A FRAGMENT FROM THE DIARY OF A DEAD ARTIST

“It is enough,” I said to myself, while my feet, treading unwillingly
the steep slope of the mountain, bore me downward toward the quiet
river; “it is enough,” I repeated, as I inhaled the resinous scent of
the pine grove, to which the chill of approaching evening had imparted a
peculiar potency and pungency; “it is enough,” I said once more, as I
seated myself on a mossy hillock directly on the brink of the river and
gazed at its dark, unhurried waves, above which a thick growth of reeds
lifted their pale-green stalks…. “It is enough!–Have done with
dreaming, with striving: ’tis high time to pull thyself together; ’tis
high time to clutch thy head with both hands and bid thy heart be still.
Give over pampering thyself with the sweet indulgence of indefinite but
captivating sensations; give over running after every new form of
beauty; give over seizing every tremor of its delicate and powerful
pinions.–Everything is known, everything has been felt over and over
again many times already…. I am weary.–What care I that at this very
moment the dawn is suffusing the sky ever more and more broadly, like
some inflamed, all-conquering passion! What care I that two paces from
me, amid the tranquillity and the tenderness and the gleam of evening,
in the dewy depths of a motionless bush, a nightingale has suddenly
burst forth in such magical notes as though there had never been any
nightingales in the world before it, and as though it were the first to
chant the first song of the first love! All that has been, has been, I
repeat; it has been recapitulated a thousand times–and when one
remembers that all this will so continue for a whole eternity–as though
to order, by law–one even grows vexed! Yes … vexed!”

IV

Eh, how I have suffered! Formerly such thoughts never entered my
head–formerly, in those happy days when I myself was wont to flame
like the glow of dawn, and to sing like the nightingale.–I must confess
that everything has grown obscure round about me, all life has withered.
The light which gives to its colours both significance and power–that
light which emanates from the heart of man–has become extinct within
me…. No, it has not yet become extinct–but it is barely smouldering,
without radiance and without warmth. I remember how one day, late at
night, in Moscow, I stepped up to the grated window of an ancient church
and leaned against the uneven glass. It was dark under the low arches; a
forgotten shrine-lamp flickered with a red flame in front of an ancient
holy picture, and only the lips of the holy face were visible, stern and
suffering: mournful gloom closed in around and seemed to be preparing to
crush with its dull weight the faint ray of unnecessary light…. And in
my heart reign now the same sort of light and the same sort of gloom.

V

And this I write to thee–to thee, my only and unforgettable friend; to
thee, my dear companion,[31] whom I have left forever, but whom I shall
never cease to love until my life ends…. Alas! thou knowest what it
was that separated us. But I will not refer to that now. I have left
thee … but even here, in this remote nook, at this distance, in this
exile, I am all permeated with thee, I am in thy power as of yore, as of
yore I feel the sweet pressure of thy hands upon my bowed head!–Rising
up for the last time, from the mute grave in which I now am lying, I run
a mild, much-moved glance over all my past, over all our past…. There
is no hope and no return, but neither is there any bitterness in me, or
regret; and clearer than the heavenly azure, purer than the first snows
on the mountain heights, are my beautiful memories…. They do not press
upon me in throngs: they pass by in procession, like those muffled
figures of the Athenian god-born ones, which–dost thou remember?–we
admired so greatly on the ancient bas-reliefs of the Vatican….

VI

I have just alluded to the light which emanates from the human heart and
illumines everything which surrounds it…. I want to talk with thee
about that time when that gracious light burned in my heart.–Listen …
but I imagine that thou art sitting in front of me, and gazing at me
with thine affectionate but almost severely-attentive eyes. O eyes never
to be forgotten! On whom, on what are they now fixed? Who is receiving
into his soul thy glance–that glance which seems to flow from
unfathomable depths, like those mysterious springs–like you both bright
and dark–which well up at the very bottom of narrow valleys, beneath
overhanging cliffs?… Listen.

VII

It was at the end of March, just before the Feast of the Annunciation,
shortly after I saw thee for the first time–and before I as yet
suspected what thou wert destined to become to me, although I already
bore thee, silently and secretly in my heart.–I was obliged to cross
one of the largest rivers in Russia. The ice had not yet begun to move
in it, but it seemed to have swollen up and turned dark; three days
previously a thaw had set in. The snow was melting round about
diligently but quietly; everywhere water was oozing out; in the light
air a soundless breeze was roving. The same even, milky hue enveloped
earth and sky: it was not a mist, but it was not light; not a single
object stood out from the general opacity; everything seemed both near
and indistinct. Leaving my kibítka far behind, I walked briskly over the
river-ice, and with the exception of the beat of my own footsteps, I
could hear nothing. I walked on, enveloped on all sides by the first
stupor and breath of early spring … and little by little augmenting
with every step, with every movement in advance, there gradually rose
up and grew within me a certain joyous incomprehensible agitation…. It
drew me on, it hastened my pace–and so powerful were its transports,
that I came to a standstill at last and looked about me in surprise and
questioningly, as though desirous of detecting the outward cause of my
ecstatic condition…. All was still, white, sunny; but I raised my
eyes: high above flocks of migratory birds were flying past…. “Spring!
Hail, Spring!”–I shouted in a loud voice. “Hail, life and love and
happiness!”–And at that same instant, with sweetly-shattering force,
similar to the flower of a cactus, there suddenly flared up within me
thy image–flared up and stood there, enchantingly clear and
beautiful–and I understood that I loved thee, thee alone, that I was
all filled with thee….

VIII

I think of thee … and many other memories, other pictures rise up
before me,–and thou art everywhere, on all the paths of my life I
encounter thee.–Now there presents itself to me an old Russian garden
on the slope of a hill, illuminated by the last rays of the summer sun.
From behind silvery poplars peeps forth the wooden roof of the
manor-house, with a slender wreath of crimson smoke hanging above the
white chimney, and in the fence a wicket-gate stands open a crack, as
though some one had pulled it to with undecided hand. And I stand and
wait, and gaze at that gate and at the sand on the garden paths; I
wonder and I am moved: everything I see seems to me remarkable and new,
everything is enveloped with an atmosphere of a sort of bright,
caressing mystery, and already I think I hear the swift rustle of
footsteps; and I stand, all alert and light, like a bird which has just
folded its wings and is poised ready to soar aloft again–and my heart
flames and quivers in joyous dread before the imminent happiness which
is flitting on in front….

IX

Then I behold an ancient cathedral in a distant, beautiful land. The
kneeling people are crowded close in rows; a prayerful chill, something
solemn and sad breathes forth from the lofty, bare vault, from the huge
pillars which branch upward.–Thou art standing by my side, speechless
and unsympathetic, exactly as though thou wert a stranger to me; every
fold of thy dark gown hangs motionless, as though sculptured; motionless
lie the mottled reflections of the coloured windows at thy feet on the
well-worn flagstones.–And now, vigorously agitating the air dim with
incense, inwardly agitating us, in a heavy surge the tones of the organ
roll out; and thou hast turned pale and drawn thyself up; thy gaze has
touched me, has slipped on higher and is raised heavenward;–but it
seems to me that only a deathless soul can look like that and with such
eyes….

