- 
gian princess, a person of somewhat dubious, 
almost suspicious character. She was close 
upon forty ; in her youth she had probably 
bloomed with that peculiar Oriental beauty, 
which fades so quickly ; now she powdered, 
rouged, and dyed her hair yellow. Various 
reports, not altogether favourable, nor altogether 
definite, were in circulation about her ; her hus- 
band no one had known, and she had never stayed 
9 



DREAM TALES 

long in any one town. She had no children, 
and no property, yet she kept open house, in 
debt or otherwise ; she had a salon, as it is 
called, and received a rather mixed society, for 
the most part young men. Everything in her 
house from her own dress, furniture, and table, 
down to her carriage and her servants, bore the 
stamp of something shoddy, artificial, temporary, 
. . . but the princess herself, as well as her 
guests, apparently desired nothing better. The 
princess was reputed a devotee of music and 
literature, a patroness of artists and men of 
talent, and she really was interested in all these 
subjects, even to the point of enthusiasm, and 
an enthusiasm not altogether affected. There 
was an unmistakable fibre of artistic feeling in 
her. Moreover she was very approachable, 
genial, free from presumption or pretentiousness, 
and, though many people did not suspect it, 
she was fundamentally good-natured, soft- 
hearted, and kindly disposed. . . . Qualities 
rare — and the more precious for their rarity — 
precisely in persons of her sort ! ' A fool of a 
woman ! ' a wit said of her : ' but she '11 get into 
heaven, not a doubt of it ! Because she for- 
gives everything, and everything will be for- 
given her.' It was said of her too that when 
she disappeared from a town, she always left 
as many creditors behind as persons she had 



CLARA MILITCH 

befriended. A soft heart readily turned in any 
direction. 

Kupfer, as might have been anticipated, 
found his way into her house, and was soon 
on an intimate — evil tongues said a too inti- 
mate — footing with her. He himself always 
spoke of her not only affectionately but with 
respect ; he called her a heart of gold — say 
what you like ! and firmly believed both in her 
love for art and her comprehension of art ! 
One day after dinner at the Aratovs', in dis- 
cussing the princess and her evenings, he began 
to persuade Yakov to break for once from his 
anchorite seclusion, and to allow him, Kupfer, 
to present him to his friend. Yakov at first 
would not even hear of it. ' But what do you 
imagine ? ' Kupfer cried at last : ' what sort of 
presentation are we talking about ? Simply, I 
take you, just as you are sitting now, in your 
everyday coat, and go with you to her for an 
evening. No sort of etiquette is necessary there, 
my dear boy ! You 're learned, you know, and 
fond of literature and music ' — (there actually 
was in Aratov's study a piano on which he some- 
times struck minor chords) — ' and in her house 
there 's enough and to spare of all those goods ! 
. . . and you '11 meet there sympathetic people, 
no nonsense about them ! And after all, you 
really can't at your age, with your looks 
II 



DREAM TALES 

(Aratov dropped his eyes and waved his 
hand deprecatingly), yes, yes, with your looks, 
you really can't keep aloof from society, from 
the world, like this ! Why, I 'm not going to 
take you to see generals ! Indeed, I know no 
generals myself! . . . Don't be obstinate, dear 
boy ! Morality is an excellent thing, most 
laudable. . . . But why fall a prey to asceti- 
cism? You're not going in for becoming a 
monk ! ' 

Aratov was, however, still refractory ; but 
Kupfer found an unexpected ally in Platonida 
Ivanovna. Though she had no clear idea what 
was meant by the word asceticism, she too was 
of opinion that it would be no harm for dear 
Yasha to take a little recreation, to see people, 
and to show himself 

* Especially,' she added, ' as I 've perfect con- 
fidence in Fyodor Fedoritch ! He '11 take you 
to no bad place !...'' I '11 bring him back in 
all his maiden innocence,' shouted Kupfer, at 
which Platonida Ivanovna, in spite of her con- 
fidence, cast uneasy glances upon him. Aratov 
blushed up to his ears, but ceased to make 
objections. 

It ended by Kupfer taking him next day 
to spend an evening at the princess's. But 
Aratov did not remain there long. To begin 
with, he found there some twenty visitors, men 

12 



CLARA MILITCH 

and women, sympathetic people possibly, but 
still strangers, and this oppressed him, even 
though he had to do very little talking ; and 
that, he feared above all things. Secondly, he 
did not like their hostess, though she received 
him very graciously and simply. Everything 
about her was distasteful to him : her painted 
face, and her frizzed curls, and her thickly- 
sugary voice, her shrill giggle, her way of 
rolling her eyes and looking up, her exces- 
sively low-necked dress, and those fat, glossy 
fingers with their multitude of rings ! . . . 
Hiding himself away in a corner, he took from 
time to time a rapid survey of the faces of all 
the guests, without even distinguishing them, 
and then stared obstinately at his own feet. 
When at last a stray musician with a worn 
face, long hair, and an eyeglass stuck into his 
contorted eyebrow sat down to the grand piano 
and flinging his hands with a sweep on the keys 
and his foot on the pedal, began to attack a 
fantasia of Liszt on a Wagner motive, Aratov 
could not stand it, and stole off, bearing away 
in his heart a vague, painful impression ; across 
which, however, flitted something incomprehen- 
sible to him, but grave and even disquieting. 



13 



DREAM TALES 



III 



KUPFER came next day to dinner ; he did not 
begin, however, expatiating on the preceding 
evening, he did not even reproach Aratov for 
his hasty retreat, and only regretted that he 
had not stayed to supper, when there had been 
champagne! (of the Novgorod brand, we may 
remark in parenthesis). Kupfer probably real- 
ised that it had been a mistake on his part 
to disturb his friend, and that Aratov really 
was a man ' not suited ' to that circle and way 
of life. On his side, too, Aratov said nothing 
of the princess, nor of the previous evening. 
Platonida Ivanovna did not know whether to 
rejoice at the failure of this first experiment 
or to regret it. She decided at last that 
Yasha's health might suffer from such outings, 
and was comforted. Kupfer went away directly 
after dinner, and did not show himself again for 
a whole week. And it was not that he resented 
the failure of his suggestion, the good fellow 
was incapable of that, but he had obviously 
found some interest which was absorbing all 
his time, all his thoughts ; for later on, too, 
he rarely appeared at the Aratovs', had an 
absorbed look, spoke little and quickly 
vanished. . . . Aratov went on living as be- 
14 



CLARA MILITCH 

fore ; but a sort of — if one may so express 
it — little hook was pricking at his soul. He 
was continually haunted by some reminiscence, 
he could not quite tell what it was himself, and 
this reminiscence was connected with the even- 
ing he had spent at the princess's. For all that 
he had not the slightest inclination to return 
there again, and the world, a part of which he 
had looked upon at her house, repelled him 
more than ever. So passed six weeks. 

And behold one morning Kupfer stood be- 
fore him once more, this time with a somewhat 
embarrassed countenance. ' I know,' he began 
with a constrained smile, ' that your visit that 
time was not much to your taste ; but I hope 
for all that you '11 agree to my proposal . . 
that you won't refuse me my request ! ' 

' What is it ? ' inquired Aratov. 

* Well, do you see,' pursued Kupfer, getting 
more and more heated : ' there is a society 
here of amateurs, artistic people, who from 
time to time get up readings, concerts, even 
theatrical performances for some charitable 
object.' 

' And the princess has a hand in it ? ' inter- 
posed Aratov. 

' The princess has a hand in all good deeds, 
but that 's not the point. We have arranged a 
literary and musical matinee . . . and at this 
15 



DREAM TALES 

matinee you may hear a girl ... an extra- 
ordinary girl ! We cannot make out quite yet 
whether she is to be a Rachel or a Viardot . . . 
for she sings exquisitely, and recites and plays. 
... A talent of the very first rank, my dear 
boy ! I 'm not exaggerating. Well then, won't 
you take a ticket ? Five roubles for a seat in 
the front row.' 

' And where has this marvellous girl sprung 
from ? ' asked Aratov. 

Kupfer grinned. ' That I really can't say. 

... Of late she 's found a home with the 

princess. The princess you know is a protector 

of every one of that sort. . . . But you saw her, 

most likely, that evening.' 

Aratov gave a faint inward start . . . but he 
said nothing. 

' She has even played somewhere in the pro- 
vinces,' Kupfer continued, ' and altogether she 's 
created for the theatre. There ! you '11 see for 
yourself ! ' 

' What 's her name ? ' asked Aratov. 

' Clara . . .' 

' Clara ? ' Aratov interrupted a second time. 
' Impossible!' 

' Why impossible? Clara . . . Clara Militch ; 

it 's not her real name . . . but that 's what she 's 

called. She 's going to sing a song of Glinka's 

. . . and of Tchaykovsky's ; and then she '11 

i6 



CLARA MILITCH 

recite the letter from Yevgeny Oniegin. Well ; 
will you take a ticket ? ' 

' And when will it be ? ' 

' To-morrow . . . to-morrow, at half-past one, 
in a private drawing-room, in Ostozhonka. . . . 
I will come for you. A five-rouble ticket ? . . . 
Here it is . . . no, that 's a three-rouble one. 
Here . . . and here 's the programme. . . . I 'm 
one of the stewards/ 

Aratov sank into thought. Platonida Iva- 
novna came in at that instant, and glancing at 
his face, was in a flutter of agitation at once. 
' Yasha,' she cried, 'what 's the matter with you.'' 
Why are you so upset? Fyodor Fedoritch, 
what is it you Ve been telling him ? ' 

Aratov did not let his friend answer his 
aunt's question, but hurriedly snatching the 
ticket held out to him, told Platonida Iva- 
novna to give Kupfer five roubles at once. 

She blinked in amazement. . . . However, 
she handed Kupfer the money in silence. Her 
darling Yasha had ejaculated his commands in 
a v^ry imperative manner. 

* I tell you, a wonder of wonders ! ' cried 
Kupfer, hurrying to the door. 'Wait till to- 
morrow.' 

' Has she black eyes ?' Aratov called after him. 

* Black as coal ! ' Kupfer shouted cheerily, as 
he vanished. 

17 в 



DREAM TALES 



Aratov went away to his room, while Plato- 
nida Ivanovna stood rooted to the spot, repeat- 
ing in a whisper, ' Lord, succour us ! Succour 



us, Lord ! ' 



IV 



The big drawing-room in the private house in 
Ostozhonka was already half full of visitors when 
Aratov and Kupfer arrived. Dramatic perform- 
ances had sometimes been given in this draw- 
ing-room, but on this occasion there was no 
scenery nor curtain visible. The organisers 
of the matinee had confined themselves to 
fixing up a platform at one end, putting upon 
it a piano, a couple of reading-desks, a few 
chairs, a table with a bottle of water and a glass 
on it, and hanging red cloth over the door that 
led to the room allotted to the performers. In 
the first row was already sitting the princess in 
a bright green dress, Aratov placed himself at 
some distance from her, after exchanging the 
barest of greetings with her. The public was, 
as they say, of mixed materials ; for the most 
part young men from educational institutions. 
Kupfer, as one of the stewards, with a white 
ribbon on the cuff of his coat, fussed and 
i8 



CLARA MILITCH 

bustled about busily ; the princess was 
obviously excited, looked about her, shot 
smiles in all directions, talked with those 
next her . . . none but men were sitting near 
her. The first to appear on the platform was 
a flute-player of consumptive appearance, who 
most conscientiously dribbled away — what 
am I saying ? — piped, I mean — a piece also of 
consumptive tendency ; two persons shouted 
bravo ! Then a stout gentleman in spectacles, 
of an exceedingly solid, even surly aspect, read 
in a bass voice a sketch of Shtchedrin ; the 
sketch was applauded, not the reader ; then the 
pianist, whom Aratov had seen before, came 
forward and strummed the same fantasia of 
Liszt ; the pianist gained an encore. He 
bowed with one hand on the back of the chair, 
and after each bow he shook back his hair, pre- 
cisely like Liszt ! At last after a rather long 
interval the red cloth over the door on to the 
platform stirred and opened wide, and Clara 
Militch appeared. The room resounded with 
applause. With hesitating steps, she moved 
forward on the platform, stopped and stood 
motionless, clasping her large handsome un- 
gloved hands in front of her, without a courtesy, 
a bend of the head, or a smile. 

She was a girl of nineteen, tall, rather broad- 
shouldered, but well-built. A dark face, of a 
19 



DREAM TALES 

half-Jewish half-gipsy type, small black eyes 
under thick brows almost meeting in the 
middle, a straight, slightly turned-up nose, 
delicate lips with a beautiful but decided curve, 
an immense mass of black hair, heavy even in 
appearance, a low brow still as marble, tiny 
ears . . . the whole face dreamy, almost sullen. 
A nature passionate, wilful — hardly good- 
tempered, hardly very clever, but gifted — was 
expressed in every feature. 

For some time she did not raise her eyes ; 
but suddenly she started, and passed over the 
rows of spectators a glance intent, but not 
attentive, absorbed, it seemed, in herself. . . . 
' What tragic eyes she has ! ' observed a man 
sitting behind Aratov, a grey-headed dandy 
with the face of a Revel harlot, well known 
in Moscow as a prying gossip and writer 
for the papers. The dandy was an idiot, and 
meant to say something idiotic . . . but he 
spoke the truth. Aratov, who from the very 
moment of Clara's entrance had never taken 
his eyes off her, only at that instant recollected 
that he really had seen her at the princess's ; 
and not only that he had seen her, but that he 
had even noticed that she had several times, 
with a peculiar insistency, gazed at him with 
her dark intent eyes. And now too — or was 
it his fancy ? — on seeing him in the front row 
20 



CLARA MILITCH 

she seemed delighted, seemed to flush, and 
again gazed intently at him. Then, without 
turning round, she stepped away a couple of 
paces in the direction of the piano, at which 
her accompanist, a long-haired foreigner, was 
sitting. She had to render Glinka's ballad : 
' As soon as I knew you . . .' She began at 
once to sing, without changing the attitude of 
her hands or glancing at the music. Her voice 
was soft and resonant, a contralto ; she uttered 
the words distinctly and with emphasis, and 
sang monotonously, with little light and shade, 
but with intense expression. 'The girl sings 
with conviction,' said the same dandy sitting 
behind Aratov, and again he spoke the truth. 
Shouts of * Bis ! ' ' Bravo ! ' resounded over the 
room ; but she flung a rapid glance on Aratov, 
who neither shouted nor clapped — he did not 
particularly care for her singing — gave a slight 
bow, and walked out without taking the hooked 
arm proffered her by the long-haired pianist. 
She was called back . . . not very soon, she 
reappeared, with the same hesitating steps 
approached the piano, and whispering a couple 
of words to the accompanist, who picked out and 
put before him another piece of music, began 
Tchaykovsky's song : ' No, only he who knows 
the thirst to see.' . . . This song she sang 
differently from the first — in a low voice, as 



DREAM TALES 

though she were tired . . . and only at the line 
next the last, ' He knows what I have suffered/ 
broke from her in a ringing, passionate cry. 
The last line, ' And how I suffer ' . . . she 
almost whispered, with a mournful prolongation 
of the last word. This song produced less 
impression on the audience than the Glinka 
ballad ; there was much applause, however. 
. . . Kupfer was particularly conspicuous ; 
folding his hands in a peculiar way, in the 
shape of a barrel, at each clap he produced an 
extraordinarily resounding report. The prin- 
cess handed him a large, straggling nosegay for 
him to take it to the singer ; but she, seeming 
not to observe Kupfer's bowing figure, and 
outstretched hand with the nosegay, turned and 
went away, again without waiting for the 
pianist, who skipped forward to escort her more 
hurriedly than before, and when he found him- 
self so unjustifiably deserted, tossed his hair as 
certainly Liszt himself had never tossed his ! 

During the whole time of the singing, Aratov 
had been watching Clara's face. It seemed to 
him that her eyes, through the drooping eye- 
lashes, were again turned upon him ; but he 
was especially struck by the immobility of the 
face, the forehead, the eyebrows ; and only at 
her outburst of passion he caught through the 
hardly-parted lips the warm gleam of a close 

22 



CLARA MILITCH 

row of white teeth. Kupfer came up to 
him. 

' Well, my dear boy, what do you think of 
her?' he asked, beaming all over with satis- 
faction. 

' It 's a fine voice,' replied Aratov ; ' but she 
doesn't know how to sing yet ; she 's no real 
musical knowledge.' (Why he said this, and 
what conception he had himself of * musical 
knowledge,' the Lord only knows !) 

Kupfer was surprised. ' No musical know- 
ledge,' he repeated slowly. . . . ' Well, as to 
that . . . she can acquire that. But what 
soul ! Wait a bit, though ; you shall hear her 
in Tatiana's letter.' 

He hurried away from Aratov, while the 
latter said to himself, ' Soul ! with that immov- 
able face ! ' He thought that she moved and 
held herself like one hypnotised, like a som- 
nambulist. And at the same time she was 
unmistakably . . . yes ! unmistakably looking 
at him. 

Meanwhile the matinee went on. The fat 
man in spectacles appeared again ; in spite of 
his serious exterior, he fancied himself a comic 
actor, and recited a scene from Gogol, this time 
without eliciting a single token of approbation. 
There was another glimpse of the flute-player ; 
another thunder-clap from the pianist ; a boy of 



DREAM TALES 

twelve, frizzed and pomaded, but with tear- 
stains on his cheeks, thrummed some variations 
on a fiddle. What seemed strange was that in 
the intervals of the reading and music, from the 
performers' room, sounds were heard from time 
to time of a French horn ; and yet this instru- 
ment never was brought into requisition. In 
the sequel it appeared that the amateur, who 
had been invited to perform on it, had lost 
courage at the moment of facing the public. 
At last Clara Militch made her appearance 
again. 

She held a volume of Pushkin in her hand ; 
she did not, however, glance at it once during 
her recitation. . . . She was obviously nervous, 
the little book shook slightly in her fingers. 
Aratov observed also the expression of weari- 
ness which now overspread all her stern features. 
The first line, ' I write to you . . . what more ? ' 
she uttered exceedingly simply, almost naively, 
and with a naive, genuine, helpless gesture held 
both hands out before her. Then she began to 
hurry a little ; but from the beginning of the 
lines : ' Another ! no ! To no one in the whole 
world I have given my heart ! ' she mastered 
her powers, gained fire ; and when she came to 
the words, ' My whole life has but been a 
pledge of a meeting true with thee,' her hitherto 
thick voice rang out boldly and enthusiastically, 
24 



CLARA MILITCH 

while her eyes just as boldly and directly 
fastened upon Aratov. She went on with the 
same fervour, and only towards the end her 
voice dropped again ; and in it, and in her face, 
the same weariness was reflected again. The 
last four lines she completely ' murdered,' as it 
is called ; the volume of Pushkin suddenly slid 
out of her hand, and she hastily withdrew. 

The audience fell to applauding desperately, 
encoring. . . . One Little-Russian divinity stu- 
dent bellowed in so deep a bass, ' Mill-itch ! 
Mill-itch ! ' that his neighbour civilly and sym- 
pathetically advised him, ' to take care of his 
voice, it would be the making of a protodeacon.' 
But Aratov at once rose and made for the 
door. Kupfer overtook him. ... * I say, where 
are you off to ? ' he called ; ' would you like 
me to present you to Clara ? ' ' No, thanks,' 
Aratov returned hurriedly, and he went home- 
wards almost at a run. 



He was agitated by strange sensations, incom- 
prehensible to himself In reality, Clara's 
recitation, too, had not been quite to his taste 
. . . though he could not quite tell why. It 
25 



DREAM TALES 

disturbed him, this recitation ; it struck him as 
crude and inharmonious. ... It was as though 
it broke something within him, forced itself 
with a certain violence upon him. And those 
fixed, insistent, almost importunate looks — 
what were they for ? what did they mean ? 

Aratov's modesty did not for one instant 
admit of the idea that he might have made an 
impression on this strange girl, that he might 
have inspired in her a sentiment akin to love, 
to passion ! . . . And indeed, he himself had 
formed a totally different conception of the 
still unknown woman, the girl to whom he was 
to give himself wholly, who would love him, be 
his bride, his wife. . . . He seldom dwelt on 
this dream — in spirit as in body he was 
virginal ; but the pure image that arose at 
such times in his fancy was inspired by a very 
different figure, the figure of his dead mother, 
whom he scarcely remembered, but whose 
portrait he treasured as a sacred relic. The 
portrait was a water-colour, painted rather un- 
skilfully by a lady who had been a neighbour 
of hers ; but the likeness, as every one declared, 
was a striking one. Just such a tender profile, 
just such kind, clear eyes and silken hair, just 
such a smile and pure expression, was the 
woman, the girl, to have, for whom as yet he 
scarcely dared to hope. . . . 
26 



CLARA MILITCH 

But this swarthy, dark-skinned creature, with 
coarse hair, dark eyebrows, and a tiny moustache 
on her upper lip, she was certainly a wicked, 
giddy . . . ' gipsy ' (Aratov could not imagine 
a harsher appellation) — what was she to him ? 

And yet Aratov could not succeed in getting 
out of his head this dark-skinned gipsy, whose 
singing and reading and very appearance were 
displeasing to him. He was puzzled, he was 
angry with himself. Not long before he had 
read Sir Walter Scott's novel, S^. Ronan's Well 
(there was a complete edition of Sir Walter 
Scott's works in the library of his father, who 
had regarded the English novelist with esteem 
as a serious, almost a scientific, writer). The 
heroine of that novel is called Clara Mowbray. 
A poet who flourished somewhere about 1840, 
Krasov, wrote a poem on her, ending with the 
words : 

' Unhappy Clara ! poor frantic Clara ! 
Unhappy Clara Mowbray ! ' 

Aratov knew this poem also. . . . And now 
these words were incessantly haunting his 
memory. . . . ' Unhappy Clara ! Poor, frantic 
Clara ! ' . . . (This was why he had been so 
surprised when Kupfer told him the name of 
Clara Militch.) 

Platosha herself noticed, not a change exactly 
in Yasha's temper — no change in reality took 
27 



DREAM TALES 

place in it — but something unsatisfactory in 
his looks and in his words. She cautiously 
questioned him about the literary matinee at 
which he had been present ; muttered, sighed, 
looked at him from in front, from the side, from 
behind ; and suddenly clapping her hands on 
her thighs, she exclaimed : ' To be sure, Yasha ; 
I see what it is ! ' 

' Why ? what ? ' Aratov queried. 

' You Ve met for certain at that matinee one 
of those long-tailed creatures ' — this was how 
Platonida Ivanovna always spoke of all fashion- 
ably-dressed ladies of the period — ' with a 
pretty dolly face ; and she goes prinking tJiis 
way . . . and pluming that way' — Platonida 
presented these fancied manoeuvres in mimicry 
— ' and making saucers like this with her eyes ' 
— and she drew big, round circles in the air 
with her forefinger — ' You 're not used to that 
sort of thing. So you fancied . . . but that 
means nothing, Yasha . . . no-o-thing at all ! 
Drink a cup of posset at night ... it '11 pass 
off! . . . Lord, succour us ! ' 

Platosha ceased speaking, and left the room. 
. . . She had hardly ever uttered such a long 
and animated speech in her life. . . . While 
Aratov thought, ' Auntie 's right, I dare say. 
. . . I'm not used to it ; that 's all . . . ' — it 
actually was the first time his attention had 
28 



CLARA MILITCH 

ever happened to be drawn to a person of the 
female sex ... at least he had never noticed 
it before — ' I mustn't give way to it.' 

And he set to work on his books, and at 
night drank some lime-flower tea ; and posi- 
tively slept well that night, and had no dreams. 
The next morning he took up his photography 
again as though nothing had happened. . . . 

But towards evening his spiritual repose was 
again disturbed. 



VI 



And this is what happened. A messenger 
brought him a note, written in a large irregular 
woman's hand, and containing the following 
lines : 

' If you guess who it is writes to you, and if 
it is not a bore to you, come to-morrow after 
dinner to the Tversky boulevard — about five 
o'clock — and wait. You shall not be kept long. 
But it is very important. Do come.' 

There was no signature. Aratov at once 
guessed who was his correspondent, and this 
was just what disturbed him. ' What folly,' he 
said, almost aloud ; ' this is too much. Of 
course I shan't go.' He sent, however, for the 
29 



DREAM TALES 

messenger, and from him learnt nothing but 
that the note had been handed him by a maid- 
servant in the street. Dismissing him, Aratov 
read the letter through and flung it on the 
ground. . . . But, after a little while, he picked 
it up and read it again : a second time he cried, 
' Folly ! ' — he did not, however, throw the note 
on the floor again, but put it in a drawer. Aratov 
took up his ordinary occupations, first one and 
then another ; but nothing he did was success- 
ful or satisfactory. He suddenly realised that 
he was eagerly expecting Kupfer ! Did he 
want to question him, or perhaps even to con- 
fide in him ? . . . But Kupfer did not make his 
appearance. Then Aratov took down Pushkin, 
read Tatiana's letter, and convinced himself 
again that the ' gipsy girl ' had not in the least 
understood the real force of the letter. And 
that donkey Kupfer shouts: Rachel! Viardot ! 
Then he went to his piano, as it seem.ed, uncon- 
sciously opened it, and tried to pick out by ear 
the melody of Tchaykovsky's song ; but he 
slammed it to again directly in vexation, and 
went up to his aunt to her special room, which 
was for ever baking hot, smelled of mint, sage, 
and other medicinal herbs, and was littered up 
with such a multitude of rugs, side-tables, stools, 
cushions, and padded furniture of all sorts, that 
any one unused to it would have found it difii- 
30 



CLARA MILITCH 

cult to turn round and oppressive to breathe in 
it. Platonida Ivanovna was sitting at the win- 
dow, her knitting in her hands (she was knitting 
her darling Yasha a comforter, the thirty-eighth 
she had made him in the course of his life !), 
and was much astonished to see him. Aratov 
rarely went up to her, and if he wanted any- 
thing, used always to call, in his delicate voice, 
from his study : ' Aunt Platosha ! ' However, 
she made him sit down, and sat all alert, in 
expectation of his first words, watching him 
through her spectacles with one eye, over them 
with the other. She did not inquire after his 
health nor offer him tea, as she saw he had not 
come for that. Aratov was a little disconcerted 
. . . then he began to talk . . . talked of his 
mother, of how she had lived with his father 
and how his father had got to know her. All 
this he knew very well . . . but it was just 
what he wanted to talk about. Unluckily for 
him, Platosha did not know how to keep up a 
conversation at all ; she gave him very brief 
replies, as though she suspected that was not 
what Yasha had come for. 

'Eh!' she repeated, hurriedly, almost irritably 
plying her knitting-needles. ' We all know : 
your mother was a darling ... a darling that 
she was. . . . And your father loved her as a 
husband should, truly and faithfully even in her 



DREAM TALES 

grave ; and he never loved any other woman ' : 
she added, raising her voice and taking off her 
spectacles. 

' And was she of a retiring disposition ? ' 
Aratov inquired, after a short silence. 

' Retiring ! to be sure she was. As a woman 
should be. Bold ones have sprung up nowa- 
days.' 

* And were there no bold ones in your time? ' 

' There were in our time too ... to be sure 
there were ! But who were they ? A pack of 
strumpets, shameless hussies. Draggle-tails — 
for ever gadding about after no good. . . . What 
do they care .^ It's little they take to heart. 
If some poor fool comes in their way, they 
pounce on him. But sensible folk looked down 
on them. Did you ever see, pray, the like of 
such in our house ? ' 

Aratov made no reply, and went back to his 
study. Platonida Ivanovna looked after him, 
shook her head, put on her spectacles again, 
and again took up her comforter . . . but more 
than once sank into thought, and let her 
knitting-needles fall on her knees. 

Aratov up till very night kept telling him- 
self, no ! no ! but with the same irritation, the 
same exasperation, he fell again into musing on 
the note, on the ' gipsy girl,' on the appointed 
meeting, to which he would certainly not go ! 
32 



CLARA MILITCH 

And at night she gave him no rest. He was 
continually haunted by her eyes — at one time 
half-closed, at another wide open — and their 
persistent gaze fixed straight upon him, and 
those motionless features with their dominating 
expression. . . . 

The next morning he again, for some reason, 
kept expecting Kupfer ; he was on the point of 
writing a note to him . . . but did nothing, 
however, . . . and spent most of the time 
walking up and down his room. He never for 
one instant admitted to himself even the idea 
of going to this idiotic rendezvous . . . and 
at half-past three, after a hastily swallowed 
dinner, suddenly throwing on his cloak and 
thrusting his cap on his head, he dashed out 
into the street, unseen by his aunt, and turned 
towards the Tversky boulevard. 



VII 



Aratov found few people walking in it. The 
weather was damp and rather cold. He tried 
not to reflect on what he was doing, to force 
himself to turn his attention to every object 
that presented itself, and, as it were, persuaded 
himself that he had simply come out for a walk 
33 С 



DREAM TALES 

like the other people passing to and fro. . . . 
The letter of the day before was in his breast- 
pocket, and he was conscious all the while of 
its presence there. He walked twice up and 
down the boulevard, scrutinised sharply every 
feminine figure that came near him — and his 
heart throbbed. . . . He felt tired and sat 
down on a bench. And suddenly the thought 
struck him: 'What if that letter was not written 
by her, but to some one else by some other 
woman ? ' In reality this should have been a 
matter of indifference to him . . . and yet he 
had to admit to himself that he did not want 
this to be so. ' That would be too silly,' he 
thought, ' even sillier than tkzs ! ' A nervous 
unrest began to gain possession of him ; he 
began to shiver — not outwardly, but inwardly. 
He several times took his watch out of his 
waistcoat pocket, looked at the face, put it back, 
and each time forgot how many minutes it was 
to five. He fancied that every passer-by looked 
at him in a peculiar way, with a sort of sarcastic 
astonishment and curiosity. A wretched little 
dog ran up, sniffed at his legs, and began 
wagging its tail. He threatened it angrily. 
He was particularly annoyed by a factory lad 
in a greasy smock, who seated himself on a 
seat on the other side of the boulevard, and 
by turns whistling, scratching himself, and 
34 



CLARA MILITCH 

swinging his feet in enormous tattered boots, 
persistently stared at him. * And his master,' 
thought Aratov, * is waiting for him, no doubt, 
while he, lazy scamp, is kicking up his heels 
here. . . .' 

But at that very instant he felt that some one 
had come up and was standing close behind 
him . . . there was a breath of something warm 
from behind. . . . 

He looked round. . . . She ! 

He knew her at once, though a thick, dark 
blue veil hid her features. He instantaneously 
leapt up from the seat, but stopped short, and 
could not utter a word. She too was silent 
He felt great embarrassment ; but her em- 
barrassment was no less. Aratov, even through 
the veil, could not help noticing how deadly 
pale she had turned. Yet she was the first to 
speak. 

' Thanks,' she began in an unsteady voice, 
' thanks for coming. I did not expect . . .' 
She turned a little away and walked along the 
boulevard. Aratov walked after her. 

' You have, perhaps, thought ill of me,' she 
went on, without turning her head ; * indeed, 
my conduct is very strange. . . . But I had 
heard so much about you . . . but no ! I . . . 
that was not the reason. . . . If only you knew 
. . . There was so much I wanted to tell you, 
35 



DREAM TALES 

my God ! . . . But how to do it . . . how to 
do it ! ' 

Aratov was walking by her side, a Httle 
behind her ; he could not see her face ; he saw 
only her hat and part of her veil . . . and her 
long black shabby cape. All his irritation, both 
with her and with himself, suddenly came back 
to him ; all the absurdity, the awkwardness of 
this interview, these explanations between per- 
fect strangers in a public promenade, suddenly 
struck him. 

' I have come on your invitation,' he began in 
his turn. ' I have come, my dear madam ' (her 
shoulders gave a faint twitch, she turned off 
into a side passage, he followed her), ' simply to 
clear up, to discover to what strange misunder- 
standing it is due that you are pleased to 
address me, a stranger to you . . . who . . . 
only guessed, to use your expression in your 
letter, that it was you writing to him . . . guessed 
it because during that literary matinee, you saw 
fit to pay him such . . . such obvious attention.' 

All this little speech was delivered by Aratov 
in that ringing but unsteady voice in which 
very young people answer at examinations on a 
subject in which they are well prepared. . . . 
He was angry; he was furious. ... It was just 
this fury which loosened his ordinarily not very 
ready tongue. 

36 



CLARA MILITCH 

She still went on along the walk with 
rather slower steps. . . . Aratov, as before, 
walked after her, and as before saw only the 
old cape and the hat, also not a very new one. 
His vanity suffered at the idea that she must 
now be thinking : * I had only to make a sign 
— and he rushed at once ! ' 

Aratov was silent ... he expected her to 
answer him ; but she did not utter a word. 

*I am ready to listen to you,' he began again, 
'and shall be very glad if I can be of use to 
you in any way . . . though I am, I confess, 
surprised . . . considering the retired life I 
lead. . . .' 

At these last words of his, Clara suddenly 
turned to him, and he beheld such a terrified, 
such a deeply-wounded face, with such large 
bright tears in the eyes, such a pained expres- 
sion about the parted lips, and this face was 
so lovely, that he involuntarily faltered, and 
himself felt something akin to terror and pity 
and softening. 

' Ah, why . . . why are you like that ? ' she 
said, with an irresistibly genuine and truthful 
force, and how movingly her voice rang out ! 
' Could my turning to you be offensive to you ? 
... is it possible you have understood nothing ? 
. . . Ah, yes ! you have understood nothing, 
you did not understand what I said to you, 
37 



DREAM TALES 

God knows what you have been imagining 
about me, you have not even dreamed what it 
cost me — to write to you ! . . . You thought of 
nothing but yourself, your own dignity, your 
peace of mind ! . . . But is it likely I ' . . . 
(she squeezed her hands raised to her lips so 
hard, that the fingers gave a distinct crack). . . . 
' As though I made any sort of demands of you, 
as though explanations were necessary first. . . . 
" My dear madam, ... I am, I confess, sur- 
prised, ... if I can be of any use "... Ah ! I 
am mad! — I was mistaken in you — in your face! 
. . . when I saw you the first time. . . ! Here 
. . . you stand. ... If only one word. What, 
not one word ? ' 

She ceased. . . . Her face suddenly flushed, 
and as suddenly took a wrathful and insolent 
expression. ' Mercy ! how idiotic this is ! ' she 
cried suddenly, with a shrill laugh. ' How 
idiotic our meeting is ! What a fool I am ! . . . 
and you too. . . . Ugh ! ' 

She gave a contemptuous wave of her hand, 
as though motioning him out of her road, and 
passing him, ran quickly out of the boulevard, 
and vanished. 

The gesture of her hand, the insulting laugh, 

and the last exclamation, at once carried Aratov 

back to his first frame of mind, and stifled the 

feeling that had sprung up in his heart when 

38 



CLARA MILITCII 

she turned to him with tears in her eyes. He 
was angry again, and almost shouted after the 
retreating girl : ' You may make a good actress, 
but why did you think fit to play off this farce 
on me?' 

He returned home with long strides, and 
though he still felt anger and indignation all 
the way, yet across these evil, malignant feel- 
ings, unconsciously, the memory forced itself 
of the exquisite face he had seen for a single 
moment only. . . . He even put himself the 
question, ' Why did I not answer her when 
she asked of me only a word ? I had not 
time,' he thought. ' She did not let me utter 
the word . . . and what word could I have 
uttered ? ' 

But he shook his head at once, and murmured 
reproachfully, ' Actress ! ' 

And again, at the same time, the vanity 
of the inexperienced nervous youth, at first 
wounded, was now, as it were, flattered at having 
any way inspired such a passion. . . . 

' Though by now,' he pursued his reflections, 
' it 's all over, of course. ... I must have seemed 
absurd to her.' . . . 

This idea was disagreeable to him, and again 

he was angry . . . both with her . . . and with 

himself On reaching home, he shut himself up 

in his study. He did not want to see Platosha. 

39 



DREAM TALES 

The good old lady came twice to his locked 
door, put her ear to the keyhole, and only sighed 
and murmured her prayer. 

* It has begun ! ' she thought. . . . ' And he 
only five - and - twenty ! Ah, it 's early, it 's 
early ! ' 



VIII 

All the following day Aratov was in very low 
spirits. ' What is it, Yasha ? ' Platonida Ivan- 
ovna said to him : ' you seem somehow all 
loose ends to-day ! ' . . . In her own peculiar 
idiom the old lady's expression described fairly 
accurately Aratov's mental condition. He 
could not work and he did not know himself 
what he wanted. At one time he was eagerly 
on the watch for Kupfer, again he suspected 
that it was from Kupfer that Clara had got his 
address . . . and from where else could she ' have 
heard so much about him ' ? Then he wondered : 
was it possible his acquaintance with her was 
to end like this ? Then he fancied she would 
write to him again ; then he asked himself 
whether he ought not to write her a letter, 
explaining everything, since he did not at all 
like leaving an unfavourable impression of him- 
self . . . But exactly what to explain ? Then he 
40 



CLARA MILITCH 

stirred up in himself almost a feeling of repul- 
sion for her, for her insistence, her imper- 
tinence ; and then again he saw that unutterably 
touching face and heard an irresistible voice ; 
then he recalled her singing, her recitation — 
and could not be sure whether he had been 
right in his wholesale condemnation of it. In 
fact, he was all loose ends ! At last he was 
heartily sick of it, and resolved to keep a firm 
hand over himself, as it is called, and to oblite- 
rate the whole incident, as it was unmistakably 
hindering his studies and destroying his peace 
of mind. It turned out not so easy to carry 
out this resolution . . . more than a week 
passed by before he got back into his old accus- 
tomed groove. Luckily Kupfer did not turn 
up at all ; he was in fact out of Moscow. Not 
long before the incident, Aratov had begun to 
work at painting in connection with his photo- 
graphic plans ; he set to work upon it now with 
redoubled zest. 

So, imperceptibly, with a few (to use the 
doctors' expression) * symptoms of relapse,' 
manifested, for instance, in his once almost 
deciding to call upon the princess, two months 
passed . . . then three months . . . and Aratov 
was the old Aratov again. Only somewhere 
down below, under the surface of his life, some- 
thing like a dark and burdensome secret dogged 



DREAM TALES 

him wherever he went. So a great fish just 
caught on the hook, but not yet drawn up, will 
swim at the bottom of a deep stream under the 
very boat where the angler sits with a stout 
rod in his hand. 

And one day, skimming through a not 
quite new number of the Moscow Gazette, 
Aratov lighted upon the following paragraph : 

' With the greatest regret,' wrote some local 
contributor from Kazan, ' we must add to our 
dramatic record the news of the sudden death 
X)f our gifted actress Clara Militch, who had 
succeeded during the brief period of her 
engagement in becoming a favourite of our dis- 
criminating public. Our regret is the more 
poignant from the fact that Miss Militch by her 
own act cut short her young life, so full of 
promise, by means of poison. And this dread- 
ful deed was the more awful through the 
talented actress taking the fatal drug in the 
theatre itself. She had scarcely been taken 
home when to the universal grief, she expired. 
There is a rumour in the town that an unfor- 
tunate love affair drove her to this terrible act.' 

Aratov slowly laid the paper on the table. 
In outward appearance he remained perfectly 
calm . . . but at once something seemed to 
strike him a blow in the chest and the head — 
and slowly the shock passed on through all his 
42 



CLARA MILITCH 

limbs. He got up, stood still on the spot, and 
sat down again, again read through the para- 
graph. Then he got up again, lay down on 
the bed, and clasping his hands behind, stared 
a long while at the wall, as though dazed. By 
degrees the wall seemed to fade away . . . 
vanished . . . and he saw facing him the boule- 
vard under the grey sky, and her in her black 
cape . . . then her on the platform . . . saw him- 
self even close by her. That something which 
had given him such a violent blow in the chest 
at the first instant, began mounting now . . . 
mounting into his throat. . . . He tried to clear 
his throat ; tried to call some one — but his voice 
failed him — and, to his own astonishment, tears 
rushed in torrents from his eyes . . . what 
called forth these tears? Pity? Remorse? Or 
was it simply his nerves could not stand the 
sudden shock ? 

Why, she was nothing to him ? was she ? 

* But, perhaps, it's not true after all,' the 
thought came as a sudden relief to him. ' I 
must find out ! But from whom ? From the 
princess ? No, from Kupfer . . . from Kupfer ? 
But they say he 's not in Moscow — no matter, I 
must try him first ! ' 

With these reflections in his head, Aratov 
dressed himself in haste, called a cab and drove 
to Kupfer's. 

43 



DREAM TALES 



IX 



Though he had not expected to find him, he 
found him. Kupfer had, as a fact, been away 
from Moscow for some time, but he had now 
been back a week, and was indeed on the point 
of setting off to see Aratov. He met him with 
his usual heartiness, and was beginning to 
make some sort of explanation . . . but Aratov 
at once cut him short with the impatient 
question, ' Have you heard it ? Is it true ? ' 

' Is what true ?' replied Kupfer, puzzled. 

' i\bout Clara Militch ? ' 

Kupfer's face expressed commiseration. ' Yes, 
yes, my dear boy, it 's true ; she poisoned her- 
self ! Such a sad thing ! ' 

Aratov was silent for a while. ' But did you 
read it in the paper too?' he asked — ' or perhaps 
you have been in Kazan yourself? ' 

* I have been in Kazan, yes ; the princess and 
I accompanied her there. She came out on 
the stage there, and had a great success. But 
I didn't stay up to the time of the catastrophe 
. . . I was in Yaroslav at the time.' 

' In Yaroslav ? ' 

' Yes — I escorted the princess there. . . . She 
is living now at Yaroslav.' 
44 



CLARA MILITCH 

* But you have trustworthy information ? ' 

' Trustworthy ... I have it at first-hand ! — 
I made the acquaintance of her family in 
Kazan. But, my dear boy . . . this news seems 
to be upsetting you ? Why, I recollect you 
didn't care for Clara at one time ? You were 
wrong, though ! She was a marvellous girl — 
only what a temper ! I was terribly broken- 
hearted about her ! ' 

Aratov did not utter a word, he dropped into 
a chair, and after a brief pause, asked Kupfer 
to tell him ... he stammered. 

' What ? ' inquired Kupfer. 