X

Now another picture presents itself to me.–’Tis not an ancient temple
which crushes us with its stern magnificence: the low walls of a cosey
little room separate us from the whole world.–What am I saying? We are
alone–alone in all the world; except us two there is no living thing;
beyond those friendly walls lie darkness and death and emptiness. That
is not the wind howling, that is not the rain streaming in floods; it is
Chaos wailing and groaning; it is its blind eyes weeping. But with us
all is quiet and bright, and warm and gracious; something diverting,
something childishly innocent is fluttering about like a butterfly, is
it not? We nestle up to each other, we lean our heads together and both
read a good book; I feel the slender vein in thy delicate temple
beating; I hear how thou art living, thou hearest how I am living, thy
smile is born upon my face before it comes on thine; thou silently
repliest to my silent question; thy thoughts, my thoughts, are like the
two wings of one and the same bird drowned in the azure…. The last
partitions have fallen–and our love has become so calm, so profound,
every breach has vanished so completely, leaving no trace behind it,
that we do not even wish to exchange a word, a glance…. We only wish
to breathe, to breathe together, to live together, to be together, …
and not even to be conscious of the fact that we are together….

XI

Or, in conclusion, there presents itself to me a clear September morning
when thou and I were walking together through the deserted garden, as
yet not wholly out of bloom, of an abandoned palace, on the bank of a
great non-Russian river, beneath the soft radiance of a cloudless sky.
Oh, how shall I describe those sensations?–that endlessly-flowing
river, that absence of people, and tranquillity, and joy, and a certain
intoxicating sadness, and the vibration of happiness, the unfamiliar,
monotonous town, the autumnal croaking of the daws in the tall, bright
trees–and those affectionate speeches and smiles and glances long and
soft, which pierce to the very bottom, and beauty,–the beauty in
ourselves, round about, everywhere;–it is beyond words. Oh, bench on
which we sat in silence, with heads drooping low with happiness–I shall
never forget thee to my dying hour!–How charming were those rare
passers-by with their gentle greeting and kind faces, and the large,
quiet boats which floated past (on one of them–dost thou
remember?–stood a horse gazing pensively at the water gliding by under
its feet), the childish babble of the little waves inshore and the very
barking of distant dogs over the expanse of the river, the very shouts
of the corpulent under-officer at the red-cheeked recruits drilling
there on one side, with their projecting elbows and their legs thrust
forward like the legs of cranes!… We both felt that there never had
been and never would be anything better in the world for us than those
moments–than all the rest…. But what comparisons are these! Enough
… enough…. Alas! yes: it is enough.

XII

For the last time I have surrendered myself to these memories, and I am
parting from them irrevocably–as a miser, after gloating for the last
time upon his hoard, his gold, his bright treasure, buries it in the
damp earth; as the wick of an exhausted lamp, after flashing up in one
last brilliant flame, becomes covered with grey ashes. The little wild
animal has peered forth for the last time from his lair at the velvety
grass, at the fair little sun, at the blue, gracious waters,–and has
retreated to the deepest level, and curled himself up in a ball, and
fallen asleep. Will he have visions, if only in his sleep, of the fair
little sun, and the grass, and the blue, gracious waters?

* * * * *

* * * * *

* * * * *

XIII

Sternly and ruthlessly does Fate lead each one of us–and only in the
early days do we, occupied with all sorts of accidents, nonsense,
ourselves, fail to feel her harsh hand.–So long as we are able to
deceive ourselves and are not ashamed to lie, it is possible to live and
to hope without shame. The truth–not the full truth (there can be no
question of that), but even that tiny fraction which is accessible to
us–immediately closes our mouths, binds our hands, and reduces “to
negation.”–The only thing that is then left for a man, in order to keep
erect on his feet and not crumble to dust, not to become bemired in the
ooze of self-forgetfulness, is self-scorn; is to turn calmly away from
everything and say: “It is enough!”–and folding his useless arms on his
empty breast to preserve the last, the sole merit which is accessible to
him, the merit of recognising his own insignificance; the merit to which
Pascal alludes, when, calling man a thinking reed, he says that if the
entire universe were to crush him, he, that reed, would still be higher
than the universe because he would know that it is crushing him–while
it would not know that. A feeble merit! Sad consolation! Try as thou
mayest to permeate thyself with it, to believe in it,–oh, thou my poor
brother, whosoever thou mayest be!–thou canst not refute those ominous
words of the poet:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing….[32]

I have cited the verses from “Macbeth,” and those witches, phantoms,
visions have recurred to my mind…. Alas! it is not visions, not
fantastic, subterranean powers that are terrible; the creations of
Hoffmann are not dreadful, under whatsoever form they may present
themselves…. The terrible thing is that there is nothing terrible,
that the very substance of life itself is petty, uninteresting–and
insipid to beggary. Having once become permeated with _this_
consciousness, having once tasted of _this_ wormwood, no honey will ever
seem sweet–and even that loftiest, sweetest happiness, the happiness of
love, of complete friendship, of irrevocable devotion–even it loses
all its charm; all its worth is annihilated by its own pettiness, its
brevity. Well, yes: a man has loved, he has burned, he has faltered
words about eternal bliss, about immortal enjoyments–and behold: it is
long, long since the last trace vanished of that worm which has eaten
out the last remnants of his withered tongue. Thus late in autumn, on a
frosty day, when everything is lifeless and dumb in the last blades of
grass, on the verge of the denuded forest, the sun has but to emerge for
an instant from the fog, to gaze intently at the chilled earth, and
immediately, from all sides, gnats rise up; they frolic in the warmth of
his rays, they bustle and jostle upward, downward, they circle round one
another…. The sun hides himself, and the gnats fall to the earth in a
soft rain–and there is an end to their momentary life.