' Oh . . . everything,' Aratov answered 
brokenly, 'all about her family . . . and the 
rest of it. Everything you know ! ' 

' Why, does it interest you ? By all means ! ' 
And Kupfer, whose face showed no traces of 
his having been so terribly broken-hearted 
about Clara, began his story. 

From his account Aratov learnt that Clara 
Militch's real name was Katerina Milovidov ; 
that her father, now dead, had held the post of 
drawing-master in a school in Kazan, had 
painted bad portraits and holy pictures of the 
regulation type ; that he had besides had the 
character of being a drunkard and a domestic 
tyrant ; that he had left behind him, first a 
widow, of a shopkeeper's family, a quite stupid 
45 



DREAM TALES 

body, a character straight out of an Ostrovsky 
comedy ; and secondly, a daughter much older 
than Clara and not like her — a very clever girl, 
and enthusiastic, only sickly, a remarkable girl 
— and very advanced in her ideas, my dear 
boy ! That they were living, the widow and 
daughter, fairly comfortably, in a decent little 
house, obtained by the sale of the bad portraits 
and holy pictures ; that Clara ... or Katia, if 
you like, from her childhood up impressed 
every one with her talent, but was of an in- 
subordinate, capricious temper, and used to 
be for ever quarrelling with her father ; that 
having an inborn passion for the theatre, at 
sixteen she had run away from her parent's 
house with an actress . . .' 

' With an actor ? ' put in Aratov. 

' No, not with an actor, with an actress, to 
whom she became attached. ... It's true this 
actress had a protector, a wealthy gentleman, 
no longer young, who did not marry her simply 
because he happened to be married — and 
indeed I fancy the actress was a married 
woman.' Furthermore Kupfer informed Aratov 
that Clara had even before her coming to 
Moscow acted and sung in provincial theatres, 
that, having lost her friend the actress — the 
gentleman, too, it seemed, had died, or else he 
had made it up with his wife — Kupfer could 
46 



CLARA MILITCH 

not quite remember this — she had made the 
acquaintance of the princess, 4hat heart of 
gold, whom you, my dear Yakov Andreitch,' the 
speaker added with feeling, ' were incapable of 
appreciating properly ' ; that at last Clara had 
been offered an engagement in Kazan, and 
that she had accepted it, though before then 
she used to declare that she would never leave 
Moscow ! But then how the people of Kazan 
liked her — it was really astonishing ! What- 
ever the performance was, nothing but nose- 
gays and presents ! nosegays and presents ! 
A wholesale miller, the greatest swell in the 
province, had even presented her with a gold 
inkstand ! Kupfer related all this with great 
animation, without giving expression, however, 
to any special sentimentality, and interspersing 
his narrative with the questions, * What is it to 
you ? ' and ' Why do you ask ? ' when Aratov, 
who listened to him with devouring attention, 
kept asking for more and more details. All 
was told at last, and Kupfer was silent, 
rewarding himself for his exertions with a 



' And why did she take poison ? ' asked 
Aratov. ' In the paper it was stated . . .' 

Kupfer waved his hand. 'Well . . . that I 
can't say ... I don't know. But the paper 
tells a lie. Clara's conduct was exemplary 
47 



DREAM TALES 

... no love affairs of any kind. . . . And 
indeed how should there be with her pride ! 
She was proud — as Satan himself — and un- 
approachable ! A headstrong creature ! Hard 
as rock ! You'll hardly believe it — though 1 
knew her so well — I never saw a tear in her 
eyes ! ' 

' But I have/ Aratov thought to himself. 

'But there's one thing/ continued Kupfer, 'of 
late I noticed a great change in her : she grew 
so dull, so silent, for hours together there was 
no getting a word out of her. I asked her even, 
" Has any one offended you, Katerina Semyon- 
ovna?" For I knew her temper; she could 
never swallow an affront ! But she was silent, 
and there was no doing anything with her ! 
Even her triumphs on the stage didn't cheer her 
up ; bouquets fairly showered on her . . . but 
she didn't even smile ! She gave one look at 
the gold inkstand — and put it aside ! She used 
to complain that no one had written the real 
part for her, as she conceived it. And her 
singing she'd given up altogether. It was my 
fault, my dear boy ! . . . I told her that you 
thought she 'd no musical knowledge. But for 
all that . . . why she poisoned herself — is 
incomprehensible ! And the way she did 
it! . . .' 

' In what part had she the greatest success ? ' 
48 



CLARA MILITCH 

. . . Aratov wanted to know in what part she 
had appeared for the last time, but for some 
reason he asked a different question. 

' In Ostrovosky's Gruna, as far as I re- 
member. But I tell you again she'd no love 
affairs ! You may be sure of that from one 
thing. She lived in her mother's house. . . . 
You know the sort of shopkeeper's houses : 
in every corner a holy picture and a little lamp 
before it, a deadly stuffiness, a sour smell, 
nothing but chairs along the walls in the 
drawing-room, a geranium in the window, and 
if a visitor drops in, the mistress sighs and 
groans, as if they were invaded by an enemy. 
What chance is there for gallantry or love- 
making ? Sometimes they wouldn't even admit 
me. Their servant, a muscular female, in a red 
sarafan, with an enormous bust, would stand 
right across the passage, and growl, "Where 
are you coming ?" No, I positively can't under- 
stand why she poisoned herself Sick of life, I 
suppose,' Kupfer concluded his cogitations 
philosophically. 

Aratov sat with downcast head. ' Can you 
give me the address of that house in Kazan ? ' 
he said at last. 

' Yes ; but what do you want it for ? Do 
you want to write a letter there ? ' 

' Perhaps.' 

49 D 



DREAM TALES 

' Well, you know best. But the old lady 
won't answer, for she can't read and write. 
The sister, though, perhaps . . . Oh, the sister 's 
a clever creature ! But I must say again, I 
wonder at you, my dear boy ! Such indiffer- 
ence before . . . and now such interest ! All 
this, my boy, comes from too much solitude ! ' 

Aratov made no reply, and went away, having 
provided himself with the Kazan address. 

When he was on his way to Kupfer's, ex- 
citement, bewilderment, expectation had been 
reflected on his face. . . . Now he walked with 
an even gait, with downcast eyes, and hat pulled 
over his brows ; almost every one who met him 
sent a glance of curiosity after him . . . but he 
did not observe any one who passed ... it was 
not as on the Tversky boulevard ! 

' Unhappy Clara ! poor frantic Clara ! ' was 
echoing in his soul. 



X 



The following day Aratov spent, however, fairly 
quietly. He was even able to give his mind to 
his ordinary occupations. But there was one 
thing : both during his work and during his 
leisure he was continually thinking of Clara, 
5° 



CLARA MILITCII 

of what Kupfer had told him the evening 
before. It is true that his meditations, too, 
were of a fairly tranquil character. He fancied 
that this strange girl interested him from the 
psychological point of view, as something of 
the nature of a riddle, the solution of which 
was worth racking his brains over. ' Ran away 
with an actress living as a kept mistress,' he 
pondered, 'put herself under the protection of 
that princess, with whom she seems to have 
lived — and no love affairs} It's incredible! 
. . . Kupfer talked of pride ! But in the first 
place we know' (Aratov ought to have said: 
we have read in books), ... 'we know that 
pride can exist side by side with levity of con- 
duct ; and secondly, how came she, if she were 
so proud, to make an appointment with a man 
who might treat her with contempt . . . and 
did treat her with it . . . and in a public place, 
moreover ... in a boulevard ! ' At this point 
Aratov recalled all the scene in the boulevard, 
and he asked himself, Had he really shown 
contempt for Clara ? ' No,' he decided, . . . 
* it was another feeling ... a feeling of doubt 
. . . lack of confidence, in fact ! ' ' Unhappy 
Clara ! ' was again ringing in his head. ' Yes, 
unhappy,' he decided again. . . . ' That 's the 
most fitting word. And, if so, I was unjust. 
She said truly that I did not understand her. 
51 . 



DREAM TALES 

A pity ! Such a remarkable creature, perhaps, 
came so close . . . and I did not take advan- 
tage of it, I repulsed her. . . . Well, no matter ! 
Life 's all before me. There will be, very likely, 
other meetings, perhaps more interesting ! 

* But on what grounds did she fix on me of 
all the world ? ' He glanced into a looking- 
glass by which he was passing. ' What is there 
special about me ? I 'm not a beauty, am I ? 
My face ... is like any face. . . , She was 
not a beauty either, though. 

' Not a beauty . . . and such an expressive 
face ! Immobile . . . and yet expressive ! 
I never met such a face. . . . And talent, too, 
she has . . . that is, she had, unmistakable. 
Untrained, undeveloped, even coarse, perhaps 
. . . but unmistakable talent. And in that 
case I was unjust to her.' Aratov was carried 
back in thought to the literary musical matinee 
. . . and he observed to himself how exceed- 
ingly clearly he recollected every word she had 
sung or recited, every intonation of her voice. 
. . . ' That would not have been so had she 
been without talent. And now it is all in the 
erave, to which she has hastened of herself . . . 
But I Ve nothing to do with that . . . I 'm 
not to blame ! It would be positively ridiculous 
to suppose that I 'm to blame.' 

It again occurred to Aratov that even if she 
52 



CLARA MILITCH 

had had 'anything of the sort' in her mind, 
his behaviour during their interview must have 
effectually disillusioned her. . . . 'That was 
why she laughed so cruelly, too, at parting. 
Besides, what proof is there that she took 
poison because of unrequited love? That's 
only the newspaper correspondents, who 
ascribe every death of that sort to unrequited 
love ! People of a character like Clara's readily 
feel life repulsive . . . burdensome. Yes, 
burdensome. Kupfer was right ; she was 
simply sick of life. 

' In spite of her successes, her triumphs ? ' 
Aratov mused. He got a positive pleasure 
from the psychological analysis to which he 
was devoting himself Remote till now from 
all contact with women, he did not even sus- 
pect all the significance for himself of this 
intense realisation of a woman's soul. 

' It follows,' he pursued his meditations, ' that 
art did not satisfy her, did not fill the void in 
her life. Real artists exist only for art, for the 
theatre. . . . Everything else is pale beside 
what they regard as their vocation. . . . She 
was a dilettante.' 

At this point Aratov fell to pondering again. 
* No, the word dilettante did not accord with 
that face, the expression of that face, those 
eyes. . , . ' 

53 



DREAM TALES 

And Clara's image floated again before him, 
with eyes, swimming in tears, fixed upon him, 
with clenched hands pressed to her lips. . . . 

' Ah, no, no,' he muttered, ' what 's the use ? ' 

So passed the whole day. At dinner Aratov 
talked a great deal with Platosha, questioned 
her about the old days, which she remembered, 
but described very badly, as she had so few 
words at her command, and except her dear 
Yasha, had scarcely ever noticed anything in 
her life. She could only rejoice that he was 
nice and good-humoured to-day; towards even- 
ing Aratov was so far calm that he played 
several games of cards with his aunt. 

So passed the day . . . but the night ! 



XI 



It began well ; he soon fell asleep, and when 
his aunt went into him on tip-toe to make the 
sign of the cross three times over him in his 
sleep — she did so every night — he lay breathing 
as quietly as a child. But before dawn he had 
a dream. 

He dreamed he was on a bare steppe, strewn 
with big stones, under a lowering sky. Among 
54 



CLARA MILITCH 

the stones curved a little path ; he walked 
along it. 

Suddenly there rose up in front of him some- 
thing of the nature of a thin cloud. He looked 
steadily at it ; the cloud turned into a woman 
in a white gown with a bright sash round her 
waist She was hurrying away from him. He 
saw neither her face nor her hair . . . they were 
covered by a long veil. But he had an intense 
desire to overtake her, and to look into her 
face. Only, however much he hastened, she 
went more quickly than he. 

On the path lay a broad flat stone, like a 
tombstone. It blocked up the way. The 
woman stopped. Aratov ran up to her ; but 
yet he could not see her eyes . . . they were 
shut. Her face was white, white as snow ; her 
hands hung lifeless. She was like a statue. 

Slowly, without bending a single limb, she 
fell backwards, and sank down upon the tomb- 
stone. . . . And then Aratov lay down beside 
her, stretched out straight like a figure on a 
monument, his hands folded like a dead man's. 

But now the woman suddenly rose, and 
went away. Aratov tried to get up too. . . . 
but he could neither stir nor unclasp his hands, 
and could only gaze after her in despair. 

Then the woman suddenly turned round, 
and he saw bright living eyes, in a living but 
55 



DREAM TALES 

unknown face. She laughed, she waved her 
hand to him . . . and still he could not move. 

She laughed once more, and quickly retreated, 
merrily nodding her head, on which there was 
a crimson wreath of tiny roses. 

Aratov tried to cry out, tried to throw off 
this awful nightmare. . . . 

Suddenly all was darkness around . . . and 
the woman came back to him. But this was 
not the unknown statue ... it was Clara. 
She stood before him, crossed her arms, and 
sternly and intently looked at him. Her lips 
were tightly pressed together, but Aratov 
fancied he heard the words, ' If you want to 
know what I am, come over here ! ' 

' Where ? ' he asked. 

' Here !' he heard the wailing answer. ' Here !' 

Aratov woke up. 

He sat up in bed, lighted the candle that 
stood on the little table by his bedside — but 
did not get up — and sat a long while, chill all 
over, slowly looking about him. It seemed to 
him as if something had happened to him since 
he went to bed ; that something had taken 
possession of him . . . something was in con- 
trol of him. ' But is it possible ? ' he murmured 
unconsciously. ' Does such a power really 
exist ? ' 

He could not stay in his bed. He quickly 
56 



CLARA MILITCH 

dressed, and till morning he was pacing up and 
down his room. And, strange to say, of Clara 
he never thought for a moment, and did not 
think of her, because he had decided to go next 
day to Kazan ! 

He thought only of the journey, of how to 
manage it, and what to take with him, and how 
he would investigate and find out everything 
there, and would set his mind at rest. * If I 
don't go,' he reasoned with himself, 'why, I 
shall go out of my mind ! ' He was afraid of 
that, afraid of his nerves. He was convinced 
that when once he had seen everything there 
with his own eyes, every obsession would vanish 
like that nightmare. 'And it will be a week 
lost over the journey,' he thought ; ' what is a 
week ? else I shall never shake it off' 

The rising sun shone into his room ; but the 
light of day did not drive away the shadows of 
the night that lay upon him, and did not change 
his resolution. 

Platosha almost had a fit when he in- 
formed her of his intention. She positively sat 
down on the ground . . . her legs gave way 
beneath her. ' To Kazan ? why to Kazan ? ' 
she murmured, her dim eyes round with 
astonishment. She would not have been more 
surprised if she had been told that her Yasha 
was going to marry the baker woman next 
57 



DREAM TALES 

door, or was starting for America. ' Will you 
be long in Kazan ? ' * I shall be back in a 
week,' answered Aratov, standing with his back 
half-turned to his aunt, who was still sitting on 
the floor. 

Platonida Ivanova tried to protest more, 
but Aratov answered her in an utterly unex- 
pected and unheard-of way : ' I 'm not a child/ 
he shouted, and he turned pale all over, his lips 
trembled, and his eyes glittered wrathfully. 
' I 'm twenty-six, I know what I 'm about, I 'm 
free to do what I like ! I suffer no one . . . 
Give me the money for the journey, pack my 
box with my clothes and linen . . . and don't 
torture me ! I '11 be back in a week, Platosha,' 
he added, in a somewhat softer tone. 

Platosha got up, sighing and groaning, and, 
without further protest, crawled to her room. 
Yasha had alarmed her. ' I 've no head on my 
shoulders,' she told the cook, who was helping 
her to pack Yasha's things ; * no head at all, 
but a hive full of bees all a-buz and a-hum ! 
He 's going off to Kazan, my good soul, to 
Ka-a-zan ! ' The cook, who had observed their 
dvornik the previous evening talking for a long 
time with a police officer, would have liked to 
inform her mistress of this circumstance, but 
did not dare, and only reflected, ' To Kazan ! 
if only it 's nowhere farther still ! ' Platonida 
58 



CLARA MILITCH 



Ivanovna was so upset that she did not even 
utter her usual prayer. ' In such a calamity 
the Lord God Himself cannot aid us ! ' 
The same day Aratov set off for Kazan. 



XII 



He had no sooner reached that town and taken 
a room in a hotel than he rushed off to find out 
the house of the widow Milovidov. During 
the whole journey he had been in a sort of be- 
numbed condition, which had not, however, pre- 
vented him from taking all the necessary steps, 
changing at Nizhni-Novgorod from the railway 
to the steamer, getting his meals at the stations 
etc., etc. He was convinced as before that 
there everything would be solved ; and there- 
fore he drove away every sort of memory and 
reflection, confining himself to one thing, the 
mental rehearsal of the speech^ in which he 
would lay before the family of Clara Militch 
the real cause of his visit. And now at last he 
reached the goal of his efforts, and sent up his 
name. He was admitted . . . with perplexity 
and alarm — still he was admitted. 

The house of the widow Milovidov turned 
out to be exactly as Kupfer had described it ; 
59 



DREAM TALES 

and the widow herself really was like one of the 
tradesmen's wives in Ostrovsky, though the 
widow of an official ; her husband had held his 
post under government. Not without some dif- 
ficulty, Aratov, after a preliminary apology for 
his boldness, for the strangeness of his visit, de- 
livered the speech he had prepared, explaining 
that he was anxious to collect all the informa- 
tion possible about the gifted artist so early lost, 
that he was not led to this by idle curiosity, but 
by profound sympathy for her talent, of which 
he was the devoted admirer (he said that, de- 
voted admirer !) that, in fact, it would be a sin 
to leave the public in ignorance of what it had 
lost — and why its hopes were not realised. 
Madame Milovidov did not interrupt Aratov ; 
she did not understand very well what this un- 
known visitor was saying to her, and merely 
opened her eyes rather wide and rolled them 
upon him, thinking, however, that he had a quiet 
respectable air, was well dressed . . . and not a 
pickpocket . . . hadn't come to beg. 

*You are speaking of Katia?' she inquired, 
directly Aratov was silent. 

* Yes ... of your daughter.' 

* And you have come from Moscow for this ? ' 
' Yes, from Moscow.' 

' Only on this account ? ' 
' Yes.' 

60 



CLARA MILITCH 

Madame Milovidov gave herself a sudden 
shake. ' Why, are you an author ? Do you 
write for the newspapers ? ' 

' No, I 'm not an author — and hitherto I have 
not written for the newspapers.' 

The widow bowed her head. She was 
puzzled. 

*Then, I suppose ... it's from your own 
interest in the matter ? ' she asked suddenly. 
Aratov could not find an answer for a minute. 

' Through sympathy, from respect for talent,' 
he said at last. 

The word ' respect ' pleased Madame Milovi- 
dov. ' Eh ! ' she pronounced with a sigh . . . 
' I 'm her mother, any way — and terribly I 'm 
grieved for her. . . . Such a calamity all of a 
sudden ! . . . But I must say it : a crazy girl she 
always was — and what a way to meet with her 
end ! Such a disgrace. . . . Only fancy what it 
was for a mother ? we must be thankful indeed 
that they gave her a Christian burial. . . .' 
Madame Milovidov crossed herself ' From a 
child up she minded no one — she left her 
parent's house . . . and at last — sad to say ! — 
turned actress ! Every one knows I never shut 
my doors upon her ; I loved her, to be sure ! I 
was her mother, any way! she'd no need to live 
with strangers ... or to go begging! . . .' 
Here the widow shed tears . . . ' But if you, 
6i 



DREAM TALES 

my good sir,' she began, again wiping her eyes 
with the ends of her kerchief, ' really have any 
idea of the kind, and you are not intending any- 
thing dishonourable to us, but on the contrary, 
wish to show us respect, you 'd better talk a 
bit with my other daughter. She '11 tell you 
everything better than I can. . . . Annotchka ! 
called Madame Milovidov, ' Annotchka, come 
here ! Here is a worthy gentleman from Moscow 
wants to have a talk about Katia ! ' 

There was a sound of something moving in 
the next room ; but no one appeared. ' An- 
notchka ! ' the widow called again, ' Anna Sem- 
yonovna ! come here, I tell you ! ' 

The door softly opened, and in the doorway 
appeared a girl no longer very young, looking 
ill — and plain — but with very soft and mournful 
eyes. Aratov got up from his seat to meet her, 
and introduced himself, mentioning his friend 
Kupfer. ' Ah ! Fyodor Fedoritch ? ' the girl articu- 
lated softly, and softly she sank into a chair. 

' Now, then, you must talk to the gentleman,' 
said Madam Milovidov, getting up heavily : 
* he 's taken trouble enough, he 's come all the 
way from Moscow on purpose — he wants to 
collect information about Katia. And will 
you, my good sir,' she added, addressing Aratov 
— ' excuse me . . . I 'm going to look after my 
housekeeping. You can get a very good 



CLARA MILITCH 

account of everything from Annotchka ; she will 
tell you about the theatre . . . and all the rest 
of it. She is a clever girl, well educated : speaks 
French, and reads books, as well as her sister 
did. One may say indeed she gave her her 
education . . . she was older — and so she looked 
after it' 

Madame Milovidov withdrew. On being left 
alone with Anna Semyonovna, Aratov repeated 
his speech to her ; but realising at the first 
glance that he had to do with a really cultivated 
girl, not a typical tradesman's daughter, he went 
a little more into particulars and made use of 
different expressions ; but towards the end he 
grew agitated, flushed and felt that his heart was 
throbbing. Anna listened to him in silence, her 
hands folded on her lap ; a mournful smile 
never left her face . . . bitter grief, still fresh in 
its poignancy, was expressed in that smile. 

* You knew my sister ? ' she asked Aratov. 

' No, I did not actually know her,' he an- 
swered. ' I met her and heard her once . . . 
but one need only hear and see your sister once 
to . . .' 

' Do you wish to write her biography ? ' Anna 
questioned him again. 

Aratov had not expected this inquiry ; how- 
ever, he replied promptly, ' Why not ? But 
above all, I wanted to acquaint the public . . .' 
63 



DREAM TALES 

Anna stopped him by a motion of her hand. 

'What is the object of that? The public 
caused her plenty of suffering as it is ; and in- 
deed Katia had only just begun life. But if 
you yourself — (Anna looked at him and smiled 
again a smile as mournful but more friendly 
... as though she were saying to herself, Yes, 
you make me feel I can trust you) ... if you 
yourself feel such interest in her, let me ask you 
to come and see us this afternoon . . . after 
dinner. I can't just now ... so suddenly . . . 
I will collect my strength ... I will make an 
effort . . . Ah, I loved her too much ! ' 

Anna turned away ; she was on the point of 
bursting into sobs. 

Aratov rose hurriedly from his seat, thanked 
her for her offer, said he should be sure . . . oh, 
very sure ! — to come — and went off, carrying 
away with him an impression of a soft voice, 
gentle and sorrowful eyes, and burning in the 
tortures of expectation. 



XIII 



Aratov went back the same day to the Milo- 
vidovs and spent three whole hours in conversa- 
tion with Anna Semyonovna. Madame Milovi- 
64 



CLARA MILITCH 

dov was in the habit of lying down directly after 
dinner — at two o'clock — and resting till even- 
ing tea at seven, Aratov's talk with Clara's 
sister was not exactly a conversation ; she did 
almost all the talking, at first with hesitation, 
with embarrassment, then with a warmth that 
refused to be stifled. It was obvious that 
she had adored her sister. The confidence 
Aratov had inspired in her grew and strength- 
ened; she was no longer stiff; twice she even 
dropped a few silent tears before him. He 
seemed to her to be worthy to hear an unre- 
served account of all she knew and felt ... in 
her own secluded life nothing of this sort had 
ever happened before ! ... As for him ... he 
drank in every word she uttered. 

This was what he learned . . . much of it of 
course, half-said . . . much he filled in for him- 
self 

In her early years, Clara had undoubtedly 
been a disagreeable child ; and even as a girl, 
she had not been much gentler; self-willed, 
hot-tempered, sensitive, she had never got on 
with her father, whom she despised for his 
drunkenness and incapacity. He felt this and 
never forgave her for it. A gift for music 
showed itself early in her ; her father gave it no 
encouragement, acknowledging no art but paint- 
ing, in which he himself was so conspicuously 
65 к 



DREAM TALES 

unsuccessful though it was the means of sup- 
port of himself and his family. Her mother 
Clara loved, . . . but in a careless way, as 
though she were her nurse ; her sister she 
adored, though she fought with her and had 
even bitten her. ... It is true she fell on her 
knees afterwards and kissed the place she had 
bitten. She was all fire, all passion, and all 
contradiction ; revengeful and kind ; magnani- 
mous and vindictive ; she believed irifate — and 
did not believe in God (these words Anna 
whispered with horror) ; she loved everything 
beautiful, but never troubled herself about her 
own looks, and dressed anyhow ; she could not 
bear to have young men courting her, and yet 
in books she only read the pages which treated 
of love ; she did not care to be liked, did not 
like caresses, but never forgot a caress, just as 
she never forgot a slight ; she wa&-afraid_ji£ 
^eath and killed herself! She used to say 
sometimes, ' Such a one as I want I shall never 
meet . . . and no other will I have ! ' ' Well, 
but if you meet him ? ' Anna would ask. * If I 
meet him ... I will capture him.' ' And if he 
won't let himself be captured ? ' ' Well, then . . . 
I will make an end of myself It will prove I 
am no good.' Clara's father — he used sometimes 
when drunk to ask his wife, ' Who got you your 
blackbrowed she-devil there ? Not I ! ' — Clara's 
66 



CLARA MILITCH 

father, anxious to get her off his hands as soon 
as possible, betrothed her to a rich young shop- 
keeper, a great blockhead, one of the so-called 
* refined ' sort. A fortnight before the wedding- 
day — she was only sixteen at the time — she 
went up to her betrothed, her arms folded and 
her fingers drumming on her elbows — her 
favourite position — and suddenly gave him a 
slap on his rosy cheek with her large powerful 
hand ! He jumped and merely gaped ; it must 
be said he was head over ears in love with her 
. . . He asked: 'What's that for?' She 
laughed scornfully and walked off. ' I was 
there in the room,' Anna related, ' I saw it all, 
I ran after her and said to her, " Katia, why did 
you do that, really ? " And she answered me : 
" If he 'd been a real man he would have pun- 
ished me, but he's no more pluck than a 
drowned hen ! And then he asks, ' What 's that 
for?' If he loves me, and doesn't bear malice, 
he had better put up with it and not ask, 
' What 's that for .? ' I will never be anything to 
him — never, never ! " And indeed she did not 
marry him. It was soon after that she made 
the acquaintance of that actress, and left her 
home. Mother cried, but father only said, " A 
stubborn beast is best away from the flock ! " 
And he did not bother about her, or try to find 
her out. My father did not understand Katia. 
67 



DREAM TALES 

On the day before her flight/ added Anna, ' she 
almost smothered me in her embraces, and kept 
repeating : " I can't, I can't help it ! . . . My 
heart 's torn, but I can't help it ! your cage is 
too small ... it cramps my wings ! And 
there 's no escaping one's fate. . . ." 

*■ After that,' observed Anna, ' we saw each 
other very seldom. . . . When my father died, 
she came for a couple of days, would take no- 
thing of her inheritance, and vanished again. 
She was unhappy with us ... I could see that. 
Afterwards she came to Kazan as an actress.' 

Aratov began questioning Anna about the 
theatre, about the parts in which Clara had 
appeared, about her triumphs. . . . Anna 
answered in detail, but with the same mournful, 
though keen fervour. She even showed Aratov 
a photograph, in which Clara had been taken 
in the costume of one of her parts. In the 
photograph she was looking away, as though 
tnrning from the spectators ; her thick hair tied 
with a ribbon fell in a eoil on her bare arm. 
Aratov looked a long time at the photograph, 
thought it like, asked whether Clara had taken 
part in public recitations, and learnt that she 
had not ; that she had needed the excitement 
of the theatre, the scenery . . . but another 
question was burning on his lips. 

' Anna Semyonovna ! ' he cried at last, not 
68 



CLARA MILITCH 

loudly, but with a peculiar force, 'tell me, I 
implore you, tell me why did she . . . what led 
her to this fearful step ? ' . . . 

Anna looked down. ' I don't know,' she said, 
after a pause of some instants. ' By God, I 
don't know ! ' she went on strenuously, suppos- 
ing from Aratov's gesture that he did not believe 
her. . . . 'since she came back here certainly 
she was melancholy, depressed. Something 
must have happened to her in Moscow — what, 
I could never guess. But on the other hand, 
on that fatal day she seemed as it were . . . if not 
more cheerful, at least more serene than usual. 
Even I had no presentiment,' added Anna with 
a bitter smile, as though reproaching herself 
for it. 

'You see,' she began again, 4t seemed as 
though at Katia's birth it had been decreed 
that she was to be unhappy. From her early 
years she was convinced of it. She would lean 
her head on her hand, sink into thought, and 
say, " I shall not live long ! " She used to have 
presentiments. Imagine ! she used to see before- 
hand, sometimes in a dream and sometimes 
awake, what was going to happen to her ! "If 
I can't live as I want to live, then I won't live," 
. . . was a saying of hers too. ..." Our life 's 
in our own hands, you know." And she proved 
that ! ' 

69 



DREAM TALES 

Anna hid her face in her hands and stopped 
speaking. ' Anna Semyonovna/ Aratov began 
after a short pause, ' you have perhaps heard to 
what the newspapers ascribed ..." To an 
unhappy love affair ? " ' Anna broke in, at once 
pulling away her hands from her face. ' That 's 
a slander, a fabrication ! . . . My pure, un- 
approachable Katia . . . Katia ! . . . and 
unhappy, unrequited love? And shouldn't I 
have known of it ? . . . Every one was in love 
with her . . . \vhile she . . . And whom could 
she have fallen in love with here ? Who among 
all the people here, who was worthy of her? 
Who was up to the standard of honesty, truth, 
purity . . . yes, above all, of purity which she, 
with all her faults, always held up as an ideal 
before her ? . . . She repulsed ! . . . she ! . . .' 

Anna's voice broke Her fingers were 

trembling. All at once she flushed crimson . . . 
crimson with indignation, and for that instant, 
and that instant only, she was like her sister. 

Aratov was beginning an apology. 

* Listen,' Anna broke in again. ' I have an 
intense desire that you should not believe that 
slander, and should refute it, if possible ! You 
want to write an article or something about 
her : that 's your opportunity for defending her 
memory ! That 's why I talk so openly to you. 
Let me tell you ; Katia left a diary . . .' 
70 



CLARA MILITCH 

Aratov trembled. ' A diary ? ' he muttered. 

' Yes, a diary . . . that is, only a few pages. 
Katia was not fond of writing ... for months 
at a time she would write nothing, and her 
letters were so short. But she was always, 
always truthful, she never told a lie. . . . She, 
with her pride, tell a lie ! I ... I will show 
you this diary ! You shall see for yourself 
whether there is the least hint in it of any un- 
happy love affair ! ' 

Anna quickly took out of a table-drawer a 
thin exercise-book, ten pages, no more, and 
held it out to Aratov. He seized it eagerly, 
recognised the irregular sprawling handwriting, 
the handwriting of that anonymous letter, 
opened it at random, and at once lighted upon 
the following lines. 

'Moscow, Tuesday . . . June. — Sang and 
recited at a literary matinee. To-day is a vital 
day for me. It must decide my fate. (These 
words were twice underlined.) I saw again ..." 
Here followed a few lines carefully erased. 
And then, ' No ! no ! no ! . . . Must go back 
to the old way, if only . . .' 

Aratov dropped the hand that held the diary, 
and his head slowly sank upon his breast. 

* Read it ! ' cried Anna. ' Why don't you 
read it ? Read it through from the beginning. 
. . . It would take only five minutes to read it 



DREAM TALES 

all, though the diary extends over two years. 
In Kazan she used to write down nothing at 
all. . . .' 

Aratov got up slowly from his chair and 
flung himself on his knees before Anna. 

She was simply petrified with wonder and 
dismay. 

' Give me . . . give me that diary,' Aratov 
began with failing voice, and he stretched out 
both hands to Anna. ' Give it me . . . and 
the photograph . . . you are sure to have some 
other one, and the diary I will return. . . . But 
I want it, oh, I want it ! . . .' 

In his imploring words, in his contorted 
features there was something so despairing that 
it looked positively like rage, like agony . . . 
And he was in agony, truly. He could not 
himself have foreseen that such pain could be 
felt by him, and in a frenzy he implored for- 
giveness, deliverance . . . 

' Give it me,' he repeated. 

' But . . . you . . . you were in love with 
my sister?' Anna said at last. 

Aratov was still on his knees. 

' I only saw her twice . . . believe me ! . . . 
and if I had not been impelled by causes, which 
I can neither explain nor fully understand my- 
self, ... if there had not been some-^jpwer 
over me, stronger than myself ... I should 
72 



CLARA MILITCH 

not be entreating you ... I should not have 
come here. I want ... I must . . . you 
yourself said I ought to defend her memory ! ' 

' And you were not in love with my sister ? ' 
Anna asked a second time. 

Aratov did not at once reply, and he turned 
aside a little, as though in pain. 

' Well, then ! I was ! I was — I 'm in love now,' 
he cried in the same tone of despair. 

Steps were heard in the next room. 

'Get up . . . get up . . .' said Anna 
hurriedly. * Mamma is coming.' 

Aratov rose. 

' And take the diary and the photograph, in 
God's name ! Poor, poor Katia ! . . . But you 
will give me back the diary,' she added em- 
phatically. * And if you write anything, be 
sure to send it me. . . . Do you hear? ' 

The entrance of Madame Milovidov saved 
Aratov from the necessity of a reply. He had 
time, however, to murmur, ' You are an angel ! 
Thanks ! I will send anything I write. . . .' 

Madame Milovidov, half awake, did not sus- 
pect anything. So Aratov left Kazan with 
the photograph in the breast-pocket of his coat. 
The diary he gave back to Anna ; but, un- 
observed by her, he cut out the page on which 
were the words underlined. 

On the way back to Moscow he relapsed 
1Ъ 



DREAM TALES 

again into a state of petrifaction. Though he 
was secretly deh'ghted that he had attained the 
object of his journey, still all thoughts of Clara 
he deferred till he should be back at home. He 
thought much more about her sister Anna. 
' There/ he thought, ' is an exquisite, charming 
creature. What delicate comprehension of 
everything, what a loving heart, what a com- 
plete absence of egoism ! And how girls like 
that spring up among us, in the provinces, and 
in such surroundings too ! She is not strong, 
and not good-looking, and not young ; but what 
a splendid helpmate she would be for a sensible, 
cultivated man ! That 's the girl I ought to have 
fallen in love with ! ' Such were Aratov's re- 
flections . . . but on his arrival in Moscow 
things put on quite a different complexion. 



XIV 



Platonida Ivanovna was unspeakably re- 
joiced at her nephew's return. There was no 
terrible chance she had not imagined during 
his absence. ' Siberia at least ! ' she muttered, 
sitting rigidly still in her little room ; ' at least 
for a year ! ' The cook too had terrified her by 
the most well-authenticated stories of the dis- 
74 



CLARA MILITCH 

appearance of this and that young man of the 
neighbourhood. The perfect innocence and 
absence of revolutionary ideas in Yasha did not 
in the least reassure the old lady. ' For indeed 
... if you come to that, he studies photo- 
graphy . . . and that 's quite enough for them 
to artesiL him ! ' And behold, here was her 
darling Yasha back again, safe and sound. She 
observed, indeed, that he seemed thinner, and 
looked hollow in the face ; natural enough, with 
no one to look after him ! but she did not 
venture to question him about his journey. 
She asked at dinner. 'And is Kazan a fine 
town ? ' ' Yes,' answered Aratov. * I suppose 
they 're all Tartars living there ? ' ' Not only 
Tartars.' ' And did you get a Kazan dressing- 
gown while you were there?' *No, I didn't' 
With that the conversation ended. 

But as soon as Aratov found himself alone in 
his own room, he quickly felt as though some- 
thing were enfolding him about, as though he 
were once more m thepower^ yes, in the power of 
another life, another being. Though he had 
indeed said to Anna in that sudden delirious out- 
burst that he was in love with Clara, that saying 
struck even him now as senseless and frantic. 
No, he was not in love ; and how could he be in 
love with a dead woman, whom he had not even 
liked in her lifetime, whom he had almost for- 
75 



DREAM TALES 

gotten? No, but he was in her power . . . 
he no longer belonged to himself. He was 
captured. So completely captured, that he did 
not even attempt to free himself by laughing at 
his own absurdity, nor by trying to arouse if 
not a conviction, at least a hope in himself that 
it would all pass, that it was nothing but nerves, 
nor by seeking for proofs, nor by anything ! 
' If I meet him, I will capture him,' he recalled 
those words of Clara's Anna had repeated to him. 
Well, he was captured. But was not she dead "i 
Yes, her body was dead . . . but her soul ? . . . 
is not that immortal ? . . . does it need corporeal 
organs to show its power? Magnetism has 
proved to us the influence of one living human 
soul over another living human soul. . . . Why 
should not this influence last after death, if the 
soul remains living ? But to what end ? What 
can come of it ? But can we, as a rule, appre- 
hend what is the object of all that takes place 
about us ? These ideas so absorbed Aratov that 
he suddenly asked Platosha at tea-time whether 
she believed in the immortality of the soul. She 
did not for the first minute understand what 
his question was, then she crossed herself and 
answered. ' She should think so indeed ! The 
soul not immortal ! ' ' And, if so, can it have 
any influence after death ? ' Aratov asked again. 
The old lady replied that it could . . . pray 
76 



CLARA MILITCH 

for us, that is to say ; at least, when it had 
passed through all its ordeals, awaiting the 
last dread judgment. But for the first forty- 
days the soul simply hovered about the place 
where its death had occurred. 
' The first forty days ? ' 
* Yes ; and then the ordeals follow.' 
Aratov was astounded at his aunt's know- 
ledge, and went off to his room. And again he 
felt the same thing, the same power over him. 
This power showed itself in Clara's image being 
constantly before him to the minutest details, 
such details as he seemed hardly to have observed 
in her lifetime ; he saw . . . saw her fingers, 
her nails, the little hairs on her cheeks near her 
temples, the little mole under her left eye ; he 
saw the slight movement of her lips, her nostrils, 
her eyebrows . . . and her walk, and how she 
held her head a little on the right side ... he 
saw everything. He did not by any means 
take a delight in it all, only he could not help 
thinking of it and seeing it. The first night 
after his return he did not, however, dream of 
her ... he was very tired, and slept like a log. 
But directly he waked up, she came back into 
his room again, and seemed to establish herself 
in it, as though she were the mistress, as though 
by her voluntary death she had purchased the 
right to it, without asking him or needing his 

n 



DREAM TALES 

permission. He took up her photograph, he 
began reproducing it, enlarging it. Then he 
took it into his head to fit it to the stereoscope. 
He had a great deal of trouble to do it . . . at 
last he succeeded. He fairly shuddered when 
through the glass he looked upon her figure, 
with the semblance of corporeal solidity given 
it by the stereoscope. But the figure was grey, 
as though covered with dust . . . and moreover 
the eyes — the eyes looked always to one side, 
as though turning away. A long, long while 
he stared at them, as though expecting them to 
turn to him ... he even half-closed his eye- 
lids on purpose . . . but the eyes remained 
immovable, and the whole figure had the look 
of some sort of doll. He moved away, flung 
himself in an armchair, took out the leaf from 
her diary, with the words underlined, and 
thought, ' Well, lovers, they say, kiss the words 
traced by the hand of the beloved — but I feel 
no inclination to do that — and the handwriting 
I think ugly. But that line contains my sen- 
tence.' Then he recalled the promise he had 
made Anna about the article. He sat down to 
the table, and set to work upon it, but every- 
thing he wrote struck him as so false, so rhetori- 
cal .. . especially so false ... as though he 
did not believe in what he was writing nor in 
his own feelings. . . . And Clara herself seemed 
78 



CLARA MILITCH 

SO utterly unknown and uncomprehended ! She 
seemed to withhold herself from him. ' No ! ' 
he thought, throwing down the pen . . . ' either 
authorship 's altogether not my line, or I must 
wait a little ! ' He fell to recalling his visit to 
the Milovidovs, and all Anna had told him, that 
sweet, delightful Anna. ... A word she had 
uttered — ' pure ' — suddenly struck him. It was 
as though something scorched him, and shed 
light. ' Yes,' he said aloud, ' she was pure, and 
I am pure. , . . That 's what gave her this 
power.' 

Thoughts of the immortality of the soul, of 
the life beyond the grave crowded upon him 
again. Was it not said in the Bible : ' Death, 
where is thy sting ? ' And in Schiller : ' And 
the dead shall live ! ' (Auch die Todten soUen 
leben !) 

And too, he thought, in Mitskevitch : ' I will 
love thee to the end of time . . . and beyond 
it ! ' And an English writer had said : ' Love 
is stronger than death.' The text from Scrip- 
ture produced particular effect on Aratov. . . . 
He tried to find the place where the words 
occurred. . . . He had no Bible ; he went to 
ask Platosha for one. She wondered, she 
brought out, however, a very old book in a 
warped leather binding, with copper clasps, 
covered with candle wax, and handed it over to 
79 



DREAM TALES 

Aratov. He bore it off to his own room, but 
for a long time he could not find the text . . . 
he stumbled, however, on another : ' Greater 
love hath no man than this, that a man lay down 
his life for his friends' (S. John xv. 13). 

He thought : ' That 's not right. It ought to 
be : Gresiter power hath no man.' 

* But if she did not lay down her life for me 
at all? If she made an end of herself simply 
because life had become a burden to her? 
What if, after all, she did not come to that 
meeting for anything to do with love at all ? ' 

But at that instant he pictured to himself 
Clara before their parting on the boulevard. . . . 
He remembered the look of pain on her face, 
and the tears and the words, ' Ah, you under- 
stood nothing ! ' 

No ! he could have no doubt why and for 
whom she had laid down her life. . . . 

So passed that whole day till night-time. 



XV 



Aratov went to bed early, without feeling 
specially sleepy, but he hoped to find repose in 
bed. The strained condition of his nerves 
brought about an exhaustion far more unbear- 
80 



CLARA MILITCH 

able than the bodily fatigue of the journey and 
the railway. However, exhausted as he was, 
he could not get to sleep. He tried to read . . . 
but the lines danced before his eyes. He put 
out the candle, and darkness reigned in his 
room. But still he lay sleepless, with his eyes 
shut. . . . And it began to seem to him some 
one was whispering in his ear. . . . ' The beat- 
ing of the heart, the pulse of the blood,' he 
thought. . . . But the whisper passed into con- 
nected speech. Some one was talking in Rus- 
sian hurriedly, plaintively, and indistinctly. 
Not one separate word could he catch. . . . 
But it was the voice of Clara. 

Aratov opened his eyes, raised himself, leaned 
on his elbow. . . . The voice grew fainter, but 
kept up its plaintive, hurried talk, indistinct as 
before. . . . 

It was unmistakably Clara's voice. 

Unseen fingers ran light arpeggios up and 
down the keys of the piano . . . then the voice 
began again. More prolonged sounds were 
audible ... as it were moans . . . always the 
same over and over again. Then apart from 
the rest the words began to stand out . . . 
' Roses . . . roses . . . roses. . . .' 

* Roses,' repeated Aratov in a whisper. * Ah, 
yes ! it 's the roses I saw on that woman's head 
in the dream.' ... * Roses,' he heard again. 
Si f 



DREAM TALES 

' Is that you ? ' Aratov asked in the same 
whisper. The voice suddenly ceased. 

Aratov waited . . . and waited, and dropped 
his head on the pillow. ' Hallucinations of 
hearing/ he thought. ' But if ... if she really 
were here, close at hand ? . . . If I were to see 
her, should I be frightened ? or glad ? But 
what should I be frightened of? or glad of? 
Why, of this, to be sure ; it would be a proof 
that there is another world, that the soul is 
immortal. Though, indeed, even if I did see 
something, it too might be a hallucination of 
the sight. . . .' 

He lighted the candle, however, and in a 
rapid glance, not without a certain dread, 
scanned the whole room . . . and saw nothing 
in it unusual. He got up, went to the stereo- 
scope . . . again the same grey doll, with its 
eyes averted. The feeling of dread gave way 
to one of annoyance. He was, as it were, 
cheated in his expectations . . . the very ex- 
pectation indeed struck him as absurd. 

' Well, this is positively idiotic ! ' he mut- 
tered, as he got back into bed, and blew out the 
candle. Profound darkness reigned once more. 

Aratov resolved to go to sleep this time. . . . 

But a fresh sensation started up in him. He 

fancied some one was standing in the middle of 

the room, not far from him, and scarcely per- 

82 



CLARA INTILTTCH 

ceptibly breathing. He turned round hastily 
and opened his eyes. . . . But what could be 
seen in impenetrable darkness ? He began to 
feel for a match on his little bedside table . . . 
and suddenly it seemed to him that a sort of 
soft, noiseless hurricane was passing over the 
whole room, over him, through him, and the 
word * I ! ' sounded distinctly in his ears. . . . 

'I! . . . I!' . . . 

Some instants passed before he succeeded in 
getting the candle alight. 

Again there was no one in the room ; and he 
now heard nothing, except the uneven throb- 
bing of his own heart. He drank a glass of 
water, and stayed still, his head resting on his 
hand. He was waiting. 

He thought : ' I will wait. Either it 's all 
nonsense ... or she is here. She is not going 
to play cat and mouse with me like this ! ' He 
waited, waited long ... so long that the hand 
on which he was resting his head went numb 
. . . but not one of his previous sensations was 
repeated. Twice his eyes closed. . . . He 
opened them promptly ... at least he believed 
that he opened them. Gradually they turned 
towards the door and rested on it. The candle 
burned dim, and it was once more dark in the 
room . . . but the door made a long streak of 
white in the half darkness. And now this 
83 



DREAM TALES 

patch began to move, to grow less, to disappear 
. . . and in its place, in the doorway appeared 
a woman's figure. Aratov looked intently at 
it . . . Clara ! And this time she was looking 
straight at him, coming towards him. ... On 
her head was a wreath of red roses. ... He 
was all in agitation, he sat up. . . . 

Before him stood his aunt in a nightcap 
adorned with a broad red ribbon, and in a white 
dressing-jacket. 

' Platosha ! ' he said with an effort. ' Is that 
you ?' 

'Yes, it's I,' answered Platonida Ivanovna 
. . . ' I, Yasha darling, yes.' 

' What have you come for ? ' 

' You waked me up. At first you kept moan- 
ing as it were . . . and then you cried out all 
of a sudden, " Save me ! help me ! " ' 

' I cried out ? ' 

' Yes, and such a hoarse cry, " Save me ! " I 
thought, Mercy on us ! He 's never ill, is he ? 
And I came in. Are you quite well ? ' 

* Perfectly well.' 

' Well, you must have had a bad dream then. 
Would you like me to burn a little incejnse ? ' 

Aratov once more stared intently at his aunt, 

and laughed aloud. . . . The figure of the good 

old lady in her nightcap and dressing-jacket, 

with her long face and scared expression, was 

84 



CLARA MILITCH 

certainly very comic. All the mystery sur- 
rounding him, oppressing him — everything 
weird was sent flying instantaneously. 

' No, Platosha dear, there 's no need,' he said. 
* Please forgive me for unwittingly troubling 
you. Sleep well, and I will sleep too.' 

Platonida Ivanovna remained a minute 
standing where she was, pointed to the candle, 
grumbled, ' Why not put it out ... an accident 
happens in a minute ? ' and as she went out, 
could not refrain, though only at a distance, 
from making the sign of the cross over him. 

Aratov fell asleep quickly, and slept till 
morning. He even got up in a happy frame 
of mind . . . though he felt sorry for some- 
thing. ... He felt light and free. 'What 
romantic fancies, if you come to think of it ! ' 
he said to himself with a smile. He never 
once glanced either at the stereoscope, or at 
the page torn out of the diary. Immediately 
after breakfast, however, he set off to go to 
Kupfer's. 

What drew him there ... he was dimly 
aware. 



XVI 

Aratov found his sanguine friend at home. 

He chatted a little with him, reproached him 

85 



DREAM TALES 

for having quite forgotten his aunt and himself, 
Hstened to fresh praises of that heart of gold, 
the princess, who had just sent Kupfer from 
Yaroslav a smoking-cap embroidered with fish- 
scales . . . and all at once, sitting just opposite 
Kupfer and looking him straight in the face, 
he announced that he had been a journey to 
Kazan. 

' You have been to Kazan ; what for ? ' 

' Oh, I wanted to collect some facts about 
that . . . Clara Militch.' 

'The one that poisoned herself?' 

' Yes.' 

Kupfer shook his head. ' Well, you are a 
chap ! And so quiet about it ! Toiled a thousand 
miles out there and back ... for what ? Eh ? 
If there 'd been some woman in the case now! 
Then I can understand anything ! anything ! 
any madness ! ' Kupfer ruffled up his hair. 
' But simply to collect materials, as it 's called 
among you learned people. . . . I 'd rather be 
excused ! There are statistical writers to do 
that job ! Well, and did you make friends 
with the old lady and the sister.? Isn't she a 
delightful girl ? ' 

' Delightful,' answered Aratov, ' she gave me 
a great deal of interesting information.' 

' Did she tell you exactly how Clara took 
poison ? ' 

86 



CLARA MILITCH 

' You mean . . . how ? ' 

* Yes, in what manner ? ' 

' No . . . she was still in such grief ... I 
did not venture to question her too much. 
Was there anything remarkable about it ? ' 

' To be sure there was. Only fancy ; she 
had to appear on the stage that very day, and 
she acted her part. She took a glass of poison 
to the theatre with her, drank it before the first 
act, and went through all that act afterwards. 
With the poison inside her ! Isn't that some- 
thing like strength of will ? Character, eh ? 
And, they say, she never acted her part with 
such feeling, such passion ! The public sus- 
pected nothing, they clapped, and called for 
her. . . . And directly the curtain fell, she 
dropped down there, on the stage. Convulsions 
. . . and convulsions, and within an hour she 
was dead ! But didn't I tell you all about it? 
And it was in the papers too ! ' 

Aratov's hands had grown suddenly cold, 
and he felt an inward shiver. 

' No, you didn't tell me that,' he said at last. 
' And you don't know what play it was ? 

Kupfer thought a minute. ' I did hear 
what the play was . . . there is ^_betrayed 
girl in it. . . . Some drama, it must have been. 
Clara was created for dramatic parts. . . . Her 
very appearance . . . But where are you off 
87 



DREAM TALES 

to?' Kupfer interrupted himself, seeing that 
Aratov was reaching after his hat. 

* I don't feel quite well/ replied Aratov. 
* Good-bye ... I '11 come in another time.' 

Kupfer stopped him and looked into his face. 
' What a nervous fellow you are, my boy ! Just 
look at yourself . . . You're as white as 
chalk.' 

' I 'm not well,' repeated Aratov, and, dis- 
engaging himself from Kupfer's detaining 
hands, he started homewards. Only at that 
instant it became clear to him that he had 
come to Kupfer with the sole object of talking 
of Clara . . . 

' Unhappy Clara, poor frantic Clara. . . .' 

On reaching home, however, he quickly 
regained his composure to a certain degree. 

The circumstances accompanying Clara's 
death had at first given him a violent shock 
. . . but later on this performance 'with the 
poison inside her,' as Kupfer had expressed it, 
struck him as a kind of monstrous pose, a piece 
of bravado, and he was already trying not to 
think about it, fearing to arouse a feeling in him- 
self, not unlike repugnance. And at dinner, as 
he sat facing Platosha, he suddenly recalled her 
midnight appearance, recalled that abbreviated 
dressing-jacket, the cap with the high ribbon — 
88 



CLARA MILITCH 

and why a ribbon on a nightcap? — all the 
ludicrous apparition which, like the scene- 
shifter's whistle in a transformation scene, had 
dissolved all his visions into dust ! He even 
forced Platosha to repeat her description of 
how she had heard his scream, had been 
alarmed, had jumped up, could not for a 
minute find either his door or her own, and 
so on. In the evening he played a game of 
cards with her, and went off to his room rather 
depressed, but again fairly composed. 

Aratov did not think about the approaching 
night, and was not afraid of it : he was sure he 
would pass an excellent night. The thought 
of Clara had sprung up within him from time 
to time ; but he remembered at once how 
' affectedly ' she had killed herself, and turned 
away from it. This piece of 'bad taste' 
blocked out all other memories of her. Glanc- 
ing cursorily into the stereoscope, he even 
fancied that she was averting her eyes because 
she was ashamed. Opposite the stereoscope 
on the wall hung a portrait of his mother. 
Aratov took it from its nail, scrutinised it a 
long while, kissed it and carefully put it away 
in a drawer. Why did he do that ? Whether 
it was that it was not fitting for this portrait to 
be so close to that woman ... or for some 
other reason Aratov did not inquire of himself 
89 



DREAM TALES 

But his mother's portrait stirred up memories 
of his father ... of his father, whom he had 
seen dying in this very room, in this bed. 
' What do you think of all this, father ? ' he 
mentally addressed himself to him. * You 
understand all this ; you too believed in 
Schiller's world of spirits. Give me advice ! ' 

' Father would have advised me to give up 
all this idiocy,' Aratov said aloud, and he took 
up a book. He could not, however, read for 
long, and feeling a sort of heaviness all over, he 
went to bed earlier than usual, in the full con- 
viction that he would fall asleep at once. 

And so it happened . . . but his hopes of a 
quiet night were not realised. 



XVII 

It had not struck midnight when he had an 
extraordinary and terrifying dream. 

He dreamed that he was in a rich manor- 
house of which he was the owner. He had 
lately bought both the house and the estate 
attached to it. And he kept thinking, ' It 's 
nice, very nice now, but evil is coming ! ' Be- 
side him moved to and fro a little tiny man, 
his steward ; he kept laughing, bowing, and 
90 



CLARA MILITCH 

trying to show Aratov how admirably every- 
thing was arranged in his house and his estate. 
' This way, pray, this way, pray,' he kept re- 
peating, chuckling at every word ; ' kindly look 
how prosperous everything is with you ! Look 
at the horses . . . what splendid horses ! ' And 
Aratov saw a row of immense horses. They 
were standing in their stalls with their backs to 
him ; their manes and tails were magnificent 
. . . but as soon as Aratov went near, the 
horses' heads turned towards him, and they 
showed their teeth viciously. ' It 's very nice,' 
Aratov thought ! ' but eyil is coming ! ' ' This 
way, pray, this way,' the steward repeated 
again, * pray come into the garden : look what 
fine apples you have ! ' The apples certainly 
were fine, red, and round ; but as soon as 
Aratov looked at them, they withered and fell 
. . . ' Evil is coming,' he thought. ' And here is 
the lake,' lisped the steward, ' isn't it blue and 
smooth ? And here 's a little boat of gold . . . 
will you get into it .? ... it floats of itself 
' I won't get into it,' thought Aratov, ' evil is 
coming ! ' and for all that he got into the boat. 
At the bottom lay huddled up a little creature 
like a monkey ; it was holding in its paws a 
glass full of a dark liquid. ' Pray don't be 
uneasy,' the steward shouted from the bank . . . 
'It's of no consequence! It's death! Good 
91 ^^-^ 



DREAM TALES 

luck to you ! ' The boat darted swiftly along 
. . . but all of a sudden a hurricane came 
swooping down on it, not like the hurricane 
of the night before, soft and noiseless — no ; a 
black, awful, howling hurricane ! Everything 
was confusion. And in the midst of the 
whirling darkness Aratov saw Clara in a 
stage-dress ; she was lifting a glass to her lips, 
listening to shouts of ' Bravo ! bravo ! ' in the 
distance, and some coarse voice shouted in 
Aratov's ear : ' Ah ! did you think it would 
all end in a farce ? No ; it 's a tragedy ! a 
tragedy ! ' 

Trembling all over, Aratov awoke. In the 
room it was not dark. ... A faint light 
streamed in from somewhere, and showed every 
thing in the gloom and stillness. Aratov did 
not ask himself whence this light came. . . . 
He felt one thing only : Clara was there, in 
that room ... he felt her presence ... he 
was again and for ever in her power ! 

The cry broke from his lips, ' Clara, are you 
here ? ' 

* Yes ! ' sounded distinctly in the midst of the 
lighted, still room. 

Aratov inaudibly repeated his question. . . . 
' Yes ! ' he heard again. 

* Then I want to see you ! ' he cried, and he 

jumped out of bed. 

92 



CLARA MILITCH 

For some instants he stood in the same 
place, pressing his bare feet on the chill floor. 
His eyes strayed about ' Where ? where ? ' his 
lips were murmuring. . . . 

Nothing to be seen, not a sound to be heard. 
. . . He looked round him, and noticed that 
the faint light that filled the room came from a 
night-light, shaded by a sheet of paper and set 
in a corner, probably by Platosha while he was 
asleep. He even discerned the smell of incense 
. . . also, most likely, the work of her hands. 

He hurriedly dressed himself: to remain in 
bed, to sleep, was not to be thought of Then 
he took his stand in the middle of the room, 
and folded his arms. The sense of Clara's 
presence was stronger in him than it had ever 
been. 

And now he began to speak, not loudly, but 
with solemn deliberation, as though he were 
uttering an incantation. 

* Clara,' he began, ' if you are truly here, if 
you see me, if you hear me — show yourself! . . . 
If the power which I feel over me is truly your 
power, show yourself! If you understand how 
bitterly I repent that I did not understand you, 
that I repelled you — show yourself! If what 
I have heard was truly your voice ; if the 
feeling overmastering me is love ; if you are now 
convinced that I Ipvc you, I, who till now have 
93 



DREAM TALES 

neither loved nor known any woman ; if you 
know that since your death I have come to 
love you passionately, inconsolably ; if you do 
not want me to go mad, — show yourself, Clara!' 

Aratov had hardly uttered this last word, 
when all at once he felt that some one was 
swiftly approaching him from behind — as that 
day on the boulevard — and laying a hand on 
his shoulder. He turned round, and saw no 
one. But the sense of /^r presence had grown 
so distinct, so unmistakable, that once more 
he looked hurriedly about him. . . . 

What was that? On an easy-chair, two 
paces from him, sat a woman, all in black. 
Her head was turned away, as in the stereo- 
scope. ... It was she ! It was Clara ! But 
what a stern, sad face ! 

Aratov slowly sank on his knees. Yes; he. 
was right, then. He felt neither fear nor 
delight, not even astonishment. . . . His heart 
even began to beat more quietly. He had one 
sense, one feeling, ' Ah ! at last ! at last ! ' 

' Clara,' he began, in a faint but steady voice, 
' why do you not look at me ? I know that it 
is you . . . but I may fancy my imagination 
has created an image like ^/la^ one . . . ' — he 
pointed towards the stereoscope — * prove to 
me that it is you. . . . Turn to me, look at me, 
Clara ! ' 

94 



CLARA MILITCH 

Clara's hand slowly rose . . . and fell again. 

* Clara ! Clara ! turn to me ! ' 

And Clara's head slowly turned, her closed 
lids opened, and her dark eyes fastened upon 
Aratov. 

He fell back a little, and uttered a single, 
long-drawn-out, trembling ' Ah ! ' 

Clara gazed fixedly at him . . . but her eyes, 
her features, retained their former mournfully 
stern, almost displeased expression. With just 
that expression on her face she had come on to 
the platform on the day of the literary matinee, 
before she caught sight of Aratov. And, just 
as then, she suddenly flushed, her face bright- 
ened, her eyes kindled, and a joyful, triumphant 
smile parted her lips. . . . 

' I have come ! ' cried Aratov. ' You have 
conquered. . . . Take me ! I am yours, and 
you are mine ! ' 

He flew to her ; he tried to kiss those smiling, 
triumphant lips, and he kissed them. He felt 
their burning touch : he even felt the moist 
chill of her teeth : and a cry of triumph rang 
through the half-dark room. 

Platonida Ivanovna, running in, found him in 
a swoon. He was on his knees ; his head was 
lying on the arm-chair ; his outstretched arms 
hung powerless ; his pale face was radiant with 
the intoxication of boundless bliss. 
95 



DREAM TALES 

Platonida Ivanovna fairly dropped to the 
ground beside him ; she put her arms round 
him, faltered, ' Yasha ! Yasha, darling ! Yasha, 
dearest ! ' tried to lift him in her bony arms . . . 
he did not stir. Then Platonida Ivanovna fell 
to screaming in a voice unlike her own. The 
servant ran in. Together they somehow roused 
him, began throwing water over him — even 
took it from the holy lamp before-'^he.JiQly., 
picture. . . . 

He came to himself. But in response to his 
aunt's questions he only smiled, and with such 
an ecstatic face that she was more alarmed 
than ever, and kept crossing first herself and 
then him. . . . Aratov, at last, put aside her 
hand, and, still with the same ecstatic expression 
of face, said : ' Why, Platosha, what is the 
matter with you ? ' 

' What is the matter with you, Yasha darling ?' 

* With me ? I am happy . . . happy, Platosha 
. . . that 's what 's the matter with me. And 
now I want to lie down, to sleep. . . .' He 
tried to get up, but felt such a sense of weak- 
ness in his legs, and in his whole body, that he 
could not, without the help of his aunt and the 
servant, undress and get into bed. But he fell 
asleep very quickly, still with the same look of 
blissful triumph on his face. Only his face was 
very pale. 

96 



CLARA MILITCH 



XVIII 



When Platonida Ivanovna came in to him 
next morning, he was still in the same position 
. . . but the weakness had not passed off, 
and he actually preferred to remain in bed. 
Platonida Ivanovna did not like the pallor of 
his face at all. ' Lord, have mercy on us ! what 
is it ? ' she thought ; ' not a drop of blood in his 
face, refuses broth, lies there and smiles, and 
keeps declaring he 's perfectly well ! ' He re- 
fused breakfast too. ' What is the matter with 
you, Yasha ? ' she questioned him ; ' do you 
mean to lie in bed all day ? ' ' And what if I 
did ? ' Aratov answered gently. This very 
gentleness again Platonida Ivanovna did not 
like at all. Aratov had the air of a man who 
has discovered a great, very delightful secret, 
and is jealously guarding it and keeping it to 
himself. He was looking forward to the night, 
not impatiently, but with curiosity. ' What 
next?' he was asking himself; 'what will 
happen?' Astonishment, incredulity, he had 
ceased to feel ; he did not doubt that he was in 
communication with Clara, that they loved one 
another . . . that, too, he had no doubt about. 
Only . . . what could come of such love? He 
97 G 



DREAM TALES 

recalled that kiss . . . and a delicious shiver 
ran swiftly and sweetly through all his limbs. 
' Such a kiss,' was his thought, ' even Romeo 
and Juliet knew not ! But next time I will be 
stroncrer. ... I will master her. . . . She shall 

о 

come with a wreath of tiny roses in her dark 
curls. . . . 

' But what next ? We cannot live together, 
can we? Then must I die so as to be with 
her? Is it not for that she has come ; and is it 
not so she means to take me captive ? 

' Well ; what then ? If I must die, let me 
die. Death has no terrors for me now. It 
cannot, then, annihilate me ? On the contrary, 
only thus and there can I be happy ... as I 
have not been happy in life, as she has not. . . . 
We are both pure ! Oh, that kiss ! ' 

Platonida Ivanovna was incessantly coming 
into Aratov's room. She did not worry him 
with questions ; she merely looked at him, 
muttered, sighed, and went out again. But he 
refused his dinner too : this was really too 
dreadful. The old lady set off to an acquaint- 
ance of hers, a district doctor, in whom she 
placed some confidence, simply because he did 
not drink and had a German wife. Aratov was 
surprised when she brought him in to see him ; 
but Platonida Ivanovna so earnestly implored 



CLARA MILITCH 

her darling Yashenka to allow Paramon Para- 
monitch (that was the doctor's name) to 
examine him — if only for her sake — that 
Aratov consented. Paramon Paramonitch felt 
his pulse, looked at his tongue, asked a ques- 
tion, and announced at last that it was absolutely 
necessary for him to ' ausoiltate ' him. Aratov 
was in such an amiable frame of mind that he 
agreed to this too. The doctor delicately 
uncovered his chest, delicately tapped, listened, 
hummed and hawed, prescribed some drops 
and a mixture, and, above all, advised him to 
keep quiet and avoid any excitement. ' I dare 
say ! ' thought Aratov ; ' that idea 's a little too 
late, my good friend ! ' ' What is wrong with 
Yasha?' queried Platonida Ivanovna, as she 
slipped a three -rouble note into Paramon 
Paramonitch's hand in the doorway. The 
district doctor, who like all modern physicians 
— especially those who wear a government uni- 
form — was fond of showing off with scientific 
terms, announced that her nephew's diagnosis 
showed all the symptoms of neurotic cardialgia, 
and there were febrile symptoms also. ' Speak 
plainer, my dear sir ; do,' cut in Platonida 
Ivanovna ; ' don't terrify me with your Latin ; 
you 're not in your surgery ! ' * His heart 's not 
right,' the doctor explained ; ' and, well — there 's 
a little fever too' . . . and he repeated his 
99 



DREAM TALES 

advice as to perfect quiet and absence of ex- 
citement. ' But there 's no danger, is there ? ' 
Platonida Ivanovna inquired severely (' You 
dare rush off into Latin again/ she implied.) 
' No need to anticipate any at present ! ' 

The doctor went away . . . and Platonida 
Ivanovna grieved. . . . She sent to the surgery, 
though, for the medicine, which Aratov would 
not take, in spite of her entreaties. He refused 
any herb-tea too. * And why are you so 
uneasy, dear ? ' he said to her ; ' I assure you, 
I 'm at this moment the sanest and happiest 
man in the whole world ! ' Platonida Ivanovna 
could only shake her head. Towards evening 
he grew rather feverish ; and still he insisted 
that she should not stay in his room, but should 
go to sleep in her own. Platonida Ivanovna 
obeyed ; but she did not undress, and did not 
lie down. She sat in an arm-chair, and was all 
the while listening and murmuring her prayers. 

She was just beginning to doze, when sud- 
nedly she was awakened by a terrible piercing 
shriek. She jumped up, rushed into Aratov's 
room, and as on the night before, found him 
lying on the floor. 

But he did not come to himself as on the 
previous night, in spite of all they could do. 
He fell the same night into a high fever, com- 
plicated by failure of the heart. 

lOO 



CLARA MILITCH 

A few days later he passed away. 

A strange circumstance attended his second 
fainting-fit. When they Hfted him up and laid 
him on his bed, in his clenched right hand they 
found a small tress of a woman's dark hair. 
Where did this lock of hair come from ? Anna 
Semyonovna had such a lock of hair left by 
Clara ; but what could induce her to give 
Aratov a relic so precious to her ? Could she 
have put it somewhere in the diary, and not 
have noticed it when she lent the book ? 

In the delirium that preceded his death, 
Aratov spoke of himself as Romeo . . . after 
the poison ; spoke of marriage, completed and 
perfect; of his knowing now what rapture 
meant Most terrible of all for Platosha was 
the minute when Aratov, coming a little to 
himself, and seeing her beside his bed, said to 
her, ' Aunt, what are you crying for ? — because 
I must die ? But don't you know that love is 
stronger than death ? . . . Death ! death ! where 
is thy sting? You should not weep, but 
rejoice, even as I rejoice. . . .' 

And once more on the face of the dying man 
shone out the rapturous smile, which gave the 
poor old woman such cruel pain. 



lO] 



PHANTOMS 

' One instant . . . and the fairy tale is over, 
And once again the actual fills the soul. . . .' — A. Fet. 



PHANTOMS 



For a long time I could not get to sleep, and 
kept turning from side to side. ' Confound 
this foolishness about table-turning ! ' I thought. 
' It simply upsets one's nerves/ . . . Drowsiness 
began to overtake me at last. . . . 

Suddenly it seemed to me as though there 
were the faint and plaintive sound of a harp- 
string in the room. 

I raised my head. The moon was low in the 
sky, and looked me straight in the face. White 
as chalk lay its light upon the floor. . . . The 
strange sound was distinctly repeated. 

I leaned on my elbow. A faint feeling of 
awe plucked at my heart. A minute passed, 
another. . . . Somewhere, far away, a cock 
crowed ; another answered still more remote. 

I let my head sink back on the pillow. ' See 
what one can work oneself up to,' I thought 
again, . . . ' there 's a singing in my ears.' 

After a little while I fell asleep — or I thought 



DREAM TALES 

I fell asleep. I had an extraordinary dream. 
I fancied I was lying in my room, in my bed — 
and was not asleep, could not even close my 
eyes. And again I heard the sound. ... I 
turned over. . . . The moonlight on the floor 
began softly to lift, to rise up, to round off 
slightly above. . . . Before me, impalpable as 
mist, a white woman was standing motionless. 

' Who are you ? ' I asked with an effort. 

A voice made answer, like the rustle of 
leaves :' It is I ... I ... I ... I have come 
for you.' 

* For me ? But who are you ? ' 

' Come by night to the edge of the wood where 
there stands an old oak-tree. I will be there.' 

I tried to look closely into the face of the 
mysterious woman — and suddenly I gave an 
involuntary shudder : there was a chilly breath 
upon me. And then I was not lying down, 
but sitting up in my bed ; and where, as I 
fancied, the phantom had stood, the moonlight 
lay in a long streak of white upon the floor. 



II 



The day passed somehow. I tried, I remember, 

to read, to work . . . everything was a failure. 

The night came. My heart was throbbing 

1 06 



PHANTOMS 

within me, as though it expected something. 
I lay down, and turned with my face to the 
wall. 

* Why did you not come ? ' sounded a distinct 
whisper in the room. 

I looked round quickly. 

Again she . . . again the mysterious phantom. 
Motionless eyes in a motionless face, and a 
gaze full of sadness. 

' Come ! ' I heard the whisper again. 

' I will come,' I replied with instinctive 
horror. The phantom bent slowly forward, 
and undulating faintly like smoke, melted away 
altogether. And again the moon shone white 
and untroubled on the smooth floor. 



Ill 



I PASSED the day in unrest. At supper I drank 
almost a whole bottle of wine, and all but went 
out on to the steps ; but I turned back and 
flung myself into my bed. My blood was 
pulsing painfully. 

Again the sound was heard. ... I started, 

but did not look round. All at once I felt that 

some one had tight hold of me from behind, and 

was whispering in my very ear : ' Come, come, 

107 



DREAM TALES 

come.' . . . Trembling with terror, I moaned 
out : * I will come ! ' and sat up. 

A woman stood stooping close to my very 
pillow. She smiled dimly and vanished. I 
had time, though, to make out her face. It 
seemed to me I had seen her before — but 
where, when ? I got up late, and spent the 
whole day wandering about the country. I 
went to the old oak at the edge of the forest, 
and looked carefully all around. 

Towards evening I sat at the open window 
in my study. My old housekeeper set a cup of 
tea before me, but I did not touch it. ... I 
kept asking myself in bewilderment : ' Am not 
I going out of my mind ? ' The sun had just 
set : and not the sky alone was flushed with 
red ; the whole atmosphere was suddenly filled 
with an almost unnatural purple. The leaves 
and grass never stirred, stiff as though freshly 
coated with varnish. In their stony rigidity, in 
the vivid sharpness of their outlines, in this 
combination of intense brightness and death- 
like stillness, there was something weird and 
mysterious. A rather large grey bird suddenly 
flew up without a sound and settled on the 
very window sill. ... I looked at it, and it 
looked at me sideways with its round, dark 
eye. ' Were you sent to remind me, then ? ' 
I wondered. 

io8 



PHANTOMS 

At once the bird fluttered its soft wings, and 
without a sound — as before — flew away. I sat 
a long time still at the window, but I was no 
longer a prey to uncertainty. I had, as it were, 
come within the enchanted circle, and I was 
borne along by an irresistible though gentle 
force, as a boat is borne along by the current 
long before it reaches the waterfall. I started 
up at last. The purple had long vanished from 
the air, the colours were darkened, and the 
enchanted silence was broken. There was the 
flutter of a gust of wind, the moon came out 
brighter and brighter in the sky that was 
growing bluer, and soon the leaves of the trees 
were weaving patterns of black and silver in 
her cold beams. My old housekeeper came 
into the study with a lighted candle, but there 
was a draught from the window and the flame 
went out. I could restrain myself no longer. 
I jumped up, clapped on my cap, and set off to 
the corner of the forest, to the old oak-tree. 



IV 



This oak had, many years before, been struck 

by lightning ; the top of the tree had been 

shattered, and was withered up, but there was 

109 



DREAM TALES 

Still life left in it for centuries to come. As I 
was coming up to it, a cloud passed over the 
moon : it was very dark under its thick 
branches. At first I noticed nothing special ; 
but I glanced on one side, and my heart fairly 
failed me — a white figure was standing motion- 
less beside a tall bush between the oak and the 
forest. My hair stood upright on my head, 
but I plucked up my courage and went towards 
the forest. 

Yes, it was she, my visitor of the night. As 
I approached her, the moon shone out again. 
She seemed all, as it were, spun out of half- 
transparent, milky mist, — through her face I 
could see a branch faintly stirring in the wind ; 
only the hair and eyes were a little dark, and 
on one of the fingers of her clasped hands a 
slender ring shone with a gleam of pale gold. 
I stood still before her, and tried to speak ; but 
the voice died away in my throat, though it was 
no longer fear exactly I felt. Her eyes were 
turned upon me ; their gaze expressed neither 
distress nor delight, but a sort of lifeless atten- 
tion. I waited to see whether she would utter 
a word, but she remained motionless and speech- 
less, and still gazed at me with her deathly 
intent eyes. Dread came over me again. 

' I have come ! ' I cried at last with an effort. 
My voice sounded muffled and strange to me. 
no 



PHANTOMS 

* I love you/ I heard her whisper. 

* You love me ! ' I repeated in amazement. 

' Give yourself up to me/ was whispered me 
again in reply. 

' Give myself up to you ! But you are a 
phantom ; you have no body even.' A strange 
aninaation came upon me. ' What are you — 
smoke, air, vapour ? Give myself up to you ! 
Answer me first, Who are you? Have you 
lived upon the earth? Whence have you 
come?' 

' Give yourself up to me. I will do you no 
harm. Only say two words : " Take me." ' 

I looked at her. ' What is she saying ? ' I 
thought. ' What does it all mean ? And how 
can she take me ? Shall I try ? ' 

' Very well,' I said, and unexpectedly loudly, 
as though some one had given me a push from 
behind ; ' take me ! ' 

I had hardly uttered these words when the 
mysterious figure, with a sort of inward laugh, 
which set her face quivering for an instant, 
bent forward, and stretched out her arms wide 
apart. ... I tried to dart away, but I was 
already io-her power. She seized me, my body 
rose a foot from the ground, and we both 
floated smoothly and not too swiftly over the 
wet, still grass. 



JU 



DREAM TALES 



At first I felt giddy, and instinctively I closed 
my eyes. ... A minute later I opened them 
again. We were floating as before ; but the 
forest was now nowhere to be seen. Under us 
stretched a plain, spotted here and there with 
dark patches. With horror I felt that we had 
risen to a fearful height. 

' I am lost ; I am in the power of Sa^n,' 
flashed through me like lightning. Till that 
instant the idea of a temptation of the evil one, 
of the possibility of p^ition, had never entered 
my head. We still whirled on, and seemed to 
be mounting higher and higher. 

' Where will you take me ? ' I moaned at last. 

* Where you like/ my companion answered. 
She clung close to me ; her face was almost 
resting upon my face. But I was scarcely con- 
scious of her touch. 

' Let me sink down to the earth, I am giddy 
at this height' 

* Very well ; only shut your eyes and hold 
your breath.' 

I obeyed, and at once felt that I was falling 
like a stone flung from the hand . . . the air 
whistled in my ears. When I could think 



PHANTOMS 

again, we were floating smoothly once more 
just above the earth, so that we caught our feet 
in the tops of the tall grass. 

' Put me on my feet,' I began. * What 
pleasure is there in flying? I'm not a bird.' 

' I thought you would like it. We have no 
other pastime.' 

' You ? Then what are you ? ' 

There was no answer. 

* You don't dare to tell me that ? ' 

The plaintive sound which had awakened 
me the first night quivered in my ears. Mean- 
while we were still, scarcely perceptibly, moving 
in the damp night air. 

' Let me go ! ' I said. My companion moved 
slowly away, and I found myself on my feet. 
She stopped before me and again folded her 
hands. I grew more composed and looked into 
her face ; as before it expressed submissive 
sadness. 

* Where are we ? ' I asked. I did not recog- 
nise the country about me. 

' Far from your home, but you can be there 
in an instant' 

' How can that be done ? by trusting myself 
to you again ? ' 

' I have done you no harm and will do you 
none. Let us fly till dawn, that is all. I can 
bear you away wherever you fancy — to the 



DREAM TALES 

ends of the earth. Give yourself up to me ! 
Say only : " Take me ! " ' 

' Well . . . take me ! ' 

She again pressed close to me, again my feet 
left the earth — and we were flying. 



VI 



' Which way ? ' she asked me. 

' Straight on, keep straight on.' 

' But here is a forest' 

' Lift us over the forest, only slower.' 

We darted upwards like a wild snipe flying 
up into a birch-tree, and again flew on in a 
straight line. Instead of grass, we caught 
glimpses of tree-tops just under our feet. It 
was strange to see the forest from above, its 
bristling back lighted up by the moon. It 
looked like some huge slumbering wild beast, 
and accompanied us with a vast unceasing 
murmur, like some inarticulate roar. In one 
place we crossed a small glade ; intensely 
black was the jagged streak of shadow along 
one side of it. Now and then there was the 
plaintive cry of a hare below us ; above us 
the owl hooted, plaintively too ; there was a 
scent in the air of mushrooms, buds, and 
114 



PHANTOMS 

dawn-flowers ; the moon fairly flooded every- 
thing on all sides with its cold, hard light ; the 
Pleiades gleamed just over our heads. And 
now the forest was left behind ; a streak of 
fog stretched out across the open country ; it 
was the river. We flew along one of its banks, 
above the bushes, still and weighed down with 
moisture. The river's waters at one moment 
glimmered with a flash of blue, at another 
flowed on in darkness, as it were, in wrath. 
Here and there a delicate mist moved strangely 
over the water, and the water-lilies' cups shone 
white in maiden pomp with every petal open 
to its full, as though they knew their safety out 
of reach. I longed to pick one of them, and 
behold, I found myself at once on the river's 
surface . . . The damp air struck me an angry 
blow in the face, just as I broke the thick stalk 
of a great flower. We began to fly across from 
bank to bank, like the water-fowl we were 
continually waking up and chasing before us. 
More than once we chanced to swoop down on 
a family of wild ducks, settled in a circle on an 
open spot among the reeds, but they did not 
stir ; at most one of them would thrust out 
its neck from under its wing, stare at us, and 
anxiously poke its beak away again in its 
fluffy feathers, and another faintly quacked, while 
its body twitched a little all over. We startled 
115 



DREAM TALES 

one heron ; it flew up out of a willow bush, 
brandishing its legs and fluttering its wings 
with clumsy eagerness : it struck me as re- 
markably like a German. There was not the 
splash of a fish to be heard, they too were 
asleep. I began to get used to the sensation 
of flying, and even to find a pleasure in it ; 
any one will understand me, who has experi- 
enced flying in dreams. I proceeded to scruti- 
nise with close attention the strange being, by 
whose good offices such unlikely adventures 
had befallen me. 



VII 



She was a woman with a small un-Russian 
face. Greyish -white, half- transparent, with 
scarcely marked shades, she reminded one of 
the alabaster figures on a vase lighted up 
within, and again her face seemed familiar to 
me. 

* Can I speak with you ? ' I asked. 
' Speak.' 

* I see a ring on your finger ; you have lived 
then on the earth, you have been married ? ' 

I waited . . . There was no answer. 
ii6 



PHANTOMS 

*What is your name, or, at least, what was 
it?' 

' Call me AlkeT 

' Alice ! That 's an English name ! Are you 
an Englishwoman ? Did you know me in 
former days ? ' 

*No.' 

* Why is it then you have come to me ? ' 

* I love you.' 

' And are you content ? ' 

* Yes ; we float, we whirl together in the 
fresh air.' 

* Alice ! ' I said all at once, 'you are perhaps 
a sinful, condemned soul ? ' 

My companion's head bent towards me. ' I 
don't understand you/ she murmured. 

' I adjure you in God's name . . .' I was 
beginning. 

'What are you saying?' she put in in per- 
plexity. * I don't understand.' 

I fancied that the arm that lay like a chilly 
girdle about my waist softly trembled . . . 

' Don't be afraid,' said Alice, ' don't be afraid, 
my dear one ! ' Her face turned and moved 
towards my face. ... I felt on my lips a 
strange sensation, like the faintest prick of a 
soft and delicate sting. . . . Leeches might prick 
so in mild and drowsy mood. 



117 



DREAM TALES 



VIII 



I GLANCED downwards. We had now risen 
again to a considerable height. We were flying 
over some provincial town I did not know, 
situated on the side of a wide slope. Churches 
rose up high among the dark mass of wooden 
roofs and orchards ; a long bridge stood out black 
at the bend of a river ; everything was hushed, 
buried in slumber. The very crosses and 
cupolas seemed to gleam with a silent brilli- 
ance ; silently stood the tall posts of the wells 
beside the round tops of the willows ; silently 
the straight whitish road darted arrow-like into 
one end of the town, and silently it ran out 
again at the opposite end on to the dark waste 
of monotonous fields. 

' What town is this ^ ' I asked. 

'X . . .' 

* X . . . in Y . . . province ? ' 
' Yes.' 

' I 'm a long distance indeed from home ! ' 

* Distance is not for us.' 

' Really ? ' I was fired by a sudden reckless- 
ness. ' Then take me to South America ! 

'To America I cannot. It's daylight there 
by now.' 

ii8 



PHANTOMS 

'And we are night-birds. Well, anywhere, 
where you can, only far, far away.' 

' Shut your eyes and hold your breath,' 
answered Alice, and we flew along with the 
speed of a whirlwind. With a deafening noise 
the air rushed into my ears. We stopped, but 
the noise did not cease. On the contrary, it 
changed into a sort of menacing roar, the roll 
of thunder . . . 

' Now you can open your eyes,' said Alice. 



IX 



I OBEYED . . . Good God, where was I ? 

Overhead, ponderous,smoke-like storm-clouds; 
they huddled, they moved on like a herd of 
furious monsters . . . and there below, another 
monster ; a raging, yes, raging, sea . . . The 
white foam gleamed with spasmodic fury, and 
surged up in hillocks upon it, and hurling up 
shaggy billows, it beat with a sullen roar against 
a huge cliff, black as pitch. The howling of 
the tempest, the chilling gasp of the storm- 
rocked abyss, the weighty splash of the 
breakers, in which from time to time one 
fancied something like a wail, like distant 
119 



DREAM TALES 

cannon-shots, like a bell ringings — the tearing 
crunch and grind of the shingle on the beach, 
the sudden shriek of an unseen gull, on the 
murky horizon the disabled hulk of a ship — on 
every side death, death and horror . . . Giddi- 
ness overcame me, and I shut my eyes again 
with a sinking heart . . . 

' What is this ? Where are we ? ' 

* On the south coast of the Isle of Wight 
opposite the Blackgang cliff where ships are so 
often wrecked,' said Alice, speaking this time 
with peculiar distinctness, and as it seemed to 
me with a certain malignant pleasure . . . 

' Take me away, away from here . . . home ! 
home ! ' I shrank up, hid my face in my 
hands ... I felt that we were moving faster 
than before ; the wind now was not roaring or 
moaning, it whistled in my hair, in my clothes 
... I caught my breath . . . 

' Stand on your feet now,' I heard Alice's 
voice saying. I tried to master myself, to re- 
gain consciousness ... I felt the earth under 
the soles of my feet, and I heard nothing, as 
though everything had swooned away about 
me . . . only in my temples the blood 
throbbed irregularly, and my head was still 
giddy with a faint ringing in my ears. I drew 
myself up and opened my eyes. 



PHANTOMS 



X 



VVe were on the bank of my pond. Straight 
before me there were glimpses through the 
pointed leaves of the willows of its broad 
surface with threads of fluffy mist- clinging 
here and there upon it. To the right a field 
of rye shone dimly ; on the left stood up my 
orchard trees, tall, rigid, drenched it seemed 
in dew . . . The breath of the morning was 
already upon them. Across the pure grey 
sky stretched like streaks of smoke, two or 
three slanting clouds ; they had a yellowish 
tinge, the first faint glow of dawn fell on them ; 
one could not say whence it came ; the eye 
could not detect on the horizon, which was 
gradually growing lighter, the spot where the 
sun was to rise. The stars had disappeared ; 
nothing was astir yet, though everything was 
already on the point of awakening in the 
enchanted stillness of the morning twilight. 