XIV

“But are there no great conceptions, no great words of consolation?
Nationality, right, liberty, humanity, art?” Yes; those words do exist,
and many people live by them and for them. But nevertheless, I have an
idea that if Shakspeare were to be born again he would find no occasion
to disclaim his “Hamlet,” his “Lear.” His penetrating glance would not
descry anything new in human existence: the same motley and, in
reality, incoherent picture would still unfold itself before him in its
disquieting monotony. The same frivolity, the same cruelty, the same
pressing demand for blood, gold, filth, the same stale pleasures, the
same senseless sufferings in the name of … well, in the name of the
same nonsense which was ridiculed by Aristophanes three thousand years
ago, the same coarse lures to which the many-headed beast still yields
as readily as ever–in a word, the same anxious skipping of the squirrel
in the same old wheel, which has not even been renewed…. Shakspeare
would again make Lear repeat his harsh: “There are no guilty
ones”–which, in other words, signifies: “There are no just”–and he
also would say: “It is enough!” and he also would turn away.–One thing
only: perhaps, in contrast to the gloomy, tragic tyrant Richard, the
ironical genius of the great poet would like to draw another, more
up-to-date tyrant, who is almost ready to believe in his own virtue and
rests calmly at night or complains of the over-dainty dinner at the same
time that his half-stifled victims are endeavouring to comfort
themselves by at least imagining him as Richard III. surrounded by the
ghosts of the people he has murdered….

But to what purpose?

Why demonstrate–and that by picking and weighing one’s words, by
rounding and polishing one’s speech–why demonstrate to gnats that they
really are gnats?

XV

But art?… Beauty?… Yes, those are mighty words; they are, probably,
mightier than those which I have mentioned above. The Venus of Melos,
for example, is more indubitable than the Roman law, or than the
principles of 1789. Men may retort–and how many times have I heard
these retorts!–that beauty itself is also a matter of convention, that
to the Chinese it presents itself in a totally different manner from
what it does to the European…. But it is not the conventionality of
art which disconcerts me; its perishableness, and again its
perishableness,–its decay and dust–that is what deprives me of courage
and of faith. Art, at any given moment, is, I grant, more powerful than
Nature itself, because in it there is neither symphony of Beethoven nor
picture of Ruysdael nor poem of Goethe–and only dull-witted pedants or
conscienceless babblers can still talk of art as a copy of Nature. But
in the long run Nature is irresistible; she cannot be hurried, and
sooner or later she will assert her rights. Unconsciously and infallibly
obedient to law, she does not know art, as she does not know liberty, as
she does not know good; moving onward from eternity, transmitted from
eternity, she tolerates nothing immortal, nothing unchangeable…. Man
is her child; but the human, the artificial is inimical to her,
precisely because she strives to be unchangeable and immortal. Man is
the child of Nature; but she is the universal mother, and she has no
preferences: everything which exists in her bosom has arisen only for
the benefit of another and must, in due time, make way for that
other–she creates by destroying, and it is a matter of perfect
indifference to her what she creates, what she destroys, if only life be
not extirpated, if only death do not lose its rights…. And therefore
she as calmly covers with mould the divine visage of Phidias’s Jupiter
as she does a plain pebble, and delivers over to be devoured by the
contemned moth the most precious lines of Sophocles. Men, it is true,
zealously aid her in her work of extermination; but is not the same
elementary force,–is not the force of Nature shown in the finger of the
barbarian who senselessly shattered the radiant brow of Apollo, in the
beast-like howls with which he hurled the picture of Apelles into the
fire? How are we poor men, poor artists, to come to an agreement with
this deaf and dumb force, blind from its birth, which does not even
triumph in its victories, but marches, ever marches on ahead, devouring
all things? How are we to stand up against those heavy, coarse,
interminably and incessantly onrolling waves, how believe, in short, in
the significance and worth of those perishable images which we, in the
darkness, on the verge of the abyss, mould from the dust and for a mere
instant?

XVI

All this is so … but only the transitory is beautiful, Shakspeare has
said; and Nature herself, in the unceasing play of her rising and
vanishing forms, does not shun beauty. Is it not she who sedulously
adorns the most momentary of her offspring–the petals of the flowers,
the wings of the butterfly–with such charming colours? Is it not she
who imparts to them such exquisite outlines? It is not necessary for
beauty to live forever in order to be immortal–one moment is sufficient
for it. That is so; that is just, I grant you–but only in cases where
there is no personality, where man is not, liberty is not: the faded
wing of the butterfly comes back again, and a thousand years later, with
the selfsame wing of the selfsame butterfly, necessity sternly and
regularly and impartially fulfils its round … but man does not repeat
himself like the butterfly, and the work of his hands, his art, his free
creation once destroyed, is annihilated forever…. To him alone is it
given to “create” … but it is strange and terrible to articulate: “We
are creators … for an hour,”–as there once was, they say, a caliph
for an hour.–Therein lies our supremacy–and our curse: each one of
these “creators” in himself–precisely he, not any one else, precisely
that ego–seems to have been created with deliberate intent, on a plan
previously designed; each one more or less dimly understands his
significance, feels that he is akin to something higher, something
eternal–and he lives, he is bound to live in the moment and for the
moment.[33] Sit in the mud, my dear fellow, and strive toward
heaven!–The greatest among us are precisely those who are the most
profoundly conscious of all of that fundamental contradiction; but in
that case the question arises,–are the words “greatest, great”
appropriate?

XVII

But what shall be said of those to whom, despite a thorough desire to do
so, one cannot apply those appellations even in the sense which is
attributed to them by the feeble human tongue?–What shall be said of
the ordinary, commonplace, second-rate, third-rate toilers–whoever they
may be–statesmen, learned men, artists–especially artists? How force
them to shake off their dumb indolence, their dejected perplexity, how
draw them once more to the field of battle, if once the thought as to
the vanity of everything human, of every activity which sets for itself
a higher aim than the winning of daily bread, has once crept into their
heads? By what wreaths are they lured on–they, for whom laurels and
thorns have become equally insignificant? Why should they again subject
themselves to the laughter of “the cold throng” or to “the condemnation
of the dunce,”–of the old dunce who cannot forgive them for having
turned away from the former idols; of the young dunce who demands that
they shall immediately go down on their knees in his company, that they
should lie prone before new, just-discovered idols? Why shall they
betake themselves again to that rag-fair of phantoms, to that
market-place where both the seller and the buyer cheat each other
equally, where everything is so noisy, so loud–and yet so poor and
worthless? Why “with exhaustion in their bones” shall they interweave
themselves again with that world where the nations, like peasant urchins
on a festival day, flounder about in the mud for the sake of a handful
of empty nuts, or admire with gaping mouths the wretched woodcuts,
decorated with tinsel gold,–with that world where they had no right to
life while they lived in it, and, deafening themselves with their own
shouts, each one hastens with convulsive speed to a goal which he
neither knows nor understands? No … no…. It is enough … enough …
enough!

XVIII

… The rest is silence.[34] …

THE DOG

(1866)

“But if we can admit the possibility of the supernatural, the
possibility of its intervention in real life,–then allow me to inquire,
what rôle is sound judgment bound to play after this?”–shouted Antón
Stepánitch, crossing his arms on his stomach.

Antón Stepánitch had held the rank of State Councillor,[35] had served
in some wonderful department, and, as his speech was interlarded with
pauses and was slow and uttered in a bass voice, he enjoyed universal
respect. Not long before the date of our story, “the good-for-nothing
little Order of St. Stanislas had been stuck on him,” as those who
envied him expressed it.

“That is perfectly just,”–remarked Skvorévitch.

“No one will dispute that,”–added Kinarévitch.

“I assent also,”–chimed in, in falsetto, from a corner the master of
the house, Mr. Finopléntoff.

“But I, I must confess, cannot assent, because something supernatural
has happened to me,”–said a man of medium stature and middle age, with
a protruding abdomen and a bald spot, who had been sitting silent before
the stove up to that moment. The glances of all present in the room were
turned upon him with curiosity and surprise–and silence reigned.

This man was a landed proprietor of Kalúga, not wealthy, who had
recently come to Petersburg. He had once served in the hussars, had
gambled away his property, resigned from the service and settled down in
the country. The recent agricultural changes had cut off his revenues,
and he had betaken himself to the capital in search of a snug little
position. He possessed no abilities, and had no influential connections;
but he placed great reliance on the friendship of an old comrade in the
service, who had suddenly, without rhyme or reason, become a person of
importance, and whom he had once aided to administer a sound thrashing
to a card-sharper. Over and above that he counted upon his own luck–and
it had not betrayed him; several days later he obtained the post of
inspector of government storehouses, a profitable, even honourable
position which did not require extraordinary talents: the storehouses
themselves existed only in contemplation, and no one even knew with
certainty what they were to contain,–but they had been devised as a
measure of governmental economy.

Antón Stepánitch was the first to break the general silence.

“What, my dear sir?”–he began. “Do you seriously assert that something
supernatural–I mean to say, incompatible with the laws of nature–has
happened to you?”

“I do,”–returned “my dear sir,” whose real name was Porfíry
Kapítonitch.

“Incompatible with the laws of nature?”–energetically repeated Antón
Stepánitch, who evidently liked that phrase.

“Precisely … yes; precisely the sort of thing you allude to.”

“This is astonishing! What think you, gentlemen?”–Antón Stepánitch
endeavoured to impart to his features an ironical expression, but
without result–or, to speak more accurately, the only result was to
produce the effect that Mr. State Councillor smelt a bad odour.–“Will
not you be so kind, my dear sir,”–he went on, addressing the landed
proprietor from Kalúga,–“as to communicate to us the particulars of
such a curious event?”

“Why not? Certainly!”–replied the landed proprietor, and moving forward
to the middle of the room in an easy manner he spoke as follows:

I have, gentlemen, as you are probably aware,–or as you may not be
aware,–a small estate in Kozyól County. I formerly derived some profit
from it–but now, of course, nothing but unpleasantness is to be
anticipated. However, let us put politics aside! Well, sir, on that same
estate I have a “wee little” manor: a vegetable garden, as is proper, a
tiny pond with little carp, and some sort of buildings–well, and a
small wing for my own sinful body…. I am a bachelor. So, sir, one
day–about six years ago–I had returned home rather late; I had been
playing cards at a neighbour’s house–but I beg you to observe, I was
not tipsy, as the expression goes. I undressed, got into bed, and blew
out the light. And just imagine, gentlemen; no sooner had I blown out
the light, than something began to rummage under my bed! Is it a rat? I
thought. No, it was not a rat: it clawed and fidgeted and scratched
itself…. At last it began to flap its ears!

It was a dog–that was clear. But where had the dog come from? I keep
none myself. “Can some stray animal have run in?” I thought. I called to
my servant; his name is Fílka. The man entered with a candle.

“What’s this,”–says I,–“my good Fílka? How lax thou art! A dog has
intruded himself under my bed.”

“What dog?”–says he.

“How should I know?”–says I;–“that’s thy affair–not to allow thy
master to be disturbed.”

My Fílka bent down, and began to pass the candle about under the bed.

“Why,”–says he,–“there’s no dog here.”

I bent down also; in fact there was no dog…. Here was a marvel! I
turned my eyes on Fílka: he was smiling.

“Fool,”–said I to him,–“what art thou grinning about? When thou didst
open the door the dog probably took and sneaked out into the anteroom.
But thou, gaper, didst notice nothing, because thou art eternally
asleep. Can it be that thou thinkest I am drunk?”

He attempted to reply, but I drove him out, curled myself up in a ring,
and heard nothing more that night.

But on the following night–just imagine!–the same thing was repeated.
No sooner had I blown out the light than it began to claw and flap its
ears. Again I summoned Fílka, again he looked under the bed–again
nothing! I sent him away, blew out the light–phew, damn it! there was
the dog still. And a dog it certainly was: I could hear it breathing and
rummaging in its hair with its teeth in search of fleas so plainly!

“Fílka!”–says I,–“come hither without a light!”… He entered….
“Well, now,”–says I, “dost thou hear?…”

“I do,”–said he. I could not see him, but I felt that the fellow was
quailing.

“What dost thou make of it?”–said I.

“What dost thou command me to make of it, Porfíry Kapítonitch?… ’Tis
an instigation of the Evil One!”

“Thou art a lewd fellow; hold thy tongue with thy instigation of the
Evil One.”… But the voices of both of us were like those of birds,
and we were shaking as though in a fever–in the darkness. I lighted a
candle: there was no dog, and no noise whatever–only Fílka and I as
white as clay. And I must inform you, gentlemen–you can believe me or
not–but from that night forth for the space of six weeks the same thing
went on. At last I even got accustomed to it and took to extinguishing
my light because I cannot sleep with a light. “Let him fidget!” I
thought. “It doesn’t harm me.”

“But–I see–that you do not belong to the cowardly squad,”–interrupted
Antón Stepánitch, with a half-scornful, half-condescending laugh. “The
hussar is immediately perceptible!”

“I should not be frightened at you, in any case,”–said Porfíry
Kapítonitch, and for a moment he really did look like a hussar.–“But
listen further.”

A neighbour came to me, the same one with whom I was in the habit of
playing cards. He dined with me on what God had sent, and lost fifty
rubles to me for his visit; night was drawing on–it was time for him to
go. But I had calculations of my own:–“Stop and spend the night with
me, Vasíly Vasílitch; to-morrow thou wilt win it back, God willing.”

My Vasíly Vasílitch pondered and pondered–and stayed. I ordered a bed
to be placed for him in my own chamber…. Well, sir, we went to bed,
smoked, chattered,–chiefly about the feminine sex, as is fitting in
bachelor society,–and laughed, as a matter of course. I look; Vasíly
Vasílitch has put out his candle and has turned his back on me; that
signifies: “_Schlafen Sie wohl._” I waited a little and extinguished my
candle also. And imagine: before I had time to think to myself, “What
sort of performance will there be now?” my dear little animal began to
make a row. And that was not all; he crawled out from under the bed,
walked across the room, clattering his claws on the floor, waggling his
ears, and suddenly collided with a chair which stood by the side of
Vasíly Vasílitch’s bed!