* Morning ! see, it is morning ! ' cried Alice in 
my ear. ' Farewell till to-morrow.' 

I turned round . . . Lightly rising from the 
earth, she floated by, and suddenly she raised 
both hands above her head. The head and 
hands and shoulders glowed for an instant 
with warm, corporeal light ; living sparks 

121 



DREAM TALES 

gleamed in the dark eyes ; a smile of mys- 
terious tenderness stirred the reddening lips. 
... A lovely woman had suddenly arisen 
before me. . . . But as though dropping into 
a swoon, she fell back instantly and melted 
away like vapour. 

I remained passive. 

When I recovered myself and looked round 
me, it seemed to me that the corporeal, pale- 
rosy colour that had flitted over the figure of 
my phantom had not yet vanished, and was 
enfolding me, diffused in the air. ... It was 
the flush of dawn. All at once I was conscious 
of extreme fatigue and turned homewards. As 
I passed the poultry-yard, I heard the first 
morning cackling of the geese (no birds wake 
earlier than they do) ; along the roof at the end 
of each beam sat a rook, and they were all 
busily and silently pluming themselves, stand- 
ing out in sharp outline against the milky sky. 
From time to time they all rose at once, and 
after a short flight, settled again in a row, with- 
out uttering a caw. . . . From the wood close 
by came twice repeated the drowsy, fresh chuck- 
chuck of the black-cock, beginning to fly into 
the dewy grass, overgrown by brambles. . . . 
With a faint tremor all over me I made my 
way to my bed, and soon fell into a sound 
sleep. 

122 



PHANTOMS 



XI 



The next night, as I was approaching the old 
oak, Alice moved to meet me, as if I were an 
old friend. I was not afraid of her as I had 
been the day before, I was almost rejoiced at 
seeing her ; I did not even attempt to com- 
prehend what was happening to me ; I was 
simply longing to fly farther to interesting 
places. 

Alice's arm again twined about me, and we 
took flight again. 

* Let us go to Italy,' I whispered in her ear. 

* Wherever you wish, my dear one,' she 
answered solemnly and slowly, and slowly and 
solemnly she turned her face towards me. It 
struck me as less transparent than on the eve ; 
more womanlike and more imposing ; it re- 
called to me the being I had had a glimpse of 
in the early dawn at parting. 

' This night is a great night,' Alice went on. 
* It comes rarely — when seven times thirteen . . .' 
At this point I could not catch a few words. 

* To-night we can see what is hidden at other 
times.' 

' Alice ! ' I implored, ' but who are you, tell 
me at last ? ' 

123 



DREAM TALES 

Silently she lifted her long white hand. In 
the dark sky, where her finger was pointing, a 
comet flashed, a reddish streak among the tiny 
stars. 

* How am I to understand you ? ' I began, 
* Or, as that comet floats between the planets 
and the sun, do you float among men ... or 
what?' 

But Alice's hand was suddenly passed before 
my eyes ... It was as though a white mist 
from the damp valley had fallen on me . . . 

'To Italy! to Italy!' I heard her whisper. 
' This night is a great night ! ' 



XII 

The mist cleared away from before my eyes, 
and I saw below me an immense plain. But 
already, by the mere breath of the warm -.soft 
air-upon my cheeks, I could tell I was not-4Q 
.Russia; and the plain, too, was not like our 
Russian plains. It was a vast dark expanse, 
apparently desert and not overgrown with 
grass ; here and there over its whole extent 
gleamed pools of water, like broken pieces of 
looking-glass ; in the distance could be dimly 
descried a noiseless motionless sea. Great 
124 



PHANTOMS 

stars shone bright in the spaces between the 
big beautiful clouds ; the murmur of thousands, 
subdued but never-ceasing, rose on all sides, 
and very strange was this shrill but drowsy 
chorus, this voice of the darkness and the 
desert . . . 

' The Pontine marshes,' said Alice. * Do you 
hear the frogs ? do you smell the sulphur ? ' 

* The Pontine marshes . . . ' I repeated, and 
a sense of grandeur and of desolation came 
upon me. 'But why have you brought me 
here, to this gloomy forsaken place? Let us 
fly to Rome instead.' 

* Rome is near,' answered Alice. . . . ' Pre- 
pare yourself ! ' 

We sank lower, and flew along an ancient 
Roman road. A bullock slowly lifted from 
the slimy mud its shaggy monstrous head, 
with short tufts of bristles between its crooked 
backward-bent horns. It turned the whites of 
its dull malignant eyes askance, and sniffed a 
heavy snorting breath into its wet nostrils, as 
though scenting us. 

* Rome, Rome is near . . . ' whispered Alice. 
' Look, look in front. . . . ' 

I raised my eyes. 

What was the blur of black on the edge of 
the night sky ? Were these the lofty arches of 
an immense bridge ? What river did it span ? 
125 



DREAM TALES 

Why was it broken down in parts ? No, it was 
not a bridge, it was an ancient aqueduct All 
around was the holy ground of the Cana^agna, 
and there, in the distance, the Albanian hills, 
and their peaks and the grey ridge of the old 
aqueduct gleamed dimly in the beams of the 
rising moon. . . . 

We suddenly darted upwards, and floated in 
the air before a deserted ruiij.- No one could 
have said what it had been : sepulchre, palace, 
or castle. . . . Dark j,vy encircled it all over in 
its deadly clasp, and below gaped yawning a 
half-ruined vault. A heavy underground smell 
rose in my face from this heap of tiny closely- 
fitted stones, whence the granite facing of the 
wall had long crumbled away. 

* Here,' Alice pronounced, and she raised her 
hand : * Here ! call aloud three times running 
the name of the mighty Roman ! ' 

' What will happen ? ' 

' You will see.' 

I wondered. * Divus Caius Julius Caesar ! ' 
I cried suddenly ; * divus Caius Julius Caesar I ' 
I repeated deliberately ; * Caesar ! ' 



126 



PHANTOMS 



XIII 



The last echoes of my voice had hardly died 
away, when I heard . . . 

It is difficult to say what I did hear. At 
first there reached me a confused din the ear 
could scarcely catch, the endlessly-repeated 
clamour of the blare of trumpets, and the 
clapping of hands. It seemed that somewhere, 
immensely far away, at some fathomless depth, 
a multitude innumerable was suddenly astir, 
and was rising up, rising up in agitation, calling 
to one another, faintly, as if muffled in sleep, 
the suffocating sleeps of ages. Then the air 
began moving in dark currents over the ruin. 
. . . Shades began flitting before me, myriads 
of shades, millions of outlines, the rounded 
curves of helmets, the long straight lines of 
lances ; the moonbeams were broken into 
momentary gleams of blue upon these helmets 
and lances, and all this army, this multitude, 
came closer and closer, and grew, in more and 
more rapid movement. . . . An indescribable 
force, a force fit to set the whole world moving, 
could be felt in it ; but not one figure stood 
out clearly. . . . And suddenly I fancied a sort 
of tremor ran all round, as if it were the rush 
and rolling apart of some huge waves. . . . 
127 



DREAM TALES 

^ Caesar, Caesar ve7iit!' sounded voices, like 
the leaves of a forest when a storm has sud- 
denly broken upon it ... a muffled shout 
thundered through the multitude, and a pale 
stern head, in a wreath of laurel, with down- 
cast eyelids, the head of the emperor, began 
slowly to rise out of the ruin. . . . 

There is no word in the tongue of man to 
express the horror which clutched at my heart. 
... I felt that were that head to raise its eyes, 
to part its lips, I must perish on the spot ! 
' Alice ! ' I moaned, ' I won't, I can't, I don't 
want Rome, coarse, terrible Rome. . . . Away, 
away from here ! ' 

' Coward ! ' she whispered, and away we 
flew. I just had time to hear behind me the 
iron voice of the legions, like a peal of thunder 
. . . then all was darkness. 



XIV 



* Look round,' Alice said to me, ' and don't 
fear.' 

I obeyed — and, I remember, my first im- 
pression was so sweet that I could only sigh. 
A sort of smoky-grey, silvery-soft, half-light, 
half-mist, enveloped me on all sides. At first 
128 



PHANTOMS 

I made out nothing : I was dazzled by this 
azure brilliance ; but little by little began to 
emerge the outlines of beautiful mountains and 
forests ; a lake lay at my feet, with stars 
quivering in its depths, and the musical plash 
of w^es. The fragrance of orange flowers 
met me with a rush, and with it — and also as 
it were with a rush — came floating the pure 
powerful notes of a woman's young voice. 
This fragrance, this music, fairly drew me 
downwards, and I began to sink ... to sink 
down towards a magnificent marble palace, 
which stood, invitingly white, in the midst of 
a wood of cyppess. The music flowed out 
from its wide open windows, the waves of the 
lake, flecked with the pollen of flowers, splashed 
upon its walls, and just opposite, all clothed in 
the dark green of orange flowers and laurels, 
enveloped in shining mist, and studded with 
statues, slender columns, and the porticoes of 
temples, a lofty round island rose out of the 
water. . . . 

' Isola Bella ! ' said Alice. ... * Lago 
Maggiore. . . .' 

I murmured only ' Ah ! ' and continued to 
drop. The woman's voice sounded louder and 
clearer in the palace ; I was irresistibly drawn 
towards it. ... I wanted to look at the face of 
the singer, who, in such music, gave voice to 
129 I 



DREAM TALES 

such a night. We stood still before the 
window. 

In the centre of a room, furnished in the 
style of Pompeii, and more like an ancient 
temple than a modern drawing-room, sur- 
rounded by Greek statues, Etruscan vases, 
rare plants, and precious stuffs, lighted up by 
the soft radiance of two lamps enclosed in 
crystal globes, a young woman was sitting at 
the piano. Her head slightly bowed and her 
eyes half-closed, she sang an Italian melody ; 
she sang and smiled, and at the same time her 
face wore an expression of gravity, almost of 
sternness ... a token of perfect rapture ! 
She smiled . . . and Praxiteles' Faun, indolent, 
youthful as she, effeminate, and voluptuous, 
seemed to smile back at her from a corner, 
under the branches of an oleander, across the 
delicate smoke that curled upwards from a 
bronze censej- on an antique tripod. The 
beautiful singer was alone. Spell-bound by 
the music, her beauty, the splendour and sweet 
fragrance of the night, moved to the heart by 
the picture of this youthful, serene, and un- 
troubled happiness, I utterly forgot my com- 
panion, I forgot the strange way in which I 
had become a witness of this life, so remote, 
so completely apart from me, and I was on the 
pointof tapping at the window, of speaking . . . 
130 



PHANTOMS 

I was set trembling all over by a violent 
shock — ^just as though I had touched a galvanic 
battery. I looked round. . . . The face of 
Alice was — for all its transparency — dark and 
menacing ; there was a dull glow of anger in 
her eyes, which were suddenly wide and 
round. . . . 

' Away ! ' she murmured wrathfully, and again 
whirling and darkness and giddiness. . . . Only 
this time not the shout of legions, but the voice 
of the singer, breaking on a high note, lingered 
in my ears. . . . 

We stopped. The high note, the same note 
was still ringing and did not cease to ring in 
my ears, though I was breathing quite a different 
air, a different scent ... a breeze was blowing 
upon me, fresh and invigorating, as though from 
a great river, and there was a smell of hay, 
smoke and hemp. The long-drawn-out note 
was followed by a second, and a third, but 
with an expression so unmistakable, a trill so 
familiar, so peculiarly our own, that I said to 
myself at once: 'That's a Russian singing 
a Russian song ! ' and at that very instant 
everything grew clear about me. 



131 



DREAM TALES 



XV 



We found ourselves on a flat riverside plain. 
To the left, newly-mown meadows, with rows of 
huge hayricks, stretched endlessly till they were 
lost in the distance ; to the right extended the 
smooth surface of a vast mighty river, till it too 
was lost in the distance. Not far from the 
bank, big dark barges slowly rocked at anchor, 
slightly tilting their slender masts, like pointing 
fingers. From one of these barges came float- 
ing up to me the sounds of a liquid voice, and 
a fire was burning in it, throwing a long red 
light that danced and quivered on the water. 
Here and there, both on the river and in the 
fields, other lights were glimmering, whether 
close at hand or far away, the eye could not dis- 
tinguish ; they shrank together, then suddenly 
lengthened out into great blurs of light ; grass- 
hoppers innumerable kept up an unceasiiig: 
churr, persistent as the frogs of the Pontine 
marshes; and across the cloudless, but dark 
lowering sky floated from time to time the cries 
of unseen birds. 

* Are we in Russia ? ' I asked of Alice. 

' It is the Volga,' she answered. 

We flew along the river-bank. ' Why did 
132 



PHANTOMS 

you tear me away from there, from that lovely 
country ? ' I began. * Were you envious, or was 
it jealousy in you ? ' 

The lips of Alice faintly stirred, and again 
there was a menacing light in her eyes. . . . 
But her whole face grew stony again at once. 

' I want to go home,' I said. 

* Wait a little, wait a little,' answered Alice. 
' To-night is a great night. It will not soon 
return. You may be a spectator. . . . Wait a 
little.' 

And we suddenly flew across the Volga in a 
slanting direction, keeping close to the water's 
surface, with the low impetuous flight of swallows 
before a storm. The broad waves murrnured 
heaviJy below us, the sharp river breeze beat 
upon us with its strong cold wing . . . the high 
right bank began soon to rise up before us in 
the half-darkness. Steep mountains appeared 
with great ravines between. We came near to 
them. 

' Shout : " Lads, to the barges ! " ' Alice 
whispered to me. I remembered the terror I 
had suffered at the apparition of the Roman 
phantoms. I felt weary and strangely heavy, as 
though my heart were ebbing away within me. 
I wished not to utter the fatal words ; I knew 
beforehand that in response to them there 
would appear, as in the wolves' valley of the 
133 



DREAM TALES 



Freischiitz, some monstrous thing ; but my 
lips parted against my will, and in a weak 
forced voice I shouted, also against my will : 
* Lads, to the barges ! ' 



XVI 



At first all was silence, even as it was at the 
Roman ruins, but suddenly I heard close to my 
very ear a coarse bargeman's laugh, and with a 
moan something dropped into the water and a 
gurgling sound followed. ... I looked round : 
no one was anywhere to be seen, but from the 
bank the echo came bounding back, and at 
once from all sides rose a deafening din. There 
was a medley of everything in this chaos of 
sound : shouting and whining, furious abuse 
and laughter, laughter above everything ; the 
plash of oars and the cleaving of hatchets, a 
crash as of the smashing of doors and chests, 
the grating of rigging and wheels, and the 
neighing of horses, and the clang of the alarm 
bell and the clink of chains, the roar and 
crackle of fire, drunken songs and quick, gnash- 
ing chatter, weeping inconsolable, plaintive 
despairing prayers, and shouts of command, 
the dying gasp and the reckless whistle, the 
guffaw and the thud of the dance . . . ' Kill 
134 



PHANTOMS 

them ! Hang them ! Drown them ! rip them 
up ! bravo ! bravo ! don't spare them ! ' could be 
heard distinctly ; I could even hear the hurried 
breathing of men panting. And meanwhile all 
around, as far as the eye could reach, nothing 
could be seen, nothing was changed ; the river 
rolled by mysteriously, almost sullenly, the 
very bank seemed more deserted and desolate 
— and that was all. 

I turned to Alice, but she put her finger to 
her lips. . . . 

' Stepan Timofeitch ! Stepan Timofeitch is 
coming ! ' was shouted noisily all round ; ' he is 
coming, our father, our atamaa, our bread- 
giver ! ' As before I saw nothing but it seemed 
to me as though a huge body were moving 
straight at me. . . . ' Frolka ! where art thou, 
dog ? ' thundered an awful voice. ' Set fire to 
every corner at once — and to the hatchet with 
them, the white-handed scoundrels ! ' 

I felt the hot breath of the flame close by, 
and tasted the bitter savour of the smoke ; and 
at the same instant something warm like blood 
spurted over my face and hands. ... A savage 
roar of laughter broke out all round. . . . 

I lost consciousness, and when I came to 
myself, Alice and I were gliding along beside 
the familiar bushes that bordered my wood, 
straight towards the old oak. . . . 
135 



DREAM TALES 

' Do you see the little path ? ' Alice said to 
me, * where the moon shines dimly and where 
are two birch-trees overhanging ? Will you go 
there ? ' 

But I felt so shattered and exhausted that I 
could only say in reply : * Home ! home ! * 

' You are at home/ replied Alice. 

I was in fact standing at the very door of my 
house — alone. Alice had vanished. The yard- 
dog was about to approach, he scanned me 
suspiciously — and with a bark ran away. 

With difficulty I dragged myself up to my 
bed and fell asleep without undressing. 



XVII 

All the following morning my head ached, 
and I could scarcely move my legs ; but I cared 
little for my bodily discomfort; I was devoured 
by regret, overwhelmed with vexation. 

I was excessively annoyed with myself. 
* Coward ! ' I repeated incessantly ; ' yes — Alice 
was right. What was I frightened of? how 
could I miss such an opportunity? ... I might 
have seen Caesar himself — and I was senseless 
with terror, I whimpered and turned away, like 
a child at the sight of the rod. Razin, now — 
136 



PHANTOMS 

that's another matter. As a nobleman and 
landowner . . . though, indeed, even then what 
had I really to fear ? Coward ! coward ! ' . . . 

' But wasn't it all a dream ? * I asked myself 
at last. I called my housekeeper. 

* Marfa, what o'clock did I go to bed yester- 
day — do you remember ? ' 

' Why, who can tell, master ? . . . Late enough, 
surely. Before it was quite dark you went out 
of the house ; and you were tramping about in 
your bedroom when the night was more than 
half over. Just on morning — yes. And this is 
the third day it 's been the same. You 've some- 
thing on your mind, it 's easy to see.' 

* Aha-ha ! ' I thought. * Then there 's no 
doubt about the flying. Well, and how do I 
look to-day ? ' I added aloud. 

' How do you look ? Let me have a look 
at you. You've got thinner a bit. Yes, and 
you 're pale, master ; to be sure, there 's not a 
drop of blood in your face.' 

I felt a slight twinge of uneasiness ... I 
dismissed Marfa. 

' Why, going on like this, you '11 die, or go 
out of your mind, perhaps,' I reasoned with 
myself, as I sat deep in thought at the window. 
* I must give it all up. It 's dangerous And 
now my heart beats so strangely. And when I 
fly, I keep feeling as though some one were 
137 



DREAM TALES 

sucking at it, or as it were drawing something 
out of it — as the spring sap is drawn out of the 
birch-tree, if you stick an axe into it. I 'm 
sorry, though. And Alice too. . . . She is 
playing cat and mouse with me . . . still she 
can hardly wish me harm. I will give myself 
up to her for the last time — and then. . . . But 
if she is drinking my blood? That's awful. 
Besides, such rapid locomotion cannot fail to be 
injurious ; even in England, I 'm told, on the 
railways, it 's against the law to go more than 
one hundred miles an hour. . . .' 

So I reasoned with myself — but at ten 
o'clock in the evening, I was already at my 
post before the old oak-tree. 



XVIII 

The night was cold, dull, grey ; there was a 
feeling of rain in the air. To my amazement, I 
found no one under the oak ; I walked several 
times round it, went up to the edge of the 
wood, turned back again, peered anxiously into 
the darkness. . . . All was emptiness. I waited 
a little, then several times I uttered the name, 
Alice, each time a little louder, . . . but she 
did not appear. I felt sad, almost sick at 
138 



PHANTOMS 

heart ; my previous apprehensions vanished ; I 
could not resign myself to the idea that my 
companion would not come back to me again. 

' Alice ! Alice ! come ! Can it be you will 
not come ? ' I shouted, for the last time. 

A crow, who had been waked by my voice, 
suddenly darted upwards into a tree-top close 
by, and catching in the twigs, fluttered his 
wings. . . . But Alice did not appear. 

With downcast head, I turned homewards. 
Already I could discern the black outlines of 
the willows on the pond's edge, and the light 
in my window peeped out at me through the 
apple-trees in the orchard — peeped at me, and 
hid again, like the eye of some man keeping 
watch on me — when suddenly I heard behind 
me the faint swish of the rapidly parted air, 
and something at once embraced and snatched 
me upward, as a buzzard pounces on and 
snatches up a quail. ... It was Alice sweeping 
down upon me. I felt her cheek against my 
cheek, her enfolding arm about my body, and 
like a cutting cold her whisper pierced to my 
ear, ' Here I am.' I was frightened and 
delighted both at once. . . . We flew at no 
great height above the ground. 

' You did not mean to come to-day? ' I said. 

' And you were dull without me ? You love 
me ? Oh, you are mine ! ' 
139 



DREAM TALES 

The last words of Alice confused me. ... I 
did not know what to say. 

' I was kept/ she went on ; ' I was watched.' 

* Who could keep you ? ' 

'Where would you like to go?' inquired Alice, 
as usual not answering my question. 

'Take me to Italy — to that lake, you re- 
member.' 

Alice turned a little away, and shook her 
head in refusal. At that point I noticed for the 
first time that she had ceased to be transparent. 
And her face seemed tinged with colour ; there 
was a faint glow of red over its misty whiteness. 
I glanced at her eyes . . . and felt a pang of 
dread ; in those eyes something was astir — with 
the slow, continuous, malignant movement of 
the benumbed snake, twisting and turning as 
the sun begins to thaw it. 

* Alice,' I cried, ' who are you ? Tell me who 
you are.' 

Alice simply shrugged her shoulders. 

I felt angry ... I longed to punish her; and 
suddenly the idea occurred to me to tell her to fly 
with me to Paris. ' That 's the place for you to 
be jealous,' I thought. ' Alice,' I said aloud, ' you 
are not afraid of big towns — Paris, for instance ? ' 

' No.' 

' Not even those parts where it is as light as 
in the boulevards ? ' 

140 



PHANTOMS 

* It is not the light of day.' 

' Good ; then take me at once to the Boule- 
vard des ItaHens/ 

AHce wrapped the end of her long hanging 
sleeve about my head. I was at once enfolded 
in a sort of white vapour full of the drowsy 
fragrance of the poppy. Everything disap- 
peared at once ; every light, every sound, and 
almost consciousness itself. Only the sense 
of being alive remained, and that was not 
unpleasant. 

Suddenly the vapour vanished; Alice took 
her sleeve from my head, and I saw at my feet 
a huge mass of closely - packed buildings, 
brilliant light, movement, noisy traffic. ... I 
saw Paris. 



XIX 



I HAD been in Paris before, and so I recognised 
at once the place to which Alice had directed 
her course. It was the Garden of the Tuileries 
with its old chestnut-trees, its iron railings, its 
fortress moat, and its brutal-looking Zouave 
sentinels. Passing the palace, passing the 
Church of St. Roche, on the steps of which the 
first Napoleon for the first time shed French 
141 



DREAM TALES 

blood, we came to a halt high over the Boulevard 
des Italiens, where the third Napoleon did the 
same thing and with the same success. Crowds 
of people, dandies young and old, workmen in 
blouses, women in gaudy dresses, were thronging 
on the pavements ; the gilded restaurants and 
cafes were flaring with lights ; omnibuses, car- 
riages of all sorts and shapes, moved to and fro 
along the boulevard ; everything was bustle, 
everything was brightness, wherever one chanced 
to look. . . . But, strange to say, I had no in- 
clination to forsake my pure dark airy height. 
I had no inclination to get nearer to this human 
ant-hill. It seemed as though a hot, heavy, 
reddish vapour rose from it, half-fragrance, half- 
stench ; so many lives were flung struggling in 
one heap together there. I was hesitating. . . . 
But suddenly, sharp as the clang of iron bars, the 
voice of a harlot of the streets floated up to me ; 
like an insolent tongue, it was thrust out, this 
voice ; it stung me like the sting of a viper. At 
once I saw in imagination the strong, heavy- 
jawed, greedy, flat Parisian face, the mercenary 
eyes, the paint and powder, the frizzed hair, and 
the nosegay of gaudy artificial flowers under 
the high-pointed hat, the polished nails like 
talons, the hideous crinoline. ... I could fancy 
too one of our sons of the steppes running 
with pitiful eagerness after the doll put up for 
142 



PHANTOMS 

sale. ... I could fancy him with clumsy coarse- 
ness and violent stammering, trying to imitate 
the manners of the waiters at Vefour's, mincing, 
flattering, wheedling . . . and a feeling of 
loathing gained possession of me. . . . ' No/ 
I thought, 'here Alice has no need to be 
jealous. . . .' 

Meanwhile I perceived that we had gradually 
begun to descend. . . . Paris was rising to meet 
us with all its din and odour. . . . 

' Stop,' I said to Alice. ' Are you not stifled 
and oppressed here ? ' 

' You asked me to bring you here yourself 

'I am to blame, I take back my word. Take 
me away, Alice, I beseech you. To be sure, 
here is Prince Kulmametov hobbling along the 
boulevard ; and his friend. Serge Varaksin, 
waves his hand to him, shouting : " Ivan Stepa- 
nitch, allons sotcper, make haste, zhay angazha 
Rigol-bouche itself!" Take me away from 
these furnished apartments and maisons doreeSy 
from the Jockey Club and the Figaro, from 
close-shaven military heads and varnished bar- 
racks, from sergents-de-ville with Napoleonic 
beards, and from glasses of muddy absinthe, 
from gamblers playing dominoes at the cafes, 
and gamblers on the Bourse, from red ribbons 
in button-holes, from M. de Four, inventor of 
' matrimonial specialities,' and the gratuitous 
43 



DREAM TALES 

consultations of Dr. Charles Albert, from liberal 
lectures and government pamphlets, from 
Parisian comedies and Parisian operas, from 
Parisian wit and Parisian ignorance. . . . Away ! 
away ! away ! ' 

' Look down,' Alice answered ; ' you are not 
now in Paris.' 

I lowered my eyes. ... It was true. A 
dark plain, intersected here and there by the 
whitish lines of roads, was rushing rapidly by 
below us, and only behind us on the horizon, 
like the reflection of an immense conflagration, 
rose the great glow of the innumerable lights of 
the capital of the world. 



XX 



Again a veil fell over my eyes. . . . Again I 
lost consciousness. The veil was withdrawn at 
last. What was it down there below ? What 
was this park, with avenues of lopped lime- 
trees, with isolated fir-trees of the shape of 
parasols, with porticoes and temples in the 
Pompadour style, with statues of satyrs and 
nymphs of the Bernini school, with rococo 
tritons in the midst of meandering lakes, closed 
in by low parapets of blackened marble? 
144 



PHANTOMS 

Wasn't it Versailles? No, it was not Ver- 
sailles. A small palace, also rococo, peeped 
out behind a clump of bushy oaks. The moon 
shone dimly, shrouded in mist, and over the 
earth there was, as it were spread out, a delicate 
smoke. The eye could not decide what it was, 
whether moonlight or fog. On one of the lakes 
a swan was asleep ; its long back was white as 
the snow of the frost-bound steppes, while 
glow-worms gleamed like diamonds in the 
bluish shadow at the base of a statue. 

' We are near Mannheim,' said Alice ; * this is 
the Schwetzingen garden.' 

' We are in Germany,' I thought, and I fell to 
listening. All was silence, except somewhere, 
secluded and unseen, the splash and babble of 
falling water. It seemed continually to repeat 
the same words : ' Aye, aye, aye, for aye, aye.' 
And all at once I fancied that in the very centre 
of one of the avenues, between clipped walls of 
green, a cavalier came tripping along in red- 
heeled boots, a gold-braided coat, with lace 
ruffs at his wrists, a light steel rapier at his 
thigh, smilingly offering his arm to a lady in a 
powdered wig and a gay chintz. . . . Strange, 
pale faces. ... I tried to look into them. . . . 
But already everything had vanished, and as 
before there was nothing but the babbling 
water. 

145 к 



DREAM TALES 

'Those are dreams wandering,' whispered 
Alice ; ' yesterday there was much — oh, much — 
to see ; to-day, even the dreams avoid man's 
eye. Forward ! forward ! ' 

We soared higher and flew farther on. So 
smooth and easy was our flight that it seemed 
that we moved not, but everything moved to 
meet us. Mountains came into view, dark, 
undulating, covered with forest ; they rose up 
and swam towards us. . . . And now they were 
slipping by beneath us, with all their windings, 
hollows, and narrow glades, with gleams of light 
from rapid brooks among the slumbering trees 
at the bottom of the dales ; and in front of us 
more mountains sprung up again and floated 
towards us. . . . We were in the heart of the 
Black Forest. 

Mountains, still mountains . . . and forest, 
magnificent, ancient, stately forest. The night 
sky was clear ; I could recognise some kinds of 
trees, especially the splendid firs, with their 
straight white trunks. Here and there on the 
edge of the forest, wild goats could be seen ; 
graceful and alert, they stood on their slender 
legs and listened, turning their heads prettily 
and pricking up their great funnel-shaped ears. 
A ruined tower, sightless and gloomy, on the 
crest of a bare cliff, laid bare its crumbling 
turrets ; above the old forgotten stones, a little 
146 



PHANTOMS 

golden star was shining peacefully. From a 
small almost black lake rose, like a mysterious 
wail, the plaintive croak of tiny frogs. I 
fancied other notes, long-drawn-out, languid 
like the strains of an ^olian harp. . . . Here 
we were in the home of legend ! The same 
delicate moonlight mist, which had struck me 
in Schwetzingen, was shed here on every side, 
and the farther away the mountains, the thicker 
was this mist. I counted up five, six, ten dif- 
ferent tones of shadow at different heights on 
the mountain slopes, and over all this realm of 
varied silence the moon queened it pensively. 
The air blew in soft, light currents. I felt my- 
self a lightness at heart, and, as it were, a lofty 
calm and melancholy. . . . 

' Alice, you must love this country ! ' 

' I love nothing.' 

' How so ? Not me ? ' 

' Yes . . . you ! ' she answered indifferently. 

It seemed to me that her arm clasped my 
waist more tightly than before. 

' Forward ! forward ! ' said Alice, with a sort 
of cold fervour. 

* Forward ! ' I repeated. 



И7 



DREAM TALES 



XXI 



A LOUD, thrilling cry rang out suddenly over 
our heads, and was at once repeated a little in 
front. 

* Those are belated cranes flying to you, to 
the north,' said Alice ; ' would you like to join 
them ? ' 

' Yes, yes ! raise me up to them.' 

We darted upwards and in one instant found 
ourselves beside the flying flock. 

The big handsome birds (there were thirteen 
of them) were flying in a triangle, with slow 
sharp flaps of their hollow wings ; with their 
heads and legs stretched rigidly out, and their 
breasts stiffly pressed forward, they pushed on 
persistently and so swiftly that the air whistled 
about them. It was marvellous at such a 
height, so remote from all things living, to see 
such passionate, strenuous life, such unflinching 
will, untiringly cleaving their triumphant way 
through space. The cranes now and then called 
to one another, the foremost to the hindmost ; 
and there was a certain pride, dignity, and 
invincible faith in these loud cries, this converse 
in the clouds. *We shall get there, be sure, 
hard though it be,' they seemed to say, cheering 
148 



PHANTOMS 

one another on. And then the thought came 
to me that men, such as these birds — in Russia 
— nay, in the whole world, are few. 

' We are flying towards Russia now,' observed 
Alice. I noticed now, not for the first time, that 
she almost always knew what I was thinking 
of. ' Would you like to go back ? ' 

' Let us go back ... or no ! I have been in 
Paris ; take me to Petersburg.' 

' Now ? ' 

* At once. . . . Only wrap my head in your 
veil, or it will go ill with me.' 

Alice raised her hand . . . but before the 
mist enfolded me, I had time to feel on my lips 
the contact of that soft, dull sting. . . . 



XXII 

* Ll-I-ISTEN ! ' sounded in my ears a long drawn 
out cry. ' Li-i-isten ! ' was echoed back with a 
sort of desperation in the distance. ' Li-i-isten !' 
died away somewhere far, far away. I started. 
A tall golden spire flashed on my eyes ; I 
recognised the fortress of St. Peter and St. 
Paul. 

A northern, pale night ! But was it night 
at all ? Was it not rather a pallid, sickly day- 
149 



DREAM TALES 

light ? I never liked Petersburg nights ; but 
this time the night seemed even fearful to me ; 
the face of Alice had vanished completely, 
melted away like the mist of morning in the 
July sun, and I saw her whole body clearly, as 
it hung, heavy and solitary on a level with the 
Alexander column. So here was Petersburg ! 
Yes, it was Petersburg, no doubt. The wide 
empty grey streets ; the greyish-white, and 
yellowish-grey and greyish-lilac houses, covered 
with stucco, which was peeling off, with their 
sunken windows, gaudy sign-boards, iron can- 
opies over steps, and wretched little green- 
grocer's shops ; the fagades, inscriptions, sentry- 
boxes, troughs ; the golden cap of St Isaac's ; 
the senseless motley Bourse ; the granite 
walls of the fortress, and the broken wooden 
pavement ; the "^^rges loaded with hay and 
timber ; the smell of dust, cabbage, matting, 
and hemp; the stony-faced jdvorniks in sheep- 
c skin coats, with high collars ; the cab-drivers, 
huddled up dead asleep on their decrepit cabs 
— yes, this was Petersburg, our northern Pal- 
myra. Everything was visible ; everything was 
clear — cruelly clear and distinct — and every- 
thing was mournfully sleeping, standing out in 
strange huddled masses in the dull clear air. 
The flush of sunset — a hectic flush — had not 
yet gone, and would not be gone till morning 
150 



PHANTOMS 

from the white starless sky ; it was reflected on 
the silken surface of the. .NevBr while faintly- 
gurgling and faintly moving, the cold blue 
waves hurried on. . . . 

* Let us fly away,' Alice implored. 

And without waiting for my reply, she bore 
me away across the Neva, over the palace 
square to Liteiny Street. Steps and voices 
were audible beneath us ; a group of young 
men, with worn faces, came along the street 
talking about dancing-classes. ' Sub-lieutenant 
Stolpakov's seventh ! ' shouted suddenly a 
soldier, standing half-asleep on guard at a 
pyramid of rusty bullets ; and a little farther 
on, at an open window in a tall house, I saw a 
girl in a creased silk dress, without cuffs, with a' 
pearl net on her hair, and a cigarette in her 
mouth. She was reading a book with reverent 
attention ; it was a volume of the works of one 
of our modern Juvenals. 

' Let us fly away ! ' I said to Alice. 

One instant more, and there were glimpses 
below us of the rotting pine copses and mossy 
bogs surrounding Petersburg. We bent our 
course straight to the south ; sky, earth, all 
grew gradually darker and darker. The sick 
night ; the sick daylight ; the sick town — all 
were left behind us. ^ 



151 



DREAM TALES 



XXIII 



We flew more slowly than usual, and I was able 
to follow with my eyes the immense expanse of 
my native land gradually unfolding before me, 
like the unrolling of an endless panorama. 
Forests, copses, fields, ravines, rivers — here and 
there villages and churches — and again fields 
and forests and copses and ravines. . . . Sad- 
ness came over me, and a kind of indifferent 
dreariness. And I was not sad and dreary 
simply because it was Russia I was flying over. 
No. The earth itself, this flat surface which 
lay spread out beneath me ; the whole earthly 
globe, with its populations, multitudinous, feeble, 
crushed by want, grief and diseases, bound to a 
clod of pitiful dust ; this brittle, rough crust, 
this shell over the fiery sands of our planet, 
overspread with the mildew we call the organic, 
vegetable kingdom ; these human flies, a thou- 
sand times paltrier than flies ; their dwellings 
glued together with filth, the pitiful traces of 
their tiny, monotonous bustle, of their comic 
struggle with the unchanging and inevitable, 
how revolting it all suddenly was to me. My 
heart turned slowly sick, and I could not bear 
to gaze longer on these trivial pictures, on this 
152 



PHANTOMS 

vulgar show. . . . Yes, I felt dreary, worse than 
dreary. Even pity I felt nothing of for my 
brother men : all feelings in me were merged in 
one which I scarcely dare to name : a feeling of 
loathing, and stronger than all and more than 
all within me was the loathing — for mysel£ 

' Cease,' whispered Alice, ' cease, or I cannot 
carry you. You have grown heavy.' 

* Home,' I answered her in the very tone in 
which I used to say the word to my coachman, 
when I came out at four o'clock at night from 
some Moscow friends', where I had been talking 
since dinner-time of the future of Ru^^sia and 
the significance of the commune. ' Home,' I 
repeated, and closed my eyes. 



XXIV 

But I soon opened them again. Alice seemed 
huddling strangely up to me ; she was almost 
pushing against me. I looked at her and 
my blood froze at the sight. One who has 
chanced to behold on the face of another a 
sudden look of intense terror, the cause of which 
he does not suspect, will understand me. By 
terror, overmastering terror, the pale features of 
Alice were drawn and contorted, almost effaced. 
I had never seen anything like it even on a 
153 



DREAM TALES 

living human face. A lifeless, misty phantom, 
a shade, . . . and this deadly horror. . . . 

* Alice, what is it ? ' I said at last. 

' She . . . she . . .' she answered with an 
effort. * She.' 

' She ? Who is she ? ' 

' Do not utter her name, not her name,' Alice 
faltered hurriedly. ' We must escape, or there 
will be an end to everything, and for ever. . . . 
Look, over there ! ' 

I turned my head in the direction in which 
her trembling hand was pointing, and discerned 
something . . . something horrible indeed. 

This something was the more horrible that it 
had no definite shape. Something bulky, dark, 
yellowish -black, spotted like a lizard's belly, 
not a storm-cloud, and not smoke, was crawling 
with a snake-like motion over the earth. A 
wide rhythmic undulating movement from above 
downwards, and from below upwards, an до- 
dulation recalling the malignant sweep of the 
wings of a vulture seeking its prey ; at times 
an indescribably revolting grovelling on the 
earth, as of a spider stooping over its captured 
fly. . . . Who are you, what are you, menacing 
mass ? Under her influence, I saw it, I felt it 
— all sank into nothingness, all was dumb. . . . 
A putrefying, pestilential chill came from it. 
At this chill breath the heart turned sick, and 
154 



PHANTOMS 

the eyes grew dim, and the hair stood up on 
the head. It was a power moving ; that power 
which there is no^ resisting, to which all is sub- 
ject, which, sightless, shapeless, senseless, sees 
all, knows all, and like a bird of prey picks out 
its victims, like a snake, stifles them and stabs 
them with its frozen sting. . . . 

' Alice ! Alice ! ' I shrieked like one in 
frenzy. ' It is death ! death itself! ' 

The wailing sound I had heard before broke 
from Alice's lips ; this time it was more like 
a human wail of despair, and we flew. But our 
flight was strangely and alarmingly unsteady ; 
Alice turned over in the air, fell, rushed from 
side to side like a partridge mortally wounded, 
or trying to attract a dog away from her young. 
And meanwhile in pursuit of us, parting from 
the indescribable mass of horror, rushed sort 
of long undulating tentacles, like outstretched 
arms, like talons. . . . Suddenly a huge shape, 
a muffled figure on a pale horse, sprang up and 
flew upwards into the very heavens. . . . Still 
more fearfully, still more desperately Alice 
struggled. ' She has seen ! All is over ! I am 
lost ! ' I heard her broken whisper. ' Oh, I am 
miserable ! I might have profited, have won 
life, . . . and now. . . . Nothingness, nothing- 
ness ! ' It was too unbearable. ... I lost 
consciousness. 



DREAM TALES 



XXV 



When I came to myself, I was lying on my 
back in the grass, feeling a dull ache all over me, 
as from a bad bruise. The dawn was beginning 
in the sky : I could clearly distinguish things. 
Not far off, alongside a birch copse, ran a road 
planted with willows : the country seemed 
familiar to me. I began to recollect what had 
happened to me, and shuddered all over directly 
my mind recalled the last, hideous apparition. . . . 

' But what was Alice afraid of? ' I thought. 
' Can she too be subject to that power? Is she 
not immortal? Can she too be in danger of 
annihilation, dissolution ? How is it possible ? ' 

A soft moan sounded close by me. I turned 
my head. Two paces from me lay stretched 
out motionless a young woman in a white 
gown, with thick disordered tresses, with bare 
shoulders. One arm was thrown behind her 
head, the other had fallen on her bosom. Her 
eyes were closed, and on her tightly shut lips 
stood a fleck of crimson stain. Could it be 
Alice ? But Alice was a phantom, and I was 
looking upon a living woman. I crept up to 
her, bent down. . . . 

' Alice, is it you ? ' I cried. Suddenly, slowly 
156 



PHANTOMS 

quivering, the wide eyelids rose ; dark piercing 
eyes were fastened upon me, and at the same 
instant lips too fastened upon me, warm, moist, 
smelling of blood . . . soft arms twined tightly 
round my neck, a burning, full heart pressed 
convulsively to mine. ' Farewell, farewell for 
ever ! ' the dying voice uttered distinctly, and 
everything vanished. 

I got up, staggering like a drunken man, and 
passing my hands several times over my face, 
looked carefully about me. I found myself 
near the high road, a mile and a half from my 
own place. The sun had just risen when I 
got home. 

All the following nights I awaited — and I 
confess not without alarm — the appearance of 
my phantom ; but it 'did not visit me again. I 
even set off one day, in the dusk, to the old 
oak, but nothing took place there out of the 
common. I did not, however, overmuch regret 
the discontinuance of this strange acquaintance. 
I reflected much and long over this inexplicable, 
almost unintelligible phenomenon ; and I am 
convinced that not only science cannot explain 
it, but that even in fairy tales and legends 
nothing like it is to be met with. What was 
Alice, after all ? An apparition, a restless soul, 
an evil spirit, a sylphide, a vampire, or what ? 
Sometimes it struck me again that Alice was a 
157 



DREAM TALES 

woman I had known at some time or other, and 
I made tremendous efforts to recall where I had 
seen her. . . . Yes, yes, I thought sometimes, 
directly, this minute, I shall remember. ... In a 
flash everything had melted away again like a 
dream. Yes, I thought a great deal, and, as is 
always the way, came to no conclusion. The 
advice or opinion of others I could not bring my- 
self to invite ; fearing to be taken for a madman. 
I gave up all reflection upon it at last ; to tell the 
truth, I had no time for it. For one thing, the 
emancipation had come along w}th the redistri- 
bution of property, etc.; and for another, my own 
health failed ; I suffered with my chest, with 
sleeplessness, and a cough. I got thin all over. 
My face was yellow as a dead man's. The 
doctor declares I have too little blood, calls my 
illness by the Greek name, 'anaemia,' and is 
sending me to Gastein. The arbitrator swears 
that without me there 's no coming to an under- 
standing with the peasants. Well, what 's one 
to do? 