“Porfíry Kapítonitch,”–says Vasíly Vasílitch, and in such an
indifferent voice, you know,–“I didn’t know that thou hadst taken to
keeping a dog. What sort of an animal is it–a setter?”

“I have no dog,”–said I,–“and I never have had one.”

“Thou hast not indeed! But what’s this?”

“What is this?”–said I.–“See here now; light the candle and thou wilt
find out for thyself.”

“It isn’t a dog?”

“No.”

Vasíly Vasílitch turned over in bed.–“But thou art jesting, damn it?”

“No, I’m not jesting.”–I hear him go scratch, scratch with a match, and
that thing does not stop, but scratches its side. The flame flashed up
… and basta! There was not a trace of a dog! Vasíly Vasílitch stared
at me–and I stared at him.

“What sort of a trick is this?”–said he.

“Why,”–said I,–“this is such a trick that if thou wert to set Socrates
himself on one side and Frederick the Great on the other even they
couldn’t make head or tail of it.”–And thereupon I told him all in
detail. Up jumped my Vasíly Vasílitch as though he had been singed! He
couldn’t get into his boots.

“Horses!”–he yelled–“horses!”

I began to argue with him, but in vain. He simply groaned.

“I won’t stay,”–he shouted,–“not a minute!–Of course, after this,
thou art a doomed man!–Horses!…”

But I prevailed upon him. Only his bed was dragged out into another
room–and night-lights were lighted everywhere. In the morning, at tea,
he recovered his dignity; he began to give me advice.

“Thou shouldst try absenting thyself from the house for several days,
Porfíry Kapítonitch,” he said: “perhaps that vile thing would leave
thee.”

But I must tell you that he–that neighbour of mine–had a capacious
mind! he worked his mother-in-law so famously among other things: he
palmed off a note of hand on her; which signifies that he chose the most
vulnerable moment! She became like silk: she gave him a power of
attorney over all her property–what more would you have? But that was a
great affair–to twist his mother-in-law round his finger–wasn’t it,
hey? Judge for yourselves. But he went away from me somewhat
discontented; I had punished him to the extent of another hundred
rubles. He even swore at me: “Thou art ungrateful,”–he said, “thou hast
no feeling;” but how was I to blame for that? Well, this is in
parenthesis–but I took his suggestion under consideration. That same
day I drove off to town and established myself in an inn, with an
acquaintance, an old man of the Old Ritualist sect.[36]

He was a worthy old man, although a trifle harsh, because of
loneliness: his whole family were dead. Only he did not favour tobacco
at all,[37] and felt a great loathing for dogs; I believe, for example,
that rather than admit a dog into the room he would have rent himself in
twain! “For how is it possible?”–he said. “There in my room, on the
wall, the Sovereign Lady herself deigns to dwell;[38] and shall a filthy
dog thrust his accursed snout in there?”–That was ignorance, of course!
However, this is my opinion: if any man has been vouchsafed wisdom, let
him hold to it!

“But you are a great philosopher, I see,”–interrupted Antón Stepánitch
again, with the same laugh as before.

This time Porfíry Kapítonitch even scowled.

“What sort of a philosopher I am no one knows,”–he said as his
moustache twitched in a surly manner:–“but I would gladly take you as a
pupil.”

We all fairly bored our eyes into Antón Stepánitch; each one of us
expected an arrogant retort or at least a lightning glance…. But Mr.
State Councillor altered his smile from scorn to indifference, then
yawned, dangled his foot–and that was all!

So then, I settled down at that old man’s house–[went on Porfíry
Kapítonitch].–He assigned me a room “for acquaintance’s” sake,–not of
the best; he himself lodged there also, behind a partition–and that was
all I required. But what tortures I did undergo! The chamber was small,
it was hot, stifling, and there were flies, and such sticky ones; in the
corner was a remarkably large case for images, with ancient holy
pictures; their garments were dim and puffed out; the air was fairly
infected with olive-oil, and some sort of a spice in addition; on the
bedstead were two down beds; if you moved a pillow, out ran a cockroach
from beneath it…. I drank an incredible amount of tea, out of sheer
tedium–it was simply horrible! I got into bed; it was impossible to
sleep.–And on the other side of the partition my host was sighing and
grunting and reciting his prayers. I heard him begin to snore–and very
lightly and courteously, in old-fashioned style. I had long since
extinguished my candle–only the shrine-lamp was twinkling in front of
the holy pictures…. A hindrance, of course! So I took and rose up
softly, in my bare feet: I reached up to the lamp and blew it out….
Nothing happened.–“Aha!” I thought: “this means that he won’t make a
fuss in the house of strangers.”… But no sooner had I lain down on
the bed than the row began again! The thing clawed, and scratched
himself and flapped his ears … well, just as I wanted him to. Good! I
lay there and waited to see what would happen. I heard the old man wake
up.

“Master,”–said he,–“hey there, master?”

“What’s wanted?”–said I.

“Was it thou who didst put out the shrine-lamp?”–And without awaiting
my reply, he suddenly began to mumble:

“What’s that? What’s that? A dog? A dog? Akh, thou damned Nikonian!”[39]

“Wait a bit, old man,”–said I,–“before thou cursest; but it would be
better for thee to come hither thyself. Things deserving of wonder are
going on here,”–said I.

The old man fussed about behind the partition and entered my room with a
candle, a slender one, of yellow wax; and I was amazed as I looked at
him! He was all bristling, with shaggy ears and vicious eyes like those
of a polecat; on his head was a small skull-cap of white felt; his beard
reached to his girdle and was white also; and he had on a waistcoat with
brass buttons over his shirt, and fur boots on his feet, and he
disseminated an odour of juniper. In that condition he went up to the
holy pictures, crossed himself thrice with two fingers[40] lighted the
shrine-lamp, crossed himself again, and turning to me, merely grunted:

“Explain thyself!”

Thereupon, without the least delay, I communicated to him all the
circumstances. The old man listened to all my explanations without
uttering the smallest word; he simply kept shaking his head. Then he sat
down on my bed, still maintaining silence. He scratched his breast, the
back of his head, and other places, and still remained silent.

“Well, Feodúl Ivánitch,”–said I, “what is thy opinion: is this some
sort of visitation of the Evil One, thinkest thou?”

The old man stared at me.–“A pretty thing thou hast invented! A
visitation of the Evil One, forsooth! ’Twould be all right at thy house,
thou tobacco-user,–but ’tis quite another thing here! Only consider how
many holy things there are here! And thou must needs have a visitation
of the devil!–And if it isn’t that, what is it?”

The old man relapsed into silence, scratched himself again, and at last
he said, but in a dull sort of way, because his moustache kept crawling
into his mouth:

“Go thou to the town of Byéleff. There is only one man who can help
thee. And that man dwells in Byéleff;[41] he is one of our people. If
he takes a fancy to help thee, that’s thy good luck; if he doesn’t take
a fancy,–so it must remain.”