But what is the meaning of the piercingly- 
pure, shrill notes, the notes of an harmonica, 
which I hear directly any one's death is spoken 
of before me ? They keep growing louder, more 
penetrating. . . . And why do I shudder in such 
anguish at the mere thought of annihilation ? 



158 



THE SONG 
OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

[MDXLII] 

DEDICATED 
TO THE MEMORY OF GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 

' Wage Du zn irren imd Z7i trdvme?i!' — Schiller 



THE SONG 
OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

This is what I read in an old Italian manu- 
script : — 



About the middle of the sixteenth century 
there were living in Ferrara (it was at that 
time flourishing under the sceptre of its magni- 
ficent archdukes, the patrons of the arts and 
poetry) two young men, named Fabio and 
Muzzio. They were of the same age, and of 
near kinship, and were scarcely ever apart ; the 
warmest affection had united them from early 
childhood . . . the similarity of their positions 
strengthened the bond. Both belonged to old 
families ; both were rich, independent, and 
without family ties ; tastes and inclinations 
were alike in both. Muzzio was devoted to 
music, Fabio to painting. They were looked 
upon with pride by the whole of Ferrara, as 
i6i L 



DREAM TALES 

ornaments of the court, society, and town. In 
appearance, however, they were not alike, 
though both were distinguished by a graceful, 
youthful beauty. Fabio was taller, fair of face 
and flaxen of hair, and he had blue eyes. 
Muzzio, on the other hand, had a swarthy face 
and black hair, and in his dark brown eyes 
there was not the merry light, nor on his lips 
the genial smile of Fabio ; his thick eyebrows 
overhung narrow eyelids, while Fabio's golden 
eyebrows formed delicate half-circles on his 
pure, smooth brow. In conversation, too, 
Muzzio was less animated. For all that, the 
two friends were both alike looked on with 
favour by ladies, as well they might be, being 
models of chivalrous courtliness and generosity. 
At the same time there was living in Ferrara 
a girl named Valeria. She was considered one 
of the greatest beauties in the town, though it 
was very seldom possible to see her, as she led 
a retired life, and never went out except to 
church, and on great holidays for a walk. She 
lived with her mother, a widow of noble family, 
though of small fortune, who had no other 
children. In every one whom Valeria met she 
inspired a sensation of involuntary admiration, 
and an equally involuntary tenderness and 
respect, so modest was her mien, so little, it 
seemed, was she aware of all the power of her 
162 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

own charms. Some, it is true, found her a 
little pale ; her eyes, almost always downcast, 
expressed a certain shyness, even timidity ; her 
lips rarely smiled, and then only faintly ; her 
voice scarcely any one had heard. But the 
rumour went that it was most beautiful, and 
that, shut up in her own room, in the early 
morning when everything still slumbered in the 
town, she loved to sing old songs to the sound 
of the lute, on which she used to play herself. 
In spite of her pallor, Valeria was blooming 
with health ; and even old people, as they 
gazed on her, could not but think, *0h, how 
happy the youth for whom that pure maiden 
bud, still enfolded in its petals, will one day 
open into full flower ! ' 



II 



Fabio and Muzzio saw Valeria for the first 
time at a magnificent public festival, celebrated 
at the command of the Archduke of Ferrara, 
Ercol, son of the celebrated Lucrezia Borgia, in 
honour of some illustrious grandees who had 
come from Paris on the invitation of the 
Archduchess, daughter of the French king, 
Louis XII. Valeria was sitting beside her 
163 



DREAM TALES 

mother on an elegant tribune, built after a 
design of Palladio, in the principal square of 
Ferrara, for the most honourable ladies in the 
town. Both Fabio and Muzzio fell passionately 
in love with her on that day ; and, as they 
never had any secrets from each other, each 
of them soon knew what was passing in his 
friend's heart. They agreed together that 
both should try to get to know Valeria ; and 
if she should deign to choose one of them, the 
other should submit without a murmur to her 
decision. A few weeks later, thanks to the 
excellent renown they deservedly enjoyed, they 
succeeded in penetrating into the widow's house, 
difficult though it was to obtain an entry to it ; 
she permitted them to visit her. From that 
time forward they were able almost every day 
to see Valeria and to converse with her ; and 
every day the passion kindled in the hearts of 
both young men grew stronger and stronger. 
Valeria, however, showed no preference for 
either of them, though their society was ob- 
viously agreeable to her. With Muzzio, she 
occupied herself with music ; but she talked 
more with Fabio, with him she was less timid. 
At last, they resolved to learn once for all their 
fate, and sent a letter to Valeria, in which they 
begged her to be open with them, and to say to 
which she would be ready to give her hand. 
164 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

Valeria showed this letter to her mother, and 
declared that she was willing to remain un- 
married, but if her mother considered it time 
for her to enter upon matrimony, then she 
would marry whichever one her mother's 
choice should fix upon. The excellent widow 
shed a few tears at the thought of parting from 
her beloved child ; there was, however, no good 
ground for refusing the suitors, she considered 
both of them equally worthy of her daughter's 
hand. But, as she secretly preferred Fabio, 
and suspected that Valeria liked him the better, 
she fixed upon him. The next day Fabio 
heard of his happy fate, while all that was left 
for Muzzio was to keep his word, and submit. 

And this he did ; but to be the witness of 
the triumph of his friend and rival was more 
than he could do. He promptly sold the 
greater part of his property, and collecting 
some thousands of ducats, he set off on a far 
journey to the East. As he said farewell to 
Fabio, he told him that he should not return 
till he felt that the last traces of passion had 
vanished from his heart. It was painful to 
Fabio to part from the friend of his childhood 
and youth. . . . but the joyous anticipation of 
approaching bliss soon swallowed up all other 
sensations, and he gave himself up wholly to 
the transports of successful love. 
165 



DREAM TALES 

Shortly after, he celebrated his nuptials with 
Valeria, and only then learnt the full worth of 
the treasure it had been his fortune to obtain. 
He had a charming villa, shut in by a shady 
garden, a short distance from Ferrara ; he 
moved thither with his wife and her mother. 
Then a time of happiness began for them. 
Married life brought out in a new and enchant- 
ing light all the perfections of Valeria. Fabio 
became an artist of distinction — no longer a 
mere amateur, but a real master. Valeria's 
mother rejoiced, and thanked God as she 
looked upon the happy pair. Four years flew 
by unperceived, like a delicious dream. One 
thing only was wanting to the young couple, 
one lack they mourned over as a sorrow : they 
had no children . . . but they had not given 
up all hope of them. At the end of the fourth 
year they were overtaken by a great, this time 
a real sorrow ; Valeria's mother died after an 
illness of a few days. 

Many tears were shed by Valeria ; for a long 
time she could not accustom herself to her loss. 
But another year went by ; life again asserted 
its rights and flowed along its old channel. 
And behold, one fine summer evening, unex- 
pected by every one, Muzzio returned to 
Ferrara. 



i66 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 



III 



During the whole space of five years that had 
elapsed since his departure no one had heard 
anything of him ; all talk about him had died 
away, as though he had vanished from the face 
of the earth. When Fabio met his friend in 
one of the streets of Ferrara he almost cried out 
aloud, first in alarm and then in delight, and 
he at once invited him to his villa. There 
happened to be in his garden there a spacious 
pavilion, apart from the house ; he proposed to 
his friend that he should establish himself in 
this pavilion. Muzzio readily agreed and moved 
thither the same day together with his servant, 
a dumb Malay — dumb but not deaf, and indeed, 
to judge by the alertness of his expression, a 
very intelligent man. . . . His tongue had been 
cut out. Muzzio brought with him dozens of 
boxes, filled with treasures of all sorts collected 
by him in the course of his prolonged travels. 
Valeria was delighted at Muzzio's return ; and 
he greeted her with cheerful friendliness, but 
composure ; it could be seen in every action 
that he had kept the promise given to Fabio. 
During the day he completely arranged every- 
thing in order in his pavilion ; aided by his 
167 



DREAM TALES 

Malay, he unpacked the curiosities he had 
brought ; rugs, silken stuffs, velvet and brocaded 
garments, weapons, goblets, dishes and bowls, 
decorated with enamel, things made of gold 
and silver, and inlaid with pearl and turquoise, 
carved boxes of jasper and ivory, cut bottles, 
spices, incense, skins of wild beasts, and 
feathers of unknown birds, and a number of 
other things, the very use of which seemed mys- 
terious and incomprehensible. Among all these 
precious things there was a rich pearl necklace, 
bestowed upon Muzzio by the king of Persia 
for some great and secret service ; he asked 
permission of Valeria to put this necklace with 
his own hand about her neck ; she was struck 
by its great weight and a sort of strange heat 
in it ... it seemed to burn to her skin. In 
the evening after dinner as they sat on the 
terrace of the villa in the shade of the oleanders 
and laurels, Muzzio began to relate his adven- 
tures. He told of the distant lands he had 
seen, of cloud-topped mountains and deserts, 
rivers like seas ; he told of immense buildings 
and temples, of trees a thousand years old, of 
birds and flowers of the colours of the rainbow : 
he named the cities and the peoples he had 
visited . . . their very names seemed like a fairy 
tale. The whole East was familiar to Muzzio ; 
he had traversed Persia, Arabia, where the 
i68 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

horses are nobler and more beautiful than any 
other living creatures ; he had penetrated into 
the very heart of India, where the race of men 
grow like stately trees ; he had reached the 
boundaries of China and Thibet, where the 
living god, called the Grand Llama, dwells on 
earth in the guise of a silent man with narrow 
eyes. Marvellous were his tales. Both Fabio 
and Valeria listened to him as if enchanted. 
Muzzio's features had really changed very little ; 
his face, swarthy from childhood, had grown 
darker still, burnt under the rays of a hotter 
sun, his eyes seemed more deep-set than before 
— and that was all ; but the expression of his 
face had become different : concentrated and 
dignified, it never showed more life when he 
recalled the dangers he had encountered by 
night in forests that resounded with the roar of 
tigers or by day on solitary ways where savage 
fanatics lay in wait for travellers, to slay them 
in honour of their iron goddess who demands 
human sacrifices. And Muzzio's voice had 
grown deeper and more even ; his hands, his 
whole body had lost the freedom of gesture 
peculiar to the Italian race. With the aid of his 
servant, the obsequiously alert Malay, he 
showed his hosts a few of the feats he had 
learnt from the Indian Brahmins. Thus for 
instance, having first hidden himself behind a 
169 



DREAM TALES 

curtain, he suddenly appeared sitting in the air 
cross-legged, the tips of his fingers pressed 
lightly on a bamboo cane placed vertically, 
which astounded Fabio not a little and posi- 
tively alarmed Valeria. . . . ' Isn't he a sorcerer?' 
was her thought. When he proceeded, piping 
on a little flute, to call some tame snakes out of 
a covered basket, where their dark flat heads 
with quivering tongues appeared under a parti- 
coloured cloth, Valeria was terrified and begged 
Muzzio to put away these loathsome horrors as 
soon as possible. At supper Muzzio regaled 
his friends with wine of Shiraz from a round 
long-necked flagon ; it was of extraordinary 
fragrance and thickness, of a golden colour with 
a shade of green in it, and it shone with a 
strange brightness as it was poured into the 
tiny jasper goblets. In taste it was unlike 
European wines : it was very sweet and spicy, 
and, drunk slowly in small draughts, produced 
a sensation of pleasant drowsiness in all the 
limbs. Muzzio made both Fabio and Valeria 
drink a goblet of it, and he drank one him- 
self. Bending over her goblet he murmured 
something, moving his fingers as he did so. 
Valeria noticed this ; but as in all Muzzio's 
doings, in his whole behaviour, there was some- 
thing strange and out of the common, she only 
thought, ' Can he have adopted some new faith 
T70 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

in India, or is that the custom there ? ' Then 
after a short silence she asked him : ' Had he 
persevered with music during his travels?* 
Muzzio, in reply, bade the Malay bring his 
Indian violin. It was like those of to-day, but 
instead of four strings it had only three, the 
upper part of it was covered with a bluish 
snake-skin, and the slender bow of reed was in 
the form of a half- moon, and on its extreme 
end glittered a pointed diamond. 

Muzzio played first some mournful airs, 
national songs as he told them, strange and 
even barbarous to an Italian ear ; the sound of 
the metallic strings was plaintive and feeble. 
But when Muzzio began the last song, it 
suddenly gained force and rang out tunefully 
and powerfully ; the passionate melody flowed 
out under the wide sweeps of the bow, flowed 
out, exquisitely twisting and coiling like the 
snake that covered the violin-top ; and such 
fire, such triumphant bliss glowed and 
burned in this melody that Fabio and Valeria 
felt wrung to the heart and tears came into 
their eyes ; . . . while Muzzio, his head bent, 
and pressed close to the violin, his cheeks pale, 
his eyebrows drawn together into a single 
straight line, seemed still more concentrated 
and solemn ; and the diamond at the end of 
the bow flashed sparks of light as though it too 
171 



DREAM TALES 

were kindled by the fire of the divine song. 
When Muzzio had finished, and still keeping fast 
the violin between his chin and his shoulder, 
dropped the hand that held the bow, 'What 
is that ? What is that you have been playing 
to us?' cried Fabio. Valeria uttered not a 
word — but her whole being seemed echoing her 
husband's question. Muzzio laid the violin on 
the table — and slightly tossing back his hair, he 
said with a polite smile : ' That — that melody 
. . . that song I heard once in the island of 
Ceylon. That song is known there among the 
people as the song of happy, triumphant love.' 
' Play it again,' Fabio was murmuring. ' No ; it 
can't be played again,' answered Muzzio. * Be- 
sides, it is now too late. Signora Valeria ought 
to be at rest ; and it 's time for me too ... I 
am weary.' During the whole day Muzzio had 
treated Valeria with respectful simplicity, as a 
friend of former days, but as he went out he 
clasped her hand very tightly, squeezing his 
fingers on her palm, and looking so intently 
into her face that though she did not raise her 
eyelids, she yet felt the look on her suddenly 
flaming cheeks. She said nothing to Muzzio, 
but jerked away her hand, and when he was 
gone, she gazed at the door through which he 
had passed out. She remembered how she had 
been a little afraid of him even in old days . . . 
172 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

and now she was overcome by perplexity. 
Muzzio went off to his pavilion : the husband 
and wife went to their bedroom. 



IV 



Valeria did not quickly fall asleep ; there 
was a faint and languid fever in her blood and 
a slight ringing in her ears . . . from that 
strange wine, as she supposed, and perhaps 
too from Muzzio's stories, from his playing 
on the violin . . . towards morning she did at 
last fall asleep, and she had an extraordinary 
dream. 

She dreamt that she was going into a large 
room with a low ceiling . . . Such a room she 
had never seen in her life. All the walls were 
covered with tiny blue tiles with gold lines on 
them ; slender carved pillars of alabaster 
supported the marble ceiling ; the ceiling itself 
and the pillars seemed half transparent ... a 
pale rosy light penetrated from all sides into 
the room, throwing a mysterious and uniform 
light on all the objects in it; brocaded cushions 
lay on a narrow rug in the very middle of the 
floor, which was smooth as a mirror. In the 
corners almost unseen were smoking lofty 
173 



DREAM TALES 

censers, of the shape of monstrous beasts ; there 
was no window anywhere ; a door hung with a 
velvet curtain stood dark and silent in a recess 
in the wall. And suddenly this curtain slowly 
glided, moved aside . . . and in came Muzzio. 
He bowed, opened his arms, laughed . . . His 
fierce arms enfolded Valeria's waist ; his 
parched lips burned her all over. . . . She fell 
backwards on the cushions. 

Moaning with horror, after long struggles, 
Valeria awaked. Still not realising where she 
was and what was happening to her, she raised 
herself on her bed, looked round ... A tremor 
ran over her whole body. . . . Fabio was lying 
beside her. He was asleep ; but his face in the 
light of the brilliant full moon looking in at 
the window was pale as a corpse's ... it was 
sadder than a dead face. Valeria waked her 
husband, and directly he looked at her. ' What 
is the matter ? ' he cried. ' I had — I had a 
fearful dream,' she whispered, still shuddering 
all over. 

But at that instant from the direction of the 
pavilion came floating powerful sounds, and 
both Fabio and Valeria recognised the melody 
Muzzio had played to them, calling it the song 
of blissful triumphant love. Fabio looked in 
perplexity at Valeria . . . she closed her eyes, 
174 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

turned away, and both holding their breath, 
heard the song out to the end. As the last 
note died away, the moon passed behind a 
cloud, it was suddenly dark in the room. , . . 
Both the young people let their heads sink on 
their pillows without exchanging a word, and 
neither of them noticed when the other fell 
asleep. 



The next morning Muzzio came in to break- 
fast; he seemed happy and greeted Valeria 
cheerfully. She answered him in confusion — 
stole a glance at him — and felt frightened at 
the sight of that serene happy face, those 
piercing and inquisitive eyes. Muzzio was 
beginning again to tell some story . . . but 
Fabio interrupted him at the first word. 

'You could not sleep, I see, in your new 
quarters. My wife and I heard you playing 
last night's song.' 

' Yes ! Did you hear it ? ' said Muzzio. ' I 
played it indeed ; but I had been asleep before 
that, and I had a wonderful dream too.' 

Valeria was on the alert. ' What sort of 
dream ? ' asked Fabio. 

175 



DREAM TALES 

* I dreamed/ answered Muzzio, not taking his 
eyes off Valeria, ' I was entering a spacious 
apartment with a ceiling decorated in Oriental 
fashion, carved columns supported the roof, the 
walls were covered with tiles, and though there 
were neither windows nor lights, the whole room 
was filled with a rosy light, just as though it 
were all built of transparent stone. In the 
corners, Chinese censers were smoking, on the 
floor lay brocaded cushions along a narrow rug. 
I went in through a door covered with a 
curtain, and at another door just opposite 
appeared a woman whom I once loved. And 
so beautiful she seemed to me, that I was all 
aflame with my old love . . .' 

Muzzio broke off significantly. Valeria sat 
motionless, and only gradually she turned 
white . . . and she drew her breath more 
slowly. 

* Then,' continued Muzzio, ' I waked up and 
played that song.' 

* But who was that woman ? ' said Fabio. 

' Who was she ? The wife of an Indian — I 
met her in the town of Delhi . . . She is not 
alive now — she died.' 

' And her husband ? ' asked Fabio, not know- 
ing why he asked the question. 

* Her husband, too, they say is dead. I soon 
lost sight of them both.' 

176 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

' Strange ! ' observed Fabio. ' My wife too 
had an extraordinary dream last night' — 
Muzzio gazed intently at Valeria — ' which she 
did not tell me,' added Fabio. 

But at this point Valeria got up and went 
out of the room. Immediately after breakfast, 
Muzzio too went away, explaining that he had 
to be in Ferrara on business, and that he would 
not be back before the evening. 



VI 



A FEW weeks before Muzzio's return, Fabio 
had begun a portrait of his wife, depicting her 
with the attributes of Saint Cecilia. He had 
made considerable advance in his art ; the re- 
nowned Luini, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, 
used to come to him at Ferrara, and while aid- 
ing him with his own counsels, pass on also the 
precepts of his great master. The portrait was 
almost completely finished ; all that was left 
was to add a few strokes to the face, and 
Fabio might well be proud of his creation. 
After seeing Muzzio off on his way to Ferrara, 
he turned into his studio, where Valeria was 
usually waiting for him ; but he did not find 
177 M 



DREAM TALES 

her there ; he called her, she did not respond. 
Fabio was overcome by a secret uneasiness ; he 
began looking for her. She was nowhere in the 
house ; Fabio ran into the garden, and there in 
one of the more secluded walks he caught sight 
of Valeria. She was sitting on a seat, her head 
drooping on to her bosom and her hands folded 
upon her knees ; while behind her, peeping out 
of the dark green of a cypress, a marble satyff 
with a distorted malignant grin on his face, was 
putting his pouting lips to a Pitt's pipe. Valeria 
was visibly relieved at her husband's appearance, 
and to his agitated questions she replied that 
she had a slight headache, but that it was of no 
consequence, and she was ready to come to sit 
to him. Fabio led her to the studio, posed her, 
and took up his brush ; but to his great vexa- 
tion, he could not finish the face as he would 
have liked to. And not because it was some- 
what pale and looked exhausted ... no ; but 
the pure, saintly expression, which he liked so 
much in it, and which had given him the idea 
of painting Valeria as Saint Cecilia, he could 
not find in it that day, He flung down the 
brush at last, told his wife he was not in the 
mood for work, and that he would not prevent 
her from lying down, as she did not look at all 
well, and put the canvas with its face to the 
wall. Valeria agreed with him that she ought 
178 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

to rest, and repeating her complaints of a 
headache, withdrew into her bedroom. 

Fabio remained in the studio. He felt a 
strange confused sensation incomprehensible to 
himself Muzzio's stay under his roof, to which 
he, Fabio, had himself urgently invited him, was 
irksome to him. And not that he was jealous 
— could any one have been jealous of Valeria ! 
— but he did not recognise his former comrade 
in his friend. All that was strange, unknown 
and new that Muzzio had brought with him 
from those distant lands — and which seemed to 
have entered into his very flesh and blood — 
all these magical feats, songs, strange drinks, 
this dumb Malay, even the spicy fragrance 
diffused by Muzzio's garments, his hair, his 
breath — all this inspired in Fabio a sensation 
akin to distrust, possibly even to timidity. 
And why did that Malay waiting at table stare 
with such disagreeable intentness at him, Fabio ? 
Really any one might suppose that he under- 
stood Italian. Muzzio had said of him that in 
losing his tongue, this Malay had made a great 
sacrifice, and in return he was now possessed 
of great power. What sort of power ? and how 
could he have obtained it at the price of his 
tongue ? All this was very strange ! very in- 
comprehensible ! Fabio went into his wife's 
room ; she was lying on the bed, dressed, but 
179 



DREAM TALES 

was not asleep. Hearing his steps, she started, 
then again seemed delighted to see him just as 
in the garden. Fabio sat down beside the bed, 
took Valeria by the hand, and after a short 
silence, asked her, * What was the extraordinary 
dream that had frightened her so the previous 
night ? And was it the same sort at all as 
the dream Muzzio had described?' Valeria 
crimsoned and said hurriedly : ' О ! no ! no ! 
I saw ... a sort of monster which was trying 
to tear me to pieces.' ' A monster ? in the 
shape of a man ? ' asked Fabio. ' No, a beast 
... a beast ! ' Valeria turned away and hid 
her burning face in the pillows. Fabio held 
his wife's hand some time longer ; silently he 
raised it to his lips, and withdrew. 

Both the young people passed that day with 
heavy hearts. Something dark seemed hanging 
over their heads . . . but what it was, they 
could not tell. They wanted to be together, 
as though some danger threatened them ; but 
what to say to one another they did not know. 
Fabio made an effort to take up the portrait, 
and to read Ariosto, whose poem had appeared 
not long before in Ferrara, and was now making 
a noise all over Italy ; but nothing was of any 
use. . . . Late in the evening, just at supper- 
time, Muzzio returned. 



1 80 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 



VII 

He seemed composed and cheerful — but he 
told them little ; he devoted himself rather to 
questioning Fabio about their common ac- 
quaintances, about the German war, and the 
Emperor Charles : he spoke of his own desire 
to visit Rome, to see the new Pope. He again 
offered Valeria some Shiraz wine, and on her 
refusal, observed as though to himself, * Now it 's 
not needed, to be sure.' Going back with his 
wife to their room, Fabio soon fell asleep ; and 
waking up an hour later, felt a conviction that 
no one was sharing his bed ; Valeria was not 
beside him. He got up quickly and at the same 
instant saw his wife in her night attire coming 
out of the garden into the room. The moon was 
shining brightly, though not long before a light 
rain had been falling. With eyes closed, with 
an expression of mysterious horror on her im- 
movable face, Valeria approached the bed, and 
feeling for it with her hands stretched out 
before her, lay down hurriedly and in silence. 
Fabio turned to her with a question, but she 
made no reply ; she seemed to be asleep. He 
touched her, and felt on her dress and on her 
hair drops of rain, and on the soles of her bare 
feet, little grains of sand. Then he leapt up 
i8i 



DREAM TALES 

and ran into the garden through the half-open 
door. The crude brilliance of the moon wrapt 
every object in light. Fabio looked about him, 
and perceived on the sand of the path prints 
of two pairs of feet — one pair were bare ; and 
these prints led to a bower of jasmine, on one 
side, between the pavilion and the house. He 
stood still in perplexity, and suddenly once 
more he heard the strains of the song he had 
listened to the night before. Fabio shuddered, 
ran into the pavilion . . . .Muzzio was standing 
in the middle of the room playing on the violin. 
Fabio rushed up to him. 

' You have been in the garden, your clothes 
are wet with rain.' 

' No . . . I don't know ... I think ... I 
have not been out . . .' Muzzio answered 
slowly, seeming amazed at Fabio's entrance 
and his excitement. 

Fabio seized him by the hand. * And why 
are you playing that melody again ? Have you 
had a dream again ? ' 

Muzzio glanced at Fabio with the same look 
of amazement, and said nothing. 

' Answer me ! ' 



The moon stood high like a round shield . . . 
Like a snake, the river shines . . , 
The friend 's awake, the fee 's asleep . . . 
The bird is in the falcon's clutches . . . Help ! " 
182 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

muttered Muzzio, humming to himself as 
though in delirium. 

Fabio stepped back two paces, stared at 
Muzzio, pondered a moment . , . and went 
back to the house, to his bedroom. 

Valeria, her head sunk on her shoulder and 
her hands hanging lifelessly, was in a heavy- 
sleep. He could not quickly awaken her . . . 
but directly she saw him, she flung herself on 
his neck, and embraced him convulsively ; she 
was trembling all over. ' What is the matter, 
my precious, what is it ? ' Fabio kept repeating, 
trying to soothe her. But she still lay lifeless 
on his breast. * Ah, what fearful dreams I 
have ! ' she whispered, hiding her face against 
him. Fabio would have questioned her . . . 
but she only shuddered. The window-panes 
were flushed with the early light of morning 
when at last she fell asleep in his arms. 



vni 



The next day Muzzio disappeared from early 
morning, while Valeria informed her husband 
that she intended to go away to a neighbouring 
monastery, where lived her spiritual father, an 
old and austere monk, in whom she placed un- 
183 



DREAM TALES 

bounded confidence. To Fabio's inquiries she 
replied, that she wanted by confession to relieve 
her soul, which was weighed down by the ex- 
ceptional impressions of the last few days. As 
he looked upon Valeria's sunken face, and 
listened to her faint voice, Fabio approved of 
her plan ; the worthy Father Lorenzo might 
give her valuable advice, and might disperse her 
doubts. . . . Under the escort of four attendants, 
Valeria set off to the monastery, while Fabio 
remained at home, and wandered about the 
garden till his wife's return, trying to compre- 
hend what had happened to her, and a victim 
to constant fear and wrath, and the pain of 
undefined suspicions. . . . More than once he 
went up to the pavilion ; but Muzzio had not 
returned, and the Malay gazed at Fabio like a 
statue, obsequiously bowing his head, with a 
well-dissembled — so at least it seemed to Fabio 
— smile on his bronzed face. Meanwhile, Valeria 
had in confession told everything to her priest, 
not so much with shame as with horror. 
The priest heard her attentively, gave her his 
blessing, absolved her from her inygluntary_siB, 
but to himself he thought : ' Sorcery, the arts of 
the devil . . . the matter can't be left so,' . . . 
and he returned with Valeria to her villa, as 
though with the aim of completely pacifying 
and reassuring her. At the sight of the priest 
184 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

Fabio was thrown into some agitation ; but the 
experienced old man had thought out before- 
hand how he must treat him. When he was 
left alone with Fabio, he did not of course 
betray the secrets of the confessional, but he 
advised him if possible to get rid of the guest 
they had invited to their house, as by his stories, 
his songs, and his whole behaviour he was 
troubling the imagination of Valeria. Moreover, 
in the old man's opinion, Muzzio had not, he 
remembered, been very firm in the faith in 
former days, and having spent so long a time in 
lands unenlightened by the truths of Christianity, 
he might well have brought thence the con- 
tagion of false doctrine, might even have become 
conversant with secret magic arts ; and, there- 
fore, though long friendship had indeed its 
claims, still a wise prudence pointed to the 
necessity of separation. Fabio fully agreed 
with the excellent monk. Valeria was even 
joyful when her husband reported to her the 
priest's counsel ; and sent on his way with the 
cordial good-will of both the young people, 
loaded with good gifts for the monastery and 
the poor. Father Lorenzo returned home. 

Fabio intended to have an explanation with 

Muzzio immediately after supper ; but his 

strange guest did not return to supper. Then 

Fabio decided to defer his conversation with 

185 



DREAM TALES 



Muzzio until the following day ; and both the 
young people retired to rest. 



IX 



Valeria soon fell asleep ; but Fabio could not 
sleep. In the stillness of the night, everything 
he had seen, everything he had felt presented 
itself more vividly ; he put to himself still 
more insistently questions to which as before 
he could find no answer. Had Muzzio really 
become a sorcerer, and had he not already 
poisoned Valeria? She was ill . . . but what 
was her disease ? While he lay, his head in his 
hand, holding his feverish breath, and given up 
to painful reflection, the moon rose again upon 
a cloudless sky ; and together with its beams, 
through the half-transparent window-panes, 
there began, from the direction of the pavilion 
— or was it Fabio's fancy ? — to come a breath, 
like a light, fragrant current . . . then an urgent, 
passionate murmur was heard . . . and at that 
instant he observed that Valeria was beginning 
faintly to stir. He started, looked ; she rose up, 
slid first one foot, then the other out of the bed, 
and like one bewitched of the moon, her sight- 
less eyes fixed lifelessly before her, her hands 
1 86 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

stretched out, she began moving towards the gar- 
den ! Fabio instantly ran out of the other door 
of the room, and runningquickly round the corner 
of the house, bolted the door that led into the 
garden. . . . He had scarcely time to grasp at 
the bolt, when he felt some one trying to open 
the door from the inside, pressing against it . . . 
again and again . . . and then there was the 
sound of piteous passionate moans . . . 

' But Muzzio has not come back from the 
town,' flashed through Fabio's head, and he 
rushed to the pavilion . . . 

What did he see ? 

Coming towards him, along the path daz- 
zlingly lighted up by the moon's rays, was 
Muzzio, he too moving like one moonstruck, his 
hands held out before him, and his eyes open but 
unseeing. . . . Fabio ran up to him, but he, not 
heeding him, moved on, treading evenly, step 
by step, and his rigid face smiled in the moon- 
light like the Malay's. Fabio would have called 
him by his name . . . but at that instant he 
heard, behind him in the house, the creaking of 
a window. . . . He looked round. . . . 

Yes, the window of the bedroom was open 
from top to bottom, and putting one foot over 
the sill, Valeria stood in the window . . . her 
hands seemed to be seeking Muzzio . . . she 
seemed striving all over towards him. . . . 
187 



DREAM TALES 

Unutterable fury filled Fabio's breast with 
a sudden inrush. ' Accursed sorcerer ! ' he 
shrieked furiously, and seizing Muzzio by the 
throat with one hand, with the other he felt for 
the dagger in his girdle, and plunged the blade 
into his side up to the hilt. 

Muzzio uttered a shrill scream, and clapping 
his hand to the wound, ran staggering back to 
the pavilion. . . . But at the very same instant 
when Fabio stabbed him, Valeria screamed just 
as shrilly, and fell to the earth like grass before 
the scythe. 

Fabio flew to her, raised her up, carried her 
to the bed, began to speak to her. . . . 

She lay a long time motionless, but at last 
she opened her eyes, heaved a deep, broken, 
blissful sigh, like one just rescued from im- 
minent death, saw her husband, and twining her 
arms about his neck, crept close to him. * You, 
you, it is you,' she faltered. Gradually her hands 
loosened their hold, her head sank back, and 
murmuring with a blissful smile, ' Thank God, 
it is all over. . . . But how weary I am ! ' she 
fell into a sound but not heavy sleep. 



i88 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 



Fabio sank down beside her bed, and never 
taking his eyes off her pale and sunken, but 
already calmer, face, began reflecting on what 
had happened . . . and also on how he ought 
to act now. What steps was he to take? If 
he had killed Muzzio — and remembering how 
deeply the dagger had gone in, he could have 
no doubt of it — it could not be hidden. He 
would have to bring it to the knowledge of the 
archduke, of the judges . . . but how explain, 
how describe such an incomprehensible affair ? 
He, Fabio, had killed in his own house his own 
kinsman, his dearest friend? They will in- 
quire, What for ? on what ground ? . . . But if 
Muzzio were not dead ? Fabio could not endure 
to remain longer in uncertainty, and satisfying 
himself that Valeria was asleep, he cautiously 
got up from his chair, went out of the house, 
and made his way to the pavilion. Everything 
was still in it ; only in one window a light was 
visible. With a sinking heart he opened the 
outer door (there was still the print of blood- 
stained fingers on it, and there were black drops 
of gore on the sand of the path), passed through 
the first dark room . . . and stood still on the 
threshold, overwhelmed with amazement. 
189 



DREAM TALES 

In the middle of the room, on a Persian rug, 
with a brocaded cushion under his head, and 
all his limbs stretched out straight, lay Muzzio, 
covered with a wide, red shawl with a black 
pattern on it. His face, yellow as wax, with 
closed eyes and bluish eyelids, was turned 
towards the ceiling, no breathing could be dis- 
cerned : he seemed a corpse. At his feet knelt 
the Malay, also wrapt in a red shawl. He was 
holding in his left hand a branch of some un- 
known plant, like a fern, and bending slightly 
forward, was gazing fixedly at his master. A 
small torch fixed on the floor burnt with a 
greenish flame, and was the only light in the 
room. The flame did not flicker nor smoke. 
The Malay did not stir at Fabio's entry, he 
merely turned his eyes upon him, and again bent 
them upon Muzzio. From time to time he raised 
and lowered the branch, and waved it in the 
air, and his dumb lips slowly parted and moved 
as though uttering soundless words. On the 
floor between the Malay and Muzzio lay the 
dagger, with which Fabio had stabbed his 
friend ; the Malay struck one blow with the 
branch on the blood-stained blade. A minute 
passed . . . another. Fabio approached the 
Malay, and stooping down to him, asked in an 
undertone, ' Is he dead ? ' The Malay bent his 
head from above downwards, and disentangling 
190 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

his right hand from his shawl, he pointed 
imperiously to the door. Fabio would have 
repeated his question, but the gesture of 
the commanding hand was repeated, and 
Fabio went out, indignant and wondering, but 
obedient. 

He found Valeria sleeping as before, with an 
even more tranquil expression on her face. 
He did not undress, but seated himself by the 
window, his head in his hand, and once more 
sank into thought. The rising sun found him 
still in the same place. Valeria had not waked 
up. 



XI 

Fabio intended to wait till she awakened, and 
then to set off to Ferrara, when suddenly some 
one tapped lightly at the bedroom door. Fabio 
went out, and saw his old steward, Antonio. 
* Signor,' began the old man, * the Malay has 
just informed me that Signor Muzzio has been 
taken ill, and wishes to be moved with all his 
belongings to the town ; and that he begs you 
to let him have servants to assist in packing 
his things ; and that at dinner-time you would 
send pack-horses, and saddle-horses, and a few 
191 



DREAM TALES 

attendants for the journey. Do you allow it ? ' 
' The Malay informed you of this ? ' asked 
Fabio. ' In what manner ? Why, he is dumb.' 
' Here, signor, is the paper on which he wrote 
all this in our language, and very correctly.' 
' And Muzzio, you say, is ill ? ' ' Yes, he is very 
ill, and can see no one.' ' Have they sent for a 
doctor ? ' 'No. The Malay forbade it.' ' And 
was it the Malay wrote you this?' 'Yes, it 
was he.' Fabio did not speak for a moment. 
' Well, then, arrange it all,' he said at last. 
Antonio withdrew. 

Fabio looked after his servant in bewilder- 
ment. ' Then, he is not dead ? ' he thought 
. . . and he did not know whether to rejoice or 
to be sorry. 411?' But a few hours ago it 
was a corpse he had looked upon ! 

Fabio returned to Valeria. She waked up 
and raised her head. The husband and wife 
exchanged a long look full of significance. 
' He is gone ? ' Valeria said suddenly. Fabio 
shuddered. ' How gone ? Do you mean . . . ' 
' Is he gone away ? ' she continued. A load fell 
from Fabio's heart. ' Not yet ; but he is going 
to-day.' 'And I shall never, never see him 
again ? ' ' Never.' ' And these dreams will 
not come again ? ' ' No.' Valeria again heaved 
a sigh of relief; a blissful smile once more 
appeared on her lips. She held out both hands 
192 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

to her husband. ' And we will never speak of 
him, never, do you hear, my dear one ? And 
I will not leave my room till he is gone. And 
do you now send me my maids . . . but stay : 
take away that thing ! ' she pointed to the 
pearl necklace, lying on a little bedside table, 
the necklace given her by Muzzio, * and throw 
it at once into our deepest well. Embrace me. 
I am your Valeria ; and do not come in to me 
till ... he has gone.' Fabio took the necklace 
— the pearls he fancied looked tarnished — and 
did as his wife had directed. Then he fell to 
wandering about the garden, looking from a 
distance at the pavilion, about which the bustle 
of preparations for departure was beginning. 
Servants were bringing out boxes, loading the 
horses . . . but the Malay was not among 
them. An irresistible impulse drew Fabio to 
look once more upon what was taking place in 
the pavilion. He recollected that there was at 
the back a secret door, by which he could reach 
the inner room where Muzzio had been lying 
in the morning. He stole round to this door, 
found it unlocked, and, parting the folds of a 
heavy curtain, turned a faltering glance upon 
the room within. 



193 



DREAM TALES 



XII 



MUZZIO was not now lying on the rug. Dressed 
as though for a journey, he sat in an arm-chair, 
but seemed a corpse, just as on Fabio's first 
visit. His torpid head fell back on the chair, 
and his outstretched hands hung lifeless, yellow, 
and rigid on his knees. His breast did not 
heave. Near the chair on the floor, which was 
strewn with dried herbs, stood some flat bowls 
of dark liquid, which exhaled a powerful, almost 
suffocating, odour, the odour of musk. Around 
each bowl was coiled a small snake of brazen 
hue, with golden eyes that flashed from time to 
time ; while directly facing Muzzio, two paces 
from him, rose the long figure of the Malay, 
wrapt in a mantle of many-coloured brocade, 
girt round the waist with a tiger's tail, with a 
high hat of the shape of a pointed tiara on his 
head. But he was not motionless : at one 
moment he bowed down reverently, and seemed 
to be praying, at the next he drew himself up 
to his full height, even rose on tiptoe ; then, 
with a rhythmic action, threw wide his arms, 
and moved them persistently in the direction 
of Muzzio, and seemed to threaten or command 
him, frowning and stamping with his foot. All 
these actions seemed to cost him great effort, 
194 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

even to cause him pain : he breathed heavily, 
the sweat streamed down his face. All at once 
he sank down to the ground, and drawing in a 
full breath, with knitted brow and immense 
effort, drew his clenched hands towards him, 
as though he were holding reins in them . . . 
and to the indescribable horror of Fabio, Muz- 
zio's head slowly left the back of the chair, and 
moved forward, following the Malay's hands. 
. . . The Malay let them fall, and Muzzio's 
head fell heavily back again ; the Malay re- 
peated his movements, and obediently the 
head repeated them after him. The dark 
liquid in the bowls began boiling ; the bowls 
themselves began to resound with a faint bell- 
like note, and the brazen snakes coiled freely 
about each of them. Then the Malay took a 
step forward, and raising his eyebrows and 
opening his eyes immensely wide, he bowed 
his head to Muzzio . . . and the eyelids of the 
dead man quivered, parted uncertainly, and 
under them could be seen the eyeballs, dull as 
lead. The Malay's face was radiant with 
triumphant pride and delight, a delight almost 
malignant ; he opened his mouth wide, and 
from the depths of his chest there broke out 
with effort a prolonged howl. . . < Muzzio's lips 
parted too, and a faint moan quivered on them 
in response to that inhuman sound. . . . 
195 



DREAM TALES 

But at this point Fabio could endure it no 
longer ; he imagined he was present at some 
devilish incantation ! He too uttered a shriek 
and rushed out, running home, home as quick 
as possible, without looking round, repeating 
prayers and crossing himself as he ran. 



xm 

Three hours later, Antonio came to him with 
the announcement that everything was ready, 
the things were packed, and Signer Muzzio 
was preparing to start. Without a word in 
answer to his servant, Fabio went out on to 
the terrace, whence the pavilion could be seen. 
A few pack-horses were grouped before it ; a 
powerful raven horse, saddled for two riders, 
was led up to the steps, where servants were 
standing bare-headed, together with armed 
attendants. The door of the pavilion opened, 
and supported by the Malay, who wore once 
more his ordinary attire, appeared Muzzio. 
His face was death-like, and his hands hung 
like a dead man's — but he walked . . . yes, 
positively walked, and, seated on the charger, 
he sat upright and felt for and found the reins. 
The Malay put his feet in the stirrups, leaped 
196 



THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE 

Up behind him on the saddle, put his arm round 

him, and the whole party started. The horses 
moved at a walking pace, and when they turned 
round before the house, Fabio fancied that in 
Muzzio's dark face there gleamed two spots of 
white. . . . Could it be he had turned his eyes 
upon him ? Only the Malay bowed to him . . . 
ironically, as ever. 

Did Valeria see all this ? The blinds of her 
windows were drawn . . . but it may be she 
was standing behind them. 



XIV 

At dinner-time she came into the dining-room, 
and was very quiet and affectionate ; she still 
complained, however, of weariness. But there 
was no agitation about her now, none of her 
former constant bewilderment and secret dread ; 
and when, the day after Muzzio's departure, 
Fabio set to work again on her portrait, he 
found in her features the pure expression, the 
momentary eclipse of which had so troubled 
him . . . and his brush moved lightly and 
faithfully over the canvas. 

The husband and wife took up their old life 
again. Muzzio vanished for them as though he 
197 



DREAM TALES 

had never existed. Fabio and Valeria were 
agreed, as it seemed, not to utter a syllable 
referring to him, not to learn anything of his 
later days ; his fate remained, however, a mys- 
tery for all. Muzzio did actually disappear, 
as though he had sunk into the earth. Fabio 
one day thought it his duty to tell Valeria 
exactly what had taken place on that fatal 
night . . . but she probably divined his inten- 
tion, and she held her breath, half-shutting her 
eyes, as though she were expecting a blow. . . . 
And Fabio understood her ; he did not inflict 
that blow upon her. 

One fine autumn day, Fabio was putting the 
last touches to his picture of his Cecilia ; Valeria 
sat at the organ, her fingers straying at random 
over the keys. . . . Suddenly, without her 
knowing it, from under her hands came the 
first notes of that song of triumphant love which 
Muzzio had once played ; and at the same 
instant, for the first time since her marriage, 
she felt within her the throb of a new palpitat- 
ing life, . . . Valeria started, stopped. . . . 

What did it mean ? Could it be . . . 

At this word the manuscript ended. 



198 



THE DREAM 



THE DREAM 



I WAS living at that time with my mother in a 
little seaside town. I was in my seventeenth 
year, while my mother was not quite five-and- 
thirty ; she had married very young. When 
my father died, I was only seven years old, but 
I remember him well. My mother was a fair- 
haired woman, not very tall, with a charming, 
but alway sad-looking face, a soft, tired voice 
and timid gestures. In her youth she had been 
reputed a beauty, and to the end she remained 
attractive and pretty. I have never seen deeper, 
tenderer, and sadder eyes, finer and softer hair ; 
I never saw hands so exquisite. I adored her, 
and she loved me. . . . But our life was not 
a bright one ; a secret, hopeless, undeserved 
sorrow seemed for ever gnawing at the very 
root of her being. This sorrow could not be 
accounted for by the loss of my father simply, 
great as that loss was to her, passionately as my 

20I 



DREAM TALES 

mother had loved him, and devoutly as she had 
cherished his memory. ... No ! something 
more lay hidden in it, which I did not under- 
stand, but of which I was aware, dimly and yet 
intensely aware, whenever I looked into those 
soft and unchanging eyes, at those lips, un- 
changing too, not compressed in bitterness, but, 
as it were, for ever set in one expression. 

I have said that my mother loved me ; but 
there were moments when she repulsed me, 
when my presence was oppressive to her, un- 
endurable. At such times she felt a sort of 
involuntary aversion for me, and was horrified 
afterwards, blamed herself with tears, pressed 
me to her heart. I used to ascribe these 
momentary outbreaks of dislike to the derange- 
ment of her health, to her unhappiness. . . . 
These antagonistic feelings might indeed, to 
some extent, have been evoked by certain 
strange outbursts of wicked and criminal pas- 
sions, which arose from time to time in me, 
though I could not myself account for them. . . . 

But these evil outbursts were never coincident 
with the moments of aversion. My mother 
always wore black, as though in mourning. We 
were in fairly good circumstances, but we hardly 
knew any one. 



202 



THE DREAM 



II 



My mother concentrated her every thought, her 
every care, upon me. Her life was wrapped 
up in my life. That sort of relation between 
parents and children is not always good for the 
children ... it is rather apt to be harmful to 
them. Besides, I was my mother's only son 
. . . and only children generally grow up in 
a one-sided way. In bringing them up, the 
parents think as much of themselves as of them. 
. . . That's not the right way. I was neither 
spoiled nor made hard by it (one or the other 
is apt to be the fate of only children), but my 
nerves were unhinged for a time ; moreover, I 
was rather delicate in health, taking after my 
mother, whom I was very like in face. I 
avoided the companionship of boys of my own 
age ; I held aloof from people altogether ; even 
with my mother I talked very little. I liked 
best reading, solitary walks, and dreaming, 
dreaming ! What my dreams were about, it 
would be hard to say ; sometimes, indeed, I 
seemed to stand at a half-open door, beyond 
which lay unknown mysteries, to stand and 
wait, half dead with emotion, and not to step 
over the threshold, but still pondering what lay 
203 



DREAM TALES 

beyond, still to wait till I turned faint ... or 
fell asleep. If there had been a vein of poetry 
in me, I should probably have taken to writing 
verses ; if I had felt an inclination for religion, 
I should perhaps have gone into a monastery ; 
but I had no tendency of the sort, and I went 
on dreaming and waiting. 



Ill 



I HAVE just mentioned that I used sometimes 
to fall asleep under the influence of vague 
dreams and reveries. I used to sleep a great 
deal at all times, and dreams played an im- 
portant part in my life ; I used to have dreams 
almost every night. I did not forget them, I 
attributed a significance to them, regarded them 
as fore-warnings, tried to divine their secret 
meaning ; some of them were repeated from 
time to time, which always struck me as strange 
and marvellous. I was particularly perplexed 
by one dream. I dreamed I was going along 
a narrow, ill-paved street of an old-fashioned 
town, between stone houses of many stories, 
with pointed roofs. I was looking for my 
father, who was not dead, but, for some reason 
204 



THE DREAM 

or other, hiding away from us, and living in one 
of these very houses. And so I entered a 
low, dark gateway, crossed a long courtyard, 
lumbered up with planks and beams, and made 
my way at last into a little room with two 
round windows. In the middle of the room 
stood my father in a dressing-gown, smoking a 
pipe. He was not in the least like my real 
father ; he was tall and thin, with black hair, a 
hook nose, with sullen and piercing eyes ; he 
looked about forty. He was displeased at my 
having found him ; and I too was far from 
being delighted at our meeting, and stood still 
in perplexity. He turned a little away, began 
muttering something, and walking up and down 
with short steps. . . . Then he gradually got 
farther away, never ceasing his muttering, and 
continually looking back over his shoulder ; the 
room grew larger and was lost in fog. ... I 
felt all at once horrified at the idea that I was 
losing my father again, and rushed after him, but 
I could no longer see him, I could only hear his 
angry muttering, like a bear growling. . . . My 
heart sank with dread ; I woke up and could 
not for a long while get to sleep again. . . . All 
the following day I pondered on this dream, 
and naturally could make nothing of it. 



205 



DREAM TALES 



IV 



The month of June had come. The town in 
which I was living with my mother became ex- 
ceptionally lively about that time. A number 
of ships were in the harbour, a number of new 
faces were to be seen in the streets. I liked at 
such times to wander along the sea front, by 
cafes and hotels, to stare at the widely differing 
figures of the sailors and other people, sitting 
under linen awnings, at small white tables, with 
pewter pots of beer before them. 

As I passed one day before a cafe, I caught 
sight of a man who at once riveted my whole 
attention. Dressed in a long black full coat, 
with a straw hat pulled right down over his 
eyes, he was sitting perfectly still, his arms 
folded across his chest. The straggling curls of 
his black hair fell almost down to his nose ; his 
thin lips held tight the mouthpiece of a short 
pipe. This man struck me as so familiar, every 
feature of his swarthy yellow face were so unmis- 
takably imprinted in my memory, that I could 
not help stopping short before him, I could not 
help asking myself, * Who is that man ? where 
have I seen him ? ' Becoming aware, probably, 
of my intent stare, he raised his black, piercing 
206 



THE DREAM 

eyes upon me. ... I uttered an involuntary 
' Ah ! ' . . . 

The man was the father I had been looking 
for, the father I had beheld in my dream ! 

There was no possibility of mistake — the 
resemblance was too striking. The very coat 
even, that wrapped his spare limbs in its long 
skirts, in hue and cut, recalled the dressing- 
gown in which my father had appeared in the 
dream. 

' Am I not asleep now ? ' I wondered. . . . 
No. ... It was daytime, about me crowds of 
people were bustling, the sun was shining 
brightly in the blue sky, and before me was no 
phantom, but a living man. 

I went up to an empty table, asked for a pot 
of beer and a newspaper, and sat down not far 
off from this enigmatical being. 



Putting the sheet of newspaper on a level 
with my face, I continued my scrutiny of the 
stranger. He scarcely stirred at all, only from 
time to time raising his bowed head. He was 
obviously expecting some one. I gazed and 
gazed. . . . Sometimes I fancied I must have 
207 



DREAM TALES 

imagined it all, that there could be really no 
resemblance, that I had given way to a half- 
unconscious trick of the imagination . . . but 
the stranger would suddenly turn round a little 
in his seat, or slightly raise his hand, and again I 
all but cried out, again I saw my 'dream-father ' 
before me ! He at last noticed my uncalled-for 
attention, and glancing at first with surprise 
and then with annoyance in my direction, was 
on the point of getting up, and knocked down 
a small walking-stick he had stood against the 
table. I instantly jumped up, picked it up, 
and handed it to him. My heart was beating 
violently. 

He gave a constrained smile, thanked me, 
and as his face drew closer to my face, he lifted 
his eyebrows and opened his mouth a little as 
though struck by something. 

' You are very polite, young man,' he began 
all at once in a dry, incisive, nasal voice. 
' That 's something out of the common nowa- 
days. Let me congratulate you ; you must 
have been well brought up ? ' 

I don't remember precisely what answer I 
made ; but a conversation soon sprang up 
between us. I learnt that he was a fellow- 
countryman, that he had not long returned 
from America, where he had spent many years, 
and was shortly going back there. He called 
208 



THE DREAM 

himself Baron . . . the name I could not make 
out distinctly. He, just like my ' dream-father/ 
ended every remark with a sort of indistinct 
inward mutter. He desired to learn my sur- 
name. . . . On hearing it, he seemed again 
astonished ; then he asked me if I had lived 
long in the town, and with whom I was living. 
I told him I was living with my mother. 

' And your father ? ' ' My father died long 
ago.' He inquired my mother's Christian name, 
and immediately gave an awkward laugh, but 
apologised, saying that he picked up some 
American ways, and was rather a queer fellow 
altogether. Then he was curious to know what 
was our address. I told him. 



VI 



The excitement which had possessed me at 
the beginning of our conversation gradually 
calmed down; I felt our meeting rather strange 
and nothing more. I did not like the little 
smile with which the baron cross-examined me; 
I did not like the expression of his eyes when 
he, as it were, stuck them like pins into me. 
. . . There was something in them rapacious, 
209 о 



DREAM TALES 

patronising . . . something unnerving. Those 
eyes I had not seen in the dream. A strange 
face was the baron's ! Faded, fatigued, and, at 
the same time, young-looking — unpleasantly 
young-looking ! My ' dream-father ' had not 
the deep scar either which ran slanting right 
across my new acquaintance's forehead, and 
which I had not noticed till I came closer to 
him. 

I had hardly told the baron the name of the 
street, and the number of the house in which 
we were living, when a tall negro, swathed up 
to the eyebrows in a cloak, came up to him 
from behind, and softly tapped him on the 
shoulder. The baron turned round, ejaculated, 
' Aha ! at last ! ' and with a slight nod to me, 
went with the negro into the cafe. I was left 
under the awning ; I meant to await the baron's 
return, not so much with the object of entering 
into conversation with him again (I really did 
not know what to talk about to him), as to 
verify once more my first impression. But 
half-an-hour passed, an hour passed. . . . The 
baron did not appear. I went into the cafe, 
passed through all the rooms, but could see 
nowhere the baron or the negro. . . . They 
must both have gone out by a back-door. 

My head ached a little, and to get a little 
fresh air, I walked along the seafront to a large 



THE DREAM 

park outside the town, which had been laid out 
two hundred years ago. 

After strolling for a couple of hours in the 
shade of the immense oaks and plane-trees, I 
returned home. 



VII 



Our maid-servant rushed all excitement, to 
meet me, directly I appeared in the hall ; I 
guessed at once from the expression of her face, 
that during my absence something had gone 
wrong in our house. And, in fact, I learnt that 
an hour before, a fearful shriek had suddenly been 
heard in my mother's bedroom, the maid run- 
ning in had found her on the floor in a fainting 
fit, which had lasted several moments. My 
mother had at last regained consciousness, but 
had been obliged to lie down, and looked 
strange and scared ; she had not uttered a word, 
had not answered inquiries, she had done 
nothing but look about her and shudder. The 
maid had sent the gardener for a doctor. The 
doctor came and prescribed soothing treatment; 
but my mother would say nothing even to him. 
The gardener maintained that, a few instants 
after the shriek was heard in my mother's 



DREAM TALES 

room, he had seen a man, unknown to him, 
running through the bushes in the garden to 
the gate into the street. (We Hved in a house 
of one story, with windows opening on to a 
rather large garden.) The gardener had not 
time to get a look at the man's face; but he 
was tall, and was wearing a low straw hat and 
long coat with full skirts . . . ' The baron's 
costume ! ' at once crossed my mind. The 
gardener could not overtake him ; besides, he 
had been immediately called into the house and 
sent for the doctor. I went in to my mother ; 
she was lying on the bed, whiter than the 
pillow on which her head was resting. Recog- 
nising me, she smiled faintly, and held out her 
hand to me. I sat down beside her, and began 
to question her ; at first she said no to every- 
thing ; at last she admitted, however, that she 
had seen something which had greatly terrified 
her. ' Did some one come in here ? ' I asked. 
' No,' she hurriedly replied — ' no one came in, 
it was my fancy ... an apparition . . .' She 
ceased and hid her face in her hands. I was 
on the point of telling her, what I had learnt 
from the gardener, and incidentally describing 
my meeting with the baron . . . but for some 
reason or other, the words died away on my lips. 
I ventured, however, to observe to my mother, 
that apparitions do not usually appear in the 

212 



THE DREAM 

daytime. . . . ' Stop,' she whispered. ' please ; 
do not torture me now. You will know some 
time. . . .' She was silent again. Her hands 
were cold and her pulse beat fast and unevenly. 
I gave her some medicine and moved a little 
away so as not to disturb her. She did not get 
up the whole day. She lay perfectly still and 
quiet, and now and then heaving a deep sigh, 
and timorously opening her eyes. Every one in 
the house was at a loss what to think. 



VIII 



Towards night my mother became a little 
feverish, and she sent me away. I did not, 
however, go to my own room, but lay down in 
the next room on the sofa. Every quarter of 
an hour I got up, went on tiptoe to the door, 
listened. . . . Everything was still — but my 
niother hardly slept that night. When I went 
in to her early in the morning, her face looked 
hollow, her eyes shone with an unnatural 
brightness. In the course of the day she got a 
little better, but towards evening the feverish- 
ness increased again. Up till then she had 
been obstinately silent, but all of a sudden she 
began talking in a hurried broken voice. She 

213 



DREAM TALES 

was not wandering, there was a meaning in her 
words — but no sort of connection. Just upon 
midnight, she suddenly, with a convulsive 
movement raised herself in bed — I was sitting 
beside her — and in the same hurried voice, con- 
tinually taking sips of water, from a glass 
beside her, feebly gesticulating with her hands, 
and never once looking at me, she began to tell 
her story. . . . She would stop, make an effort 
to control herself and go on again. ... It was 
all so strange, just as though she were doing it 
all in a dream, as though she herself were 
absent, and some one else were speaking by her 
lips, or forcing her to speak. 



IX 

* Listen to what I am going to tell you,' 
she began. ' You are not a little boy now ; you 
ought to know all. I had a friend, a girl . . . 
She married a man she loved with all her heart, 
and she was very happy with her husband. 
During the first year of their married life they 
went together to the capital to spend a few 
weeks there and enjoy themselves. They 
stayed at a good hotel, and went out a great 
deal to theatres and parties. My friend was 
214 



THE DREAM 

very pretty — every one noticed her, young men 
paid her attentions, — but there was among 
them one ... an officer. He followed her 
about incessantly, and wherever she was, she 
always saw his cruel black eyes. He was not 
introduced to her, and never once spoke to her 
— only perpetually stared at her — so insolently 
and strangely. All the pleasures of the capital 
were poisoned by his presence. She began per- 
suading her husband to hasten their departure — 
and they had already made all the preparations 
for the journey. One evening her husband 
went out to a club — he had been invited by the 
officers of the same regiment as that officer — to 
play cards. . . . She was for the very first time 
left alone. Her husband did not return for a 
long while. She dismissed her maid, and 
went to bed. . . . And suddenly she felt over- 
come by terror, so that she was quite cold and 
shivering. She fancied she heard a slight sound 
on the other side of the w^ll, like a dog 
scratching, and she began watching the wall. 
In the corner a lamp was burning ; the room 
was all hung with tapestry. . . . Suddenly 
something stirred there, rose, opened. . . . And 
straight out of the wall a black, long figure 
came, that awful man with the cruel eyes ! She 
tried to scream, but could not. She was 
utterly numb with terror. He went up to her 
215 



DREAM TALES 

rapidly, like some beast of prey, flung something 
on her head, something strong-smelling, heavy, 
white . . . What happened then I don't re- 
member ... I don't remember ! It was like 
death, like a murder , . . When at last that 
fearful darkness began to pass away — when I 
. . . when my friend came to herself, there was 
no one in the room. Again, and for a long 
time, she had not the strength to scream, she 
screamed at last . . . then again everything 
was confusion. . . . Then she saw her husband 
by her side : he had been kept at the club till 
two o'clock at night . . . He looked scared and 
white. He began questioning her, but she told 
him nothing. . . . Then she swooned away 
again. I remember though when she was left 
alone in the room, she examined the place in 
the wall. . . . Under the tapestry hangings it 
turned out there was a secret door. And her 
betrothal ring had gone from off her hand. 
This ring was of an unusual pattern ; seven 
little gold stars alternated on it with seven silver 
stars ; it was an old family heirloom. Her 
husband asked her what had become of the 
ring ; she could give him no answer. Her 
husband supposed she had dropped it some- 
where, searched everywhere, but could not find 
it. He felt uneasy and distressed ; he deci(Jed 
to go home as soon as possible and directly 
216 



THE DREAM 

the doctor allowed it — they left the capital. . . . 
But imagine ! On the very day of their 
departure they happened suddenly to meet a 
stretcher being carried along the street. . . . On 
the stretcher lay a man who had just been 
killed, with his head cut open ; and imagine ! 
the man was that fearful apparition of the 
night with the evil eyes. . . . He had been 
killed over some gambling dispute ! 

Then my friend went away into the country 
. . . became a mother for the first time . . . 
and lived several years with her husband. He 
never knew anything ; indeed, what could she 
have told him ? — she knew nothing herself. 

But her former happiness had vanished. A 
gloom had come over their lives, and never 
again did that gloom pass out of it. . . . They 
had no other children, either before or after 
. . . and that son . . .' 

My mother trembled all over and hid her face 
in her hands. 

' But say now,' she went on with redoubled 
energy, ' was my friend to blame in any way ? 
What had she to reproach herself with ? She 
was punished, but had she not the right to 
declare before God Himself that the punish- 
ment that overtook her was unjust? Then why 
is it, that like a criminal, tortured by stings of 
conscience, why is it she is confronted with the 
217 



DREAM TALES 

past in such a fearful shape after so many 
years ? Macbeth slew Bancho — so no wonder 
that he could be haunted . . . but I . . .' 

But here my mother's words became so mixed 
and confused, that I ceased to follow her. ... I 
no longer doubted that she was in delirium. 



X 



The agitating effect of my mother's recital on 
me — any one may easily conceive ! I guessed 
from her first word that she was talking of her- 
self, and not any friend of hers. Her slip of the 
tongue confirmed my conjecture. Then this 
really was my father, whom I was seeking in 
my dream, whom I had seen awake by day- 
light ! He had not been killed, as my mother 
supposed, but only wounded. And he had 
come to see her, and had run away, alarmed by 
her alarm. I suddenly understood everything : 
the feeling of involuntary aversion for me, which 
arose at times in my mother, and her perpetual 
melancholy, and our secluded life. ... I re- 
member my head seemed going round, and I 
clutched it in both hands as though to hold it 
still. But one idea, as it were, nailed me down ; 
I resolved I must, come what may, find that 
218 



THE DREAM 

man again ? What for ? with what aim ? I 
could not give myself a clear answer, but to 
find him . . . find him — that had become a 
question of life and death for me ! The next 
morning my mother, at last, grew calmer . . . 
the fever left her . . . she fell asleep. Confid- 
ing her to the care of the servants and people 
of the house, I set out on my quest. 



XI 

First of all I made my way, of course, to the 
cafe where I had met the baron ; but no one in 
the cafe knew him or had even noticed him ; he 
had been a chance customer there. The negro 
the people there had observed, his figure was so 
striking ; but who he was, and where he was 
staying, no one knew. Leaving my address 
in any case at the cafe, I fell to wandering 
about the streets and sea front by the harbour, 
along the boulevards, peeped into all places of 
public resort, but could find no one like the 
baron or his companion ! . . . Not having 
caught the baron's surname, I was deprived of 
the resource of applying to the police ; I did, 
however, privately let two or three guardians of 
the public safety know — they stared at me in 
219 



DREAM TALES 

bewilderment, and did not altogether believe in 
me — that I would reward them liberally if they 
could trace out two persons, whose exterior I 
tried to describe as exactly as possible. After 
wandering about in this way till dinner-time, 
I returned home exhausted. My mother had 
got up ; but to her usual melancholy there was 
added something new, a sort of dreamy blank- 
ness, which cut me to the heart like a knife. I 
spent the evening with her. We scarcely spoke 
at all ; she played patience, I looked at her 
cards in silence. She never made a single 
reference to what she had told me, nor to what 
had happened the preceding evening. It was 
as though we had made a secret compact not 
to touch on any of these harrowing and strange 
incidents. . . . She seemed angry with herself, 
and ashamed of what had broken from her 
unawares ; though possibly she did not remem- 
ber quite what she had said in her half deli- 
rious feverishness, and hoped I should spare her. 
. . . And indeed this was it, I spared her, and 
she felt it ; as on the previous day she avoided 
my eyes. I could not get to sleep all night. 
Outside, a fearful storm suddenly came on. 
The wind howled and darted furiously hither 
and thither, the window-panes rattled and rang, 
despairing shrieks and groans sounded in the 
air, as though something had been torn to 



THE DREAM 

shreds up aloft, and were flying with frenzied 
waiHng over the shaken houses. Before dawn 
I dropped off into a doze . . . suddenly I 
fancied some one came into my room, and 
called me, uttered my name, in a voice not 
loud, but resolute. I raised my head and saw 
no one ; but, strange to say ! I was not only 
not afraid — I was glad ; I suddenly felt a con- 
viction that now I should certainly attain my 
object. I dressed hurriedly and went out of the 
house. 



XII 

The storm had abated . . . but its last struggles 
could still be felt. It was very early, there 
were no people in the streets, many places were 
strewn with broken chimney-pots and tiles, 
pieces of wrecked fencing, and branches of 
trees. . . . ' What was it like last night at sea?' 
I could not help wondering at the sight of the 
traces left by the storm. I intended to go to 
the harbour, but my legs, as though in obedience 
to some irresistible attraction, carried me in 
another direction. Ten minutes had not gone 
by before I found myself in a part of the town 
I had never visited till then. I walked not 



DREAM TALES 

rapidly, but without halting, step by step, with 
a strange sensation at my heart ; I expected 
something extraordinary, impossible, and at the 
same time I was convinced that this extra- 
ordinary thing would come to pass. 



XIII 

And, behold, it came to pass, this extraordinary, 
this unexpected thing ! Suddenly, twenty 
paces before me, I saw the very negro who 
had addressed the baron in the cafe ! Muffled 
in the same cloak as I had noticed on him 
there, he seemed to spring out of the earth, and 
with his back turned to me, walked with rapid 
strides along the narrow pavement of the wind- 
ing street. I promptly flew to overtake him, 
but he, too, redoubled his pace, though he did 
not look round, and all of a sudden turned 
sharply round the corner of a projecting house. 
I ran up to this corner, turned round it as 
quickly as the negro . . . Wonderful to relate ! 
I faced a long, narrow, perfectly empty street ; 
the fog of early morning filled it with its leaden 
dulness, but my eye reached to its very end, I 
could scan all the buildings in it . . . and not a 
living creature stirring anywhere ! The tall 



THE DREAM 

negro in the cloak had vanished as suddenly as 
he had appeared ! I was bewildered . . . but 
only for one instant. Another feeling at once 
took possession of me ; the street, which stretched 
its length, dumb, and, as it were, dead, before 
my eyes, I knew it ! It was the street of my 
dream. I started, shivered, the morning was so 
fresh, and promptly, without the least hesitation, 
with a sort of shudder of conviction, went on ! 

I began looking about. . . . Yes, here it was ; 
here to the right, standing cornerwise to the 
street, was the house of my dream, here too the 
old-fashioned gateway with scrollwork in stone 
on both sides. ... It is true the windows of 
the house were not round, but rectangular . . . 
but that was not important. ... I knocked at 
the gate, knocked twice or three times, louder 
and louder. . . . The gate was opened slowly 
with a heavy groan as though yawning. I was 
confronted by a young servant girl with dis- 
hevelled hair, and sleepy eyes. She was appar- 
ently only just awake. ' Does the baron live 
here ? ' I asked, and took in with a rapid glance 
the deep narrow courtyard. . . . Yes ; it was 
all there . . . there were the planks and beams 
I had seen in my dream. 

* No,' the servant girl answered, ' the baron 's 
not living here.' 

' Not ? impossible ! ' 



DREAM TALES 

' He 's not here now. He left yesterday.' 

' Where 's he gone ? ' 

' To America.' 

' To America ! ' I repeated involuntarily. 
' But he will come back ? ' 

The servant looked at me suspiciously. 

' We don't know about that. May be he 
won't come back at all.' 

' And has he been living here long ? ' 

' Not long, a week. He 's not here now.' 

' And what was his surname, the baron's ? ' 
The girl stared at me. 

' You don't know his name ? We simply 
called him the baron. — Hi ! Piotr ! ' she 
shouted, seeing I was pushing in. ' Come 
here ; here 's a stranger keeps asking ques- 
tions.' 

From the house came the clumsy figure of a 
sturdy workman. 

' What is it ? What do you want ? ' he asked 
in a sleepy voice ; and having heard me sullenly, 
he repeated what the girl had told me. 

' But who does live here ? ' I asked. 

' Our master.' 

' Who is he ? ' 

' A carpenter. They 're all carpenters in this 
street' 

' Can I see him ? ' 

' You can't now, he 's asleep.' 
224 



THE DREAM 

' But can't I go into the house ? ' 

' No. Go away.' 

' Well, but can I see your master later on ? ' 

' What for ? Of course. You can always 
see him. . . . To be sure, he's always at his 
business here. Only go away now. Such a 
time in the morning, upon my soul ! ' 

' Well, but that negro ? ' I asked suddenly. 

The workman looked in perplexity first at 
me, then at the servant girl. 

' What negro ? ' he said at last. ' Go away, 
sir. You can come later. You can talk to the 
master.' 

I went out into the street. The gate slammed 
at once behind me, sharply and heavily, with no 
groan this time. 

I carefully noted the street and the house, 
and went away, but not home — I was conscious 
of a sort of disillusionment. Everything that 
had happened to me was so strange, so unex- 
pected, and meanwhile what a stupid conclu- 
sion to it ! I had been persuaded, I had been 
convinced, that I should see in that house the 
room I knew, and in the middle of it my father, 
the baron, in the dressing-gown, and with a 
pipe. . . . And instead of that, the master of 
the house was a carpenter, and I could go and 
see him as much as I liked — and order furniture 
of him, I dare say. 

225 p 



DREAM TALES 

My father had gone to America. And what 
was left for me to do ? ... To tell my mother 
everything, or to bury for ever the very memory 
of that meeting ? I positively could not resign 
myself to the idea that such a supernatural, 
mysterious beginning should end in such a 
senseless, ordinary conclusion ! 

I did not want to return home, and walked 
at random away from the town. 



XIV 



I WALKED with downcast head, without thought, 
almost without sensation, but utterly buried in 
myself A rhythmic hollow and angry noise 
raised me from my numbness. I lifted my 
head ; it was the sea roaring and moaning fifty 
paces from me. I saw I was walking along the 
sand of the dunes. The sea, set in violent 
commotion by the storm in the night, was white 
with foam to the very horizon, and the sharp 
crests of the long billows rolled one after 
another and broke on the flat shore. I went 
nearer to it, and walked along the line left by 
the ebb and flow of the tides on the yellow 
furrowed sand, strewn with fragments of trailing 
226 



THE DREAM 

seaweed, broken shells, and snakelike ribbons 
of sea-grass. Gulls, with pointed wings, flying 
with a plaintive cry on the wind out of the 
remote depths of the air, soared up, white as 
snow against the grey cloudy sky, fell abruptly, 
and seeming to leap from wave to wave, vanished 
again, and were lost like gleams of silver in the 
streaks of frothing foam. Several of them, I 
noticed, hovered persistently over a big rock, 
which stood up alone in the midst of the level 
uniformity of the sandy shore. Coarse seaweed 
was growing in irregular masses on one side of 
the rock ; and where its matted tangles rose 
above the yellow line, was something black, 
something longish, curved, not very large. . . . 
I looked attentively. . . . Some dark object 
was lying there, lying motionless beside the 
rock. . . . This object grew clearer, more defined 
the nearer I got to it. . . . 

There was only a distance of thirty paces 
left between me and the rock. . . . Why, it was 
the outline of a human form ! It was a corpse ; 
it was a drowned man thrown up by the sea ! 
I went right up to the rock. 

The corpse was the baron, my father! I 
stood as though turned to stone. Only then I 
realised that I had been led since early morning 
by some unknown forces, that I was in their 
power, and for some instants there was nothing 
227 



DREAM TALES 



in my soul but the never-ceasing crash of the 
sea, and dumb horror at the fate that had 
possession of me. . . . 



XV 



He lay on his back, turned a little to one side, 
with his left arm behind his head . . . the right 
was thrust under his bent body. The toes of 
his feet, in high sailor's boots, had been sucked 
into the slimy sea-mud ; the short blue jacket, 
drenched through with brine, was still closely 
buttoned ; a red scarf was fastened in a tight 
knot about his neck. The dark face, turned to 
the sky, looked as if it were laughing ; the 
small close-set teeth could be seen under the 
lifted upper lip ; the dim pupils of the half- 
closed eyes were scarcely discernible in the 
darkened eyeballs ; the clotted hair, covered 
with bubbles of foam, lay dishevelled on the 
ground, and bared the smooth brow with the 
purple line of the scar ; the narrow nose rose, 
a sharp white line, between the sunken cheeks. 
The storm of the previous night had done its 
work. . . . He would never see America again ! 
The man who had outraged my mother, who 
had spoiled and soiled her life ; my father — yes ! 
228 



THE DREAM 

my father — of that I could feel no doubt — lay 
helplessly outstretched in the mud at my feet. I 
experienced a sensation of satisfied revenge, and 
of pity, and repulsion, and horror, more than 
all ... a double horror, at what I saw, and 
at what had happened. The wicked criminal 
feelings of which I have spoken, those uncom- 
prehended impulses of rage rose up in me . . • 
choked me. 'Aha ! ' I thought, 'so that is why I 
am like this . . . that is how my blood shows 
itself!' I stood beside the corpse, and stared in 
suspense. Would not those dead eyes move, 
would not those stiff lips quiver ? No ! all was 
still ; the very seaweed seemed lifeless where 
the breakers had flung it ; even the gulls had 
flown ; not a broken spar anywhere, not a 
fragment of wood, nor a bit of rigging. On 
all sides emptiness . . . only he and I, and in 
the distance the sounding sea. I looked back ; 
the same emptiness there : a ridge of lifeless 
downs on the horizon . . . that was all ! My 
heart revolted against leaving this luckless 
wretch in this solitude, on the briny sand of the 
seashore, to be devoured by fishes and birds ; 
an inner voice told me I ought to find people, 
call them, if not to help — what help could 
there be now ! — at least to lift him up, to carry 
him into some living habitation . . . but an 
indescribable panic suddenly seized on me. It 
229 



DREAM TALES 

seemed to me that this dead man knew I had 
come here, that he had himself planned this last 
meeting. I even fancied I heard the indistinct 
mutter I knew so well. ... I ran away . . . 
looked back once. . . . Something glittering 
caught my eye ; it brought me to a halt. It 
was a hoop of gold on the hand of the corpse. 
... I knew it for my mother's betrothal ring. 
I remember how I forced myself to turn back, 
to go up, to bend down ... I remember the 
clammy touch of the chill fingers ; I remember 
how 1 held my breath, and half-closed my 
eyes, and set my teeth, tearing off the obstinate 
ring . . . 

At last, it was off . . . and I was running, 
running away at full speed, with something 
flying behind me, upon my heels, overtaking 
me. 



XVI 



All I had felt and gone through was probably 
written on my face when I got home. My 
mother abruptly drew herself up directly I went 
into her room, and looked with such urgent 
inquiry at me, that, after an unsuccessful 
attempt to explain, I ended by holding out 
the ring to her in silence. She turned fear- 
230 



THE DREAM 

fully white, her eyes opened extraordinarily 
and looked dead, like those eyes ; she uttered a 
faint cry, snatched the ring, reeled, fell on my 
breast, and fairly swooned away, her head fall- 
ing back, and her blank wide-open eyes staring 
at me. I threw both my arms about her, and 
standing where I was, without moving, told her 
slowly, in a subdued voice, everything, without 
the slightest concealment : my dream, and the 
meeting, and everything, everything. . . . She 
heard me to the end without uttering a single 
word, only her bosom heaved more and more 
violently, and her eyes suddenly flashed and 
sank. Then she put the ring on her third 
finger, and, moving away a little, began getting 
her cape and hat. I asked her where she was 
going. She lifted eyes full of surprise upon 
me, and tried to answer, but her voice failed 
her. She shuddered several times, rubbed her 
hands, as though she were trying to warm 
them, and at last said, ' Let us go there at 
once.' 

' Where, mother ? ' 

' Where he is lying ... I want to see ... I 
want to know ... I will know . . . ' 

I endeavoured to persuade her not to go ; 
but she almost fell into a nervous attack. I 
saw it was impossible to oppose her wish, and 
we set off. 

2Я1 



DREAM TALES 



XVII 



And now I was again walking along the sand ; 
but this time not alone. I had my mother on 
my arm. The sea had ebbed away, had re- 
treated farther still ; it was calmer, but its roar, 
though fainter, was still menacing and malig- 
nant. There, at last, rose the solitary rock 
before us ; there was the seaweed too. I 
looked intently, I tried to distinguish that 
curved object lying on the ground — but I saw 
nothing. We went closer ; instinctively I 
slackened my pace. But where was the black 
still object ? Only the tangles of seaweed rose 
black against the sand, which had dried up by 
now. We went right up to the rock. . . . There 
was no corpse to be seen ; and only where it 
had been lying there was still a hollow place, 
and one could see where the arms and where 
the legs had lain. . . . The seaweed around 
looked as it were crushed, and prints were 
visible of one man's feet ; they crossed the dune, 
then were lost, as they reached the heaped-up 
shingle. 

My mother and I looked at each other, and 
were frightened at what we saw in each other's 
faces. . . . 

2Я2 



THE DREAM 

Surely he had not got up of himself and gone 
away ? 

' You are sure you saw him dead ? ' she asked 
in a whisper. 

I could only nod in assent. Three hours had 
not passed since I had come upon the baron's 
corpse. . . . Some one had discovered and 
removed it. I must find out who had done it, 
and what had become of it. 

But first I had to look after my mother. 



XVIII 

While she had been walking to the fatal spot 
she had been in a fever, but she controlled 
herself. The disappearance of the dead body 
came upon her as a final blow. She was struck 
dumb. I feared for her reason. With great 
difficulty I got her home. I made her lie down 
again on her bed, again I sent for the doctor, 
but as soon as my mother had recovered her- 
self a little, she at one desired me to set off 
without delay to find out ' that man.' I obeyed. 
But, in spite of every possible effort, I discovered 
nothing. I went several times to the police, 
visited several villages in the neighbourhood, 
put several advertisements in the papers, col- 
233 



DREAM TALES 

lected information in all directions, and ail in 
vain ! I received information, indeed, that the 
corpse of a drowned man had been picked up 
in one of the seaside villages near. ... I at 
once hastened off there, but from all I could 
hear the body had no resemblance to the baron. 
I found out in what ship he had set sail for 
America ; at first every one was positive that 
ship had gone down in the storm ; but a few 
months later there were rumours that it had 
been seen riding at anchor in New York har- 
bour. Not knowing what steps to take, I 
began seeking out the negro I had seen, offer- 
ing him in the papers a considerable sum of 
money if he would call at our house. Some 
tall negro in a cloak did actually call on us in 
my absence. . . . But after questioning the 
maid, he abruptly departed, and never came 
back again.' 

So all traces were lost of my . . . my father ; 
so he vanished into silence and darkness never 
to return. My mother and I never spoke of 
him ; only one day, I remember, she expressed 
surprise that I had never told her before of my 
strange dream ; and added, ' It must mean he 
really . . .'.but did not utter all her thought. 
My mother was ill a long while, and even after 
her recovery our former close relations never 
returned. She was ill at ease with me to the 
234 



THE DREAM 

day of her death. ... Ill at ease was just what 
she was. And that is a trouble there is no 
cure for. Anything may be smoothed over, 
memories of even the most tragic domestic 
incidents gradually lose their strength and 
bitterness ; but if once a sense of being ill at 
ease installs itself between two closely united 
persons, it can never be dislodged ! I never 
again had the dream that had once so agitated 
me ; I no longer ' look for ' my father ; but 
sometimes I fancied — and even now I fancy — 
that I hear, as it were, distant wails, as it were, 
never silent, mournful plaints ; they seem to 
sound somewhere behind a high wall, which 
cannot be crossed ; they wring my heart, and 
I луеер with closed eyes, and am never able to 
tell what it is, whether it is a living man 
moaning, or whether I am listening to the 
wild, long-drawn-out howl of the troubled sea. 
And then it passes again into the muttering of 
some beast, and I fall asleep with anguish and 
horror in my heart. 

1876. 



235 



POEMS IN PROSE 



POEMS IN PROSE 

I 

[1878] 
THE COUNTRY 

The last day of July ; for a thousand versts 
around, Russia, our native land. 

An unbroken blue flooding the whole sky ; 
a single cloudlet upon it, half floating, half 
fading away. Windlessness, warmth ... air 
like new milk ! 

Larks are trilling ; pouter-pigeons cooing ; 
noiselessly the swallows dart to and fro ; horses 
are neighing and munching ; the dogs do not 
bark and stand peaceably wagging their tails. 

A smell of smoke and of hay, and a little 
of tar, too, and a little of hides. The hemp, 
now in full bloom, sheds its heavy, pleasant 
fragrance. 

A deep but sloping ravine. Along its sides 
willows in rows, with big heads above, trunks 
239 



POEMS IN PROSE 

cleft below. Through the ravine runs a brook ; 
the tiny pebbles at its bottom are all aquiver 
through its clear eddies. In the distance, on 
the border-line between earth and heaven, the 
bluish streak of a great river. 

Along the ravine, on one side, tidy barns, 
little storehouses with close-shut doors ; on the 
other side, five or six pinewood huts with 
boarded roofs. Above each roof, the high pole 
of a pigeon-house; over each entry a little 
short -maned horse of wrought iron. The 
window-panes of faulty glass shine with all the 
colours of the rainbow. Jugs of flowers are 
painted on the shutters. Before each door, a 
little bench stands prim and neat ; on the 
mounds of earth, cats are basking, their trans- 
parent ears pricked up alert ; beyond the high 
door-sills, is the cool dark of the outer rooms. 

I lie on the very edge of the ravine, on an 
outspread horse-cloth ; all about are whole stacks 
of fresh-cut hay, oppressively fragrant The 
sagacious husbandmen have flung the hay 
about before the huts; let it get a bit drier 
in the baking sunshine ; and then into the barn 
with it. It will be first-rate sleeping on it. 

Curly, childish heads are sticking out of every 
haycock ; crested hens are looking in the hay 
for flies and little beetles, and a white-lipped 
pup is rolling among the tangled stalks. 
240 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Flaxen -headed lads in clean smocks, belted 
low, in heavy boots, leaning over an unhar- 
nessed waggon, fling each other smart volleys 
of banter, with broad grins showing their white 
teeth. 

A round-faced young woman peeps out of 
window ; laughs at their words or at the romps 
of the children in the mounds of hay. 

Another young woman with powerful arms 
draws a great wet bucket out of the well. . . . 
The bucket quivers and shakes, spilling long, 
glistening drops. 

Before me stands an old woman in a new 
striped petticoat and new shoes. 

Fat hollow beads are wound in three rows 
about her dark thin neck, her grey head is 
tied up in a yellow kerchief with red spots ; it 
hangs low over her failing eyes. 

But there is a smile of welcome in the aged 
eyes ; a smile all over the wrinkled face. The 
old woman has reached, I dare say, her seventieth 
year . . . and even now one can see she has 
been a beauty in her day. 

With a twirl of her sunburnt finger, she holds 
in her right hand a bowl of cold milk, with the 
cream on it, fresh from the cellar ; the sides of 
the bowl are covered with drops, like strings of 
pearls. In the palm of her left hand the old 
woman brings me a huge hunch of warm bread, 
241 Q 



POEMS IN PROSE 

as though to say, ' Eat, and welcome, passing 
guest ! ' 

A cock suddenly crows and fussily flaps his 
wings ; he is slowly answered by the low of a 
calf, shut up in the stall. 

' My word, what oats ! ' I hear my coachman 
saying. . . . Oh, the content, the quiet, the 
plenty of the Russian open country ! Oh, the 
deep peace and well-being ! 

And the thought comes to me : what is it all 
to us here, the cross on the cupola of St. Sophia 
in Constantinople and all the rest that we are 
struggling for, we men of the town ? 



A CONVERSATION 

' Neither the Jungfrau nor the EiBsteraarhorn has yet been 
trodden by the foot of man ! ' 

The topmost peaks of the Alps. ... A whole 
chain of rugged precipices. . . . The very heart 
of the mountains. 