“But how am I to find him?”–said I.

“We can give thee directions,”–said he;–“only why dost thou call this
a visitation of the devil? ’Tis a vision, or a sign; but thou wilt not
be able to comprehend it; ’tis not within thy flight. And now lie down
and sleep under Christ’s protection, dear little father; I will fumigate
with incense; and in the morning we will take counsel together. The
morning is wiser than the evening, thou knowest.”

Well, sir, and we did take counsel together in the morning–only I came
near choking to death with that same incense. And the old man instructed
me after this wise: that when I had reached Byéleff I was to go to the
public square, and in the second shop on the right inquire for a certain
Prokhóritch; and having found Prokhóritch, I was to hand him a document.
And the whole document consisted of a scrap of paper, on which was
written the following: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit, Amen. To Sergyéi Prokhóritch Pervúshin. Trust this
man. Feodúly Ivánovitch.” And below: “Send some cabbages, for God’s
sake.”

I thanked the old man, and without further ado ordered my tarantás to be
harnessed, and set off for Byéleff. For I argued in this way: admitting
that my nocturnal visitor did not cause me much grief, still,
nevertheless, it was not quite decorous for a nobleman and an
officer–what do you think about it?

“And did you really go to Byéleff?”–whispered Mr. Finopléntoff.

I did, straight to Byéleff. I went to the square, and inquired in the
second shop on the right for Prokhóritch. “Is there such a man?”–I
asked.

“There is,”–I was told.

“And where does he live?”

“On the Oká, beyond the vegetable-gardens.”

“In whose house?”[42]

“His own.”

I wended my way to the Oká, searched out his house, that is to say, not
actually a house, but a downright hovel. I beheld a man in a patched
blue overcoat and a tattered cap,–of the petty burgher class, judging
by his appearance,–standing with his back to me, and digging in his
cabbage-garden.–I went up to him.

“Are you such and such a one?”–said I.

He turned round,–and to tell you the truth, such piercing eyes I have
never seen in all my life. But his whole face was no bigger than one’s
fist; his beard was wedge-shaped, and his lips were sunken: he was an
aged man.

“I am he,”–he said.–“What do you wanta?”

“Why, here,”–said I;–“this is what I wanta,”–and I placed the
document in his hand. He gazed at me very intently, and said:

“Please come into the house; I cannot read without my spectacles.”

Well, sir, he and I went into his kennel–actually, a regular kennel;
poor, bare, crooked; it barely held together. On the wall was a holy
picture of ancient work,[43] as black as a coal; only the whites of the
eyes were fairly burning in the faces of the holy people. He took some
round iron spectacles from a small table, placed them on his nose,
perused the writing, and through his spectacles again scrutinised me.

“You have need of me?”

“I have,”–said I,–“that’s the fact.”

“Well,”–said he, “if you have, then make your statement, and I will
listen.”

And just imagine; he sat down, and pulling a checked handkerchief from
his pocket, he spread it out on his knees–and the handkerchief was full
of holes–and gazed at me as solemnly as though he had been a
senator,[44] or some minister or other; and did not ask me to sit down.
And what was still more astonishing, I suddenly felt myself growing
timid, so timid … simply, my soul sank into my heels. He pierced me
through and through with his eyes, and that’s all there is to be said!
But I recovered my self-possession, and narrated to him my whole story.
He remained silent for a while, shrank together, mowed with his lips,
and then began to interrogate me, still as though he were a senator, so
majestically and without haste. “What is your name?”–he asked. “How old
are you? Who were your parents? Are you a bachelor or married?”–Then he
began to mow with his lips again, frowned, thrust out his finger and
said:

“Do reverence to the holy image of the honourable saints of
Solovétzk,[45] Zósim and Saváty.”

I made a reverence to the earth, and did not rise to my feet; such awe
and submission did I feel for that man that I believe I would have
instantly done anything whatsoever he might have ordered me!… I see
that you are smiling, gentlemen; but I was in no mood for laughing then,
by Heaven I was not.

“Rise, sir,”–he said at last.–“It is possible to help you. This has
not been sent to you by way of punishment, but as a warning; it
signifies that you are being looked after; some one is praying earnestly
for you. Go now to the bazaar and buy yourself a bitch, which you must
keep by you day and night, without ceasing. Your visions will cease, and
your dog will prove necessary to you into the bargain.”

A flash of light seemed suddenly to illuminate me; how those words did
please me! I made obeisance to Prokhóritch, and was on the point of
departing, but remembered that it was impossible for me not to show him
my gratitude; I drew a three-ruble note from my pocket. But he put aside
my hand and said to me:

“Give it to our chapel, or to the poor, for this service is gratis.”

Again I made him an obeisance, nearly to the girdle, and immediately
marched off to the bazaar. And fancy, no sooner had I begun to approach
the shops when behold, a man in a frieze cloak advanced to meet me, and
under his arm he carried a setter bitch, two months old, with
light-brown hair, a white muzzle, and white fore paws.

“Halt!” said I to the man in the frieze cloak; “what will you take for
her?”

“Two rubles in silver.”

“Take three!”

The man was astonished, and thought the gentleman had lost his mind–but
I threw a banknote in his teeth, seized the bitch in my arms, and
rushed to my tarantás. The coachman harnessed up the horses briskly, and
that same evening I was at home. The dog sat on my lap during the whole
journey–and never uttered a sound; but I kept saying to her:
“Tresórushko! Tresórushko!” I immediately gave her food and water,
ordered straw to be brought, put her to bed, and dashed into bed myself.
I blew out the light; darkness reigned.

“Come now, begin!”–said I.–Silence.–“Do begin, thou thus and
so!”–Not a sound. It was laughable. I began to take courage.–“Come
now, begin, thou thus and so, and ’tother thing!” But nothing
happened–there was a complete lull! The only thing to be heard was the
bitch breathing hard.

“Fílka!”–I shouted;–“Fílka! Come hither, stupid man!”–He
entered.–“Dost thou hear the dog?”

“No, master,”–said he,–“I don’t hear anything,”–and began to laugh.

“And thou wilt not hear it again forever! Here’s half a ruble for thee
for vodka!”

“Please let me kiss your hand,”–said the fool, and crawled to me in the
dark…. My joy was great, I can tell you!

“And was that the end of it all?”–asked Antón Stepánitch, no longer
ironically.