Over the mountain, a pale green, clear, dumb 
sky. Bitter, cruel frost ; hard, sparkling snow ; 
sticking out of the snow, the sullen peaks of 
the ice-covered, wind-swept mountains. 

Two massive forms, two giants on the sides 
242 




POEMS IN PROSE 

of the horizon, the Jungfrau and the Finster- 
aarhorn. 

And the Jungfrau speaks to its neighbour: 
' What canst thou tell that is new ? thou canst 
see more. What is there down below ? ' 

A few thousand years go by : one minute. 
And the Finsteraarhorn roars back in answer : 
* Thick clouds cover the earth. . . . Wait a 
little ! ' 

Thousands more years go by : one minute. 

' Well, and now ? ' asks the Jungfrau. 

' Now I see, there below all is the same. 
There are blue waters, black forests, grey heaps 
of piled-up stones. Among them are still 
fussing to and fro the insects, thou knowest, 
the bipeds that have never yet once defiled 
thee nor me.' 

' Men ? ' 

' Yes, men.' 

Thousands of years go by : one minute. 

' Well, and now ? ' asks the Jungfrau. 

' There seem fewer insects to be seen,' thunders 
the Finsteraarhorn, ' it is clearer down below ; 
the waters have shrunk, the forests are thinner.' 
Again thousands of years go by : one minute. 

' What seeest thou ? ' says the Jungfrau. 

' Close about us it seems purer/ answers the 
Finsteraarhorn, ' but there in the distance in the 
valleys are still spots, and something is moving.' 
243 



POEMS IN PROSE 

' And now ? ' asks the Jungfrau, after more 
thousands of years : one minute. 

' Now it is well/ answers the Finsteraarhorn, 
' it is clean everywhere, quite white, wherever 
you look. . . . Everywhere is our snow, unbroken 
snow and ice. Everything is frozen. It is well 
now, it is quiet' 

' Good,' said the Jungfrau. ' But we have 
gossipped enough, old fellow. It's time to 
slumber.' 

' It is time, indeed.' 

The huge mountains sleep ; the green, clear 
sky sleeps over the region of eternal silence. 

February 1878. 



THE OLD WOMAN 

I WAS walking over a wide plain alone. 

And suddenly I fancied Hght, cautious foot- 
steps behind my back. . . . Some one was 
walking after me. 

I looked round, and saw a little, bent old 
woman, all muffled up in grey rags. The face 
of the old woman alone peeped out from them ; 
a yellow, wrinkled, sharp-nosed, toothless face. 

I went up to her. . . . She stopped. 
244 



POEMS IN PROSE 

' Who are you ? What do you want ? Are 
you a beggar ? Do you seek alms ? ' 

The old woman did not answer. I bent 
down to her, and noticed that both her eyes 
were covered with a half-transparent membrane 
or skin, such as is seen in some birds ; they 
protect their eyes with it from dazzling light. 

But in the old woman, the membrane did 
not move nor uncover the eyes . . . from which 
I concluded she was blind. 

' Do you want alms ? ' I repeated my question. 
'Why are you following me?' But the old 
woman as before made no answer, but only 
shrank into herself a little. 

I turned from her and went on my way. 

And again I hear behind me the same light, 
measured, as it were, stealthy steps. 

' Again that woman ! ' I thought, ' why does 
she stick to me ? ' But then, I added inwardly, 
' Most likely she has lost her way, being blind, 
and now is following the sound of my steps so 
as to get with me to some inhabited place. 
Yes, yes, that 's it.' 

But a strange uneasiness gradually gained 
possession of my mind. I began to fancy that 
the old woman was not only following me, but 
that she was directing me, that she was driving 
me to right and to left, and that I was unwit- 
tingly obeying her. 

245 



POEMS IN PROSE 

I still go on, however . . . but, behold, before 
me, on my very road, something black and 
wide ... a kind of hole. . . . ' A grave ! ' flashed 
through my head. ' That is where she is driv- 
ing me ! ' 

I turned sharply back. The old woman 
faced me again . . . but she sees ! She is 
looking at me with big, cruel, malignant eyes 
. . . the eyes of a bird of prey. ... I stoop 
down to her face, to her eyes. . . . Again the 
same opaque membrane, the same blind, dull 
countenance. . . . 

' Ah ! ' I think, ' this old woman is my fate. 
The fate from which there is no escape for man ! ' 

' No escape ! no escape ! What madness. . . . 
One must try.' And I rush away in another 
direction. 

I go swiftly. . . . But light footsteps as before 
patter behind me, close, close. . . . And before 
me again the dark hole. 

Again I turn another way. . . . And again 
the same patter behind, and the same menacing 
blur of darkness before. 

And whichever way I run, doubling like a 
hunted hare . . . it 's always the same, the 
same ! 

' Wait ! ' I think, ' I will cheat her ! I will go 
nowhere ! ' and I instantly sat down on the 
ground. 

246 



POEMS IN PROSE 

The old woman stands behind, two paces from 
me. I do not hear her, but I feel she is there. 

And suddenly I see the blur of darkness in 
the distance is floating, creeping of itself to- 
wards me ! 

God ! I look round again . . . the old 
woman looks straight at me, and her toothless 
mouth is twisted in a grin. 

No escape ! 



THE DOG 

Us two in the room ; my dog and me. . . . 
Outside a fearful storm is howling. 

The dog sits in front of me, and looks me 
straight in the face. 

And I, too, look into his face. 

He wants, it seems, to tell me something. 
He is dumb, he is without words, he does not 
understand himself — but I understand him. 

I understand that at this instant there is 
living in him and in me the same feeling, that 
there is no difference between us. We are the 
same ; in each of us there burns and shines the 
same trembling spark. 

Death sweeps down, with a wave of its chill 
broad wing. . . . 

And the end ! 

247 



S^' 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Who then can discern what was the spark 
that glowed in each of us ? 

No ! We are not beast and man that glance 
at one another. . . . 

They are the eyes of equals, those eyes 
riveted on one another. 

And in each of these, in the beast and in the 
man, the same life huddles up in fear close to 
the other. 

February 1878. 



MY ADVERSARY 

I HAD a comrade who was my adversary ; not 
in pursuits, nor in service, nor in love, but our 
views were never alike on any subject, and 
whenever we met, endless argument arose 
between us. 

We argued about everything : about art, and 
religion, and science, about life on earth and 
beyond the grave, especially about life beyond 
the grave. 

He was a person of faith and enthusiasm. 
One day he said to me, ' You laugh at every- 
thing ; but if I die before you, I will come to 
you from the other world. . . . We shall see 
whether you will laugh then.' 
248 



POEMS IN PROSE 

And he did, in fact, die before me, while he 
was still young ; but the years went by, and I 
had forgotten his promise, his threat. 

One night I was lying in bed, and could not, 
and, indeed, would not sleep. 

In the room it was neither dark nor light 
I fell to staring into the grey twilight. 

And all at once, L fancied that between the 
two windows my adversary was standing, and 
was slowly and mournfully nodding his head 
up and down. 

I was not frightened ; I was not even sur- 
prised . . . but raising myself a little, and 
propping myself on my elbow, I stared still 
more intently at the unexpected apparition. 

The latter continued to nod his head. 

* Well ? ' I said at last ; * are you triumphant 
or regretful ? What is this — warning or re- 
proach? ... Or do you mean to give me to 
understand that you were wrong, that we were 
both wrong? What are you experiencing? 
The torments of hell ? Or the bliss of paradise ? 
Utter one word at least ! ' 

But my opponent did not utter a single 
sound, and only, as before, mournfully and 
submissively nodded his head up and down. 

I laughed ... he vanished. 

February 187S. 

249 



POEMS IN PROSE 



THE BEGGAR 



I WAS walking along the street ... I was 
stopped by a decrepit old beggar. 

Bloodshot, tearful eyes, blue lips, coarse rags, 
festering wounds. . . . Oh, how hideously 
poverty had eaten into this miserable creature ! 

He held out to me a red, swollen, filthy hand. 
He groaned, he mumbled of help. 

I began feeling in all my pockets. . . . No 
purse, no watch, not even a handkerchief. . . . 
I had taken nothing with me. And the beggar 
was still waiting . . . and his outstretched hand 
feebly shook and trembled. 

Confused, abashed, I warmly clasped the 
filthy, shaking hand . . . ' Don't be angry, 
brother ; I have nothing, brother.' 

The beggar stared at me with his bloodshot 
eyes ; his blue lips smiled ; and he in his turn 
gripped my chilly fingers. 

' What of it, brother ? ' he mumbled ; ' thanks 
for this, too. That is a gift too, brother.' 

I knew that I too had received a eift from 
my brother. 

Fehntary 1878. 



250 



b' 



POEMS IN PROSE 



'THOU SHALT HEAR THE FOOL'S JUDG- 
MENT . . :— PUSHKIN 

' Thou shalt hear the fool's judgment . . .' 
You always told the truth, О great singer of 
ours. You spoke it this time, too. 

' The fool's judgment and the laughter of the 
crowd ' . . . who has not known the one and the 
other ? 

All that one can, and one ought to bear ; 
and who has the strength, let him despise it ! 

But there are blows which pierce more cruelly 
to the very heart. ... A man has done all that 
he could ; has worked strenuously, lovingly, 
honestly. . . . And honest hearts turn from him 
in disgust ; honest faces burn with indignation 
at his name. ' Be gone ! Away with you ! ' 
honest young voices scream at him. ' We have 
no need of you, nor of your work. You pollute 
our dwelling-places. You know us not and 
understand us not. . . . You are our enemy ! ' 

What is that man to do ? Go on working ; 
not 4ry--to justify himself, and not even look 
forward to a fairer judgment. 

At one time the tillers of the soil cursed the 
traveller who brought the potato, the substitute 
for bread, the poor man's daily food. . . . They 
251 



POEMS IN PROSE 

shook the precious gift out of his outstretched 
hands, flung it in the mud, trampled it under- 
foot. 

Now they are fed with it, and do not even 
know their benefactor's name. 

So be it ! What is his name to them ? He, 
nameless though he be, saves them from 
hunger. 

Let us try only that what we bring should be 
really good food. 

Bitter, unjust reproach on the lips of those 
you love. . . . But that, too, can be borne. . . . 

' Beat me ! but listen ! ' said the Athenian 
leader to the Spartan. 

' Beat me ! but be healthy and fed ! ' we 
ought to say. 

Febriiajy 1878. 



A CONTENTED MAN ^ ' 

A YOUNG man goes skipping and bounding 
along a street in the capital. His movements 
are gay and alert ; there is a sparkle in his 
eyes, a smirk on his lips, a pleasing flush on 
his beaming face. . . . He is all contentment 
and delight. 

What has happened to him ? Has he come 
252 



POEMS IN PROSE 

in for a legacy? Has he been promoted? Is 
he hastening to meet his beloved ? Or is it 
simply he has had a good breakfast, and the 
sense of health, the sense of well-fed prosperity, 
is at work in all his limbs ? Surely they have 
not put on his neck thy lovely, eight-pointed 
cross, О Polish king, Stanislas ? 

No. He has hatched a scandal against a 
friend, has sedulously sown it abroad, has heard 
it, this same slander, from the lips of another 
friend, and — has himself believed it ! 

Oh, how contented ! how kind indeed at this 
minute is this amiable, promising young man ! 

February 1878. 



A RULE OF LIFE 

' If you want to annoy an opponent thoroughly, 
and even to harm him,' said a crafty old knave 
to me, ' you reproach him with the very defect 
or vice you are conscious of in yourself. Be 
indignant . . . and reproach him ! 

* To begin with, it will set others thinking 
you have not that vice. 

* In the second place, your indignation may 
well be sincere . . . You can turn to account 
the pricks of your own conscience. 

253 



POEMS IN PROSE 

If you, for instance, are a turncoat, reproach 
your opponent with having no convictions ! 

' If you are yourself slavish at heart, tell him 
reproachfully that he is slavish . . . the slave of 
civilisation, of Europe, of Socialism ! ' 

' One might even say, the slave of anti- 
slavishness,' I suggested. 

' You might even do that,' assented the 
cunning knave. 

February 1878. 



THE END OF THE WORLD 

A DREAM 

I FANCIED I was somewhere in Russia, in the 
wilds, in a simple country house. 

The room big and low pitched with three 
windows ; the walls whitewashed ; no furniture. 
Before the house a barren plain ; gradually 
sloping downwards, it stretches into the dis- 
tance ; a grey monotonous sky hangs over it, 
like the canopy of a bed. 

I am not alone ; there are some ten persons 

in the room with me. All quite plain people, 

simply dressed. They walk up and down in 

silence, as it were stealthily. They avoid one 

254 



POEMS IN PROSE 

another, and yet are continually looking 
anxiously at one another. 

Not one knows why he has come into this 
house and what people there are with him. On 
all the faces uneasiness and despondency . . . 
all in turn approach the windows and look 
about intently as though expecting something 
from without. 

Then again they fall to wandering up and 
down. Among us is a small-sized boy ; from 
time to time he whimpers in the same thin 
voice, ' Father, I 'm frightened ! ' My heart 
turns sick at his whimper, and I too begin to 
be afraid ... of what? I don't know myself 
Only I feel, there is coming nearer and nearer 
a great, great calamity. 

The boy keeps on and on with his wail. Oh, 
to escape from here ! How stifling ! How 
weary ! how heavy. . . . But escape is im- 
possible. 

That sky is like a shroud. And no wind. . . . 
Is the air dead or what ? 

All at once the boy runs up to the window 
and shrieks in the same piteous voice, ' Look ! 
look ! the earth has fallen away ! ' 

'How? fallen away?' Yes; just now there 

was a plain before the house, and now it stands 

on a fearful height ! The horizon has sunk, has 

gone down, and from the very house drops an 

255 



POEMS IN PROSE 

almost overhanging, as it were scooped-out, 
black precipice. 

We all crowded to the window. . . . Horror 
froze our hearts. ' Here it is . . . here it is ! ' 
whispers one next me. 

And behold, along the whole far boundary of 
the earth, something began to stir, some sort 
of small, roundish hillocks began heaving and 
failing. 

' It is the sea ! ' the thought flashed on us ail 
at the same instant. * It will swallow us all up 
directly. . . . Only how can it grow and rise 
upwards ? To this precipice ? ' 

And yet, it grows, grows enormously. . . . 
i\lready there are not separate hillocks heaving 
in the distance. . . . One continuous, monstrous 
wave embraces the whole circle of the horizon. 

It is swooping, swooping, down upon us ! In 
an icy hurricane it flies, swirling in the darkness 
of hell. Everything shuddered — and there, in 
this flying mass — was the crash of thunder, the 
iron wail of thousands of throats. . . . 

Ah ! what a roaring and moaning ! It was 
the earth howling for terror. . . . 

The end of it ! the end of all ! 

The child whimpered once more. ... I tried 
to clutch at my companions, but already we 
were all crushed, buried, drowned, swept away 
by that pitch-black, icy, thundering wave ! 
256 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Darkness . . . darkness everlasting ! 
Scarcely breathing, I awoke. 

March 1878. 



MASHA 

When I lived, many years ago, in Petersburg, 
every time I chanced to hire a sledge, I used to 
get into conversation with the driver. 

I was particularly fond of talking to the night 
drivers, poor peasants from the country round, 
who come to the capital with their little ochre- 
painted sledges and wretched nags, in the hope 
of earning food for themselves and rent for their 
masters. 

So one day I engaged such a sledge-driver. 
. . . He was a lad of twenty, tall and well-made, 
a splendid fellow with blue eyes and ruddy 
cheeks ; his fair hair curled in little ringlets 
under the shabby little patched cap that was 
pulled over his eyes. And how had that little 
torn smock ever been drawn over those gigantic 
shoulders ! 

But the handsome, beardless face of the 
sledge-driver looked mournful and downcast. 

I began to talk to him. There was a sorrow- 
ful note in his voice too. 

257 R 



POEMS IN PROSE 

' What is it, brother ? ' I asked him ; ' why 
aren't you cheerful ? Have you some trouble ? ' 

The lad did not answer me for a minute. 
' Yes, sir, I have,' he said at last. ' And such a 
trouble, there could not be a worse. My wife is 
dead.' 

' You loved her . . . your wife .-* ' 

The lad did not turn to me ; he only bent 
his head a little. 

* I loved her, sir. It 's eight months since then 
. . . but I can't forget it. My heart is gnawing 
at me ... so it is ! And why had she to die ? 
A young thing ! strong ! ... In one day cholera 
snatched her away.' 

' And was she good to you ? ' 

* Ah, sir ! ' the poor fellow sighed heavily, 
' and how happy we were together ! She died 
without me! The first I heard here, they'd 
buried her already, you know ; I hurried off at 
once to the village, home — I got there — it was 
past midnight. I went into my hut, stood 
still in the middle of the room, and softly I 
whispered, "Masha! eh, Masha!" Nothing 
but the cricket chirping. I fell a-crying then, 
sat on the hut floor, and beat on the earth with 
my fists ! " Greedy earth ! " says I . . . " You 
have swallowed her up . . . swallow me too ! — 
Ah, Masha ! " 

* Masha ! ' he added suddenly in a sinking 

258 



POEMS IN PROSE 

voice. And without letting go of the cord reins, 
he wiped the tears out of his eyes with his 
sleeve, shook it, shrugged his shoulders, and 
uttered not another word. 

As I got out of the sledge, I gave him a few 
coppers over his fare. He bowed low to me, 
grasping his cap in both hands, and drove off at 
a walking pace over the level snow of the de- 
serted street, full of the grey fog of a January 
frost. 

April 1878. 



THE FOOL 

There lived a fool. 

For a long time he lived in peace and con- 
tentment ; but by degrees rumours began to 
reach him that he was regarded on all sides as 
a vulgar idiot. 

The fool was abashed and began to ponder 
gloomily how he might put an end to these un- 
pleasant rumours. 

A sudden idea, at last, illuminated his dull 
little brain . . . And, without the slightest delay, 
he put it into practice. 

A friend met him in the street, and fell to 
praising a well-known painter. . . . 
259 



POEMS IN PROSE 

' Upon my word ! ' cried the fool, ' that painter 
was out of date long ago . . . you didn't know 
it ? I should never have expected it of you . . . 
you are quite behind the times.' 

The friend was alarmed, and promptly agreed 
with the fool. 

* Such a splendid book I read yesterday ! ' 
said another friend to him. 

' Upon my word ! ' cried the fool, ' I wonder 
you 're not ashamed. That book 's good for 
nothing ; every one 's seen through it long ago. 
Didn't you know it ? You 're quite behind the 
times.' 

This friend too was alarmed, and he agreed 
with the fool. 

'What a wonderful fellow my friend N. N. 
is ! ' said a third friend to the fool. ' Now 
there 's a really generous creature ! ' 

' Upon my word ! ' cried the fool. ' N. N., the 
notorious scoundrel ! He swindled all his re- 
lations. Every one knows that. You 're quite 
behind the times.' 

The third friend too was alarmed, and he 
agreed with the fool and deserted his friend. 
And whoever and whatever was praised in the 
fool's presence, he had the same retort for every- 
thing. 

Sometimes he would add reproachfully: 
' And do you still believe in authorities?' 
260 



POEMS IN PROSE 

' Spiteful ! malignant ! ' his friends began to 
say of the fool. * But what a brain ! ' 

' And what a tongue ! ' others would add, 
' Oh, yes, he has talent ! ' 

It ended in the editor of a journal proposing 
to the fool that he should undertake their re- 
viewing column. 

And the fool fell to criticising everything and 
every one, without in the least changing his 
manner, or his exclamations. 

Now he, who once declaimed against authori- 
ties, is himself an authority, and the young men 
venerate him, and fear him. 

And what else can they do, poor young men ? 
Though one ought not, as a general rule, to 
venerate any one . . . but in this case, if one 
didn't venerate him, one would find oneself 
quite behind the times ! 

Fools have a good time among cowards. 

April \Zl%. 



AN EASTERN LEGEND 

Who in Bagdad knows not Jaffar, the Sun of 
the Universe? 

One day, many years ago (he was yet a youth), 
Jaffar was walking in the environs of Bagdad. 
261 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Suddenly a hoarse cry reached his ear ; some 
one was calling desperately for help. 

Jaffar was distinguished among the young 
men of his age by prudence and sagacity ; but 
his heart was compassionate, and he relied on 
his strength. 

He ran at the cry, and saw an infirm old man, 
pinned to the city wall by two brigands, who 
were robbing him. 

Jaffar drew his sabre and fell upon the mis- 
creants : one he killed, the other he drove 
away. 

The old man thus liberated fell at his de- 
liverer's feet, and, kissing the hem of his gar- 
ment, cried : ' Valiant youth, your magnanimity 
shall not remain unrewarded. In appearance I 
am a poor beggar ; but only in appearance. I 
am not a common man. Come to-morrow in 
the early morning to the chief bazaar ; I will 
await you at the fountain, and you shall be con- 
vinced of the truth of my words.' 

Jaffar thought : ' In appearance this man is a 
beggar, certainly ; but all sorts of things happen. 
Why not put it to the test ? ' and he answered : 
' Very well, good father ; I will come.' 

The old man looked into his face, and went 
away. 

The next morning, the sun had hardly risen, 
Jaffar went to the bazaar. The old man was 
262 



POEMS IN PROSE 

already awaiting him, leaning with his elbow on 
the marble basin of the fountain. 

In silence he took Jaffar by the hand and led 
him into a small garden, enclosed on all sides 
by high walls. 

In the very middle of this garden, on a green 
lawn, grew an extraordinary-looking tree. 

It was like a cypress ; only its leaves were of 
an azure hue. 

Three fruits — three apples — hung on the 
slender upward-bent twigs ; one was of middle 
size, long-shaped, and milk-white ; the second, 
large, round, bright - red ; the third, small, 
wrinkled, yellowish. 

The whole tree faintly rustled, though there 
was no wind. It emitted a shrill plaintive ring- 
ing sound, as of a glass bell ; it seemed it was 
conscious of Jaffar's approach. 

* Youth ! ' said the old man, ' pick any one of 
these apples and know, if you pick and eat the 
white one, you will be the wisest of all men ; if 
you pick and eat the red, you will be rich as 
-the Jew Rothschild; if you pick and eat the 
yellow one, you will be liked by old women. 
Make up your mind ! and do not delay. 
Within an hour the apples will wither, and 
the tree itself will sink into the dumb depths 
of the earth ! ' 

Jaffar looked down, and pondered. ' How 



POEMS IN PROSE 

am I to act ? ' he said in an undertone, as though 
arguing with himself. ' If you become too wise, 
maybe you will not care to live ; if you be- 
come richer than any one, every one will envy 
you ; I had better pick and eat the third, the 
withered apple ! ' 

And so he did ; and the old man laughed a 
toothless laugh, and said : ' О wise young man ! 
You have chosen the better part ! What need 
have you of the white apple ? You are wiser 
than Solomon as it is. And you 've no need of 
the red apple either. . . . You will be rich 
without it. Only your wealth no one will envy.' 

' Tell me, old man,' said Jafifar, rousing him- 
self, 'where lives the honoured mother of our 
Caliph, protected of heaven ? ' 

The old man bowed down to the earth, and 
pointed out to the young man the way. 

Who in Bagdad knows not the Sun of the 
Universe, the great, the renowned Jaffar ? 

Аргг7 1878. 



TWO STANZAS 

There was once a town, the inhabitants of 

which were so passionately fond of poetry, that 

if some weeks passed by without the appearance 

264 



POEMS IN PROSE 

of any good new poems, they regarded such a 
poetic dearth as a public misfortune. 

They used at such times to put on their 
worst clothes, to sprinkle ashes on their heads ; 
and, assembling in crowds in the public squares, 
to shed tears and bitterly to upbraid the muse 
who had deserted them. 

On one such inauspicious day, the young 
poet Junius came into a square, thronged with 
the grieving populace. 

With rapid steps he ascended a forum con- 
structed for this purpose, and made signs that 
he wished to recite a poem. 

The lictors at once brandished their fasces. 
' Silence ! attention ! ' they shouted loudly, and 
the crowd was hushed in expectation. 

'Friends! Comrades!' began Junius, in a 
loud but not quite steady voice : — 

' Friends ! Comrades ! Lovers of the Muse ! 
Ye worshippers of beauty and of grace ! 
Let not a moment's gloom dismay your souls, 
Your heart's desire is nigh, and light shall banish darkness.' 

Junius ceased . . . and in answer to him, from 
every part of the square, rose a hubbub of hiss- 
ing and laughter. 

Every face, turned to him, glowed with indig- 
nation, every eye sparkled with anger, every 
arm was raised and shook a menacing fist ! 
265 



POEMS IN PROSE 

* He thought to dazzle us with that ! ' growled 
angry voices. ' Down with the imbecile rhyme- 
ster from the forum ! Away with the idiot ! 
Rotten apples, stinking eggs for the motley 
fool ! Give us stones — stones here ! ' 

Junius rushed head over heels from the fbrimi 
. . . but, before he had got hom.e, he was over- 
taken by the sound of peals of enthusiastic 
applause, cries and shouts of admiration. 

Filled with amazement, Junius returned to 
the square, trying however to avoid being 
noticed (for it is dangerous to irritate an in- 
furiated beast). 

And what did he behold ? 

High above the people, upon their shoulders, 
on a flat golden shield, wrapped in a purple 
chlamys, with a laurel wreath on his flowing 
locks, stood his rival, the young poet Julius. 
. . . And the populace all round him shouted : 
' Glory ! Glory ! Glory to the immortal Julius ! 
He has comforted us in our sorrow, in our great 
woe! He has bestowed on us verses sweeter 
than honey, more musical than the cymbal's 
note, more fragrant than the rose, purer than 
the azure of heaven ! Carry him in triumph, 
encircle his inspired head with the soft breath 
of incense, cool his brow with the rhythmic 
movement of palm-leaves, scatter at his feet all 
the fragrance of the myrrh of Arabia ! Glory !' 
266 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Junius went up to one of the applauding 
enthusiasts. ' Enlighten me, О my fellow- 
citizen ! what were the verses with which Julius 
has made you happy ? I, alas ! was not in the 
square when he uttered them ! Repeat them, 
if you remember them, pray ! ' 

* Verses like those I could hardly forget ! ' 
the man addressed responded with spirit. 
' What do you take me for ? Listen — and 
rejoice, rejoice with us ! ' 

' Lovers of the Muse ! ' so the deified Julius 
had begun. . . . 

' Lovers of the Muse ! Comrades ! Friends 
Of beauty, grace, and music, worshippers ! 
Let not your hearts by gloom affrighted be ! 
The wished-for moment comes ! and day shall scatter night ! ' 

* What do you think of them ? ' 

' Heavens ! ' cried Junius ; ' but that 's my 
poem ! Julius must have been in the crowd 
when I was reciting them ; he heard them and 
repeated them, slightly varying, and certainly 
not improving, a few expressions.' 

' Aha ! Now I recognise you. . . . You are 
Junius,' the citizen he had stopped retorted with 
a scowl on his face. ' Envious man or fool ! 
. . . note only, luckless wretch, how sub- 
limely Julius has phrased it : " And day shall 
scatter night ! " While you had some such 
267 



POEMS IN PROSE 

rubbish : " And light shall banish darkness ! " 
What light ? What darkness ? ' 

' But isn't that just the same ? ' Junius was 
beginning. . . . 

' Say another word/ the citizen cut him short, 
' I will call upon the people . . . they will tear 
you to pieces ! ' 

Junius judiciously held his peace, but a grey- 
headed old man who had heard the conversa- 
tion went up to the unlucky poet, and laying a 
hand upon his shoulder, said : 

' Junius ! You uttered your own thought, but 
not at the right moment ; and he uttered not 
his own thought, but at the right moment. 
Consequently, he is all right ; while for you is 
left the consolations of a good conscience.' 

But while his conscience, to the best of its 
powers — not over successfully, to tell the truth 
— was consoling Junius as he was shoved on 
one side — in the distance, amid shouts of 
applause and rejoicing, in the golden radiance 
of the all-conquering sun, resplendent in purple, 
with his brow shaded with laurel, among un- 
dulating clouds of lavish incense, with majestic 
deliberation, like a tsar making a triumphal 
entry into his kingdom, moved the proudly erect 
figure of Julius . . . and the long branches of 
palm rose and fell before him, as though ex- 
pressing in their soft vibration, in their sub- 
268 



POEMS IN PROSE 

missive obeisance, the ever-renewed adoration 
which filled the hearts of his enchanted fellow- 
citizens ! 

April 1878. 



THE SPARROW 



%\\^ 



I WAS returning from hunting, and walking 
along an avenue of the garden, my dog 
running in front of me. 

Suddenly he took shorter steps, and began to 
steal along as though tracking game. 

I looked along the avenue, and saw a young 
sparrow, with yellow about its beak and down 
on its head. It had fallen out of the nest (the 
wind was violently shaking the birch-trees in 
the avenue) and sat unable to move, helplessly 
flapping its half-grown wings. 

My dog was slowly approaching it, when, 
suddenly darting down from a tree close by, an 
old dark-throated sparrow fell like a stone right 
before his nose, and all ruffled up, terrified, with 
despairing and pitiful cheeps, it flung itself 
twice towards the open jaws of shining teeth. 

It sprang to save ; it cast itself before its nest- 
ling . . . but all its tiny body was shaking with 
terror ; its note was harsh and strange. Swoon- 
ing with fear, it offered itself up ! 
269 



POEMS IN PROSE 

What a huge monster must the dog have 
seemed to it ! And yet it could not stay on its 
high branch out of danger. ... A force stronger 
than its will flung it down. 

My Tresor stood still, drew back. . . . 
Clearly he too recognised this force. 

I hastened to call off the disconcerted dog, 
and went away, full of reverence. 

Yes ; do not laugh. I felt reverence for that 
tiny heroic bird, for its impulse of love. 

Love, I thought, is stronger than death or 
the fear of death. Only by it, by love, life 
holds together and advances. 

April 1878. 



THE SKULLS г^'г 

A SUMPTUOUS, brilliantly lighted hall ; a 
number of ladies and gentlemen. 

All the faces are animated, the talk is lively. 
. . . A noisy conversation is being carried on 
about a famous singer. They call her divine, 
immortal. . . . O, how finely yesterday she 
rendered her last trill ! 

And suddenly — as by the wave of an en- 
chanter's wand — from every head and from 
every face, slipped off the delicate covering of 
270 



POEMS IN PROSE 

skin, and instantaneously exposed the deadly 
whiteness of skulls, with here and there the 
leaden shimmer of bare jaws and gums. 

With horror I beheld the movements of those 
jaws and gums ; the turning, the glistening in 
the light of the lamps and candles, of those 
lumpy bony balls, and the rolling in them of 
other smaller balls, the balls of the meaning- 
less eyes. 

I dared not touch my own face, dared not 
glance at myself in the glass. 

And the skulls turned from side to side as 
before. . . . And with their former noise, peep- 
ing like little red rags out of the grinning teeth, 
rapid tongues lisped how marvellously, how 
inimitably the immortal . . . yes, immortal . . . 
singer had rendered that last trill ! 

April 1878. 



THE WORKMAN AND THE MAN WITH 
WHITE HANDS 

A DIALOGUE 

Workman. Why do you come crawling up 
to us ? What do ye want ? You 're none of us. 
. . . Get along ! 

271 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Man with avhite hands. I am one of 
you, comrades ! 

The WORKMAN. One of us, indeed! That's 
a notion ! Look at my hands. D' ye see how 
dirty they are ? And they smell of muck, and 
of pitch — but yours, see, are white. And what 
do they smell of? 

The man with white hands {offering 
his hands). Smell them. 

The workman {sniffing his hands). That 's 
a queer start. Seems like a smell of iron. 

The man with white hands. Yes ; iron 
it is. For six long years I wore chains on 
them. 

The workman. And what was that for, 
pray? 

The man with white hands. Why, be- 
cause I worked for your good ; tried to set free 
-tie -oppressed and the ignorant ; stirred folks 
up against your oppressors ; resisted the 
authorities. ... So they locked me up. 

The workman. Locked you up, did they ? 
Serve you right for resisting ! 

Two Years Later. 

The same workman to another. I say, 
Pete. . . . Do you remember, the year before last, 
a chap with white hands talking to you ? 
272 



POEMS IN PROSE 

The other workman. Yes; . . . what 
of it? 

The first workman. They're going to 
hang him to-day, I heard say ; that 's the order. 

The second workman. Did he keep on 
resisting the authorities ? 

The first workman. He kept on. 

The second workman. Ah! . . . Now, I 
say, mate, couldn't we get hold of a bit of the 
rope they're going to hang him with? They 
do say, it brings good luck to a house ! 

The first workman. You're right there. 
We '11 have a try for it, mate. 

April 1878. 



THE ROSE 

The last days of August. . . . Autumn was 
already at hand. 

The sun was setting. A sudden downpour 
of rain, without thunder or lightning, had just 
passed rapidly over our wide plain. 

The garden in front of the house glowed and 
steamed, all filled with the fire of the sunset and 
the deluge of rain. 

She was sitting at a table in the drawing- 
273 s 



POEMS IN PROSE 

room, and, with persistent dreaminess, gazing 
through the half-open door into the garden. 

I knew what was passing at that moment 
in her soul ; I knew that, after a brief but 
agonising struggle, she was at that instant 
giving herself up to a feeling she could no 
longer master. 

All at once she got up, went quickly out into 
the garden, and disappeared. 

An hour passed ... a second ; she had not 
returned. 

Then I got up, and, getting out of the house, 
I turned along the walk by which — of that I 
had no doubt — she had gone. 

All was darkness about me ; the night had 
already fallen. But on the damp sand of the 
path a roundish object could be discerned — 
bright red even through the mist. 

I stooped down. It was a fresh, new-blown 
rose. Two hours before I had seen this very 
rose on her bosom. 

I carefully picked up the flower that had 
fallen in the mud, and, going back to the 
drawing-room, laid it on the table before her 
chair. 

And now at last she came back, and with 
light footsteps, crossing the whole room, sat 
down at the table. 

Her face was both paler and more vivid ; her 
274 



POEMS IN PROSE 

downcast eyes, that looked somehow smaller, 
strayed rapidly in happy confusion from side 
to side. 

She saw the rose, snatched it up, glanced at 
its crushed, muddy petals, glanced at me, and 
her eyes, brought suddenly to a standstill, were 
bright with tears. 

' What are you crying for ? ' I asked. 

'Why, see this rose. Look what has happened 
to it' 

Then I thought fit to utter a profound 
remark. 

' Your tears will wash away the mud,' I pro- 
nounced with a significant expression. 

' Tears do not wash, they burn,' she answered. 
And turning to the hearth she flung the rose 
into the dying flame. 

' Fire burns even better than tears,' she cried 
with spirit ; and her lovely eyes, still bright with 
tears, laughed boldly and happily. 

I saw that she too had been in the fire. 

April 1878. 

TO THE MEMORY OF U. P. VREVSKY^^ 

On dirt, on stinking wet straw under the 

shelter of a tumble-down barn, turned in haste 

275 



POEMS IN PROSE 

into a camp hospital, in a ruined Bulgarian 
village, for over a fortnight she lay dying of 
typhus. 

She was unconscious, and not one doctor 
even looked at her ; the sick soldiers, whom she 
had tended as long as she could keep on her 
legs, in their turn got up from their pestilent 
litters to lift a few drops of water in the hollow 
of a broken pot to her parched lips. 

She was young and beautiful ; the great 
world knew her ; even the highest dignitaries 
had been interested in her. Ladies had envied 
her, men had paid her court . . . two or three 
had loved her secretly and truly. Life had 
smiled on her ; but there are smiles that are 
worse than tears. 

A soft, tender heart . . . and such force, such 
eagerness for sacrifice ! To help those who 
needed help . . . she knew of no other happi- 
ness . . . knew not of it, and had never once 
known it. Every other happiness passed^iier 
by. But she had long made up her mind to 
that ; and all aglow with the fkecffjunqueiKh.- 
able faith, she gave herself to the service of her 
neighbours. 

What hidden treasure she buried there in the 
depth of her heart, in her most secret soul, no 
one ever knew ; and now, of course, no one will 
ever know. 

276 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Ay, and what need ? Her sacrifice is made 
. . . her work is done. 

But grievous it is to think that no one said 
thanks even to her dead body, though she herself 
was shy and shrank from all thanks. 

May her dear shade pardon this belated 
blossom, which I make bold to lay upon her 
grave ! 

September 1878. 



THE LAST MEETING 

We had once been close and warm friends. . . . 
But an unlucky moment came . . . and we 
parted as enemies. 

Many years passed by. . . . And coming to 
the town where he lived, I learnt that he was 
helplessly ill, and wished to see me. 

I made my way to him, went into his room. 
. . . Our eyes met. 

I hardly knew him. God ! what sickness had 
done to him ! 

Yellow, wrinkled, completely bald, with a 
scanty grey beard, he sat clothed in nothing but 
a shirt purposely slit open. . . . He could not 
bear the weight of even the lightest clothes. 
Jerkily he stretched out to me his fearfully thin 
277 



POEMS IN PROSE 

hand that looked as if it were gnawed away, 
with an effort muttered a few indistinct words — 
whether of welcome or reproach, who can tell ? 
His emaciated chest heaved, and over the 
dwindled pupils of his kindling eyes rolled two 
hard-wrung tears of suffering. 

My heart sank. ... I sat down on a chair 
beside him, and involuntarily dropping my eyes 
before the horror and hideousness of it, I too 
held out my hand. 

But it seemed to me that it was not his hand 
that took hold of me. 

It seemed to me that between us is sitting a 
tall, still, white woman. A long robe shrouds 
her from head to foot. Her deep, pale eyes 
look into vacancy ; no sound is uttered by her 
pale, stern lips. 

This woman has joined our hands. . . . She 
has reconciled us for ever. 

Yes. . . . Death has reconciled us. . . . 

April 1878. 



A VISIT W 

I WAS sitting at the open window ... in the 

morning, the early morning of the first of May. 

The dawn had not yet begun ; but already 

278 



POEMS IN PROSE 

the dark, warm night grew pale and chill at its 
approach. 

No mist had risen, no breeze was astir, all 
was colourless and still . . . but the nearness of 
the awakening could be felt, and the rarer air 
smelt keen and moist with dew. 

Suddenly, at the open window, with a light 
whirr and rustle, a great bird flew into my 
room. 

I started, looked closely at it. . . . It was not 
a bird ; it was a tiny winged woman, dressed in 
a narrow long robe flowing to her feet. 

She was grey all over, the colour of mother- 
of-pearl ; only the inner side of her wings 
glowed with the tender flush of an opening 
rose ; a wreath of valley lilies entwined the 
scattered curls upon her little round head ; and, 
like a butterfly's feelers, two peacock feathers 
waved drolly above her lovely rounded brow. 

She fluttered twice about the ceiling ; her 
tiny face was laughing ; laughing, too, were her 
great, clear, black eyes. 

The gay frolic of her sportive flight set them 
flashing like diamonds. 

She held in her hand the long stalk of a 
flower of the steppes — ' the Tsar's sceptre,' the 
Russians call it — it is really like a sceptre. 

Flying rapidly above me, she touched my 
head with the flower. 

279 



POEMS IN PROSE 

I rushed towards her. . . . But already 
she had fluttered out of window, and darted 
away. . . . 

In the garden, in a thicket of Hlac bushes, a 
wood-dove greeted her with its first morning 
warble . . . and where she vanished, the milk- 
white sky flushed a soft pink. 

I know thee. Goddess of Fantasy ! Thou 
didst pay me a random visit by the way ; thou 
hast flown -on to the young poets. 

О Poesy ! Youth ! Virginal beauty of 
woman ! Thou couldst shine for me but for a 
moment, in the early dawn of early spring ! 

May 1878. 



NECESSITAS— VIS—LIBERTAS! 

A BAS-RELIEF 

A TALL, bony old woman, with iron face and 
dull, fixed look, moves with long strides, and, 
with an arm dry as a stick, pushes before her 
another woman. 

This woman — of huge stature, powerful, thick- 
set, with the muscles of a Hercules, with a tiny 
head set on a bull neck, and blind — in her turn 
pushes before her a small, thin girl. 
280 



POEMS IN PROSE 

This girl alone has eyes that see ; she resists, 
turns round, lifts fair, delicate hands ; her face, 
full of life, shows impatience and daring. . . . 
She wants not to obey, she wants not to go, 
where they are driving her . . . but, still, she 
has to yield and go. 

Necessitas — Vis — Liber tas ! 

Who will, may translate. 

May 1878. 



ALMS 

Near a large town, along the broad highroad 
walked an old sick man. 

He tottered as he went ; his old wasted legs, 
halting, dragging, stumbling, moved painfully 
and feebly, as though they did not belong to 
him ; his clothes hung in rags about him ; his 
uncovered head drooped on his breast. . . . He 
was utterly worn-out. 

He sat down on a stone by the wayside, bent 
forward, leant his elbows on his knees, hid his 
face in his hands; and through the knotted 
fingers the tears dropped down on to the grey, 
dry dust. 

He remembered. . . . 

Remembered how he too had been strong 



POEMS IN PROSE 

and rich, and how he had^s^astedJiis^.health, 
and had lavished his riches upon others, 
friends and enemies. . . . And here, he had not 
now a crust of bread ; and all had forsaken, 
him, friends even before foes, . . . Must he sink 
to begging alms ? There was bitterness in his 
heart, and shame. 

The tears still dropped and dropped, spotting 
the grey dust. 

Suddenly he heard some one call him by his 
name ; he lifted his weary head, and saw 
standing before him a stranger. 

A face calm and grave, but not stern ; eyes 
not beaming, but clear ; a look penetrating, but 
not unkind. 

' Thou hast given away all thy riches,' said a 
tranquil voice. . . . ' But thou dost not regret 
having done good, surely ? ' 

' I regret it not,' answered the old man with 
a sigh ; ' but here I am dying now.' 

' And had there been no beggars who held 
out their hands to thee,' the stranger went on, 
4hou wouldst have had none on whom to 
prove thy goodness ; thou couldst not have done 
thy good works.' 

The old man answered nothing, and pondered. 

' So be thou also now not proud, poor man,' 
the stranger began again. ' Go thou, hold out 
thy hand ; do thou too give to other good men 
282 



POEMS IN PROSE 

a chance to prove in deeds that they are 
good.' 

The old man started, raised his eyes . . . 
but already the stranger had vanished, and in 
the distance a man came into sight walking 
along the road. 

The old man went up to him, and held out 
his hand. This man turned away with a surly 
face, and gave him nothing. 

But after him another passed, and he gave 
the old man some trifling alms. 

And the old man bought himself bread with 
the coppers given him, and sweet to him 
seemed the morsel gained by begging, and 
there was no shame in his heart, but the 
contrary : peace and joy came as a blessing 
upon him. 

May 1878. 



THE INSECT 

I DREAjMED that we were sitting, a party of 
tweirb^, in a big room with open windows. 

Among us were women, children, old men. 
. . . We were all talking of some very well- 
known subject, talking noisily and indistinctly. 

Suddenly, with a sharp, whirring sound, there 
283 



POEMS IN PROSE 

flew into the room a big insect, two inches long 
. . . it flew in, circled round, and settled on the 
wall. 

It was like a fly or a wasp. Its body dirt- 
coloured ; of the same colour too its flat, stifl* 
wings ; outspread feathered claws, and a head 
thick and angular, like a dragon-fly's ; both 
head and claws were bright red, as though 
steeped in blood. 

This strange insect incessantly turned its 
head up and down, to right and to left, moved 
its claws . . . then suddenly darted from the 
wall, flew with a whirring sound about the 
room, and again settled, again hatefully and 
loathsomely wriggling all over, without stirring 
from the spot. 

In all of us it excited a sensation of loathing, 
dread, even terror. . . . No one of us had ever 
seen anything like it. We all cried : ' Drive 
that monstrous thing away ! ' and waved our 
handkerchiefs at it from a distance . . . but no 
one ventured to go up to it . . . and when the 
insect began flying, every one instinctively 
moved away. 

Only one of our party, a pale-faced young 
man, stared at us all in amazement. He 
shrugged his shoulders ; he smiled, and posi- 
tively could not conceive what had happened 
to us, and why we were in such a state of 
284 



POEMS IN PROSE 

excitement. He himself did not see an insect 
at all, did not hear the ill-omened whirr of its 
wings. 

All at once the insect seemed to stare at him, 
darted off, and dropping on his head, stung him 
on the forehead, above the eyes. . . . The young 
man feebly groaned, and fell dead. 

The fearful fly flew out at once. . . . Only 
then we guessed what it was had visited us. 

May 1878. 



CABBAGE SOUP ' 

A PEASANT woman, a widow, had an only son, 
a young man of twenty, the best workman in 
the village, and he died. 

The lady who was the owner of the village, 
hearing of the woman's trouble, went to visit 
her on the very day of the burial. 

She found her at home. 

Standing in the middle of her hut, before the 
table, she was, without haste, with a regular 
movement of the right arm (the left hung list- 
less at her side), scooping up weak cabbage 
soup from the bottom of a blackened pot, and 
swallowing it spoonful by spoonful. 
285 



POEMS IN PROSE 

The woman's face was sunken and dark ; her 
eyes were red and swollen . . . but she held 
herself as rigid and upright as in church. 

' Heavens ! ' thought the lady, ' she can eat 
at such a moment . . . what coarse feelings 
they have really, all of them ! ' 

And at that point the lady recollected that 
when, a few years before, she had lost her little 
daughter, nine months old, she had refused, in 
her grief, a lovely country villa near Petersburg, 
and had spent the whole summer in town ! 
Meanwhile the woman went on swallowing 
cabbage soup. 

The lady could not contain herself, at last. 
* Tatiana ! ' she said . . . ' Really ! I 'm sur- 
prised ! Is it possible you didn't care for your 
son ? How is it you 've not lost your appetite ^ 
How can you eat that soup ! ' 

* My Vasia's dead,' said the woman quietly, 
and tears of anguish ran once more down her 
hollow cheeks. ' It 's the end of me too, of 
course ; it 's tearing the heart out of me alive. 
But the soup 's not to be wasted ; there 's salt 
in it' 

The lady only shrugged her shoulders and 
went away. Salt did not cost her much. 

Л1а_у iSyS. 



286 



POEMS IN PROSE 



THE REALM OF AZURE 

О REALM of azure ! О realm of light and 
colour, of youth and happiness ! I have be- 
held thee in dream. We were together, a few, 
in a beautiful little boat, gaily decked out. 
Like a swan's breast the white sail swelled 
below the streamers frolicking in the wind. 

I knew not who were with me ; but in all my 
soul I felt that they were young, light-hearted, 
happy as I ! 

But I looked not indeed on them. I beheld 
all round the boundless blue of the sea, dimpled 
with scales of gold, and overhead the same 
boundless sea of blue, and in it, triumphant 
and mirthful, it seemed, moved the sun. 

And among us, ever and anon, rose laughter, 
ringing and gleeful as the laughter of the gods ! 

And on a sudden, from one man's lips or 
another's, would flow words, songs of divine 
beauty and inspiration, and power ... it 
seemed the sky itself echoed back a greeting 
to them, and the sea quivered in unison. . . . 
Then followed again the blissful stillness. 

Riding lightly over the soft waves, swiftly 
our little boat sped on. No wind drove it 
along ; our own lightly beating hearts guided 
287 



POEMS IN PROSE 

it At our will it floated, obedient as a living 
thing. 

We came on islands, enchanted islands, half- 
transparent with the prismatic lights of precious 
stones, of amethysts and emeralds. Odours of 
bewildering fragrance rose from the rounded 
shores ; some of these islands showered on us 
a rain of roses and valley lilies ; from others 
birds darted up, with long wings of rainbow 
hues. 

The birds flew circling above us ; the lilies 
and roses melted away in the pearly foam 
that glided by the smooth sides of our boat. 

And, with the flowers and the birds, sounds 
floated to us, sounds sweet as honey . . . 
women's voices, one fancied, in them. . . . And 
ail about us, sky, sea, the heaving sail aloft, 
the gurgling water at the rudder — all spoke of 
love, of happy love ! 

Ajni^he, the beloved of each of us — she was 
there . . . unseen and close. One moment 
more, and behold, her eyes will shine upon 
thee, her smile will blossom on thee. . . . 
Her hand will take thy hand and guide thee to 
the land of joy that fades not ! 

О realm of azure ! In dream have I beheld 
thee. 

June 1878. 

288 



POEMS IN PROSE 



TWO RICH MEN 

When I hear the praises of the rich man 
Rothschild, who out of his immense revenues 
devotes whole thousands to the education of 
children, the care of the sick, the support of 
the aged, I admire and am touched. 

But even while I admire it and am touched 
by it, I cannot help recalling a poor peasant 
family who took an orphan niece into their little 
tumble-down hut. 

' If we take Katka,' said the woman, ' our last 
farthing will go on her, there won't be enough 
to get us salt to salt us a bit of bread.' 

* Well, ... we '11 do without salt,' answered 
the peasant, her husband. 

Rothschild is a long way behind that peasant ! 

July 1878. 



THE OLD MAN 

Days of darkness, of dreariness, have come. . . . 
Thy own infirmities, the sufferings of those dear 
to thee, the chill and gloom of old age. All 
that thou hast loved, to which thou hast given 
289 T 



POEMS IN PROSE 

thyself irrevocably, is falling, going to pieces. 
The way is all down-hill. 

What canst thou do ? Grieve ? Complain ? 
Thou wilt aid not thyself nor others that way. . . . 

On the bowed and withering tree the leaves 
are smaller and fewer, but its green is yet the 
same. 

Do thou too shrink within, withdraw into 
thyself, into thy memories, and there, deep 
down, in the very depths of the soul turned 
inwards on itself, thy old life, to which thou 
alone hast the key, will be bright again for 
thee, in all the fragrance, all the fresh green, 
and the grace and power of its spring ! 

But beware . . . look not forward, poor old 
man ! 



Jtdy 187S. 



I 



ф^ 



THE REPORTER \J 

Two friends were sitting at a table drinking 
tea. 

A sudden hubbub arose in the street. They 
heard pitiable groans, furious abuse, bursts of 
malignant laughter. 

' They 're beating some one,' observed one of 
the friends, looking out of window. 
290 



POEMS IN PROSE 

*A criminal? A murderer?' inquired the 
other. * I say, whatever he may be, we can't 
allow this illegal chastisement. Let's go and 
take his part/ 

' But it 's not a murderer they 're beating.' 
' Not a murderer ? Is it a thief then ? It 
makes no difference, let 's go and get him away 
from the crowd.' 

* It 's not a thief either.' 

'Not a thief? Is it an absconding cashier 
then, a railway director, an army contractor, a 
Russian art patron, a lawyer, a Conservative 
editor, a social reformer ? . . . Any way, let 's 
go and help him ! ' 

' No ... it 's a newspaper reporter they 're 
beating.' 

* A reporter ? Oh, I tell you what : we '11 
finish our glasses of tea first then.' 

July 1878. 



THE TWO BROTHERS 

It was a vision . . . 

Two angels appeared to me . . . two genii. 

I say angels, genii, because both had no 
clothes on their naked bodies, and behind their 
shoulders rose long powerful wings. 
291 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Both were youths. One was rather plump, 
with soft smooth skin and dark curls. His 
eyes were brown and full, with thick eyelashes ; 
his look was sly, merry, and eager. His face 
was charming, bewitching, a little insolent, a 
little wicked. His full soft crimson lips were 
faintly quivering. The youth smiled as one 
possessing power — self-confidently and lan- 
guidly ; a magnificent wreath of flowers rested 
lightly on his shiniug tresses, almost touching 
his velvety eyebrows. A spotted leopard's 
skin, pinned up with a golden arrow, hung 
lightly from his curved shoulder to his rounded 
thigh. The feathers of his wings were tinged 
with rose colour ; the ends of them were bright 
red, as though dipped in fresh-spilt scarlet blood. 
From time to time they quivered rapidly with 
a sweet silvery sound, the sound of rain in 
spring. 

The other was thin, and his skin yellowish. 
At every breath his ribs could be seen faintly 
heaving. His hair was fair, thin, and straight ; 
his eyes big, round, pale grey ... his glance 
uneasy and strangely bright. All his features 
were sharp ; the little half-open mouth, with 
pointed fish-like teeth ; the pinched eagle nose, 
the projecting chin, covered with whitish down. 
The parched lips never once smiled. 

It was a well-cut face, but terrible and piti- 
292 



POEMS IN PROSE 

less ! (Though the face of the first, the beautiful 
youth, sweet and lovely as it was, showed no 
trace of pity either.) About the head of the 
second youth were twisted a few broken and 
empty ears of corn, entwined with faded grass- 
stalks. A coarse grey cloth girt his loins ; the 
wings behind, a dull dark grey colour, moved 
slowly and menacingly. 

The two youths seemed inseparable com- 
panions. Each of them leaned upon the other's 
shoulder. The soft hand of the first lay like a 
cluster of grapes upon the bony neck of the 
second ; the slender wrist of the second, with 
its long delicate fingers, coiled like a snake 
about the girlish bosom of the first. 

And I heard a voice. This is what it said : 
' Love and Hunger stand before thee — twin 
brothers, the two foundation-stones of all things 
living. 

' All that lives moves to get food, and feeds 
to bring forth young. 

' Love and Hunger — their aim is one ; that 
life should cease not, the life of the individual 
and the life of others — the same universal life.' 

August 1S7S. 



293 



POEMS IN PROSE 



THE EGOIST 



He had every qualification for becoming the 
scourge of his family. 

He was born healthy, was born wealthy, and 
throughout the whole of his long life, continu- 
ing to be wealthy and healthy, he never com- 
mitted a single sin, never fell into a single error, 
never once made a slip or a blunder. 

He was irreproachably conscientious ! . . . 
And complacent in the sense of his own con- 
scientiousness, he crushed every one with it, his 
family, his friends and his acquaintances. 

His conscientiousness was his capital . . . 
and he exacted an exorbitant interest for it. 

His conscientiousness gave him the right to 
be merciless, and to do no good deeds beyond 
what it dictated to him ; and he was merciless, 
and did no good ... for good that is dictated 
is no good at all. 

He took no interest in any one except his 
own exemplary self, and was genuinely in- 
dignant if others did not take as studious an 
interest in it ! 

At the same time he did not consider himself 
an egoist, and was particularly severe in censur- 
ing, and keen in detecting egoists and egoism. 
294 



POEMS IN PROSE 

To be sure he was. The egoism of another was 
a check on his own. 

Not recognising the smallest weakness in 
himself he did not understand, did not tolerate 
any weakness in any one. He did not, in fact, 
understand any one or any thing, since he was 
all, on all sides, above and below, before and 
behind, encircled by himself. 

He did not even understand the meaning of 
forgiveness. He had never had to forgive him- 
self. . . . What inducement could he have to 
forgive others ? 

Before the tribunal of his own conscience, 
before the face of his own God, he, this marvel, 
this monster of virtue, raised his eyes heaven- 
wards, and with clear unfaltering voice declared, 
' Yes, I am an exemplary, a truly moral man ! ' 

He will repeat these words on his deathbed, 
and there will be no throb even then in his 
heart of stone — in that heart without stain or 
blemish ! 

Oh, hideousness of self-complacent, unbend- 
ing, cheaply bought virtue ; thou art almost 
more revolting than the frank hideousness of 
vice ! 

Dec. 1876. 



295 



POEMS IN PROSE 



THE BANQUET OF THE SUPREME 
BEING 

One day the Supreme Being took it into his 
head to give a great banquet in his palace of 
azure. 

All the virtues were invited. Only the virtues 
. . . men he did not ask . . . only ladies. 

There were a great many of them, great and 
small. The lesser virtues were more agreeable 
and genial than the great ones ; but they all 
appeared in good humour, and chatted amiably 
together, as was only becoming for near relations 
and friends. 

But the Supreme Being noticed two charming 
ladies who seemed to be totally unacquainted. 

The Host gave one of the ladies his arm and 
led her up to the other. 

' Beneficence ! ' he said, indicating the first. 

' Gratitude ! ' he added, indicating the second, 

Both the virtues were amazed beyond ex- 
pression ; ever since the world had stood, and 
it had been standing a long time, this was the 
first time they had met. 

Dec. 1878. 



296 



POEMS IN PROSE 



THE SPHINX 



%^ 



YELLOWISH-grey sand, soft at the top, hard, 
grating below . . . sand without end, where- 
ever one looks. 

And above this sandy desert, above this sea 
of dead dust, rises the immense head of the 
Egyptian sphinx. 

What would they say, those thick, projecting 
lips, those immutable, distended, upturned 
nostrils, and those eyes, those long, half-drowsy, 
half-watchful eyes under the double arch of the 
high brows ? 

Something they would say. They are speak- 
ing, truly, but only CEdipus can solve the 
riddle and comprehend their mute speech. 

Stay, but I know those features ... in them 
there is nothing Egyptian. White, low brow, 
prominent cheek-bones, nose short and straight, 
handsome mouth and white teeth, soft mous- 
tache and curly beard, and those wide-set, not 
large eyes . . . and on the head the cap of 
hair parted down the middle. . . . But it is 
thou, Karp, Sidor, Semyon, peasant of Yaroslav, 
of Ryazan, my countryman, flesh and blood, 
Russian ! Art thou, too, among the sphinxes ? 

Wouldst thou, too, say somewhat ? Yes, and 
thou, too, art a sphinx. 

297 



POEMS IN PROSE 

And thy eyes, those colourless, deep eyes, 
are speaking too . . . and as mute and enig- 
matic is their speech. 

But where is thy CEdipus ? 

Alas ! it 's not enough to don the peasant 
smock to become thy Gidipus, oh Sphinx of 
all the Russias ! 

Dec. 1878. 



THE NYMPHS 

I STOOD before a chain of beautiful mountains 
forming a semicircle. A young, green forest 
covered them from summit to base. 

Limpidly blue above them was the southern 
sky ; on the heights the sunbeams rioted ; be- 
low, half-hidden in the grass, swift brooks were 
babbling. 

And the old. fable came to my mind, how in 
the first century after Xlhidst's birth, a JGre#k 
ship was sailing on the ^gean Sea. 

The hour was mid-day. ... It was still 
weather. And suddenly up aloft, above the 
pilot's head, some one called distinctly, ' When 
thou sailest by the island, shout in a loud voice, 
" Great Pan is dead ! " ' 

The pilot was amazed . . . afraid. But when 
298 



POEMS IN PROSE 

the ship passed the island, he obeyed, he called, 
' Great Pan is dead ! ' 

And, at once, in response to his shout, all 
along the coast (though the island was un- 
inhabited), sounded loud sobs, moans, long- 
drawn-out, plaintive wailings. * Dead ! dead is 
great Pan ! ' I recalled this story . . . and a 
strange thought came to. ' What if I call an 
iavocation ? ' 

But in the sight of the exuUant, beauty around 
me, I could not think of death, and with all my 
might I shouted, ' Great Pan is arisen ! arisen ! ' 
And at once, wonder of wonders, in answer to 
my call, from all the wide half-circle of green 
mountains came peals of joyous laughter, rose 
the murmur of glad voices and the clapping 
of hands. ' He is arisen ! Pan is arisen ! ' 
clamoured fresh young voices. Everything 
before me burst into sudden laughter, brighter 
than the sun on high, merrier than the brooks 
that babbled among the grass. I heard the 
hurried thud of light steps, among the green 
undergrowth there were gleams of the marble 
white of flowing tunics, the living flush of bare 
limbs. ... It was the nymphs, nymphs, dryads, 
Bacchantes, hastening from the heights down to 
the plain. . . . 

All at once they дрред;- at every opening in ^/ ^ 
the woods. Their curls float about their ^rod 



:л 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Jike heads, their slender hands hold aloft 
wreaths and cymbals, and laughter, sparkling, 
Olympian laughter, comes leaping, dancing 
with them. . . . 

Before them moves a goddess. She is taller 
and fairer than the rest ; a quiver on her shoul- 
der, a bow in her hands, a silvery crescent moon 
on her floating tresses. . . . 

' Diana, is it thou ? ' 

But suddenly the goddess stopped . . . and 
at once all the nymphs following her stopped. 
The ringing laughter died away. 

I jjee the face of the hushed goddess overspread 
with a deadly pallor ; Lsaw her feet grew rooted 
to the ground, her lips parted in unutterable 
horror ; her eyes grew wide, fixed on the dis- 
tance . . . What had she seen ? What was 
she gazing upon ? 

I turned where she was gazing . . . 

And on the distant sky-line, above the low 
strip of fields, gleamed, like a point of fire 
the golden qxjoss on the white bell-tower of a 
Christian church. . . . That cross the goddess 
had caught sight of. 

I heard behind me a long, broken sigh, like 
the quiver of a broken string, and when I 
turned again, 410, trace was left of the nyxopbs. 
. . . The broad forest was green as before, and 
only here and there among the thick network 
300 



POEMS IN PROSE 



of branches, were fadings gleams of something 
white ; whether the nymphs' white robes, or a 
mist rising from the valley, I know not. 

But how I mi5&rned for those vanished 



goddesses ! 

Dec. 1878. 



FRIEND AND ENEMY 

A PRISONER, condemned to confinement for 
life, broke out of his prison and took to head- 
long flight. . . . After him, just on his heels 
flew his gaolers in pursuit. 

He ran with all his might. . . . His pursuers 
began to be left behind. 

But behold, before him was a river with pre- 
cipitous banks, a narrow, but deep river. . . . 
And he could not swim ! 

A thin rotten plank had been thrown across 
from one bank to the other. The fugitive 
already had his foot upon it. . . . But it so 
happened that just there beside the river stood 
his^biestcfrieruiand his bitterest enemy. 

His enemy said nothing, he merely folded 
his arms ; but the friend shrieked at the top of 
his voice: 'Heavens! What are you doing? 
Madman, think what you're about! Don't 
you see the plank 's utterly rotten ? It will 
301 



POEMS IN PROSE 

break under your weight, and you will inevit- 
ably perish ! ' 

' But there is no other way to cross . . . and 
don't you hear them in pursuit ? ' groaned the 
poor wretch in despair, and he stepped on to 
the plank. 

' I won't allow it ! . . . No, I won't allow 
you to rush to destruction ! ' cried the zealous 
friend, and he snatched the plank from under 
the fugitive. The latter instantly fell into the 
boiling torrent, and was drowned. 

The enemy smiled complacently, and walked 
away ; but the friend sat down on the bank, 
and fell to weeping bitterly over his poor . . . 
poor friend ! 

ТоД)1ате himself for his destruction did not 
however occur to him . . . not for an instant. 

' He would not listen to me ! He would not 
listen ! ' he murmured dejectedly. 

' Though indeed,' he added at last. ' He 
would have had, to be sure, to languish his 
whole life long in an awful prison ! At any 
rate, he is out of suffering now ! He is better 
off now ! Such was bound to be his fate, I 
suppose ! 

' And yet I am sorry, from humane feeling ! ' 

And the kind soul continued to sob incon- 
solably over the fate of his misguided friend. 

Dec. 1878. 

302 



POEMS IN PROSE 



CHRIST 



I SAW myself, in dream, a youth, almost a boy, 
in a low-pitched wooden church. The slim 
wax candles gleamed, spots of red, before the 
old pictures of the saints. 

A ring of coloured light encircled each tiny 
flame. Dark and dim it was in the church. 
. . . But there stood before me many people. 
All fair-haired, peasant heads. From time 
to time they began swaying, falling, rising 
again, like the ripe ears of wheat, when the 
wind of summer passes in slow undulation over 
them. 

All at once some man came up from behind 
and stood beside me. 

I did not turn towards him ; but at once I 
felt that this man was Christ. 

Emotion, curiosity, awe overmastered me 
suddenly, I made an effort . . . and looked 
at my neighbour. 

A face like every one's, a face like д11 men's 
faces. The eyes looked a little upwards, quietly 
and intently. The lips closed, but not com- 
pressed ; the upper lip, as it were, resting on 
the lower ; a small beard parted in two. The 
303 



POEMS IN PROSE 

hands folded and still. And the clothes on him 
like every one's. 

' What sort of Christ is this ? ' I thought. 
' Such an oxdinary, ordinary man ! It can't be !' 

I turned away. But I had hardly turned my 
eyes away from this ordinary man when I^Jelt^ 
again that it really was none other than Christ 
standing beside me. 

Again I made an effort over myself . . . 
And again the same face, like all men's faces, 
the same everyday though unknown features. 

And suddenly my heart sank, and I came to 
myself Only then I realised that just ^ijch-^ 
face — a face like all men's faces— is the face of 
Christ. 

Dec. 1878. 



304 



POEMS IN PROSE 



II 

[1879-1882] 
THE STONE 

Have you seen an old grey stone on the sea- 
shore, when at high tide, on a sunny day of 
spring, the living waves break upon it on all 
sides — break and frolic and caress it — and 
sprinkle over its sea-mossed head the scattered 
pearls of sparkling foam ? 

The stone is still the same stone ; but its 
sullen surface blossoms out into bright colours. 

They tell of those far-off days when the 
molten granite had but begun to harden, and 
was all aglow with the hues of fire. 

Even so of late was my old heart surrounded, 
broken in upon by a rush of fresh girls' souls 
. . . and under their caressing touch it flushed 
with long-faded colours, the traces of burnt-out 
fires ! 

The waves have ebbed back . . . but the 
colours are not yet dull, though a cutting wind 
is drying them. 

May 1879. 

305 и 



POEMS IN PROSE 



THE DOVES 



I STOOD on the top of a sloping hillside ; before 
me, a gold and silver sea of shifting colour, 
stretched the ripe rye. 

But no little wavelets ran over that sea ; no 
stir of wind was in the stifling air ; a great 
storm was gathering. 

Near me the sun still shone with dusky fire ; 
but beyond the rye, not very far away, a dark- 
Ыие storm-cloud lay, a menacing mass over 
full half of the horizon. 

All was hushed ... all things were faint 
under the malignant glare of the last sun rays. 
No sound, no sight of a bird ; even the sparrows 
hid themselves. Only somewhere close by, 
persistently a great burdock leaf flapped and 
whispered. 

How strong was the smell of the wormwood 
in the hedges ! I looked at the dark-blue mass 
. . . there was a vague uneasiness at my heart. 
' Come then, quickly, quickly !' was my thought, 
' flash, golden дпаке, and roll thunder ! move, 
hasten, break into floods, e_Yil storm-cloud ; cut 
short this agony of suspense ! ' 

But the storm-cloud did not move. It lay as 
306 



POEMS IN PROSE 

before, a stifling weight upon the hushed earth 
. . . and only seemed to swell and darken. 

And lo, over its dead dusky-blue, something 
darted in smooth, even flight, like a white hand- 
kerchief or a handful of snow. It was a -white 
dove flying from the direction of the village. 

It flew, flew on straight . . . and plunged 
into the forest. Some instants passed by — still 
the same cruel hush. . . . But, look ! Two 
handkerchiefs gleam in the air, two handfuls 
of snow are floating back, two white doves 
are winging their way homewards with even 
flight. 

And now at last the storm has broken, and 
the tumult has begun ! 

I could hardly get home. The wind howled, 
tossing hither and thither in frenzy ; before it 
scudded low red clouds, torn, it seemed, into 
shreds ; everything was whirled round in con- 
fusion ; the lashing rain streamed in furious 
torrents down the upright trunks, flashes of 
lightning were blinding with greenish light, 
sudden peals of thunder boomed like cannon- 
shots, the air was full of the smell of sulphur. . . . 

But under the overhanging roof, on the sill 
of the dormer window, side by side sat two 
white doves, the one who flew after his mate, 
and the mate he brought back, saved, perhaps, 
from destruction. 

307 



POEMS IN PROSE 

They sit ruffling up their feathers, and each 
feels his mate's wing against his wing. . . . 

They are happy ! And I am happy, seeing 
them. . . . Though I. am alone . . . alone^ as 
always. 

May 1879. 



TO-MORROW! TO-MORROW! 

How empty, dull, and useless is almost every 
day when it is spent ! How few the traces it 
leaves behind it ! How meaningless, how foolish 
those hours as they coursed by one after another! 

And yet it is man's wish to exist ; he prizes 
life, he rests hopes on it, on himself, on the 
future. . . . Oh, what blessings he looks for 
from the future ! 

But why does he imagine that other coming 
days will not be like this day he has just lived 
through ? 

Nay, he does not even imagine it. He likes 
not to think at all, and he does well. 

* Ah, to-morrow, to-morrow ! ' he comforts 
himself, till 'to-morrow' pitches him into the 
grave. 

Well, and once in the grave, thou hast no 
choice, thou doest no more thinking. 

May 1879. 

308 



POEMS IN PROSE 



v4u 



NATURE 



I DREAMED I had come into an immense 
underground temple with lofty arched roof. It 
was filled with a sort of underground uniform 



b' 



light. 

In the very middle of the temple sat a 
majestic woman in a flowing robe of green 
colour. Her head propped on her hand, she 
seemed buried in deep thought 

At once I was aware that this woman was 
Nature herself; and a thrill of reverent awe 
sent an instantaneous shiver through my inmost 
soul. 

I approached the sitting figure, and making a 
respectful bow, ' О common Mother of us all ! ' 
I cried, ' of what is thy meditation ? Is it of 
the future destinies of man thou ponderest ? or 
how he may attain the highest possible perfec- 
tion and happiness ? ' 

The woman slowly turned upon me her dark 
menacing eyes. Her lips moved, and I heard 
a ringing voice like the clang of iron. 

' I am thinking how to give greater power to 
the leg-muscles of the flea, that he may more 
easily escape from his enemies. The balance of 
attack and defence is broken. ... It must be 
restored.' 

309 



POEMS IN PROSE 

* What/ I faltered in reply, ' what is it thou 
art thinking upon ? But are not we, men, thy 
favourite children ? ' 

The woman frowned slightly. ' All creatures 
are my children,' she pronounced, ' and *1__сяге 
for them alike, and all alike I destroy.' 

' But right . . . reason . . . justice . . .' I 
faltered again. 

' Those are men's words,' I heard the iron 
voice saying. ' I know not right nor wrong. . . . 
Reason is no law for me — and what is justice ? 
— I have given thee life, I shall take it away 
and give to others, worms or men ... I care 
not. . . . Do thou meanwhile look out for thy- 
self, and hinder me not ! ' 

I would have retorted . . . but the earth 
uttered a hollow groan and shuddered, and I 
awoke. 

August 1879. 



'HANG HIM!' 

' It happened in 1803,' began my old acquaint- 
ance, ' not long before AusterUtz. The regiment 
in which I was an officer was quartered in 
Moravia. 

' We had strict orders not to molest or annoy 
the inhabitants ; as it was, they regarded us 
310 



POEMS IN PKOSE 

very dubiously, though we were supposed to be 
alhes. 

* I had a servant, formerly a serf of my 
mother's, Yegor, by name. He was a quiet, 
hpnost fellow ; I had known him from a child, 
and treated him as a friend. 

' Well, one day, in the house where I was 
living, I heard screams of abuse, cries, and 
lamentations ; the woman of the house had had 
two hens stolen, and she laid the theft at my 
servant's door. He defended himself, called 
me to witness. ..." Likely he 'd turn thief, he, 
Yegor Avtamonov ! " I assured the woman of 
Yegor's honesty, but she would not listen 
to me. 

' All at once the thud of horses' hoofs was 
heard along the street ; the commander-in-chief 
was riding by with his staff. He was riding 
at a walking pace, a stout, corpulent man, with 
drooping head, and epaulettes hanging on his 
breast. 

* The woman saw him, and rushing before his 
horse, flung herself on her knees, and, bare- 
headed and all in disorder, she began loudly 
complaining of my servant, pointing at him. 

'"General!" she screamed; "your Excel- 
lency ! make an inquiry ! help me ! save me ! 
this soldier has robbed me ! " 

' Yegor stood at the door of the house, bolt 
.^11 



POEMS IN PROSE 

upright, his cap in his hand, he even arched his 
chest and brought his heels together like a 
sentry, and not a word ! Whether he was 
abashed at all the general's suite halting there 
in the middle of the street, or stupefied by the 
calamity facing him, I can't say, but there stood 
my poor Yegor, blinking and white as chalk ! 

' The commander-in-chief cast an abstracted 
and sullen glance at him, growled angrily, 
" Well ? " . . . Yegor stood like a statue, show- 
ing his teeth as if he were grinning ! Looking 
at him from the side, you 'd say the fellow was 
laughing ! 

'Then the commander-in-chief jerked out: 
" Hang him ! " spurred his horse, and moved on, 
first at a walking-pace, then at a quick trot. 
The whole staff hurried after him ; only one 
adjutant turned round on his saddle and took 
a passing glance at Yegor. 

' To disobey was impossible. , . . Yegor was 
seized at once and led off to execution. 

' Then he broke down altogether, and simply 
gasped out twice, " Gracious heavens ! gracious 
heavens ! " and then in a whisper, " God knows, 
it wasn't me ! " 

' Bitterly, bitterly he cried, saying good-bye to 
me. I was in despair. " Yegor ! Yegor ! " I 
cried, "how came it you said nothing to the 
general ? " 

312 



POEMS IN PROSE 

' " God knows, it wasn't me ! " the poor fellow 
repeated, sobbing. The woman herself was 
horrified. She had never expected such a 
dreadful termination, and she started howling 
on her own account ! She fell to imploring all 
and each for mercy, swore the hens had been 
found, that she was ready to clear it all up. . . . 

* Of course, all that was no sort of use. Those 
were war-times, sir ! Discipline ! The woman 
sobbed louder and louder. 

' Yegor, who had received absolution from the 
priest, turned to me. 

' " Tell her, your honour, not to upset herself 
. . . I Ve forgiven her." ' 

My acquaintance, as he repeated this, his 
servant's last words, murmured, ' My poor 
Yegor, dear fellow, a real saint ! ' and the tears 
trickled down his old cheeks. 

August 1879. 



WHAT SHALL I THINK? . . .b* 



What shall I think when I come to die, if 
only I am in a condition to think anything 
then? 

Shall I think how little use I have made of 
Z13 



POEMS IN PROSE 

my life, how I have slumbered, dozed through 
it, how little I have known how to enjoy its 
gifts ? 

'What? is this death? So soon? Impossible! 
Why, I have had no time to do anything yet. 
... I have only been making ready to begin ! ' 

Shall I recall the past, and dwell in thought 
on the (ew bright moments I have lived through 
— on precious images and faces ? 

Will my ill deeds come back to my mind, and 
will my soul be stung by the burning pain of 
remorse too late ? 

Shall I think of what awaits me beyond_±b~e 
grave . . . and in truth does anything await 
me there ? 

Hd. ... I fancy J shall try notuto think,-and 
shall force myself to take interest in some trifle 
simply to distract my own attention from the 
menacing darkness, which is black before me. 

I once saw a dying man who kept complain- 
ing they would not let him have hazel-nuts to 
munch ! . . . and only in the depths of his 
fast-dimming eyes, something quivered and 
struggled like the torn wing of a bird wounded 
to death. . . . 

August 1879. 



POEMS IN PROSE 



' HOW FAIR, HOW FRESH WERE THE 
ROSES . . .' 

Somewhere, sometime, long, long ago, I read 
a poem. It was soon forgotten . . . but the 
first line has stuck in my memory — 

^Howfah\ how fresh were the roses . . .' 

Now is winter; the frost has iced over the 
window-panes ; in the dark room burns a 
solitary candle. I sit huddled up in a corner ; 
and in my head the line keeps echoing and 
echoing — 

* How fair ^ how fresh were the roses . . . ' 

And X see myself iefo re the low window of a 
Russian country house. The summer evening 
is slowly melting into night, the warm air is 
fragrant of mignonette and lime-blossom ; and 
at the window, leaning on her arm, her head 
bent on her shoulder, sits a^yaung girl, and 
silently, intently gazes into the sky, as though 
looking for new stars to come out. What 
candour, what inspiration in the dreamy eyes, 
what moving innocence in the parted question- 
ing lips, how calmly breathes that still-growing, 
315 



POEMS IN PROSE 

still-untroubled bosom, how pure and tender the 
profile of the young face ! I dare not speak 
to her ; but how dear she is to me, how my 
heart beats ! 

' How fair^ how fresh were the roses . . . ' 

But here in the room it gets darker and 
darker. . . . The candle burns dim and gutters, 
dancing shadows quiver on the low ceiling, the 
cruel crunch of the frost is heard outside, and 
within the dreary murmur of old age. . . . 

' How fair, hozv ^resh were the 7-oses . . . ' 

There rise up before me other images. I 
hear the merry hubbub of home life in the 
country. Two flaxen heads, bending close tp- 
gether, look saucily at me with their bright eyes-, 
rosy cheeks shake with suppressed laughter, 
hands are clasped in warm affection, young 
kind voices ring one above the other ; while a 
little farther, at the end of the snug room, other 
hands, young too, fly with unskilled fingers 
over the keys of the old piano, and the 
Lanner waltz cannot drown the hissing of the 
patriarchal samovar . . . 

'■ How fair, how fresh were the roses . . .' 

The candle flickers and goes out. . . . Whose is 

that hoarse and hollow cough ? Curled up, my 

316 



POEMS IN PROSE 

old dog lies, shuddering at my feet, my only 
companion. . . . I 'm cold ... I 'm frozen . . . 
and all of them are dead . . . dead . . . 

^ How fair, how fresh were the roses . . .' 
Sept. 1879. 



ON THE SEA 

I WAS going from Hamburg to London in a 
small steamer. We were two passengers ; I 
and a little female monkey, whom a Hamburg 
merchant was sending as a present to his 
English partner. 

She was fastened by a light chain to one of 
the seats on deck, and was moving restlessly 
and whining in a little plaintive pipe like a 
bird's. 

Every time I passed by her she stretched out 
her little, black, cold hand, and peeped up at me 
out of her little mournful, almost human eyes. I 
took her hand, and she ceased whining and 
moving restlessly about. 

There was a dead calm. The sea stretched 

on all sides like a motionless sheet of leaden 

colour. It seemed narrowed and small ; a thick 

fog overhung it, hiding the very mast-tops in 

317 



POEMS IN PROSE 

cloud, and dazing and wearying the eyes with its 
soft obscurity. The sun hung, a dull red blur 
in this obscurity ; but before evening it glowed 
with strange, mysterious, lurid light. 

Long, straight folds, like the folds in some 
heavy silken stuff, passed one after another over 
the sea from the ship's prow, and broadening as 
they passed, and wrinkling and widening, were 
smoothed out again with a shake, and vanished. 
The foam flew up, churned by the tediously 
thudding wheels ; white as milk, with a faint 
hiss it broke up into serpentine eddies, and 
then melted together again and vanished too, 
swallowed up by the mist. 

Persistent and plaintive as the monkey's 
whine rang the small, bell at the stern. 

From time to time a porpoise swam up, 
and with a sudden roll disappeared below the 
scarcely ruffled surface. 

And the captain, a silent man with a gloomy, 
sunburnt face, smoked a short pipe and angrily 
spat into the dull, stagnant sea. 

To all my inquiries he responded by a dis- 
connected grumble. I was obliged to turn to 
my sole companion, the monkey. 

I sat down beside her ; she ceased whining, 
and again held out her hand to me. 

The clinging fog oppressed us both with its 
drowsy dampness ; and buried in the same un- 
318 



POEMS IN PROSE 

conscious dreaminess, we sat side by side like 
brother and sister. 

I smile now . . . but then I had another 
feeling. 

We are all children of one mother, and I was 
glad that the poor little beast was soothed and 
nestled so confidingly up to me, as to a brother. 

November 1879. 



N. N. 

Calmly and gracefully thou movest along the 
path of life, tearless and smileless, and scarce 
a heedless glance of indifferent attention ruffles 
thy calm. 

Thou art good and wise . . . and all things 
are remote from thee, and of no one hast thou 
need. 

Thou art fair, and no one can say, whether 
thou prizest thy beauty or not. No sympathy 
hast thou to give ; none dost thou desire. 

Thy glance is deep, and no thought is in it ; 
in that clear depth is emptiness. 

So in the Elysian field, to the solemn strains 
of Gliick's melodies, move without grief or bliss 
the graceful shades. 

November 1879. 

319 



POEMS IN TROSE 



STAY! 



^Stay ! as I see thee now, abide for everii24»y 
memory ! 

From thy lips the last inspired note has 
broken. No light, no flash is in thy eyes ; they 
are dim, weighed down by the load of happi- 
ness, of the blissful sense of the beauty, it has 
been thy glad lot to express — the beauty, groping 
for which thou hast stretched out thy yearning 
hands, thy triumphant, exhausted hands ! 

What is the radiance — purer and higher than 
the sun's radiance — all about thy limbs, the 
least fold of thy raiment ? 

What god's caressing breath has set thy 
scattered tresses floating ? 

His kiss burns on thy brow, white now 5^ 
marble. 

This is it, the mystery revealed, the mystery 
of poesy, of life, of love ! This, this is im- 
mortality ! Other immortality there is none, 
nor need be. For this instant thou art jjiL- 
mortal. 

It passes, and once more thou art a grain of 
dust, a woman, a child. . . . But why need'st 
thou care! For this instant, thou art above, 
thou art outside all that is passing, temporary. 
This thy instant will never end. 
320 



POEMS IN PROSE 



Stay ! and let me share in thy immortality ; 
shed into my soul the light of thy eternity ! 

Novejnber 1879. 



THE MONK 

I USED to know a raonfcj-a-hermit, a saint. He 
lived' only for the sweetness of prayer ; and 
steeping himself in it, he would stand so long on 
the cold floor of the church that his legs below 
the knees grew numb and senseless as blocks 
of wood. He did not feel them ; he stood on 
and prayed. 

I understood him, and perhaps envied him ; 
but let him too understand me and not condemn 
me ; me, for whom his joys are inaccessible. 

He has attained to annihilating himself, his 
hateful ego ; but I too ; it 's not from egoism, I 
pray-«ot. 

My ego, may be, is even more burdensome 
and more odious to me, than his to him. 

He has found wherein to forget himself . . . 
but I, too, find the same, though not so con- 
tinuously. 

He does not lie . . . but neither do I lie. 

November 1879. 

321 X 



POEMS IN PROSE 



WE WILL STILL FIGHT ON 

What an insignificant trjfie may sometimes 
transform the whole man ! 

Full of melancholy thought, I walked one 
day along the highroad. 

My heart was oppressed by a weight of 
gloomy apprehension ; I was overwhelmed by 
dejection. I raised my head. . . . Before me, 
between two i^^ws-.^ tall poplars, the road 
darted like an arrow into the distance. 

And across it, across this road, ten paces 
from me, in the golden light of the dazzling 
summer sunshine, a whole family of sparraw,s 
hopped one after another, hopped saucily, drolly, 
self-reliantly ! 

One of them, in particular, skipped along 
sideways with desperate energy, puffing out 
his little bosom and chirping impudently, as 
though to say he was not afraid of any one ! 
A^allant little warrior, really ! 

And, meanwhile, high overhead in the heavens 
hovered ajaawk, destined, perhaps, to-devou-r 
that little warrior. 

I looked, laughed, shook myself, and the 
mournful thoughts flew right away: jphick, 
daring, zeal for life I felt anew. 
322 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Let him, too, hover over me, my hawk 
We will fight on, and damn it all ! 

November 1879. 



PRAYER 



V 



Whatever a man pray for, he prays for a 
miracle. Every prayer reduces to this : ' Great 
God, grant that twice two be not four.' 

Only such a prayer is a real prayer from 
person to person. To pray to the Cosmic 
Spirit, to the Higher Being, to the Kantian, 
Hegelian, quintessential, formless God is im- 
possible and unthinkable. 

But can even a personal, living, imaged God 
make twice two not be four? 

Every believer is bound to answer, he can^ 
and is bound to persuade himself of it. 

But if reason sets him revolting against this 
senselessness ? 

Then Shakespeare comes to his aid : ' There 
are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,' 
etc. 

And if they set about confuting him in the 
name of truth, he has but to repeat the famous 
question, ' What is truth ? ' 
323 



POEMS IN PROSE 

And SO, let us drink and be merry, and say 
our prayers. 

July 1 88 1. 



THE RUSSIAN TONGUE 



\^ 



In days of doubt, in days of dreary musings on 
my country's fate, thou alone art my stay and 
support, mighty, true, free Russian speech ! 
But for thee, how not fall into despair, seeing 
all that is done at home ? But who can think 
that such a tongue is not the gift of a great 
people ! 

June 1882. 



THE END 



Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty 
at the Edinburgh University Press