The visions did cease, it is true–and there were no disturbances of any
sort–but wait, that was not the end of the whole matter. My
Tresórushko began to grow, and turned out a cunning rogue. Thick-tailed,
heavy, flop-eared, with drooping dewlaps, she was a regular
“take-advance,”–a thoroughgoing good setter. And moreover, she became
greatly attached to me. Hunting is bad in our parts,–well, but as I had
set up a dog I had to supply myself with a gun also. I began to roam
about the surrounding country with my Tresór; sometimes I would knock
over a hare (my heavens, how she did course those hares!), and sometimes
a quail or a duck. But the chief point was that Tresór never, never
strayed a step away from me. Wherever I went, there she went also; I
even took her to the bath with me–truly! One of our young gentlewomen
undertook to eject me from her drawing-room on account of Tresór; but I
raised such a row that I smashed some of her window-panes!

Well, sir, one day–it happened in summer…. And I must tell you that
there was such a drought that no one could recall its like; the air was
full of something which was neither smoke nor fog; there was an odour of
burning, and mist, and the sun was like a red-hot cannon-ball; and the
dust was such that one could not leave off sneezing! People went about
with their mouths gaping open, just like crows.

It bored me to sit at home constantly in complete undress, behind closed
shutters; and by the way, the heat was beginning to moderate…. And
so, gentlemen, I set off afoot to the house of one of my neighbours.
This neighbour of mine lived about a verst from me,–and was really a
benevolent lady. She was still young and blooming, and of the most
attractive exterior; only she had a fickle disposition. But that is no
detriment in the feminine sex; it even affords pleasure…. So, then, I
trudged to her porch–and that trip seemed very salt to me! Well, I
thought, Nimfodóra Semyónovna will regale me with bilberry-water, and
other refreshments–and I had already grasped the door-handle when,
suddenly, around the corner of the servants’ cottage there arose a
trampling of feet, a squealing and shouting of small boys…. I looked
round. O Lord, my God! Straight toward me was dashing a huge, reddish
beast, which at first sight I did not recognise as a dog; its jaws were
gaping, its eyes were blood-shot, its hair stood on end…. Before I
could take breath the monster leaped upon the porch, elevated itself on
its hind legs, and fell straight on my breast. What do you think of that
situation? I was swooning with fright, and could not lift my arms; I was
completely stupefied; … all I could see were the white tusks right at
the end of my nose, the red tongue all swathed in foam. But at that
moment another dark body soared through the air in front of me, like a
ball–it was my darling Tresór coming to my rescue; and she went at
that beast’s throat like a leech! The beast rattled hoarsely in the
throat, gnashed its teeth, staggered back…. With one jerk I tore open
the door, and found myself in the anteroom. I stood there, beside myself
with terror, threw my whole body against the lock, and listened to a
desperate battle which was in progress on the porch. I began to shout,
to call for help; every one in the house took alarm. Nimfodóra
Semyónovna ran up with hair unbraided; voices clamoured in the
courtyard–and suddenly there came a cry: “Hold him, hold him, lock the
gate!”

I opened the door,–just a crack,–and looked. The monster was no longer
on the porch. People were rushing in disorder about the courtyard,
flourishing their arms, picking up billets of wood from the ground–just
as though they had gone mad. “To the village! It has run to the
village!” shrieked shrilly a peasant-woman in a pointed coronet
head-dress of unusual dimensions, thrusting her head through a
garret-window. I emerged from the house.

“Where is Tresór?”–said I.–And at that moment I caught sight of my
saviour. She was walking away from the gate, limping, all bitten, and
covered with blood….

“But what was it, after all?”–I asked the people, as they went circling
round the courtyard like crazy folk.

“A mad dog!”–they answered me, “belonging to the Count; it has been
roving about here since yesterday.”

We had a neighbour, a Count; he had introduced some very dreadful dogs
from over-sea. My knees gave way beneath me; I hastened to the mirror
and looked to see whether I had been bitten. No; God be thanked, nothing
was visible; only, naturally, my face was all green; but Nimfodóra
Semyónovna was lying on the couch, and clucking like a hen. And that was
easily to be understood: in the first place, nerves; in the second
place, sensibility. But she came to herself, and asked me in a very
languid way: was I alive? I told her that I was, and that Tresór was my
saviour.

“Akh,”–said she,–“what nobility! And I suppose the mad dog smothered
her?”

“No,”–said I,–“it did not smother her, but it wounded her seriously.”

“Akh,”–said she,–“in that case, she must be shot this very moment!”

“Nothing of the sort,”–said I;–“I won’t agree to that; I shall try to
cure her.” …

In the meanwhile, Tresór began to scratch at the door; I started to open
it for her.

“Akh,”–cried she,–“what are you doing? Why, she will bite us all
dreadfully!”

“Pardon me,”–said I,–“the poison does not take effect so soon.”

“Akh,”–said she,–“how is that possible? Why, you have gone out of your
mind!”

“Nimfótchka,”–said I,–“calm thyself; listen to reason….”

But all at once she began to scream: “Go away; go away this instant with
your disgusting dog!”

“I will go,”–said I.

“Instantly,”–said she,–“this very second! Take thyself off,
brigand,”–said she,–“and don’t dare ever to show yourself in my sight
again. Thou mightest go mad thyself!”

“Very good, ma’am,”–said I; “only give me an equipage, for I am afraid
to go home on foot now.”

She riveted her eyes on me. “Give, give him a calash, a carriage, a
drozhky, whatever he wants,–anything, for the sake of getting rid of
him as quickly as possible. Akh, what eyes! akh, what eyes he has!”–And
with these words she flew out of the room, dealing a maid who was
entering a box on the ear,–and I heard her go off into another fit of
hysterics.–And you may believe me or not, gentlemen, but from that day
forth I broke off all acquaintance with Nimfodóra Semyónovna; and,
taking all things into mature consideration, I cannot but add that for
that circumstance also I owe my friend Tresór a debt of gratitude until
I lie down in my coffin.

Well, sir, I ordered a calash to be harnessed, placed Tresór in it, and
drove off home with her. At home I looked her over, washed her wounds,
and thought to myself: “I’ll take her to-morrow, as soon as it is light,
to the wizard in Efrém County. Now this wizard was an old peasant, a
wonderful man; he would whisper over water–but others say that he
emitted serpents’ venom on it–and give it to you to drink, and your
malady would instantly disappear. By the way, I thought, I’ll get myself
bled in Efrémovo; ’tis a good remedy for terror; only, of course, not
from the arm, but from the bleeding-vein.”

“But where is that place–the bleeding-vein?”–inquired Finopléntoff,
with bashful curiosity.

Don’t you know? That spot on the fist close to the thumb, on which one
shakes snuff from the horn.–Just here, see! ’Tis the very best place
for blood-letting; therefore, judge for yourselves; from the arm it will
be venal blood, while from this spot it is sparkling. The doctors don’t
know that, and don’t understand it; how should they, the sluggards, the
dumb idiots? Blacksmiths chiefly make use of it. And what skilful
fellows they are! They’ll place their chisel on the spot, give it a
whack with their hammer–and the deed is done!… Well, sir, while I was
meditating in this wise, it had grown entirely dark out of doors, and it
was time to go to sleep. I lay down on my bed, and Tresór, of course,
was there also. But whether it was because of my fright or of the
stifling heat, or because the fleas or my thoughts were bothersome, at
any rate, I could not get to sleep. Such distress fell upon me as it is
impossible to describe; and I kept drinking water, and opening the
window, and thrumming the “Kamárynskaya”[46] on the guitar, with Italian
variations…. In vain! I felt impelled to leave the room,–and that’s
all there was to it. At last I made up my mind. I took a pillow, a
coverlet, and a sheet, and wended my way across the garden to the
hay-barn; well, and there I settled myself. And there things were
agreeable to me, gentlemen; the night was still, extremely still, only
now and then a breeze as soft as a woman’s hand would blow across my
cheek, and it was very cool; the hay was fragrant as tea, the katydids
were rasping in the apple-trees; then suddenly a quail would emit its
call–and you would feel that he was taking his ease, the scamp, sitting
in the dew with his mate…. And the sky was so magnificent; the stars
were twinkling, and sometimes a little cloud, as white as wadding, would
float past, and even it would hardly stir….

At this point in the narrative, Skvorévitch sneezed; Kinarévitch, who
never lagged behind his comrade in anything, sneezed also. Antón
Stepánitch cast a glance of approbation at both.

Well, sir–[went on Porfíry Kapítonitch],–so I lay there, and still I
could not get to sleep. A fit of meditation had seized upon me; and I
pondered chiefly over the great marvel, how that Prokhóritch had rightly
explained to me about the warning–and why such wonders should happen to
me in particular…. I was astonished, in fact, because I could not
understand it at all–while Tresórushko whimpered as she curled herself
up on the hay; her wounds were paining her. And I’ll tell you another
thing that kept me from sleeping–you will hardly believe it; the moon!
It stood right in front of me, so round and big and yellow and flat; and
it seemed to me as though it were staring at me–by Heaven it did; and
so arrogantly, importunately…. At last I stuck my tongue out at it, I
really did. Come, I thought, what art thou so curious about? I turned
away from it; but it crawled into my ear, it illuminated the back of my
head, and flooded me as though with rain; I opened my eyes, and what did
I see? It made every blade of grass, every wretched little blade in the
hay, the most insignificant spider’s web, stand out distinctly! “Well,
look, then!” said I. There was no help for it. I propped my head on my
hand and began to stare at it. But I could not keep it up; if you will
believe it, my eyes began to stick out like a hare’s and to open very
wide indeed, just as though they did not know what sleep was like. I
think I could have eaten up everything with those same eyes. The gate
of the hay-barn stood wide open; I could see for a distance of five
versts out on the plain; and distinctly, not in the usual way on a
moonlight night. So I gazed and gazed, and did not even wink…. And
suddenly it seemed to me as though something were waving about far, far
away … exactly as though things were glimmering indistinctly before my
eyes. Some time elapsed; again a shadow leaped across my vision,–a
little nearer now; then again, still nearer. What is it? I thought. Can
it be a hare? No, I thought, it is larger than a hare, and its gait is
unlike that of a hare. I continued to look, and again the shadow showed
itself, and it was moving now across the pasture-land (and the
pasture-land was whitish from the moonlight) like a very large spot; it
was plain that it was some sort of a wild beast–a fox or a wolf. My
heart contracted within me … but what was I afraid of, after all?
Aren’t there plenty of wild animals running about the fields by night?
But my curiosity was stronger than my fears; I rose up, opened my eyes
very wide, and suddenly turned cold all over. I fairly froze rigid on
the spot, as though I had been buried in ice up to my ears; and why? The
Lord only knows! And I saw the shadow growing bigger and bigger, which
meant that it was making straight for the hay-barn…. And then it
became apparent to me that it really was a large, big-headed wild
beast…. It dashed onward like a whirlwind, like a bullet…. Good
heavens! What was it? Suddenly it stopped short, as though it scented
something…. Why, it was the mad dog I had encountered that day! ’Twas
he, ’twas he! O Lord! And I could not stir a finger, I could not
shout…. It ran to the gate, glared about with its eyes, emitted a
howl, and dashed straight for me on the hay!

But out of the hay, like a lion, sprang my Tresór; and then the struggle
began. The two clinched jaw to jaw, and rolled over the ground in a
ball! What took place further I do not remember; all I do remember is
that I flew head over heels across them, just as I was, into the garden,
into the house, and into my own bedroom!… I almost dived under the
bed–there’s no use in concealing the fact. And what leaps, what bounds
I made in the garden! You would have taken me for the leading ballerina
who dances before the Emperor Napoleon on the day of his Angel–and even
she couldn’t have overtaken me. But when I had recovered myself a
little, I immediately routed out the entire household; I ordered them
all to arm themselves, and I myself took a sword and a revolver. (I must
confess that I had purchased that revolver after the Emancipation, in
case of need, you know–only I had hit upon such a beast of a pedlar
that out of three charges two inevitably missed fire.) Well, sir, I
took all this, and in this guise we sallied forth, in a regular horde,
with staves and lanterns, and directed our footsteps toward the
hay-barn. We reached it and called–nothing was to be heard; we entered
the barn at last…. and what did we see? My poor Tresórushko lay dead,
with her throat slit, and that accursed beast had vanished without
leaving a trace!

Then, gentlemen, I began to bleat like a calf, and I will say it without
shame; I fell down on the body of my twofold rescuer, so to speak, and
kissed her head for a long time. And there I remained in that attitude
until my old housekeeper, Praskóvya, brought me to my senses (she also
had run out at the uproar).

“Why do you grieve so over the dog, Porfíry Stepánitch?”–said she. “You
will surely catch cold, which God forbid!” (I was very lightly clad.)
“And if that dog lost her life in saving you, she ought to reckon it as
a great favour!”

Although I did not agree with Praskóvya, I went back to the house. And
the mad dog was shot on the following day by a soldier from the
garrison. And it must have been that that was the end appointed by Fate
to the dog, for the soldier fired a gun for the first time in his life,
although he had a medal for service in the year ’12. So that is the
supernatural occurrence which happened to me.


THE narrator ceased speaking and began to fill his pipe. But we all
exchanged glances of surprise.

“But perhaps you lead a very upright life,”–began Mr.
Finopléntoff,–“and so by way of reward….” But at that word he
faltered, for he saw that Porfíry Kapítonitch’s cheeks were beginning to
swell out and turn red, and his eyes too were beginning to pucker
up–evidently the man was on the point of breaking out….

“But admitting the possibility of the supernatural, the possibility of
its interference in everyday life, so to speak,”–began Antón
Stepánitch:–“then what rôle, after this, must sound sense play?”

None of us found any answer, and, as before, we remained perplexed.

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